The Heart of a Devotee
Posted October 24, 2004
In the Upadesamrta, Srila Rupa Goswami describes the six kinds of exchanges between devotees as priti-laksanam, or "symptoms of love," indicating the very substance of Vaisnava rapport. Of course, in the English language the word "love" is often interpreted to mean lust or exploitation, but that is not the Vaisnava understanding. The heart of a devotee is the residence of Lord Krsna (sadhunam hrdayam tv aham). The essence of his existence is Krsna. Therefore a devotee sees everything in relation to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He has no enemies; politics and diplomacy have no place in the person of a Vaisnava. His only motivation is to please Krsna, being always absorbed in His loving devotional service (bhajatam priti-purvakam). So when truly advanced Vaisnavas interact with one another, the atmosphere is surcharged with spiritual bliss (tusyanti ca ramanti ca).
These exchanges do not exist in a vacuum, but are dependent on a devotee's relationship with Krsna. In other words, Krsna is the center or the absolute point of reference in devotee relationships. To the extent that we are able to enliven one another in hearing and chanting about Krsna, to that extent we are successful in establishing real Vaisnava sanga. The quality of our association with one another is therefore dependent on the quality of our hearing and serving the words of our spiritual master, the transparent via medium to the Supreme Lord Krsna.
A devotee is very compassionate by nature. He is not cold or distant in his relationships; in fact he is kind and considerate in his dealings with others. In the Bhagavad-gita, Krsna describes Himself as suhrdam sarva-bhutanam, "the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities." As a devotee of Krsna, the Vaisnava is deeply concerned that every living being is awakened to his eternal relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Thus he is the true friend of everyone:
vancha-kalpatarubhyas ca krpa-sindhubhya eva ca
patitanam pavanebhyo vaisnavebhyo namo namah
"I offer my respectful obeisances unto all the Vaisnava devotees of the Lord who can fulfill the desires of everyone, just like desire trees, and who are full of compassion for the fallen souls."
Of course, this does not mean that he is compassionate only to the nondevotees and that he is callous towards his godbrothers and godsisters who have dedicated their lives to the service of the Lord. A Vaisnava is a servant of everyone -- especially to the devotees. Even Lord Krsna Himself is naturally inclined towards the devotees (Bhagavad-gita 9.29). Srila Prabhupada describes the perfect Vaisnava attitude in The Nectar of Devotion:
"A devotee always appreciates the activities of other devotees. Yudhisthira Maharaj was appreciating the qualities of Prahlada, and that is the symptom of a pure devotee. A pure devotee never thinks of himself as great; he always thinks that other devotees are greater than himself. The King was thinking, 'Prahlada Maharaj is actually a devotee of the Lord, while I am nothing...'" (Nectar of Devotion, Chapter 1)
This is the humility of a Vaisnava. He is not materially motivated for name, fame or any temporary acquisition (na dhanam na janam na sundarim). He sincerely appreciates the qualities of others, thinking himself to be unfit and unqualified. This is the example taught to us by Srila Prabhupada. Although he did the most to spread Krsna consciousness worldwide, he was simultaneously the most humble. He would never claim credit for his success, but gave all credit to his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati:
"If I have any credit in this connection, it does not belong to me personally, but it is due to my eternal spiritual master, His Divine Grace Om Visnupada Paramahamsa Parivrajakacarya 108 Sri Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Maharaj Prabhupada." (Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Preface)
Such humility is not a matter of personal preference or choice, limited to a few devotees here and there. Rather, it is a part of the surrendering process (trnad api sunicena) and is a direct result of spiritual advancement. In the 16th Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita, Krsna explains that a godly man endowed with the divine nature is free from envy and the passion for honor (adroho natimanita). The qualities of arrogance, pride, anger, conceit, harshness, etc., are described as those born of the demonic nature, not conducive to liberation but to bondage. Devotees of Krsna are purified of these lower qualities by the process of devotional service (nasayamy atma-bhavastha). Therefore, genuinely advanced devotees will automatically exhibit all the good characteristics of the demigods (Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.18.12). The saintly qualities of a Vaisnava are proportionate to his spiritual advancement.
A progressive devotee not only develops humility, but he gradually attains all 26 qualities of a Vaisnava as described by Lord Caitanya in the Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya-lila 22.78-80). These qualities are self-manifesting and cannot be acquired through external means. The spiritual fragrance of an advanced devotee is so attractive that by his very existence he is a preacher of Krsna consciousness. In fact, the whole world can be united by the presence of one pure devotee of the Lord.