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Categories of Vows in the Gaudiya Vaisnava Culture

Two Major Divisions:

  • Primary Vows: Initiations
  • Secondary Vows: Marriage

Additional Sub-Divisions:

  • Unspoken Vows: Absolute obedience to Guru, Chastity for Woman, Celibacy in two asramas
  • Additional Vows: Haridasa Thakura & Srila Bhaktisiddhanta chanted one billion Names
  • Supportive Vows: Madhava Tithi, Ekadasi, Kartika vratas

We have first made a distinction between Primary and Secondary Vows.

What I call Primary Vows are those relating directly to the ultimate goal of life, to attain love of God or to return back to the spiritual world. They include;

Secondary Vows are vows that create a favorable situation for spiritual practices such as for example marriage according to spiritual principles, where sex life is only permitted in the marital relationship and then exclusively for procreation. Although such vows are sacred and based on the instructions of the Supreme Lord such as are found in the Bhagavad Gita, still they are here considered to be secondary, because by merely following these vows alone one can not attain the transcendental platform and not attain love of God nor return to the spiritual world.

In the current discussion on "Living with Vows" our central theme remains the ultimate goal of life and therefore our focus are the primary vows of initiation and the additional vows that enhance the practice of them.