In this world, two different dharma s go by the name of vaisnava-dharma. The first is suddha (pure) vaisnava-dharma, and the second is viddha (adulterated) vaisnava-dharma. Although pure vaisnava-dharma is one in principle, it has five divisions according to rasa (taste for serving Bhagavan in a specific loving mood:
- Santa (adoration).
- Dasya (servitude).
- Sakhya (friendship).
- Vatsalya (parental affection).
- Madhurya (conjugal love),
In reality, pure-vaisnava-dharma is one without a second, and it is known as nitya-dharma or para-dharma (the supreme dharma). In the sruti-scripture, Mundaka Upanisad (1.1.3), we find the following statement:
“Everything becomes known when one understands that Supreme truth clearly”.
This statement pertains to pure vaisnava-dharma. The full import of this will gradually revealed.
There are two types of adulterated vaisnava-dharma: one is adulterated with karma (karma-viddha) and the other with jnana (jnana-viddha). All the practices that the orthodox brahmanas in India uphold as vaisnava-dharma, are actually vaisnava-dharma adulterated with karma. This type of vaisnava-dharma entails initiation into a Vaisnava mantra, but Visnu, the all-pervading Lord of the universe, is only treated as a constituent part of the process of karma. Visnu is actually independent of all the devatas, (demi-gods, the administrators of the universe); but in this system, He is regarded as being only an aspect of karma, and subject to its laws. In other words, the conception is that karma is not subordinate to the will of Visnu, but that Visnu is subordinate to the will of karma. According to this theory, all varieties of worship and spiritual practice are merely parts of karma, because there is no truth higher than karma. This type of vaisnava-dharma was professed by an ancient sect of philosophers and has been prevalent for a very long time. Many people in India who adhere to this doctrine, pride themselves on being Vaisnavas but do not care to accept pure Vaisnavas as Vaisnavas at all.
This is their great misfortune.
Vaisnava-dharma adulterated with jnana is also widespread throughout India. According to this school of thought, the supreme truth is the incomprehensible, all-pervading brahman; and in order to attain this nirvisesa (featureless) brahman, one should worship five particular demi-gods; Surya, Ganesa, Sakti, Siva, and Visnu, who all possess forms. When one’s knowledge becomes complete, one can give up the worship of forms and ultimately attain the state of one-ness with the featureless brahma. Many people accept this doctrine and disrespect the pure Vaisnavas. When followers of this system worship Visnu, they perform diksa (receiving initiation from a spiritual master), puja (ritualistic worship), and all their activities for Visnu; they may also worship Radha-Krishna. Still, it is not pure vaisnava-dharma.
The pure vaisnava-dharma that becomes known when one eliminates the adulterated forms is the true vaisnava-dharma. Due to the influence of the age of Kali, most people cannot understand what pure vaisnava-dharma is, and they therefore accept the various adulterated forms as true vaisnava-dharma.
According to the Srimad-Bhagavatam, human beings display three different tendencies with regard to the Absolute Truth:
- The tendency towards the all-pervading featureless brahman.
- The tendency towards the Supreme atma (Soul) in the heart known as Paramatma (Supersoul)
- The tendency towards the Supreme Person, Bhagavan
By the tendency towards the Paramatma (Supersoul), some people acquire a taste for that yoga principle which establishes contact with the subtle form of Paramatma. The methods they adopt to try to attain the trance of absorption in Paramatma are known as karma-yoga and astanga-yoga. This doctrine holds that karma includes initiation into the chanting of visnu-mantras, worship of Sri Visnu, meditation, and other such practices. Vaisnava dharma adulterated with karma is present in this system.