Vaisnava Behavior In the book Jaiva Dharma by Bhaktivinode Thakur

December 9, 2012 in Articles, Damaghosa Dasa by Nityananda Rama dasa


This book Jaiva Dharma, is in Srila Prabhupada’s  word “very important”. And after reading it now for the second  and third time, I can see why he said this. Since I don’t have it on computer  file I must hand type out every quote you will see here below. But it is so important I am willing to take the time  and do this and share it with others who have  a  similar appreciation for Bhaktivinode Thakur’s works. 


I hope those of  you who take the time to read these statements, will get as much, if not more,  out of it than did I.


Hare Krsna,

Damaghosa das



Chapter 8, Jaiva Dharma-Nitya Dharma and Vaisnava  Behavior-translated by Sarvabhavana das starting at pg. 110


He begins this chapter by quoting Manu samhita 6.92 with  the 10 characteristics of religiosity. Contentment, forgiveness, not  revenging a wrong, self control, remaining in control of the mind in spite of  the presence of allurements, honesty, cleanliness, withdrawing the senses from  sense objects, scriptural knowledge, education, knowledge of the soul,  trutfulness, awareness of reality and freedom from anger, to be not angered when  provoked.

Of these, 6 are characteristics directed to oneself and 4  are obligations to others. However the duty or worshipping the Supreme Lord  Sri Hari is not clearly delineated in any of these 10 characteristics.

Then he quotes SB 2.3.19 which states that “men who are  like dogs, hogs, camels and asses praise those men who never listen to the  transcendental pastimes of  Sri  Krsna, the deliverer from evils.”

This is meant to distinguish ordinary moral persons, who  are on the material level, from Vaisnavas who are not in the material world. A  huge gulf of difference between the two.


Now he begins to make the distinctions between kanistha  (3rd class), madhyama (2nd class) and Uttama  (1st class) devotees.

SB 11.2.47—Arcayam eva haraye, pujam yah sraddhayehate,  na tad bhaktesu canyesu, sa bhaktah prakrtah smrtah.

A materialistic devotee does not purposefully study  the sastra and try to understand the actual standard of pure devotional  service. Consequently he does not show proper respect to advanced  devotees. He may however follow the regulative principles he has  learnt from his spiritual master or family tradition and worship the Deity in  the temple. He is to be considered as being on the material platform  although he is trying to advance in devotional service.

Such a person is bhakta praya or bhakta abhasa, a  neophyte devotee for he is but a little enlightened about the Vaisnava  philosophy. One who worships the Deity of the Lord with faith, but neither  respects the created living creatures of the Lord nor worships and serves His  devotees with devotion is a prakrta-bhakta…To worship the Deity of the Lord  with sraddha is certainly bhakti, but without worshipping and serving the  devotee of the Lord, one cannot execute suddha –bhakti. This position of  serving the Lord but not His pure devotee can be described as being at best a  step inside the portals of the realm of bhakti.


Now the Thakur quotes SB 10.84.13—“One who identifies his  self as the inert body composed of mucus bile and air who assumes his wife and  family are permanently his own, who thinks an earthen image of the land of his  birth are worshippable, or who see a place of pilgrimage as merely the water  there, but who never identifies himself with, feels kinship with, worships or  even visits those who are wise in spiritual truth-such a person is no better  than a cow or an ass.”

The purport of these verses is that without  worshipping the Deity of the Lord, ones bhakti cannot even begin . If  one rejects the personal Deity form and enters into argumentitive debate in a  futile attempt to attain spiritual knowledge, then the heart becomes  dry and hardened and the true goal of  bhakti is lost in bewilderment. However the worship of the Deity should be  performed with ever increasing suddha cinmaya buddhi, transcendental  consciousness….If  Deity  worship is conducted with  sambandha-jnana, then the consequent transcendental understanding will  naturally stimulate bhakta-seva, spiritual service to the Lords devotees,  and the transcendental esoteric perception and service of the  Deity.

