krsneti yasya giri tam manasadriyeta
diksasti cet pranatibhis ca bhajantam isam
susrusaya bhajana-vijnam ananyam anya-
nindadi-sunya-hrdam ipsita-sanga-labdhya
krsna—the holy name of Lord Krsna; iti—thus; yasya—of whom; giri—in the words or speech; tam—him; manasa—by the mind; adriyeta—one must honour; diksainitiation; asti—there is; cet—if; pranatibhih—by obeisances; caalso; bhajantam—engaged in devotional service; isam—unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead; susrusaya—by practical service; bhajana-vijnam—one who is advanced in devotional service; ananyam—without deviation; anya-ninda-adiof blasphemy of others, etc;; sunya—completely devoid; hrdamwhose heart; ipsita—desirable; sanga—association; labdhya—by gaining.
One should mentally honor the devotee who chants the holy name of Lord Krsna, one should offer humble obeisances to the devotee who has undergone spiritual initiation [diksa] and is engaged in worshiping the Deity, and one should associate with and faithfully serve that Pure devotee who is advanced in undeviated devotional service and whose heart is completely devoid of the propensity to criticize others.
In order to intelligently apply the sixfold loving reciprocations mentioned in the previous verse, one must select proper persons with careful discrimination. Srila Rupa Gosvami therefore advises that we should meet with the Vaisnavas in an appropriate way, according to their particular status. In this verse he tells us how to deal with three types of devotees—the kanistha-adhikari, madhyama-adhikari and uttama-adhikari. The kanistha-adhikari is a neophyte who has received the hari-nama initiation from the spiritual master and is trying to chant the holy name of Krsna. One should respect such a person within his mind as a kanistha-vaisnava. A madhyama-adhikari has received spiritual initiation from the spiritual master and has been fully engaged by him in the transcendental loving service of the Lord. The madhyama-adhikari should be considered to be situated midway in devotional service. The uttama-adhikari, or highest devotee, is one who is very advanced in devotional service. An uttama-adhikari is not interested in blaspheming others, his heart is completely clean, and he has attained the realized state of unalloyed Krsna consciousness. According to Srila Rupa Gosvami, the association and service of such a maha-bhagavata, or perfect Vaisnava, are most desirable.
One should not remain a kanistha-adhikari, one who is situated on the lowest platform of devotional service and is interested only in worshiping the Deity in the temple. Such a devotee is described in the Eleventh Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.2.47):
“A person who is very faithfully engaged in the worship of the Deity in the temple, but who does not know how to behave toward devotees or people in general is called a prakrta-bhakta, or kanistha-adhikari.
One therefore has to raise himself from the position of kanistha-adhikari to the platform of madhyama-adhikari. The madhyama-adhikari is described in Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.2.46) in this way:
“The madhyama-adhikari is a devotee who worships the Supreme Personality of Godhead as the highest object of love, makes friends with the Lord’s devotees, is merciful to the ignorant and avoids those who are envious by nature.”
This is the way to cultivate devotional service properly; therefore in this verse Srila Rupa Gosvami has advised us how to treat various devotees. We can see from practical experience that there are different types of Vaisnavas. The prakrta-sahajiyas generally chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, yet they are attached to women, money and intoxication. Although such persons may chant the holy name of the Lord, they are not yet properly purified. Such people should be respected within one’s mind, but their association should be avoided. Those who are innocent but simply carried away by bad association should be shown favor if they are eager to receive proper instructions from pure devotees, but those neophyte devotees who are actually initiated by the bona fide spiritual master and are seriously engaged in carrying out the orders of the spiritual master should be offered respectful obeisances.
In this Krsna consciousness movement a chance is given to everyone without discrimination of caste, creed or color. Everyone is invited to join this movement, sit with us, take prasada and hear about Krsna. When we see that someone is actually interested in Krsna consciousness and wants to be initiated, we accept him as a disciple for the chanting of the holy name of the Lord. When a neophyte devotee is actually initiated and engaged in devotional service by the orders of the spiritual master, he should be accepted immediately as a bona fide Vaisnava, and obeisances should be offered unto him. Out of many such Vaisnavas, one may be found to be very seriously engaged in the service of the Lord and strictly following all the regulative principles, chanting the prescribed number of rounds on japa beads and always thinking of how to expand the Krsna consciousness movement. Such a Vaisnava should be accepted as an uttama-adhikari, a highly advanced devotee, and his association should always be sought.
The process by which a devotee becomes attached to Krsna is described in Caitanya-caritamrta (Antya 4.192):
“At the time of initiation, when a devotee fully surrenders to the service of the Lord, Krsna accepts him to be as good as He Himself.”
