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Discussions on the doctrines of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. Please place practical questions under the Miscellaneous forum and set this aside for the more theoretical side of it.

uttamabhakta descends to madhyama level? - any early sources?

-ek - Sun, 22 Aug 2004 14:46:45 +0530
Dear Pandits,

I have often heard the statement that for preaching purposes the uttama-bhakta descends to the level of madhyama-bhakta. I am unable to trace this notion in shastra, or in the commentarial tradition. I have been told that B.R. Shridhar Maharaja taught this, but have no reference as to when, where, in what context.

I know that A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami wrote this in two places:

"The spiritual master is supposed to be in the most advanced stage, but for preaching purposes he descends to the intermediate stage. The uttama-adhikari, the most advanced devotee, does not discriminate between devotees and nondevotees. He sees everyone but himself as a devotee." (Teachings of Lord Kapila, 15,36)

"With great love and affection, the maha-bhagavata observes the Supreme Personality of Godhead, devotional service and the devotee. He observes nothing beyond Krishna, Krishna consciousness and Krishna’s devotees. The maha-bhagavata knows that everyone is engaged in the Lord’s service in different ways. He therefore descends to the middle platform to elevate everyone to the Krishna conscious position." (Purport to CC Madhya 16.74)


While ACBS's purport on CC Madhya 16.74 is clearly based on Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura's commentary (he quotes BhP 11.2.46 and CC.MAD.22.65, exactly as BSST does), BSST does not say that an uttama-bhakta descends to the madhyama platform. He does, in fact, quote another CC verse that illustrates how much an uttama-bhakta is fixed in seeing everybody serving Krishna. He writes: "The devotional vision/view of the maha-bhagavata is first and foremost "Bhagavan", "Bhakti," and "Bhakta" respectively. Other than that, he has no view whatsoever. 'sabe kRSNa bhaje,--ei mAtra jAne (CC.ANT.13.133)' 'He knew only that everyone was engaged in Krishna’s service; he did not understand anything else.' 'He is absolutely Krishna's,' is his observation."

As for Srimad-Bhagavatam 11.2.46 (IZvare tad-adhIneSu...), where the uttama-/madhyama- categories are defined, Jiva Gosvamin quotes this verse in Bhaktisandarbha, anucched 189. He summarizes how this verse shows what distinguishes the uttama- from the madhyama-bhakta. Jiva writes (my translation):

"Now he describes the madhyama-bhakta with reference to his particular mentality. To the Lord he [the madhyama-bhakta] shows love. It means that he becomes connected to Him in devotion. And likewise, that he shows friendship to those who depend on the Lord, means that he shows the emotions of a friend; the foolish [bAliZeSu] are those who do not know bhagavad-bhakti, i.e. the neutral persons; to them he shows mercy -- as Prahlada said in SB 7.9.43 'zoce tato....' Towards those who are hostile to himself he shows indifference. It means that out of mental distress he ignores bhakta-haters. Even unto the bhakta-haters, because of their ignorance, he shows a genuine bit of mercy -- as Prahlada did unto Hiranyakasipu. Unto the haters of the Lord, however, or unto the haters of the Lord's bhaktas, he shows disaffection. Since he is manifesting merely mercy towards the foolish, and he is manifesting only indifference towards the haters, but not, as the uttama-bhakta does, always shows his love of Godhead, therefore he is a madhyama-bhakta."

It seems like ACBS's statement, "He therefore descends to the middle platform to elevate everyone to the Krishna conscious position," is based neither on Jiva Gosvamin's nor on BSST's explanations of the uttama- madhyama- distinctions.

Does anyone here know whether the doctrine of the uttama-bhakta descending to the madhyama level for preaching purposes can be found in shastra or commentaries prior to ACBS?

Madhava - Sun, 22 Aug 2004 15:48:23 +0530
QUOTE (-ek @ Aug 22 2004, 11:16 AM)
I have been told that B.R. Shridhar Maharaja taught this, but have no reference as to when, where, in what context.

In a very general context, it seems. For example:

"The spiritual master always performs his function from the platform of an intermediate devotee, whether he comes down from the position of a first class devotee to do the work of guru, or does so as a bona fide intermediate devotee." (Sri Guru and His Grace - Ch. 7)

The rationale he offers as the basis of this is that the uttama-bhakta cannot differentiate, that he cannot see the evil and the non-compliance to the Lord's will, and therefore he does not act as a guru in this world directly from that platform.
Madhava - Sun, 22 Aug 2004 16:10:17 +0530
That being said, I have personally not seen any earlier references to support the idea.

