- Editor's Notes from Back to Godhead Magazine, May/June 2005
by Nagaraja dasa
Srila Prabhupada would sometimes refer to his disciples as pure devotees. Anyone who has read his books or been in the company of his followers for any length of time knows that the term “pure devotee” generally refers to someone who loves Krishna fully and is free of all material desires. It’s who we want to become. So we ordinary mortals who are surely still works in progress wonder, “Why would Prabhupada call us pure devotees? ”
It seems to me that Prabhupada is implying that anyone who has accepted pure love for Krishna as the goal of life and is pursuing it under the direction of a bona fide guru can be considered a pure devote. Prabhupada’s followers have rejected all other ultimate goals, as well as the means for attaining them. We know that as spirit souls we will not find fulfillment in any way except by awakening our love for Krishna. That’s our conviction.
That conviction distinguishes us from almost everyone else, and it shows in the spiritual practices we perform under Prabhupada’s guidance. When Prabhupada’s followers go to his temples, we do things meant for only one purpose: becoming Krishna consciousness. Our endeavors for perfection don’t include things done by karmis, jnanis, or yogis.
The Vedic literature tell us that all human beings can be classified into four groups according to their goals and activities: karmis, jnanis, yogis, and Bhaktas. Most people are karmis. Their only goal is happiness in the material world, either here on earth or in the heavenly planets after death. That’s what they work for. Better than karmis, from the spiritual point of view, are jnanis, or philosophers. The highest aim of jnanis is to merge into spiritual oneness, in effect annihilating themselves to avoid the inevitable suffering of material existence. The yogis, at best, try to find something spiritual through sitting postures, controlled breathing, meditation, and so on. They sometimes get sidetracked by powers achieved through yoga. In any case, they generally have only a vague idea of what they hope to accomplish, and in essence theirs is a selfish quest.
Bhaktas, or devotees, just want to love Krishna. They know that’s all they need. Through devotion to Krishna one can achieve anything that can be gained through any other process—karma, jnana, or yoga. But devotees are indifferent to those rewards.
The spiritual practices Prabhupada gave us don’t include karma, jnana, or yoga devoid of a Bhakti connection. In his temples we don’t pray to devas for wealth or material happiness, we don’t guess about philosophical topics, and we don’t practice yoga asanas for enlightenment. We chant Hare Krishna, worship the deity of Krishna, hear about Krishna and pure devotion to Him, honor Krishna’s greatest devotees, like Srila Prabhupada, and strive to be like them.
Our heroes love Krishna without personal motive. We may have residual material attraction, but we know better. We’re convinced that pure love for Krishna is ultimately the only desirable thing. Despite our shortcomings, if we hold on to our conviction and adhere to spiritual practices of pure Bhakti, we are, in Prabhupada’s view, pure devotees—or, to put it another way, purely devotees.