What is the background of the Gaudiya Sampradaya?

by Subhechcha Ganguly
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Gaudiya Vaishnavism, commonly known as Chaitanya Vaishnavism and Hare Krishnas, is a Vaishnava religious movement that was started in India in the 16th century by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486-1534). Krsna bhakti was revitalised by Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Vaishnavism, which is defined as “the worship of Vishnu,” and the term “Gaudiya” both pertain to the Gauda area, which includes modern-day West Bengal and Bangladesh. The Bhagavad Gita, Bhagavata Purana, as well as other Puranic texts and Upanishads, serve as its primary philosophical foundations.

Gaudiya Vaishnavism places a strong emphasis on the devotional worship (bhakti yoga) of Radha and Krishna as well as all of their other heavenly incarnations as the supreme manifestations of God, Svayam Bhagavan. The most widely practised form of this worship is chanting or singing the holy names of Radha and Krishna, such as “Hare,” “Krishna,” and “Rama,” most frequently in the form of the Hare Krishna mahamantra. The movement is also known as the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya sampradaya, which alludes to its historical roots in the lineage of gurus that descended from Lord Brahma. It considers itself to be a monotheistic tradition and regards all of Vishnu’s manifestations as extensions or incarnations of Krishna, the one Supreme God (adipurusha).

The primary difference is that Lord Krishna is seen as the first instance of God’s manifestation rather than a Vishnu avatar. The Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition evolved over three centuries after Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s passing, mostly taking the form it has in contemporary India. Early on in the tradition, followers of Nityananda Prabhu, Advaita Acharya, and other Chaitanya Mahaprabhu allies initiated and educated Bengalis in their own locations.

One or two of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s devotees, afterwards known as the Six Gosvamis of Vrindavan, were asked to systematically convey the everlasting theology of bhakti in their writings. This religion placed a strong emphasis on the devotee’s bond with Radha and Krishna, the Divine Couple. Rupa Goswami, Sanatana Goswami, Gopala Bhatta Goswami, Raghunatha Dasa Goswami, and Jiva Goswami were the six. Three of Jiva Goswami’s students from the second generation—Narottama, Srinivasa, and Shyamananda—the youngest of the six Goswamis—helped to disseminate the doctrine throughout Bengal and Orissa.

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