We can't demand to have the association of only pure devotees in this material world, especially if we are not pure devotees ourselves. We can read in Srila Prabhupada Lilamrta that Srila Prabhupada was not rejecting anybody. Even the lowest person, if he had some sincerity, some propensity to do some service, however small, Srila Prabhupada would accept and engage him. He would "fan the spark" until it became a big fire, capable of incinerating one's contaminations. Similarly, we should also see the good qualities of others and try to engage them in Krsna’s service, according to their natural inclinations. To those who are newer, we can teach (especially through our own example) and engage them in different services. To those who are more or less on the same platform, we can offer our sincere friendship and cooperation, and we can also engage the ones who are senior by inviting them to give classes, to lead kirtan, to lead different programs, and so on. If we act perfectly ourselves, relationship problems with others are going to be rare.
ISKCON is becoming a very big movement. In the beginning, the system was that everybody would renounce everything, go live in the temples, and strive to preach and to become pure devotees. Of course, this is the goal; we can see in Srila Prabhupada's purports, especially in Srimad Bhagavatam and Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, that he is always speaking about the highest principles: how to get detached from this world and become attached to Krsna. For example, in Sri Caitanya Caritamrta (Antya 3.101, purport) he wrote:
"We must always remember that a devotee’s life is one of vairagya-vidya, or renunciation and knowledge. Therefore all devotees are warned not to live unnecessarily luxurious lives at the cost of others. Grhasthas living within the jurisdiction of the temple must be especially careful not to imitate karmis by acquiring opulent clothing, food and conveyances. As far as possible, these should be avoided. A member of the temple, whether grhastha, brahmacari or sannyasi, must practice a life of renunciation, following in the footsteps of Haridasa Thakura and the six Gosvamis. Otherwise, because maya is very strong, at any time one may become a victim of maya and fall down from spiritual life".
We have purports like this all over Srila Prabhupada's books, teaching that devotees should be renounced, pure, have very good sadhana, be very active in service, and so on. He showed us the way, how to become pure devotees, but it’s not that everyone will be able to immediately follow this path. We have all types of persons joining ISKCON nowadays. Many of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples narrate that when Srila Prabhupada was present, he was pushing everybody with his personal energy, and because of this, all devotees would be empowered to do big feats. Nowadays it may be a little more difficult because this push is not there, but on the other hand, we have so many persons joining, ISKCON is becoming very big. In Srila Prabhupada's times there were a few thousand ISKCON devotees, nowadays we probably already have more than a million, and we should grow much more. For that, we should be able to accommodate persons who are not exactly pure devotees, but have some sincerity and can agree to follow and serve to some degree.
We must find this balance, how to be strict with ourselves, but accommodating with others, how to help everyone who comes in contact with us to get closer to Krsna, without lowering our own personal standards. Srila Prabhupada was doing like that. In the beginning, he had a few youths living with him in the first storefront; some of them would sleep there, hear the class, take prasadam and then go out to eat in cafeterias, to meet their girlfriends or some other nonsense, but Srila Prabhupada was not rejecting them, he was engaging everyone. And eventually many of them became sannyasis, gurus, and leaders. We need to learn from him.
This is an excerpt of the book "Getting the Mercy", about book distribution. You can download the book or read more on: