Further analysis on the indispensability of the knowledge of Vedānta-śāstra (English rendition of the original Hindi version) —
1) If it were so easy to assimilate spiritual truth, the literature of Sanātana-dharma would not have expanded with the passage of time to a variety of complex philosophical scriptures containing the views and opinions of numerous sects/sampradāyas!
2) Devotees such as Śabarī etc. attained perfection in their final lifetime as a result of their devotional practice in their previous lifetimes. Their knowledge of the scriptures is already perfected in previous lifetimes. Any process, not just to speak of devotional path (bhaktiyoga), will not yield perfection without knowledge of scriptures. This is evident when one studies Śrīmadbhagavadgītā16.23-24.
3) The best among devotees, Śrī Prahlāda is an eternal associate (nitya-siddha parikara) of Śrī Nṛsimhadeva. The knowledge of eternally perfect (nitya-sidhha) associates of the Lord is ever spontaneous due to its being a manifestation of the samvit-vṛtti or the divinely cognitive faculty of Śrī Hari. They don’t have to gain knowledge through external study of scripture. Yet, they, for the sake of setting precedent/ideal for the common worldly populace (loka-samgrahārtha), study scriptures and display devotional service that is instructed by the scriptures. This fact is clarified through the occurrence of the word “adhītam” in the two famous verses (ślokas) in the seventh canto of the Śrīmad-bhāgavatam verses 7.5.23-24 – “ śravaṇam kīrttanam viṣṇoḥ…….tanmanye ‘dhītamuttamam..”. Śrī Prahlāda declares bhakti as the supreme scholarship/knowledge/study obtainable by the study of śāstra (scriptures).
The second piece of strong evidence is found in Śrīmad-bhāgavatam 1.2.12, wherein, by the use of the word, “…bhaktyā śruta-gṛhītayā..” – the bhakti obtained through aural reception/perusal of the scriptural injunction is established. Thus Bhaktidevī (Energy) and Śrī Hari (Energetic) – the knowledge regarding the nature and form of both – are the scriptures such as the Vedas and all – as indicated by the use of the word “yoni” (female reproductive organ) as seen in the Brahma-sūtra 1.1.3 ‘śāstra-yonitvāt’ (i.e. ‘scriptures are the mother of the knowledge about Parabrahma or Absolute Truth’).
4) If bhakti is a portion/expansion of the āhlādinī-vṛtti (the divinely felicitous potency possessed by the very identity of God) expanded from the antaraṅgā svarūpa-śakti (the internal energy of God’s nature) of Śrī Hari, scripture is, too, the form of Śrī Hari as per the “dharma-mūlaṁ hi bhagavān sarva-vedamayo hariḥ..” proof in SB 7.11.7. Moreover, scriptures are established as the source (yoni/origin) or root of expounding Brahma (Absolute) in the Vedānta-sūtras—“śāstra-yonitvāt”, the Vedas and other scriptures!
5) Mahākavi Sūradāsa of 16th Century CE is considered a reincarnation of supremely knowledgeable Śrī Uddhava (the eternal associate of Śrī Kṛṣṇa in the dvārakā-līlā) in puṣṭimārga of Vallabha-sampradāya. Hence, any attempt to establish that he did not possess scriptural knowledge is imaginary, for Uddhava Jī is known for being knowledge incarnate and as the pupil of Devaguru Bṛhaspati of Heaven.
6) Mīrābāī (16th Century CE – Mevāra, Rājapūtān, Bhārata) had deep rooted devotional impressions from previous life’s scriptural knowledge, else, her poetry couldn’t have been imbued with scriptural principles, which thoroughly pervade the nooks and corners of her poetry. Still, she accepted Śrī Caitanyadeva to be Nandnandana Kṛṣṇa only after she had association of the crest jewel of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas viz., Śrī Jīva Gosvāmipāda (who is Viāsa-mañjarīsakhī in the non-manifest Vraja-līlā), and her poetical stanza composed in Vraja-bhāṣā – “ aba to harināma lau lāgi…..caitanya jāko nāma…gaurakṛṣṇa kīdāsī mīrā rasanā kṛṣṇa basey..” substantiates this fact.
7.) As regards Sage Vāmīki, evidence in various Purāṇas establishes that he appeared as the mānasa-putra or mentally conceived child of Lord Brahmāand came about to be known as Prācetas in his final lifetime (in which he manifest the Vālmīkīya Rāmāyaṇam). He was called ‘Vālmīki’ after austere penance. On account of his being born in Śrī Brahmā’s seminal lineage, he was, naturally, endowed with scriptural knowledge par excellence.
8) Dhruva became replete with scriptural knowledge as soon as he received the touch of Śrī Hari’s conch-shell and became a pure devotee (śuddha-bhakta), only, after having audience (darśanam) with the Lord. Before audience, he was in the category of arthārthīsakāma bhakta (motivated devotee aspiring for mundane riches / not self-less devotee) —this is proved as per Śrīmad-bhāgavatam (4th Canto), Śrīmadbhagavadgīta 7.16 and Śrībhaktirasāmṛtasindhu 1.2.20-21 of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmipāda (along with Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī’s Durgama-saṅgamanī Ṭīkā on the same).
9) As regards the cowherd milkmaids of Vraja, among them the gopīs who were not nitya-siddhā (eternally perfect) and which were sādhana-siddhā (perfected by devotional practice) and/or kṛpā-siddhā (perfected through special case of mercy) — were mostly śruticarī and municarī gopīs, who were embodiment of scriptural knowledge on account of their being sages (munis) and personified Upaniṣadas/śrutis. The evidence of Padmapurāna, Garga-samhitā etc. corroborates this fact.
10) It is mentioned in the scripture that there is no necessity of any other practice (sādhanā) if one takes shelter of pure Holy Name. The pure Name, if chanted once, bestows all perfection. But such pure Name (there is distinction between nāma-ābhāsa, nāma-aparādha and śuddha-nāma) is only manifest at the stage of premābhakti. And premābhakti cannot be attained without the prior practice of sādhana-bhakti (except for the case of kṛpā-siddhas who attained it in exceptional and rare cases) and, the jñāna pertaining to ‘anubandha-catuṣṭaya’ is an important link in achieving sādhana-bhakti or entering into the principal of abhidheya — on which the ācāryas of the various ancient Vaiṣṇava Sampradāyas have given no alternative.
11) The dawning of parā bhakti (premābhakti/bhāvabhakti/sādhyā bhakti) is only possible by scriptural pāramārthikī nirguṇā śraddhā – not the mundane faith of mundane devotion viz., laukikī saguṇā śraddhā (pāramārthikī śraddhā is the divinely transcendental faith – no having any connecting with mundane modes of rajoguṇa, satoguṇa and tamoguṇa – but arising from non-phenomenal viśuddha-sattva), which is the seedling of rati/bhāva-bhakti and is based on the backdrop of ‘aubandha-caṭuṣtayam’—the four-fold relationships (adhikārī, sambandha, abhideheya and prayojana). So, in the 6.23 verse of Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad – “yasya deve parā bhaktiḥ….tasyaite kathitā hy arthāḥ prakāśante..’’ the meaning implied is ‘vijñānam’ (practically realized knowledge) and not ‘jñānam’ (theoretical scriptural knowledge). Because the śruti (Upaniṣad) manifest from the Lord declares—“vijñāya prajñāṁ kūrvīta”, meaning “pursue theoretical knowledge or prajñāna for the sake of vijñāna or realization of it”. It is worth paying attention here that only the devotional scriptural knowledge or bhakti-śāstra-jñānam is implied here and thus, contextually relevant, and not the knowledge that aims at impersonal nirviśeṣa-brahma (non-specified Absolute devoid of designation, attributes, form etc.) of the nirbheda-jñāna-mārga or the path undertaken by impersonalist monists (nirviśeṣavādīs).
In the Śrīmadbhāgavatam 1.2.7 verse “vāsudeve bhagavati…..janayatyāśu vairāgyam jñānam ca yad ahaitukam” the jñāna (knowledge) and vairāgya (renunciation) that arise after the pursuance of sādhana-bhakti can never be the jñāna which is, sometimes, deemed a mild pre-requisite to the entrance to sādhana-bhakti (refer to Bhaktirasāmṛtasindhu 1.2.248-249) and cannot even be the yukta-vairāgya (refer to Bhatirasāmṛtasindhu 1.2.255) that is a concomitant factor of sādhana-bhakti, since they (those jñāna and vairāgya which arise after the execution of sādhana-bhakti) are consequent fruits of sādhana-bhakti – and not its concomitants! Thus, the jñāna that originates from sādhana-bhakti that involves the external (bahiḥ-sākṣātkāra) and internal realization (antaḥ-sākṣātkāra) of the Lord — is actually called as ‘vijñāna’ in technically definitive context (pāribhāṣika sandarbha). That vijñāna arises in the stages of bhāva and prema stages – the fructified phases after the performance of sādhana-bhakti. Still, the vairāgya originating in sādhana-bhakti has been categorized separately from the unfavourable (to path of devotion) phalgu-vairāgya (refer to Bhaktirasāmṛtasindhu1.2.256) and, also, the vairāgya that is the door to sādhana-bhakti (BRS 1.2.248-249).
12) If we accept the Katṭha Upaniṣad verse 1.2.23 “nāyamātmā pravacanena labhyo…na medhayā na bahunā śrutena” to imply, “the Supreme Brahma cannot be realized by a lot of hearing”, such fallacious meaning is directly opposed by first limb of the nine-fold sādhana-bhakti (navadhā bhakti) viz., śravaṇam (hearing about God from scriptures/saints). Thus we are not supposed to accept such a wrong meaning contravening with other scriptural assertions. Instead, we are to understand that attaining the Lord is not possible only through a lot of hearing or śravaṇam. In place of that, by pursuing sādhana-bhakti (devotional service in the stage of practice, not perfection) in the form of śravaṇam (hearing), the mercy of the Lord is awakened, and it is by that showering of mercy, direct attainment of the Lord is achieved. Hence, the direct cause (sākṣāt –hetu) of obtaining Lord is ‘sādhanajā bhagavat-kṛpā’ (the compassion of Lord on the devotee which arises after the devotee executes sādhana-bhakti) and not the ‘sādhana’ itself.
