Gaudiya Vaishnavism

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the founder of Gaudiya Vaishnavism

Gaudiya Vaishnavism (also known as Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava tradition, Bengali Vaishnavism,[1] or Chaitanya Vaishnavism[2]) is a Vaishnava Hindu religious movement inspired by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486–1534) in India. "Gauḍīya" refers to the Gauḍa region (present day Bengal/Bangladesh) with Vaishnavism meaning "the worship of Vishnu". Its theological basis is primarily that of the Bhagavad Gītā and Bhāgavata Purāṇa as interpreted by early disciples of Chaitanya such as Sanātana Gosvāmin, Rūpa Gosvāmin, Jīva Gosvāmin, Gopala Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmin, and others.[3][4]

The focus of Gaudiya Vaishnavism is the devotional worship (bhakti) of Radha and Krishna, and their many divine incarnations as the supreme forms of God, Svayam Bhagavan. Most popularly, this worship takes the form of singing Radha and Krishna's holy names, such as "Hare", "Krishna" and "Rama", most commonly in the form of the Hare Krishna (mantra), also known as kirtan. The movement is sometimes referred to as the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya sampradaya, referring to its belief in the succession of spiritual masters (gurus) believed to originate from Brahma.

Gaudiya Vaishnavism is the spiritual and philosophical foundation of the Hare Krishna Movement.

It classifies itself as a monotheistic tradition, seeing the many forms of Vishnu or Krishna as expansions or incarnations of the one Supreme God, adipurusha.

Philosophical concepts

Living beings

According to Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy, consciousness is not a product of matter, but is instead a symptom of the soul.[5] All living beings (jivas), are distinct from their current body - the nature of the soul being eternal, immutable, and indestructible without any particular beginning or end.[6] Souls which are captivated by the illusory nature of the world (Maya) are repeatedly reborn among the various (8,400,000 in number) species of life on this planet and on other worlds in accordance to the laws of karma and individual desire. This is consistent with the concept of samsara found throughout Hindu belief.

Release from the process of samsara (known as moksha) is believed to be achievable through a variety of spiritual practices. However, within Gaudiya Vaishnavism it is bhakti in its purest state (or "pure love of God") which is given as the ultimate aim, rather than liberation from the cycle of rebirth.[citation needed]

Supreme Person (God)

One of the defining aspects of Gaudiya Vaishnavism is that Krishna is worshiped specifically as the source of all Avataric incarnations of God. This is based on quotations from the Bhagavata Purana, such as "krsnāstu bhagavan svayam", literally "Krishna is God Himself".[citation needed]

Inconceivable oneness and difference

A particularly distinct part of the Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy espoused by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is the concept of Achintya Bheda Abheda, which translates to "inconceivable oneness and difference" in the context of the soul's relationship with Krishna,[7] and also Krishna's relationship with his other energies (i.e. the material world).[8]

In quality, the soul (jiva) is described as being identical to God, but in terms of quantity individual jivas are said to be infinitesimal in comparison to the unlimited Supreme Being. The exact nature of this relationship (being simultaneously one and different with Krishna) is inconceivable to the human mind but can be experienced through the process of Bhakti yoga.

This philosophy serves as a meeting of two opposing schools of Hindu philosophy, pure monism (God and the soul as one entity) and pure dualism (God and the soul as absolutely separate). This philosophy largely recapitulates the concepts of qualified nondualism practiced by the older Vedantic school Vishishtadvaita, but emphasizes the figure of Krishna over Narayana and holy sites in and around Bengal over sites in Tamil Nadu. In practice, Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy has much more in common with the dualistic schools especially closely following theological traditions established by Madhvacharya's Dvaita Vedanta.