Q. Hare Krishna and Hinduism
A. The terms Hare Krishna and Hinduism are intimately connected, yet not synonymous. The word ‘Hindu’ was first used by Persians to denote ‘those South of the Indus River’. It has come to include the many diverse strands of Indian and Vedic culture which make up Hinduism, the world’s third largest religion, with over 600 million practitioners worldwide. As such, ‘Hinduism’ describes not a single, monolithic religion, but a vast spectrum of spiritual paths, many tracing their origins to particular branches of the Vedas.
The word ‘Veda’ literally means knowledge, and refers to the original Vedic shastras (scriptures) and civilization, dating back many thousands of years. One of these shastras, the Bhagavad Gita, forms the philosophical and theological basis of the Hare Krishna Movement, and is often referred to as ‘The Bible of Hinduism’.
Hare Krishna is a major monotheistic tradition, known academically as Vaishnavism or Sanatana dhama, ‘the eternal teaching’. The core practice is bhakti (devotion) to Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is both a major strand of Hinduism, and a transcendental, non-sectarian and inclusive process applicable to any religious culture such as Christianity, Buddism, Judaism or Islam, all of which include devotional practices and branches, such as Sufism
Q. Where do the teachings come from?
A. Although the Hare Krishna movement has only been established in the West since 1966, its roots extend thousands of years into India’s past. The lifestyle and philosophical beliefs are based on ancient scriptures known as the Vedas. Originally preserved in the spoken word, the Vedas were written down in the Sanskrit language 5000 years ago.
Their compiler, Srila Vyasadeva, divided the work into various departments of material and spiritual knowledge, entrusting his disciples with particular sections. In this way, the scriptures developed into four principal Vedas, including the Vedanta Sutra, 108 Upanishads, and 18 Puranas, collectively known as the ‘fifth Veda’. The final Purana, the Bhagavat Purana or Srimad Bhagavatam, contains the essence of the Vedic wisdom in 18,000 verses. A further work was the Mahabharata, which includes the well-known Bhagavad gita. The process described in the Vedas is one of gradual elevation to the platform of God-realization. Vedic wisdom was then carefully preserved and passed down for centuries through the tutorial vehicle of guru-parampara, a disciplic succession of self-realized teachers.
In the early 16th century, a remarkable spiritual renaissance took place within India. This was led by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486-1534). He challenged the religious leaders of his day whom he felt were stifling the teachings of Vedic knowledge. Caste-conscious priests alone had access to the Vedas and considered spiritual life the prerogative of an educated minority. Taking religion out of the temples and amongst the people, regardless of their caste, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu propagated devotion to Lord Krishna and pioneered a massive movement which swept the subcontinent, gaining a following of millions.
The ancient wisdom of the Puranas and Upanishads, through the practical teachings of Sri Chaitanya is now finding expression outside India in the Hare Krishna movement.
Q. I thought that Sampradaya applies only to those initiated in disciplic succession (according to BG AS IT IS). For eg. I am not initiated in the ISKCON sampradaya at present. But I don’t think that it would be right if I claim to be part of the sampradaya. My question arises due to the fact that even though Srila Bhaktivinod Thakura is not the initiating guru of Gaura Kishora dasa babaji maharaja but still he appears in our sampradaya. Actually Gaurakishora dasa babaji maharaja is disciple of Srila Bhagavata Dasa Babaji who is a disciple of Srila Jagganatha Dasa Babaji (the spiritual master of Srila Bhaktivinod Thakura).
A. One can be considered to be part of a sampradaya if one receives instructions and faithfully adheres to those instructions according to the sampradaya. Initiation into the sampradaya is a formalization of the acceptance of the teachings and instructions of that sampradaya. In our particular disciplic succession, the lineage is traced by the source of primary instruction that one receives. Another way of saying the same thing is that our disciplic line is a siksa line, not a diksa line. You most certainly can be considered part of the sampradaya if you receive instructions from Srila Prabhupada’s teachings. He is your primary siksa guru and others may also be guiding you very nicely in your spiritual progress. This is what constitutes being part of a sampradaya. At some point in time diksa will formally connect you with the disciplic succession, but you may very well be presently part of this sampradaya by taking primary instruction from Srila Prabhupada’s books and teachings.
