committed at the lotus feet of Vaishnavas, the Devotees,
distance one from devotional service to the Supreme
Lord. But in a higher sense it means to be removed
from the service of Sri Radha. All divine service
to Krishna is being conducted under her direction.
To offend her servitors is to make one unfit for her
divine service. The whole aim of Krishna consciousness
the divine service of Sri Radha, and offenses at the
lotus feet of Vaishnavas make one unfit for such service.
Lord is overly protective of his devotees (bhakta-vatsala
). He cannot tolerate any offenses against them.
They have bhakti
(devotion), and they can awaken it within us. Bhakti is the sole means to attract Krishna,
who is a slave of devotion. The same is true of Sri
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The Caitanya-Bhagavata
person can attain the shelter of Mahaprabhu only
by the grace of a higher Vaishnava. Religious practices
and even chanting the Holy Name without devotion
Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada writes in his
developing a spirit of service, chanting the Holy
Name is vain. Real devotion can only be cultivated
when one receives the blessings of an unalloyed
means devotion. Vrndavana dasa Thakur says:
a person commits an offense at the lotus feet
of a Vaishnava, even though he may have received
Krishna's mercy, he will never attain divine love,
prema. (Chaitanya-bhagavata Madhya-lila
if one is a Vaishnava, if he commits offenses to
the Holy Name, he becomes unfit to render pure devotion.
Although it may appear that he is still being shown
favor by the Lord as he continues to make a show
of chanting without difficulty, the Lord is actually
very displeased with him because of his antagonism
toward devotees. Therefore, to give up nama-aparadha
we must first give up sadhu-ninda
or finding fault with devotees.
the phrase krsna krpa hoileo ("even though he may receive
Krishna's mercy"), Srila Saraswati Thakur comments:
may think that because an offender appears to continue
to chant without difficulty, the Lord must still
favor him, but they are wrong. The Lord is not even
slightly moved by their sham devotion.
author of Sri Caitanya-bhagavata, Vrndavana dasa Thakur, says that
these statements are not his alone; they are the verdict
of the Vedas. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur
did not tolerate any disrespect towards genuine Vaishnavas.
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu also emphatically denounced
any insults directed at Vaishnava devotees. To understand
the seriousness of vaisnava-aparadha, offending devotees, one must grasp
the multi-faceted, multi-dimensional nature of the
Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna Chaitanya
Mahaprabhu. Mahaprabhu is the source of all incarnations
in Kali-yuga and the savior of all souls. He is Krishna,
the son of Maharaja Nanda, fully enriched with the
mood and radiance of Sri Radha. Srila Krishnadasa
Kaviraja Goswami offers prayers to all of these manifestations
in the preface of Sri Caitanya-caritamarta:
tat-prakasams ca tac-chaktih
offer my obeisances unto all the gurus, the devotees,
the Lord's avataras,
his expansions, his saktis
(energies), and the primeval Lord Himself, Sri Krishna
Chaitanya. (Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila
the same way that Mahaprabhu is Krishna, he expands
as Nityananda Prabhu (prakasa ), who is Balarama.
Balarama's partial expansion is Sadasiva, Maha-Vishnu
Avatara, whose counterpart in Chaitanya-lila is Advaita
Acarya. What is left of Sri Radhika after Krishna
has plundered her emotions and lustre is Sri Gadadhara
Pundit. Sri Gadadhara and Svarupa Damodara are his
means Srivasa Thakur who is Sri Narada Muni in Krishna-lila.
Isa, Divinity means Mahaprabhu Himself.
The complete conception of Divinity must include the
predominating moiety and the predominated moeity.
The slightest disregard to any one of these is equal
to disregrading the Supreme Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
Himself. There are two aspects to the guru principle:
the siksa or instructing guru, and the diksa or initiating guru. Both are represented
in Srivasa Thakura.
the beginning of the second chapter of the Antya-lila
the Sri Caitanya-caritamrta,
Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja offers the following invocation:
sri-gurun vaisnavams ca
saha-gana-raghunathan vitam tam sa jivam
sadvaitam savadhutam parijana-sahitam
offer my obeisances unto the lotus feet of my Guru
and to all the preceptors on the path of devotion.
