Nimi then asked: “What are the characteristics of a Bhagavata or devotee? What are the signs by which he is known? How does he behave towards others? How does he talk? What does he talk? How does he act? What are all the other characteristics by which he can be distinctly recognised in this world?”
Hari replied: “He is the highest devotee who sees his relation to all beings as being Brahman and all beings in his Self which is essentially Brahman. He who sees the Lord’s presence and image in every created object, animate or inanimate and who sees all created objects as portions of the Lord and himself is the perfect Bhagavata or the foremost one among the votaries of the Lord. He who beholds in all beings the Lord as in his own Self and beholds all beings in the Lord within himself, is the highest devotee.
“He who bears love and respect towards the Lord, friendship towards his dependents and other devotees, kindness towards the ignorant, and indifference towards his enemies and those who abuse the Lord is a middle class devotee.
“He who worships Hari as present only in the image and not in His devotees or other creatures is only a beginner. He who worships the Lord only in the temple but is not tolerant of the devotees of other forms and is not able to recognise the Lord’s presence everywhere is an elementary devotee.