Qualities of a Pure Devotee
Srimad Bhagavatam 11.02.45(A) - Qualities of a Pure Devotee (download mp3)
by Gauranga Priya Prabhu at ISKCON Chowpatty
sarva-bhutesu yah pasyed
bhutani bhagavaty atmany
Sri Havir said: The most advanced devotee sees within everything the soul of all souls, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna. Consequently he sees everything in relation to the Supreme Lord and understands that everything that exists is eternally situated within the Lord.
In Bhagavad-gita (6.30) the Lord says:
yo mam pasyati sarvatra
sarvam ca mayi pasyati
tasyaham na pranasyami
sa ca me na pranasyati
“For one who sees Me everywhere and sees everything in Me, I am never lost, nor is he ever lost to Me.” Srila Prabhupada comments, “A person in Krsna consciousness certainly sees Lord Krsna everywhere, and he sees everything in Krsna. Such a person may appear to see all separate manifestations of the material nature, but in each and every instance he is conscious of Krsna, knowing that everything is the manifestation of Krsna’s energy. Nothing can exist without Krsna, and Krsna is the Lord of everything — this is the basic principle of Krsna consciousness.”
The qualification for seeing Krsna everywhere is stated in the Brahma-samhita (5.38):
santah sadaiva hrdayesu vilokayanti
yam syamasundaram acintya-guna-svarupam
govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami
“I worship the primeval Lord, Govinda, who is always seen by the devotee whose eyes are anointed with the pulp of love. He is seen in His eternal form of Syamasundara, situated within the heart of the devotee.” A devotee of the highest level of spiritual qualification is glorified for the expansiveness of his spiritual vision. For example, when the stalwart demon Hiranyakasipu questioned his self-realized son Prahlada Maharaja as to the whereabouts of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Prahlada, being a maha-bhagavata, or pure devotee, answered straightforwardly that the Supreme Lord is everywhere. The demoniac father then asked if God was in the pillar of the palace. When Prahlada answered yes, Hiranyakasipu, being a bona fide demon, struck the pillar with his sword, trying to kill God, or at least disprove His existence. Then Lord Nrsimhadeva, the most ferocious form of the Supreme Lord, immediately appeared and finished forever the illicit program of Hiranyakasipu. Thus Prahlada Maharaja can be accepted as an uttama-adhikari devotee.
A pure devotee is completely free from the tendency to enjoy things separately from the Lord’s service. He does not see anything in the universe as unfavorable, because he sees everything as the expanded potency of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Such a devotee’s purpose in existing is to give pleasure somehow or other to the Supreme Lord. Thus everything that a pure devotee experiences, moment by moment, increases his ecstatic loving desire to satisfy the transcendental senses of the Lord.
The three modes of material nature torment the conditioned soul, who absorbs his mind in the separated, material energy of the Lord. The function of this separated energy, bhinna prakrti, is to take the living entity away from the reality, which is that everything is within Krsna and Krsna is within everything. Being covered by gross ignorance, the bewildered conditioned soul believes that only the objects of his own limited vision actually exist. Sometimes such foolish persons speculate that if a tree falls in a forest with no one to hear it, there will actually be no sound. The conditioned souls do not consider that since the Supreme Personality of Godhead is all-pervading, there is no question of no one’s hearing; the Lord always hears. As stated in the Thirteenth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita (13.14), sarvatah srutimal loke: the Supreme Lord hears everything. He is upadrasta, the witness of everything (Bg. 13.23).
In this verse the word bhagavatottamah, “the most advanced devotee,” indicates that there are those who are not gross materialists but who are not the highest devotees. According to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, those who cannot properly distinguish between devotees and nondevotees and who therefore never worship the pure devotees of the Lord are to be known as kanistha-adhikaris, devotees on the lowest stage of devotional service. Such kanistha-adhikaris engage in worship of the Supreme Lord, especially in the temple, but are indifferent to the Lord’s devotees. Thus they misunderstand this statement by Lord Siva in the Padma Purana:
visnor aradhanam param
tasmad parataram devi
“O Devi, the most exalted system of worship is the worship of Lord Visnu. Greater than that is the worship of tadiya, or anything belonging to Visnu.” Srila Prabhupada comments on this verse, “Sri Visnu is sac-cid-ananda-vigraha. Similarly the most confidential servant of Krsna, the spiritual master, and all devotees of Visnu are tadiya. The sac-cid-ananda-vigraha, guru, Vaisnavas and things used by them must be considered tadiya, and without a doubt worshipable by all living beings.” (Cc. Madhya 12.38 purport)
Typically the kanistha-adhikari is eager to engage his materialistic qualifications in the service of the Lord, mistaking such material expertise to be the sign of advanced devotion. But by continuing to serve the Supreme Lord and the devotees engaged in propagating the Lord’s mission, the kanistha-adhikari also advances in his realization and comes to the stage of dedicating his activities to helping more advanced Vaisnavas. Even such kanistha-adhikaris can help ordinary living entities by their association, since at least the kanistha-adhikaris have faith that Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Because of this faith, the kanistha-adhikari gradually becomes inimical to those who are opposed to the Lord. As he gradually becomes more and more inimical to those who hate the supremacy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and becomes more attracted to friendship with other faithful servants of the Lord, the kanistha-adhikari approaches the second-class stage, called madhyama. In the madhyama stage the Vaisnava sees the Lord as the cause of all causes and the chief goal of everyone’s loving propensity. He sees the Vaisnavas as his only friends within this morbid world and is eager to bring innocent people within the shelter of Vaisnava society. Also, a madhyama-adhikari strictly avoids associating with the self-proclaimed enemies of God. When such an intermediate qualification becomes mature, the concept of supreme qualification begins to present itself; that is, one comes to the stage of uttama-adhikari.
