Book excerpts Sri Upadesamrta Verse 5: Service Rendered by an Intermediate Devotee to the Three Kinds...

Verse 5: Service Rendered by an Intermediate Devotee to the Three Kinds of Vaiṣṇava

कृष्णेति यस्य गिरि तं मनसाद्रियेत
दीक्षास्ति चेत् प्रणतिभिश्च भजन्तमिशम् ।
शुश्रूषया भजनविज्ञमनन्यमन्य-
निन्दादिशून्यहृदमीप्सित सङ्गलब्ध्या ॥५॥

kṛṣṇeti yasya giri taṁ manasādriyeta
dīkṣāsti cet praṇatibhiś ca bhajantam īśam
śuśrūṣayā bhajana-vijñam ananyam anya-
nindādi-śūnya-hṛdam īpsita-saṅga-labdhyā

ādriyeta – one should respect; manasā – within the mind; tam – that person (a neophyte devotee); yasya giri – in whose speech; iti – thus (appears); kṛṣṇa – one name of Kṛṣṇa; (one should offer respect) praṇatibhiḥ – by offering praṇāma; ca – also; bhajantam – an intermediate devotee who, being endowed with the correct understanding of reality and illusion, performs bhajana in accordance with Vaiṣṇava conventions; īśam – Śrī Bhagavān; cet – if; asti – he has; dīkṣā – accepted initiation from a qualified guru; (and) labdhyā – having obtained; īpsita-saṅga – the association for which one hankers (the association of a topmost devotee whose heart is established in the particular mood of service to Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa for which one aspires and who is affectionately disposed towards oneself); śuśrūṣayā – with all types of service (such as offering daṇḍavat-praṇāma, making relevant inquiry and rendering service); (one should respect) bhajana-vijñam – a self-realised, expert mahā-bhāgavata Vaiṣṇava who performs bhajana of Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa’s eightfold daily pastimes by rendering service mentally; ananyam – who is an exclusive devotee of Śrī Kṛṣṇa; anya-nindādi-śūnya-hṛdam – and whose heart, due to his undeviating absorption in Kṛṣṇa, is free from faults such as the tendency to criticise others.

One who takes kṛṣṇa-nāma just once by calling out “O Kṛṣṇa!” is a neophyte devotee (kaniṣṭha-adhikārī). One should consider him to be his family member and silently respect him. One who, fully understanding the principle of dīkṣā, has accepted initiation from a qualified guru and performs bhajana of Bhagavān in accordance with Vaiṣṇava conventions is an intermediate devotee (madhyama-adhikārī). One should respect such a devotee who is endowed with the correct understanding of reality and illusion by offering praṇāma unto him and so forth. One who is conversant with the science of bhajana as described in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and other Vaiṣṇava scriptures and who performs exclusive bhajana of Śrī Kṛṣṇa is a mahā-bhāgavata devotee. Due to his undeviating absorption in Kṛṣṇa, the pure heart of such a devotee is free from faults such as the tendency to criticise others. He is expert in bhajana, meaning that he mentally renders service (mānasa-sevā) to Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes that take place during the eight segments of the day (aṣṭa-kālīya-līlā). Knowing him to be a topmost devotee whose heart is established in the particular mood of service to Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa for which one aspires and who is also affectionately disposed towards oneself, one should honour him by offering daṇḍavat-praṇāma (praṇipāta), making relevant inquiry (paripraśna) and rendering service (sevā) with great love.


This verse gives instruction on svarūpa-siddha-bhakti[1]. We should respectfully offer praṇāma to those who have accepted initiation from a qualified guru. In all ways we should lovingly serve those who perform exclusive bhajana of Śrī Kṛṣṇa by mānasa-sevā and who are expert in the procedure of worshipping Kṛṣṇa’s aṣṭa-kālīya-līlā, knowing them to be the most desirable association. The meaning of “exclusive bhajana” is to be solely devoted to the worship of Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa in Vraja, without attachment for Lakṣmī-Nārāyaṇa or other incarnations of Bhagavān. It says in Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu that amongst the exclusive devotees of the many different incarnations of Bhagavān, those whose hearts have been stolen by Śrī Nanda-nandana are the best because even the favour of the master of Lakṣmī, Śrī Nārāyaṇa, cannot attract their minds. Because such exclusive devotees are forever alert to cultivate bhakti in the company of those topmost devotees who are expert in relishing devotional mellows (rasika), as well as being like-minded and affectionate, their hearts are always free from contaminations such as the tendency to criticise others. Knowing these topmost devotees to be the most desirable association, one should respect them mentally, offer praṇāma unto them and render service to them with great love.

Another meaning of this verse can be given. One should respect within the mind those who have accepted initiation from a qualified guru and chant kṛṣṇa-nāma. One should respect those who have accepted initiation from a bona fide spiritual master (sad-guru), who have developed an understanding of sambandha-jñāna[2] and who perform bhajana purely, by offering praṇāma to them and so forth. The best devotees are those who are devoid of the tendency to blaspheme others and who, being exclusively devoted to Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa, are forever alert to render service mentally to Their aṣṭa-kālīya-līlā. Knowing such devotees to be established in the particular mood of service to Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa for which one aspires, affectionately disposed towards oneself and the topmost association, one should honour them in all respects by offering prostrated obeisance (praṇipāta), making relevant inquiry (paripraśna) and rendering service (sevā) with great affection. One should understand the eminence of Vaiṣṇavas according to this gradation.

