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 SannyasAshram from Srila B.R. Sridhar Maharaja a Disciple of Srila BhaktisidhantaSarasvati Prabhupada founder of the Sri Gaudiya Math.
In 1984 I founded VRINDA, the Vrindavana Institute for Vaisnava Cultureand Studies. In discussing the word Hinduism one must consider the deepimpact of this word and its many aspects. First and primary we do not findthe word Hindu mentioned in the Vedic Scriptures. Controversy regardingthe origin and membership of the Vedic tradition must be based on someshastric reference.
Hinduism Today has posed the question whether you are Hindu or not. Indoing so they are mixing the emotional concerns of Indian Nationalfeelings, real concerns of modern life and the famous "we are and you arenot" 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 Iexplain our position.
First let me clarify a few questions which are pertinent to the issue ofwhether Gaudiya Vaisnavas are Hindus or not. Gaudiya Vaisnavas arefollowers of the teachings of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who appeared fivehundred years ago in Bengal announcing the congregational chanting of theHoly Names of God as the recommended process for self realization in thisage 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. Countryborders 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 goagainst the Vedic tradition but are presented as Vedic, such as usingTantric Scriptures to justify immoral contacts. There are also interpretations of the Vedic scriptures which are notacceptable to followers of Gaudiya Vasnavism because they exclude thescriptural fact that one can have an eternal, personal relationship withGod in the spiritual world. In contrast Vaisnavas also accept that aspiritual domain exists where the perfected souls can merge into theBrahman, 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 bythe sincere practitioner. We accept that not all worshippers have the samegoal in their devotion.
In order to distinguish one path from another we can use philosophicalterms or we can use names which have certain concepts attached to them.The term Dharma can easily be interpreted as Hinduism. The term SanatanDharma refers to the type of worship which has Sanatan - eternal goals. In the Sanskrit dictionary there is no meaning attached to the WordHindu we have to refer to the popular usage of the word to give itmeaning.
Dharma, Yoga, Karma, and Jnana have characteristics attached to themwhich are traditionally rooted in the scriptures. There is always spacefor different interpretations and it is said that a Muni is not a Muni ifhe has no personal opinion. To consider that Sanatan Dharma is not a partof contemporary Hinduism is mental speculation on the part of the speakeror writer.
Instead of asking whether someone is Hindu or not you should ask whethersome ones practices can be substantiated by Vedic Literature and a withroots in the Vedic History.
Hinduism Today in the same article questioning Who is Hindu, observedthat Vedic Samskaras, Festivals, Pilgrimages, Temple Construction,Worship, and Study of the Vedic Scriptures prove that our tradition asGaudiya Vaisnavas is indeed Vedic and thus Hindu.
To illustrate the difference between someone worshipping the Deity onlyfor money, a good husband, enjoyment on higher planets, yogic powers ormerging into the non dual sphere, Vaisnavas clearly punctuate that theirpath is not of this nature. Since the time of the Theosophists and thefirst Swamis who came to the west, the Vaisnava faith did not have a goodrepresentative outside of India. Fortunately my spiritual master SrilaA.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was the person to change thissituation. To all of India and experts on Vedic Culture the fact is wellknown that the Vaisnava and Shankarite interpretation of Vedanta clashedthroughout history spanning thousands of years to the present. In thishistory, a Shivite king at the time of Yamunacarya challenged that whoeverwould not accept Lord Shiva as the supreme would be decapitated.Fortunately today this conflict takes place in essays and talks whereleaders of the different Sampradayas quote Shastra explaining theirpoints 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. Oneneeds to sit at the feet of the Guru to understand the highest truth and Isuppose all will agree to the fact that Hinduism or Vedic teachings dealwith the topic of finding the truth. Hinduism as a World Religion isbringing up another topic which the original write up in Hinduism Todaydid 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 thepopular use of the word religion. The Latin word relegare means: toconnect us back to God. It does not mean to counteract bad planets or toobtain mystic powers. Nor does it mean to worship different Gods fortemporary purposes. It means to go back to God, back to the highest truth.
If we accept Hinduism as a World Religion, acknowledging the traditionalmeaning 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 whetherthe process he or she practices is really getting somewhere. Can weconclude that our practice is religious, connecting us with God. The Vrinda Institute and the followers of my Spiritual Master SrilaPrabhupada as well as other Gaudiya Vaisnavas subscribe to thisunderstanding of the word Hindu and Hinduism.
We wish the overall Hindu culture to increase and we desire to workjointly with all who stand to defend the Hindu morality in the presentworld. We are Hindus for all our Hindu friends and we are GaudiyaVaisnavas for all who want to know our affiliation in the Sampradaya. We are Monotheists because we accept God as one supreme being, and weaccept that he has innumerable expansions. We are moralists joining forces with all human beings who are againstwar, 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 ourbrothers and sisters throughout the world, regardless of their religiousaffiliations. There is no institution who will ever be able to claim any authority overother followers of Vedic traditions or Sampradayas. No organized churchconcept exists in the Vedic tradition. In India any person who will startworshipping Puranic Deities will be accepted as a Hindu. The Vedicscriptures authorize any person, regardless of his birth, to become aGuru, provided that he is initiated himself and knows the spiritualteachings of the Vedas.
Even though Iskcon, the society started by my Spiritual Master, is wellknown, it is just one of the many branches of Gaudiya Vaisnavism. Todaythere are fifty or more different branches of Gaudiya Vaisnavism. Many ofthem have International impact with ashrams around the world. Vrinda is one of the branches of the Brahma Madva Gaudiya Sampradaya withover 100 centers worldwide.
The Religion of Unity in Diversity, Gaudiya Vaisnavism cannot be justlydefined or completely explained by a word like Hindu or Yoga. VedicCulture is a living tradition, with numerous students, teachers andinstitutions, manifesting all over the world.(World Vaisnava AssociationURL: http://www.wva-vvrs.org)
Hinduism's true glory is in mitigating the sufferings of others andenlightening them about the true self. This is a real religious attitude.Many more people will aspire to be Hindu, in the true sense of themeaning. We want to be servants of Sri Guru, Sri Gouranga, Sri Sri Radha Krishnaand humanity at large.
Your servant Swami B.A. Paramadvaiti
Founder Acarya of Vrinda
Secretary of the World Vaisnava Association
Visva Vaisnava Raj Sabha
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