Sometimes I commit offenses to devotees because I don’t appreciate them enough. How can I learn to have more esteem for devotees, to be inclined to serve them and treat them properly?
In reality this question was not asked of me but I found it in a publication called Sri Krishna Kathamrita. A good magazine, I like to add.
The answer given is that we must learn to be humble and respectful, as indeed Caitanya Mahaprabhu explains in the third verse of Siksastaka. Only in this state of mind can we sing Hare Krishna perfectly and reach prema.
All this is absolutely right.
However, this answer does not explain any of the reasons why one arrives at not appreciating other devotees and I believe that at least the perspective that I am going to explain, which is the one I personally experienced, may be useful for your spiritual life.
When we arrive at the temple everything is wonderful, perfect, divine. The names of Krishna, the kirtanas, the prasada, the philosophy and all the rest. The spiritual world.
The tendency is to see the devotees in the same vein, as wonderful, perfect, divine.
But this can be called as an “imperfection of attribution”, that is, we give to the devotees qualities that they do not have yet.
Devotees are students who have been accepted into the “university of transcendental knowledge.” If we go to a school and see that a student says that 2 + 2 is 5 we do not think that school is a place of ignorance, nor that the professors are donkeys, but we simply think that a student is just a student and can make mistakes. That’s why he goes to school. He does not know and wants to learn.
The school has responsibility for mistakes when they are written in books or taught by the professors. If they say that 2 + 2 is 5, then we are free to say that this is not a place of knowledge but of ignorance.
Due to this imperfect attribution (in the great majority of cases of sentimental origin), we think that devotees are as perfect as the philosophy they practice and teach. So when we inevitably come to see defects in them we are deeply disappointed and we lack respect for them. Consequently, we think, since devotees are human, Krishna consciousness must also be human. Not only are we disappointed by the devotees but by the whole Krsna consciousness. Thus we lose the precious opportunity that Krishna has given us to perfect our existence and return to the spiritual world.
Let it be said: the students are one thing, the school is another.
Devotees are one thing, Krishna Consciousness another. Devotees are studying and practicing and one day they will become one with school, but they are still not. It may take much time and effort.
Now, in no Sastras is taught that we must give respect only to pure devotees. We should respect all devotees, obviously in different ways. While we offer pujas to the Gurus, we don’t offer it to the newly arrived devotee. He will receive another type of respect.
Devotees have to be appreciated for trying, for the sincerity they are putting in their effort to serve Radha Krishna.
If we see things in these terms we will not be disappointed, we will keep the respect of devotees so necessary for our spiritual advancement and we will not miss the opportunity to one day love Sri Sri Radha Krishna with pure devotion.
– Manonatha Dasa (ACBSP)
17 Apr 2019