Srimad Bhagavatam 11.11.29-32 - Qualities of a Saintly Devotees (download mp3)
Gauranga Prabhu at ISKCON Chowpatty
kamair ahata-dhir danto
mrduh sucir akiñcanah
aniho mita-bhuk santah
sthiro mac-charano munih
amani mana-dah kalyo
maitrah karunikah kavih
ajñayaivam gunan dosan
mayadistan api svakan
dharman santyajya yah sarvan
mam bhajeta sa tu sattamah
The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: O Uddhava, a saintly person is merciful and never injures others. Even if others are aggressive he is tolerant and forgiving toward all living entities. His strength and meaning in life come from the truth itself, he is free from all envy and jealousy, and his mind is equal in material happiness and distress. Thus, he dedicates his time to work for the welfare of all others. His intelligence is never bewildered by material desires, and he has controlled his senses. His behavior is always pleasing, never harsh and always exemplary, and he is free from possessiveness. He never endeavors in ordinary, worldly activities, and he strictly controls his eating. He therefore always remains peaceful and steady. A saintly person is thoughtful and accepts Me as his only shelter. Such a person is very cautious in the execution of his duties and is never subject to superficial transformations, because he is steady and noble, even in a distressing situation. He has conquered over the six material qualities — namely hunger, thirst, lamentation, illusion, old age and death. He is free from all desire for prestige and offers honor to others. He is expert in reviving the Krsna consciousness of others and therefore never cheats anyone. Rather, he is a well-wishing friend to all, being most merciful. Such a saintly person must be considered the most learned of men. He perfectly understands that the ordinary religious duties prescribed by Me in various Vedic scriptures possess favorable qualities that purify the performer, and he knows that neglect of such duties constitutes a discrepancy in one’s life. Having taken complete shelter at My lotus feet, however, a saintly person ultimately renounces such ordinary religious duties and worships Me alone. He is thus considered to be the best among all living entities.
Verses 29-31 describe twenty-eight qualities of a saintly person, and verse 32 explains the highest perfection of life. According to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, the seventeenth quality (mat-sarana, or taking complete shelter of Lord Krsna) is the most important, and the other twenty-seven qualities automatically appear in one who has become a pure devotee of the Lord. As stated in Srimad-Bhagavatam (5.18.12), yasyasti bhaktir bhagavaty akiñcana sarvair gunais tatra samasate surah. The twenty-eight saintly qualities may be described as follows.
(1) Krpalu. A devotee cannot tolerate seeing the world merged in ignorance and suffering the whiplashes of maya. Therefore he busily engages in distributing Krsna consciousness and is called krpalu, or merciful.
(2) Akrta-droha. Even if someone is offensive toward a devotee, a devotee does not become offensive in return. Indeed, he never acts against the interest of any living entity. One may argue that great Vaisnava kings, such as Maharaja Yudhisthira and Pariksit Maharaja, executed many criminals. However, when justice is properly administered by the state, sinful, destructive persons actually benefit from their punishment because they become freed from the severe karmic reactions to their illicit activities. A Vaisnava ruler gives punishment not out of envy or malice, but in faithful obedience to the laws of God. The Mayavadi philosophers who want to kill God by imagining that He does not exist are certainly krta-droha, or most injurious to themselves and others. The impersonalist imagines that he himself is supreme and thus creates a most dangerous situation for himself and his followers. Similarly, the karmis, who are dedicated to material sense gratification, are also killers of the self, because by their absorption in material consciousness they lose all chance of experiencing the Absolute Truth and the truth of their own self. Therefore, all living entities who come under the control of materialistic regulations and duties are unnecessarily harassing themselves and others, and a pure Vaisnava feels great compassion and concern for them. A devotee never uses his mind, body or words to perform any act harmful to the welfare of any living entity.
(3) Titiksu. A devotee forgives and forgets any offense against himself. A Vaisnava is personally detached from his material body, which is made of pus, stool, blood, and so on. Therefore the devotee is able to overlook the obnoxious behavior he sometimes meets with in the course of preaching work and always deals with people as a perfect gentleman. A Vaisnava loudly chants the holy name of the Lord and tolerates and forgives those fallen conditioned souls who are unable to reciprocate properly with a pure devotee.
(4) Satya-sara. A devotee always remembers that he is the eternal servant of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is omniscient, the reservoir of all pleasure and the ultimate enjoyer of all activities. By avoiding activities outside devotional service, a devotee remains fixed in the truth, does not uselessly waste time and thus becomes bold, powerful and steady.
(5) Anavadyatma. A devotee knows that the material world is a temporary phantasmagoria and therefore does not envy anyone in any material situation. He never tries to agitate others or criticize them unnecessarily.
