Vaishnavism can be considered as the essence of the Vedic culture. It is distinguished from other sects or religions by its exclusive worship of Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, including his incarnations known as avatar. It consists mainly of a monotheistic philosophy. Its beliefs and practices are centered around bhakti yoga are based largely on the Srimad Bhagavatam, Bhagavad Gita and Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita.
Vaishnava theology includes beliefs of the Vedic culture such as reincarnation, material world, karma, and devotion to Vishnu through the process of Bhakti yoga, which includes the singing of Krishna's names, practicing focus of the mind upon His form, and performing deity worship. The standards of worship are performed according to the Narada pancharatra.
Within their worship Vaishnava devotees recognize themselves as separate or distinct from their lord, Vishnu. Or in other words, they are different in quantity, but in quality they are similar to God. This is unlike other schools of Hinduism, whose goal is to attain perfection by merging and becoming one with God. The perfection of Vaishnava practises is to become a pure servant of God, Lord Krishna, in the spiritual realm of 'Vaikuntha', which is beyond the temporary world of illusion.
Vaishnavas are connected to their spiritual master by a process of initiation, given by a guru, and where the person in most cases gets a new name. They are trained under the guru in order to understand Vaishnava practices, especially devotional service. In many Vaishnava sects, at the time of initiation the disciple is given a specific mantra that he has to chant everyday to attain perfection. This mantra can be repeated, either out loud or within the mind, as a type of mental worship to Krishna or one of His avatars. This practice of constant chanting for oneself is called japa.
Western Academic Study
Vaishnava theology has been a field of interest for many devotees, philosophers and scholars within India for centuries and recently around the world. In recent decades this study has also been taken on by a number of Vashnava academic institutions in Europe, such as the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies and Bhaktivedanta College. The Vaishnava scholars instrumental in this western discourse include Tamala Krishna Goswami, Hridayananda dasa Goswami, Graham Schweig, Kenneth R. Valpey, Steven J. Rosen, and Guy Beck, among others.
The Four Vaishnava sampradayas
Vaishnavism consists of four main disciplic succession known as sampradayas. Each of them was started by a personality who is known as the acharya. The four sampradayas scrutinizingly study the relationship between the constitutional position of the soul and God. These sampradayas are:
Sri, started by Laxmi Herself.
Rudra, started by Lord Siva.
Brahma, started by Lord Brahma himself.
Kumara, started by the four kumaras.
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