Vaisnava Religion Means Proper Adjustment
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
and His Relations With the Vaisnava Sampradayas
The guru parampara of the Gaudiya
Math established the link with the Brahma-Madhva Sampradaya. Thus, along
with the other three sampradayas (Sri Sampradaya, Rudra Sampradaya
and Kumara Sampradaya) the Brahma Sampradaya teaches the Vedic culture
to the world. There are also a few points of these four sampradayas
that were incorporated by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu into the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya
In the narration of Sri Navadvip-Dham-Mahatmya Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur relates the time when Sri Nityananda Prabhu took Srila Jiva Gosvami on a tour. Herein it is mentioned how Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu accepted two principles from each of the four sampradayas and incorporated these into His own sampradaya. It is also mentioned that the four principal acharyas of these four lineages later took birth as Lord Chaitanya's devotees during His manifest lila:
Ramanuja of the Sri-Sampradaya preached the philosophy of dasya-rasa and visishta-advaita. He was reborn as the gaura-bhakta named Ananta who lived near Vallabhacharya's house. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu accepted the following two principles from the Laksmi-Sampradaya.
1.The concept of unalloyed devotion free from karma and jñana -ananya-bhakti.
2.Service to the devotees - bhakta-jana-seva.
Madhva of the Brahma-Sampradaya preached the dvaita philosophy. The following points were accepted from this sampradaya:
1.The complete defeat of the Mayavadi
philosophy - Keval-advaita-nirasana.
2.The worship of the deity of Krishna and understanding it to be eternal - krsna-murti-sevana.
Vishnusvami of the Rudra-Sampradaya preached suddha-advaita philosophy. He was reborn as the Gaura-bhakta named Vallabha Bhatta who perfected his own sampradaya by Gauranga's mercy. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu accepted the following from this sampradaya:
1.The sentiment of total dependence
on Krishna - tadiya-sarvasva-bhava
2.The path of spontaneous devotional service - raga-marga.
Nimbarka of the Kumara-Sampradaya preached dvaita-advaita philosophy. He was reborn as the Gaura-bhakta named Keshava Kashmiri . Again, two points were accepted:
1.The need of taking exclusive shelter
of Radhika - ekanta-radhikasraya.
2.The exalted mood of the gopis' love for Sri Krishna - gopi-bhava.
The concentrated theistic outlook of worshipping
the Lord above all gives Vaisnavas a common cause and foundation. Their
primary focus is avisesa-vada, the monotheistic explanation of the
Vedanta. The worship of the deity of the Supreme Lord, and the respect
held for the great acharyas in all sampradayas are also characteristic
traits of the Vaisnava traditions.
In his book Prema Pradipa, Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur points out the following:
1.The Supreme Lord is one without a second. He possesses all transcendental potencies and controls all laws.
2.The Supreme Lord has an exquisitely beautiful, all-auspicious spiritual form. That form is transcendental to all laws of the material world. In Him all contradictions are wonderfully reconciled. Though He has a form, He is all pervading. Though He is beautiful, mundane sense cannot perceive Him. Though situated in one place, He is simultaneously fully present everywhere.
3.Both the animate and inanimate are born from His energies. He is the creator, maintainer, and destroyer of time, place, and law.
4.The living entity's constitution is spiritual, but by the Lord's desire he is conditioned by material nature and thus enjoys or suffers under those laws. By the process of devotional service, however, he is freed from material bondage.
5.The path of jñana and karma are full of hardship. When jñana and karma serve the purpose of bhakti, there is no fault. But, unlike karma and jñana, bhakti is fully independent.
6.The living entity's duty is to associate with sadhus and discuss devotional service.
The Gaudiya Math tradition teaches us that the divine couple in Vrindavan is the original form of Godhead, and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is Krishna Himself combined with his dearmost Srimati Radharani. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu came to give this truth. He is the yuga avatar who distributes the congregational chanting of the Holy Names all over the world. His appearance made Sri Navadvip identical with Vrindavan. Thus, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is also called the bhakta avatar and sometimes the hidden avatar, since he generally concealed his divine nature and preached Krishna bhakti, absorbed in the mood of separation.
