One of the aims of Jiva Institute is to publish rare books. Dr. Demian Martins discovered this previously unknown work of Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura and translated it into English. It has been printed for the first time in Gaudiya history and is now available in our Online Store.
The author reveals here the identities of Sri Caitanya’s associates in krsna-lila and complements the list of names given by Sri Kavi Karnapura in the Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika. He refers to the views of the previous Gaudiya acaryas and also to the Srimad Bhagavatam, Padma Purana, Rupa Gosvami’s Vidagdha-madhava, and Krsnadasa Kaviraja’s Govinda-lilamrta. One of the highlights here is the corroboration of the link between the Madhva and the Gaudiya sampradayas as presented by Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana. At the end of this edition, there are comprehensive tables with a cross comparison between the identities of the Lord’s associates in Gaura-lila and Krsna-lila in the works of both Karnapura and Cakravarti.
Visvanatha Cakravarti’s “Gaura-gana” Release
By Dr. Demian Martins
It is a great pleasure to announce that nearly three centuries after its composition, Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti’s Gaura-gana-svarupa-tattva-candrika has now been printed for the first time and is available with an English translation. The text reveals the identities of Lord Caitanya’s associates in Krsna-lila and complements the list of names given by Srila Kavi Karnapura in the Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika. One of the highlights is the corroboration of the link between the Madhva and the Gaudiya sampradayas as presented by Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana. Following in his footsteps, the parampara list which appears in Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad Gita As It Is was strongly supported by Srila Bhaktivinoda and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, but it has been object of criticism by other Gaudiyas and scholars. In the following paragraphs, sufficient evidence will be presented to refute their objections.
The history of the Gaudiya-sampradaya is primarily divided into two phases: the first comprises the years in which Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu was personally present, and the second started after His disappearance. During the first phase, Lord Caitanya’s personal associates, headed by Srila Rupa Gosvami and Srila Sanatana Gosvami, took the task of elaborately describing in innumerable treatises the theological system taught by Him. The Gaudiya theology as explained by Lord Caitanya’s followers is based on the concept that He is the Supreme Lord. More specifically, that He is not an expansion, or avatara, of Visnu. He is Lord Krsna Himself, the avatari, the source of all incarnations. This view is corroborated by the Gaudiya acaryas on the basis of the statement of the Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.5.32):
krsna-varnam tvisakrsnam sangopangastra-parsadam
yajnaih sankirtana-prayair yajanti hi su-medhasah
“In the Age of Kali, by performing sacrifices consisting mostly of congregational chanting, those who are intelligent worship a form of the Supreme Lord Who is Krsna Himself, although His complexion is not blackish, and Who constantly sings the names of Krsna. He is accompanied by His parts and parcels, divine ornaments, weapons and associates.”
Although this ontological view was not directly propounded by Lord Caitanya, His direct associates and the subsequent generations of followers adopted it. Based on this understanding they developed an elaborate philosophical school, which became known as acintya-bhedabheda, “inconceivable oneness and difference.” All the living entities, both in the spiritual world and in the material world, are energies of Lord Krsna, and are therefore considered eternally one with Him. Yet because they keep their individuality eternally, even in the state of liberation, they are simultaneously different from Him. The very same Lord Krsna now appeared in the form of Caitanya Mahaprabhu along with His eternal associates to perform transcendental pastimes, this time as a sannyasi. Mahaprabhu and His companions were classified in five categories, the panca-tattva. This is described in the following verse, which is attributed to Svarupa Damodara Gosvami:
panca-tattvatmakam krsnam bhakta-rupa-svarupakam
bhaktavataram bhaktakhyam namami bhakta-saktikam
“I offer my obeisances unto Lord Krsna in His five features as the form of a devotee, the expansion of a devotee, the incarnation of a devotee, a devotee, and the devotional energy.”
The pioneer work which gives a detailed account of Lord Krsna’s associates is Srila Rupa Gosvami’s Radha-Krsna-ganoddesa-dipika. It does not include, however, Krsna’s associates present in Caitanya-lila. Since the parallel between Krsna and Caitanya was clear, there arose a need to establish the parallel between His associates in both lilas as well. The oldest comprehensive text that we have knowledge of seems to be Kavi Karnapura’s Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika, dated 1576 AD. In this book the author extensively correlates the prominent associates of Mahaprabhu with those of Krsna in Vraja. In the words of the author himself, this correlation was done based on the writings and statements of Lord’s Caitanya’s followers:
vilokyanyani sadhunam mathuraudra-nivasinam
gaudiyanam api mukhan nisamya sva-manisaya
vivicyamreditah kaiscit kaiscit tani likhamy aham
“Having seen, in the works written by Lord Caitanya’s associates, their names in Lord Krsna’s pastimes, and having heard those names from the mouths of the devotees from Mathura, Odisha and Bengal, according to their own understanding, I am writing these names, as I was repeatedly requested to do.”
There are several instances in which Kavi Karnapura mentions different opinions regarding the former identity of some of Mahaprabhu’s companions, and there are also instances in which a single person was attributed more than one identity simultaneously. Still many devotees mentioned in the standard works on Lord Caitanya’s pastimes were not included in Karnapura’s book. Other Gaudiya scholars attempted to give both an extended list of correlated names, and optional views regarding their identities. One such text is the Gaura-gana-svarupa-tattva-candrika. Before analysing its contents, authenticity and authorship, it is appropriate to first analyse its sister work, Kavi Karnapura’s Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika. Despite the latter’s popularity and large acceptance among Gaudiyas, its authorship is still questioned by some.
A few speculative writers even go extreme lengths in their stubborn attempt to disprove the link between the Madhva-sampradaya and the Gaudiya-sampradaya, which is so clearly stated in the Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika. They claim that the text attributed to Karnapura was either composed or interpolated during the time of Baladeva Vidyabhusana, who lived in the 18th century, or perhaps was even composed by Vidyabhusana himself, a claim which is baseless and malicious. While some directly or indirectly accuse Vidyabhusana of forgery, all of them unhesitatingly try to induce the readers to think that the Madhva-Gaudiya link was a concoction introduced by him. In discussing this topic, B. B. Majumdar referred to several other authors who wrote on it. According to him, the objections can be summarized in three points: Krsnadasa Kaviraja has neither mentioned the Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika, nor quoted any verse from it; the comparison between the associates of Lord Caitanya and Lord Krsna are not supported by the Six Gosvamis; and Karnapura does not mention why Lord Caitanya is said to belong to the Madhva-sampradaya. The first objection is far from ingenious. There is no scope in Kaviraja’s work to give an exhaustive list of all literary works composed by Lord Caitanya’s followers. If not being mentioned in the Caitanya Caritamrta is evidence of inauthenticity, then we would have to reject dozens of important Gaudiya works, including some written by the Gosvamis of Vrndavana as well.
