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1. what is vaishNavism in simple words

A. worshipping the supreme Lord SrImAn nArAyaNa(lakshmi samEta nArAyaNa), not desiring anything in return but opportunity to serve Him uninterruptedly. And to see SrImAn nArAyaNa as antaryAmi(indwelling supersoul) in every one and be compassionate towards all beings.

2. why to worship SrImAn nArAyaNa

A. Because the vEdAs declare Him as the Supreme being and the paramAtma of every one else. He alone can grant liberation to any being, as per the vEdAs

3. what is the role of other deities like brahma, Siva, durga, vinAyaka, kumAra swami, .....

A. All the other deities other than SrImAn nArAyaNa are jIvAtmAs only but with special powers. To be precise, all these divinities are temperory posts(designations). At some point of time some one becomes brahma because of previous pious activities, and at other times some one else. All these posts are also granted by SrImAn nArAyaNa only. They are there to discharge certain responsibilities fitting to their positions and to enjoy certain previleges for being pious in their previous lives. Even these divinities worship SrImAn nArAyaNa for their own liberation. They can favour their devotees with the powers granted by SrImAn nArAyaNa, but cannot grant immortality or liberation.

4. We can see some purANAs describing siva or durga or others as supreme, why is that so?

A. There are three kinds of purANAs namely sAttvika, rAjasika and tAmasika meant for people in those respective modes. rAjasika and tAmasika purANAs praise other divinities as supreme, but are meant only for the upliftment of rAjasika and tAmasika people, and the knowledge in those scriptures is not complete. Where as sAttvika purANAs are in complete consent with vEdAs and praise SrImAn nArAyaNa as the supreme Lord. Some people misinterpret this scriptural intricacy and falsely equate all the divinities with SrImAn nArAyaNa. But it is important to understand that one should respect all other divinities also, as they are favoured by SrImAn nArAyaNa to be in those capacities.

5. In vEdic rituals why do we worship somany divinities, why can't we worship only SrImAn nArAyaNa?

A. VedAs teach us to perform somany rituals like sUrya namaskaram, and in the vedic sacrifices somany divinities are worshipped. But all this should be done with the understanding that SrImAn nArAyaNa is the supersoul (antaryAmi) in all of those divinities and the actual enjoyer of all the offerings. Even the different favours done by other gods are factually granted by SrImAn nArAyaNa only.

5. what is liberation?

A. Liberation means to regain the original constitutional position of jeevAtma. We as jeevAtmas are eternal companions(relatives) of the Supreme Lord. Our supreme welfare is in the unselfish unconditional devotional service unto SrImAn nArAyaNa. In our present conditional life, we are not in this original state. Liberation is that state, in which we are free from this material body bondage ( ie., cycle of repeated birth, death, disease, old age and anxiety). In the liberated stage we will be in the constant company of the Lord being part of His divine plays in His abode, SrI vaikuntha. There is no birth, death, old age, disease, fatigue, anxiety in that stage, because we do not have any material body, but a spiritual body similar to SrImAn nArAyaNa Himself.

6. There are many sAdhus teaching different things, what is special about Sri vaishNavism and the AchAryAs?

A. There are many sAdhus and yOgis in this world with many super natural powers also sometimes. But their teachings may not take give us liberation. We may sometimes become prosperous by resorting to such sAdhus, but, after all, all the materil objects perish with time and we may have to leave all our material possessions at the end of our life. Hence for our best welfare we must take shelter of an AchArya who can show the path of liberation, not material benefits.

In SrI vaishNava sAmpradAya, AchAryas are in an unbroken disciplic succession starting from SrImAn nArAyaNa, SrImati lakshmi dEvi, Sri vishwaksEnar, ......, SrI saTakOpa, SrI nAthamuni, SrI yamuna muni,.. SrI rAmAnuja, SrI parAsara bhattAr,.... until the present AchAryAs. The knowledge of the Supreme is revealed by the Supreme Lord Himself and it is transfered in generations without being changed. Hence it is wise to take knowledge from such great AchAryAs and make one's life successful.

7. what is the philosophy of Sri vaishNavAs?

A. The unbroken disciplic succession of Sri vaishNava AchAryAs including SrImAn nArAyaNa teach us the philosophy called SrI visishTa advaitha. It tells us that all the being both conscious(chit) and unconscious (achit or matter) are nothing but the body of SrImAn nArAyaNa and SrImAn nArAyaNa is the indwelling soul of every one and everything. That is to say that, the very existance of our souls and the matter is possible because the Lord is present within us as paramAtma. We are eternally different from Him just like the body is different from the soul, but we are completely dependant on Him(hence He alone is the actual single controller). In our conditioned state, we may not conceive this relation appreciably, but to be liberated from material bondage, it is essential for us to know our original nature as soul which is subservient to SrImAn nArAyaNa.

8. what is advaita of sankara AchArya?

A. Sri sankara AchArya gives a philosophy called kEvala advaita (complete non-duality). According to him, there is complete identity between paramAtma and jIvAtma, we do not know that we are paramAtma Himself because of undefinable ignrorance(which is neither true nor untrue). In the recent days there are some variants of advaita, propounded by some neo vEdAntic schools likes of Sri vivEkAnanda, Sri ramaNa maharishi,...

This philosophy, however, is completely un-vEdic and rejected by sat-AchAryas of our sAmpradAya based on vEdAs, upanishads, vEdAnta Sutras and bhagavad geeta. Please contact a SrI vaishNava AchArya for complete understanding on the issue.

9. Are there many paths to obtain liberation?

A. Recently some people come up with wild ideas like 'all paths lead to the same destination' and so on. Factually, our scriptures teach us that different actions take us to different destinations. For one to obtain liberation, the only sure path is the 'mercy of the Lord', which is beyond all reasons and inconceivable to us. However, SrImAn nArAyaNa teaches us in bhagavad geetha that one can obtain liberation by practicing uninterrupted devotional service unto the Lord and unbroken contemplation of the Lord (bhakti yOga). To obtain the right devotional attitude, one should have complete knowledge of absolute truth(gnAna yOga). This knowledge of God can be obtained by unselfish action(karma yOga). Hence karma yOga leads to gnAna yOga, gnAna yOga leads to bhakti yOga and ultimately by the mercy of the Lord one reaches the perfection of bhakti yOga and attains mOksham.

However, if one fails at any one of these steps, one loses the opportunity of mOksha, which is too huge ask for people in kaliyuga. Out of unlimited mercy, SrI rAmAnuja gave a condensed, integrated and simplified path towards liberation, namely prapatti. This sublime method teaches us to surrender unto the Lord admitting our failure to do pure devotional service unto Him, and request Him to fill our shortage of bhakti by Himself. More about this can be read in the prapatti section of the website.

athAto "brahma" zignAsA - Then thereafter be inquisitive to enquire about "the Absolute"