WHO IS CALLED AS VAISHNAVA? WHAT ARE THE CLASSES OF VAISHNAVAS?
A GIRL DEVOTEE ASKED LIKE THIS:
“Hare Krishna Prabhu.Thank u for ur explanation. Can you please clarify my doubt.I wanted to know who is a Vaishnava? One who is chanting 16 rounds daily and eating no onion and garlic food and following the 4 regulative principles are Vaishnavas and accepting and worshipping Krishna as the supreme personality of God are Vaishnavas or if any person who accepts and worships Krishna but following the principles to the extent he can…like following principles but couldn’t avoid onion ,garlic , tea and coffee.could chant about 8 to 10 rounds ..Does these people come under Vaishnava category or not ?”
First, I like to clarify two things:
(1) In general, those who have surrendered themselves to Vishnu/ Krishna, love Him wholeheartedly and Chant His Holy Names are vaishnavas!
(2) A vaishnava NEED NOT BE AN INITIATED DEVOTEE. Initiation simply means taking official oath of following the devotional rules under the guidance of a Spiritual master. After initiation, the devotional advancement will be faster because of the transfer of blessings from guru. But, though one has not yet accepted a guru, he can be a Vaishnava.
If a sincere sathaka is chanting Lord’s names without the four major offences (meat, gambling, illicit relations, intoxication) can be called a vaishnava. No doubt. However, it is the additional advice that he must have full faith in his aspiring guru, though not yet initiated to advance in his Vaishnava Qualities.
For better understanding, let us see four stages of vaishnavas that are crossed by every vaishnava:
Budding stage. Kanishtha-vaishnava who chants in nama bhasa without much faith in the Name and sadhu-sanga.
Between kanishtha and madhyama-vaishnava, who regularly chants the Name without offenses.
Intermediate stage when one constantly chants the Names without offense with the faith in his aspiring guru.
(4) UTTAMA VAISHNAVA:
Perfected stage when one chants the pure Name in love of God and simply by whose presence others start chanting the pure Name. This is very rare according to Thakura Bhaktivinoda.
Thus, we must aim to go up to Uttama Vaishnava stage from kanishta stage.
However, Let us see what Scriptures says about this:
(1) HARI BHAKTHI VILAS AS QUOTED IN PADMA PURANA:
“One who is initiated into the Vaishnava mantra and who is devoted to worshipping Lord Vishnu/Krishna is a Vaishnava. One who is devoid of these practices is not a Vaishnava.
(2) CAITANYA CARITAMRUTA. MADYA LILA -15.106: Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu explains three stages of Vaishnavas – about an Ordinary Vaishnava (kanistha Adhikary):
“Who chants the holy name of Krishna just once may be considered a Vaishnava. Such a person is worshipable and is the topmost human being.”
(3) In CAITANYA CARITAMRUTA. MADYA LILA -16.72:
A Superior Vaishnava (Madhyma Adhikari),
“A person who is always chanting the holy name of the Krishna is a superior Vaishnava and your duty is to serve his lotus feet.”
(4) In CAITANYA CARITAMRUTA. MADYA LILA -16.74:
The Topmost Vaishnava (Uttama Adhikari),
“The topmost Vaishnava is he/she whose very presence makes others chant the holy name of Krishna. Such a Vaishnava is superior to all others!”
(5) SRIMAD BHAGAVATHAM 10.8.4 SAYS:
(The heart of a Vaishnava is by nature softened due to the touch of the lotus feet of Lord Krishna. By nature a Vaishnava is Paraduhki-duhki, that is, he feels pain when he sees the suffering of others.)
“O Narada, great persons like you visit the homes of family men, not to profit from them but simply to bestow eternal auspiciousness upon them, even though they are often reluctant to hear anything for their spiritual benefit, being too materialistic. Otherwise you have no need to travel from one place to the next.”
(6) According to Bhakthi Siddhantha Saraswati takura, a vaishnava is a worshiper of Lord Vishnu / krishna. Karsna means a worshiper of Krishna, and a Gaudiya means a worshiper of Radharani !
Hope you are clear now about who can be called as a Vaishnava.