Dear Friends & Beliefnet Members,
Welcome to my Journal. I've decided to start it with two Posts which I was inspired to write after arriving at the Beliefnet Forums site. More to come, this is just my personal introduction.
The First is a short biography of my Faith/Life.
The Second is a work I authored in association with
the Hare Krishna Devotees of ISKCON.
[The International Society of Krishna Consciousness]
* * *
Thanks for asking.
But, if you ask an actor what he does....he gives his whole resume!
* * *
I was born in the Salvation Army. My mother was Sgt. Major of the Youth at Headquarters. I spent the first nine and a half years of my life in some Headquarters. Once, when I was eight my mom dressed me up in uniform and let me ring a bell during Christmastide. I stood outside the Navy Exchange and rang a bell for hours. It was great fun.
When dad retired, we went to a small town. There, I joined the First Missionary Baptist Church, of my own free-will. (Old school baptist; Am. Bapt. Assoc--old hymnal...am. pioneer-style). I had had a 'saved' experience at the altar. I took baptism a week later. To be 'saved' is to have your sins (karma) eradicated. Baptism is a personal statement to society about your faith, as well as the beginning of a career of service to the Christ.
When I went to University, as a musician, and performed in many various houses of worship. As a student, I sang masses, cantatas, services, Shabbats, high holy days, funerals, weddings,...etc. I did this so often that I became familiar with all religious services and philosophies.
Once, when I was a student, I received a song for a Lutheran funeral. I did not understand the semantics and word combinations used to describe Faith. When I asked my voice teacher about this he said "Sing the words you know with feeling, and study the rest. Always be earnest in your performances".
Having done so, I was fortunate enough to learn all of these various philosophies, rituals, and customs and enlighten my spirit. Since the age of fourteen I have been preaching or singing on an altar. I have rarely sat in a congregation in all that time. Since college, some couple of decades, I have moved to the west coast and continued my multi-church work. I have been a cantor for the Roman catholics for 18 years.
I met the Hare Krishnas in the mid 80's at the local university. We sat on the lawn and talked religion. I could see they had something I hadn't heard of yet, so I went to their Temple.
The book I read filled in all the gaps that the broad and general christian teachings did not particularly cover.
As a member of F.O.L.K. (Friends of Lord Krishna - home programs), I asked some of the older devotees (most of them Prabhupada disciples) why the congregation wasn't well organized or formal. They told me to write down what I think was needed. I did, and you saw the results that came later in my post on the 'HINDUISM?ISKCON? personal integrity?' on the Hare Krishna thread 9-18-08. Beleifnet.com.
I have never been a formal initiate of ISKCON, but a F.O.L.K. Member; before the invention of the
Sacred Order of Shri Caitanya.
As for joining the (Slavonic) Orthodox Church; Well, I was asked, late in my career, to sing at this church to see if I wanted to come and sing for that choir. I fell in love with the Liturgy. Christ's life, beginning to everlasting end. Seeing that the Church was steeped in proper history and barely changed in thousands of years, I knew that I had come to the purest link to the original christians, and took initiation.
Well, all of that for starters. -- It's been a good run so far, I'm eager to see what is to come.
* * * * * * * + * * * * * * *
I reply to the recent postings about uncomfortable situations in the Temple and ISKCON in general, I would like to offer up something that evidently few devotees are taking advantage of:
The Sacred Order of Shri Caitanya.
I met up with ISKCON in 1986. I saw the problems all of you have mentioned and wrote a couple of papers to the leadership of the movement. The content of the papers was the need to define the congregation at the different levels of devotion expressed as a new devotee matures (or settles down into) a devotional routine.
Not everyone is going to get initiation in this life. So, some devotees may settle into a marginal category of devotion.The following description of the first three levels of congregational devotion exist in ISKCON;
Shraddhavan, Gauranga-Sevaka & Krishna-Sadaka.
These levels of congregational devotion (defined below) were requested by the leaders of ISKCON to be written by me and were immediately published (15 years ago) in the ISKCON worldwide communications paper.
