Bhakti Sandarbha 246-247 : Honor Should be Given to All Vaiṣṇavas
This is the conclusion of the sat-saṅga-prakaraṇa, which began in Anuccheda 238, though in actual fact, it began in Anu. 179 when Jiva Goswami said that bhakti descends through such association. He then detoured through a discussion of the different kinds of bhakti as well as explaining the necessity of taking a guru. From Anu. 238 begins the discussion of devotional association specifically as a direct practice of bhakti. Anu. 247 is a lengthier discourse that summarizes the glorification of the Vaishnavas from various scriptural sources.
After explaining the conduct of a Vaiṣṇavas towards other Vaiṣṇavas and non-Vaiṣṇava Brāhmaṇas, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī continues to describe the importance of sat-saṅga. He says that sat-saṅga is effective even before one hears or chants about Bhagavān. If, however, one hear and chants in a sat-saṅga then it is most potent. All perfection can be attained by mere sat-saṅga. There is no other blessing that surpasses or compares to sat-saṅga. At any cost one should look for it. Sat-saṅga is the only thing that brings a spiritual revolution to one’s life. Without sat-saṅga one continues to wander aimlessly in the material world. (SND)
There are eight types of devotion: (1) affection for My devotees; (2) approval of My worship; (3) attachment to hearing My stories; (4) the upsurge of ecstatic symptoms of love—such as choking of the voice and tears in the eyes; (5) dancing for the pleasure of Viṣṇu, (6) giving up pretentiousness for Him; (7) personally attending to the worship of Viṣṇu; (8) and not using Viṣṇu to earn one’s livelihood. If these aspects of devotion are found even in an outcaste, such a person is the best of brāhmaṇas, the foremost of sages, one situated in awareness, and a scholar. One should offer charity to such a person and accept it from her or him, for she or he is as worshipable as Bhagavān Hari. (Garuḍa Purāṇa)
Characteristics of One Perfected Through Service to a Devoteeअथ महाभागवतसेवासिद्धलक्षणम् (भा. ४.९.१२)—
We will now describe the characteristics of a person who has attained perfection through service to great devotees, as Dhruva said to Bhagavān:
ते न स्मरन्त्यतितरां प्रियमीश मर्त्यं
ये चान्वदः सुतसुहृद्गृहवित्तदाराः।
ये त्वब्जनाभ भवदीयपदारविन्द-
परमप्रियमपि मर्त्यं वपुः। ये चादो वपुरनु लक्षीकृत्य सुतादयो वर्तन्ते, तान् अपि न स्मरन्ति। के ते ? इत्यपेक्षायामाह—ये त्विति॥O lotus-naveled Bhagavān, those who have associated with those whose minds are captivated by the fragrance of Your lotus feet, do not care in the least for this precious mortal frame and the people or things related to it, such as children, friends, house, wealth and husband or wife. (SB 4.9.12)
The verse literally states that they do not remember the mortal body, even though it is most dear. By the same token, they do not remember the people and things related to the body, such as children, friends and so on. Who are these persons? That is answered in the second half of the verse [as those who associate with those who are captivated by the fragrance of the lotus feet of Bhagavān.
॥४.९॥ ध्रुवः श्रीध्रुवप्रियम्॥२४६॥
Commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji Maharaj
Earlier it was said that the service to a great devotee grants one the love that brings Bhagavān under control. Such a person becomes free of ignorance and its by-products in the form of attachment to one’s body, relatives and possessions.
Honor Should be Given to All Vaiṣṇavasवैष्णवमात्राणां च यथायोग्यमाराधनं, यथा इतिहाससमुच्चये—
The injunction to honor all Vaiṣṇavas according to their stature is found in scriptures such as the Itihāsa-samuccaya:
तस्माद्विष्णुप्रसादाय वैष्णवान् परितोषयेत्।
प्रसादसुमुखो विष्णुस्तेनैव स्यान्न संशयः॥ इति।
One should therefore please the Vaiṣṇavas to attain the favor of Bhagavān Viṣṇu. There is no doubt that Viṣṇu is pleased by this alone.
