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Categories of Vaiṣṇavas.

There are three categories of Vaiṣṇavas: kaniṣṭha-adhikārīs, madhyama-adhikārīs and uttama-adhikārīs. The kaniṣṭha-adhikārī, or the devotee in the lowest stage of Vaiṣṇava life, has firm faith but is not familiar with the conclusions of the śāstras. The devotee in the second stage, the madhyama-adhikārī, is completely aware of the śāstric conclusion and has firm faith in his guru and the Lord. He, therefore, avoiding nondevotees, preaches to the innocent. However, the mahā-bhāgavata or uttama-adhikārī, the devotee in the highest stage of devotional life, does not see anyone as being against the Vaiṣṇava principles, for he regards everyone as a Vaiṣṇava but himself. This is the essence of Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s instruction that one be more tolerant than a tree and think oneself lower than the straw in the street (tṛṇād api su-nīcena taror iva sahiṣṇunā). However, even if a devotee is in the uttama-bhāgavata status he must come down to the second status of life, madhyama-adhikārī, to be a preacher, for a preacher should not tolerate blasphemy against another Vaiṣṇava. Although a kaniṣṭha-adhikārī also cannot tolerate such blasphemy, he is not competent to stop it by citing śāstric evidences.
 
Ref >> Srila Prabhupada Vani.
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