Often times we are asked about our religious beliefs. This is to be expected, as we have touched upon the theme in our publications repeatedly, sometimes directly, other times more indirectly.
What follows is a brief outline of what we believe in and what it means to us.
We are both practicing Gaudiya Vaisnavas, meaning we follow the bhakti-marg, the path of loving devotion, as outlined by Sri Caitanya during India’s spiritual renaissance in the 15th century.
The doctrine Sri Caitanya taught is known as achintya-bhedabheda, the inconceivable simultaneous unity and difference between isvara (the infinite) and jiva (the infinitesimal).
The central tenet in Sri Caitanya’s teachings is that the natural position of the jiva is to be in an eternal loving relationship with isvara, but due to being covered by ahankara, false identification with this phenomenal realm, this understanding is lost. The connection can however be established by the mercy of sri guru and the vaisnavas, agents of divinity who make it their mission to enlighten those lost in this world of dualities.
After Sri Caitanya departed from this mortal world his teachings were elaborated upon and systematised by his closest followers known as the six Goswamis of Vrindavana. In addition to locating Sri Caitanya’s spiritual ecstasy on the scriptural map, the six Goswamis also practically demonstrated how to tread the bhakti-marg.
The core practice instituted by Sri Caitanya, and followed by Gaudiya Vaisnavas all over the world, is known as nama-sankirtan, chanting of god’s names. This chanting can be either congregational (kirtan) or private (japa).
Other practices include ahimsa, nonviolence; karuna, compassion; and vaisnava-seva, service to those who have dedicated their life to the path of bhakti.
The main texts that we study include Srimad Bhagavatam, Bhagavad-gita, Siksastakam, and Caitanya-Caritamrita and a number of texts commenting of expanding upon these.
In the 90’s both of us found ourselves drawn to the branch of hinduism known as Gaudiya Vaishnavism.
Kaisa was initially attracted by the practice of ahimsa, non-violence, where as Christoffer was drawn to the revolutionary and transforming aspects connected to genuine spirituality.
Christoffer first came in touch with bhakti in 1992, having acquainted himself with a variety of other philosophies and schools of thought. Coming from a punk rock background with strong diy-ethics he very quickly became an active member of the small congregation of devotees in Helsinki.
In the temple he proceeded to help out with everyday tasks while simultaneously studying the teachings and learning the various practice.
The joy Christoffer experienced having found his spiritual home soon awakened a desire in him to share with other all that he had learned. He thus began working on a publication in which he endeavoured to explain the teachings in his own words to those not familiar with the hindu conception.
Kaisa had become a vegetarian in the mid-90s and was impressed by the way bhakti yogis practiced compassion in their everyday lives through a nonviolent diet. In 1998 she met Christoffer and became interested in finding out more about the philosophical underpinnings of vaisnavism.
Living with a congenital disability and struggling with the question of theodicy Kaisa had grown dissatisfied with the answers her religious upbringing provided, and turned towards a nihilistic brand of atheism.
Studying the Bhagavad-Gita, the ancient discussion between Krishna and Arjuna and debating matters of honor, duty and devotion, Kaisa not only found the answers to the questions that had troubled her, but the the dialogue also opened the door to a realm much greater than she initially imagined.
The two of us were formally accepted into the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya lineage when we received harinama-initiation from Swami Bhaktivedanta Tripurari on the 10th of August 2003 at the Audarya monastery in California.
This initiation made us a link in a chain of teachers and students going back to eternity. At the time of initiation we were given the names Krishangi Dasi (Kaisa) and Kamalaksa Das (Christoffer) by which we are known in the vaisnava community.
In the summer of 2007 at a bhakti yoga retreat on Sandholmen in the Borgå archipelago on the southern coast of Finland we received mantra-diksa from Swami Bhaktivedanta Tripurari, and began the daily recitation of the gayatri prayers.
As a part of our practices we also aim to spend a month every year at Madhuvan, a vaisnava ashrama in the Costa Rican mountains, hearing philosophical discourses from our teachers and deepening our understanding of the teachings we adhere to.
We also regularly host small festivals at our home during vaisnava holidays and during kartik we have made it a tradition to daily sing the Damodarastakam prayers.