Hare Krishna FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ

Hare Krishna FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

Some years ago I happened across this interesting internet page called “Hare Krishna FAQ”. The page was located at; http://www.harekrsna.de/artikel/faq.htm I quickly read through it and copied it to my files to re-read at a later time. I read it again this evening and found it very interesting and at times amusing. We share it with our readers here at The Hare Krishna Movement.

Hare krishna FAQ

• About “Hare Krishna”
• About Srila Prabhupada
• About ISKCON
• About Gaudiya-math
• About regulative principles
• About the Vedas
• About India
• About devotional service (bhakti)
• About initiation (diksa)
• About the disciplic succession (parampara)

What is the meaning of Hare Krishna?

It is the short form of the maha-mantra, the great spiritual sound of final liberation:
 
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

“By vibrating this transcendental sound, the meaning of everything, both material and spiritual, is revealed. This Hare Krishna is nondifferent from the Personality of Godhead.” (from Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada Commentary, Srimad Bhagavatam 4.24.40)

What is the deeper meaning of the Hare Krishna mantra?

Caitanya Mahaprabhu teaches us that we should only beg God for His service life after life. This is the actual meaning of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. When we are chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare. Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama, Rama, Hare Hare, we are actually addressing God and His energy, Hara. Hara is Krsna’s internal potency, Srimati Radharani or Laksmi. Jaya radhe! This is daivi prakrti, and the devotees take shelter of the daivi prakrti, Srimati Radharani. Thus the Vaisnavas worship Radha-Krsna, Laksmi-Narayana and Sita-Rama. In the beginning of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra we first address the internal energy of Krsna, Hare. Thus we say, “O Radharani! O Hare! O energy of the Lord!” When we address someone in this way, he usually says, “Yes, what do you want?” The answer is, “Please engage me in Your service.” This should be our prayer. We should not say, “O energy of the Lord, O Krsna, please give me money. Please give me a beautiful wife. Please give me many followers. Please give me some prestigious position. Please give me the presidency.” These are all material hankerings, which should be avoided. Lord Buddha advocated that we give up all material desires. It is not possible to become desireless, but it is possible to give up material desires. It is the nature of the living entity to desire; it is not possible to be desireless. If one is desireless, he is dead. Desirelessness means purifying one’s desire, and desire is purified when we only desire the service of Krsna. (from “Teachings of Lord Kapila”)

Why is the Hare Krishna mantra so special?

Lord Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita (7.8), pranavah sarva-vedesu: ‘In all the Vedic mantras, I am represented by pranava, or omkara.’ Thus chanting of the Vedic mantras beginning with omkara is directly chanting of Krsna’s name. There is no difference. Whether one chants omkara or addresses the Lord as ‘Krsna’, the meaning is the same, but Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has recommended that in this age one chant the Hare Krsna mantra (harer nama eva kevalam). Although there is no difference between Hare Krsna and the Vedic mantras beginning with omkara, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the leader of the spiritual movement for this age, has recommended that one chant Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare. Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. (from Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada Commentary, Srimad Bhagavatam 6.5.26) 

Who are the ‘Hare Krishnas’?

The people of the world gave this very name to the disciples and followers of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada because they are chanting ‘Hare Krishna’ all the time. ‘Hare Krishna’ is a popular name for the Vaisnavas (Krishna’s followers or worshippers).

How to become a ‘Hare Krishna’?

Simply chant ‘Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare’ or engage yourself in another form of bhakti-yoga, according to the direction of the bona fide spiritual master. Bhakti-yoga is the service to Sri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The first step of bhakti-yoga is called ‘sravana’ or hearing. You have to hear from the bona fide spiritual master about Krishna and how to engage in bhakti-yoga. Get some books of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and study them. Some of them are online; please check our link section. This will give you all the understanding and instruction needed to successfully engage in bhakti-yoga. 

Who is Srila Prabhupada?

From 1966 to 1977 His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (Srila Prabhupada), together with his disciples and followers, spread Krishna-consciousness all over the world. In just twelve years, in spite of his advanced age, he circled the globe fourteen times on lecture tours that took him to six continents. In spite of such a rigorous schedule, Srila Prabhupada continued to write prolifically. His writings constitute a veritable library of Vedic philosophy, religion, literature and culture. There are predictions from Srila Bhaktivinoda and in Sri Caitanya Mangala that point to Srila Prabhupada, his worldwide preaching of the holy name (sankirtan) and the emergence of the universal church of sankirtan, which is going to replace sectarian churches, teachers or religions that make the people of the world enemies to each other.

