Question: “What are the primary and secondary characteristics of a kanistha-bhakta in regard to bhakti?”
The two primary characteristics of a kanistha Vaisnava are his faith in the eternal form of Bhagavan, and his worship of the Deity. His secondary characteristics are the devotional activities that he performs, such as hearing, chanting, remembering, and offering prayers.
One cannot be a Vaisnava unless he has faith in the eternal form of Bhagavan and worships the Deity according to the regulations of sastra, so I can well understand why these two are primary symptoms. However, I cannot understand why hearing, chanting, remembering, and other such activities are secondary.
The kanistha Vaisnava is not acquainted with the intrinsic nature of suddha-bhakti, of which hearing, chanting, and so on are angas (limbs). Consequently, his hearing and chanting do not assume their primary identity, but are manifest in a gauna (secondary) form. Furthermore, whatever arises from the three gunas –sattva (goodness), rajah (passion), and tamah (ignorance) – is known as gauna. When these activities become nirguna, free from the influence of the material modes, they are angas of suddhabhakti, and one has attained the madhyama stage.
Question: “How can the kanistha Vaisnava be called a bhakta when he is contaminated with the faults of karma and jnana, and his heart is filled with desires for things other than bhakti?”
One becomes eligible for bhakti once he has attained sraddha, which is the root of bhakti; there is no doubt then that he is situated at the doorway to bhakti. The word sraddha means visvasa, belief. When the kanistha-bhakta awakens belief in the divine Deity, he becomes eligible for bhakti.
The kanistha-bhakta becomes a suddha-bhakta at the madhyama level when his contamination of karma and jnana is dissipated, and he desires nothing other than ananya-bhakti (exclusive bhakti). At that point, he understands that there is a difference between service to guests and service to bhaktas, and thus he awakens taste for serving the bhaktas, which is favorable to bhakti.
Question: “Suddha-bhakti appears along with sambandha-jnana. When is that knowledge awakened by which one becomes eligible for suddha-bhakti?”
Tre sambandha-jnana and suddha-bhakti are manifest simultaneously when knowledge contaminated by Mayavada conceptions has been dispelled.
The stronger a person’s sukrti from past activities, the sooner he will attain it.
One attains sadhu-sanga.
Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.25.25) describes the systematic evolution of bhakti very succinctly:
In the association of suddha–bhaktas, the recitation and discussion of My glorious activities and pastimes are pleasing to both the heart and the ears. By cultivating knowledge in this way, one becomes established on the path of liberation and progressively attains sraddha, then bhava, and finally prema-bhakti.
I have already said that sadhu-sanga is attained by sukrti acquired in previous births. This is explained in Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.51.53)
O Acyuta, the jiva has been wandering in the cycle of birth and Death since time without beginning.
When the time for his release From this cycle approached, he obtains sat-sanga. From that moment, He become firmly attached to You, who are the controller of both spirit
And maybe good fortune, visvasa, or belief in the divinity of the Deity awakens. Nonetheless, worship of the Deity must be accompanied by service to the sadhus themselves. Until this type of faith develops, one’s sraddha is incomplete, and one remains ineligible for ananya-bhakti.
Suppose that a kanistha-bhakta worships the Deity form of Bhagavan every day with faith, but is not yet free from the contme to him who happen to be bhaktas, and he welcomes and serves them, just as he would any other guests. The kanistha-bhakta observes the activities and behavior of the bhaktas and gets a chance to hear their discussions of spiritual topics based on the sastra. In this way, he begins to develop great respect for the character of the bhaktas.
At this point, he becomes aware of his own defects. He begins to follow the behavior of the sadhus and to rectify his own behavior. Gradually, his defects of karma and jnana begin to fade, and as his heart becomes purified, he becomes increasingly free from extraneous desires. He studies the sastra by regularly hearing narrations of Bhagavan’s pastimes and the fundamental, ontological truths about Bhagavan. His sambandha-jnana becomes progressively firmer as he accepts the transcendental nature of Bhagavan, sri-nama, and the angas of bhakti such as hearing and chanting. When his sambandha-jnana becomes complete, he attains the stage of a madhyama Vaisnava. It is at this point that he truly begins to associate with bhaktas. He can then perceive that bhaktas are vastly superior to ordinary guests, and he can begin to regard them on the level of guru.
If the kanistha-bhakta associates mainly with people who are inimical, his immature level of eligibility for bhakti quickly fades, and his eligibility for karma and jnana becomes prominent. In some cases, eligibility neither increases nor decreases, but remains the same.
When he associates equally with bhaktas and inimical people.
When his association with bhaktas becomes prominent and his association with the inimical becomes minimal, his advancement is rapid.
Question: “What is the nature of the kanistha-adhikari’s inclination towards sinful and pious activities?”
In the preliminary stage, his inclination for sinful and pious activities will be like that of the karmis and jnanis, but as he progresses in bhakti, these propensities will be dispelled, and his inclination to please Bhagavan will become prominent.
The madhyama-bhakta has ananya-bhakti towards Krishna. His friendship with the bhaktas consists of four attitudes: he considers bhaktas to be more dear than his very self (atma-buddhi); he feels great possessiveness towards them (mamata-buddhi); he considers bhaktas as worshipable (ijya-buddhi); and he considers them to be a place of pilgrimage (tirtha-buddhi). The madhyama-bhakta also bestows mercy on those who are ignorant of spiritual truth, and he neglects the inimical. These are the primary characteristics of the madhyama-bhakta.
When one develops sambandha-jnana and practices bhakti sadhana, which is the means (abhidheya), one attains the goal of prema (prayojana). This is the methodology of the madhyama-bhakta. It is generally observed that madhyama-bhaktas perform harinama, kirtana, and other such activities in the association of bhaktas, free from any offense.