In the original verse by Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī, the word ādi, meaning “and so forth”, has been used after the word ninda, which means to criticise. We should understand this to indicate envy, aggression and other faults that generally accompany the tendency to criticise others. In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (3.25.24) Kapiladeva says:

ta ete sādhavaḥ sādhvi
saṅgas teṣv atha te prārthyaḥ
saṅga-doṣa-harā hi te

O Sādhvi (virtuous lady), the only desirable association is that of pure-hearted sādhus who always remain aloof from all varieties of bad association. By the influence of their association, the contaminations accrued through bad association can be eradicated.


According to the instruction given in this verse, as long as a sādhaka remains within the madhyama-adhikārī stage, he is obliged to render service to devotees. The topmost devotee (uttama-bhakta) sees all living entities with equal vision. Therefore he does not discriminate between devotees and non-devotees. The intermediate devotee (madhyama-bhakta) is one who sincerely endeavours to perform bhajana. This fifth verse indicates how madhyama devotees should behave towards the topmost class of devotees. If one remains aloof from the association of non-devotees, sense enjoyers, and men who are attached to women, their faults will not come within him. Still, understanding neophyte devotees (kaniṣṭha-bhaktas) to be ignorant due to their lack of knowledge of sambandha-tattva, the madhyama devotee should be merciful to them. Hearing such neophyte devotees uttering kṛṣṇa-nāma, a madhyama devotee will respect them within his mind. If a kaniṣṭha devotee accepts initiation and engages in hari-bhajana, a madhyama devotee will show him respect by offering praṇāma to him. Understanding the association of mahā-bhāgavata Vaiṣṇavas, who are free from the tendency to criticise others, to be most beneficial, one should honour them by rendering service to them. This service alone is the root cause of all spiritual perfections.


In Bhakti-sandarbha (868) Śrī Jiva Gosvāmī defines the procedure known as vaiṣṇava-dīkṣā in the following statement:

divyaṁ jñānaṁ yato dadyāt
kuryāt pāpasya saṅkṣayam
tasmād dīkṣeti sā proktā
deśikais tattva-kovidaiḥ

That process which bestows transcendental knowledge (divya-jñāna) and destroys sinful desires for material sense enjoyment is called dīkṣā by learned authorities in the absolute truth.

One should silently respect a devotee who, knowing that Śrī Kṛṣṇa and śrī-kṛṣṇa-nāma are non-different and transcendental and that the holy name alone is the supreme object of worship, takes exclusive shelter of kṛṣṇa-nāma and is devoted to chanting. The mantras that the disciple receives at the time of dīkṣā consist entirely of śrī-nāma, and the names that form the basis of those mantras are endowed with specific knowledge of the disciple’s relationship with the Lord. Without taking shelter of harināma, one cannot become hari-jana, a member of Kṛṣṇa’s family. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu determined the gradations in Vaiṣṇavas through showing the gradations in their faith in harināma. One who has chanted the holy name just once is a (kaniṣṭha) Vaiṣṇava. One who constantly chants the holy name is a superior (madhyama) Vaiṣṇava. The topmost Vaiṣṇava (uttama or mahā-bhāgavata) is he at the mere sight of whom others automatically begin chanting the holy name. One should respect the kaniṣṭha Vaiṣṇava within one’s mind. One should respect the madhyama Vaiṣṇava by offering praṇāma to him and so forth. Knowing the uttama Vaiṣṇava to be the topmost devotee who is established in the particular mood of service to Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa for which one aspires and to be affectionately disposed towards oneself, one should serve him with great love.

  1. Because the mahā-bhāgavata devotees see everything as being related to Kṛṣṇa, they see all living entities with equal vision. Like madhyama-adhikārī devotees, they are intent on performing bhajana, and like kaniṣṭha-adhikārī devotees, they are devoted to chanting harināma.
  2. Madhyama-adhikārīs possess prema for Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and they respect the three levels of Vaiṣṇavas – uttama, madhyama and kaniṣṭha – by rendering service, offering praṇāma and offering respect within the mind, respectively. They always endeavour to turn the living entities who are averse to Kṛṣṇa towards Him. They are indifferent to those who are inimical to Him. They do not see all living entities with equal vision as the uttama-adhikārī mahā-bhāgavata devotees do. If they fraudulently imitate the mahā-bhāgavata devotee, they will very quickly fall down from their position.
  3. The kaniṣṭha-adhikārī devotees take full shelter of the chanting of śrī-kṛṣṇa-nāma, knowing it to be supremely beneficial. But they don’t realise that the position of the madhyama-adhikārī is above their present position and that they should strive to reach that position at sometime in the future. Sometimes the kaniṣṭha-adhikārī falls down due to considering himself a guru. Therefore, carefully giving appropriate respect to the uttama devotees, they should take full shelter of the holy name.


[1] All favourable endeavours (ceṣṭā) such as śravaṇa, kīrtana, smaraṇa and so on, as well as the manifestation of the spiritual sentiments which occur beginning from the stage of bhāva, which are completely devoid of all desires separate from Śrī Kṛṣṇa and which are freed from the coverings of jñāna and karma, are known as svarūpa-siddha-bhakti. In other words all endeavours of the body, mind and words that are related to Śrī Kṛṣṇa and that are performed exclusively and directly for His pleasure without any intervention are known as svarūpa-siddha-bhakti.

[2] Sambandha-jñāna is knowledge regarding sambandha-tattva, the mutual relationship between the Lord, the living entities and the material energy. The word sambandha means connection, relationship or binding. The living entities are eternally and inseparably connected to the Supreme Lord. Therefore He is the true object of relationship. The general relationship between the living entities and the Supreme Lord is one of servant and served. However, in the perfectional stage of bhakti, one becomes established in a specific relationship with the Lord either as a servant, friend, parent or lover.

[CC-by-ND GVP]

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