Srila Prabhupada is a true spiritual master?

Yes. If you surrender to him and follow his instructions you are sure to go back to Godhead.

But I need a living spiritual master?

Spiritual master is the principle and not the body. Srila Prabhupada lives in his books, his followers or disciples and wherever there is Krishna, His devotees and the Holy Name. It is not necessary to travel around looking for a “bodily” spiritual master. If you need private advice or instruction you can always ask a more advanced Vaisnavas and his advice will be as good as the advice from Srila Prabhupada or Sri Krishna.

Srila Prabhupada teaches basic knowledge about bhakti-yoga but as soon as someone is more advanced he needs a rasika guru?

It is true that Srila Prabhupada’s teachings are focused on topics for people who do not even know how to behave like human beings. After all most of the people today are living like animals; they don’t know about a higher destination and are mad after sense gratification. It would be irresponsible to speak with such uncivilized people about the intimate pastimes of Sri Krishna. First there must be education and purification. Then the more intimate knowledge is revealed. This is a natural process which can’t be forced by fabrications and initiation ceremonials. Nevertheless Srila Prabhupada also writes a lot about the stage of raganuga bhakti (advanced bhakti-yoga) and siddha-deha (the eternal spiritual body). Everything is there in his books. If after the study of Srila Prabhupada’s books there is the desire for more detail information on certain intimate topics it is advised to keep to the books of authorized acaryas like those of Srila Bhaktivinoda (Jaiva Dharma) and the six gosvamis (Rupa Gosvami’s writings). Never reject the good teaching and advice of Srila Prabhupada and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta. Never listen to anyone who offends or minimizes them. Everything will be revealed in due time.

What is ISKCON?

ISKCON is the “International Society of Krishna-consciousness” founded by Srila Prabhupada and his disciples 1966 in New York. Mainly it is a preaching organization to spread Krishna-consciousness all over the world and it was very successful doing this in the seventies. After the disappearance of Srila Prabhupada (1977) some of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples wrongfully claimed to be spiritual masters and the successors of Srila Prabhupada but in reality Srila Prabhupada didn’t appoint a successor or spiritual master amongst his disciples. He simply advised the Governing Body Commission of ISKCON (GBC) to continue to manage the organization. He issued a system with officiating acaryas who were meant to initiate new members of ISKCON in his name, particularly during the time after his disappearance. He never advised the GBC to appoint or authorize spiritual masters. The non-compliance with this and other instructions of Srila Prabhupada gave rise to a lot of ugly scandals and fighting which still is severely hampering the success of ISKCON and may even cause its destruction (as happened to the Gaudiya-math very similarly).

Where is the nearest ISKCON center?

There is an address list at http://www.iskcon.org

Is it necessary to be a member of ISKCON if someone wants to follow Srila Prabhupada?

No. To practise devotional service or to follow Srila Prabhupada there is no membership card required. It is for everyone, anytime and anywhere. Visoka prabhu recalls: “When Srila Prabhupada left Los Angeles in 1970, he said, ‘I don’t need ISKCON, ISKCON is not Krishna-consciousness.’ Also once a disciple told Srila Prabhupada, ‘I love you, Srila Prabhupada, but I don’t like your organization.’ Srila Prabhupada said, ‘That’s alright, I also did not like my Guru Maharaja’s organization.'”

How to join ISKCON today?

It is better to stay a humble street sweeper than to become a priest or preacher without being called to this service. Krishna-consciousness does not mean you have to stay in an ashram (monastery) or a temple or to wear dhoti and tilak. It means to purify your existence, to somehow connect your work and your talents with Krishna, to chant the Holy Name. Once you’ve surrendered yourself to Krishna sincerely feeling “I’m Krishna’s servant no matter what happens” He is guiding your life and He speaks to you through whatever happens to you (be it good or bad) and when the time has come He will take you back home. Try to understand and learn from this. Always listen to the genuine spiritual master and learn from him. If after much deliberation you still want to join ISKCON today, because you feel called to live like a monk, priest or preacher then please learn from the history of ISKCON. http://www.harekrsna.org/history.htm

What is the Gaudiya Math?