When there is a perfect marriage of sraddha with  transcendental understanding then this is called sastriya-sraddha, faith based  on proper scriptural conclusions. ..One who has been initiated with the  Visnu mantra in accordance with the regulations of scripture and is worshipping  the Deity of Sri Visnu is considered a Vaisnava by the learned scholars. All  others are non-Vaisnavas.


Kanistha Vaisnavas or prakrta bhaktas are those who have received initiation from hereditary kula gurus, family tradition  or those who feel sentimentally inspired upon seeing others worshipping the  Deity of Sri Visnu and so then worship the Deity in imitation, or those  who have accepted initiation into Visnu mantra with laukika sraddha (immature  faith). These unrefined devotees are on the level of chaya-bhakti-abhasa, a  shadow like semblance of bhakti. However they are above those who take a  reflective distorted semblance of bhakti  which is offensive in nature and devoid of actual Vaisnavism.


A person elevated to chaya bhakti abhasa is immensely  fortunate because from this

preliminary stage he may be eventually promoted to the  madhyama Vaisnava and uttama Vaisnava platforms.

These immature practitioners of chaya bhakti abhasa  however are certainly not pure devotees. They worship the Deity  with sentimental faith and their  behavior in society is inspired by the 10 religious characteristics mentioned  earlier. The scriptural injunctions that direct the conduct of an actual devotee  are not meant for these kanisthas, for they cannot even discriminate between a  devotee and a non devotee.


SB 11.2.46-Madhyamas—“isvare tad-adhinesu, balisesu  dvbisatsu ca, prema maître krpopeksa, yah karoti sa  madhyamah”

An intermediate or second class devotee called a madhyama  offers his love to the Lord, is a sincere friend to all the devotees  of the Lord, shows mercy to the ignorant people who are innocent, and disregards those who are envious of the Lord and His devotees.


Naimittika-dharma (materialistic dharma) is not  addressed in this verse. The standards of devotional behavior in this verse  are part of nitya dharma.(eternal religion) In the life of a madhyama these 4  practices are the ideal and essential conduct, and other etiquettes that are not  contrary to the above 4 practices may be adopted where necessary. The conduct of  the madhyama vaisnava is differently directed towards the 4 categories of  persons-the Lord, his devotees, the ignorant and persons inimical to the Lord  and His devotees. The Mahyama directs his prema –love, towards the Lord, his  maître, friendship to the devotees, his krpa, compassion to the ignorant and  upeksa is indifferent towards the envious.

As described in the verse, the first characteristic of  the madhyama is his prema for IsvaraPrema also implies suddha bhakti to Sri Krsna.

“Anyabhilasita sunyam, jnana-karmady anavrtam, anukulyena  krsnanu silanam bhaktir uttama. “

One should render transcendenental loving service to the  Supreme Lord Sri Krsna favorably and without desire for material profit or gain  through fruitive activities or philosophical speculation. This is pure  bhakti.

These symptoms of bhakti  just described  are first seen in the sadhana practices  of the madhyama adhikari vaisnava and extend up to the level of bhava and  finally into the blossoming of prema. Worship of the Deity  form of the Lord with immature sraddha  is the only characteristic of the kanistha practitioner. Such a person  does not display the symptoms of suddha bhakti which are anyabhilasita sunyam,  freedom from material aspiration, jnana karmady anavrtam, freedom the  inebriations of impersonalism and fruitive desire, and anuykulyena krsnanu  silanam absorption in the desire to serve Krsna favorable with transcendental  love.  As soon as the kanistha  progresses to manifest these symptoms in his heart, then he is considered to  have become a madhyama vasinava and thus a genuine vasinava. Prior to this he is  a prakrta bhakta

The word krsnanu silanam refers to krsna prema and is  qualified by the word anukulyena, favorably. Thus this combination refers to  practices that are conducive to the growth of Krsna prema. These are, as we have  said, maître, friendship with ones fellow devotees, krpa, mercy to the ignorant  and upeksa indifference to the inimical, which are also the hallmarks of a  madhyama adhikari Vaisnava.


