Student: Mahārāj, if prasādam is distributed to the mass of people, they benefit, yes?
Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāj: It depends upon who is the director, who is at the bottom. It depends on him: his connection with divinity.
Student: As to whether it is properly sanctified?
Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāj: The current must be there. Only wiring has no value. Do you follow? It may be connecting wiring but have no current. So, Vaikuṇṭha-Nāma-grahanam, the Vaikuṇṭha connection, the transcendental connection, must be there. Otherwise, form is form; it is useless. The spirit must be within the form. The form is also necessary; wiring is also necessary to utilise the electric current, but mere wiring has no utility. The current must be there.
So, prasād distribution and all such things may only be an external exhibition. If real connection with divinity is present, then they are not, but otherwise, they may all be trade. An ulterior motive may be there as a business. The jāti-goswāmīs read the Bhāgavata and take money as a class of trade. If the man who is at the back has sincere connection with the Lord, then that connection comes and pervades everywhere. Then, there is prasādam. Otherwise, there is only imitation, and imitation is not the real thing.
So, Bhakti Vinod Ṭhākur said that in a congregation kīrtan, a saṅkīrtan, at least one man, the leader of the party, must be śuddha-bhakta, a pure devotee. When a kīrtan party is guided under a pure devotee, then we shall join. Otherwise, we all will be dancing and jumping in the mundane plane. The connection must be there, the electric connection.
Student: How can one perceive that connection?
Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāj: One who has the eye can see. We have to get the eye:
Our own realisation will be the guarantee, our own knowledge. With that we will see, and that sort of eye is given by Gurudev.
The cataract is removed by Gurudev. He gives the divya-darśan, the divine eye, divya-chakṣu, that is, dīkṣā. Dīkṣā means divyaṁ jñānaṁ yato dadyāt: transcendental knowledge is imparted, and as much as one has got that sort of knowledge, one can detect the divine connection.
It is the same in other fields and other cases. How you can know whether a stone is a gem? Whether a metal is gold or brass? How can you detect whether something is glass or diamond? Who can consider this things? Expert knowledge must be there, and one who has that knowledge can detect others who have it. Fools, ordinary persons, the ignorant—they cannot differentiate.
This point is applicable everywhere. Whenever we go to purchase anything, medicine or this or that, everything may be tampered with or be an imitation. How can we understand whether this is the case? Expert knowledge must be there. Similarly, what is mundane and what is transcendental? What is sincere sevā? What is meant for the service of the Lord and what is for some ulterior purpose? One who has the fine eye can detect this.
ye jana vaiṣṇava chiniyā la-iyā
ādara kariba yabe
Bhakti Vinod Ṭhākur says we shall serve the Vaiṣṇavas, but before that we shall have to get the capacity to recognise who is Vaiṣṇava and who is not a Vaiṣṇava. Someone’s figure, tilak, mālā, and dress cannot be the criterion as to whether they are a sādhu.
All these things we are to understand, and that capacity of recognition is possible. That is dīkṣā, divya-jñān.
We are all expert in some stage or in some plane, and there we are to differentiate things everywhere and every time. In marketing, or in this, or in that, we are to discriminate. We must have knowledge of what we are seeking. Otherwise, we will be exploited by merchants. Everywhere in every stage of life such understanding must be with us. So, it is also in the case of divinity, transcendental truth. It is also possible to develop the transcendental eye, transcendental capacity and judgement. That must be with us.
Hare Kṛṣṇa. Gaurahari.
Spoken on 17 July 1982.
Listen to the original audio recording here.
sāṅketyaṁ pārihāsyaṁ vā stobhaṁ helanam eva vā
vaikuṇṭha-nāma-grahaṇam aśeṣāgha-haraṁ viduḥ
(Śrīmad Bhāgavatam: 6.2.14)
“Be it indirectly, jokingly, mnemonically, or neglectfully, the wise know that chanting the Name of the Infinite Lord removes innumerable sins.”
Kalyāṇa-kalpa-taru: Prārthanā-lālasāmayī, 7.1–6:
কবে মুই বৈষ্ণব চিনিব হরি হরি ।
বৈষ্ণব-চরণ কল্যাণের খনি
মাতিব হৃদয়ে ধরি’ ॥১॥
kabe mui vaiṣṇava chiniba hari hari
vaiṣṇava-charaṇa kalyāṇera khani
mātiba hṛdaye dhari’ 
kabe–When [will] mui–I chiniba–be able to recognise vaiṣṇava–the Vaiṣṇavas? hari–O Lord! hari–O Lord! charaṇa–The feet vaiṣṇava–of the Vaiṣṇavas [are] khani–mines kalyāṇera–of good fortune. [When] mātiba–will I become overwhelmed dhari’–as I hold them hṛdaye–to [my] heart? 
When will I be able to recognise the Vaiṣṇavas? O Hari! O Hari! The feet of the Vaiṣṇavas are mines of good fortune. When will I become overwhelmed as I hold them to my heart?
