Śrī Upadeśāmṛta, Ślokas 5-6 (New Braja, 20 May 1997)
We started reading from text 5 but did not finish. You should read from page 57, last stanza.
When a person realizes himself to be an eternal servitor of Kṛṣṇa….
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: I want to emphasize that you should hear all these things very carefully. Svāmījī has explained everything that Rūpa Gosvāmī has written, and I am further elucidating so that we can adopt all these practices and thus be established in śuddha-bhakti, pure bhakti. So we should hear very minutely and carefully.
I told something the other day about nāma and dīkṣā. I know that generally many devotees have had misunderstandings regarding these subjects which I clarified yesterday. I think that these explanations should go all over the whole world, and they can create a spiritual revolution. Rūpa Gosvāmī has originally written these instructions, and in his book Svāmījī has revealed many of the deep meanings. I am only illuminating Svāmījī’s words. This is our duty—to give a proper understanding of all these subjects. So when I read Svāmījī’s Nectar of Instruction, I think, “Oh, Rūpa Gosvāmī is writing so deeply.” Without the help of the explanation of any pure devotee like Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, Svāmījī or Śrīla Prabhupāda Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī, we cannot realize all these things, although everything is written in the books. And that is why the ācāryas and all other pure devotees realize these facts and write further commentaries. So writing never stops. If Svāmījī were still here, he would have written so many more books, more and more.
“So when a person realizes himself….”
…to be an eternal servitor of Kṛṣṇa, he loses interest in everything but Kṛṣṇa’s service.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: What does this mean?
Devotee: He gives up his desire for sense gratification and just wants to serve Kṛṣṇa.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: He believes only in Kṛṣṇa’s service, and he forgets about other things.
Always thinking of Kṛṣṇa, devising means by which to spread the holy name of Kṛṣṇa, he understands that his only business is in spreading the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement all over the world. Such a person is to be recognized….
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: The symptom of a pure Vaiṣṇava is that he spreads the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. This is his business. What is the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement? Was this Kṛṣṇa consciousness existing before Svāmījī or not?
Devotee: Yes. It was the society of pure devotees.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: Was it existing before Caitanya Mahāprabhu or not?
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: Yes, it is eternal. Nārada Ṛṣi is one of them. He is the greatest ISKCON devotee.
Devotee: (laughing) ISKCON member, life member.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: I think that no one can argue this point. Our catur-mukha Brahmā is our first guru. Nārada is in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Vyāsa and Śukadeva Gosvāmī also. After that, Suta Gosvāmī, Madhvācārya, Rāmānujācārya, Viṣṇusvāmī, Nimbāditya, Mādhavendra Purīpāda, Īśvara Purīpāda, Svarūpa Dāmodara, Rāya Rāmānanda, and up to Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī and his bona fide disciples—all are in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Later Svāmījī will clarify what is Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Is it simply a sect or a certain cult or group? It is not sectarian.
“Anyone who is spreading Kṛṣṇa consciousness all over world….”
Such a person is to be recognized as an uttama-adhikārī, and his association should be immediately accepted according to the six processes (dadāti pratigṛhṇāti, etc.).
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: Anyone! He need not be from a specific sect, movement, group or anything. Anyone who is preaching like that is accepted as an uttama-adhikārī. I know that I am not in that class. It may be that I am madhyama-kaniṣṭha, bas, not more than that. This I know. Sometimes I am in the stage of kaniṣṭha and sometimes entering into madhyama, so madhyama-kaniṣṭha.
Devotee: But we know that you are….
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: But you cannot realize it because you are not liberated.
Devotee: Mahārāja, if you’re saying that you are kaniṣṭha, then you cannot tell him that he is not liberated.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: What can we do! Acchā.
Devotee: So you are revealing your own glories.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: Anyone who is actually spreading bhakti never falls down. But if after some time a person falls down, then does that mean that he has gone from uttama-adhikārī to a fallen stage? An uttama-adhikārī cannot fall in any way, in any condition. We must have this understanding. If he falls down, then we can understand that he was not an uttama-adhikārī. Svāmījī explains this point later on. If anyone is bona fide and is actually giving inspiration to everyone and following in our line, then he should be treated as an uttama-adhikārī. But some persons, even though they may be madhyama-adhikārī, only preach for their own gain. They can easily fall down.
