Editor’s note: The following was written in response to a question on a Vaishnava forum.
>>> If Jesus is Nityananda…
The way that you have posed your question has prompted me to write something about the theology of Sri Baladeva, the Second Person of the Godhead, and how both Jesus and Sri Nityananda Rama are considered in the Catholic and Vaishnava Traditions to be Incarnations of Sri Baladeva.
First let us clarify the Vaishnava doctrine of simultaneous oneness-and-difference in the Godhead. Both the Catholic teaching of the Trinity and the teachings of Gaudiya Vaishnavism affirm that there are real differences between the Persons of the Godhead. Still, “God is One”. In fact the Hebrew word for this mysterious Oneness of God is ECHAD and the Sanskrit Name of Sri Krishna-Baladeva-Vishnu-Paramatma is EKA. Hebrew ECHAD and Sanskrit EKA both mean ONE and are both Names of God. In fact, in ancient times the Vaishnavas were called EKANTINS because they worshiped the ONE GOD (were MONOTHEISTS). Their ONE GOD was called EKA-NATHA, EKA-DEVA and similar names. So despite the fact that this ONE / EKA God was worshiped with countless Names and in countless Forms (NAMA-RUPA) according to His countless loving relations with His devotees, the Supreme Mystery of His Oneness was well-grasped by His devotees. Thus His Monotheism was the supreme model of religious unity-in-diversity, and it promoted harmonious, sattvic mutual appreciation, cooperation and peaceful religious social order among His devotees.
The question is, If God is One, Why is He manifest so differently to His different devotees? This goes to the HEART of the divine revelation of the TRIUNE PERSONAL-GOD-WHO-IS-LOVE.
We are persons, but as persons we are limited. Although GODHEAD IS UNLIMITED, within the mystery of the Godhead there is also a limit of PERSONHOOD, because the PERSONS / PURUSHAS ARE UNLIMITED EXCEPT BY EACH OTHER’S CO-ETERNAL EXISTENCE! Thus there is REAL, ETERNAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SRI KRISHNA, SRI BALADEVA, AND THEIR EXPANSION OF PARAMATMA IN THE MATERIAL UNIVERSES. THEN OF COURSE THERE IS REAL ETERNAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THEM AND THEIR SHAKTIS! In fact, this realness of difference within the Unity of the GODHEAD and in the unity of Godhead with Shakti / Shekinah is the ultimate cause of LOVE. BECAUSE THERE IS AN ETERNAL PLURALITY OF PERSONS WITHIN THE GODHEAD, IT CAN BE SAID THAT GOD IS LOVE.
This ‘Fountain Fullness’ PLENUM (Latin) PURNAM (Sanskrit) of Godhead’s Divine Love creatively over-flows (as Saint Bonaventure said) from the Godhead as the source of all God’s Self-giving creative generosity. Because this Eternal and Unlimited Fountain Plenum / Purnam of Divine Love Originates in the PERSONS OF THE GODHEAD and flows forth from Them in unity with Their Shakti, Who is also PERSONAL, we as beings are also persons who exist to love and be loved! We are eternal personal beings, because the Persons of the Godhead have shared Their being-ness with us! However, the Supreme Personality of Godhead is unlimited, and we are limited.
In our eternal limitedness, we are not able to experience the Plenitude of the Godhead. The Plenum / Purnam of Godhead cannot be known fully to any finite being. Thus it has been revealed that even in the Highest PARADISE (Hebrew PARDES, Sanskrit PARA-DESHA, the ‘desha’ of PARA KRISHNA), the devotees of God have very specific (limited) RASA RELATIONSHIPS WITH THE LORD.
Now, if this specificity is there in the ULTIMATE PERSONAL REALITY, why should it not also be there in every other personal reality? Love comes from persons and is directed to persons. According to Vedic Divine Revelation (Biblical Hebrew Yeda and Greek Oida), even the Medium of exchange of this Divine Love is A PERSON. Sometimes Catholic theologians will say that the Holy Spirit is the Mediator of the Love between the Father and the Son. Jesus also said “Where two or more are gathered in MY NAME, there I AM in the midst of them”. God is the Giver and Receiver of Love and also the Gift Itself…the Mediator of Divine Love. He is the very GIVING-UP or sacrifice of Love. Thus as Mediator of all Divine Love, Baladeva-Vishnu is called YAGNA, ‘Sacrifice’. As Yupa Dhvaja or “Sacrifice Personified” He IS the Supreme Love Offering. The Heliopolitan Greek Monotheists like Socrates and Plato spoke of God as both the OBJECT OF ALL LOVE, as All-Truth-Beauty-and-Goodness, and of Him as the forsaken and despised LOVE WHO IS SELF-SACRIFICED FOR THE SAKE OF THE BELOVED.
The First Person is GOD-WHO-IS-WORSHIPED and the Second Person is THE SERVITOR LORD, or GOD-WHO-WORSHIPS, or GOD-WHO-IS-WORSHIP. In Vaishnava theology, it is Sri Baladeva, the Second Person of the Godhead, Who is the Servitor Lord (CC Adi Lila, Ch. 5, Txt. 10 Purport). In Catholic theology, the Second Person of the Godhead and Servitor Lord steps into time and reveals His Cosmic Sacrifice as JESUS CHRIST. In Vaishnavism it is Sri Baladeva / The Second Person (The Servitor Lord), Who as YAGNA PERSONIFIED Purusha Yupa Dhvaja, on the cosmic Yupa Cross, “takes away the sins of the world”. As Jesus Christ, in His “once and all-sufficient” cosmic sacrifice, He ‘karmically’ (Biblical Greek KRIMA / KRINO) reconciled all ‘fallen’ beings to Godhead, becoming the UNCONDITIONAL SELF-SACRIFICE OF REDEEMING LOVE AND FORGIVENESS BETWEEN THEM AND GOD. “When He appears for the protection of His devotees, He naturally accepts trials and tribulations on their behalf.” (CC Adi Lila, Ch. 5, Txt. 41 Purport.) Such CHIVALROUS (root VAL= BALA) Self-sacrifice for the sake of the Salvific Love of all beings is the essential Nature of the Second Person of the Godhead, SRI BALA-DEVA.
Srila Prabhupada even emphasized that BALARAMA is the CHIVALROUS Protector and Savior of all devotees of the Lord. So according to both Vaishnava and Catholic Trinitarian Revelation, it is the Second Person of the Godhead, the Servitor Lord, Who as the once-and-all-sufficient cosmic Self-Sacrifice “takes away the sins of the world” as the Original Spiritual Master and Intercessor-Redeemer of all devotees. As the Bible says “None come to the Father but by Him”. This Same Savior Lord has appeared in countless universes and in countless Theophanies and Incarnations, Each as a ‘general’ or ‘private’ revelation to His devotees. So while He is One in His GODHOOD, He is also really Different in His devotees’ collective and individual experience of Him.
Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita, Adi Lila, Ch. 5, Text 41 Purport: “Each Incarnation is distinct from all the others. This is possible by the Lord’s inconceivable potency, by which He can simultaneously represent Himself as one, as various partial forms, and as the origin of these partial forms. Nothing is impossible for His inconceivable potencies.” These variegated (Vilasa) Forms / Rupas of the Second Person of the Godhead may be considered ‘partial’ because there is something (for the sake of Lila) that is not revealed in Them. God is actually always fully GOD, but He may express Himself partially according to any love relationship He chooses. Such partiality does not limit His Divinity, even though He can choose to manifest in different or Vilasa Forms and even “accept trials and tribulations” on His loved-ones’ behalf.
CC Adi Lila: “Baladeva acts as the spiritual master of all devotees, and by His causeless mercy the fallen souls are delivered.” “…Balarama is the protector of the devotees of the Lord. By His divine grace only one can approach the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna, and thus Sri Balarama is the mercy incarnation of the Lord, manifested in the spiritual master, the savior of the pure devotees.”
He alone descends as the Cosmic Purusha Who “takes away the sins of the world” from every material cosmic manifestation! As the Original Spiritual Master, in every finite universe HE manifests Himself and SACRIFICES HIMSELF FOR THE CREATION, MAINTENANCE AND ULTIMATE REDEMPTION OF ALL BEINGS IN THAT UNIVERSE. THIS REVELATION IS THE CENTRAL FOCUS OF THE VEDIC HYMNS, WHICH REVEAL THE ORIGIN OF THE UNIVERSE IN THE SELF-SACRIFICE OF LORD BALADEVA-VISHNU AS PURUSHA YUPA DHVAJA IN THE PURUSHA SUKTA HYMN. HE IS YAGNA PURUSHA.
Now if we understand that there is ONE GOD ETERNALLY MANIFEST IN THREE IRREDUCIBLE PERSONS, AND THAT THE SECOND PERSON OF THIS GODHEAD IS THE VILASA SOURCE OF ALL VARIEGATEDNESS IN DIVINE MANIFESTATION, INCARNATION AND REVELATION, then we should be able to begin to grasp the importance of Sri Krishna Chaitanya’s simultaneously-one-and-different doctrine of Godhead. This is the doctrine that we must keep in mind and heart as we contemplate the inconceivable simultaneous THEOLOGICAL ONENESS and LILA DIFFERENCE of Sri Baladeva, Sri Nityananda Prabhu and The Second Person of the Godhead as Jesus Christ.
