Eight Qualities to be aspired by Devotee
Srimad Bhagavatam 11.02.46(D) - Eight Qualities to be aspired by Devotee (download mp3)
by Damodar Prabhu at ISKCON Chowpatty
balisesu dvisatsu ca
yah karoti sa madhyamah
An intermediate or second-class devotee, called madhyama-adhikari, offers his love to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is a sincere friend to all the devotees of the Lord, shows mercy to ignorant people who are innocent and disregards those who are envious of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
According to Bhagavad-gita, every living entity within the material world is eternally a minute fragmental portion of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Mamaivamso jiva-loke jiva-bhutah sanatanah (Bg. 15.7). But because of the influence of maya the puffed-up conditioned souls become inimical to the service of the Lord and the Lord’s devotees, choose leaders among the materialistic sense gratifiers, and thus engage busily in a useless society of the cheaters and the cheated, a society of the blind leading the blind into a ditch. Although the community of Vaisnavas is sincerely eager to serve the conditioned souls by bringing them back to their constitutional position, by maya’s influence the materialistic living entity becomes hardhearted and rejects the mercy of the Lord’s devotees.
According to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, although a second-class devotee is eager to preach to the innocent conditioned souls, he should avoid the atheistic class of men so that he will not become disturbed or polluted by their association. Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura has confirmed that a Vaisnava should be indifferent to those who are envious of the Supreme Lord. It is practically seen that when such persons are informed of the glories of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, they attempt to ridicule the Supreme Lord, thus further deteriorating their polluted existence. In this connection Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura has quoted from the Tenth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.20.36):
girayo mumucus toyam
kvacin na mumucuh sivam
yatha jñanamrtam kale
jñanino dadate na va
“Sometimes in autumn the water falls down from the tops of the hills to supply clean water, and sometimes the water stops. Similarly, sometimes great saintly persons distribute clear knowledge, and sometimes they are silent.”
In this regard, Srila Jiva Gosvami has mentioned that although the first-class devotee of the Lord may at times exhibit apparent hatred toward the demons because of entering the mood of the Lord’s pastimes, the intermediate devotees should avoid such feelings. Furthermore, the intermediate devotee should not in any way associate with the powerful atheistic class of men, because there is danger that his mind will become bewildered by such association. According to Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, if a Vaisnava preacher encounters one who is envious of him, the preacher should remain far away from such an envious person. But the Vaisnava preacher may meditate upon ways to save the envious class of men. Such meditation is called sad-acara, or saintly behavior. Srila Jiva Gosvami has mentioned Prahlada Maharaja as an example of a saintly person. In Srimad-Bhagavatam (7.9.43) there is the following statement by Prahlada:
naivodvije para duratyaya-vaitaranyas
soce tato vimukha-cetasa indriyartha-
maya-sukhaya bharam udvahato vimudhan
“O best of the great personalities, I am not at all afraid of material existence, for wherever I stay I am fully absorbed in thought of Your glories and activities. My concern is only for the fools and rascals who are making elaborate plans for material happiness and maintaining their families, societies and countries. I am simply concerned with love for them.” Although a Vaisnava preacher constantly meditates on the welfare of all living entities, he will not associate with those who are unreceptive to the message of the Supreme Lord, Krsna. In this regard Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura states that even Bharata Maharaja, Vyasadeva and Sukadeva Gosvami do not exhibit their mercy indiscriminately.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura has given an elaborate explanation to prove that the discrimination employed by a madhyama-adhikari preacher does not at all show a lack of mercy. He states that upeksa, or neglect, as mentioned in this verse, is the proper medicine for those who are inimical to the Supreme Lord and His devotees. Indifference from the preacher checks feelings of hostility on both sides. Although there is a Vedic injunction that one should cut out the tongue of a person who offends the Supreme Lord and His devotees, in this age it is best simply to avoid potential offenders and thus prevent them from committing further sinful activities against the Vaisnavas. It is the duty of a Vaisnava preacher to point out the futility of any process besides surrendering to the Supreme Lord. An envious person, however, will resent such strong preaching by a Vaisnava and disrespect him, considering the devotee to be unnecessarily criticizing others. Such a person, who cannot appreciate the mercy of Vaisnavas, should be neglected. Otherwise, according to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, his cheating mentality will increase day by day.
Those who are not attracted to the sankirtana movement of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and who disrespect the faithful servants of Lord Caitanya, considering their strong statements about the sankirtana movement to be obstacles to their own worship of the Lord, will never be able to fix their minds on Krsna, but will gradually fall down from the path of devotion by confusing the external activities of the material world with the actual worship of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna. Such bewilderment has been expressed by the words bhayam dvitiyabhinivesatah syat.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura has strongly rejected those foolish persons who, under a plea of mercy and equal vision, perceive that a faithless person is also a devotee of the Supreme Lord and who thus try to thrust the hari-nama, or holy name of God, upon such offensive people. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta has stated, “When childish people think themselves maha-bhagavatas and act in defiance of the Vaisnava spiritual master, such behavior simply holds them back from receiving the mercy of the Vaisnava guru. Bewildered by false ego, these self-proclaimed devotees gradually become fit to be ignored by pure devotees on the intermediate platform and are cheated of the mercy that comes from the devotees’ satisfaction. Thus they become asadhu by constantly committing offenses against the devotees who preach the holy name of Krsna. Pure devotees, therefore, in all circumstances display indifference to those who falsely imagine themselves to be visuddha-bhaktas, or pure devotees of the Lord. This indifference is an excellent manifestation of their mercy.” In other words, those who criticize the Vaisnava preachers on the second-class platform for discriminating between those who are fit to receive the Lord’s mercy and those who are simply envious are misunderstanding the mission of the Lord. Krsna Himself states in Bhagavad-gita (4.8):
vinasaya ca duskrtam
sambhavami yuge yuge
“To deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I Myself appear millennium after millennium.” Even such a great Vaisnava as Sukadeva Gosvami, one of the twelve mahajanas in this universe, expressed his contempt for the evil Kamsa.
