Basic Philosophy of Krishna Consciousness
Vedas say we are all spiritual beings— eternal, blissful, full of knowledge—and so is God. The difference is God is infinite and we are not. In this world, everyone mistakenly thinks their temporary body is their real self. We belong in the spiritual world with God (one of Whose names is Krishna, “the All-attractive one”). But until our pure love for Him awakens—and we no longer want to try to enjoy separately from Him—we must stay in the material world.
We need to understand the problems of life in the material world, such as:
- We suffer from old age, disease, and eventually die.
- The reactions to our activities, or karma, force us to take repeated births in various species.
- Whatever sensual pleasure we do get is temporary and ultimately disappointing.
Our life is perfect once we find a teacher, or guru, who can show us how to purify our consciousness and reestablish our love and service attitude for God. The easiest (and most highly recommended) method of self-purification is to chant the holy names of God—the Hare Krishna mantra—in the company of like-minded spiritual seekers, or devotees of Krishna.
The philosophy of Krishna consciousness is non-sectarian and monotheistic. It may be summarized in the following eight points:
- If we sincerely follow an authentic spiritual discipline, it helps us attain a state of blissful being – one that is without all worries and gives us complete self-control.
2. None of us are actually our physical bodies. Rather, we are all souls that live forever and are part of a common God – Krishna. Knowing that we are all children of a common father helps us see one another as members of one united family spread across the world.
3. Krishna is eternal, omnipresent, all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-attractive. He is the source of all life and the sustaining energy of the universe.
4. To know and love God is the goal of Vedic knowledge, and the Bhagavad Gita spoken by Lord Krishna Himself over 5,000 years ago contains the essence of the Vedas.
5. To successfully tread on the path of spiritual discipline and attain the goal of self-realization, it is imperative that we are led by a genuine guru or spiritual teacher. The Bhagavad Gita and other sacred texts enlist many criteria that are essential in a guru. However, what is most crucial is that a guru follows and reiterates the messages of Krishna, without changing them or having any selfish motives. Also, the thoughts and actions of the guru should always be concentrated on Krishna.
6. We must acknowledge and reciprocate the selfless love radiated by Krishna, by offering Him our food along with a prayer, prior to eating. Though Krishna Himself has provided that food to us, He will be pleased like parent receiving a gift from his/her child. This act of offering food to our Lord cleanses our consciousness and brings us closer to Him.
7. We should stay away from self-centeredness and act in a way that gives joy to Krishna. This path to self-realization that entails loving devotion towards God can be followed by people of any age or faith and is known as bhakti-yoga or connecting to the Supreme of loving devotional service.
8. The most effective means for today’s spiritual seeker to reach the blissful, worry-free state, and to become closer to God, is to chant the Hare Krishna Mahamantra:
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
What is Vaishnavism?
Vaishnavism is one of the major traditions within the broader Vedic, spiritual culture. Unlike some Vedic traditions, Vaishnavas believe that the ultimate reality is personal. Thus, they understand that God is the Supreme all-attractive person, or Krishna. They acknowledge that all living beings are eternal persons, and that all life’s problems are rooted in the individual soul’s forgetfulness of his or her relationship with God.
Vaishnavas teach that by chanting God’s names the soul can reawaken his original spiritual knowledge, live peacefully in this life and return to the spiritual realm, or Vaikuntha, the place of no anxiety, at the time of death.
The Vaishnava tradition has widely influenced South Asian culture through music, dance, theater and art. Vaishnavism’s heartfelt philosophy and poetic sacred texts integrate a profound theology with astute social discourse. The key Vaishnava sastras, or scriptures, are Krishna’s teachings in the Bhagavad-gita, included in the longer work, the Mahabharata), the Srimad Bhagavatam (one of the eighteen Puranas), the Ramayana, and the more recent 16th Century Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita.
ISKCON is part of the Gaudiya, or Chaitanya Vaishnava, tradition, which hails from the eastern regions of India. Gaudiyas place special emphasis on the teachings of 16th Century saint and avatar, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Gaudiya Vaishnavism in turn gave rise to the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), which was founded by Srila Prabhupada in 1966. His organization, ISKCON, has increased the awareness and growth of Vaishnavism worldwide since the late 1960s. Today Vaishnava teachings have crossed all geographic borders and proven relevant in addressing humanity’s essential needs.
Five Most Powerful Aspects of Bhakti
To chant the Hare Krishna mantra.
To hear and discuss Srimad-Bhagavatam.
To offer services to the Deity at home or in the temple.
To associate with devotees.
To live in a holy place connected to Lord Krishna.
To learn more about worshipping at home and incorporating the philosophy into your daily life, continue reading by the links below.
On Chanting Hare Krsna – essay by Srila Prabhupada
Setting up your altar – How to worship Krsna in your home
Eating Spiritually: Prasadam – the Karma Free Diet
Preparing and Offering Prasadam – How to Offer Vegetarian Food to God
Everyday Living: The Regulative Principles – Moral Principles to Live By
Practical engagement in Devotional Service – Doing Everything for Krsna
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