How to recognize a Vaishnava

Om Vishnupad 108 Tridandi Swami Sri Srimat Bhakti Sravan Tirtha Goswami Maharaj ki Jai !!

Once someone asked Srila Gaura kishora das Babaji, “The actual character of topmost Vaishnavas does not always seem to correspond to the descriptions of their character as given in the scriptures such as Srimad Bhagavatam. Such Vaishnavas sometimes even appear to exhibit mundane worldly characteristics. Please be merciful and instruct us in this matter so that we can recognize a genuine Vaishnava and not commit aparadh”.

Srila Babaji Maharaj responded, “Out of his own free will and the inspiration of Krishna, a great Vaishnava, feeling compassionate for the miserable plight of fallen and conditioned souls, advents himself in a certain family, at a certain place and a certain time. When such an exalted Vaishnava attracts people by his selfless love and devotion and teaches them bhakti to Lord Krishna, the Supreme Lord Himself thinks with some trepidation: “It will be difficult for Me to repay the debt to those who have surrendered themselves to such Vaishnavas, who are as dear to Me as My life. I will become the servant of those who are affectionate to My pure devotees and thus I will easily come under their control.”

With this fear Bhagavan Sri Krishna occasionally conceals the spiritual qualities of great souls from the eyes of the public. By the power of Krishna’s maya shakti, the characteristics of a genuine Vaishnava are concealed from those who have interests contrary to devotional service.

Thus genuine Vaishnavas appear to the dull-minded as having materialistic characters. In this mood, Krishna examines the living entity to see how much he is actually attracted to the Absolute Truth, and if he is, He then reveals the spiritual characteristics of the great souls.

Hence, without the exercise of the independent will of a Vaishnava, no one can know him even after seeing in him all the characteristics described in the scriptures. It is often observed that the Vaishnavas praise the materialists and thereafter keep their distance from them. Sometimes, out of fear of the crowds, such Vaishnavas conceal their natural spiritual symptoms.

Sometimes they make pretence of converting materialistic persons into their disciples. They seem to want to be served by them and always ‘seek’ their advice. Thus they keep their true nature concealed.

I have seen with my own eyes that at Vraja a great Bhajananandi used to worship and chant at a remote village some distance north of Sri Radha Kund. Many distressed people used to visit him. In course of time, his fame spread far and wide and people went there in droves, day and night. He came to be reputed as a man of pure devotional austerity, a siddha Babaji. When the news was spread that he was an extremely renounced soul, devoid of the desire for gold, women or adoration, and compassionate to conditioned souls, he was much harassed by a constant flow of visitors.

Troubled by his, he made arrangements with a rich man for a monthly allowance and with that money he engaged a young sweeper woman who sat in front of his cottage and acted as his servant.

Seeing this, the people began to criticize him, concluding that this Vaishnava was a womanizer and attached to wealth, etc. Others stopped visiting this great-souled bhajananandi when they no longer obtained any material results from their homage to him. In fact, he was a real Vaishnava.

When the Vaishnavas graciously reveal themselves, faithful persons who become attracted by the mercy of those Vaishnavas and completely surrender to them can know the true identity of such Vaishnavas.

Those who are very fortunate are not deprived of their service or their mercy. Otherwise, the Vaishnavas devise various deceptive means to hide themselves. To know a Vaishnava one has to pray sincerely at the lotus feet of Sri Gaur Nityananda, and by their mercy, when one’s heart becomes devoid of pride and filled with humility, Nitai-Gaura then reveal the true identify of a Vaishnava in one’s heart.

Nitai-Gaura are revealed through the Vaishnava and the Vaishnava is revealed by Gaura-Nitai. It has been well stated in the Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita: ei dui bhai hrdayera kshali’ andhakaara dui bhagavata-sange karana saakshatkaara’.

From Babaji Maharaj, the biography of Sri Gaura-kishora das Babaji Maharaj

Jai Guru

Jai Sri Radhey