Book excerpts Sri Upadesamrta VERSE 6: It is Forbidden to View the Transcendental Vaiṣṇavas with Material...

VERSE 6: It is Forbidden to View the Transcendental Vaiṣṇavas with Material Vision

दृष्टैः स्वभावजनितैर्वपुषश्च दोषैर्
न प्राकृतत्वमिह भक्तजनस्य पश्येत् ।
गङ्गाम्भसां न खलु बुद्बुदफेन पङ्कै
र्ब्रह्मद्रवत्वमपगच्छति नीरधर्मैः ॥६॥

dṛṣṭaiḥ svabhāva-janitair vapuṣaś ca doṣair
na prākṛtatvam iha bhakta-janasya paśyet
gaṅgāmbhasāṁ na khalu budbuda-phena-paṅkair
brahma-dravatvam apagacchati nīra-dharmaiḥ


na paśyet – one should not consider a devotee to be an ordinary mundane person; prākṛtatvam dṛṣṭaiḥ – seeing with material vision; svabhāva-janitaiḥ – due to the defects stemming from his nature, such as birth in a low caste, harshness, lethargy and so forth; ca – and; doṣaiḥ – due to the faults; vapuṣaḥ – of the body, such as ugliness, disease, deformities and so forth; bhakta-janasya – the devotee of Bhagavān; iha – situated in this world; brahma-dravatvam – (just as) the nature of liquified transcendence; gaṅgāmbhasām – of the water of the Ganges; na khalu apagacchati – is never lost; budbuda-phena-paṅkaiḥ – by the presence of bubbles, foam, mud and so on; nīra-dharmaiḥ – which exist simply due to the nature of water.


Devotees situated in this material world should not be viewed with material vision; in other words one should not consider them to be ordinary conditioned souls. The imperfections visible in their natures, such as birth in a low caste, harshness, lethargy and so forth, and the imperfections visible in their bodies, such as ugly features, disease, deformities and so on, are precisely like the appearance of bubbles, foam and mud in the Ganges. Despite such apparent pollution in the water of the Ganges, she retains her nature as liquefied transcendence. Similarly the self-realised Vaiṣṇavas always exist on the transcendental plane and one should not attribute material defects to them.


Due to their residing within the material world, pure devotees seem to have some apparent defects from the mundane perspective. Nevertheless, we should not consider such devotees to be material or, in other words, to be ordinary conditioned souls. If one notices imperfections in their natures, such as harshness, anger, greed and so forth, or imperfections in their bodies, such as lack of cleanliness, ugliness, aging and so on, he should never assign mundane attributes to them. It is impossible for these mundane imperfections to exist within devotees’ spiritually perfected bodies. Therefore to perceive these mundane defects in elevated devotees is offensive. This point has been made clear by the example of Ganges water.


The instruction of this sixth verse is that it is improper to perceive mundane defects in pure devotees and to consider them to be mere conditioned souls. It is impossible for pure devotees to fall into bad association or to commit offences to the holy name. Perhaps there can be some imperfections in their bodies and in their natures. Lack of cleanliness, deformity, ugliness, old age and so forth are bodily imperfections. Birth in a low caste, harshness, lethargy and so forth are imperfections in one’s character. The water of the Ganges is considered to be pure despite the natural appearance of bubbles, foam, mud and so on within it, and its nature as liquefied transcendence is not lost. Similarly, Vaiṣṇavas who have realised their eternal identities are not contaminated by the natural transformations of the physical body such as birth, aging, death and so on. Therefore even upon observing imperfections in a pure Vaiṣṇava, one intent on performing bhajana should never disrespect him. By disrespecting such a personality, one becomes an offender (aparādhī).


One should not perceive the apparent defects in the bodies or characters of pure devotees by viewing such devotees with mundane vision. Just as the water of the Ganges forever remains transcendental though it is mixed with bubbles, foam and mud, similarly, pure devotees are always transcendental. To view them on the basis of mundane considerations is offensive. Śrī Kṛṣṇa, in Bhagavad-gītā (9.30–31), has also warned to beware of this:

api cet sudurācāro
bhajate mām ananya-bhāk
sādhur eva sa mantavyaḥ
samyag vyavasito hi saḥ

kṣipraṁ bhavati dharmātmā
śaśvac chāntiṁ nigacchati
kaunteya pratijānīhi
na me bhaktaḥ praṇaśyati

If even the most ill-behaved person intently engages in exclusive devotional service unto Me, he is worthy of being considered a saintly person due to his intelligence being fixed on that devotion. He quickly becomes righteous and attains eternal peace. O son of Kuntī, attest that My devotee never perishes.

Even though a devotee of Kṛṣṇa may not be born in a brāhmaṇa family or a gosvāmī line, to not refer to him as “Gosvāmī” or “Prabhu” is considered viewing him with mundane vision. Devotees born in gosvāmī lines and those born in any other caste should be treated equally. Regardless of the caste in which a devotee has taken birth, to assign material attributes to him is offensive. But if any person who has made any degree of progress along the path of bhakti considers himself a devotee and begins engaging in material misconduct, he will certainly fall from the path of bhakti. By coming into contact with such persons, one’s bhakti is destroyed.

Some people, being proud of their birth in a brāhmaṇa family or similarly high lineage, are unable to grasp either the impeccable conduct or the elevated spiritual thought of perfected devotees (siddha-bhaktas). Due to this, they disrespect Vaiṣṇavas in varieties of ways and become offenders at the feet of Vaiṣṇavas (vaiṣṇava-aparādhīs). Therefore, in this matter, sādhakas should remain very careful.

[CC-by-ND GVP]

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