Devotee: Some gurus are preaching all around the world and making many disciples. They have not fallen, but they do not possess the qualities of uttama-adhikārī.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: Svāmījī will explain further. I do not have to tell anything more, Svāmījī will explain everything. I am following behind him. He is so expert that he will not leave any point unanswered. He touches every point. I only have to show you where he is writing something.
Indeed, the advanced uttama-adhikārī Vaiṣṇava devotee should be accepted as a spiritual master.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: “Indeed, the advanced uttama-adhikārī Vaiṣṇava should be accepted as a spiritual master.” And if he has some doubts, then he is not an uttama-adhikārī. He will never change his siddhānta, sometimes saying this, sometimes that, sometimes jumping on this branch, sometimes on that one, sometimes falling down, again jumping up. The established truth is one. They should always be fixed on this point.
Everything one possesses should be offered to him, for it is enjoined that one should deliver whatever he has to the spiritual master. The brahmacārī in particular is supposed to beg alms from others and offer them to the spiritual master. However, one should not imitate the behaviour of an advanced devotee or mahā-bhāgavata without being self-realized….
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: “An advanced devotee like Śukadeva Gosvāmī never wears shoes, so I also will not wear any.” This does not demonstrate proper understanding. We should not imitate any mahā-bhāgavata. A mahā-bhāgavata may act in an unusual way, sometimes wearing only sandals and nothing else on his body. Then a kaniṣṭha-adhikārī will think, “People will honour me if I am following that behaviour.” Thus, to attract others he will wear wooden sandals, and he becomes so expert that he can walk a mile in them. We cannot do that but he can—one, two miles, he can walk that far. In severe cold he can survive without warm cloths, but we cannot. But this is imitation. We should try to follow the mahā-bhāgavata’s inner motives. We should not adopt just his external behaviour. Otherwise, we will be quickly exposed. These are not the real symptoms of advanced devotees.
For by such imitation one will eventually become degraded.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: Yes. They will not advance, but they will degrade.
In this verse Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī advises the devotee to be intelligent enough to distinguish between the kaniṣṭha-adhikārī, madhyama-adhikārī and uttama-adhikārī.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: This is the conclusion.
The devotee should also know his own position and should not try to imitate a devotee situated on a higher platform.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: Now this is going on, and that is why so many are falling.
Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has given some practical hints to the effect that an uttama-adhikārī Vaiṣṇava can be recognized by his ability to convert many fallen souls to Vaiṣṇavism. One should not become a spiritual master unless he has attained the platform of uttama-adhikārī.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: What does this mean?
Devotee 1: If one is still a madhyama or kaniṣṭha, he should not become a spiritual master.
Devotee 2: A person’s adhikāra is always determined by faith. Śrīla Prabhupāda quoted earlier in Madhya-līlā to that effect. And as the faith increases, the adhikāra increases up to uttama. The kaniṣṭha-adhikārī’s faith is limited, seeing Kṛṣṇa in one place only. The madhyama-adhikārī’s faith grows, and by discrimination he can determine how to judge people’s levels, but uttama-adhikāra means that he sees everything and everybody is Kṛṣṇa, as we discussed yesterday.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: Not everything is Kṛṣṇa, but everything is in Kṛṣṇa.
Devotee 2: Everything in Kṛṣṇa, and everybody worshiping Kṛṣṇa as he worships his own iṣṭadeva, in his mood. So that is the uttama-adhikārī that we should take shelter of.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: Yes. One should not become a spiritual master unless he has attained the platform of uttama-adhikārī. Unless he is an uttama-adhikārī, he cannot satisfactorily answer all questions. If two points are contradictory, he cannot reconcile them. How can he help those devotees who are in a dilemma about what to do or what not to do? He is saying that when one has attained the platform of uttama-adhikārī, then he can initiate and is actually qualified to preach. Otherwise, one cannot actually perform all these activities. We are seeing the results of unqualified persons acting as guru. Someone accepts disciples. Then a very beautiful lady devotee comes along and he becomes involved with her. He will give up his position as guru and go off with her, sometimes not even bothering to get married. We have seen so many examples of devotees involved in collecting money and self-praise and all these things. “A neophyte Vaiṣṇava….”
A neophyte Vaiṣṇava or a Vaiṣṇava 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.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: Yes. We should explain something here. An uttama-adhikārī like Nārada and others is actually guru. Sometimes such a guru, being uttama-adhikārī, will come in the stage of madhyama-adhikārī for preaching. But a madhyama-adhikārī, perhaps in the stage of madhyama-madhyama or madhyama-uttama, after he has become knowledgeable in all kinds of śāstra-siddhānthas, and his śraddhā is very thick and strong, can initiate a limited number of disciples, but not too many. And very carefully he should select such disciples who are on the same platform. What platform? Madhyama platform. He considers about himself, “I am still in the madhyama stage. I am not high and I cannot help my disciples so much.” He should understand his position in this way, thinking, “There are no high-class Vaiṣṇavas available now, so I am filling in, simply giving letters like a peon, like a postman.” He should understand in which stage he is situated and not be proud that “I am making lākhas and lākhas of disciples.” Otherwise, he becomes fallen, and then he must fall down. He is already fallen, so what to speak of falling down. If he is humble, he may advance into uttama-adhikārī, and surely, very soon he will be able to really preach and initiate.
It should be understood that his disciples cannot advance very well towards the ultimate goal of life under his insufficient guidance. Their progress will be very limited. He should know this. Who should know? Any madhyama who is giving initiation. He should not be proud, thinking, “I am the same as Nityānanda Prabhu and you should obey me as you would obey him.” This will be an offense. He should know that he is not like Rūpa Gosvāmī or Nityānanda Prabhu. He should not have this false pride. He should always realize his own position and should pray, “Oh, I know that I am only helping them a little.”
But we see that so many disciples accepted such a guru. Having made about two thousand disciples and himself becoming Bhagavān, then what happened? He went to hell. So we should not think, “Oh, think of me as Nityānanda—sākṣād-dharitvena samasta-śāstrair. I am that person, sākṣād-dharitvena.” But a guru who is sincere will not think like this. He will think that he is simply a messenger of Nityānanda Prabhu. He will not say, “I am the same person. I will come again and again, and I will take you to Goloka.” Nityānanda Prabhu and an uttama-adhikārī can speak like this. But don’t imitate them and say that “I am uttama-adhikārī.”
Those who imitate put themselves in a very dangerous position. We have seen how so many have fallen away from their positions and have even suffered violent reactions. Why? And some disciples, even while their gurudeva is still present in the world, begin initiating so many people themselves without their guru’s order. Why are they doing this? This is very bad behaviour.
So the madhyama-guru should know that his disciples cannot advance very well, and he should realize that he himself should take guidance from an advanced spiritual master. Then he will not commit any aparādha against high-class Vaiṣṇavas. But if he does not take such shelter, then he will make so many offenses at the lotus feet of higher devotees—he is bound to do so. “Therefore a disciple should be careful to accept an uttama-adhikārī as a spiritual master.” We should be very careful in these matters.
Now we come to text 6:
dṛṣṭaiḥ svabhāva-janitair vapuṣaś ca doṣair
na prākṛtatvam iha bhakta janasya paśyet
gaṇgāmbhasāṁna khalu budbuda-phena-paṇkair
brahma-dravatvam apagacchati nīra-dharmaiḥ
(Śrī Upadeśāmṛta 6)
First we should try to honour three classes of Vaiṣṇavas. Thus, it has been explained: kṛṣṇeti yasya giri taṁ manasādriyeta. Even those who have taken Kṛṣṇa’s name just once should be respected. Whether someone is our Godbrother or not, he should be seen as a Vaiṣṇava, and we should honour him as such. In the case that he is not our Godbrother, then what should we do? Should we try to take him by the back of the neck and say, “Go away from here. Don’t come into our territory!”? And such devotees may pass a resolution, “No one should go to this Vaiṣṇava. He is out of our society. He is not in the line of our guru.” They may advise like this even if that Vaiṣṇava is a very, very high-class devotee.
So we should honour all these instructions that Rūpa Gosvāmī is giving. Those who are chanting even one name should be honoured within the mind. Those who are actually initiated and always chanting the holy names should be honoured by mind and also by body and speech. And those who are higher, who do not criticize anyone, who have no anarthas, who are free of nindā (criticizing propensity) and dveṣa (envy) and are always chanting and remembering the pastimes of Kṛṣṇa’s aṣṭa-kālīya-līlā, should be honoured from the core of the heart. Give your head, your heart, your everything at that person’s lotus feet and serve him. Serve his words, his lotus feet, everything!
krīyatāṁ yadi kuto ‘pi labhyate
tatra laulyam api mūlyam ekalaṁ
janma-koṭi-sukṛtair na labhyate
(Padyāvalī 14, quoted in CC. Mad. 8.70)
By serving him you can develop a very thick greed in spontaneous service for Kṛṣṇa. It will surely come.
Next he is explaining that a Vaiṣṇava may be of that high standard, but the kaniṣṭha-adhikārī cannot distinguish whether he is uttama, madhyama or kaniṣṭha. The madhyama-adhikārī can determine this but sometimes he may be mistaken. If he sees a very beautiful, young, energetic person chanting or delivering a speech, he may think, “Oh, he is a very bona fide Vaiṣṇava guru.” And if a Vaiṣṇava is more advanced and is preaching, but, like Aṣṭavakra, is so ugly and does not have a sweet voice, he will think, “Oh, he’s a bogus person.” So for them Rūpa Gosvāmī is telling:
dṛṣṭaiḥ svabhāva-janitair vapuṣaś ca doṣair
na prākṛtatvam iha bhakta-janasya paśyet
gaṇgāmbhasāṁna khalu budbuda-phena-paṅkair
brahma-dravatvam apagacchati nīra-dharmaiḥ
You can read the translation.
Being situated in his original Kṛṣṇa conscious position, a pure devotee does not identify with the body. Such a devotee should not be seen from a materialistic point of view. Indeed, one should overlook a devotee’s having a body born in a low family.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: You should note one thing here. A lower-stage devotee does not see things with spiritual vision. Because of his worldly outlook, he sometimes turns against a pure devotee. So he should be careful—very, very careful. The pure Vaiṣṇava does not have any worldly vision. Rūpa Gosvāmī is warning in this śloka that we should not judge the Vaiṣṇavas by our worldly criteria.
Indeed, one should overlook a devotee’s having a body born in a low family, a body with a bad complexion, a deformed body, or a diseased or infirm body. According to ordinary vision, such imperfections may seem prominent in the body of a pure devotee, but despite such seeming defects, the body of a pure devotee cannot be polluted. It is exactly like the waters of the Ganges, which sometimes during the rainy season are full of bubbles, foam and mud. The Ganges waters do not become polluted. Those who are advanced in spiritual understanding will bathe in the Ganges without considering the condition of the water.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: Once a ṛṣi named Aṣṭavakra went into the council of the learned jñānī Mahārāja Janaka. So many high-class ṛṣis, munis and brahmavādīs having realized brahma were there. And this Aṣṭavakra, whose body was crooked in eight places, managed to come to the council of Mahārāja Janaka. In one month he travelled the path that would ordinarily take only one day. So very slowly and with great difficulty he came with the help of only a walking stick. Seeing him, everyone began to laugh. Mahārāja Janaka also laughed. “Oh, this person is so bold and desperate. Here are so many learned counsellors, and without any fear he has entered. His skin is so rough and black. Here something is crooked, there something is crooked, his mouth is twisted, everything about him is distorted. So how has he dared to come here? He has no good clothes, nothing. There are also cracks in his feet.” The whole assembly began to laugh. For a moment Aṣṭavakra was silent but then he also laughed—even more than the others. All were struck dumb, “Why is he laughing?” and their laughter stopped. Then Mahārāja Janaka approached him and asked, “Who are you, and why are you laughing so much?” He said, “Who am I? I will tell you afterwards. Why am I laughing? But I am not laughing, I am weeping, crying. I have come from very far away, and you see my condition. I cannot walk. I have only come here to see the counsellors of Mahārāja Janaka. I have heard that they are so learned. Here are assembled brahma-jñānīs who are like Yājñavalkya and so many others. I came to hear their discourses and teachings. But instead I have become hopeless.”