Gaudiya Math is the name of the successful preaching mission of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami, the spiritual master of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. After the disappearance of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta (1936) his responsible disciples were not able to continue the organization and it has been disintegrated. The splinter groups of the original Gaudiya Math are now called by this name – although they are not following Srila Bhaktisiddhanta’s instructions regarding the organization. http://www.harekrsna.org/narayana.htm

What did Srila Prabhupada think of the later so-called Gaudiya Math?

In his Viraha Astaka (1958) he wrote (to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta): “Those disciples who were irresolute in performing devotional service according to your instructions have now divided your mission in many factions. It appears that the tigress of ambition for material names and fame has appeared and personally provoked this upheaval. The essential purport of your message obviously did not enter their ears. O where will I get the strength to perform this hari-nama-sankirtana? […]Your so-called disciple, the jackal named Ananta Vasudeva, disobeyed your final instructions to keep the mission united, and thereby created a scandalous fiasco. The result of this philosophical deviation is evident to this day as imitative sahajiyas are being worshiped as gurus in your temples. Is there a single temple to be found where your instructions are still being followed? As it is said: ‘punar musiko bhava’ – Everyone has ‘again become a mouse.'”

What are the regulative principles?

True gentlemen, respectable ladies and especially Krishna devotees (Vaisnavas) follow this four regulative principles: no meat eating (including fish and eggs), no gambling, no intoxication (drugs, alcohol, nicotine etc.) and no illicit sex.

Why no meat eating?

First of all it is not what Krishna and nature wants us to do, i.e. slaughtering innocent animals to gratify perverse desires of the tongue. Humans are not carnivore, nor omnivore. We are frugivore, fruit eaters. If nature created humans to hunt animals and eat their flesh, it would be completely alright for us to run after squirrels, rabbits and deer in the woods, tear them to pieces and eat them raw. Disgusting… If you do this, you are likely to be imprisoned as a pervert and an animal abuser and there you’ll become very ill, because of the raw flesh not meant to be your food. But everything is fine if you eat some berries or fruits in the same wood. You really don’t need to be a doctor to understand that meat is not meant for humans. Then you are what you eat. The food you eat not only affects your body. It affects your mind too. Bodily, meat makes you strong; you get some strength but not stamina. This is why most serious athletes don’t eat meat. If you don’t eat to much it builds your body when you are young but later makes you sick and fat esp. when you are old. Many old people are not allowed to eat meat. Mentally, meat makes you “body conscious”; the more meat you eat, the less you are able to understand spiritual philosophy or Krishna-consciousness. Also you are not able to control your senses. This means you can’t obey to the other regulative principles, especially not to “no illicit sex life”. There is a relation between the tongue and the genital organ and it is said that if someone is able to regulate the tongue, he is able to regulate the genital organ too. It is difficult to control the genital organ but it is even more difficult to regulate the tongue. Meat eating has a very bad effect on your spiritual life and you are in danger to become the slave of your senses, which you never can satisfy and who drag you to regions of perversion and illegality (hell) if you can’t restrain them. And then in the afterlife it is very likely that you’ll meet the animals you ate or killed. But this time they will be the human and you the animal. In this world you can’t do anything without bearing the reactions of your karma. What you have done to others, you have done to yourself.

A vegetarian diet on the other side will keep you healthy and slim. It will purify your mind and you are able to understand spiritual philosophy, lead a good life and finally become free from the material life of birth and death. If you need extra strength for your work you can eat cereal products. This will give you the strength of the horse, who is able to draw heavy carts, and not only the strength of the lion, who is exhausted after a short time. The Vedas say that meat eating excludes from heaven whereas the abstention from eating dead animals will give you a big spiritual reward. Considering the fact that meat eating produces so many problems for humans, animals and nature it is absolutely advised not to eat meat. Please consult the many vegetarian pages on the Internet for more information about this topic.

Why no gambling?

They used to open treatment centers for heroin addicts, now they open them for the compulsive gamblers. Compulsive gamblers run into enormous financial difficulties – borrowing or even stealing from others. Heavy debt is a constant factor of their lives. They sleep poorly, usually drink a lot, and are tense, irritable, and indifferent toward eating and affection. They often think of suicide, but always think of the next bet. Can you bet against disease? Can you bet against old age? Can you bet against death? No. You will never be able to try your luck with the most stringent law of nature: karma. Therefore the term “chance” in gambling is a denial of the laws of God. One thinks that somewhere in the system is a loophole, a place to beat the odds, a chance to win – but there isn’t.

Why no intoxication?

Intoxication refers to taking into the body substances that are not required for bodily sustenance and have altering effects on the mind and body. Vedic scriptures therefore include as intoxication everything from tea, coffee and tobacco to liquor, heroine and other more powerful drugs. Nowadays countless people depend on these substances to stimulate their otherwise boring lives or relieve the many anxieties of urban life. But any objective observer will conclude that such enjoyment or relief is transitory and therefore insubstantial. Such habits have destructive results. Besides the huge cost and resultant crime, addiction and loss of bodily and mental health eventually ends in disease, premature aging, and the inability to fix the mind intelligently and steadily on any subject or problem. Thus such habits impede spiritual advancement. Beyond this, the use of stronger and stronger intoxicants gradually destroy austerity and cleanliness, which the living conditions of drug-dependent persons confirm. Drug abuse has penetrated all levels of society, from grade schools to the elite. The crave for artificial pleasure reveals that the average person’s daily life lacks real satisfaction and pleasure. Yet after the effect of the drug wears off, the user must return to his usual unsatisfactory condition of consciousness. To those for whom intoxication has become an integral part of their daily lives, intoxicants may seem to be just another part of reality. But seeming real doesn’t qualify something for being real. If we want to deal with reality, we should first of all stop stuffing our brains with unreality. Refraining from drugs helps one become eligible to understand actual reality, and the highest reality is God. One fixed in God consciousness stays high forever.

Why no illicit sex?

We seem to have liberated ourselves from the foolish and primitive shackles of sexual restraint. Yet serious problems have caught up with our progressive march toward newer and stranger sexual practices. A plague of sexually transmitted disease claims ever-increasing victims. Most prominent and difficult to handle, is AIDS. Now an estimated 12 million adults and 1 million infants are infected and the expectations for the year 2000 are an estimated total of 30-40 million. So far a steady 40% of the cases have proven fatal. Promiscuity also generates detrimental social effects. Unwanted children that have escaped the gauntlet of birth control and the annual 50 million abortions are often raised with insufficient affection and guidance, and therefore easily fall prey to bad association. City streets and jails abound with these youngsters. And it all began with some sexually preoccupied parents. Why this nightmare? Why can’t we just enjoy a full and healthy sex life? Perhaps we have the wrong idea about the purpose of sex. Sex is meant for having children – the natural result of sexual union. But we try to avoid nature’s arrangement with contraceptives and abortions and thus spoil society. Then if nature tries to tell us that unrestricted sexuality is unnatural, we complain or blame a merciless God. The idea is not to give up sex altogether but to follow its real purpose. But what about overpopulation? Overpopulation is a myth. The burden lies in the type of population. Therefore we advocate regulated sex and better children over unrestricted sex and unwanted progeny. Sexual pleasure should not be an excuse for a careless way of life full of disturbing side effects. By following the original purpose of sex, nature does not retaliate. Sex for any other purpose is the cause of bondage and will ultimately lead to disease or unwanted progeny. Sex, more than anything else, fixes our false identification of ourselves with the body, and sexual desire can never be satisfied, for it grows by what it feeds on. Yet this desire for sex can be purified, and once purified it turns to love. By the process of Krishna consciousness we awaken our eternal nature and natural love of God, of which sex is just a perverted reflection.

What if I am not able to follow this principles?

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Cling to the weapons of patience, humility and determination to defeat the demons, who want you to be their slave. Don’t give up. Simply don’t give up. Ignore them. Don’t ponder about them and what they are saying, if it is good or bad what they want you to do, simply ignore them. They are your enemies. Finally they have to give up because they have lost their power over you. Please understand that the regulative principles are not artificial burdens. Quite on the opposite. They are here to help you live a spiritual and healthy life, which is not only focused on the short and transient current life but at the way more important eternal spiritual life in the hereafter. The regulative principles are the angels protecting you from the evil, which sometimes looks to us poor humans as if it were good (especially during the current age), and they are guiding us towards heaven. Simply somehow engage in devotional service. Chant the Holy Name. This is most important. To chant the Holy Name and to engage in devotional service is not dependent on the regulative principles. Never reject the regulative principles. Remember that even the most advanced Vaisnavas follow the regulative principles. Don’t speak or ponder upon your weakness. It is best to ignore it and try to become stronger engaging in devotional service. Avoid the association of people who are fools and don’t want to follow the regulative principles. Svami and gosvami are the names of those that are able to control their senses. But we shouldn’t believe that we are not able to control the senses. Everyone can do it, with the power of chanting “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare”. Don’t give up thinking you don’t have the power. The power will be given if we continue to chant Hare Krishna and listen to the Bhagavad-gita and the Srimad-Bhagavatam.

