Friday, September 11, 2015

Introduction to the svakiya-parakiya controversy


According to Yadunandan Das’s Karṇānanda (dated 1612 CE), at some time after the Gopāla-campū (GC) had arrived in Bengal, a controversy arose in Jajigram between Vyasacharya, Narottam Das, Ramachandra Kaviraj, Govinda Das Kaviraj, and other Vaishnavas. The subject of contention was that of sādhya and sādhana. Narottama states in his Prema-bhakti-candrikā that "that which is desired for in the course of one's devotional practices is matched in the stage of perfection".(1) Jiva's GC appeared to contradict this by postulating a svakīyā rather than parakīyā state in the nitya-līlā. In other words, though the Bhāgavatam and other books like Rupa's Vidagdha-mādhava, etc., described the illicit loves of Krishna and the gopis, Jiva described their eternal marriage in Gopāla-campū and elsewhere.

According to Yadunandan, the dispute was referred to Jiva Goswami for his final verdict and he wrote letters that were accepted as conclusive. (2) Whatever the truth of the Karṇānanda account, and it is undoubtedly true that the arrival of Gopāla-campū provoked controversy amongst the disciples of Srinivas et al, Yadunandan's account is riddled with contradictions. Specifically, the letters from Jiva, supposedly written to settle the controversy, in fact indicate that he had withheld the sending of GC for further revision ! Yadunandan ascribes a solution to the problem not found in those letters or any statement of Jiva's, but rather by obscuring the issue, imputing a subtle motive to Jiva by saying that the GC had in fact established a śuddha-parakīyā or "purified illicit love".(3)

In Vivarta-vilāsa, a sahajiya work written at least a century after Jiva's death, Jiva is said to have become embroiled in a controversy with Krishna Das Kaviraj. According to this account, Jiva did not like CC because the parakīyā mood was openly glorified therein (vākyata kariyā kene karile varṇane | parakīyā bhāva kena kaile prakāśane ||). When Jiva read the MS, he threw it into the Yamuna in anger. The book floated, however, showing that it had been accepted by the gods, and thus Jiva was forced to admit its greatness.

There is no possibility of this story's being true, as Jiva was already dead when Krishna Das wrote CC. Sahajiya supporters of the parakīyā doctrine made up this story to "prove" not only that Jiva was wrong, but that he had admitted the error of his ways. The absence of Jiva's name from the list of those who requested Krishna Das to write Chaitanya's biography no doubt confirmed the truth of a conflict between these two important leaders of the Vrindavan community, but of course, Jiva was not there to either approve, disapprove or request the writing of the CC. The promulgators of these false histories were evidently unaware that Jiva and Krishna Das's relations were sufficiently cordial that the latter was present at Jiva's side when he was on his deathbed. Krishna Das also gives credit to Jiva in every chapter of Govinda-līlāmṛta, a book supporting the parakīyā-vāda, for being among his inspirers. (4) Furthermore, Krishna Das's samādhi is situated in a prominent place at the Radha Damodar temple, confirming the cordiality of relations.

There is little doubt that Jiva wrote his body of svakīyā texts to combat a growing opinion amongst the Gaudiyas in Vraja who believed that Rupa Goswami was in favor of the parakīyā-vāda. Later Vrindavan authors, amongst them Radhakrishna Goswami and Rupa Kaviraj, took great pains to refute the svakīyā-vāda. Central to the arguments of both, as well as those of Vishwanath Chakravarti a century later, is a verse found at the end of Jiva's commentary to UN 1.20, where, after establishing the svakīyā doctrine at length, Jiva states,

svecchayā likhitaṁ kiṁcit
kiṁcid atra parecchayā
yat pūrva-para-sambaddhaṁ
tat pūrvam aparaṁ param
Some things have been written here by my own will,
some at the behest of others,
that which matches what I have said before
and shall say again is the former,
that which is not, the latter.
Radhakrishna further cites passages from KrishnaS(5) and the final passages of Laghu-vaiṣṇava-toṣaṇī,(6) which are intended to confirm Jiva's insincerity in presenting the dogmas found in Locana-rocanī. These other passages are little more than humble admissions of inadequacy in a style frequently found in devotional writings, however, and cannot be said to make the same allusion that the Locana-rocanī verse does.

Radhakrishna claims that Jiva had altered his opinions to please a friend and disciple, Gopal Das. He goes on to lay the blame for the rise of the svakīyā dogma on the disciple Krishna Das, Jiva's successor at the Radha Damodar temple (and likely author of the Laghu-gopāla-campū).(7) Radhakrishna denies that this Krishna Das had any authority to speak about Jiva's real intentions, for he had made a false claim to be Jiva's disciple, when in fact Jiva had not taken any disciples, only pupils. Such arguments ad personam are not particularly relevant to the establishment of Jiva's real intentions, which can be understood only by an examination of the materials themselves, which are amazingly consistent. Radhakrishna does not attempt to point out inconsistencies in Jiva's writings. Rupa Kaviraj, on the other hand, has made such an attempt at the beginning of his Sāra-saṅgraha, but with only limited success. (8)