Mahārāja Janaka asked, “Why have you become hopeless? Everyone here is so learned.” He replied, “But I don’t see anyone who is learned. I see that all are cobblers, shoemakers.”
Then Mahārāja Janaka became grave, “Oh, they are all cobblers? Why are all of them cobblers? Totally all? You do not see that they are very learned persons, coming in the brāhmaṇa-vaṁśa (dynasty of learned brāhmaṇas), and very learned brahmavādī-ṛṣis?”
“No, no. All are cobblers. Do you know why? Cobblers work with skins. They only know, ‘Oh, this skin is such rough leather; this skin is such fine leather, good quality. That one is very soft and smooth.’ So they are of the same class as cobblers. They cannot see whether the ātmā is pure or not; they cannot realize ātmā and paramātmā—only body, this skin. They are expert in skin, but not in ātmā.” Then all of them became ashamed, and at once Mahārāja Janaka approached the lotus feet of that ṛṣi. The king placed him on his own throne and began to apologize.
Here is the same principle. You should not apply your worldly vision to any devotees. Always be careful. Don’t criticize any Vaiṣṇava for your bodily or mental gain, for money, for reputation, or for any other thing. But generally we are acting against these instructions. “If a high-class Vaiṣṇava comes and exerts his influence in our area, then we will lose our material benefits— income, disciples, position, power and all other things, and it will be extremely harmful for us.” So we should understand in this way.
This is Rūpa Gosvāmī’s view, not only Svāmījī’s.
Then in the purport, come to page 63, last stanza.
If we consider the bodily defects of a Vaiṣṇava, we should understand that we are committing an offense at the lotus feet of the Vaiṣṇava.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: We should always be careful for this.
An offense at the lotus feet of a Vaiṣṇava is very serious. Indeed, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has described this offense as hātī-mātā, the mad elephant offense. A mad elephant can create a disaster, especially when it enters into a nicely trimmed garden. One should therefore be very careful not to commit any offense against a Vaiṣṇava. Every devotee should be ready to take instructions from a superior Vaiṣṇava, and a superior Vaiṣṇava must be ready to help an inferior Vaiṣṇava in all respects.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: Svāmījī is telling this for all levels of devotees. What is he saying? That all devotees—lower grade as well as upper-grade sādhakas, those who are initiating and those who are initiated—all should be ready to take instructions from a superior Vaiṣṇava. And a superior Vaiṣṇava must be ready to help the junior Vaiṣṇavas. This is the symptom of an uttama-madhyama-adhikārī—he is helping the less advanced devotees. And if he is not doing this, then he is committing offenses. He must help them.
One is superior or inferior according to his spiritual development in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. If you are a madhyama-adhikārī, you should always consider a devotee’s stage—whether he is superior or inferior. Then you can progress. Otherwise your progress will be stopped. So always be careful about this.
One is forbidden to observe the activities of a pure Vaiṣṇava from a material point of view.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: But now we are seeing that certain devotees are viewing the Vaiṣṇavas with their material vision. We should change this view if we want to advance. And if we are not changing, then we make more and more offenses, and finally we will be ruined.
For the neophyte especially, considering a pure devotee from a material point of view is very injurious.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: “for neophytes especially, considering a pure devotee from a material point of view is very injurious.”
