Srimad Bhagavatam 11.02.47(C) - Lord's Form is not Limiting But Our Vision Can Be (download mp3)
by Gaura Hari Prabhu at ISKCON Chowpatty
arcayam eva haraye
pujam yah sraddhayehate
na tad-bhaktesu canyesu
sa bhaktah prakrtah smrtah
A devotee who faithfully engages in the worship of the Deity in the temple but does not behave properly toward other devotees or people in general is called a prakrta-bhakta, a materialistic devotee, and is considered to be in the lowest position.
Srila Madhvacarya comments that one in the lowest stage of devotional service faithfully worships the Deity in the temple but is not aware that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is actually all-pervading. This same mentality can be seen in the Western countries, where people commit all types of sinful activities in their homes and in the street but then piously go to a church and pray to God for mercy. Actually, God is in our home, God is in the street, God is in our office, God is in the forest, God is everywhere, and therefore God should be worshiped everywhere by the process of devotional service at His lotus feet. As stated in verse 41 of this chapter:
kham vayum agnim salilam mahim ca
jyotimsi sattvani diso drumadin
sarit-samudrams ca hareh sariram
yat kim ca bhutam pranamed ananyah
“A devotee should not see anything as being separate from the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna. Ether, fire, air, water, earth, the sun and other luminaries, all living beings, the directions, trees and other plants, the rivers and oceans — whatever a devotee experiences he should consider to be an expansion of Krsna. Thus seeing everything that exists within creation as the body of the Supreme Lord, Hari, the devotee should offer his sincere respects to the entire expansion of the Lord’s body.” This is the vision of the maha-bhagavata devotee of the Lord.
Srila Madhvacarya states that a madhyama-adhikari, a devotee in the intermediate stage, sees the Supreme Personality of Godhead as the cause of all causes and therefore offers his love to the Lord. Such a devotee is a sincere friend of other devotees, is merciful to the ignorant and avoids the atheists. Nonetheless, tad-vasatvam na janati sarvasya jagato ’pi tu: his realization of the all-pervading feature of the Supreme Lord is imperfect. Although he does have a general sense that everyone is ultimately meant to be a devotee of the Supreme Lord and he tries to use everything in the service of Krsna, aware that everything belongs to the Lord, he may be bewildered by association with atheistic men.
Srila Madhvacarya states, arcayam eva samsthitam/ visnum jñatva tad-anyatra naiva janati yah puman. A kanistha-adhikari has no idea that the Supreme Lord has the power to exist outside a church or temple. Furthermore, being puffed up by his own ceremonial worship (atmano bhakti-darpatah), a kanistha-adhikari cannot imagine that anyone is more pious or religious than he, and he is not even aware that other devotees are more advanced. Thus he cannot understand the madhyama or uttama standard of devotional service, and sometimes, because of his false pride, he criticizes the more advanced devotees of the Lord, neglects them or simply has no understanding of their exalted position as preachers or completely self-realized souls.
Another symptom of the kanistha-adhikari is that he is infatuated by the material qualifications of so-called great materialistic persons. Having a bodily concept of life himself, he is attracted by material opulence and thus minimizes the position of the Supreme Lord, Visnu. Such a kanistha-adhikari, therefore, is disturbed if a second-class devotee criticizes the nondevotees of the Lord. In the name of compassion or kindness, a kanistha-adhikari approves of the nondevotional activities of such materialistic men. Because the kanistha-adhikari is ignorant of the higher realms of devotional service and the unlimited transcendental bliss of Krsna consciousness, he sees devotional service merely as the religious aspect of life but thinks that life has many enjoyable and worthwhile nondevotional aspects. Therefore he becomes angry when second-class devotees, who are experiencing that Krsna is everything, criticize the nondevotees. Madhvacarya says that such a person, because of his rudimentary faith in Krsna, is considered a devotee, but he is bhaktadhama, a devotee on the lowest standard. If such materialistic devotees follow the rules and regulations of Deity worship, they will gradually be elevated to a higher standard and eventually become pure devotees of the Lord, unless they commit offenses against other devotees, in which case their advancement will be checked.