व्यतिरेकेणापि पाद्मोत्तरखण्डे (६.२५३.१७७) —
अर्चयित्वा तु गोविन्दं तदीयान् नार्चयेत् तु यः।
न स भागवतो ज्ञेयः केवलं दाम्भिकः स्मृतः॥ इति।
One who does not worship the devotees of Śrī Govinda after worshiping Him is not known as a devotee; rather, he should be recognized as nothing but a pretender.
तत्र (भा. ४.२१.१२)—
इति श्रीपृथुचरितानुसारेण यत् किञ्चिज्जातावप्युत्तमत्वमेव मन्तव्यम्,
As evident from the history of King Pṛthu, a Vaiṣṇava is honorable regardless of his birth:
King Pṛthu had exclusive dominion over the seven islands of the earth, and his order was inviolable everywhere. Only the brāhmaṇas and the devotees of Bhagavān Acyuta were exempt from his rule. (SB 4.21.12)
यस्य यल्लक्षणं प्रोक्तं पुंसो वर्णाभिव्यञ्जकम्।
यदन्यत्रापि दृश्येत तत् तेनैव विनिर्दिशेत्॥ (भा. ७.११.३५)
The same conclusion can be drawn from this statement of Nārada:
Each varṇa [one of the four social classes] is defined by its own set of distinguishing characteristics. Yet if those same characteristics are found in a person belonging to a different varṇa, that person should be recognized strictly according to those characteristics and not according to that into which he or she was born. (SB 7.11.35)
किमत्र बहुनोक्तेन ब्राह्मणा येऽप्यवैष्णवाः।
न द्रष्टव्या न स्प्रष्टव्या न वक्तव्याः कदाचन॥
What need is there to elaborate further on this topic? Those who are not devotees of Bhagavān,though they be brāhmaṇas, should never be looked at, touched or even spoken to.
श्वपाकमिव नेक्षेत लोके विप्रमवैष्णवम्।
वैष्णवो वर्णबाह्योऽपि पुनाति भुवनत्रयम्॥
न शूद्रा भगवद्भक्तास्ते तु भागवता नराः।
सर्ववर्णेषु ते शूद्रा ये न भक्ता जनार्दने॥
A similar statement is found in the Māgha Māhātmya of the Padma Purāṇa (Uttara-khaṇḍa 224.53):
A brāhmaṇa who is not a devotee of Bhagavān should not be considered at par even with an outcaste who eats dogs. But a Vaiṣṇava, even if an outcaste, purifies the three worlds. Devotees of Bhagavān are never śūdras; they are the people of God. But those who are not devotees of Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa are śūdras, regardless of the varṇa they belong to.
स्मृतः सम्भाषितो वापि पूजितो वा द्विजोत्तम।
पुनाति भगवद्भक्तश्चाण्डालोऽपि यदृच्छया॥
O best among the twice born, if one somehow remembers, speaks to or worships a devotee of Bhagavān, he or she is purified, even if that devotee is an outcaste.
अन्यथा दोषश्रवणं च तत्रैव—
शूद्रं वा भगवद्भक्तं निषादं श्वपचं तथा।
वीक्षते जातिसामान्यात् स याति नरकं ध्रुवम्॥ इति।
One certainly goes to hell if one regards a devotee of Bhagavān from the mundane perspective of birth, and thus considers him a śūdra, or an outcaste from the tribes of wild hunters or dog-eaters.
