[NOTICE: This is inspired by Bhakti Ananda Goswami’s research and reflects only the degree of personal revelation the author being featured here has. Compare with this Collected Works archive blog as a related writing from another author additional resource; any discrepancies may not be congruent with what this site is presenting as a whole, but we recognize the sincerity of the author in trying to undertake such an important Vaishnava commentary of the Gospel of St. Mark.]
Shri Guru Toshani Tika ~ bh. Jan Mareš
Dedicated to Shri Shrimad A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and his dear disciple Shri Shrimad Bhakti Ananda Goswami Maharaja who opened my eyes to the real purport of Bhakti-shastra, and to Lord Jesus, Supporter of the Universe, Savior Avatar and the Mercy in Person.
om ajnana timirandhasya jnananjana salakaya
caksur unmilitam yena tasmai sri gurave namah
I was born in the darkest ignorance, and my spiritual master opened my eyes with the torch of knowledge. I offer my respectful obeisances unto him. (Guru Gita from Skanda Purana, verse 34, Gautamiya tantra 7.10-11)
This commentary which I chose to name Shri Guru Toshani Tika (“Commentary pleasing Shri Guru“) is probably the first Vaishnava commentary on any of the Gospels. How is it possible that after so many hundreds of years of existence of these two great Bhakti traditions – Christianity and Vaishnavism – no one attempted to write such commentary? The only answer seems to be that their interaction was very limited. Christianity made a significant presence in India (if we don’t consider the early arriving Malabar community with mainly local impact) only some four hundred years ago and like other religious traditions, it was welcomed by its generally spiritually inclined inhabitants. However, the Christian missionaries came to convert, not to understand. To my knowledge no Vaishnava Acharya engaged in debate with them, nor wrote extensively on the Bible and Christian theology. One exception was Shri Bhaktivinoda Thakura in 19th century who studied Christian theology to some extent and mentioned it in his writings.
After Shri Shrimad A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada brought Gaudiya Vaishnavism to the USA in 1965, Christian churches often saw Vaishnava missionaries as competitors and even members of a dangerous cult. Shrila Prabhupada, however, viewed Christianity as a Bhakti tradition. He never criticized Lord Jesus or His teachings – contrary to those who claim to be His followers but only in words. Jesus did the same (Matthew 5:48, 7:3-6, 21-24, 12:48-50, 15:8-9, 19:17, Mark 7:6, Luke 6:46-49, 12:47, 13:25-27, John 5:14, 8:51, 12:26, 14:15, 21, 23-24, 15:10, 14, etc.).
Some disciples of Shrila Prabhupada took up an extensive study of Christian theology. One prominent among them is Shri Shrimad Bhakti Ananda Goswami Maharaja, also known as Brother David Sherman of Catholic Ecumenical Order of the Holy Name (EOHN). Because of his deep and extensive knowledge I (and others) suggested to him that he should write a tika on some Gospel. His poor health unfortunately did not allow him to do so but he encouraged me to do it instead. Thus I took a courage to start this arduous task on St. Mark’s, the oldest of the canonical Gospels (usually dated circa 72-75 AD, i.e. about 10 years after author’s demise), and he mercifully reviewed it, expressing his pleasure. Thus the commentary’s goal got fulfilled.
I have mainly chosen relevant quotes from major Vaishnava shastras like Bhagavad-gita, Shrimad Bhagavatam, Chaitanya Charitamrta (the main biography of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, which could be also categorized as a Gospel genre), Brahma-samhita, etc. translated by Shri Shrimad A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and published by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. To better understand the context of quotes given one should refer to these works. This commenting style was previously used for example by Shri Madhva Acharya in his commentary on Shrimad Bhagavatam. The result is a concordance.
I hope that this work will help in spiritual search and mutual Christian-Vaishnava understanding which could open the way to a wider understanding of all monotheistic traditions. I pray to the lotus feet of Shri Guru parampara to enlighten me and to be pleased with my efforts.
Hare Krishna ~ Jan Mareš ~ Prague, Czech Republic
started in August-November 2002, with ongoing updates
The Bible version used is Douay-Rheims-Challoner (DR).
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