Some scholars recommend that knowledge and renunciation are important factors for elevating oneself to devotional service. But actually that is not a fact. Actually, the cultivation of knowledge or renunciation, which are favorable for achieving a footing in Krsna consciousness, may be accepted in the beginning, but ultimately they may also come to be rejected, for devotional service is dependent on nothing other than the sentiment or desire for such service. It requires nothing more than sincerity.
It is the opinion of expert devotees that mental speculation and the artificial austerities of yoga practice may be favorable for becoming liberated from material contamination, but they will also make one's heart harder and harder. They will not help at all in the progress of devotional service. These processes are, therefore, not favorable for entering into the transcendental loving service of the Lord. Actually, Krsna consciousness-devotional service itself-is the only way of advancing in devotional life. Devotional service is absolute; it is both the cause and the effect. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is the cause and effect of all that be, and to approach Him, the absolute, the process of devotional service-which is also absolute-has to be adopted.
This is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita by the Lord Himself: "One can understand Me only through devotional service." In beginning His teaching of the Gita, the Lord said to Arjuna, "Because you are My devotee I shall teach these secrets to you." Vedic knowledge means ultimately to understand the Supreme Lord, and the process of entering into His kingdom is devotional service. That is accepted by all authentic scriptures. Mental speculators neglect the process of devotional service, and by simply trying to defeat others in philosophical research they fail to develop the ecstasy of devotion.
In the Eleventh Canto, 20th Chapter, 31st verse, of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Krsna says, "My dear Uddhava, for persons who are seriously engaged in My service, the cultivation of philosophical speculation and artificial renunciation are not very favorable. When a person becomes My devotee he automatically attains the fruits of the renunciation of material enjoyment, and he gets sufficient knowledge to understand the absolute truth." That is the test of advancement in devotional service. A devotee cannot be in darkness because the Lord shows him special favor and enlightens him from within.
In the Eleventh Canto, 20th Chapter, 32nd and 33rd verses, of the Srimad-Bhagavatam the Lord further instructs Uddhava: "My dear friend, the profits derived from fruitive activities, austerities, the culture of philosophical knowledge, renouncement, the practice of mystic yoga, charity and all similar auspicious activities are automatically achieved by My devotees-those who are simply attached to Me by loving service. These devotees have everything at their disposal, but they desire nothing outside of My devotional service. If ever a devotee should desire some material profit-to be promoted to the heavenly planets-or some spiritual profit-to go to the Vaikunthas-by My causeless mercy his desires are very easily fulfilled."
Actually, a person who is developing Krsna consciousness and still has some attachment to material enjoyment will soon be freed from such a tendency by regularly discharging devotional service under the instruction of a bona fide spiritual master.
Srila Rupa Gosvami, then, recommends that one should not be attached to material sense enjoyment, but accept everything enjoyable which is in relationship to Krsna. For example, eating is necessary, and one wants some palatable dishes to satisfy his sense of taste. So in that case, for the satisfaction of Krsna rather than for the satisfaction of the tongue, some palatable dishes may be prepared and offered to Krsna. Then it is renunciation. Let the palatable dishes be prepared, but unless they are offered to Krsna one should not accept them for eating. This vow of rejecting anything which is not offered to Krsna is actually renunciation. And by such renunciation one is able to satisfy the demands of the senses.
The impersonalists who try to avoid everything material may undergo severe austerities, but they miss the opportunity of being engaged in the service of the Lord. Thus their renunciation is not sufficient for perfection. There are many instances where, following such artificial renunciation without any contact with devotional service, the impersonalist again fell down and became attracted to the material contamination. There are many supposed renouncers even at the present moment who officially become sannyasis or renouncers and outwardly claim that spiritual existence is truth and material existence untruth. In this way, artificially they make a show of renunciation of the material world. However, because they cannot reach the point of devotional service, they fail to achieve the goal and again come back to material activities, such as philanthropic work, political agitation, etc. There are many instances of so-called sannyasis who gave up the world as untruth, but again came to the material world because they were not seeking their real repose at the lotus feet of the Lord.
One should not give up anything which can be utilized in the service of the Lord. That is a secret of devotional service. Anything that can be utilized in advancing Krsna consciousness and devotional service should be accepted. For instance, we are using many machines for the advancement of our present Krsna consciousness movement, machines like typewriters, dictaphones, tape recorders, microphones and airplanes. Sometimes people ask us, "Why are you utilizing material products if you condemn the advancement of material civilization?" But actually we do not condemn. We simply ask people to do whatever they are doing in Krsna consciousness. This is the same principle on which, in the Bhagavad-gita, Krsna advised Arjuna to utilize his fighting abilities in devotional service. Similarly, we are utilizing these machines for Krsna's service. With such sentiment for Krsna, or Krsna consciousness, we can accept everything. If the typewriter can be utilized for advancing our Krsna consciousness movement, we must accept it. Similarly, the dictaphone or any other machine must be used. Our vision is that Krsna is everything. Krsna is the cause and effect, and nothing belongs to us. Krsna's things must be used in the service of Krsna. That is our vision.
This does not mean, however, that we should give up the principles of discharging devotional service or neglect abiding by the rules and regulations prescribed therein. In the neophyte stage of devotion one must follow all the principles, regulated by the authority of the spiritual master. The acceptance and rejection of things should always be in pursuance of the devotional principles; not that one can independently manufacture some idea of what should be accepted or rejected. The spiritual master as the visible manifestation of Krsna is necessary, therefore, to direct the devotee on behalf of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
The spiritual master must never be carried away by an accumulation of wealth or a large number of followers. A bona fide spiritual master will never become like that. But sometimes, if a spiritual master is not properly authorized, and only on his own initiative becomes a spiritual master, he may be carried away by an accumulation of wealth and large numbers of disciples. His is not a very high grade of devotional service. If a person is carried away by such achievements, then his devotional service becomes slackened. One should, therefore, strictly adhere to the principles of disciplic succession.
