~ Jagad Guru Chris Butler (Siddhaswarupananda Paramahamsa)

Two types of bad association

"The proper Vaisnava behavior is to avoid asat-sanga or bad company that influences a person to disrespect a sadhu. Bad association is of two kinds; the first is association with women, which means either to have illicit connection with a woman other than one's wife, or to be excessively fond of one's own wife. The scriptures approve only a proper regulated relationship with one's wife. Keeping company with a licentious or henpecked man also falls within this first category of asat-sanga or bad association.

Non-devotees are of three kinds

"The second type of bad association is to mix with non-devotees. There are three kinds of non-devotees: the mayavadi, the dharmadhvaji (pretender), and the nirisvara (atheist). Mayavadis do not accept that the Supreme Lord's form is eternal. They say the Deity form of the Lord is illusory or maya, and that the jiva is also a product of maya. A dharmadhvaji is a person who has no devotion or attachment in the heart but makes a show of it externally. He wears the clothes of a devotee to accomplish materialistic ends. A nirisvara is a non-believer, an atheist. A serious aspirant or sadhaka must shun such bad association. If anyone argues that criticizing such non-devotees is sadhu-ninda, his company must also be meticulously avoided. One has to keep away from bad association and take complete shelter of the holy name. Only then is love of Godhead ensured.

The kanistha-Vaisnava

"The neophyte devotee (kanistha-adhikari Vaisnava) displays a faith that is formal, even worldly. He worships the Deity but has not developed an interest in serving a Vaisnava sadhu. He is almost a Vaisnava, but is not a real Vaisnava yet, hence he is not able to take full spiritual advantage of sadhu-sanga. A neophyte will have to receive a pure Vaisnava's blessings to advance spiritually.

The madhyama-Vaisnava

"If a madhyama Vaisnava (intermediate devotee) develops loving affection for Lord Krsna, friendship with Lord Krsna's devotees, compassion for the innocent, and evades the company of atheists, he quickly becomes a pure devotee. He alone becomes eligible to chant the pure name.

The uttama-Vaisnava

"A pure devotee of the highest level sees Lord Krsna manifest everywhere and knows that everything rests in Him. Indeed, he sees that Lord Krsna is his life and soul. He is unconcerned with distinctions of who is a Vaisnava and who is not; his whole life revolves around the holy name. To him, the holy name is the essence of everything.

Activities according to a Vaisnava's status

"A madhyama- Vaisnava is always engaged in serving sadhus. The madhyama-Vaisnava stage marks the beginning of pure Vaisnavism. He is required to distinguish the Vaisnava from the non-Vaisnava; serving the pure Vaisnava is his necessity. If he neglects to differentiate among the grades of Vaisnavas then he stands to commit Vaisnava-aparadha. He has to continuously evaluate the Vaisnavas and serve the pure Vaisnava. The uttama- Vaisnava does not see any distinction whatsoever between a Vaisnava or a non-Vaisnava, or between enemy and friend; how will he then serve a Vaisnava? How will he distinguish a Vaisnava from the non-Vaisnava?

"The scriptures declare that a neophyte Vaisnava (one who is almost a Vaisnava) can chant in the stage of namabhasa, the clearing stage. A madhyama- Vaisnava is worthy of chanting the pure name: therefore he must always carefully avoid the offenses or namaparadha. The uttama-Vaisnava can never commit any offense, because he perceives Lord Krsna everywhere.

"Now, every sadhaka must consider these points calmly and reflect upon his real position. First, he must stop sadhu-ninda. Then he should chant with firm faith, according to his status as a Vaisnava. It is therefore essential that he recognize his own position. The devotee's activities should center around association with sadhus, service to sadhus, the chanting of the holy name and a constant attitude of compassion for all living entities.

Remedies for sadhu-ninda

"If anyone offends a sadhu in a moment of delusion and madness, he must fall at the sadhu's feet and repent bitterly; weeping and full of contrition, he must beg forgiveness. He should declare himself a fallen wretch in need of a Vaisnava's grace. A sadhu is very merciful; his heart will soften and he will embrace the offender, thus exonerating him from his offenses.

"I offer this explanation of the first of ten namaparadhas at Your lotus feet."

One who is like a bumblebee attracted to the lotus feet of Srila Haridasa Thakura will find the power of life itself in this Harinama Cintamani.