What is the use following the regulative principles?

This will give you dhira, peace. No more stress, no more running around like a madman to somehow calm down the insatiable, burning desires of the senses. You will achieve peace of mind. So many people pay a lot of money for anti stress therapists and psychiatrists but all they need to do is to follow the regulative principles. No need to pay money. It’s easy. And it’s free. If you pay a psychiatrist to tell you the regulative principles are the cause for your stress – this is not helpful. It only helps the psychiatrist to earn more money since your condition is going to be worse and worse if you follow such bad advice. He is like a doctor telling you that the medicine is the cause of the sickness. Weird. But they do this. The medicine may taste awful and it may be a heavy fight to overcome the unwanted disease by taking the medicine but finally it frees you from the sickness. Srila Prabhupada: “Stability of mind can be achieved by one who has concluded that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the original source of everything. And when one can control his senses, that is called sama. When one is ready to tolerate all kinds of sufferings in order to control the senses and keep the mind steady, that is called titiksa, or tolerance. And when one can control the urges of the tongue and genitals, that is called dhrtih. From dhrtih, one becomes dhira, pacified. A pacified person is never disturbed by the urges of the tongue and the genitals.” (from Teachings of Lord Caitanya, Ch. 1)

What are the Vedas?

Veda means knowledge that leads to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna. Vedas are books of knowledge meant for reviving Krishna-consciousness. Some of them are known as the oldest books of the world (like the Rg Veda). The sacrifices mentioned in the Vedas are means by which the people’s occupations could be purified. 

Srila Prabhupada: “Formerly there was only the Veda of the name Yajur, and the four divisions of sacrifices were there specifically mentioned. But to make them more easily performable, the Veda was divided into four divisions of sacrifice, just to purify the occupational service of the four orders. Above the four Vedas, namely Rg, Yajur, Sama, and Atharva, there are the Puranas, the Mahabharata, Samhitas, etc., which are known as the fifth Veda. Sri Vyasadeva and his many disciples were all historical personalities, and they were very kind and sympathetic toward the fallen souls of this age of Kali. As such, the Puranas and Mahabharata were made from related historical facts which explained the teaching of the four Vedas. There is no point in doubting the authority of the Puranas and Mahabharata as parts and parcels of the Vedas. In the Chandogya Upanisad (7.1.4), the Puranas and Mahabharata, generally known as histories, are mentioned as the fifth Veda. According to Srila Jiva Gosvami, that is the way of ascertaining the respective values of the revealed scriptures.” (Bhaktivedanta commentary Srimad Bhagavatam 1.4.19)

Why are the Vedas sometimes considered as mythological (legends)?

Because they are true (sic) ;-). The not very intelligent people, believing their ever changing and always incomplete sense impressions to be real, are living in a dream world which they believe to be the truth. Consequently they have to believe the truth to be a dream or “mythological”. This offenders of the Vedas are like people living some hundred years ago and thinking themselves and their understanding of the world to be the only truth. As soon as someone would tell them about the current computers, aero planes, missiles, cars, the Internet & etc. they are likely to say “this is impossible” or “this are lies”, “this is mythology”. So the historical descriptions of the Vedas happened not only a few hundred years ago but usually at least FIVE THOUSAND YEARS AGO! If someone is a fool, who believes things he can’t understand to be impossible or mythical, he is sure to consider the Vedas to be fairytales. It is useless listen to them if they want to explain the Vedas. To understand the Vedas one has to go to someone who sees the truth; this is a spiritual master like Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada writes: “The Puranas, or old histories, are sometimes neglected by unintelligent men who consider their descriptions mythological. Actually, the descriptions of the Puranas, or the old histories of the universe, are factual, although not chronological. The puranas record the chief incidents that have occurred over many millions of years, not only on this planet but also on other planets within the universe. Therefore all learned and realized Vedic scholars speak with references to the incidents in the Puranas. Srila Rupa Gosvami accepts the Puranas to be as important as the Vedas themselves. Therefore in Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu he quotes the following verse from the Brahma-yamala: ‘Devotional service of the Lord that ignores the authorized Vedic literatures like the Upanisads, puranas and Narada-pancaratra is simply an unnecessary disturbance in society.’ A devotee of Krsna must refer not only to the Vedas, but also to the puranas. One should not foolishly consider the Puranas mythological.”