भक्तिवैशिष्ट्येन तु वैशिष्ट्यमपि दृश्यते। यथा गारुडे—
If a devotee is blessed with a special quality of devotion, he or she is due a corresponding level of respect, as described in the Garuḍa Purāṇa (Pūrva-khaṇḍa 227.6-10):
मद्भक्तजनवात्सल्यं पूजायां चानुमोदनम्। मत्कथाश्रवणे प्रीतिः स्वरनेत्रादिविक्रिया॥
विष्णोश्च कारणं नृत्यं तदर्थे दम्भवर्जनम्। स्वयमभ्यर्चनं चैव यो विष्णुं नोपजीवति॥
भक्तिरष्टविधा ह्येषा यस्मिन् म्लेच्छेऽपि वर्तते। स विप्रेन्द्रो मुनिश्रेष्ठः स ज्ञानी स च पण्डितः।
तस्मै देयं ततो ग्राह्यं स च पूज्यो यथा हरिः॥ इति।
There are eight types of devotion: (1) affection for My devotees; (2) approval of My worship; (3) attachment to hearing My stories; (4) the upsurge of ecstatic symptoms of love—such as choking of the voice and tears in the eyes; (5) dancing for the pleasure of Viṣṇu, (6) giving up pretentiousness for Him; (7) personally attending to the worship of Viṣṇu; (8) and not using Viṣṇu to earn one’s livelihood. If these aspects of devotion are found even in an outcaste, such a person is the best of brāhmaṇas, the foremost of sages, one situated in awareness, and a scholar. One should offer charity to such a person and accept it from her or him, for she or he is as worshipable as Bhagavān Hari.
अत एवाह भगवान्—
न मे भक्तश्चतुर्वेदी मद्भक्तः श्वपचः प्रियः।
तस्मै देयं ततो ग्राह्यं स च पूज्यो यथा ह्यहम्॥ इति।
Therefore Bhagavān said:If a person knows the four Vedas but is not My devotee, he is not dear to Me, but a dog-eater who is My devotee, is dear to Me. One should offer charity to such a person and accept it from him, for he is as worshipable as I am.
अत एव ज्ञातभक्तिमहिम्ना सता दुर्वाससापि श्रीमदम्बरीषस्य पादग्रहणमप्याचरितम्। किन्तु अम्बरीषस्यानभीष्टमेव तदिति तत्रैव व्यक्तत्वात्। श्रीभगवता श्रीमदुद्धवादिभिश्च ब्राह्मणमात्रस्य वन्दनाच्च, इतरवैष्णवैस्तु तत् सर्वथा न मन्तव्यम् (भा. १०.६४.४१),
Therefore when Durvāsā understood the greatness of bhakti, he touched the feet of King Ambarīṣa, but Ambarīṣa had no desire to be honored in this way by a brāhmaṇa, as understood from the narration itself. Furthermore, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, Uddhava and others all bowed down to the brāhmaṇas. Consequently, Vaiṣṇavas who are not brāhmaṇas should in no way think themselves as superior to brāhmaṇas or desire to be honored by brāhmaṇas in the way that Ambarīṣa was honored by Durvāsā. To do so would be to transgress the order of Kṛṣṇa, as expressed in these words:
विप्रं कृतागसमपि नैव द्रुह्यत मामकाः।
घ्नन्तं बहु शपन्तं वा नमस्कुरुत नित्यशः॥
My beloved kinsmen, never harm a brāhmaṇa, even if he is guilty of an offense. Even if he attacks or curses you, you should salute him daily. (SB 10.64.41)
"श्वपाकमिव नेक्षेत" इत्यादिकं तु तद्दर्शनासक्तिनिषेधपरत्वेन समाधेयम्। दृश्यते च युधिष्ठिरद्रौपद्यादीनामश्वत्थाम्नि तथा व्यवहारः। वैष्णवपूजकैस्तु वैष्णवानामाचारोऽपि न विचारणीयः, "अपि चेत् सुदुराचारः" (गीता ९.३०) इत्यादेः।
Earlier in the same Anuccheda, we encountered this statement from the Padma Purāṇa:
A brāhmaṇa who is not a devotee of Bhagavān should not be considered at par even with an outcaste who eats dogs.
