The verses from this lesson contains some deep philosophy. There are few themes that came to my mind as I read and meditated on these verses. I can relate some of these teachings to verse 6 of Nectar of Instruction.
The first theme that came to my mind is related to the discussions between Jagadananda Pandita and Sanatana Goswami. As we know, Jagadananda Pandita advised Sanatana Goswami to reside in Vrindavana dhama. However Caitanya Mahaprabhu did not appreciate this advice and chastised Jagadananda Pandita. He said:
““Jagā [Jagadānanda Paṇḍita] is only a new boy, but he has become so proud that he thinks himself competent to advise a person like you. In affairs of spiritual advancement and even in ordinary dealings, you are on the level of his spiritual master. Yet not knowing his own value, he dares to advise you. My dear Sanātana, you are on the level of My advisor, for you are an authorized person. But Jagā wants to advise you. This is but the impudence of a naughty boy.” (CC Antya 4.157-160)
This is important lesson for us to learn. We should refrain from advising senior and advanced devotees, and especially our spiritual masters. It is an offense to consider them on the same level as us. We should always remain humble and consider ourselves as specks of dust at their lotus feet.
“It is also an offense to consider an empowered Vaiṣṇava an object of disciplinary action. It is offensive to try to give him advice or to correct him. One can distinguish between a neophyte Vaiṣṇava and an advanced Vaiṣṇava by their activities. The advanced Vaiṣṇava is always situated as the spiritual master, and the neophyte is always considered his disciple. The spiritual master must not be subjected to the advice of a disciple, nor should a spiritual master be obliged to take instructions from those who are not his disciples.” (NOI 6)
The second theme of my realization pertains to the discussion between Lord Caitanya and Sanatana Goswami on the distinction between material bodies and spiritual bodies. I see no reason why Sanatana Goswami would contract a skin disease. He is a pure devotee of the Lord and appeared on this planet to fulfill Lord Caitanya’s mission. But the Lord is inconceivable and wanted to teach us something through this pastime. The chief lesson for us is to understand that the body of a pure devotee is never material, but transcendental. By the dint of devotional service, they are able to transform their body, mind, and words from material to spiritual.
“The body of a karmī is called material because the karmī, being too absorbed in material activities, is always eager to enjoy material facilities, but the body of a devotee who tries his best to work very hard for the satisfaction of Kṛṣṇa by fully engaging in the Lord’s service must be accepted as transcendental. Whereas karmīs are interested only in the personal satisfaction of their senses, devotees work for the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord. Therefore one who cannot distinguish between devotion and ordinary karma may mistakenly consider the body of a pure devotee material. One who knows does not commit such a mistake. Nondevotees who consider devotional activities and ordinary material activities to be on the same level are offenders to the chanting of the transcendental holy name of the Lord. A pure devotee knows that a devotee’s body, being always transcendental, is just suitable for rendering service to the Lord.” (CC Antya 4.171-173)
We have also learned this from ‘Nectar of Instruction’. Text 6 of NOI says:
“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.”
How wonderful is Sri Caitanya Caritamrta. The Lord instructs in one book (NOI) and personally explains this as a pastime in another book (CC). Srimad Bhagavatam and Sri Caitanya Caritamrta are full of such teachings of the Lord in the form of beautiful and enriching pastimes.
One may ask how can a devotee transform his body from material to spiritual? The answer lies in BG 14.26: ““One who engages in full devotional service, who does not fall down in any circumstance, at once transcends the modes of material nature and thus comes to the level of Brahman.”
“If we consider the bodily defects of a Vaiṣṇava, we should understand that we are committing an offense at the lotus feet of the Vaiṣṇava. An offense at the lotus feet of a Vaiṣṇava is very serious. Indeed, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has described this offense as hātī-mātā, the mad elephant offense. A mad elephant can create a disaster, especially when it enters into a nicely trimmed garden. One should therefore be very careful not to commit any offense against a Vaiṣṇava.” (NOI 6)
My last realization is about humility. Sometimes due to our material conditioning, we think we have become advanced devotees just by engaging in little bit of devotional service, or by being in the Krsna consciousness movement for many years. I have heard senior devotees say, “I have been in this movement for 40+ years, or I have been chanting the holy name for many years.” This is not a sign of advancement in Krsna consciousness. True advancement lies in considering humble and unfit for devotional service. Srila Prabhupada never felt proud of his pure devotee status; he would always say that he is very insignificant and just a humble servant of his spiritual master.
“A devotee on the topmost platform of devotional service always humbly thinks that he is not rendering any devotional service. He thinks that he is poor in devotional service and that his body is material. On the other hand, those known as the sahajiyās foolishly think that their material bodies are transcendental. Because of this, they are always bereft of the association of pure devotees, and thus they cannot behave like Vaiṣṇavas. Observing the defects of the sahajiyās, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has sung as follows in his book Kalyāṇa-kalpataru: “ ‘If I think I am a Vaiṣṇava, I shall look forward to receiving respect from others. And if the desire for fame and reputation pollutes my heart, certainly I shall go to hell. By giving others the remnants of my food, I shall consider myself superior and shall be burdened with the weight of false pride. Therefore, always remaining your surrendered disciple, I shall not accept worship from anyone else.’” (CC Antya 4.171-173 Purport)
Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī has written (Antya-līlā 20.28): “ ‘Wherever there is a relationship of love of Godhead, the natural symptoms are that the devotee does not think himself a devotee, but always thinks that he has not even a drop of love for Kṛṣṇa.’ ”
“One who thinks himself lower than the grass, who is more tolerant than a tree, and who does not expect personal honor yet is always prepared to give all respect to others can very easily always chant the holy name of the Lord.” (Sri Siksataska 3)
All glories to Srila Prabhupada!