Sri Sri Radha Govinda Gaudiya Math

Gaura Purnima 2015

Inside: Editorial - Srila Prabhupad * Saranagati - Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur * Amrta Vani - Srila Prabhupad * Intelligently Aware - Srila BR Sridhar Maharaj * Mana, Surrender and Nama - Srila BV Puri Maharaj * Do We Have Faith in Krsna's Pastimes? (2) – Srila Bhakti Sadhak Muni Maharaj

Mana, Surrender and Nama
Om Visnupad Sri Srimad Bhakti Vaibhava Puri Gosvami Maharaj

man-mana bhava mad-bhakto mad-yaji mam namaskuru
mam evaisyasi satyam te pratijane priyo ‘si me
(Bhagavad-gita 18.65)

Mad-bhakto, be My devotee. Mad-yaji bhava, worship Me, Mam namaskuru, serve Me. Namaskuru means namaskaram and the real meaning of namaskaram is to surrender. “I fall prostrated before You and I surrender to You. You should bless me. I give up my ego and offer this body to You. My mind belongs to You, everything belongs to You. I am Yours. All the universes are Yours. You are the Supreme Master.” If we do this, then our surrender will be complete.

The teachings of the Bhagavad-gita say that the mind should always remember the Lord. That we should always speak about devotion to the Lord, His Names, His lilas and His gunas. We should always repeat the glories of the Supreme Lord. Then your bhajan or worship will start. Service means not only doing things with the hands, but with the mind. The mind must be given to Him, must be offered to His feet. This is service. Then He will bless us.

This mana (mind) is independent now, it does not surrender. It preserves the ego, but that ego must disappear. When you surrender, that ego will disappear and then you will be happy, you will enjoy peace. Santi, santi, santi what is that santi? Santi means one who will have no desires, who will give up all desires. Only then can one enjoy peace. But how to give up all desires? This is the problem. One cannot give up all desires. Desires are not created by him, but they depend upon his past activities that force him to think about some things with which he had a relationship previously. Now he cannot destroy this relationship.

Gradually that mana should become weaker and weaker. Now it is the most powerful. The physical body can be destroyed, it cannot survive for long time. But the mana will survive. Although this physical body will become weak, the mana will not become weak, it will remain strong. How to weaken it? How to divert its enjoyment spirit, its desires? Everything must be diverted toward the service to Lord Krsna.

You cannot destroy mana. Mana will remain and will destroy you, then it will take another body. Mana, buddhi and ahankara (mind, intellect and false ego), these three things will always take rebirth. Hundreds, thousands and crores of births. It is impossible to calculate and no one knows about it. Everybody is under the influence of maya. What happened last week, I cannot remember. What has happened last year by this time I also cannot remember. How can I remember previous births? I have no remembrance at all. We have to adjust ourselves to the present situation and remember the Lord, the Supreme Lord Krsna. We should always read about Krsna’s activities, from the beginning of His life. He was in this world for 125 years. From His birth up to His disappearance He performed so many sublime lilas. If we talk and hear about those pastimes then we can achieve perfection.

sravanam kirtanam visnoh smaranam pada-sevanam
arcanam vandanam dasyam sakhyam atma-nivedanam

iti pumsarpita visnau bhaktis cen nava-laksana
kriyeta bhagavaty addha tan manye 'dhitam uttamam
(Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.5.23-24)

We have these nine types of bhakti: to hear, to utter, to remember, to offer prayers, to do service, do perform arcanam, to think of Him as our Master and ourselves as His servants, to think of Krsna as our eternal Friend, our eternal Master and to submit to Him, atma-nivedana.

So there are nine types of bhakti. We can practice only one or two types, or all combined. It depends on our energy. One type is to always hear the glories of Krsna and this is sufficient. When we have the physical capacity of hearing, day and night one can speak and another can hear. That listening is also a type of bhakti. If you listen, no other activity is necessary. Always do your daily services and always listen to the glories of Krsna. Then after hearing you have to repeat it. Of course you may have some difficulties or disgust for repeating, but in hearing you don’t find such difficulties, you can always be happy listening to the sound. This sound is called sabda-brahma. Bhagavata-Nama is sabda-brahma. This is the sound to hear, not the sound produced by ether and air. Krsna is sabda brahma, Rama is sabda-brahma, Hari is sabda-brahma.

Because there is no difference between the nama and the rupa. Nama and rupa, both are One. If you repeat Krsna, Krsna, Krsna, the same Krsna Who is standing in the Temple, the same Krsna Who appeared five thousand years ago in Mathura, the name Krsna and the form Krsna, both are One. But in the case of the worldly names there is difference between the name and the form. But when we speak of sabda-brahma, there is no difference between sabda and sabdi, nama and nami, vaca and vacaka, both are one. If one is repeating nama - harer nama, harer nama, harer namaiva kevalam - it is the surest, the simplest way to obtain the sublime state or our purification. To obtain the lotus feet of Krsna we should repeat this sabda-brahma.

namnam akari bahudha nija-sarva-saktis
tatrarpita niyamitah smarane na kalah
etadrsi tava krpa bhagavan mamapi
durdaivam idrsam ihajani nanuragah

"O my Lord, Your Holy Name bestows auspiciousness upon all. And You have unlimited Names such as Krsna and Govinda by which You reveal Yourself. In Your many Holy Names You have kindly invested all Your transcendental potency. And in chanting these Names, there are no strict rules concerning time or place. Out of Your causeless mercy, You have descended in the form of divine sound, but my great misfortune is that I have no love for Your Holy Name."

(Siksastakam 2)

Caitanya Mahaprabhu gave us the Siksastakam, eight slokas on the efficacy of the Nama-sankirtana:

ceto-darpana-marjanam bhava-maha-davagni-nirvapanam
sreyah-kairava-candrika-vitaranam vidya-vadhu-jivanam
anandambudhi-vardhanam prati-padam urnamrtasvadanam
sarvatma-snapanam param vijayate sri-krsna-sankirtanam

"The Holy Name of Krsna cleanses the mirror of the heart and extinguishes the fire of misery in the forest of birth and death. As the evening lotus blooms in the moon's cooling rays, the heart begins to blossom in the nectar of the Name. And at last the soul awakens to its real inner treasure-a life of love with Krsna. Again and again tasting nectar, the soul dives and surfaces in the ever-increasing ocean of ecstatic joy. All phases of the self of which we may conceive are fully satisfied and purified, and at last conquered by the all-auspicious influence of the Holy Name of Krsna."

(Siksastakam 1)

Construction progress - February 2015

102nd Vyasapuja Om Vishnupad 108 Sri Srimad Bhakti Vaibhava Puri Gosvami Maharaj

Inside: Editorial - Srila BR Sridhar Maharaj * Vaisnava Ninda - Criticizing a Vaisnava - Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur * Srimad Bhagavat Tatparya - Srila Prabhupad * Searching for Life’s Secret - Srila BR Sridhar Maharaj * Sri Caitanya Bhagavata, Adi-khanda 2, (150-168) – Srila Vrndavan Das Thakur * Do We Have Faith in Krsna's Pastimes? – Srila Bhakti Sadhak Muni Maharaj

Do We Have Faith in Krsna's Pastimes?
Srila Bhakti Sadhak Muni Maharaj

Srila Muni Maharaj reads from Amrta Vani: We cannot chant Krsna’s transcendental Holy Name when we are full of anarthas because while chanting it is possible to commit offenses. There is no such consideration of offenses while chanting Sri Gaura-Nityananda’s Names. If a living entity sincerely chants the Names of Gaura-Nityananda, considering these personalities Supreme, all his anarthas will be destroyed even if he is full of anarthas. Caitanya-caritamrta states:

'krsna-nama' kare aparadhera vicara
krsna balile aparadhira na haya vikara

“There are offenses to be considered while chanting the Hare Krsna mantra. Therefore simply by chanting Hare Krsna one does not become ecstatic.” (Adi-lila 8.24)

caitanya-nityanande nahi esaba vicara
nama laite prema dena, vahe asrudhara
svatantra isvara prabhu atyanta udara
tanre na bhajile kabhu na haya nistara

“But if one only chants, with some slight faith, the Holy Names of Lord Caitanya and Nityananda, very quickly he is cleansed of all offenses. Thus as soon as he chants the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, he feels the ecstasy of love for God. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the independent Supreme Personality of Godhead, is greatly magnanimous. Unless one worships Him, one can never be liberated.“ (Adi-lila 8.31-32)

Srila Muni Maharaj speaks: Today I was reading Srila Bhakti Vallabh Tirtha Maharaj’s letters to his disciples, and the same questions are always being asked by the devotees: Why is there maya? Why is Krsna not taking me? Why do I have no taste for hari-katha? Why is hari-katha not attracting me? And he always gives the same answer: because we are adverse to Krsna. We actually do not want Krsna at all!