A kanistha-adhikari guru, one who is simply attached to performing religious ceremonies and worshiping the Deity, without appreciation for other Vaisnavas, especially those who are preaching the message of the Lord, will especially appeal to persons interested in the dry cultivation of knowledge. As a living entity develops mundane piety, he proudly devotes himself to regulated work and nobly tries to detach himself from the fruits of his work. Through such regulated detached work, knowledge or wisdom gradually arises. As knowledge or wisdom becomes prominent, the pious materialist becomes attracted to altruistic and charitable work and gives up gross sinful activities. If he is fortunate, he then becomes favorable to the transcendental devotional service of the Lord. Desiring a mere intellectual understanding of devotional service, such a pious materialist may seek shelter at the feet of a kanistha-adhikari. If able to advance to the madhyama qualification, he then becomes attracted to a Vaisnava actively engaged in preaching Krsna consciousness. And when fully mature on the platform of intermediate devotion, he becomes attracted to the maha-bhagavata level and is awarded a glimpse of the exalted position of the maha-bhagavata spiritual master by the grace of Krsna within his heart. If one gradually goes on in the devotional service of the Lord, one becomes established as a paramahamsa maha-bhagavata. At this stage all of his actions. movements and engagements in preaching are dedicated solely to the satisfaction of Krsna. The illusory potency, maya, has no power to throw or cover such a purified living entity. In Upadesamrta (5) Srila Rupa Gosvami has described this stage of life as bhajana-vijñam ananyam anya-nindadi-sunya-hrdam.
A maha-bhagavata, being empowered by the Supreme Lord, Yogesvara, is endowed with the supernatural power to inspire and give success to the madhyama-adhikari who follows in his footsteps and to elevate a kanistha-adhikari gradually to the intermediate platform. Such devotional power springs automatically from the ocean of mercy found within the heart of a pure devotee. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura points out that a maha-bhagavata has no desire to inflict punishment on the enemies of the Lord. Rather, he engages the madhyama-adhikaris and kanistha-adhikaris in preaching work to purify the polluted mentality of the inimical souls, who are falsely imagining the material world to be separate from Krsna.
There are unfortunate living entities who are unable to understand the glory of a kanistha-adhikari within the realm of devotional service, have no praise for the more advanced state of intermediate devotion and cannot even begin to understand the most exalted stage, that of the uttama-adhikari. Such unfortunate souls, attracted to impersonal Mayavada speculation, follow faithfully in the footsteps of Kamsa, Agha, Baka and Putana and are thus killed by Sri Hari. In this way the community of sense gratifiers remains uninterested in service at the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord, and according to the individual perverted vision of so-called self-interest, each materialist chooses his own misfortune in the form of repeated birth and death in various types of material bodies. There are 8,400,000 species of material forms, and the materialistic living entities select the particular flavors of birth, old age, disease and death they wish to inflict upon themselves under the hallucinations of so-called material progress.
The analogy is given that a lusty man, being agitated by sexual desire, sees the whole world as filled with sensuous women. In a similar way, a pure devotee of Krsna sees Krsna consciousness everywhere, although it may be temporarily covered. Thus one sees the world just as one sees himself (atmavan manyate jagat). On this basis one may argue that the vision of the maha-bhagavata is also illusioned, since the Bhagavatam has already stated throughout that those conditioned by the three modes of material nature are not at all Krsna conscious but in fact are inimical to Krsna. But although the conditioned living entity may appear inimical to the Lord, the eternal, unalterable fact is that every living being is part and parcel of Krsna. Although one’s ecstatic love for Krsna may now be covered by the influence of maya, by the causeless mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead the conditioned soul will gradually be promoted to the stage of Krsna consciousness.
