Click here to load whole tree
NITAAI-Veda.nyf > All Scriptures By Acharyas > Bhaktivinoda Thakura > Jaiva Dharma > Chapter-8

Chapter Eight

Nitya-dharma O Vyavahar

Eternal Religion and Ordinary Activities



     One afternoon, after honoring prasada, the Vaishnavas of Shri Godruma gathered in a secluded forest grove on the northeast side of Shri Gaura Lake. There Lahiri Mahashaya sang a song that awakened in them the ecstatic love of Vraja. He sang:



(gora) kata lila karile ekhane

advaitadi bhakta-sange   nacile e bane range


e hrada haite prabhu,   nistarile nakra prabhu,

krishna jena kaliya-damane




     "How many pastimes did Lord Chaitanya enjoy here with Advaita and the other devotees? Here He chanted the names of Lord Krishna and danced. As Lord Krishna rescued Kaliya, here our Lord rescued a crocodile."


     When the song was ended the Vaishnavas discussed the similar natures of Lord Krishna and Lord Chaitanya's pastimes. Then two or four Vaishnavas from Baragachi came there. They offered dandavat obeisances, first to Gaura Lake and then to the Vaishnavas. The Vaishnavas honored them and offered sitting places. In that secluded grove was an old banyan tree. Around its roots the Vaishnavas had built a stone platform. They all informed the visitors from Baragachi that the tree was honored with the name Nitai-bata (Lord Nityananda's banyan tree), for Lord Nityananda liked to sit under it.

     Sitting under Lord Nityananda's banyan tree, the Vaishnavas talked about spiritual life. Among the Vaishnavas from Baragachi was a youth who wanted to ask a question. He suddenly said, “I want to ask a question. Someone please answer it and make me happy."

     In that secluded grove lived Hari dasa Babaji, who was a very learned scholar. He almost never left that place. He was almost a hundred years old. On some rare occasions he would go to Pradyumna-kunja and meet with the paramahamsa babaji. He had personally seen Lord Nityananda sitting under that banyan tree. He had one desire. He wished that when he left his body it would be at that place. He said, "Son, now that the paramahamsa babaji's associates have assembled here, why should you worry about the answer to your question?"

     Then the Vaishnava from Baragachi asked his question. “The Vaishnava religion is the eternal religion. How should a person who has taken shelter of the Vaishnava religion act in relation to others. I wish to understand this very thoroughly."

     Glancing for a moment at saintly Vaishnava dasa Babaji, Hari dasa Babaji said, "O Vaishnava dasa, nowadays no one in Bengal is learned and devoted like you. You should answer this question. You had the association of Shrila Sarasvati Gosvami and you were personally taught by the paramahamsa babaji. You are thus very fortunate. You have certainly attained the mercy of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu."

     Saintly Vaishnava dasa Babaji humbly said, "O great soul, you personally saw Lord Nityananda, who is an incarnation of Lord Balarama. In the assembly of many great souls you taught many students. Please be merciful and give some instruction to us. All the Vaishnavas there begged Hari dasa Babaji to answer the question. The babaji at last agreed. After first offering dandavat obeisances to Lord Nityananda under that banyan tree, the saintly babaji began to speak.

     "Addressing them all as "servant of Lord Krishna", I offer my obeisances to every soul in this material world. It is said (Shri Chaitanya-caritamrita, Adi 6.85):



keha mane, keha na mane, saba tanra dasa



     "Some accept Him whereas others do not, yet everyone is Lord Krishna's servant."*


     "I place upon my head these words of the saintly devotees. Although every soul is by nature a perfect servant of Lord Krishna, some souls, because of ignorance or bewilderment, do not accept that they are His servant. They are one group. Other souls, however, do accept that they are His servants. They are another group. Thus, ion this material world the souls may be divided into two groups: 1. they who turn away from Lord Krishna, and 2. they who are eager to approach Lord Krishna. In the material world most of the souls prefer to turn away from Lord Krishna. many of these souls do not accept any religion. There is no need to say much about these persons. They have no idea what should and should not be done. For them their own personal happiness is the be-all-and-end-all of their lives. Persons who accept religion have an idea of what should be done. For their benefit, the great Vaishnava Manu has written (Shri Manu-samhita 6.92):



dhritih kshama damo 'steyam

     shaucam indriya-nigrahah

dhir vidya-satyam akrodho

     dashakam dharma-lakshanam



     "The ten features of religious life are: 1. patience, 2. forgiveness, 3. self-control, 4. honesty, 5. cleanliness, 6. sense-control, 7. knowledge, 8. wisdom, 9. truthfulness, and 10. freedom from anger."


     "Among these, six are features that benefit the performer. They are: 1. patience, 2. self-control, 3. cleanliness, 4. sense-control, 5. knowledge, and 6. wisdom. The remaining four are done for the benefit of others. They are: 1. patience, 2.. honesty, 3. truthfulness, and 4. freedom from anger. Devotional service to Lord Hari is not clearly mentioned in this list of ten features. These ten features of religious life are taught here for the benefit of ordinary people. It cannot be said that by faithfully following the teaching of this verse one will attain perfect auspiciousness, for Shri Vishnu-dharmottara Purana explains:



jivitam vishnu-bhaktasya

     varam panca-dinani ca

na tu kalpa-sahasrani

     bhakti-hinasya keshave



     "To live for five days as a devotee of Lord Vishnu is far better than to live for a thousand kalpas as a person who has no devotion for Lord Keshava."

