|NITAAI-Veda.nyf > Compiled and Imp Scriptures > Jaiva Dharma > 8. Nitya-Dharma & Vaisnava Behavior|
C H A P T E R 8
Nitya-Dharma & Vaishnava Behavior
In a forest bordering the south-eastern bank of the sacred pond
known as Shri Gora-hrada, there were some Vaishnavas living in
a secluded grove. One afternoon, the Vaishnavas of that place invited
the Vaishnavas of Godruma to join them for afternoon prasada.
After honoring prasada, the Vaishnavas sat together in the grove.
At that time, Lahiri Mahasaya sang a bhajana that awakened ecstatic
love of Vraja in everyone's hearts.
(gaura!) kata lila karile ekhane
advaitadi bhakta-sange nacile e vane range
e hrada haite prabhu, nistarile nakra prabhu
krishna yena kaliya-damane
Oh, think of the many pastimes Gaura performed here! He
danced and sported in this forest grove in the company of
Advaita and other Vaishnavas. Just as Shri Krishna tamed Kaliyanaga,
so our Prabhu delivered a crocodile from this pond
with His sankirtana, which became known as kaliya-damanasankirtana.
When the bhajana was over, the Vaishnavas began to discuss the
unity of gaura-lila and krishna-lila. While they were doing so, a few
Vaishnavas from Baragachi arrived and offered dandavat-pranama,
first to Gora-hrada and then to the Vaishnavas. The Vaishnavas in
the grove offered suitable respects to the newcomers and seated
In that secluded kunja was an ancient banyan tree, around whose
base the Vaishnavas had constructed a circular, mortared terrace.
Everyone honored the tree as Nitai-vata (Nityananda Prabhu's
banyan tree), for He would enjoy sitting beneath it. The Vaishnavas
now sat beneath this Nitai-vata, and began discussing spiritual
matters. A young, inquisitive Vaishnava in the group from Baragachi
said very humbly, "I would like to ask a question, and I will be most
satisfied if one of you will please answer it."
Haridasa Babaji Mahasaya, a resident of that secluded kunja, was
a wise and deeply learned scholar. He was almost a hundred years
old. He had personally seen Nityananda Prabhu sitting beneath
that banyan tree many years before, and his heart's desire was to
depart from this world at this very spot. When he heard the youth's
words, he said, "My son, while Paramahamsa Babaji's entourage is
sitting here, you need have no anxiety about receiving a reply to
The young Vaishnava from Baragachi then enquired very humbly,
"I understand that vaishnava-dharma is eternal religion, and I
would like to know in detail how one who has taken shelter of
vaishnava-dharma should behave with others."
Having heard the newcomer's question, Haridasa Babaji
Mahasaya glanced over at Shri Vaishnava dasa Babaji and said,
"Vaishnava dasa, there is no scholar in Bengal at the present time
who is equal to you, and you are also a superlative Vaishnava. You
had the association of Shrila Prakasananda Sarasvati Gosvami, and
you have received instruction from Paramahamsa Babaji. You are
a very fortunate recipient of Shriman Mahaprabhu's mercy, and you
are therefore most fit to answer this question."
Vaishnava dasa Babaji Mahasaya said humbly, "O great soul, you
have seen Shriman Nityananda Prabhu, who is an avatara of
Baladeva Himself, and your instructions have enabled countless
people to enter the spiritual path. I would deem it a great mercy if
you will instruct us today."
All the other Vaishnavas agreed with Vaishnava dasa Babaji. Seeing
no other recourse, Babaji Mahasaya finally relented. He offered
dandavat-pranama to Shri Nityananda Prabhu at the foot of the
banyan tree and began to speak.
Babaji: I offer pranama to all the jivas of this world, considering
them to be servants of Krishna. "Everyone is a servant of Shri Krishna,
although some accept this, and some do not." Although everyone
is by nature a servant of Shri Krishna, due to ignorance or illusion,
some souls do not accept this. They form one group. Another
group consists of those who do accept their natural identity
as servants of Shri Krishna. Consequently, there are two kinds
of people in this world: krishna-bahirmukha, those who are diverted
from Krishna; and krishna-unmukha, those who are attentive to
Most people in this world are diverted from Krishna and do not
accept dharma. There is nothing much to say about the first group.
They have no sense of what is to be done and what is not to be
done, and their entire existence is based upon selfish happiness.
People who accept some moral principles have a sense of duty.
For them the great Vaishnava, Manu, has written:
dhrtih ksama damo 'steyam saucam indriya-nigrahah
dhir vidya satyam akrodho dasakam dharma-laksanam
Shri Manu-samhita (6.92)
There are ten characteristics of religious life: dhrti (determination
with patience); ksama (forgiveness), which means
not retaliating when wronged by others; dama (control of
the mind), which means equanimity even in the face of
unsettling circumstances; asteya (abstinence from theft);
saucam (cleanliness); indriya-nigrahah (restraining the
senses from their sense objects); dhi (intelligence), which
means knowledge of the sastra; vidya (wisdom), which
means realization of the soul; satya (truthfulness); and
akrodha (absence of anger), as demonstrated by eventemperedness
amidst irritating circumstances.
Six of these characteristic - determination, control of the mind,
cleanliness, restraint of the senses, knowledge of the sastra, and
wisdom - are duties to one's own self. The remaining four - forgiveness,
abstinence from stealing, truthfulness, and absence of
anger - are duties to others. These ten religious duties have been
prescribed for people in general, but none of them clearly indicate
hari-bhajana. Furthermore, one will not necessarily attain complete
success in life simply by carrying out these duties faithfully.
This is confirmed in the Vishnu-dharmottara Purana:
jivitam visnu-bhaktasya varam panca-dinani ca
na tu kalpa-sahasrani bhakti-hinasya kesave
quoted in Hari-bhakti-vilasa (10.317)
It is most auspicious to live in this world, even for five days,
as a bhakta of Shri Vishnu, whereas it is not at all auspicious to
live in this world for thousands of kalpas without bhakti for
A person bereft of krishna-bhakti is not fit to be called a human
being, therefore sastra counts such people among the two-legged
animals. Shrimad-Bhagavatam (2.3.19) states:
sva-vid-varahostra-kharaih samstutah purusah pasuh
na yat karna-pathopeto jatu nama gadagrajah
Only men who are like dogs, hogs, camels and asses praise
those who never hear the holy name of Shri Krishna, the elder
brother of Gada.