[This appears to contradict the above statement that a brāhmaṇa is to be respected regardless of his behavior.] This statement from the Padma Purāṇa should be understood to mean that one should not be attached to the company of such a brāhmaṇa, and not that one should disrespect him. This is how the two statements are to be reconciled. This type of behavior was observed in the treatment of Aśvatthāmā by Yudhiṣṭhira and Draupadī. [The latter two offered respect to Aśvatthāmā, the son of Droṇa, a brāhmaṇa, inspite of his animosity and violence toward the Pāṇḍavas who are Vaiṣṇavas.]
Those whose are naturally drawn to the worship of Vaiṣṇavas, however, should not judge even the conduct of Vaiṣṇavas, as Kṛṣṇa says in the Gītā:
Even though a person’s behavior may be abominable, if he worships Me with exclusive devotion, he should be considered saintly, because he is rightly resolved. (Gītā 9.30)
पुनाति सकलान् लोकान् सहस्रांशुरिवोदितः॥ इति।
Even if a devotee of Bhagavān Viṣṇu is ill-behaved and does not belong to any social order, he or she purifies all people, just as the rising sun drives away all darkness.
तदेतदुदाहृतमेव—"अहो बत श्वपचोऽतो गरीयान् यज्जिह्वाग्रे वर्तते नाम तुभ्यम्" (भा. ३.३३.७) इत्यादौ। अत्र श्वपचशब्दो यौगिकार्थपुरस्कारेणैव वर्तते। ततो दुर्जातित्वेन दुराचारत्वेनापि नावमन्तव्यस्तद्भक्तजनः, स्वावमन्तृत्वेन तु सुतराम्।
In this respect it was said earlier [Anuccheda 128]:
What a wonder! A dog-eater, on the tip of whose tongue Your name reverberates, is actually more honorable. The reason for this is that those who chant Your holy name have already performed austerities, conducted sacrifices, bathed in the holy places, carried out prescribed duties and studied the Vedas. (SB 3.33.7)
The word śva-paca is understood here in its etymological sense, as one belonging to a tribe of outcastes who cook and eat dog meat for their sustenance. Therefore a devotee of Bhagavān should not be disrespected even if he or she belongs to such a low birth or is ill-behaved. Furthermore, one should never disrespect a Vaiṣṇava who fails to offer one respect.
अत एवोक्तं गारुडे (पूर्व २२७.५-६)—
रूक्षाक्षरं तु शृण्वन् वै तथा भागवतेरितम्।
प्रणामपर्वं तं क्षान्त्या यो वदेद्वैष्णवो हि सः॥ इति।
One is certainly a Vaiṣṇava, who after hearing harsh words from a devotee, tries to appease him by offering obeisance and speaking sweetly. (Pūrva-khaṇḍa 227.5b6a)
तदेवं महदादिसेवा दर्शिता। अस्याश्च श्रवणादितः पूर्वत्वं, "महत्सेवां द्वारमाहुर्विमुक्तेस्तमोद्वारं योषितां सङ्गिसङ्गम्" (भा. ५.५.२) इत्युक्तेः।
We have thus discussed the importance of service to great devotees. This service to devotees precedes other types of devotion, such as hearing, as indicated in this statement of Bhagavān Rṣabha:
Service to the realized persons is the gateway to liberation, whereas the association of those who are addicted to women [opposite gender] is the gateway to darkness. (SB 5.5.2)
तेभ्यो महद्भ्यस्त्वन्यदपि किमपि परममङ्गलायनं जायते। यथा (भा. ११.२६.२८-३१)—
तेषु नित्यं महाभाग महाभागेषु मत्कथाः। सम्भवन्ति हि ता नृणां जुषतां प्रपुनन्त्यघम्॥
ता ये शृण्वन्ति गायन्ति ह्यनुमोदन्ति चादृताः। मत्पराः श्रद्दधानाश्च भक्तिं विन्दन्ति ते मयि॥
भक्तिं लब्धवतः साधोः किमन्यदवशिष्यते। मय्यनन्तगुणे ब्रह्मण्यानन्दानुभवात्मनि॥
