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Pure and Mixed Devotion
anirvacaniyam-beyond description; prema-of mature love of God; svarupam-the essential identity.
The true nature of pure love of God is beyond description.
Although Narada has been expertly analyzing bhakti from the beginning stages up to para bhakti, he now says that it is inexpressible. Bhakti is particularly inexplicable to unqualified persons. Until a person practices devotion with faith, how can he know of it just by inquiring from a sage? Sometimes when devotees would ask Shrila Prabhupada questions on subjects that were beyond their ability to understand, he would give the analogy of a small boy trying to understand sexual pleasure. Because the child is physically immature, he cannot know what sex is, but once he reaches puberty, he automatically understands. When I first began typing Prabhupada's manuscript of Teachings of Lord Chaitanya, I was curious about some esoteric aspects of para bhakti. Lord Chaitanya described that when a devotee reaches perfection, he chooses to follow a particular eternal resident of Vrndavana and learn of his own rasa from that resident. In March of 1967 I wrote to Prabhupada asking more about this subject. He replied as follows:
When we are in the perfect stage of devotional service, we can know our eternal relation with Krishna, and as such one of the associates of Lord Krishna becomes our ideal leader. This acceptance of leadership by one of the eternal associates of the Lord is not artificial. Do not therefore try it at present; it will be automatically revealed to you at the proper time.
It is not only immature young bhaktas who are barred from understanding para bhakti. This advanced stage of devotion is even beyond the ability of erudite scholars to fathom. Krishnadasa Kaviraja writes, "The pastimes of Lord Krishna are uncommonly full of transcendental potency. It is characteristic of such pastimes that they do not fall within the jurisdiction of experimental logic and arguments" (Cc. Antya 19.103). Rupa Gosvami echoes this statement: "The activities and symptoms of that exalted personality in whose heart love of Godhead has awakened cannot be understood even by the most learned scholar" (Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu 1.4.17).
To say that bhakti is inexpressible is not merely an evasive reply given to an outsider. In the higher stages especially, bhakti is inconceivable. The most intense expression of love of Godhead was displayed by Lord Chaitanya. As described in Chaitanya-charitamrita, Shri Krishna wanted to know the love that Shrimati Radharani felt for Him, and so He appeared as Lord Chaitanya. Lord Chaitanya's ecstatic feelings and expressions were recorded in notes kept by Svarupa Damodara Gosvami, memorized by Raghunatha dasa Gosvami, and related by Raghunatha dasa to Krishnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami. But in telling these pastimes in the Chaitanya-charitamrita, Krishnadasa Kaviraja confessed his limitations:
Even Anantadeva, who possesses thousands of mouths, cannot fully describe the ecstatic transformations that Lord Chaitanya experienced in a single day. What can a poor creature like me describe of those transformations? I can give only a hint of them, as if showing the moon through branches of a tree. This description, however, will satisfy the mind and ears of anyone who hears it, and he will be able to understand these uncommon activities of deep ecstatic love for Krishna. Ecstatic love for Krishna is wonderfully deep. By personally tasting the glorious sweetness of that love, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu showed us its extreme limits. [Cc. Antya 17.64-67]
Although prema-bhakti is beyond words, whatever can be conveyed by authorized devotees is appreciated by those who are sincere and faithful. Krishnadasa Kaviraja says,
Just try to hear these topics with faith, for there is great pleasure even in hearing them. That hearing will destroy all miseries pertaining to the body, mind, and other living entities, and the unhappiness of false arguments as well. [Cc. Antya 19.110]
A Vaishnava compares the pastimes of Lord Krishna or Lord Chaitanya to the unlimited sky. Many birds fly in the sky, but some fly higher according to their abilities. In the society of devotees, realized souls share their realizations, but no one presumes to describe all the qualities or pastimes of Krishna. Bhakti can therefore be partially expressed, but its totality is inconceivable and inexpressible. When Lord Chaitanya was about to teach Rupa Gosvami, He said,
My dear Rupa, please listen to Me. It is not possible to describe devotional service completely; therefore I am just trying to give you a synopsis of the symptoms of devotional service. The ocean of the transcendental mellow of devotional service is so big that no one can estimate its length and breadth. However, just to help you taste it, I am describing but one drop. [Cc. Madhya 19.136-37]
muka-of a mute; asvadana-the tasting; vat-like.
[Trying to describe the experience of pure love of God] is like a mute's effort to describe what he tastes.
Even a qualified devotee may not be able to put his exact experience of love of God into words. Language has its limits for conveying experience, but it may function like the branch of the tree that helps us locate the moon in the sky. In describing the gradual development of bhakti to Rupa Gosvami, Lord Chaitanya compared it to an intensifying taste of sweetness:
Gradual development of love of God may be compared to different states of sugar. First there is the seed of the sugar cane, then sugar cane, and then the juice extracted from the cane. When this juice is boiled, it forms liquid molasses, then solid molasses, then sugar, candy, rock candy, and finally lozenges. [Cc. Madhya 19.179]
Lord Chaitanya went on to describe the combination of devotional ecstasies known as sattvika and vyabhicari: "These tastes are like a combination of yogurt, sugar candy, ghee, black pepper, and camphor, and are as palatable as sweet nectar" (Cc. Madhya 19.182). There is nothing deceptive or incomplete in this language, and yet it is language-the branch pointing to the moon in the sky. After hearing of the taste of love of Godhead, a devotee should aspire for that love and practice devotional service so that he may taste it for himself.
Narada does not say that the subject matter of bhakti is something so vague and inconceivable that it can never be known or spoken of. His point is that the individual and ultimate experience is so wonderful that it is very hard to describe. One should not glibly say, "I know everything about love of Krishna." Although the gopis always chanted the glories of Lord Krishna, they were sometimes struck dumb. Shrila Prabhupada writes,
Spiritual feelings of happiness and intense ecstasies have no mundane comparison. Therefore it is very difficult to give expression to such feelings. We can have just a glimpse of such ecstasy in the words of Shri Narada Muni. [Bhag. 1.6.17, purport]
prakasyate kvapi patre
prakasyate-it is revealed; kva api-sometimes; patre-to a fit recipient.
Nonetheless, from time to time pure love of God is revealed to those who are qualified.
A maha-bhagavata devotee, or the Lord Himself, is pleased to find a fit candidate for understanding the inexpressible meanings of bhakti-yoga. The transference of knowledge in Krishna consciousness is, in one sense, very straightforward. Shrila Prabhupada used to criticize the story of a disciple who said that he received knowledge from his guru by a method similar to receiving an electric shock. Lord Krishna taught Arjuna by the process of question and answer, and one may still faithfully study Krishna's lucid words for enlightenment in bhakti-yoga. As always, therefore, the process of receiving the teachings of bhakti-yoga is to serve the spiritual master, inquire from him, and hear his parampara instructions.
And yet learning the science of bhakti-yoga is not an ordinary transference of knowledge, as when a professor writes lessons on a blackboard and his students write them down. Only if the spiritual teacher is actually potent and the students are purely receptive can the teacher plant the seed of bhakti (the bhakti-lata-bija) in their hearts. How that seed fructifies in a student's heart is not understandable by material calculations. Shrila Prabhupada writes,
Human reason fails to understand how by serving the devotee bhagavata or the book bhagavata one gets gradual promotion on the path of devotion. But actually these are the facts explained by Shrila Naradadeva, who happened to be a maidservant's son in his previous life. [Bhag. 1.2.18, purport]
Although the guru-disciple relationship is a subtle one, it can be understood by the standard qualifications of both persons. For example, although Narada was a young boy, the bhaktivedanta sages who visited his home found him a fit candidate, and so they blessed him. Narada recalls the incident:
Although they were impartial by nature, those followers of the Vedanta blessed me with their causeless mercy. As far as I was concerned, I was self-controlled and had no attachment for sports, even though I was a boy. In addition, I was not naughty and I did not speak more than required. [Bhag. 1.5.24]
The sages at Naimisaranya praised the speaker Suta Gosvami in a similar way:
And because you are submissive, your spiritual masters have endowed you with all the favors bestowed upon a gentle disciple. Therefore you can tell us all that you have scientifically learned from them. [Bhag. 1.1.8]
For realization of the most advanced spiritual knowledge, such as the pastimes of Lord Chaitanya, the devotee has to be extremely well qualified. As Krishnadasa Kaviraja says, "Unto one who is able to understand, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has shown mercy by giving him the association of the servant of His own servant" (Cc. Madhya 2.83). The spiritual knowledge Lord Chaitanya conveyed to Ramananda Raya was so completely out of the range of mundane vision that Lord Chaitanya said that "only a madman can understand it." Lord Chaitanya confided to Ramananda:
Please rest assured that I have nothing to hide from you. Even if I do try to hide something from you, you are such an advanced devotee that you can understand all My secrets.... The facts which I have disclosed to you cannot be understood by materialistic people. When they hear of this, they will simply laugh at Me. You can understand this yourself and keep it to yourself. [Teachings of Lord Chaitanya, p. 346]
In his later years, when Lord Chaitanya exhibited His pastimes of entering intensely into the mood of Radharani in separation from Krishna, He shared this rasa only with His most intimate devotees, such as Ramananda Raya and Svarupa Damodara. They could understand the Lord's moods, which sometimes produced displays of seeming madness and which ordinary words or behavior could not express. "Only a person on the level of Svarupa Damodara Gosvami can fully know what Lord Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu tastes in His love for Krishna" (Cc. Antya 18.22).