Now to the topic of the second characteristic-friendly  attitude towards his fellow surrendered devotees of the Lord.-those who are  blessed  by suddha bhakti. The  kanistha is not on the platform of suddha bhakti-that is to say he does not  serve and satisfy the pure devotees. Therefore maîtri can only be properly  extend  by the madhyama to his  fellow madhyama vaisnvavas and the higher level Uttama Vaisnavas.

In the Caitanya Caritamrta Sri Caitanya is asked by a  devotee from Kuliya grama-tell us who is actually a Vaisnava and what are his  symptoms? In response Sri Caitanya describes the characteristics of various  levels of Vaisnavas. As we have explained, the true practice of suddha bhakti is  absent in the kanistha vaisnava who is solely engaged in Deity worship with  immature sraddha devoid of sambandha jnana. The three types of Vaisnavas  worthy of service as desribed by Sri Caitanya are within the pure realms of  madhyama and uttama Vaisnavas. Pure Hari nama does not manifest on the tongue  of the kanistha vaisnava because his chanting is on the level of chaya  namabhasa, the shadow form of Harinama and therefore the kanistha vaisnava does  not warrant service.


Sri Caitanya instructed the madhyama vaisnava grhastha to  serve these three types of pure Vaisnavas-Vaisnava-one who  has chanted harinama purely once: Vaisnava-tara-one who constantly chants harinama, and: Vaisnava  tama– one whose presence spontaneously inspired others to chant hari  nama.  These three grades of  Vaisnava alone are worthy of his worship. The madhyama is instructed  to serve only these three, who chant  pure harinama, not the kanistha vaisnava who chants only the shadow form of  harinama and is therefore not a suitable object of service. Only the madhyma and  uttama

Vaisnavas who utter suddha nama are fit to be  served.

Service to the Vaisnavas should be in accordance with  their respective levels of advancement. The word mairti encompasses association,  discussion and services. When one sees a suddha bhakta one must greet him and  offer respects immediately, give full hospitality affectionately, discuss Krsna  conscious topics with him and care for all his needs. One should serve him  properly in all these ways. One must be extremely cautious not to envy a suddha  bhakta. He should not be shown irreverence or criticized even inadvertently and  must not be disregarded because of some physical deformity or  ailment.

The third practice of the madhyama is the bestowal of  krpa upon the ignorant. The word balisa implies an ignorant person without  spiritual knowledge or an idiot, fool, etc. Gross uneducated materialists  whose false ego and strong material attachements do not allow them to cultivate  sraddha to the Lord are balisa. The balis are without correct spiritual  guidance yet fortunately they are uncontaminated by false philosophies such as  impersonal mayavada. Thus their saving grace is that they have no antipathy  towards bhakti or bhaktas. Even a so called highly learned scholar who has of  yet failed to achieve sraddha in the Lord, may be accurately characterized as a  balisa, an ignoramus.


In addition there is the kanistha adhikari. Though he  is at the doorstep of bhakti, he lacks the proper grasp of sambandha jnana-thus  he is deprived of suddha bhakti. As long as this  condition persists, he is also known as  a balisa. When he faithfully acquires sambandha tattva, and begins to chant  pure harinama in the association of pure devotees, his balisatva, ignorance is  dissipated and he is elevated to the level of madhyama.  These are some of the different kinds of  balisa and it is very essential for the madhyama vaisnava to show mercy to  them. The madhyama vaisnava must deal graciously with the balis, he must ensure  that the balisa develops sraddha in pure bhakti and a taste for chanting  harinama.