A Krsna conscious person, being naturally purified, has no need of developing any other purificatory process of thought or action. On account of his being highly elevated in Krsna consciousness, he has already acquired all the good qualities and is following the rules and regulations prescribed for the mystic yogic process. Such rules are automatically practiced by the devotees. A concrete example is the quality of nonviolence, which is considered a good qualification. A devotee is naturally nonviolent and therefore doesn't have to practice nonviolence separately. Some people seek purification by joining a vegetarian movement, but a devotee is automatically a vegetarian. He doesn't need to practice separately in this matter or to join any society for vegetarians. He is automatically a vegetarian.
There are many other instances showing that a devotee needn't practice anything but Krsna consciousness; all the good qualities of the demigods automatically develop within him. Those who are intentionally practicing to be vegetarians or to become nonviolent may have good qualifications by a material estimation, but these qualifications are not sufficient to make them devotees. A vegetarian is not necessarily a devotee, nor is a nonviolent person. But a devotee is automatically both vegetarian and nonviolent. We must conclude, therefore, that vegetarianism or nonviolence is not the cause of devotion.
In this connection, there is a story in the Skanda Purana about a hunter who was converted into a great devotee under the instruction of Narada Muni. When the hunter became a perfect devotee, he was not prepared to kill even an ant. Parvata Muni, a friend of Narada's, saw the wonderful transformation of the hunter by devotional service, and remarked: "My dear hunter, your unwillingness to kill even an ant is not very astonishing. Any person who develops the devotional attitude has all the good qualities automatically manifested in his person. A devotee is never a cause of distress to anyone."
Sri Rupa Gosvami affirms herein that purification of consciousness, purification of bodily activities, austerities, peace of mind, etc., all become automatically manifest in the person who is engaged in devotional service.
Sri Rupa Gosvami affirms herein that there are nine different kinds of devotional service, which are listed as hearing, chanting, remembering, serving, worshiping the Deity in the temple, praying, carrying out orders, serving Him as a friend and sacrificing everything for Him. Each and every one of these processes is so powerful that if anyone follows even one single one of them, he can achieve the desired perfection without fail. For example, if one is attached simply to hearing about the Lord, and another is attached to chanting the glories of the name, both will achieve their desired goal in devotional service. In the Caitanya-caritamrta this has been explained. One may execute one, two, three or all the different processes of devotional service, and at the ultimate end he will achieve the desired goal of being established in devotional service.
There are concrete examples of how a devotee discharged one of these services and achieved perfection. King Pariksit achieved the desired goal of life simply by hearing Srimad-Bhagavatam. Sukadeva Gosvami achieved the desired goal of life simply by reciting Srimad-Bhagavatam. Prahlada Maharaj became successful in his devotional service by always remembering the Lord. Laksmi, the goddess of fortune, was successful by engaging herself in massaging the lotus feet of the Lord. King Prthu became successful by worshiping in the temple. Akrura became successful by offering prayers. Hanuman became successful by rendering personal service to Lord Ramacandra. Arjuna became successful by being a friend of Krsna. And Bali Maharaj became successful simply by offering all of his possessions to Krsna.
There are also examples of devotees who discharged all the different items together. In the Ninth Canto, 4th Chapter, 15th, 16th and 17th verses, of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, there is a statement about Maharaj Ambarisa, who followed every one of the devotional processes. In these verses, Sukadeva Gosvami says, "King Ambarisa first of all concentrated his mind on the lotus feet of Lord Krsna and then engaged his speech in describing the pastimes and activities of the Lord. He engaged his hands in washing the temple of the Lord. He engaged his ears in hearing of the transcendental glories of the Lord. He engaged his eyes in seeing the beautiful Deity in the temple. He engaged his body in associating with the pure devotees of the Lord. [When you associate with someone you have to sit down together, eat together, etc.-and in this way the touch of your body with their body is inevitable. Ambarisa Maharaj made his association only with pure devotees and did not allow his body to be touched by anyone else.] He engaged his nostrils in smelling the flowers and tulasi offered to Krsna, and he engaged his tongue in tasting Krsna-prasadam [food prepared specifically for offering to the Lord, the remnants of which are taken by the devotees]. Maharaj Ambarisa was able to offer very nice prasadam to Krsna because he was a king and had no scarcity of finance. He used to offer Krsna the most royal dishes and would then taste the remnants as Krsna-prasadam. There was no scarcity in his royal style, because he had a very beautiful temple wherein the Deity of the Lord was decorated with costly paraphernalia and offered high grade food. So everything was available, and his engagement was always completely in Krsna consciousness."
The idea is that we should follow in the footsteps of great devotees. If we are unable to execute all the different items of devotional service, we must try to execute at least one of them, as exemplified by previous acaryas. If we are engaged in the execution of all the items of devotional service, as was Maharaj Ambarisa, then the perfection of devotional service is guaranteed from each one of these items. With the first complete engagement, one becomes automatically detached from material contamination, and liberation becomes the maidservant of the devotee. This idea is confirmed by Bilvamangala Thakur: If one develops unalloyed devotion to the Lord, liberation will follow the devotee as his maidservant.
Srila Rupa Gosvami says that the regulative principles of devotional service are sometimes described by authorities as the path of serving the Lord in opulence.
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