Srila Jiva Gosvami has pointed out that even though the maha-bhagavata devotee may act on the second-class platform for preaching, his rejection of the envious living entities does not obstruct his vision of the Lord as all-pervading. Rather, when a first-class devotee or even a second-class devotee rejects the atheistic class of men, he is expressing the mission of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. A first-class or second-class Vaisnava never actually becomes envious of another living entity, but out of intense love for the Supreme Lord he becomes angry when the Lord is offended. Also, understanding the Lord’s mission, he discriminates according to the position of a particular living entity. To consider such a Vaisnava preacher an ordinary, envious person, or to consider him sectarian because of his proclamation of pure devotional service as the most exalted of all methods of spiritual advancement, reflects a materialistic vision called vaisnave jati-buddhih or gurusu nara-matih. Such an offense drags the offender down to a hellish condition of life by the laws of nature.
According to Srila Jiva Gosvami, although a maha-bhagavata sees every living entity as a pure spirit soul, such a maha-bhagavata still experiences special ecstasies and other symptoms upon meeting another Vaisnava. This is not contradictory to his vision as a topmost devotee; rather, it is a symptom of his love for Krsna. A pure devotee sees every living entity as part and parcel of Krsna and therefore expresses his love for Krsna through love for all the expansions and creations of Krsna. Still, such a maha-bhagavata feels special ecstatic love upon seeing another living entity directly pleasing the senses of the Supreme Lord. Such feelings are manifest in the statement of Lord Siva to the Pracetas:
na svargam napunar-bhavam
martyanam kim utasisah
“If one by chance associates with a devotee, even for a fraction of a moment, he no longer is subject to attraction by the results of karma or jñana. What interest then can he have in the benedictions of the demigods, who are subject to the laws of birth and death?” (Bhag. 4.24.57) Similarly, Lord Siva also stated:
atha bhagavata yuyam
priyah stha bhagavan yatha
na mad bhagavatanam ca
preyan anyo ’sti karhicit
“You are all devotees of the Lord, and as such I appreciate that you are as respectable as the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself. I know that in this way the devotees also respect me and that I am dear to them. Thus no one can be as dear to the devotees as I am.” (Bhag. 4.24.30) Similarly, in the First Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.7.11) Srila Sukadeva Gosvami is mentioned as nityam visnu-jana-priyah, especially dear to the pure devotees of the Lord.
The wonderful loving dealings between Vaisnavas on the topmost platform are demonstrated in the pastimes of Caitanya-caritamrta. In other words, although a Vaisnava sees every living entity as part and parcel of Krsna, he must discriminate in his external behavior so as not to interfere with the original purpose of the Lord’s creation, which is to reform the living entities so that they can gradually come back home, back to Godhead. A pure devotee does not foolishly pretend equal vision and approach envious persons; rather, he respects the mission of the Lord, as stated in Bhagavad-gita (4.11) by the words ye yatha mam prapadyante tams tathaiva bhajamy aham.
On the other hand, if it is the Lord’s desire, a pure devotee can offer his respects to all living beings. For example, Srila Jiva Gosvami mentions that Uddhava and other pure devotees of the Lord were always prepared to offer respectful obeisances even to such persons as Duryodhana. Madhyama-adhikaris, however, should not imitate such uttama-adhikari behavior. In this connection, the distinction between madhyama-adhikari and uttama-adhikari is stated by Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura as follows: atra sarva-bhutesu bhagavad-darsana-yogyata yasya kadacid api na drsta. A madhyama-adhikari cannot at any time perceive the presence of the Supreme Lord within all living beings, whereas an uttama-adhikari, however he acts on the second-class platform to carry out the Lord’s mission, is aware that every living entity is ultimately a forgetful Krsna conscious living entity. Therefore, although a devotee may externally engage four different types of behavior, as mentioned in this verse — namely, worship of the Lord, friendship with the devotees, preaching to the innocent and rejection of the demons — he is not necessarily on the second-class platform, since an uttama-adhikari also may exhibit these symptoms to carry out the Lord’s mission. In this regard, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura mentions that it is the duty of the madhyama-adhikari to extend himself as the right hand of the uttama-adhikari, vowing to work for the benefit of others and offering to help in distributing love of Krsna.
Finally, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura has given a nice explanation of the difference between arcana and bhajana. Arcana refers to the platform of sadhana-bhakti, in which one serves the Lord to carry out the rules and regulations of the process. One who has achieved the shelter of the Lord’s holy name and is totally engaged in the attempt to serve the Lord should be considered to be on the platform of bhajana, even though his external activities may sometimes be less strict than those of the neophyte engaged in arcana. This apparent lack of strictness, however, refers to laxity not in the basic principles of sane behavior and renunciation of sense gratification, but rather in the details of Vaisnava ceremonies.