     "They who are not devotees of Lord Krishna cannot be said even to be human beings. They who are not devotees are all counted as animals walking on two legs. It is said (Shrimad-Bhagavatam 2.3.19):




     samstutah purushah pashuh

na yat karna-pathopeto

     jatu nama gadagrajah



     "Men who are like dogs, hogs, camels, and asses praise those men who never listen to the transcendental pastimes of Lord Shri Krishna, the deliverer from evils."*


     "Here the question is not what these persons should or should not do. The question is only how should persons who have taken shelter of the path of devotional service act in relation to these persons. Of that I will speak. They who have taken shelter of the path of devotional service may be divided into three groups: 1. kanishtha (neophyte), 2. madhyama (intermediate), and 3. uttama (advanced). Although he has taken shelter of the path of devotional service, a neophyte is not yet a true devotee. He is described in these words (Shrimad-Bhagavatam 11.2.47):



arcayam eva haraye

     pujam yah shraddhayehate

na tad-bhakteshu canyeshu

     sa bhaktah prakritah smritah



     "A prakrita, or materialistic devotee, does not purposefully study the shastra and try to understand the actual standard of pure devotional service. Consequently he does not show proper respect to advanced devotees. He may, however, follow the regulative principles learned from his spiritual master or from his family who worships the Deity. He is to be considered on the material platform, although he is trying to advance in devotional service. Such a person is a bhakta-praya (neophyte devotee), or bhaktabhasa, for he is a little enlightened by Vaishnava philosophy."*


     "Thus one who faithfully worships the Deity of the Lord but does not faithfully worship the Lord's devotees, is a materialistic devotee (prakrita-bhakta). The conclusion, then, is that faith is the seed of devotional service. To faithfully worship the Deity of the Lord is to engage in devotional service. Still, if one does not also worship the Lord's devotees, his worship is not pure devotional service. His worship is not devotional service in its complete form. His worship is merely stepping into the entrance of the house of devotional service. The scriptures (Shrimad-Bhagavatam 10.84.13) explain:



yasyatma-buddhih kunape tri-dhatuke

     sva-dhih kalatradishu bhauma ijya-dhih

yat tirtha-buddhih salile na karhicij

     janeshv abhijneshu sa eva go-kharah



     "A human being who identifies this body made of three elements with the self, who considers the by-products of the body to be his kinsmen, who considers the land of birth as worshipable, and who goes to the place of pilgrimage simply to take a bath, rather than meet men of transcendental knowledge there, is to be considered as an ass or a cow."*


     "The meaning is this: Although in the beginning devotional service consists of worship of the Deity and nothing else, and although dry, materialistic logic is not recommended, for it crushes the heart into powder, it is nevertheless necessary that one understand that the Deity of the Lord and service to the Deity are pure and spiritual. All living entities in the material world are spiritual by nature. Among these living entities they who are devotees of Lord Krishna especially manifest their pure and spiritual nature. The devotee and Lord Krishna are two different pure and spiritual identities. To understand their true spiritual natures one must understand the relationships between the material world, the individual soul and Lord Krishna. A person who understand these relationships and simultaneously worships the Deity of Lord Krishna and serves the Lord's devotees acts rightly. When one faithfully worships the spiritual truth in this way, it is said that he has "faith in the scriptures". A person who worships the Deity of the Lord but does not understand the relationships that exist between the various spiritual entities has only a materialistic kind of faith. Although he stands at the entrance to the house of devotional service, his service is not pure devotional service. That is the conclusion. A person thus standing at the entrance to the house of devotional service is described in these words of the scriptures:




     vishnu-puja-paro narah

vaishnavo 'bhihito 'bhijnair

     itaro 'smad avaishnavah



     "A person who has accepted a Vaishnava initiation and who devotedly worships Lord Vishnu is said by the wise to be a Vaishnava. All others are not Vaishnavas."


     "Persons born in families who generation after generation are initiated by their family priest in the chanting of Vishnu-mantras, and who thus worship the Deity of the Lord with materialistic faith are neophyte (kanishtha) or materialistic devotees. They are not pure devotees. Over them the shadow of devotional service is strongly cast. However, the reflection of devotional service is not manifested in them, for the reflection of devotional service is counted among the offenses. Therefore they who possess this reflection are not Vaishnavas. However, from the shadow of devotional service may come a great good fortune, for such a neophyte devotee may gradually become an intermediate (madhyama) and eventually and advanced (uttama) devotee.

     However that may be, persons at that stage of spiritual advancement are not yet pure devotees. They may worship the Deity of the Lord with material faith and they may manifest the ten signs of piety in dealing with ordinary persons. Still, the scriptures' descriptions of the devotees' ways are not meant to describe them. To convert non-devotees into devotees is not in their power. The ways of the intermediate (madhyama) devotees are described in these words (Shrimad-Bhagavatam 11.2.46):



ishvare tad-adhineshu

     balisheshu dvishatsu ca


     yah karoti sa madhyamah



     "An intermediate, second-class devotee shows love for the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is friendly to all devotees, and is very merciful to neophytes and ignorant people. The intermediate devotee neglects those who are envious of devotional service."*


     "The behavior described in this verse is the behavior of one who follows the eternal religion. Temporary or material activities are not described here. In a Vaishnava's life such behavior must be followed. Other kinds of behavior, as long as they do not contradict this behavior, may be adopted when necessary.

     "A Vaishnava relates to four kinds of persons: 1. the Supreme Personality of Godhead, 2. the devotees, who are surrendered to the Lord, 3. innocent persons, and 4. they who are enemies of devotional service. To these four kinds of persons a Vaishnava shows love, friendship, mercy, and neglect. To the Supreme Personality of Godhead he shows love, to the devotees he shows friendship, to the innocent people in general he shows mercy, and to persons filled with hate he shows neglect.