The unknowing balisas are uneducated in the teachings of  the scriptures and so are susceptible to falling prey to the lures of bad  company. The madhyama offers his association to instruct them. An ailing person  cannot treat himself, he needs a doctor. Just as the angry and frustrated  outbursts of a sick patient are excusable, the misdemeanors of the balisa are  also to be forgiven. That is indeed an act of mercy.

The balisa may be easily diverted  from bhakti at any time, his  consciousness being clouded with misconceptions such as believing in karma  kanda, being somewhat drawn to speculative knowledge, worshipping the Deity with  ulterior motives, having faith in the yoga process, being indifferent to  association with pure Vaisnavas-something which would actually  be beneficial for him, being attached to  the rules and regulations of varnashram and so on. By administering his  association, compassion and spiritual instructions, the madhyama vaisnava can  correct the wrong views of the kanistha vaisnava and promote him to the level of  madhyama adhikari Vaisnava.

Once a person begins to worship the Deity of the  Lord with a trace of bhakti it is to be understood that he has sown the seed  of his own food fortune and that he is free from corrupt  ideologies.


If for no other Vaisnava characteristic then it is for  being free from the abomination of the mayavada doctrine that the kanistha  adhikari has been awarded the status of prakrta-Vaisnava, a neopohyte  materialistic Vaisnava. On the strength of his minuscule Vaisnava quality  and through the mercy of a pure devotee he is eligible to rise to the  perfectional stage of bhakti. However the genuine mercy of the madhyama adhikari  pure devotee is indispensable for the further progress of the kanistha vasinava  and by such mercy his Deity worship and chanting can quickly become purified of  their tainted shadowy nature and acquire the true transcendental  character.


Now we come to the fourth quality, upeksa,  indifference neglect and avoidance of those who are envious. Firstly an envious  person has to be defined and the different types of envious persons have to be  delineated. Dvesa, enmity is an unfortunate human trait also know as matsarata,  envy and hate. This heinous propensity is the exact opposite of  prema(love for Krsna).

Antipathy against the Lord  is known as dvesa of which there are 5  kinds. 1.skepticism, not having faith in God. 2. the belief that the Lord is  nothing more than a natural potency of the creation which automatically brings  about results of ones karma. 3. Not believing in the transcendental form of the  Lord.  4. not accepting the position  of the jiva as eternal servant of the Lord and 5. absence of mercy.

How should devotees deals with such persons? It is  recommended one should avoid their company. Upeksa means neither that one should  put a stop to all the usual human exchanges nor that one should refuse help to  such bewildered persons. On the contrary if an envious person is in danger or in  distress, everything should be done to ameliorate his agony.

How then is it possible for a grhastha vaisnava with one  final stroke to curtail all simple day to day interactions with this envious  lot? This is not the meaning of upeksa. Upeksa is to terminate all spiritual  exchanges with them, not social exchanges.

As a result of ones karma the resultant material  reactions from previous lives even some of ones own family members may be  dvesis, envious persons. Should they be excluded? No- that is not the  solution.

Social exchanges are part of human behavior so the  envious persons should be dealt with but without getting into deep involvement  or emotional relationships with them. In contrast for spiritual practice  serious commitment is mandatory and spiritual association with ones fellow  devotees means to interact upon the spiritual platform by discussing  transcendental topics thereby serving and assisting one another in  progress.

An envious person is generally very self  opinionated-hence if he hears praises or explanations about the science of pure  bhakti he will immediately start an unnecessary argument, which will be of use  to neither you nor to him. Instead of such barren debates, one should simple  restrain ones dealings to a social level with such personsIf  someone

whimsically proposes to include the envious persons  into the ranks of the balisa, so that compassionate association may be practiced  upon them, then such a person should first understand that this course of action  would be very detrimental to his own spiritual progress.  It is essential for the madhyama  to act according to these 4 guidelines  as any slackness in this regard will culminate in malpractice, increased  lethargy and apathy towards executing spiritual  discipline. In the end the deviation  will become too overwhelming.

Thus in accordance with scriptural injunctions the prime  duties of a madhyama vaisnava are to cultivate love for the Lord, friendship  with pure devotees, compassion for the innocent and aloofness from the  envious.


Do you notice something unique? The neophyte kanistha is  generally not enthusiastic about serving Vaisnavas and the topmost uttama makes  no discrimination between Vaisnava and non Vaisnava because he sees all jivas  established as servants of Krsna. Consequently  we see that only the intermediate  madhyama vaisnava consciously practices respect and service to the Vaisnavas in  a deliberate sense. Thus the intermediate madhyama vaisnava will serve all  three categories of Vaisnava: Vaisnava, Vaisnava- tara, and  Vaisnava-tama.  The madhyama  vaisnava must serve each Vaisnava in accordance with his status. Only the uttama  vaisnava does not consider or analyse  whether a Vaisnava is kanistha , madhyama or uttama before he interacts  with him. If a madhyama vaisnava artificially adopts this mentality, he becomes  an aparadhi, offender.


QuestionThe mukhya (or direct) symptoms of  a kanistha vaisnava is faith in the eternal form of Bhagavan, which results in  Deity worship. The gauna (indirect) symptoms of a kanistha vaisnava are the  devotional activities he performs such as hearing, chanting, remembering,  etc.

One cannot become a Vaisnava unless and until one  develops implicit faith in the eternal form of Lord, nor can one become a  Vaisnava without worshipping the Deity through the sastric regulations. That  these two symptoms are mukhya (direct) is easily comprehensible, however I find  it difficult to grasp why hearing and chanting etc are considered the gauna  (indirect) symptoms, Why are these deemed subordinate?


Answer- The kanistha vaisnava cannot  properly perceive the science of suddha bhakti. Certainly hearing and chanting  etc are the limbs of suddha bhakti,  however such devotional activities like hearing and chanting do not take  the mukhya(direct or most prominent) position in his spiritual practice.  Therefore for the kanistha these activities are designated as being at the  gauna(indirect) level. Another reason why they are gauna is that the kanistha  vaisnava performs these activities under the influence of the three gunas,  sattva rajas and tamas. Only when hearing and chanting, remembering etc  are executed on the nirguna platform(no  modes) which by definition is beyond the influence of the three gunas, can they  be designated as limbs of suddha bhakti. As soon as these activities rise above  the three gunas, the level of madhyama vaaisnav is attained.


Question-The word sraddha included visvasa, firm  belief. Since the kanistha has visvasa in the eternal form of the Deity he is  indeed a proper candidate for bhakti. At which stage will the neophyte actually  attain bhakti?


Answer- the kanistha bhakta becomes elevated to  madhyama vaisnava when his desire for karma and jnana etc begins to wane-when  concomitanly he aspired only for ananya bhakti, unalloyed devotional service and  when instead of enthusiastically extending hospitality to all guests, he  realizes that particular spiritual benefit of serving the Vaisnavas devotees. At this time the kanistha bhakta becomes a suddha bhakta of the madhyama  vaisnava status.


Question-If the kanistha devotee develops  sraddha(faith) and an inclination for arcana (deity worship) as a result of his  association with sadhus, then why do we say that he does not serve the  vaisnavas?


Answer-Gradually on account of sadhu sanga one  develops sraddha in the eternal form of the Supreme Lords Deity. However, what is imperative is that Deity worship and service to devotees are  performed simultaneously. Until sraddha has developed to this level is is  too weak to give one the eligibility to execute ananya suddha  bhakti.


Question-What are the gradual steps that  elevate a kanistha bhakta?