Is it necessary to travel to India?

No. Read the books of Srila Prabhupada first. Bhagavad-gita, Srimad Bhagavatam and Caitanya-caritamrita. Then you may go to India after you have read a good guide book. And even then you don’t have to go to India. India is a fascinating country but at the same time quite strenuous. If you are not ready for a pilgrimage to India it is likely for you to waste your money on an insignificant holiday trip in bad company or suffer a culture shock esp. if you are from the western countries. Some western devotees experienced several unnecessary difficulties and drawbacks in their spiritual life after they had to deal with the harsh reality of India nowadays. Srila Prabhupada states in this regard: “In India there are hundreds of sacred places of pilgrimage, of which Prayaga, Hardwar, Vrndavana and Ramesvaram are considered principal. After leaving his home, which was full of politics and diplomacy, Vidura wanted to purify himself by traveling to all the sacred places, which are so situated that anyone who goes there automatically becomes purified. This is especially true in Vrndavana; any person may go there, and even if he is sinful he will at once contact an atmosphere of spiritual life and will automatically chant the names of Krsna and Radha. That we have actually seen and experienced. It is recommended in the sastras that after retiring from active life and accepting the vanaprastha (retired) order, one should travel everywhere to places of pilgrimage in order to purify himself. […] Narottama dasa Thakura, a great acarya of the Vaisnava sect, has, for the present, forbidden us to go to such places of pilgrimage because in this age, the times having so changed, a sincere person may have a different impression on seeing the behavior of the present residents of the pilgrimage sites. He has recommended that instead of taking the trouble to travel to such places, one should concentrate his mind on Govinda, and that will help him. Of course, to concentrate one’s mind on Govinda in any place is a path meant for those who are the most spiritually advanced; it is not for ordinary persons. Ordinary persons may still derive benefit from traveling to holy places like Prayaga, Mathura, Vrndavana and Hardwar.” (Bhaktivedanta commentary to Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.20.4)

What is bhakti-yoga?

Bhakti-yoga is devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead or Krishna-consciousness. There are many different ways how to be engaged in bhakti-yoga. The learned Vaisnava acaryas divide them into nine categories: 1. to hear (or read), 2. to chant (or speak), 3. to remember 4. to serve, 5. to worship, 6. to pray (or meditate), 7. to follow, 8. brotherliness, 9. to surrender. Bhakti-yoga means to follow the instructions of Krishna and the genuine spiritual master. There are endless forms and variations of devotional service or bhakti-yoga which again are divided into pure devotional service (without any material motivation) and mixed devotional service (with material motivation).

What is pure devotional service?

This is the most advanced form and the final goal of bhakti-yoga. It means to engage in bhakti-yoga without any material motivations like peace, residence in heaven, salvation, the Promised Land, prosperity, health & etc. Pure devotional service is absolute liberation and the one and only motivation is pure, spiritual devotion for the Supreme Personality of Godhead. A pure devotee engaged in pure devotional service is beyond heaven, earth or hell. A heaven without devotional service he considers to be hell and a hell with devotional service he considers to be heaven. We have to be very careful never to imitate such a very advanced soul. Our first and foremost goal is to follow the instructions of the spiritual master. Pure devotional service is a gift from Krishna and He will bestow it if one sincerely follows the genuine spiritual master.

What is mixed devotional service?

This is if someone engages in bhakti-yoga to gain something like heaven, salvation, peace, health etc. Most religious people are engaged in this form of bhakti-yoga. Mixed devotional service gradually leads to pure devotional service. Only the Vaisnavas know about the deeper meanings of devotion (love) for God. Someone intelligent enough should strive for pure devotional service by following the instructions of the genuine Vaisnava spiritual master, constantly chanting the Holy Name. For those on the superior path of pure devotional service it is advised not to mix with those who engage in mixed devotional service because the later are still polluted by various sinful behavior.

What is raganuga bhakti?