     "First he shows love to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. To Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the master of all, he shows love (prema). The word "prema" means “pure devotional service". The characteristics of pure devotional service are described in these words (Shri Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu):



anyabhilashitam shunyam


anukulyena krishnanu-

     shilanam bhaktir uttama



     "One should render transcendental loving service to the Supreme Lord Krishna favorably and without desire for material profit or gain through fruitive activities or philosophical speculation. That is called pure devotional service."*


     "These words describe the devotional service of an intermediate (madhyama) Vaishnava, service that reaches up to the stages of ecstasy (bhava) and pure spiritual love (prema). By itself, without the addition of the qualities described here, worshiping the Deity of the Lord with faith is the activity of a neophyte devotee. This means that a neophyte devotee does not have the qualities of pure devotional service, which are: 1. being without desire for material profit or gain through fruitive activities or philosophical speculation, and 2. rendering transcendental loving service to the Supreme Lord Krishna favorably. However, on the day that these qualities are manifested in his heart, such a person may be called an intermediate (madhyama) devotee. That is how a materialistic devotee becomes an intermediate devotee. As long as these qualities do not arise in his heart, he is a materialistic devotee. This means that he is considered only a shadow of a true devotee or a shadow of a true Vaishnava. Here the word “krishnanushilanam" refers to spiritual love (prema). However, the word "anukulyena" refers to all four qualities of an intermediate devotee: 1. favorable love for Lord Krishna, 2. friendship, 3. mercy, and 4. neglect.

     "The second of these qualities is that one is friendly to the devotees, who are surrendered to the Supreme Lord. Any person in whom pure devotional service is manifested is considered a devotee surrendered to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Neophyte devotees are neither pure devotees nor are they surrendered to the Lord. Their tendency is to disrespect the true pure devotees. Therefore one should make friendship with intermediate and advanced devotees only. In answering a Kulina-grama devotee's question, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu described the neophyte, intermediate, and advanced devotees. He explained that the intermediate and advanced devotees are counted among the true Vaishnavas, whereas the neophyte devotees, who do not know anything beyond worshiping the Deity, are not yet true Vaishnavas. The true holy name of Lord does not appear on the mouths of such worshipers of the Deity. The name that appears on their mouths is only the shadow of Lord Krishna's holy name (chaya-namabhasa). Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu ordered the intermediate (madhyama) householder devotees to serve all three classes of devotees, the three classes being: 1. a person on whose mouth the holy name of Lord is heard even only once, 2. a person on whose mouth the holy name of Lord Krishna is heard always, and 3. a person the sight of whom inspires one to chant the holy name of Lord Krishna. One should serve all these three kinds of Vaishnavas. However, one should not serve a Vaishnava who chants only a shadow of Lord Krishna's holy name. One should serve only a Vaishnava who takes shelter of the pure holy name of Lord Krishna. As there are different kinds of Vaishnava, so there are different kinds of service to Vaishnavas. The {.sy 168phrase "making friendship" includes associating with Vaishnavas, conversing with them, and serving them. The moment one sees a pure Vaishnava one should greet him, honor him, and offered both a sitting place and conversation. One must serve him in all these ways. One should never hate, envy, or insult him. One should not disrespect him if his body is ugly or if he suffers from some disease.

     "The third of these qualities is that one is merciful to the innocent people in general. The phrase "innocent people in general" means "they who do not understand the spiritual truth", "they who are bewildered", and they who are foolish". Persons who are not educated, have not entered into the theories of the mayavadis and other offenders, have not learned how to hate devotees and devotional service, but, being overcome by powerful false-ego and false-possessiveness, do not yet have faith in the Supreme Personality of Godhead are called "the innocent people in general". Even if one is a great scholar, if he does not have faith in the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he is counted among the "innocent people in general". Even though he has approached the entrance to the house of devotional service, a materialistic neophyte devotee may also be counted among the "innocent people in general", for such a devotee has not yet attained pure devotional service and does not yet clearly understand his relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. When such a devotee understands his relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, associates with pure devotees, and chants the holy name with purity, then his status as one of the "innocent people in general" is thrown far away and he attains the status of an intermediate (madhyama) Vaishnava. For an intermediate Vaishnava it is absolutely essential that he be merciful to the innocent people in general. As far as possible he should invite them to his home. Even that is not enough. He should show mercy to such persons by helping them to attain faith in pure devotional service and attraction for the pure holy name of the Lord. Because they are not learned in the scriptures, the innocent people in general may easily fall down because of association with wicked persons. Therefore the intermediate devotee should mercifully give his association to the innocent people and gradually allow them to hear the glories of the holy names and the various teachings of the scriptures. A diseased person cannot cure himself. He must be cured by a physician. If the patient sometimes speaks angrily or commits other like offenses, he is to be forgiven. In the same way if an innocent person sometimes act improperly, he is to be forgiven. This is called mercy. An innocent person may have many misconceptions. He may have faith in the karma-kanda portion of the Vedas, faith in various non-devotional philosophies, an inclination to worship the Deity of the Lord in order to attain various material desires, faith in yoga and other like paths, disinterest in associating with pure Vaishnavas, or attachment to varnashrama and other like things. In this way he may have many different kinds of misconceptions. When by good association, mercy, and spiritual instruction he gradually gives up these misconceptions, the neophyte devotee quickly becomes an intermediate devotee. Then he is a pure devotee. His worship of the Deity form of Lord Hari was thus the foundation upon which he built the house of all spiritual auspiciousness. Of this there is no doubt. He does not make the mistake of trying to follow one of the myriad of competing philosophies. Because he does not make this mistake, he has a scent of true faith. When he worships the Deity of Lord Hari, a follower of the mayavadi philosophy or other like philosophies does not have even the slightest true faith in the Deity. Such a person is an offender. In is for this reason that Shrimad-Bhagavatam (11.2.47) describes him with the phrase “shraddhayehate" (He worships with faith). In their hearts the followers of the mayavadi philosophy and other like philosophies think, "The supreme spirit has no form. The Deity form that we worship is merely the product of our imagination." How can such persons have faith in the Deity form of the Lord? In this way the mayavadi's worship of the Deity and the most neophyte Vaishnava's worship of the Deity are very different. It is for this reason, that, even though he does not have the various virtues of a Vaishnava, al least he is not a mayavadi, that the neophyte is called a “materialistic Vaishnava". In this way he is considered a Vaishnava. By the mercy of saintly devotees, such a neophyte gradually becomes elevated. This is inevitable. Second class pure Vaishnavas are inevitably merciful to them. Then the neophyte devotee's worship of the Deity and chanting of Lord Hari's holy name do not remain shadows of the real thing. Quickly they manifest their true spiritual nature.