So let us reconsider the way that you have posed your question, using some examples. The Lila Avatara Forms of Vishnu are all different or VILASA forms of the same GOD. They are not DIFFERENT GODS. YET for the sake of LILA THEY ARE DIFFERENT. Thus it is not usual to find Radha and Krishna worshiped on the same altar or in the same mood as Lakshmi Narasimha, because the RASA OF THE REVELATION IS DIFFERENT. For this reason it is said that Sri Sri Radha-Krishna should not even be worshiped in the same temple as the ferocious Lion-Headed Form of Lord Nara Hari. Now, in contrast, in the case of worshiping Sri Sri Radha-Krishna and Sri Gauranga, such worship being in the same sweet flavor (rasa or ‘mellow’ of Parakiya or conjugal love), the RASA IS SIMULTANEOUSLY ONE AND DIFFERENT. Thus the worship of Sri Sri Radha-Krishna and Sri Gauranga is compatible, and the SAME but DIFFERENT at the same time. While Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is considered the combined Forms of Sri Sri Radha-Krishna, for the purpose of a specific divine Lila, there is still a distinction between Radha-Krishna worship and the worship of Sri Gauranga. Srila Prabhupada in fact condemns those as Sahajiyas, who think that they can worship Sri Gauranga INSTEAD of worshiping Sri Sri Radha-Krishna. Thus there is a DISTINCTION between Sri Sri Radha-Krishna and Sri Gauranga worship. There is a simultaneous oneness and a difference THAT SHOULD NOT BE OBLITERATED.
In the same way, one should not think that they can worship Sri Nityananda INSTEAD of worshiping Sri Baladeva. Many problems in world religious history have resulted from persons trying to worship a Form of the Second Person of the Godhead INSTEAD of the Second Person of the Godhead. Sri Nityananda and Sri Balarama are simultaneously One and Different, and a devotee should be mindful of Lord Baladeva ALWAYS when worshiping Sri Nityananda Rama. In fact, as there is no separate existence of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu from Sri Sri Radha-Krishna, there is also no separate existence of Sri Nityananda Rama from Lord Balarama. Therefore bona fide Gaudiya Vaishnava theology constantly stresses this teaching, so that the devotees will avoid the forms of heretical Sahajiyaism in which Sri Chaitanya or Sri Nityananda might be worshiped separately or instead of Sri Sri Radha-Krishna and Sri Balarama. Besides Sahajiyaism, sectarian fanaticism arises in Vaishnavism and other related Bhakti Traditions when devotees worship their beloved Form of the Savior Lord SEPARATELY or INSTEAD of His Revelation as the Second Person of the Godhead. Thus for example the fanatical exclusivism of some Protestant Fundamentalists because they have no realization of Jesus Christ as an Incarnation of the Second Person of the Godhead. It is their own limitation of understanding of Jesus as the Second Person of the Godhead that is alienating them from the rest of His devotees in the world.
As in authentic Vaishnavism, in Catholicism as well the theology of the Second Person of the Godhead is always stressed. In Catholic Theology Jesus Christ can only save souls because He is the Second Person Incarnate. In Vaishnavism, the theology of Sri Baladeva as the Saving Second Person of the Godhead is always stressed. Properly then, in terms of interfaith understanding, devotees should always stress the highest unity IN THEIR ORIGIN of the variegated VILASA FORMS OF THE SECOND PERSON OF THE GODHEAD. Thus theologically one can speak of the revelations of Lord Baladeva, the Second Person of the Godhead, as Jesus Christ or as Sri Nityananda. Historically speaking one can also describe both Jesus Christ and Sri Nityananda Prabhu as revelations of Sri Baladeva or the Second Person of the same historically revealed Godhead. Sometimes while mindful of this unity of Vilasa (Different, Variegated) manifestations within the Second Person of the Godhead, I may glorify Sri Nityananda Balarama, or Nitai-Balarama, and again sometimes I may glorify the Lord as Bala-Yesu or Bala-Yashas / Yashua. Sometimes while contemplating the Savior Lord’s inconceivable potency of oneness and difference, I may glorify Him as Bala-Jesu-Nityananda-Rama, or Bala-Jesu-Amitayus, or Bala-Sankarshan-Shambhu-Sada-Shivayah. In fact, by His causeless mercy, I know thousands of Names of Lord Baladeva, and in this way I invoke Him, and privately worship my Lord and Savior in the unity of His infinite Nama and Rupa. However, I never merge His Manifestations or forget Their Diversity in His Unity. Thus I am not troubled by any desire to pose questions such as “ If Jesus is Nityananda and if Nityananda descends to promote the sattvic movement of Sri Krishna bhakti, could it be true that Lord Jesus had fish or gave away fish for food?” Knowing that the Lord always acts perfectly according to time and circumstance, Rupa and Lila, Rasa and the capacity for Realization of His devotees, I have complete faith in Him to reveal Himself according to His causeless mercy’s Divine Plan. I am thus not compelled to question Him or fault-find His behavior, or the behavior of His great devotees. Even when there appear to be some differences or contradictions, I am content to let God be God, and not to try to second-guess Him when it comes to His relationships with His devotees.
Now, if one is disturbed by such questions as yours about fish, then one should consult the authentic Guru, Shastra and Sadhu of Catholic Apostolic Tradition for explanations of these passages. The early Catholic masters (called the Apostolic Fathers) commented on every verse of the Shastra, and in fact did write theological commentaries on the passages about the miraculous catch of fishes, which some compared to Christ’s words: “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” (Mark 1.17); and the distribution and taking up of the miraculous loaves, and finally Christ’s eating of IT (honeycomb) in Luke 24.43. In Catholic Tradition, as in Jewish Tradition before it, there are multiple levels of readings and parallel traditions of scriptural understanding. Because people are unaware of this, especially if they are non-Catholics, and anti-Catholics (including Protestants), they will generally only know of the grossest misunderstandings and corrupted literal readings of the scriptures. This is often the cause itself of many disturbances. In such cases the problem is not in the scripture but in the reader, in the way that they are reading the scriptures. Beyond all such questions however is Srila Prabhupada’s “perfect answer” (see his original Book “Perfect Questions, Perfect Answers”). When someone asked him about Jesus and flesh eating, Srila Prabhupada replied that Jesus could eat the whole world!
>>> To what extent can we trust the Bible as Veda?
Get an older English translation of the Latin-based Catholic Bible, or even the Catholic Greek Septuagint, Apocrypha and New Testament, and trust it. Get the Bible of the Coptic Rite Catholic Church, or of any authentic Rite of the Catholic Apostolic Church, and trust it. Sri Krishna says in HIS BHAGAVAD-GITA AS IT IS “BY ALL THE VEDAS AM I TO BE KNOWN” (BVG 15.15). Do you suppose that this means only the Rig Veda etc., or does this also mean the Samhitas, Upanishads, and Puranas etc.? Now consider the FACT that God’s revealed KNOWLEDGE in the Hebrew Old Testament is called Y D (YEDA or YADA) and in the Greek Old Testament and New Testament God’s knowledge is called OIDA !!! So the Catholic Bible itself, both in the Hebrew and the Greek, both in the Old Testament and Apocrypha, and in the New Testament DECLARES ITSELF TO BE VEDA / YEDA / OIDA. So when Sri Krishna says that by ALL the VEDAS He is to be known, this “ALL” must include the authentic Catholic Apostolic Bibles. While Protestant Bibles preserve some of the Apostolic Tradition, because these are not complete, and they have incorporated readings / interpretations that are non-apostolic, they are not as trustworthy as Catholic Bibles. These “Old and New Testaments” are recent and temporary (only since the Protestant Revolution) forms of the Judeo-Christian Shastras. These Protestant Old and New Testaments are the Scriptures of Protestantism, which is at heart an iconoclastic tradition like that of Mohammed, and as such is fundamentally incompatible with Catholicism and Vaishnavism, which are profoundly INCARNATIONAL Traditions. Thus Catholics and Vaishnavas both believe in God’s REAL PRESENCE in His Prasadam (Purusha’s Blessed Sacrament), whereas Protestants and Muslims think that this is an abominable and blasphemous idea. Catholics and Vaishnavas both worship SRI MURTI the Archa or Icon of the Lord, whereas Protestant and Muslim Fundamentalists consider this to be abominable ‘pagan’ idolatry. The Protestant Bible has been pieced together (without the Greco-Jewish Alexandrian Tradition Septuagint) and interpreted as a racist tribal triumphalist history of salvation. Opposed to the tribalist view, the Catholic Bible, including the Greco-Jewish Alexandrian Tradition, is UNIVERSAL, non-racist and inclusive in its presentation and traditional interpretation of mankind’s origin and end.
>>> …and what about such scriptures as “The gospel of the holy twelve” translated by Ousley?
These are not “scriptures” at all. All such writings are modern pious frauds, and should be avoided like sweet-tasting poison.
Pax and Prema,
Bhakti Ananda Goswami