Govinda Deity of Jiva Institute

What is a Kaniṣṭhādhikāri?

Question: Recently, while discussing with devotees, we churned out some points from the verse defining kaniṣṭhādhikāri in the Bhāgavata. I want to check with you whether they are proper. If possible, can you throw more light? Our points from discussion are as follows:

The Bhāgavata classifies the devotees based on their vision.  Kaniṣṭhādhikāris have the narrow vision of seeing Kṛṣṇa only in the deity. Uttamādhikāri sees Kṛṣṇa everywhere. 

Answer: The division is based upon the level of awareness, speech and behavior. Among these three factors, awareness is the guiding factor for the other two. 

Question: A kaniṣṭhādhikāri respects mainly the guru, whose consciousness is surcharged with Kṛṣṇa consciousness, but not other Vaiṣṇavas. A kaniṣṭhādhikāri sees divinity only in the holy dhāma and performs bhakti only in the holy dhāma but not outside the holy dhāma

Answer: This may not be true, otherwise kaniṣṭhas will be found only in the dhāma and not outside. But such is not the case. It is also not true that a kaniṣṭha would not perform bhakti when he has to leave the dhāma.

Question: A kaniṣṭhādhikāri may come to temple only on holy days like Janmaṣṭami, but he will not be seen on other days in satsanga

Answer: This is not true. A kaniṣṭha may be a very regular visitor of temple. 

Question: A kaniṣṭhādhikāri sees Kṛṣṇa only in the Bhāgavata, but he does not see Kṛṣṇa in other Vedic literatures, although it is said that Haris glories are found in all Vedic literatures (vede rāmayaṇecaiva purāṇe bhārata gītatha)

Answer: This is also not true. A kaniṣṭha may actually respect other ṡāstras equally as the Bhāgavata, not being aware of its greatness. The main characteristic of a kaniṣṭha is that he/she can feel the presence of Kṛṣṇa in His vigraha and not in other places. But this does not limit his vision only to the dhāma, to festival days, to the Bhāgavata, etc. 

Question: What is the process by which we can rise from the kaniṣṭha to the madhyama stage?

Answer: One has to work for it.  The two important factors are mahat-sevā and ṡāstra-ṣravaṇam from a mahat.  

8 thoughts on “What is a Kaniṣṭhādhikāri?”

  1. Isn’t the classification of the different Adhikaris done based upon their Sraddha in the Shastras, rather than the vision they have of reality?

    1. This is in relation to the adhikari for vaidhi sādhana, only. It is somewhere in the second wave of the first ocean of BRS… let me find it… here: 1.2.17-19. Uttama is “shAstre yuktau… prauDha shraddho”, Madhyama is “shAstrAhi Svani puNaH shraddhAvan”, Kanishtha is “komala shraddhaH”

      What Bābājī was talking about was the broader, fundamental adhikāra for approaching bhakti in any way. It is a little confusing that both “kanistha/madhyama/uttama” and “adhikara” are extremely generic and context-dependent terms that might apply to any subject. One has to therefore check the context wherever any adhikara is being performed.

      Additonally “bhāgavatas” are classified as “low/mid/high” as well, and since this involves the terms “kanistha, madhyama and uttama” – it sometimes confuses.

    2. Adhikara simply means one who is eligible. So Vraja is right that we should know the distinction between adhikari for bhakti and three divisions of a bhāgavata. They must be understood in proper context. An uttama adhikari may not necessarily be equal to an uttama bhāgavata described in the 2nd chapter of the 11th canto of SB. Moreover, there are different levels of uttama bhāgavatas. The divisions given there are based upon the level of awareness of Bhagavan while the divisions of adhikari given in BRS are based on the level of sraddha.

    3. śraddhāvān jana haya bhakti-adhikārī
      ’uttama’, ‘madhyama’, ‘kaniṣṭha’—śraddhā-anusārī
      (Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta Madhya-līlā 22.64)
      Isn’t this statement saying that the classification is based on śraddhā? Am I missing something here?

  2. can we say that Kanistha adhikari (KA) is worshipping in the rajasic (R) and/or tamasic (T) guna as described by the Kapila muni to Srimati Devahuti? because KA is considered praakrita bhakta, and i take meaning of praakrita as coming from prakriti. and prakriti consists of three gunas. KA remains under RT while doing his/her saadhanaa.

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