NoD--Assignment 5

Babhru Das - October 24, 2005 9:47 pm

Very belatedly, my head bowed in embarrassment, and with a straw between my teeth, I submit Assignment 5. On rereading the chapter, I find that I have some problem with what I came up with. I'll discuss those reservations after the assignment.


Exploring the Ocean of The Nectar of Devotion

Assignment 5


Read Chapter 3 of The Nectar of Devotion, “Eligibility of the Candidate for Accepting Devotional Service.” This chapter covers verses 14-29 of the Eastern Division, Second Wave of Bhaktirasamrta-sindhu. Chapter 1 describes the six general characteristics of pure devotional service, and Chapter 2 generally its practice, this chapter describes the basic qualifications for practicing devotional service. As always, please write down any points that seem important, interesting, puzzling, or in any way significant to you. Also, make notes about any connections you see between what you read in this chapter and what we’ve read and discussed in the previous assignments, as well as any connections with anything else you’ve heard from our acaryas. Write down any questions that arise, as well as any understanding you may gain as you read. If you recognize any verses, look them up and write them down, too. (I’ll distribute a collection of verses I think we should recognize and reflect on as well.)


Some points that may be worth considering as we read are questions about just what makes one eligible for devotion, as well as the place of renunciation. How does Srila Prabhupada describe the three “grades” of devotees? What is the relationship of liberation with devotion? (We’ll see much more about that in the following chapter, to be sure.) How do the examples of the different kind of kanistha adhikaris given here help you understand the nature of this platform of eligibility?



Do your best to sum up the main points this chapter makes. Write about your understanding of the differences between kanistha- and madhyama-adhikari devotees and how a kanistha adhikari can be elevated to madhyama status. I’ve often pointed out the importance of introspection. After reading (and perhaps rereading) this chapter, take some time to write some honest analysis, using the criteria given in Chapter 3, your progress from the time you began practicing devotional service until now. Note how your position has changed over this time, focusing on actual, internal change, rather than more superficial or external progress. This is not necessarily something to share in the group because such sharing may prove to be more confidential than would be appropriate here. However, if you have confidential friends, you may find it appropriate to discuss privately this with them. What may be helpful, though, could be designing a questionnaire, based on Chapter 3’s standards, which devotees could use to help ascertain their own position. Make a list of questions you think may be useful, and we can share them with the group, maybe even design such a questionnaire together.

Babhru Das - October 24, 2005 10:10 pm

As I mentioned above, I have some reservations about some of the suggestions I made in the assignment, in particular, with regard to assessing our own progress from kanistha- to madhayma-adhikari. In fact, this chapter doesn't lend itself well to such consideration. In fact, the three classes discussed in this chapter refer to different degrees of eligibility for vaidhi sadhana bhakti, not the three classes of vaishnavas discussed in a couple of places in the Bhagavatam and in Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita. So if anyone doesn't feel moved to discuss some of the things I suggest in the assignment, that's perfectly fine, since it would be sort of over-reaching the context given by the chapter. On the other hand, some of us may find discussing these things, even tentatively, interesting or productive. I'll leave that up to the class. As far as personal assessments, I think that's probably the kind of topic most might want to discuss privately with Guru Maharaja. It's also the sort of thing each of us could do privately, as in journal writing (I really think such introspection is important), or with close, confidential friends. Still, it may be that this board is private enough that there could be some discussion here, or at least questions of a general nature. Again, though, that's up to you-all.


Some may also want to discuss the four kinds of pious persons described in the Gita verses cited in this chapter. This could be a good way to go back and take another look at those verses, both in Bhagavad-gita As It Is and in Swami's Bhagavad-gita: Its Feeling and Philosphy.

Babhru Das - October 24, 2005 10:23 pm

Here are a couple of verses from Dhruva that show, not his early eligibility, but his perspective on the attainment of Krishna's mercy. I just think they're nice (there are other good ones in the Bhagavatam). Srila Prabhupada sometimes cited the second one here.


Exploring the Ocean of The Nectar of Devotion

Some Verses for Assignment 5


ya nirvritis tanu-bhritam tava pada-padma-

dhyanad bhavaj-jana-katha-sravanena va syat

sa brahmani sva-mahimany api natha ma bhut

kim tv antakasi-lulitat patatam vimanat


My Lord, the transcendental bliss derived from meditating upon Your lotus feet or hearing about Your glories from pure devotees is so unlimited that it is far beyond the stage of brahmananda, wherein one thinks himself merged in the impersonal Brahman as one with the Supreme. Since brahmananda is also defeated by the transcendental bliss derived from devotional service, then what to speak of the temporary blissfulness of elevating oneself to the heavenly planets, which is ended by the separating sword of time? Although one may be elevated to the heavenly planets, he falls down in due course of time.