Answer-The kanistha devotee has developed sraddha  in the eternal form of the Lord and the divinity of His Deity form, but he is  not purified from mundane desire for karma, jnana, name and fame, etc.  However he performs daily Deity  worship and as a matter of coincidence he meets sadhus at his place of  worship who are greeted with the hospitality naturally accorded to any respected  guest. The kanistha keenly observes the activities and behavior of these sadhus.  He absorbs the spiritual discussions of the devotees on the different devotional  texts. By such constant observation and hearing, he develops attraction and  affection for the ways and words of these devotees. He then begins to rectify  his own faults and weaknesses of character. Gradually the mundane desires  for karma and jnana begin to reduce to the extent that his heart and  consciousness are cleansed and he becomes unburdened of anyabhilasita, material  handering. Listening to Krsna conscious topics and the transcendental  philosophy expounded by the sadhus, his  knowledge and realization of the scriptures increases. In the process of  analyzing the transcendental truths about the Supreme Lord Sri Hari, harinama  and the devotional processes of hearing, chanting etc his realization of  sambhandha jnana and his own innate spiritual identity expand. When this initial  process of development matures, he gains the adhikara to enter the madhyma  adhikari level. Only then does he associate with devotees and serve the  devotees in the true sense. At this stage he no longer perceives the sadhus as  ordinary guests but serves them reverentially as  gurus.


Question-Many kanistha bhaktas do not progress,  what is the reason for this?

Answer– If the kanistha bhakts dvesi  sanga-association with the inimical agnostics, atheist and impersonalists, etc is frequent, very soon he loses the kanistha status and becomes  entangled in the pursuit of karm and jnana, etc. In some cases the kanistha  neither progresses nor regresses, just remaining at the kanistha  level.

In cases where both sadhu sanga and dvesi sanga exercise  equal influence upon the kanistha, his bhakti maintains the status  quo.


Question-What ensures steady  progress?

AnswerWhen devotee association is frequent  and powerful and non devotee association is minimal, the kanistha progresses  swiftly.


Now for the mukhya (direct) symptoms of the madhyama  devotee.

Firstly he posseses ananya bhakti to Krsna.  Secondly four qualities are found  in his dealing with his fellow devotees, They are atma buddhi,  he considers the devotees more dear than his own self: mamata buddhi,  intimate affection for the devotees: ijya buddhi, he considers the  devotees worshipable “ and tirtha buddhi, he considers them places of  pilgrimage.

Thirdly, being naturally compassionate the madhyama  bhakta is mercifully disposed towards those who are ignorant about the  Absolute Truth. Fourthly and finally , he strictly avoids the company of those  inimical to Bhagavan.


The principal activity of the madhyama bhakta is to  execute bhakti sadhana. This consists of abhideya within the sphere of  fully realized sambandha jnana, to attain the prayojana, Krsna prema.  Essentially this means that when the madhyama adhikari bhakta performs hearing  and chanting, etc in the association of sadhus, he does so  offenselessly.


Question-What are the gauna (indirect) symptoms of  the madhyama bhakta?

Answer– The gauna symptoms are seen in the way the  madhyama bhakta lives his life. The madhyama bhakta lives fully surrendered to  the desire of Krsna and his life is so arranged as to execute bhakti  favorably.


Question-Does he still commit papa and  aparadha?

Answer-In the earlier stages the tendencies to  commit papa and aparadha may be slightly present, but gradually they will  dissipate. These residual tendencies are just like chickpeas being quickly  ground away into powder. Whatever papa and aparadha that sometimes shows in the  beginning stages of madhyama are minute residues, but soon they will disappear  completely. Thus the life of a madhyama bhakta is characterized by suddha bhakti  with the practice of yukta vairagya, appropriate renunciation.

Question-Do they hope for along  life?

Answer-They desire only to mature and intensify  their bhajana. They aspire neither for a long life nor even for  mukti.

Question-How does one give up the aspiration for  respect?

Answer– One must relinguish false pride and not  proudly thing “I am a brahmana, I am accomplished, I am well versed in the  sastras, I am a Vaisnava I am a renounced person, etc. One must never even  dream of receiving any respect because of such qualities….

Without dainya, humility, and daya, compassion one cannot  be a Vaisnava.