Who is a Vaiṣṇava?



śrī śrī guru gaurāṅga jayataḥ!

Rays of The Harmonist On-Line Edition

Year-2, Issue 12
Posted: 5 January 2010


Dedicated to
nitya-līlā praviṣṭa oṁ viṣṇupāda

Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja


Inspired by and under the guidance of

Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja


Who is a Vaiṣṇava?

by Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda


(Photograph of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda)

Question 1: Who impels the living beings to act?

Answer: Śrī Viṣṇu alone is the governor and master of all living beings. Whatever activities the living entities perform, the Supreme Lord bestows the appropriate fruits of their actions. In accordance with the activities the living entity performed in his previous births, the Lord inspires in him the inclination to continue acting in a certain manner. Hence, the living soul is the dependent, instrumental entity, whereas the Lord is the entity who impels him to act.

Since the living being is the doer of his own acts, he becomes eligible to receive specific results and engage in further acts thereafter, but it is the Supreme Lord who impels him to enjoy those fruits, whatever they may be, and engage in further acts. In short, the Supreme Lord bestows the fruits of action and the living soul enjoys them.

Those who are averse to the Lord are impelled to act by the influence of His external, illusory potency, but His surrendered devotees are inspired to act by the Supreme Lord Himself.


Question 2: What is the difference between Śrī Kṛṣṇa and Śrī Viṣṇu?

Answer: From the perspective of tattva, Kṛṣṇa and Viṣṇu are essentially one and the same. They are both the Supreme Personality of Godhead (bhagavad-tattva), the infinite whole (pūrṇa-tattva) and the fountainhead of all energies (śaktimān-tattva). When Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the embodiment of mādhurya (sweetness), appears instead as the very form of aiśvarya (majestic splendour and opulence), then He is Viṣṇu, or Nārāyaṇa.

Śrī Kṛṣṇa has a two-armed form and holds the flute. Śrī Viṣṇu has a four-armed form and holds a conch, disk, club and lotus flower. Sixty virtuous qualities* reside in full within Śrī Viṣṇu, while all sixty-four qualities are present in their absolute fullness within Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Śrī Kṛṣṇa can steal the heart of Lakṣmi, but Nārāyaṇa is not able to attract the hearts of the vraja-devīs, who are exclusively Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s beloveds. Śrī Viṣṇu is served in two-and-a-half rasas, namely neutrality (śānta), servitorship (dāsya) and a form of friendship that is partially stifled by reverence (gaurava-sakhya). But Śrī Kṛṣṇa can be served in every respect and with utmost love and affection through all five rasas – namely, neutrality, servitorship, friendship unhindered by any feelings of inequality (viśrambha sakhya), parenthood (vātsalya) and divine, transcendental amour (mādhurya) – while regarding Him as one’s own husband, one’s son and so forth.

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* Referring to the sixty-four qualities of Godhead of which fifty are marginally present in the ordinary living beings, and fifty-five in the demigods.

Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the self-originative form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead (svayam-rūpa). Just as from one lamp, all other lamps are lit, all the innumerable forms of Viṣṇu have manifested from Him alone.

Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the embodiment of mādhurya, or sweetness, and Śrī Viṣṇu is the embodiment of aiśvarya (majestic splendour and opulence). Although, Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Master of all that is, He does not consider Himself to be. His self-conception is as the son of Nanda, the beloved of Rādhā and so on. Śrī Viṣṇu’s self-conception on the other hand, is as the Supreme Lord. Śrī Viṣṇu is served through vidhi-mārga, the path in which regulative principles are followed in accordance with the instructions of authentic scriptures, whereas Śrī Kṛṣṇa is served through rāga-mārga, the path in which service is dictated by spontaneous attraction. Due to the presence of awe and reverence within service to Śrī Viṣṇu, a mood of shyness remains in one’s heart, but no shyness is exhibited by the residents of Vraja in their service to Śrī Kṛṣṇa.


Question 3: Who is a Vaiṣṇava?

