NBS 4: Pure and Mixed Devotion

Chapter 4

NBS 51

anirvacanīyaṁ prema-svarūpam
Synonyms: 
anirvacanīyam — beyond description; prema — of mature love of God; svarūpam — the essential identity.
Translation: 
The true nature of pure love of God is beyond description.
Purport: 

Although Nārada has been expertly analyzing bhakti from the beginning stages up to parā bhakti, he now says that it is inexpressible. Bhakti is particularly inexplicable to unqualified persons. Until a person practices devotion with faith, how can he know of it just by inquiring from a sage? Sometimes when devotees would ask Śrīla Prabhupāda questions on subjects that were beyond their ability to understand, he would give the analogy of a small boy trying to understand sexual pleasure. Because the child is physically immature, he cannot know what sex is, but once he reaches puberty, he automatically understands. When I first began typing Prabhupāda's manuscript of Teachings of Lord Caitanya, I was curious about some esoteric aspects of parā bhakti. Lord Caitanya described that when a devotee reaches perfection, he chooses to follow a particular eternal resident of Vṛndāvana and learn of his own rasa from that resident. In March of 1967 I wrote to Prabhupāda asking more about this subject. He replied as follows:

When we are in the perfect stage of devotional service, we can know our eternal relation with Krishna, and as such one of the associates of Lord Krishna becomes our ideal leader. This acceptance of leadership by one of the eternal associates of the Lord is not artificial. Do not therefore try it at present; it will be automatically revealed to you at the proper time.

It is not only immature young bhaktas who are barred from understanding parā bhakti. This advanced stage of devotion is even beyond the ability of erudite scholars to fathom. Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja writes, "The pastimes of Lord Kṛṣṇa are uncommonly full of transcendental potency. It is characteristic of such pastimes that they do not fall within the jurisdiction of experimental logic and arguments" (Cc. Antya 19.103). Rūpa Gosvāmī echoes this statement: "The activities and symptoms of that exalted personality in whose heart love of Godhead has awakened cannot be understood even by the most learned scholar" (Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.4.17).

To say that bhakti is inexpressible is not merely an evasive reply given to an outsider. In the higher stages especially, bhakti is inconceivable. The most intense expression of love of Godhead was displayed by Lord Caitanya. As described in Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Śrī Kṛṣṇa wanted to know the love that Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī felt for Him, and so He appeared as Lord Caitanya. Lord Caitanya's ecstatic feelings and expressions were recorded in notes kept by Svarūpa Dāmodara Gosvāmī, memorized by Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī, and related by Raghunātha dāsa to Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī. But in telling these pastimes in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja confessed his limitations:

Even Anantadeva, who possesses thousands of mouths, cannot fully describe the ecstatic transformations that Lord Caitanya experienced in a single day. What can a poor creature like me describe of those transformations? I can give only a hint of them, as if showing the moon through branches of a tree. This description, however, will satisfy the mind and ears of anyone who hears it, and he will be able to understand these uncommon activities of deep ecstatic love for Kṛṣṇa. Ecstatic love for Kṛṣṇa is wonderfully deep. By personally tasting the glorious sweetness of that love, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu showed us its extreme limits. [Cc. Antya 17.64-67]

Although prema-bhakti is beyond words, whatever can be conveyed by authorized devotees is appreciated by those who are sincere and faithful. Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja says,

Just try to hear these topics with faith, for there is great pleasure even in hearing them. That hearing will destroy all miseries pertaining to the body, mind, and other living entities, and the unhappiness of false arguments as well. [Cc. Antya 19.110]

A Vaiṣṇava compares the pastimes of Lord Kṛṣṇa or Lord Caitanya to the unlimited sky. Many birds fly in the sky, but some fly higher according to their abilities. In the society of devotees, realized souls share their realizations, but no one presumes to describe all the qualities or pastimes of Kṛṣṇa. Bhakti can therefore be partially expressed, but its totality is inconceivable and inexpressible. When Lord Caitanya was about to teach Rūpa Gosvāmī, He said,

My dear Rūpa, please listen to Me. It is not possible to describe devotional service completely; therefore I am just trying to give you a synopsis of the symptoms of devotional service. The ocean of the transcendental mellow of devotional service is so big that no one can estimate its length and breadth. However, just to help you taste it, I am describing but one drop. [Cc. Madhya 19.136-37]

NBS 52

mūkāsvādana-vat
Synonyms: 
mūkā — of a mute; āsvādana — the tasting; vat — like.
Translation: 
[Trying to describe the experience of pure love of God] is like a mute's effort to describe what he tastes.
Purport: 

Even a qualified devotee may not be able to put his exact experience of love of God into words. Language has its limits for conveying experience, but it may function like the branch of the tree that helps us locate the moon in the sky. In describing the gradual development of bhakti to Rūpa Gosvāmī, Lord Caitanya compared it to an intensifying taste of sweetness:

Gradual development of love of God may be compared to different states of sugar. First there is the seed of the sugar cane, then sugar cane, and then the juice extracted from the cane. When this juice is boiled, it forms liquid molasses, then solid molasses, then sugar, candy, rock candy, and finally lozenges. [Cc. Madhya 19.179]

Lord Caitanya went on to describe the combination of devotional ecstasies known as sāttvika and vyabhicārī: "These tastes are like a combination of yogurt, sugar candy, ghee, black pepper, and camphor, and are as palatable as sweet nectar" (Cc. Madhya 19.182). There is nothing deceptive or incomplete in this language, and yet it is language—the branch pointing to the moon in the sky. After hearing of the taste of love of Godhead, a devotee should aspire for that love and practice devotional service so that he may taste it for himself.

Nārada does not say that the subject matter of bhakti is something so vague and inconceivable that it can never be known or spoken of. His point is that the individual and ultimate experience is so wonderful that it is very hard to describe. One should not glibly say, "I know everything about love of Kṛṣṇa." Although the gopīs always chanted the glories of Lord Kṛṣṇa, they were sometimes struck dumb. Śrīla Prabhupāda writes,

Spiritual feelings of happiness and intense ecstasies have no mundane comparison. Therefore it is very difficult to give expression to such feelings. We can have just a glimpse of such ecstasy in the words of Śrī Nārada Muni. [SB 1.6.17, purport]

NBS 53

prakāśyate kvāpi pātre
Synonyms: 
prakāśyate — it is revealed; kva api — sometimes; pātre — to a fit recipient.
Translation: 
Nonetheless, from time to time pure love of God is revealed to those who are qualified.
Purport: 

A mahā-bhāgavata devotee, or the Lord Himself, is pleased to find a fit candidate for understanding the inexpressible meanings of bhakti-yoga. The transference of knowledge in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is, in one sense, very straightforward. Śrīla Prabhupāda used to criticize the story of a disciple who said that he received knowledge from his guru by a method similar to receiving an electric shock. Lord Kṛṣṇa taught Arjuna by the process of question and answer, and one may still faithfully study Kṛṣṇa's lucid words for enlightenment in bhakti-yoga. As always, therefore, the process of receiving the teachings of bhakti-yoga is to serve the spiritual master, inquire from him, and hear his paramparā instructions.

And yet learning the science of bhakti-yoga is not an ordinary transference of knowledge, as when a professor writes lessons on a blackboard and his students write them down. Only if the spiritual teacher is actually potent and the students are purely receptive can the teacher plant the seed of bhakti (the bhakti-latā-bīja) in their hearts. How that seed fructifies in a student's heart is not understandable by material calculations. Śrīla Prabhupāda writes,

Human reason fails to understand how by serving the devotee bhāgavata or the book bhāgavata one gets gradual promotion on the path of devotion. But actually these are the facts explained by Śrīla Nāradadeva, who happened to be a maidservant's son in his previous life. [SB 1.2.18, purport]

Although the guru-disciple relationship is a subtle one, it can be understood by the standard qualifications of both persons. For example, although Nārada was a young boy, the bhaktivedānta sages who visited his home found him a fit candidate, and so they blessed him. Nārada recalls the incident:

Although they were impartial by nature, those followers of the Vedānta blessed me with their causeless mercy. As far as I was concerned, I was self-controlled and had no attachment for sports, even though I was a boy. In addition, I was not naughty and I did not speak more than required. [SB 1.5.24]

The sages at Naimiṣāraṇya praised the speaker Sūta Gosvāmī in a similar way:

And because you are submissive, your spiritual masters have endowed you with all the favors bestowed upon a gentle disciple. Therefore you can tell us all that you have scientifically learned from them. [SB 1.1.8]

For realization of the most advanced spiritual knowledge, such as the pastimes of Lord Caitanya, the devotee has to be extremely well qualified. As Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja says, "Unto one who is able to understand, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has shown mercy by giving him the association of the servant of His own servant" (Cc. Madhya 2.83). The spiritual knowledge Lord Caitanya conveyed to Rāmānanda Rāya was so completely out of the range of mundane vision that Lord Caitanya said that "only a madman can understand it." Lord Caitanya confided to Rāmānanda:

Please rest assured that I have nothing to hide from you. Even if I do try to hide something from you, you are such an advanced devotee that you can understand all My secrets.... The facts which I have disclosed to you cannot be understood by materialistic people. When they hear of this, they will simply laugh at Me. You can understand this yourself and keep it to yourself. [Teachings of Lord Caitanya, p. 346]

In his later years, when Lord Caitanya exhibited His pastimes of entering intensely into the mood of Rādhārāṇī in separation from Kṛṣṇa, He shared this rasa only with His most intimate devotees, such as Rāmānanda Rāya and Svarūpa Dāmodara. They could understand the Lord's moods, which sometimes produced displays of seeming madness and which ordinary words or behavior could not express. "Only a person on the level of Svarūpa Dāmodara Gosvāmī can fully know what Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu tastes in His love for Kṛṣṇa" (Cc. Antya 18.22).

Nārada Muni's point in this sūtra is that even when bhakti cannot be expressed in words, its essence can be manifest by the ecstatic symptoms of one great soul and appreciated by other great souls. When Lord Caitanya felt an ecstatic mood coming on but there were nondevotees present, He would try to restrain His outward manifestations of ecstatic love. For example, when Lord Caitanya first met Rāmānanda Rāya, they embraced and almost lost consciousness, overwhelmed by the ecstatic love of Kṛṣṇa and the gopīs. But some stereotyped, ritualistic brāhmaṇas were present at that time, and they doubted the propriety of the interaction between the Lord and Rāmānanda. According to Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja, "While the brāhmaṇas were thinking in this way about the activities of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and Rāmānanda Rāya, Lord Caitanya saw the brāhmaṇas and restrained His transcendental emotions" (Cc. Madhya 8.28).

