How to greet various types of devotees?

Srila Rupa Goswamipada, the crown jewel of the followers of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, has given a complete set of instructions for the practising sadhakas (seekers) in Updesamrta, which was later translated by Srila Prabhupada as The Nectar of Instruction (NOI).

In verse two of Nectar of Instruction, Srila Rupa Goswamipada warns the seeker to not associate with worldily minded people who are not interested in Krishna Consciousness as one's devotional life will become spoiled by this if one gets too entangled in it. 

Internally the seeker must see everyone as a manifestation of the Divine Couple and regard himself as the lowest of all (trinad api sunicena). This shall make him most eligible for the mercy of Gauranga and Nityananda Prabhu allowing him to chant the Holy Names enthusiastically.

But externally, in order to save one’s bhajan, the sadhaka (seeker) must identify the different types of Vaishnavas and behave with them appropriately as instructed by Acharyas. 

Once Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was asked by one of His householder devotees about the general principles of Vaishnavism, and Mahaprabhu immediately replied, “asat sanga tyaga, ei vaisnava acara.” It means that a Vaishnav should give up the association of worldily people or non devotees. 

Rasika Acharyas guide to avoid non devotees exactly like one would avoid a poisonous snake, but if one still has to associate for some reason or the other (example: in office or school), one must be strictly formal and speak limitedly. They should avoid laughing and speaking too much with non-devotees. Also, the seeker must pray to Divine Couple for the association of devotees and the strength to avoid the non devotees. 

śraddhāvān jana haya bhakti-adhikārī
‘uttama’, ‘madhyama’, ‘kaniṣṭha’ - śraddhā-anusārī
- (CC, Madhya 22.64) 

In this above verse from Chaitanya Caritamrta, the three level of devotees (depending on their faith for Krishna) are described: Uttam Adhikari, Madhyama Adhikari, and Kanistha Adhikari (explained further in next few paragraphs).

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kṛṣṇeti yasya giri taṁ manasādriyeta

dīkṣāsti cet praṇatibhiś ca bhajantam īśam

śuśrūṣayā bhajana-vijnam ananyam anya-

nindādi-śūnya-hṛdam īpsita-saṅga-labdhyā

In the above verse from The Nectar of Instruction (Verse 5), Srila Rupa Goswamipada has given a clear understanding to the seeker about the correct way to greet the Vaishnavas. 

In the shastras it is proclaimed that anyone who chants the name of "Krishna" even once is to be regarded as a Vaishnav. Anyone who is trying to chant is in the neophyte stage. These type of devotees come in the Kanistha-Adhikari  category. 

To such devotees, one must offer respect through the mind but avoid their association as they are still in the preliminary stage. 

Those devotees who have received initiation (diksa) from a bonafide spiritual master and are trying to be engaged in the loving transcendental service of the Divine Couple are known as Madhyama-Adhikari. To such Vaishnavas, one must offer respectful obeisance's.

With them the sadhaka can have a warm exchange of words, but must avoid too much intermingling if the conversation strays away from the topic of Divine Couple. 

The third category of Vaishnavas who are known as Uttama-Adhikari are those devotees who have become completely self realised. To such exalted Rasika Vaishnavas, seeker must offer complete obeisances unto their lotus feet. 

Keeping the body language as extremely humble, the sadhaka must regard and respect those Rasika Acharyas as non different from the Divine Couple. The practising devotee should practically worship them on the pedestal of Guru and must be ready to serve, as pleasing them means directly pleasing Sri Radha Krishna! 

Rasika Acharyas guide to keep the association minimal, and practice solitude to relish bhajan (devotional life). The mind is restless and seeks pleasure outside through association. Bhajan can be relished when this fickle nature of mind is killed and is fixed up in the nectarine Lotus Feet of our most merciful Divine Couple. 

If someone comes to associate on his own, and the sadhaka knowing this very well (by the guidance of Guru Tattva) that the upcoming conversation may be an obstruction is his bhajan, then in situations like these, Gurujana guide to take up mala and begin chanting Nama Japa infront of that person, so that upon seeing the seeker engaged, the other person will gradually go away. Even though if the chanting at that time does not happen properly, atleast the Bhakti Lata (creeper) will be saved from being eaten by the goat like prajalpa (non-sense talks). 

If the sadhaka cannot do that, then he must chant the Holy Names with a great intensity internally, and if even that seems impossible, the seeker must simply leave that spot finding some excuse. 

Many times it has been seen that a seeker who is practising ekant bhajan (solitude devotion) starts seeking pleasure again in worldly things. Thus the practising sadhaka must time and again keep remembering the lotus feet of their Guru and keep themselves engaged in their Guru's vani (words and instructions). 

Once, there was one devotee who used to often do Vrindavan Parikrama. As he was going almost daily, that devotee had recognised some faces, and amongst them was a Sadhu (Vaishnav saint). One day, one old maiya (lady) came to him requesting him to drop her at a particular destination. As that devotee used to stay completely ekantik (isolated), he was not able to make the decision of whether he should help that old maiya who genuinely felt needy. 

In few moments, the same Sadhu Vaishnava came up to the devotee ordering him to help that maiya

Offering his obeisance's, the devotee considered the instruction as given by Guru Tattva, and dropped the old maiya

So, if by the will of Divine Couple, They want to give some service to the sadhaka practising in ekant (isolation), They will inspire the sadhaka internally, or through some external manifestation.

In reality ekant vas (isolation) is really not ekantik but instead it is when the association of sadhaka is filtered, having only the company of Rasika Acharyas! 

When a seeker obeys their Guru’s words, and remembers the Divine Couple by chanting, worshipping Their name, form, and pastimes, all the cheat-codes of devotional path will sprout in their heart and they can easily bypass all the tests and tribulations smoothly. Chanting Hare Krishna Mahamantra sprouts all the way for the sincere seekers.

Jai Jai Shri Radhe!

Hare Krishna!

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