I was born in another sampradaya, but became introduced to seriously bhakti through ISKCON. Which sampradaya should I follow?
Transcription by– Keshavgopal Das & Ambuj Gupta
Question: Can we follow any sampradaya and go back to Krishna?
Answer: Yes, definitely.
Among all four sampradayas, if they are teaching us siddhantha properly then sure we can go back to Krishna. We can follow any sampradaya, no doubt.
There are some other issues which may be important for us in making that decision. Our attraction to spiritual path can come from various sources. One can simply be from one’s cultural roots. One can be born in particular family in particular tradition and want to continue that. Now if we think that this tradition is my curtural root, that can give us sufficient motivation to practice and practice lifelong, then we should continue that.
It’s not that various sampradayas have to fight a war where they are trying to pull people from here to there. The different sampradayas are like different hospitals and its ultimate purpose is to cure the patient. If you say in hospital there is ayurvedic department and allopathic department and allopathic department sends a brigade of gundas to drag all the patients from ayurvedic department and get them to the allopathic department. That is ridiculous. So there is no need for that sort of forceful tug of war. Now off course if a patient comes, patient want to compare, this is ayurvedic, this is allopathic, I decide which one to take. I would say that this deciding based on one’s cultural roots may not be advisable decision. But one has also see how much inspiration one feels to practice it.
In the education environment that is provided by ISKCON, we have many more like minded people with whom we can relate more and we can get our answers better. We feel more inspired to advance in that group. Then we don’t have to reject that just because it is not from our cultural roots. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu acknowledged both.
There is one story when Chaitanya Mahaprabhu go to south India that there is one Rama bhakta who was feeling intense agony because Sita had been kidnapped. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu so much appreciated his emotion. He actually found the purana which said Sita was not kidnapped, that actually maya Sita was kidnapped. He brought it back. He felt so relieved and happy. Then he continues Rama worship enthusiastically. There is another devotee who chanted the name of Rama and then he met Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and got inspired. I am feeling inspired by chanting the name of Krishna.That is also accepted. So Chaitanya Mahaprabhu did not impose that everybody has to follow Gaudiya Vaishnav sampradaya, he accepted that.
I would say the broad principle is that the cultural roots be one factor in the decision but along with that most important would be your individual inspiration. If you feel inspired to practice bhakti in the association of devotees of Krishna consciousness, it’s not that you are denying or betraying your culture roots. It’s not that the acharyas are having a fight. Archaryas are in one sense commanders of different battalions in the same army and different commanders may have slightly different strategies for fighting. But they are fighting the same war. The war is to establish, the glory of the Supreme Lord and to attract lost souls back to the Lord. Don’t let the sort of calculations of betraying one roots or something like that take too much precedence in this, focus primarily on what inspires you. If you feel inspired practice bhakti in Madhva sampradaya, some ISKCON devotees may feel that we are losing a devotee, but in general it is OK and ISKCON is not against to this. There are devotees who are inspired in a particular way and they can practice in that way. It’s not at all wrong. If that’s how you feel inspired.
What has happened with ISKCON which I would say it will be nice if it happens in other sampradayas also. In ISKCON for today’s people to practice spiritual life there are many support systems available. Support systems means educational forums like VOICE, BACE or counselling, a practical guidance on how to balance material and spiritual life and then contemporary scientific logical presentations. These sort of forums they make it easier for people to practice. Now if other sampradayas has also developed these sort of forums, there are so many people who are Godless and they can also come towards God by that.
Bhakti Vinod Thakur had said that and Prabhupada who talked about this with even Pop John Paul and wrote a letter to him that we all have to unite the battle against the atheism. Bhakti Vinod Thakur says that not the different religions are enemy with each other but they have a common enemy called atheism.
So I would say that at this stage we focus on understanding the fundamentals and practicing them. If you feel strongly inspired practicing a particular way, whether it is Madhava sampradaya or whether it is Gaudiya sampradaya, don’t let that decision cause you difficulty in your bhakti itself. Ultimately it is the same Lord who manifests in the aishwarya bhava in Madhva sampradaya and manifests in madhurya bhava in Gaudiya sampradaya, it is the same Lord present in your heart. Rather than seeing this as issue between this sampradaya or that sampradaya, see it primarily as a issue between you and Krishna and practice your Krishna bhakti enthusiastically. Based on that practice whatever over a period of time…, Krishna say
In 10.10 in the Bhagavad Gita, He said that I will give intelligence by which you will come to Me. So over a period of time you will get conviction about how should we practice. Don’t let yourself be pressurized by devotees also from ISKCON or by relatives of Madhava sampradaya. If you practice bhakti because of pressure from someone, you will not be able to sustain it for long. You focus on just developing your relationship with Krishna. You can chant Hare Krishna mahamantra if you feel that you want to chant some other mantra then chant those mantras also and focus on developing your relationship with Krishna and let Krishna reveal the path for you. Don’t get to caught up in these things, I wrote an article in “Gita Daily”, on the verse sarva dharman parityajya, religion is meant for God, God is not meant for religion. God is greater than all the religions that are meant to serve Him. Now these are not different religion but different traditions within one religion, but if you get too caught up in the differences then you lose our connection with God. So focus on try to develop your relationship with Krishna and eventually as you feel inspired continue on bhakti. Don’t let pressure from anyone whether it be from relatives or acquaintances or friends or emotional criteria like faithfulness, betrayal don’t let that confuse your decision. Take a decision based on primarily your relationship with Krishna. Thank you.