We should not think that only a fixed number of intimate devotees can receive the bhakti-śakti, and that we are obviously not among the chosen. The ācāryas advise us that if we keep striving, one day each one of us may uncover our original, dormant Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Moreover, Lord Caitanya surpassed all previous ācāryas, bhaktas, and incarnations by very liberally distributing intimate love of God. Anyone who is receptive to the saṅkīrtana movement of Lord Caitanya can therefore be quickly elevated to the platform where he can understand the inexpressible experiences of bhakti-yoga. In appreciation for this liberality of Lord Caitanya, Rūpa Gosvāmī composed a prayer:

namo mahā-vadānyāya kṛṣṇa-prema-pradāyate
kṛṣṇāya kṛṣṇa-caitanya nāmne gaura-tviṣe namaḥ

"I offer my respectful obeisances unto the Supreme Lord, Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya, who is more magnanimous than any other avatāra, even Kṛṣṇa Himself, because He is bestowing freely what no one else has ever given—pure love of Kṛṣṇa."

NBS 54

guṇa-rahitaṁ kāmanā-rahitaṁ pratikṣaṇa-vardhamānam avicchinnaṁ sūkṣma-taram anubhava-rūpam
Synonyms: 
guṇa — material qualities; rahitam — devoid of; kāmanā — material desire; rahitam — devoid of; prati-kṣaṇa — at every moment; var-dhamānam — increasing; avicchinnam — uninterrupted; sūkṣma-taram — most subtle; anubhava — consciousness; rūpam — as its form.
Translation: 
Pure love of God manifests as the most subtle consciousness, devoid of material qualities and material desires, increasing at every moment, and never interrupted.
Purport: 

What passes for love in the material world often sounds and appears like bhakti, at least to those who are untrained in devotional service. But Nārada Muni makes it clear in this sūtra that bhakti is always different from material loving affairs.

The word guṇa-rahitam means "above the modes of nature." Nārada has already mentioned this quality of bhakti in Sūtra 47. Bhakti is not like any kind of behavior governed by the modes of ignorance, passion, or goodness. We should never think that Lord Kṛṣṇa's pastimes with the gopīs and cowherd boys are mundane. Kṛṣṇa's pastimes are, in fact, the original activities of love, and whatever resembles love in any way within this material world comes originally from Kṛṣṇa. As Śrīla Prabhupāda explains in Kṛṣṇa, p. 27:

If there is any opulence within this material world, the cause of the opulence is Kṛṣṇa. If there is any reputation within this material world, the cause of the reputation is Kṛṣṇa. If there is any strength within this material world, the cause of such strength is Kṛṣṇa. If there is any wisdom and education within this material world, the cause of such wisdom and education is Kṛṣṇa. Therefore Kṛṣṇa is the source of all relative truths. [Kṛṣṇa, p. 27]

The word kāmanā-rahitam means "without selfish desire." This quality, too, has appeared before—in Sūtra 27, where Nārada said, "There is no question of lust in the execution of devotional service in pure love of God, because in it all material activities are renounced."

Unlike the pleasure that comes from exchanges of material so-called love, the pleasure of bhakti is pratikṣaṇa-vardhamānam (increasing at every moment) and avicchinnam (uninterrupted). This is the nature of the Lord's spiritual pleasure potency, known as hlādinī-śakti, which conducts the loving exchanges between Kṛṣṇa and His devotees. In sex passion, satiation soon brings an end to the mounting feelings of pleasure, but in the loving exchanges between Kṛṣṇa and His eternal associates there is an eternal competition, bringing ever-increasing pleasure. Kṛṣṇa is very pleased to see the beauty of His gopīs, and when the gopīs see that Kṛṣṇa is pleased with them they become many times more happy, and this increases their beauty. In turn, this increases Kṛṣṇa's beauty and pleasure. And so the devotee and the Lord enjoy loving exchanges, but without interruption.

Unlike mortal love affairs, in bhakti the love does not break by quarrel or death of one of the partners. Lord Caitanya describes the bliss of saṅkīrtana as ānandāmbudhi-vardhanam, "increasing the ocean of transcendental bliss." Because the Supreme Lord is Himself ever increasing and always fresh, the devotee is never bored or unfaithful and is never cheated.

Bhakti is also sūkṣma-taram, subtler than the subtlest thing. As described in the Bhagavad-gītā (3.42): "The working senses are superior to dull matter; mind is higher than the senses; intelligence is still higher than the mind; and he (the soul) is even higher than the intelligence." So the subtle exchanges of loving emotion between the pure souls and their beloved Lord are completely unlike material love, which is really nothing but lust.

NBS 55

tat prāpya tad evāvalokayati tad eva śṛṇoti tad eva bhāṣayati tad eva cintayati
Synonyms: 
tat — it; prāpya — having obtained; tat — Him; eva — alone; avalokayati — one looks at; tat — Him; eva — alone; śṛṇoti — one hears about; tat — Him; eva — alone; bhāṣayati — one speaks about; tat — Him; eva — alone; cintayati — one thinks about.
Translation: 
Having obtained pure love of God, one looks only at the Lord, hears only about Him, speaks only of Him, and thinks only of Him.
Purport: 

Lord Kṛṣṇa describes this stage of perfection in the Bhagavad-gītā (6.30),

yo māṁ paśyati sarvatra sarvaṁ ca mayi paśyati
tasyāhaṁ na praṇaśyāmi sa ca me na praṇaśyati

"For one who sees Me everywhere and sees everything in Me, I am never lost, nor is he ever lost to Me." Śrīla Prabhupāda writes,

Such a person may appear to see all the separate manifestations of the material nature, but in each and every instance he is conscious of Kṛṣṇa, knowing that everything is a manifestation of Kṛṣṇa's energy." [Bg. 6.30, purport]

This is samādhi, or trance, and whether one achieves it by the eightfold yoga system or by bhakti-yoga, it is the same. In the case of the bhakti-yogī, he is fixed in devotional service at all times, and whatever he sees contributes to his meditation on Kṛṣṇa.

To help us understand pure Kṛṣṇa consciousness, the ācāryas give us examples of samādhi-like states, even in ordinary affairs. When a mother sees the shoes of her little child, she doesn't just perceive them as neutral objects: she feels protection and love for her child. Similarly, when a lover picks up his beloved's comb (especially if he is in separation from her) he may feel intense emotions of love. In the case of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, everything is His energy. So wherever the bhakta goes or whatever he perceives throughout the universe, he is reminded of the Lord. Moreover, this recognition is not merely an intellectual habit but a total, overpowering state of love.

In his Brahma-saṁhitā (5.38), Lord Brahmā describes the devotional qualification for seeing Kṛṣṇa always and everywhere:

premāñjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocanena
santaḥ sadaiva hṛdayeṣu vilokayanti
yaṁ śyāmasundaram acintya-guṇa-svarūpaṁ
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi

"I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, who is Śyāmasundara, Kṛṣṇa Himself, with inconceivable, innumerable attributes, and whom the pure devotees see in their heart of hearts with the eye of devotion tinged with the salve of love."

In his purport, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī writes,

The eye of devotion is nothing but the eye of the pure unalloyed spiritual self of the jīva. The form of Kṛṣṇa is visible to that eye in proportion to its purification by the practice of devotion.

What prevents most of us from seeing Kṛṣṇa with eyes of love? We have a "cataract" on our eyes that consists of our material attachments. As Śrī Kṛṣṇa states,

nāhaṁ prakāśaḥ sarvasya yoga-māyā-samāvṛtaḥ
mūḍho 'yaṁ nābhijānāti loko mām ajam avyayam

"I am never manifest to the foolish and unintelligent. For them I am covered by My internal potency, and therefore they do not know that I am unborn and infallible" (Bg. 7.25). Lord Kṛṣṇa does not hide from us; He wants us to be with Him. He is like the sun that always blazes in the sky. No cloud is big enough to cover the sun, but from our earthly vantage point even a small cloud can block our view of the sun. In the same way, the clouds of our desire and hatred prevent us from seeing our beloved Lord and block us from enjoying the happiness and peace that come from serving Him. To realize Kṛṣṇa consciousness, therefore, we have to rise above our upādhis, the false designations that make us think the body is the self and make us identify with our mental concoctions.

Nārada is describing the ultimate stage of bhakti. This stage is rare, but one can achieve it by the mercy of the Vaiṣṇavas who teach bhakti-yoga. One who reads the Vedic literature with a speculative attitude will never know Kṛṣṇa. But we can attain His grace if we work in bhakti-yoga, guided by His representatives. Śrīla Prabhupāda writes,

When one is fully engaged in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, beginning by chanting the mahā-mantra—Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare—then only can one understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead. [Bg. 7.24, purport]

NBS 56

gauṇī tridhā guṇa-bhedād ārtādi-bhedād vā
Synonyms: 
gauṇī — secondary, mixed with the material modes; tridhā — threefold; guṇa — of the material modes; bhedāt — by the differentiation; ārta — of the one who is distressed; ādi — and so on; bhedāt — by differentiation; — or.
Translation: 
Secondary devotional service is of three kinds, according to which of the three material modes predominates, or according to which material motivation—distress and so on—brings one to bhakti.
Purport: 

It may seem as if we have been suddenly dropped from the heights. Nārada has been describing the highest stage of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, and now he is discussing secondary devotion. But Nārada's course of instruction is well planned, practical, and realistic. He wants us to attain the higher stages, but, as Lord Kṛṣṇa says, vāsudevaḥ sarvam iti sa mahātmā su-durlabhaḥ: "The great soul who can see Kṛṣṇa everywhere is very rare" (Bg. 7.19). Nārada is therefore bringing our attention to the anarthas within the minds and habits of aspiring bhaktas so that we can work toward the higher stages and not consider pure love of Kṛṣṇa an unattainable dream. On the other hand, if one tries to jump to the higher stages as if such a leap were easy, that is another mistake (committed by the prākṛta-sahajiyās), which causes a great disturbance to both oneself and society.

The preparatory stages of bhakti are called secondary devotion, and they are necessary for those who are still affected by the modes of nature. Lord Kṛṣṇa describes the motivations for such secondary devotion in the Bhagavad-gītā (7.16):

catur-vidhā bhajante māṁ janā sukṛtino 'rjuna
ārto jijñāsur arthārthī jñānī ca bharatarṣabha

"O best among the Bhāratas, four kinds of pious men begin to render devotional service unto Me: the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of the Absolute."

