The Unique Proposal of Bhakti-yoga.
Krsna says, “This process is the supreme intelligence of the intelligent and the cleverness of the most clever, for by following it one can in this very life make use of the temporary and unreal to achieve Me, the eternal reality.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam, 11.29.22)
Why is bhakti the most intelligent thing you can practice? Because you can take something that is useless – the temporary – to attain something that is very, very extraordinary. It is like investing a penny and then receiving two million pounds in return after a short time. You might tell me, “Maharaja, my body is very useful and beautiful – I have sideburns and I use cosmetics.” However, from the stance of eternity it is useless since it is temporary. This is a spiritual perspective, from which we understand that the body has an ‘X’ on it.
It is marked for destruction like trees that are marked out to be cut down by woodcutters soon. However, the temporary body can be used to attain the eternal Lord by giving it to Him. Now what does it mean to give one’s body to the Lord? It means to engage the ear and other organs in service: the ears, the tongue, the hands, the mind. By this endeavor Krsna becomes willing to give Himself to the devotee. That is the unique proposal of our sampradaya! Do whatever little you can do and it will become more in due course of time. This is the beauty of devotional service. This is the offer of the Lord to us ¬– the divine prospect. Engage your body and mind in the service of Krsna and you will experience an extraordinary miraculous surprise.
When you offer your service, it is important that you do so consciously with the idea that “I am doing this for Krsna. I have no other wish than to please you, it is selfless.” Keep in mind, we are talking about devotional service, not unpaid labor. Through service, you will get the Lord – that is overly paid! Being engaged in service is our eternal life, the calling of the soul. What will the soul do, when it finally stands before Krsna? When the soul wakes up from its swoon of being overwhelmed by the fragrance and beauty of the Lord, the soul will think “How can I offer service?“ It’s the calling of the soul.
We are nitya-krsna-dasa, eternally Krsna servants, and by entering service you make advancement. But it won’t work if you enter seva (service) with a dark, conditioned mind “I have to do this, everyone has to do it and if I don’t I won’t get maha-sweets.“ What will the Lord think? What would you think, if someone did something for you with the mood of “Oh no, I have to do this for you, although I really don’t want to.“ You would say, “No need, you can go.“ Although the Lord will never send us away, He will not be satisfied by that kind of service. The way to enter service is to think “This is my opportunity, a conditioned soul, separated from the Lord for so long, is now entering the life of service! It is my chance to come closer to the Lord.”
In devotional service we have to make sure that as we progress, we don’t look for totally new things we have never heard of. What we have to look for are deeper levels of the same five processes that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has given us. Let me give you an example: a beginner will definitely chant the Holy Name. Now if a devotee goes through his spiritual life and remains on the beginner’s level of chanting, he will lack the taste and experiences that Krsna consciousness promises to give.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura says that 2 + 2 = 4 at the beginner’s level, but it is also true for someone who solves difficult algorithmic equations. However, the advanced mathematician can achieve significantly greater results than the beginner, for example writing computer programs. One would never be able to do this by remaining at the beginner’s level of mathematics. So, seva, my dear devotees, is true at the beginner’s level – like the level of Steve Jobs who was so poor at the beginning of his life that he went to eat in the Hare Krsna temple in Boston every Sunday and in recompense he washed the dishes – he somewhat did service.
But you have to find out how this – what a beginner in bhakti can do – is now true at your level. Find out how you will go onto the next level, challenge, on your path back home, back to Godhead in this application of the seva ideology.
From a lecture by Sacinandana Swami in Bucklands, UK, on January 4th, 2019