     "The fourth of these qualities is that one neglects hateful persons. One should understand the different kinds of hateful persons. Envy is a synonym of hatred. Hatred is the opposite of love. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is the only true object of love. The opposite of love for Him is hatred of Him. This hatred is manifested in five ways:


1. to not believe in the existence of the Supreme Personality of Godhead

2. to believe that the living entity himself has created God

3. to not believe that God has a form

4. to not believe that the individual souls are eternally subordinate to God

5. to be merciless


     "Persons contaminated by hatred do not have pure devotion. Neither do they have the materialistic devotion manifested by neophytes who worship the Deity. These five kinds of hatred bring with them, as a by-product, attachment to material sense gratification. It is sometimes seen that the third and fourth of these kinds of hatred may bring one to austerities so severe that one kills himself in the process. This is seen in the lives of the mayavadi sannyasis. How should a pure devotee relate to all these hateful persons? A pure devotee should avoid them.

     "Avoiding them does not mean that one should renounce all ordinary dealings one human being naturally has with another. It does not mean that if a hateful person falls into danger or want one should not try to help him. A householder devotee has many relationships with others. By marriage he has many relatives. By buying and selling various goods he has many relationships. By owning property and protecting animals he has many relationships. By acting to treat diseases and relieve other's sufferings he has many relationships. The king and his subjects have many kinds of relationships. Avoiding hateful persons does not mean suddenly renouncing all these different kinds of relationships. In ordinary material dealings one may have relationships with such persons, but in spiritual activities such persons should be shunned. As the result of past karma a family member may be such a hateful person. Should such a person be cast out of the family? No. Without becoming attached, behave with that person as is expected in ordinary dealings, but do not share that person's ideas of spiritual life. In this way one should avoid that person. Meeting for spiritual activities, conversing about spiritual activities, and helping and serving one another in spiritual life are the different kinds of spiritual association. To avoid such association is called “neglect of hateful persons". If he hears the praises of pure devotional service or teachings about pure devotional service, a person who accepts the philosophy of hateful persons will only argue needlessly. In this way neither he nor you will be benefited. Avoiding such barren debates, associate with him only in ordinary material things. If you say that you will consider such a hateful person among the innocent people in general and you will be merciful to him and thus benefit him, then I say you may very well harm both him and yourself. If you must try to do good to him, then do it very carefully.

     "An intermediate (madhyama) pure devotee should act in these four ways. If such an intermediate devotee is reluctant to act in these ways then he commits the fault of acting improperly, in a way he is not qualified to act. Thus he avoids acting properly, in the ways he is qualified. This is a great fault, as the scriptures explain:



sve sve 'dhikare ya nishtha

     sa gunah parikirtitah

viparyayas tu doshah syad

     ubhayor esha nirnayah



     "One who accepts the duties for which he is qualified is praiseworthy, and who who does not is subject to blame. That is the right conclusion."


     "Thus an intermediate (madhyama) devotee should perform the activities of pure devotional service, follow the scriptures, love the Supreme Personality of Godhead, make friendship with pure devotees, be merciful to the innocent people in general, and neglect persons who hate the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Different degrees of advancement in devotional service on the part of one's devotee friends may elicit different degrees of friendship. Different degrees of sincerity on the part of innocent persons may elicit different degrees of mercy. Different degrees of hatred on the part of hateful persons may elicit different degrees of avoidance. Considering these differences, an intermediate devotee should behave, in his spiritual activities, differently with different persons. Material activities should be performed honestly and they should be secondary to spiritual activities."

     Then Nityananda dasa from Baragachi asked, "What are the material activities of these devotees you have described?" Hari dasa Babaji replied, "Son, if you ask this question of me, then I cannot give a good explanation. I am an old man, my memory is short, my mind is not powerful, I easily forget."

     Hari dasa was a very strict babaji. No fault could ever be seen in him. Still, when this inappropriate question was asked, he gave this reply. When they heard his words, everyone was stunned.

     After again bowing down before the banyan tree of Lord Nityananda, Hari dasa said, "When his love and devotion become intensified, then an intermediate (madhyama) devotee becomes an advanced (uttama) devotee. The qualities of an advanced devotee are written in these words of Shrimad-Bhagavatam (11.2.45):



sarva-bhuteshu yah pashyed

     bhagavad-bhavam atmanah

bhutany bhagavaty atmany

     esha bhagavatottamah



     "A person advanced in devotional service sees within everything the soul of all souls, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Shri Krishna. Consequently he always sees the form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead as the cause of all causes and understands that all things are situated in Him."*


     An advanced (uttama) Vaishnava sees that the Supreme Personality of Godhead loves all souls and all souls love the Supreme Personality of Godhead. For an advanced devotee there is no other love. Whatever other kind of love he may manifest in different situations is all but a transformation of that spiritual love. Look. Shrila Shukadeva Gosvami is an advanced devotee. Still, he insulted Kamsa by calling him "the vicious sinner of the Bhoja dynasty". However, that insult was really manifested from love. It was based on spiritual love and there was not any malice in it. When pure love becomes his entire life, then a person is called "the best of devotees". In this state the differing degrees of love, friendship, mercy, and neglect described before are no longer manifested. Now everything is spiritual love. For such a person there is no difference between neophyte, intermediate, and advanced devotees. Indeed, for him there is no difference between devotees and non-devotees. Such a state is very rarely attained.

     A neophyte devotee does not serve Vaishnavas and an advanced devotee does not think that some persons are Vaishnavas and others are not. Therefore it is only the intermediate devotees who honor and serve Vaishnavas. An intermediate devotee must serve the three kinds of Vaishnavas: 1. he who once chants the holy name of Lord Krishna, 2. he who always chants the holy name of Lord Krishna, and 3. he who, simply by being seen, makes others chant the holy name of Lord Krishna. Thus Vaishnavas should be served according to the degree of their advancement, whether they are a good Vaishnava, a better Vaishnava, or the best Vaishnava. No one can judge who is a good Vaishnava and who is an intermediate Vaishnava. Only an advanced Vaishnava can understand that. If an intermediate (madhyama) Vaishnava tries to say this, he will commit an offense. Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu hinted this in His instructions to the residents of Kulina-grama. All intermediate devotees should honor that teaching more than even the Vedas. Someone may ask: What are the Vedas, or Shruti? The answer is given: The Vedas are the orders of the Supreme Personality of Godhead." After speaking these words, Hari dasa was silent for a moment. Then the visitor from Baragachi said, "May I ask a question?" Hari dasa Babaji replied, "As you like."

     Young Nityananda dasa asked, "Saintly babaji, what kind of Vaishnava am I? Am I a neophyte Vaishnava or an intermediate Vaishnava? An advanced Vaishnava I certainly am not."

     Saintly Hari dasa Babaji smiled and said, "Can a person who accepts the name Nityananda dasa not be an advanced Vaishnava? Our Nityananda is very merciful. Even when He is beaten, He gives love in return. How can words properly glorify a person who chants Lord Nityananda's name and becomes His servant.


     Nityananda dasa: I would like to know truthfully what my position is.

     Hari dasa: Son, tell me all about yourself. If Lord Nityananda gives me the power to say, I will tell you.

     Nityananda dasa: I was born in a lowly family in a village on the bank of the Padmavati. I was married at a young age. I did not learn how to be wicked. When I my wife died, thoughts of renunciation came to my mind. In Baragachi I saw many Vaishnavas who had renounced family life. Everyone was respectful to them. Desiring to be honored like that, and inspired by the temporary feeling of renunciation my wife's death brought, I accepted the garments of a Vaishnava renunciant. After some days wickedness came into my mind. My Vaishnava friend was a very good person. Now he stays in Vraja. He gave me good advice, protected mew with his good association, and kept my mind pure. Now my mind no longer wants to leave the right path. It likes to chant a hundred thousand holy names every day. I understand that the Supreme Personality of Godhead and His holy name are not different. Both are perfectly spiritual. I observe ekadashi according to the scriptures and I water tulasi. When the Vaishnavas sing the holy names together, I join in the singing. I drink the nectar water that has washed the Vaishnavas' feet. I read Shri Chaitanya-mangala. I do not desire opulent food and clothing. I do not like to hear gossip. When I see how the Vaishnavas are filled with ecstatic love, I also become ecstatic and I roll in the dust that has touched their feet. In spite of all this, to a certain extent I still desire fame. Now please tell me: To what class of Vaishnava do I belong? How should I behave?


     Showing a little smile, Hari dasa Babaji said to Vaishnava dasa, "You say. To what class of Vaishnava does Nityananda dasa belong?


     Vaishnava dasa: From what I have heard he has left the neophyte stage and become an intermediate devotee.

     Hari dasa: I also think that.

     Nityananda dasa: Good. From the mouth of a great soul I now know my true position. Please give your mercy to me, so I may gradually become an advanced devotee.

     Hari dasa: When you first accepted the garments of a sannyasi, you desired material fame. That inappropriate desire meant that then you were still fallen. In spite of that, the mercy of the Vaishnavas brought auspiciousness to you.

     Nityananda dasa: I still have a slight desire for fame. In my mind I think, "Bewildered by the tears in my eyes and many other symptoms of ecstatic love, the people will worship me."

     Hari dasa: You should struggle to renounce those thoughts. Don't keep thoughts like those. There is the danger they will diminish your devotional service. If you allow them to diminish your devotion, you will again become a neophyte devotee. Even after lust, anger, and other vices have left, the desire for fame may stubbornly stay with a Vaishnava. It does not go away very easily. A single drop of sincere love for the Lord is better than an elaborate pretense of that love.


     Touching the dust of Hari dasa Babaji's feet, Nityananda dasa Babaji said, "Please have mercy on me." Hari dasa at once embraced him and made him sit down. How wonderful is the result attained by a Vaishnava's touch! Tears streamed from Nityananda dasa's eyes. Taking a blade of grass between his teeth, he said, "I am very fallen and lowly. I am very fallen." Hari dasa Babaji embraced him and wept. How wonderful it all was! Nityananda dasa had attained the true goal of life. After a short time, when all the symptoms of ecstatic love had subsided, in his heart Nityananda dasa accepted Shri Hari dasa as his spiritual master. Then Nityananda dasa asked a question.


     Nityananda dasa: What are the primary and secondary features of a neophyte devotee's devotional service?