Answer: The servants of Śrīla Gurudeva are Vaiṣṇavas. Only those who have taken shelter of the lotus feet of a bona-fide guru by accepting initiation (dīkṣā) from him are Vaiṣṇavas. One’s guru-bhakti is the gauge for determining the level of his kṛṣṇa-bhakti, or his vaiṣṇavatā (his standing as a Vaiṣṇava). One who relinquishes his guru or is envious of him is not a Vaiṣṇava; he is a non-Vaiṣṇava, an atheist and a candidate for hellish life. He who is antagonistic toward the spiritual master (a guru-drohi) is envious of the Supreme Lord and, indeed, of the whole world. The only pure devotees (śuddha-bhaktas) are those devotees who are selfless and who possess guru-niṣṭha (immovable faith in and dedication to śrī guru). Thus it is said:

kanaka-kāminī,’ ‘pratiṣṭhā-bāghinī,’
chāḍiyāche jāre, sei to’ vaiṣṇava
sei ‘anāsakta,’ sei ‘śuddha-bhakta,’
saṁsār tathā pāy parābhava

The desire for money, women and fame is compared to a tigress. Verily, a Vaiṣṇava is he who has relinquished such desires. Only one such as him can be called detached and a pure devotee (śuddha-bhakta). None but him can truly overcome material existence.


Question 4: Is there any means of attaining spiritual welfare other than rendering service to Śrī Bhagavān?

Answer: Certainly not. Upon becoming averse to Kṛṣṇa, the living entity will pursue the path of yoga and accept Paramātmā as the Supreme Reality; or he will pursue the path of impersonal knowledge and consider the impersonal, undifferentiated and all-pervasive spirit (brahma) to be the Supreme Reality. Pursuing these paths cannot bestow any welfare upon him. In contrast, service to Śrī Bhagavān awards Bhagavān Himself. Without service to Bhagavān, the living soul cannot attain any auspiciousness. Bhagavān is not an entity we must merely attain proximity to; rather He is the object of our eternal service (nitya-sevyā vastu).

Engaging in mundane worldly discussions is indicative of a lack of eagerness to hear topics related to Bhagavān. But the discussion of topics related to Bhagavān itself instils in us that very eagerness. If one does not achieve the state of liberation while still in his present body (jīvan-mukta), then he will be bound to take another birth. In unfavourable association, that is, while remaining averse to hari-kathā, the desire to attain deliverance from that burden – from the suffering of material existence – does not even arise. And even if the desire is present, it is motivated by the hope of gaining personal happiness.

Service to Bhagavān is not the same as the desire, or search for personal happiness. The desire to seek personal happiness is nothing but attachment to selfishness. Those who desire material sense enjoyment and those who desire impersonal liberation both search for their own happiness. Consequently, Bhagavān favours neither he who is engaged in sense gratification nor the false renunciant. Such persons are only favoured by the material potency of Bhagavān, which bewilders the antagonists. Bhagavān, the master of the material potency, only personally favours those who are surrendered to Him in every respect and who are engaged in searching for ways to please Him.

We must gain emancipation by becoming guru-devatātmā – he who perceives his guru as his Lord and as dear as his very soul – and thereby serving śrī guru without duplicity. Only then will we be able to achieve pure and sublime service. This most elevated transcendental service cannot be obtained unless one becomes liberated.

We must constantly engage in chanting the holy names under the guidance of śrī guru. We must always remember that kṛṣṇa-bhajana is constituted solely of nāma-bhajana.* Indeed, one will achieve all perfection by serving the holy name (śrī-nāma). The subject matter of the topmost realm of bhajana can only be comprehended by serving śrī-nāma.

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* The term bhajana, in the mature state, refers to a profound condition of divine internal worship wherein the liberated soul can engage in direct service to the Supreme Lord.

 

Translated by the Rays of The Harmonist team
from Śrīla Prabhupadera Upadeśāmṛta
Questions re-numbered for this on-line presentation

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Śrīla Prabhupadera Upadeśāmṛta is a compilation of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda’s instructions in question-and-answer form.


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