If on one hand it is accepted that no emphasis was given to the Madhva-Gaudiya link before Vidyabhusana, on the other hand there is a good number of evidences that it was not something new or concocted by him. There is also no shortage of evidence that Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika was very well known as Karnapura’s work before the 18th century. In the Sadhana-dipika written by Radha-Krsna Gosvami, a mahanta of the Govindadeva temple in Vrndavana in the 17th century, the Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika is quoted several times. In the ninth chapter, the author says: (…) sri-karnapura-gosvami-padanam sri-ananda-vrndavana-campu-sri-krsnahnika-kaumudi-sri-gaura-ganoddesa-sri-caitanya-candrodaya-natakadi, “(Further corroboration can be found in the works of …) as well as Kavi Karnapura Gosvami’s Ananda-vrndavana-campu, Krsnahnika-kaumudi, Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika, Caitanya-candrodaya, etc.”
In the commentary of Anandi on Prabodhananda Sarasvati’s Caitanya-candramrta, verse 142, the following quotation is found: sri-gaura-ganoddesa-dipikayam ca eko mahaprabhur jneyah sri-caitanya-dayambudhih, prabhu dvau sri-yutau nityanandadvaita-mahasayav iti, “In the Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika it is stated: It should be known that there is only one Mahaprabhu, Lord Caitanya, Who is an ocean of mercy, and that there are two Prabhus, the magnanimous Nityananda and Advaita.” The Gaudiya Vaisnava Abhidhana refers to a manuscript which reads Sakabda 1645 (1723 AD) as the year in which Anandi’s commentary was concluded. Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika was also quoted several times in Narahari Cakravarti’s Bhakti-ratnakara (early 18th century), and probably in many other works pre-Vidyabhusana, but these instances are more than enough to dismiss the misconception that it was an 18th century composition. Those who claim that the verses suggesting a Madhva link are interpolations should show at least one old manuscript in which those verses do not appear. As demonstrated above, Karnapura’s work was sufficiently known to be quoted by different scholars in different places. That means that there were enough copies circulating before the 18th century, and from those many later copies were made. At present, there are innumerable manuscripts of the text all over India, and possibly abroad, so if the verses referring to the Madhva link are interpolated, why can’t none of those who raise the objection present even one manuscript in which such verses do not appear?
The second objection would be valid if someone could give evidence that the text was not written by Karnapura, otherwise who can question his authority? He received the blessings of Mahaprabhu while he was still in the womb of his mother, and was especially favoured by Him as a small child. Moreover, as he clearly stated in his book, he did not write it according to his own opinion, but rather according to the views of different associates of the Lord. All of the Vrndavana Gosvamis accepted the interpretation of the above-mentioned verse of the Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.5.32), and it is commonly accepted that whenever the Lord appears on earth, He is accompanied by His eternal associates. Therefore the list given by Karnapura cannot be discredited simply because it did not come directly from the Gosvamis. Nor does it clash with the theology presented by them in any essential respect, although Karnapura may sometimes include his own understanding in his writings.
The third objection is also fallacious, for it is well recorded that Lord Caitanya was initiated by Isvara Puri, who was a disciple of Madhavendra Puri, who, according to several sources, came in the disciplic succession of Madhvacarya. To dismiss the claim that Mahaprabhu is in the Madhva line, strong evidence should be presented that Madhavendra Puri and any of his predecessors did not have any connection with it either. While it is evident that Madhavendra Puri, Isvara Puri and Caitanya Mahaprabhu did not adhere to the orthodox Madhva philosophy and mode of worship, this does not suffice to discard their connection with the Madhva-parampara by diksa. It is ironic that several writers have taken an interest in rebutting the Madhva link, but they do not seem so keen to argue against the link with the Sankara-sampradaya. In the Caitanya Caritamrta, several times Mahaprabhu declared Himself to be a mayavadi sannyasi, as his sannyasa-guru was Kesava Bharati, who is said to have taken sannyasa in Sankara’s line.
anyera ki katha, ami—‘mayavadi sannyasi’
amiha tomara sparse krsna-preme bhasi
“Simply by your touch, even I, a mayavadi sannyasi, am also floating in the ocean of love of Krsna, so what to speak of others?” (Madhya-lila, 8.45)
prabhu kahe — mayavadi ami ta’ sannyasi
bhakti-tattva nahi jani, mayavade bhasi
“Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, ‘I am a mayavadi sannyasi and I do not even know what devotional service to the Lord is. I am simply floating in the ocean of impersonal philosophy (mayavada).” (Madhya-lila, 8.124)
mahaprabhu kahe—“suna, bhatta maha-mati
mayavadi sannyasi ami, na jani krsna-bhakti
“Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu replied, ‘Please listen, O learned Vallabha Bhatta. I am a mayavadi sannyasi and therefore I do not know what devotion to Krsna is.” (Antya-lila, 7.16)
Yet in His exchanges with Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, Mahaprabhu clearly rejects Sankara’s interpretations and conclusions on Vedanta:
jivera nistara lagi’ sutra kaila vyasa
mayavadi-bhasya sunile haya sarva-nasa
“Vyasadeva compiled the Brahma-sutras for the deliverance of the conditioned souls, but if one hears the impersonalist commentary of Sankaracarya, then everything is ruined.” (Madhya-lila, 6.169)
Does He sound like a faithful follower of Sankara? Thus it is apparent that a formal connection through receiving an initiation mantra or sannyasa-mantra does not necessarily imply, in all cases, full adherence to the thought of a particular philosophical school. In those days, in order to take sannyasa, one would usually approach the Sankara-sampradaya, which held a high status in Indian society at large, while Vaisnava-sannyasis were not so prominent, either in number or in rank. In history there are cases of acaryas who had been initiated in a particular line, but in due course propagated a system quite distinct from that line. Madhvacarya is one of the best examples. Although originally initiated in the Sankara-sampradaya, he propounded a system which was diametrically opposed to Sankara’s philosophy. Vallabhacarya affiliated himself with the sampradaya of Visnu Svami, but philosophically such a connection is not beyond doubt. Ramananda Svami belonged to the Sri-sampradaya and kept this affiliation4 in spite of starting a new sampradaya, propagating his own ideologies. There are several other cases of philosophical divergences among different lines within the Sri-sampradaya, but all of them still claim to belong to the very same line founded by Ramanujacarya. The same is also true in the Sankara-sampradaya, where, in the centuries, several acaryas propounded philosophical concepts and conclusions quite distinct from their predecessors’, and yet all of them maintained their connection with Adisankara’s succession.