Not all Vaisnava sampradayas embrace this ontology, but concentrate more on the worship of Sri Laksmi Narayan, Sri Sita Rama, Sri Nataji, Sri Balaji, and Sri Venkateshvara. Nevertheless, they still all worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In addition, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has already become more and more accepted as the yuga avatar. In Vrindavan, as well as in South India, the drama of Sri Chaitanya's Lila has been included into the drama presentations, and the whole world has learned about the glory of the sanatana-dharma through His influence.
Some Thoughts On Other Religions
The Gaudiya Math also recognizes the
fact that the Supreme Lord has manifested messages to humanity in other
religions as well. Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur, for example, gave great respect
to the teachings of Jesus calling him the savior of Jerusalem, and also
wrote comments on the first Commandment. Many other famous Vaisnava acharyas
preached about Jesus with the same spirit. The president of the Visva
Vaisnava Raj Sab Srila B. P. Puri Maharaj, said: The contribution of
Jesus to the world of theism cannot be ignored." Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
is also known to have spoken with Muslims on many occasions. He even referred
to the Koran and accepted Allah as another name for Vishnu.
While the Gaudiya Math accepts the validity of all pure theism, it has proved necessary to clarify areas where followers have deviated from the original teachings. As an example of this, in his multiple encounters with Christian leaders, Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj stressed that Thou shalt not kill" includes animals as well. In fact, Father Canciani of Rome published a book called Jesus was a Vegetarian. In his research, he discovered that the first Christians had been persecuted by Roman authorities and cattle farmers because they were preaching and spreading vegetarianism.
It must also be noted that in the Gospel of the Twelve, one of the older Christian scriptures, Jesus is found teaching vegetarianism, reincarnation, and the law of karma almost with the same vocabulary as the faithful Vaisnava. Considering that the Essenes (Jesus' own community) were known to be strict vegetarians, it can be concluded that the modern Christian meat eaters have deviated from their real teachings.
Such things have happened in Kali Yuga in all religions. We have to find the essence. In this way it will become very obvious that all true theistic religions teach the same moral standards that guide humanity towards loving devotional service. Those who wish to gain access to the deepest and finest of all of God's messages to this world will study the deeper ontology of every religion. Such studies, handled by true devotees, will never become the cause for violent disputes (such as the disputes often created by political manipulators for selfish purposes).
The Gaudiya Math has converted members from all religions and schools of thought to Vaisnavism. Still, the positive spirit of cooperation with other religions for the moral upliftment of humanity is fully accepted by Gaudiya Vaisnavas. At the same time, the Gaudiya Math will also spare no effort to make everyone happy in this world by respectfully sharing with them the gifts of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Caste and Cultures / Superiority & Inferiority Complexes
The scriptures fully support the conversion
of all peoples to Vaisnavism, and thus the right and duty for all to practice
the highest services of the Vaisnava faith. Yet, somehow or another, very
deeply rooted in the conditioned soul, there is prejudice against others
whose origin lay in a different culture, caste, or race. Whatever influences
of the past have impregnated this psychology of imperfection, it stands
out as a shameful reality.
This difficulty exists even among the Vaisnavas in India. There, for example, neophyte Vaisnavas of Bengali origin do not get along with those of Hindi speaking origin. Similarly, when Westerners suddenly showed up to preach Vaisnavism in the dress of sannyasis and spiritual masters, it was not easy for some neophyte Vaisnavas of India to accommodate them. European and, especially, American superiority complexes with respect to poorer countries and different races also gave quite a bad taste to the behavior of the young Western Vaisnavas. However, the Vaisnava communities have succeeded in combining the greatest variety of people living and working together towards a common goal.
Srila Rupa Goswami has personally condemned looking upon a Vaisnava in accordance with their birth. Therefore, we should be very careful in this regard. The Gaudiya Math family now branches out all over the world and many tests will have to be passed to prove that we really see beyond the bodies and behave as real brothers and sisters.