One should therefore avoid observing a pure devotee externally, but should try to see the internal features and understand how he is engaged in the transcendental loving service of the lord.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: He should always be careful and observe how the pure Vaiṣṇava is engaged in his transcendental loving service to Kṛṣṇa. If he is always offending, he cannot see the Vaiṣṇava with proper vision. But we should try.
In this way one can avoid seeing the pure devotee from a material point of view, and thus one can gradually become a purified devotee himself. Those who think that Kṛṣṇa consciousness is limited….
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: This is a very important point. You should underline this. Those who have a liberal view can see that Nārada is in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Also Vyāsa, all the Vaiṣṇavas like Rāmānuja, Viṣṇusvāmī, Nimbāditya, and their disciples—all are in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Oh, they have some vaiśiṣṭhya, some speciality, but this is another thing. We will have more honour for those in our own line, but we will have to honour all. So those who think that Kṛṣṇa consciousness is limited to a certain section of people are wrong.
“Oh, only us, and all others are rejected. We should not have any saṅga, association, with any others.” This is not a proper mentality. If you cannot associate with them, at least you can have honour for them. What harm is there to honour others? But don’t dishonour any Vaiṣṇavas. If he is in the same line that I am following, sajātīyā snigdha āśāya, then I should associate with him. Sajātīyā means having the same mood that I want, like-minded. For instance, I want to be a friend of Kṛṣṇa, so I should find a superior Vaiṣṇava who has that mood. If I want to be fixed in the line of Rūpa Gosvāmī, I will select someone who is superior to me and in this line of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī. Then I should always associate with him with great honour. But I should not dishonour anyone else.
gurau goṣṭhe goṣṭhālayiṣu sujane bhūsura-gaṇe
(Śrī Manaḥ Śikṣā, verse 1)
Even the brāhmaṇas who are living in Vṛndāvana should not be dishonoured. They may not be one-pointed to Kṛṣṇa. Sometimes they may also worship Viṣṇu, Vaikuṇṭha-nātha, Dvārakādhīśa and Kṛṣṇa in the same line, no harm. They are maintaining some proper form of worship, so we should not dishonour them or make any offense. Yet we cannot associate with them because they are not in the line of Rūpa Gosvāmī. But if we tell them, “Oh, go away. We cannot meet with you,” this is very offensive and will harm our bhakti. Those who think that Kṛṣṇa consciousness is limited to a certain section of devotees are mistaken. They think that those within the ISKCON society are bona fide and all those outside the ISKCON society are not. Then what will happen? We find this mentality going on now, and this will create very big problems for them.
….or a certain tract of land are generally prone to see the external features of the devotee.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: What is the meaning of “certain tract of land”?
Devotee: An area of land—America or Europe—territory. This is our land.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: They should understand these things, and then they will be sincere Vaiṣṇavas, being qualified to preach and to receive honour.
So they will have to change their vision.
They are generally prone to see the external features of the devotee. Such neophytes, unable to appreciate the exalted service of the advanced devotee, try to bring the mahā-bhāgavata to their platform.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: What is the meaning? Neophytes will think, “The mahā-bhāgavata is also on my platform. I have envy and he also has envy, I am a thief and he is also. He is nothing more than I.”
Devotee: Whatever I am thinking, everyone must think the same as me.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: Neophytes will also think, “I can control him also.” These are very great offenses.
We experience such difficulty in propagating this Kṛṣṇa consciousness all over the world. Unfortunately, we are surrounded by neophyte Godbrothers…..
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: He has said “neophyte.” They don’t know all the rules of etiquette and all these siddhāntas. They do not know what is a Vaiṣṇava. Only they have heard the mantra but actually they are not yet Vaiṣṇava, madhyama-adhikārī, and that is why they are making so many blunders. Svāmījī experienced this. He saw that some Godbrothers were quarrelling with each other, not honouring the higher-class Vaiṣṇavas. They were not understanding what Svāmījī was doing. Some of his Godbrothers were criticizing him, so he is warning his disciples to keep away from their disciples and to be careful.
. . . who do not appreciate the extraordinary activities of spreading Kṛṣṇa consciousness all over the world. They simply try to bring us to their platform, and they try to criticize us in every respect.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: History is repeating itself. The same thing is happening now. So we should be very careful about these things.
We very much regret their naive activities and poor fund of knowledge. An empowered person who is actually engaged in the confidential service of the lord should not be treated as an ordinary human being, for it is stated that unless one is empowered by Kṛṣṇa, one cannot spread the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement all over the world. When one thus criticizes a pure devotee, he commits an offense (vaiṣṇava-aparādha).
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: “When one thus criticizes a pure devotee, he commits an offense (vaiṣṇava-aparādha).” This is very destructive and dangerous for those who desire to advance in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. They cannot progress. Where there is envy and worldly vision, material vision, they are bound to commit offenses. So sometimes ācāryas like Śrīla Prabhupāda Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī descend to this world.
A person cannot derive any spiritual benefit when he offends the lotus feet of a Vaiṣṇava. Everyone should therefore be very careful not to be jealous of an empowered Vaiṣṇava, or a śuddha-vaiṣṇava.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: They should not have any envy, not even a little smell of it. You should always be careful—don’t be envious! Be liberal and broad-minded. Try to honour all. Don’t just try, you should honour all Vaiṣṇavas. Don’t criticize them. If you cannot associate with them, no harm, but don’t dishonour them. If you know that some Vaiṣṇava is acting improperly, going to a prostitute and mixing with bad society, do not associate with that Vaiṣṇava, but do not dishonour him. Otherwise his bad qualities will come to you.
It is also an offense to consider an empowered Vaiṣṇava an object of disciplinary action.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: What is the meaning?
Devotee: Actually Vaiṣṇavas are to be honoured in all cases, and never are we to be in a critical mood of any of them. It is not our duty. They all belong to Kṛṣṇa, and Kṛṣṇa is taking care of everyone. It is not our duty to criticize or to rebuke them in these ways.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: “…an object of disciplinary action”—what does this mean?
Devotee: Specifically, it was stated before that an empowered person who is actually engaged in the confidential service of the lord should not be treated as an ordinary human being. For it is stated that unless one is empowered by Kṛṣṇa, one cannot spread the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. So this part of the text is speaking about the uttama-bhāgavata. Such a person should not be considered the object of discipline. Rather he is directly empowered by the Supreme lord.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: (with sarcasm) You should control them by disciplinary rules and regulations. “Oh, you should come. We have made some rules that you should also follow. Śukadeva Gosvāmī, come on, come on. You should first get dressed, put on tilaka and keep a tulasī-mālā. Otherwise we will not hear from you and we will tell you to go out from here.” And to control him: “Haridāsa Ṭhākura, have you accepted any guru? From whom have you taken initiation?” What will he say? He will smile and say that he doesn’t know anything and then the neophyte will want to control him. So don’t give any instruction or any advice to the uttama-bhāgavata if you want to gain something. And don’t try to control him. I know that a kaniṣṭha-adhikārī wants to control the madhyama and uttama. Sometimes, out of their ignorance madhyama-adhikārīs also want to control others.
Svāmījī told me when he was in a very worried mood, “Now, I am controlled. So many persons want to control me.” He confided in me so many concerns that I cannot reveal here, but we should be careful.
It is offensive to try to give him advice or to correct him.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: Now you are correcting your guru. “Oh, Gurudeva should be corrected. He should be advised. He does not know worldly things. He has no practical knowledge. He has not gone to Oxford University. He has only gone to Haridāsa Ṭhākura University and the school of Gaura Kiśora dāsa Bābājī. He does not know the etiquette for worldly dealings. ‘Gurudeva, I was expert at the university, so I know so much more than you for practical affairs. You only know how to chant Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa and to tell hari-kathā. It is not sufficient. So sometimes you should follow my advice.’” Don’t give advice to the guru.
There was an old person in our maṭha named Muni Mahārāja. He took sannyāsa with Svāmī Mahārāja. He always helped me in so many ways, and I also served him when I was with him. When he was about one hundred years old, he was once sitting in a very little room attached to mine. He was telling me, “All the devotees call me a very old giddha, vulture (meaning a person so old that he cannot move or do anything, a useless person). But I am sitting here, watching everything. I know everything that is going on, because I was expert in all these activities.” He was telling me so many things, “They think that I am like them. They want to regulate me, but they don’t know me.” He was smiling, but he was worried for this. So we should be very careful to avoid this mentality.
These are very important lines where Svāmījī is giving instruction. We should try to follow if we want to progress in our bhakti. This is called iṣṭagoṣṭhī. I am seeing that no one here is sleeping. All are inspired. Everyone has been hearing for ten or twenty years, but some are very worried, because they cannot follow these instructions. Yet they should make an effort. Read that line again.
It is offensive to try to give him advice or to correct him.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: Don’t try to give any advice to your superiors. They are superior in all ways. Not just in spirituality, but also in worldly knowledge.
One can distinguish between a neophyte Vaiṣṇava and an advanced Vaiṣṇava by their activities.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: No, all cannot. Only madhyama-adhikārīs and sincere devotees can distinguish, others cannot. A kaniṣṭha will think, “I am the only advanced one and all others are inferior.” But an advanced devotee will think, “I am inferior and all others are advanced.”
The advanced Vaiṣṇava is always situated as the spiritual master, and the neophyte is always considered his disciple.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: We should think like this. We should always think that we are his disciple. I observed Svāmījī. He was preaching all over the world. He wrote so many books, including an explanation of Caitanya-Caritāmṛta, and he published Gītā As It Is in about sixty languages. And he made thousands of disciples. But he was weeping at the time of my Gurudeva’s departure and he wrote us a letter quoting a verse of Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī with a small change:
apāyayan mām anabhīpsum andham
kṛpāmbudhir yaḥ para-duḥkha-duḥkhī
He changed the name of Sanātana Gosvāmī, and in its place he added the name of our Guru Mahārāja. How he was honouring his sannyāsa-guru! He was not a disciple of my Gurudeva, but my Gurudeva had given him sannyāsa. Svāmījī always treated him like his śīkṣā-guru. And he was always giving honour to all the Vaiṣṇavas, to Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja and so many others.
Just before his divine disappearance, weeping, he took my hands in his and told me, “I have made so many mistakes and offenses at the lotus feet of Vaiṣṇavas. I have said so many things that I should not. So please, you should excuse me.” I am his śīkṣā-śiṣya, so much lower than him and he was taking my hands and weeping, begging me to excuse him. How he was liberal! How he was humble! A common person cannot do this because of his false ego, but Svāmījī had no false ego. He is a realized soul. That is why he is advising us not to make all these mistakes. He also requested me, “You should convey this prayer of mine to all my Godbrothers.”
I told him, “You cannot speak like this. You cannot make any offense. Some people may think you committed offenses, but you had your reasons for what you said, and if you have spoken anything out of line, still it is not an offense.”
So Svāmījī is warning, “The spiritual master must not be subjected to the advice of a disciple.” What is the meaning?
Devotee 1: The spiritual master is not under the jurisdiction or control of the disciples; he is not subject to their advice.
Devotee 2: The disciple may offer something for the spiritual master’s consideration, but the spiritual master is not obliged to take that.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: Yes. Go on from, “the spiritual master must not be….”
The spiritual master must not be subjected to the advice of a disciple, nor should a spiritual master be obliged to take instructions from those who are not his disciples.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: What is the meaning?
Devotee: The spiritual master is not required to accept the advice of his disciple. If his disciple wants to give him advice, he is not required to accept that. If someone is not the disciple of a guru, but he also wants to give the guru advice, the guru is not required to accept his advice.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: Yes. So, we should be very careful in these matters. And this is called Nectar of Instruction. Then Svāmījī’s final words:
This is the sum and substance of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī’s advice in the sixth verse.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: Yes. Gaura premānande!
The Essence of All Advice, 4th Edition (A collection of discourses by Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja on the nectar of instruction*)
*Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Prabhupāda’s commentary on Śrī Upadeśāmṛta by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī