A neophyte devotee is one who has faith in the Lord’s archavigraha form, offering great respect and performing service to the Lord in the temple. Such faith is a true blessing, for it is the beginning of the path of bhakti. Why, then, is a devotee with deep faith in the Lord’s deity form considered a neophyte? .
The acharyas have wonderfully explained what differentiates a kanistha adhikari (neophyte devotee) from a madhyama-adhikari, (intermediate devotee). It is their faith in and respect for the Vaishnavas. Although a neophyte devotee has great faith in the Lord, he lacks the respect and love that one ought to have for other Vaishnavas, whereas a madhyama-adhikari Vaishnava has prema for Krishna, friendship with the Vaishnavas, mercy upon the ignorant and is neglectful of those who are averse to Krisna (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 11.2.46). In his friendship with the devotees, he is deeply respectful of those more advanced than he is, affectionate with his peers and encouraging of his juniors attempts in bhakti.
Increasing one’s appreciation and respect for other Vaishnavas is what makes a neophyte devotee advance.
We should therefore always strive to appreciate and respect not only those Vaishnavas who have already left this world but those who are still present among us. Regardless of the position of a Vaishnava, whether he is a kanistha, madhyama, or uttama, he must be respected according to his status, as per the instructions of Srila Rupa Goswami in Sri Upadeshamrita:
kṛṣṇeti yasya giri taḿ manasādriyeta
dīkṣāsti cet praṇatibhiśca bhajantamīśam
One should mentally honor the devotee who chants the holy name of Lord Krsna, one should offer humble obeisances to the devotee who has undergone spiritual initiation [diksa] and is engaged in worshiping the Deity, and one should associate with and faithfully serve that Pure devotee who is advanced in undeviated devotional service and whose heart is completely devoid of the propensity to criticize others.
Often times, however, in the course of our daily lives, we are not able to appreciate the Vaishnavas around us, as we are unaware of their wonderful spiritual practices and dedication to Sri Hari, Guru and Vaishnavas. For this reason, to bring to light the wonderful service that various devotees are performing in Iskcon Vrindavan, some of whom have been serving for decades, we are going to start regular interviews with the devotees in our temple. By becoming acquainted with their service attitude, spiritual practices and dedication to Srila Prabhupada, we may be encouraged in our own spiritual lives and develop more respect and love for the Vaishnavas.
These video interviews will be broadcasted live on our Facebook page. A few days before the live session, we will announce the devotee who is going to be interviewed. In this way, anyone wanting to ask that devotee a particular question can send in that question in advance and it will be put to the devotee to answer.
We are very excited to present these interviews, as they are a wonderful way to get to know, appreciate and associate with all the devotees who have dedicated their lives to the service of the Lord and His pure devotees.