13) In the context of Śrī Caitanyadeva conversing with an uneducated and illiterate brāhmaṇa on the occasion of His travel to Southern Bhārata, it should be noted that the said brāhmaṇa had, already, ascended on the path of premā bhakti, which is evident from his symptoms described in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta’s Madhya-līlā. But, before ascending on the path to premā bhakti, his sādhana-bhakti or bhajana-kriyā or abhidheya could not have started without his entering the stage of sādhana-bhakti by associating with Śrī Guru and mahātmās, and receiving instruction from scripture on bhāgavata-dharma — in his previous lives. Evidence – “tadviddhi praṇipātena….” (Śrīmad-bhagavadgītā 4.34), ‘satāṁ prasaṅgān mama vīrya-samvido…(Śrīmad-bhāgavatam 3.25.25), ‘gurupādāśrayas tasmāt kṛṣṇa-dīkṣādi-śikṣaṇam..’ (Bhatirasāmṛtasindhu 1.2.74), ‘ādau śraddhā tataḥ sadhu-saṅgo ‘tha bhajana-kriyā…’ (BRS 1.4.15-16) and ‘tatra bhāgavatān dharmān śikṣed gurātma-daivataḥ…’’ (Śrīmadbhāgavatam 11.3.22).
14) Hear-say can never be a replacement for evidence of scripture. And if these hear-say anecdotes go against the principles recorded in śāstra (scriptures), they are certainly worth neglecting. We, Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas or Caitanyaites accept the importance of unbiased aural evidence on the basis of Tattva-sandarbhaḥ and Sarva-samvādinīby Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmipāda.
15) Some statements of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmipāda’s Kṛṣṇa-nāma-aṣṭakam’s verse 1 such as, “nikhila-śruti-mauli-ratna-mālā..’’ and of Śrīmad-bhāgavatam 3.33.7 — “..yajjihvāgre varttate nāma tubhyam..’’ — imply ‘śuddha-nāma’ (pure name), which only arises on the tongue of the sādhaka who had attained the stage of jāta-rati (bhāva-bhakti) and premā bhakti. But, such type of jātarati is a consequent stage of sādhana-bhakti and, even the beginning of sādhana-bhakti is not possible without knowledge of the quadruple elements (anubandha-catuṣṭayam) mentioned in the scripture as per Caitanyaite principles. Evidence – “śruti-smṛti-purāṇādi-pañcarātra-vidhiṁ vinā…” – the verse of Brahma-yāmala-tantram cited in the Bhaktirasāmṛtasindhu.
16) When the scriptures expounding karma-vidyā(not brahma-vidyā, yoga-vidyā or adhyātma-vidyā) and trivarga (dharma, artha and kama) consider the fruit of worldly jñāna to be ‘vinaya’ or humbleness as seen in scriptures propounding worldly ethics such as Hitopadeśa, Pañcatantram and the Nītiṣutra/Arthaśāstra of Viṣṇugupta Cāṇakya Kauṭilya (‘vidyā dadāti vinayam’), how the fruit of knowledge from devotional scriptures viz. divine brahmavidyā/spiritual knowledge/rājavidyā/guhya-vidyā(royal confidential divine knowledge as indicated in the beginning of the 9th Ch. of Śrīmadbhagavadgītā) be considered ‘conceit’? Evidence – Bhakti is parā-vidyā (transcendental art/knowledge) as verified by Śrīmadbhagavadgītā 18.54 – ‘..mad-bhaktiṁ labhate parāṁ…’ and in Śrīmadbhāgavatam 4.29.49 – ‘yat-karma hari-toṣaṁ yat sā vidyā tan-matir yayā..’. That bhakti is knowledge (only by knowledge or jñānam, can the jñeya or the knowable be known) is proved by the phrase ‘bhaktyā mām abhijānāti….’ of Śrīmadbhagavadgītā 18.55.
17) Due to the duplicity of modern day namesake institutionalized irrationally fanatic cum sentimentally motivated neo-pseudo-Gauḍīyas who are high in numbers, and due to the pure classical path of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism being polluted now, systemized conventional scriptural study (along with the concept of traditional varṇāśrama) is almost extinct in the current Caitanya Vaiṣṇava Sampradāya.
— — भक्तिरसवेदान्तपीठाधीश्वरा: गुरुपादाचार्या: रामकृष्णस्वामिन: आम्नायवाचस्पतय: अचिन्त्यभेदाभेदवेदान्तवादिन: गौडीयवैष्णवसाम्प्रदायिन: /- Bhaktirasavedāntapīṭhādhīśvara Gurupādācārya Rāmakṛṣṇa Svāmī Āmnāya-vācaspati Acintya-bheda-abheda-vedāntī Gauḍīya-vaiṣṇava-sampradāyī