If a person never allows shri-krishna-nama to enter his ears, he is
like an animal. In fact, he is more degraded than hogs that eat stool
and other rejected substances, camels that wander in the desert
of samsara eating cactus, and asses that carry heavy loads for others,
and are always harassed by the she-ass. However, the question
raised today was not about what such unfortunate people should
or should not do. It was only about how those who have taken
shelter of the path of bhakti should behave with others.
Those who have adopted the path of bhakti may be divided into
three categories: kanistha (neophyte), madhyama (intermediate),
and uttama (topmost). Kanisthas are those who have embarked
upon the path of bhakti, but are not yet true bhaktas. Their symptoms
are described as follows:
arcayam eva haraye pujam yah sraddhayehate
na tad-bhaktesu canyesu sa bhaktah prakrtah smrtah
One who faithfully worships the Deity form of Shri Hari, but
does not render service to His bhaktas or to other living
beings, is a prakrta-bhakta, a materialistic devotee.
Thus it is established that sraddha is the bija, or seed of bhakti.
One's bhakti is only effective when he worships Bhagavan with
sraddha, and it is still not suddha-bhakti unless he worships the
bhaktas as well. Bhakti does not develop thoroughly as long as he
fails to do so. This type of bhakta has barely entered the doorway of
the practice of bhakti. It is said in the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (10.84.13):
yasyatma-buddhih kunape tri-dhatuke
sva-dhih kalatradisu bhauma ijya-dhih
yat tirtha-buddhih salile na karhicij
janesv abhijnesu sa eva go-kharah
One who considers this corpse-like body, comprised of the
three elements vata, pita, and kapha, to be his real self; who
regards his wife, children, and others as his very own; who
considers mundane forms made of earth, stone, or wood to
be worshipable; and who regards mere water to be a place of
pilgrimage - but who does not consider the bhagavad-bhaktas
to be more dear than his very self, to be his very own, to be
worshipable, and to be places of pilgrimage; such a person,
though human, is no better than an ass among animals.
The purport of these two slokas is that one cannot even approach
the threshold of bhakti without worshiping Bhagavan in the form of
the Deity. If one rejects the Deity form and resorts to logical debate
alone to deduce the truth, his heart becomes dry and he cannot
ascertain the true object of worship. Yet even when one accepts
the Deity, it is essential to serve Him in transcendental consciousness
(suddha-chinmaya-buddhi). In this world the jivas are chinmaya
vastu, conscious entities, and among all the jivas, the bhaktas of Krishna
are suddha-chinmaya, endowed with pure consciousness. Krishna and
the bhaktas are both suddha-chinmaya-vastu (pure conscious entities),
and in order to understand them, it is essential to have sambandhajnana,
which is knowledge of the interrelationship between the
material world, the jivas, and Krishna. If one is to worship the Deity
with sambandha-jnana, then one must worship Krishna and serve the
bhaktas at the same time. This type of adoration and respect for
chinmaya-tattva, the transcendental reality, which is endowed with
sraddha, is known as sastriya sraddha, faith based on sastra.
Worship of the Deity that lacks this unequivocal knowledge of
the interrelationship between the different aspects of the transcendental
reality is simply founded on laukika sraddha, customary
or traditional regard. Such customary worship of the Deity is
not suddha-bhakti, although it is the first step in approaching the
entrance to bhakti; this is the conclusion of sastra. Those who have
reached this threshold of bhakti have been described as follows:
grhita-visnu-diksako visnu-puja-paro narah
vaisnavo 'bhihito 'bhijnair itaro 'smad avaishnavah
Learned scholars have determined that a Vaishnava is one
who is initiated into a Vishnu mantra in accordance with
the regulations of sastra, and who is engaged in the worship
of Shri Vishnu. All others are known as non-Vaishnavas.
Kanistha Vaishnavas, or prakrta-bhaktas, are those who accept a
family priest out of hereditary tradition, or who are prompted by
laukika sraddha (wordly faith) to imitate others by taking initiation
into a Vishnu mantra and worshiping the Deity of Shri Vishnu.
Such materialistic devotees are not suddha-bhaktas; rather, a
shadow-like semblance of bhakti called chaya-bhakty-abhasa is prominent
in them. However, they do not have pratibimba-bhakty-abhasa,
which is a reflective semblance of bhakti. This pratibimba-bhaktyabhasa
is offensive in nature and is devoid of Vaisnavism. The stage
of chaya-bhakty-abhasa is the result of great fortune, because it is
the preliminary stage of bhakti, and people can gradually develop
from it into madhyama and uttama Vaishnavas. Still, those at the
stage of chaya-bhakty-abhasa cannot be called suddha-bhaktas. Such
people worship the Deity with laukika sraddha (worldly faith).
They can only behave towards others according to the ten types
of religious duties that I have already described for people in general.
The behavior that the sastras prescribe for bhaktas does not
apply to them, for they cannot even ascertain who is a true bhakta
and who is not. That power to discriminate is a symptom of the
Shrimad-Bhagavatam (11.2.46) describes the behavior of the
madhyama Vaishnava as follows:
isvare tad-adhinesu balisesu dvisatsu ca
prema-maitri-krpopeksa yah karoti sa madhyamah
A madhyama-bhagavata is one who loves Isvara, is friendly
towards His bhaktas, shows mercy towards those who are
ignorant of bhakti, and neglects those who are inimical to
Isvara or His bhaktas.
The behavior being described here is classified in the realm of
nitya-dharma. I am not referring here to naimittika-dharma (temporary
religious or worldly duties). The behavior that I am describing
is part of nitya-dharma, and it is essential in the life of a
Vaishnava. Other types of behavior that are not opposed to this
behavior may be accepted where necessary.
A Vaishnava's behavior is directed towards four categories of
individuals: isvara, the Supreme Lord; tad-adhina, His bhaktas;
balisa, materialistic people who are ignorant of spiritual truth; and
dvesi, those who are opposed to bhakti. A Vaishnava shows love,
friendship, mercy, and neglect respectively to these four kinds of
individuals. In other words, he behaves lovingly towards Isvara,
with friendship towards the bhaktas, and mercifully towards the
ignorant; he neglects those who are inimical.
The first characteristic of a madhyama Vaishnava is that he has
prema for Shri Krishna, who is the Supreme Lord of all. The word prema
here refers to suddha-bhakti, whose symptoms have been described
as follows in Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu (1.1.11):
anukulyena krishnanusilanam bhaktir uttama
Uttama-bhakti is the consummate endeavor to serve Shri
Krishna in a favorable mood. It is free from any other desire,
and it is not covered by knowledge of impersonal brahma,
by the daily and periodic duties outlined in the smrtisastras,
or by renunciation, yoga, sankhya, and other types
Bhakti that is imbued with such characteristics is first found in
the sadhana practices of a madhyama Vaishnava, and it extends up
to the stages of bhava and prema. The only characteristic in the
bhakti of the kanistha is that of service to the Deity with faith. Such
a person does not have the characteristics of uttama-bhakti, namely:
anyabhilasita-sunya, freedom from ulterior desires; jnana-karmadyanavrta,
freedom from the coverings of impersonal knowledge and
fruitive action; and anukulyena krishnanusilana, consumate
endeavours to serve Krishna in a favorable mood.
A kanistha is considered to have become a madhyama Vaishnava
and a genuine bhakta when bhakti with these symptoms manifests
in his heart. Prior to this stage, he is a prakrta-bhakta, which means
that he is only a semblance of a bhakta (bhakta-abhasa), or a semblance
of a Vaishnava (vaishnava-abhasa). The word krishnanusilana
refers to prema, love for Krishna, and it is qualified by the word
anukulyena. This refers to those things that are favorable to krishnaprema,
namely, friendship with the bhaktas, mercy towards the ignorant,
and neglect of those who are inimical. These three items
are also symptoms of a madhyama Vaishnava.
The second characteristic of a madhyama Vaishnava is his friendship
towards bhaktas, in whose hearts suddha-bhakti has appeared,
and who are submissive to Bhagavan's will. Kanistha bhaktas are
not suddha-bhaktas fully submissive to Bhagavan, and they do not
offer respect or hospitality to suddha-bhaktas. Therefore, madhyama
and uttama-bhaktas are the only suitable people with whom to
develop intimate friendships.
In three successive years the bhaktas of Kulina-grama asked
Shriman Mahaprabhu, "What is a Vaishnava and what are the symptoms
by which he can be recognized?" Shri Mahaprabhu replied by
instructing them about uttama, madhyama, and kanistha Vaishnavas.
Now, according to the characteristics of His description, all three
of those classes - as He described them - meet the standards that
I have defined for madhyama and uttama Vaishnavas. None of them
correspond to the kanistha bhaktas who are only capable of worshiping
the Deity form, because they do not utter suddha-krishnanama.
Their chanting is known as chaya-namabhasa. Chayanamabhasa
refers to a semblance of the pure name obscured by ignorance
and anarthas, like the sun covered by clouds, which does
not manifest its full brilliance.
Mahaprabhu instructed madhyama-adhikari grhastha Vaishnavas
to serve the three kinds of Vaishnavas, which He described as follows:
one from whose mouth krishna-nama is heard even once; one
from whose mouth krishna-nama is heard constantly; and one whose
very sight spontaneously evokes the chanting of shri-krishna-nama.
All these three types of Vaishnavas are worthy of service, but this is
not true of one who only utters namabhasa, and not suddha-krishna??
nama. Only Vaishnavas who utter suddha-nama are worthy of service.
We are instructed to serve the Vaishnavas in accordance with
their respective levels of advancement. The word maitri signifies
association, conversation, and service. As soon as one sees a pure
Vaishnava, one should receive him, respectfully converse with him,
and fulfill his needs as far as one is able. One should serve him in
all these ways, and one should never envy him. One should not
criticize him, even by accident, or disrespect him, even if his appearance
is unattractive, or if he has some disease.
The third characteristic of the madhyama Vaishnava is that he
bestows mercy on the ignorant. The word balisa refers to people
who are ignorant of spiritual truth, bewildered, or foolish. It
means materialistic people who have not received any genuine
guidance in spiritual matters, but have not been contaminated by
unauthorized doctrines such as Mayavada. They are not envious
of bhaktas and bhakti, but their mundane egoism and attachment
prevents them from developing faith in Isvara. Learned scholars
also belong in this category if they have not attained the highest
fruit of study, which is to develop faith in Isvara.
The kanistha-adhikari prakrta-bhakta is standing at the doorway
to the temple of bhakti, but because of ignorance in the principles
of sambandha-jnana, he has not yet attained suddha-bhakti. Such a
person is also regarded as balisa until he comes to the platform of
suddha-bhakti. When he becomes acquainted with the truth of
sambandha-jnana, and awakens taste for suddha-hari-nama in the
association of pure bhaktas, his ignorance will be dissipated, and
he will attain the status of a madhyama Vaishnava.
It is essential that a madhyama Vaishnava should bestow his mercy
upon all the above-mentioned ignorant people. He should treat
them as guests and should satisfy their needs as far as he is able,
but that is not enough in itself. He should also act in such a way as
to awaken their faith in ananya-bhakti and their taste for suddhanama.
That is the real meaning of mercy. The ignorant may be victimized
by bad association and may fall down at any time because
they lack expertise in the sastras. The madhyama Vaishnava should
always protect such susceptible people from bad association. He
should mercifully give them his association and gradually instruct
them in spiritual matters and in the glories of suddha-nama.
A diseased person must be under the care of a physician because
he cannot cure himself. Just as one should pardon the anger of a
diseased person, so one should also excuse the improper behavior
of the ignorant. This attitude is known as mercy. The ignorant
have many misconceptions, such as faith in karma-kanda, occasional
inclination towards jnana, worshiping the Deity with ulterior
motives, faith in yoga, indifference towards the association of
pure Vaishnavas, attachment to varnasrama, and many other things.
However, the kanistha-adhikari can quickly become a madhyamaadhikari
when these misconceptions are dispelled by good association,
mercy, and good instructions.
When such people begin to worship the Deity of Bhagavan, it
may be understood that they have laid the foundation of all auspiciousness.
Of this there is no doubt. They do not have the defect
of adhering to false doctrines, and for this reason they have a scent
of true sraddha. Their Deity worship is not like that of the
Mayavadis, who do not have even a trace of sraddha for the Deity,
and who are offenders at the lotus feet of Bhagavan. That is why
the words sraddhaya ihate, (he worships with faith), have been used
in the sloka (11.2.47) that describes the kanistha-bhakta.
The philosophical outlook lodged in the heart of Mayavadis
and proponents of other similar doctrines is that Bhagavan has
no form and that the Deity which is worshiped is simply an imaginary
icon. Under such circumstances, how can there be any faith
in the Deity? As a result there is a significant difference between
Deity worship of Mayavadis and that of even the most neophyte
Kanistha-adhikari Vaishnavas worship the Deity with faith, knowing
that Bhagavan possesses personal form and attributes.
Mayavadis, however, believe that Bhagavan has no form or attributes,
and that the Deity is therefore imaginary and temporary.
Neophytes are not guilty of the offense of Mayavada, and that is
why they are accepted as prakrta Vaishnavas (materialistic devotees),
even though they do not possess any other Vaishnava characteristics.
This is where their Vaisnavism is found. On the strength of
this one quality, and by the mercy of sadhus, they will certainly
gradually be elevated. Madhyama-adhikari Vaishnavas must be genuinely
merciful towards such people, and if they are, the neophyte
bhakta's worship of the Deity and his chanting of hari-nama will
quickly rise from the abhasa stage to the purely transcendental stage.
The madhyama Vaishnava's fourth characteristic is neglect towards
those who are inimical. Here we must define enmity and
describe its different types. Dvesa, enmity, is a particular attitude
which is also known as matsarata, envy, and which is exactly the
opposite of love. Isvara is the only object of love, and dvesa is the
attitude that is directly opposite to love for Him. There are five
different types of dvesa: absence of faith in Isvara; the belief that
Isvara is nothing more than a natural potency that brings about
the results of all action; the belief that Isvara has no particular
form; the belief that the jivas are not eternally subordinate to
Isvara; and the absence of mercy.
Individuals whose hearts are contaminated by these inimical
attitudes are absolutely bereft of suddha-bhakti. They do not even
have prakrta-bhakti, the rudimentary devotion that is the doorway
to suddha-bhakti, and which is represented by the neophyte bhakta's
worship of the Deity. The five types of enmity are found to coexist
with attachment to material sense enjoyment. Sometimes
the third and fourth types of enmity lead to such an extreme form
of asceticism or aversion towards the world that it culminates in
self-annihilation. This is seen in the lives of the Mayavada
sannyasis. How should suddha-bhaktas behave towards such inimical
people? It is their duty to avoid them.
The word upeksa, neglect, does not imply that one should abandon
all social dealings that are normal between human beings. Nor
does it mean that one should fail to alleviate an inimical person's
difficulty or deprivation if he falls into distress. Grhastha Vaishnavas
remain within society, so they have many types of relationships,
for instance, with relatives through marriage, and with others
through business dealings, through the maintenance of property
and bringing up of animals, through endeavoring to mitigate the
suffering and ailments of others, and through their position as citizens
of the state. These different social relations entail connection
with inimical people, and avoidance does not mean that one
should at once give them up. One is obliged to conduct routine
affairs and interact with people who are indifferent to Isvara, but
one should not take their association when it comes to spiritual
Some members of one's own family may acquire a malicious nature
as a result of their sinful activities from a previous life. Should
one abandon such people? Certainly not. One should deal with
them without attachment insofar as ordinary affairs are concerned,
but one should not associate with them for spiritual matters.
Upeksa should be applied in this regard. Spiritual association
means to meet together for the purpose of spiritual advancement,
to discuss topics of eternal truth, and to render reciprocal service
and welfare that awakens one's devotional sentiments. Upeksa
means avoiding the association of people with whom such types
of exchange are not possible.
When an inimical person who has adopted discordant or inconsistent
opinions hears glorification of suddha-bhakti or virtuous
instructions regarding bhakti, he will immediately retort with
some futile argument which is not beneficial for you or for him.
One should avoid such fruitless arguments, and interact with such
people only as far as necessary in routine social dealings. One may
think that one should include inimical people among the igno??
rant, and therefore bestow mercy upon them, but if one does so,
one will not help them and will only harm oneself. One should be
benevolent, but with caution.
Madhyama-adhikari suddha-bhaktas should certainly follow these
four instructions. If they neglect to do so in any way, they become
guilty of behaving improperly and thus fail to do that for which
they are qualified. This is considered a serious defect, as explained
in Shrimad-Bhagavatam (11.21.2):
sve sve 'dhikare ya nistha sa gunah parikirtitah
viparyayas tu dosah syad ubhayor esa niscayah
To be firmly established in the duties one is authorized to
perform is a good quality, whereas failure to do so is a fault.
Good qualities and faults are ascertained in this way.
In other words, good qualities and faults are determined according
to one's eligibility, and not by any other criterion. According
to the sastras, the madhyama-adhikari suddha-bhakta should develop
prema for Krishna and friendship with His pure bhaktas. He should
be merciful to the ignorant and should neglect those who are inimical.
The degree of friendship that the madhyama-bhakta establishes
with other bhaktas should be in keeping with the degree of
their advancement in bhakti; the degree of mercy that he bestows
upon the ignorant depends on their degree of sincerity or foolishness;
and the extent to which he neglects the inimical depends
on the degree of their enmity. The madhyama-bhakta considers all
these things as he interacts with others in spiritual affairs. Worldly
affairs should be conducted in a straightforward manner, but
should always be performed with consideration of the ultimate
Just then, a resident of Baragachi named Nityananda dasa interrupted
by saying, "What is the behavior of uttama-bhaktas?"
Slightly startled, Babaji Mahasaya said, "Brother! You have asked
a question that I am just in the process of answering. Let me finish
what I have to say. I am an old man and my memory is fading. If the
subject matter changes too abruptly, I will forget what I was going
Haridasa was a strict Babaji. Although he never found fault with
anyone, he was quick to respond when anyone spoke inappropriately.
