Rising Through The Ranks
By Kesava Krsna Dasa
Some devotees feel that they have to be extra educated or materially qualified, or to be a GBC, sannyasa or guru with disciples, in order to serve properly in devotion. Falling short of these positions, we may feel unqualified. There are some good news for all ‘unqualified’ devotees.
Of course, we all feel, or should feel unqualified, but this feeling can be disproportionate and erroneous, especially if we think we have to be higher up in our managerial echelons. We might feel pressured to produce service results above what we are normally capable of, as if to earn some lasting recognition from ‘higher up’ that might gravitate us towards guru-ship or sannyasa. Doesn’t this sound like corporatism with a spiritual twist?
Some other devotees think they need to acquire extra educational qualifications in order to preach to academics and scholars – how else will such learned people take us seriously otherwise. The idea may exist that if we are able to serve above the ordinary – hopefully with extraordinary results – it might convince others that Krishna has empowered us.
It might be difficult to distinguish between extraordinary human ability and Krishna’s empowerment. We are taught to think that the more devotees or disciples one makes or has, is a sure measure of Krishna empowerment. Is it? Not always – what if one makes devotees or attracts disciples just by popularity or reputation alone?
Is it the goal of spiritual endeavour to be outwardly results driven in service in order to progress internally? We all like to please our spiritual masters and fellow devotees, but could it not be that if we serve in a way similar to how the corporate system works, then the service really becomes unintended self-service and satisfaction? Our inner development stalls.
For instance, one busy GBC member remarked that if he were not so engaged in management, he would happily do another service – making garlands for the Lord. There is an intimacy in this desire which may get ‘neutralised’ by corporate thinking, in a distant way.
(3) The spiritual master is always engaged in the temple worship of Sri Sri Radha and Krishna. He also engages his disciples in such worship. They dress the Deities in beautiful clothes and ornaments, clean Their temple, and perform other similar worship of the Lord. I offer my respectful obeisances unto the lotus feet of such a spiritual master. (Sri Sri Gurvashtaka)
Although all service rendered in fine consciousness makes us feel intimately connected with the centre of guru and Krishna, we can gravitate away without realising it. If we need constant ‘pat-on-the-back’ mechanisms to ensure we are ‘accepted’ and loved, it reveals a distance from the centre. To be able to do ‘small’ services like garland making, temple cleaning and pot washing – though appreciated – it would mean a climb down for someone at a distance.
From such a distance, performing ‘invisible’ services in which no else knows of them, can be difficult. The “Krishna knows…”assurance is lacking. We would expect materially qualified or academically gifted devotees to perform according to ability, appearing vital and important, yet it is on par with pot washing or making of garlands – depending on the state of consciousness – when viewed from the centre. Srila Prabhupada encourages us:
“My Guru Maharaja therefore always instructed that it is not necessary that you have to qualify yourself for serving Krsna. Whatever qualification you have already got, that is sufficient to come to the platform of service. That’s all. You don’t require any extra qualifications. But what extra qualifications? So if somebody thinks, “Let me qualify like this, then I shall be able to serve Krsna better,” no, that’s a wrong philosophy…” (Lecture, Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.9.8–11 Hawaii, March 19, 1969)
Srila Prabhupada is levelling our service in devotion playing field. Serving within a corporate devotee management environment with distant expectations will cause an uneven field. An uneven outlook will probably favour those with more influence and power – they are the ones more likely to go back to Godhead, so to speak.
But actual Krishna consciousness enacted from any service capacity on any level can ensure that everyone is guaranteed to go back to Godhead. Having disciples does not guarantee going back to Godhead. Neither does being a GBC or sannyasa. Acquiring extra academic qualifications also has no use, except to properly preach, if needed.
“Whatever qualification you have acquired already, you begin Krsna service, Krsna consciousness, immediately, so that even a little bit done towards service you are gainer. Vigata-viklava gata sankha[?]. Do not be doubtful, that “I am not qualified, so I cannot serve. My service will not be accepted.” No. Sa karmana tama vaca. In the Bhagavad-gita also it is said that whatever qualification and whatever asset you have got, just immediately engage to Krsna’s service.” (Lecture, Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.9.8–11 Hawaii, March 19, 1969)
To be distanced in service and expectations of fellow devotees reveals some doubt about the efficacy of service from any position – visible and invisible. It is hardly a solid display of “Krishna knows…” faith.
How such faith interacts in our world of varied all-important services will reveal how we apply Krishna conscious philosophy. Whereas we might think that Krishna favours certain ‘qualified’ individuals, Srila Prabhupada is indirectly saying that Krishna loves us just the way we are.
Prabhupāda: One who loves Kṛṣṇa without inquiry, that is nice position. To inquire about Kṛṣṇa is knowledge. And pure devotion is transcendental to knowledge. Love does not depend on the greatness. If a boy loves a girl or the girl loves a boy, even in this material field, it does not depend on the greatness of the boy. Of course, here everything is on material consideration. But actual love is without any consideration, what He is or what He isn’t. That is real love. That is the perfectional stage of love, without inquiring how great He is or what He is. But for the neophytes it is necessary to know about Kṛṣṇa. Because we have no love, so if we understand that Kṛṣṇa is so great, then gradually we can love. (September 6, 1968, New York)
The same logic can be applied to our fellow devotees, where we think we have to detect some Aisvarya quality in others before we can believe or respect them, rather than simply accepting all devotees for who they are, great or small, important or ‘unimportant.’
Even our sense of extending love may be determined by how important and influential the receiver of our love is. In normal corporate dealings, estimations of high and low are vivid experiences. In devotion circles, conceptions of low being high requires faith-centric acceptance. Where to direct our love can be philosophically incorrect sometimes.
If we realise that all devotees with sincerity can earn service back in Godhead, regardless of their perceived external qualifications, because Krishna loves them the way they are, our interactions will become more wholesome. Is it not encouraging knowing that “Krishna loves me just the way I am…” in whatever service we do. It is worth repeating three times.
Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa