"kṛṣṇa-nāma nirantara yāṅhāra vadane
sei vaiṣṇava-śreṣṭha, bhaja tāṅhāra caraṇe
kṛṣṇa-nāma—the holy name of Lord Kṛṣṇa; nirantara—incessantly; yāṅhāra—whose; vadane—in the mouth; sei—such a person; vaiṣṇava-śreṣṭha—a first-class Vaiṣṇava; bhaja—worship; tāṅhāra caraṇe—his lotus feet.
"A person who is always chanting the holy name of the Lord is to be considered a first-class Vaiṣṇava, and your duty is to serve his lotus feet."
Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura says that any Vaiṣṇava who is constantly chanting the holy name of the Lord should be considered to have attained the second platform of Vaiṣṇavism. Such a devotee is superior to a neophyte Vaiṣṇava who has just learned to chant the holy name of the Lord. A neophyte devotee simply tries to chant the holy name, whereas the advanced devotee is accustomed to chanting and takes pleasure in it. Such an advanced devotee is called madhyama-bhāgavata, which indicates that he has attained the intermediate stage between the neophyte and the perfect devotee. Generally a devotee in the intermediate stage becomes a preacher. A neophyte devotee or an ordinary person should worship the madhyama-bhāgavata, who is a via medium.
In his Upadeśāmṛta Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī says: praṇatibhiś ca bhajantam īśam. This means that madhyama-adhikārī devotees should exchange obeisances between themselves.
The word nirantara, meaning "without cessation, continuously, constantly," is very important in this verse. The word antara means "interval." if one has desires other than a desire to perform devotional service-in other words, if one sometimes engages in devotional service and sometimes strives for sense gratification-his service will be interrupted. A pure devotee, therefore, should have no other desire than to serve Kṛṣṇa. He should be above fruitive activity and speculative knowledge. In his Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī says:
śīlanaṁ bhaktir uttamā
This is the platform of pure devotional service. One should not be motivated by fruitive activity or mental speculation but should simply serve Kṛṣṇa favorably. That is first-class devotion.
Another meaning of antara is "this body." The body is an impediment to self-realization because it is always engaged in sense gratification. Similarly, antara means "money." If money is not used in Kṛṣṇa's service, it is also an impediment. Antara also means janatā, "people in general." The association of ordinary persons may destroy the principles of devotional service. Similarly, antara may mean "greed," greed to acquire more money or enjoy more sense gratification. Finally, the word antara may also mean "atheistic ideas" by which one considers the temple Deity to be made of stone, wood or gold. All of these are impediments. The Deity in the temple is not material-He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself. Similarly, considering the spiritual master an ordinary human being (guruṣu nara-matiḥ) is also an impediment. Nor should one consider a Vaiṣṇava a member of a particular caste or nation. Nor should a Vaiṣṇava be considered material. Caraṇāmṛta should not be considered ordinary drinking water, and the holy name of the Lord should not be considered an ordinary sound vibration. Nor should one look on Lord Kṛṣṇa as an ordinary human being, for He is the origin of all viṣṇu-tattvas; nor should one regard the Supreme Lord as a demigod. Intermingling the spiritual with the material causes one to look on transcendence as material and the mundane as spiritual. This is all due to a poor fund of knowledge. One should not consider Lord Viṣṇu and things related to him as being different. All this is offensive.
In the Bhakti-sandarbha (265), Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī writes: nāmaikaṁ yasya vāci smaraṇa-patha-gatam ityādau deha-draviṇādi-nimittaka-'pāṣaṇḍa'-śabdena ca daśa aparādhā lakṣyante, pāṣaṇḍamayatvāt teṣām.
The Māyāvādīs look on Viṣṇu and Vaiṣṇavas imperfectly due to their poor fund of knowledge, and this is condemned. In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.2.46), the intermediate Vaiṣṇava is described as follows:
bāliśeṣu dviṣatsu ca
yaḥ karoti sa madhyamaḥ
śraddhāvān jana haya bhakti-adhikārī
'uttama', 'madhyama', 'kaniṣṭha'--śraddhā-anusārī
"One who is faithful is a proper candidate for devotional service. In terms of one's degree of faith in devotional service, one is a first-class, second-class or neophyte Vaiṣṇava."
śāstra-yukti nāhi jāne dṛḍha, śraddhāvān
'madhyama-adhikārī' sei mahā-bhāgyavān
"Attraction and love are the ultimate goal of devotional service. The degrees of such attraction and love for God distinguish the different stages of devotion-neophyte, intermediate and perfectional." (Cc. Madhya 22.71) An intermediate devotee is greatly attracted to chanting the holy name, and by chanting he is elevated to the platform of love. If one chants the holy name of the Lord with great attachment, he can understand his position as an eternal servant of the spiritual master, other Vaiṣṇavas and Kṛṣṇa Himself. Thus the intermediate Vaiṣṇava considers himself kṛṣṇa-dāsa, Kṛṣṇa's servant. He therefore preaches Kṛṣṇa consciousness to innocent neophytes and stresses the importance of chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra. An intermediate devotee can identify the nondevotee or motivated devotee. The motivated devotee or the nondevotee are on the material platform, and they are called prākṛta. The intermediate devotee does not mix with such materialistic people. However, he understands that the Supreme Personality of Godhead and everything related to Him are on the same transcendental platform. Actually none of them are mundane.
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