Raganuga bhakti (spontaneous devotional service) is the advanced stage of bhakti-yoga which the devotee arrives at following the genuine spiritual master and reaching the stage of liberation after he has conquered his material attachments (anartha-nivritti). He realizes his individual svarupa (the eternal transcendental identity of the soul) and engages this transcendental identity (himself) in raganuga bhakti. This realization is not simply imagination or speculation, it is real and it is revealed in due time if someone sincerely engages in bhakti-yoga under the direction of a genuine spiritual master like Srila Prabhupada. Raganuga bhakti is not meant for the material body (the sahajiyas think the like and consequently dress as gopis or gopas, only scaring the people and deceiving the fools). Raganuga bhakti is for the eternal spiritual self. The spiritual self is most sacred and an advanced devotee would never talk about it in public, what to speak of dressing the abominable material body like an eternal resident of Vrindavana. “A devotee who is actually advanced in Krsna consciousness, who is constantly engaged in devotional service, should not manifest himself, even though he has attained perfection. The idea is that he should always continue to act as a neophyte devotee as long as his material body is there. Activities in devotional service under regulative principles must be followed even by the pure devotee. But when he realizes his actual position in relationship with the Lord, he can, along with the discharging of regulative service, think within himself of the Lord, under the guidance of a particular associate of the Lord, and develop his transcendental sentiments in following that associate.” (Nectar of Devotion 16)

What is initiation (diksa)?

Initiation (diksa) is the transmission of transcendental knowledge (divya-jnana). The meaning of diksa is to surrender and follow the instructions of the genuine spiritual master who is an authorized representative of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. “Divya-jnana hrde prokasito. What is that divya-jnana? Divya-jnana is that we are all servant of Krsna, and our only business is to serve Krsna. Divya-jnana. This is divya-jnana. It is not difficult at all. Simply we have… We have become servant of so many things — servant of society, servant of community, servant of country, servant of wife, servant of children, servant of dog and so many. “Now let me become servant of Krsna.” This is divya-jnana. Diksa. Diksa means from this divya-jnana.” (Srila Prabhupada, 760711CC.NY) 

Official initiation is a sort of certificate. If a genuine spiritual master offers official initiation one should get it. Anyway this official initiation is not necessary to engage in bhakti-yoga or chant the holy name. “Formal initiation means to accept, officially, to abide by the orders of Krsna and His representative. That is formal initiation. Officially accept, “Yes, sir, I shall accept. I shall do whatever you say.” This is initiation, official acceptance of the job. That’s all. Now, you formally accept, and if you do not do the duties, then where is the question of other function? There is no question. Initiation means this is the beginning of accepting the orders of Krsna and His representative to carry out. This is the beginning. That is initiation.” (Srila Prabhupada, 730222SB.AUC)

Is initiation a necessity?

Absolutely. “Unless one is initiated by a bona fide spiritual master, all his devotional activities are useless. A person who is not properly initiated can descend again into the animal species. […] It is the duty of every human being to surrender to a bona fide spiritual master. Giving him everything-body, mind and intelligence -one must take a Vaisnava initiation from him.” (Hari-bhakti-vilasa 2.6 + 2.10 quotet in Bhaktivedanta purport to Caitanya-caritamrita 15.108) Of course this does not mean the mere initiation ceremonial. Initiation is to surrender to Krishna and His representative, the spiritual master, and engage in bhakti-yoga, chanting the holy name etc., according to the directions of the spiritual master.

What is brahmana initiation (second initiation)?

A Vaisnava is equal or above a brahmana (priest) even if he is engaged as a sudra (worker), vaisya (trader, farmer) or ksatriya (ruler). If the Vaisnava is engaged as a priest, the spiritual master can give him brahmana initiation, since it is by qualities and not by birth that one really is a brahmana or not. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Thakura introduced the system of giving the sacred thread to Vaisnavas. “So devotee is above all these consideration. (brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, sudra) But because there is management, they should appear as brahmana, as sudra, as ksatriya, like that. Sa gunan samatityaitan brahma-bhuyaya kalpate mam ca vyabhicarini bhakti-yogena yah sevate. A devotee, because he is working as a sudra, he is not a sudra; neither he is a brahmana. He is already in the spiritual platform. But for management we have to do that (giving brahmana initiation). One can do the sudra’s work nicely — let him be engaged in that way. Why he should imitate?” (Srila Prabhupada, 740420mw.hyd) 

Why second initiation?

Srila Prabhupada writes in his purport to Srimad Bhagavatam 4.31.10: “In our Krsna consciousness society, unless one is twice initiated — first by chanting Hare Krsna and second by the Gayatri mantra — he is not allowed to enter the kitchen or Deity room to execute duties.” Although a Vaisnava is above all this material considerations there are this distinctions for the sake of the management of the society.

Is second initiation necessary?

No. Unless you want to perform deity service as a priest in a temple.

What is sannyasa initiation?

