About anyone who is even slightly inclined to Krishna bhakti, we often hear people say, “O, this person is a good devotee, a nice Vaisnava!”
But exactly how does one define who is and who is not a Vaisnava, a “devotee”? The correct and most authoritative answer to this question is found in the sacred texts of our Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition. By reading and understanding these passages, one can then accurately determine who is a Vaisnava.
- Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu:
“A Vaisnava is one who rejects the association of materialistic people (asat-sanga tyaga), the unsaintly (asadhu), and those not devoted to Bhagavan Sri Krishna (krishna abhakta)” (Cc. 2.22.87)
- Sri Kapila Muni:
One is a sadhu Vaisnava if he/she is:
- Merciful to all living entities.
- Not inimical toward anyone.
- Follows rules of scripture.
- Peaceful. (SB 3.25.21)
- Sri Sanatana Goswami:
Simplest definition of a Vaisnava:
“The wise have determined that a Vaisnava is one who is initiated into a Vishnu [Krishna] mantra and engaged in the worship of Sri Vishnu [Krishna, Rama, Nrsimha].” All others are known as non-Vaisnavas. (Hari Bhakti Vilasa 1.55)
A Vaisnava is one who meets these criteria;
- DIKSHA: has received Krishna mantra diksha from Sri Guru.
- SEVA: dedicated to serving Sri Krishna.
- EKADASHI: follows Ekadashi vrata without fail.
- BALANCED MIND: is equipoised toward all living beings.
- MAINTAINS VAISNAVA BEHAVIOR: follows Vaisnava niyamas and sadachara. (HBV 2.12.338-340):
III. Sri Jiva Goswami:
PREMA: “The greatness of a Vaisnava depends on the amount of Krishna prema.” (Bhakti Sandarbha 187)
- Srila Prabhupada:
“A devotee is one who is always pleasing Krishna. He has no other business. That is a devotee.” (folio: PQPA 5)
In summary, a Vaisnava is one who is devoted to seeing, serving, pleasing, loving and living eternally with the Absolute Supreme Person, GOD—Bhagavan Sri Krishna, Rama, Vishnu.
A Vaisnava is a devotee, and a devotee is one who cares for God, and is loyal to Sri Guru, Sri Hari and the Vaisnavas. A devotee is committed, determined, dedicated and steady in serving and pleasing Sri Krishna with deep feelings of attachment and mine-ness. A devotee genuinely feels, “I belong to Krishna and Krishna is mine.”
A true devotee feels his loving Lord’s presence everywhere, and he/she shows sweet affection to all, big and small, from an ant to a President.
A devotee adores and worships his/her beloved Sri Krishna with great enthusiasm, attentively offering everything available at every moment throughout the day and night.
Vaisnava sadhu sanga ki jai! Jaya Jaya Sri Radhe!