Narada Muni's point in this sutra is that even when bhakti cannot be expressed in words, its essence can be manifest by the ecstatic symptoms of one great soul and appreciated by other great souls. When Lord Chaitanya felt an ecstatic mood coming on but there were nondevotees present, He would try to restrain His outward manifestations of ecstatic love. For example, when Lord Chaitanya first met Ramananda Raya, they embraced and almost lost consciousness, overwhelmed by the ecstatic love of Krishna and the gopis. But some stereotyped, ritualistic brahmanas were present at that time, and they doubted the propriety of the interaction between the Lord and Ramananda. According to Krishnadasa Kaviraja, "While the brahmanas were thinking in this way about the activities of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Ramananda Raya, Lord Chaitanya saw the brahmanas and restrained His transcendental emotions" (Cc. Madhya 8.28).
We should not think that only a fixed number of intimate devotees can receive the bhakti-sakti, and that we are obviously not among the chosen. The acaryas advise us that if we keep striving, one day each one of us may uncover our original, dormant Krishna consciousness. Moreover, Lord Chaitanya surpassed all previous acaryas, bhaktas, and incarnations by very liberally distributing intimate love of God. Anyone who is receptive to the sankirtana movement of Lord Chaitanya can therefore be quickly elevated to the platform where he can understand the inexpressible experiences of bhakti-yoga. In appreciation for this liberality of Lord Chaitanya, Rupa Gosvami composed a prayer:
namo maha-vadanyaya krishna-prema-pradayate
krishnaya krishna-chaitanya namne gaura-tvise namah
"I offer my respectful obeisances unto the Supreme Lord, Shri Krishna Chaitanya, who is more magnanimous than any other avatara, even Krishna Himself, because He is bestowing freely what no one else has ever given-pure love of Krishna."
guna-rahitam kamana-rahitam pratiksana-vardhamanam avicchinnam suksma-taram anubhava-rupam
guna-material qualities; rahitam-devoid of; kamana-material desire; rahitam-devoid of; prati-ksana-at every moment; var-dhamanam-increasing; avicchinnam-uninterrupted; suksma-taram-most subtle; anubhava-consciousness; rupam-as its form.
Pure love of God manifests as the most subtle consciousness, devoid of material qualities and material desires, increasing at every moment, and never interrupted.
What passes for love in the material world often sounds and appears like bhakti, at least to those who are untrained in devotional service. But Narada Muni makes it clear in this sutra that bhakti is always different from material loving affairs.
The word guna-rahitam means "above the modes of nature." Narada has already mentioned this quality of bhakti in Sutra 47. Bhakti is not like any kind of behavior governed by the modes of ignorance, passion, or goodness. We should never think that Lord Krishna's pastimes with the gopis and cowherd boys are mundane. Krishna's pastimes are, in fact, the original activities of love, and whatever resembles love in any way within this material world comes originally from Krishna. As Shrila Prabhupada explains in Krishna, p. 27:
If there is any opulence within this material world, the cause of the opulence is Krishna. If there is any reputation within this material world, the cause of the reputation is Krishna. If there is any strength within this material world, the cause of such strength is Krishna. If there is any wisdom and education within this material world, the cause of such wisdom and education is Krishna. Therefore Krishna is the source of all relative truths. [Krishna, p. 27]
The word kamana-rahitam means "without selfish desire." This quality, too, has appeared before-in Sutra 27, where Narada said, "There is no question of lust in the execution of devotional service in pure love of God, because in it all material activities are renounced."
Unlike the pleasure that comes from exchanges of material so-called love, the pleasure of bhakti is pratiksana-vardhamanam (increasing at every moment) and avicchinnam (uninterrupted). This is the nature of the Lord's spiritual pleasure potency, known as hladini-sakti, which conducts the loving exchanges between Krishna and His devotees. In sex passion, satiation soon brings an end to the mounting feelings of pleasure, but in the loving exchanges between Krishna and His eternal associates there is an eternal competition, bringing ever-
increasing pleasure. Krishna is very pleased to see the beauty of His gopis, and when the gopis see that Krishna is pleased with them they become many times more happy, and this increases their beauty. In turn, this increases Krishna's beauty and pleasure. And so the devotee and the Lord enjoy loving exchanges, but without interruption.
Unlike mortal love affairs, in bhakti the love does not break by quarrel or death of one of the partners. Lord Chaitanya describes the bliss of sankirtana as anandambudhi-vardhanam, "increasing the ocean of transcendental bliss." Because the Supreme Lord is Himself ever increasing and always fresh, the devotee is never bored or unfaithful and is never cheated.
Bhakti is also suksma-taram, subtler than the subtlest thing. As described in the Bhagavad-gita (3.42): "The working senses are superior to dull matter; mind is higher than the senses; intelligence is still higher than the mind; and he (the soul) is even higher than the intelligence." So the subtle exchanges of loving emotion between the pure souls and their beloved Lord are completely unlike material love, which is really nothing but lust.
tat prapya tad evavalokayati tad eva srnoti tad eva bhasayati tad eva cintayati
tat-it; prapya-having obtained; tat-Him; eva-alone; avalokayati-one looks at; tat-Him; eva-alone; srnoti-one hears about; tat-Him; eva-alone; bhasayati-one speaks about; tat-Him; eva-alone; cintayati-one thinks about.
Having obtained pure love of God, one looks only at the Lord, hears only about Him, speaks only of Him, and thinks only of Him.
Lord Krishna describes this stage of perfection in the Bhagavad-gita (6.30),
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." Shrila Prabhupada writes,
Such a person may appear to see all the separate manifestations of the material nature, but in each and every instance he is conscious of Krishna, knowing that everything is a manifestation of Krishna's energy." [Bg. 6.30, purport]
This is samadhi, or trance, and whether one achieves it by the eightfold yoga system or by bhakti-yoga, it is the same. In the case of the bhakti-yogi, he is fixed in devotional service at all times, and whatever he sees contributes to his meditation on Krishna.
To help us understand pure Krishna consciousness, the acaryas give us examples of samadhi-like states, even in ordinary affairs. When a mother sees the shoes of her little child, she doesn't just perceive them as neutral objects: she feels protection and love for her child. Similarly, when a lover picks up his beloved's comb (especially if he is in separation from her) he may feel intense emotions of love. In the case of Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, everything is His energy. So wherever the bhakta goes or whatever he perceives throughout the universe, he is reminded of the Lord. Moreover, this recognition is not merely an intellectual habit but a total, overpowering state of love.
In his Brahma-samhita (5.38), Lord Brahma describes the devotional qualification for seeing Krishna always and everywhere:
santah sadaiva hrdayesu vilokayanti
yam syamasundaram acintya-guna-svarupam
govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami
"I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, who is Syamasundara, Krishna Himself, with inconceivable, innumerable attributes, and whom the pure devotees see in their heart of hearts with the eye of devotion tinged with the salve of love."
In his purport, Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati writes,
The eye of devotion is nothing but the eye of the pure unalloyed spiritual self of the jiva. The form of Krishna is visible to that eye in proportion to its purification by the practice of devotion.
What prevents most of us from seeing Krishna with eyes of love? We have a "cataract" on our eyes that consists of our material attachments. As Shri Krishna states,
naham prakasah sarvasya yoga-maya-samavrtah
mudho 'yam nabhijanati loko mam ajam avyayam
"I am never manifest to the foolish and unintelligent. For them I am covered by My internal potency, and therefore they do not know that I am unborn and infallible" (Bg. 7.25). Lord Krishna does not hide from us; He wants us to be with Him. He is like the sun that always blazes in the sky. No cloud is big enough to cover the sun, but from our earthly vantage point even a small cloud can block our view of the sun. In the same way, the clouds of our desire and hatred prevent us from seeing our beloved Lord and block us from enjoying the happiness and peace that come from serving Him. To realize Krishna consciousness, therefore, we have to rise above our upadhis, the false designations that make us think the body is the self and make us identify with our mental concoctions.
Narada is describing the ultimate stage of bhakti. This stage is rare, but one can achieve it by the mercy of the Vaishnavas who teach bhakti-yoga. One who reads the Vedic literature with a speculative attitude will never know Krishna. But we can attain His grace if we work in bhakti-yoga, guided by His representatives. Shrila Prabhupada writes,
When one is fully engaged in Krishna consciousness, beginning by chanting the maha-mantra-Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare-then only can one understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead. [Bg. 7.24, purport]
gauni tridha guna-bhedad artadi-bhedad va
gauni-secondary, mixed with the material modes; tridha-threefold; guna-of the material modes; bhedat-by the differentiation; arta-of the one who is distressed; adi-and so on; bhedat-by differentiation; va-or.
Secondary devotional service is of three kinds, according to which of the three material modes predominates, or according to which material motivation-distress and so on-brings one to bhakti.
It may seem as if we have been suddenly dropped from the heights. Narada has been describing the highest stage of Krishna consciousness, and now he is discussing secondary devotion. But Narada's course of instruction is well planned, practical, and realistic. He wants us to attain the higher stages, but, as Lord Krishna says, vasudevah sarvam iti sa mahatma su-durlabhah: "The great soul who can see Krishna everywhere is very rare" (Bg. 7.19). Narada is therefore bringing our attention to the anarthas within the minds and habits of aspiring bhaktas so that we can work toward the higher stages and not consider pure love of Krishna an unattainable dream. On the other hand, if one tries to jump to the higher stages as if such a leap were easy, that is another mistake (committed by the prakrta-sahajiyas), which causes a great disturbance to both oneself and society.
The preparatory stages of bhakti are called secondary devotion, and they are necessary for those who are still affected by the modes of nature. Lord Krishna describes the motivations for such secondary devotion in the Bhagavad-gita (7.16):
catur-vidha bhajante mam jana sukrtino 'rjuna
arto jijnasur artharthi jnani ca bharatarsabha
"O best among the Bharatas, four kinds of pious men begin to render devotional service unto Me: the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of the Absolute."
