Hindu Theology in Early Modern South Asia: The Rise of Devotionalism and the Politics of Genealogy.

Author:Edelmann, Jonathan
Position:Book review

Hindu Theology in Early Modern South Asia: The Rise of Devotionalism and the Politics of Genealogy. BY KIYOKAZU OKITA. Oxford: OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2014. Pp. vii + 284. $99 (cloth).

It is well known that the Gaudlya Vaisnavas connect themselves to the Madhva Vaisnava tradition in their own accounts of their lineage. Immediately after Vyasa, said to be the composer of the Bhagavata Purana, comes Madhva (1238-1317 A.D.), Vyasatirtha (c. 1400), and other leading theologians in the Dvaita tradition, followed by important figures in the Gaudlya Vaisnava tradition, from Caitanya (early sixteenth century), Krsnadasa Kaviraja (sixteenth century), Visvanatha Cakravartin (early eighteenth century) to Baladeva Vidyabhusana (mid eighteenth century). This connection between the Madhvas and Gaudiyas is recorded in editions of Kavi Karnpura's Gauraganoddesadipika (1576 A.D.); while John Stratton Hawley doubts the authenticity of the lineage in this text, seeing it as a later interpolation, Okita thinks, "thorough manuscript research is required to make the interpolation hypothesis convincing" (p. 47). In Okita's view it is still an open debate as to whether Karnapura's text was the first to establish the Gaudlya and Madhva link. Nevertheless, given that we do have a reliable Gaudlya and Madhva linkage in the Bhaktiratnakara of Narahari Cakravartin in the seventeenth century, it was likely known and established before the time of Baladeva, the theologian who is the subject of this book. The goal of this book is to critically investigate what the lineage found in editions of Karnapura's text amounts to, thus clarifying the Gaudlya's relationship to the Madhvas.

The problematic nature of this connection was not lost to contemporary Madhva scholars; scathing critiques appeared on the Internet in the early 2000s from Poornaprajna Vidyapeetha, a Madhva scholar and religious leader. Thus, there were unsettled questions about the legitimacy of this lineage from various quarters. The specific role of Baladeva Vidyabhusana was also doubted; as a trained Madhva he brought that training to bear in his theological writings, especially in his use of the term visesa, or "differentiating capacity," the key term Dvaitins use to characterize God's relationship with qualities, and in his non-use of the term acintya-bheda-abheda, "paradoxical oneness and difference," a cornerstone of Gaudlya Vaisnava theology on God's relationship with qualities. For this reason O. B. L. Kapoor (1909-2001), a prolific disciple of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Svamin, the leading Gaudlya Vaisnava religious leader and scholar in the early twentieth century, argued, "Baladeva does not represent the true spirit of Sri Caitanya" (Kapoor 1976: 171, quoted by Okita p. 246). On the basis of these concerns Okita seeks to clarify Baladeva's relation with Madhva tradition and in doing so illuminate the political forces that...

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