I offer my obeisances unto all the Vaishnavas and
to Sri Rupa Goswami and his associates Raghunatha
dasa, and Sri Jiva. I offer my obeisances to Advaita
Acarya, Nityananda Avadhuta, Gadadhara Pundit, and
to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu with all his devotees,
headed by Srivasa Thakura. I then offer my obeisances
to the lotus feet of Sri Radha and Sri Krishna,
and all the gopis headed by Lalita and Visakha.
the above invocatory prayers (mangala-carana ),
the Vaishnavas are venerated. Kaviraja Goswami writes
beginning the narration of the pastimes of Sri Chaitanya
Mahaprabhu, simply by meditating on Sri Guru, the
Vaishnavas, and Divinity, I invoke their benediction.
Such meditation destroys all detriments on the spiritual
path, and helps one to fulfill all their desires.
must note very carefully that the Vaishnavas have
been included within the full conception of Divinity.
writings describe the Vaishnava's extraordinary qualities,
and the spiritual benefit resulting from serving them.
There are also several warnings regarding the disastrous
effects of vaisnava-aparadha.
Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 19.156
a devotee commits vaisnava-aparadha, his offense is like a mad elephant
uprooting and trampling his creeper of devotion;
afterwards the creeper's leaves dry up and become
are three categories of Vaishnavas: kanistha
(intermediate), and uttama
(advanced) described in the Caitanya-caritamrta. Kaviraja Goswami states that to
gain shelter of a Vaishnava, it is imperative to first
receive the mercy of Nityananda Prabhu:
of the Vaishnavas who live in Vrndavana are absorbed
in singing the all-auspicious name of Sri Krishna.
Sri Mahaprabhu and Nityananda are their life and
soul. They do not know anything but devotion to
Sri Radha and Krishna. My shelter at the Vaishnavas'
lotus feet has been granted only by the mercy of
Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Prahhupada corroborates
of the Vaishnavas living in the holy dhama
Sri Vrndavana are very fortunate souls. They have
taken shelter in the Holy Name of Krishna. Sriman
Mahaprabhu and Nityananda are their life and soul.
They know nothing but the eternal service of Sri
Radha and Sri Krishna.
mercy descends only through the Vaishnavas.
Bhaktivinode Thakura, a nitya-siddha (eternal associate) of the Lord,
instructs the devotees to pray to Mahaprabhu. He says
that we should seek shelter in the shade of a Vaishnava's
lotus feet, shed tears of remorse with total humility,
submitting to him the plight of our material existence,
which is the result of turning away from Krishna.
The Vaishnava is an ocean of compassion and feels
the pain of others. When he pleads on our behalf to
the Lord, Krishna responds and kindly accepts us as
the followers of his favorites.
mercy descends only through the Vaishnavas.
is Krishna and karsna. Krishna's mercy is embodied
in pure devotees, who are known as karsna.
The lotus feet of a Vaisnava guru
represents the mercy of the Lord. Krishna is the priceless
treasure enthroned in Sri Guru's heart. The Lord can
easily give this treasure to those who are surrendered
to his devotees. There is no other way to receive
Krishna's grace than to serve and take shelter at
the lotus feet of a Vaishnava. Sri Kaviraja Goswami
discusses the importance of honoring the Vaishnava's
remnants, using the example of Sri Kalidasa, the uncle
of Raghunatha Dasa Goswami:
the food remnants of Vaishnavas is so potent, it
forced Mahaprabhu to give his mercy to Kalidasa.
Don't hesitate-eat the Vaishnava's remnants, and
you will fulfill your heart's desire.
offered to Krishna is called maha-prasadam. After maha-prasadam is taken by a devotee, his remnants
are glorified as maha-maha-prasadam.
The dust of a pure devotee's feet, the water of
his foot bath, and his food remnants are three extremely
potent spiritual substances. By honoring these three,
one will be filled with ecstatic love for Krishna.
All the scriptures declare this again and again.
My dear devotees, please hear me: believe in these
three and honor them in a mood of service, and you
will achieve the purpose of your existence-ecstatic
love of Krishna. This is the greatest mercy of Krishna,
and Kalidasa is living proof.
