One Must Correctly Identify a Vaiava

by rla Bhakti Prajna Keava Gosvm Mahrja

[NOTE: This page uses Balarama font (available here) for better transliteration of Sanskrit into English. Click here for a non-Balarama version.]


Some Misconceptions


The mercy of r Guru and the Vaiavas is the one and only means by which a jva can attain the ultimate goal of life. Only by their mercy is it possible for him to obtain the merciful, sidelong glance of

the most compassionate r Bhagavn. This we have heard repeatedly.


We have also heard that the mercy of r Guru and the Vaiavas is causeless. It is never brought about by anything of this world, nor by the impersonal, undifferentiated state of any such thing. We fail to grasp the nature of that mercy as independent of any material cause, and therefore we often ascribe imagined characteristics to it. We may think that there is no need for us to serve with resolute determination and careful, ardent endeavour; we can simply continue following our own fancies and, by the grace of r Guru and the Vaiavas, all our cherished desires will one day suddenly come true. We may even think that to earnestly apply oneself in devotional service is but another expression of the mood to enjoy and a whimsical pursuit. Alternatively, we may imagine that bound jvas like us can realise our cherished desires independently, without the mercy of sdhus and r Guru.


Those who hold such opinions are unable to understand that the mercy of sdhus and the jvas intent desire to serve are one and the same. Their deceitful words reveal that they are not truly yearning, with a heart full of remorse, to receive the mercy of sdhus.


Why Identify the Level of a Vaiava?


The mahjanas, great realised souls, have explained the method to obtain the mercy of the Vaiavas:


ye yena vaiava, ciniy laiy dara kariba yabe

vaiavera kp yhe sarva-siddhi, avaya paiba tabe


One who has become qualified to discern the level of eligibility (adhikra) of those who have taken to the path of devotion and to thereby differentiate between the kaniha-bhakta (novice devotee), madhyamabhakta (intermediate devotee) and uttama-bhakta (advanced devotee), is duty-bound to honour those three types of Vaiavas appropriately. This is the meaning of the words ye yena vaiava.


It is improper to honour a kaniha-adhikr in a way that befits only an uttama-adhikr, or to deal

with a madhyama-adhikr as if he were a kanihaadhikr. Only when we respect Vaiavas in a manner befitting their respective qualification can we become free from knowingly or unknowingly

committing vaiava-apardha. Only then can we realise the transcendental, merciful form of the

Vaiavas, which bestows all desired perfection.


Therefore, the ability to correctly identify a Vaiava is indispensable. Simply by doing so, we are automatically filled with honour and affection for him. Upon recognising your brother, you are at once overcome by brotherly affection that is incomparably sweet. Our exclusive aim is to be able to recognise a Vaiava and consider him our property, our own dear well-wisher, and to develop an affectionate bond with him.


It is insufficient merely to dwell on how much the Vaiavas love us or consider us to be their own. This is because the personal satisfaction that comes from thinking we are loved by the Vaiavas is nothing but an external symptom of the desire for sense gratification, which lurks in the deepest region of our hearts. If, instead, we begin to measure how much we have become bound in affection to the Vaiavas, it indicates that we are on our way to attaining the very perfection of all desires. Until we can identify Vaiavas and develop an intimacy with them in which we regard them as our bosom friends, we will be unable to realise the true nature of their affection for us.


Divine and Mundane Qualities


But before we can begin identifying Vaiavas or developing close affection for them, there are many

issues we need to examine first. While trying to classify a Vaiava, we will discern, from the mundane

perspective, many fine qualities in him, just as we will also chance to see his faults. Commonly, we are

attracted by a Vaiavas modesty, affection, natural forbearance and generosity. We tend to assess

someones eligibility as a Vaiava solely by noting these virtues, which attract us and arouse in us a

semblance of affection for him.