Srila Madhvacarya states, tad-bhaktanam upeksakah kuryur visnav api dvesam. Those who neglect or show indifference to the devotees of the Lord are to be considered offenders at the lotus feet of Visnu. Similarly, those who disrespect the demigods will become bereft of devotional service and be forced to rotate again and again within samsara, the cycle of birth and death. Pujya devas tatah sada: the demigods are always to be offered respect, since they are devotees of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If someone is envious of the demigods, he is to be considered envious of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Similarly, one who offers sincere respect to the demigods is considered to be respecting the will of the Supreme Lord. A Vaisnava does not foolishly think that there are many gods. He knows that there is one Supreme Personality of Godhead. But as stated many times in Srimad-Bhagavatam, the Lord has a mission within this material world, which is to reform the conditioned living entities through the cruel laws of nature. In the Lord’s mission within this world, the demigods are to be considered limbs of the Lord’s body. It is stated in Bhagavad-gita (7.20):
kamais tais tair hrta-jñanah
tam tam niyamam asthaya
prakrtya niyatah svaya
“Those whose minds are distorted by material desires surrender unto demigods and follow the particular rules and regulations of worship according to their own natures.” But there are many examples of devotees who worshiped the demigods to get benedictions for serving Lord Krsna. The gopis worshiped the demigods to achieve Krsna, and similarly Rukminidevi, on the day of her marriage, engaged in such demigod worship, her only goal being Krsna. Even today the preachers of the Krsna consciousness movement cultivate important people with all kindness and diplomacy so that such wealthy or influential people will engage their resources in the devotional service of Krsna to glorify Krsna all over the world. Similarly, offering all respects to the demigods so that they will give facility for the devotional service of Krsna is not against the bhakti-marga, although nowadays such demigod worship has also deteriorated. Therefore, Caitanya Mahaprabhu has recommended hari-nama sankirtana, chanting the holy names of Krsna, as the only realistic process for this age. Nonetheless, a devotee of the Lord should not misinterpret Bhagavad-gita’s injunctions against demigod worship as a license to offend the demigods, who are bona fide Vaisnavas.
Srila Madhvacarya notes,
visnor upeksakam sarve
vidvisanty adhikam surah
pataty avasyam tamasi
harina tais ca patitah
“All the demigods are extremely inimical to one who does not respect Lord Visnu. Such a person is pushed into the darkest regions by the Lord, as well as by the demigods.” From this statement by Srila Madhvacarya, the devotional sentiments of the demigods can be understood. It is stated that in the supreme liberation achieved by an uttama-adhikari, the most exalted devotee of the Lord, the devotee enjoys transcendental bliss in the direct association of the Supreme Lord and the demigods.
According to Srila Jiva Gosvami, since a kanistha-adhikari who cannot properly respect other devotees will certainly fail to offer respects to ordinary living entities who are not even devotees, a kanistha-adhikari is useless for practical preaching work unless he comes to a higher platform of understanding. Srila Jiva Gosvami says, iyam ca sraddha na sastrarthavadharana-jata. Because the kanistha-adhikari’s faith is not actually based on the statements of Vedic literature, he cannot understand the exalted position of the Supreme Personality of Godhead within everyone’s heart. Therefore he cannot actually manifest love of Godhead, nor can he understand the exalted position of the devotees of the Lord. Krsna is so glorious that Krsna’s intimate associates must also be glorious. But this is unknown to a kanistha-adhikari. Similarly, the essential qualification of a Vaisnava, which is to offer all respects to others (amanina manadena kirtaniyah sada harih), is also conspicuous by its absence in a kanistha-adhikari. If such a person, however, has faith in the Vedic literatures and tries to understand the statements of Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam, he will gradually be elevated to the second- and first-class stages of devotional service.
According to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, a kanistha-adhikari should very seriously engage in regulated worship of the Deity. The Deity is a particular incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Lord Krsna can present Himself before the worshiper in five different manifestations, namely His original form as Krsna (para), His quadruple expansions (vyuha), His pastime incarnations (vaibhava), the Supersoul (antaryami) and the Deity (arca). Within the Deity form (arca) is the Supersoul, who in turn is included within the Lord’s pastime forms (vaibhava). The Supreme Lord’s vaibhava-prakasa is an emanation from the catur-vyuha. This quadruple expansion of the Lord is situated within the supreme truth, Vasudeva, who Himself is situated within the svayam-prakasa-tattva. This svayam-prakasa consists of expansions of the ultimate svayam-rupa-tattva, the original form of Krsna within Goloka Vrndavana in the spiritual sky. This hierarchy of the expansions of the Supreme Lord in the spiritual world is realized even within the material world in terms of one’s eagerness to render service to the Lord. A beginner in the lowest stage of devotional service should try to dedicate all his activities to the satisfaction of the Lord and cultivate the worship of Krsna in the temple.