It is not only fear of the unknown which stands in our way, but also straight out selfishness that opposes our true vision. Sometimes we feel antipathy against one devotee or devotee group, and the next moment we feel sympathy towards another. Both of these feelings are rooted in the same error. We should look at all Vaisnavas as our worshipable prabhus. Any type of inclination which is rooted in some kind of prejudice is against the highest principle.
We may sometimes feel that it is necessary to preach to some social class apart from the general public due to their inaccessibility of a common platform. This may be done, but it is dangerous; and until the recruits from that different social order come down from their prejudiced platform and honor all Vaisnavas equally, it will be difficult to successfully convert them to being true Vaisnavas.
As an example of this, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu refused to go and see the devotee king Prataparudra Maharaj since a renunciate should not associate with people in worldly positions. On the other hand, He offered the highest regard to a Muslim-born devotee, Srila Haridas Thakur.
Any type of superiority complex harbored within a neophyte Vaisnava should be clearly understood to be an enemy of real Vaisnava sentiment. On the other hand, any feeling towards personal inferiority is traditionally accepted as a good excuse to secure one's position as the lowest of all servants. Srila Sanatana Goswami and Srila Haridas Thakur's behavior in Jagannath Puri give ample evidence of this fact. Therefore, it is quite appropriate for Western Vaisnavas to feel very low due to their low birth, but it is an offense on the other side for a brahmin born Vaisnava to consider himself superior.
Broadminded concepts fit perfectly into the real Vaisnava world view and preaching activities. Narrow-minded persons, trying to cling to birth privileges are simply outdated and would do better researching the glorious generosity of the Vedic sages. By the grace of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the real World Vaisnava Family will rise to embrace the world with Unity in Diversity reaching all cultures and peoples.
We have already witnessed Germans, Jews and Arabs dancing together in Sri Vrindavan Dham, music celebrities leading millions to listen to the Mahamantra, surrealistic Vaisnava drama troops preaching against the effects of the age of Kali, and Krishna temples in skyscrapers and previous Christian churches. There is nothing which Krishna cannot do.
Is the Gaudiya Math Sectarian?
All forms of God are eternal and they
have a transcendental position. Krishna and Vishnu, for example, have separate
pastimes but they both belong to the same divine truth. We are not to make
a case of contention when discussing different lilas of the Lord,
but simply appreciate the many ways in which the Lord manifests and the
variety of relationships He develops with His many devotees. The truth
of the conditioned souls approaching spiritual understanding by the intervention
of divine grace creates the vast diversity that we encounter. If we cannot
appreciate that, we may as well doubt our own convictions and how they
Sincere searchers of the truth have received help from within and without throughout the ages. At the same time, there have always been corrupting tendencies of the conditioned soul within all spiritual currents. Still, as Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj often said: Love for God is the highest goal of life. It does not matter how a person got this love of God. If he has it, he is a perfect person." With respect to other Vaisnava sampradayas, this same principle applies. As our prominent acharya Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur has taught: Vaisnavas are happy about any manifestation of true theism in this world.
Gaudiya Vaisnavas will take any valid thought regardless of where it comes from. For example, Hegel's statement: Die to live," was often used by Srila B. R. Sridhar Maharaj in describing the surrender of the soul to Krishna. Vaisnavas are also willing to expose their teachings to constructive critique in a very non-dogmatic way.
Naturally, the Gaudiya Math teaches many religious principles and rejects those who intend to harm other living entities. As such, in the world of irreligion and corruption, Gaudiya Math teachers stand out as revolutionaries spreading a world consciousness of proper behavior and spiritual fulfillment; they are not yogis who promote personal salvation and indifference to the suffering world.
The Gaudiya Math wants to contribute that which has been received from our disciplic succession to all thinkers of the world from all schools of thought and to serve humanity at large. It wants to distribute the happy nectar given to the world by God Himself. In the form of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, He introduced the congregational chanting of the Holy Name. The divine principles of Sri Krishna's lila of love can cure humanity from the addiction to mundane lust, and there is no room for sectarianism in this effort.
Vaisnavism - Real and Apparent
The material nature and the agents
of illusion (Maya) often come to disturb the Vaisnava faith. Due to this,
difficulties arise between those who follow the highest Vaisnava ideals
and those who simply claim to do so. The cheating mentality called vipralipsa
manifests everywhere in this material world. Vaisnava movements are not
immune to this. Therefore, it is the duty of the acharyas to always
maintain the purity in their realm of influence. They must denounce any
misuse which may disturb Vaisnava missionary activities, and cause wrong
impressions in the public opinion of Vaisnavas. Vaisnavism - real and apparent
- is a topic which has to be discussed among Vaisnavas regularly to protect
ourselves from our own immaturity, flickering minds, and mountains of false
Every sincere soul, practicing the precepts of the Vaisnava ideals, can become a pure soul. If the history of the Caste Goswamis, Smarta Brahmanas, Prakrita Sahajiyas, and Institutionalists have created a disturbing influence in this world, it only confirms the famous sloka:
aikantiki harer bhaktir
Devotional service which is not executed in accordance with the verdict of the revealed scriptures is simply an unnecessary disturbance to human society". (Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu 1.2.101). We have to do everything we can to reach the highest purity in our spiritual life and our spiritual missions. Those who follow the sanatan dharma are always dedicated to fighting off tyranny, both in the physical world and in the realm of thought. If any person manifests symptoms of a true Vaisnava and promotes the pure values of Vaisnavism, then everyone's heart will become happy.
Relations with Babajis
Renunciates in our sampradaya
previously dressed in the way of babajis. The six Goswamis of Vrindavan
wore such dress. At the same time, they preached vigorously by writing
many books, holding regular classes, inspiring the construction of great
temples, and establishing the worship of the deities with great love. They
established holy places and sent their followers to distribute the literature
in all directions. During Srila Prabhupad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati's time,
such as Srila Jagannath das Babaji Maharaj and Srila Gaur Kishor das Babaji
Maharaj carried on the tradition. Even today we see many babajis
in the Holy Dham who preach the Gaudiya Math tradition, serving both the
Dham and the devotees who visit there.
However, due to the influence of the age of Kali and the many unfortunate activities of some who dressed as babajis, that dress was not respected among the common people at the time Gaudiya Math began. Many of these so called babajis were living of donations by the pious and ignorant public without any real contribution to the mission of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Due to their questionable behavior many fell under suspicion of public opinion. Among the babaji groups who were not favorable to the Gaudiya Math were the followers of a Babaji who became well known for chanting their "own" mantra everywhere. These babajis were not accepted by the true Radha Kunda babajis.
Considering Sri Radha Kunda the holiest of all places, the Gaudiya Math took Sri Radha Kunda's glory all over the world. Yet even some of the residents of Radha Kunda's shores, did not appreciate what the Gaudiya Math had done. Srila Prabhupad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur clearly denounced these materialistic tendencies among the residents of the Dham. At the same time, he gave a clear understanding of who a real babaji is; i.e. who does and does not deserve the respect given to a true renunciate. There is, therefore, really no opportunity for conflict. The Gaudiya Math accepts real babajis and Dham gurus, but stays away from those who lack substance.
Relations with Caste Goswamis and Smarta Brahmanas
A person can only be accepted as a
genuine Vaisnava if he accepts the basic precepts of the sampradayas
and can explain his course of action according to the shastras.
Caste Goswamis such as the descendants of the Nityananda Vamsa, Advaita
Vamsa, and Smarta Brahmanas want to limit mercy to the rights and duties
acquired through one's birth. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, along with Srila
Bhaktivinode Thakur and the acharyas following in his line have
actively refuted this stand and defeated the idea in many debates.