It is important, and appropriate, for us to analyse and reflect upon the nature of these external virtues. By doing so we can determine whether or not we actually have darana of a Vaiava by observing such qualities in him and, as a result, becoming attached to him and showing him honour. A Vaiava should be identified and honoured on the basis of his vaiavat, or quality that best defines a Vaiava. This quality is the Vaiavas exclusive dedication to the service of r Viu, and it is this that comprises his real nature. If we want to identify a Vaiava, we need simply measure how dedicated he is to serving r Viu


. rla Kavirja Gosvm Prabhu has listed the twenty-six qualities of a Vaiava, among which the intrinsic characteristic (svarpa-lakaa) or defining

quality is exclusive surrender to r Ka (kaika-araa). The remaining twenty-five qualities

manifest under the shelter of this primary characteristic and further enhance its sweetness.

These qualities will surely be present in Vaiavas, along with their vaiavat, or hallmark, exclusive

surrender to r Ka. One cannot find a Vaiava who is not gentle and well-behaved; however, these

virtues develop according to the strength of his vaiavat.


The point here is that in enumerating these different qualities, rla Kavirja Gosvm is not

referring to our usual conception of them. From our mundane perspective, we may also detect the

qualities of a Vaiava that are listed by rla Kavirja Gosvm in persons who are not Vaiavas, such as the followers of varrama-dharma. In truth, however, it is impossible for a non-Vaiava to

possess the qualities of a Vaiava. Whatever is synonymous with the word vaikuha, which

denotes the abode of the Supreme Lord, is not limited, temporary and gross like the objects of this

world. But everything else indicated by the words of this world is entirely worthless. Therefore, only

extremely superficial observers will think that the qualities of a Vaiava can also be found in non-



For instance, rla Kavirja Gosvm has listed magnanimity (vadnyat) as a Vaiava quality. An ordinary person can be magnanimous according to the conventional meaning (aja-rh-vtti) of the word. But this adjective cannot be applied to anyone except a Vaiava when it is given its truest and most profound sense (vidvat-rh-vtti).


Our Misguided Vision


But who will look out for the superlative quality of a Vaiava? Only he who has realised its supremacy.

In other words, only that person who has himself developed a service attitude will appreciate the

importance of honouring this defining characteristic of a Vaiava. Only to he who has surrendered without duplicity are all the virtues of a Vaiava revealed in their true aspect. Such a person alone beholds the transcendental and extraordinary qualities of a Vaiava, without likening them to mundane qualities and thus inviting offences.


But we are devoid of a service attitude; and therefore

we cannot comprehend this secret of recognizing a Vaiava by his vaiavat. All too often we are

attracted by a Vaiavas other qualities, like his ample affection. We praise his patience, tolerance and other external virtues, but we should bear in mind that a Vaiavas qualities are not objects for our sense gratification. If the qualities I detect in a Vaiava, like affection and patience, do not inspire me to engage in the service of r Viu and the Vaiavas, and do not lead me to become attracted to his vaiavat, then it should be understood that I have been unable see their true aspect. In other words, I have simply been trying to satisfy my senses.


All the qualities of a Vaiava are certainly present in every Vaiava. If according to our material vision we conclude that rla Kadsa Kavirja Gosvm Prabhu was a poet, but that r ivnanda Sena or r Govinda, the servant of rman Mahprabhu, were not all that poetic, then we have not properly understood the Vaiavas quality of being poetic (kavitva). Rather, by considering rla Kavirja Gosvm to be an ordinary author, we merely see in him a rare and exceptional material talent the gift of poetry.


Those with material intelligence are unable to judge a Vaiava by his exclusive surrender to r Ka (kaika-araa). They consider him an ordinary person, and end up seeing his faults and assessing his vaiavat by looking at what is merely a semblance of his virtues. When they see the grave disposition of a particular Vaiava, they will liken it to the gravity of a common man and praise him, considering

this virtue to be the sole benchmark of his vaiavat. But if another Vaiava conceals his gravity, they will not consider him to be a Vaiava or, even if they do, they will say that he is not as grave as that first Vaiava. Their words are as meaningless as the statement a stone container made of gold.



I begin my journey to hell by being envious of a Vaiava, seeing in him the semblance of faults, which are unpleasant to my senses. And I suffer equally by being affectionate to a Vaiava upon seeing in him

the semblance of good qualities, which are pleasing to my senses. In both cases, my vision is limited to the mundane realm, and I am not fortunate enough to be able to recognise the transcendental Vaiava.

Hence, in trying to find a Vaiava, we should not simply end up selecting someone who possesses

mundane qualities or who is devoid of them.



A Concern


The mahjanas have stated: vaiava cinite nre devera akati it is impossible even for the demigods to properly identify a Vaiava. This may lead me to wonder how I a helpless and feeble being who is

ignorant and foolish can ever hope to recognise a Vaiava? How will I be able to understand his

vaiavat? As long as I remain ignorant of sambandha-tattva, the principle of ones relationship with r Ka, and continue to lack faith in the mercy of the Vaiavas, I will be subject to various types of

misgivings and be deprived of this mercy.


One Vaiava has given a very beautiful and remarkably logical answer to this question. It is indeed

true, he said, that the demigods themselves are unable to recognise a Vaiava, but why should this be cause for concern. The emperor may be unable to recognize my mother, but that will hardly prevent me from being able to recognise her, even if I were but a tiny baby.


When I was an infant, I did not understand what relationship my mother had with me, nor was I able to

realise her deep love and affection for me. Although I was ignorant, it does not follow that my mother was not my mother at that time or that I was deprived of her affection. I always remained related to her and did not forego her maternal affection, despite being unable to understand who she is. Nourished by her love I have now attained adulthood and am able to appreciate how she is related to me and what maternal affection is. During infancy, I did not understand my mother; therefore, I could not realise the sweetness of her affection, although she showered me with it. But I have now grown into an adult through her love and nurturing. By her affection and mercy, I am now able to realise who she is and have now developed a feeling of possessiveness (mamat) towards her.


When the practising devotee attains madhyamaadhikra, he is able to ascertain the eligibility of a Vaiava and show him due affection. Only then is he able to receive the mercy of the Vaiavas. It is also by the mercy of the Vaiavas that one reaches the madhyama stage. Indeed, their mercy is at play at all times. Only by the compassion of the Vaiavas does the jva who is averse to Bhagavn and full of

anarthas develop the tendency to chant the holy name of Bhagavn in the kaniha level. But the

kaniha-adhikr is unable to realise this, and this is what makes him a kaniha devotee.


The Vaiavas shower their mercy upon the kaniha-adhikr without his knowing it, and this

mercy covertly and imperceptibly elevates him to the madhyama level. Then, only by the mercy of the

Vaiavas does he develop the ability to discern what level a Vaiava is on and offer him due respect. We do not need to create our relationship with the Vaiavas, for it is eternal. Our objective is simply to

realise that relationship, and this is possible only by the strength of their mercy. Why, then, should we

have any concern about being unable to identify Vaiavas.


We Really Made the Vaiavas Our Own?


The degree to which I have been able to make a Vaiava my property and honour him can be

measured by one criteria only: how indifferent or apathetic I have become towards non-Vaiavas,

realising that they have no relation with me. Unless one is wholly indifferent towards non-Vaiavas, that is, has no relationship with them at all, one has no hope of ever developing a sense of kinship with the Vaiavas.


Our conviction that the Vaiavas belong to us develops in proportion to our feeling that non-

Vaiavas are outsiders. This is not mere talk. If I really wish to be related to the Vaiavas, I must first

renounce my attachment to non-Vaiavas. If my mother, father, brothers, friends and so-called close

relatives become hostile to the service of the Vaiavas and to the supreme conscious Entity, then I

will have to become wholly indifferent to them, regarding them as unrelated to me in any true sense.

This includes my very own body and mind. Until I attain such determination, to think of the Vaiavas as my property is nothing but deceit. A person cannot have possessiveness towards or kinship with the

Vaiavas while considering non-Vaiavas to be related to him the two are mutually contradictory.


Translated from Sri Gaudiya Patrika, Year 7, Issue 2
by the Rays of The Harmonist team.
Published in English for the first time in Rays of The Harmonist No. 14 Karttika 2004

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