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NITAAI-Veda.nyf > Compiled and Imp Scriptures > Prema Vivarta > 17. The Standards Of Vaisnava Etiquette

Chapter 17—The Standards Of Vaishnava Etiquette

Reflects The Class of a Devotee


On an another occasion Shrila Svarupa Damodara Gosvami said to Shrila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami, "I have to tell you something very confidential."


Religious practices without chanting are futile


          The perfect varnasrama system is to maintain one's life by performing his prescribed duty according to varna and asrama, constantly chanting the holy name and rendering loving devotional service to the Supreme Lord Krishna.  He who follows this is truly intelligent, righteous and a real Vaishnava.

          "Mere ritualistic performances masquerading as religion are cheating processes.  They rob human life of it's value and degrade the performer.  One may make an attempt to act righteously without executing devotional service to the Supreme Lord.  And he may belong to any social order of life: celibate student, householder, retired or a renouncer of the world, but his company should be avoided if he is not a devotee of Krishna.


Acquire sambandha and act on the platform of yukta-vairagya


          "Everyone should act on the platform of yukta-vairagya - using everything without attachment in Lord Krishna's service. This must be done with a true understanding of sambandha-jnana or knowledge of our real relationship with the Supreme Lord. When sambandha-jnana further unfolds, one realises that the Supreme Person is the object of all devotional sentiments alambana. And when such alambana perceptions become purified then love of Godhead or prema, first dawns on the horizon of our spiritual consciousness.

          "A devotee will be respected even by venerable souls if he renders devotional service and cultivates prema for Lord Krishna, but a living entity is no more than a pitiful mongrel puppy if he is devoid of devotional service. He is indeed a Vaishnava who is engaged in devotional service; not he who leaves home and lives by begging but does not worship Krishna.  A devotee must never accept the remnants or flowers offered directly to a demigod, nor acknowledge invitations to ritualistic performances of karma-kanda.


Activities of householders and renounced devotees


          "Vaishnavas are broadly of two types; householders and renunciants. Both are qualified to perform pure devotional service, but their duties vary.  Both are required to act on the platform of yukta-vairagya. Thus, they steadily progress on the path of unalloyed surrender with devotion and knowledge.


Duties of a householder Vaishnava


          "A Vaishnava householder should always live according to the prescribed duties; graciously hosting guests to their full satisfaction. His spiritual discipline will not be impaired by his living or associating with his wife. Nor is it forbidden for him to use mustard oil or other perfumed oil.  Foods like milk, curd, etc., which are considered by ritualistic brahmanas to be inedible and non-vegetarian, become wholesome vegetarian food for the yukta-vairagi.

          "He is always attentive in chanting the holy name free from the ten offenses.  He accepts everything favourable for the execution of devotional service and carefully rejects things that are unfavourable. His spiritual success and excellence grow by cultivating undeviating faith in the holy name. A Vaishnava of this stature becomes illustrious in his householder life. He strictly avoids fault-finding and analysing others behaviour. He is compassionately disposed to all living entities and is dedicated to act for their benefit, always free from envy.


Duties of renounced Vaishnavas


          "The renounced Vaishnava reduces his material activities down to merely maintaining body and soul together; he is disinterested in saving anything for the future.  He avoids the slightest contact with women, and he wholeheartedly worships the Supreme Lord Krishna Hari.

          "Thus the different Vaishnavas act in their designated manner, and by worshipping Krishna and rendering devotional service to Him, they find shelter in His internal spiritual energy.


Vaishnavas are Free of fault finding


          "One should never make distinctions between householder and renunciant Vaishnavas.  This mentality results in the perpetration of grievous offenses. The important fact to remember is that one who has a fault-finding nature is not a devotee, but rather he is a disgrace to the whole Vaishnava community.

          "One should diligently develop his own devotional discipline with sincere simplicity, devotional service to Lord Krishna as the essence of all human activities.  Devotional service becomes impotent for one who cannot subdue within himself the evil habits of fault-finding, deceit, dishonesty and deviousness.These sinful culprits act against the injunctions of Shrimad-Bhagavatam, and with uncontrolled senses they try to enjoy material nature.


anugrahaya bhaktanam manusam deham-ashritah

bhajate tadrsih krida yah srutva tatparo bhavet


          In the Shrimad Bhagavatam it says, "The rotten sinners falsely presume that they are Supreme Lord Krishna. Impudently they try to imitate Lord Krishna's transcendental pastimes and pollute the process of pure religious principles.


A pure devotee serves Shri Shri Radha-Krishna


          "The pure devotee, who attains his original, spiritual form, renders unalloyed devotional service to Shrimati Radharani and Shri Krishna in Vraja in the  mood of a gopi.  But the atheist, who is eager to imitate Krishna's mood as the Supreme Enjoyer, will surely be damned to the lowest hell.