This Bhagavad-gītā verse occurs just after Lord Kṛṣṇa describes the four kinds of persons who never surrender to the Lord. Those who are devoted to the Supreme Lord, even while seeking to fulfill material desires, are called sukṛtinaḥ, or pious souls. Their good qualification is that they have turned to God. In the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (2.3.10), Śukadeva Gosvāmī encourages everyone, no matter what his present condition, to take up kṛṣṇa-bhakti:

akāmaḥ sarva-kāmo vā mokṣa-kāma udāra-dhīḥ
tīvreṇa bhakti-yogena yajeta puruṣaṁ param

"A person who has broader intelligence, whether he be full of all material desire, without any material desire, or desiring liberation, must by all means worship the supreme whole, the Personality of Godhead."

The sukṛtīs who are not yet on the platform of unalloyed devotion can be purified by association with pure devotees. Of course, if one remains stuck in this lower stage, then he will be discontented. What prevents a devotee from advancing is the desire for bhukti (enjoyment of material objects) or mukti (liberation). In the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.2.22), Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī describes bhukti and mukti as two witches who haunt the conditioned souls and keep them from experiencing the bliss of bhakti. Actual devotional service is anyābhilāṣitā-śūnya, service rendered favorably to the Lord without desire for material profit or speculation (see Bhagavad-gītā 7.16, purport).

The devotees who serve Kṛṣṇa in order to satisfy selfish desires are called sakāma-bhaktas. Those who serve purely, without such desires, are akāma devotees. When a sakāma devotee continues to render devotional service, the Supreme Lord turns him from a sakāma—into an akāma-bhakta. The devotee begins to realize that the taste of serving Kṛṣṇa is the real goal and pleasure, and his desires for other things begin to dwindle. This auspicious change of heart occurs by the potency of Śrī Kṛṣṇa working through the process of bhakti. As stated in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (5.19.27),

The Supreme Personality of Godhead fulfills the material desires of a devotee who approaches Him with such motives, but He does not bestow benedictions upon the devotee that will cause him to demand benedictions again. However, the Lord willingly gives the devotee shelter at His feet, even though such a person does not aspire for it, and that shelter satisfies all his desires. That is the Supreme Personality's special mercy.

Lord Kṛṣṇa substitutes the nectar of His service for one's attraction to petty things. Who else could do this but the merciful and all-knowing Personality of Godhead? The stage of secondary devotion, therefore, is not meant for permanent residence; rather, it is an auspicious stage from which to go forward. Since any progress the conditioned soul makes toward the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord is favorable for him, secondary devotional service is not unimportant, just as the first steps a baby takes as he attempts to walk are crucial for his development.

NBS 57

uttarasmād uttarasmāt pūrva-pūrvo śreyāya bhavati
Synonyms: 
uttarasmāt uttarasmāt — than each later one; pūrva-pūrvaḥ — each earlier one; śreyāya bhavati — is to be considered better.
Translation: 
Each earlier stage should be considered better than the one following it.
Purport: 

Worship of the Lord in the mode of goodness (sattva) is better than worship in passion (rajas), and worship in the mode of passion is better than worship in ignorance (tamas). In His teachings to His mother, Lord Kapiladeva explains devotional service executed under the influence of the three modes:

O noble lady, there are multifarious paths of devotional service in terms of the different qualities of the executor. Devotional service executed by a person who is envious, hypocritical, violent, and angry, and who is a separatist, is considered to be in the mode of darkness. The worship of Deities in the temple by a separatist, with a motive for material enjoyment, fame, and opulence, is devotion in the mode of passion. When a devotee worships the Supreme Personality of Godhead and offers Him the results of his activities in order to free himself from the inebrieties of fruitive activities, his devotion is in the mode of goodness. [SB 3.29.7-10]

In his purport to this passage, Śrīla Prabhupāda explains the key word bhinna-dṛk, meaning "possessed of a separatist vision":

The word "separatist" must be understood carefully.... A separatist is one who sees his interest as separate from that of the Supreme Lord. Mixed devotees, or devotees in the modes of passion and ignorance, think that the interest of the Supreme Lord is supplying the orders of the devotee; the interest of such devotees is to draw from the Lord as much as possible for their sense gratification. This is the separatist mentality.

Still, despite their separatist mentality, such mixed devotees are blessed, for if they begin executing devotional service under the guidance of teachers who are in pure goodness (śuddha-sattva), they can be gradually elevated to pure bhakti. As stated in the verse previously quoted (SB 2.3.10), all classes of worshipers are encouraged to turn to the supreme father, even with their material desires. In his purport Śrīla Prabhupāda writes, "As the unmixed sun ray is very forceful and is therefore called tīvra, similarly unmixed bhakti-yoga of hearing, chanting, etc. (tīvreṇa bhakti-yogena [SB 2.3.10]), may be performed by one and all, regardless of inner motive."

NBS 58

anyasmāt saulabhyaṁ bhaktau
Synonyms: 
anyasmāt — than anything else; saulabhyam — ease of attainment; bhaktau — in devotional service.
Translation: 
Success is easier to attain by devotional service than by any other process.
Purport: 

Nārada assures us that everyone can speedily advance by practicing bhakti-yoga—because it is the easiest way. This is an extremely important qualification, especially for us in the present age, the Age of Kali. As stated in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.1.10),

prāyeṇālpāyuṣaḥ sabhya kalāv asmin yuge janāḥ
mandāḥ su-manda-matayo manda-bhāgyā hy upadrutāḥ

"O learned one, in this iron age of Kali men have but short lives. They are quarrelsome, lazy, misguided, unlucky, and, above all, always disturbed."

The characteristics of the people of this age are all disqualifications for spiritual life. In previous millennia the human condition was much more favorable for spiritual advancement. In the Satya-yuga almost all people were in the mode of goodness, and society was peaceful and religious. At that time the recommended form of religion was meditation. The sage Vālmīki is said to have meditated sixty thousand years before writing the Rāmāyaṇa, and Kardama Muni meditated ten thousand years. As the millennia proceeded from Tretā to Dvāpara, human society degraded more and more. Five thousand years ago, when Lord Kṛṣṇa recommended aṣṭāṅga-yoga to Arjuna, Arjuna rejected it, saying it was impractical and impossible for him. We should not maintain grandiose conceptions of what we are able to perform nowadays but should face the facts of our near-bankrupt condition of spirituality. "Here is the easiest path," says Nārada, and we should grab at his offer as a drowning man grabs for a life raft.

Even in former ages, when more difficult processes were recommended, the goal was always bhakti, or devotion to the Supreme Lord. In this age the most accessible form of bhakti is saṅkīrtana, or congregational chanting of the holy names of God. It is recommended as the yuga-dharma, or religion of the age. As stated in the Bṛhan-nāradīya Purāṇa, "In the Age of Kali no effective means of God realization is possible except the chanting of the holy names." The same thing is recommended in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, where the nine sages known as the Yogendras declare that in Kali-yuga intelligent persons will take to the process of saṅkīrtana. And Śukadeva Gosvāmī tells Mahārāja Parīkṣit that the chanting of the holy names is the saving grace of this age:

kaler doṣa-nidhe rājan asti hy eko mahān guṇaḥ
kīrtanād eva kṛṣṇasya mukta-saṅgaḥ paraṁ vrajet

"My dear king, although Kali-yuga is full of faults, there is still one good quality about this age: simply by chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra, one can become free from material bondage and be promoted to the transcendental kingdom" (SB 12.3.51).

In ignorance and defiance of the recommended yuga-dharma, unauthorized teachers make a business of teaching yoga and meditation. But since almost no one is qualified to practice the severe austerities of meditation, streamlined versions are taught, which are mostly a form of cheating. Even if a person seriously takes up the path of karma-yoga, jñāna-yoga, or aṣṭāṅga-yoga, he will meet with many difficulties. For example, the jñānī may become very attached to accumulating knowledge for its own sake, up to the point where he tries to merge with the Absolute Truth. The karma-yogī, or man of action, too often forgets to dedicate his activities to God and instead becomes attached to the fruits of his work or to fame. The aṣṭāṅga-yogīs, if they are able to progress at all in the eightfold system, are liable to get sidetracked by the siddhis, or powers, that come to them. But bhakti, by its very nature, purifies one's senses, actions, and motives. Moreover, one doesn't have to go painfully and slowly through every single step on the yoga ladder from karma to jñāna to bhakti. At any moment, whenever one decides to surrender, and wherever one gets the association of pure devotees, one can take the express elevator of bhakti-yoga. As Lord Kṛṣṇa recommends,

daivī hy eṣā guṇa-mayī mama māyā duratyayā
mām eva ye prapadyante māyām etāṁ taranti te

"This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it" (Bg. 7.14).

NBS 59

pramāṇāntarasyānapekṣatvāt svayaṁ pramāṇatvāt
Synonyms: 
pramāṇa — means of valid knowing; antarasya — another; an-apekṣatvāt — because of not being dependent on; svayam — in its own right; pramāṇatvāt — because of being a valid authority.
Translation: 
The reason devotional service is the easiest of all spiritual processes is that it does not depend on any other authority for its validity, being itself the standard of authority.
Purport: 

Pramāṇa means proof. Vaiṣṇava philosophers condense all the different types of pramāṇas into three: pratyakṣa, anumāna, and śabda. Pratyakṣa means direct evidence by the senses. But since the senses are imperfect, pratyakṣa often has to be corrected by higher knowledge. Anumāna refers to deductive and inductive logic, which depends on the validity of its premises and reasons, and so cannot prove anything with final certainty. Śabda means receiving knowledge from authoritative sources. Vedic knowledge is śabda-pramāṇa. This is particularly applicable to transcendental subject matter, which cannot be understood by the empirical and theorizing methods. Even in ordinary affairs, there are many things we have to accept on authority. We can learn the identity of our father from our mother, the only foolproof authority. Aside from the mother there is no way to know for sure who our father is. When the source of information is perfect, as in Vedic knowledge, then śabda-pramāṇa, or śabda-brahma, becomes the ultimate proof. As Śrīla Prabhupāda states, "As far as the soul's existence is concerned, no one can establish his existence experimentally beyond the proof of śruti, or Vedic wisdom" (Bg. 2.25, purport).