We have to first question ourselves. Is there any belief of Krsna’s existence in me? Do I have any devotion to Him? Do I have any feeling for Him, or do I actually doubt that He exists?

This is what creates obstacles. We lack faith that Krsna is everything, all attractive, all-powerful, omniscient and omnipresent. We have no belief in these things. This lack of faith causes us not to see that whatever is arranged, is His arrangement. We do not believe, therefore we think someone else has arranged it.

It is interesting how our mind works. It is always pulling us down to the mundane world, into frustrations, taking us away from Krsna. We should watch this. We have to keep the mind focused. Many things will come into the mind, but we must give Krsna the first place. Do not leave Krsna. Do not go to this material plane and try to find happiness there. Whatever you find there will make it difficult to hear and appreciate hari-katha. Do not search for shelter in other things.

Srila Muni Maharaj reads Caitanya Bhagavata (Antya-khanda 5.469-487): Nityananda went to the house of His dear Advaita Acarya in Santipura. When Advaita saw Nityananda's face, He could not understand how joyful He became. He roared loudly and chanted the Name of Hari. Then Advaita circumbulated Nityananda and offered Him obeisances. Nityananda Svarupa embraced Advaita and soaked His body with tears of ecstatic love. They both became overwhelmed upon seeing each other, and They felt unlimited, indescribable ecstasy. They rolled on the ground in each other's embrace, and They tried to grab each other's feet. The two roared more loudly than milions of lions, and They were unable to control Their madness.

After a while the two most sober Prabhus became pacified and sat down together in one place. The broad-minded Advaita folded His hands and happily offered prayers to Nityananda. “Your form is Nityananda, and your Name is Nityananda. You are the personification of Lord Caitanya's transcendental qualities. You are the ultimate cause of all living entities' deliverance. You protect religious principles even during the total annihilation. You propagate Lord Caitanya's devotional service in ecstatic love. You are the fully empowered branch of the tree of Lord Caitanya. You are the Supreme Instructor of all devotees headed by Brahma, Siva, and Narada. Everyone attains devotional service to Visnu by Your mercy, yet You are never touched by pride. You are the deliverer of the fallen souls. You do not find faults in others. Only a person who has heaps of piety can understand You. You are the personification of all sacrifice. Simply by remembering You, all bondage of ignorance is destroyed. If you do not reveal Yourself, who has the power to know You? You are free from anger, you are supremely blissful, and You are the ultimate controller. You are the thousand headed original Lord who sustains the universe. You are Sri Laksman, the destroyer of the demonic dynasty. You are Haladhara the son of cowherd (gopa-putra).

“How can we be attracted to hari-katha? Only by sadhu-sanga is this possible
– through the association with those who have developed taste.”

Srila Bhakti Sadhak Muni Maharaj

While Srila Muni Maharaj is reading, the mobile phone from someone in the audience repeatedly rings. That person gets up and leaves the room.

Srila Muni Maharaj speaks: We lose a lot when we are distracted by these things. When you go to a lecture, or a program, please turn off your machine.

I just say these things. I am not referring to anyone personally; this is the age now. It is astonishing how important these things have become to us. We immediately get up and leave hari-katha to take a call, because we do not recognize the value of hari-katha.

The time will come when we will have to permanently leave the body and everything connected to it. At that time, of what use are these things? Then actually, how important is it even now? Surely these belongings should not be the most important things to us, standing in the first place. Here should be Krsna. But truly He is neither in the first place, nor even second or third place. He is coming at the end of the line.

Not until we have many problems and troubles, will we give up and put Him in the first place, offering Him our garbage. However, shortly after becoming free, we choose to dive back into the same kind of garbage again.

Even in the lives of those who come to visit the temple, Krsna surely does not have the first place. If nothing works anymore then the visitors may come. If everything falls apart, and everything is lost, then people come. Krsna has to arrange difficulties for us. But still we do not believe in Him and go on with spending time on useless things. How important and powerful is it then, to hear and to get taste for hari-katha, and to understand that hari-katha is a reality?

While hearing hari-katha, we are diving into a world that is free from material things. We are diving in, but still we feel bored. This is the situation in Kali-yuga, our age. For those who are getting a taste for hearing the divine pastimes of the Lord, and putting them as the all-in-all, nothing is more important.

One day we have to leave this place. We may be here now, and in ten seconds, ten days, ten years everything will be taken away. If we do not remember these pastimes, we will have to take rebirth in this world and search for all kinds of dirty things to get enjoyment. One cannot find peace anywhere in this material world, up to Brahma-loka. There is no peace, no happiness – there are no such things in the material world.

How can we be attracted to hari-katha? Only by sadhu-sanga is this possible – through the association with those who have developed taste. Our Guru Maharaj had so much taste for reading Caitanya Bhagavata. I will never forget how many ecstatic symptoms he manifested while reading Caitanya Bhagavata. After one Kartik month I went to visit him at Puri. Everyday while there, I was also reading Caitanya-caritamrta. It was the first time I could read these books, and I could remember Gurudev, and feel this reality. That what they are speaking is not ordinary. The words are reality. It is truth. It is real truth. And these pastimes are continually going on. Even right now. If you read these pastimes you can enter them and be in the spiritual world.

On the other hand, if so many things are more important then these eternal pastimes, how can you enter them? How can you understand? Instead, you will develop an aversion to hearing. We begin to think hari-katha is “just ok”, something to be tolerated.

Picture calendar for the year 2015 in German

The Highest Conception of Conduct
Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Gosvami Maharaj

One day, Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur was chanting the Lord’s Names and wandering in the sky, at his sweet will. Suddenly he found that he was just near Yamalaya where Yama, the lord of death, holds court for judging the sinners of this world. He also found there Brahma, Narada, Siva, and others, discussing with Yamaraja the meaning of two slokas spoken by Sri Krsna in Bhagavad-gita (9.30,31); but they could not solve the problem of discerning the proper meaning of the slokas.

api cet suduracaro, bhajate mam ananya-bhak
sadhur eva sa mantavyah, samyag vyavasito hi sah

“Externally, a person may be seen to commit many sins, but if he is exclusively given to My devotion, he should be considered most pure – a saint. Whatever he does, he does cent-per-cent rightly. “

ksipram bhavati dharmatma, sasvac-chantim nigacchati
kaunteya pratijanihi, na me bhaktah pranasyati

“Very soon, he will become religious in his behavior, and he will be seen to acquire real peace in his life. O son of Kunti, confidently declare to the public that my devotee never meets ruination.“

“We must not dare to criticize those who are directly
under the charge of Krsna, or we shall accrue great
difficulty. We should try to find the good in them,
for that will help us a great deal.”

Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Gosvami Maharaj

The exclusive devotee is transcendental to piety and sinfulness But one who is engaged in the Lord’s exclusive devotion, ananya-bhajana, has been defined by the Lord in His own words, sarva-dharman parityajya, mam ekam saranam vraja, “My exclusive devotee is he who gives up all phases of duties (sarva-dharman) and surrenders to My feet, accepting only his duty to Me. “ (Bhagavad-gita 18.66)

How, then, having already surpassed all phases of duties and surrendered to the Lord, can that exclusive devotee (ananya-bhak) further be seen to become a ‘dutiful’ or an externally ‘pious man’ (ksipram bhavati dharmatma)? This is an anomaly. Yamaraja, Brahma, Narada, etc., discussed this point, but could not arrive at any solution. How can one become “righteous in the near future.“ when he has already abandoned all kinds of duties, either righteous or unrighteous, in order to exclusively surrender to the feet of the Supreme Lord? Finding no solution, they sent for Srila Bhaktivinod Ţhakur who, they noticed, was moving in the sky and taking the Name of the Lord, “He is a pure devotee – and not an ordinary devotee – he has deep knowledge of the scriptures, so let him come and explain these verses of Bhagavad-gita.“

And so, Srila Bhaktivinod Ţhakur was invited, and he went there. He gave the meaning. Api cet suduracaro, bhajate mam ananya-bhak (Bhagavad-gita 9.30) – despite his outer practices, the exclusive devotee (ananya-bhak) is to be accepted (mantavyah) as a cent-per-cent saint (sadhu). Therefore, the conclusion is that he who can realize this, he who declares that an exclusive devotee of Krsna, regardless of his outer practices, is cent-per-cent saintly – he will soon become dharmatma, virtuous and religious. His statement and conclusion is cent-per-cent correct, and his conduct will soon become very pure and he, too, will have the chance of accepting the path towards eternal truth.

