This is the way to cultivate devotional service properly; therefore in this verse Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has advised us how to treat various devotees. We can see from practical experience that there are different types of Vaiṣṇavas. The prākṛta-sahajiyās generally chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra, yet they are attached to women, money and intoxication. Although such persons may chant the holy name of the Lord, they are not yet properly purified. Such people should be respected within one's mind, but their association should be avoided. Those who are innocent but simply carried away by bad association should be shown favor if they are eager to receive proper instructions from pure devotees, but those neophyte devotees who are actually initiated by the bona fide spiritual master and are seriously engaged in carrying out the orders of the spiritual master should be offered respectful obeisances.
In this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement a chance is given to everyone without discrimination of caste, creed or color. Everyone is invited to join this movement, sit with us, take prasāda and hear about Kṛṣṇa. When we see that someone is actually interested in Kṛṣṇa consciousness and wants to be initiated, we accept him as a disciple for the chanting of the holy name of the Lord. When a neophyte devotee is actually initiated and engaged in devotional service by the orders of the spiritual master, he should be accepted immediately as a bona fide Vaiṣṇava, and obeisances should be offered unto him. Out of many such Vaiṣṇavas, one may be found to be very seriously engaged in the service of the Lord and strictly following all the regulative principles, chanting the prescribed number of rounds on japa beads and always thinking of how to expand the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. Such a Vaiṣṇava should be accepted as an uttama-adhikārī, a highly advanced devotee, and his association should always be sought.
The process by which a devotee becomes attached to Kṛṣṇa is described in Caitanya-caritāmṛta (CC Antya 4.192):
- dīkṣā-kāle bhakta kare ātma-samarpaṇa
- sei-kāle kṛṣṇa tāre kare ātma-sama
"At the time of initiation, when a devotee fully surrenders to the service of the Lord, Kṛṣṇa accepts him to be as good as He Himself."
Dīkṣā, or spiritual initiation, is explained in the Bhakti-sandarbha (868) by Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī:
- divyaṁ jñānaṁ yato dadyāt
- kuryāt pāpasya saṅkṣayam
- tasmād dīkṣeti sā proktā
- deśikais tattva-kovidaiḥ
"By dīkṣā one gradually becomes disinterested in material enjoyment and gradually becomes interested in spiritual life."
We have seen many practical examples of this, especially in Europe and America. Many students who come to us from rich and respectable families quickly lose all interest in material enjoyment and become very eager to enter into spiritual life. Although they come from very wealthy families, many of them accept living conditions that are not very comfortable. Indeed, for Kṛṣṇa's sake they are prepared to accept any living condition as long as they can live in the temple and associate with the Vaiṣṇavas. When one becomes so disinterested in material enjoyment, he becomes fit for initiation by the spiritual master. For the advancement of spiritual life Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (SB 6.1.13) prescribes: tapasā brahmacaryeṇa śamena ca damena ca. When a person is serious about accepting dīkṣā, he must be prepared to practice austerity, celibacy and control of the mind and body. If one is so prepared and is desirous of receiving spiritual enlightenment (divyaṁ jñānam), he is fit for being initiated. Divyaṁ jñānam is technically called tad-vijñāna, or knowledge about the Supreme. Tad-vijñānārthaṁ sa gurum evābhigacchet: (MU 1.2.12) when one is interested in the transcendental subject matter of the Absolute Truth, he should be initiated. Such a person should approach a spiritual master in order to take dīkṣā. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (SB 11.3.21) also prescribes: tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta jijñāsuḥ śreya uttamam. "When one is actually interested in the transcendental science of the Absolute Truth, he should approach a spiritual master."