Are There Different Grades of Pure Devotees?

ASK BVKS | May 1, 2016 |

English; Vellore, Tamil Nadu, India


Are there different grades of pure Devotees?

ANSWER by HH Bhakti Vikāśa Swami:


Caitanya Mahāprabhu recommends: ramyā kācid upāsanā vraja-vadhū-vargeṇa yā kalpitā: there is no better process by which to worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead than that method adopted by the gopīs. 

(Teachings of Queen Kuntī, Chapter 25: Unalloyed Devotion)

Kṛṣṇa Himself said that. You’ll find it in 11th canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.

It doesn’t mean that other pure devotees are somehow contaminated. What they are doing is full and perfect.

Just like, for instance, in Vṛndāvana, there are so many cows. So, theirs service to Kṛṣṇa as cows is full and perfect. Kṛṣṇa is Gopāl. He couldn’t be Gopāl unless there are cows to look after.

If all the cows would say: We gonna go on strike! We want promotion. We want to become gopīs. 

Then Kṛṣṇa’s līla would be incomplete. Gopī also means they are also looking after cows. So if there are no cows to milk, there is no milk to give to Kṛṣṇa.

What do cows do for Kṛṣṇa that’s full and perfect, as that of gopīs, as one consideration.

(At 1:31 starts a quote which reference couldn’t be found.

HH BVKS gives this translation: “On whatever platform one serves Kṛṣṇa…They think: For me, this is the best!”)


Just like Hanumān. He is a perfect devotee. He doesn’t want to be a gopī. He doesn’t want to serve Kṛṣṇa. Not that he is against Kṛṣṇa, but (rather let us put it another way) he wants to serve Kṛṣṇa as Rāma.

Hanumān said:

śrīnāthe jānakī-nāthe

ābhedaḥ paramātmani

tathāpi mama sarvasvam

ramāḥ kamala-locanah

“Although He is not different from Lord Nārāyaṇa, lotus-eyed Lord Rāma alone is the be-all and end-all of my life.”

(Sri Premā-bhakti-candrikā, song 2.17)

There is a story in this regard, that Garuḍa was sent by Kṛṣṇa in Dvārakā: You go and see Hanumān, and tell him to come to see Me!”

Because Hanumān is ciranjīvī (one of seven immortal living beings who are to remain alive on Earth until the end of the current Kali Yuga), he lives in Kimpuruṣa-loka.

So, Garuḍa came to Hanumān and invited him to come and see Kṛṣṇa.

Hanumān: No! I’m busy serving Rāma.

Garuḍa: I can take you. You can just go and come back. I’m Garuḍa. I can go quicker than anything.

Hanumān: No!

Then Garuḍa went back. This is all connected with Satyabhāmā actually. Then Kṛṣṇa told him to say: Rāma is there. He wants to see you, so come.

So Garuḍa went and said: Hanumān you can go on my wings. I’ll bring you quickly.

Hanumān said: Forget your wings! Rāma is there.

He jumped there quicker than Garuḍa can go.

In the meantime Kṛṣṇa and Satyabhāmā changed to Rāma and Sītā. So, Hanumān was in ecstasy.

Hanumān is fully satisfied. And Rāma wouldn’t be satisfied if (there is no question of it, but…) Hanumān says: Well Rāma…OK, but now I’m gonna go and worship Kṛṣṇa now.


In whatever mode pure devotees serve it is full and perfect.

In this world also, there are pure devotees who are completely free from any vice, and there are those who are on the path.

Pure devotees may be called uttama-adhikārī. Adhikārī means they are qualified to perform devotional service in the topmost way. They may be not reached the topmost platform.



ānukūlyena kṛṣṇānu-

śīlanaṁ bhaktir uttamā

(CC Madhya 19.167)

"One should render transcendental loving service to the Supreme Lord Kṛṣṇa favorably and without desire for material profit or gain through fruitive activities or philosophical speculation. That is called pure devotional service."

Uttama bhakti, the highest level of bhakti is one in which one doesn’t cultivate any desire for self aggrandisement on the gross material platform or on the subtle mental platform, or one does not want liberation from this world; but has made the goal of one’s life to serve Kṛṣṇa only. Nothing else! Without any desire, and cultivates that in a favourable manner. Such a person is qualified to serve Kṛṣṇa. That is the topmost level of service, but he may have not been fully situated in it.

So, in one sense, one can even be a beginner and be a pure devotee if one’s goal of life is to serve Kṛṣṇa only.

Of course, there is a great difference between great ācāryas like Śrīla Prabhupāda, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura and Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, and ourselves. But they come to bring us up, to close the gap, and to bring us up to the pure platform.

So, there are grades of pure devotees, certainly.

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I have been wondering,

(1) Why chanting the name of the Lord is considered to be service. How are you serving the Lord by just chanting His name?

(2) Why chanting the name of the Lord is considered to be glorification of Him. When are we glorifying him while chanting?

Answer by HH Bhakti Vikāsa Swami: 

Why is it considered to be service to Kṛṣṇa to chant His names? Because He likes to hear His names chanted and He says to chant. This is His order. So if you follow the order you are doing service. Serving someone means to act, if it’s in the case of a subordinate or an equal, it means to act for their benefit and if for a superior, it means to act for their pleasure. So Kṛṣṇa likes to hear His own name. So chanting His name is His order. That’s mentioned in Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, that Vallabha Bhaṭṭa came to Caitanya Mahāprabhu and made the objection that Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Lord, so in that sense He is like the husband of everyone, but according to śāstra the wife shouldn’t say the husband’s name, so you shouldn’t chant the holy name. Caitanya Mahāprabhu replied to this rather odd objection that the most important for the wife is to follow the order of the husband. So the order of Kṛṣṇa is to chant His name, so we should chant it.

Where is the glorification? How are we glorifying Him by chanting? It might not seem to be glorification if we just say the name, nāma kīrtana. If we say Kṛṣṇa is powerful, He is beautiful, we can say that’s glorification. That’s specifically called guṇa kīrtana – to speak on the qualities of Kṛṣṇa. But nāma kīrtana is also glorification in the sense that by repeatedly saying His name in an attitude of reverence that’s certainly glorifying Him. That means that we take Kṛṣṇa very seriously and we are asking others to do so also, bringing Kṛṣṇa to others’ attention. So that is also glorifying. We‘re not chanting the name of anyone else. You can go, someone living in the next building, his name might be, for instance, I don’t know the names of anyone living there, but there might be someone there theoretically called Piyush Caudhari. So we are not chanting Piyush Caudhari, Piyush Caudhari, Piyush Caudhari… If we did, it would be remarkable because no one living in the apartment here is so remarkable that we want to chant their names, especially not repeatedly. But Kṛṣṇa is so extraordinary and rememberable, worthy of thinking about – smaraṇīya - that we want to remember Him by chanting His holy name. The very fact we are chanting is glorification, we are chanting His names. It shows His importance.

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