Sri Upadesamrta: Verse Six

The following is an installment of our classroom series: Sri Upadesamrta, with Illuminations by Srila B. R. Sridhara Deva Goswami, published by Gosai Publishers, 2009. View past installments, here.

Text Six

drstaih svabhava-janitair vapusas ca dosair
na prakrtatvam iha bhakta janasya pasyet
gangaambhasam na khalu budbuda-phena-pankair
brahma-dravatvam apagacchati nira-dharmaih

Devotees in this world should not be seen from a material perspective. Any imperfections found in their natures or their appearance should be overlooked for such faults are like the foam and mud in the water of the Ganges. Such things appear due to the nature of water, but the divine nature of the Ganges is never diminished.

Illumination by B. R. Sridhara Deva Goswami

Rupa Goswami says that we should not be very eager to find any defect in a pure devotee. The water of the Ganges can purify even if there are bubbles or mud found in the water. The bubbles and the mud do not stand in the way of purification. The devotee is only meant for the good of the universe. The devotee himself, the pure soul or atma, is the purifying agent—the purest and most normal factor in the world. But we may find in him some ‘mud’ or ‘bubbles’—a Vaishnava may sometimes be seen to be a little greedy, a little angry; or physically he may be blind or deaf or lame, but the saintly character of the Vaishnava is independent of his mental or physical characteristics. Such qualities do not affect his status in the Vaishnava world. If we attribute those faults to his inner self then we are the losers—we commit offense.

In Kurmaksetra in South India, there was one brahmana, named Vasudeva. He was a devotee who had leprosy of an extreme type. So many worms were falling to the ground from his wounds, but he would pick them up and put them back in the wounds so they would not die. He understood in his internal mind that, “The Lord is coming here and I shall have a chance to have His darsana.” He was very eager to have darsana of Mahaprabhu, but Mahaprabhu went away and that man fell senseless to the ground. “What is this? I could not have a glimpse of the Lord. He came and went away, and I did not have the capacity to have His connection, His darsana.” Mahaprabhu was almost a mile away, and then suddenly He felt some attraction to go back. He ran back and found that man on the way and embraced him. His leprous body vanished and his whole body was turned into a beautiful figure.

Whatever may be externally seen in the character of a Vaishnava is like the mud, bubbles, and foam found in Ganges water. The purifying capacity of Ganges water is separate and cannot be disturbed by any foam or dirt mixed with it. The spiritual capacity does not depend in any way on the apparent material capacity.

Once Sanatana Goswami contracted sores all over his body due to drinking bad water in the jungle, when he was returning from Vrindavana to Puri. Mahaprabhu used to welcome him by embracing him, but Sanatana would try to withdraw. Sanatana objected, “Don’t touch me! This is the body of a sinful man.” The sores were oozing and emitting a bad odor, but Mahaprabhu embraced him forcibly. Sanatana had decided, “I shall either leave this place or I shall invite death by falling under the wheel of the cart of Lord Jagannatha.” But as the Lord in the heart of all, Mahaprabhu knew Sanatana’s mind. He chastised him and embraced him forcibly. All the sores disappeared, and Sanatana’s body immediately became like gold. Mahaprabhu said, “Sanatana Goswami is a devotee of a pure type. I see that there are some sores on his body oozing pus. I see that with my eyes. But due to my sastric knowledge I will show no disgust. The body of a devotee is sac-cid-ananda. If I think it is mundane, then this shall be offensive to Krishna.”

ghrna kari alingana na karittama yabe
krsna-thani aparadha danda paitama tabe

If I had been repulsed and refused to embrace Sanatana, then I would have been punished for offending Sri Krishna.1

The body of a devotee is sac-cid-ananda; there are no mundane things there, yet my material eyes deceive me. But my sastric knowledge tells me that no mundane thing can be present there. If I say, “No, there is pus and sores and that is mundane,” then I will commit an offense against sastra and against Krishna. The Vaishnava conception is atma-dharma, the souls function. Any bodily contamination is absent there. The Bhagavatam has condemned this bodily conception in the strongest terms:

yasyatma-buddhih kunape tri-dhatuke
sva-dhih kalatradisu bhauma ijya-dhih
yat-tirtha-buddhih salile na karhicij
janesv abhijnesu sa eva gokharah

He who considers the true self to be this corpselike body that is full of mucus, bile and air, whobelieves that his family belongs to him, who thinks his country of birth is worthy of worship, who thinks that a holy place is merely an ordinary body of water and who never seeks the association of the wise, is no different from an ass.2

One who thinks this body is the self is a gokhara—not an ordinary ass but a worthless ass that can only be used to carry animal fodder and not to serve any real purpose for human society. One who thinks that his material connection is all in all is a fool. We are to remove ourselves from the platform of identifying the spiritual with the material. The spiritual is necessary, not the material, and it is imperative that we understand the real position.

A Doll Playing in the Hands of the Infinite

Faultfinding is not a very good quality. We are out to find good qualities, what is good in the universe and we have to preach that the highest good is in Krishna consciousness. A positive thing must attract us wholesale—our position is not to blame but to bring down the positive. That should be our main object in life. If you try to find fault with anyone, if you criticize for your personal interest, that fault will come to you—especially when that is in the devotee section. By connecting with poison in someone else’s body, that poison will enter into you. Through that connection the contamination will come to you. But if you seek help from the higher for purification and not out of envy, then you will be purified. Otherwise, you may find yourself in the same position at the next moment. What I am criticizing to be so bad, in the next moment I may find myself in the same deplorable position. I do not know the ways of the infinite environment. I am vulnerable. I am a doll playing in the hands of the infinite. At the next moment, from my human birth, I may have to go to a dog’s birth, a cat’s birth, or an insect’s birth. We must avoid that. Try to find only good things in others. That will help you. In the time of our Guru Maharaja there was a system in our matha. Guru Maharaja ordered one Vaishnava to please another Vaishnava, especially one that he does not like. That means he was forced to find the goodness in that devotee whom he didn’t like. He should try to find good things in him. Eliminating the bad things in his conception of that devotee, he will search for anything that is good there and thereby he will be benefited. No culture of any bad thing anywhere—especially with the devotees because Krishna has taken charge of those surrendered souls. What is good and bad is His responsibility.

Those evil things in the devotee may disappear at any time, or Krishna will allow that to continue in order to serve some purpose. Such devotees are under Krishna’s direct charge. They are ananya-bhak (fixed in devotion). Once, Bhaktivinoda Thakura had a dream in which he was wandering in the sky chanting the Holy Name. He came upon the court of Yamaraja, where Yamaraja himself was sitting with Brahma, Narada, and others discussing a point from a verse in Bhagavad-gita:

api cet suduracaro
bhajate mam ananya-bhak
sadhur eva sa mantavyah
samyag vyavasito hi sah

Even if the most sinful person worships me with one-pointed devotion, such a person should be considered to be saintly because his determination is perfect.3

The generally accepted meaning of this verse is: “Even if one commits the most abominable action, if he is an ananyabhak devotee who worships me alone in devotional service which is free from karma and jñana, he is to be considered saintly because his endeavors are completely on my behalf and his determination is fixed.” Here, Krishna says, “Whatever he has done, if he is exclusively given to myself, he should be considered as my devotee—samyag vyavasito hi sah, and whatever he is doing is cent percent right.” But then the next passage says, kssipram bhavati dharmatma—“Very soon he will be a man of righteousness; he will become dharmatma—dutiful.”

As Yamaraja, Brahma and Narada discussed this point, a question came up. Krishna says, bhajate mam ananya-bhak—“One who is my exclusive devotee.” The question arises, what is exclusive devotion or ananya-bhajana? Krishna says, “Give up all other religious conceptions and surrender to me alone”—sarvadharman parityajya, mam ekam saranam vraja. That is exclusive devotion. But if one is practicing exclusive devotion then he is already dharmatma, he is already righteous. How is it then that in the very next verse, Krishna says, “Soon he becomes dharmatma?”

How are we to adjust this? Krishna says:

ksipram bhavati dharmatma
sasvac-chantim nigacchati
kaunteya pratijanihi
na me bhaktah pranasyati

He quickly becomes virtuous again and attains everlasting peace. O Kaunteya, go and declare that my devotee never perishes.4

This is the general meaning of this verse. Krishna tells Arjuna, “He soon becomes dharmatma. My devotee is never ruined. Go and declare this to the public.” Krishna says that after the devotee became ananya-bhak—that is, he gave up all sorts of duties and surrendered to Krishna—then again he will be a dutiful man. As Brahma, Narada, and Yamaraja discussed this point, they saw Bhaktivinoda Thakura walking in the sky and taking the holy name. Then one of them suggested, “There is a pure devotee. He should be able to give the real meaning.” Then Bhaktivinoda Thakura was invited in their midst and was asked, “How shall we adjust these points? Krishna has said that this person is an exclusive devotee, that he has renounced all sorts of duties and surrendered to Krishna. And yet, in no time it will be seen that he is very dutiful. How can we understand this?”

