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The Theory of Acintya-Bheda Bheda

The Theory of Acintya-Bheda Bheda
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Item Code: IDG426
Author: Shukdeb BhowmickEdited by S. P. Das Gupta
Publisher: Sanskrit Pustak Bhandar
Edition: 2004
Pages: 140
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details: 8.5" X 5.5"

The present dissertation is an attempt at an analytical and logico-epistomological interpretation of the doctrine of acintya-bheda-bheda entertained by the School of Gaudiya Vaisnavism. The elaborate theological structure of this school has some basic logical presuppositions which have remained mostly unexplained by its teachers. Sometimes there are a few insufficient hints which have tried to develop in an independent way without deviating from the central philosophy of devotion. Hence at the outset, I have tried to bring out the nature of relation between passion and philosophy. The emotive content of human personality is intimately bound up with the philosophy of devotion. The logical implications of acintya-bheda-bheda must be developed in conformity with the experience of devotion as the highest altitude of a refined passion. This flight from passion to philosophy has been traced in an analytical outline from the Vedas to the Bhagavata Purana.

Naturally, in this context, I have tried to show the inadequacy of uncompromising Monism and strict Dualism. Neither the abstract Absolute of the advaita nor the omnipotent God of the Nyaya-Vaisesika philosophy is consistent with the concept of the Perfect Deity. In this connection, I have examined in details the Advaita doctrine of avidya, very often with independently developed arguments. I have devoted a long chapter on the category of Visesa, introduced by the Gaudiya Vaisnavas, which constitutes the logical foundation of the doctrine of acintya-bhedabheda. I have made attempts to prove that Monism in its true sense and the correct idea of perfection inherent in it can ill afford to dispense with the reality of the world and the individual. The Reality cannot be compressed into the Aristotelean concept of contradiction. Pure laws of thought cannot allowed to challenge the laws of things. The doctrine of acintya-bhedabheda points to the boundary line where formal logic gives way to its own transcendence. My dissertation is an independent attempt in this direction, and how far I have succeeded is left to the discerning judgement of the critical readers.

Apart from my indebtedness to my learned teacher, Sri Hemanta Kumar Ganguli, Reader of Sanskrit, Jadavpur University who is the supervisor of this thesis, I must gratefully acknowledge my debt to a galaxy of savants among whom I may mention MM. Jogendranath, Tarkatirtha, Dr. Radhagovinda Nath, Professor Satkari Mukherjee, MM. Pramathanath Tarkabhusan, Professor Siddhesvar Bhattacarya and the Tridandi-Svamins of the Sri Caitanya Research Institute, Calcutta. I am also deeply grateful to my learned teachers Professor Ramaranjan Mukherjee, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Burdwan, Dr. Gopikamohan Bhattacarya and Dr. Sitanath Gosvamin, Professors of Sanskrit, Jadavpur University, for the constant inspiration and encouragement that I received from them.

I express my gratitude to Sri Subas Dutta for preparing the nice type-script of the thesis. Lastly, I thank Professor S. P. Das Gupta, formerly of Presidency College, Kolkata, for editing the volume and for seeing it through the press.

Shukdeb Bhowmick

Editorial Note:

This dissertation on the Theory of Acintya-bhedabheda of Dr. Shukdeb Bhowmick was submitted to Jadavpur University as far back as in 1970. On the basis of assessment of the thesis, the author was eventually admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy of the University. More than three decades thereafter, the author suddenly decided to have the thesis printed and published. Usually, a scholarly dissertation of high order on any special branch of knowledge, meant for obtaining a university degree, is seldom worthy of publication, as it is, straightaway. For the purpose of publication, a thesis normally requires some modification and re-editing so as to make it fit for the general reader. The author of this thesis on acintya-bhedabheda somehow thought that it would perhaps be better to have it edited by some one else rather than himself before getting it printed for open publication. This is how, it fell upon me, not as a professional editor but perhaps as one addicted to the philosophy of acintya-bhedabheda, to edit and process the work for its final printing and publication.

I am glad that the author decided, though rather late, to get his valuable dissertation printed in the long last. For I feel that there is a necessity of having such a publication, which would satisfy those who are curious to know about the philosophical foundation of Gaudiya Vaisnavism in this country. This is because there are not many works on this topic in English language, as this doctoral thesis is. It is true that for long Vaisnavas in general and the Gaudiya Vaisnava devotees in particular were not too keen to probe into the dialectics and the intricacies of the interpretations of the Brahma-sutras of Badarayana. One of the reasons might have been that the doctrine of acintya-bhedabheda, despite its great appeal and tremendous merit, had not been properly enunciated and thrashed out threadbare at a philosophical level till the 18th century, when great savant, Baladeva Vidyabhusana brought out his Govinda-bhasya commentary on the Brhama-sutras. But it was not enough. For due to certain dialectical lacunae, the Govinda-bhasya had to be read with several other supplementary treatises for the purpose of refuting the arguments of the earlier commentaries. The task was none too easygoing enough.

The present work of Dr. Shukdeb Bhowmick is now a worthwhile new addition to the Gaudiya Vaisnava literature in this regard. Despite being handicapped by age and consequent infirmity, I, for one, edited this interesting volume, with a feeling of curiosity and subtle pleasure. I only hope that philosophers in general and connoisseurs of Vaisnavism in particular would find it worthwhile to go through the treatise for gaining knowledge and pleasure as well.

S. P. Das Gupta

Kolkata 700089
26 November 2003


What is Acintya-Bhedabheda?
An Introductory Note
CHAPTER I: Emotive Content of Perfection
and Personality
CHAPTER II: Humanistic Realism10-19
CHAPTER III: From Passion to Philosophy20-27
CHAPTER IV: Metaphysics and Aesthetics28-35
CHAPTER V: Gaudiya Aesthetics36-42
CHAPTER VI: Synthesis between Dualism and
CHAPTER VII: Advaitavadin's Avidya-Some Basic
CHAPTER VIII: Criticism of Avidya and
CHAPTER IX: Jiva and Isvara71-79
CHAPTER X: Contradictory Concepts in the
Advaita School
CHAPTER XI: Gaudiya Theory of Visesa92-103
CHAPTER XII: Powers of God104-114
CHAPTER XIII: Essential Powers of God115-120

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