Aside from the proof of śāstra and guru, Nārada has taught that the truth of bhakti is proven by one's directly experiencing its fruits in one's own life. In Sūtras 31 and 32, Nārada gives the analogy of how a man's hunger cannot be appeased just by looking at a meal. It is not enough to hear that a particular food preparation has a very sweet and delicious flavor. Even if you know all the dish's ingredients, that knowledge will not satisfy your hunger. In the same way, mere theoretical knowledge of God does not bring pleasure—either to God or to the individual soul. Bhakti has to be directly perceived. Śrīla Prabhupāda used to say that when you become Kṛṣṇa conscious no one has to give you a certificate or diploma saying, "You are now Kṛṣṇa conscious." You'll know it for yourself.

The potency of bhakti to purify one's heart is proved by the loss of material desires. Those who come to Kṛṣṇa consciousness after years of sinful life know this proof very well. Their renunciation of meat-eating, intoxicants, and illicit sex is not an act of repression but is based on tasting a higher pleasure. And so bhakti is its own proof.

Nondevotees may ask for empirical proof: "Show us your Kṛṣṇa. Prove that He is God. We want to see Him lift Govardhana Hill." But their demand for proof cannot be satisfied in that way. Lord Kṛṣṇa reveals Himself in His original form only to His devotees:

nāhaṁ prakāśaḥ sarvasya yoga-māyā-samāvṛtaḥ
mūḍho 'yaṁ nābhijānāti loko mām ajam avyayam

"I am never manifest to the foolish and unintelligent. For them I am covered by My internal potency, and therefore they do not know that I am unborn and infallible" (Bg. 7.25).

To the atheists, God gives proof of His existence when He appears as death and takes everything away. But God does not manifest His internal potency to the faithless. Śrīla Prabhupāda writes, "Even if one is perfected by realization of impersonal Brahman or localized Paramātmā, he cannot possibly understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, without being in Kṛṣṇa consciousness" (Bg. 7.26, purport).

NBS 60

śānti-rūpāt paramānanda-rūpāc ca
Translation: 

Furthermore, bhakti is the embodiment of peace and supreme ecstasy.

Purport: 

This sūtra is further proof that bhakti is the best process for spiritual advancement. Lord Kṛṣṇa's personal form, name, and varied activities attract His devotees, who experience a love filled with śānti (peace) and paramānanda (supreme ecstasy). Indeed, the very nature of bhakti is peace and happiness.

In the Bhagavad-gītā, Lord Kṛṣṇa tells us who is eligible for śānti:

bhoktāraṁ yajña-tapasāṁ sarva-loka-maheśvaram
suhṛdaṁ sarva-bhūtānāṁ jñātvā māṁ śāntim ṛcchati

"One in full consciousness of Me, knowing Me to be the ultimate beneficiary of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods, and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attains peace from the pangs of material miseries" (Bg. 5.29).

Śrīla Prabhupāda calls this verse "the peace formula," the sure method for achieving both individual and collective tranquillity. When people who temporarily control some property ignore the Lord's proprietorship over all that be and claim that they themselves are the sole proprietors and enjoyers of the world, and when people in positions of leadership claim to be the best friends of their dependents but fail to give them a chance to acquire transcendental knowledge, then the result is not peace but agitation, chaos, and war. Peace comes when we recognize Lord Kṛṣṇa as the supreme ruler, proprietor, and friend.

Regarding happiness, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī defines three types: "(1) happiness derived from material enjoyment, (2) happiness derived by identifying oneself with the Supreme Brahman, and (3) happiness derived from Kṛṣṇa consciousness" (The Nectar of Devotion, p. 10). Rūpa Gosvāmī's conclusion is that happiness derived from pure bhakti is the highest because it is eternal, whereas material enjoyment and even oneness with Brahman are bound to be disrupted. Happiness in devotional service is open to all, but those who try to increase their own importance cannot know the sweet taste of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Happiness comes not by trying to be the master but by becoming the servant of the servant of the supreme master [Cc. Madhya 13.80]. While praying to the Supreme Lord for relief from his suffering, Gajendra praised the happiness of the devotees:

Unalloyed devotees, who have no desire other than to serve the Lord, worship Him in full surrender and always hear and chant about His activities, which are most wonderful and auspicious. Thus they always merge in an ocean of transcendental bliss. Such devotees never ask the Lord for any benediction. [SB 8.3.20]

NBS 61

loka-hānau cintā na kāryā niveditātma-loka-vedatvāt
Synonyms: 
loka — of the world; hānau — about loss; cintā — worry; na kāryā — should not be done; nivedita — because of having surrendered; ātma — one's own; loka — mundane affairs; vedatvāt — and Vedic duties.
Translation: 
After consigning to the Lord all one's mundane and Vedic duties, one no longer need worry about worldly loss.
Purport: 

This sūtra holds various meanings. First, the devotee should not worry about his worldly situation. Having surrendered to Lord Kṛṣṇa, he is on the most auspicious path, going back to Godhead. Even if he suffers financial loss or ill health, he realizes that Lord Kṛṣṇa is giving him token punishment for his past sinful activities. And so he converts the losses into spiritual assets by remaining steadfast in devotional service, despite the disturbances (see Bhāgavatam 10.14.8).

In the beginning of his commitment, a devotee may fear that he is somehow jeopardizing his future by fully surrendering to Lord Kṛṣṇa. Arjuna worried that if he took up the meditative yoga process Kṛṣṇa outlined in the Sixth Chapter of the Bhagavad-gītā he might become an "unsuccessful transcendentalist, who in the beginning takes to the process of self-realization with faith but who later desists due to worldly-mindedness" (Bg. 6.37). If that were to happen, Arjuna reasoned, he would have "no position in any sphere" and could thus enjoy neither material success nor spiritual profit. But Lord Kṛṣṇa assured His disciple, "A transcendentalist engaged in auspicious activities does not meet with destruction either in this world or in the spiritual world; one who does good, My friend, is never overcome by evil" (Bg. 6.40). Even if a devotee does fall short in his attempt at full surrender, whatever devotional service he performs is eternally counted in his favor. At the time of death, one's material success is taken away, but whatever devotional service one has performed, even if "unsuccessfully," is a profit for the next life. As Nārada Muni himself states in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.5.17),

tyaktvā sva-dharmaṁ caraṇāmbujaṁ harer
bhajann apakvo 'tha patet tato yadi
yatra kva vābhadram abhūd amuṣya kiṁ
ko vārtha āpto 'bhajatāṁ sva-dharmataḥ

"One who has forsaken his material occupation to engage in the devotional service of the Lord may sometimes fall down while in an immature stage, yet there is no danger of his being unsuccessful. On the other hand, a nondevotee, though fully engaged in occupational duties, does not gain anything" (SB 1.5.17).

Not only should a devotee reject the idea that he is somehow missing out on material happiness, but he should also be free of worry that he is neglecting his worldly responsibilities. It is a fact that everyone born into the material world has many obligations and moral debts. But a life of dedication to the Supreme Lord frees one—at least from the Lord's point of view—from all other duties:

devarṣi-bhūtāpta-nṛṇāṁ pitṝṇāṁ
na kiṅkaro nāyam ṛṇī ca rājan
sarvātmanā yaḥ śaraṇaṁ śaraṇyaṁ
gato mukundaṁ parihṛtya kartam

"Anyone who has taken shelter of the lotus feet of Mukunda, the giver of liberation, giving up all other obligations, and has taken to the path in all seriousness, owes neither duties nor obligations to the demigods, sages, general living entities, family members, humankind, or fore-fathers" (SB 11.5.41).

If a sincere devotee is accused of being irresponsible, or if his life is endangered and it seems as though the cause is his attempt to surrender to Lord Kṛṣṇa, he has no recourse but to pray for the mercy of the Lord. The devotee has surrendered to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and he cannot take back that surrender in a misguided effort to "save" himself. As Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura sings,

mārabi rākhabi-yo icchā tohārā
nitya-dāsa prati tuā adhikārā

"Now if You like You can kill me, or if You like You can give me protection. Whatever You like You can do. I am Your eternal servitor. You have every right to deal with me in any way You please."

NBS 62

na tatsiddhau loka-vyāvahāro heyaḥ kintu phala-tyāgas tat-sādhanaṁ ca kāryam eva
Synonyms: 
na — not; tat — of it (devotional service); siddhau — in the achievement; loka — mundane; vyāvahāraḥ — business; heyaḥ — to be abandoned; kintu — rather; phala — of the results; tyāgaḥ — abandonment; tat — of it (devotional service); sādhanam — prescribed duties; ca — and; kāryam — must be done; eva — indeed.
Translation: 
Even after one has achieved devotional service, one should not abandon one's responsibilities in this world but should rather continue surrendering the results of one's work to the Lord. And while still trying to reach the stage of pure devotion, one must certainly continue executing prescribed duties.
Purport: 

Lord Kṛṣṇa has strongly criticized the pseudo renunciants who live at the cost of society: "One who restrains the senses of action but whose mind dwells on sense objects certainly deludes himself and is called a pretender" (Bg. 3.7). Śrīla Prabhupāda states that it is better to work in karma-yoga (Kṛṣṇa consciousness) within one's varṇa and āśrama designation:

A householder can also reach this destination [Viṣṇu, or Kṛṣṇa] by regulated service in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. For self-realization, one can live a controlled life, as prescribed in the śāstras, and continue carrying out his business without attachment, and in that way make progress. A sincere person who follows this method is far better situated than the false pretender who adopts show-bottle spiritualism to cheat the innocent public. A sincere sweeper in the street is far better than the charlatan meditator who meditates only for the sake of making a living. [Bg. 3.7, purport]

This does not mean, however, that ordinary work is itself the fulfillment of human life. The karmī slogan "Work is worship" is not the same as working in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. But one has to do both: work to earn one's living and at the same time work for the satisfaction of Viṣṇu, or Kṛṣṇa. Śrīla Prabhupāda writes, "Any other work done in this material world will be a cause of bondage, for both good and evil work have their reactions, and any reaction binds the performer."

How to maintain oneself and one's family and at the same time work for Kṛṣṇa is a great art, and as such it requires the guidance of the Lord's devotee. If obligations to family and society conflict with one's basic spiritual vows, then one must give first priority to the spiritual duties. One who has taken initiation into spiritual life should never give up his vow to chant a quota of holy names daily and to fulfill the basic orders of the spiritual master.

