Essence of Pure Devotion (Part III)

The Mercy of the Vaisnavas Present All Perfection

by His Divine Grace

Srila Bhakti Promod Puri Goswami Maharaja

Srila Vrndavana das Thakura has written in his Caitanya bhagavata (M 21/21):

bhagavat, tulasi, gangaya, bhaktjane
caturdha vigraha krsna ei cari sane
The book bhagavat, pure devotees, Tulasi plant and the River Ganga-these four are related to the Lord as part of His manifestations or 'tadiya'-His own spiritual paraphernalia. Especially, only after the installation of the Deity with proper rites can one engage in worshipping the Deity. But these four are naturally worshipable for they do not have to be infused with consciousness as in the usual procedures of installation for they are all transcendental objects in themselves and not like the ordinary material paraphernalia. The service to these paraphernalia of Sri Krishna is one of the sixty-four limbs of devotion. The five main limbs are stated as follows:

Even a little practice in any of these five limbs can invoke devotion to Sri Krishna. The service to the 'tadiya' of the Lord has an unbroken relation with these five limbs as well as the other limbs. Without the association of pure devotees and their service, no limb of devotional service can in any way be followed at all:-

aradhananan sarvesam visnor aradhanam param
tasmat parataram devi tadiyanam samarcanam
Oh Devi, of all the worship, the most superior is worship of Lord Visnu, but the worship of His paraphernalia is even higher than this.
acayitva tu govindam tadiyan narchayetuyah
na sa bhagavato jneyah kevalam dambikah smrtah
One who worships Lord Govinda but does not engage in worshipping His devotees or paraphernalia cannot be considered a high level devotee. He is at most only a haughty devotee.
In worshipping Lord Govinda without properly adoring Tulasi Devi or neglecting Tulasi Devi, that type of worship will never be accepted by Lord Govinda. The Supreme Lord is very affectionate to His devotees and He is overcome by Their love for Him, therefore only in pleasing such unalloyed devotees will the Lord become pleased. Lord Krishna Himself says that those who consider themselves My devotee, I do not consider them as such but the devotee of My devotee is the top-level devotee of Mine (reference Adi-Purana)

ye me bhakta-janah partha na me bhaktas ca te janah
mad-bhaktanam ca ye bhaktas te me bhaktanam matah
Maharaja Prataparudra had great devotion and regard for Raya Ramananda. In seeing this, Sriman Mahaprabhu began to happily praise him as a great devotee, telling him that Lord Krishna will definitely accept him seeing his mood of adoration to this pure devotee.

Uddhava, on expressing his earnest desire to understand the pure devotional service to Sri Krishna was met with this reply from the Supreme Lord Himself:

adarah paricaryayam sarvangairabhivandanam
mad-bhaktah-pujasvadhika sarva-bhutesu man-matih
mad-atesv anga cesta ca vacasa mad-guneranam
mayy arpanam ca mansah sarva kama-vivarjonam
(SB 11/19/21-22)
One should honor My dearmost servants and glorify them with all one's limbs. To worship My devotees is ever more important than My worship. While honoring all living entities with an equal mind, one should endeavor for Me and sing of My glories with one's speech. He should surrender his mind to Me and give up all desires not in relation with Me.

All these activities belong to the realm of pure devotional service. Service to the pure devotees is only attained after the merit gained by life times of pious activities.

After hearing of the nectarine. Pastimes of Lord Krishna from Maitreya Muni, Mahatma Vidura was cleared of his doubts and remarked:

durapa hyalpa tapasah seva vaikuntha vartmasu
yatra upagiyate nityam deva devo janardanah
Service to those great souls who always glorify Lord Janardana, Sri Krishna is not attained by a person who has little pious activities or meager pious activities to his credit.

Listening to the topics of the Lord from realized souls will awakened one's latent love for Lord Hari and the result will be a dwindling implication in the bodily concept of life. There is no way to obtain devotion than the constant association of realized devotees and this association will be beneficial by adding merit in furtherance of pure devotion. Therefore, one with little merit or pious activities to his credit will not be able to have unflinching faith in these four Spiritual articles like the remnants of the Lord's prasadam, the Supreme Lord Govinda, the Holy Names, and the pure devotees. This verse is verified from the Padma Purana.

Srila Jiva Gosvami has written in his Bhakti Sandarbha that as long as the heart of the living entity is filled with impurities, till that time his proper steadiness and understanding about Spiritual Truths will not arise, plus with his corresponding weak faith, the proper mood of honoring his spiritual master will not manifest. More often than not, in this situation being under the influence of his mind and body, with misguided faith in a bogus instructing 'guru' the unfortunate living entity will be propelled in hellish wombs.

At one time, King Nimi of Videha became overjoyed to see the unexpected arrival of the Nine great sages (Nava Yogendra) at his sacrificial arena. After worshipping them properly according to their position, he quoted this verse with devotion.

durlabho manusyo deho dehinam ksana bhangurah
tatrapi durlabham manye vaikuntha priya darsanam
atah atyantikam ksemam prchamo bhagavato anughah
samsaro'smin ksana ardho pi sat-sangah sevadinram
(SB 11/1/29-30)
To obtain this temporary miserable body is considered to be very difficult but even more than this is the vision of the pure devotees of the Lord. In this temporary material world, for one to obtain the association of high caliber saints like your good selves, even for a moment is the greatest treasure and source of bliss for ordinary human beings.

These nine great saints grasped all the imports of the scriptures faithfully and were in a position to answer the deep questions of King Nimi for they were replete with high personal character and codes of conduct, as befitting highly realized souls.

The self-realized person is one who has grasped all the hidden truths of scriptures by way of personal example and practice and imparts such spiritual instruction to others. The external self-effulgent manifestations of the Lord are present in the form of Guru and the pure devotees. Without deep devotion to their lotus feet, one can scarcely hope to uncover the deep imports of the scriptures. As stated by Svetasvara Sruti, for one who has unflinching faith in the spiritual master and the Supreme Lord, all the imports of the scriptures will be revealed instantly. Without the mercy of Sri Guru, the mercy of the devotees is not possible and without the mercy of the devotees and the spiritual master, where is the question of mercy of the Supreme Lord? Without having close association or rapport with the spiritual master, one will not be able to distinguish as to who the actual Vaishnava is an due to association with the non-devotees will result in one's falling headlong into hellish life.

The bona fide guru is self-controlled and well-versed in scriptures, at the same time he is fixed in pure devotional service to the Lord. Due to grave offenses like intermingling with women or non-devotees, therefore, one who is not of controlled passions, devoid of knowledge of devotion and indifferent to the chanting of the Holy Names will be completely unfit for taking the position of Guru. The iron, when not treated with intense heat, will not loose its impurities, similarly the effulgent spiritual master is like a blazing fire in the sense of possessing transcendental knowledge and devoid of his sublime instructions, the witch of illusion will surely devour us and no deliverance will be possible. Here, the witch implied is the desire for sensual enjoyment and liberation, which has been described by Srila Rupa Gosvami:

Srila Jagadananda Pandit in "Prema Vivarta", has implored us to give up the association of non-devotees, which in turn leads to desires for sensual enjoyment, mystic powers and liberation and take to the association of pure devotees, with the chanting of the Holy Names. Srila Krsnadas Kaviraja in Chaitanya Charitamrta verifies this when he states that all desires like sense enjoyment and liberation does not lead to the promised goal, which is devotion to God.

The highest religious principles are enunciated by the Srimad Bhagavatam form the verse: dharman projito kaitava, atra parama nirmatsaram satam, which denotes that religion, economic development, desires for sensual enjoyment are al cheating tendencies. To be avoided, while liberation is the greatest cheating tendency which will tend to nullify devotion altogether. Srila Sridhar Swami has declared the word 'pro' is used to especially decry all cheating tendencies like formal religion, economic development, sense gratification and liberation which should be given up completely.

Srila Krsnadas Kaviraja further states that obstructions to pure devotion lie within the form of carrying out every kind of pious and impious work. Only the causeless mercy of Sri Sri Gaura Nityananda can cause all the darkness of ignorance to vanish and the truth of pure devotion to sprout. Srila Rupa Gosvami's verse: "anyabilasita sunyam" is consistent with our present discussion. The main limb of the practice (abhideya) of devotional service is chanting of the Holy Names, which requires the proper association of pure devotees for perfection to result. On the contrary, in the association of those pursuing sense enjoyment, mystic powers and liberation, even after many births of striving, hearing and chanting will have little effect. As stated in SB (1/10/11), the verse states that the learned man, in giving up bad association altogether, and hearing the nectarine fame and qualities of the Supreme Lord in the association of saintly devotees will never be able to forget Him.

Srila Krsnadas Kaviraja gives the commentary of the verse from Srimad Bhagavad-Gita "catur viddha bhajante mam" meaning four types of people worship the Lord namely: the inquisitive, the distressed, one who desires wealth and the learned persons. All these classes of people can be divided into those aspiring for sense gratification and those desiring liberation.

An example of the distressed is the elephant Gajendra who, in his precarious plight on being attacked by a huge crocodile, prayed to the Lord in intense despair The second category is devotees like Dhruva who was tainted with the ambition to be ruler of a planet and amass prestige and opulence. The inquisitive category is saints like Saunaka who desired eagerly to understand self-knowledge. The intelligent, learned people like Uddhava form the fourth class. All these four categories of people may gain favorable merit in taking to devotions but for them the only way to pure devotion is to renounce completely all desires up to liberation.

Here we have seen that these four categories of people who seek God are under the influence of material impurities like material enjoyment and liberation which are not ideal for pure devotion. Only in rejecting all these can the desire for pure devotion be evolved. Further, Srila Krsnadas Kaviraja has rejected all these cheating tendencies of the common four-fold aims of human life, so much so, other than Lord Krishna and His pure devotion, everything else is ignorance (ajnartham). Maintaining association with people of these kind of cheating tendencies are considered bad association and one, by keeping such bad association, will not be able to attain success in devotion, even after many millions of births. In Srimad Bhagavatam (11.10.16)

tato duhsangam utsrjya status fajita buddhi
santa evasy chindanti manovyasangam uktibih
The sober person should take right association while rejecting bad association. The spiritual aspirants, by the sublime instructions of pure devotees, are able to forgo or renounce all desires unfavorable for devotional service.

As Lord Kapila informs mother Devahuti that by hearing the topics of the Supreme Lord in the association of the devotees, first faith results, gradually leading after practice to spontaneous devotional moods and finally ending in love of Godhead.

satam prasangam mam virya samvido bahvanti hrtkarnarasayanah kathah
tad josanad asvapavarga vartmani sraddha rati bhaktir anukramisyati
(SB 3/25/22)
In the association of my saintly personsłone should discuss My Holy Names, nectarine pastimes and glories. In hearing such pastimes gradually steady faith will be developed and by purification natural attraction to Me will result to the ultimate goal, love of Godhead.

In the way in which one takes association of saintly people, in the same way their influence will affect us positively, just as the effect of the ancient touchstone. The right association has to be chosen with sober intelligence and discrimination, in not to be cheated of the final result. 1second=11 lavas or 1 lava is 1/11 of a second in fraction. Srila Krsnadas Kaviraja has remarked that even in this fraction of a second, the association of saintly people can give perfection or lead to it e.i. lava matra sadhu sange sarva siddhi haya. In conclusion, only the mercy of the spiritual master and the pure devotees and their good association can result in the discarding of all impurities and result in the arousal of devotion. Many verses in Srimad Bhagavatam too, give evidence stating the need for the association of pure devotees in order to make spiritual advancement as opposed to simply practices of self-vows, morality, austerity, piety, knowledge, etc. 5/12/12 SB). Success is only possible by humble submission at the lotus feet of a pure devotee.

On the other hand, in association with materialistic workers or dry scholars, the heart becomes tainted with such desires of sense enjoyment and liberation. Work, knowledge and mystic yoga are not conducive for pure devotion; conversely devotional service is independent of these processes. None of these former processes can give any finite result. Only the process of devotion can bestow love of Godhead and is complete in itself being independent of all other paths.

Lord Krsna has told Uddhava that whatever perfection may be obtained by other various practices, My devotees can easily obtain all these fruits. But he rejects them with disdain in favor of the bliss of pure devotional service. Those who nurture these other unwanted desires cannot be called "pure devotees" or "tadiya" of the Lord. Thus the intending aspirants have to be careful to serve these spiritual paraphernalia "tadiya" of the Lord in order to progress in devotions. In Caitanya Caritamrta it is stated, one will attain the wealth of pure devotion, if he succeeds in the offence less chanting of the Holy Names. If one strays from 'nama bhajan' to seek the shelter of other processes then this is not worthwhile, for chanting of the Holy Names in devotional service is able to award all perfection. To take the Holy Names continuously is the best way to steer clear of offenses and approach the final goal. The fruits of devotion will not mature in the process of committing offenses. (SB 2/3/10).

akamah sarva kamo va moksa kama uddharadhih
tivrena bhakti yogena yajeta purusam param
"Whether one is desireless or full of desires or if he aspires for liberation, still one should worship the Supreme Lord unswervingly through devotional service."
Srila Visvanath Cakravarti Thakura has enlightened us by declaring that 'tivrena' (intense) used in this context means to be freed from the effects of knowledge, fruitive activity or mixture of any of the unwanted processes. Once Srila Ramacandra at the unexpected arrival of Vibhisana, brother of Ravana, told His devotee Sugriva that, "It is My vow that if anyone person sincerely says, "I am Yours" ins a surrendered mood, then I am ready always to give him all protection."

krsna kahe-ama bhaje, mage visaya-sukha
amrta cadi visa-mage-ei bada murkha
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, in his commentary on the above verse, writes:- Improper actions and bad association may give rise to all the different desires like liberation, mystic power and sense-enjoyment in the individual yet by the guidance of the saintly people of these obnoxious desires can be renounced in the favor of pure devotional service. Therefore by sudden fortunate association with the holy persons in cultivating devotional service, even if no previous inclination for devotion was there nevertheless, the causeless mercy of Lord Krishna comes into play in awarding them the pure result. Lord Krishna Himself says, "Presently this foolish person is worshipping Me with desires for sensual enjoyment, rejecting the nectar which I can give and wanting poison instead. Due to gross ignorance, he cannot desire properly, however, I being very enlightened will make him forget his desires for sense gratification by giving him the nectar of My lotus feet". The most superior birth among the different species is this human birth in the land of Bharata varsha which is the doorway to the spiritual world. The Supreme Lord Hari has in His advent, described to the world at large the nectar of tasting pure devotional mellows.

satyam disaty arthitam arhito nrnam
naiva arthado yat punararthita yatha
svayam vidhate bhajanam anicchatam
iccha api dhanam nija pada pallavam
By worshipping Sri Krishna, inevitably, the aspirations of all worshippers of the Supreme Lord becomes satisfied. Still, when something has to be requested again and again, that desire he does not fulfill but instead gives him the nectar of His own lotus feet thereby pacifying these ignorant people of their lusty desires.

kama lagi krsna bhaje, paya krsna rase
kama-cadi das hoite haya abhilase
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura comments: When a person, with trifling desires makes even the slight endeavor to perform devotional service in the association of devotees, he will slowly lose his former lusty aspirations and get the taste for devotional service. Devotional service is so extremely potent that in executing this constantly, he will again attempt to forgo all lusty desires altogether and relish simply to be the servant of Lord Krishna.

Dhruva in his prayers to Lord Krishna, says, "Oh Lord, I was engaged in great austerities being desirous of a high position but by good fortune I have obtained You who are not known by the demigods and great sages. This is like in my search for a piece of stone, I have unraveled a valuable diamond. I am thereby grateful for this and therefore I desire nothing else from You."

One can be released from all kinds of unwanted desires in possessing these three essential items: the association of the pure devotees, the mercy of Lord Krishna and pure devotional service. Srila Krsnadas Kaviraja has examined the positive influence of pure devotion on great souls who were naturally self-realized souls. Srila Sukadeva Gosvami,though a self-realized soul, became entranced by the verses of Srimad-Bhagavatam he had heard from his father, that he began to seriously engage in the study of this holy scripture under his father's tutelage. The four Kumara were great impersonalists but by smelling the fragrant Tulasi leaves offered to the lotus feet of Sri Krishna, their minds became diverted and they began experiencing symptoms of devotional ecstasy. The nine sages (Navayogendra's) were born self-realized, advanced in spiritual knowledge, but hearing the nectarine topics of Lord Krishna from the lips of Lord Brahma, Lord Siva and Sri Narada made them become completely absorbed in the transcendental qualities of Lord Krishna.

The verse "atmaramasca munayo" of Srimad Bhagavatam states that even self-realized souls free from all mundane desires and delighting in their selves will eventually, practice devotion to the Supreme Lord . This is the unique quality of Lord Krishna who can steal the mind of all. Srila Krsnadas Kaviraja has described that the most intelligent people (uddharadhih), will take to devotional service by being in favor of serving the spiritual senses of Lord Hari while, all those with their deviant desires are implicated by lust. Thus the broad-minded person (uddharadhih) is one who knows how to practice pure devotion to the Supreme Lord. Pure devotional service is not tinged with any desire and is the only way to attain to the spiritual worlds as the verse of Gita states, "bhakty mam abhijananti yavan casmi tattvatah" and for this the association of pure devotees is very necessary.

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