Three stages of Spiritual Life

Srimad Bhagavatam 11.18.20 - Three stages of Spiritual Life (download mp3)
by Braj Mohan Prabhu at ISKCON Chowpatty

SB 11.18.20
ekas caren mahim etam
 nihsangah samyatendriyah
atma-krida atma-rata
 atma-van sama-darsanah

Without any material attachment, with senses fully controlled, remaining enthusiastic, and satisfied in realization of the Supreme Lord and his own self, the saintly person should travel about the earth alone. Having equal vision everywhere, he should be steady on the spiritual platform.

One who remains attached to material sense gratification cannot be steady in the process of chanting Hare Krsna. Being shackled by illusory desires, he is not able to fully control the senses. Actually, one should take shelter of devotional service to Lord Krsna twenty-four hours a day, for by such service one remains within the scope of spiritual reality. By chanting and hearing the holy names of the Lord along with the Lord’s glories and pastimes, one naturally drifts away from the field of material sense gratification. Good association with Lord Krsna and His devotees automatically vanquishes useless material association, and one is able to carry out the Vedic injunctions meant to lift the conditioned soul out of the material field and onto the liberated platform of Krsna consciousness. In this regard, Srila Rupa Gosvami states in his Upadesamrta (4):

dadati pratigrhnati
 guhyam akhyati prcchati
bhunkte bhojayate caiva
 sad-vidham priti-laksanam

“Offering gifts in charity, accepting charitable gifts, revealing one’s mind in confidence, inquiring confidentially, accepting prasadam and offering prasadam are the six symptoms of love shared by one devotee and another.”

One who thus learns to associate with the Lord’s devotees actually remains insulated from the contamination of material life. By pure association one gradually understands the name, form, qualities, associates, pastimes and devotional service of Lord Sri Krsna, and thus even in this lifetime one can become a resident of the spiritual world. In the association of pure devotees there is no material contamination and no useless discussion, since all pure devotees are fully engaged twenty-four hours a day in the loving service of the Lord. By the influence of such devotees, one develops equal vision (sama-darsana) and sees the realized knowledge of Krsna consciousness everywhere. As one begins to understand his eternal relationship with Lord Krsna, he becomes atma-van, situated in his constitutional position. An advanced Vaisnava, constantly enjoying the mellows of loving devotional service and carrying out the mission of the Lord on the earth, is atma-krida, one who enjoys life within the internal potency of the Supreme Lord. The advanced devotee remains constantly attracted to the Supreme Lord and His devotees and is therefore atma-rata, fully satisfied by constant engagement in devotional service. One cannot possibly develop the exalted qualities mentioned here without becoming an unalloyed devotee of Lord Krsna. One who is envious of the Lord and His devotees becomes attracted to bad association, gradually loses control of the senses and falls down into the network of impious life. The innumerable varieties of nondevotees are like branches sprouting from the single tree of enviousness of the Supreme Lord, Krsna, and their association should be given up by all means.

Without unalloyed devotional service to the Lord, one loses touch with the desire and mission of the Personality of Godhead and becomes attracted to worshiping the wonderful male and female creations of the Lord’s illusory energy — demigods, demigoddesses, celebrities, politicians, prostitutes, etc. In this way, one foolishly considers something besides Lord Krsna to be supremely wonderful. Actually, Lord Krsna is the only true object of worship for those desiring to experience unlimited beauty and pleasure. By seriously taking to Krsna consciousness one can realize the transcendental position of Lord Krsna and gradually develop all of the qualities mentioned in this verse.

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