By Dwaipayan De
A devotee of the Supreme Lord is magnanimous and an inspiration to one and all. A devotee of the Lord is all-purifying and it is by great fortune that one comes to associate with him. Infact even a moment’s association with a Pure devotee of the Lord is highly glorified in the scriptures and is said to bestow all good fortune upon the other. It is by the mercy of the Pure devotees of the Lord, that one can begin to understand Krishna, the supreme Lord, and it is only by serving His devotees, that one can obtain the love of Lord. In this article we would be focusing our discussion about the super-excellent qualities of the devotees, the ornaments that decorate his personality, and how they continue to be an inspiration to all of us.
1. KIND TO EVERYONE : A devotee of the Supreme Lord is always merciful and a well-wishing friend of not only humans, but all living beings. The devotee is always concerned about the suffering condition of the living entities entrapped in material existence, and he always contemplates as to how they might be relieved.
When Namacharya Haridas Thakur was asked as to why one should chant the Lord’s names loudly, he replied that when one chants silently, only he receives the benefit, whereas when a dovotee chants loudly, everyone around him, even the animals and plants are benefitted from associating with the Lord’s holy names.
Seeing the most sinful and abominable Jagai and Madhai, Lord Nityananda and Haridas Thakur felt great compassion and wanted to help them, by urging to take to the chanting of the Lord’s names. Lord Nityananda didn’t stop showering his compassion and mercy upon the two sinners even after they had injured him by throwing broken pot towards him which caused him to bleed profusely.
2. HUMBLE, DOES NOT QUARREL WITH ANYONE : The Devotees of the Lord live by the instructions given by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu – “trinad api sunicena, taror api sahishnuna, amanina manadena, kirtaniya sada hari” which means that
One should chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind, thinking oneself lower than the straw in the street; one should be more tolerant than a tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige, and should be ready to offer all respect to others.
When the Digvijayi scholar Roop Narayan wanted to debate with Srila Rupa Goswami , Rupa Goswami didn’t want to waste his time arguing with such a mundane scholar. Instead he readily accepted defeat from him and signed his Vijaya Patra. Roop Narayan didn’t understand, that Rupa Goswami was far advanced than him and that he only accepted defeat out of humility. Jiva Goswami , however , was very upset seeing Roop Narayan boast , and he accepted the challenge on Rupa Goswami’s behalf. Jiva Goswami subsequently defeated Roop Narayan and made him realize the exalted position of Srila Rupa Goswami.Roop Narayan subsequently surrendered at the lotus feet of Srila Rupa and Sanatana Goswami.
3. TRUTHFUL, FIXED IN THE ABSOLUTE TRUTH : The Devotee of the Lord always keeps his vows, follows the regulative principles and carries out the orders of his spiritual master.
Here we can put forward the example of Srila Sanatan Goswami , who even in his old age did not want to give up the daily 23 mile Govardhan Parikrama that he did every day, though it was physically very difficult for him. Krishna Himself felt pity for Sanatan Goswami and asked him to stop the daily parikrama. But Sanatan Goswami didn’t want to stop citing that this was his vow and one of the activities of his daily bhajan.
Seeing this and feeling compassionate towards His dear devotee, Krishna engraved His footprint in one of the Govardhan Silas and presented it to Sanatan Goswami . Krishna then asked Sanatan Goswami that he should henceforward circumbulate that Govardhan Sila as it is equivalent to doing Govardhan parikrama.Krishna said that in the process Sanatan Goswami’s vows would be kept intact and he would not be compromising with his religious principles.Seeing that Giriraj Himself had given the sila, Sanatan Goswami gladly accepted it. That Govardhan Sila having Krishna’s footprints can still be seen if one pays visit to the Radha Damodar temple in Vrindavan.
4. EQUAL TO EVERYONE : A devotee of the Lord sees the supersoul in everyone’s heart and treats all of them equally. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says in this regard :
kiba vipra kiba nyasi sudra kene naya,
yei krishna-tattva-vetta, sei ‘guru’ haya
Translation : A person may be a brahmana, a sannyasi, a sudra or whatever, but if he is well conversant in the science of Krishna, he can become a guru. (Cc. Madhya 8.128)
Someone’s caste,creed, religion,etc did not hinder Chaitanya Mahaprabhu from bestowing His mercy upon him. Haridas Thakur who was brought up in a muslim family was made the Namacharya by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Similarly Ramananda Raya, who was a shudra by birth, happened to be one of the most intimate associates of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Likewise, Rupa and Sanatana Goswami , who were blessed by Lord Chaitanya to compose books and explain the principles of Krishna consciousness to the whole world, were during those days rejected by the erstwhile Hindu community as they served as ministers under a Mohammedan king.
