I am kind of on a roll with a series of posts I have decided to unofficially refer to as “the Why Album.” Because Each has answered a “Why” of my own spiritual path. No one needs pay the answers any mind other than for your own information about me, and just food for thought. You have your own path. Remember that. But I have come to some conclusions about why I did, as I said in my last post, sort of “land on” Vaishnavism.
The simple answer is I was a Catholic. And believe it or not Vaishnavism holds some similarities (superficial maybe?) to Catholicism. And I found no fault with a lot of the dogma itself of Catholicism, just the fact that such dogma was so unbending, and came down from a line of Popes who were less than pure in their activities. If the Pope would just come out and say today that “you are eternal”, and that each and every one of us will one day return to Godhead to stay, and that we are not punished for our actions but punished by our actions, I may be a Catholic! Who knows? That might be taking it a bit too far, but I find no fault with the Christ Himself.
I don’t want to do another one of those pages that lists of the parallels between Krishna’s early life and Christ’s early life, like some kind of religious version of the Kennedy/Lincoln connection. So I will not do that. Read the Srimad-Bhagavatam if you want to.
What I will say about it though is that Krishna’s mother is given a similar position to the Virgin Mary of the Christian story. Neither are “worshipped” but both are given a position of reverence.
I learned to say the Rosary as a child, and early in my quest in Hinduism, I was attracted to the mahamantra, though I never have owned a set of japa beads. The fact that both the Rosary and the Mala have 108 beads, I think is significant, though the true reason behind that number matching up on both may be lost to history.
One of my favorite pujas is the Narayana puja, in which the priest pours water into devotees’ cupped hands at which time the devotee drinks from his own hands, then pours the remainder over his head, bringing it down over his face, and sides and back of his head. This is very much like baptism as the water was blessed during the puja. The only difference is the Narayana puja can take place several times a year, at any time, and a Catholic is baptized but once. The eating of the prasad at the end of the puja is very much like the “Body of Christ” partaken of during each Catholic Mass.
I promised these would be very superficial examples, so take them for what they are, but still I hope you will see how they are ways for one to feel a continuity in Vaishnavism with a mode of worship that one found nothing wrong with in Catholicism, but yet something was missing. As was the case for me. I like it that the focus of worship in Vaishnavism is often Krishna just as the focus in Catholicism was Jesus. I also like it that Krishna was not…it. Not the beginning and the end. Well, in a way, if you make Krishna Himself your Ishta-devata then yes, He is the Beginning and the End. But I mean this in the sense that the Avatar will appear whenever the world needs the Avatar, as Krishna states in the Gita. Indeed according to some there is never a time when an Avatar of God does not walk the Earth. What’s more, I like the notion that each person I meet is in some small way an Avatar. Though not ever single stranger I pass on the street can guide me like Krishna, in a way they can, as “Coincidences are just God in disguise.”
I am a bit more of a non-dualist than many Vaishnavas, its seems, though I do not care to label myself to either Vishistadvaita, Dvaita, Shuddhadvaita, or Dvaitadvaita schools of thought. I have always felt that non-dualism was almost essential to Hinduism. But that is my opinion. Non-dualism is probably, along with the lack of Eternal Damnation thing, the feature of Hinduism which attracted me most. So the very fact that I embrace the idea of avatars coming into the world may appear dualist. But it is just the eternal intangible becoming for a time tangible, like the worship of our own Ishta-devata knowing that Shiva, Vishnu, what have you, represents something that we cannot comprehend as humans as That has no qualities. In fact I will go so far as to say it was the part that was missing from Catholicism. Which is why I can now embrace Shaivism as well as my own Vaishnavism. Destruction, Sustenance and Destruction are all equal parts of the Divine process, call it what you will.