HEAR from a liberated pure devotee of Krishna.

To hear the glories of the Lord from his liberated pure devotee is the first and most important principle if we want to become happy. This is very important to understand. Failure to do this will result in us experiencing a sense of unhappiness. If we are prone to depression, anxiety or hopelessness then we need to rectify the quality of our sadhu sanga, and ensure we are daily serving the uttama bhakta by hearing from him.

“The topmost benediction for those who are living in this material world and are subjected to the repetition of birth and death is association with pure devotees. One should search out such pure devotees and remain with them. That will make one completely happy, even though living within the material world.” SB 4.30.34 purport

There are two types of pure devotees:

You may have heard of the analogy of an ‘unripe mango’ and ‘ripe mango’ to describe the different types of pure devotees. A pure devotee who is compared to an unripe mango has a pure intention to love Krishna, but does not yet love Him. Such a pure devotee is still contaminated by the influence of the three modes of material nature. The ‘ripe mango’ pure devotee refers those whose dormant love of Krishna has awoken, and they have no trace of material contamination.

In order to be happy, we need the association of the ripe mango pure devotee whose love for
Krishna has awoken and who has no material contamination.

“The summary is that one has to first of all seek the association of pure devotees who not only are learned in the Vedanta but are self-realized souls and unalloyed devotees of Lord Sri Krishna, the Personality of Godhead.” S.B. 1.5.34 purport So far we have understood that to become happy we need to seek out the association of a self-realized pure devotee. Such devotees are technically known as uttama bhaktas, or the topmost devotees. Having achieved such a pure devotee’s association we must serve them by hearing from them.

“One should take shelter of a pure devotee, who has nothing to do with this material world but is simply engaged in devotional service. By serving him only, one can transcend the qualitative
material condition. In this verse it is recommended (yogesvara-upasanaya) that one serve the lotus feet of the topmost yogi, or the devotee. To serve the topmost devotee means to hear from him about the glories of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” SB 4.22.22

Questions / My lights:

Question 1: How can I find such an uttama bhakta? And even if I find him, how can I always hear from him, since I have many worldly commitments?

Question 2: I have my own diksha guru whose books I read or whose lectures I listen to. Does this not fulfil the principle of hearing from an uttama bhakta?

Question 3: Is there any sastric evidence that a madhyama bhakta can give initiation, and that they should encourage their disciples to hear from the uttama bhakta?

Question 4: Am I suggesting that the current diksha and siksha gurus in ISKCON are not uttama

Question 1: How can I find such an uttama bhakta? And even if I find him, how can I always hear from him, since I have many worldly commitments?

My light 1: Srila Prabhupada is a universally recognized uttama bhakta. His own god-brothers have lauded him as being a shaktyavesa avatara, a teacher who is empowered by Krishna. His association is always available to us in the form of his vani, his lectures and his purports. He especially wanted us to continue to associate with him via his purports. What is my evidence?
“Therefore our method is to accept the perfect guru to understand the subject matter. But still, if one reads the books as it is from authorities, there is chance of understanding.” Room conversation
– April 22, 1976, Melbourne

In Srimad Bhagavatam 1.2.18 purport, Srila Prabhupada again reassures us that by associating with the book form of the Bhagavata we can derive the same benefit as associating with the Bhagavata in person:

“There are two types of Bhagavatas, namely the book Bhagavata and the devotee Bhagavata. Both the Bhagavatas are competent remedies, and both of them or either of them can be good enough to eliminate the obstacles.”

In a press interview, Srila Prabhupada makes it clear that as the book Bhagavata he will continue to be available to us and he wants us to take his association:

“Reporter (2): What will happen to the movement in the United States when you die? Prabhupada: I will never die. I shall live forever in my books, and you will utilize.” Press conference – July 16, 1975, San Francisco

Srila Prabhupada makes this same point in several places. Here’s an excerpt from a lecture on
Srimad Bhagavatam 1.1.1 – New York, July 6, 1972:
“So you European, American students, you take full advantage of this Vedic culture. I am therefore so much laboring hard that we, before my leaving this body, I may give you some books you can enjoy after my death. So utilize it. Utilize it. Read every sloka nicely, try to understand the meaning, discuss amongst yourselves. Nityam bhagavata-sevaya. That is our mission. Nasta-prayesv abhadresu nityam bhagavata-sevaya [SB 1.2.18]. Abhadra, we have got so many dirty things within our heart. So these dirty things can be cleansed simply by Krishna consciousness.”