Everyone was stunned to hear his words. Again he offered
pranama to Nityananda Prabhu at the foot of the banyan tree and
Babaji: When the bhakti of the madhyama Vaishnava progresses
beyond the stages of sadhana and bhava, and comes to the level of
prema, it becomes highly condensed, and at that time, the Vaishnava
becomes an uttama-bhakta. Shrimad-Bhagavatam (11.2.45) describes
the symptoms of an uttama Vaishnava as follows:
sarva-bhutesu yah pasyed bhagavad-bhavam atmanah
bhutani bhagavaty atmany esa bhagavatottamah
One who sees his own bhagavad-bhava, ecstatic mood of
attraction towards Shri Krishnacandra, in the hearts of all jivas
(sarva-bhutesu) and sees all beings within Shri Krishnacandra
is an uttama-bhagavata.
An uttama Vaishnava perceives that all living beings love
Bhagavan with the same particular feeling of transcendental love
that he himself cherishes towards his istadeva. He also perceives
that Bhagavan feels a reciprocal attitude of love towards all living
beings. An uttama Vaishnava has no disposition other than this
mood of transcendental love. Other moods arise from time to time,
according to different circumstances, but they are all transformations
of that prema.
For example, Sukadeva Gosvami was an uttama-bhagavata, but
he described Kamsa in words such as bhoja-pamsula, a disgrace to
the Bhoja dynasty. Although it appears as if these words were spoken
out of enmity towards Kamsa, they are actually a manifestation
of prema towards Krishna. When suddha-prema becomes the very
life of a bhakta, he is known as an uttama-bhagavata. In this condition
there is no longer any distinction between love, friendship,
mercy, and neglect, as is the case with the madhyama-adhikari. All
his behavior becomes a manifestation of prema, and there is no
difference in his eyes between a kanistha, madhyama, or an uttama
Vaishnava, nor is there any difference between a Vaishnava and a
non-Vaishnava. This advanced condition is extremely rare.
Just consider now that a kanistha Vaishnava does not render service
to Vaishnavas, and an uttama Vaishnava does not make any distinction
between Vaishnavas and non-Vaishnavas, for he sees all jivas
as servants of Krishna. This means that only madhyama Vaishnavas
offer respect to Vaishnavas, and render service to them. A madhyama
Vaishnava must serve the three kinds of Vaishnavas - those who
chant krishna-nama even once, those who chant krishna-nama constantly,
and those whose mere sight automatically causes krishnanama
to dance on one's tongue. A Vaishnava may be considered a
Vaishnava, a superior Vaishnava, or a superlative Vaishnava, according
to his degree of advancement. A madhyama-bhakta should serve
Vaishnavas according to their status. Only an uttama Vaishnava will
conclude that it is improper to consider whether a Vaishnava is
kanistha, madhyama, or uttama. If a madhyama-adhikari Vaishnava
thinks in this way, he will become an offender. Shriman Mahaprabhu
indicated this to the residents of Kulina-grama, and His instructions
are to be revered even more than the Vedas by all madhyama
Vaishnavas. And what are the Vedas, or sruti? They are the orders of
Having said this much, Haridasa Babaji became silent for a
moment. At this time, Nityananda dasa Babaji of Baragachi folded
his hands and said, "May I ask a question now?"
Haridasa Babaji replied, "As it pleases you."
"Babaji Mahasaya, to which category of Vaishnavas do you think
I belong? Am I a kanistha or a madhyama Vaishnava? I am certainly
not an uttama Vaishnava."
Haridasa Babaji Mahasaya smiled a little and said, "Brother, can
one who has received the name Nityananda dasa be anything other
than an uttama Vaishnava? My Nitai is very merciful. Even when
He is beaten, He gives prema in return. So if one takes His name
and becomes His dasa, need anything more be said?"
Nityananda dasa: I sincerely want to know my actual position.
Babaji: Then tell me your whole story. If Nitai empowers me to
speak, I shall say something.
Nityananda dasa: I took birth in a low-caste family in a small village
on the bank of the Padmavati River. I was very simple and humble
by nature from childhood, and I always used to stay far away from
bad company. I was married at an early age, but after some days my
parents died, and my wife and I remained alone in the home. We did
not have so much wealth, so we worked every day to maintain ourselves.
Our days passed happily in this way, but this happiness did
not last for long, for after a while, she also left her body. Because of
my separation from her, thoughts of detachment awakened in my
mind. Near my village were many Vaishnavas who had renounced
household life, and I saw that the people of Baragachi offered them
great respect. I hankered for that respect very strongly, and because
of the temporary feelings of detachment brought on by the death
of my wife, I went to Baragachi and accepted the dress of a Vaishnava
mendicant. However, after a few days, my mind became fickle; it was
possessed by wicked thoughts, and it became very difficult for me to
control, but by great fortune, I received the association of an excellent
Vaishnava who is pure and simple. At present, he is performing
bhajana in Vraja. With deep affection, he gave me profound advice,
kept me in his association, and purified my mind.
Now my mind is no longer disturbed by mischievous thoughts. I
have developed taste for chanting a hundred thousand names of
hari-nama every day. I understand that there is no difference between
Shri Hari and shri-nama, and that both are fully spiritual. I observe
the Ekadashi fast according to sastra and offer water to Tulasi. When
the Vaishnavas perform kirtana, I also join with rapt attention. I drink
the water that washes the feet of pure Vaishnavas. I study the bhaktisastras
every day. I no longer desire to eat palatable food or dress
nicely. I have no taste to hear or participate in mundane talks. When
I see the Vaishnavas' ecstatic moods, a desire comes into my mind to
roll on the ground at their feet, and sometimes I do so, but it is out
a desire for prestige. Now please give your verdict: To which class of
Vaishnava do I belong, and how should I behave?
Haridasa Babaji looked at Vaishnava dasa Babaji with a smile and
said, "Tell us to which class of Vaishnava does Nityananda dasa
Vaishnava dasa: From what I have heard, he has surpassed the kanistha
stage and has entered the madhyama stage.
Babaji: That is my feeling also.
Nityananda dasa: How wonderful! Today I have come to know of
my true position from the mouths of Vaishnavas. Please bestow your
mercy upon me, so that I may gradually come to the stage of an
Vaishnava dasa: At the time that you accepted mendicancy, there
was a desire for honor and prestige in your heart, so you were not
actually qualified to enter the renounced order, and therefore your
acceptance of mendicancy was tainted with flaw of unauthorized
consideration. In spite of this, you have attained genuine auspiciousness
by the mercy of the Vaishnavas.
Nityananda dasa: Even now I have some desire for honor. I think
that I may attract others and win tremendous respect if I am seen
weeping profusely and displaying ecstatic emotions.
Babaji: You must endeavor to give this up, otherwise there is a
serious danger that your bhakti will be eroded and you will have to
descend to the kanistha platform again. Although the six enemies
of lust, anger, greed, envy, pride and illusion may have departed,
the desire for honor remains. This desire for fame is the most pernicious
enemy of the Vaishnavas, and it does not easily agree to leave
the sadhakas. Moreover, a single drop of genuine spiritual emotion
is far superior to an imitative display of emotion (chaya-bhavaabhasa).
"Please give me your mercy," said Nityananda dasa, and reverentially
placed the dust from Haridasa Babaji's lotus feet on his
own head. At this, Babaji became unsettled. He quickly got up,
embraced Nityananda dasa, seated him by his side, and patted him
on the back. How extraordinary is the effect of touching a
Vaishnava! Tears immediately began to stream from Nityananda
dasa's eyes, and Haridasa Babaji could not check his own tears,
although he tried to do so. A wonderful atmosphere was manifest,
and tears came to the eyes of all the assembled Vaishnavas. At that
moment, Nityananda dasa accepted Shri Haridasa in his heart as
his guru, and his life became successful. Within a short time the
emotion subsided, and he inquired, "What are the primary and
secondary characteristics of a kanistha-bhakta in regard to bhakti?"
Babaji: The two primary characteristics of a kanistha Vaishnava are
his faith in the eternal form of Bhagavan, and his worship of the
Deity. His secondary characteristics are the devotional activities
that he performs, such as hearing, chanting, remembering, and
Nityananda dasa: One cannot be a Vaishnava unless he has faith in
the eternal form of Bhagavan and worships the Deity according
to the regulations of sastra, so I can well understand why these
two are primary symptoms. However, I cannot understand why
hearing, chanting, remembering, and other such activities are
Babaji: The kanistha Vaishnava is not acquainted with the intrinsic
nature of suddha-bhakti, of which hearing, chanting, and so on
are angas (limbs). Consequently, his hearing and chanting do not
assume their primary identity, but are manifest in a gauna (secondary)
form. Furthermore, whatever arises from the three gunas -
sattva (goodness), rajah (passion), and tamah (ignorance) - is
known as gauna. When these activities become nirguna, free from
the influence of the material modes, they are angas of suddhabhakti,
and one has attained the madhyama stage.
Nityananda dasa: How can the kanistha Vaishnava be called a bhakta
when he is contaminated with the faults of karma and jnana, and
his heart is filled with desires for things other than bhakti?
Babaji: One becomes eligible for bhakti once he has attained
sraddha, which is the root of bhakti; there is no doubt then that he
is situated at the doorway to bhakti. The word sraddha means visvasa,
belief. When the kanistha-bhakta awakens belief in the divine Deity,
he becomes eligible for bhakti.
Nityananda dasa: When will he obtain bhakti?
Babaji: The kanistha-bhakta becomes a suddha-bhakta at the
madhyama level when his contamination of karma and jnana is
dissipated, and he desires nothing other than ananya-bhakti (exclusive
bhakti). At that point, he understands that there is a difference
between service to guests and service to bhaktas, and thus
he awakens taste for serving the bhaktas, which is favorable to bhakti.
Nityananda dasa: Suddha-bhakti appears along with sambandhajnana.
When is that knowledge awakened by which one becomes
eligible for suddha-bhakti?
Babaji: True sambandha-jnana and suddha-bhakti are manifest simultaneously
when knowledge contaminated by Mayavada conceptions
has been dispelled.
Nityananda dasa: How long does that take?
Babaji: The stronger a person's sukrti from past activities, the
sooner he will attain it.
Nityananda dasa: What is the first result attained by past sukrti?
Babaji: One attains sadhu-sanga.
Nityananda dasa: And what is the progression that evolves from
Babaji: Shrimad-Bhagavatam (3.25.25) describes the systematic evolution
of bhakti very succinctly:
satam prasangan mama virya-samvido
bhavanti hrt-karna-rasayanah kathah
taj-josanad asv apavarga-vartmani
sraddha ratir bhaktir anukramisyati
In the association of suddha-bhaktas, the recitation and
discussion of My glorious activities and pastimes are pleasing
to both the heart and the ears. By cultivating knowledge
in this way, one becomes established on the path of
liberation and progressively attains sraddha, then bhava, and
Nityananda dasa: How does one attain sadhu-sanga?
Babaji: I have already said that sadhu-sanga is attained by sukrti
acquired in previous births. This is explained in Shrimad-
bhavapavargo bhramato yada bhavej
janasya tarhy acyuta sat-samagamah
sat-sangamo yarhi tadaiva sad-gatau
paravarese tvayi jayate ratih
O Acyuta, the jiva has been wandering in the cycle of birth
and death since time without beginning. When the time
for his release from this cycle approaches, he obtains satsanga.
From that moment, he becomes firmly attached to
You, who are the controller of both spirit and matter, and
the supreme goal of attainment for the sadhus.
Nityananda dasa: It is only by sadhu-sanga that a kanistha-bhakta
awakens an inclination for worshiping the Deity, so how can it be
said that he doesn't render any service to sadhus?
Babaji: When one obtains sadhu-sanga by good fortune, visvasa,
or belief in the divinity of the Deity awakens. Nonetheless, worship
of the Deity must be accompanied by service to the sadhus
themselves. Until this type of faith develops, one's sraddha is incomplete,
and one remains ineligible for ananya-bhakti.
Nityananda dasa: What are the stages of progress for a kanisthabhakta?
Babaji: Suppose that a kanistha-bhakta worships the Deity form of
Bhagavan every day with faith, but is not yet free from the contaminations
of karma, jnana, and extraneous desires. By chance,
some guests come to him who happen to be bhaktas, and he welcomes
and serves them, just as he would any other guests. The
kanistha-bhakta observes the activities and behavior of the bhaktas
and gets a chance to hear their discussions of spiritual topics based
on the sastra. In this way, he begins to develop great respect for
the character of the bhaktas.
At this point, he becomes aware of his own defects. He begins
to follow the behavior of the sadhus and to rectify his own behavior.
Gradually, his defects of karma and jnana begin to fade, and as
his heart becomes purified, he becomes increasingly free from extraneous
desires. He studies the sastra by regularly hearing narrations
of Bhagavan's pastimes and the fundamental, ontological
truths about Bhagavan. His sambandha-jnana becomes progressively
firmer as he accepts the transcendental nature of Bhagavan,
shri-nama, and the angas of bhakti such as hearing and chanting.
When his sambandha-jnana becomes complete, he attains the stage
of a madhyama Vaishnava. It is at this point that he truly begins to
associate with bhaktas. He can then perceive that bhaktas are vastly
superior to ordinary guests, and he can begin to regard them on
the level of guru.
Nityananda dasa: Why is it that many kanistha-bhaktas do not
Babaji: If the kanistha-bhakta associates mainly with people who
are inimical, his immature level of eligibility for bhakti quickly fades,
and his eligibility for karma and jnana becomes prominent. In some
cases, eligibility neither increases nor decreases, but remains exactly
Nityananda dasa: When does that happen?
Babaji: When he associates equally with bhaktas and inimical
Nityananda dasa: Under what circumstances can his advancement
Babaji: When his association with bhaktas becomes prominent and
his association with the inimical becomes minimal, his advancement
Nityananda dasa: What is the nature of the kanistha-adhikari's
inclination towards sinful and pious activities?
Babaji: In the preliminary stage, his inclination for sinful and pious
activities will be like that of the karmis and jnanis, but as he
progresses in bhakti, these propensities will be dispelled, and his
inclination to please Bhagavan will become prominent.
Nityananda dasa: Dear master, I have understood the situation of
kanistha-adhikaris. Now kindly describe the primary symptoms of
the madhyama-adhikari bhaktas.
Babaji: The madhyama-bhakta has ananya-bhakti towards Krishna. His
friendship with the bhaktas consists of four attitudes: he considers
bhaktas to be more dear than his very self (atma-buddhi); he
feels great possessiveness towards them (mamata-buddhi); he considers
bhaktas as worshipable (ijya-buddhi); and he considers them
to be a place of pilgrimage (tirtha-buddhi). The madhyama-bhakta
also bestows mercy on those who are ignorant of spiritual truth,
and he neglects the inimical. These are the primary characteristics
of the madhyama-bhakta.
When one develops sambandha-jnana and practices bhaktisadhana,
which is the means (abhidheya), one attains the goal of
prema (prayojana). This is the methodology of the madhyamabhakta.
It is generally observed that madhyama-bhaktas perform harinama,
kirtana, and other such activities in the association of
bhaktas, free from any offense.
Nityananda dasa: What are the secondary symptoms of the
Babaji: The secondary symptom of the madhyama-bhakta is the way
in which he lives his life. His life is completely surrendered to the
will of Krishna, and is favorable to bhakti.
Nityananda dasa: Can he still commit sins or offenses?
Babaji: Some tendency to commit sins or offenses may remain in
the beginning stage, but gradually these will disappear. Whatever
sins or offenses are still present at the beginning of the madhyama
stage are like chick-peas that are just about to be ground to a pulp;
they are still seen as small lumps, but within a few moments they
will be crushed and will cease to exist. Yukta-vairagya (appropriate
renunciation) is the life and soul of the madhyama-bhakta.
Nityananda dasa: Does the madhyama-bhakta have any trace of
karma, jnana or extraneous desires?
Babaji: In the initial stages a faint trace of these things may remain,
but finally they are uprooted. Whatever vestiges of karma and jnana
remain in the beginning of the madhyama stage occasionally make
themselves visible, yet these gradually fade into oblivion.
Nityananda dasa: Do such bhaktas even desire to live, and if so,
Babaji: Actually, they have no desire to live or die, or to attain
liberation. They desire to live only to attain consummation of
Nityananda dasa: But why don't they long for death? What happiness
can come from remaining in this gross material body? When
they die, will they not obtain their spiritual forms and identities
by Krishna's mercy?
Babaji: They have no independent desires. All their desires are
solely dependent on Krishna's will, because they are firmly convinced
that everything is happening by His will and that whatever happens
is only because of His desire. They have, therefore, no need
to aspire for anything independently.
Nityananda dasa: I have understood the symptoms of the
madhyama-adhikari. Now, please tell me about the secondary sympNITYA-
toms of the uttama-adhikari.
Babaji: Their secondary symptoms are their bodily activities, but
even these cannot actually be viewed separately as secondary symptoms,
because they are so much under the control of prema, which
is beyond all influence of the material modes.
Nityananda dasa: Prabhu, there is no provision in sastra for the
kanistha-adhikaris to renounce household life, and madhyamaadhikaris
may live either as householders or renunciants. Is it possible
that some uttama-adhikaris may live as householders?
Babaji: One's level of eligibility cannot be determined by whether
one is a householder or a renunciant; the only criterion is one's
advancement in bhakti. There is certainly no harm if an uttamaadhikari
bhakta remains a householder. All the grhastha-bhaktas of
Vraja were uttama-adhikaris. Many grhastha-bhaktas of our Shri
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu were uttama-adhikaris; Raya Ramananda is
the foremost example of this.
Nityananda dasa: Prabhu, if an uttama-adhikari bhakta is a grhastha,
and a madhyama-adhikari bhakta is in the renounced order, how
should they behave towards each other?
Babaji: The person who is less qualified should offer dandavatpranama
to the person who is more qualified. This stipulation is
only for the benefit of the madhyama-adhikari, because the uttamaadhikari
bhakta does not expect respect from anyone. In all living
beings he sees the presence of Bhagavan.
Nityananda dasa: Should one bring many Vaishnavas together and
hold festivals for distributing bhagavat-prasada?
