Rebecca J. Manring offers a hagiographical treatment of Advaita Acarya, a fifteenth century leader in a new devotional school of Vaisnavism. She uses the Bengali material as a case study of how to read and understand hagiographical literature.
The Rādhātantram can serve as a tool with which to examine textual and doctrinal appropriations that took place between Vaiṣṇavas and Śāktas in precolonial Bengal in their ongoing competition for membership and patronage. The unknown author of the Rādhātantram borrowed some basic Kṛṣṇa mythology and superimposed it on a Tantra framework. In so doing he changed Kṛṣṇa’s theological identity and his relationship to Rādhā, the devotee’s relationship to the couple, and, more significantly, the couple’s relationship to the cosmos. Rādhā’s identity (...) and role were reinterpreted to serve clearly non-Vaiṣṇava purposes. The change in her status to that of an independent goddess brings with it an implicit rereading of her whole mythology. She still has an erotic role to play in her relationship with Kṛṣṇa, but here she is also the agent of Kālī, charged with Kṛṣṇa’s spiritual education. She has emanated from the great goddess, Mahādevī, herself to serve as Kṛṣṇa’s guru, and Kṛṣṇa too is Kālī. Even the god Kṛṣṇa wants to reintegrate himself into his mother Kālī, and his sādhanā with Rādhā will enable him to do so. This article also compares the Rādhā of the Rādhātantram with that of the Śrīkṛṣṇakīrtana and the Gītagovindam and speculates on the author’s decision to write in Sanskrit. Examining some key narrative sections of the Rādhātantram in light of transaction theory allows the analysis to elucidate the ways the author of the Rādhātantram appropriated Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava tropes for Śākta purposes. (shrink)