5. FAULTLESS : A devotee, who in words, deeds, and mind is always surrendered to Krsna and who executes Guru and Krsna’s desire to the best of his ability is considered to be faultless. All the acharyas of the four bonafide sampradayas demonstrate to us the quality of Faultlessnes through their lives.
6. CHARITABLE : The biggest charity one can give is to give Krishna consciousness to others. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu said “Yare dekho tare kaho Krishna upadesa” which means “Instruct whomever you meet in Krishna Consciousness” . A pure devotee is he, seeing whom, others get inspired to take to Krishna consciousness.
We find that all the previous acharyas of our sampradaya have been the most charitable in this regard. We can cite the example of our beloved Srila Prabhupada, Lord Chaitanya’s commander-in-chief, who distributed the holy names and pastimes of the Lord all over the world. It is due to Srila Prabhupada’s magnanimity and his charitable nature that the most sublime message of Gaudadesha (Navadwip) is resonated in every corner of the world today, for the benefit of one and all.
7. Mild : A devotee of the Lord avoids the unnecessary materialistic hankerings and thus is spared from the sufferings that come along with it. The devotee of the lord is thus always mild and peaceful and satisfied in Krishna consciousness.
8. Clean and Pure : The Krishna conscious movement is all auspicious. The various Vaishnava etiquettes are aimed at not only keeping a devotee externally hygienic but also at developing his humility. The four regulative principles of abstaining from meat eating,intoxication,illicit sex and gambling helps maintain a high standard of purity both internally and externally for a devotee.
The chanting of the Lord’s holy name and the mercy of His pure devotees is all-purifying and can rescue even the most abominable sinner, and bestow upon him all good fortune.
Here, we can cite the examples of Jagai and Madhai who were delivered by the mercy of Nityananda prabhu. Similarly the mercy of Srinivasa Acharya delivered the sinful king Virhambira.Also, the sinful and envious Mohammedan soldier Sher Khan was delivered and initiated by merciful Shyamananda Panditaa.
9. Simple, without material possession : Kolavecha Sridhar used to sell banana leaves in Navadwip.He was a materially impoverished person and could barely make the ends meet. Yet he was a great devotee of the Lord. Whatever little he earned,he used to spend fifty percent of it in worshipping the Ganges.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu loved him a lot and was ready to grant him anything, even the kingdom of Indra, or the perfections of the mystic yogic process, during the Mahaprakash Lila. But Sridhar did not ask for any money or opulence as a benediction; all he wanted was to serve Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu lifetime after lifetime.
“Lord, if You must give me something, then I ask for this. May that Brahmin who used to pinch my banana leaves and bark ,be my Lord, lifetime after lifetime. May that Brahmin who used to argue with me be my master, and I serve His lotus feet.” (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.9.223-5)
The beautiful pastimes of Kolavecha Sridhar indicate how the devotees of the lord are simple without any material hankerings.
10. Benevolent : The devotees of the Lord always think of the welfare of other living entities.
When Haridas Thakur was being whipped in the 22 market places,he was constantly praying to the Lord that the offenders who were beating him might be forgiven.Lord Chaitanya later revealed in the maha-prakasha lila that He advented to the scene with His sudarshana Chakra, on seeing Haridas being beaten but could not kill the offenders because Haridas constantly prayed so that the miscreants be forgiven.
Not only that, when the guards beating Haridas Thakur got very tired after whipping him in the 22 market places and discovered that Haridas was still alive, they prayed to Haridas Thakur so that he gives up his life. They prayed that if they were unsuccessful in killing Haridas Thakur, the Nawab would kill them instead. Feeling merciful upon the miscreants who had whipped him in the 22 market places, Haridas Thakur entered into a state of trance, so that he appeared dead externally to everyone around him, so that the guards who were beating him might not be punished by the Nawab.
11. Peaceful : A devotee of the Supreme Lord is always relishing internal peace and manifesting goodness. He has staunch faith that Krishna is always going to protect him. Therefore he does not get agitated and can avoid the unnecessary conflicts and miseries of the world.
For instance Shrivas Panditaa was a householder, but didn’t go out to work and earn money. Yet he was very happy and peaceful and always warmly invited and served the devotees in his house. This was because he was confident that the Lord would take care of the necessities of His devotee. Once Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu asked Srivas Panditaa as to how does he make his ends meet. Shrivas Pandita replied that everything in his house was arranged due to the Lord’s mercy and that the Lord maintained his family.