The principles are similar to second initiation. “When one is found to be regularly following these principles (the four regulative principles), he is given the first initiation (hari-nama), and he regularly chants at least sixteen rounds a day. Then, after six months or a year, he is initiated for the second time and given the sacred thread with the regular sacrifice and rituals. After some time, when he advances still further and is willing to give up this material world, he is given the sannyasa order. At that time he receives the title svami or gosvami.” (Bhaktivedanta purport to Caitanya-caritamrita, Adi-lila 17.265) 

Is sannyasa initiation necessary?

To adopt the sannyasa stage of life is prohibited for Kali-yuga, the current age. (Brahma-vaivarta Purana, Krsna-janma-khanda 185.180 – quoted in Caitanya-caritamrita Adi 17.164) A very advanced paramahamsa Vaisnava is eligible to take sannyasa to fulfill his mission but there is no necessity. He may also adopt the paramahamsa dress or no special dress at all. Even directly under Srila Prabhupada’s guidance most sannyasis of ISKCON proved to be not qualified. It is said that it is better to die than to fall from the sannyasa stage of life; this means it is better not to accept sannyasa.

What is siddha-pranali?

Some sahajiyas babajis invented an artificial way to imagine what they believe to be the svarupa (the eternal identity of the soul). This “initiation” they call “siddha-pranali”. Both Srila Bhaktisiddhanta and Srila Prabhupada didn’t approve of such fabrications. The svarupa is revealed automatically as soon as the devotee has conquered his senses. One has to be free of material attachments. Reaching the stage of liberation and raganuga bhakti the svarupa is revealed. This happens when the devotee engages in devotional service according to the direction of a genuine spiritual master. It is not that someone just tells you “who you really are” and then you are engaged in raganuga bhakti. Srila Prabhupada writes: “In this connection, we should be careful about the so-called siddha-pranali. The siddha-pranali process is followed by a class of men who are not very authorized and who have manufactured their own way of devotional service. They imagine that they have become associates of the Lord simply by thinking of themselves like that. This external behavior is not at all according to the regulative principles. The so-called siddha-pranali process is followed by the prakrta-sahajiya, a pseudosect of so-called Vaisnavas. In the opinion of Rupa Gosvami, such activities are simply disturbances to the standard way of devotional service.” (Nectar of devotion 16) Please also see http://www.harekrsna.de/siddha-pranali.htm

What is parampara?

“Parampara” means disciplic succession. The transcendental knowledge (divya jnana) is like a river flowing from one acarya to the next. It’s source is Krishna who directs it to a qualified disciple who realizes, preserves and directs it to his qualified disciple who again realizes, preserves and directs it to his successor and so on until it arrives here. There are four disciplic successions, namely the Brahma parampara, Siva parampara, Laksmi parampara and the Kumara parampara. Divya jnana, transcendental knowledge, is not limited to material considerations and therefore the parampara is not a bodily succession. Transcendental knowledge may as well flow from one member of the parampara to the other without any bodily contact or official initiation. Predecessor and disciple may dwell on different planets or even different universes. We should not think that the parampara is simply a row of material bodies or that transcendental knowledge is ordinary knowledge. The river parampara sometimes flows according to the official initiation or bodily succession of master and disciple and then sometimes prefers to flow underground. Parampara and transcendental knowledge are both eternal but it sometimes happens that the connection is lost and then Krishna comes to revive or renew the system again.

What is your parampara?

Following A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada we are in the Brahma-Madhva-Gauidya-sampradaya (Group). And this is our revered parampara (disciplic succession): 1) Krsna, 2) Brahma, 3) Narada; 4) Vyasa, 5) Madhva, 6) Padmanabha, 7) Nrhari, 8) Madhava, 9) Aksobhya, 10) Jaya Tirtha, 11) Jnanasindhu, 12) Dayanidhi, 13) Vidyanidhi, 14) Rajendra, 15) Jayadharma, 16) Purusottama, 17) Brahmanya Tirtha, 18) Vyasa Tirtha, 19) Laksmipati, 20) Madhavendra Puri, 21) Isvara Puri, (Nityananda, Advaita), 22) Lord Caitanya, 23) Rupa, (Svarupa, Sanatana), 24) Raghunatha, Jiva, 25) Krsnadasa, 26) Narottama, 27) Visvanatha, 28) (Baladeva) Jagannatha, 29) Bhaktivinoda, 30) Gaurakisora, 31) Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, 32) His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

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