3 CLASSES OF DEVOTEES & 4 KINDS OF NEOPHYTE DEVOTEES!
We must access a devotee internally with his CONSISTENT APPROACH in devotion atleast for a certain period. So, DRESS and APPEARANCE are not the sole symptoms to identify a devotee. Some devotees may wear devotee dress even out of curiosity. So, we should not identify all people just based on the outlook. Dress and outlook may deceive you.
There are many INTERNAL symptoms from which we can find out which class a devotee is in and SAFELY undergo devotional practices.
(How to develop Social skills for the devotee children who are not social? READ HERE!)
Let us read the details of THREE CLASSES OF DEVOTEES from Sri Rupa Gosvami’s Nectar Of Devotion:
These THREE CLASSES OF DEVOTEES may be divided into three classes based on the LEVEL OF DEVOTIONAL ADVANCEMENT. They are:
(1) First class devotees,
(2) Second class devotees and
(3) Third class devotees
Let us see one by one.
FIRST CLASS DEVOTEES – SYMPTOMS
The devotee in the first or uppermost class is described as follows.
(1) He is very expert in the study of relevant scriptures, and he is also expert in putting forward arguments in terms of those scriptures.
(Devotees Practicing alone or in Association – which is good for them? READ HERE?)
(2) He can very nicely present conclusions with perfect discretion and can consider the ways of devotional service in a decisive way.
(3) He understands perfectly that the ultimate goal of life is to attain to the transcendental loving service of Krsna, and he knows that Krsna is the only object of worship and love.
(4) This first-class devotee is one who has strictly followed the rules and regulations under the training of a bonafide spiritual master and has sincerely obeyed him in accordance with revealed scriptures.
(5) Thus, being fully trained to preach and become a spiritual master himself, he is considered first class.
(6) The first-class devotee never deviates from the principles of higher authority, and he attains firm faith in the scriptures by understanding with all reason and arguments. When we speak of arguments and reason, it means arguments and reason on the basis of revealed scriptures.
(7) The first-class devotee is not interested in dry speculative methods meant for wasting time. In other words, one who has attained a mature determination in the matter of devotional service can be accepted as the first-class devotee.
(FIVE PRIMARY DUTIES OF A DEVOTEE RECOMMENDED BY SRI CAITANYA MAHA PRABHU! READ HERE!)
SECOND CLASS DEVOTEES – SYMPTOMS
The second-class devotee has been defined by the following symptoms:
(1) He is not very expert in arguing on the strength of revealed scripture, but he has firm faith in the objective.
(2) The purport of this description is that the second class devotee has firm faith in the procedure of devotional service unto Krsna, but he may sometimes fail to offer arguments and decisions on the strength of revealed scripture to an opposing party.
(3) But at the same time he is still undaunted within himself as to his decision that Krsna is the supreme object of worship.
(BALANCED DEVOTEE & BRAINWASHED DEVOTEE – DIFFERENCES! READ HERE!)
THIRD CLASS DEVOTEES – SYMPTOMS
(1) The neophyte or third-class devotee is one whose faith is not strong and who, at the same time, does not recognize the decision of the revealed scripture.
(2) The neophyte’s faith can be changed by someone else with strong arguments or by an opposite decision.
(3) Unlike the second-class devotee, who also cannot put forward arguments and evidences from the scripture, but who still has all faith in the objective, the neophyte has no firm faith in the objective. Thus he is called the neophyte devotee.
Thus, we can identify the devotees based on these symptoms and then associate with the right level of devotees. However, when you come to the First class stage, you can associate with the third class devotees to uplift them to the first class, but, the first class should not come to the stage of third class devotees by associating with them!
(PURITTY or LOVE – WHICH IS MORE IMPORTANT FOR DEVOTIONAL GROWTH! READ HERE!)
We have seen all these THREE CLASSES OF DEVOTEES. Now, we will further analyze the Neophyte devotees.
Who are neophyte devotees?
What are their classifications?
What are the examples in history for neophyte devotees?
How can they become mahathmas?
