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Long Journey to the True Inner Self – A Personal Reflection from Admin's blog

by Krishnasarana Bhakat (Edgar Faingor)

I am originally from Moscow, Russia, born in a non-religious family. From my early teenage years I was interested in spirituality, as I had pressing questions regarding the nature of our being, and the meaning of life. As Russia is historically and predominantly a Christian country, naturally at first I was exploring Christianity, and joined a course in a Catholic Church. Later on, I felt the need to study other spiritual paths, and therefore engaged in long-term studies of Hinduism and then Buddhism. While still in Moscow, I became interested in the teachings of Gaudiya Vaishnavism and  Vedanta, and visited the Hare Krishna temple as well as Ramakrishna Mission centre. I was also reading about Buddhism, and even-though the concept of the anatman (no-self) was always alien to me, the other aspects of Buddhism were indeed captivating, particularly its emphasis on compassion and equality of all beings.

As I really wanted to see Indian spirituality firsthand, in 2005 I travelled to Nepal. Unfortunately, I faced a somewhat discriminatory treatment in Pashupatinath temple, as I was denied admission to this holy place, due to not being a Hindu. This was a rather unexpected and painful experience to me, as I have always looked for equality and egalitarianism. Unable to recover from this traumatic experience, I switched my attention to Buddhism, which was open and welcoming. I joined some retreats both in Tibetan Buddhist tradition, as well as Southern Buddhism (Vipassana meditation). I also participated in some academic study programs in Kathmandu, where I was involved in teaching English language, and met my would-be wife, a Nepalese. We got married, and our son was born in 2010. We moved to Thailand, where I  joined the International Buddhist College to deepen my knowledge of Buddhism. Though practising and studying Buddhism with as much dedication as possible, time and again I felt some crucial things missing, particularly the clearly formulated idea of God and and also the devotional aspect. Most importantly, the notion of an eternal soul (spirit, atman) is absent in Buddhism. But for me this has always been a very significant and focal aspect, which has proven indispensable with time. As I did not want to hop from one religion to another, I was trying to put up with these disagreements, but the internal dissatisfaction was growing more and more within me.

In 2017 my family and I moved to Israel, as it is my second citizenship. I started exploring other spiritual traditions, particularly various Hindu denominations. Those were long years of reading, analysing, researching and communicating with teachers of a number of schools of Sanatana Dharma. From my very first encounter with Hinduism back in the late 90's, Bhagavad Gita was always the pivotal text, exhorting irresistible attraction on me, and its message deeply resonated with my internal feelings and understanding. Bhagavata Purana has also been truly magnetising, as the work akin to Bhagavad Gita, with its fascinating spiritual stories of pure devotion and surrender to the Absolute Truth. So naturally I was more interested in the schools of Hinduism which are based on, or guided by these two texts, which of course brought me closer to Vaishnavism. With further research and communication, it became very clear that most of the existing Vaishnava lineages are extremely demanding in terms of the required level of austerity, or at times very difficult to approach and join. Though having spent many years as a spiritual practitioner and truth seeker, I could never boast of any deep spiritual realisation or ascetic prowess –  I am a rather simple, common person, with multitude of weaknesses and limitations. So my search also required that the desired spiritual tradition be fit for such a commoner like myself.

Once, while I was rather heavily distressed by the inability to find such a lineage, I was going through a list of Vaishnava traditions in Wikipedia, and suddenly saw something I never knew of before: Ekasarana Nama Dharma, which was listed under "Other traditions". The name immediately drew my attention, as I understood that this was directly pointing to the famous sloka in the Bhagavad Gita (18.66), which always struck me as the core summary, the very heart and essence of complete devotion and surrender to the Lord. I vividly recall the excitement with which I was reading through the description of this tradition of Assamese Vaishnavism, and nodding my head in complete agreement to the doctrines of Ekasarana Nama Dharma. It was simply amazing and unbelievable: all what I myself held true was there in this formerly unknown spiritual tradition! Starting with the reduction of Vedic ritualism, continuing to its simple and accessible nature, and then the absolute focus and surrender to a single Supreme Reality, whose manifestations are equally true and valuable – all of these were just perfect, and completely balanced. I was truly elated by this at the time of first encounter, just as I am still elated at present! Even such more nuanced elements as the emphasis on the dasya mood of devotion and the sole focus on Lord Krishna as the only object of reverence were exactly what I hold proper and realistic for myself. Also the figure of Srimanta Sankaradeva, who is the founder of Ekasarana Nama Dharma, was appearing as a true saint and brilliant progenitor of Assamese culture – a grand person of the highest calibre. It was too good to be true, and yet it was indeed true...     

What followed was a very pointed investigation into the details of the doctrine of Ekasarana Nama Dharma, and searching for the contacts within the tradition. I was very fortunate to find the website www.sankaradeva.com, which brought me in contact with Dr Sanjib Kumar Borkakoti – an acclaimed scholar and author of a great number of books on Ekasarana Nama Dharma – who would very kindly and patiently answer my incessant questions. It took a year and a half of further research, contemplation and internal work for me to finally make sure that this is the path I wish to follow. Dr Borkakoti offered his most precious assistance in organising the Sarana ceremony for me, which took place on April 2, 2024, in Bali Satra, Koliabor. Hiro Prasad Mahanta Prabhu was exceptionally benevolent to me by officiating the Sarana, and also granting me a new Hindu name of Krishnasarana Bhakat. The ceremony itself was an unforgettable event which had – and is still having – the most positive and joyful impact on me on all levels. I am thus forever grateful to Dr Sanjib Kumar Borkakoti, Hiro Prasad Mahanta Prabhu and the wonderful devotees I met at the Sarana ceremony, as well as at Bordowa Than the next day. The kindness and friendliness of these wonderful people is perhaps the best indicator of the spiritual strength of Ekasarana Dharma, which I have never witnessed before in my years of living in Nepal and Thailand. May the light of the great tradition championed by Srimanta Sankaradeva be spread, and may all beings receive its liberating power!

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