     Hari dasa: The two primary features of a neophyte devotee's devotional service are: 1. faith that the Supreme Personality of Godhead's form is eternal, and 2. worship of the Lord's Deity form. The secondary features of a neophyte devotee's devotional service are: 1. hearing about the Lord, 2. chanting the Lord's glories, 3. remembering the Lord, and 4. a host of other activities, beginning with offering obeisances to the Lord.

     Nityananda dasa: Without having faith that the Lord's form is eternal, no one can be a Vaishnava. Also, without worshiping the Deity form of the Lord according the rules of worship, no one can be a Vaishnava. I can understand why these two are the primary features. However, I do not understand why the other features are secondary.

     Hari dasa: A neophyte devotee does not understand the true nature of pure devotional service. Hearing and chanting the Lord's glories, as well as other like devotional activities are all part and parcel of pure devotional service. However, a person who does not understand the true nature of devotional service, does not think these are the primary activities of devotional service. Such a person considers these activities secondary. The three modes of material nature are: 1. goodness, 2. passion, and 3. ignorance. When the performer takes shelter of these material modes, he considers these devotional activities to be secondary. When the performer is free from the influence of the material modes, he considers these activities, which begin with hearing and chanting the Lord's glories, to be the primary features of devotional service. When a person is thus free of the material modes, he is a an intermediate (madhyama) devotee.

     Nityananda dasa: A neophyte devotee is still contaminated by mental speculation, fruitive work, and non-devotional desires. Why is he still considered a devotee?

     Hari dasa: Faith is the root of devotional service. Anyone who has faith is qualified to engage in devotional service. A neophyte devotee stands at the entrance to the house of devotional service. Of that there is no doubt. The word “faith" means "trust". Because he trusts that the form of the Lord is a reality, the neophyte devotee is qualified to engage in devotional service.

     Nityananda dasa: When will such a person attain true devotion to the Lord?

     Hari dasa: When he becomes free from mental speculation and fruitive work, when he desires only to engage in unalloyed devotional service, when he understands that honoring a guest is different from honoring a devotee, and when he desires to serve the devotees, that service being very conducive to the attainment of true devotion, then he becomes an intermediate (madhyama) devotee, a pure devotee.

     Nityananda dasa: Pure devotional service is manifested at the same time one attains knowledge of his relationship with the Lord. When does he attain knowledge of that relationship, knowledge that makes him eligible to engage in pure devotional service?

     Hari dasa: When he is no longer contaminated by mayavada philosophy, then his awareness of his true relationship with the Lord and his engagement in pure devotional service are manifested simultaneously.

     Nityananda dasa: How many days does that take?

     Hari dasa: A person who in the past performed many pious deeds will attain it quickly.

     Nityananda dasa: What is the first result these past pious deeds bring?

     Hari dasa: Association with devotees.

     Nityananda dasa: What result is gradually attained by associating with devotees?

     Hari dasa: Shrimad-Bhagavatam (3.25.25) explains:



satam prasangan mama virya-samvido

     bhavanti hrit-karna-rasayana-kathah

taj-joshanad ashv apavarga-vartmani

     shraddha ratir bhakitr anukramishyati



     "In the association of pure devotees, discussion of the pastimes and activities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is very pleasing and satisfying to the ear and the heart. By cultivating such knowledge one gradually becomes advanced on the path of liberation, and thereafter he is freed, and his attraction becomes fixed. Then real devotion and devotional service begin."*


     Thus, a person who, in the association of devotees, hears about Lord Hari, gradually attains faith and other virtues.


     Nityananda dasa: How does one attain association with devotees?

     Hari dasa: I have already explained that. It is by past pious deeds. It is said (Shrimad-Bhagavatam 10.51.53):



bhavapavargo bhramato yada bhavej

     janasya tarhy acyuta sat-samagamah

sat-sangamo yarhi tadaiva sad-gatau

     paravareshe tvayi jayate ratih



     "O my Lord! O infallible Supreme Person! When a person wandering throughout the universes becomes eligible for liberation from material existence, he gets an opportunity to associate with devotees. When he associates with devotees, his attraction for You is awakened. You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the highest goal of the supreme devotees and the Lord of the universe."*


     Nityananda dasa: If, in the association of devotees, a neophyte devotee worships the Deity of the Lord, can it be said that the neophyte devotee does not by that action also serve the devotees there?

     Hari dasa: By associating with devotees one gradually attains faith in the Deity form of the Lord. However, one must worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead and also serve His devotees. As long as one does not have faith in both the Lord and His devotees, one will not attain true faith and one will not be qualified to engage in pure devotional service.

     Nityananda dasa: Through what stages does a neophyte devotee pass as he makes spiritual advancement?

     Hari dasa: First he has faith in the Deity, but he has not yet lost the desire for material things and non-devotional talk. Every day he worships the Deity. Devotees come to visit the temple where he worships the Deity. He honors the devotees as he would any visitors. The neophyte devotee sees the activities of these more advanced devotees. He hears them discussing the scriptures and the Vaishnava philosophy. Thus hearing and hearing and seeing and seeing, he develops respect for the good character of the more advanced devotees. Then he himself gradually becomes purified. Gradually his interest in mental speculation and fruitive activities becomes less and less. Then his heart becomes purified and the material desires in it are thrown far away. Hearing and hearing about Lord Hari's nature and activities, he becomes learned in the scriptures. Studying again and again the truths that Lord Hari is beyond the touch of the material modes of nature, Lord hari's holy name is beyond the touch of the material modes of nature, and the devotional activities that begin with hearing and chanting the glories of Lord Hari are also beyond the touch of the material modes of nature, he gradually comes to understand the truth of his relationship with Lord Hari. When that understanding becomes perfect, he becomes an intermediate (madhyama) devotee of the Lord. Then he spontaneously associates with and serves the devotees. Then he can understand that the devotees who have accepted a spiritual master are different from ordinary guests.

     Nityananda dasa: Many neophyte devotees do not become advanced in this way. Why is that?

     Hari dasa: When his association with persons who hate devotional service is strong, he quickly loses the right to be a neophyte devotee. Then his interest in mental speculation and fruitive actions becomes strong. Sometimes the neophyte devotee neither makes advancement nor falls away.

     Nityananda dasa: When does that happen?

     Hari dasa: When the neophytes association with devotees and persons who hate devotional service is of equal strength. Then it is seen that he neither advances, nor does he fall away.

     Nityananda dasa: When does he definitely make advancement?

     Hari dasa: When his association with devotees is great and his association with persons who hate devotional service is small. Then he makes swift advancement.

     Nityananda dasa: What are the sins and virtues of the neophyte devotee?

     Hari dasa: In the beginning a neophyte devotee may be much like the mental speculators (jnanis) and fruitive workers (karmis). However, as he makes advancement in devotional service, his sins and defects are thrown far away. Then his desire to please the Supreme Personality of Godhead becomes strong.

     Nityananda dasa: O master, I have understood this description of the neophyte devotees. Now please describe to me the primary qualities of the intermediate (madhyama) devotees.

     Hari dasa: The primary qualities of the intermediate (madhyama) devotees are: 1. Unalloyed devotion to Lord Krishna, 2. friendship with persons who identify themselves as devotees, think "Krishna is my Lord", and visit holy places, and 3. mercy to the innocent persons who do not understand the truth, and 4. neglect of persons who hate devotees. The primary activities of the intermediate devotees are these: 1. By understanding the soul's relationship (sambandha) with Lord Krishna, and 2. by engaging in devotional service (abhidheya) to Lord Krishna, the intermediate devote 3. attains the highest goal (prayojana), which is the perfection of love for Lord Krishna. Without committing offenses, the intermediate devotees perform various kinds of devotional services in the association of other devotees, services that begin with the chanting of Lord Hari's holy name.

     Nityananda dasa: What are the secondary qualities of an intermediate devotee?

     Hari dasa: The way an intermediate devotee lives his life is his secondary quality. He lives in such a way that he obeys Krishna's will and he serves Krishna favorably.

     Nityananda dasa: Is he not able to sin or commit offenses?

     Hari dasa: In the beginning he may be a little prone to sin or offend, but gradually he throws these things far away. In the beginning these faults may be present, but in time they become completely destroyed. They become like chick-peas crushed into powder. Thus an intermediate devotee's life is characterized by appropriate renunciation (yukta-vairagya).

     Nityananda dasa: Are philosophical speculation (jnana), fruitive action (karma), and the desire for things outside the realm of devotional service not present even slightly in his life?

     Hari dasa: In the beginning there may the dim reflection of these things, but at the end they are torn up by their roots. In the beginning they may sometimes be visible, but in the course of time they are never seen again.

     Nityananda dasa: Do the intermediate devotees wish to continue living in the material world? If so, why?

     Hari dasa: They wish to continue living in the material world only so they may attain the perfect stage of pure devotional service. They do not wish to live in the material world for its own sake, nor do they do not wish to attain liberation for its own sake.

     Nityananda dasa: Why do they not wish for death? What happiness can they find in this dull and inert material body? By Lord Krishna's mercy will they not at once attain their original spiritual forms when they die?

     Hari dasa: They want whatever Krishna wants. If Krishna wishes that something happen, it will happen. They do not need to wish for anything independently.

     Nityananda dasa: Now I understand the qualities of an intermediate (madhyama) devotee. What are the secondary qualities of an advanced (uttama) devotee?

     Hari dasa: His only secondary qualities are the actions he performs with his body, actions impelled by pure spiritual love (prema) free from the material modes (nirguna). Therefore these actions cannot be seen as true secondary qualities.

     Nityananda dasa: O master, a neophyte (kanishtha) devotee does not renounce householder life, and an intermediate (madhyama) devotee may live either as a householder or a sannyasi. Is it possible for an advanced (uttama) devotee to remain as a householder?

     Hari dasa: These conditions are present in all the stages of devotional service. It is not that simply by remaining as a householder or by accepting sannyasa one becomes situated in a particular stage of advancement in devotional service. An advanced devotee may remain in householder life. The residents of Vrajapura were all householders. Yet they were all certainly advanced devotees. Many of Lord Mahaprabhu's personal associates were householders. They were also certainly advanced devotees. Ramananda Raya is the first proof of that.

     Nityananda dasa: O master, if an advanced devotee is a householder and an intermediate devotee is a sannyasi, how should they act in regard to each other?

     Hari dasa: The less-advanced devotee should offer dandavat obeisances to the more advanced devotee. This rule applies only to intermediate devotees. An advanced devotee is not very interested in things like offering obeisances. He sees the Supreme Lord present in the hearts of all living beings.

     Nityananda dasa: Should many Vaishnavas gather together to hold festivals and honor the Lord's prasadam?

     Hari dasa: Devotees often gather together. At these times householders who are intermediate devotee like to offer prasadam to the other devotees. From the spiritual point of view no one should object to this. However, it is not good to make a great pompous display of serving the Vaishnavas. That is in the mode of passion. Otherwise one should certainly offer prasadam to saintly Vaishnavas. In that way one honors the Vaishnavas. If one wishes to serve the Vaishnavas in this way, one should invite only pure Vaishnavas.

     Nityananda dasa: In my home place of Baragachi it is customary to honor the descendants of great Vaishnavas. Householders who are neophyte devotees invite them to honor prasadam. Is this proper?

     Hari dasa: Are these descendants of great Vaishnavas pure devotees?

     Nityananda dasa: I don't see pure devotion in all of them. They say they are Vaishnavas. Some wear the kaupina of a sannyasi.

     Hari dasa: How this custom started I cannot say. It is not right. This happens because a neophyte devotee does not have the power to understand who is truly an advanced Vaishnava.

     Nityananda dasa: Is it right to give special honor to the descendent of a great Vaishnava?

     Hari dasa: A Vaishnava should be honored. If the descendent of a great Vaishnava is himself a pure Vaishnava then certainly he should be honored according to the level of his own advancement in devotional service.

     Nityananda dasa: And if the descendent of a great Vaishnava is himself only an ordinary man?

     Hari dasa: Then he should be counted among the ordinary men. He should not be honored or counted among the Vaishnavas. Still, one should always remember Shri Mahaprabhu's teaching (Shikshashtaka 3):



trinad api su-nicena

     taror api sahishnuna

amanina mana-dena

     kirtaniyah sada harih



     "One who thinks himself lower than the grass, who is more tolerant than a tree, and who does not expect personal honor but is always prepared to give all respects to others, can very easily always chant the holy name of the Lord."*


     This means that one should be humble and give appropriate honor to all other people. To a Vaishnava one should give the honor proper for a Vaishnava. To one who is not a Vaishnava one should give the honor that one should give to every human being. A person who does not honor others is not qualified to chant the holy names of Lord Hari.


     Nityananda dasa: What kind of humility is appropriate?

     Hari dasa: One should not proudly think, "I am a great brahmana", "I am wealthy", "I am a great scholar", "I am a great Vaishnava", "I am a great sannyasi". One should not aspire to be honored by others. One should not think, "I should be honored, for I am exalted in many ways". Instead, one should think, "I am very poor and fallen. I am lower than a blade of grass".

     Nityananda dasa: From this I can understand that without being humble and merciful one cannot be a Vaishnava.

     Hari dasa: That is true.

     Nityananda dasa: Does the goddess of devotion (bhakti-devi) require humbleness and mercy from the devotees?

     Hari dasa: Devotional service is independent. Devotional service is beautiful by itself. It does not need to be decorated by good qualities. Those two virtues: humility and mercy, are not separate from devotional service. They are spontaneously included with devotional service. A person who has devotion to the Lord is naturally humble. He naturally thinks, "I a servant of Lord Krishna. I am poverty-stricken. I do not have anything. Krishna is my only treasure, my everything, the be-all-and-end-all of my life." When a person is situated in devotional service, his heart melts with love for Krishna. Because such a person sees all other living beings as servants of Krishna, his heart also melts with love for them. Thus he has mercy on them. In this way mercy is naturally included within devotional service. Forgiveness is situated between mercy and humility. In this way one thinks, “I am poor and fallen, how can I be qualified to punish others?" When this though joins with mercy, forgiveness is born. In this way forgiveness is also naturally included within devotional service. Krishna is eternal and real (satya), the individual spirit soul is eternal and real, the individual spirit soul's service to Lord Krishna is also eternal and real, and the individual soul's temporary sojourn in the material world is also real. In this way the relationship between the individual soul and Krishna, a relationship that is manifested as devotional service, is eternal and real. Therefore eternal spiritual reality, humility, mercy, and forgiveness are four things naturally included in devotional service.

     Nityananda dasa: How should a Vaishnava relate to persons of other religions?

     Hari dasa: Shrimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.26) gives this explanation:



narayana-kalah shantah

     bhajanti hy anasuyavah



     "Those who are serious about liberation are certainly non-envious, and they respect all. Yet they reject the horrible and ghastly forms of the demigods and worship only the all-blissful forms of Lord Vishnu and His plenary portions."*


     The Vaishnava religion is the only religion. There is no other religion but that. The other religions that are present in this world are either steps in the staircase leading to the Vaishnava religion, or else perverted reflections of the Vaishnava religion. When other religions are steps leading to the Vaishnava religion, these religions should be appropriately honored. When other religions are perverted reflections of the Vaishnava religion, one should ignore them, and without malice or envy, place his thoughts on the truths of devotional service. In this way one should avoid attacking other spiritual paths. When his auspicious day comes, the follower of another religion one will naturally become a Vaishnava. Of this there is no doubt.

     Nityananda dasa: Then one should not preach the Vaishnava religion?

     Hari dasa: One should preach in every way possible. Our Lord Mahaprabhu has given us all the duty to preach the Vaishnava religion. He said (Shri Chaitanya-caritamrita, Adi-lila 7.92 and 9.36):



naca gao bhakta-sange kara sankirtan

krishna-nama upadeshi' tara' sarva-jan



     "My dear child, continue dancing, chanting, and performing sankirtana in association with devotees. Furthermore, go out and preach the value of chanting Krishna-nama, for by this process You will be able to deliver all fallen souls."*



ata eva ami ajna dilun sabakare

jahan tahan prema-phala deha' jare tare



     "Therefore I order every man within this universe to accept this Krishna consciousness movement and distribute it everywhere."*


     However, keep this in mind: Unworthy persons must first be made worthy before you give them many instructions about the holy name. In certain situations one should remain silent. Do not give elaborate explanations in situations where your words become an obstacle to preaching.


     Overwhelmed with love by hearing saintly Haridasa Babaji's sweet words, Nityananda dasa began to roll about on the ground in ecstasy. Then all the assembled Vaishnava chanted the holy names of Lord Hari. They all offered dandavat obeisances to the saintly babaji. Then that day's meeting in the secluded grove came to an end, and everyone returned to his own place.