বৈষ্ণব-ঠাকুর অপ্রাকৃত সদা
নির্দ্দোষ আনন্দময় ।
কৃষ্ণনামে প্রীতি জড়ে উদাসীন
জীবেতে দয়ার্দ্র হয় ॥২॥
vaiṣṇava-ṭhākura aprākṛta sadā
kṛṣṇa-nāme prīti jaḍe udāsīna
jīvete dayārdra haya 
ṭhākura–The venerable vaiṣṇava–Vaiṣṇavas [are] sadā–always aprākṛta–supramundane, nirdoṣa–faultless, [and] ānandamaya–blissful. [They have] prīti–love [for] kṛṣṇa–Kṛṣṇa’s nāme–Name, [they are] udāsīna–indifferent jaḍe–to the mundane, [and they] haya–are ardra–melted [with] dayā–mercy jīvete–for [all] souls. 
The venerable Vaiṣṇavas is always supramundane, faultless, and blissful. They have love for Kṛṣṇa’s Name, they are indifferent to the mundane, and their hearts are melted with mercy for all souls.
অভিমানহীন ভজনে প্রবীণ
বিষয়েতে অনাসক্ত ।
অন্তর-বাহিরে নিষ্কপট সদা
abhimāna-hīna bhajane pravīna
antara-bahire niṣkapaṭa sadā
[They are] abhimāna-hīna–prideless, pravīna–expert bhajane–in service, anāsakta–detached viṣayete–from the sense objects, sadā–always niṣkapaṭa–free from deceit antara–internally [and] bahire–externally, [and] anurakta–attached [to the] nitya–eternal līlā–Pastimes. 
They are prideless, expert in bhajan, detached from the sense objects, always free from deceit internally and externally, and attached to the eternal Pastimes.
কনিষ্ঠ মধ্যম উত্তম প্রভেদে
বৈষ্ণব ত্রিবিধ গণি’ ।
কনিষ্ঠে আদর মধ্যমে প্রণতি
উত্তমে শুশ্রূষা শুনি ॥৪॥
kaniṣṭha madhyama uttama prabhede
vaiṣṇava tri-vidha gaṇi
kaniṣṭhe ādara madhyame praṇati
uttame śuśrūṣā śuni 
gaṇi’–I classify [the] tri–three vidha–grades vaiṣṇava–of Vaiṣṇavas prabhede–according to the distinction [between] kaniṣṭha–beginners, madhyama–intermediates, [and] uttama–the advanced. [I] ādara–honour kaniṣṭhe–the beginners, [I] praṇati–offer obeisance madhyame–to the intermediates, [and] śuni–I listen to [and] śuśrūṣā–serve uttame–the advanced. 
I classify the three grades of Vaiṣṇavas according to the distinction between beginngers, intermediates, and the advanced. I honour the beginners, I offer obeisance to the intermediates, and I listen to and serve the advanced.
যে যেন বৈষ্ণব চিনিয়া লইয়া
আদর করিব যবে ।
বৈষ্ণবের কৃপা যাহে সর্ব্বসিদ্ধি
অবশ্য পাইব তবে ॥৫॥
ye yena vaiṣṇava chiniyā la-iyā
ādara kariba yabe
vaiṣṇavera kṛpā yāhe sarva-siddhi
avaśya pāiba tabe 
yabe–When chiniyā la-iyā–I will be able to recognise [and] ādara kariba–honour vaiṣṇava–the Vaiṣṇavas ye yena–as appropriate, tabe–then avaśya–certainly pāiba–I will receive kṛpā–the mercy vaiṣṇavera–of the Vaiṣṇavas, yāhe–wherein sarva–all siddhi–perfection [is realised]. 
When I will able to recognise and honour the Vaiṣṇavas as apppropriate, then I will certainly receive the mercy of the Vaiṣṇavas, wherein all perfection is realised.
বৈষ্ণব-চরিত্র সর্ব্বদা পবিত্র
যেই নিন্দে হিংসা করি’ ।
ভকতিবিনোদ না সম্ভাষে তারে
থাকে সদা মৌম ধরি’ ॥৬॥
vaiṣṇava-charitra sarvadā pavitra
yei ninde hiṁsā kari’
bhakati-vinoda nā sambhāṣe tāre
thāke sadā mauna dhari’ 
charitra–The character vaiṣṇava–of the Vaiṣṇavas [is] sarvadā–always pavitra–pure. bhakati-vinoda–Bhakti Vinod sambhāṣe nā–does not converse tāre–with anyone yei–who hiṁsā kari’–maliciously ninde–criticises [the Vaiṣṇavas and rather] sadā–always mauna dhari’ thāke–remains silent. 
The character of the Vaiṣṇavas is always pure. Bhakti Vinod does not converse with anyone who maliciously criticises the Vaiṣṇavas and rather always remains silent.