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The Final WordThe Caitanya Caritamrita and the Grammar of Religious Tradition$
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Tony K. Stewart

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195392722

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195392722.001.0001

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The Rhetoric of Primer, Commentary, Canon

The Rhetoric of Primer, Commentary, Canon

(p.233) 6 The Rhetoric of Primer, Commentary, Canon
The Final Word

Tony K. Stewart

Oxford University Press

The Caitanya caritāmṛta opened with the doctrine of the pañca tattva, the theological basis for Caitanya’s descent with his retinue, dhāma, whose individuals were named by the hundreds. To articulate a unified Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava community, Kṛṣṇadāsa adopted the metaphor of the tree of bhakti: Caitanya’s gurus the roots, Caitanya the trunk, and four key branches, locating every devotee in Bengal, Orissa, and Vraja. By highlighting prior works, the Caitanya caritāmṛta functioned as commentary on tradition. Kṛṣṇadāsa’s pervasive rhetoric of humility leaves the impression of reportage; yet he proffered privileged readings, inserted theological arguments in Caitanya’s mouth, and expanded stories with previously unknown information. His seemingly passing praise of select devotees and texts impels the reader to never-explicitly-stated conclusions, a technique of indirect assertion by analogy. The resulting acts of inclusion and exclusion gently guide the reader to sanctioned readings, the founding canon. These strategies together constituted a grammar of tradition.

Keywords:   analogy, canon, commentary, dhāma, grammar of tradition, indirect assertion, metaphor, pañca tattva, rhetoric, tree of bhakti

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