As we know, the uttama-bhakta is defined as follows:

sarva bhUteSu yaH pazyed bhagavad-bhAvam AtmanaH |
bhUtAni bhagavaty Atmany eSa bhAgavatottamaH || Bhag. 11.2.45 ||

Could someone look up how the TIkA-kAras treat the concept of bhagavad-bhAva? That seems to be the sole potential "canceling factor" here.

The eulogy of the bhAgavatottama continues from the 48th verse until the end of the chapter, but nothing there seems to suggest anything to support the idea either, unless you interpret sarva-bhUta-samaH zAntaH (52) as the antithesis of the discriminatory powers of the madhyama-bhakta.
anuraag - Sun, 22 Aug 2004 21:08:02 +0530
Devotees can find more about this verse in the 'Raya Ramananda Gauranga Prabhu Samvada' of Sri Caitanya Cartamrita.

Maha Bhagavata- Pure devotee of the Lord is described in Bhagavatam as follows-

"The Maha Bhagavata, (Siddha Prema Bhakta) pure devotee, certainly perceives everything mobile and immobile, but does not exactly see their forms.

Rather, everywhere he immediately percieves the manifested form of his Beloved Supreme Lord.


"sarvatra haya nija-iSTa-deva-sphUrti"

"A pure devotee in Prema Bhakti sees within everything the Soul of souls, the Supreme Lord, Krishna.
Consequently he or she always percieves the Form of Beloved Lord,
the Cause of All causes, situated in all and everything in Him.

(Bhagavatam 11.2.45)

A devotee who has Prema Bhakti, selfless Divine Love, sees only Beloved Lord Krishna in every step of life.
Actually it is not easy to explain in simple words! It is a state of Divine realization of Siddha Mahapurusha! Only those souls who have attained this ultimate goal enjoy the Divine bliss.
Vraja Gopikas are the perfect examples and their Bhagavatottama state described in Rasa Pancadhyayi was praised in this context. (C.C)

Vraja Rasik Saints had given some description of this transcendental vision
in the words of exalted Gopis of Vraja:

"In the streets, on the bathing Ghats,
In the alleys, in the orchards,
In the trees, in the creepers,
In the door-ways, on the walls,
On the thresholds, on the windows,
In the diamonds, in the necklaces,
In the ornaments, in the body,
In the woodlands, in the bowers,
In the Gopis, in the cows,
In the flocks of cattle in Gokula,
In the lightning and in the clouds,
In whichever direction I look, I see nothing but Shyam;
Jagat - Mon, 23 Aug 2004 03:58:03 +0530
It's a bit too much to give you all the stuff about bhagavad-bhAvah as commented on in this verse. It's a huge subject in itself, especially if we follow up the quotes and analyze the different ways of seeing God. The interesting thing is the sheer variety of the ways in which one can see God everywhere. It seems to not be a single thing, but a veritable barrage of God-ness.

(1) Sridhara basically gives two possiblities. (a) One is "brahma-jnana." (b) The second is to see God's controlling power present everywhere, "even in the mosquito." "and therefore makes no distinction of higher or lower amongst them." I guess you could call this "paramatma-jnana."

(2) Sanatan Prabhu in HBV 10.22 follows Sridhar almost word for word. But adds a little about seeing Krishna's apracyutaizvarya ("unassailable omnipotence") in all creatures, whatever the creature's material situation. So he gives a primarily aisvarya analysis here [FONT=Times]

(3) Jiva Prabhu in Krama-sandarbha (=Bhakti-sandarbha 188) gives two interpretations, a third if you include his comments to 11.2.41.(4) Vishwanath gives some novel versions.
(5) Saraswati Thakur (to Madhya 8.275) has the following:

sarveSu AtmanaH bhoga-jaDAtItasya aprAkRtasya bhagavad-bhAvaM bhUtAnAM bhagavat-sevopayogi-siddha-svarUpAdikaM pazyet, Atmani bhagavati nija-siddha-rUpeNa aprAkRta-nitya-sevA-parANi bhUtAni pazyet |

"Sees in all beings the siddha form which is capable of serving the Lord. And in the Soul, i.e., God, sees all creatures engaged in transcendental service in that siddha form."

Excuse the rush job. I am attaching Bhagavata 11.2 with commentaries in its current state of partial completion. (about 35%) All the relevant verses have been done.
Attachment: BhP_11.02.doc
Jagat - Mon, 23 Aug 2004 04:08:13 +0530
I would be interested to see if Ananta Dasji agrees with or even knows of the madhyama bhakta interpretation. Or is it a strictly Gaudiya Math thing? Another thing to add to the list of siddhanta questions for him I am compiling in a letter.

In a certain sense, if the uttama-bhakta sees the potential rather than the actual fully realized state, then he could conceivably still preach. In fact, it would be more efficacious.

What I get from the above reading is that there are many ways of seeing bhagavad-bhAva in all creatures. If one projects (as Jiva seems to take it) that other creatures love Krishna already, then yes it would be impossible for him to preach to them.

If on the other hand he simply sees them as potentially rendering service to Krishna, or as already engaged in Krishna's service in a real but unconscious sense, then he could conceivably preach to them.

Thirdly, if we take Vishwanath's point that Narada, etc., were uttama-bhaktas but did not necessarily always see Krishna directly, then we have another state in which it would be possible to concurrently have prema and a relationship with the world that consisted of preaching.

Fourthly, a premi bhakta would be unstoppable in engaging in hearing and chanting about Krishna. So where is the question of not preaching? yAsAM hari-kathodgItaM punAti bhuvana-trayam. "The gopis purified the entire world with their songs of Krishna."

anuraag - Mon, 23 Aug 2004 06:43:03 +0530
a premi bhakta would be unstoppable in engaging in hearing and chanting about Krishna.

"yAsAM hari-kathodgItaM punAti bhuvana-trayam. The gopis purified the entire world with their songs of Krishna."

How exactly did the Gopis sing?
gAyanti caina manurakta dhiyozru kaNThyo
dhanyA vraja striya urukrama citta yAnAH
Jagat - Mon, 23 Aug 2004 09:25:06 +0530
But now that I think of it, perhaps the very idea of "preaching" is somehow erroneous. The gopis glorify Krishna constantly, but perhaps not in the same way that a lower class of devotee does. For instance, a kanistha devotee also preaches, but with egoism and sectarian spirit. "My group is the best, and by getting you to join, I prove my own superiority." A madhyama perhaps does so with more benevolent purpose, but the uttama bhakta does so in a spirit of sharing, as though the other person is already participating in the rasa.

Just some thoughts.
Madanmohan das - Wed, 25 Aug 2004 05:13:45 +0530
I've often heard about this subject of guru decsending to the madhyama bhagavat stage and wondered if there might be anything in Bhakti sandarbha, I vaguely recall someone attributing it to that.
dirty hari - Wed, 25 Aug 2004 13:45:04 +0530
My understanding is that the uttama doesn't come down to the madhyama level. It is a bit more complex. The uttama sees everyone as being totally controlled, everything anyone is doing is under the direction of Paramatma. Also Krishna speaks to him through everyone and everything. In this way the uttama sees everyone serving Krishna. He doesn't see people as consciously serving Krishna, he is not insane. He is not ignorant. He is not hallucinating. He is more aware then anyone else.

He acts as a madhyama when he preaches, he doesn't factually come down to that level, he acts on that level. In order to preach you have to try and change others. You have to tell them what you think is right, and if you think they are wrong you have to tell them that. So the uttama acts as a madyhama when preaching. He makes an effort to change that which is naturally occurring. Whereas when he is not preaching, he doesn't, he won't go against the "flow". Whereas a real madhyama will always make an effort to change what is occurring, in all aspects of his life, he tries to make his destiny happen, not seeing reality like an uttama.

When the uttama is not preaching, he makes no distinction between anything and everything he perceives with his senses and mind. He sees everything like a person who is watching a movie, with the director sitting next to him talking to him. He is fully aware that He is watching actors being directed and following a script, and that everything he sees or hears on the screen is purposefully done. In this way life becomes a constant communication between the devotee and the director. How ? The director has previously arranged for the movie i.e your life, to be entirely scripted out. So everything, at all times, what you see, hear, think, or feel, becomes a constant synchronous experience.

Imagine seeing everyone and everything you come in contact with as a vehicle for communication, at all times, externally, with what you see and hear. At that point of awareness, you become a source of entertainment for God. God is essentially an entertainer, h/she wants an audience. Loves to show off, loves to be appreciated for his/her talents, humor especially, and other things as well. When the whole world becomes a stage, the show never ends. There is no effort on the part of the devotee, rather he becomes deluged with Krishna, by Krishna. It's really what you would expect. Here God is, running everything, with you all day, every day, every second. When S/he can finally get your attention, it's like your life is finally paying some dividends. Everyone likes to show off and impress his friends and loved ones. God is no different, when you control everything, you can really show off.

Internally is another matter. The mind is God as well. The uttama is detached from identifying the mind as being under his control. It only appears to be. When that is understood, then the mind also becomes another way for Krishna to reveal himself. Imagine two people in one mind. The uttama experiences this at all times.

None of this is something that can be experienced by meditation or through knowledge. Knowledge can bring you to the point of being receptive to this reality. But since everything is already planned out, it will happen when Krishna gives that reality to you.