Shakti Sadhana

Why are Gaudiya Vaishnavas so Intolerant?
Arjunananda Gauranga Maharaj

Hare Krishna! All glories to Srila Prabhupada and all Vaisnavas who walk in the pure love of Sri Krishna Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Please accept my humble obeisances. I pray that this meets each and everyone in this wonderful group in perfect health and in the service of Guru and Gauranga.

There was a request sent to me by a wonderful friend requesting that I reply to a post entitled "Why are Gaudiya Vaishnavas so Intolerant?". In this post, there were several questions asked that are certainly viable. It is not my intent to offend anyone, so I humbly ask for forgiveness now if any find offense to this post. It is my intention to teach what the position of Gaudiya Vaishnavaism is, not the separatism that it has become known for.

The Gaudiya Matha is a part of the Vedic Vaisnava tradition and presents the teachings of the Vedas in original pure form. By this I mean that the Vedic Sastras are translated as close as possible out of the original Sanskrit into whatever language that is desired. Great pains are taken by several scholars to ensure that a complete translation is achieved. This Vedic tradition is preserved due to a direct succession of spiritual masters and disciples called a parampara. This method has proven that it can change the lives of thousands in a positive way.

It is easy to illustrate the difference between traditional Hinduism and Vaisnavism: Vaisnavas accept the Vedas, but accept "many paths" only partially. Different scriptural paths are the means leading to the end (liberation), but the path of devotion and service (bhakti) is both the means and the end. It continues forever, even after liberation. The Gaudiya Matha does not believe that there is a merging into the Brahma effulgence, rather Krishna is the ultimate source of Brahma. Therefore, Krishna is the One to be worshiped, and "many gods" are to be revered as His empowered representatives only, not to be worshiped as independent of Him.

In the Brahma-Samita hymn 1, Sri Brahma sings:

Isvarah paramah krsnah
Anadir adir govindah

"Krishna who is known as Govinda is the Supreme Godhead. He has an eternal blissful spiritual body, He is the origin of all. He has no other origin and He is the prime cause of all causes."

Here Sri Brahma establishes the supremacy of the Absolute Truth, Sri Krishna. One does not offer praise and humility to a subordinate or to a peer on this magnatude, only to one that is superior. Through out the Brahma Samita, Sri Brahma exhaults Sri Krishna as the Lord, and refers to himself as His faithful servant.

In the Bhagavad Gita 10:2 it is stated:

Ne ma viduh sura-ganah
Prabhavam na maharsayah
Aham adir hi devanam
Maharsinam ca sarvasah

"Neither the hosts of demigods nor the great sages know My origin or opulences, for, in every respect, I am the source of the demigods and sages.

Here Sri Krishna indirectly states that He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and that if anyone wants to know the Absolute Truth, then "here I am", He sets it straight that He is the Supreme.

In the Bhagavad Gita 7:20 it is stated:

Kamais tais tair hrta-jnanah
Prapadyante `nya=devatah
Tam tam niyamam asthaya
Prakrtya nayatah svaya
"Those whose intelligence has been stolen by material desires surrender unto the demigods and follow the particular rules and regulations of worship according to their own natures."

Those who are freed from all material contaminations surrender unto the Supreme Lord and engage in His devotional service. As long as the material contamination is not completely washed off, they are by nature non-devotees. But even those who have material desires and who resort to the Supreme Lord are not so much attracted by external nature; because of approaching the right goal, they soon become free from all material lust. Less intelligent people who have lost their spiritual sense take shelter of the demigods for immediate fulfillment of their material desires. Generally, such people do not go to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, because they are in the lower modes of nature and therefore worship the various demigods. Following the rules and regulations of worship, they are satisfied. Because in the Vedic literatures there are recommendations for worshiping different gods for different purposes (e.g., a diseased man is recommended to worship the sun), those who are not devotees of the Lord think that for certain purposes demigods are better than the Supreme Lord. But a pure devotee knows that the Supreme Lord Krishna is the master of all. In the Caitanya-caritamrita (adi 5:142) it is said, ekal isvara krsna ara saba bhrtya: only the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, is master, and all others are servants. Therefore a pure devotee never goes to the demigods for satisfaction of his material needs. He depends on the Supreme Lord, and the pure devotee is satisfied with whatever He gives. (Srila Prabhupada BG Purport 7:20)

Now we search for the needs of our desires to be met in this material world. Lets say, for love. We search for love, but there is no love here, and even if there were, it turns to sorrow when our loved one departs from us. Therefore, the Vedas tells us not to search for love in the material world, for it is a waste of time, but to search for the love of Krishna. When we develop that love, by the purificatory process of Krishna consciousness, we will finally become satisfied. When we fully surrender to Sri Krishna, then all our desires and needs are met, without the karmic strings that are attached to the worship of the demigods for their favors.

According to popular Indian tradition, Ganesa is a benign and helpful diety who brings successs and assures worldly well being. Since devotees of Krishna are more interested in spiritual realization than in worldly security, Vaisnavas tend to forgo the worship of Ganesa. Lord Krishna says in Bhagavad Gita 9:23:

Ye `py anya-devata-bhakta
Yajante sraddhayanvitah
Te `pi mam eva kaunteya
Yajanty avidhi-purvakam
"Those who are devotees of other gods and who worship them with faith actually worship only Me, O son of Kunti (Arjuna), but they do so in a wrong way.

Lord Krishna uses the word avidhi purvakam, "in an inappropriate way." Why is such worship of the demigods inappropriate? Because it is materially motivated. As Lord Krishna says in Bhagavad Gita 4:12:

Kanksantah karmanam siddhim
Yajanta iha devatah
Ksipram hi manuse loke
Siddhir bhavati karma-ja
"Men in this world desire success in fruitive activities, and therefore they worship the demigods. Quickly, of course, men get results from fruitive work in this world."

It is our position to return to Godhead, not to remain in the karmic cycle. Since material enjoyment is temporary, and all things outside of Krishna will be destroyed at the annihilation, it seems that one would desire to return to their original position instead of remaining on this material platform.

Since we are essentially spiritual beings in a material body, material rewards can never truly satisfy us. Only spiritual rewards are satisfying for a spirit soul. Therefore, Srila Prabhupada concurring with the two Bhagavad Gita verses mentioned above says that "To worship Ganapati (Ganesa) is not required, but sometimes we do it. Just like the Gopis, they worshipped the Goddess Durga, Katyayani. They were not required to worship her, but that was part of the social system. But they asked, Mother Katyayani, give us the opportunity to have Krishna as our husband. Their aim was Krishna" (Morning walk, Los Angeles, Jan 10, 1974)

So the worship of Ganesa, like that of his mother, Durga (Parvati), is not condemned, but it should be done for the proper reasons: Ganesa is a devotee of Lord Krishna and we can pray to him to remove obstacles on the road to Krishna Consciousness. In this regard, Brahma Samhita (5:50) explains that Ganesa is Krishna's devotee.

Yat-pada-pallava-yugam vinidhaya kumbha-
Dvandve pranama-samaye sa ganadhirajah
Vighnan vihantum alam asya jagat-trayasya
Govindam adi-purusam tam sham bhajami
"I adore the primeval Lord Govinda, whose lotus feet are always held by Ganesa upon the pair of tumuli protruding from his elephant head in order to obtain power for his function of destroying all the obstacles on the path of progress of the three worlds."

Ganesa holds on his elephant head the lotus feet of Govinda.

Srila Prabhupada wrote in the "Nectar of Devotion" concerning the demigods:
"One should not neglect to offer due respect to the demigods. One may not be a devotee of the demigods, but that does not mean that he should be disrespectful to either them or to their devotees. For example, a Vaisnava is not a devotee of Lord Siva or Lord Brahma, but he is duty bound to offer all respects to such highly positioned demigods. According to Vaisnava philosophy, one should offer respect even to an ant, so then what is there to speak of such persons as Lord Siva and Lord Brahma? In the Padma Purana it is said, "Krishna, or Hari, is the master of all the demigods, and therefore He is always worshipable. But this does not mean that one should not offer respect to the demigods.

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is a complete incarnation of both Sri Krishna and Srimati Radharani, therefore He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Caitanya preached pure love of Godhead (Krishna) without deviation. In essance, there is no difference between the teachings of Sri Caitanya and the teachings of Lord Krishna in the Srimad Bhagavatam and the Bhagavad Gita. Lord Krishna's ultimate instruction in Bhagavad Gita is that everyone should surrender to Him. Krishna promises to take immediate charge of such a surrendered soul.

Krishna says in Bhagavad Gita 9:34;

Man-mana bhava mad-bhakto
Mad-yaji mam namaskuru
Mam evaisyasi yuktvaivam
Atmamam mat-parayanah
"Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, become My devotee, offer obeisances to Me and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me."

Lord Caitanya teaches direct worship of Lord Krishna. He taught the population in the sankahya philosophy of acintya-bhedabheda-tattva, which maintains that the Lord is one with and different from His creation at the same time. Lord Caitanya taught this philosophy through the chanting of the Holy Names of the Lord. (Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna, Krishna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare) He taught that the Holy Names of the Lord is the sound incarnation of the Lord, and that since the Lord is the absolute whole, there is no difference between His Holy Name and His transcendental form. Therefore, by chanting the Holy Names of the Lord, one can directly associate with the Supreme Lord by sound vibration.

Gaudiya Vaishnavaism follows the teachings of Sri Krishna Caitanya Mahaprabhu and because there is no difference between His teachings and those of the Srimad Bhagavatam, Bhagavad Gita, and other Vedic scriptures, we look to Sri Caitanya as the perfect example of Vaisnavaism.

As a Vaisnava I sincerely believe in the teachings of Caitanya Mahaprabhu and also the acharyas that are in the disciplic succession. But personally I do not believe in secretarianism nor in fanatasism. Unfortunately there are those who believe that one sect is above that of another. This is most unfortunate. One of the ten offenses to devotional service is "One should not give unnecessary trouble to any living entity." Yet there are sects within Vaisnavaism that persecute, lie, slander, take to court, restrain, murder, maime and harass not only members of other sects, but also those of their own that are out of favor for whatever reason. Many will defend themselves by becoming puffed up in their pride stating "You are not qualified to make such an opinion!", but in truth, an offence is an offence in the eyes of Sri Krishna against on of His devotees no matter what group they belong.

The greatest suggestion that I can offer to you is to be tolerant and follow what you believe in your own heart. Yes, I am a Vaisnava, I teach Vaisnava tradition, but I also realize that others have very different beliefs. If one worships only Lord Siva, I am bound to respect them because I am bound to respect Lord Siva. I cannot respect Lord Siva by being anything less than a true Vaisnava to his devotees. We may not agree, but there is no reason to be disrespectful. Also, it is my experience that through understanding and love, one preaches more effectively. I certainly cannot teach one that I have offended, especially to the point of unforgiveness.

I pray that this has helped you in your understanding.

Your eternal servant;