Whether a Vaiṣṇava works in the business world or lives as a renunciant, he should never be embarrassed to preach Kṛṣṇa consciousness or doubt the value of preaching. Even if we consider preaching work a debt to humanity, it is a crucial social commitment. Once the mother and father of a young devotee complained to Śrīla Prabhupāda that their son was a full-time student in the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. They said they wanted him to become a doctor. Prabhupāda replied that they should let the young man decide for himself, and that in any case, there were many doctors in the world but few serious devotees. Prabhupāda said that the work of the devotee was more important than the work of a physician. A doctor can repair the health of a few hundred people, but even that is temporary. Medical cures do not free the patient from his karma, which forces him to take rebirth and suffer again in another material body. But a devotee who successfully distributes Kṛṣṇa consciousness can help people achieve liberation from birth and death. So his work is the most important in the world.

Although he may not be an expert politician or economist, a bhakta knows the real cause of people's suffering—forgetfulness of their relationship with Kṛṣṇa, which leads to their becoming conditioned by the modes of material nature. Knowing that bhakti-yoga is the only way to extricate oneself from material conditioning and reestablish one's relationship with God, the devotee tries to distribute knowledge of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Śrīla Prabhupāda writes, "Since the [devotee] tries to broadcast the importance of becoming Kṛṣṇa conscious, he is the best philanthropist in the world" (Bg. 6.32, purport).

The preacher stays connected to the world, yet he is transcendental to worldly concerns. Although some yogīs abandon society and cultivate their own spiritual salvation, the bhakti-yogī who follows Prahlāda Mahārāja, Lord Caitanya, and Śrīla Prabhupāda keeps a compassionate connection with the people of the world. As Lord Caitanya stated to His followers, "Distribute this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement all over the world. Let people eat these fruits [of love of God] and ultimately become free from old age and death" (Cc. Ādi 9.39).

The surrendered devotee, therefore, does not worry about his worldly situation, nor does he support mundane welfare causes. But to satisfy Lord Caitanya and the spiritual masters descending from Him in disciplic succession, he works magnanimously on behalf of all living beings by spreading Kṛṣṇa consciousness.

NBS 63

strī-dhana-nāstika-caritraṁ na śravaṇīyam
Synonyms: 
strī — of women; dhana — wealth; nāstika — and atheists; caritram — stories; na śravaṇīyam — should not be listened to.
Translation: 

One should not find entertainment in news of women, money, and atheists.

Purport: 

Nārada has said that a bhakta may discharge his duties in the world as long as he is God-centered and offers the results of his work to the Lord in devotional service. But while living in the world he must avoid sinful life and persons who indulge in it (see Sūtras 43 and 44). Now he says we should avoid not only associating with sinful persons but even hearing about them.

If we want to be free from māyā, we cannot take Nārada's advice lightly or dismiss it as old fashioned. Māyā is not a lightweight contender. She has been placed in charge of imprisoning all the conditioned souls in the universe, and some of her principal weapons are indicated in this sūtra—sex, wealth, and atheism. With a healthy respect for her power, we should give a wide berth to the māyic talks concerning these topics.

Mundane talks are also known as prajalpa. In his Upadeśāmṛta, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī mentions prajalpa as one of the main impediments to devotional service. And Lord Caitanya instructed Sanātana Gosvāmī, "A devotee should avoid reading or hearing newspapers or mundane books that contain stories of love affairs between men and women or subjects palatable to the senses" (Cc. Madhya 22.120).

In the modern age these injunctions have become more difficult than ever to follow. The airwaves are filled with prajalpa, and by pressing a button we can turn on a television set and plunge ourselves into a visual and aural phantasmagoria. While writing his purports on the Bhāgavatam verses describing the life of Ajāmila, Śrīla Prabhupāda responded to our predicament. Ajāmila was a pious young brāhmaṇa, but one day, while traveling along the public way, he came upon a low-class man embracing a prostitute and was overcome by lust. Prabhupāda writes, "In Kali-yuga, a drunken, half-naked woman embracing a drunken man is a very common sight, especially in the Western countries, and restraining oneself after seeing such things is difficult. Nevertheless, if by the grace of Kṛṣṇa a person adheres to the regulative principles and chants the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra, Kṛṣṇa will certainly protect him" (SB 6.1.60, purport).

We cannot expect to follow Prabhupāda's advice in a vacuum. Unless we have Kṛṣṇa conscious friends to talk with and a society of devotees to live in, we might conclude, "It's impossible to avoid hearing talks of sex, money, and atheists. What am I supposed to do, live alone in a cave?" No, and this is precisely one of the reasons Śrīla Prabhupāda founded the International Society for Krishna Consciousness—to give everyone an opportunity to hear kṛṣṇa-kathā in the society of devotees. The benefits of such a practice are numerous, as Lord Kapila states in the Bhāgavatam (3.25.25):

satāṁ prasaṅgān mama vīrya-saṁvido
bhavanti hṛt-karṇa-rasāyanā kathāḥ
taj-joṣaṇād āśv apavarga-vartmani
śraddhā ratir bhaktir anukramiṣyati

"The spiritually powerful message of Godhead can be properly discussed only in a society of devotees, and it is greatly pleasing to hear in that association. If one hears from devotees, the way of transcendental experience quickly opens to him, and gradually he attains firm faith that in due course develops into attraction and devotion."

Our weapons in the campaign against prajalpa and mind pollution may include novels, dramas, paintings, films, musical recordings, festivals, formal lectures, seminars, and casual meetings—all centered on Kṛṣṇa. Why should the forces of illusion possess all the weapons, and not the devotees?

Nārada previously said that bhakti was easy. It is certainly not easy to avoid all mundane sound vibrations. But under the guidance of the pure devotee we may create a pleasant, easy-to-take atmosphere of kṛṣṇa-kathā in the home and with friends—even when driving a car or at work—and this hearing will lead to viṣṇu-smaraṇam, or remembrance of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

NBS 64

abhimāna-dambhādikaṁ tyājyam
Synonyms: 
abhimāna — pride; dambha — deceit; ādikam — and so on; tyājyam — should be given up.
Translation: 
One should put aside false pride, hypocrisy, and other vices.
Purport: 

Māyā is so subtle that even if one is able to avoid hearing about sex, money, and atheists, and even if one joins a society of devotees, one may still become a victim of pride and hypocrisy. One may think, "I am a better devotee than the others," and thus prepare oneself for a fall. The remedy for pride is to remember that our good fortune, including our spiritual assets, are all due to the mercy of the Supreme Lord and the spiritual masters.

Nārada has used the word ādi, "et cetera," to include other vices, such as the demoniac traits listed in the Sixteenth Chapter of the Bhagavad-gītā. All of these should be avoided. One should become aware of specific bad habits and try to eliminate them, and therefore Nārada and the ācāryas often give detailed instructions. We can examine each anartha and see what we can do to renounce it. When we catch ourselves indulging in unwanted thoughts or acts, we should stop them as soon as possible.

At the same time, a "holistic" approach is also recommended. That is, we should be confident that our sincere prosecution of bhakti-yoga will eliminate all unwanted habits and desires. In fact, if we try to eliminate vices one by one, we will fail. But by bhakti we can eliminate them wholesale. As stated in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (6.1.15),

kecit kevalayā bhaktyā vāsudeva-parāyaṇāḥ
aghaṁ dhunvanti kārtsnyena nīhāram iva bhāskaraḥ

"Only a rare person who has adopted complete, unalloyed devotional service to Kṛṣṇa can uproot the weeds of sinful actions with no possibility that they will revive. He can do this simply by discharging devotional service, just as the sun can immediately dissipate fog by its rays."

Devotional service is beyond both piety and impiety. By chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, hearing about Lord Kṛṣṇa, and performing other routine services in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, one vanquishes all phases of sinful life and all unwanted habits.

The practical application of this principle is to persevere in sādhana-bhakti with faith and determination. This is called śraddhā, the conviction that one will achieve all goals by practicing Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī also recommends niścaya, "endeavoring with confidence" (The Nectar of Instruction, Text 3). Śrīla Prabhupāda explains in his purport, "In devotional service surrender means that one has to become confident. The devotee thinks, āvaśya rakṣibe kṛṣṇa: 'Kṛṣṇa will surely protect me and give me help for the successful execution of devotional service.' " And so the devotee uses both negative and positive approaches: He diligently seeks to eliminate particular unwanted habits, but at the same time he is confident that his engagement in devotional service is like a blazing fire that will burn to ashes all the fuel of sinful activities.

NBS 65

tad arpitākhilācāraḥ san kāma-krodhābhimānādikaṁ tasminn eva karaṇīyam
Synonyms: 
tat — to Him; arpita — having offered; akhila — all; ācāraḥ — actions; san — being; kāma — desire; krodha — anger; abhimāna — pride; ādikam — and so on; tasmin — toward Him; eva — only; karaṇīyam — should be done.
Translation: 
Offering all one's activities to the Lord, one should feel desire, anger, and pride only with regard to Him.
Purport: 

Nārada now advises that traits normally considered vices may be dovetailed into favorable devotional service. This does not contradict Nārada's previous statement that pride, anger, and lust should be renounced. A pure devotee is always free of vices, and the practicing bhakta tries to be free of them by controlling his senses and mind as far as possible. Therefore Nārada here refers to a transcendental application of anger, pride, and lust in relation to the Supreme Lord.

Liberated devotees often apply so-called vices in devotional service, and we can learn the art from them. Hanumān vented his anger upon Rāvaṇa, the enemy of Lord Rāma. Lord Kṛṣṇa instigated Arjuna to become angry so he would fight the Battle of Kurukṣetra. Even Lord Caitanya became angry with the drunken brothers Jagāi and Mādhāi. These are examples of properly directed anger. We cannot stop anger completely. As Śrīla Prabhupāda writes, "To try to create a vacuum in the mind is artificial. The vacuum will not remain. However, if one always thinks of Kṛṣṇa and how to serve Kṛṣṇa best, one's mind will naturally be controlled" (The Nectar of Instruction, Text 1, purport).

Even anger directed at Kṛṣṇa can be part of devotional service. The gopīs, for instance, often became angry at Him during lovers' quarrels. Once Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī was displeased with Kṛṣṇa and ordered Her assistants to stop Him from seeing Her at all costs. The cowherd boys would fight with Kṛṣṇa in the forest, and in the heat of play they would sometimes become angry with Him and tell Him they wouldn't play with Him anymore. Lord Kṛṣṇa very much liked these chidings of love, and He asked forgiveness from His friends.

Kaṁsa's hatred of the Lord, however, was not bhakti. Kaṁsa was afraid that Kṛṣṇa would kill him, and so his mind became absorbed in animosity toward the Lord. Prabhupāda writes, "The state of mind of a great devotee is also to be absorbed in Kṛṣṇa, but a devotee thinks of Him favorably, not unfavorably" (Kṛṣṇa, p. 26).