Babaji: From the spiritual point of view, there is no objection if
many Vaishnavas gather together for some particular occasion and
a madhyama-adhikari grhastha-bhakta wants to honor them by distributing
the bhagavat-prasada. However, it is not good to make a
pompous display of serving the Vaishnavas, for then this activity
will become adulterated with the mode of passion. One should
distribute prasada to the assembled Vaishnavas with great care and
attention. This is one's duty. If one wishes to serve the Vaishnavas
in this way, he should only invite pure Vaishnavas.
Nityananda dasa: A new caste has emerged in Baragachi consisting
of people who refer to themselves as descendants of Vaishnavas.
Kanistha-adhikari householders invite them and feed them in the
name of Vaishnava seva. How is this to be viewed?
Babaji: Have these descendants of Vaishnavas taken up suddhabhakti?
Nityananda dasa: I don't see suddha-bhakti in any of them. They
only call themselves Vaishnavas. Some of them wear kaupinas (loincloths).
Babaji: I cannot say why is this type of practice is in vogue. It
should not be done. I can only surmise that it is going on because
kanistha Vaishnavas have no ability to recognize who is a true
Nityananda dasa: Do the descendants of Vaishnavas deserve any
Babaji: Honor is due for those who are actually Vaishnavas. If the
descendants of Vaishnavas are pure Vaishnavas, they should be honored
in proportion to their advancement in bhakti.
Nityananda dasa: What if the descendant of a Vaishnava is only a
Babaji: Then he should be considered as a worldly man and not as
a Vaishnava; he should not be honored as a Vaishnava. One should
always remember the instruction given by Shriman Mahaprabhu
trnad api sunicena taror api sahisnuna
amanina manadena kirtaniyah sada harih
One can chant shri-hari-nama in a humble state of mind,
thinking himself more insignificant than the straw in the
street and more tolerant than the tree. One should be devoid
of all sense of false prestige, and ready to offer all respects
to others. In such a state of mind, one can chant shri
One should be free from pride and should offer appropriate respect
to others. One should offer Vaishnavas the respect due to a
Vaishnava, and he should offer those who are not Vaishnavas the
respect that befits any human being. If one does not offer respect
to others, he does not acquire the necessary qualification to chant
Nityananda dasa: How can one be free from pride?
Babaji: One should not proudly think, "I am a brahmana," "I am
wealthy," "I am a learned scholar," "I am a Vaishnava," or "I have renounced
family life." People may well offer respect because one has
such qualities, but one should not want to be honored by others
out of such egoistic pride. One should always think oneself to be
worthless, insignificant, destitute, and lower than a blade of grass.
Nityananda dasa: It seems from this that one cannot be a Vaishnava
without humility and compassion.
Babaji: That is quite true.
Nityananda dasa: Then does Bhakti-devi depend on humility and
Babaji: No, bhakti is completely independent. Bhakti is the personification
of beauty and she is the supreme ornament; she does not
depend on any other good quality. Humility and compassion are
not separate qualities, but are included within bhakti. "I am a servant
of Krishna," "I am destitute," "I have nothing," "Krishna is my allin-
allé" - the bhakti that is expressed in these attitudes is itself
The tenderness of heart experienced towards Krishna is known
as bhakti. All other jivas are servants of Krishna, and tenderness of
heart towards them is compassion (daya). Therefore, compassion
is included within bhakti.
Ksama (forgiveness) is the bhava situated between humility and
compassion. "When I am so wretched and insignificant myself, how
can I inflict punishment upon others?" - when this attitude is
combined with compassion, forgiveness automatically appears.
Forgiveness is also included in bhakti.
Krishna is satya, real. The fact that the jivas are servants of Krishna
is also real, as is the fact that the material world is only a boarding
house for the jivas. That means that bhakti is also real, because these
truths are based on the jivas' relationship with Krishna, which is
itself bhakti. Truth, humility, compassion, and forgiveness are four
special qualities that are included in bhakti.
Nityananda dasa: How should a Vaishnava behave towards the followers
of other religions?
Babaji: The instruction of Shrimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.26) is:
narayana-kalah santah bhajanti hy anasuyavah
Those who are free from the propensity to slander others
and who are fully peaceful worship Shri Narayana and His
There is no dharma other than vaishnava-dharma. All other
dharmas that are or ever will be propagated in the world are either
steps on the staircase of vaishnava-dharma, or else distortions of it.
Those dharmas that are steps leading to bhakti should be respected
in proportion to their degree of purity. One should not bear any
malice towards dharmas that are distortions of bhakti, but one
should focus exclusively on the cultivation of one's own devotional
truths. One should not maintain any animosity towards the
followers of other religions. When the time is ripe, the followers
of various other dharmas will become Vaishnavas easily. Of this there
is no doubt.
Nityananda dasa: Is it our duty to preach Vaishnava dharma or not?
Babaji: Certainly it is. Our Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has given
everyone the responsibility of spreading this dharma:
naco, gao, bhakta-sange kara sankirtana
krishna-nama upadesi' tara' sarva-jana
Shri Chaitanya-charitamrita, Adi-lila (7.92)
Dance, sing, and perform sankirtana in the association of
bhaktas. You should deliver everyone by instructing them
to chant shri-krishna-nama.
ataeva ami ajna dilun sabakare
jahan tahan prema-phala deha' yare tare
Shri Chaitanya-charitamrita, Adi-lila (9.36)
Therefore, I am ordering everyone to distribute the fruits
of prema wherever they go and to whomever they meet.
However, one must remember not to give shri-krishna-nama to unqualified
people. Such people should first be given the necessary
qualification; only then can they be given hari-nama. Furthermore,
these statements of Shriman Mahaprabhu do not apply when neglect
(upeksa) is appropriate, for instance, when dealing with inimical
people. Trying to enlighten such people only presents obstacles
to one's preaching.
When Nityananda dasa had heard Haridasa Babaji Mahasaya's
ambrosial words, he rolled on the ground at his feet in great love.
The grove reverberated with the Vaishnavas' loud exclamations of
shri-hari-nama, and everyone offered dandavat-pranama to Babaji
Mahasaya. The day's meeting in that secluded grove came to an
end, and everyone returned to their respective places.
THUS ENDS THE EIGHTH CHAPTER OF JAIVA-DHARMA,
"NITYA-DHARMA & VAISNAVA BEHAVIOR"