According to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, all the plenary expansions of the Supreme Lord mentioned above descend into this world and enter within the Deity, who exhibits the function of the Supersoul by accompanying the daily life of the Vaisnava. Although the vaibhava, or pastime expansions, of the Lord incarnate at specific times (ramadi-murtisu kala-niyamena tisthan), the Supersoul and Deity forms are constantly available for the spiritual advancement of the devotees in this world. As one comes to the madhyama-adhikari platform, one is able to understand the expansions of the Supreme Lord, whereas the kanistha-adhikari’s entire knowledge of the Lord is limited to the Deity. Nonetheless, Krsna is so kind that to encourage even the lowest class of Vaisnavas He condenses all of His various forms into the Deity so that by worshiping the Deity the kanistha-adhikari devotee is worshiping all the forms of the Lord. As the devotee makes advancement, he can understand these forms as they appear in their own way, both within this world and in the spiritual sky.
As long as one remains on the third-class platform, one has no transcendental appreciation of the blissful reality of the Supreme Lord’s paraphernalia and entourage. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was very pleased with King Prataparudra when the King, upon receiving an outer cloth from the Lord, immediately installed it as a Deity and began to worship it as being as good as the Lord Himself. Lord Siva himself has stated, tasmad parataram devi tadiyanam samarcanam. Worship of the paraphernalia, entourage or devotees of the Lord is even better than worship of the Lord, because the Lord is more pleased by worship of His devotees and entourage than by worship of Himself personally.
According to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, the inability of the kanistha-adhikari to appreciate the Lord’s devotees, entourage and paraphernalia indicates that such a materialistic Vaisnava is still affected by the speculative understanding of the karma-vadis and Mayavadis, those who are dedicated to sense gratification and impersonal speculation about the Absolute. Srila Prabhupada often said that only the impersonalist desires to see Krsna alone; we desire to see Krsna with His cows, His friends, His parents, His gopis, His flute, jewelry, forest scenery and so on. Krsna is gorgeous in the setting of Vrndavana. It is in the land of Vrndavana that Lord Krsna, surrounded by so many beautiful associates, manifests His exalted indescribable beauty. Similarly, the unique mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is exhibited in the activities of His pure devotees who selflessly travel around the universe distributing the dust particles from Krsna’s lotus feet on the heads of the conditioned souls. One who is uninterested in the Lord’s paraphernalia, entourage and devotees has a stunted conception of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This must be due to contamination from the impersonal and sensuous understandings of life.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura states that after hundreds of lifetimes of faithfully worshiping the Deity of Lord Vasudeva with external paraphernalia, one realizes the true nature of His transcendental name and mantras, and the bondage of one’s materialistic mentality slackens. In this way, as a kanistha-adhikari gradually comes to perceive the mental activities of a devotee and tries seriously to advance to a higher stage, his materialistic conceptions will go away of their own accord. He then exhibits loving service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead and makes friendship with the devotees who are the dearmost sons of the Lord, and by appreciating the universal quality of devotional service to Krsna he becomes very much eager to engage other innocent people in the service of the Lord. Further, as he begins to make significant advancement he becomes inimical to anything or anyone that hinders the progress of his devotional life, and thus he avoids atheistic people who cannot benefit by good instruction.
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness, founded by His Divine Grace Om Visnupada Paramahamsa Parivrajakacarya 108 Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, is so nice that anyone who helps this society immediately engages in preaching work for the Lord. Thus there is great facility for the members of this society to come quickly to the second-class stage of devotional service. If in the name of Krsna consciousness one gives up preaching and instead becomes interested simply in collecting funds for maintenance, he is showing a type of envy of other living entities. This is a symptom of the third-class platform. According to Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, verses 45 through 47 constitute the answer to King Nimi’s two questions “What is the nature of devotional service to the Lord?” and “What are the specific duties of the Vaisnavas?”