Q: What is Bhakti?
A: Bhakti is a spiritual path in Hinduism focused on loving devotion towards the personal god Krishna. It’s a heartfelt, selfless love, surrender, and participation in the divine service of god.
Q: What is a Vaishnava?
A: A Vaishnava is a follower of Vaishnavism, a branch of Hinduism that primarily worships Lord Vishnu and his various incarnations, such as Krishna and Rama, as the Supreme Person.
Q: How do I start practicing Bhakti yoga?
A: Start by learning about Lord Krishna, engaging in devotional practices such as chanting, singing hymns, meditating on the divine forms, and serving others selflessly. It can be beneficial to connect with a spiritual community or mentor / guru for guidance.
Q: What is the importance of the Bhagavad Gita in Bhakti?
A: The Bhagavad Gita is a sacred text in which Lord Krishna, provides guidance on life and duty, including the path of Bhakti. It’s seen as a conversation between God and the human soul.
Q: What is the Mahamantra?
A: The Mahamantra is a 16-word chant: “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” It’s used in Bhakti yoga as a way of focusing the mind and expressing devotion. The scriptures declare the name of Krishna non-different from Him.
Q: How do Vaishnavas view other gods in Hinduism?
A: Vaishnavas view Vishnu as the Supreme God, but they respect all other deities as aspects or servants of Vishnu. They believe all paths given in the Vedic scriptures ultimately lead to the same divine source.
Q: What is the role of the guru in Bhakti?
A: The guru serves as a spiritual guide and mentor, providing instruction, guidance, and inspiration. They are seen as a link to the divine and are often revered with deep respect as a representative of god.
Q: What are the main festivals celebrated by Vaishnavas?
A: Some main festivals include Janmashtami (Krishna’s birthday), Rama Navami (Rama’s birthday), and Diwali (celebrating Rama’s return to Ayodhya). Festivals often involve fasting, singing, dancing, and feasting.
Q: How do Vaishnavas practice non-violence (ahimsa)?
A: Ahimsa is practiced through vegetarianism, peaceful living, and respect for all life forms. It’s viewed as an expression of compassion and a way of minimizing harm to other beings.
Q: What is Prasadam?
A: Prasadam is vegetarian food that has been offered to God in worship, then distributed to devotees. It’s seen as spiritually purifying and a form of God’s mercy.
Q: What is the purpose of pilgrimage in Vaishnavism?
A: Pilgrimage to sacred sites associated with Vishnu/Krishna is seen as a devotional act that brings spiritual merit, purifies the soul, and provides an opportunity for deepening one’s spiritual understanding.
Q: What are the four stages of life (ashramas) in Vaishnavism?
A: The four stages are Brahmacharya (student stage), Grihastha (householder stage), Vanaprastha (hermit stage), and Sannyasa (renunciation, wandering beggar).
- In the Brahmacharya stage, the individual is a student and focuses on acquiring knowledge and developing character.
- During Grihastha, the individual becomes a householder, gets married, raises a family, and contributes to society.
- Vanaprastha is the stage where one gradually withdraws from worldly life, focusing more on spiritual practices. This usually occurs after the individual becomes a grandparent.
- Finally, Sannyasa is the stage of total renunciation, where one gives up all material desires and concerns to focus solely on spiritual matters, begs from door to door.
Q: What is Kirtan?
A: Kirtan is a form of devotional singing where hymns or mantras are sung in call-and-response style. It’s a communal practice that helps participants feel closer to the divine.
Q: How do Vaishnavas view the concept of Karma?
A: Karma, the law of action and reaction, is seen as a divine system of justice. Vaishnavas believe that good actions yield positive results, while negative actions bring hardships, both in this life and future lives.
Q: What is the meaning of the Tilak mark on the forehead in Vaishnavism?
A: The Tilak is a mark made on the forehead with sacred clay. It represents the temple of God within one’s body and serves as a reminder of one’s dedication to Vishnu.
Q: What are the main scriptures in Vaishnavism?
A: The Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas, Mahabharata (which includes the Bhagavad Gita), Ramayana, and the Srimad Bhagavatam are all key scriptures.
Q: Who are the most important avatars of Vishnu?
A: The ten most famous avatars of Vishnu are collectively known as the ‘Dashavatar’ and include Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, Narasimha, Vamana, Parashurama, Rama, Krishna, Buddha, and Kalki (the future avatar).
Q: What is the ultimate goal of a Vaishnava?
A: The ultimate goal of a Vaishnava is to serve and love God unconditionally, and ultimately serve Vishnu or Krishna in the divine spiritual world in a state of eternal bliss, by attaining ‘moksha’ or liberation from the cycle of birth and death in the material world.
Q: How do Vaishnavas meditate?
A: Vaishnavas often meditate by focusing on a mantra, such as the Hare Krishna mantra, or on a visual representation of Vishnu or Krishna. The goal is to calm the mind and focus one’s thoughts on the divine and engage the mind, senses and body in the service of god.
Q: Why is the cow considered sacred in Vaishnavism?
A: The cow is seen as a symbol of selfless giving and a mother, as it provides us with milk and other products without asking for anything in return. Krishna also grew up as a cowherd protecting and loving cows.