ISKCON and the Vaisnava Paradox

The Hindus who go to our Krishna temples understand ISKCON as an orthodox motion, appreciating the standard temple service and the way fantastically the altars are maintained. Many of our western associates would possibly admire the Krishna motion otherwise: as a contemporary and related motion that advocates vegetarianism, honors the Earth, and provides meditation via joyous singing and dancing.

One would possibly say Vaisnavism is essentially the most steady and orthodox of all of the Vedic traditions. Everyone is aware of how on the daybreak of creation, a lotus flower grew from Lord Vishnu’s navel, and upon opening gave delivery to the four-headed Lord Brahma, Brahma was the primary Jiva and the empowered creator of our universe. From his mouths emanated the Vedas, the traditional teachings. This non secular linage got here to be often called the Brahma Madhva Vaisnava Sampradaya.

Vaisnavism means to worship the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna (Vishnu) solely, and never simply worship Him as one other deity within the pantheon of Vedic demigods, the controllers of common affairs. In the Bhagavad Gita, 4th Chapter, Sri Krishna explains how again and again He seems in numerous ages to reestablish the understanding of the atma (the soul) and the paramatma (the Lord Within the Heart), together with the abiding ideas of Dharma.

This custom was continued all through the three ages: the Satya, Treta, and Dvapara Yugas. But on this current age, the Kali-yuga, the Vaisnava academics, regularly revealed a extra intimate temper of devotion to God. In the Kali-yuga the Vaisnava custom turns into extra accessible than at any time within the different yugas, much more than the time Lord Krishna Himself appeared on the planet to talk the Bhagavad Gita over 5000 years in the past, on the finish of the Dvapara-yuga. Then, Krishna once more, as Caitanya Mahaprabhu, appeared 500 years in the past to radicalize the Vaisnava Movement by presenting sankirtana, the chanting of the Holy Names within the temper of bhakti (devotion to the Lord). This is the method of liberation, the Yuga Dharma, on this age of Kali. Thus, the conditioned souls break the cycle of delivery and demise and enter into the divine mellows of the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna in His everlasting abode.

Caitanya is a transcendental revolutionary Who has no real interest in limiting the method of liberation merely to an unique few. In this age of Kali every little thing is contaminated: the water we drink, the air we breathe, in addition to our minds and considering course of. No one is certified to enter the non secular mellows. But Krsnadas Kaviraja in his historical past on the lifetime of Caitanya (Caitanya Caritamrita Adi 7:23) declares:

“In distributing love of Godhead, Caitanya Mahāprabhu and His associates didn’t think about who was a match candidate and who was `not, nor the place such distribution ought to or shouldn’t happen. They made no situations. Wherever they acquired the chance, the members of the Pañca-tattva distributed love of Godhead.” The creator continues in Adi 7:25, “The flood of affection of Godhead swelled in all instructions, and thus younger males, previous males, girls, and youngsters have been all immersed in that inundation.”

At the time, Caitanya’s Movement was dismissed as heretical. He introduced individuals from completely different castes and completely different traditions collectively to chant the Holy Names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare/ Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. The caste brahmanas have been livid and complained to the native Muslim Justice of the Peace. Caitanya, they defined, was making the sacred names of God accessible to the unqualified plenty and that He was merely a madman usurping a sacred custom for His personal ends.

After He started His Sankirtana Movement, Caitanya contradicted His personal God-center philosophy. Interestingly sufficient, He accepted initiation into the Sankaracarya sannyasa order, the principle linage of the impersonalists and mayavadis (begun circa ninth century). Caitanya’s reasoning for this act was to realize the respect of this well-liked linage, in addition to of the general public usually.

Caitanya additionally launched the philosophy of acintya bheda bheda tattva – that we’re all inconceivably one with God and on the identical time distinctive people meant to develop a loving relationship (bhakti yoga) with the Lord. He linked collectively the philosophies of the Vaisnavas and that of the impersonalists. He additionally proclaimed the Muslim-born Haridas Thakor because the Nama Acarya, the Master of the Holy Name. While these have been really in concord with the Vaisnava teachings, these inclusions of Caitanya have been on the identical time a seemingly radical departure from the general Vedic custom. And additionally, Caitanya predicted that the chanting of Hare Krishna would finally unfold all around the world, to each city and village.