The question regarding Madhavendra’s title as ‘Puri’ instead of ‘Tirtha,’ as expected in the Madhva lineage, is indeed an intriguing one, but despite lots of speculations, it remains unanswered. Yet we definitely cannot rule out the possibility that he was somehow connected with the sampradaya of Madhvacarya for the reasons just mentioned. Here again Madhvacarya himself is the best example, for during his whole life he kept the title ‘Tirtha,’ one of the ten sannyasa names unique to the Sankara-sampradaya, although he dedicated his life to fighting against Sankara’s philosophy. Caitanya Mahaprabhu had many sannyasi associates with sankarite names, such as Paramananda Puri, Kesava Bharati, Brahmananda Puri, Brahmananda Bharati, Sri Visnu Puri, Kesava Puri, Krsnananda Puri, Sri Nrsimha Tirtha and Sukhananda Puri, who were all obviously exalted Vaisnavas to be in His company. It used to be common to take sannyasa at very early age, and later possibly convert into another religious sect. It was also the etiquette that those who were defeated in a philosophical debate would join the sect of the winner. In any case, sannyasa vows were for life. Therefore there was nothing unusual in their keeping their sannyasa names despite a change of faith. Besides these, there are several other reasons which could be conjectured, such as the possibility that Madhavendra Puri was not at all connected to the Sankara-sampradaya but received his title elsewhere, since at that time this title was no longer an exclusively sankarite name, just as in the case of the title ‘Tirtha.’
Factually, the Gaudiyas are not the only ones to claim the connection between the Madhvas and the Gaudiyas, for the Vaisnavas in the Vallabhacarya-sampradaya also corroborate it in their own works, which we can assume are not affected at all by the Gaudiyas’ controversies on this topic. By the end of his Sri–Vallabha-digvijaya, Yadunatha (16th century AD), grandson of Vallabhacarya, introduced the episode of Vallabhacarya’s taking sannyasa from Madhavendra Puri in the following words: tato madhva-sampradayi visnu-svami-matanuyayi bhagavad-anugrhito madhavendra-yatih samagatah | tasya prasamsadi vidhaya nivasitah | tan-mukhat sannyasa-dharmah sravitah, “Then arrived Madhavendra, a renunciant much favoured by Lord Krsna. He belonged to the Madhva-sampradaya and also adhered to the philosophy of Visnu Svami. Vallabhacarya duly received him as a guest by offering sweet words, etc., and then heard from him about the religious duties pertaining to sannyasa.” Gokulanatha (16th century AD), another grandson of Vallabhacarya, in his Do Sau Bavan Vaisnava Ki Varta5 narrated the exchanges between Vitthalanatha and Madhavendra Puri: so ve madhavendra puri madhva sampradaya ke sannyasi hate aur adel mem rahete hate | vin ke pas sri gusaim ji padhve jate hate , “Madhavendra Puri was a sannyasi of the Madhva-sampradaya and was living in Adel. Gusaim ji (Vitthalanatha) used to go to him for reading sastra.”
There is yet another objection raised: in his Caitanya-candrodaya (8.4), Karnapura depicts Lord Caitanya’s criticism of Madhvacarya’s followers known as tattvavadis, therefore he could not have stated that Mahaprabhu Himself was a Madhva:
sri-krsna-caitanyah: kiyanta eva vaisnava drstas te ’pi narayanopasaka eva. apare tattvavadinas te tatha-vidha eva. niravadyam na bhavati tesam matam. apare tu saiva eva bahavah. pasandas tu maha-prabala bhuyamsa eva. kintu bhattacarya ramananda-matam eva me rucitam.
Sri Krsna Caitanya: “I have seen many Vaisnavas who worship only Lord Narayana. I have also seen similar Vaisnavas known as tattvavadis. Their philosophy is not free from blemish. I have seen many others who are worshipers of Lord Siva. I have seen many powerful heretics. However, O Bhattacarya, I only like the philosophy of Ramananda Raya.”
A similar criticism is also found in the Caitanya Caritamrta (Madhya-lila, 9.276-277):
prabhu kahe, karmi jnani dui bhakti-hina tomara sampradaye dekhi sei dui cihna
sabe eka guna dekhi tomara sampradaye satya-vigraha kari’ isvare karaha niscaye
“Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, ‘Both karmis (fruitive workers) and jnanis (speculative philosophers) are devoid of bhakti. We see elements of both in your sampradaya. Yet one good quality that I see in your sampradaya is that you accept the form of the Lord as truth.”
The objection raised on the basis of these passages is also fallacious and is also refuted by the above-mentioned points, for Karnapura simply mentioned that some of Lord Caitanya’s predecessors were initiated in the disciplic succession of Madhvacarya, and not that He subscribed to Madhva’s doctrine in all respects. Moreover in these passages Mahaprabhu criticizes the tattvavadis and their views, not Madhvacarya, who preached only pure bhakti. Even some leading Madhva scholars like Dr. Bannanje Govindacharya are of the opinion that the Sarva-mula is full of wrong readings and interpolations which led some followers to misinterpret Madhvacarya’s original teachings. Therefore it is quite appropriate that Mahaprabhu would say ‘your sampradaya’ instead of ‘our.’
As seen above, Mahaprabhu was much more critical of Sankara’s philosophy, yet this did not prevent him from accepting sannyasa in that line. A very pertinent question to those who staunchly raise all these objections is: if Lord Caitanya was not connected with the Madhva-sampradaya, then which sampradaya was He connected with? No one can deny that He was initiated by Isvara Puri, and to take initiation means to be connected with a specific line. The disputants simply evade this question and declare that Lord Caitanya is the Supreme Lord Himself and does not need to be connected with any sampradaya to start His own. By such a statement, however, they totally overlook that He did take formal initiation. If His supremacy is not undermined by accepting Sandipani Muni and Vasistha as gurus in previous lilas, then certainly the same is true regarding His accepting initiation from Isvara Puri and thus becoming connected with the disciplic succession of Madhvacarya. The Supreme Lord is known as a devotee of His devotees, therefore it is His pleasure to accept the spiritual lineage of such an exalted soul as Madhvacarya, who is actually His eternal companion and had previously appeared as Hanuman and Bhima. On the contrary, to propose that Mahaprabhu started His own sampradaya because He is the Supreme Lord and does not need an affiliation with any of the traditional sampradayas would completely clash with the Gaudiya theological view that He is the ‘covered’ avatara of Kali-yuga mentioned in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (7.9.38):
ittham nr-tiryag-rsi-deva-jhasavatarair lokan vibhavayasi hamsi jagat-pratipan
dharmam maha-purusa pasi yuganuvrttam channah kalau yad abhavas tri-yugo ’ tha sa tvam
“In this way, through Your various avataras in the form of human beings, animals, sages, demigods and aquatic beings, You maintain all the creation and kill those who are inimical towards the world. O Supreme Lord, You protect dharma in conformity with each age, but because in Kali-yuga you remained covered, therefore You are known as Triyuga, one who appears in three yugas.”
By declaring that Lord Caitanya is an open avatara Who started His own sampradaya, as does Lord Narayana, the word channah (covered) in the above verse would be meaningless in connection to Him, and the Gaudiyas would lack unambiguous scriptural evidence to support His open status as the Supreme Lord.
In fact, the Madhva-Gaudiya link was mentioned by several pre-Vidyabhusana authors. Perhaps the earliest known reference to this link is found in an unpublished Oriya manuscript entitled Bhakti-jnana-brahma-yoga, attributed to Acyutananda dasa (early 16th century), one of the members of the panca-sakha of Odisha. Prabhat Mukherjee refers6 to other two Oriya texts which mention the link: Isvara dasa’s (end of 16th century) Caitanya Bhagavata and Divakara dasa’s (early 17th century) Jagannatha Caritamrta.
In the introduction of the Nava-ratnam, Harirama Vyasa (early 16th century) states:
“All glories to Sri Madhvacarya, who is like a sun emanating rays of bhakti, which destroy the darkness of the wicked words of Mayavada and other deviant philosophies.
“I, Harirama Vyasa, repeatedly glorify the Vaisnavas who have firmly taken shelter in Sri Govinda, by whose mercy I now compose this brief delineation of our disciplic succession.
“One’s own disciplic succession by which exclusive devotion is accomplished should be always remembered by the devotees, without which they cannot attain perfection.
“As stated in the Padma Purana: ‘The mantras received outside a sampradaya are considered fruitless. Therefore in Kali-yuga there will be four founders of sampradayas: Sri, Brahma, Rudra and Sanaka Kumara. These Vaisnavas will be the sanctifiers of the earth.’7
“Laksmidevi accepted Ramanujacarya, Brahma accepted Madhvacarya, Rudra accepted Visnu Svami, and the four Kumaras accepted Nimbarkacarya.
“Our own sampradaya is as follows: the Supreme Lord Sri Krsna, Brahma, Narada, Badarayana, Madhva, Padmanabha, Nrhari, Madhava, Aksobhya, Jaya Tirtha, Jnanasindhu, Dayanidhi, Vidyanidhi, Rajendra, the sage Jayadharma, Purusottama, Brahmanya, his disciple Vyasa Tirtha, Laksmipati, and then Sri Madhavendra Puri, the lord of renunciants, Isvara Puri, and then his disciple Madhava, who became very dear to Radha and Krsna. I, Harirama, became an object of his mercy.”
In the fourth chapter of the Advaita-prakasa, dated 1568 AD and attributed to Isana Nagara, it is described how during his pilgrimage around India, Advaita Prabhu reached Udupi, where he met Madhavendra Puri for the first time and heard Srimad-Bhagavatam from him:
“Advaita Prabhu gradually visited many places of pilgrimage and then reached Udupi, the place of Madhvacarya.
“Madhavendra Puri read to Advaita Prabhu the Srimad-Bhagavatam with Madhvacarya’s commentary and also gave him his further explanations.
“Merely by hearing it, Advaita Prabhu memorized the whole thing. Seeing that, the community of devotees became very surprised.”
Kavi Karnapura’s Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika, dated 1576 AD, is another early and better known Gaudiya reference:
“Four founders of sampradayas appeared in Kali-yuga, which are named Sri-sampradaya, Brahma-sampradaya, Rudra-sampradaya and Sanaka-sampradaya, as stated in the Padma Purana, ‘In the Age of Kali there will be four founders of sampradayas: Sri, Brahma, Rudra and Sanaka Kumara. These Vaisnavas will be the sanctifiers of the earth.’ First of all, I shall describe the disciplic succession from Madhvacarya. Brahma, the lord of the universe, became disciple of Lord Narayana, the Lord of Vaikuntha. Narada Muni became Brahma’s disciple and Vyasadeva became disciple of Narada. Sukadeva received transcendental knowledge from Vyasadeva and thus became his disciple. Sukadeva has many disciples and grand-disciples in this world. The renowned Madhvacarya received initiation in the Krsna-mantra from Vyasadeva. After systematically dividing the Vedic contents, Madhvacarya wrote the Mayavada-sata-dusani, in which he established the supremacy of Brahman’s transcendental qualities over its impersonal feature.
The magnanimous Padmanabhacarya became Madhvacarya’s disciple. Padmanabha’s disciple was Narahari, and Narahari’s disciple was the brahmana Madhava. Aksobhya became Madhava’s disciple, and Aksobhya’s disciple was Jaya Tirtha. Jaya Tirtha’s disciple was Jnanasindhu. Jnanasindhu’s disciple was Mahanidhi. Mahanidhi’s disciple was Vidyanidhi. Vidyanidhi’s servant was Rajendra. Rajendra’s disciple was the sage Jayadharma. Among Jayadharma’s disciples was Sriman Visnupuri, author of the Bhakti-ratnavali. Another disciple of Jayadharma was the brahmana Purusottama. Purusottama’s disciple was Vyasa Tirtha, who wrote the Visnu-samhita. Vyasa Tirtha’s disciple was Sriman Laksmipati, who was like a reservoir of the mellows of bhakti. Laksmipati’s disciple was Madhavendra Puri,by whom this religion of love for God was established. Madhavendra Puri was the incarnation of a kalpa-vrksa in the abode of Vraja. This tree bears fruits in the form of the mellows of servitude, friendship, parental love, and conjugal love for Lord Krsna. Madhavendra Puri’s disciple was the renunciant Sriman Isvara Puri, who understood the mellows of conjugal love for Krsna and bore the fruit of conjugal love. Advaita Prabhu understood the sentiments of servitude and friendship for the Lord and bore both fruits. Sriman Ranga Puri took shelter in the sentiment of parental love for Lord Krsna. With great respect, Lord Gauranga accepted Isvara Puri as spiritual master and then flooded both the material and spiritual world with love for Krsna.”
In the Bhakti-ratnakara, fifth wave, in the section dealing with Raghava’s description of Lord Gauranga’s pastimes to Srinivasa, after narrating how the Lord accepted initiation from Isvara Puri, Narahari Cakravarti (early 18th century) writes:
“Who is able to understand this transcendental pastime of Lord Caitanya? He personally made the Madhva-sampradaya blessed.
“One who joins a sampradaya can attain perfection in one’s activities. The mantras received otherwise are certainly fruitless.
“In Kali-yuga, the sampradayas are known to be four: Sri-sampradaya, Brahma-sampradaya, Rudra-sampradaya and Sanaka-sampradaya. This is stated in detail in the Puranas.
“As stated in the Padma Purana: ‘Sri, Brahma, Rudra and Sanaka Kumara – in the Age of Kali these will be the four founders of sampradayas. These Vaisnavas will be the sanctifiers of the earth. The mantras received outside a sampradaya are considered fruitless. Therefore in Kali-yuga there will be four founders of sampradayas.’
“These four sampradayas are eligible for bhakti. I shall now describe what is called sampradaya.
“Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Who is like a wish-fulfilling tree, in His form as Narayana is the guru of all.
“Mahaprabhu made the Madhva-sampradaya blessed in this Kali-yuga. I shall now first mention the names of the Lord’s gurus.
“Narayana, the Lord of the spiritual sky, is the primeval Lord of all. His disciple is Lord Brahma, the ornament of Brahma-loka.
“His disciple is Narada Muni, who is full of love for God. His disciple is Vyasadeva, who is the guru of Sukadeva.
“Vyasadeva’s disciple was the magnanimous Madhvacarya, who compiled a commentary named after him and whose glories are unlimited.
“From him this sampradaya became known as Madhvacarya-sampradaya. Padmanabhacarya became his disciple.
“Narahari became his disciple, whose disciple was Madhava. His disciple was Aksobhya, who preached everywhere.
“His disciple was Jaya Tirtha, whose disciple was Jnanasindhu. His disciple was Mahanidhi, the friend of the afflicted and destitute.
“His disciple was Vidyanidhi, whose disciple was known as Rajendra. His disciple was the sage Jayadharma, whose pastimes are wonderful.
“Among his disciples is counted Visnu Puri, who compiled the book called Bhakti-ratnavali.
“In the pure line of the sage Jayadharma, the name of Purusottama Brahmanya is well known.
“His disciple was the great scholar Vyasa Tirtha, who composed the book Visnu-samhita.
“His disciple was Laksmipati, an abode of good qualities. His disciple was Madhavendra, who was like a rising moon of bhakti.
“His disciple was Isvara Puri, a repository of mercy. Lord Gauracandra, the Supreme Lord, became His disciple.
“Lord Gaura Raya became Isvara Puri’s disciple and He personally sang his glories with His own mouth.
“Who is able to understand the Lord’s wonderful power? The Nimananda-sampradaya thus proceeds from the Lord.
“Among the Lord’s name, ‘Nimai Pandita’ is the chief. This name is very dear to Lord Nityananda.
“Even today it is seen in Nadiya among the Lord’s devotees that his sampradaya is called Nimai-sampradaya.
“Nimai distributed bliss to all the world and is therefore famous on earth as Nimananda.
“It is by the influence of Lord Caitanya that His disciplic succession is known as the Madhva-sampradaya, just as I have previously explained.
“As stated in the verses composed by Sri Gopala Guru, disciple of Sriman Vakresvara Pandita: Narayana, Brahma, Narada, Vyasa, Madhva, Padmanabha, Nrhari, Madhava, Aksobhya, Jaya Tirtha, Jnanasindhu, Mahanidhi, Vidyanidhi, Rajendra, Jayadharma, Purusottama, Brahmanya, Vyasa Tirtha, Laksmipati, Madhavendra Puri, Isvara Puri and Sri Krsna Caitanya, the desire tree of love for Krsna – this is the disciplic succession known in the world as Nimananda.”
These verses attributed to Gopala Guru are particularly important, since he was a contemporary of Lord Caitanya. In his Sampradaya-bodhini, Manohara Dasa states:
“Lord Narayana’s disciple is Lord Brahma. You should know that Narada is Brahma’s disciple, and his disciple is Vedavyasa, who composed the Srimad-Bhagavata Mahapurana.
“His disciple Madhvacarya ascertained the meaning of the Bhagavatam and became its commentator. He was like an axe to the Mayavada and made the principles of bhakti become very strong.
“Madhvacarya’s disciple was Padmanabha, whose servant was Narahari. You should know that Narahari’s disciple was Madhava, whose disciple was the famous Aksobhya.
“Aksobhya’s disciple was Jaya Tirtha, whose speech was very refined. Some say that he is the author of a beautiful commentary on the Srimad-Bhagavatam called Vijayadhvaji.
“His disciple was Jnanasindhu, whose disciple was the blessed Mahanidhi. His disciple was Vidyanidhi, who was an unalloyed devotee of guru and Gopala.
“His disciple was Rajendra, whose disciple was Jayadharma. His disciple was Purusottama, who had no other activity except bhajana.
“His disciple was Brahmanya, whose disciple was Vyasa Tirtha. His disciple was Laksmipati, on whom Madhavendra put his faith.
“His disciple was Isvara Puri, who served him very well according to the rules and regulations, to whom the Guru of the whole universe accepted as guru to give a good instruction to the world.
“At first being called Nimananda, He later became known by the name Caitanya Mahaprabhu in His unalloyed disciplic succession.
“From the beginning up to Madhvacarya, this disciplic succession is called Brahma-sampradaya, and the saintly people enunciate its multitude of virtues.
“You should know that up to Isvara Puri this lineage is known as Madhva-sampradaya, and after him it is well known as the Nimanandi sampradaya.
“The famous Gopala Guru, an associate of Mahaprabhu, compiled the names of the disciplic succession in very beautiful Sanskrit verses.
“The second proof is very well known. Nityananda Prabhu had a servant, the excellent Purusottama, who performed wonderful kirtanas and dance.
“His disciple was the great poet named Devakinandana, who described the four sampradayas in the assembly of devotees.
“This description of the disciplic successions was written in beautiful Bengali and everyone who reads it has all mental confusions dispelled. There is no cause for laughter here.
“A clever person should attentively reflect on this: being very merciful, Nityananda Prabhu and Advaita Prabhu accepted Madhavendra Puri as guru just for giving a good instruction to people.
“Vrndavana dasa Thakura, who was known to be established in bliss, composed the supremely sweet Sri Caitanya Bhagavata. Look carefully at the well known evidence written there.
“Now some say that Lord Gauranga took sannyasa in the Madhva-sampradaya and is therefore said to be a servant of the Madhva-sampradaya.
“You should know that it is definitely not so, for in the Madhva-sampradaya the sannyasis are named Tirtha, while Lord Caitanya’s sannyasa guru was named Kesava Bharati. Thus the raised argument is fruitless.
“It is written that there are only four sampradayas, therefore in the Padma Purana we find the following statement by Vyasadeva.
‘In the Age of Kali there will be four founders of sampradayas: Sri, Brahma, Rudra and Sanaka Kumara. These Vaisnavas will be the sanctifiers of the earth.’