This Bhagavad-gita verse occurs just after Lord Krishna describes the four kinds of persons who never surrender to the Lord. Those who are devoted to the Supreme Lord, even while seeking to fulfill material desires, are called sukrtinah, or pious souls. Their good qualification is that they have turned to God. In the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (2.3.10), Sukadeva Gosvami encourages everyone, no matter what his present condition, to take up krishna-bhakti:
akamah sarva-kamo va moksa-kama udara-dhih
tivrena bhakti-yogena yajeta purusam param
"A person who has broader intelligence, whether he be full of all material desire, without any material desire, or desiring liberation, must by all means worship the supreme whole, the Personality of Godhead."
The sukrtis who are not yet on the platform of unalloyed devotion can be purified by association with pure devotees. Of course, if one remains stuck in this lower stage, then he will be discontented. What prevents a devotee from advancing is the desire for bhukti (enjoyment of material objects) or mukti (liberation). In the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu (1.2.22), Shrila Rupa Gosvami describes bhukti and mukti as two witches who haunt the conditioned souls and keep them from experiencing the bliss of bhakti. Actual devotional service is anyabhilasita-sunya, service rendered favorably to the Lord without desire for material profit or speculation (see Bhagavad-gita 7.16, purport).
The devotees who serve Krishna in order to satisfy selfish desires are called sakama-bhaktas. Those who serve purely, without such desires, are akama devotees. When a sakama devotee continues to render devotional service, the Supreme Lord turns him from a sakama- into an akama-bhakta. The devotee begins to realize that the taste of serving Krishna is the real goal and pleasure, and his desires for other things begin to dwindle. This auspicious change of heart occurs by the potency of Shri Krishna working through the process of bhakti. As stated in the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (5.19.27),
The Supreme Personality of Godhead fulfills the material desires of a devotee who approaches Him with such motives, but He does not bestow benedictions upon the devotee that will cause him to demand benedictions again. However, the Lord willingly gives the devotee shelter at His feet, even though such a person does not aspire for it, and that shelter satisfies all his desires. That is the Supreme Personality's special mercy.
Lord Krishna substitutes the nectar of His service for one's attraction to petty things. Who else could do this but the merciful and all-knowing Personality of Godhead? The stage of secondary devotion, therefore, is not meant for permanent residence; rather, it is an auspicious stage from which to go forward. Since any progress the conditioned soul makes toward the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord is favorable for him, secondary devotional service is not unimportant, just as the first steps a baby takes as he attempts to walk are crucial for his development.
uttarasmad uttarasmat purva-purvo sreyaya bhavati
uttarasmat uttarasmat-than each later one; purva-purvah-each earlier one; sreyaya bhavati-is to be considered better.
Each earlier stage should be considered better than the one following it.
Worship of the Lord in the mode of goodness (sattva) is better than worship in passion (rajas), and worship in the mode of passion is better than worship in ignorance (tamas). In His teachings to His mother, Lord Kapiladeva explains devotional service executed under the influence of the three modes:
O noble lady, there are multifarious paths of devotional service in terms of the different qualities of the executor. Devotional service executed by a person who is envious, hypocritical, violent, and angry, and who is a separatist, is considered to be in the mode of darkness. The worship of Deities in the temple by a separatist, with a motive for material enjoyment, fame, and opulence, is devotion in the mode of passion. When a devotee worships the Supreme Personality of Godhead and offers Him the results of his activities in order to free himself from the inebrieties of fruitive activities, his devotion is in the mode of goodness. [Bhag. 3.29.7-10]
In his purport to this passage, Shrila Prabhupada explains the key word bhinna-drk, meaning "possessed of a separatist vision":
The word "separatist" must be understood carefully.... A separatist is one who sees his interest as separate from that of the Supreme Lord. Mixed devotees, or devotees in the modes of passion and ignorance, think that the interest of the Supreme Lord is supplying the orders of the devotee; the interest of such devotees is to draw from the Lord as much as possible for their sense gratification. This is the separatist mentality.
Still, despite their separatist mentality, such mixed devotees are blessed, for if they begin executing devotional service under the guidance of teachers who are in pure goodness (suddha-sattva), they can be gradually elevated to pure bhakti. As stated in the verse previously quoted (Bhag. 2.3.10), all classes of worshipers are encouraged to turn to the supreme father, even with their material desires. In his purport Shrila Prabhupada writes, "As the unmixed sun ray is very forceful and is therefore called tivra, similarly unmixed bhakti-yoga of hearing, chanting, etc. (tivrena bhakti-yogena [SB 2.3.10]), may be performed by one and all, regardless of inner motive."
anyasmat saulabhyam bhaktau
anyasmat-than anything else; saulabhyam-ease of attainment; bhaktau-in devotional service.
Success is easier to attain by devotional service than by any other process.
Narada assures us that everyone can speedily advance by practicing bhakti-yoga-because it is the easiest way. This is an extremely important qualification, especially for us in the present age, the Age of Kali. As stated in the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (1.1.10),
prayenalpayusah sabhya kalav asmin yuge janah
mandah su-manda-matayo manda-bhagya hy upadrutah
"O learned one, in this iron age of Kali men have but short lives. They are quarrelsome, lazy, misguided, unlucky, and, above all, always disturbed."
The characteristics of the people of this age are all disqualifications for spiritual life. In previous millennia the human condition was much more favorable for spiritual advancement. In the Satya-yuga almost all people were in the mode of goodness, and society was peaceful and religious. At that time the recommended form of religion was meditation. The sage Valmiki is said to have meditated sixty thousand years before writing the Ramayana, and Kardama Muni meditated ten thousand years. As the millennia proceeded from Treta to Dvapara, human society degraded more and more. Five thousand years ago, when Lord Krishna recommended astanga-yoga to Arjuna, Arjuna rejected it, saying it was impractical and impossible for him. We should not maintain grandiose conceptions of what we are able to perform nowadays but should face the facts of our near-bankrupt condition of spirituality. "Here is the easiest path," says Narada, and we should grab at his offer as a drowning man grabs for a life raft.
Even in former ages, when more difficult processes were recommended, the goal was always bhakti, or devotion to the Supreme Lord. In this age the most accessible form of bhakti is sankirtana, or congregational chanting of the holy names of God. It is recommended as the yuga-dharma, or religion of the age. As stated in the Brhan-naradiya Purana, "In the Age of Kali no effective means of God realization is possible except the chanting of the holy names." The same thing is recommended in the Shrimad-Bhagavatam, where the nine sages known as the Yogendras declare that in Kali-yuga intelligent persons will take to the process of sankirtana. And Sukadeva Gosvami tells Maharaja Pariksit that the chanting of the holy names is the saving grace of this age:
kaler dosa-nidhe rajan asti hy eko mahan gunah
kirtanad eva krishnasya mukta-sangah param vrajet
"My dear king, although Kali-yuga is full of faults, there is still one good quality about this age: simply by chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, one can become free from material bondage and be promoted to the transcendental kingdom" (Bhag. 12.3.51).
In ignorance and defiance of the recommended yuga-dharma, unauthorized teachers make a business of teaching yoga and meditation. But since almost no one is qualified to practice the severe austerities of meditation, streamlined versions are taught, which are mostly a form of cheating. Even if a person seriously takes up the path of karma-yoga, jnana-yoga, or astanga-yoga, he will meet with many difficulties. For example, the jnani may become very attached to accumulating knowledge for its own sake, up to the point where he tries to merge with the Absolute Truth. The karma-yogi, or man of action, too often forgets to dedicate his activities to God and instead becomes attached to the fruits of his work or to fame. The astanga-yogis, if they are able to progress at all in the eightfold system, are liable to get sidetracked by the siddhis, or powers, that come to them. But bhakti, by its very nature, purifies one's senses, actions, and motives. Moreover, one doesn't have to go painfully and slowly through every single step on the yoga ladder from karma to jnana to bhakti. At any moment, whenever one decides to surrender, and wherever one gets the association of pure devotees, one can take the express elevator of bhakti-yoga. As Lord Krishna recommends,
daivi hy esa guna-mayi mama maya duratyaya
mam eva ye prapadyante mayam etam taranti te
"This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it" (Bg. 7.14).
pramanantarasyanapeksatvat svayam pramanatvat
pramana-means of valid knowing; antarasya-another; an-apeksatvat-because of not being dependent on; svayam-in its own right; pramanatvat-because of being a valid authority.
The reason devotional service is the easiest of all spiritual processes is that it does not depend on any other authority for its validity, being itself the standard of authority.
Pramana means proof. Vaishnava philosophers condense all the different types of pramanas into three: pratyaksa, anumana, and sabda. Pratyaksa means direct evidence by the senses. But since the senses are imperfect, pratyaksa often has to be corrected by higher knowledge. Anumana refers to deductive and inductive logic, which depends on the validity of its premises and reasons, and so cannot prove anything with final certainty. Sabda means receiving knowledge from authoritative sources. Vedic knowledge is sabda-pramana. This is particularly applicable to transcendental subject matter, which cannot be understood by the empirical and theorizing methods. Even in ordinary affairs, there are many things we have to accept on authority. We can learn the identity of our father from our mother, the only foolproof authority. Aside from the mother there is no way to know for sure who our father is. When the source of information is perfect, as in Vedic knowledge, then sabda-pramana, or sabda-brahma, becomes the ultimate proof. As Shrila Prabhupada states, "As far as the soul's existence is concerned, no one can establish his existence experimentally beyond the proof of sruti, or Vedic wisdom" (Bg. 2.25, purport).
Aside from the proof of sastra and guru, Narada has taught that the truth of bhakti is proven by one's directly experiencing its fruits in one's own life. In Sutras 31 and 32, Narada gives the analogy of how a man's hunger cannot be appeased just by looking at a meal. It is not enough to hear that a particular food preparation has a very sweet and delicious flavor. Even if you know all the dish's ingredients, that knowledge will not satisfy your hunger. In the same way, mere theoretical knowledge of God does not bring pleasure-either to God or to the individual soul. Bhakti has to be directly perceived. Shrila Prabhupada used to say that when you become Krishna conscious no one has to give you a certificate or diploma saying, "You are now Krishna conscious." You'll know it for yourself.
The potency of bhakti to purify one's heart is proved by the loss of material desires. Those who come to Krishna consciousness after years of sinful life know this proof very well. Their renunciation of meat-eating, intoxicants, and illicit sex is not an act of repression but is based on tasting a higher pleasure. And so bhakti is its own proof.
Nondevotees may ask for empirical proof: "Show us your Krishna. Prove that He is God. We want to see Him lift Govardhana Hill." But their demand for proof cannot be satisfied in that way. Lord Krishna reveals Himself in His original form only to His devotees:
naham prakasah sarvasya yoga-maya-samavrtah
mudho 'yam nabhijanati loko mam ajam avyayam
"I am never manifest to the foolish and unintelligent. For them I am covered by My internal potency, and therefore they do not know that I am unborn and infallible" (Bg. 7.25).
To the atheists, God gives proof of His existence when He appears as death and takes everything away. But God does not manifest His internal potency to the faithless. Shrila Prabhupada writes, "Even if one is perfected by realization of impersonal Brahman or localized Paramatma, he cannot possibly understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Shri Krishna, without being in Krishna consciousness" (Bg. 7.26, purport).
santi-rupat paramananda-rupac ca
santi-of peace; rupat-because of (being) the form; parama-topmost; ananda-of pleasure; rupat-because of (being) the form; ca-and.
Furthermore, bhakti is the embodiment of peace and supreme ecstasy.
This sutra is further proof that bhakti is the best process for spiritual advancement. Lord Krishna's personal form, name, and varied activities attract His devotees, who experience a love filled with santi (peace) and paramananda (supreme ecstasy). Indeed, the very nature of bhakti is peace and happiness.
In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna tells us who is eligible for santi:
bhoktaram yajna-tapasam sarva-loka-mahesvaram
suhrdam sarva-bhutanam jnatva mam santim rcchati
"One in full consciousness of Me, knowing Me to be the ultimate beneficiary of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods, and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attains peace from the pangs of material miseries" (Bg. 5.29).
Shrila Prabhupada calls this verse "the peace formula," the sure method for achieving both individual and collective tranquillity. When people who temporarily control some property ignore the Lord's proprietorship over all that be and claim that they themselves are the sole proprietors and enjoyers of the world, and when people in positions of leadership claim to be the best friends of their dependents but fail to give them a chance to acquire transcendental knowledge, then the result is not peace but agitation, chaos, and war. Peace comes when we recognize Lord Krishna as the supreme ruler, proprietor, and friend.
Regarding happiness, Shrila Rupa Gosvami defines three types: "(1) happiness derived from material enjoyment, (2) happiness derived by identifying oneself with the Supreme Brahman, and (3) happiness derived from Krishna consciousness" (The Nectar of Devotion, p. 10). Rupa Gosvami's conclusion is that happiness derived from pure bhakti is the highest because it is eternal, whereas material enjoyment and even oneness with Brahman are bound to be disrupted. Happiness in devotional service is open to all, but those who try to increase their own importance cannot know the sweet taste of Krishna consciousness. Happiness comes not by trying to be the master but by becoming the servant of the servant of the supreme master. While praying to the Supreme Lord for relief from his suffering, Gajendra praised the happiness of the devotees:
Unalloyed devotees, who have no desire other than to serve the Lord, worship Him in full surrender and always hear and chant about His activities, which are most wonderful and auspicious. Thus they always merge in an ocean of transcendental bliss. Such devotees never ask the Lord for any benediction. [Bhag. 8.3.20]
loka-hanau cinta na karya niveditatma-loka-vedatvat
loka-of the world; hanau-about loss; cinta-worry; na karya-should not be done; nivedita-because of having surrendered; atma-one's own; loka-mundane affairs; vedatvat-and Vedic duties.
After consigning to the Lord all one's mundane and Vedic duties, one no longer need worry about worldly loss.
This sutra holds various meanings. First, the devotee should not worry about his worldly situation. Having surrendered to Lord Krishna, he is on the most auspicious path, going back to Godhead. Even if he suffers financial loss or ill health, he realizes that Lord Krishna is giving him token punishment for his past sinful activities. And so he converts the losses into spiritual assets by remaining steadfast in devotional service, despite the disturbances (see Bhagavatam 10.14.8).
In the beginning of his commitment, a devotee may fear that he is somehow jeopardizing his future by fully surrendering to Lord Krishna. Arjuna worried that if he took up the meditative yoga process Krishna outlined in the Sixth Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita he might become an "unsuccessful transcendentalist, who in the beginning takes to the process of self-realization with faith but who later desists due to worldly-mindedness" (Bg. 6.37). If that were to happen, Arjuna reasoned, he would have "no position in any sphere" and could thus enjoy neither material success nor spiritual profit. But Lord Krishna assured His disciple, "A transcendentalist engaged in auspicious activities does not meet with destruction either in this world or in the spiritual world; one who does good, My friend, is never overcome by evil" (Bg. 6.40). Even if a devotee does fall short in his attempt at full surrender, whatever devotional service he performs is eternally counted in his favor. At the time of death, one's material success is taken away, but whatever devotional service one has performed, even if "unsuccessfully," is a profit for the next life. As Narada Muni himself states in the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (1.5.17),
tyaktva sva-dharmam caranambujam harer
bhajann apakvo 'tha patet tato yadi
yatra kva vabhadram abhud amusya kim
ko vartha apto 'bhajatam sva-dharmatah
"One who has forsaken his material occupation to engage in the devotional service of the Lord may sometimes fall down while in an immature stage, yet there is no danger of his being unsuccessful. On the other hand, a nondevotee, though fully engaged in occupational duties, does not gain anything" (Bhag. 1.5.17).
Not only should a devotee reject the idea that he is somehow missing out on material happiness, but he should also be free of worry that he is neglecting his worldly responsibilities. It is a fact that everyone born into the material world has many obligations and moral debts. But a life of dedication to the Supreme Lord frees one-at least from the Lord's point of view-from all other duties:
na kinkaro nayam rni ca rajan
sarvatmana yah saranam saranyam
gato mukundam parihrtya kartam
"Anyone who has taken shelter of the lotus feet of Mukunda, the giver of liberation, giving up all other obligations, and has taken to the path in all seriousness, owes neither duties nor obligations to the demigods, sages, general living entities, family members, humankind, or fore-fathers" (Bhag. 11.5.41).
If a sincere devotee is accused of being irresponsible, or if his life is endangered and it seems as though the cause is his attempt to surrender to Lord Krishna, he has no recourse but to pray for the mercy of the Lord. The devotee has surrendered to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and he cannot take back that surrender in a misguided effort to "save" himself. As Bhaktivinoda Thakura sings,
marabi rakhabi-yo iccha tohara
nitya-dasa prati tua adhikara
"Now if You like You can kill me, or if You like You can give me protection. Whatever You like You can do. I am Your eternal servitor. You have every right to deal with me in any way You please."
na tatsiddhau loka-vyavaharo heyah kintu phala-tyagas tat-sadhanam ca karyam eva
na-not; tat-of it (devotional service); siddhau-in the achievement; loka-mundane; vyavaharah-business; heyah-to be abandoned; kintu-rather; phala-of the results; tyagah-abandonment; tat-of it (devotional service); ca-and; karyam-must be done; eva-indeed.
Even after one has achieved devotional service, one should not abandon one's responsibilities in this world but should rather continue surrendering the results of one's work to the Lord. And while still trying to reach the stage of pure devotion, one must certainly continue executing prescribed duties.
Lord Krishna has strongly criticized the pseudo renunciants who live at the cost of society: "One who restrains the senses of action but whose mind dwells on sense objects certainly deludes himself and is called a pretender" (Bg. 3.7). Shrila Prabhupada states that it is better to work in karma-yoga (Krishna consciousness) within one's varna and asrama designation:
A householder can also reach this destination [Vishnu, or Krishna] by regulated service in Krishna consciousness. For self-realization, one can live a controlled life, as prescribed in the sastras, and continue carrying out his business without attachment, and in that way make progress. A sincere person who follows this method is far better situated than the false pretender who adopts show-bottle spiritualism to cheat the innocent public. A sincere sweeper in the street is far better than the charlatan meditator who meditates only for the sake of making a living. [Bg. 3.7, purport]
This does not mean, however, that ordinary work is itself the fulfillment of human life. The karmi slogan "Work is worship" is not the same as working in Krishna consciousness. But one has to do both: work to earn one's living and at the same time work for the satisfaction of Vishnu, or Krishna. Shrila Prabhupada writes, "Any other work done in this material world will be a cause of bondage, for both good and evil work have their reactions, and any reaction binds the performer."
How to maintain oneself and one's family and at the same time work for Krishna is a great art, and as such it requires the guidance of the Lord's devotee. If obligations to family and society conflict with one's basic spiritual vows, then one must give first priority to the spiritual duties. One who has taken initiation into spiritual life should never give up his vow to chant a quota of holy names daily and to fulfill the basic orders of the spiritual master.
Whether a Vaishnava works in the business world or lives as a renunciant, he should never be embarrassed to preach Krishna consciousness or doubt the value of preaching. Even if we consider preaching work a debt to humanity, it is a crucial social commitment. Once the mother and father of a young devotee complained to Shrila Prabhupada that their son was a full-time student in the Krishna consciousness movement. They said they wanted him to become a doctor. Prabhupada replied that they should let the young man decide for himself, and that in any case, there were many doctors in the world but few serious devotees. Prabhupada said that the work of the devotee was more important than the work of a physician. A doctor can repair the health of a few hundred people, but even that is temporary. Medical cures do not free the patient from his karma, which forces him to take rebirth and suffer again in another material body. But a devotee who successfully distributes Krishna consciousness can help people achieve liberation from birth and death. So his work is the most important in the world.
Although he may not be an expert politician or economist, a bhakta knows the real cause of people's suffering-forgetfulness of their relationship with Krishna, which leads to their becoming conditioned by the modes of material nature. Knowing that bhakti-yoga is the only way to extricate oneself from material conditioning and reestablish one's relationship with God, the devotee tries to distribute knowledge of Krishna consciousness. Shrila Prabhupada writes, "Since the [devotee] tries to broadcast the importance of becoming Krishna conscious, he is the best philanthropist in the world" (Bg. 6.32, purport).
The preacher stays connected to the world, yet he is transcendental to worldly concerns. Although some yogis abandon society and cultivate their own spiritual salvation, the bhakti-yogi who follows Prahlada Maharaja, Lord Chaitanya, and Shrila Prabhupada keeps a compassionate connection with the people of the world. As Lord Chaitanya stated to His followers, "Distribute this Krishna consciousness movement all over the world. Let people eat these fruits [of love of God] and ultimately become free from old age and death" (Cc. Adi 9.39).
The surrendered devotee, therefore, does not worry about his worldly situation, nor does he support mundane welfare causes. But to satisfy Lord Chaitanya and the spiritual masters descending from Him in disciplic succession, he works magnanimously on behalf of all living beings by spreading Krishna consciousness.
stri-dhana-nastika-caritram na sravaniyam
stri-of women; dhana-wealth; nastika-and atheists; caritram-stories; na sravaniyam-should not be listened to.
One should not find entertainment in news of women, money, and atheists.
Narada has said that a bhakta may discharge his duties in the world as long as he is God-centered and offers the results of his work to the Lord in devotional service. But while living in the world he must avoid sinful life and persons who indulge in it (see Sutras 43 and 44). Now he says we should avoid not only associating with sinful persons but even hearing about them.
If we want to be free from maya, we cannot take Narada's advice lightly or dismiss it as old fashioned. Maya is not a lightweight contender. She has been placed in charge of imprisoning all the conditioned souls in the universe, and some of her principal weapons are indicated in this sutra-sex, wealth, and atheism. With a healthy respect for her power, we should give a wide berth to the mayic talks concerning these topics.
Mundane talks are also known as prajalpa. In his Upadesamrta, Shrila Rupa Gosvami mentions prajalpa as one of the main impediments to devotional service. And Lord Chaitanya instructed Sanatana Gosvami, "A devotee should avoid reading or hearing newspapers or mundane books that contain stories of love affairs between men and women or subjects palatable to the senses" (Cc. Madhya 22.120).
In the modern age these injunctions have become more difficult than ever to follow. The airwaves are filled with prajalpa, and by pressing a button we can turn on a television set and plunge ourselves into a visual and aural phantasmagoria. While writing his purports on the Bhagavatam verses describing the life of Ajamila, Shrila Prabhupada responded to our predicament. Ajamila was a pious young brahmana, but one day, while traveling along the public way, he came upon a low-class man embracing a prostitute and was overcome by lust. Prabhupada writes, "In Kali-yuga, a drunken, half-naked woman embracing a drunken man is a very common sight, especially in the Western countries, and restraining oneself after seeing such things is difficult. Nevertheless, if by the grace of Krishna a person adheres to the regulative principles and chants the Hare Krishna mantra, Krishna will certainly protect him" (Bhag. 6.1.60, purport).
We cannot expect to follow Prabhupada's advice in a vacuum. Unless we have Krishna conscious friends to talk with and a society of devotees to live in, we might conclude, "It's impossible to avoid hearing talks of sex, money, and atheists. What am I supposed to do, live alone in a cave?" No, and this is precisely one of the reasons Shrila Prabhupada founded the International Society for Krishna Consciousness-to give everyone an opportunity to hear krishna-katha in the society of devotees. The benefits of such a practice are numerous, as Lord Kapila states in the Bhagavatam (3.25.25):
satam prasangan mama virya-samvido
bhavanti hrt-karna-rasayana kathah
taj-josanad asv apavarga-vartmani
sraddha ratir bhaktir anukramisyati
"The spiritually powerful message of Godhead can be properly discussed only in a society of devotees, and it is greatly pleasing to hear in that association. If one hears from devotees, the way of transcendental experience quickly opens to him, and gradually he attains firm faith that in due course develops into attraction and devotion."
Our weapons in the campaign against prajalpa and mind pollution may include novels, dramas, paintings, films, musical recordings, festivals, formal lectures, seminars, and casual meetings-all centered on Krishna. Why should the forces of illusion possess all the weapons, and not the devotees?
Narada previously said that bhakti was easy. It is certainly not easy to avoid all mundane sound vibrations. But under the guidance of the pure devotee we may create a pleasant, easy-to-take atmosphere of krishna-katha in the home and with friends-even when driving a car or at work-and this hearing will lead to visnu-smaranam, or remembrance of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
abhimana-pride; dambha-deceit; adikam-and so on; tyajyam-should be given up.
One should put aside false pride, hypocrisy, and other vices.
Maya is so subtle that even if one is able to avoid hearing about sex, money, and atheists, and even if one joins a society of devotees, one may still become a victim of pride and hypocrisy. One may think, "I am a better devotee than the others," and thus prepare oneself for a fall. The remedy for pride is to remember that our good fortune, including our spiritual assets, are all due to the mercy of the Supreme Lord and the spiritual masters.
Narada has used the word adi, "et cetera," to include other vices, such as the demoniac traits listed in the Sixteenth Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita. All of these should be avoided. One should become aware of specific bad habits and try to eliminate them, and therefore Narada and the acaryas often give detailed instructions. We can examine each anartha and see what we can do to renounce it. When we catch ourselves indulging in unwanted thoughts or acts, we should stop them as soon as possible.
At the same time, a "holistic" approach is also recommended. That is, we should be confident that our sincere prosecution of bhakti-yoga will eliminate all unwanted habits and desires. In fact, if we try to eliminate vices one by one, we will fail. But by bhakti we can eliminate them wholesale. As stated in the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (6.1.15),
kecit kevalaya bhaktya vasudeva-parayanah
agham dhunvanti kartsnyena niharam iva bhaskarah
"Only a rare person who has adopted complete, unalloyed devotional service to Krishna can uproot the weeds of sinful actions with no possibility that they will revive. He can do this simply by discharging devotional service, just as the sun can immediately dissipate fog by its rays."
Devotional service is beyond both piety and impiety. By chanting Hare Krishna, hearing about Lord Krishna, and performing other routine services in Krishna consciousness, one vanquishes all phases of sinful life and all unwanted habits.
The practical application of this principle is to persevere in sadhana-bhakti with faith and determination. This is called sraddha, the conviction that one will achieve all goals by practicing Krishna consciousness. Shrila Rupa Gosvami also recommends niscaya, "endeavoring with confidence" (The Nectar of Instruction, Text 3). Shrila Prabhupada explains in his purport, "In devotional service surrender means that one has to become confident. The devotee thinks, avasya raksibe krishna: 'Krishna will surely protect me and give me help for the successful execution of devotional service.' " And so the devotee uses both negative and positive approaches: He diligently seeks to eliminate particular unwanted habits, but at the same time he is confident that his engagement in devotional service is like a blazing fire that will burn to ashes all the fuel of sinful activities.
tad arpitakhilacarah san kama-krodhabhimanadikam tasminn eva karaniyam
tat-to Him; arpita-having offered; akhila-all; acarah-actions; san-being; kama-desire; krodha-anger; abhimana-pride; adikam-and so on; tasmin-toward Him; eva-only; karaniyam-should be done.
Offering all one's activities to the Lord, one should feel desire, anger, and pride only with regard to Him.
Narada now advises that traits normally considered vices may be dovetailed into favorable devotional service. This does not contradict Narada's previous statement that pride, anger, and lust should be renounced. A pure devotee is always free of vices, and the practicing bhakta tries to be free of them by controlling his senses and mind as far as possible. Therefore Narada here refers to a transcendental application of anger, pride, and lust in relation to the Supreme Lord.
Liberated devotees often apply so-called vices in devotional service, and we can learn the art from them. Hanuman vented his anger upon Ravana, the enemy of Lord Rama. Lord Krishna instigated Arjuna to become angry so he would fight the Battle of Kuruksetra. Even Lord Chaitanya became angry with the drunken brothers Jagai and Madhai. These are examples of properly directed anger. We cannot stop anger completely. As Shrila Prabhupada writes, "To try to create a vacuum in the mind is artificial. The vacuum will not remain. However, if one always thinks of Krishna and how to serve Krishna best, one's mind will naturally be controlled" (The Nectar of Instruction, Text 1, purport).
Even anger directed at Krishna can be part of devotional service. The gopis, for instance, often became angry at Him during lovers' quarrels. Once Shrimati Radharani was displeased with Krishna and ordered Her assistants to stop Him from seeing Her at all costs. The cowherd boys would fight with Krishna in the forest, and in the heat of play they would sometimes become angry with Him and tell Him they wouldn't play with Him anymore. Lord Krishna very much liked these chidings of love, and He asked forgiveness from His friends.