Whether or not we obey provincial laws, we must obey His Absolute law. “So Arjuna, you take advantage of this and boldly declare to the public that My devotee who gives him-self wholly unto Me can never come to ruination. Even if he may be seen to be outwardly doing something wrong – he will be saved. His successful life is assured. By this declaration, you will get the benefit of becoming righteous and have the chance of attaining eternal spiritual peace. Whoever can understand this and has the courage to declare that My exclusive devotee is never subject to ruination – he, in turn, gets his chance to come to this path of exclusive devotion, and he will attain eternal peace.”

He will attain everything because he has the proper appreciation for exclusive devotion. Everything is for the Lord, and not for any other part. In the Absolute, everything is ‘for itself.’ ‘The Absolute is for itself.’ Whether or not we obey or disobey the laws of provincial or separate interest, we must without fail obey the rule that everything is for Him. This is the main rule, and all others are subsidiary. We may or may not carry on our duties, but we must carry on our duty towards the center; this is the all-important factor in every case. Thus, one who can appreciate this and boldly assert it to the public must have substantial appreciation for this conception, and he is sure to survive and improve his future condition very soon. “He will attain the path of eternal peace, and that is the service of Myself, Krsna.” This is the underlying meaning.

The highest quality in every part of the whole is that everyone must be dedicated towards the center, even crossing his dutifulness in respect to any other environmental position. And one who can feel, appreciate, and assert this – he will also soon achieve such a position. His inner heart can appreciate, and that is something of a realization on that path; it will very soon take effect, and the public will see, “Oh, he is also entering this path of ananya-bhajana, the exclusive adherence to the call of the Absolute Center, and that is all-in-all.”

Consider him free from fault

“Dharma means morals, duties, including duties to father, mother, country, society, humanity; etc. But if one neglects all these and keeps a straight relationship towards Me, he will be considered free of any fault. He is in the line of sarva-dharman parityajya, mam ekam saranam vraja (Bhagavad-gita 18.66). He is doing right, and one who can simply appreciate this will also very soon be converted to the same class.” This is the whole purport. In the standard or most general interpretation, the beginner in devotional service may have so many bad tendencies in his behavior, but when he matures these must disappear. Nonetheless, undesirable behavior may sometimes be seen to persist, at least externally.

By chewing his poison, poison will come to me

The more we are particular about the conduct of others, the more we lose our own time and energy. Instead of benefiting us, such a practice is reactionary. If I try to find fault with anyone, especially a devotee, the fault will come back to me. By chewing the poison in his body, that poison will come to me. Avoid such association. Try to find the good in others – that will help you.

There was a system in our Math at the time of our Guru Maharaj: he ordered one devotee to praise another – especially one that the devotee disliked. Thus, the devotee would be forced to find the goodness in the other devotee who he didn’t particularly like, and thereby be benefited. Eliminating what was bad in his conception of the other person, he was to search for what good he could find, and thereby be benefited.

Dare not criticize those under charge of Krsna

There need be no culture with any bad thing, anywhere, especially in the devotees. Krsna has taken charge of His surrendered souls (ananya-bhak). Thus, whatever good or bad may be present in them is His responsibility. Any badness or evil in a devotee may disappear at any time by His will, otherwise Krsna may have that tendency continue in order to serve some purpose of His. We must have this vision. We must not dare to criticize those who are directly under the charge of Krsna, or we shall accrue great difficulty. We should try to find the good in them, for that will help us a great deal. This is not a theoretical matter, but a most practical consideration.

Srila Rupa Gosvami has given the example that the sacred Ganges water may externally appear to be filthy, but that outward filthiness of mud, bubbles and foam cannot change the purifying capacity of the Ganges water. Similarly, the devotee himself, the pure soul or atma, is the purifying agent – the purest and most normal factor in the world. Whatever may be externally seen in his character is like the mud, bubbles and foam that is found in the Ganges water. The purifying capacity of the Ganges water is separate, and cannot be disturbed by any foam or dirt mixed with the water. The spiritual capacity does not depend in any way on the apparent material capacity. A Vaisnava may sometimes be seen to be a little greedy, a little angry; or physically he may be blind or deaf or lame – but the saintly character of the Vaisnava is independent of the mental or physical characteristics.

During Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s tour of South India, there was the case of Vasudeva-vipra, at Kurmaksetra. He was a leper, but at the same time he was a great devotee. His physical behavior was also uniquely exemplary: if any worms fell from his open sores to the ground, he would pick them up and replace them in the sores so the worms would not die. He was a thorough devotee. Mahaprabhu embraced him, and by the touch of His embrace, the leprosy disappeared.

Also, Srila Sanatana Gosvami contracted sores all over his body due to the contact of bad water in the jungle, when he was returning from Vrndavana to Puri. Mahaprabhu used to welcome him by embracing him, but Sanatana would try to withdraw. He objected, “Don’t touch me! This is the body of a sinful man.” The sores were oozing and emitting a bad odor, but Mahaprabhu embraced him forcibly. Sanatana had decided, “I shall either leave this place or I shall invite death by falling under the wheel of the cart of Lord Jagannatha.” But as the Lord in the heart of all, Mahaprabhu knew Sanatana’s mind. He chastised him, and embraced him, forcibly. All the sores disappeared, and Sanatana’s body immediately became like gold.

Exclusive devotion to Krsna is the only necessity

Mahaprabhu said, “Sanatana, you are a Vaisnava. Your body is not defective. Aprakrta-deha tomara 'prakrta' kabhu naya (Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 4.173). Krsna is testing Me. I am a sannyasi, and He is examining whether there is any partiality in My dealings with a Vaisnava simply because of his externally having so many sores. He is examining whether I will shrink from the association of such a Vaisnava and cast him aside. But your body is already pure, and only for the purpose of testing the public, Krsna has created this; and if I cannot see this, I will have failed His test and will have been deceived by Krsna. It is a mere show, it is nothing; your body is pure because you are a Vaisnava, a devotee of Krsna. This impurity is only an appearance in order to serve Krsna’s divine purpose. Wherever there is Vaisnavata, true saintly devotedness, there can never be any contamination.

Only to test my devotion has Krsna sent you to Me in this condition.” So Mahaprabhu embraced him and demonstrated that he was absolutely pure. Whether externally pure or impure, the whole principle is that our exclusive devotion for Krsna is the only necessity. In the ordinary sense, the gopis are also sinners. They crossed the laws of society and the sastras, so they are ‘sinners.’ But they hold the highest position of purity by their exclusive devotedness to Krsna and no other. They cannot help but to serve Krsna cent-per-cent, even at the risk of crossing the entire code of morality. They are considered to be the highest devotional ideal.

But that sort of devotion is not so cheap that everyone will go on with their activities in this world, taking advantage of such ideals. That won’t do. The real measure of devotion must be there, not that anyone may do anything passing in the name of pure devotion, like the prakrta-sahajiyas. That can’t be allowed.

Construction progress - December 2014

Construction progress - November 2014

Inside: Editorial - Srila BR Sridhar Maharaj * Saranagati - Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur * Vaisnava Ninda - Criticizing a Vaisnava - Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur * When does the Pure Name Manifests? - Srila Prabhupad * The Highest Conception of Conduct - Srila BR Sridhar Maharaj * Srimad Bhagavatam 2.3.24 (with Commentaries by Srila Visvanath Cakravarti Thakur) * Ekadasi (2) – Srila Bhakti Sadhak Muni Maharaj

Vaisnava Ninda - Criticizing a Vaisnava
Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur

(Translated from the original Bengali first published in Sajjana-tosani, Volume 5, Issues 2, 3, and 5, in May, June, and August of 1893.)

Amongst all the offenses that a soul can commit, there is no offense more severe than criticism of a Vaisnava. Therefore, discussing criticism of a Vaisnava according to the scriptures is necessary. In the Skanda Purana, it is written:

nindan kurvanti ye mudha vaisnavanan mahatmanam
patanti pitrbhih sardhan maharaurava sanjnite
hanti nindanti vai dvesti vaisnavan nabhinandati
krudhyate yati no harsam darsane patanani sat

“A foolish person who criticises a great Vaisnava falls into the hell known as Maharaurava along with their forefathers. There are six deplorable acts that are causes of falling down. One who (1) kills a Vaisnava, (2) criticises a Vaisnava, (3) envies a Vaisnava, or, upon seeing a Vaisnava, (4) does not offer respect, (5) becomes angry, or (6) feels displeased, will fall down.“

It is written in the Srimad Bhagavatam (10.74.40):

nindam bhagavatah srnvams tat-parasya janasya va
tato napaiti yah so 'pi yaty adhah sukrtac cyutah

“One who does not leave a place where the Lord or the Vaisnavas are being criticised looses all of their sukrti (spiritual fortune) and falls down.”

When we are to be this careful about criticism of a Vaisnava, then it is extremely necessary to first define a Vaisnava and clarify by which acts offences to a Vaisnava are made.

“Sins are attached to the gross and subtle bodies; offences
are a special type of fault: they are attached to the soul itself.
Therefore, those who desire to serve the Lord are especially
apprehensive about offences.”

Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur

Dividing all souls into four groups is necessary. These are the four groups of souls: (1) ordinary souls, (2) pious souls, (3) brahmanas and Vaisnava-prayas (those who are ‘nearly Vaisnavas’), and (4) Vaisnavas. Every soul is an abode of Sri Krsna—with this conception we should respect all souls. Amongst them, giving some special respect to pious souls is necessary. Honouring brahmanas and Vaisnava-prayas is our duty, and serving the feet of Vaisnavas is most essential. If one does not respect souls, does not specially respect pious souls, or does not honour brahmanas and Vaisnava-prayas, one commits sin (papa), but if one disrespects or dishonours a Vaisnava, one commits offence (aparadh). Sins are removed by ordinary atonement, but offences do not easily go away. Sins are attached to the gross and subtle bodies; offences are a special type of fault: they are attached to the soul itself. Therefore, those who desire to serve the Lord are especially apprehensive about offences.

Through the three verses of Srimad Bhagavatam written below, a Vaisnava has been defined according three divisions: a Vaisnava, a superior Vaisnava (Vaisnava-tara), and a superlative Vaisnava (Vaisnava-tama).

A beginner Vaisnava (kanistha-Vaisnava):

arcayam eva haraye pujan yah sraddhayehate na tad-bhaktesu canyesu sa bhaktah prakrtah smrtah

“A devotee who faithfully engages in the worship of the deity in the temple but does not behave properly toward other devotees or people in general is called an unrefined devotee.”

(Srimad Bhagavatam 11.2.47)

One who worships the Deity of the Lord with faith acquired from cultural tradition but does not worship the devotees of the Lord is a beginner Vaisnava, that is, they are just entering the practice of devotion. The difference between faith developed through tradition and faith based on scripture is that faith developed through tradition only arises from cultural education. From faith based on scripture (sastriya sraddha), faith in Vaisnavas, develops through deep conviction in the statements of the scriptures and the scriptures’ authority. Only when faith based on scripture develops does a soul become an intermediate stage Vaisnava (madhyama-adhikari). Until it develops, a practitioner’s engagement in material activities (karmadhikar) does not end. Sriman Mahaprabhu spoke about such practitioners in this way:

suddha vaisnava nahe, kintu vaisnavera praya

“They are not pure Vaisnavas; they are Vaisnava-prayas (nearly Vaisnavas).”

When beginner Vaisnavas, that is, Vaisnava-prayas, associate with genuine sadhus, they can become pure Vaisnavas.

An intermediate Vaisnava (madhyama-Vaisnava):

isvare tad-adhinesu balisesu dvisatsu ca prema-maitri-krpopeksa yah karoti sa madhyamah

“An intermediate or second-class devotee, called madhyama-adhikari, offers his love to the Supreme Lord, is a sincere friend to all the devotees of the Lord, shows mercy to ignorant people who are innocent, and disregards those who are envious of the Lord.”

(Srimad Bhagavatam 11.2.46)

One who loves the Lord, forms friendship with Vaisnavas,acts kindly to the unknowing—Vaisnava-prayas, souls who areunaware of the nature of devotion, and ignores those who are inimical to the Lord and the Vaisnavas (remains indifferent to, tolerates, or avoids such persons according to the situation, and, with this mentality, also acts kindly towards the inimical or unknowing as appropriate) is an intermediate Vaisnava.” Only intermediate Vaisnavas are qualified to serve Vaisnavas, as beginner Vaisnavas do not do this (and are thus known as Vaisnava-prayas; they are not called Vaisnavas).

An advanced Vaisnava (uttama Vaisnava):

sarva-bhutesu yah pasyed bhagavad-bhavam atmanah
bhutani bhagavaty atmany esa bhagavatottamah

“The most advanced devotee sees Supreme Lord, one’s object of worship, within everything, and sees everything in the Supreme Lord.”

(Srimad Bhagavatam 11.2.45)

One who sees the presence of their beloved Lord in all beings, and within their heart perceives all beings as manifestations of the Lord, sees the whole world as a Vaisnava sheltered by the Lord—this is an advanced Vaisnava. Such Vaisnavas see no distinction between Vaisnavas and non-Vaisnavas.

Through these verses it has become clear that until they develop the other characteristics of an intermediate Vaisnava, even those amongst the beginner class who have developed faith based on scripture and become qualified to serve Vaisnavas are beginner Vaisnavas, that is, ‘Vaisnavas’. An intermediate Vaisnava is a superior Vaisnava (Vaisnava-tara). An advanced Vaisnava is a superlative Vaisnava (Vaisnava-tama). In this regard, the way in which Sriman Mahaprabhu demonstrated these three classes of Vaisnavas is noteworthy.

ataeva yara mukhe eka krsna-nama
sei ta’ vaisnava, kariha tanhara sammana
(Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 15.111)

krsna-nama nirantara yanhara vadane
sei vaisnava-srestha, bhaja tanhara carane
yanhara darsane mukhe aise krsna-nama
tanhare janiha tumi 'vaisnava-pradhana'
krama kari' kahe prabhu 'vaisnava'-laksana
'vaisnava', 'vaisnavatara', ara 'vaisnavatama'
(Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 16.72,74,75)

“'One in whose mouth the Name of Krsna has once appeared is a Vaisnava; honour them. One in whose mouth the Name of Krsna always appears is a superior Vaisnava; serve their feet. Know one by whose presence the Name of Krsna appears in the mouths of other souls to be a superlative Vaisnava.’ In a gradation, the Lord described the qualifications of Vaisnavas: a Vaisnava, a superior Vaisnava, and a superlative Vaisnava.”

According to the advice of Sriman Mahaprabhu, simply by pronouncing the Name of Krsna one becomes a Vaisnava. Those amongst the beginner class who have been shown to be Vaisnava-prayas, that is, a semblance of Vaisnava (Vaisnavabhas), pronounce only a semblance of the Name (Namabhas); they do not pronounce the Name; Sriman Mahaprabhu does not consider them actual Vaisnavas. One who can once pronounce the pure Name is a pure Vaisnava. One who constantly pronounces the pure Name is a superior Vaisnava. One, whose simple presence causes the Holy Name to manifest in the mouths of others, is a superlative Vaisnava. It is also noteworthy in this regard that becoming a pure Vaisnava does not depend on initiation or other rites. Initiation means accepting a mantra suitable for worshiping the Deity of the Lord to become a Vaisnava-praya. For the Name, such initiation is not necessary, as per the statements of the Lord:

prabhu kahe, “yanra mukhe suni ekabara
krsna-nama, sei pujya, srestha sabakara
eka krsna-name kare sarva-papa ksaya
nava-vidha bhakti purna nama haite haya
diksa-purascharya-vidhi apeksa na kare
jihva-sparse a-candala sabare uddhare
anusanga-phale kare sansarera ksaya
citta akarsiya karaya krsne premodaya
ataeva yanra mukhe eka krsna-nama
sei ta' vaisnava, kariha tanhara sammana”
(Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 15.106,107,108,109,111)

“The Lord said, ‘One from whose mouth I once hear the Name of Krsna is worshipable. They are the best of all. Once pronouncing the Name of Krsna destroys all sins. Through the Name, the nine processes of devotion are perfected. The Name does not depend on initiation or preparatory rites. Just by touching the tongue, the Name delivers everyone, even untouchables. Incidentally, the Name destroys one’s entanglement in the world. The Name attracts the heart and awakens divine love for Krsna; therefore, one in whose mouth the Name of Krsna has once appeared is a Vaisnava. I offer them the greatest honour.’“

There is no scope here to discuss the difference between the Name and a semblance of the Name (Namabhas). At another time, I will discuss this matter in depth. In this regard, I can say this much: if the Name is pronounced with faith based on scripture, that is, pure surrender, then the Name appears. The ‘Name’ that is connected with desirousness of other ends or covered by knowledge (jnana), action (karma), yoga, renunciation (tyaga), and so on, is a semblance of the Name. Even though results up to liberation arise from a semblance of the Name, the pure Name—not a semblance of the Name—is pronounced by the mouth of the Vaisnava. The Name pronounced with knowledge of the Name’s nature, understanding of the Name being nondifferent from the Named (the Lord), and perception of the soul’s spiritual senses as the source of the Name, is alone the Name. Those on whose tongue one such Name appears are Vaisnavas. As the Name appears, all active and inactive sin is destroyed. As soon as the Name arises, divine love arises.

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