          "Antaranga bhakti" or confidential devotional service is never executed in this material body, but is performed on the platform of the purified mind. The foolish upstarts, given to constant faultfinding, think that such confidential service can be externally performed. Hence, the pure devotees carefully avoid such despicable, evil-minded company and simply serve Lord Krishna in their original, spiritual forms.


Krishna is the purusa, and everyone else is prakrti


          "Pure devotees are satisfied in their constitutional position as prakrti the subordinate female principle, drinking the nectar of Lord Krishna's lotus feet. For Krishna alone is the purusa, The Supreme Enjoyer - male principle my dear, revered Raghunatha dasa."


The householder and his prescribed duties


          Then Raghunatha dasa once again humbly approached Svarupa Damodara Gosvami with folded hands. "I have another question.  Please enlighten me. The highest and purest form of devotional service is above the prescribed religious practices of varnasrama dharma.Therefore, why is the householder bound by prescribed duties according to his asrama, if he can easily transcend the duties of his social order and render spontaneous devotional service?'

          Svarupa Damodara Gosvami replied, "Listen, dear brother, I will disclose to you the essence of everything by enunciating the principles of pure devotional service. It is simple to live one's life following one's prescribed duties, but if one tries to execute someone else's prescribed duties, then his life becomes burdensome and artificial.

          "The sincerely devoted person intelligently executes from amongst his prescribed duties of varnasrama only that which is conducive to pure devotional service. And by diligently rejecting those duties with are detrimental, he attains the platform of pure devotion.  Therefore, one should not be overly attached to stringently following the prescribed varnasrama duties, but he has to simply unflinchingly render unalloyed devotional service, and by so doing, he emulates the hallowed path of saintly persons.  Rejecting the overly rigid rules and regulations of varnasrama assists in elevating one to the platform of a pure Vaishnava.


Always remember Krishna and never forget Him


          "The most important regulation is to constantly remember Lord Krishna, and the strictest rule is to never forget Him."

          Raghunatha dasa humbly inquired further, "I would like you to kindly clarify another point. I want to know the Vaishnava conclusion on this subject: The Vaishnavas are classified as acyuta-gotra lineage back to Acyuta, the Supreme Lord Himself.  What is its significance and purport?'


Acyuta-gotra and varnasrama duties


          Svarupa Damodara Gosvami replied, "Both the householder and the renunciant Vaishnavas belong to the acyuta-gotra and not to any other gotra. The pure devotees of this divine gotra never become attached to the ritualistic practices of k. The Vaishnava gives up his family gotra and worships the Supreme Lord, taking shelter of His gotra because this is the eternal gotra stemming from the Lord Himself.

          Devotees of this standard are eligible to become permanent residents of Vraja Vrndavana. The most perfect devotees find their exact position of service in Goloka Vrndavana while still residing on earth, and render service to the Lord in their liberated forms as Vraja gopis. Others, who are 'aropa-siddha' sincerely cultivate the mood of loving devotion within their minds.


Pravarta, sadhaka, and siddha-bhaktas


          "There are three types of devotees: the steady practitioner on the path of perfection sadhaka, the beginner pravarta and the self-realised pure devotee siddha-bhakta. One who can understand these gradations can easily know the science of devotion. The beginner is known as kanistha-adhikari, or neophyte devotee; the sincere practitioner is called madhyama-adhikari, or intermediate devotee; and the self-realised soul is known as uttama-adhikari, or a devotee of the highest order.The highest order devotee is emphatically disinclined towards ritualistic practices.Both the uttama-adhikari and madhyama-adhikari fit the description of those belonging to the acyuta-gotra."


Aropa superimposition or ascription


          Raghunatha dasa said, "Now I want to properly understand the meaning of aropa to dispel my existing doubts."

          Svarupa Damodara Gosvami replied, "Listen attentively to the symptoms of aropa! This method is for a practitioner who lacks knowledge of his real spiritual identity. There are three types of Vaishnavas, aropa siddha, sanga-siddha and svarupa-siddha. First, I will explain aropa siddha.  Listen attentively and try to understand it.

          "A condition living entity is essentially a gross materialist and is always inclined to associate with the material phenomena and continuously experience material happiness or distress. He is constantly interacting with material nature, is oblivious of the transcendental realm and has no knowledge or experience of the divine nature. He does not realise that he is of that same transcendental nature. He is like a child who feels forlorn due to a moment's absence from him mother, unaware that his parents are close to him.

          "If by some divine arrangement and the results of his own pious deeds from his past lives he becomes fortunate, then his heart is impregnated with sraddha faith.  Sraddha induces him to inquire deeply into the mysteries of life. At first he is informed that he is constitutionally Lord Krishna's servant. Understanding this, the sincere desire to gain freedom from this entanglement called material life takes shape in his heart.


Worshipping Lord Krishna


          "The guru instructs him to worship Lord Krishna, and the faithful person gradually develops a desire to worship the Lord on the strength of the guru's words.  He understands from hearing that Krishna is the Supreme Lord, but he does not realise His eternal transcendental nature and personality. From the world that surrounds him he identifies objects that remind him of Krishna.  He worships the Lord and offers Him objects he values.

          "At this juncture the process of superimposition or ascription aropa begins. He obtains a statue of a human-like form of the Deity which to a neophyte is not the eternal form of the Lord and worships it with incense, flowers, oils and lamp, but without the proper understanding that the Deity is non different from the Lord.  He tries to think that all of this paraphernalia and the Deity is spiritual, and sometimes through thought ascription he actually experiences transcendence.

          "At this stage when he is induced to surrender the results of his works, even though the knowledge to act in a certain way is superimposed in the thought process without realisation, it nevertheless helps him to become steadfast on the devotional path. These are the symptoms of aropa-siddha devotion that are manifest in the kanistha-adhikari the neophyte devotee.


Worshipping the Deity with proper understanding


          "Thereafter, when he fully comprehends the truth about the Deity form of the Lord and begins to worship the Deity as a manifestation non different from the Lord, he gradually enters the state of a madhyama-adhikkari. On the uttama-adhikari platform or advanced stage of devotion, there is no question of aropa ascription; his purified mind is in constant communication.

          "The first rays of love of God dawn in his heart and he sees the Lord with eyes anointed with the salve of devotion.  He worships the Lord of his heart with spontaneous devotion, discarding all kanistha mentality, i.e. ascribing the devotional mood. Pure devotion, by nature, is not the same as the simulated surrender, or invoked devotional mood through aropa, although aropa is certainly a part of the process of bhakti.


The basis of aropa-siddhi


          "One of the prime symptoms of an aropa-siddha in that he relate to mundane objects and activities with a devotional attitude. Obnoxious and perverted material activities and objects, even when offered to the Supreme Lord, do not automatically becomes transformed into devotional service. So, such a devotee offers delectable things and renders favourable service to the Lord, not really knowing what offerings please the Lord most.  This devotional attitude is called aropa-siddha bhakti.

          Worship of the Deities by the Mayavadis is considered by them as a temporary means to achieve liberation. Hence, for them, such worship is aropa; whereas on the path of devotion, the ultimate perfection of attaining one' spiritual identity is non-different from the process by which the goal is reached.


Perfection through pure association or Sanga-siddha bhakti


          "Now hear about sanga-siddha bhakti which means the spiritual perfection achieved through the execution of pure knowledge and devotion. Pure knowledge of the absolute and proper renunciation are the main symptoms of sanga-siddha-bhakti.  Devotion is always accompanied by the knowledge of yukta-vairagya renunciation through utilising everything in the Lord's service. Humility, compassion and tolerance automatically appear as devotion deepens. These qualities are concomitants and assist one in devotional life, they are its integral part.


Devotion on the platform of spiritual perfection-svarupa-bhakti


          "Direct, spontaneous and pure devotion to the Supreme Lord is possible only when one is situated in his original spiritual identity svarupa. Hearing, chanting, etc. are the nine kinds of activities performed in devotional service. Svarupa siddha-bhakti devotion performed in one's original form, begins with pure chanting of the Lord's names and pastimes. The prime objective of these unalloyed devotees is to offer direct devotional service to Lord Krishna which pleases Him.

          "In the other two types of devotion aropa-siddha and sanga-siddha, this objective is not in full focus. The inherent spiritual qualities which lie latent, locked within the soul, which also provide the spirit soul the inclination for a particular devotional mellow, are the ingredients that evoke pure devotion. They manifest in the mind of a conditioned soul as his initial, but covered spiritually mentality. his proclivity is aroused and then becomes rampant in the conditioned souls who are rendering service to the Supreme Lord.  Pure devotion seeks such inclinations to flourish in.


The effects of these three types of devotion


          "Svarupa-siddha is direct and spontaneous devotional service. Sanga-siddha assists and enhances pure devotional fervour.  Aropa-siddha" is effective only where the material concept of life is prominent. The neophyte, or aropa-siddha if he desires to become elevated to render transcendental devotional service must destroy this concept first.

          Shrila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami fully comprehended Shrila Svarupa Damodara Gosvami's elucidation. hese wonderful spiritual conclusions by Svarupa Damodara Gosvami about the svarupa the original spiritual form of the soul are my Jagai's constant companion in meditation.