In a question & answer session at the end of a lecture on Bhagavad-gita 17.1-3 Honolulu, July 4,
1974, Srila Prabhupada says:
Your guru is writing books. If you think, “There is no necessity of reading books,” that is guror avajna. Do you mean to say I am writing these books whole night for selling and making money? Why do you think like that?”

On a similar theme, Srila Prabhupada says during a morning walk in Toronto on August 7, 1975:
“So in my absence you read the books. What I talk, I have written in the books…you can associate with me by reading my books.”

I also looked up the phrase “you may please me the most” and it only came up in connection to
READING Srila Prabhupada’s books. In a letter to Bahurupa das on 22 Novemberr 1974, Srila
Prabhupada concludes his message by writing:
“You may please me the most by reading my books and following the instructions therein and by becoming fully Krishna Conscious in this life time.”

In conclusion: if you are not already doing so, start daily studying Srila Prabhupada’s purports and listening to his lectures. This is a crucial adjustment we all need to make if we want to become happy in this life time.

Question 2: I have my own diksha guru whose books I read or whose lectures I listen to. Does this not fulfill the principle of hearing from an uttama bhakta?

My light 2: Your guru may be an uttama or he may be a madhyama (a green mango). It is hard to distinguish between the two if we ourselves are neophytes on the path of bhakti. Certainly
madhyamas can give initiation, but they need to connect us to the uttama bhakta. Srila Prabhupada is our founder acharya, and the whole vaishnava world acknowledges him as an uttama bhakta.

Therefore, as a general policy it is good practice for all other gurus to encourage and assist their
disciples to associate with him.

Question 3: Is there any sastric evidence that a madhyama bhakta can give initiation, and that they should encourage their disciples to hear from the uttama bhakta? 

Answer 3: Here is some evidence that a madhyama bhakta can legitimately give initiation: On page 34 of Easy Journey to Other Planets, Srila Prabhupada writes with regard to the 13th milestone achieved by a bona fide disciple:

“He must not take on unlimited disciples. This means that a candidate who has successfully
followed the first twelve items can also become a spiritual master himself, just as a student becomes a monitor in class with a limited number of disciples.”

But such a spiritual master is contrasted with the uttama spiritual master whose association is vital for all aspirants on the path of bhakti. This uttama spiritual master is described in Easy Journey to Other Planets pages 32-33:
“A bona fide spiritual master who is fully cognizant of the methods of spiritual science, learned in the spiritual scriptures such as the Bhagavad-gita, Vedanta, Srimad-Bhagavatam and Upanisads, and who is also a realized soul who has made a tangible connection with the Supreme Lord, is the transparent medium by which the willing candidate is led to the path of the Vaikunthas. The spiritual master must be satisfied in all respects, because simply by his good wishes a candidate can make wonderful progress along the path.”

Question 4: Am I suggesting that the current diksha and siksha gurus in ISKCON are not uttama bhaktas?

My light 4: No, I am not making such a value judgement. Since I myself am not a self-realized soul, and since I am merely in the early stages of anartha nivritti, I am not in a position to be able to accurately judge who is and who is not a self-realized soul. I am just pointing out that happiness is the natural by-product of regularly hearing from a self-realized soul. (Please refer to the evidence from SB 4.30.34 purport cited previously)

I am also saying that Srila Prabhupada wanted us to continue to associate with him via his purports.

I am also saying that since in general neophyte devotees are ill-equipped to make accurate
assessments of other’s standing in devotional service, it is good policy to encourage all of us to hear from Srila Prabhupada. Certainly, if we are currently not happy, this is a sensible adjustment to make in our lives.

Here’s one of Srila Prabhupada’s lectures with instructions on hearing: