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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

your question."


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

Shri Kesava.


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

Shrimad-Bhagavatam (11.2.47)


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

Hari-bhakti-vilasa (1.55)


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

madhyama Vaishnava.


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):


anyabhilasita-sunyam jnana-karmady-anavrtam

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

of dharma.


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

spiritual benifit.


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

to say."


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

resumed speaking.


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

uttama Vaishnava.


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

offering prayers.


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

finally prema-bhakti.


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-

Bhagavatam (10.51.53):


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

the same.


Nityananda dasa: When does that happen?


Babaji: When he associates equally with bhaktas and inimical



Nityananda dasa: Under what circumstances can his advancement

be assured?


Babaji: When his association with bhaktas becomes prominent and

his association with the inimical becomes minimal, his advancement

is rapid.


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

their bhajana.


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

special regard?


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

worldly man?


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

(Siksastaka 3):


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

hari-nama constantly.


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

humility (dainya).


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

plenary portions.


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.