The personified Vedas continued: “Dear Lord, anyone who by Your grace has understood the glories of Your lotus feet is callous to material happiness and distress.” The material pangs are inevitable as long as we exist within the material world, but a devotee does not divert his attention to such actions and reactions, which are the results of pious and impious activities. Nor is a devotee very much disturbed or pleased by praise or condemnation from people in general. A devotee is sometimes greatly praised because of his transcendental activities, and sometimes he is criticized, even though there is no reason for adverse criticism. The pure devotee, however, is always callous to praise or condemnation by ordinary people. Actually, the devotee’s activities are on the transcendental plane. He is not interested in the praise or condemnation of people engaged in material activities. If the devotee can thus maintain his transcendental position, his liberation in this life and the next is guaranteed by the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
A devotee’s transcendental position within this material world is maintained in the association of pure devotees, simply by hearing the glorious activities enacted by the Lord in different ages and in different incarnations. The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is based on this principle. Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura has sung, “My dear Lord, let me be engaged in Your transcendental loving service, as indicated by the previous ācāryas, and let me live in the association of pure devotees. That is my desire, life after life.” In other words, a devotee does not much care whether or not he is liberated; he is eager only for devotional service. Devotional service means that one does not do anything independently of the sanction of the ācāryas. The actions of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement are directed by the previous ācāryas, headed by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī; in the association of devotees following these principles, a devotee is able to perfectly maintain his transcendental position.
In the Bhagavad-gītā the Lord says that a devotee who knows Him perfectly is very dear to Him. Four kinds of pious men take to devotional service. If a pious man is in distress, he approaches the Lord for mitigation of his distress. If a pious man is in need of material help, he prays to the Lord for such help. If a pious man is actually inquisitive about the science of God, he approaches the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa. Similarly, a pious man who is simply eager to know the science of Kṛṣṇa also approaches the Supreme Lord. Out of these four classes of men, the last is praised by Kṛṣṇa Himself in the Bhagavad-gītā. A person who tries to understand Kṛṣṇa with full knowledge and devotion by following in the footsteps of previous ācāryas conversant with scientific knowledge of the Supreme Lord is praiseworthy. Such a devotee can understand that all conditions of life, favorable and unfavorable, are created by the supreme will of the Lord. And when he has fully surrendered unto the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord, he does not care whether his condition of life is favorable or unfavorable. A devotee takes even an unfavorable condition to be the special favor of the Personality of Godhead. Actually, there are no unfavorable conditions for a devotee. Knowing that everything is coming by the will of the Lord, he sees every condition as favorable, and in any condition of life he is simply enthusiastic to discharge his devotional service. This devotional attitude is explained in the Bhagavad-gītā: a devotee is never distressed in reverse conditions of life, nor is he overjoyed in favorable conditions. In the higher stages of devotional service, a devotee is not even concerned with the list of do’s and do not’s. Such a position can be maintained only by following in the footsteps of the ācāryas. Because a pure devotee follows in the footsteps of the ācāryas, any action he performs to discharge devotional service should be understood to be on the transcendental platform. Lord Kṛṣṇa therefore instructs us that an ācārya is above criticism. A neophyte devotee should not consider himself to be on the same plane as the ācārya. It should be accepted that the ācāryas are on the same platform as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and as such neither Kṛṣṇa nor His representative ācārya should be subjected to any adverse criticism by the neophyte devotees.