न तद्भक्तेषु चान्येषु स भक्त: प्राकृत: स्मृत: ॥ ४७ ॥
pūjāṁ yaḥ śraddhayehate
na tad-bhakteṣu cānyeṣu
sa bhaktaḥ prākṛtaḥ smṛtaḥ
arcāyām — Deity; eva — certainly; haraye — to Lord Hari; pūjām — worship; yaḥ — who; śraddhayā — faithfully; īhate — engages; na — not; tat — of Kṛṣṇa; bhakteṣu — toward the devotees; ca — and; anyeṣu — toward people in general; saḥ — he; bhaktaḥ prākṛtaḥ — materialistic devotee; smṛtaḥ — is called.
A devotee who faithfully engages in the worship of the Deity in the temple but does not behave properly toward other devotees or people in general is called a prākṛta-bhakta, a materialistic devotee, and is considered to be in the lowest position.
Śrīla Madhvācārya comments that one in the lowest stage of devotional service faithfully worships the Deity in the temple but is not aware that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is actually all-pervading. This same mentality can be seen in the Western countries, where people commit all types of sinful activities in their homes and in the street but then piously go to a church and pray to God for mercy. Actually, God is in our home, God is in the street, God is in our office, God is in the forest, God is everywhere, and therefore God should be worshiped everywhere by the process of devotional service at His lotus feet. As stated in verse 41 of this chapter:
jyotīṁṣi sattvāni diśo drumādīn
sarit-samudrāṁś ca hareḥ śarīraṁ
yat kiṁ ca bhūtaṁ praṇamed ananyaḥ
“A devotee should not see anything as being separate from the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa. Ether, fire, air, water, earth, the sun and other luminaries, all living beings, the directions, trees and other plants, the rivers and oceans — whatever a devotee experiences he should consider to be an expansion of Kṛṣṇa. Thus seeing everything that exists within creation as the body of the Supreme Lord, Hari, the devotee should offer his sincere respects to the entire expansion of the Lord’s body.” This is the vision of the mahā-bhāgavata devotee of the Lord.
Śrīla Madhvācārya states that a madhyama-adhikārī, a devotee in the intermediate stage, sees the Supreme Personality of Godhead as the cause of all causes and therefore offers his love to the Lord. Such a devotee is a sincere friend of other devotees, is merciful to the ignorant and avoids the atheists. Nonetheless, tad-vaśatvaṁ na jānāti sarvasya jagato ’pi tu: his realization of the all-pervading feature of the Supreme Lord is imperfect. Although he does have a general sense that everyone is ultimately meant to be a devotee of the Supreme Lord and he tries to use everything in the service of Kṛṣṇa, aware that everything belongs to the Lord, he may be bewildered by association with atheistic men.
Śrīla Madhvācārya states, arcāyām eva saṁsthitam/ viṣṇuṁ jñātvā tad-anyatra naiva jānāti yaḥ pumān. A kaniṣṭha-adhikārī has no idea that the Supreme Lord has the power to exist outside a church or temple. Furthermore, being puffed up by his own ceremonial worship (ātmano bhakti-darpataḥ), a kaniṣṭha-adhikārī cannot imagine that anyone is more pious or religious than he, and he is not even aware that other devotees are more advanced. Thus he cannot understand the madhyama or uttama standard of devotional service, and sometimes, because of his false pride, he criticizes the more advanced devotees of the Lord, neglects them or simply has no understanding of their exalted position as preachers or completely self-realized souls.
Another symptom of the kaniṣṭha-adhikārī is that he is infatuated by the material qualifications of so-called great materialistic persons. Having a bodily concept of life himself, he is attracted by material opulence and thus minimizes the position of the Supreme Lord, Viṣṇu. Such a kaniṣṭha-adhikārī, therefore, is disturbed if a second-class devotee criticizes the nondevotees of the Lord. In the name of compassion or kindness, a kaniṣṭha-adhikārī approves of the nondevotional activities of such materialistic men. Because the kaniṣṭha-adhikārī is ignorant of the higher realms of devotional service and the unlimited transcendental bliss of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, he sees devotional service merely as the religious aspect of life but thinks that life has many enjoyable and worthwhile nondevotional aspects. Therefore he becomes angry when second-class devotees, who are experiencing that Kṛṣṇa is everything, criticize the nondevotees. Madhvācārya says that such a person, because of his rudimentary faith in Kṛṣṇa, is considered a devotee, but he is bhaktādhama, a devotee on the lowest standard. If such materialistic devotees follow the rules and regulations of Deity worship, they will gradually be elevated to a higher standard and eventually become pure devotees of the Lord, unless they commit offenses against other devotees, in which case their advancement will be checked.
Śrīla Madhvācārya states, tad-bhaktānām upekṣakāḥ kuryur viṣṇāv api dveṣam. Those who neglect or show indifference to the devotees of the Lord are to be considered offenders at the lotus feet of Viṣṇu. Similarly, those who disrespect the demigods will become bereft of devotional service and be forced to rotate again and again within saṁsāra, the cycle of birth and death. Pūjyā devās tataḥ sadā: the demigods are always to be offered respect, since they are devotees of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If someone is envious of the demigods, he is to be considered envious of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Similarly, one who offers sincere respect to the demigods is considered to be respecting the will of the Supreme Lord. A Vaiṣṇava does not foolishly think that there are many gods. He knows that there is one Supreme Personality of Godhead. But as stated many times in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, the Lord has a mission within this material world, which is to reform the conditioned living entities through the cruel laws of nature. In the Lord’s mission within this world, the demigods are to be considered limbs of the Lord’s body. It is stated in Bhagavad-gītā (7.20):
taṁ taṁ niyamam āsthāya
prakṛtyā niyatāḥ svayā
“Those whose minds are distorted by material desires surrender unto demigods and follow the particular rules and regulations of worship according to their own natures.” But there are many examples of devotees who worshiped the demigods to get benedictions for serving Lord Kṛṣṇa. The gopīs worshiped the demigods to achieve Kṛṣṇa, and similarly Rukmiṇīdevī, on the day of her marriage, engaged in such demigod worship, her only goal being Kṛṣṇa. Even today the preachers of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement cultivate important people with all kindness and diplomacy so that such wealthy or influential people will engage their resources in the devotional service of Kṛṣṇa to glorify Kṛṣṇa all over the world. Similarly, offering all respects to the demigods so that they will give facility for the devotional service of Kṛṣṇa is not against the bhakti-mārga, although nowadays such demigod worship has also deteriorated. Therefore, Caitanya Mahāprabhu has recommended hari-nāma saṅkīrtana, chanting the holy names of Kṛṣṇa, as the only realistic process for this age. Nonetheless, a devotee of the Lord should not misinterpret Bhagavad-gītā’s injunctions against demigod worship as a license to offend the demigods, who are bona fide Vaiṣṇavas.
Śrīla Madhvācārya notes,
vidviṣanty adhikaṁ surāḥ
pataty avaśyaṁ tamasi
hariṇā taiś ca pātitaḥ
“All the demigods are extremely inimical to one who does not respect Lord Viṣṇu. Such a person is pushed into the darkest regions by the Lord, as well as by the demigods.” From this statement by Śrīla Madhvācārya, the devotional sentiments of the demigods can be understood. It is stated that in the supreme liberation achieved by an uttama-adhikārī, the most exalted devotee of the Lord, the devotee enjoys transcendental bliss in the direct association of the Supreme Lord and the demigods.
According to Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī, since a kaniṣṭha-adhikārī who cannot properly respect other devotees will certainly fail to offer respects to ordinary living entities who are not even devotees, a kaniṣṭha-adhikārī is useless for practical preaching work unless he comes to a higher platform of understanding. Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī says, iyaṁ ca śraddhā na śāstrārthāvadhāraṇa-jātā. Because the kaniṣṭha-adhikārī’s faith is not actually based on the statements of Vedic literature, he cannot understand the exalted position of the Supreme Personality of Godhead within everyone’s heart. Therefore he cannot actually manifest love of Godhead, nor can he understand the exalted position of the devotees of the Lord. Kṛṣṇa is so glorious that Kṛṣṇa’s intimate associates must also be glorious. But this is unknown to a kaniṣṭha-adhikārī. Similarly, the essential qualification of a Vaiṣṇava, which is to offer all respects to others (amāninā mānadena kīrtanīyaḥ sadā hariḥ), is also conspicuous by its absence in a kaniṣṭha-adhikārī. If such a person, however, has faith in the Vedic literatures and tries to understand the statements of Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, he will gradually be elevated to the second- and first-class stages of devotional service.
According to Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, a kaniṣṭha-adhikārī should very seriously engage in regulated worship of the Deity. The Deity is a particular incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Lord Kṛṣṇa can present Himself before the worshiper in five different manifestations, namely His original form as Kṛṣṇa (para), His quadruple expansions (vyūha), His pastime incarnations (vaibhava), the Supersoul (antaryāmī) and the Deity (arcā). Within the Deity form (arcā) is the Supersoul, who in turn is included within the Lord’s pastime forms (vaibhava). The Supreme Lord’s vaibhava-prakāśa is an emanation from the catur-vyūha. This quadruple expansion of the Lord is situated within the supreme truth, Vāsudeva, who Himself is situated within the svayaṁ-prakāśa-tattva. This svayaṁ-prakāśa consists of expansions of the ultimate svayaṁ-rūpa-tattva, the original form of Kṛṣṇa within Goloka Vṛndāvana in the spiritual sky. This hierarchy of the expansions of the Supreme Lord in the spiritual world is realized even within the material world in terms of one’s eagerness to render service to the Lord. A beginner in the lowest stage of devotional service should try to dedicate all his activities to the satisfaction of the Lord and cultivate the worship of Kṛṣṇa in the temple.