Q. Are the Hare Krishnas buddhists?
A. No. Practitioners of Bhakti accept the Vedas as authority, whereas Buddhists follow the teachings of Buddha.
The philosophy of Bhakti is quite different from what Buddha taught. Simply put, Buddhism teaches that the ultimate truth is void or nothingness and the goal of meditation is to lose our individual identity.
Bhakti teaches that God and all other living beings are unique, individual, spiritual persons eternally. God is the supreme person, and each of us has an eternal relationship with Him.
Q. Where can I find a list of disciplic succession starting from Krishna moving down?
A. The disciplic succession from the Brahma-Gaudiya sampradaya is listed in the beginning of Bhagavad-gita As It Is by Srila Prabhupada. There are four bona fide disciplic successions which all originate from the Supreme Lord Krishna, then coming respectively through Lord Brahma, Lakshmi-devi, Lord Shiva and the Kumaras. The principal acaryas who strongly re-established these four lines in recent times were Madhvacarya, Ramanujacarya, Vishnu Swami and Nimbarkacarya. Lord Caitanya took initiation in the Brahma-Madhva-sampradaya, and thus the disciplic succession following Lord Caitanya and His associates are called Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya sampradaya.
Q. In india there are so many ‘Sampradaya’. They all are Vaishnavas but they don’t follow the ‘Vaishnava principles’ strictly.But they have faith on GOD according to their knowledge and understanding. So how to behave with such devotees? Is GOD really pleased with their worship? In Maharashtra there is such a Sampraday ‘VARAKARI’ Sampradaya. Is this authorised ‘Sampradaya’ according to Scripture? It is said that Lord VITTHAL is KRISHNA himself, but it is not mentioned in any ‘Scripture’. Is it true ?
If yes then what is the pastime of Lord VITTHAL? Plese tell me the pastime of ‘DATTATRAY MAHARAJ’.
A. There are four Vaishnava sampradayas and all of them are authorized and authentic. So, anybody or organization who is in any one of these four sampradayas is to be accepted as bonafide and hence Krishna accepts worship and is pleased with such devotees. The Varakari sampradaya is coming from Tukaram Maharaj, who was initiated by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Lord Vittal is Lord Krishna Himself.
There was a devotee, Pundalik, in Pandharpur, who was very devoted to his parents and also to devotees. One year when he could not go to have darshan of Krishna in Dwaraka, Krishna Himself came to give him darshan. But he was so involved in serving his elderly parents that he made Krishna wait on a brick (Vit) till he finished his service. So Krishna is standing in the classic pose of a waiting person and so is famous as Vittal.
We offer respect to all living entities, humans or otherwise and also whether devotees or not. But we associate with bonafide serious and sincere devotees.
In Srimad Bhagavatam 1.3.12, Srila Prabhupada mentions Dattatreya:
The sixth incarnation of the purusa was the son of the sage Atri. He was born from the womb of Anasuya, who prayed for an incarnation. He spoke on the subject of transcendence to Alarka, Prahlada and others [Yadu, Haihaya, etc.].
The Lord incarnated Himself as Dattatreya, the son of Rishi Atri and Anasuya. The history of the birth of Dattatreya as an incarnation of the Lord is mentioned in the Brahmanda Purana in connection with the story of the devoted wife. It is said there that Anasuya, the wife of Rishi Atri, prayed before the Lords Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva as follows: “My lords, if you are pleased with me, and if you desire me to ask from you some sort of blessings, then I pray that you combine together to become my son.” This was accepted by the lords, and as Dattatreya the Lord expounded the philosophy of the spirit soul and especially instructed Alarka, Prahlada, Yadu, Haihaya, etc.