(6) Sama. A devotee remains steady and equal in material happiness or distress, fame or infamy. His actual wealth is his consciousness of Krsna, and he understands that his real self-interest lies outside the scope of material nature. He does not become excited or depressed by external events, but remains fixed in consciousness of the omnipotency of Lord Krsna.
(7) Sarvopakaraka. Neglecting one’s selfish desires and working for the satisfaction of others is called paropakara, whereas causing trouble to others for one’s personal gratification is called parapakara. A devotee always works for the pleasure of Lord Krsna, who is the resting place of all living entities, and thus a devotee’s activities are ultimately pleasing to everyone. Devotional service to Lord Krsna is the perfectional stage of welfare work, since Lord Krsna is the supreme controller of everyone’s happiness and distress. Foolish persons under the influence of false egotism, considering themselves to be the ultimate well-wishers of others, execute superficial materialistic activities rather than attending to the eternal happiness of others. Because a devotee remains pure and engages in missionary activities, he is everyone’s best friend.
(8) Kamair ahata-dhi. Ordinary persons see all material things as objects for their personal gratification and thus try to acquire or control them. Ultimately a man wants to possess a woman and enjoy sex gratification with her. The Supreme Lord supplies the desired fuel that causes the fire of lust to burn painfully in one’s heart, but the Lord does not give self-realization to such a misguided person. Lord Krsna is transcendental and neutral, but if one is eager to exploit the Lord’s creation, the Lord gives one facility through maya, and one becomes cheated of real happiness by entangling himself in the false role of a great and lusty enjoyer of the world. On the other hand, one who has taken full shelter of Krsna is enriched with perfect knowledge and bliss and is not cheated by the seductive appearances of the material world. A pure devotee does not follow the path of the foolish deer, which is seduced by the hunter’s horn and killed. A devotee is never attracted by the sensuous entreaties of a beautiful woman, and he avoids hearing from bewildered karmis about the so-called glories of material acquisition. Similarly, a pure devotee is not bewildered by aroma or taste. He does not become attached to sumptuous eating, nor does he spend the whole day making arrangements for bodily comfort. The only actual enjoyer of God’s creation is the Lord Himself, and the living entities are secondary enjoyers who experience unlimited pleasure through the Lord’s pleasure. This perfect process of experiencing pleasure is called bhakti-yoga, or pure devotional service, and a devotee never sacrifices his auspicious position of steady intelligence, even in the face of so-called material opportunity.
(9) Danta. A devotee is naturally repelled by sinful activities and controls his senses by dedicating all his acts to Krsna. This requires steady concentration and a cautious mentality.
(10) Mrdu. A materialistic person will always see people as friends or enemies and thus will sometimes justify cruel or small-minded behavior in order to subdue his opponents. Since a devotee has taken shelter of Lord Krsna, he does not consider anyone his enemy and is never disturbed by the tendency to desire or enjoy the suffering of others. Thus he is mrdu, or gentle and sublime.
(11) Suci. A devotee never touches that which is impure or improper, and simply by remembering such a pure devotee, one is freed from the tendency to sin. Because of his perfect behavior, a devotee is called suci, or pure.
(12) Akiñcana. A devotee is free from possessiveness and is not eager to enjoy or renounce anything, since he considers everything to be Lord Krsna’s property.
(13) Aniha. A devotee never acts on his own behalf, but rather for the service of Lord Krsna. He is therefore aloof from ordinary, worldly affairs.
(14) Mita-bhuk. A devotee accepts material sense objects only as far as necessary, to keep himself healthy and fit in Lord Krsna’s service. He is therefore not entangled by his sense activities and never injures his self-realization. When necessary, a devotee can give up anything for Lord Krsna’s service, but he does not accept or reject anything for his personal prestige.
(15) Santa. Those trying to exploit the Lord’s creation are always disturbed. A devotee, however, is detached from such pointless activities and understands sense gratification to be diametrically opposed to his self-interest. Being always engaged according to the Lord’s desire, he remains peaceful.
(16) Sthira. Remembering that Lord Krsna is the basis of everything, a devotee does not become fearful or impatient.
(17) Mat-sarana. A devotee does not take pleasure in anything except serving Lord Krsna and is constantly attentive in the execution of his duties. A devotee knows that only Lord Krsna can protect him and engage him in useful work.
(18) Muni. A devotee is thoughtful and through intelligent contemplation avoids becoming distracted from his spiritual advancement. By intelligence he is freed from doubts about Lord Krsna and confronts all problems in life with steady Krsna consciousness.
(19) Apramatta. One who forgets the Supreme Lord is more or less crazy, but a devotee remains sane by offering his activities to Lord Krsna.
(20) Gabhiratma. As a devotee merges into the ocean of Krsna consciousness, his own consciousness becomes deeper and deeper; ordinary, superficial persons hovering on the material platform cannot fathom the extent of a devotee’s awareness.
(21) Dhrtiman. By controlling the urges of the tongue and genitals the devotee remains steady and patient and does not impulsively change his position.
(22) Jita-sad-guna. By spiritual knowledge, a devotee is able to conquer the pushings of hunger, thirst, lamentation, illusion, old age and death.
(23) Amani. A devotee is not puffed up, and even if he is famous, he does not take such fame very seriously.
(24) Mana-da. A devotee offers all respects to others, since everyone is part and parcel of Lord Krsna.
(25) Kalya. A devotee is expert in making people understand the truth of Krsna consciousness.
(26) Maitra. A devotee does not cheat anyone by encouraging them in the bodily concept of life; rather, by his missionary work a devotee is the true friend of everyone.
(27) Karunika. A devotee tries to make people sane and thus is most merciful. He is para-duhkha-duhkhi, or one who is unhappy to see the unhappiness of others.
(28) Kavi. A devotee is expert in studying the transcendental qualities of Lord Krsna and is able to show the harmony and compatibility of the Lord’s apparently contradictory qualities. This is possible through expert knowledge of the absolute nature of the Lord. Lord Caitanya is softer than a rose and harder than a thunderbolt, but these opposing qualities can easily be understood in terms of the Lord’s transcendental nature and purpose. One who is always able to understand the truth of Krsna consciousness, without opposition or confusion, is called kavi, or most learned.
The position of those on the spiritual path can be understood in terms of their development of the qualities mentioned above. Ultimately, the most important quality is to take shelter of Lord Krsna, since the Lord can award all good qualities to His sincere devotee. In the lowest stage of devotional service one acts with a desire to enjoy sense gratification but at the same time tries to offer the fruits to the Lord. This stage is called karma-misra bhakti. As one gradually purifies himself in devotional service, he becomes detached through knowledge and gains relief from anxiety. In this stage he becomes attached to transcendental knowledge, and therefore this stage is called jñana-misra bhakti, or devotional service to Lord Krsna with a desire to enjoy the fruits of transcendental knowledge. But because pure love for Krsna is actually the greatest happiness and the natural position of the living entity, a sincere devotee gradually overcomes his desire to enjoy sense gratification and knowledge and comes to the stage of pure devotional service, which is devoid of personal desire. Na karmani tyajed yogi karmabhis tyajyate hi sah: “The yogi should not give up his work, but rather should cultivate detachment by which his material activities will automatically vanish.” In other words, one should continue to perform one’s prescribed duties, even imperfectly. If one is sincere about advancing in Krsna consciousness, then by the strength of bhakti-yoga his activities will gradually be transformed into pure loving service.
There are innumerable examples of fruitive workers, mental speculators and materialistic devotees who became perfect by the strength of devotional service. By rendering loving service to Krsna, one automatically experiences the greatest pleasure of life and is endowed with perfect knowledge. There is nothing lacking in the process of pure devotional service, and there is no need for any extraneous endeavor to acquire sense pleasure or philosophical satisfaction. One must be completely convinced that simply by serving Krsna one will get all perfection in life. Even if one lacks some or all of the above-mentioned qualities, one should sincerely engage in Lord Krsna’s service, and gradually one’s character will become perfect. One who is a sincere devotee of Lord Krsna will develop all godly qualities by the mercy of the Lord, and one who is already serving the Lord with the above-mentioned qualities is to be understood as the greatest devotee. As indicated in verse 32, a pure devotee of the Lord is fully aware of the pious advantages of executing duties within the varnasrama system, and he is similarly aware of the harmful mistake of neglecting such duties. Still, having full faith in the Supreme Personality of Godhead, a devotee gives up all ordinary social and religious activities and engages fully in devotional service. He knows that Lord Krsna is the ultimate source of everything and that all perfection comes from Lord Krsna alone. Because of his extraordinary faith, the devotee is called sattama, or the best among all living beings.
As explained by Srila Rupa Gosvami in Upadesamrta, a devotee who has not yet developed the good qualities mentioned above but is nevertheless sincerely endeavoring for Krsna consciousness should receive the mercy of superior Vaisnavas. One should not necessarily accept intimate association with such an aspirant to pure devotional service, but one should be confident that by chanting the holy names of Krsna such a person will eventually attain all perfection. One can imagine the beauty of a society filled with saintly persons, as described in these verses. The wonderful Krsna conscious qualities mentioned above are the basis of a peaceful and prosperous society, and if everyone takes to the loving service of Lord Krsna, then certainly the present atmosphere of fear, violence, lust, greed and insanity can be replaced by a celestial situation in which all leaders and citizens will be happy. The essential points here are mat-sarana (“one should take full shelter of Lord Krsna”) and mam bhajeta (“one should worship the Lord through the authorized process”). In this way the entire world can become sattama, or most perfect.