Kamsa's hatred of the Lord, however, was not bhakti. Kamsa was afraid that Krishna would kill him, and so his mind became absorbed in animosity toward the Lord. Prabhupada writes, "The state of mind of a great devotee is also to be absorbed in Krishna, but a devotee thinks of Him favorably, not unfavorably" (Krishna, p. 26).
We should not imitate the transcendental feelings of the pure devotees, but we may become inspired by hearing of them. We should patiently wait for the day when these feelings will naturally manifest within us. At that time we will not be able to stop them even if we want to. Meanwhile we may practice becoming greedy for chances to spread the word of Krishna, proud that Krishna is our Lord and that we have such an exalted spiritual master in Shrila Prabhupada, and angry at the mayic obstacles that prevent us from attaining bhakti. If we learn to dovetail everything for Lord Krishna in this way, we will have learned the essential lesson Narada is imparting in this sutra.
tri-rupa-bhanga-purvakam nitya-dasya-nitya-kanta-bhajanatmakam prema karyam premaiva karyam
tri-rupa-of the three material forms (the qualities of goodness, passion, and ignorance); bhanga-the breaking; purvakam-preceded by; nitya-perpetual; dasya-servitude; nitya-perpetual; kanta-as a lover; bhajana-service; atmakam-consisting of; prema-pure love; karyam-one should manifest; prema-pure love; eva-alone; karyam-one should manifest.
After breaking through the aforementioned coverings of the three modes of nature, one should act only in pure love of God, remaining perpetually in the mood of a servant serving his master, or a lover serving her beloved.
As described in Sutra 56, there are three secondary forms of devotional service tinged with the gunas (goodness, passion, and ignorance). These are practiced by sakama devotees, who approach the Supreme Lord when in distress, when seeking wealth, or when seeking knowledge. One should transcend these secondary types of devotion and approach the Supreme Lord only with love. In other words, here Narada is urging us to come to the spontaneous stage, as in the rasas of servitude (nitya-dasya) and conjugal love (nitya-kanta-bhajana). We should not think that we have completed the course of bhakti by becoming a religionist in the conventional sense-by attending the temple and making obligatory prayers and donations.
As a spiritual master, Narada has responsibly taught the lower stages of bhakti and encouraged anyone with even a drop of faith. But it is also his responsibility to remind us that the goal is prema, and prema alone. His method is similar to Lord Krishna's in the Bhagavad-gita, where the Lord mercifully encourages all kinds of karmis, jnanis, and yogis, advising them on how to progressively turn their attention toward Him. But then He concludes, "Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me" (Bg. 18.66).
Out of love, without seeking reward, a devoted servant tries to please his master, and a wife her husband. We see the perfection of servitude in the spiritual world, in Krishna's servants like Raktaka, Daruka, and Patri, and we see the perfection of a wife's devotion in the queens of Dvaraka. In Lord Krishna we find the perfect master and the perfect beloved, and so His servants and wives are eternally liberated as nitya-dasa and nitya-kanta. Following in the footsteps of such liberated beings, devotees in this world should strive to practice devotional service on the level of pure love. As stated in the Chaitanya-manjusa: prema pum-artho mahan. "Love for Krishna is the supreme goal of life."
bhakta ekantino mukhyah
bhaktah-devotees; ekantinah-exclusive; mukhyah-principal.
Among the Lord's devotees, the greatest are those who are dedicated to Him solely as His intimate servants.
His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada showed an excellent example of ekanta-bhakti, single-minded devotion to the Supreme Lord. Prabhupada showed this in many ways. For example, his commentary on Shri Krishna's book, Bhagavad-gita, does not even slightly deviate from Krishna's true intent. Impersonalism taints the vast majority of Bhagavad-gita commentaries, but Shrila Prabhupada's purports in Bhagavad-gita As It Is lead the reader directly to the lotus feet of Krishna. This is true of all of Prabhupada's books-Shrimad-Bhagavatam, Chaitanya-charitamrita, and so on. His translation of the Sanskrit or Bengali is always accurate from a scholarly point of view, but at the same time he writes as a pure devotee: "Surrender to Krishna."
In all of Shrila Prabhupada's spontaneous conversations, he was single-mindedly Krishna conscious. When he spoke of Krishna, he seemed to be talking about his dearmost friend, not merely repeating something he had read. Sometimes his krishna-katha took the form of convincing an atheist scientist that there is a supreme controller, sometimes he related the pastimes of Krishna to his disciples, and sometimes he assured devotees that Krishna is in our hearts and will give us the intelligence to execute a difficult service. Shrila Prabhupada maintained this single-mindedness even while undergoing the rigors of constant travel and while living in the biggest cities of the world. Wherever he was, Prabhupada was on a mission for Krishna.
Being single-pointed in devotional service does not mean shutting out reality. Exclusivity can become sectarian if one focuses on relative truths or dedicates oneself to an ordinary person. But when the object of appreciation is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one attains the broadest vision, the vision of a mahatma.
The devotee who is fixed on Krishna has actually attained to the complete truth. That the Lord is the complete truth is stated in the Invocation to the Isopanisad: om purnam adah purnam idam [Isopanisad, Invocation]. "The Personality of Godhead is perfect and complete." A devotee glorifies the Lord as the complete Absolute Truth when he utters the famous Vedic aphorism tat tvam asi, "You are that." The impersonalist philosophers adore the tat tvam asi aphorism because they take it to mean that they are one with the formless Brahman. But the actual meaning of tat tvam asi is different. When the devotee says "You are that," he is addressing the Supreme Lord. Shrila Prabhupada explains in his purport to Bhagavad-gita 4.9:
The Vedic version tat tvam asi is actually applied in this case. Anyone who understands Lord Krishna to be the Supreme, or who says unto the Lord, "You are the same Supreme Brahman, the Personality of Godhead," is certainly liberated instantly, and consequently his entrance into the transcendental association of the Lord is guaranteed.
A pure devotee who sees Krishna in everything can maintain one-pointed concentration on the Lord, even while performing a wide variety of services for Him. By contrast, materialistic persons cannot be ekanti, or focused. Because the field of sense gratification tempts the conditioned souls in many directions, and because the mind is very fickle, the hedonist's attention is splayed. As Lord Krishna says,
vyavasayatmika buddhir ekeha kuru-nandana
bahu-sakha hy anantas ca buddhayo 'vyavasayinam
"Those who are on this path are resolute in purpose, and their aim is one. O beloved child of the Kurus, the intelligence of those who are irresolute is many-branched" (Bg. 2.41).
Sukadeva Gosvami describes the materialist in a similar way in the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (2.1.2):
srotavyadini rajendra nrnam santi sahasrasah
apasyatam atma-tattvam grhesu grha-medhinam
"Those persons who are materially engrossed, being blind to the knowledge of ultimate truth, have many subject matters for hearing in human society, O emperor." Absorbed in political work or scientific research or social and economic betterment, the grhamedhis put aside the ultimate problems of old age, disease, and death. They do not inquire about self-realization, which would lead them eventually to Krishna consciousness. But a person who wants to succeed in bhakti must give up the life of bewildering distractions and take up devotional service under the guidance of a spiritual master.
The best way to cultivate single-minded devotion to Krishna is to chant the Hare Krishna mantra. This practice is what the scriptures and acaryas recommend as the main limb of devotional service for the Age of Kali. By this one simple act-chanting and hearing the holy name-we serve Lord Krishna the way He likes best. Haridasa Thakura set the example by making the chanting of hari-nama his exclusive service. Serious Gaudiya Vaishnavas follow in his footsteps by chanting daily at least sixteen rounds of Hare Krishna on beads. As stated in the Chaitanya-charitamrita (Antya 3.268), "The holy name of Krishna is so attractive that anyone who chants it-including all living entities, moving and unmoving, and even Lord Krishna Himself-becomes imbued with love of Krishna. This is the effect of chanting the Hare Krishna mantra."
In the beginning stages, the restless mind balks at the single-minded devotion required to chant Hare Krishna for long stretches. The holy name is actually the sweetest nectar, but until we reach the spontaneous stage of devotion, one has to outsmart the mischievous mind. The mind is called cancala, or unfaithful, but it can become the devotee's best friend. When one chants Hare Krishna and performs other duties with concentration and devotion, the mind clears and the devotee realizes his true interest. Then the devotee becomes attracted to serving the holy names in the ekantina spirit, which Narada Muni recommends here as the best.
kanthavarodha-romasrubhih parasparam lapamanah pavayanti kulani prthivim ca
kantha-of the throat; avarodha-with blockage; roma-with bodily hair (standing erect); asrubhih-and with tears; parasparam-among one another; lapamanah-conversing; pavayanti-they purify; kulani-their communities; prthivim-the earth; ca-and.
Conversing among one another with throats choked, hair standing on end, and tears flowing, the Lord's intimate servants purify their own followers and the whole world.
One may ask, "Does Narada expect me to also become a great devo-tee and experience such ecstasy?" The answer is yes, the ecstasy of devotional service is open to all. But a humble devotee may think himself unfit to experience the advanced stages of Krishna consciousness for many lifetimes. We may respond best to a sutra like this by trying to appreciate, at least slightly, the wonderful influence of the great souls who have come to this earth. This will inspire us to seek the association of the servants of the servants of such great souls, to assist them in their mission, and to receive shelter from them against the world of maya.
The symptoms of ecstasy should not be imitated, but it is not wrong to aspire to experience them. In The Nectar of Devotion, Rupa Gosvami encourages us to develop a spontaneous attachment for serving the Lord without any desire for profit. Shrila Prabhupada writes,
In other words, one should learn how to cry for the Lord. One should learn this small technique, and one should be very eager and actually cry to become engaged in some particular type of service. This is called laulyam, and such tears are the price for the highest perfection. [The Nectar of Devotion, p. 84]
The absence of warm or spontaneous feelings for the Lord may indicate that we are still committing one or more of the ten offenses against the holy name, or that we are indulging in some of the vices mentioned in the Narada-bhakti-sutra. As Lord Chaitanya, taking the role of the neophyte, laments in His Siksastaka (2), "I am so unfortunate that I commit offenses while chanting the holy name, and therefore I do not achieve attachment for chanting."