Diksa, or spiritual initiation, is explained in the Bhakti-sandarbha (868) by Srila Jiva Gosvami:
“By diksa one gradually becomes disinterested in material enjoyment and gradually becomes interested in spiritual life.”
We have seen many practical examples of this, especially in Europe and America. Many students who come to us from rich and respectable families quickly lose all interest in material enjoyment and become very eager to enter into spiritual life. Although they come from very wealthy families, many of them accept living conditions that are not very comfortable. Indeed, for Krsna’s sake they are prepared to accept any living condition as long as they can live in the temple and associate with the Vaisnavas. When one becomes so disinterested in material enjoyment, he becomes fit for initiation by the spiritual master. For the advancement of spiritual life Srimad-Bhagavatam (6.1.13) prescribes: tapasa brahmacaryena samena ca damena ca. When a person is serious about accepting diksa, he must be prepared to practice austerity, celibacy and control of the mind and body. If one is so prepared and is desirous of receiving spiritual enlightenment (divyam jnanam), he is fit for being initiated. Divyam jnanam is technically called tad-vijnana, or knowledge about the Supreme. Tad-vijnanartham sa gurum evabhigacchet: [MU 1.2.12] when one is interested in the transcendental subject matter of the Absolute Truth, he should be initiated. Such a person should approach a spiritual master in order to take diksa. Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.3.21) also prescribes: tasmad gurum prapadyeta jijnasuh sreya uttamam. “When one is actually interested in the transcendental science of the Absolute Truth, he should approach a spiritual master.”
One should not accept a spiritual master without following his instructions. Nor should one accept a spiritual master just to make a fashionable show of spiritual life. One must be jijnasu, very much inquisitive to learn from the bona fide spiritual master. The inquiries one makes should strictly pertain to transcendental science (jijnasuh sreya uttamam). The word uttamam refers to that which is above material knowledge. Tama means “the darkness of this material world,” and ut means “transcendental.” Generally people are very interested in inquiring about mundane subject matters, but when one has lost such interest and is simply interested in transcendental subject matters, he is quite fit for being initiated. When one is actually initiated by the bona fide spiritual master and when he seriously engages in the service of the Lord, he should be accepted as a madhyama-adhikari.
The chanting of the holy names of Krsna is so sublime that if one chants the Hare Krsna maha-mantra offenselessly, carefully avoiding the ten offenses, he can certainly be gradually elevated to the point of understanding that there is no difference between the holy name of the Lord and the Lord Himself. One who has reached such an understanding should be very much respected by neophyte devotees. One should know for certain that without chanting the holy name of the Lord offenselessly, one cannot be a proper candidate for advancement in Krsna consciousness. In Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya 22.69) it is said:
yahara komala sraddha, se ‘kanistha’ jana
krame krame tenho bhakta ha-ibe ‘uttama’
“One whose faith is soft and pliable is called a neophyte, but by gradually following the process, he will rise to the platform of a first-class devotee.” Everyone begins his devotional life from the neophyte stage, but if one properly finishes chanting the prescribed number of rounds of harinama, he is elevated step by step to the highest platform, uttama-adhikari. The Krsna consciousness movement prescribes sixteen rounds daily because people in the Western countries cannot concentrate for long periods while chanting on beads. Therefore the minimum number of rounds is prescribed. However, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura used to say that unless one chants at least sixty-four rounds of japa (one hundred thousand names), he is considered fallen (patita). According to his calculation, practically every one of us is fallen, but because we are trying to serve the Supreme Lord with all seriousness and without duplicity, we can expect the mercy of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who is famous as patita-pavana, the deliverer of the fallen.
When Srila Satyaraja Khan, a great devotee of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, asked the Lord how a Vaisnava could be recognized, the Lord replied:
prabhu kahe,——“yanra mukhe suni eka-bara
krsna-nama, sei pujya,——srestha sabakara”
“If one hears a person say even once the word ‘Krsna,’ that person should be accepted as the best man out of the common group.” (Cc. Madhya 15.106) Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu continued:
“ataeva yanra mukhe eka krsna-nama
sei ta ’vaisnava, kariha tanhara sammana”
“One who is interested in chanting the holy name of Krsna or who by practice likes to chant Krsna’s names should be accepted as a Vaisnava and offered respects as such, at least within one’s mind.” (Cc. Madhya 15.111) One of our friends, a famous English musician, has become attracted to chanting the holy names of Krsna, and even in his records he has several times mentioned the holy name of Krsna. At his home he offers respect to pictures of Krsna and also to the preachers of Krsna consciousness. In all regards, he has a very high estimation for Krsna’s name and Krsna’s activities; therefore we offer respects to him without reservation, for we are actually seeing that this gentleman is advancing gradually in Krsna consciousness. Such a person should always be shown respect. The conclusion is that anyone who is trying to advance in Krsna consciousness by regularly chanting the holy name should always be respected by Vaisnavas. On the other hand, we have witnessed that some of our contemporaries who are supposed to be great preachers have gradually fallen into the material conception of life because they have failed to chant the holy name of the Lord.
While giving instructions to Sanatana Gosvami, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu divided devotional service into three categories.
“A person whose conclusive knowledge of the sastras is not very strong but who has developed firm faith in chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra and who is also undeterred in the execution of his prescribed devotional service should be considered a madhyama-adhikari. Such a person is very fortunate.” (Cc. Madhya 22.67) A madhyama-adhikari is a sraddhavan, a staunchly faithful person, and he is actually a candidate for further advancement in devotional service. Therefore in the Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya 22.64) it is said:
sraddhavan jana haya bhakti-adhikari
‘uttama’, ‘madhyama’, ‘kanistha’——sraddha-anusari
“One becomes qualified as a devotee on the elementary platform, the intermediate platform and the highest platform of devotional service according to the development of his sraddha [faith].” Again in Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya 22.62) it is said:
“ ‘By rendering transcendental service to Krsna, one automatically performs all subsidiary activities.’ This confident, firm faith, favorable to the discharge of devotional service, is called sraddha.Sraddha, faith in Krsna, is the beginning of Krsna consciousness. Faith means strong faith. The words of Bhagavad-gita are authoritative instructions for faithful men, and whatever Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita is to be accepted as it is, without interpretation. This was the way Arjuna accepted Bhagavad-gita. After hearing Bhagavad-gita, Arjuna told Krsna: sarvam etad rtam manye yan mam vadasi kesava. “O Krsna, I totally accept as truth all that You have told me.” (Bg. 10.14)
This is the correct way of understanding Bhagavad-gita, and this is called sraddha. It is not that one accepts a portion of Bhagavad-gita according to his own whimsical interpretations and then rejects another portion. This is not sraddha. Sraddha means accepting the instructions of Bhagavad-gita in their totality, especially the last instruction: sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja. “Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me.” (Bg. 18.66) When one becomes completely faithful in regard to this instruction, one’s strong faith becomes the basis for advancing in spiritual life.
When one fully engages in chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, he gradually realizes his own spiritual identity. Unless one faithfully chants the Hare Krsna mantra, Krsna does not reveal Himself: sevonmukhe hi jihvadau svayam eva sphuraty adah. (Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu 1.2.234) We cannot realize the Supreme Personality of Godhead by any artificial means. We must engage faithfully in the service of the Lord. Such service begins with the tongue (sevonmukhe hi jihvadau), which means that we should always chant the holy names of the Lord and accept krsna-prasada. We should not chant or accept anything else. When this process is faithfully followed, the Supreme Lord reveals Himself to the devotee.
When a person realizes himself to be an eternal servitor of Krsna, he loses interest in everything but Krsna’s service. Always thinking of Krsna, devising means by which to spread the holy name of Krsna, he understands that his only business is in spreading the Krsna consciousness movement all over the world. Such a person is to be recognized as an uttama-adhikari, and his association should be immediately accepted according to the six processes (dadati pratigrhnati, etc.). Indeed, the advanced uttama-adhikari Vaisnava devotee should be accepted as a spiritual master. Everything one possesses should be offered to him, for it is enjoined that one should deliver whatever he has to the spiritual master. The brahmacari in particular is supposed to beg alms from others and offer them to the spiritual master. However, one should not imitate the behavior of an advanced devotee or maha-bhagavata without being self-realized, for by such imitation one will eventually become degraded.
In this verse Srila Rupa Gosvami advises the devotee to be intelligent enough to distinguish between the kanistha-adhikari, madhyama-adhikari and uttama-adhikari. The devotee should also know his own position and should not try to imitate a devotee situated on a higher platform. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has given some practical hints to the effect that an uttama-adhikari Vaisnava can be recognized by his ability to convert many fallen souls to Vaisnavism. One should not become a spiritual master unless he has attained the platform of uttama-adhikari. A neophyte Vaisnava or a Vaisnava situated on the intermediate platform can also accept disciples, but such disciples must be on the same platform, and it should be understood that they cannot advance very well toward the ultimate goal of life under his insufficient guidance. Therefore a disciple should be careful to accept an uttama-adhikari as a spiritual master.

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