Though Shrivas pandita was a very exalted devotee and his faith upon the Lord exhibited the highest symptoms of devotion, still, his behavior should be inspiration for us to depend upon the mercy of the Lord and appreciate the Lord’s hand behind all that occurs, as per our own minute capacity.
12. Completely attached to Krishna : A devotee of the Supreme Lord, Krishna, is completely attached to His lotus feet and becomes an instrument of showering God’s love towards other living beings.
Here we can cite the example of our beloved Srila Prabhupada, who left his country at the elderly age of sixty-nine, with forty Indian Rupees and a trunk of his Bhagavatam commentaries to preach the message of Krishna consciousness to the western world. He boarded the weathered cargo ship named ‘Jaladuta’ and embarked on a journey to New York in the year 1965 to fulfill His Guru’s instruction to preach in the west. Srila Prabhupada sat in his stuffy cabin which rolled back and forth with the motion of the sea. He suffered from sea sickness, dizziness and vomiting. He also had two heart-attacks during the travel but survived by the mercy of Lord Krishna.
When the ship arrived at the New York Harbor thirty-seven days later, Srila Prabhupada was utterly alone as he had come to America knowing no one,with absolutely no visible means of support and only the meager handful of possessions that he had carried while boarding the ship.
Such was his attachment to Krishna and faith upon his Guru’s instructions, that Srila Prabhupada never thought twice about travelling away from the homely comfort of his motherland, far away from the spiritual lands of Vrindavan and Navadwip, to the distant west where the utter material and sensual pursuits was considered the supreme goal of life. And he travelled at such an advanced age when most are ready to retire.
The rest as we know is history.Srila Prabhupada passed away in Vrindavan,India at the age of eighty-one. In this brief period of time , Srila Prabhupada had travelled the world fourteen times, establishing over a hundred temples over six continents. He introduced Harinama sankirtana and Jagannath rathyatra festival in almost all the countries of the world bringing the temple to the people. Infact Srila Prabhupada did not leave Vrindavan and Mayapura to preach in the west,instead, the holy dhams travelled with him, so that all the suffering souls across the planet could take advantage by reconnecting with their spiritual past. Srila Prabhupada is the perfect example of how one should try and execute the orders of his spiritual master and serve Sri Gouranga, the supreme personality of Godhead, in the process.
13. Desireless : A devotee of the Lord is devoid of any material hankerings. It is said that once a poor brahmana worshiped Lord Siva for a benediction, and Lord Siva advised the devotee to go to see Sanatana Gosvami. The devotee informed him Sanatana Goswami that Lord Siva had advised him to seek out the best benediction from him. Sanatana had a touchstone with him, which he kept with the garbage. On the request of the poor brahmana, Sanatana Gosvami gave him the touchstone, and the brahmana was very happy to have it. He now could get as much gold as he desired simply by touching the touchstone to iron. But after he left Sanatana, he thought, “If a touchstone is the best benediction, why has Sanatana Gosvami kept it with the garbage?” He therefore returned and asked Sanatana Gosvami as to why he kept the valuable touchstone in the garbage. Sanatana Gosvami then informed him that there were superior benedictions that could have been availed from him and asked if the Brahmana was interested. The brahmana responded in the positive.Then Sanatana Gosvami asked him to throw the touchstone in the Yamuna and then come back. The poor brahmana did so, and when he returned, Sanatana Gosvami initiated him with the Hare Krsna mantra. Thus by the benediction of Lord Siva the brahmana got the association of the best devotee of Lord Krsna and was thus initiated in the maha-mantra, Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Thus something materially as valuable as the touchstone is considered as equivalent to garbage by the pure devotees of the lord who are only concerned with serving Guru and Gauranga.
14. Indifferent towards material possessions: Pundarika Vidyanidhi was a great Vaishnava, a disciple of Madhavendra Puri and even Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu used to sing praises of him.
He was a zamindar(landlord) and he disguised his external appearance as a wealthy materialist.
Infact his external appearance was so deceiving with all the rich paraphernalia he possessed, that even Gadadhara Pandita mistook him to be an ordinary wealthy person devoid of Vaishnava qualities.
But when Pundarika Vidyanidhi heard some recitations from Srimad Bhagavatam, it enkindled the flames of love for Krishna within his heart. He began to cry out Krishna’s names, roll on the floor,tore his clothes and started breaking all the expensive paraphernalia around him . Seeing the transcendental symptoms of love on Pundarika’s body, Gadadhara pandit realized his mistake and began to repent. Even though Pundarika Vidyanidhi was a great Vaishnava, he kept it a secret and appeared just like a materialistic person. Gadadhara Pandita ultimately took initiation from Pundarika Vidyanidhi.
