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Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu declared that Śrīdhara Svāmī is the authoritative commentator on Bhāgavatam:

prabhu hāsi’ kahe,“svāmī nā māne yei jana | veśyār bhitare tāre kariye gaṇana” || eta kahi’ mahāprabhu mauna dharilā | śuniyā sabāra mane santoṣa hailā ||

“With a wry smile, the Lord said: “Whoever disregards the svāmī (husband; or Śrīdhara Svāmī) is to be counted among the prostitutes.” Mahāprabhu held silence. Everyone felt content by hearing this statement.” (Caitanya-caritāmṛta 3.7.115-116)

Chaitanya also told:

śrīdhara-svāmī-prasāde ‘bhāgavata’ jāni, jagad-guru śrīdhara-svāmī ‘guru’ kari’ māni. śrīdhara-upare garve ye kichu likhibe ‘artha-vyasta’ likhana sei, loke nā mānibe. śrīdharer anugata ye kare likhana saba loka mānya kari’ karibe grahaṇa.

“I understand Bhāgavatam by the grace of Śrīdhara Svāmī. I consider that he, the spiritual master of the universe, is a guru. Whatever you write beyond Śrīdhara out of pride would be contrary to the real meaning. People would not pay attention to it. One who writes following Śrīdhara’s statements will be respected by and accepted by everyone.” (Caitanyacaritāmṛta 3.7.133-135)

Sridhara Svami is generally considered Advaitin and Chaitanya mahaprabhu accepted his commentary on Bhagavatam as authoritative. Then, why do Gaudiya Vaishnavas reject Advaita when Chaitanya Mahaprahu accepted Sridhara Svami's authority?

  • I think your Q is not clear. You didn't explain what is the connection of Svamiji with Advaita. – brahma jijnasa Apr 7 at 5:39
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    @brahmajijnasa Sridhara Swami is generally considered Advaitin. And CMP accepted his commentary as authoritative. So people who don't know full picture often think why GV doesn't accept Advaita when CMP approved Advaita commentary and this they are confused. – Govinda Apr 7 at 6:55
  • Ok, I knew that thing but readers of your Q possibly do not, so it would be a good idea to tell them that thing in the Q. – brahma jijnasa Apr 7 at 18:32
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In the above conversation we don't get the full picture.

We get full picture of Sridhara Svami as seen by Gaudiya Vaishnavas in Tattva Sandarbha work of Jiva Goswami.

Text 27 of Tattva Sandarbha reads as follows:

Therefore to ascertain what is actually the highest good in life we should focus our investigation on Srimad Bhagava-tam, carefully reconciling its statements with what precedes and follows them. With this aim, in this work consisting of six Sandarbhas the introductory sentences in each anuccheda] will serve the function of sutras The quot.ations from Srimad Bhagavatam will be the scriptural texts under consideration. Sridhara Svami's explanation of the Bhagavatam will serve as our primary commentary. Srila Sridhara Svami is a pefect Vaisnava. But to entice the Advaita-vadis now a days prominent all over Madhya-desa and other parts of the country — to become absorbed in the glories of the Supreme Lord, he mixed some traces of their theories into his writings. We will cite Sri Svamicarana s commentary verbatim when its agrees with the conclusions of pure Vaisnava philosophy.

Jiva Goswami quotes Sridhara Svami's explanations in most of the anucchedas of the six sandarbhas.

Śrīdhara Svāmī is considered a Vaiṣṇava because he states in his commentaries that the Lord’s vibhūtis, abodes, qualities and forms, as well as the bodies of his associates are eternal and that bhakti to Bhagavān is the most attractive type of liberation. Sometimes he writes māyāvāda ideas, but it should be understood that its purpose is to attract the māyāvādīs to bhakti, by offering bait on a hook. Similarly pure Vaiṣṇava philosophy accepts the non-contrary parts of Sāṅkhya. In that way, the parts of Śrīdhara Svāmī which follow pure Vaiṣṇava ideas are quoted.

Śrīdhara Svāmī’s writings at large are not irreproachable. Rūpa Gosvāmī was the first Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava to point out that Śrīdhara Svāmī’s commentary on Bhāgavatam is not perfect.

