WVA LETTERS


Statement Regarding Hindu Affiliation

The Vrindavan Institute for Vaisnava Culture and Studies - Vrinda

My name is Swami B.A. Paramadvaiti. I am a disciple of Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. I received initiation in the Sannyas Ashram from Srila B.R. Sridhar Maharaja a Disciple of Srila Bhaktisidhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada founder of the Sri Gaudiya Math.

In 1984 I founded VRINDA, the Vrindavana Institute for Vaisnava Culture and Studies. In discussing the word Hinduism one must consider the deep impact of this word and its many aspects. First and primary we do not find the word Hindu mentioned in the Vedic Scriptures. Controversy regarding the origin and membership of the Vedic tradition must be based on some shastric reference.

Hinduism Today has posed the question whether you are Hindu or not. In doing so they are mixing the emotional concerns of Indian National feelings, real concerns of modern life and the famous "we are and you are not" competition.

The idea presented in Hinduism Today poses a loaded question. To properly address this important topic I ask that you bare with me as I explain our position.

First let me clarify a few questions which are pertinent to the issue of whether Gaudiya Vaisnavas are Hindus or not. Gaudiya Vaisnavas are followers of the teachings of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who appeared five hundred years ago in Bengal announcing the congregational chanting of the Holy Names of God as the recommended process for self realization in this age of Kali Yuga.

Do we love India and all those who follow some Vedic path? Yes, but we also love other people and other countries as well. Country borders cannot identify or limit Religions. Do we accept that there are different ways to realize the truth? Yes, this is confirmed in the Bhagavat Gita. There are also practices which go against the Vedic tradition but are presented as Vedic, such as using Tantric Scriptures to justify immoral contacts. There are also interpretations of the Vedic scriptures which are not acceptable to followers of Gaudiya Vasnavism because they exclude the scriptural fact that one can have an eternal, personal relationship with God in the spiritual world. In contrast Vaisnavas also accept that a spiritual domain exists where the perfected souls can merge into the Brahman, conceived as an impersonal state.

Do we believe that different Deities can be worshipped? Yes. We accept all Vedic Deities and that their abodes can be reached by the sincere practitioner. We accept that not all worshippers have the same goal in their devotion.

In order to distinguish one path from another we can use philosophical terms or we can use names which have certain concepts attached to them. The term Dharma can easily be interpreted as Hinduism. The term Sanatan Dharma refers to the type of worship which has Sanatan - eternal goals. In the Sanskrit dictionary there is no meaning attached to the Word Hindu we have to refer to the popular usage of the word to give it meaning.

Dharma, Yoga, Karma, and Jnana have characteristics attached to them which are traditionally rooted in the scriptures. There is always space for different interpretations and it is said that a Muni is not a Muni if he has no personal opinion. To consider that Sanatan Dharma is not a part of contemporary Hinduism is mental speculation on the part of the speaker or writer.

Instead of asking whether someone is Hindu or not you should ask whether some ones practices can be substantiated by Vedic Literature and a with roots in the Vedic History.

Hinduism Today in the same article questioning Who is Hindu, observed that Vedic Samskaras, Festivals, Pilgrimages, Temple Construction, Worship, and Study of the Vedic Scriptures prove that our tradition as Gaudiya Vaisnavas is indeed Vedic and thus Hindu.

To illustrate the difference between someone worshipping the Deity only for money, a good husband, enjoyment on higher planets, yogic powers or merging into the non dual sphere, Vaisnavas clearly punctuate that their path is not of this nature. Since the time of the Theosophists and the first Swamis who came to the west, the Vaisnava faith did not have a good representative outside of India. Fortunately my spiritual master Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was the person to change this situation. To all of India and experts on Vedic Culture the fact is well known that the Vaisnava and Shankarite interpretation of Vedanta clashed throughout history spanning thousands of years to the present. In this history, a Shivite king at the time of Yamunacarya challenged that whoever would not accept Lord Shiva as the supreme would be decapitated. Fortunately today this conflict takes place in essays and talks where leaders of the different Sampradayas quote Shastra explaining their points of view.

Now the "Are you a real Hindu?" question is thrown into this debate. The Web research by Hinduism Today did not give a conclusive picture. One needs to sit at the feet of the Guru to understand the highest truth and I suppose all will agree to the fact that Hinduism or Vedic teachings deal with the topic of finding the truth. Hinduism as a World Religion is bringing up another topic which the original write up in Hinduism Today did not even focus on.

Religion is also not a Sanskrit word. It comes from the Christian tradition and has a particular meaning which is quite different from the popular use of the word religion. The Latin word relegare means: to connect us back to God. It does not mean to counteract bad planets or to obtain mystic powers. Nor does it mean to worship different Gods for temporary purposes. It means to go back to God, back to the highest truth.



If we accept Hinduism as a World Religion, acknowledging the traditional meaning of the word, then we must give support to those who teach Sanatan - Eternal Truth and Destiny as revealed in the great body of Vedic Wisdom. In a more profound way the individual will also have to observe whether the process he or she practices is really getting somewhere. Can we conclude that our practice is religious, connecting us with God. The Vrinda Institute and the followers of my Spiritual Master Srila Prabhupada as well as other Gaudiya Vaisnavas subscribe to this understanding of the word Hindu and Hinduism.

We wish the overall Hindu culture to increase and we desire to work jointly with all who stand to defend the Hindu morality in the present world. We are Hindus for all our Hindu friends and we are Gaudiya Vaisnavas for all who want to know our affiliation in the Sampradaya. We are Monotheists because we accept God as one supreme being, and we accept that he has innumerable expansions. We are moralists joining forces with all human beings who are against war, animal slaughter and abortion...

We are ecologists when it comes to protecting mother earth (Bhumi). We are friends of all those who try to mitigate the sufferings of our brothers and sisters throughout the world, regardless of their religious affiliations. There is no institution who will ever be able to claim any authority over other followers of Vedic traditions or Sampradayas. No organized church concept exists in the Vedic tradition. In India any person who will start worshipping Puranic Deities will be accepted as a Hindu. The Vedic scriptures authorize any person, regardless of his birth, to become a Guru, provided that he is initiated himself and knows the spiritual teachings of the Vedas.

Even though Iskcon, the society started by my Spiritual Master, is well known, it is just one of the many branches of Gaudiya Vaisnavism. Today there are fifty or more different branches of Gaudiya Vaisnavism. Many of them have International impact with ashrams around the world. Vrinda is one of the branches of the Brahma Madva Gaudiya Sampradaya with over 100 centers worldwide.

The Religion of Unity in Diversity, Gaudiya Vaisnavism cannot be justly defined or completely explained by a word like Hindu or Yoga. Vedic Culture is a living tradition, with numerous students, teachers and institutions, manifesting all over the world.(World Vaisnava Association URL: http://www.wva-vvrs.org)

Hinduism's true glory is in mitigating the sufferings of others and enlightening them about the true self. This is a real religious attitude. Many more people will aspire to be Hindu, in the true sense of the meaning. We want to be servants of Sri Guru, Sri Gouranga, Sri Sri Radha Krishna and humanity at large.

Your servant Swami B.A. Paramadvaiti
Bhakti Sastri
Founder Acarya of Vrinda
Secretary of the World Vaisnava Association
Visva Vaisnava Raj Sabha
email: pswami@ipof.fla.net
Give us the opportunity to serve you.
Please visit our web site to learn more about VRINDA and Gaudiya Vaisnavism.

Vrinda UR: http://www.vrindavan.org

 



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