Thus we understand the exalted position of Pundarika Vidyanidhi who though being a very rich landlord, was indifferent towards his material possessions when it came to exhibiting his love for the lord. For such an elevated soul, it does not matter whether he lives in the house or in the forest, whether he wears a loincloth or wears the garb of a king. Pundarika was indifferent towards his material possessions and put on the show of being sensualist for those who were capable of being deceived by someone’s external appearance. The lotus feet of Pundarika Vidyanidhi are the worshipable treasure-house of the devotees.
15. Steady, Fixed : The realizations of a devotee should be so profound that his dedication to his spiritual master and Krishna cannot be influenced anymore by various temptations, suffering or opposing philosophies.
Bhaktivinoda Thakura , throughout his life, worked very hard to rescue the real teachings of Chaitanya mahaprabhu and our sampradaya from the clutches of misinterpretations of the deviant sects.He had to counter the deviants like the sahajiyas, caste Goswamis and smarta brahmanas, atibaris,Gauranga Nagaris,etc
He had to stand against the imposters and black tantrics like Bishak Sen who proclaimed himself as God and threatened to kill the Thakura on being opposed.
Our sampradaya is going to be ever grateful to Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura for his valuable contribution in preserving the unadulterated treasure of love propagated by Sri Chaitanya.
16. Self-Controlled : There are six bad qualities, namely lust, anger, greed, illusion, madness and envy. A pure devotee controls these bad qualities by engaging in Krsna’s service.
Haridas Thakura is a perfect example of such a self-controlled devotee. He could not be tempted from his vows by the lustful advances of a beautiful prostitute(Lakshahira) or even by the provocations of Mahamaya, the illusory energy of the lord personifed, and both ended up getting initiated by Haridas Thakura instead. Anger, illusion, Greed, envy stayed very far away from Haridas Thakur.
Haridas Thakura didn’t mind when he was insulted by Gopal Chakrabarty when he spoke about the glories of the holyname, neither was he envious of the Brahmins who could gain an entry into the temple at jagannath Puri, while he was kept out. Even though he was such an elevated vaishnava, Haridas Thakura displayed his humility staying by the siddha Bakula tree, outside the jagannatha temple. He never entered the temple considering himself a lowborn.
Haridas Thakur was never illusioned by the words of the kazi or the nawab who wanted him to stop chanting Krishna’s holy names, and take shelter of koran instead.He gracefully accepted the punishment of being beaten in the 22 market places, but never compromised on chanting the holy names of Krishna.
17. Does not eat more than required : A devotee of the Lord does not eat too much or too little. He lives moderately and does not eat more than required or wastes the energy of God in anyway. If we consider the examples of the six goswamis of Vrindavan, we find that they lived by doing madhukari(collected food by begging from door to door).
Here we can also cite the example of Shuklambar brahmacari, who kept his body and soul together by offering and eating the foodstuffs which he daily accumulated by begging. Since he was constantly absorbed in the joys of chanting the names of the Lord and remembering His qualities and pastimes, he never suffered from his poverty. Though to an ordinary conditioned soul he appeared to be a poverty-stricken mendicant, to transcendental eyes he was rich because of his love for Mahaprabhu. Lord Chaitanya out of His causeless mercy and love for Shuklambar used to snatch dry rice from his bag and eat it. Though Shuklambar Brahmachari was troubled to see the Lord eating the unclean and broken fragments of low-quality rice and felt that he was committing an offense,the Lord calmed him and said that He always ate His Devotee’s food with great enthusiasm, but that He had no interest whatsoever in the finest foods of the non-devotee.
18. Sane: A devotee of the lord is never intoxicated by material enjoyment.His bodily requirements are minimal and offers his whole life to Krishna. In this way he is perfectly balanced.
19. Respectful : Here we can refer to the pastime where Srivas Pandita did not reveal the news of his own son’s death, to Lord Chaitanya lest the ecstatic dancing kirtan that the Lord was performing in Srivas Angan be disturbed, or His mood be slackened.The sheer respect and reverence that Srivas Pandita possessed for the Lord is unfathomable to the ordinary.
Another pastime that I can recollect is how Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura once in his childhood ate a ripened mango without offering it first to the lord.His father Bhaktivinoda thakura subsequently chastised his son for this.Though Bhakti Siddhanta was a mere child, and it was not a grave offense on his part, still he took it very seriously and out of a feeling of guilt of committing an offense at the lord’s lotus feet, he never ever ate ripened mangos again in his life.Such was his respect for the Lord.
