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yad-dharmo yādṛśo nṛṇām
yathācarati yad brūte
yair liṅgair bhagavat-priyaḥ
The great sage Kavi has informed King Nimi about the general external symptoms of a devotee of the Lord, namely his appearance, personal qualities and activities. But now King Nimi asks how to make further distinctions among the servants of the Supreme Personality of Godhead so that the first-class, second-class and lower-class Vaiṣṇavas can be clearly identified.
According to Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, kṛṣṇeti yasya giri taṁ manasādriyeta: “One should mentally honor any devotee who chants the holy name of Lord Kṛṣṇa.” (Upadeśāmṛta 5) Any living entity who is faithfully chanting the holy name of Kṛṣṇa is to be considered a Vaiṣṇava and at least within the mind is to be offered respect. But for practical advancement in Kṛṣṇa consciousness one should associate at least with a second-class devotee. And if one can receive the mercy of a first-class devotee of the Lord, one’s perfection is very easily guaranteed. Thus Nimi Mahārāja is humbly inquiring, “What are the character, behavior and speech of devotees?” The King wants to know the particular symptoms of body, mind and speech by which the different categories uttama-adhikārī, madhyama-adhikārī and kaniṣṭha-adhikārī are clearly identified. In response to the King’s inquiry, another of the nava-yogendras, namely Havir, will give a further elaboration of the science of Kṛṣṇa consciousness.