The high priest of the demons, often mentioned in the Puranas, is called Sukracharya. The literal translation is Seminal-Acharya,' or someone who declares the birth connection the only way to transmit powerful positions to future generations. This proposal has always been refuted by the Vaisnava sampradaya. There are so many stories that speak of this. One outstanding story is that of Valmiki, formerly a murderer, was transformed by the initiation he received from Srila Narada Muni and converted into the great author of the Ramayana, the holy scripture.
In our modern world it is already common for people born in non-Vedic families and previously addicted to sinful activities to start Vaisnava missions and initiate others (including brahmin born Hindus) into the real brahmin Vaisnava tradition. This is a revolution in itself that has helped to create a great renovation and invigoration of spirit among Hindu born people both in India and abroad.
Relations with Mayavadis
Vaisnavas and Impersonalists have a rift
which goes back to the puranic times and to the great Vedic acharyas.
The Gaudiya Math continues to take the appropriate strong stand against
all who claim themselves to be God or otherwise, that God has no personality.
This is not the forum to enter deeply into the ontological discussion of
this rift. Still, it must be mentioned here that the material world is
full of theories and speculations leaning on the advaita, or monistic,
impersonal world view, which has created havoc in the minds of the conditioned
Even though many of the impersonalists share a good amount of the Vedic Vaisnava siddhanta, it still holds true that their apathy towards serving a personal God in eternity is making their company a danger for the tender faith of love. Therefore, the Gaudiya Math has taken up the strong banner of pure monotheism in order to save the world from voidness and impersonalism. Our acharyas are also well known for their strong teachings that have converted Mayavadis to the Vaisnava faith.
Followers of the Vedanta schools who exclude the transcendental lila of the Lord from their conception of Nityananda are not considered favorable to devotional feelings of the Vaisnava sanga. As such, they are to be avoided and cannot be considered theists in the true sense of the word. Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur even wrote that one should not associate with those who hesitate to criticize the impersonal interpretation of the Vedanta.
Since the impersonal interpretation of the word theism already contradicts the dictionary understanding, one can easily understand how such an interpretation becomes the source of many arguments. Theo is God and God is the Supreme Person: the one without an equal - with no one superior to Him. If the Supreme had no personality, in some way He would already be less than all the thinking, feeling and willing persons of His creation. This idea is unacceptable to a Vaisnava, thus he cannot accept either the Buddhist's nor the other Impersonalist's interpretations of the final truth.
The last snare of illusion, even when accompanied by austere and pious behavior, is this impersonalist assumption. Without real humility, the Mayavadi concludes: There is no higher being or authority above me. I can save myself. My individuality was a good for nothing' affair." Vaisnavas feel deep compassion for souls with such frustrated conceptions, but they also understand that the world of love is hiding from people with such an attitude. Therefore, Vaisnavas try to spread the Holy Name of the Lord to purify the whole world from such attitudes.
Those who claim to practice Vaisnavism
but have introduced unauthorized changes of conduct or conceptions into
their practices and philosophy are called imitationists (imitators) or
sahajiyas. They have deviated from the sampradaya. In India,
there are many well know groups of such imitators and their misconstrued
teachings, such as the Auls, Bauls, Gauranga Nagari, and Sakhi Bheki and
many more, old and new. In addition, some neophytes claim to already be
on the platform of Krishna Consciousness while they are really not so.
To be able to identify the imitators, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur
Prabhupad compiled a book called Prakrita Rasa Sata Dusani. At the
same time, he re-established the full glory of the Brahma Madhva Gaudiya
Sampradaya through his Gaudiya Math.
Imitation is generally found when the lazy mentality of the conditioned soul wants to get a cheaper, easier version of spiritual life. The misuse of the Vaisnava philosophy to get money, women, or fame will also drag someone away from the real process. The ongoing search for purity, or permanently watching and always remaining under the guidance of truly advanced Vaisnavas, is the only protection from falling into the influences from the external world, and the imitator tendencies within the mind.
Temples in the Kingdom of Maya
Human beings are subject to a world
of misunderstandings. These misunderstandings also manifests between Vaisnavas.
Once, when asked why there is so much Maya to be found even in a Temple
of Krishna, a sadhu replied: We should not be surprised when we
find Maya in the temples, we should be surprised that there are temples
in the kingdom of Maya."
The more branches a tree has, the more opulent he looks, and the more blessings he will give. Therefore, Krishna's unity is full of diversity. But, Maya wants to divide and not let the victims get any chance to reunite with other Vaisnavas. For that reason, Maya invents a great amount of psychological tricks. Here are just a few of those mental excuses which keep us away from the much needed sadhu sanga.
1. My guru is really the only one who can give the highest nectar. Therefore, I will not associate with anyone who has not realized this fact.
2. I am so fallen that I will not go to contaminate other devotees.
3. If I associate with other Vaisnavas and their missions, my disciples will notice that I am not the only real devotee after all, and they may stop loving me.
4. Maybe my disciples will be more attracted to another devotee - senior to me - and will want to leave my company.
5. Other Vaisnavas may have different standards than we have in our temples and the absolute understanding of my disciples may be disturbed.
6. I do not like to listen for hours when other Vaisnavas lecture.
My spiritual master once wrote me
in a letter, You Westerners are always in a fighting spirit, and even if
you do not want to fight, someone will induce you to fight anyway." Let
us consider the fact that in almost all communities soon or later some
fight or misunderstanding erupts. What can be done? Somehow, the locally
involved devotees have to solve this problem; which they usually do quite
quickly. Sometimes, however, disputes over the jurisdiction of preaching
paraphernalia such as temples, vehicles etc., may endure longer due to
an unclear instruction from the departed spiritual master.
Yet, as we have often witnessed, even disputes such as those mentioned above do not stop our preaching spirit. Nor do individual misunderstandings or even fights between individuals and missions usually affect the overall relationship others maintain with the disputing parties. They are usually considered secondary. Since smaller and larger disputes may appear at any time, we should carefully observe how the advanced devotees deal with such situations. In this way, we will learn to continue preaching without being too affected when Kali yuga manifests in some way.
Vaisnava institutions are also not meant to make us lazy, complacent, envious, indifferent or non-intellectual. They are not created to let others think for us. Thus, leaders should do well to train their disciples in such a way that their sraddha, as well as the association with other Vaisnavas of the same sampradaya can survive in their absence. Otherwise, a cult will be created, not a branch of the Vaisnava Sampradaya - as Srila Jiva Goswami conceived of it.
By Krishna's arrangement all little difficulties can be harmonized. We need only to be attached to real sadhus and preach. Thus, more facility than we can handle will appear by Krishna's grace; as He can give His devotees anything at anytime. This is one of the important lessons to be learned from the Gaudiya Math history. Those who, in the past, had become enveloped by territorial disputes were rather inattentive to the preaching and may even have lost some of Krishna's assets due to their negligence.
On the other hand, those who continued with the real spirit of the Gaudiya Math preaching work and renounced the easy facilities (by starting again in the same humble way their guru had started his mission) received support and new enthusiasm from all sides and expanded the real service world beyond the limits of expectation. There are many examples of this still taking place.
As we have come to witness, Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj, Srila B. R. Sridhar Dev Maharaj and Srila B. P. Puri Maharaj (to mention just a few very important personalities in the recent history of the Gaudiya Math) all acted in the same way. They kept friendly ties with their close Vaisnava friends and godbrothers even if they had disputed with others. They kept aloof to those discrepancies for the sake of serving their gurus. They even forgave those who had offended them in the past for the sake of serving Vaisnava harmony. They worked with their godbrothers in a surrendered mood and tried to unite the Vaisnavas for the sake of their guru's plans.
They started Vaisnava missions themselves to help spread the real teachings of their Gurudev to others who prayed to them for help. Even though they were sometimes outspoken on a particular situation or disturbance, they did not exclude any actively preaching godbrother or their disciples from the Gaudiya Math family and their personal blessings. In addition, they excused themselves for having offended others and declared that nobody could offend them because they were too fallen anyway. If this is not enough evidence to prove my point, I am sure we can go to other acharya examples of the past or present to find that same holy principle alive.
Kali Yuga is an ocean of faults. Victims of Kali engage in quarrel and hypocrisy. If we want to progress in spiritual life we must not dwell on the faults of others. Too much of this activity will simply bring those faults to manifest within ourselves. If someone is causing a disturbance for others, he will have to be dealt with by higher authorities. Whatever our opinion may be, we shall try to be very generous with others, strict with ourselves, and do everything possible to happily accommodate everyone in the Krishna Conscious family tree. Those who do not have such a wish, but rather create antagonism among Vaisnavas, can be understood to be in great need of help.
Party Spirit is the Greatest Enemy of Truth
Any type of preaching that excludes
other Vaisnava branches from receiving the kind grace of Krishna and our
is not very generous, to say the least; what to speak of those who teach
that their mission is the only one that carries on the true secret of the
This party spirit mentality may impress the new followers of their mission,
but it also goes against the spirit of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Nityananda
Prabhu, Abhirama and other non-discriminating distributors of mercy.
Party Spirit can manifest subtly or grossly in a preaching mission especially with overzealous followers. Every conditioned soul loves to hear that he joined the most unique mission so that he can think that he is special. Impartially viewed from a distance, such concepts are nothing but extended forms of egotism, and the followers of such concepts are, at best, neophyte Vaisnavas.
Those who engage in party spirit preach the trust worthiness of a single person or mission. Some preach that their connection provides a higher seed of bhakti which is not equaled by others. While they may not disqualify other acharyas, they often treat their contemporaries with contempt, especially if they have taken up the service of acharya. In extreme cases, followers try to transfer the exclusive credibility of acharya to one spiritual master at the cost of all the other active acharyas.
One of the serious problems with party spirit is that it creates a disturbance in society (Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu 1.2.101). Some party spirit preachers create doubts in new and old devotees about other spiritual masters. These doubts circulate and damage the faith of disciples of other spiritual masters. Party spirit preachers will warn others with questions such as: Does your guru give siddha pranali?" Or, What is the adhikara of this or that guru? Does he know his own spiritual form in Goloka?"
Those who preach with a party spirit do not like to associate with other Vaisnavas who are not under their control. They are often hypocritical, and are not afraid to commit Vaisnava aparadha or sastra ninda. Party spirit, in general exploits the highest philosophy of bhakti by utilizing it as a recruiting technique. This disturbing mentality is typical for kanistha adhikaris.
The members of missions with exclusive attitudes and concocted philosophies tend to be hostile towards other Vaisnavas and are easily offensive. They try to find faults with other Vaishnavas and thus try to draw support for their distorted conclusions. If their followers realize the truth of the situation, they naturally loose faith in such leaders. Such people without the connection with the VVRS-WVA are unfortunated, because they have not learned to associate with other Vaishnavas.
It is the duty of an acharya to protect his disciples in the beginning stages of their faith from outside influences that may disturb their tender creeper of devotion. With the emerging world Vaisnava community we should try to harmonize with a common universal interest of saving souls in this world under the banner of Lord Chaitanya's Sankirtan Movement rather than clash with different centers of local interest. Love, trust and respect to all sincere Vaisnavas is a fundamental principle of sadhu sanga in the active and living tree of the parampara of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Branches of the Chaitanya Tree
The congregational chanting of the
Holy Name inaugurated by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is the recommended process
of spiritual relief which calls upon humanity to change its material course
of action and degradation. Thus, the only reason to establish a Vaisnava
mission is to help relieve humanity's suffering and, in this way, please
the Supreme Lord. Those souls who aspire for the association of other devoted
souls, being attracted by the call of the Vaisnavas, need relief centers
where the ideals of the Vaisnava faith are being taught and practiced.
These places cannot be contaminated by the selfish, ulterior motives or
sense of private proprietorship. Therefore, it is necessary for the acharya
to establish some kind of religious trust which will assure the transcendental
nature of the activities which develop in and around the temple or ashram
community. Such places are the best oasis, within this dark world, where
people can participate in the loving devotional service of the Supreme
A new branch of the Chaitanya tree manifests as a natural process springing from the inspiration of an acharya who wishes to continue the mission of his guru. Sometimes this creation of a new branch is accompanied by birth pains due to the lack of acceptance and support from other Vaisnavas. To establish the dignity and credibility of such a mission it is necessary to pronounce its beliefs and procedures of service as part of the preaching activities.
The nature of a transcendental community may vary according to the acharya and the sevaites (or board of directors who protect the spiritual nature of a temple). For the maintenance of the community, the acharya will establish the rules and regulations. One thing, however, is beyond questioning; the purpose and the assets of the community shall not favor any individual's material interests, otherwise the purpose of the spiritual oasis will be spoiled.
Purity Among Acharyas
Personality cults pervade the earth.
Followers of so called incarnations of God, music celebrities, movie stars,
and politicians, are misguided and loose their valuable human opportunity
for self-realization. Is the Vaisnava guru another person to guide
his followers according to his own whims? In the jungle of this material
world, where everything, including religious vocabulary, is used for selfish
ends, it is rather difficult to get a clear picture. Superficial observers
are immediately at a loss; but those who are sincere, even if they have
no connection or clue as to God's nature can rely on their inner guide
to direct them towards the truth.
Since every genuine guru will always give all the credit to his guru, considering himself nothing but an instrument to implement his guru's wishes, it is clear that only via the criteria of guru, sastra, and sadhu shall someone be accepted as a bona fide acharya or guru among the Vaisnavas. This means that his teachings are subject to the check and balance approval system within the Vaisnava family.
In some cases, where persons have wrongly taken guru positions, there have been deviations from the true Vaisnava path and these personalities have temporarily mislead their followers. Purity in purpose, therefore, is recognized only when someone sticks to the goal of his guru and thus the whole sampradaya. In this way, there is no difficulty when different branches of the sampradaya overlap geographically or in a certain function, since it is assumed that they all follow the common cause and respect the principle of Unity in Diversity.
Do Not Neglect Any Vaisnava
Krishna loves the nirupadhi
Vaisnava who executes His service without being noticed by anyone. But,
if he is neglected by other Vaisnavas, Krishna does not accept the service
of such devotees. The following narration reminds us of this fact:
When a Raja Suya sacrifice conducted by Yudishthira Maharaj ended successfully, the bell which hung in the center of the arena was known to ring on its own accord. Once, however, after the Brahmanas finished all their offerings to the Supreme, the rishis, and the demigods, everyone looked towards the bell but nothing happened. Desperate Yudishthira asked Krishna for help. He told them that they had worshipped all the great personalities but had neglected the simple humble Vaisnava. Arjuna knew one such devotee who lived in a straw hut outside Hastinapur. He went to bring him to the arena. The Vaisnava was reluctant and only upon hearing that he would meet Krishna did he agree to go with Arjuna on his chariot. There he was worshipped by all and Draupadi cooked a feast for him. He mixed all the different preparation together and ate with delight. Then he was taken back to his home and everybody looked towards the bell. Nothing happened. Yudishthira Maharaj was worried. There seemed to be no solution. Again the last resort was Krishna. What mistake did we commit now?" Krishna told them, Somebody must have offended that Vaisnava." They asked all, but everyone denied it. Finally, when they asked Draupadi she lowered her head and said, Yes , I offended him. I cooked a nice feast for him, but when he mixed all the preparations together I thought this devotee has no culture." Krishna confirmed that this was the offense. The next day Arjuna went to the same devotee. Again, it was difficult to convince him to return but finally he could not reject Arjuna's pleading. He was worshipped and Draupadi cooked another, even bigger feast for him. He mixed all the preparations together and as he ate the last morsel of food, the bell started to ring with great force and all the assembly rejoiced.
VRINDAVAN INSTITUTE FOR VAISNAVA CULTURE AND STUDIES