According to Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, all the plenary expansions of the Supreme Lord mentioned above descend into this world and enter within the Deity, who exhibits the function of the Supersoul by accompanying the daily life of the Vaiṣṇava. Although the vaibhava, or pastime expansions, of the Lord incarnate at specific times (rāmādi-mūrtiṣu kalā-niyamena tiṣṭhan), the Supersoul and Deity forms are constantly available for the spiritual advancement of the devotees in this world. As one comes to the madhyama-adhikārī platform, one is able to understand the expansions of the Supreme Lord, whereas the kaniṣṭha-adhikārī’s entire knowledge of the Lord is limited to the Deity. Nonetheless, Kṛṣṇa is so kind that to encourage even the lowest class of Vaiṣṇavas He condenses all of His various forms into the Deity so that by worshiping the Deity the kaniṣṭha-adhikārī devotee is worshiping all the forms of the Lord. As the devotee makes advancement, he can understand these forms as they appear in their own way, both within this world and in the spiritual sky.
As long as one remains on the third-class platform, one has no transcendental appreciation of the blissful reality of the Supreme Lord’s paraphernalia and entourage. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu was very pleased with King Pratāparudra when the King, upon receiving an outer cloth from the Lord, immediately installed it as a Deity and began to worship it as being as good as the Lord Himself. Lord Śiva himself has stated, tasmād parataraṁ devi tadīyānāṁ samarcanam. Worship of the paraphernalia, entourage or devotees of the Lord is even better than worship of the Lord, because the Lord is more pleased by worship of His devotees and entourage than by worship of Himself personally.
According to Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, the inability of the kaniṣṭha-adhikārī to appreciate the Lord’s devotees, entourage and paraphernalia indicates that such a materialistic Vaiṣṇava is still affected by the speculative understanding of the karma-vādīs and Māyāvādīs, those who are dedicated to sense gratification and impersonal speculation about the Absolute. Śrīla Prabhupāda often said that only the impersonalist desires to see Kṛṣṇa alone; we desire to see Kṛṣṇa with His cows, His friends, His parents, His gopīs, His flute, jewelry, forest scenery and so on. Kṛṣṇa is gorgeous in the setting of Vṛndāvana. It is in the land of Vṛndāvana that Lord Kṛṣṇa, surrounded by so many beautiful associates, manifests His exalted indescribable beauty. Similarly, the unique mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is exhibited in the activities of His pure devotees who selflessly travel around the universe distributing the dust particles from Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet on the heads of the conditioned souls. One who is uninterested in the Lord’s paraphernalia, entourage and devotees has a stunted conception of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This must be due to contamination from the impersonal and sensuous understandings of life.
Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura states that after hundreds of lifetimes of faithfully worshiping the Deity of Lord Vāsudeva with external paraphernalia, one realizes the true nature of His transcendental name and mantras, and the bondage of one’s materialistic mentality slackens. In this way, as a kaniṣṭha-adhikārī gradually comes to perceive the mental activities of a devotee and tries seriously to advance to a higher stage, his materialistic conceptions will go away of their own accord. He then exhibits loving service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead and makes friendship with the devotees who are the dearmost sons of the Lord, and by appreciating the universal quality of devotional service to Kṛṣṇa he becomes very much eager to engage other innocent people in the service of the Lord. Further, as he begins to make significant advancement he becomes inimical to anything or anyone that hinders the progress of his devotional life, and thus he avoids atheistic people who cannot benefit by good instruction.
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness, founded by His Divine Grace Oṁ Viṣṇupāda Paramahaṁsa Parivrājakācārya 108 Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda, is so nice that anyone who helps this society immediately engages in preaching work for the Lord. Thus there is great facility for the members of this society to come quickly to the second-class stage of devotional service. If in the name of Kṛṣṇa consciousness one gives up preaching and instead becomes interested simply in collecting funds for maintenance, he is showing a type of envy of other living entities. This is a symptom of the third-class platform. According to Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura, verses 45 through 47 constitute the answer to King Nimi’s two questions “What is the nature of devotional service to the Lord?” and “What are the specific duties of the Vaiṣṇavas?”