In Laghu-vaiṣṇava-toṣaṇī, Jīva Gosvāmī attacked Śrīdhara Svāmī's explanations on several occasions (10.3.24; 10.13.57; etc.). Still, on the whole Śrīdhara Svāmī’s commentary on Bhāgavatam justifies Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s approval. In many ways, he propounded the highest philosophy. For example:

tvat-kathāmṛta-pāthodhau viharanto mahā-mudaḥ | kurvanti kṛtinaḥ kecic catur-vargaṁ tṛṇopamam ||

“Some accomplished persons who are greatly joyful while sporting in the ocean of nectar topics about You render the four goals of life insignificant like straw.” (Bhāvārtha-dīpikā 10.87.21) (quoted in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.1.40)

A brief outline of Sridhara Svami's commentary on Bhagavatam and how it clearly is far from Shankara's nondualism and comes halfway to the metaphysical nuances of acintya-bhedabheda is described in Chaitanya Vaishnava Vedanta by Ravi M Gupta.

From a close analysis of Sridhara’s commentary on the first verse and four main verses of the BhAgavata, Sheridan concludes that Sridhara taught a “theistic non-dualism of sorts,” (ibid.: 57) not so different from the BhAgavata’s own bhedAbheda standpoint (ibid.: 54). While Sridhara employs the categories and hermeneutical tools of Advaita Vedanta (such as the notion of essential and accidental characteristics), he does not use them to defend Shankara’s radical nondualism. “Sridhara . . . has moved, at least in this immediate context, toward a non-dualism of a realistic Sankhya type, otherwise called ‘qualified nondualism’” (ibid.: 64). This move, Sheridan argues, brings him “halfway to the metaphysical nuances of acintya-bhedabheda” (ibid.: 58). Perhaps the clearest evidence of Sridhara’s shift lies in his avoidance of the concept of mAyA (the illusory power that comprises this world) as delineated in Advaita Vedanta. For Sridhara, mAyA does not consist of ignorance (avidyA) that results from the superimposition (adhyAsa) of the world on Brahman. Instead, it is the veiling, multi-faceted sakti of the Supreme Lord, understood in terms similar to mAyA in theistic Vaisnavism. In his commentary on the BhAgavata’s first verse, Sridhara Svami fails to make any mention of the concepts of superimposition, confusion (bhrama), or ignorance, despite ample opportunities to do so. The word “nirasta-kuhakam” is glossed simply as “nirasta| kuhaka| kapaVa| mAyAlak2aWam yasmi|s tam”—“him in whom the deceit that is characteristic of mAyA is destroyed.” Even the line “tejo-vAri-m{dAm . . . ,” which Jiva Gosvami himself recognizes as having potential for an Advaita interpretation, is let off quite gently by 3rcdhara. He interprets vinimaya as vyatyaya, the false appearance of one element in another, like a mirage seen on a hot surface, water seen in glass, and glass appearing like water. Although these examples are typically Advaitic in nature, Sridhara does not take the opportunity to develop a theory of error. This is especially significant given the fact that Shankara’s Brahmasutra commentary begins straight away with a theory of super-imposition. For Sridhara, the essential point here is that despite appearances, the world finds its basis in the true reality of Brahman, who has the power to dispel all confusion. We find another example of Sridhara’s reticence in regard to mAyA in his commentary on the second verse of the four-verse Bhagavata. Sheridan translates the verse and commentary as follows: What is manifest without a basis and is not manifest in the Self, know that to be the maya of the Self, like an appearance, like a shadow. [Sridhara’s commentary:] This defines maya since it was mentioned subsequently and since the linking of maya and Self follows maya. “Without basis” means without a substantial basis. For this reason, what is implicit in the substratum of the Self appears real “and also does not appear,” know that to be the maya of the Self. “Like an appearance” means the two moons etc. which are not distinguished in perception. “Like a shadow” means the non-recognition of something that is. The shadow is Rahu which remains in the realm of the planets, even if it is not seen. (1994: 59–60) As in his explanation of the BhAgavata’s first verse, Sridhara here is satisfied to describe mAyA simply in terms of false appearances, using examples found in the verse itself. Also as in the first verse, he is primarily interested in the fact that the world of appearances has a real basis in the reality of Brahman. As such, he makes no attempt to go beyond the text of the BhAgavata to articulate a theory of ignorance in Advaitic terms. Indeed, Sridhara was perhaps closer to the Caitanya Vaisnava view of sakti than he was to Advaitic concepts of mAyA. A more positive articulation of Sridhara Svami’s views on mAyA can be found in his commentary on verse 1.7.6 of the BhAgavata. This verse appears in a description of Vyasa’s state of trance before he composed the PurAna, which, we have seen, is one of Jiva’s main loci for finding the overall meaning of the BhAgavata. As such, Jcva discusses this verse at length in the Tattva-sandarbha (from section 32 to 45). He sees in it the possibility of nondualist interpretation and so takes the opportunity to argue against the Advaita ideas of mAyA, ignorance (avidyA), and limitation (upAdhi). Yet Sridhara’s commentary on this verse is remarkably simple, positive, and free of heavyweight Advaita terminology: The learned (Vyasa) composed the sAtvata-sa|hitA [BhAgavata PurAna] for people who do not know bhakti-yoga for Adhoksaja, which directly removes unwanted things. [Sridhara’s commentary] This is stated: The Lord, who possesses all saktis, who knows everything, who has an eternally manifest, supremely blissful form (svarupa), controls mAyA by his knowledge- sakti. The living entity, whose true form is unmanifest, and who (instead) possesses qualities just opposite to it, is bewildered by his (the Lord’s) mAyA. The living entity is liberated through knowledge that is obtained by bhakti to the Lord. That is stated by Visnusvami, “The Lord, who is eternal, cognizant and blissful, is embraced by knowledge (sa|vit) and the energy of bliss. The living entity is covered by his own ignorance and is pained by masses of suffering.” So also, “He who controls mAyA is the Lord, and he who is pained by her is the living entity. We praise this Man-lion Lord, who continually enjoys with his own mAyA. He possesses transcendental bliss that is manifested from himself, and from him the world of great suffering is manifested. He is unsullied by the fear born from the differences of the world, which has arisen from his own glance.” And so on Here we find nearly all the elements of the Caitanya Vaisnava concept of Bhagavan’s sakti. The Lord is the possessor of all energies and his form is not temporary or material, but a manifestation of his personal sakti, with which he forever enjoys. He does, however, remain aloof from the external energy, which comprises the world of mAyA. As a transformation of the Lord’s sakti, mAyA is not false or illusory in itself, but only in its effect on the hapless living entity. Its influence can be annulled by devotion to Bhagavan. Although Sridhara Svami does not partition Bhagavan’s sakti into three types, clearly all the elements necessary for the development of a more systematic theory are present above. Furthermore, the verse from Visnusvami provides the basis for a further division of the internal energy into three parts. The only element of the sakti concept that is missing—indeed, conspicuous by its absence—is inconceivability (acintya). The strong emphasis on the inconceivable nature of Bhagavan’s energies seems to be a distinctly Caitanya Vaisnava proclivity, arising from a desire to preserve Bhagavan’s transcendence. We may thus confirm Sheridan’s assessment of Sridhara as “halfway to the metaphysical nuances of acintya-bhedabheda” (1994: 58). A much more comprehensive and in-depth study of Sridhara’s commentaries would be required to reach any broad conclusions about his views. Whatever the outcome of such a study might be, however, it is clear that he cannot be simplistically aligned with, or assigned to, Advaita Vedanta.

