Srila Sridhar Maharaj: In his Chaitanya-siksamrta, Srila Bhakti Vinod Thakur has explained that there are two types of devotees in the stage of premaruruksu, the beginning stages of pure divine love. These two kinds of devotees are classified as viviktanandi and gosthyanandi. The gosthyanandis, by nature, love preaching. They live amongst the Vaisnavas. But there is another group, the viviktanandi, who prefer a solitary position. There they chant the Holy Name of the Lord, or think about the Lord’s Pastimes (lila). These two groups have both been mentioned as being situated on a high platform of devotional service, just before the stage of pure love of Godhead. When they have completely attained the highest stage, there is no qualitative difference between one and the other: they are one and the same. Whatever work Krishna wants us to do through them, they will perform in surrender to Him. Therefore it cannot be said that one who does not have the preaching tendency is a lower Vaisnava.
Bhakti Vinod Thakur has clearly grouped these two sections of devotees in the stage of those who are just about to occupy the highest plane. There are two groups: one of a preaching type, another of a solitary type, but according to Srila Bhakti Vinod Thakur, we cannot make the distinction that one is higher and the other is lower. According to the desire of Krishna, they will do His will. The devotee whom Krishna wants to preach will do that work, but those who do not like to work in that way cannot be called unqualified. Those that like preaching will naturally speak in favour of the preaching camp. Because they are inspired by Krishna to do that service, they are successful. Krishna says, «Acharyam Mam vijaniyan: it is My inspiration that can really deliver the fallen souls.» Whomever Krishna will accept can understand Him — others cannot (yam evaisa vrnute tena labhyas). When Krishna delegates power sufficiently to a Vaisnava and wants to deliver many fallen souls through him, it takes place by His will. Svarup Damodar is not found to preach in any extensive way. Ramananda Ray is also not found to preach in an extensive way to make disciples, going from door to door. On the other hand, Nityananda Prabhu and others did. Krishna selects His instruments according to His own desire.
Kaviraj Goswami prays: vande ’ham Sri-Guroh sri-yuta-pada-kamalam Sri-Gurun Vaisnavams cha. First he offers his respects to the group of Spiritual Masters who are immediately in touch with the fallen souls. Then he says Sri-Rupam sagrajatam, he offers his respects to the Sastra-gurus. Sri Rupa and Sri Sanatan did not practically come in touch with the masses for preaching, but they gave scriptures for the preachers. The sastras, the rules and regulations, and the ontological questions — all these things were given by Rupa and Sanatan. Are they not uttam-adhikaris? They did not come in direct touch with the people, but, as they were meant to by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, they laid the foundation for the preaching of Gaudiya–Vaisnavism. They are the Sastra-gurus, the Spiritual Masters who give the revealed scriptures.
Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami first offers his respects to the recruiter Gurus, then in a higher stage, to the Sastra-gurus, and then to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who came with His associates and paraphernalia to inaugurate a new truth in the world. In five stages he offers his respects to his Spiritual Masters, and in the highest stages he offers his respects to the lotus feet of Sri Sri Radha and Govinda, and all the gopis, headed by Lalita and Visakha: Sri-Radha-Krishna-padan saha-gana Lalita-Sri-Visakhanvitams cha. So the Sastra-gurus are doing some work as they have been inspired by Sri Krishna. They are not coming in direct touch with the fallen souls. So, we cannot say that because they are not directly preaching to the fallen souls, they are not sparsa-mani, or touchstones. To say so would only be expressing our partiality to the preaching group.
We have to put some faith in the Spiritual Master. We must have faith that what he does is the activity of the Supreme Lord working within him, that Krishna has come to preach about Himself through our Spiritual Master. We must try to see Krishna in Guru, and Guru’s actions as meant to deliver us. We are encouraged in this way.
Still, this is the relative view. From very strict impartial vision, we can classify the Guru according to his realisation as an intermediate devotee (madhyam-adhikari), or a topmost devotee (uttam-adhikari). Amongst the servitors of Krishna, some are inclined towards Radharani, some towards Chandravali, and some are in the middle. Some devotees are more attracted to Vraja-lila, some to Gaura-lila, and some are in the middle. This is the nature of the Lord’s Pastimes. These differences will exist eternally.
