Even if a devotee sometimes seems to engage in abominable activities, he should be considered a sādhu, a saintly person, because his actual identity is that of one engaged in the loving service of the Lord. In other words, he is not to be considered an ordinary human being.
Even though a pure devotee may not be born in a brāhmaṇa or gosvāmī family, if he is engaged in the service of the Lord he should not be neglected. In actuality there cannot be a family of gosvāmīs based on material considerations, caste or heredity. The gosvāmī title is actually the monopoly of the pure devotees; thus we speak of the six Gosvāmīs, headed by Rūpa Gosvāmī and Sanātana Gosvāmī. Rūpa Gosvāmī and Sanātana Gosvāmī had practically become Mohammedans and had therefore changed their names to Dabira Khāsa and Sākara Mallika, but Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu Himself made them gosvāmīs. Therefore the gosvāmī title is not hereditary. The word gosvāmī refers to one who can control his senses, who is master of the senses. A devotee is not controlled by the senses, but is the controller of the senses. Consequently he should be called svāmī or gosvāmī, even though he may not be born in a gosvāmī family.
According to this formula, the gosvāmīs who are descendants of Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu and Śrī Advaita Prabhu are certainly devotees, but devotees coming from other families should not be discriminated against; indeed, whether the devotees come from a family of previous ācāryas or from an ordinary family, they should be treated equally. One should not think, "Oh, here is an American gosvāmī," and discriminate against him. Nor should one think, "Here is a nityānanda-vaṁśa-gosvāmī." There is an undercurrent of protest against our awarding the title gosvāmī to the American Vaiṣṇavas of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. Sometimes people flatly tell the American devotees that their sannyāsa or title of gosvāmī is not bona fide. However, according to the statements of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī in this verse, an American gosvāmī and a gosvāmī in a family of ācāryas are nondifferent.
On the other hand, a devotee who has attained the title of gosvāmī but is not born of a brāhmaṇa father or of a gosvāmī in the family of Nityānanda or Advaita Prabhu should not be artificially puffed up by thinking that he has become a gosvāmī. He should always remember that as soon as he becomes materially puffed up, he immediately falls down. This Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is a transcendental science, and there is no room for jealousy. This movement is meant for the paramahaṁsas who are completely free from all jealousy (paramaṁ nirmatsarāṇām). One should not be jealous, whether he is born in a family of gosvāmīs or has the title of gosvāmī awarded to him. As soon as anyone becomes envious, he falls from the platform of paramahaṁsa.
If we consider the bodily defects of a Vaiṣṇava, we should understand that we are committing an offense at the lotus feet of the Vaiṣṇava. An offense at the lotus feet of a Vaiṣṇava is very serious. Indeed, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has described this offense as hātī-mātā, the mad elephant offense. A mad elephant can create a disaster, especially when it enters into a nicely trimmed garden. One should therefore be very careful not to commit any offense against a Vaiṣṇava. Every devotee should be ready to take instructions from a superior Vaiṣṇava, and a superior Vaiṣṇava must be ready to help an inferior Vaiṣṇava in all respects. One is superior or inferior according to his spiritual development in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. One is forbidden to observe the activities of a pure Vaiṣṇava from a material point of view. For the neophyte especially, considering a pure devotee from a material point of view is very injurious. One should therefore avoid observing a pure devotee externally, but should try to see the internal features and understand how he is engaged in the transcendental loving service of the Lord. In this way one can avoid seeing the pure devotee from a material point of view, and thus one can gradually become a purified devotee himself.