Vaisnava-ninda (Criticizing a Vaisnava), Part 3

BY: SUN STAFF - 6.6 2022

A serial presentation of 'Vaisnava-ninda' by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur.

Three Classifications of Vaisnavas According to the Teachings of Sriman Mahaprabhu: Vaisnava, Vaisnava-tara and Vaisnava-tama

The only conclusion to be drawn then is that when those who were in the kanistha stage attain faith in the scriptures (sastriya-sraddha) and hence become eligible to serve the Vaisnavas, they are thereafter described simply as vaisnava (having vaisnava qualities) until the time when they attain the other qualities characteristic of a madhyama Vaisnava. Correspondingly, madhyama Vaisnavas are described as vaisnava-tara (having vaisnava qualities to a profound degree) while uttama Vaisnavas alone, the topmost Vaisnavas, are described as vaisnava-tama (having vaisnava qualities to the superlative degree).

* The word vaisnava is here being used as an adjective, as in "having vaisnava qualities", and the affixes tara and tama modify that adjective to the intensified and superlative degrees respectively.

It is necessary to deliberate upon the way in which Sriman Mahaprabhu introduces us to these three types of Vaisnavas:

One who is vaisnava –

"ataeva yanra mukhe eka krsna-nama
sei ta' vaisnava, kariha tanhara sammana"
Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila (15.111)

One who chants the name of Krsna* even once is vaisnava (possessed of vaisnava qualities). Therefore, you should show all respect to him.

* In this article the term krsna-nama, or "the holy name of Krsna", refers tosuddha-nama – as distinct from nama-aparadha (offensive chanting of the holy name) and nama-abhasa (a semblance of chanting the holy name). Suddha-nama is directly Krsna Himself in the absolutely pure, transcendental form of His holy name.

One who is vaisnava-tara –

'krsna'-nama nirantara yanhara vadane
sei se vaisnavatara, bhaja tanhara carane
Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila (16.72)

One who incessantly chants Krsna's name is vaisnava-tara (possessed of vaisnava qualities to a profound degree) and one should render service to his lotus feet.

One who is vaisnava-tama –

yanhara darsane mukhe aise krsna-nama
tanhare janiha tumi 'vaisnava-pradhana'
krama kari' kahe prabhu 'vaisnava'-laksana-
'vaisnava', 'vaisnavatara', ara 'vaisnavatama'
Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila (16.74–75)

One who inspires others to chant krsna-nama merely by being visible to them is vaisnava-tama (possessed of vaisnava qualities to the superlative degree) and is the topmost Vaisnava.

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu thus explained the different grades of Vaisnavas in sequence – those who are vaisnava, those who are vaisnava-tara and those who are vaisnava-tama – in accordance with the symptoms they each exhibit.

According to these teachings of Sriman Mahaprabhu, one who merely utters krsna-nama is eligible to be described as a Vaisnava. Among the kanistha bhaktas, those who are described as vaisnavapraya (resembling Vaisnavas), or else vaisnava-abhasa (the semblance of a Vaisnava) only chant namabhasa (a semblance of the holy name). They do not chant suddhanama (the absolutely pure holy name). However, those who are, in fact, able to chant suddha-nama, even once, have vaisnava qualities and are suddha Vaisnavas; those who incessantly chant suddha-nama are vaisnava-tara (possessed of Vaisnava qualities to a profound degree); and those who cause others to chant krsna-nama merely by being visible to them, are vaisnava-tama (possessed of Vaisnava qualities to the superlative degree).


Translated from Sri Gaudiya Patrika, Year 7, Issue 10 in Rays of The Harmonist, Kartika Issue, 2009