The following is a bona-fide and approved ISKCON application of congregant delineation.
Shraddhavan devotee... (Full of Faith)
1) Chants 1 - 3 rounds daily.
2) May be a vegetarian (maybe not).
3) Attends Sunday Feasts or has regular Temple visits.
4) Cannot dress in a dhoti or sari. Casual yogi wear is recommended.
Sevaka devotee.... (Service)
1) Chants 4 - 7 rounds daily.
2) MUST be Vegetarian. (but not to Vedic standards).
[Refrains from Meat-eating]
3) Attends Temple more regularly or
reads books and studies Shri Krishna.
4) Has basic altar at home.But not required to serve
altar in strict ritual.
(beginning to offer foodstuff to the Deities with simple prayer)
5) Dresses in a basic white dhoti or nice sari. (May wear tilaka).
6) Refrains from intoxicants
(though some might still drink coffee or tea, etc.)
7) Refrains from gambling.
Sadaka devotee.... (Devotion)
1) Chants 8 - 12 rounds daily.
2) More pure vegetarian (no fast foods, etc.)
(Still not pure Vedic standards).
3) Has personal Temple schedule for attendance.
May go to classes.
4) Has more refined altar at home.
Tries some sort of morning program.
Offers worship of Deities in more ritual-form.
Learning important offering prayers, etc
5) Dresses in full regalia, as they wish.
Probably qualified to personally preach
to new attendees at the Temple.
6) No more coffee or tea (caffeine), etc.
There is more. Actually two more levels:
(More chanting, refined eating, offering,
attendance, devotion, etc.)
(Shelter of ISKCON Guru, but not initiated). One year successfully at this level to qualify for initiation. You are a Home-Bhakta or Temple-Bhakta (monk).
And THEN, of course, initiation.
* * *
Now it's been a long time since I've put these levels out to the public. When Krishna took everything away from me seven years ago, I lost all my works and papers regarding this. So this is from memory (with my personal insights added). So please don’t "officially" pick at me about this stuff.
Just know this, that with the above requirements laid out before you, start at the beginning and pick a level to reach for (or comfortably remain a Shraddhavan and try to be a full vegetarian). Pick a level you could live at for years to establish your personal practice. Of course, as you advance you should definitely advance in the four principles of no meat eating, no gambling, no intoxicants and celibacy or controlled married sex life.
Then, when you go to Temple and a nosy devotee bothers you with questions about your practice...
“Oh yes, prabhu, I am a Shraddhavan devotee."
“Sure prabhu, I've been a Sevaka devotee for ten years."
This Sacred Order of Shri Caitanya is a way for you to establish in your own heart and in front of the devotees, your consistent devotional standard, which cannot be criticized.
Also, if you are an initiated devotee who has fallen away, you can bring yourself back slowly.
Maybe you'll never chant 16 and do all 4 again, but you can find a comfortable standard in which to worship and serve Shri Krishna in your life.
* * *
One last note: Another reason I developed this concept is so that brand-new devotees in the Temple or as brand new regular attendees, who know very little of the Faith, -- Neophytes -- , will not attempt to disperse information they are not yet familiar with; or try to preach beyond their knowledge.
Often times I have seen brand-new devotees in the Temple or brand new congregants attempt to preach to visitors. Often the information is incorrect, misinterpreted, delivered poorly, or at best -- rough around the edges. As well, often, the neophyte is wearing full Krishna-Vaishnava regalia (which gives the impression that they are advanced or fully experienced in the Faith).
* * *
I hope this cures your fears of attending the Temple or spending time with Sri-Sri Radha-Krishna and their devotees.
All glories to Shrila Prabhupada!
All Glories to Shri-Shri Pancha Tattva!
All Glories to Shri-Shri Radha-Krishna!
All Glories to YOU!
vancha-kalpa tarubyas ca
KRPA-SINDHU bhyevas ca
Yours Sincerely, Rankin.