Found in Sanga, Sanga 2000.

Q. I can’t help notice that the followers of other spiritual traditions seem to have more compassion, awareness, and kindess than a lot of Gaudiya Vaisnavas that I know. Could it be other spiritual traditions in the west are going about it step by step and the Gaudiya Vaisnavas have missed some important lessons?

A. I understand what you are experiencing. Gaudiya Vaisnavism is a very high theology, and very prone to misunderstanding. Careful study of the scripture reveals that a true devotee is an integrated person in the sense that he or she has actually imbibed the essence of all that precedes devotion in the way of socioreligious life, renunciation and knowledge. Such a person is rare.

Bhakti is the topmost yoga, being beyond liberation in its reach. It is also so because of its generosity. It is the generosity of Bhakti Devi that we both complain about and can’t do without. When she gives herself to another who has no particular qualification other than faith in the efficacy of bhakti, that unqualified person becomes a devotee, but he or she is not a high-grade devotee. If that devotee practices sincerely and always keeps association with advanced devotees, bhakti will gradually manifest herself more and more. However, sometimes such neophyte devotees do not avail themselves to the culture of bhakti or to good association. They also commit offenses, and in this way Bhakti Devi does not manifest in their heart for some time. They are glorious still, yet their full glory is suspended, and they may even become a disturbance to the society of devotees for some time.

Meanwhile other types of spiritual practitioners, whose ideal is not as high as that of suddha-bhakti, more readily attend that which is pertinent to their practice. This sometimes includes the ideals of socioreligious life and the culture of knowledge and renunciation. Today it often includes working on psychological dysfunctionality, social welfare, right livelihood, environmental concerns, humility, kindness to others, and so on.

These things are closer to them in terms of their ideal, and practitioners directly work on developing themselves in these areas. In such practitioners we may see good qualities that we do not see in neophyte devotees.

Many of these neophytes have their heads in the spiritual cloud of unknowing. They are unknowing about all that precedes attaining the highest devotion that makes one a balanced person. Or they inordinately do not care about it in the name of the highest devotion. While it is true that simply through bhakti one can attain the highest ideal, one who practices should develop in other areas via bhakti as he or she proceeds to that goal. The devotees should look for these developments in their character, such as humility, tolerance, kindness to all beings, and so on.

They should look for this, rather than the darsana of Krishna, for why would Krishna show himself to those who offend his holy name in the name of devotion? When humility like the blade of grass and tolerance like the tree appear in the devotee, such a devotee has passed beyond offensive chanting, attaining nistha-kirtaniya sada harih.

Who will not be attracted to such a devotee, Krishna included? He will pay attention to them through the medium of his advanced devotees, telling them that “in such and such devotee you have a receptive ear to pour the nectar of my pastimes into.” This nectar will enter the heart, and ruci-bhakti will manifest.

The fortunate devotee who develops this taste will have no taste for the things of this world; money, sex, followers, or even knowledge. Neither will samsara be a problem for this blessed soul. Thus the appearance of these things—humility, tolerance, and kindness to all beings—indicate that one is developing through bhakti all that is included within it—and that bhakti proper is not far away.

Q. In a previous Sanga you wrote, “The most intimate union of Radha-Krishna is Mahaprabhu.” Could you please elaborate?

A. The highest stage of love in union (sambhoga) between Radha and Krishna is called adhirudha-madana-mahabhava. It is said to be manifest in Radha during union with Krishna, and unmanifest during her separation (vipralambha) from him. However, in separation from Krishna its power in Radha enables her to experience Krishna in many ways merely by thinking of him. Indeed he becomes present during this intense separation. Thus it affords union amidst feelings of separation and craving for further union.

This is what Mahaprabhu is all about in his search for Radha-prema. Radha is the only shelter of this highest love that is intensified mahabhava. In order for Krishna to experience it he must take on Radha’s bhava. This is only possible through the culture of bhavollasa-rati, or Radha-snehadhika-prema (manjari-bhava). Thus Mahaprabhu taught this through Rupa Goswami.

Q. Many people are concerned about editing and changes done to Prabhupada’s books. Could you comment?

A. I am not really aware of the editorial policy that the BBT follows at this time. Overall, we should not be fanatical. We must have a practical side to our understanding of Sri Guru.

There is some scope for editing, but it must be done properly. Prabhupada wanted his English to be polished by his disciples. One of Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura’s disciples commented with regard to our param gurudeva’s writings in English, “If a word appears misspelled, the dictionary should be changed!” Although this sentiment was appreciated, another disciple suggested that it would be better to present Guru Maharaja in such a way that the public would be able to appreciate his writing. The latter is a higher idea, one that Prabhupada embraced.

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