Now, this linage expanded into the Brahma Madhva Gaudiya Vaisnava Sampradaya. Gaudiya which means Caitanya and the Bengali Vaisnavas He impressed. And much more, Lord Caitanya affirmed the Brahma Gaudiya connection when He found the surviving fifth chapter of the Brahma Samhita in an historic temple in South Indian.

Over 150 years later, amid challenges towards the Gaudiya Vaisnava sect, Baladeva Vidyabhushana represented the Gaudiya Vaisnavas at a convention in Jaipur to ascertain that theirs was certainly a bona fide motion. But by the mid nineteenth century, nevertheless, this outsider motion of Gaudiya Vaisnavas had virtually fallen into obscurity. The British colonialists in India have been busy undermining the Vedic custom. The Bhagavat Purana, one of the vital vital Sanskrit literatures of the Vaisnavas, was denigrated by the British as infantile mythology and fables.

But Bhaktivinode Thakur, a British educated Indian and a courtroom Justice of the Peace of their authorities rose as much as defend Vaisnavism by writing quite a few books, poems, and songs to reestablish and advance the trail of bhakti. In the early twentieth century, his son Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati spoke out towards the perverted Hindu caste system, and this act warranted a risk to his life. Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati was most likely the primary holy man to journey in a automotive, and at occasions was additionally seen carrying a British overcoat gifted to him. These have been definitely radical sufficient that different saintly individuals wouldn’t even consider such issues, and particularly at the moment when Gandhi urged his personal followers to burn their British made clothes. Indeed, Caitanya’s Vaisnava Movement was fairly un-orthodox.

Bhakisiddhanta Saraswati requested considered one of his disciples to carry Caitanya’s motion to the West, and current the message of Bhagavad Gita and the Vaisnava teachings within the English talking world. That particular person was A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Swami Prabhupada arrived in American in 1965 in his seventieth 12 months, virtually penniless, having begged a journey on a freighter. He based ISKCON on a shoestring. He additionally did one thing nobody else did earlier than him; despite the fact that his college students have been born exterior of India within the nations of meat eaters, and outdoors the Hindu system, nonetheless, he initiated them as brahmanas; and never solely the boys however girls as effectively. Some Hindus have been outraged, and but many have been amazed and delighted with what Swami Prabhupada had achieved.

In 1973 Prabhupada defiantly addressed his critics in a single passage in his books:

“Sometimes jealous individuals criticize the Krsna Consciousness motion as a result of it engages equally each girls and boys in distributing love of Godhead. Not realizing that girls and boys in nations like Europe and America combine very freely, these fools and rascals criticize the girls and boys in Kṛṣṇa Consciousness for intermingling. . . . . . . However, since each the boys and the ladies are being educated to develop into preachers, these women will not be strange women however are pretty much as good as their brothers who’re preaching Kṛṣṇa Consciousness. Therefore, to interact each girls and boys in absolutely transcendental actions is a coverage meant to unfold the Kṛṣṇa consciousness motion. . . . . . . . Therefore, what we’re doing is ideal by the grace of Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu, for it’s He who proposed to invent a method to seize those that strayed from Kṛṣṇa consciousness.” Caitanya Caritamrita, Adi 7 – 31 & 32, Purport

Today, his disciples and grand-disciples are energetic in Prabhupada’s mission and distribute the numerous books he translated and printed. Prabhupada’s story is a rags to riches success story that we a lot love in America. But Prabhupada’s success was not for himself, however was his humble providing to his guru and to the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna. Prabhupada spent the final ten years touring world wide fourteen occasions, fulfilling the five hundred 12 months previous prophecy of Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

Today, Hindus worship repeatedly on the ISKCON temples, and westerners go to and interact within the motion as effectively. The Vaisnava custom, it appears, generally is a contradiction in phrases: an orthodox motion, or a motion with modern-day sensibilities? Or, may it’s each?

Sankirtana Das , a disciple of Swami Prabhupada, is a longtime resident of New Vrindaban Community and an award-winning creator and storyteller. His most up-to-date e book, Hanuman’s Quest, is acclaimed by students and has acquired a Storytelling World Resource Honors. For extra data about his work go to



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