“Where Have All The Vaishnavs Gone?” or “Vaishnavism in a Skeptic Age”

by Aranyakananda

It seems to me that most Vaisnavs are devotees of a particular manifestation of Vishnu. Namely Rama or Krishna. Most Vaisnavs are really “Kraishnavs” or “Ramites.” Shiva has His own avatars but most Shaivites I know worship Shiva directly. They do not consider Shiva’s avatars as higher than their source, whereas many Vaishnavs, i.e., ISKCON, seem to believe that Krishna is the source of all, including Vishnu.

Though many devotees of Sathya Sai Baba or Shirdi Sai Baba, for example seem to be Shaivites while referring to Sai Baba as “the Lord”, mostly Shaivites worship Shiva in and of Himself. And we don’t worship Brahma at all, most of us. That is another story altogether, and in fact there are many stories behind why that is.

Three members of the Trimurti, and three very different approaches. Non-worship, multiple worship, and direct worship.

One could argue, as I myself would, that worship of Rama or Krishna is in fact worship of Vishnu. If this were not so, and Krishna worship were really different from Vishnu worship, why then do you not hear too much about worship of Varaha or Kurma or Matsaya? I mean maybe it is because the fully human avatars seem more “likely” to worshipers? But yes I do think it is because they all are one and the same, in and of Lord Vishnu.

But I still find it odd that so few people I have met, read from, or read about, just worship Vishnu. I would say that worship of Narayana, the “infinite form” of Vishnu may be the closest thing to what I am truly talking about here. If Krishna and Rama were a tangible from of the infinite then I want to worship the infinite source of all.

Maybe my viewpoint on this arises from the fact that I am a White American, and many of the White Hindus one sees are of the Krishna Consciousness variety. Maybe it is because I still have a little bit of Godist in me. By that I mean when I was younger, and fringe-Christian, because I could not believe some of the things that were said about Christ, I took to saying of myself “I am a Godist. Meaning I believe in God. Period.”

I have expanded my point of view drastically on this over the years, obviously, now identifying as Vaishnav. With all of the avatars of Vishnu playing such an important role in the Vaishnav story of who we are and where we came from, they are indispensable to the worship. But this is a skeptic age (yuga) we live in. Many people have an easier time believing there is a God in general than they do believing in the stories of God-Become-Man of various religions. Too much myth involved. Whereas “God” to many is of another plane of existence, so many think “Sure why not, God exists.” Somehow that seems easier to swallow, intellectually. And as I said, I once felt the same way.

I have written before about whether Krishna really walked this Earth and if so, did he indeed deliver the Gita word for word to Arjuna at Kurukshetra? And I will point out that there is a fair amount of evidence to back up that parts of the Ramayana are historical. The land bridge between India and Sri Lanka, for example, can be detected on images of the Earth from space. I need not link to it because there is so much about it available online. Check it out, come to your own conclusion. Feel free to comment.

The part that is difficult, given the aforementioned skepticism of the world, is the coming of future avatars. Think about the Christians I mentioned above who are kind of iffy on some of the core beliefs of Christianity. Some of them have a hard time picturing Christ making a dramatic reappearance, the earth opening up, the dead rising and Final Judgement being made – that whole bit. Certainly not during their own lifetimes. Kalki Avatar, it is said, will not appear until quite a long time in the future. As time goes by, human minds evolve, and we become supposedly more open-minded. But I think that we become more closed-minded to some things. That which we consider “myth” being one of those things. So by the time that Kalki is scheduled to appear, what will be the state of the human mind? At what level will be its skepticism?

This post may seem to lack direction and purpose, but I hope you can suss out some kind of inter-relativity in it all, as a whole. And hopefully you, dear reader, can provide some perspective even if on some miniscule part of this post.

Aum, Shanti. Shanti. Shanti!

This entry was posted in Abrahamic faiths, afterlife, agnosticism, agnostics, American Hindus, atheism, auto-biography, autobiography, avatars, Avatars of Vishnu, Bhagavad-Gita, Bharat War, Bible, Brahma, Christian, Christianity, Comparitive Religion, dharma, Dharmic Faiths, Eastern Philosophy, editorial, faith, Gita, God, Hare Krishna, Hindu Sects, Hinduism, History, India, inspiration, ISKCON, Jesus, Krishna, Krishna Consciousness, Kurukshetra, Liberal, Lord Rama, Mahabharata, monotheism, myth, Narayana, New Testament, Old Testament, opinion, philosophy, pluralism, polytheism, Rama, Ramayana, religion, religious conversion, Sai Baba, Sanatana Dharma, Sathya Sai Baba, Secular Humanism, Shaivism, Shiva, social commentary, spirituality, Trimurti, Uncategorized, Vaishnavism, Vishnu, Western Hinduism, White Hindus and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to “Where Have All The Vaishnavs Gone?” or “Vaishnavism in a Skeptic Age”

  1. Dhrishti says:

    A very nice post, bhai.

    Kalki has always been an interest of mine. I don’t know much about him, other than being an End Times avatar, but initially I struggled with him because of the mythic parallels between him and his mission and that found in the Christian End Times. However, a few years ago I read something that gave a different perspective: He wont be human.

    Within the Christian context, the End must happen a certain way because the entire structure of the belief system mandates it. But in Hinduism, God manifests according to the age, no?

    Based on prophecy surrounding the tales of Kalki he’s meant to bring a large destruction, among other things. I’ve read that this End Time form of God could well take the form of a disease, some virus or something that we’re powerless against.

    Even in it’s most esoteric and mystical levels, Hinduism still manages to find room to be compatible with science. In this way, with Kalki, I’ve found similar compatibility with Vishnu’s other avatars as they coincide with life’s evolution and progression on our planet. For me personally, this helps keep the skepticism in check.

  2. Tāṇḍava says:

    Shiva does not have avatars. The different forms that Shiva takes, (Dakshinamurthy, Ardhanarishvara, Bhairava, etc.) are not born into this world as avatars. Some Smarta sects see Adi Shankara as an avatar of Shiva, but this is not a Saivite view.

    Also, isn’t Narayan seen as the embodiment of the infinite rather than the infinite itself? As consort of Lakshmi, Narayan shows that riches in this world are a sourced from the infinite. (I am straying into Vashnava territory here so I could be wrong about this).

    ISKCON seems to have a particular belief that Krishna is not one incarnation of an infinite Vishnu but that Krishna is the true form, comprising the personal and embodied and the infinite. Thus they talk of Narayana and Rama as forms of Krishna.

    • treadmarkz says:

      Yes that ISKCON belief you mentioned was something I wrote about and I definitely have a hard time believing that. But I am kind of an odd Vaishnav anyway.

      • kiran says:

        The reason why ISKCON says Krishna is the source is because of vedic reference. The prrof that Krishna is the source is given in Brahma samhita. Here the goloKA vrindavana is described and also it describes who can enter this goloKA. Brahma samhita was the first spoken by Brahma when he was created.

  3. shrini says:

    I am a vaishnavite by birth. We believe Krishna to be an avatar of Vishnu. Worship of Rama, Krishna or Narashima (workshop of Narasimha is popular) is worship of Vishnu. Same goes for Srinivasa too. All are deities while Vishnu is the Supreme God.
    There are lots of metaphors and subtleties in Hinduism. Kalki, right now, is hard to conceive since he is supposed to come riding in a horse. I am like really? That too after a million years or so? But I think the horse maybe a metaphor.

  4. Jaya Sriman Narayana!

    I too am a Vaishnavi from the Gaudiya sect, although an odd one at that. Probably half the Vaishnava world see Krishna as the Supreme, including ISKCON, Gaudiyas, Pushtimargis, Swaminarayanis, etc. In reality, Krishna-Vishnu-Rama are the very same Supreme Being, and the differences are accounted towards one’s taste (ruchi), attachment (rati), bhava (affection), and rasa (mood).

    Sri Ramachandra is seen as the embodiment of Dharma, while Sri Vaishnava theology proclaims Krishna as a purna-avatara; that is, all of Narayana’s opulence and divinity is also in Him.

    Sri Vaishnavas believe, insofar as I could gather online, that devotees can worship any form of God, so as long as it is Vishnu-tattva: so avataras such as Mohini-devi, Vamanadeva, or Kurma could be worshipped. Have you seen shaligrama shilas of Kurma Prabhu? They are so cute! ^-^;

    The reason why Gaudiya Vaishnavas, Pushtimargis, and organisations like ISKCON see Sri Krishna as Supreme is because of what it is said in Bhagavata Purana. “All these are part of Lord Krishna, the Supreme Lord [Bhagavân] in person who offers protection during all ages and in all worlds…” (Bhagavata Purana, 1.3.28)

    • RAMDAS says:

      Jai srimannarayana,

      The Alwars and Acharyas of the Sri Sampraday realized that only by unconditional surrender to the infinite,omnipresent ,omnipotent and omniscient can protect us in this world of living and liberate the soul after the death of physical body. The surrender is complete only by invoking the name that completely describes all the qualities of the infinite. That name is Srimannnarayana i.e that is narayana who is inseparable from sri. To know this better please read the true meaning of narayana and sri.


  5. By the way, when it comes to literalism, one thing that I took from my spiritual teacher’s books, was that although we have to take the Scriptures seriously, we should take their spiritual import. Think of Rahu eating the sun in the Vedic Writings, he wrote.

    The Vedic sages of old taught us that every single thing in this world is brimming with consciousness in the spiritual world, and thus they were personified, although we do not worship them. Thus, fire became Agni, water became Varuna, etc. These personifications of nature and natural occurrences were to make us reiterate our interdependence on this biodiversity, and to respect nature.

    When the sun is being eclipsed therefore, the shadow which creates the eclipse was called Rahu.

    Personally, I try to read the spiritual meanings behind these sacred pastimes over their plain meanings. A Vedic lifestyle should be one that harmonises everything. 🙂

    Gaura Haribol!

  6. mohit says:

    lord rama and krishna took birth to teach humans how to live life properly.hence they are worshipped more.

  7. rahul singh says:

    Well, the Madhwa vaishnavas,the Vaikhanasas and the Srivaishnavas worship Srimannarayana or Vishnu in His original form as well as avatars

  8. Aparna says:

    I feel that we all worship Gods based on his or her personality. The personalities are based on the stories connected to the Gods. Lord Shiva has thousands of stories about Himself (not his avataars), while Lord Vishnu has stories related to his avataars such as Lord Krishna and Lord Rama and Lord Srinivasa. That is why Lord Shiva is worshipped in his original from because it is so endearing. Whereas Lord Vishnu manifests himself in the form of innumerable avataars who have endearing personalities. We choose the one we find close to our hearts, The same with the Devis, right?

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