Jiva's comments on the BrahmaS, his Prīti-sandarbha, the Locana-rocanī commentary on Rupa's Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi, Rādhā-kṛṣṇārcana-dīpikā, are all dominated by a defense of svakīyā-vāda. The first chapter of what is generally considered to be Jiva's final work, Saṅkalpa-kalpa-druma, also summarizes the activities of Krishna's avatar with an end to showing that he leads an eternal existence in the married state with the gopIs. The repeated elaboration of the same theme as well as the sheer magnitude of the effort that went into producing the Gopāla-campū with its elaborate description of Krishna's wedding to Radha, would certainly make it difficult to argue inconsistency on Jiva's part. That the parakīyā-vāda was able to supplant Jiva's svakīyā-vāda amongst the Gaudiyas was not due to want of effort on his part.

Radha Govinda Nath claims in his Caitanya-caritāmṛta Bhūmikā that the Locana-rocanī verse does not appear in all manuscripts, without telling us in which MSS he has examined. (9) If the verse is an interpolation, it is a very early one indeed, for both Radhakrishna Goswami and Rupa Kaviraj lived and wrote in the early to mid-17th century, less than fifty years after Jiva's death. In view of Jiva's overwhelming consistency, however, it is far more likely that the controversial verse quoted above is at most an apology for any inconsistency that might have slipped through despite his best efforts. As such it is similar in both form and substance to comparable verses of his predecessors. Compare, for instance, the following shloka found in the introduction of Sanatan's VT:

svayaṁ vilikhitaṁ kiṁcit
kiṁcid yogyair vilekhitam
chidraṁ yad asti tac cātra
śodhyaṁ vaiṣṇava-paṇḍitaiḥ
Some things have been written by myself,
worthy persons have instructed me to write others;
whatever fault there may be in this work
should be corrected by Vaishnava scholars.
The subsequent articles found in this section will look into the cultural background and attitudes toward adultery in Sanskrit poetry, the influence of which is dominant in the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition. It also examines the literary record to see whether there are any precursors to the controversy as it manifested in the Gaudiya Vaishnava world. Two articles deal with Jiva Goswami’s arguments in defence of the svakīyā position, and a final article, not yet written, will examine the rebuttals of Radhakrishna Goswami, Rupa Kaviraj and Vishwanath Chakravarti. A summary of their position is found at the end of the second of the Gopāla-campū summaries.

1. The adulterous heroine in Sanskrit poetics
2. Adultery in works of Sanskrit literature
3. The gopis as adulteresses in the Puranas
4. The gopis in secular poetry
5. The return to Vraja
6. Does Krishna marry the gopis in the end?
7. The parakiya rebuttal


1. sādhane bhābibe yāhā, siddha-dehe pāibe tāhā, sādhya sādhaner ei vicāra

2. Karṇānanda, Ch. 5, 92-97.

3. Karṇānanda 5.6-11, e.g.
śuddha parakīyā līlā granthete likhila/
tāhā dekhi prabhura baḍa sukha upajila//
śrī-jīvera gambhīrāśaya nā bujhiyā/
bahiḥ śloka bākhānaye svākīyā baliyā//

4. (ed.) Haridas Das, Nabadwip: Haribol Kutir, 1957: śrī-jiva-saṅgodgate.

5. 181; yad etat tu mayā kṣudratareṇa taralāyitam/
kṣamatāṁ tat kṣamā-śīlaḥ śrīmān gokula-vallabhaḥ//
May the beautiful Lord Krishna, beloved of the Gokula residents, who is forgiving by nature, pardon me, the petty being who has thus been making waves and causing a disturbance. (Anuccheda 181)

6. līlā-stavaṣ ṭippaṇī ca seyaṁ vaiṣṇava-toṣaṇī/
yā saṁkṣiptā mayā kṣudratareṇāpi tad-ājñayā//
abuddhyā buddhyā vā yad iha mayakālekhi /
sahasā tathā yad vācchedi dvayam api saheran param api/
aho kiṁ vā yad yan manasi mama visphoritam abhūd
amībhis tan mātram yadi balam alaṁ śaṅkita-kulaiḥ//

7. This is manuscript information. The MS used was from the VRI library.

8. asya svecchākṛta-vyākhyā sevyate 'sau mayā sudhā/ śrīmal-locana-rocanyāṁ tat-kṛdbhir yāsu sañcitā// (1.30). Rupa Kaviraj goes on to cite Jiva's commentary on UN 14.154 where Jiva speaks of the anurāga stage of love in which the sacrifices one make's for love's sake appear to be pleasure. Jiva there talks about the gopīs' desertion of their religious principles and families for Krishna's sake as being a case in point, but does not in any way contradict anything he has to say elswhere about the gopis having an eternal svakīyā relation with Krishna in Goloka.

9. 4th edn., Calcutta: Prachyavani Mandir, 1958; 377. Nath makes no references to specific MS. materials, thus diminishing the weight of his claim.

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