यथोपश्रयमाणस्य भगवन्तं विभावसुम्। शीतं भयं तमोऽप्येति साधून् संसेवतस्तथा॥
In addition to ultimate liberation, other forms of great auspiciousness ensue from such realized persons, as stated by Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa:
तेषु "सन्तोऽनपेक्षा मच्चित्ताः" (भा. ११.२६.२७) इत्याद्युक्तलक्षणेषु।O greatly blessed Uddhava, stories about Me constantly flow in the midst of those highly fortunate people. These stories destroy the sins of those who hear them. Those who are dedicated to Me, who are full of reverence and trust for Me, and who listen to, sing, and approve of these stories, acquire devotion to Me. What remains to be achieved for the wise person who has attained devotion to Me, the receptacle of unlimited qualities, the Absolute and the embodiment of bliss and awareness? Just as cold, fear and darkness disappear by contact with fire, so apathy, fear of material existence and ignorance are dispelled by rendering service to sādhus. (SB 11.26.28-31)
"Those highly fortunate people" refers to sages who are blessed with the exemplary qualities described in the verse preceding these three:
The sages are free from hankering, their minds are fixed on Me, they are peaceful, they regard all with equal vision, they are liberated from the sense of “I” and “mine,” free from duality and devoid of all sense of proprietorship. (SB 11.26.27)
भक्तिं प्रेम। अत एवोक्तं श्रीरुद्रेण (भा. ४.२४.५७)—
In this group of verses, Kṛṣṇa says that those who hear narrations about Him in the midst of the sages attain bhakti, which here refers to prema, or divine love. Therefore Śrī Śiva said:
क्षणार्धेनापि तुलये न स्वर्गं नापुनर्भवम्।
भगवत्सङ्गिसङ्गस्य मर्त्यानां किमुताशिषः॥ इति।
Even a moment’s association with a devotee deeply attached to Bhagavān, cannot be compared with heaven or liberation, so what to speak of the petty blessings of mortal beings. (SB 4.24.57)
श्रीशौनकेनापि, "तुलयाम लवेनापि न स्वर्गम्" (भा. १.१८.१३) इत्यादि पूर्ववत्।
Śrī Śaunaka echoed the same words:
We cannot equate even a moment’s association of a devotee who is deeply attached to Bhagavān, with the attainment of heaven or liberation, so what to speak of the petty blessings desired by mortal beings. (SB 1.18.13)
तत्रानुषङ्गिकं फलं सदृष्टान्तमाह—यथेति। विभावसुमग्निम्। उपास्यबुद्ध्या श्रयमानस्य होमाद्यर्थं ज्वालयत इत्यर्थः। तस्य यथा शीतादिकमप्येति। भयं दुष्टजीवादिकृतम्, तथा साधून् सेवमानस्य कर्मादिजाड्यम्। आगामि संसारभयं तन्मूलमज्ञानं च नश्यतीत्यर्थः॥
Kṛṣṇa uses an example to draw our attention to the concomitant effects of service to realized persons. The word vibhāvasu, "abounding in light," is a name for fire. Kṛṣṇa refers to a person who lights a fire to perform a sacrifice with a deliberate attitude of worship. Yet, as a by-product of lighting the fire for worship, the person’s cold, fear and darkness disappear. In this analogy, fear refers to the danger presented by ferocious animals or humans of malicious intent. [Kṛṣṇa already stated that the true purpose of association with the sages is to attain bhakti, or love.] But as a by-product of rendering service to them, the inertia of being frozen in karma, the fear of future birth and death, and the darkness of ignorance—the very root of material existence—are all dispelled.
Commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji Maharaj
Vedic society was divided into four classes called varṇas. These were Brāhmaṇa, Kṣatriya, Vaiśya, and Śūdra. At present, the varṇa system, which was originally determined according to the nature of a person, has been transformed into a caste system where one's position is determined by birth. This is confirmed by the words of Nārada cited in this Anuccheda (7.11.35). Among the four varṇas, the Brāhmaṇa is considered a guru by mere birth, janmanā brāhmaṇo guruḥ (10.8.6), and thus to be respected by the other three varṇas.
However, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī, on the authority of various scriptural statements, shows that a Vaiṣṇava is superior even to a Brāhmaṇa who is not a Vaiṣṇava. The reason for this is that although a Brāhmaṇa is dear to Bhagavān, a Vaiṣṇava is more dear than a non-Vaiṣṇava Brāhmaṇa.
This does not, however, mean that a Vaiṣṇava should demand or expect respect from a non-Vaiṣṇava Brāhmaṇa. Humility is the basic ornament of a Vaiṣṇavas and thus a true Vaiṣṇavas is not proud or demanding of honor. He should always be respectful to a Brāhmaṇa, regardless of whether the Brāhmaṇa is a Vaiṣṇavas or not. This is the instruction given by Kṛṣṇa to His sons (10.64.41). This was seen in the behavior of King Yudhiṣṭhira and Draupadī who were respectful to Aśvatthāmā who was presented by Arjuna to them as a captive. Aśvatthāmā had massacred the five sons of Draupadī while they were sleeping at night. This was a very ghastly and immoral act on part of Aśvatthāmā, not befitting his status as a Brāhmaṇa.
One may raise a doubt on this. The verse from Padma Purāṇa (Uttara-khaṇḍa 224.53) cited in this Anuccheda says: “A brāhmaṇa who is not a devotee of Bhagavān should not be considered at par even with an outcaste who eats dogs. But a Vaiṣṇava, even if an outcaste, purifies the three worlds.”
This means that a non-Vaiṣṇava Brāhmaṇa should not be given respect. Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī writes that the import of the statement from Padma Purāṇa is not in treating a non-Vaiṣṇava Brāhmaṇa worse than a dog-eater outcaste, but to not be attached to seeing or associating with him. In other words a devotee should not develop an intimate relation with a non-devotee even if he or she is a Brāhmaṇa.
A Vaiṣṇava, however, should be giving due respect even if he or she is not of good conduct or born in a low family. In fact one should not retaliate with a Vaiṣṇava even if the latter disrespects one. Rather one should try to pacify such a Vaiṣṇavas by giving respect and speaking sweet words.
After explaining the conduct of a Vaiṣṇavas towards other Vaiṣṇavas and non-Vaiṣṇava Brāhmaṇas, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī continues to describe the importance of sat-saṅga. He says that sat-saṅga is effective even before one hears or chants about Bhagavān. If, however, one hear and chants in a sat-saṅga then it is most potent. All perfection can be attained by mere sat-saṅga. There is no other blessing that surpasses or compares to sat-saṅga. At any cost one should look for it. Sat-saṅga is the only thing that brings a spiritual revolution to one’s life. Without sat-saṅga one continues to wander aimlessly in the material world.
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Bhakti Sandarbha 243-245 : More Benefits of Sat-sanga
Bhakti Sandarbha 239: Sat-saṅga Brings Bhagavān Under Control
Bhakti Sandarbha 238 : Sat-saṅga Captivates Bhagavān
Bhakti Sandarbha 237: Guru-sevā is the Key to Success
Bhakti Sandarbha 236 : Sharanagati or Surrender
Bhakti Sandarbha 235 : Vaidhī Nirguṇā Bhakti
Bhakti Sandarbha 234 : Svarūpa-siddhā Niṣkāmā Bhakti
Bhakti Sandarbha 231-233 : Svarūpa-siddhā Bhakti and the Three Gunas
Bhakti Sandarbha 228-230: Mixed Bhakti desiring only pure bhakti
Bhakti Sandarbha 226-227 : Kaivalya-kāmā Bhakti mixed with karma and jnana