20. Has no Material hankering : A devotee is not attracted by material possessions which help us to gain a prestigious position. He sees everything attractive in this world as a reflection of Krsna, the all-attractive cause of all causes.
Gaura Kishora Dasa Babaji maharaj was an elevated exalted Paramhamsa. His mood of renunciation was unparalleled. Sometimes he ate mud from the banks of Radha-Kunda or the Yamuna. Other times he took madhukari from the Vrajavasis. He saw all the Vrajavasis as being the direct personal associates of Radha and Krishna. As a result of this vision, he would pay respects to every person, cow, animal, bird, tree, creeper, insect, ant in the holy dhama.
He had no material hankering and to keep mundane people from approaching him, he once resided in the lavatories at the kuliya Dharmashalla for six months.Infact he was so humble that he wished that after he had passed away, his body be dragged through the streets of Navadwip.
Out of his sheer humility he considered himself unqualified to be initiating Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, which he finally did, on the persistence of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta.
21. Grave : A devotee is always relishing the mellows of the pastimes of Sri Sri Radha and Krishna. He is always immersed in the thoughts of his lord. He knows that the material world is temporary and that the material existence can come to an abrupt end at any point of time.So a devotee is never overwhelmed or carried away in this material world and is always focused on his eternal journey back home, back to godhead. Hence a devotee is always grave and serious about his spiritual life.
22. Compassionate: A devotee is also called ‘patita pavan’ or one who rescues the most degraded. One of the main objectives why Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu descended was to inaugurate the Sankirtana movement by giving the holy names of the Supreme Lord to one and all, so that the most exalted treasure of Krishna Prema becomes available for everyone’s benefit. The devotees of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu follow His instructions ‘Yare dekho tare kaho Krishna Upadesha’ by imparting Krishna consciousness to each and every person they meet. Hence they are supremely compassionate as they bestow the greatest benefit upon the others.
The supremely merciful Nityananda Prabhu bestowed His mercy upon the most degraded sinners like Jagai and Madhai and delivered them. Srinivas Acharya delivered the sinful king Virhambira. Similarly Haridas Thakura delivered the prostitute who had approached him with cruel intentions and initiated her instead. Hence we find such inspirational examples of how compassionate the acharyas of our sampradaya had been.
23. Friendly : A devotee encourages everyone to progress in their Krishna consciousness. He makes no discrimination on the basis of one’s background, gender,color,caste,creed,etc. He looks upon all as spiritual beings on their journey back home,back to Godhead and sincerely tries to help them in their journey.He leads them back to Krishna who is the best friend of all living entities.
24. Poetic : The Mahabharata written by Srila Vyasdeva is the longest written poem in the world.The Mahabharata is roughly ten times the length of the Iliad and the Odyssey combined. When a devotee wishes to glorify the Lord or His pastimes, he invariably takes the refuge of poems, wherein he can express his feelings in an apt manner.
The Gaudiya Vaishnava bhajans(songs) written by Narottama Das Thakura, Locana Das Thakur, Vrindavan Das Thakur,Bhaktivinoda Thakura and other prominent vaishnavas help us relish their feelings and depths of devotion and inspire us follow in their footsteps.
25. Silent : A devotee only likes to talk about the supreme Lord and His unlimited pastimes.He is most disinterested when it comes to discussing about the mundane topics or associating with worldly-minded people. Rupa Goswami declined to debate with the mundane scholar Roop Narayan as he wanted to avoid discussions on petty material subjects.Rupa Goswami hence told Roop Narayan that he is ready to accept defeat and hand him over the Vijaya Patra, without even participating in the debate.This also shows how disinterested was Rupa Goswami in acquiring worldly fame and glory.
26. Expert : A devotee is an expert which means that he is very capable and uses all of his knowledge and skills in the service of Krishna. He is very responsible and can go to any extent to serve the Lord and His spiritual master. Here we can cite the example of how Srinivas Acharya expertly recovered all the stolen books of the Goswamis from the sinful king Virhambir.Srinivas Acharya not only recovered the books but also delivered and initiated the sinful king, who became a great devotee.
It is worthwhile to note that these qualities are not superficial and cannot be merely imitated but automatically start developing within one as he gradually progresses in his Krishna Consciousness. These qualities are worthy to strive for and by hankering to develop them in this very life,one’s existence will become highly auspicious. The Vedic scriptures enjoin us to seek the shelter of a bonafide spiritual master for the purpose of progressing in our spiritual life,developing these sublime qualities within ourselves and ultimately attaining the love of God. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the supreme personality of Godhead, instructs us to meditate daily upon the below mentioned sacred mahamantra to achieve the perfection of life :
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare