In India, Vaishnavism, the path of devotional service to Lord Vishnu, is upheld by four authentic traditions—the Brahma Sampradaya, the Rudra Sampradaya, the Sri Sampradaya and the Kumara Sampradaya. Their teachings, though varied, overlap in essence. Whilst the neophyte spiritualists get distracted by the differences to the point of bigotry, the advanced spiritualists focus on the essence and consider the differences ‘the spice of spirituality.’
Recently, in December 2010, Radhanath Swami was in Sri Rangam, in South India. Though himself a follower of Brahma Gaudiya Sampradaya, a sub-branch of the Brahma Sampradaya, he had taken five thousand of his followers on a pilgrimage to this spiritual sanctuary which is considered the head quarters of the Sri Sampradaya.
Brahma Sampradaya and Sri Sampradaya, the two streams of Vaishnavism! Whilst his followers groped for their confluence intellectually, Radhanath Swami floated in the confluence—being inspired divinely.
One afternoon, at Sri Rangam, Radhanath Swami spent a half hour in front of the main altar of Sri Rangam temple. On the altar reclined a stone figure of the deity Ranganath, Lord Vishnu, adorned with embroidered silks and glittering with gold and precious jewels. In majesty, the priests of Sri Sampradaya worshipped Ranganath, the Lord of Vaikuntha. Since the followers of Brahma Gaudiya Sampradaya prefer to see the Lord in his form of Krishna, the cowherd boy of Vridavan, adorned primarily with flowers and leaves and worshiped in simple devotion, I wondered as to what transpired in Radhanath Swami’s consciousness.
Later that afternoon, Radhanath Swami took a bath in the holy Cauvery River and then returned to his room. In the evening, when he emerged out, the smile that bloomed with divinity on his visage was conspicuous. As I escorted him to the gigantic pandal tent where he was scheduled to discourse, he disclosed to me the pleasure of his heart, “As I was taking bath this afternoon, I spontaneously was singing aa jaoo giridhari (Oh Krishna, the lifter of Govardhan hill, please come!) Lord Ranganath inspired in my heart loving separation from Vrindavan.”