Although the bodily transformations symptomatic of ecstatic love of God (bhava) are sometimes exhibited by great souls, pretenders may imitate them. Real bhava, however, is manifested by steady symptoms:
Bhava is definitely displayed in the matter of cessation of material desires (ksanti), utilization of every moment in the transcendental loving service of the Lord (avyartha-kalatvam [Cc.Madhya 23.18-19]), eagerness for glorifying the Lord constantly (nama-gane sada rucih), attraction for living in the land of the Lord (pritis tad-vasati-sthale [Cc.Madhya 23.18-19]), complete detachment from material happiness (viraktih), and pridelessness (mana-sunyata). One who has developed all these transcendental qualities is really possessed of the bhava stage, as distinguished from the stonehearted imitator or mundane devotee. [Bhag. 2.3.24, purport]
The influence of pure devotees of the Lord is very great. Their conversations are entirely Krishna conscious, and that is why they purify everyone who hears them, and even the place they inhabit. When bona fide devotees perform krishna-kirtana or discuss topics concerning Krishna, the Lord is personally present:
The topics of Lord Krishna are so auspicious that they purify the speaker, the hearer, and the inquirer. They are compared to the Ganges waters, which flow from the toe of Lord Krishna. Wherever the Ganges waters go, they purify the land and the person who bathes in them. Similarly, krishna-katha, or the topics of Krishna, are so pure that wherever they are spoken the place, the hearer, the inquirer, the speaker, and all concerned become purified. [Bhag. 2.1.1, purport]
The practical effect of a devotee's influence is that people take up spiritual life and abandon their sinful habits. Without devotional reform in society, humanity will degrade to a barbaric species. Prabhupada writes, "Men face each other in enmity just like cats and dogs snarling. Shri Isopanisad cannot give advice to the cats and dogs, but it delivers the message of Godhead to man through the bona fide acaryas, or holy teachers" (Isopanisad 1, purport).
At least on an individual basis every sane person should save himself by coming forward to render service and to hear from Vaishnavas of the caliber Narada describes in this sutra. If one is under the protection of a pure devotee and sincerely renders service to him in bhakti-yoga, one will be able to counteract all sinful reactions, including the accumulated sinful karma of the whole world population. Narada praises the influence of devotees, but Lord Krishna praises the influence of Narada:
If someone is able, by chance, to see face to face a great saintly person like Narada, who is always serene and merciful to everyone, then immediately that conditioned soul becomes liberated. This is exactly like being situated in the full light of the sun; there cannot be any visionary impediment. [Krishna, p. 97]
tirthi-kurvanti tirthani su-karmi-kurvanti karmani sac-chastri-kurvanti sastrani
tirthi-into holy places; kurvanti-they make; tirthani-the holy places; su-karmi-into auspicious works; kurvanti-they make; karmani-works; sat-pure; sastri-into scriptures; kurvanti-they make; sastrani-the scriptures.
Their association makes holy places holy, works auspicious, and the scriptures authoritative.
A tirtha is a place made sacred because the Supreme Lord performed His pastimes there. For example, Vrndavana is sacred because Shri Krishna spent His youth there, Navadvipa because Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu began His sankirtana movement there. Places like Dhruva-ghata or Naimisaranya, where maha-janas performed devotional service, are also tirthas. Devotees like to reside in tirthas and perform their bhajana there, and pilgrims seeking purification go to bathe in the sacred rivers flowing through the sacred sites. But the tirthas become burdened by the sins of visiting pilgrims, who sometimes commit new sins even while traveling on pilgrimage. In all the religions of the world, commercialism tends to spring up and pollute the famous shrines. Because of this, the Gaudiya Vaishnava acarya Narottama dasa Thakura stated that in the Kali-yuga going on pilgrimage creates bewilderment. Shrila Prabhupada writes:
In India it is still a practice that many advanced transcendentalists give up their family lives and go to Vrndavana to live there alone and completely engage in hearing and chanting the holy pastimes of the Lord. This system is recommended in the Shrimad-Bhagavatam, and the six Gosvamis of Vrndavana followed it, but at the present moment many karmis and pseudo devotees have overcrowded the holy place of Vrndavana just to imitate this process recommended by Sukadeva Gosvami. [Krishna, p. 881]
To purify the tirthas of the influence of the nondevotees, saints occasionally visit them. In fact, it is the presence of the saints that actually makes the places holy. If one visits a tirtha and only does some shopping and takes a ritual bath there, without inquiring from saintly persons, his visit is useless.
When the sage Vidura went to the palace of the Kurus in Hastinapura, Yudhisthira Maharaja praised him with the same words Narada uses here: tirthi-kurvanti tirthani. Shrila Prabhupada writes,
By their actions the pure devotees of the Lord can render any place into a place of pilgrimage, and the holy places are worth the name only on their account. Such pure devotees are able to rectify the polluted atmosphere of any place, and what to speak of a holy place rendered unholy by the questionable actions of interested persons who try to adopt a professional life at the cost of the reputation of the holy place. [Bhag. 1.13.10, purport]
In a similar passage, the sage Bhagiratha praised the river Ganges and the saints who bathe in her waters: "When such pure devotees bathe in your water, the sinful reactions accumulated from other people will certainly be counteracted, for such devotees always keep in the core of their hearts the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who can vanquish all sinful reactions" (Bhag. 9.9.6).
If the saints are so influential just by their presence, then we can just imagine how much their acts are worshipable and worth following. Most people's actions result in reactions (karma), but the acts of great souls convert karma into bhakti. Whoever serves a pure devotee gains a permanent spiritual asset, even if he does so unknowingly (ajnata-sukrti). Although we cannot expect to equal the deeds of pure devotees, we should not shy away from trying to emulate them. As Shrila Prabhupada used to say, "Do as I am doing."
Narada states that the best devotees add spiritual authority even to the scriptures. A striking example of this is Shrila Prabhupada's fulfillment of a prediction of Lord Chaitanya's recorded in the Chaitanya-bhagavata:
prthivite ache yata nagaradi-grama
sarvatra pracara haibe mora nama
"In every town and village of the world, My name [the holy name of Krishna] will be preached." This statement used to puzzle Vaishnava scholars; some said it was to be taken allegorically. How could mlecchas in Western countries take up the worship of Lord Krishna and Lord Chaitanya and chant Hare Krishna in their towns and cities? But Shrila Prabhupada proved the skeptics wrong: On his spiritual master's order and by Lord Chaitanya's grace, he created the Hare Krishna movement, which quickly spread until newspapers and commentators proclaimed: "Krishna Chant Startles London," and " `Hare Krishna' has become a household word."
Shrila Prabhupada's preaching of the Bhagavad-gita provides another example of how the pure devotees give authority to the scriptures. For more than two hundred years before Shrila Prabhupada came to the West with Bhagavad-gita As It Is, the Bhagavad-gita had been known in Western countries as "the sacred gospel of the Hindus." And yet no one had become a devotee of Lord Krishna from reading Bhagavad-gita, although Lord Krishna teaches surrender to Him as the goal of the Gita. But through his realized translations and purports Shrila Prabhupada brought life to the text of Bhagavad-gita, and now thousands of non-Hindus throughout the world are recognizing Lord Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead and becoming His sincere devotees.
Narada will now explain why saintly persons are so auspicious and influential.
tat-with Him; mayah-filled.
The intimate servants of the Supreme Lord are fully absorbed in loving Him.
Narada's definitions give us portraits of complete dedication, of love, and of oneness of interest between the Supreme Lord and His devotee. When we read a superb sutra such as number 49 or 67 we may think, "Now he has given the last word on bhakti: nothing more can be said as briefly and as well." But then Narada delights us with even more precise aphorisms on bhakti-yoga.
This sutra is quite similar to number 41: "The Lord and His pure devotees are nondifferent." In the Gurv-astaka, Shrila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura states, "The spiritual master is to be honored as much as the Supreme Lord because he is the most confidential servitor of the Lord. This is acknowledged in all revealed scriptures and followed by all authorities." Although a qualified student of bhakti knows that the Vaishnava is not God Himself, the disciple experiences Krishna's direct presence in the form of His dedicated servant. And the disciple is fully satisfied in serving the Supreme Lord by serving His pure devotee, who is the transparent medium to Krishna.
When Sanatana Gosvami met Lord Chaitanya, the Lord told him, "Lord Krishna has saved you from life's deepest hell." Sanatana replied, "I do not know who Krishna is. As far as I am concerned, I have been released from prison only by Your mercy" (Cc. Madhya 20.64). The disciple's gratitude toward the Vaishnava is also expressed in Bhaktivinoda Thakura's song Ohe! vaishnava thakura: "Krishna is yours. You're able to give Him to me, for such is your power. I am indeed wretched and simply run after you, crying, `Krishna! Krishna!' "
This is why the place where great devotees reside is a tirtha and why Narada says that they purify established holy places and give authority to the scriptures-because they are tan-mayah, "filled with Him."
modante pitaro nrtyanti devatah sa-natha ceyam bhur bhavati
modante-become joyful; pitarah-forefathers; nrtyanti-dance; devatah-demigods; sa-natha-having good masters; ca-and; iyam-this; bhuh-earth; bhavati-becomes.
Thus the pure devotees' forefathers become joyful, the demigods dance, and the world feels protected by good masters.
