The History Of Our Vaisnava Heritage

The following transcription is from a talk given by His Holines Bhakti Charu Swami at a seminar with the same title.
A Vaishnava is a person who has given himself in serving the Supreme
Personality of Godhead. So in reality everyone is a Vaishnava, every soul is
a part and and parcel of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and in its
constitutional position every spirit soul is engaged in serving God. And in
the spiritual sky everyone is serving the Supreme Personality of Godhead and
therefore in the spiritual sky everyone is a Vaishnava. So it is important
to remember that ISKCON is not really introducing some new religion, or some
sectarian Indian religion. What ISKCON is introducing is the natural
characteristic that we have, taking us back to our original constitutional
position. The purpose of ISKCON is to train us to be what we actually are.
What we are now is not what we actually are. Some of us are thinking that we
are Indians, and others are thinking that they are South Africans, and still
others that they are white, black, men, women, animals, insects, and so on.
But these are our mistaken identities – the ones which we develop due to our
forgetfulness.

Although this Vaishnavism started at the beginning or creation of this
universe, it is not that it originated just at that point. It always existed
in the spiritual sky. So in the spiritual sky everyone is a Vaishnava. So
when we go back to the spiritual sky, we will find out that everyone is
serving Krishna, and therefore everyone there is a Vaishnava. And when we
are here, it will be very important for us to try and become Vaishnavas. And
when we become Vaishnavas then we go back to the spiritual sky, not
otherwise. Unless and until you become a Vaishnava, a servant of Vishnu or
Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, there is no way you can go back
to the spiritual sky. So this is what Srila Prabhupada came and gave us and
if we take full advantage of this we will be able to make our life
successful. So actually we have a very unique heritage. Sometimes people get
into a conflict in India and in the West also, thinking, “My religion is
better than yours.” Don’t they? There is a constant conflict all over it.
Even in India the people are fighting. Those who are worshippers of Shiva
say that Shiva is greater than Vishnu. Those who are worshippers of Durga
say that Durga is greater than Vishnu and so on. Similarily in the west the
Christians are saying that you all are Hindus, all nonsense, Christianity is
the only way. Similarily the Muslims are saying that convert everyone to
Islam otherwise they are doomed. But actually the real religion of every
living entity is to become a servant of Vishnu. It is unfortunate that in
today’s world people are making this discrimination on religion.

Actually Jesus Christ also came to make his followers Vaishnavas, and Jesus
was a Vaishnava himself. He knew God whom he addressed as his father, and
asked everyone to love Him, and when somebody loves someone else then
automatically he becomes engaged in his service. So what did Jesus preach?
What is the real teaching of Jesus Christ? Become a servant of the Supreme
Personality of Godhead. So where is the problem? We don’t have any problem,
but unfortunately those who develop a misunderstanding of Jesus’ teachings
have a problem.

So do Mohammad’s followers. Mohammad had to come, teach and preach to people
who were not very advanced. You can very well imagine how the desert people
are! And how must the people have been thousands of years ago? Therefore he
gave them very basic understanding. But when somebody considers that basic
understanding as the ultimate way, then the whole world will be in trouble.
Like if a primary school kid thinks that primary school education is the
ultimate education, you can imagine what is going to happen to the
educational system. And then these primary school kids will go to the
university and force everybody, “you have to accept the primary school
education.” So this is how today’s spiritual education is facing such an
acute crisis.

And that is why it is very important that we understand scientifically what
real religion is. Religion actually means the inherent characteristic of a
substance. The Sanskrit word for religion is “Dharma”. Now, what’s the
meaning of the word “Dharma”? “Dharma” actually means the inherent
characteristic of a substance. For example, water is a substance; wherever
there is water, it is liquid. So this liquidity of water is its inherent
characteristic. When water loses its liquidity and becomes solid, we don’t
call it water but ice. Or when water becomes vaporized, we call it vapor.
Similarly, fire is a substance and wherever there is fire there is heat and
light. Therefore, light and heat are the inherent characteristics of fire
and thus are the “dharma” of fire.

Similarly, spirit soul is a substance and the inherent characteristic of
spirit soul is its dharma. What is that inherent characteristic? That is to
love God. Just like when water becomes solid it becomes something else,
similarly when a living entity stops to love God, he becomes a conditioned
soul. That is what has happened to us. As pure spirit souls we should be
loving God. Although we may stop to love God, the propensity to love is
always there. Wherever there is a soul there is the propensity to love
someone. A man loves a woman; the servant loves his master and so on. This
tendency to love is always there, so much so that even a lion loves its cub.
Even a snake loves his female counterpart. So this tendency to love is there
in every living entity. But unfortunately they forgot whom to love. Through
this love they actually want to derive joy.

Actually love and joy are interrelated. Through love one enjoys or through
love one wants to enjoy. But until and unless one loves Krishna one cannot
enjoy, his experience of joy will always be frustrated. When a young man
falls in love with a young girl, what does he think? He thinks that through
this love he is going to become the happiest man in the world, but what
happens at the end of the day? I don’t have to tell you that. So this is the
reality. But as soon as one begins to love Krishna, he immediately begins to
experience joy. So this desire to love Krishna is actually the dharma of the
living entity. Therefore it is called “Sanatana Dharma”. Sanatana means
eternal. Why it is called eternal dharma? Because the living entity is
eternal, therefore the inherent characteristic of the living entity is also
eternal. Is it not a logical conclusion? Therefore the eternal religion of a
living entity is called “Sanatana Dharma”.

When we come to the material nature, it is because of our own volition that
we come here; we choose to come to this material nature. Sometimes people
ask why Krishna sent us to this material nature. The answer is that Krishna
never sent you; it is you who opted and desired to come to the material
nature. And that is why we want to stay in this material nature. My answer
to them is that now Krishna has shown you the way to the spiritual nature,
then why don’t you get out of this material nature and go back to Krishna?
Why don’t you do that? Krishna says “Sarva dharmana parityajya mam ekam
sharanam vraja, give up all your nonsense and just surrender unto Me and you
will go back to Godhead.” Then why don’t you do that? Why you came to the
material nature is not important. That shows that we want to stay in this
material nature. People generally worry about what would happen when they
get out of this material nature. “What will happen to my family, my
business, to this world?” But everything will go on fine, just wonderfully
without us. And some day we have to go out of this material nature. Then
what? Whether we like it or not, whether we want it or not, one day we will
have to leave. Therefore it is wise not to be attached to the material
nature, but rather to go back to the spiritual world.

In order to go back to the spiritual sky one has to become a Vaishnava. And
how does one become a Vaishnava? That has been pointed out by Krishna. At
the beginning of creation, Krishna actually gave the process as to how one
can become a Vaishnava. And that knowledge is called Veda. The knowledge
that Krishna gave is called Veda. He imparted that knowledge to Brahma, and
so Brahma is the first Vaishnava and then Brahma gave this knowledge to
Narada. This knowledge came from Narada to Vyasa, and in this way through
the disciplic succession it is flowing down and the process of becoming a
Vaishnava is going on. Anybody can become a Vaishnava. Anybody can become
situated in his constitutional position. Isn’t it a natural right that we
all have? Everybody can actually become what he really is. So this is our
heritage that Krishna the Supreme Personality of Godhead gave for us to
become purified and freed from our material bondage. So we will be purified
straight away.

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