Over the past month I had quite a few posts arguing in defense of “fallen” devotees which might mean I see no difference between perfectly engaged devotees and “slackers” who don’t even follow regs anymore.
This needs to be clarified.
There’s nothing more glorious than a dedicated devotee on a sankirtana mission, or serving Deities, or cooking for devotees. That cannot be compared to someone giving in to their senses, period.
In terms of respect, however, we should approach this from manadena angle, which means we should offer respect to all living beings, fallen devotees included. We can say that as most of us are objectively on the madhyama level we must discern between devotees and those envious of the Lord and we cannot pretend as being on the uttama level where such differences fade away.
This is fine, but what we should differentiate is our external behavior – offer full dandavats to our guru and mental respect to ex-ISKCON devotees, for example. Internally, however, we should strive to follow Lord Chaitanya’s injunction which demands manadena attitude without exceptions. He didn’t say that it should be cultivated only by uttama devotees, it was meant for all of us.
We will undoubtedly fail to follow it at all times but that is not an excuse for not trying.
Another fallacious conclusion from this “respect to everyone” could be our attitude towards our struggle between service and sense gratification. If we are not responsible for thoughts and desires that come into our minds then we might decide to stop fighting to control it.
Actually, it works this way – we, as spirit souls, become attracted to service and by the mercy of the Holy Name the Lord puts us in a situation where we can fulfill our desire to serve Him. Essential part of that engagement are our mental processes, which indeed are out of our control, but which are dictated by our natural inclination for sense enjoyment on one side and words of our guru on the other. Both are external to the soul itself, and so is this blog, but I’d rather have it on the side of guru and shastra so I encourage whoever reads it not to take it as an excuse to give in to our senses.
Let it be one of the factors that pushes our minds towards service and renunciation of sense enjoyment, the one that tells our minds to restrain themselves and redirect our senses to serving the Lord.
In case our minds are not pure and our senses still strive for objects of their enjoyment we shouldn’t pretend to be more exalted than we really are, and we should engage our senses according the rules and regulations of varnashrama dharma, which means following our general ISKCON program. Nothing more, nothing less.
Consequently, if our senses need this enjoyment we shouldn’t expect the same level of respect as if we were truly renounced, that would be incorrect from a madhyama adhikari POV. This, I think is one of our problems – as devotees drifted from temples to families they expect the same level of recognition but unless they follow rules of grihastha ashrama as strictly as our brahmacharies follow theirs, it’s simply inappropriate, but that is a topic for another day.