Chaitanya's preference may just as well have been a result of appreciation for Sridhara's deep devotion or his bhedAbheda theology not necessarily because of his Advaita affiliation, which, we have argued, is a more accurate characterization of Sridhara's views than is pure Advaita. Also, we find Sridhara’s commentary on BhAgavata 10.43.17, where we find the seeds of a bhakti–rasa theory centered on Krishna which is important thing in Chaitanya Vaishnavism.

From incidents of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu with Prakasananda Sarasvati and Sarvabhouma Bhattacharya, it is clear that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu didn't accept advaita. So no way he would accept Sridhara Svami's advaitic explanations whenever it was seen. And also it could be that he didn't criticize Sridhara Svami because he is considered vaishnava who wrote some advaitic explanations on purpose. Most important verse of Gaudiya Vaishnavism SB 1.3.28 is differently explained by Sridhara Svami who just says Krishna is Narayana himself. So it can't be 100% acceptance of Sridhara Svami's comments by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. But since Sridhara Svami closely gives vaishnava conclusions most of the times, he is accepted as an authority. And Jiva Goswami follows Sridhara Svami's explanations whenever they agreement with pure Vaishnava siddhanta only. Whenever he quoted Sridhara Svami's commentary, he mentioned his name or tika ca which means Sridhara's commentary says and whenever he doesn't agree with Sridhara's advaitic interpretation, out of respect for Sridhara, Jiva does not quote him, paraphrase him, or even use language similar to his. As far as the reader is concerned, the opposing views could have come from any Advaitin.

Thus, Gaudiya Vaishnavas followed Sridhara Svami and had great reverence for him mostly because most of the his commentary is in line with pure Vaishnava philosophy, but whenever he offers an advaitic explanation, Gaudiya Vaishnavas didn't accept that.

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