We should not imitate the transcendental feelings of the pure devotees, but we may become inspired by hearing of them. We should patiently wait for the day when these feelings will naturally manifest within us. At that time we will not be able to stop them even if we want to. Meanwhile we may practice becoming greedy for chances to spread the word of Kṛṣṇa, proud that Kṛṣṇa is our Lord and that we have such an exalted spiritual master in Śrīla Prabhupāda, and angry at the māyic obstacles that prevent us from attaining bhakti. If we learn to dovetail everything for Lord Kṛṣṇa in this way, we will have learned the essential lesson Nārada is imparting in this sūtra.

NBS 66

tri-rūpa-bhaṅga-pūrvakaṁ nitya-dāsya-nitya-kāntā-bhajanātmakaṁ prema kāryaṁ premaiva kāryam
Synonyms: 
tri-rūpa — of the three material forms (the qualities of goodness, passion, and ignorance); bhaṅga — the breaking; pūrvakam — preceded by; nitya — perpetual; dāsya — servitude; nitya — perpetual; kāntā — as a lover; bhajana — service; ātmakam — consisting of; prema — pure love; kāryam — one should manifest; prema — pure love; eva — alone; kāryam — one should manifest.
Translation: 
After breaking through the aforementioned coverings of the three modes of nature, one should act only in pure love of God, remaining perpetually in the mood of a servant serving his master, or a lover serving her beloved.
Purport: 

As described in Sūtra 56, there are three secondary forms of devotional service tinged with the guṇas (goodness, passion, and ignorance). These are practiced by sakāma devotees, who approach the Supreme Lord when in distress, when seeking wealth, or when seeking knowledge. One should transcend these secondary types of devotion and approach the Supreme Lord only with love. In other words, here Nārada is urging us to come to the spontaneous stage, as in the rasas of servitude (nitya-dāsya) and conjugal love (nitya-kāntā-bhajana). We should not think that we have completed the course of bhakti by becoming a religionist in the conventional sense—by attending the temple and making obligatory prayers and donations.

As a spiritual master, Nārada has responsibly taught the lower stages of bhakti and encouraged anyone with even a drop of faith. But it is also his responsibility to remind us that the goal is prema, and prema alone. His method is similar to Lord Kṛṣṇa's in the Bhagavad-gītā, where the Lord mercifully encourages all kinds of karmīs, jñānīs, and yogīs, advising them on how to progressively turn their attention toward Him. But then He concludes, "Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me" (Bg. 18.66).

Out of love, without seeking reward, a devoted servant tries to please his master, and a wife her husband. We see the perfection of servitude in the spiritual world, in Kṛṣṇa's servants like Raktaka, Dāruka, and Patrī, and we see the perfection of a wife's devotion in the queens of Dvārakā. In Lord Kṛṣṇa we find the perfect master and the perfect beloved, and so His servants and wives are eternally liberated as nitya-dāsa and nitya-kāntā. Following in the footsteps of such liberated beings, devotees in this world should strive to practice devotional service on the level of pure love. As stated in the Caitanya-mañjuṣā: premā pum-artho mahān. "Love for Kṛṣṇa is the supreme goal of life."

NBS 67

bhaktā ekāntino mukhyāḥ
Synonyms: 
bhaktāḥ — devotees; ekāntinaḥ — exclusive; mukhyāḥ — principal.
Translation: 
Among the Lord's devotees, the greatest are those who are dedicated to Him solely as His intimate servants.
Purport: 

His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda showed an excellent example of ekānta-bhakti, single-minded devotion to the Supreme Lord. Prabhupāda showed this in many ways. For example, his commentary on Śrī Kṛṣṇa's book, Bhagavad-gītā, does not even slightly deviate from Kṛṣṇa's true intent. Impersonalism taints the vast majority of Bhagavad-gītā commentaries, but Śrīla Prabhupāda's purports in Bhagavad-gītā As It Is lead the reader directly to the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa. This is true of all of Prabhupāda's books—Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Caitanya-caritāmṛta, and so on. His translation of the Sanskrit or Bengali is always accurate from a scholarly point of view, but at the same time he writes as a pure devotee: "Surrender to Kṛṣṇa."

In all of Śrīla Prabhupāda's spontaneous conversations, he was single-mindedly Kṛṣṇa conscious. When he spoke of Kṛṣṇa, he seemed to be talking about his dearmost friend, not merely repeating something he had read. Sometimes his kṛṣṇa-kathā took the form of convincing an atheist scientist that there is a supreme controller, sometimes he related the pastimes of Kṛṣṇa to his disciples, and sometimes he assured devotees that Kṛṣṇa is in our hearts and will give us the intelligence to execute a difficult service. Śrīla Prabhupāda maintained this single-mindedness even while undergoing the rigors of constant travel and while living in the biggest cities of the world. Wherever he was, Prabhupāda was on a mission for Kṛṣṇa.

Being single-pointed in devotional service does not mean shutting out reality. Exclusivity can become sectarian if one focuses on relative truths or dedicates oneself to an ordinary person. But when the object of appreciation is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one attains the broadest vision, the vision of a mahātmā.

The devotee who is fixed on Kṛṣṇa has actually attained to the complete truth. That the Lord is the complete truth is stated in the Invocation to the Īśopaniṣad: oṁ pūrṇam adaḥ pūrṇam idam [Īśopaniṣad, Invocation]. "The Personality of Godhead is perfect and complete." A devotee glorifies the Lord as the complete Absolute Truth when he utters the famous Vedic aphorism tat tvam asi, "You are that." The impersonalist philosophers adore the tat tvam asi aphorism because they take it to mean that they are one with the formless Brahman. But the actual meaning of tat tvam asi is different. When the devotee says "You are that," he is addressing the Supreme Lord. Śrīla Prabhupāda explains in his purport to Bhagavad-gītā 4.9:

The Vedic version tat tvam asi is actually applied in this case. Anyone who understands Lord Kṛṣṇa to be the Supreme, or who says unto the Lord, "You are the same Supreme Brahman, the Personality of Godhead," is certainly liberated instantly, and consequently his entrance into the transcendental association of the Lord is guaranteed.

A pure devotee who sees Kṛṣṇa in everything can maintain one-pointed concentration on the Lord, even while performing a wide variety of services for Him. By contrast, materialistic persons cannot be ekāntī, or focused. Because the field of sense gratification tempts the conditioned souls in many directions, and because the mind is very fickle, the hedonist's attention is splayed. As Lord Kṛṣṇa says,

vyavasāyātmikā buddhir ekeha kuru-nandana
bahu-śākhā hy anantāś ca buddhayo 'vyavasāyinām

"Those who are on this path are resolute in purpose, and their aim is one. O beloved child of the Kurus, the intelligence of those who are irresolute is many-branched" (Bg. 2.41).

Śukadeva Gosvāmī describes the materialist in a similar way in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (2.1.2):

śrotavyādīni rājendra nṛṇāṁ santi sahasraśaḥ
apaśyatām ātma-tattvaṁ gṛheṣu gṛha-medhinām

"Those persons who are materially engrossed, being blind to the knowledge of ultimate truth, have many subject matters for hearing in human society, O emperor." Absorbed in political work or scientific research or social and economic betterment, the gṛhamedhīs put aside the ultimate problems of old age, disease, and death. They do not inquire about self-realization, which would lead them eventually to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. But a person who wants to succeed in bhakti must give up the life of bewildering distractions and take up devotional service under the guidance of a spiritual master.

The best way to cultivate single-minded devotion to Kṛṣṇa is to chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra. This practice is what the scriptures and ācāryas recommend as the main limb of devotional service for the Age of Kali. By this one simple act—chanting and hearing the holy name—we serve Lord Kṛṣṇa the way He likes best. Haridāsa Ṭhākura set the example by making the chanting of hari-nāma his exclusive service. Serious Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas follow in his footsteps by chanting daily at least sixteen rounds of Hare Kṛṣṇa on beads. As stated in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Antya 3.268), "The holy name of Kṛṣṇa is so attractive that anyone who chants it—including all living entities, moving and unmoving, and even Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself—becomes imbued with love of Kṛṣṇa. This is the effect of chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra."

In the beginning stages, the restless mind balks at the single-minded devotion required to chant Hare Kṛṣṇa for long stretches. The holy name is actually the sweetest nectar, but until we reach the spontaneous stage of devotion, one has to outsmart the mischievous mind. The mind is called cañcala, or unfaithful, but it can become the devotee's best friend. When one chants Hare Kṛṣṇa and performs other duties with concentration and devotion, the mind clears and the devotee realizes his true interest. Then the devotee becomes attracted to serving the holy names in the ekāntina spirit, which Nārada Muni recommends here as the best.

NBS 68

kaṇṭhāvarodha-romāśrubhiḥ parasparaṁ lapamānāḥ pāvayanti kulāni pṛthivīṁ ca
Synonyms: 
kaṇṭha — of the throat; avarodha — with blockage; roma — with bodily hair (standing erect); aśrubhiḥ — and with tears; parasparam — among one another; lapamānāḥ — conversing; pāvayanti — they purify; kulāni — their communities; pṛthivīm — the earth; ca — and.
Translation: 
Conversing among one another with throats choked, hair standing on end, and tears flowing, the Lord's intimate servants purify their own followers and the whole world.
Purport: 

One may ask, "Does Nārada expect me to also become a great devotee and experience such ecstasy?" The answer is yes, the ecstasy of devotional service is open to all. But a humble devotee may think himself unfit to experience the advanced stages of Kṛṣṇa consciousness for many lifetimes. We may respond best to a sūtra like this by trying to appreciate, at least slightly, the wonderful influence of the great souls who have come to this earth. This will inspire us to seek the association of the servants of the servants of such great souls, to assist them in their mission, and to receive shelter from them against the world of māyā.

The symptoms of ecstasy should not be imitated, but it is not wrong to aspire to experience them. In The Nectar of Devotion, Rūpa Gosvāmī encourages us to develop a spontaneous attachment for serving the Lord without any desire for profit. Śrīla Prabhupāda writes,

In other words, one should learn how to cry for the Lord. One should learn this small technique, and one should be very eager and actually cry to become engaged in some particular type of service. This is called laulyam, and such tears are the price for the highest perfection. [The Nectar of Devotion, p. 84]

The absence of warm or spontaneous feelings for the Lord may indicate that we are still committing one or more of the ten offenses against the holy name, or that we are indulging in some of the vices mentioned in the Nārada-bhakti-sūtra. As Lord Caitanya, taking the role of the neophyte, laments in His Śikṣāṣṭaka (2), "I am so unfortunate that I commit offenses while chanting the holy name, and therefore I do not achieve attachment for chanting."

Although the bodily transformations symptomatic of ecstatic love of God (bhāva) are sometimes exhibited by great souls, pretenders may imitate them. Real bhāva, however, is manifested by steady symptoms:

Bhāva is definitely displayed in the matter of cessation of material desires (kṣānti), utilization of every moment in the transcendental loving service of the Lord (avyartha-kālatvam [Cc. Madhya 23.18-19]), eagerness for glorifying the Lord constantly (nāma-gāne sadā ruciḥ), attraction for living in the land of the Lord (prītis tad-vasati-sthale), complete detachment from material happiness (viraktiḥ), and pridelessness (māna-śūnyatā). One who has developed all these transcendental qualities is really possessed of the bhāva stage, as distinguished from the stonehearted imitator or mundane devotee. [SB 2.3.24, purport]

The influence of pure devotees of the Lord is very great. Their conversations are entirely Kṛṣṇa conscious, and that is why they purify everyone who hears them, and even the place they inhabit. When bona fide devotees perform kṛṣṇa-kīrtana or discuss topics concerning Kṛṣṇa, the Lord is personally present:

The topics of Lord Kṛṣṇa are so auspicious that they purify the speaker, the hearer, and the inquirer. They are compared to the Ganges waters, which flow from the toe of Lord Kṛṣṇa. Wherever the Ganges waters go, they purify the land and the person who bathes in them. Similarly, kṛṣṇa-kathā, or the topics of Kṛṣṇa, are so pure that wherever they are spoken the place, the hearer, the inquirer, the speaker, and all concerned become purified. [SB 2.1.1, purport]

The practical effect of a devotee's influence is that people take up spiritual life and abandon their sinful habits. Without devotional reform in society, humanity will degrade to a barbaric species. Prabhupāda writes, "Men face each other in enmity just like cats and dogs snarling. Śrī Īśopaniṣad cannot give advice to the cats and dogs, but it delivers the message of Godhead to man through the bona fide ācāryas, or holy teachers" (Īśopaniṣad 1, purport).

At least on an individual basis every sane person should save himself by coming forward to render service and to hear from Vaiṣṇavas of the caliber Nārada describes in this sūtra. If one is under the protection of a pure devotee and sincerely renders service to him in bhakti-yoga, one will be able to counteract all sinful reactions, including the accumulated sinful karma of the whole world population. Nārada praises the influence of devotees, but Lord Kṛṣṇa praises the influence of Nārada:

If someone is able, by chance, to see face to face a great saintly person like Nārada, who is always serene and merciful to everyone, then immediately that conditioned soul becomes liberated. This is exactly like being situated in the full light of the sun; there cannot be any visionary impediment. [Kṛṣṇa, p. 97]

NBS 69

tīrthī-kurvanti tīrthāni su-karmī-kurvanti karmāṇi sac-chāstrī-kurvanti śāstrāṇi
Synonyms: 
tīrthī — into holy places; kurvanti — they make; tīrthāni — the holy places; su-karmī — into auspicious works; kurvanti — they make; karmāṇi — works; sat — pure; śāstrī — into scriptures; kurvanti — they make; śāstrāṇi — the scriptures.
Translation: 
Their association makes holy places holy, works auspicious, and the scriptures authoritative.
Purport: 

A tīrtha is a place made sacred because the Supreme Lord performed His pastimes there. For example, Vṛndāvana is sacred because Śrī Kṛṣṇa spent His youth there, Navadvīpa because Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu began His saṅkīrtana movement there. Places like Dhruva-ghāṭa or Naimiṣāraṇya, where mahā-janas performed devotional service, are also tīrthas. Devotees like to reside in tīrthas and perform their bhajana there, and pilgrims seeking purification go to bathe in the sacred rivers flowing through the sacred sites. But the tīrthas become burdened by the sins of visiting pilgrims, who sometimes commit new sins even while traveling on pilgrimage. In all the religions of the world, commercialism tends to spring up and pollute the famous shrines. Because of this, the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava ācārya Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura stated that in the Kali-yuga going on pilgrimage creates bewilderment. Śrīla Prabhupāda writes:

In India it is still a practice that many advanced transcendentalists give up their family lives and go to Vṛndāvana to live there alone and completely engage in hearing and chanting the holy pastimes of the Lord. This system is recommended in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, and the six Gosvāmīs of Vṛndāvana followed it, but at the present moment many karmīs and pseudo devotees have overcrowded the holy place of Vṛndāvana just to imitate this process recommended by Śukadeva Gosvāmī. [Kṛṣṇa, p. 881]

To purify the tīrthas of the influence of the nondevotees, saints occasionally visit them. In fact, it is the presence of the saints that actually makes the places holy. If one visits a tīrtha and only does some shopping and takes a ritual bath there, without inquiring from saintly persons, his visit is useless.

When the sage Vidura went to the palace of the Kurus in Hastināpura, Yudhiṣṭhira Mahārāja praised him with the same words Nārada uses here: tīrthī-kurvanti tīrthānī. Śrīla Prabhupāda writes,

By their actions the pure devotees of the Lord can render any place into a place of pilgrimage, and the holy places are worth the name only on their account. Such pure devotees are able to rectify the polluted atmosphere of any place, and what to speak of a holy place rendered unholy by the questionable actions of interested persons who try to adopt a professional life at the cost of the reputation of the holy place. [SB 1.13.10, purport]

In a similar passage, the sage Bhagīratha praised the river Ganges and the saints who bathe in her waters: "When such pure devotees bathe in your water, the sinful reactions accumulated from other people will certainly be counteracted, for such devotees always keep in the core of their hearts the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who can vanquish all sinful reactions" (SB 9.9.6).

If the saints are so influential just by their presence, then we can just imagine how much their acts are worshipable and worth following. Most people's actions result in reactions (karma), but the acts of great souls convert karma into bhakti. Whoever serves a pure devotee gains a permanent spiritual asset, even if he does so unknowingly (ajñāta-sukṛti). Although we cannot expect to equal the deeds of pure devotees, we should not shy away from trying to emulate them. As Śrīla Prabhupāda used to say, "Do as I am doing."

Nārada states that the best devotees add spiritual authority even to the scriptures. A striking example of this is Śrīla Prabhupāda's fulfillment of a prediction of Lord Caitanya's recorded in the Caitanya-bhāgavata:

pṛthivīte āche yata nagarādi-grāma
sarvatra pracāra haibe mora nāma
[CB Antya-khaṇḍa 4.126]

"In every town and village of the world, My name [the holy name of Kṛṣṇa] will be preached." This statement used to puzzle Vaiṣṇava scholars; some said it was to be taken allegorically. How could mlecchas in Western countries take up the worship of Lord Kṛṣṇa and Lord Caitanya and chant Hare Kṛṣṇa in their towns and cities? But Śrīla Prabhupāda proved the skeptics wrong: On his spiritual master's order and by Lord Caitanya's grace, he created the Hare Kṛṣṇa movement, which quickly spread until newspapers and commentators proclaimed: "Kṛṣṇa Chant Startles London," and " 'Hare Kṛṣṇa' has become a household word."

Śrīla Prabhupāda's preaching of the Bhagavad-gītā provides another example of how the pure devotees give authority to the scriptures. For more than two hundred years before Śrīla Prabhupāda came to the West with Bhagavad-gītā As It Is, the Bhagavad-gītā had been known in Western countries as "the sacred gospel of the Hindus." And yet no one had become a devotee of Lord Kṛṣṇa from reading Bhagavad-gītā, although Lord Kṛṣṇa teaches surrender to Him as the goal of the Gītā. But through his realized translations and purports Śrīla Prabhupāda brought life to the text of Bhagavad-gītā, and now thousands of non-Hindus throughout the world are recognizing Lord Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Personality of Godhead and becoming His sincere devotees.

Nārada will now explain why saintly persons are so auspicious and influential.

NBS 70

tan-mayāḥ
Synonyms: 
tat — with Him; mayāḥ — filled.
Translation: 
The intimate servants of the Supreme Lord are fully absorbed in loving Him.
Purport: 

Nārada's definitions give us portraits of complete dedication, of love, and of oneness of interest between the Supreme Lord and His devotee. When we read a superb sūtra such as number 49 or 67 we may think, "Now he has given the last word on bhakti: nothing more can be said as briefly and as well." But then Nārada delights us with even more precise aphorisms on bhakti-yoga.

This sūtra is quite similar to number 41: "The Lord and His pure devotees are nondifferent." In the Gurv-aṣṭaka, Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura states, "The spiritual master is to be honored as much as the Supreme Lord because he is the most confidential servitor of the Lord. This is acknowledged in all revealed scriptures and followed by all authorities." Although a qualified student of bhakti knows that the Vaiṣṇava is not God Himself, the disciple experiences Kṛṣṇa's direct presence in the form of His dedicated servant. And the disciple is fully satisfied in serving the Supreme Lord by serving His pure devotee, who is the transparent medium to Kṛṣṇa.

When Sanātana Gosvāmī met Lord Caitanya, the Lord told him, "Lord Kṣṇa has saved you from life's deepest hell." Sanātana replied, "I do not know who Kṛṣṇa is. As far as I am concerned, I have been released from prison only by Your mercy" (Cc. Madhya 20.64). The disciple's gratitude toward the Vaiṣṇava is also expressed in Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura's song Ohe! vaiṣṇava ṭhākura: "Kṛṣṇa is yours. You're able to give Him to me, for such is your power. I am indeed wretched and simply run after you, crying, 'Kṛṣṇa! Kṛṣṇa!' "

This is why the place where great devotees reside is a tīrtha and why Nārada says that they purify established holy places and give authority to the scriptures—because they are tan-mayāḥ, "filled with Him."