In fact, everyone is suffering the pangs of separation from Krsna. Because the conditioned soul imagines that he has no eternal relationship with Krsna, he is unable to ascertain that all his miseries are due to this separation. This is maya, or “that which is not.” Actually, to think that misery arises from anything other than separation from Krsna is to be in illusion. So when a pure devotee sees living entities suffering within this world, he correctly feels that just as he is suffering because of separation from Krsna, all other living beings are also suffering from separation from Krsna. The difference is that a pure devotee correctly ascertains the cause of his heartbreak whereas the conditioned soul, bewildered by maya, is unable to understand his eternal relationship with Krsna and the unlimited pain arising from neglect of that relationship.
Srila Jiva Gosvami has quoted the following verses, which illustrate the ecstatic feelings of the topmost devotees of the Lord. In the Tenth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.35.9) the goddesses of Vraja speak as follows:
vana-latas tarava atmani visnum
vyañjayantya iva puspa-phaladhyah
prema-hrsta-tanavo vavrsuh sma
“The creepers and trees of the forest, their branches weighed down by rich coverings of flowers and fruits, seemed to manifest Lord Visnu within their hearts. Exhibiting eruptions of ecstatic love upon their bodies, they poured down rains of honey.” Elsewhere in the Tenth Canto (Bhag. 10.21.15) it is said:
nadyas tada tad upadharya mukunda-gitam
alingana-sthagitam urmi-bhujair murarer
grhnanti pada-yugalam kamalopaharah
“Hearing the song of Lord Mukunda’s flute, the rivers then stopped their currents, although the minds of the rivers could still be ascertained from the presence of whirlpools. With the arms of their waves the rivers seized the two lotus feet of Murari, taking help from the lotus plants, and thus He became trapped in their embrace.” And in the last chapter of the Tenth Canto (10.90.15), the queens of Dvaraka pray:
kurari vilapasi tvam vita-nidra na sese
svapiti jagati ratryam isvaro gupta-bodhah
vayam iva sakhi kaccid gadha-nirviddha-ceta
“Dear kurari, now it is very late at night. Everyone is sleeping. The whole world is now calm and peaceful. At this time, the Supreme Personality of Godhead is sleeping, although His knowledge is undisturbed by any circumstance. Then why are you not sleeping? Why are you lamenting like this throughout the whole night? Dear friend, is it that you are also attracted by the lotus eyes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and by His sweet smiling and attractive words, exactly as we are? Do those dealings of the Supreme Personality of Godhead pinch your heart as they do ours?” Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura has also given mother Yasoda as an example of an uttama-adhikari, for mother Yasoda actually saw all living beings within the mouth of Krsna during the Lord’s Vrndavana lila.
Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura also points out in his commentary, atra pasyed iti tatha darsana-yogyataiva vivaksita, na tu tatha darsanasya sarva-kalikata. “In this verse the word pasyet, or ‘one must see,’ does not mean that at every moment one is visualizing the form of Krsna; rather, it means that one has reached the exalted platform of devotional service on which he is fit to see or is capable of seeing Krsna’s form.” If only those who constantly see the form of Krsna are to be considered uttama-adhikaris, then Narada, Vyasa and Sukadeva cannot be considered topmost devotees, since they do not always see the Lord everywhere. Of course, Narada, Vyasa and Sukadeva are considered to be on the highest standard of pure devotional service, and therefore the real qualification is tad-didrksadhikya, or having an overwhelming desire to see the Lord. Therefore the statement of Bhagavad-gita that a devotee should see Krsna everywhere (yo mam pasyati sarvatra) can be understood in terms of the example of a lusty man’s thinking that the world is full of beautiful women. Similarly, one should become transcendentally so desirous of seeing the Lord that one can perceive within the entire universe nothing but Krsna and His potency. Vasudevah sarvam iti. In Srila Prabhupada’s correspondence in 1969 with Professor J. F. Staal of the University of California, Srila Prabhupada claimed that all of his disciples who were strictly following the intense program of Krsna consciousness were in fact sudurlabha-mahatmas who were seeing vasudevah sarvam. In other words, if one is constantly engaged in Krsna consciousness with an intense desire to please the Lord and one day gain His association, it is to be understood that in one’s life there is nothing but Krsna. Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura has warned us, however, that a mere theoretical or academic understanding that Krsna is everything does not qualify one as a first-class devotee. One must actually have developed love for Krsna. Therefore it can be practically understood that anyone who enthusiastically adopts the Krsna consciousness program and eagerly participates in the preaching activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness is acting on the platform of a madhyama-adhikari devotee. When such a devotee becomes overwhelmed by his desire to serve Krsna and associate with the Lord, so much so that he is not attracted to anything else within the universe, he should be understood to be an uttama-adhikari Vaisnava, as mentioned in this verse.