Kalyana-Kalpataru, Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur writes:
will Mahaprabhu shower his mercy upon me so I may
have shelter in the shade of the Vaishnava's lotus
feet? I will humbly stand before the Vaishnava holding
a straw between my teeth, weeping I will tell him
of my miserable life, and I shall give up all self-deception.
I will admit that my life is one never-ending misery
and beg him to put an end to all of this. The kind
Vaishnava will beg Sri Krishna with all his might,
and Krishna, moved by the Vaishnava's sincerity,
will shower his divine grace.
in Saranagati, Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur writes:
Vaishnava, you are an ocean of mercy. Please shower
your compassion upon me. Give me the shade of your
lotus feet and purify my polluted heart. I am following
you, begging-Sri Krishna is yours-you have the power-give
him to me!
dasa Thakura sings a similar song:
am so sinful; how can I possibly serve the Lord?
I have no love for my guru. I have no love for the
devotees and I am constantly deluded. I am so absorbed
in material life that I have forgotten who I am.
The witch Maya is waiting to hang a noose around
my neck. I have no power to resist her on my own.
I am helpless without your mercy. I know that you
never see the faults of anyone, so I'm begging you-please
save me." (Prarthana )
songs are filled with wonderful glorification of Vaishnavas.
They are treasured by all devotees as priceless instructions
for increasing one's devotion. From his childhood,
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Prabhupada chose Narottama's
songbook as his constant companion on the path of
devotion. Vrndavana dasa Thakura considered himself
to be the last direct servant of Nityananda Prabhu.
He has glorified the Vaishnavas throughout his masterpiece
In his introduction he writes:
first offer my unlimited obeisances at the feet
of Sri Krishna Chaitanya's dearest associates, the
devotees. And then I pray to him, who appeared in
Nabadwip and was also known as Visvambhara.
Vrndavana dasa offers his humble obeisances unto Mahaprabhu's
devotees, and then to Sri Mahaprabhu. He explains:
Supreme Lord has boldly declared in all the scriptures
that 'The worship of my devotees is higher than
worshipping me.' By first glorifying the Vaishnavas,
I am guaranteed success in writing my book. (This
statement was made by Krishna to Uddhava in the
next statement is from the Itihasa-Samuccaya :
one wants God's mercy, he must first serve his devotees.
Only this will satisfy the Lord; of this there is
following verse, from the Pausayana-Sruti, is quoted in Srila Madhvacarya's
commentary on the Brahma-Sutra :
the devotees, serve them, hear from them, and they
will protect you.
you want the real treasure of liberation you must
serve the Lord's pure devotee.
his Govinda-Bhasya commentary, Baladeva Vidyabhusana
quotes Srimad-Bhagavatam :
prayasam-udapasya namanta eva
jivanti sanmukharitam bhavadlya-vartam
sthane sthitah sruti-gatam tanu-van-manobhir
ye prayas'o 'jita jito'py asi tais tri-lokyam
prayed to Krishna,
dear Lord, those who have given up abstract thinking
and armchair philosophizing, start hearing about
you from devotees and begin divine service with
their body, mind, and words. Although you are unconquerable
and rarely attained, you are conquered by them.
the Padma Purana, Shiva says to his wife Parvati:
Goddess, higher than the worship of all the gods
and goddesses is the worship of the Supreme Lord
Vishnu. But higher still is the worship of everyone
and everything that is dear to Him, including Ganga
devi, Tulasi devi, the book Bhagavata and the devotee Bhagavata.
dasa cautions us against seeing Vaishnavas externally.
Such superficial vision is condemned:
order to teach us the absurdity of judging devotees
externally according to race, color, family, or
other considerations, the Supreme Lord arranged
for Haridasa Thakura to take birth in the lowest
section of society. All the scriptures emphasize
that if a pure devotee appears even in the lowest
social circumstances, he is still to be worshipped
Vaishnava may appear in any family or section of
society, yet he is still the most elevated person
by the decree of the scriptures.
is the protector of all living entities, and he cannot
tolerate insults and disrespect shown to his devotees.
Extremely mindful of his dear devotee's well-being,
he refuses to accept any worship from those who slight
them. The Lord loves his devotees so much that he
not only accepts food and gifts from them, but sometimes
he even steals their offerings! Whereas he is repulsed
by offerings from a non-devotees.
one pastime, Krishna was very eager to eat plain chipped
rice cooked by Vidura's wife, and ignored a royal
feast set by Duryodhana. Similarly the Lord could
not resist eating the few morsels of flat rice offered
by Sudama. He told him:
Brahmin! What wonderful things have you brought
for me from your home? Even a small offering from
a devotee is a grand feast for me, whereas a non
devotee's feast cannot satisfy me in the least.
Anything offered to me with love, I accept with
Mahaprabhu quotes from the Itihasa Samuccaya,
recorded by Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja:
person may learn all the Vedas, but if he has no
devotion, how can he be my devotee? Whereas if a
person born into the lowest section of society has
devotion, he is very dear to me. All respect must
be given to such an elevated soul. His offerings
must be accepted by all, for he is as much worthy
of worship as I am.
also quotes Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya:
Brahmin's sins are burnt to ashes by the powerful
fire of krsna-bhakti.
Whereas if a Vedic scholar is an atheist, he is
derided. Anyone devoid of devotion may take birth
in a great family or nation, have extensive knowledge
of the scriptures, perform austerities, or chant
Vedic mantras, but such things are like ornaments
on a dead body. Only fools will be impressed.
Mahaprabhu went to embrace Haridasa Thakura, with
all humility Haridasa said to him:
dear Lord, please do not touch me. I am most fallen,
the lowest of men. Mahaprabhu replied: I want to
touch you just to purify myself. You are so pure,
it is as if at every moment you are bathing in all
the sacred rivers, visiting all the holy places
of pilgrimage, and performing every sacrifice, austerity,
and charity imaginable. You are more exalted than
any Brahmin or sannyasi.
Lord then recited this sloka from the Srimad Bhagavatam:
who always chants your Holy Name, even though born
in the worst circumstances, is a saint. We can understand
that he must have performed all austerities and
sacrifices, bathed in all the holy rivers, and mastered
the Vedas. Therefore
he is a true Aryan (one who is pure).
the Padma Purana, Uttara-khanda, it is declared:
a person is admitted into Vishnu's family, he is
called a Vaishnava. It has been said that of all
people, the Vaishnava is certainly the most exalted.
person who is devoted to Janardana, the Supreme
Personality of Godhead, is a saint even if he is
born into a low-class family; whereas if a person
is born into an aristocratic family of noble lineage
and is not a devotee of the Lord, he is of bad blood.
association with non-Vaishnavas or with Brahmins who
lack devotion is categorically denounced. The Padma
association of meat-eaters is strictly prohibited
because their lifestyle goes against scriptural
regulations; in the same manner, contact with a
non-Vaishnava Brahmin must be avoided. Whereas a
Vaishnava-one who is initiated and who is affectionate
to the Lord and his devotees--even if born into
a low-class family, is capable of purifying all
dasa says that intimate association with non-Vaishnavas,
regardless of their parentage, is suicidal. According
to the Padma Purana,
the characteristics of a Vaishnava are as follows:
who is dedicated to worshipping Vishnu, who has
received initiation into a Vishnu-mantra, is classified
as a Vaishnava by spiritual preceptors; all others
are non-Vaishnavas." (Hari-bhakti-vilasa 1.55)
who are simply born into a Brahmin family but are
non-Vaishnavas, and who are inimical towards Vishnu
and Vaishnavas, are condemned. Vrndavana dasa cries
out against these namesake Brahmins, citing the Varaha
Kali-yuga, demons will be born in smarta Brahmin families to harass and
torture the righteous devotees of the Lord. The
demons choose Kali-yuga to be born in, so they can
torment those rare persons who adhere to the path
enunciated by the Vedas (sruti ). They viciously
attempt to disrupt the devotee's service to the
Brahmin impostors view Vaishnavas who have a bad background
with contempt. They scoff at their spiritual practices,
or when they see them receive honor and respect, they
vainly try to expose the Vaishnava's background, and
other mundane trivialities. The Brhad Aranyaka
describes them, saying:
who leaves the world fully understanding the Absolute
Truth is honored as a Brahmin, but one who does
not has wasted his life.
to Sri Krishnadasa Kaviraja, not only should one not
consider the form of God to be mundane, but the same
is true of his devotees.As written by Srila Krishna-Dvaipayana
Vyasadeva, the author of Srimad-Bhagavatam:
is no greater blasphemy than to think that the body
of Vishnu is material. And Mahaprabhu says: The
Vaishnava's body is never mundane; it is supramundane,
and supercharged with ecstasy. (Caitanya-caritamrta
use of the term atmasama does not imply that pure devotees
are equal to the Supreme Lord in every respect. The
Supreme Lord is the only one who possesses transcendental
qualities to an infinite degree. The jiva can only possess these qualities
to a finite degree.
says: "The finite and the Infinite can never
be considered equal, just as a tiny spark is never
equal to a fire." The following verse is found
in the Bhagavat Sandarbha and also in Sridhara Swami's commentary
to the Srimad-Bhagavatam:
Supreme Lord is the embodiment of etenality, knowledge,
and bliss. Two of his multifarious spiritual energies
the pleasure-giving potency, and samvit, perfect knowledge of the self
and all other things, while the jivas
are cocooned in ignorance, and deeply anchored in
by taking complete shelter of Sri Radhika and her
serving group, the hladini sakti, can we realize our innate spiritual
identity and service to the holy lotus feet of Sri
Guru, Gauranga, and Krishna. Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja
explains further why a pure Vaishnava's body is aprakrta, or supramundane:
the time of diksa (initiation), the devotee surrenders
to Krishna with body and soul. In reciprocation,
Krishna accepts him, elevating him, body and soul,
to a status equal to his own. The Lord transforms
the Vaishnava's body and makes it a repository of
transcendental emotions." (Caitanya-caritamrta,
then quotes the Srimad-Bhagavatam:
people reject materialism and conduct their lives
under my direction, they attain immortality. They
become eligible to be with me and share spiritual
emotions (rasa ) with me in their spiritual
what is meant by surrender, Srila Saraswati Prabhupada
writes in his Anubhasya
one who has completely renounced the world (akincana
) and one who is completely sheltered in Krishna
may appear to be the same externally, the devotee
who has given up the world has also offered his
soul. At the time of initiation, the devotee gives
up material conceptions while he begins to understand
sambandha-jnana, one's eternal relationship with
God and those who are part of the family of God.
When the devotee gives up the shelter of maya,
he takes shelter of Krishna and is Krishnized. At
this stage, the devotee's delusion as enjoyer of
material pleasures dissipates, and his real self
merges with his new identity as an eternal servant
of Krishna. The devotee attains his spiritual body
(sac cid ananda svarupa )and his eternal
service to Krishna, serving him in his own transcendental
form. The pure devotee's ecstatic service is an
elevated stage of devotion which is often misinterpreted
and misunderstood by those unacquainted with the
science of devotion. For this kind of aparadha
one is deprived of the shelter of a Vaishnava guru."
(Anubhasya, Caitanya-caritamrta, Antya
taught everyone that a Vaishnava's transcendental
body is unlike that of an ordinary person, or even
an extraordinary person. The Lord did not view personalities
like Haridasa Thakura, who took birth in a low-class
family, or Sanatana Goswaml, whose body was diseased,
or Vasudeva Vipra, who was suffering from acute leprosy,
as social outcasts or disease ridden beggars. Instead
he embraced them, proving that a pure devotee's body
is never impure. The pure devotee's body is transcendental,
infused with spiritual bliss, and best suited to serve
Krishna. As the Lord himself says:
worship of my devotees is the real worship of me.
In fact it is higher than worshipping my very self.
dear devotees, please read and listen carefully to
the divine stories and instructions that follow, and
pray to the Supreme Lord and his devotees-the Vaishnavas-that
we may always worship and adore them, and thereby
enter The Heart of Krishna.
order The Heart of Krsna, please call 1-800-
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