A great devotee is so dear to the Supreme Lord that his family members receive the Lord's blessings even though they may not appreciate their devotee relative. When Lord Nrsimhadeva rescued His dearmost bhakta, Prahlada, from his demonic father, Prahlada Maharaja asked that his father be excused and not punished in the next life for his heinous crimes. Lord Nrsimhadeva replied, "My dear Prahlada, most pure, O great saintly person, your father has been purified, along with twenty-one forefathers in your family. Because you were born in this family, the entire dynasty has been purified. Whenever and wherever there are peaceful, equipoised devotees who are well behaved and decorated with all good qualities, that place and the dynasties there, even if condemned, are purified" (Bhag. 7.10.18-19).
Lord Chaitanya also gave special mercy to His devotees' relatives. Amogha, the son-in-law of Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, blasphemed Lord Chaitanya and had to suffer cholera. But Lord Chaitanya spared him and said, "You are the object of My affection because you are the son-in-law of Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya. Everyone in Sarvabhauma's house is very dear to Me, including his maids and servants and even his dog. And what to speak of his relatives?" (Cc. Madhya 15.283-4). A pure devotee identifies more with the family of all living entities than with his bodily relatives, and yet whoever is even remotely connected with a pure devotee, even a distant relative, receives benefit. The influence of the devotee is that great.
Next Narada says nrtyanti devatah, "The demigods dance when they see a pure devotee appear." The devas are staunch devotees of Lord Vishnu, and they hate to see the demons gain control. Sometimes the demons capture the demigods' palaces, as during the rule of Hiranyakasipu. But the pure devotee Prahlada caused the appearance of Lord Nrsimhadeva, who destroyed Hiranyakasipu. Hiranyakasipu was "like a fever of meningitis in the head of the three worlds." When he was killed by Lord Nrsimhadeva, the demigods prayed, "When this demon was condemned by devotees because they were disgusted with him, then he was killed by You" (Bhag. 7.8.53). Thus the pure devotee's work is so significant that it affects the whole universe and creates a shift in favor of godliness. The demigods' joy at the appearance of a Vaishnava proves that the devas are also Vaishnavas. They are more pleased with a pure devotee who renders service unto the Supreme Lord than they are with their own worshipers who seek material boons from them.
Finally Narada states that with the appearance of a pure devotee, the earth gets a savior. Mother Earth is abused in Kali-yuga in many ways. When Kali-yuga began, Maharaja Pariksit found a sudra beating the earth personified, who appeared in the form of a cow. Nowadays the earth is drilled recklessly for oil, deforested, blown up, polluted by chemicals, stripped of fertile topsoil, and filled up with cheaters and liars who create an intolerable burden.
The earth is not a dead mass to be exploited by the human species; rather, she is a living entity meant to be protected. When the earth is protected, she gives ample space and a peaceful and prosperous residence for all living entities. But when human beings plunder the earth, she seeks protection from a magnanimous devotee. Though a devotee may appear to work as a humble mendicant without much power, higher beings and truly learned souls know that a savior has appeared.
The devotee is especially a savior for human beings, most of whom would surely fall down into lower species in their next lives without the devotee's efforts to reform them. According to time, place, and person, every pure-devotee savior teaches the same message: "Do not rot in this material world; follow the word of God and be saved." The world still worships saviors such as Jesus Christ, Lord Buddha, and Lord Chaitanya. Many other pure devotees continue to appear, as the son of God or as sakty-avesa avataras, to save the human race. Considering the far-reaching auspicious effects of a pure devotee's presence, which are mostly beyond normal comprehension, we can appreciate better why Shrila Prabhupada said, "If only one man becomes a pure devotee of the Lord, we shall consider our attempt a success."
nasti tesu jati-vidya-rupa-kula-dhana-kriyadi-bhedah
na asti-there is not; tesu-in them; jati-of class; vidya-education; rupa-beauty; kula-family; dhana-wealth; kriya-occupation; adi-and so on; bhedah-difference.
There are no distinctions among such pure devotees in terms of social class, education, bodily beauty, family status, wealth, occupation, and so on.
Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, does not discriminate among devotees based on their birth, wealth, and so on, so why should we? Krishna says, "O son of Prtha, those who take shelter in Me, though they be of lower birth-women, vaisyas [merchants], and sudras [workers]-attain the supreme destination" (Bg. 9.32). And according to the Padma Purana, "Anyone who thinks of the Deity of Vishnu as merely stone or the guru as an ordinary man, or who thinks a Vaishnava belongs to a particular family or country, is a resident of hell."
In his Upadesamrta (6), Rupa Gosvami has also warns us not to take a material view of devotees: "Being situated in his original Krishna conscious position, a pure devotee does not identify with the body. Such a devotee should not be seen from a materialistic point of view. Indeed, one should overlook a devotee's having a body born in a low family, a body with a bad complexion, a deformed body, or a diseased or infirm body. According to ordinary vision, such imperfections may seem prominent in the body of a pure devotee, but despite such seeming defects, the body of a pure devotee cannot be polluted. It is exactly like the waters of the Ganges, which sometimes during the rainy season are full of bubbles, foam, and mud. The Ganges waters do not become polluted. Those who are advanced in spiritual understanding will bathe in the Ganges without considering the condition of the water."
Shrila Prabhupada states that one should not think, "Oh, here is an American gosvami," and on that basis discriminate against him. On the other hand, Westerners who have come to Krishna consciousness by Prabhupada's grace should not be puffed up and think themselves better than Indian brahmanas. The sastras state, kalau sudra-sambhavah: "In the Age of Kali, everyone is born a sudra." We are elevated by the process of Krishna consciousness, but we have nothing to be proud of on our own account: it is all due to the mercy of the Lord and His pure devotee. Shrila Haridasa Thakura set the example: even after he became the most elevated transcendentalist, he did not assert himself as a superior person but wished to be regarded as lowborn. In the name of becoming a transcendentalist, one should not become captured again by false pride.
Only one who is ignorant of the transforming power of bhakti discriminates against devotees on the basis of material designations. Prabhupada writes, "One should therefore avoid observing a pure devotee externally, but should try to see the internal features and understand how he is engaged in the transcendental loving service of the Lord" (The Nectar of Instruction, Text 6, purport).
In her prayers to Lord Kapila, Devahuti affirmed that the Lord's holy names possess the transcendental power to transform anyone: "Oh, how glorious are they whose tongues are chanting Your holy name! Even if born in families of dog-eaters, such persons are worshipable" (Bhag. 3.33.7).
Pure devotees are not distinguished by externals like social class, for they belong to the Lord.
Here Narada explains why one should avoid caste-conscious prejudice toward devotees of Krishna: because devotees are all one class-they are all His own. And because they belong to the Supreme Lord (tadiyah), the devotees are worshipable:
aradhananam sarvesam visnor aradhanam param
tasmat parataram devi tadiyanam samarcanam
"Of all types of worship, worship of Lord Vishnu is best, and better than the worship of Lord Vishnu is the worship of His devotee, the Vaishnava" (Padma Purana).
Tadiya means "in relation to Him." The devotees are intimately related to the Lord because they are under the shelter of His internal energy. Thus they always accompany Him and serve Him as His carrier Garuda, His couch Ananta Sesa, His cows, His gopas and gopis, and so on.
In a general sense, all living entities are part and parcel of Krishna-"My eternal fragmental parts," Krishna says-and that is another reason why one should not judge someone higher or lower by material standards. But although all jivas are dear to Lord Krishna, He is dear only to His devotees, and therefore they receive His special attention. As He says in the Bhagavad-gita (9.29),
samo 'ham sarva-bhutesu na me dvesyo 'sti na priyah
ye bhajanti tu mam bhaktya mayi te tesu capy aham
"I envy no one, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all. But whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend-is in Me-and I am also a friend to him."
During a conversation with Sanatana Gosvami and Haridasa Thakura in Jagannatha Puri, Lord Chaitanya once elaborately explained the same truth expressed in this sutra. Sanatana had contracted a skin disease that produced oozing sores. Out of humility he considered his body useless for devotional service, and he decided to commit suicide under the wheel of Lord Jagannatha's chariot. But Lord Chaitanya read his mind and forbade him to do so, telling him that he had already surrendered his body to the Lord for service. Lord Chaitanya used to embrace Sanatana, and this made Sanatana feel mortified because his oozing sores touched the Lord's body. And so Sanatana decided to leave Jagannatha Puri. But Lord Chaitanya explained that He was not offended by Sanatana's body; rather, He felt great bliss while embracing Sanatana because He saw his body as transcendental. Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu quoted the Bhagavad-gita (5.18):
vidya-vinaya-sampanne brahmane gavi hastini
suni caiva sva-pake ca panditah sama-darsinah
"The humble sages, by virtue of true knowledge, see with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog, and a dog-eater [outcaste]."
On hearing this quote, Haridasa said, "What You have spoken deals with external formalities." Lord Chaitanya then revealed His inner thoughts regarding His love for His devotees:
My dear Haridasa and Sanatana, I think of you as My little boys, to be maintained by Me. The maintainer never takes seriously any faults of the maintained....When a child passes stool and urine that touch the body of the mother, the mother never hates the child. On the contrary, she takes much pleasure in cleaning him. The stool and urine of the child appear like sandalwood pulp to the mother. Similarly, when the foul moisture oozing from the sores of Sanatana touches My body, I have no hatred for him. [Cc. Antya 4.184-7]
Lord Chaitanya then further explained the glories of devotional service and how it transforms a devotee's body into spiritual existence.In conclusion, the body of a pure devotee is never material. Even if it appears so, Krishna still accepts the devotee as dear and embraces him as His own. By the Lord's mercy, the devotee is spiritualized, and in his transcendental body he renders service to the Lord's lotus feet.