Living a life of Krishna consciousness thereby detaching oneself from the maya of the material world can help a person attain true happiness. The belief of devotion to the Supreme Lord Krishna and serving Him is what Vaishnavas consider their ultimate aim. Almost 70% of Hindus are Vaishnavas.
There are different categories that Vaishnavas can be divided into, depending on their practices and beliefs. However, there are certain fixed things that a devotee has to follow such as consuming only vegetarian food and associating with other devotees of Lord Krishna.
Vaishnavism is a lifestyle, not just a belief. Read with us to know more about the belief, significance, meaning as well as practices of Vaishnavas to help you in becoming a true Vaishnava.
What Do Vaishnavas Believe?
Vaishnavas believe in complete devotion to The Supreme Lord Krishna which can take place at different levels. They practice chanting verses of the Lord and surrender to Him in mind and spirit. The Vaishnavas believe in the Lord as the highest deity and live a life of Krishna consciousness.
Are All Vaishnavas Vegetarian?
Yes, all Vaishnavas are vegetarians as they consume only the food which can be offered to the Lord. They eat for the sake of necessity and in a way that does not cause harm to any living being inclusive of animals. Since meat, fish, and other similar things are not fit to be offered to the Lord, so they do not consume these things. The Vaishnavas consume food only as a form of prasadam which is the remnants of the food offered to The Supreme Lord Krishna.
What Is Vaishnavism?
Vaishnavism was established by Lord Krishna Himself with the assistance of Lord Ananta, Vayu-deva, and other Rishis like Narada. The concept behind this belief is that anyone who worships Lord Krishna in full faith can easily attain God-realization.
The key ritual of Vaishnavism is Nama-Japa (chanting Lord Krishna’s name). Sri Krishna gave certain essentials of self-realization on the request of Uddhava as follows:
“(1) Do your duty, to the best of your abilities, for Me without any selfish motive, and remember Me at all times – before starting work, at the completion of a task, and while inactive. (2) Practice to look upon all creatures as Myself in thought, word, and deed; and mentally bow down to them. (3) Awaken your dormant spiritual power and perceive through the activities of mind, senses, breathing, and emotions that My power is within you at all times, and is constantly doing all the work using you as a mere instrument” (Bhagavatam 11.06-29).
Types of Vaishnavas
The Vaishnavas can be divided into three broad categories. The first category is of people who believe in the philosophy of Krishna consciousness but do not practice it strictly. The second category is people who accept the markings of a Vaishnava and respect the Vaishnavas but do not practice strictly on their own. The last category comprises people who belong to Vaishnava families and wear the marks of Vaishnavas and also practice strictly.
In India, one can find all these three categories of people following different types of Vaishnava principles. These categories however are not distributed in water-tight compartments as people can be elevated by associating and connecting with the more committed Vaishnavas.
The three categories of Vaishnavas can also be divided as kanistha adhikaris, madhyama adhikaris, and uttama adhikaris. The difference lies in the habit, intent, and realization with which they invest in their belief. Gaudiya Vaishnavism is another kind of Vaishnavism belief.
It has rightly been said in Chaitanya Charitamrita that, “The root cause of devotional service to Lord Krishna is association with advanced devotees. Even when one’s dormant love for Krishna awakens, association with devotees is still The most essential.” (Madhya 22.83)
“Uncontaminated devotional service is the objective of pure Vaishnavas and that one has to execute such service in the association of other devotees. By associating with devotees of Lord Krishna, one develops a sense of Krishna consciousness and thus becomes inclined towards rendering the loving service of the Lord. This is the process of approaching the Supreme Lord Krishna by gradual appreciation in devotional service. If one desires unalloyed devotional service, one must associate with devotees of Sri Krishna, for by such association only, can a conditioned soul achieve a taste for transcendental love and thus revive his eternal relation with Godhead in a specific manifestation and in terms of the specific transcendental mellows (rasa) that one has eternally inherent in him”.
Therefore, Vaishnavism stands for connecting with the Lord in mind and spirit and living a life of Krishna consciousness along with fellow devotees.
Sri Vaishnava sampradaya, therefore, is a community of people living with Krishna consciousness who chant the Holy Name of the Lord and spend time with other exalted devotees so as to reach a higher level of Vaishnava. Vaishnavas celebrate Vaishnava Ekadashi, pray to the Lord and surrender to Him to live a happy and devoted life.