The author of Sri Caitanya-bhagavata, Vrndavana dasa Thakur, says that these statements are not his alone; they are the verdict of the Vedas. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur did not tolerate any disrespect towards genuine Vaishnavas. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu also emphatically denounced any insults directed at Vaishnava devotees. To understand the seriousness of vaisnava-aparadha, offending devotees, one must grasp the multi-faceted, multi-dimensional nature of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Mahaprabhu is the source of all incarnations in Kali-yuga and the savior of all souls. He is Krishna, the son of Maharaja Nanda, fully enriched with the mood and radiance of Sri Radha. Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami offers prayers to all of these manifestations in the preface of Sri Caitanya-caritamarta:
vande gurun isa-bhaktan
tat-prakasams ca tac-chaktih
I offer my obeisances unto all the gurus, the devotees, the Lord’s avataras, his expansions, his saktis (energies), and the primeval Lord Himself, Sri Krishna Chaitanya. (Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila 1.1)
In the same way that Mahaprabhu is Krishna, he expands as Nityananda Prabhu (prakasa ), who is Balarama. Balarama’s partial expansion is Sadasiva, Maha-Vishnu Avatara, whose counterpart in Chaitanya-lila is Advaita Acarya. What is left of Sri Radhika after Krishna has plundered her emotions and lustre is Sri Gadadhara Pundit. Sri Gadadhara and Svarupa Damodara are his sakti (energies). Bhakta means Srivasa Thakur who is Sri Narada Muni in Krishna-lila. Isa,Divinity means Mahaprabhu Himself. The complete conception of Divinity must include the predominating moiety and the predominated moeity. The slightest disregard to any one of these is equal to disregrading the Supreme Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Himself. There are two aspects to the guru principle: the siksa or instructing guru, and the diksa or initiating guru. Both are represented in Srivasa Thakura.
In the beginning of the second chapter of the Antya-lila of the Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja offers the following invocation:
vande ham sri-guroh
sri-gurun vaisnavams ca
saha-gana-raghunathan vitam tam sa jivam
sadvaitam savadhutam parijana-sahitam
I offer my obeisances unto the lotus feet of my Guru and to all the preceptors on the path of devotion. I offer my obeisances unto all the Vaishnavas and to Sri Rupa Goswami and his associates Raghunatha dasa, and Sri Jiva. I offer my obeisances to Advaita Acarya, Nityananda Avadhuta, Gadadhara Pundit, and to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu with all his devotees, headed by Srivasa Thakura. I then offer my obeisances to the lotus feet of Sri Radha and Sri Krishna, and all the gopis headed by Lalita and Visakha.
(Caitanya-caritamrta, Antya-lila 2.1)
In the above invocatory prayers (mangala-carana ), the Vaishnavas are venerated. Kaviraja Goswami writes further:
Before beginning the narration of the pastimes of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, simply by meditating on Sri Guru, the Vaishnavas, and Divinity, I invoke their benediction. Such meditation destroys all detriments on the spiritual path, and helps one to fulfill all their desires.
We must note very carefully that the Vaishnavas have been included within the full conception of Divinity.
These writings describe the Vaishnava’s extraordinary qualities, and the spiritual benefit resulting from serving them. There are also several warnings regarding the disastrous effects of vaisnava-aparadha.
The Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 19.156 states:
If a devotee commits vaisnava-aparadha, his offense is like a mad elephant uprooting and trampling his creeper of devotion; afterwards the creeper’s leaves dry up and become lifeless.
There are three categories of Vaishnavas: kanistha (neophyte), madhyama (intermediate), and uttama (advanced) described in the Caitanya-caritamrta. Kaviraja Goswami states that to gain shelter of a Vaishnava, it is imperative to first receive the mercy of Nityananda Prabhu:
All of the Vaishnavas who live in Vrndavana are absorbed in singing the all-auspicious name of Sri Krishna. Sri Mahaprabhu and Nityananda are their life and soul. They do not know anything but devotion to Sri Radha and Krishna. My shelter at the Vaishnavas’ lotus feet has been granted only by the mercy of Nityananda Prabhu.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Prahhupada corroborates this fact:
All of the Vaishnavas living in the holy dhama of Sri Vrndavana are very fortunate souls. They have taken shelter in the Holy Name of Krishna. Sriman Mahaprabhu and Nityananda are their life and soul. They know nothing but the eternal service of Sri Radha and Sri Krishna.
Krishna’s mercy descends only through the Vaishnavas.
Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura, a nitya-siddha (eternal associate) of the Lord, instructs the devotees to pray to Mahaprabhu. He says that we should seek shelter in the shade of a Vaishnava’s lotus feet, shed tears of remorse with total humility, submitting to him the plight of our material existence, which is the result of turning away from Krishna. The Vaishnava is an ocean of compassion and feels the pain of others. When he pleads on our behalf to the Lord, Krishna responds and kindly accepts us as the followers of his favorites. Krishna’s mercy descends only through the Vaishnavas.
There is Krishna and karsna. Krishna’s mercy is embodied in pure devotees, who are known as karsna. The lotus feet of a Vaisnava guru represents the mercy of the Lord. Krishna is the priceless treasure enthroned in Sri Guru’s heart. The Lord can easily give this treasure to those who are surrendered to his devotees. There is no other way to receive Krishna’s grace than to serve and take shelter at the lotus feet of a Vaishnava. Sri Kaviraja Goswami discusses the importance of honoring the Vaishnava’s remnants, using the example of Sri Kalidasa, the uncle of Raghunatha Dasa Goswami:Excerpted from The Heart of Krsna (Vaishnava Aparadha & The Path of Spiritual Caution) by His Divine Grace Paramahamsa Vaisnava Thakura Srila Bhakti Promod Puri Goswami Maharaja
Taking the food remnants of Vaishnavas is so potent, it forced Mahaprabhu to give his mercy to Kalidasa. Don’t hesitate-eat the Vaishnava’s remnants, and you will fulfill your heart’s desire.
Food offered to Krishna is called maha-prasadam. After maha-prasadam is taken by a devotee, his remnants are glorified as maha-maha-prasadam. The dust of a pure devotee’s feet, the water of his foot bath, and his food remnants are three extremely potent spiritual substances. By honoring these three, one will be filled with ecstatic love for Krishna. All the scriptures declare this again and again. My dear devotees, please hear me: believe in these three and honor them in a mood of service, and you will achieve the purpose of your existence-ecstatic love of Krishna. This is the greatest mercy of Krishna, and Kalidasa is living proof.