śraddhayā tat-kathāyāṁ ca
guru-śuśrūṣayā—by rendering service to the bona fide spiritual master; bhaktyā—with faith and devotion; sarva—all; labdha—of material gains; arpaṇena—by offering (to the guru, or to Kṛṣṇa through the spiritual master); ca—and; saṅgena—by the association; sādhu-bhaktānām—of devotees and saintly persons; īśvara—of the Supreme Personality of Godhead; ārādhanena—by the worship; ca—and; śraddhayā—with great faith; tat-kathāyām—in discourses about the Lord; ca—and; kīrtanaiḥ—by glorifications; guṇa-karmaṇām—of the transcendental qualities and activities of the Lord; tat—His; pāda-amburuha—on the lotus feet; dhyānāt—by meditation; tat—His; liṅga—forms (Deities); īkṣa—observing; arhaṇa-ādibhiḥ—and by worshiping.
One must accept the bona fide spiritual master and render service unto him with great devotion and faith. Whatever one has in one’s possession should be offered to the spiritual master, and in the association of saintly persons and devotees one should worship the Lord, hear the glories of the Lord with faith, glorify the transcendental qualities and activities of the Lord, always meditate on the Lord’s lotus feet, and worship the Deity of the Lord strictly according to the injunctions of the śāstra and guru.
In the previous verse it has been said that the process which immediately increases one’s love and affection for the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the best of the many thousands of ways to become free from the entanglement of material existence. It is also said, dharmasya tattvaṁ nihitaṁ guhāyām: actually the truth of religious principles is extremely confidential. Nonetheless, it can be understood very easily if one actually adopts the principles of religion. As it is said, dharmaṁ tu sākṣād bhagavat-praṇītam: [SB 6.3.19] the process of religion is enunciated by the Supreme Lord because He is the supreme authority. This is also indicated in the previous verse by the word bhagavatoditaḥ. The injunctions or directions of the Lord are infallible, and their benefits are fully assured. According to His directions, which are explained in this verse, the perfect form of religion is bhakti-yoga.
To practice bhakti-yoga, one must first accept a bona fide spiritual master. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, in his Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.2.74–75), advises:
One’s first duty is to accept a bona fide spiritual master. The student or disciple should be very inquisitive; he should be eager to know the complete truth about eternal religion (sanātana-dharma). The words guru-śuśrūṣayā mean that one should personally serve the spiritual master by giving him bodily comforts, helping him in bathing, dressing, sleeping, eating and so on. This is called guru-śuśrūṣaṇam. A disciple should serve the spiritual master as a menial servant, and whatever he has in his possession should be dedicated to the spiritual master. prāṇair arthair dhiyā vācā. Everyone has his life, his wealth, his intelligence and his words, and all of them should be offered to the Supreme Personality of Godhead through the via medium of the spiritual master. Everything should be offered to the spiritual master as a matter of duty, but the offering should be made to the spiritual master with heart and soul, not artificially to gain material prestige. This offering is called arpaṇa. Moreover, one should live among devotees, saintly persons, to learn the etiquette and proper behavior of devotional service. Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura remarks in this connection that whatever is offered to the spiritual master should be offered with love and affection, not for material adoration. Similarly, it is recommended that one associate with devotees, but there must be some discrimination. Actually, a sādhu, a saintly person, must be saintly in his behavior (sādhavaḥ sad-ācārāḥ). Unless one adheres to the standard behavior, one’s position as a sādhu, a saintly person, is not complete. Therefore a Vaiṣṇava, a sādhu, must completely adhere to the standard of behavior. Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura says that a Vaiṣṇava, a person initiated into the Vaiṣṇava cult, should be offered the respect befitting a Vaiṣṇava, which means that he should be offered service and prayers. However, one should not associate with him if he is not a fit person with whom to associate.
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