NBS 71

modante pitaro nṛtyanti devatāḥ sa-nāthā ceyaṁ bhūr bhavati
Synonyms: 
modante — become joyful; pitaraḥ — forefathers; nṛtyanti — dance; devatāḥ — demigods; sa-nāthā — having good masters; ca — and; iyam — this; bhūḥ — earth; bhavati — becomes.
Translation: 
Thus the pure devotees' forefathers become joyful, the demigods dance, and the world feels protected by good masters.
Purport: 

A great devotee is so dear to the Supreme Lord that his family members receive the Lord's blessings even though they may not appreciate their devotee relative. When Lord Nṛsiṁha-deva rescued His dearmost bhakta, Prahlāda, from his demonic father, Prahlāda Mahārāja asked that his father be excused and not punished in the next life for his heinous crimes. Lord Nṛsiṁha-deva replied, "My dear Prahlāda, most pure, O great saintly person, your father has been purified, along with twenty-one forefathers in your family. Because you were born in this family, the entire dynasty has been purified. Whenever and wherever there are peaceful, equipoised devotees who are well behaved and decorated with all good qualities, that place and the dynasties there, even if condemned, are purified" (SB 7.10.18-19).

Lord Caitanya also gave special mercy to His devotees' relatives. Amogha, the son-in-law of Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya, blasphemed Lord Caitanya and had to suffer cholera. But Lord Caitanya spared him and said, "You are the object of My affection because you are the son-in-law of Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya. Everyone in Sārvabhauma's house is very dear to Me, including his maids and servants and even his dog. And what to speak of his relatives?" (Cc. Madhya 15.283-4). A pure devotee identifies more with the family of all living entities than with his bodily relatives, and yet whoever is even remotely connected with a pure devotee, even a distant relative, receives benefit. The influence of the devotee is that great.

Next Nārada says nṛtyanti devatāḥ, "The demigods dance when they see a pure devotee appear." The devas are staunch devotees of Lord Viṣṇu, and they hate to see the demons gain control. Sometimes the demons capture the demigods' palaces, as during the rule of Hiraṇyakaśipu. But the pure devotee Prahlāda caused the appearance of Lord Nṛsiṁha-deva, who destroyed Hiraṇyakaśipu. Hiraṇyakaśipu was "like a fever of meningitis in the head of the three worlds." When he was killed by Lord Nṛsiṁha-deva, the demigods prayed, "When this demon was condemned by devotees because they were disgusted with him, then he was killed by You" (SB 7.8.53). Thus the pure devotee's work is so significant that it affects the whole universe and creates a shift in favor of godliness. The demigods' joy at the appearance of a Vaiṣṇava proves that the devas are also Vaiṣṇavas. They are more pleased with a pure devotee who renders service unto the Supreme Lord than they are with their own worshipers who seek material boons from them.

Finally Nārada states that with the appearance of a pure devotee, the earth gets a savior. Mother Earth is abused in Kali-yuga in many ways. When Kali-yuga began, Mahārāja Parīkṣit found a śūdra beating the earth personified, who appeared in the form of a cow. Nowadays the earth is drilled recklessly for oil, deforested, blown up, polluted by chemicals, stripped of fertile topsoil, and filled up with cheaters and liars who create an intolerable burden.

The earth is not a dead mass to be exploited by the human species; rather, she is a living entity meant to be protected. When the earth is protected, she gives ample space and a peaceful and prosperous residence for all living entities. But when human beings plunder the earth, she seeks protection from a magnanimous devotee. Though a devotee may appear to work as a humble mendicant without much power, higher beings and truly learned souls know that a savior has appeared.

The devotee is especially a savior for human beings, most of whom would surely fall down into lower species in their next lives without the devotee's efforts to reform them. According to time, place, and person, every pure-devotee savior teaches the same message: "Do not rot in this material world; follow the word of God and be saved." The world still worships saviors such as Jesus Christ, Lord Buddha, and Lord Caitanya. Many other pure devotees continue to appear, as the son of God or as śakty-āveśa avatāras, to save the human race. Considering the far-reaching auspicious effects of a pure devotee's presence, which are mostly beyond normal comprehension, we can appreciate better why Śrīla Prabhupāda said, "If only one man becomes a pure devotee of the Lord, we shall consider our attempt a success."

NBS 72

nāsti teṣu jāti-vidyā-rūpa-kula-dhana-kriyādi-bhedaḥ
Synonyms: 
na asti — there is not; teṣu — in them; jāti — of class; vidyā — education; rūpa — beauty; kula — family; dhana — wealth; kriyā — occupation; ādi — and so on; bhedaḥ — difference.
Translation: 
There are no distinctions among such pure devotees in terms of social class, education, bodily beauty, family status, wealth, occupation, and so on.
Purport: 

Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, does not discriminate among devotees based on their birth, wealth, and so on, so why should we? Kṛṣṇa says, "O son of Pṛthā, those who take shelter in Me, though they be of lower birth—women, vaiśyas [merchants], and śūdras [workers]—attain the supreme destination" (Bg. 9.32). And according to the Padma Purāṇa, "Anyone who thinks of the Deity of Viṣṇu as merely stone or the guru as an ordinary man, or who thinks a Vaiṣṇava belongs to a particular family or country, is a resident of hell."

In his Upadeśāmrta (6), Rūpa Gosvāmī has also warns us not to take a material view of devotees: "Being situated in his original Kṛṣṇa conscious position, a pure devotee does not identify with the body. Such a devotee should not be seen from a materialistic point of view. Indeed, one should overlook a devotee's having a body born in a low family, a body with a bad complexion, a deformed body, or a diseased or infirm body. According to ordinary vision, such imperfections may seem prominent in the body of a pure devotee, but despite such seeming defects, the body of a pure devotee cannot be polluted. It is exactly like the waters of the Ganges, which sometimes during the rainy season are full of bubbles, foam, and mud. The Ganges waters do not become polluted. Those who are advanced in spiritual understanding will bathe in the Ganges without considering the condition of the water."

Śrīla Prabhupāda states that one should not think, "Oh, here is an American gosvāmī," and on that basis discriminate against him. On the other hand, Westerners who have come to Kṛṣṇa consciousness by Prabhupāda's grace should not be puffed up and think themselves better than Indian brāhmaṇas. The śāstras state, kalau śūdra-sambhavaḥ: "In the Age of Kali, everyone is born a śūdra." We are elevated by the process of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, but we have nothing to be proud of on our own account: it is all due to the mercy of the Lord and His pure devotee. Śrīla Haridāsa Ṭhākura set the example: even after he became the most elevated transcendentalist, he did not assert himself as a superior person but wished to be regarded as lowborn. In the name of becoming a transcendentalist, one should not become captured again by false pride.

Only one who is ignorant of the transforming power of bhakti discriminates against devotees on the basis of material designations. Prabhupāda writes, "One should therefore avoid observing a pure devotee externally, but should try to see the internal features and understand how he is engaged in the transcendental loving service of the Lord" (The Nectar of Instruction, Text 6, purport).

In her prayers to Lord Kapila, Devahūti affirmed that the Lord's holy names possess the transcendental power to transform anyone: "Oh, how glorious are they whose tongues are chanting Your holy name! Even if born in families of dog-eaters, such persons are worshipable" (SB 3.33.7).

NBS 73

yatas tadīyāḥ
Synonyms: 
yataḥ — because; tadīyāḥ — His.
Translation: 
Pure devotees are not distinguished by externals like social class, for they belong to the Lord.
Purport: 

Here Nārada explains why one should avoid caste-conscious prejudice toward devotees of Kṛṣṇa: because devotees are all one class—they are all His own. And because they belong to the Supreme Lord (tadīyāḥ), the devotees are worshipable:

ārādhanānāṁ sarveṣāṁ viṣṇor ārādhanaṁ param
tasmāt parataraṁ devi tadīyānāṁ samarcanam

"Of all types of worship, worship of Lord Viṣṇu is best, and better than the worship of Lord Viṣṇu is the worship of His devotee, the Vaiṣṇava" (Padma Purāṇa).

Tadīya means "in relation to Him." The devotees are intimately related to the Lord because they are under the shelter of His internal energy. Thus they always accompany Him and serve Him as His carrier Garuḍa, His couch Ananta Śeṣa, His cows, His gopas and gopīs, and so on.

In a general sense, all living entities are part and parcel of Kṛṣṇa—"My eternal fragmental parts," Kṛṣṇa saysand that is another reason why one should not judge someone higher or lower by material standards. But although all jīvas are dear to Lord Kṛṣṇa, He is dear only to His devotees, and therefore they receive His special attention. As He says in the Bhagavad-gītā (9.29),

samo 'haṁ sarva-bhūteṣu na me dveṣyo 'sti na priyaḥ
ye bhajanti tu māṁ bhaktyā mayi te teṣu cāpy aham

"I envy no one, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all. But whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend—is in Me—and I am also a friend to him."

During a conversation with Sanātana Gosvāmī and Haridāsa Ṭhākura in Jagannātha Purī, Lord Caitanya once elaborately explained the same truth expressed in this sūtra. Sanātana had contracted a skin disease that produced oozing sores. Out of humility he considered his body useless for devotional service, and he decided to commit suicide under the wheel of Lord Jagannātha's chariot. But Lord Caitanya read his mind and forbade him to do so, telling him that he had already surrendered his body to the Lord for service. Lord Caitanya used to embrace Sanātana, and this made Sanātana feel mortified because his oozing sores touched the Lord's body. And so Sanātana decided to leave Jagannātha Purī. But Lord Caitanya explained that He was not offended by Sanātana's body; rather, He felt great bliss while embracing Sanātana because He saw his body as transcendental. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu quoted the Bhagavad-gītā (5.18):

vidyā-vinaya-sampanne brāhmaṇe gavi hastini
śuni caiva śva-pāke ca paṇḍitāḥ sama-darśinaḥ

"The humble sages, by virtue of true knowledge, see with equal vision a learned and gentle brāhmaṇa, a cow, an elephant, a dog, and a dog-eater [outcaste]."

On hearing this quote, Haridāsa said, "What You have spoken deals with external formalities." Lord Caitanya then revealed His inner thoughts regarding His love for His devotees:

My dear Haridāsa and Sanātana, I think of you as My little boys, to be maintained by Me. The maintainer never takes seriously any faults of the maintained....When a child passes stool and urine that touch the body of the mother, the mother never hates the child. On the contrary, she takes much pleasure in cleaning him. The stool and urine of the child appear like sandalwood pulp to the mother. Similarly, when the foul moisture oozing from the sores of Sanātana touches My body, I have no hatred for him. [Cc. Antya 4.184-7]

Lord Caitanya then further explained the glories of devotional service and how it transforms a devotee's body into spiritual existence.

In conclusion, the body of a pure devotee is never material. Even if it appears so, Kṛṣṇa still accepts the devotee as dear and embraces him as His own. By the Lord's mercy, the devotee is spiritualized, and in his transcendental body he renders service to the Lord's lotus feet.