Some devotees have a preaching nature, whereas others may be of the secluded type, but that does not mean that all who are of the secluded nature are lower and all who are of the preaching nature are higher. We can’t say that. They should be judged according to their surrender and acceptance of Krishna. Both Gaura-lila and Krishna-lila are the highest in Goloka, but if we are bold enough to assert that Gaura-lila is higher than Krishna-lila because of its magnanimous dealings, because it is distributing itself, then it should be given more importance. In that consideration, it is superior to Krishna-lila. And if we are to follow very strictly this point, then, of course, we may have to appreciate the preaching section of the Vaisnavas, considering that they are doing the most beneficial work in the universe (loka-hitaya cha).
«The preachers are more fortunate because through them Krishna is trying to release many fallen souls.» A relative form of vision may be seen in that way: «Gaura-lila is higher than Krishna-lila. Why? Because it is spacious and broad; it is available to everyone. And in Gaura-lila, Krishna is distributing Himself to the fallen.» This is something in addition to Krishna-lila. Then, whenever we find that good fortune has made someone an agent to raise up the fallen souls, we may have some greater appreciation for him. Some justification for considering the preachers to be more fortunate may come if we consider that Krishna is better when preaching than when playing within His own group.
Naturally we will have preference for the preachers who have brought Krishna consciousness here amongst us. Krishna has chosen certain devotees as His agents to preach about Him to the fallen souls. And that is more desirable for us, in our present position. So, if we develop our perspective in that line, of course we can say that fallen souls like us will give more stress to those who are the cause for our delivery. To think that some agents are preferable to others because the symptom of magnanimity is more easily traceable in them is a relative view in the ultimate context of reality.
Although sometimes we may judge Vaisnavas according to their different activities, we are not always correct, because a devotee is chosen for a particular service by the Lord, and whatever the Lord wants to do through him is done by His will. This is the underlying principle: it is His selection. Sometimes the selection comes to A, sometimes to B, and sometimes to C. We are all at the disposal of the Lord’s infinite will, and according to His sweet will, according to how Krishna wants to utilise us, our activities will be successful. That is the absolute consideration. We cannot fail to connect success with the medium; there is also some value in that, but we must consider that Krishna is there in the background. We must always understand that the divine will, the highest will, is working through us. So we should not be extreme in judging a devotee according to external considerations.
Gaura Kisor Das Babaji Maharaj did not preach, but his disciple, our Spiritual Master, Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur Prabhupad, preached with great magnitude. Srila Lokanath Goswami did not preach at all, but we find that the preaching of his only disciple, Srila Narottam Das Thakur, was most extensive. So a Vaisnava should not be judged only by the amount of work that he shows outwardly. His success is at the disposal of the divine will. Krishna awards service to a particular person according to His own choice, and enables that person to carry out that service. There are many examples of this.
Srila Nityananda Prabhu preached throughout the length and breadth of Bengal with great force, but Srila Gadadhar Pandit, although apparently not doing any tangible service in the lila of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, is said to be Radharani’s bhava, transcendental sentiments, incarnate. And Gadadhar Pandit’s affinity for Mahaprabhu exceeds that of all others.
So, we should not judge the position of a Vaisnava by the magnitude of his external activities alone. Of course, we cannot ignore the service rendered by a devotee. That is a noble thing, that is a great thing, but ultimately the key is in the hand of the Lord, (ekala Isvara Krsna, ara saba bhrtya).
Krishna is at the root of everything, and whatever He wills is successful. Krishna wants to dance in a particular way with a particular servitor, and He successfully dances according to His own sweet will. Krishna is the wire-puller, the controller. The key is in His hand. He controls both universal and specific dealings. By understanding this, we can save ourselves from pratistha, or false prestige, the thirst after name and fame. If we are fully conscious of the fact that everything is in the Lord’s hands, then we cannot feel any pride.
So to teach us that it is not very easy to recognise a real Vaisnava by his external dress or manners alone, Gadadhar Pandit apparently misunderstood the position of Pundarik Vidyanidhi, an exalted associate of the Lord.
Gadadhar Pandit was taken by Mukunda Datta to see Pundarik Vidyanidhi. Mukunda Datta came from the same village as Pundarik. Mukunda knew him, and so he asked Gadadhar Pandit, «Would you like to see a real Vaisnava?» Gadadhar Pandit told him, «Yes, I am always eager to have the darsan of a real Vaisnava.» Then Gadadhar Pandit followed Mukunda Datta to the quarters of Pundarik Vidyanidhi, and he was dumbfounded by what he saw. «What is this?» He thought. «Here is an aristocrat with curled, scented hair, and a stylish, princely dress, smoking a pipe decorated with a golden thread and the whole room is filled with a sweet scent. He is a Vaisnava?»
Mukunda Datta could understand Gadadhar’s heart and began to sing a verse from the Srimad Bhagavatam (3.2.23):
aho baki yam stana-kala-kutam
jighamsayapayayad apy asadhvi
lebhe gatim dhatry-uchitam tato ’nyam
kam va dayalum saranam vrajema
«Oh, how amazing it is! The sister of Bakasura (Putana), desiring to kill Sri Krishna, smeared poison on her breasts and forced Krishna to drink their milk. Even so, Lord Krishna accepted her as His mother, and so she reached the destination suitable for Krishna’s mother. Of whom should I take shelter but the most merciful Krishna?»
Upon hearing this, Pundarik Vidyanidhi became very serious. His movements stopped, and then some shivering was apparent in his body. The whole atmosphere was changed. He began to throw his hands and feet left and right. He cast his smoking pipe aside and began to roll on his bed, tearing off his silk clothing and the silk sheets, and pulling out his beautifully curled and decorated hair. He began to cry, «Of whom should I take shelter but the most magnanimous Lord? Where should I take refuge without such a Lord?» With this on his lips, he was rolling on the floor in ecstasy.
After a long time, he gradually subsided, and Gadadhar thought to himself, «What did I think about this great personality? He has so much love for Krishna within. Although externally he appears as an ordinary man, a slave of luxury, internally he is a great devotee. What intense love he has for Krishna!» Then he thought, «I have committed Vaisnava-aparadh, an offence to a great devotee. How can I free myself? I thought ill of him. What is the remedy for that offence?» So, he thought to himself and then told Mukunda, «I have committed an offence against this great mahatma. How can I get out of that? I am thinking that generally those who come to this devotional line have to formally accept some preceptor, but I have not yet taken initiation from any Vaisnava. If I take initiation from him, he will forgive me and my offences. He won’t take any offence from me if I surrender unto his holy feet. Then only can I get release from this crime. But I have to consult my Master Gauranga Mahaprabhu. So, he went to consult with Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Sometime before this, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was seen calling the name of Pundarik and crying, «Pundarik, My father! Pundarik! Where are you?» In this way He was suddenly crying. Ordinary people could not understand. They began to ask, «Who is that Pundarik? For whom is the Lord wailing so much? Why is Nimai Pandit wailing ‘Pundarik! Pundarik!’?»
Within a few days, Pundarik came from another village to his Nabadwip house. Mukunda Datta was his co-villager, so he knew Pundarik. When the devotees enquired, «Who is this Pundarik?» Mukunda Datta answered, «Pundarik has got a small estate; he is a well-to-do, married man.» So, Gadadhar Pandit asked Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu about Pundarik Vidyanidhi, saying, «I have committed an offence against the great Vaisnava, Pundarik Vidyanidhi, so for my own spiritual good I feel the necessity to take initiation from him. But without consulting You, and getting Your consent, I can’t do anything. I put it before You. What should I do?»
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu welcomed the idea, saying, «Yes, this is very good. You must accept him as your Guru.» It is said by authoritative sources that Pundarik Vidyanidhi was the father of Radharani, that he was the incarnation of Vrsabhanu Maharaj. So, Gadadhar Pandit took initiation from Pundarik Vidyanidhi. In this way, we should not be extreme in judging a devotee only from his external activities.