Bhaktivinoda Thakura explained that, “He quickly becomes righteous” refers not to the exclusive devotee, but to one who considers the exclusive devotee pure in all circumstances. “Even if he performs some abominable act, he is really a sadhu, a saint” – one who can think of an exclusive devotee in this way will soon become dharmatma. This was Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s explanation.

However, merely professing that, “I am ananya-bhak!” won’t do. A real ananya-bhak devotee won’t say, “I am ananya-bhak.” His innate feeling will be, “I can’t be ananya-bhak. That is not a small thing. I have not attained that stage. It is very difficult. Rather I am going away from it.” That will be his feeling. This opposite tendency will come. In this verse from Gita, Krishna is saying that, “The fact is that one who has accepted me exclusively has no taste in other things, so really he is not duracara (sinful). Internally he is always connected with me and he is indifferent to external life. Whoever has surrendered to me I have accepted as my own.” This means that those that are accepted by him will gradually be purified. But we are very eager to point out their faults. We are quick to judge the case of others, “Why should he receive causeless mercy? He has got so many defects.” This is a very poor attitude, a disqualification. “Why should he be accepted or given any chance?” But for ourselves we want mercy, “Don’t come to judge, if so then I have no hope, my Lord. Please grant your grace then I have some hope. Please be lenient and do not find fault with me.”

But in the same breath we will say, “Why this man? He is disqualified! Why should he get any grace? Why should he get some mercy or affection?” That is hypocritical and causes a great deal of difficulty within us. It is suicidal. It is most dangerous for our progress. In my own case, I want something higher, but in the case of others I can’t tolerate the same behavior from the Lord. Generally this is the basis of vaisnava-aparadha. He has been accepted by the Lord and gradually Krishna will purify him, but we continue to give much attention to whatever difficulties are still left in him. The result is that those difficulties will be transferred to us. These are the realities of the experience in this line. If we especially mark the faults of another devotee, they will be transferred to us. It happens. From our own experience and also from the sastra we have seen this. The greatest enemy to our progress is vaisnava-aparadha, especially for a beginner on the journey in this domain. Apa-aradhana – aradhana means to worship, to revere, to serve, and apa means that which is not up to standard. vaishnava-aparadha has been said to be most dangerous. If a Vaishnava is serving Krishna and we find fault with him, our level of purity will go down. Generally a Vaishnava will always think, “I can’t serve perfectly. There are so many defects in my service.” Even Radharani says, “I can’t serve Krishna properly,” but she is serving to the highest degree. In the lower position if there is some clash, that is vaisnava-aparadha. That is greater than any aparadha directly made to Krishna, because the Vaishnava is serving him properly with earnestness and I am abusing him. Thereby I am committing suicide. To stand against the Vaishnava is to stand against one’s own vital interests. Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura says that the maha-bhagavatas do not care for any offenses made against them, but the foot-dust of those maha-bhagavatas cannot tolerate the dishonor of their master.

Physician Cure Thyself!

Generally, one must be very careful not to make any remarks about the practices and activities of another Vaishnava. It is only acceptable when one is empowered by the Supreme, as in the case of disciples. To correct his disciples, the sympathetic guardian can mark their defects and help them to remove them. Don’t criticize. Don’t be hungry to find the faults in others. But if someone finds fault in you, then you may consult a higher authority—a more senior Vaisnava, “There have been some complaints against me. Whether or not they are valid, I don’t know. Please, can you help me to understand my defects?” Such an enquiry has no envy, no spirit of competition that I am good and he is bad; it is devoid of mischievous motives underground. Only it must be endowed with pariprasnena—honest enquiry.

Otherwise, I shall have to suffer. ‘Physician, cure thyself,’ before you attempt to cure others. This is your primary duty; then you will really be able to offer others a cure-all. In conclusion, my advice is that you should try to be submissive to the Vaishnava devotees. Submissiveness to them will promote your spiritual merit. We shall also pray to the Supreme Lord for such an attitude, “Oh Lord, my bad temperament stands in the way of my association with the devotees – please remove it.” Association with the devotees of the Lord is a primary necessity. It vastly improves our position with the Supreme if we always remain in prayer. “Oh my Lord, this bad temperament in me, this inconsiderate thinking and feeling – sentiments concerning the outer world – this is disturbing my association with the higher Vaishnava devotees.” We have to try to find the good in others. That will help us. Otherwise we will be in great difficulty. This is not theoretical. These are all practical things.

  1. Cc. Antya. 4.196 []
  2. Bhag.10.84.13 []
  3. Gita 9.30 []
  4. Gita 9.31 []

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