Srila Prabhupada explains it as said in NECTAR OF DEVOTION:
CLASSIFICATION OF NEOPHYTE DEVOTEES
Out of THREE CLASSES OF DEVOTEES, the Neophyte devotees are classified into four types in the Bhagavad-Gita. It is stated there that four classes of men–namely those (1) WHO ARE DISTRESSED, (2) THOSE WHO ARE IN NEED OF MONEY, (3) THOSE WHO ARE INQUISITIVE AND (4) THOSE WHO ARE WISE–begin devotional service and come to the Lord for relief in the matter of their respective self-satisfaction. They go into some place of worship and pray to God for mitigation of material distress, or for some economic development, or to satisfy their inquisitiveness. And a wise man who simply realizes the greatness of God is also counted among the neophytes. Such beginners can be elevated to the second-class or first-class platform if they associate with pure devotees.
(I like to do full time service to Krishna, but fear seeing advanced devotees. What to do? READ HERE!)
EXAMPLES FOR NEOPHYTE DEVOTEES
(1) Maharaja Dhruva. He was in need of his father’s kingdom and therefore engaged himself in devotional service to the Lord. Then in the end, when he was completely purified, he declined to accept any material benediction from the Lord.
(2) Gajendra was distressed and prayed to Krsna for protection, after which he became a pure devotee.
(3) Sanaka, Sanatana, Sananda and Sanat-kumara were all in the category of wise, saintly persons, and they were also attracted by devotional service.
(4) A similar thing happened to the assemblage in the Naimisaranya Forest, headed by the sage Saunaka. They were inquisitive and were always asking Suta Gosvami about Krsna.
(Krishna or Krishna’s Service as target – which one is right for devotees? READ HERE!)
HOW CAN A NEOPHYTE BECOME A PURE DEVOTEE?
Among these THREE CLASSES OF DEVOTEES, if the neophyte devotees achieve the association of a pure devotee and became pure devotees themselves. So that is the way of elevating oneself. In whatever condition one may be, if he is fortunate enough to associate with pure devotees, then very quickly he is elevated to the second-class or first-class platform.
These four types of NEOPHYTE devotees have been described in the Seventh Chapter of Bhagavad gita, and they have all been accepted as pious. Without becoming pious, no one can come to devotional service. It is explained in Bhagavad gita that only one who has continually executed pious activities and whose sinful reactions in life have completely stopped can take to Krsna consciousness. Others cannot.
The neophyte devotees are classified into four groups-the distressed, those in need of money, the inquisitive and the wise-according to their gradations of pious activities. Without pious activities, if a man is in a distressed condition he becomes an agnostic, a communist or something like that. Because he does not firmly believe in God, he thinks that he can adjust his distressed condition by totally disbelieving in Him.
(SYMPTOMS OF PURE AND SURRENDERED DEVOTEES! READ HERE!)
WHICH DEVOTEE IS VERY DEAR TO KRISHNA?
Lord Krsna, however, has explained in the Gita that out of these four types of neophytes, the one who is wise is very dear to Him, because a wise man, if he is attached to Krishna, is not seeking an exchange of material benefits.
A wise man who becomes attached to Krsna does not want any return from Him, either in the form of relieving distress or in gaining money. This means that from the very beginning his basic principle of attachment to Krsna is, more or less, love. Furthermore, due to his wisdom and study of sastras (scriptures), he can understand also that Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
HOW CAN THEY BECOME MAHATHMAS?
It is confirmed in Bhagavad-gita that after many, many births, when one becomes actually wise, he surrenders unto Vasudeva, knowing perfectly well that Krsna (Vasudeva) is the origin and cause of all causes. Therefore, he sticks to the lotus feet of Krsna and gradually develops love for Him. Although such a wise man is very dear to Krsna, the others are also accepted as very magnanimous, because even though they are distressed or in need of money, they have come to Krsna for satisfaction. Thus they are accepted as liberal, broad minded mahatmas.
Hope you are clear about THREE CLASSES OF DEVOTEES.
(NINE PROCESS OF DEVOTIONAL SERVICE CAN BE READ HERE!)