“Hear another surprising thing: Madhavendra Puri was a sannyasi and had a householder disciple from South India called Svarupacarya.
“He belonged to the unalloyed disciplic succession of the Four Kumaras (Nimbarka-sampradaya) and became bound by the great mercy of Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
“Together with Kesava Kasmiri, he wrote about the modes of rasa. One who attentively reads that text attains intense love for God.
“Since then there is incomparable love for God in the sampradaya of Lord Caitanya and such treasure shines beautifully like gold encrusted with gems.
“It is heard from the Srimad-Bhagavatam that there are five kinds of evidences. Just ponder over them. Direct perception, inference and comparison are said to be very agreeable.
“And then there are two more counted among the evidences: scriptural testimony and history. There is no doubt that the devotees accept all of these.
“Among these, history means the facts known to have happened earlier and later. Just hear from the disciplic succession, for this is definitive.
“In Gaudadesa, from long ago until nowadays, everyone, even the children, the elderly and the women folk, say that this is the Madhva-sampradaya.
“Now a new opinion is heard in the society of devotees. Do not let this dilemma enter your mind. The best view is that which prevails both in the beginning and at the end.”
In describing the four Vaisnava-sampradayas at the end of the Anuragavalli, dated Samvat 1753 (1696 AD), Manohara dasa states:
“Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the son of Nanda Maharaja Himself, so for what purpose would He accept a guru?
“If someone says that the Lord Himself takes the process of bhakti so that people may understand it, then why would Lord Gauranga, the Guru of the whole world, accept a guru from outside a bona fide disciplic succession?
“The Lord acts in order to establish the sanatana-dharma. Everyone knows the statement of the Padma Purana.
“Why would the Supreme Lord break the standard conduct of bhakti? Thinking about this, my mind became very perplexed.
The author then says that after looking for evidence of the affiliation of Lord Caitanya with a Vaisnava-sampradaya for a long time, he found a manuscript with the above quoted Gopala Guru’s pranali: sriman-narayano brahma (…)
“The magnanimous Sri Purusottama was a dear disciple of Sri Nityananda, and his disciple was Daivakinandana Thakura.
“He composed a large Vaisnava-vandana in which he wrote about the four sampradayas.
“Therein he made all the above quoted verses about the succession in the Madhva-sampradaya to become known in Bengali.
“This was spread in every place all over the country. Just see, hear and know the conclusion.
“In the beginning there was Sri Madhvacarya, who wrote many commentaries on the scriptures. In his commentaries, he established the conclusion of the principle of bhakti.
“I tell you that up to Isvara Puri, this line was known in the world as Madhva-sampradaya.
“When Caitanya Mahaprabhu appeared, before all other names, He got the name Nimai.
“In due course, by the will of Caitanya Mahaprabhu from this name His sampradaya became regularly known as Nimanandi.”
In the Murali-vilasa, 21st Pariccheda, Rajavallabha Gosvami (17th century) glorifies his guru and disciplic succession and then quotes the same verses from the Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika. In his Bhakta-mala, Laladasa (early 18th century) states:
“The evidence on the sampradayas is known from the Padma Purana, where it is said that there are four celebrated sampradayas in this world.
“In the Age of Kali there will be four founders of sampradayas: Sri, Brahma, Rudra and Sanaka Kumara. These Vaisnavas will be the sanctifiers of the earth.
“In this regard, I will now glorify the holy disciplic succession of the Madhva-sampradaya.
Then he quotes those same verses from the Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika (paravyomesvarasyasit…).
In his Bhakta-mala, dated 1717 AD, Raghava dasa describes the Madhva-sampradaya in the following words:
“We offer obeisances to Lord Brahma, who is the original tree of this disciplic succession and spread the pure rasa of the Vedas. Drinking this sweet nectarean rasa, Madhvacarya is in ecstasy.
“Many saints and religious leaders who appeared on this earth crossed this path, and in their association many more people also crossed it by worshiping and honouring Lord Hari.
“What can a wretch like me describe? My intellect cannot grasp all this. The following five religious leaders are very famous scholars of West Bengal.
“Sri Krsna Caitanya, Nityananda, Rupa and Sanatana were always chanting Rama’s Holy Name, their hearts enraptured, and thus they attained full benefit by such mode of worship.
“Jiva Gosvami ascertained the conclusion of the scriptures as if separating the water from the milk. All glories to him, whose meditation was like that of Dhruva and who was therefore incomparable in all the three worlds.”
In the second chapter of the book Mahaprabhura Siksa, Bhaktivinoda Thakura expresses his view:
“By all of these statements it is clear that the sampradaya of Lord Caitanya and His followers is the Brahma-sampradaya. Accordingly, Kavi Karnapura corroborated this disciplic succession in his Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika, and Baladeva Vidyabhusana also confirmed it. Anyone who does not accept this disciplic succession is without doubt the greatest enemy of Lord Krsna Caitanya and His followers.”
Sundarananda Vidyavinoda and others try to dismiss the authenticity of some of the above quoted texts, but although some of their objections are valid, it is more than unlikely that so many unrelated works written by unrelated authors in different places, languages and centuries would be all spurious or interpolated as claimed.
In books like Prameya-ratnavali, Govinda-bhasya and Siddhanta-ratna, Baladeva Vidyabhusana brilliantly highlights a strong common philosophical ground between the Madhva and the Gaudiya systems, thus evincing that there is nothing inconsistent in their disciplic affiliation. Yet at the same time, in his scriptural exegesis, he always brings up the Gaudiyas’ unique mood and identity that make them a particular sampradaya on their own merit, albeit their historical and contextual connection with Madhvacarya’s line. As it is clear from the innumerable sources quoted above, this underlying relation between both Vaisnava traditions was already well known for centuries before Vidyabhusana appeared on the scene. His earliest dated manuscripts were compiled in the 1740s, and the earliest documents which mention his name belong to the same decade. According to documentary evidence, he left this world in 1793, and based on these dates we can infer that he was probably born around 1700 and might have arrived in Vrndavana in the 1730s. By then practically all the texts quoted above had already been written long before, which entirely rules out any chance of Vidyabhusana having authored any of them. All he did was bring to light a fact which was perhaps not so relevant until his time period, when affiliation with one of the four traditional Vaisnava-sampradayas became an unavoidable requirement for a religious group to acquire social legitimacy. The concept of only four sampradayas possibly became popular in North India on account of Nabhaji’s (1570–1662) Bhakta-mala. Before describing the devotees in Kali-yuga, the author states:
“Lord Hari had previously appeared in twenty four different forms and now in Kali-yuga He manifested a fourfold form: Ramanuja is magnanimous like the moon and is a wish-fulfilling tree on earth; Visnu Svami is like a boat to help the living entities to cross the ocean of the material world; Madhvacarya is like a cloud which fills barren lands with ponds of devotion; and Nimbarkacarya is like a sun removing the fog of ignorance. These four acaryas established their respective sampradayas to propagate bhagavata-dharma and the proper way of action for all those born as human beings.”
In the early 18th century, Balananda Svami from the Ramanandi-sampradaya created the cara sampradaya akhada (Assembly of the Four Sampradayas) with branches in several cities. Having a large number of members, they soon attained considerable political influence and firmly established a sort of religious monopoly. G. N. Bahura remarks this fact by quoting the following verse:
sampradaya hi catvarah pancamo naiva vidyate
padmokta-vacanenaiva nirnitam panditaih kila
“There are only four sampradayas and not a fifth one. This was factually ascertained by learned scholars on the basis of the statements of the Padma Purana.”
Although from the outset it is very clear that the condition for legitimacy was affiliaton with one of the four Vaisnava-sampradayas, and although Vidyabhusana himself quotes the mentioned Padma Purana verses to corroborate this point, surprisingly, writers like Vidyavinoda and Kanai Lal Adhikari state that Vidyabhusana proved that the Gaudiyas are the fifth sampradaya!
Gaura-gana-svarupa-tattva-candrika is yet another text to corroborate the Madhva-Gaudiya link. If we take into consideration the traditional account that Vidyabhusana was personally sent to Amber by Visvanatha Cakravarti to defend the interest of the Gaudiyas when their credibility was questioned, then it is more than plausible that Cakravarti became very pleased with the outcome of the debates there, which granted the Gaudiyas their sought recognition. It is quite expected that as the senior leader of the Gaudiya Vaisnava community in Vrndavana, Cakravarti would then write something to endorse Vidyabhusana’s proposition to dismiss the idea that the link was a new concept introduced by him. This would place the present text as perhaps the very last composition of Cakravarti. Or else, if it was an earlier composition, it served as the basis upon which Vidyabhusana could elaborate his argument beforehand, knowing very well what Cakravarti’s view was. Vidyabhusana’s background as a follower of Madhvacarya, although very appropriate to the situation, can only be considered mere coincidence.
Some question why Vidyabhusana did not directly refer to Kavi Karnapura in his books. It is somewhat apparent that in the context in which the debates in the kingdom of Amber took place, the scope was within orthodox scriptures and logic, and the disputants were court panditas and Vaisnava scholars of different denominations. In these circumstances, and as a matter of fact, Karnapura’s name was then absolutely unknown, therefore quoting him would not add much to the argument. Factually, Vidyabhusana’s philosophical treatises follow the orthodox standard of giving primary authority to the sruti and smrti, and there is hardly any instances in which he quotes individual authors. Moreover, in his Prameya-ratnavali, Vidyabhusana presents the list of names in the Gaudiya-parampara in a straight way as an established fact known to all, just as one who knows the names of one’s own forefathers is not required to give quotations. On the contrary, to quote a remote and unknown author rather than furthering his cause, would have sounded quite suspicious.
It should be observed that most of the names presented by Vidyabhusana come straight from the traditional tables from the Madhva-sampradaya. Although Padmanabha, Narahari, Madhava and Aksobhya were all direct disciples of Madhvacarya, still the order of names here is not inconsistent, for each became the pontiff or head of the sampradaya upon the demise of his direct predecessor. In the presence of a new pontiff, the godbrothers would behave as his disciples. The above-mentioned four names appear in the disciplic successions of the Vyasaraja Matha, Raghavendra Matha and Uttaradi Matha, all of whom attest their historicity. The mention of Visnu Puri’s name in Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika suggests that this is a list of prominent names, so there is nothing surprising if we do not find the names of Jnanasindhu and Dayanidhi (Mahanidhi) in the tables of the Madhva-parampara. Jaya Tirtha was one of the greatest preachers of the Madhva-sampradaya and he had innumerable disciples. It can be surmised that these two names were added to the list due to their prominence among Jaya Tirtha’s disciples besides Vidyanidhi (Vidyadhiraja). Another question that begs an explanation is: how could Vyasa Tirtha have outlived four generations of disciples before passing away in 1539 AD? There seems to be indications that he had a lifespan as long as 120 years, in which case there is no cause for doubts.
|Gaura-gana- svarupa- tattva-candrika||Prameya-ratnavali; Govinda-bhasya-suksma-tika; Gopala Guru||Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika;Bhakti-ratnakara||Bhakti-jnana-brahma-yoga||Vyasa Tirtha|
|10. Jaya Tirtha||Jaya Tirtha||Jaya Tirtha||Jaya Tirtha|
|16. Purusottama||Purusottama||Visnu Puri and Purusottama||Purusottama|
|18. Vyasa Tirtha||Vyasa Tirtha||Vyasa Tirtha||Vyasa Tirtha|
|21. Isvara Puri||Isvara Puri||Isvara Puri||Kesava Bharati||Laksmikanta|
In this way, the list given by Vidyabhusana is thoroughly consistent. In comparison to the other lists, the only divergence would be regarding the names of Purusottama and Brahmanya, both of whom sometimes appear as a single entry instead of two different persons. This probably happened due to poor readings in which ‘brahmanya’ (pious/religious) was read as adjective of Purusottama.
Attempting to avoid such outrageous accusations against Baladeva Vidyabhusana as done by the above-mentioned authors, Radhagovinda Nath takes the matter in another direction and claims that the parampara list in the Prameya-ratnavali was interpolated by someone else. This is, of course, another baseless speculation of someone who did not even care to analyse the available manuscripts. Vedanta Vidyavagisa’s commentary, entitled Kanti-mala, is included in nearly every manuscript of the Prameya-ratnavali, and was obviously composed in Vidyabhusana’s presence, or even by his instigation. This is one of his most largely distributed works, and copies of it can be found all over India, yet among the many copies I have seen, there is not even one in which the parampara list does not appear. While Nath’s attempt may appear noble, he actually discredits Vidyabhusana’s legitimate view just to present his own. Several such authors who vehemently oppose the Madhva link go on and on for pages and pages trying to demonstrate how the Gaudiya philosophy and theology differ from that of the Madhvas. Such efforts are as useless as beating a husk devoid of rice. Had they factually read his works, they would know that in several instances Vidyabhusana himself makes it clear that the Gaudiyas are not in absolute concordance with each and every view held by the Madhvas. The composition of Govinda-bhasya is itself enough evidence of this, otherwise in his debates Vidyabhusana could have solved the case by merely referring to Madhvacarya’s Brahma-sutra-bhasya. Besides this, in the last chapter of his Siddhanta-darpana, Vidyabhusana strongly refutes the theory that the three chapters in the Srimad-Bhagavatam dealing with Lord Brahma’s bewilderment are interpolated as claimed by the Madhvas. This disproves the view of other misinformed authors who claim that Vidyabhusana remained an avowed Madhva rather than a Gaudiya. Once again, this also corroborates that the view propounded by Vidyabhusana was mainly that of a formal affiliation through initiation, and not an uncompromising philosophical adherence. This remains so despite the many congruent points he might have raised in his works, as so well observed by B. N. K. Sharma: “These facts are sufficient to establish that Baladeva is virtually in agreement with Madhva on all the fundamental points of his system. That is why we find him proclaiming his loyalty to Madhva and affirming the historical and spiritual descent of the Caitanya-sampradaya from Madhva, without any hesitation or mental reservation, not only in the Prameya-ratnavali, but also in his Siddhanta-ratna, which is an introduction to his Govinda-bhasya and his own commentary on it, quoted earlier. This would suffice to place his allegiance to the Madhva-sampradaya beyond question.”