SB 4.9.10


sthanabhilasi tapasi sthito ‘ham

tvam praptavan deva-munindra-guhyam

kacam vicinvann api divya-ratnam

svamin kritartho ‘smi varam na yace


“[When he was being blessed by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Dhruva Maharaja said:] ‘O my Lord, because I was seeking an opulent material position, I was performing severe types of penance and austerity. Now I have gotten You, who are very difficult for the great demigods, saintly persons and kings to attain. I was searching after a piece of glass, but instead I have found a most valuable jewel. Therefore I am so satisfied that I do not wish to ask any benediction from You.’

Cc. Madhya 22.42

Nanda-tanuja Dasa - October 25, 2005 9:11 pm

Some thoughts about classes of devotees:


Uttama-adhikari, maha-bhagavata -- firm faith in the objective, expert in scriptures, never deviates from principles, becomes spiritual master (descending to madhyama-adhikari level), offers respect to others, his heart is completely clean, does not preach because sees everything as good and Krsna conscious, sees everyone as a devotee. Has no discrimination.

Madhyama-adhikari -- firm faith in the objective, but sometimes fails to offer arguments and decisions on the strength of revealed scriptures, preaching, sincere friend of similar devotees, merciful to the ignorant and avoids those who are envious, uninterrupted engagement in devotional practice. Always discriminating.

Kanistha-adhikari, prakrta-bhakta (the distressed, those in need of money, the inquisitive and the wise) -- no firm faith in the objective, does not purposefully study the sastra, engages in worshiping the Deity, wants respect for himself, has superiority complex, not aware that other devotees are more advanced then him, attracted by material opulence, does not see to the interests of the mass of people. Has no discrimination.

Babhru Das - October 26, 2005 5:13 am

Nice, concise summary of the three classes that includes both the narrower scope of the chapter at hand and the broader understanding of the three classes of bhaktas. Another thing that distinguishes kanistha- from madhyama-adhikari bhaktas is that, whereas the madhyama-adhikari makes friends with devotees, the kanistha fails to serve, or even respect, the devotees because he or she is unable to tell who is a devotee and who's not.

Bhrigu - October 27, 2005 4:08 pm

I have a question re. Nandatanuja's summary above. If the Uttama-adhikarin sees everyone as being Krishna conscious -- Guru Maharaja tells us how Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji would threaten to inform mother Yashoda when unruly kids teased him -- and therfore no need for preaching, why on earth would he "step down to madhyama" in order to preach?

Nanda-tanuja Dasa - October 27, 2005 5:27 pm

First of all I would like to offer my dandavat pranams to Bhrigupada, who’s book "As Good as God: The Guru in Gaudiya Vaisnavism" I’m currently reading, and would recommend to read anybody who is even remotely interested in guru-tattva subject. Second, I think this is a tricky question because a person who wrote book of such caliber must know the answer very well. But I will play along and try to answer it. I think maha-bhagavata steps down to madhyama-adhikari level and preaches to please his Guru and Ista-devata, mahajano yena gatah sa panthah.

Bhrigu - October 28, 2005 5:56 am

I actually didn't intend it as a trick question, Nandatanuja. I do think this "stepping down" is something of a paradox. Of course, if the uttama-adhikari gets the order to preach she would do so, but otherwise, I don't really see why. If there is no such order I'm not sure that I agree with your answer. Would an uttama think that preaching is something that would please her istadevata? As I understand this dichotomy, she would probably think that only person that needs to be preached to is herself.


Any other answers? I'm genuinely interested in understanding this concept better.

Shyam Gopal Das - October 28, 2005 3:02 pm

I'd be interested too. I can see why she steps down to preach, but why preach?

Nanda-tanuja Dasa - October 28, 2005 4:37 pm

Maha-bhagavata manifests for external and internal reasons, not necessarily to preach. I think that generally majority of maha-bhagavatas do not preach. Preaching is very prominent in our parivara, but I'm not sure it's as important for other lineages. Even in our lineage there are a lot of saints that did not have any disciples. You might say that they've preached by example, but none the less. I think preaching happens because maha-bhagavata is parama-karunika and para-duhkha-duhkhi, so he does it to eliminate suffering.

Babhru Das - October 28, 2005 7:33 pm

Here's one thing Srila Prabhupada says in a Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita purport:


Devotional service is so enchanting that even the first-class devotees (uttama-adhikaris) also come down to the second platform to preach and render service to the Lord for the benefit of the whole world.



Here's what Srila Sridhar Maharaja says in Sri Guru and His Grace:


The spiritual master always performs his function from the platform of an intermediate devotee, whether he comes down from the position of a first class devotee to do the work of guru, or does so as a bona fide intermediate devotee. Because the work of guru is enacted from the intermediate stage, it is the duty of the madhyama-adhikari to initiate disciples.


A spiritual master may be one of three kinds. The first class guru extends one foot from the spiritual world into the material world and takes souls from here to there. The guru in the intermediate stage is situated here, but he has extended one foot there and he is taking souls to the spiritual world. The lowest class of guru has both feet here, but he clearly sees the highest plane and is trying to take the souls from here to that plane. In this way, we may roughly conceive of three kinds of guru.


These are not three stages of Vaisnava, but three stages of guru. A first class devotee takes the position of an interrnediate devotee when he descends to play the role of an acarya, one who teaches by example. He has one leg there in the spiritual world, and by the order of Krsna, he extends another leg here in the material world to do the duty of an acarya. The guru who has one leg here in the material world and extends another leg into the spiritual world is a madhyama-adhikari, or intermediate devotee. He also discharges the duty of an acarya. The lowest class of acarya has both legs here in the material world, but his vision is towards the spiritual world. He may also do the duty of an acarya.


What I infer from this is that when the uttama bhagavat is inspired by the order of the Lord or his spiritual master, he may assume the position of the madhyama bhagavat so he can elevate others to the platform of pure devotional service, which requires considerable discrimination, as described in the verse in the 11th Canto with which most of us are probably familiar. Srila Prabhupad uses the phrase "comes down" in several places. I don't think this means he becomes a second-class devotee; rather, he adopts the vision or posture of the second-class devotee to accommodate that inspiration, born of mercy.

Audarya-lila Dasa - November 3, 2005 7:33 pm

Just a quick note -


I think we can all agree that the six Goswami's are uttama bhaktas and they all preached extensively. Narottama dasa thakur preached extensively as did Visvanatha Chakravarti. The list goes on ......


We can list so many devotees who are uttama bhaktas that preach. The standing order of Mahaprabhu is that 'wherever you go, whoever you meet, tell them about Krsna' That is an explicit order for everyone to preach regardless of their spiritual attainment. It is the desire of Mahaprabhu that his message goes out to all and that requires preaching. Can anyone think of any more effective preacher than the uttama bhaktas who speak from direct experience?

Bhrigu - November 7, 2005 4:10 pm

I certainly do not dispute the fact that we have many uttama-bhaktas in our line that have preached or doubt the standing of great preachers such as Srila Saraswati Thakura or Srila Prabhupada. There's no hidden agenda behind this: I'm just trying to better understand the reason why anyone who sees everybody else as more KC than himself would ever "step down" and preach. The reason often given, out of compassion, does not seem to work under these terms.


The standing order of Mahaprabhu is that 'wherever you go, whoever you meet, tell them about Krsna' That is an explicit order for everyone to preach regardless of their spiritual attainment.


I don't think we could take that statement as an explicit order for everyone, unless we want to think that many of Mahaprabhu's followers disregarded it. Our line is of course (and fortunately for us) geared towards preaching, but for everyone?


Anyway, all of this may be just a case of overlapping and somewhat contradictory definitions. Perhaps the nature of great devotees isn't fully understandable? :)


And sorry for diverting the thread, Babhruji! I'll try to write something in reply to the original questions soon.

Babhru Das - November 7, 2005 5:58 pm

I'm not sure this is a diversion, Bhrigu, so I can't see how any apology is necessary. And I think there may be an element of apparent incongruity here, or perhaps inconceivable identity and difference simultaneously. The best I can come up with is that the uttama bhagavat may be inspired by the order of the Lord or the guru, as Srila Sridhar Maharaj, Srila Prabhupada, Srila Sarasvati Thakura, and so many others were. We see in Jaiva Dharma, for example, that at the very beginning, Prema das babaji felt embarrassed by the sannyasi's show of humility, considering himself no better than a straw in the street. Nevertheless, he immediately responded to the sannyasi's inquiries and preached so nicely that the sannyasi quickly gave up all misconceptions. I'm not sure, though, that this would explain the more aggressive campaigns launched by Srila Sarasvati Thakura and expanded by Srila Prabhupada.


If you have anything in response to the original suggestions, fire away. In the meantime, I'll (again, belatedly) post Assignment 6 so we can get started reading and thinking about Chapter 4.