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A Living Theology of Krishna Bhakti

A Living Theology of Krishna Bhakti



  • Dimensions:9.5 inch X 6 inch
  • Edition:2012
  • Author:Tamal Krishna Goswami and Graham M. Schweig
  • Publisher:Oxford University Press, New Delhi
  • ISBN:9780199796632
  • Cover Type:Hardcover
  • Number of Pages:296
  • About the Book

    A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1896-1977), founder of the Hare Krishna movement, traced his lineage to the fifteenth century Indian saint Sri Chaitanva. He authored more than fifty volumes of English translation and commentaries on Sanskrit and Bengali texts, serving as a medium between these distant authorities and his modern Western readership. Prabhupada used his writings as blueprints for spiritual change and a revolution in consciousness by speaking the language of a people vastly disparate from the original recipients of his tradition's scriptures without compromising fidelity to the tradition.

    Tamal Krishna Goswami claims that the social-scientific, philosophical, and 'insider' forms of investigation previously applied have failed to explain the presence of a powerful interpretative device-a mahavakya or 'great utterance'-that governs and pervades Prabhupada's 'living theology' of devotion, or bhakti For Prabhupada, the wide range of Vedic' subject matter is governed by the axiomatic truth: Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

    Goswami's academic training at the University of Cambridge, his thirty years' experience as a practitioner and teacher, and his extensive interactions with Prahhupada as both personal secretary and managerial representative, afforded him a unique opportunity to understand and illuminate the theological contribution of Prabhupada. In this work, Goswami proves that the voice of the scholar-practitioner can be intimately connected with his tradition while sustaining a mature critical stance relative to his subject. A Living Theology of Krishna Bhakti includes a critical introduction and conclusion by Graham M. Schweig.

    About the Author

    Tamal Krishna Goswami was one of the closest and most influential disciples of the founder of the Hare Krishna Movement. Before his untimely death in 2002 at the age of 56, he became a student of religion and theology at the University of Cambridge. This volume comprises the updated and edited five chapters of Goswami's near-complete doctoral thesis.

    Graham M. Schweig is Professor of Religious Studies and Director of the Asian Studies Program at Christopher Newport University. Among his publications are Dance of Divine Love: The Rasa Lila of Krishna from the Bhagavata Purana and Bhagavad Gita: The beloved Lord's Secret Love Song.


    This book presents a carefully conducted theological study. It focuses on the rebirth and transmission of an ancient faith tradition coming from sacred India to the West and ultimately the rest of the world. It is about the emergence of a sophisticated traditional theology centered on the divinity of Krishna, or Vishnu. It is about this faith's dramatic global blossoming that was launched by the actions and practices of one teacher in the second half of the twentieth century, and how his presentation contributed to this ancient tradition a living theology a theology that assumed new dimensions that would reach and engage the faith of persons born to other traditions in the world's major cultural centers.

    Faith is what stirs most deeply within human hearts. It is fully trusting in the highest thing we know and in what we most love. It moves out from the heart into the subtle realms of inner thought and then into engagement with the world. Its very depths are aligned with one's most profound sense of purpose and meaning in life. Even death becomes its handmaiden. The intricacies of faith, its innermost workings, and that form of discourse in which we examine it and illuminate it are the unique tasks of theology. While human faith takes numerous forms, while it may manifest as a very personal vision or as a collective vision within particular traditions or faith communities, each expression of faith in its own way reveals and articulates something of its mysterious nature.

    The author of this work cultivated a deep faith as he became an intimate disciple of the guru on whose teachings he focuses in this book. Tamal Krishna Goswami (hereinafter referred to simply as Goswami) was a monk and a renunciate, and one of the major religious leaders and teachers of the worldwide Hindu-Vaishnava order. He fully dedicated his life to the practice of offering the heart to the supremely beautiful, loving, and playful divinity of Krishna-the practice known as Krishna bhakti. Goswami, in the last several, very fulfilling and vibrant years of his later middle-aged life, was close to completing the doctoral degree in theology at the University of Cambridge. Goswami had written a nearly completed doctoral thesis before his life ended abruptly and unexpectedly in an automobile accident in India in 2002 at the age of fifty-six.

    In this work, consisting of five substantive chapters, Goswami discovers essential aspects of the core theological teaching of his own revered teacher. He does this by closely examining the significant ways in which certain life events of the religious mission and example of his guru unfolded, particularly in the first two chapters, and by exploring key themes embedded in his writings and translations that fueled his mission, for the purpose of revealing his theological contribution-that which constitutes his living theology-in the remaining three chapters. I append, in addition to these introductory words, a concluding chapter that is intended to frame Goswami's work and carry some of the momentum of his ideas through to completion.

    The way of life, the practices, and the traditional teachings of Krishna bhakti were established in the West and then in major cultural centers of the world for the first time in history by Goswami's teacher, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (hereinafter referred to simply as Prabhupada). and his disciples. This importation of Krishna bhakti began as Prabhupada, at the age of seventy, came to New York City in the mid, when he formalized its practices and teachings in the institution he founded, commonly known as the Hare Krishna movement, legally registered as the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). His movement arises from and represents an extraordinarily rich theological school and life practice of Krishna bhakti, which had developed in India over many centuries. The origins of this bhakti practice can be seen as going back as far as the sacred hymns of the Vedas, at least three thousand years ago, and the vision of bhakti has been elaborately developed in Indian religion, philosophy, literature, poetry, and drama. It is a tradition out of which emerges the famed sacred text, Bhagavad Gita, possibly the most read scripture of world literature next to the Bible and the Qur'an. It has truly been one of the most powerful forces in the world of religion, and certainly one of the most compelling among the traditions of sacred India.

    Although Tamal Krishna Goswami was born and raised in the United States, as a young man he became a fully committed practitioner of Krishna bhakti Goswami entered serious academic study only in his later years. The religious practice undertaken by him has its origins in the ancient Hindu sect known as Vaishnavism, that tradition centered on the worship of the divinity as Vishnu or Krishna. It is the largest of several primary religious traditions that make up the Hindu complex of religion. ISKCON is a branch or sect of Vaishnavism, and Goswami was part of the history on which this book in part focuses. Vaishnavism, since the second half of the last century, moved into various cultures different from that in which it originally arose. In the last twelve years of his life, Prabhupada along with his disciples transplanted an authentic devotional tradition of India in foreign lands, but not without challenges and difficulties. Goswami himself was an intimate associate of Prabhupada and certainly one of the most important close disciples working under him as the movement experienced dramatic growth and expansion into unchartered territories.

    Goswami himself assisted and witnessed the movement's founder as he envisioned the immediate and future expansion of the society he founded, traveled and lectured on fourteen world tours, and published dozens of volumes of translation and commentary. In the latter half of the 1960s, when Goswami was in his early twenties, he committed himself to the life of Krishna bhakti as taught by Prabhupada and served his guru's movement with all his energy. And he was with Prabhupada during Prabhupada's final months and his last days in Vrindavan, India, personally serving him until mid-November 1977, when Goswami's guru left this world. Goswami was therefore a key disciple, an intimate associate of Prabhupada's, who at the highest level of ISKCON would carry forward his teachings, establish centers, and initiate disciples, to keep alive Prabhupada's living theology of Krishna bhakti over the two and a half decades following Prabhupada's departure.



      List of Abbreviations vii
      Introduction: Moving between Worlds 1
      General Remarks 1
      The Focus of Goswami's Work 3
      A Sketch of Go swami's Life 9
      On the Preparation of this Book 16
    1 In Quest of the Theological Prabhupada 21
      The Need and Aim of This Study 23
      The Approach of This Study 27
      Background of the Pre-ISKCON Prabhupada 32
    2 The Travails of Illegitimacy: Historical Setting 38
      Counterculture Discourse: The Mid-1960s to Mid-1970s 38
      Cult-Controversy Discourse: The Mid-1970S to Mid-1980s 51
      A Discourse of Indifference: The Mid-1980s to the Present 71
      Summary and Reflections 82
    3 Sources of Knowledge: Pramana  
      The Influence of Parents and Teachers 89
      The College Setting and Christian Influences 92
      Earlier Vaishnava Teachers in Bengal 102
      Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati as Prabhupada's Guru 108
      Prabhupada as Authoritative Commentator 112
      Summary and Reflections 119
    4 Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead: Sambandha 120
      The Relationship with Krishna as Sambandha 123
      Prabhupada's English Mahavakya Phrase 127
      The Three Ultimate Spiritual Energies 132
      Deeper Theological Implications 138
      The Question of Translation 146
      Prabhupada's Root Metaphor 149
      Protecting Krishna's Intimate Lilas 151
      Summary and Reflections 157
    5 Bhakti, Devotional Service: Abhidheya 158
      Influence of Pan-Indic Conceptions of Bhakti 159
      Rupa Gosvamin's Conception of Bhakti 165
      The Relationship of Service to Bhakti 167
      Rupa Goswamin's Five Principal Practices of Bhakti 172
      (1) Association with Devotees: Sadhu Sanga 173
      (2) Collectively Praising the Divine Names: Nama-Samkirtana 177
      (3) Hearing the Bhagavata Purana: Bhagavata Sravana 183
      (4) Residing in a Holy Place: Mathura-Vasa 187
      (5) Serving the Sacred Image: Srt-Murti Sevana 191
      Concluding Reflections 198
      Conclusion: Prema, Purest Love: Prayojana- 200
      The Uncontainable Nature of Prem a 200
      Is There a Theology of the Chaitanya School 205
      Three Foundational Sacred Texts 209
      Three Manifestations of the Loving Divinity 213
      The Ultimate Theological focal point 217
      The Divine Love Call 223
      A Theology of Divine Secrecy 226
      The Gifts of Theology 230
      Works Cited 233
      Index 259

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