The Manuscript and its Authorship
To the present moment, only one manuscript could be located for consultation, preserved in the Sri Gauranga Grantha Mandir, which is obviously a second hand copy. Neither the text itself nor the transcription is dated, but from the paper, ink and style we can infer that it is not older than late 19th century. Unfortunately, the scribe did a very inattentive and faulty transcription, replete with spelling mistakes, missing words, and even missing verses. At the colophon we find the following words: iti sri-visvanatha-cakravartina viracita sri-gaura-gana-svarupa-tattva-candrika samapta, “Thus ends the Sri-gaura-gana-svarupa-tattva-candrika composed by Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti.” After this it is mentioned: sri-rama-narayana-chatrako muda sry-ananda-narayana-bhusuraya lilekha vai gaura-gana-svarupa-tattvabhidham sundara-candrikam iyam (sic),“The pupil of Sri Rama Narayana joyfully copied this beautiful Gaura-gana-svarupa-tattva-candrika for the brahmana Sri Ananda Narayana.” It is doubtful that this is the very same copy written by the said scribe, as common scribes would often copy the signatures of previous scribes without even realizing the blunder, especially if those were written in a Sanskrit verse.
Moreover it is grammatically incorrect to use the verbal form ‘lilekha,’ a reduplicated perfect, for an action done by oneself, for this tense usually expresses distant past not witnessed by the speaker, and the word ‘iyam’ is a gross mistake that should instead take the accusative form ‘imam.’ This simply corroborates what is so clear from the transcription of the text: that the scribe knew no Sanskrit at all. As for the name of Visvanatha Cakravarti as the author of the text, a few valid doubts may be raised regarding its authenticity, but none of them seem to be strong enough to totally rule out the possibility.
The first point is obviously the fact that apart from a single manuscript, no other copy seems to be available in any major library in India or abroad. Yet from the very manuscript it is evident that there must have been other copies of the text, which might still exist somewhere, possibly in some private collection. We also hear of some supposedly lost works of Cakravarti, as, for example, the Aisvarya-kadambini, so even if only one copy of Gaura-gana-svarupa-tattva-candrika is extant at present, it might indeed be his composition, since all of his works did not circulate widely enough to reach our hands three centuries later. The same holds true in the case of several other works of prominent Gaudiya acaryas, which are somehow known to have been written, but were not preserved and propagated. Had Srila Jiva Gosvami not taken the required steps to copy and distribute the Gosvami’s literary heritage, perhaps we would hardly have access to but a few of the texts available in his days. Unfortunately, after Jiva Gosvami, such efforts were rare, if made at all, and many subsequent works fell into oblivion. Such was the situation in Visvanatha’s time, and it so remained until the appearance of systematic libraries and printing presses improved the situation to some extent: the former, by giving the manuscripts better conditions for preservation than those offered at homes and temples, and the latter, by ensuring that the texts would be spread far and wide – the best means to ensure that they will never be lost.
In this way, no matter how important Visvanatha Cakravarti and his works are considered today, we cannot say that the present text is not his merely because it was not sufficiently copied and distributed as were his other works. We also do not hear of any ancient and comprehensive list of his writings, so it is not expected that later biographers would mention a book which was unknown to them. In his commentary on the Caitanya-bhagavata, Adi-lila, 14.87, published in 1932, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati quotes some verses from a book named Gaura-gana-candrika attributed to Visvanatha Cakravarti, but none of them appear in this manuscript. Although he does not mention the source, it is possible that he got those verses from the notes written by Yashoda Lal Talukdar on Nityananda Dasa’s Prema-vilasa, page 249, published in 1913. The latter also did not mention his source, but it is probable that he consulted a manuscript of the text. Oddly, in the Gaudiya Vaisnava Abhidhana, Haridasa Dasa lists three manuscripts with a similar name, all of them attributed to Cakravarti: Gaura-gana-candrika, Gaura-gana-svarupa-tattva-candrika, and Gaura-ganoddesa-candrika. From the descriptions it seems that he actually had access to them and verified that they were different texts, but sadly he did not give many details.
The inconsistence of the transcription of the consulted manuscript poses several difficulties to assess its authenticity. We know the outstanding level of the scholarship of Srila Visvanatha from his innumerable works and it is absolutely not possible that he would write anything substandard in terms of grammar, prosody, rhetoric and philosophy. While the first two can be totally disfigured by an incompetent scribe, the latter two are hardly prominent in this genre of composition, which is solely meant to be a list of names with their respective identities in the previous pastimes of the Supreme Lord. Yet from the beginning there are clear traces of mellow and scholarship which are distinctly seen in Cakravarti’s writings. In the mangalacarana, the author beautifully plays with the gender of the words so as to impart to the reader the concept that Lord Krsna and Srimati Radharani are both combined in Lord Caitanya’s form. He then proceeds to state that the purpose of this compilation is to supplement the list of names given in the Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika, a task which was very well done by presenting around sixty names which do not appear in that text. Although the Gaura-gana-svarupa-tattva-candrika resembles and follows the Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika in most aspects, the author was also bold enough to occasionally diverge from Kavi Karnapura’s correlation of identities, as it can be easily seen in the charts at the end of this edition. In a few instances, he backed up his statements with verses from the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Padma Purana, Rupa Gosvami’s Vidagdha-Madhava and Krsnadasa Kaviraja’s Govinda-lilamrta, among other sources. Some interesting concepts presented here are the multiplicity of identities associated with a single individual and the abilitity of the Lord’s eternal associates to expand themselves in different capacities, such as direct manifestations (prakasa), partial expansions (kala), and expansions entering other personalities (avesa), features which are usually distinctly seen in connection with Lord Krsna and His different avataras, as described in the first chapter of Srila Rupa Gosvami’s Laghu-bhagavatamrta.