Slightly startled, Babaji Mahasaya said, “Brother! You have asked a question that I am just in the process of answering. Let me finish what I have to say. I am an old man and my memory is fading. If the subject matter changes too abruptly, I will forget what I was going to say.”
Haridasa was a strict Babaji. Although he never found fault with anyone, he was quick to respond when anyone spoke inappropriately. Everyone was stunned to hear his words. Again he offered pranama to Nityananda Prabhu at the foot of the banyan tree and resumed speaking.
When the bhakti of the madhyama Vaisnava progresses beyond the stages of sadhana and bhava, and comes to the level of prema, it becomes highly condensed, and at that time, the Vaisnava becomes an uttama-bhakta. Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.2.45) describes the symptoms of an uttama Vaisnava as follows:
One who sees his own bhagavad-bhava, ecstatic mood of attraction towards Sri Krishnacandra, in the hearts of all jives (sarva-bhutesu) and sees all beings within Sri Krishnacandra is an uttama-bhagavata.
An uttama Vaisnava perceives that all living beings love Bhagavan with the same particular
They are the orders of Paramesvara.
Question: “To which category of Vaisnavas do you think I belong? Am I a kanistha or a madhyama Vaisnava? I am certainly not an uttama Vaisnava. I sincerely want to know my actual position.
Babaji: Then tell me your whole story. If Nitai empowers me to speak, I shall say something.
I took birth in a low-caste family in a small village on the bank of the Padmavati River. I was very simple and humble by nature from childhood, and I always used to stay far away from bad company. I was married at an early age, but after some days my parents died, and my wife and I remained alone in the home. We did not have so much wealth, so we worked every day to maintain ourselves. Our days passed happily in this way, but this happiness did not last for long, for after a while, she also left her body. Because of my separation from her, thoughts of detachment awakened in my mind. Near my village were many Vaisnavas who had renounced household life, and I saw that the people of Baragachi offered them great respect. I hankered for that respect very strongly, and because of the temporary feelings of detachment brought on by the death of my wife, I went to Baragachi and accepted the dress of a Vaisnava mendicant. However, after a few days, my mind became fickle; it was possessed by wicked thoughts, and it became very difficult for me to control, but by great fortune, I received the association of an excellent Vaisnava who is pure and simple. At present, he is performing bhajana in Vraja. With deep affection, he gave me profound advice, kept me in his association, and purified my mind.
Now my mind is no longer disturbed by mischievous thoughts. I have developed taste for chanting a hundred thousand names of hari-nama every day. I understand that there is no difference between Sri Hari and sri-nama, and that both are fully spiritual. I observe the Ekadasi fast according to sastra and offer water to Tulasi. When the Vaisnavas perform kirtana, I also join with rapt attention. I drink the water that washes the feet of pure Vaisnavas. I study the bhakt-isastras every day. I no longer desire to eat palatable food or dress nicely. I have no taste to hear or participate in mundane talks.
When I see the Vaisnavas’ ecstatic moods, a desire comes into my mind to roll on the ground at their feet, and sometimes I do so, but it is out a desire for prestige. Now please give your verdict:
Haridasa Babaji looked at Vaisnava dasa Babaji with a smile and said,
“Tell us to which class of Vaisnava does Nityananda dasa belong?”
From what I have heard, he has surpassed the kanistha stage and has entered the madhyama stage.
That is my feeling also.
How wonderful! Today I have come to know of my true position from the mouths of Vaisnavas. Please bestow your mercy upon me, so that I may gradually come to the stage of an uttama Vaisnava.
At the time that you accepted mendicancy, there was a desire for honor and prestige in your heart, so you were not actually qualified to enter the renounced order, and therefore your acceptance of mendicancy was tainted with flaw of unauthorized consideration. In spite of this, you have attained genuine auspiciousness by the mercy of the Vaisnavas.
Even now I have some desire for honor. I think that I may attract others and win tremendous respect if I am seen weeping profusely and displaying ecstatic emotions.
You must endeavor to give this up, otherwise there is a serious danger that your bhakti will be eroded and you will have to descend to the kanistha platform again. Although the six enemies of lust, anger, greed, envy, pride and illusion may have departed, the desire for honor remains. This desire for fame is the most pernicious enemy of the Vaisnavas, and it does not easily agree to leave the sadhakas. Moreover, a single drop of genuine spiritual emotion is far superior to an imitative display of emotion (chaya-bhavaabhasa).
At that moment, Nityananda dasa accepted Sri Haridasa in his heart as his guru, and his life became successful.