As a result of thoughts expressed a few days ago on this blog, I decided to read through Shukavak's book again, from beginning to end this time, and review the points that he made there. I have mentioned this book many times and I would like to emphasize once again what an important contribution Shukavak has made to the future of the sampradaya by opening the door to this aspect of Bhaktivinoda's thought, which Bhaktivedanta, by inadvertance or by design, decided to omit from his own preaching.
I wrote in Bhaktivinoda Thakur's meat eating and Lalita Prasad Thakur that Bhaktivinoda Thakur made two most significant contributions: the first is the opening of a door to a modern approach to Gaudiya Vaishnava doctrine and history, the other is the wholehearted acceptance of the raganuga sadhana practices that are generally rejected by all branches of the Gaudiya Math.
Shukavak quotes several times a passage from the introduction to the Krishna-samhita, in which Bhaktivinoda Thakur states quite clearly that he hopes future scholars, or madhyamadhikari devotees, will continue the work that he has begun (see HEM, page 150):
যত দূর পারা গেল, ঘটনাসকলের ও গ্রন্থ আধুনিকমতে কাল নিরূপিত হইল। সারগ্রাহী জন গণ বাদনিসষ্ঠ নহেন, অতএব সদ্যুক্তি দ্বারা ইহার বিপরীত কোন বিষয় স্থির হইলেও তাহা আমাদের আদরণীয়। অতএব এতত্সিদ্ধান্ত সম্বন্ধে ভবিষ্যত পরমার্থবাদী বা বুদ্ধিমান অর্থবাদীদিগের নিকট হইতে অনেক আশা করা যায়।
As far as possible, I have determined the chronology of the major events and important books according to the modern perspective. A saragrahi, however, is not attached to a particular view, so if, in the future, any of my conclusions are refuted by better reasoning, then those new conclusions are worthy of my respect and consideration. Indeed, there is much hope that future spiritual seekers and intellectuals will improve upon this matter.
Though the specific context here is the historiography of ancient India, I believe that it applies to other areas in which Bhaktivinoda Thakur was interested, including the dialogue with other philosophies and religions. This is what I meant when I said that initiation was an entry into this dialogue centered about faith and the goals of faith as it manifests in this particular tradition.
For those who are not familiar by now with Shukavak's analysis of BVT, I will just mention a couple of the more salient points. Most of this I have been talking about previously, although I may not have used the same terms that Bhaktivinoda did.
Shukavak has emphasized three points, which are all very significant, as they go completely against the kind of fundamentalist tenacity to scriptural literalism that characterizes smuch of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, including those branches that claim allegiance to Bhaktivinoda Thakur.
- His acceptance of personal intuition or personal revelation, which he called sahaja-samadhi.
- Bhaktivinoda's interpretation of the three kinds of adhikara for devotion.
- His acceptance of the evolutionary or progressive model.
- His acceptance of symbolic interpretation of the scriptures and his theory of symbolism.
The sahaja-samadhi idea appears to be based in the idea of innate identity with Krishna. Obviously, Bhaktivinoda is orthodox in his acceptance of the jiva's distinction from Krishna, but I think he would argue against any idea that the jiva is not innately sac-cid-ananda; thus the jiva can intuit and recognize the truths of spiritual life on his own, without necessary recourse to other sources. This intuitive understanding is built on historical traditions, but ultimately it furnishes the capacity of a jiva to further the "progressive march" of knowledge to further stages beyond those already achieved in any specific school of thought. It is the Newtonian idea, "If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants."
So the question here is whether the creative impulse really stands at the opposite extreme of the parampara model.
Anyway, I starting writing all this more than a month ago. It is now Sept. 21, but I am posting it anyway with the original date on it, even though it is unfinished. These are important ideas and will need further contemplation. I especially want to discuss the questions of symbolism.
Student paper about Bhaktivinoda Thakur