Nectar of Devotion
Love is one of the words we use most and understand least. The problem is that there are many kinds of love. One of the distinctions we can make between different kinds of love has to do with time, duration – how long love lasts. Some love lasts a few days, some lasts a lifetime, and some lasts forever. Most lovers aspire for the latter, but in vain.
Love between bodies is bound to be temporary because the lovers’ bodies are temporary. Ah, but what about the soul? Will the lovers not meet in the eternal spiritual world and there enjoy deathless love?
Perhaps. But the question is, “How do we get to the spiritual world?” That requires a special kind of love, the love between the individual soul and the Supreme Soul, God. Actually, we are caught in a web of temporary, unsatisfying loving relationships because we have forgotten how to love God. So the spiritual love between the individual soul and the Supreme Soul is the most important kind of love. It is the only love that is truly eternal. Actually, every other kind of love we experience is just a reflection of the original loving exchange between the individual soul and the Supreme Soul. This special love is called, in Sanskrit, bhakti. And the process for awakening that love is called bhakti-yoga, the art of eternal love.
Bhakti involves three things: the lover, the beloved, and the loving relationship. In bhakti, all three are eternal. The lover, the individual soul, is eternal; the beloved, the Supreme Soul, is eternal; and the loving relationship, bhakti, is also eternal.
In the sixteenth century, an extremely advanced expert in bhakti-yoga named Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī wrote a handbook on its theory and practice. He called his book Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, “The Ocean of the Nectar of Divine Love.” For a long time its secrets remained locked in the ancient Sanskrit language. Fortunately for us, a modern master of the knowledge and techniques of bhakti-yoga, His Divine Grace Śrīla A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda, translated the book into English and began training his students in its mysteries. Śrīla Prabhupāda titled his translation The Nectar of Devotion.
Love, in its material manifestation, is usually associated with places – a city like Paris in the springtime, or a beach where one walked with one’s beloved. In the same way, spiritual love is also associated with places. The highest such place is Vṛndāvana, an earthly manifestation of the eternal spiritual place where God enjoys loving pastimes with His eternal associates in the spiritual sky. In Vṛndāvana there are many temples, and one of them, the Rādhā-Dāmodara temple, is forever associated with Rūpa Gosvāmī because his physical form is interred there. A small memorial to him (called a samādhi) rises in one of the temple courtyards.
Before he came to America in 1965, Śrīla Prabhupāda lived in a quiet room in the Rādhā-Dāmodara temple, and through his window he could see and draw inspiration from the samādhi of Rūpa Gosvāmī. Seven years later, Śrīla Prabhupāda returned to the Rādhā-Dāmodara temple. And in the courtyard, near Rūpa Gosvāmī’s samādhi, he gave for his disciples a series of lectures on The Nectar of Devotion. Selections from those lectures, full of deep spiritual insight into bhakti, have been interwoven with excerpts from The Nectar of Devotion to form the substance of this book.
We invite you to share in Rūpa Gosvāmī’s teachings on bhakti-yoga, the art of eternal love, as they have come down to us from his foremost modern follower in disciplic succession. If we can learn to love God through bhakti-yoga, then we can learn to love everything and everyone else in the proper way, in the way that will bring us the most happiness, the best happiness, the happiness of eternal love.
What is The Nectar of Devotion?
The Nectar of Devotion is a summary study of the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, which was written in Sanskrit by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī Prabhupāda. He was the chief of the Six Gosvāmīs, who were the direct disciples of Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu. When he first met Lord Caitanya, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī Prabhupāda was engaged as a minister in the Muslim government of Bengal, India. He and his brother Sanātana were then named Dabira Khāsa and Sākara Mallika respectively, and they held responsible posts as ministers of Nawab Hussain Shah. At that time, five hundred years ago, the Hindu society was very rigid, and if a member of the brāhmaṇa caste accepted a position of service under a Muslim ruler he was at once rejected from brāhmaṇa society. That was the position of the two brothers, Dabira Khāsa and Sākara Mallika. They belonged to the highly situated sārasvata-brāhmaṇa community, but they were ostracized due to their acceptance of ministerial posts in the government of Hussain Shah. It is the grace of Lord Caitanya that He accepted these two exalted personalities as His disciples and raised them to the position of gosvāmīs, the highest position of brahminical culture. Similarly, Lord Caitanya accepted Haridāsa Ṭhākura as His disciple, although Haridāsa happened to be born of a Muslim family, and Lord Caitanya later on made him the ācārya of the chanting of the holy name of the Lord: Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare.
Lord Caitanya’s principle is universal. Anyone who knows the science of Kṛṣṇa consciousness and is engaged in the service of the Lord is accepted as being in a higher position than a person born in the family of a brāhmaṇa. That is the original principle accepted by all Vedic literatures, especially by the Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. The principle of Lord Caitanya’s movement in educating and elevating everyone to the exalted post of a gosvāmī is taught in The Nectar of Devotion.
Lord Caitanya met the two brothers Dabira Khāsa and Sākara Mallika in a village known as Rāmakeli in the district of Maldah, and after that meeting the brothers decided to retire from government service and join Lord Caitanya. Dabira Khāsa, who was later to become Rūpa Gosvāmī, retired from his post and collected all the money he had accumulated during his service. It is described in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta that his accumulated savings in gold coins equaled millions of dollars and filled a large boat. He divided the money in a very exemplary manner, which should be followed by devotees in particular and by humanity in general. Fifty percent of his accumulated wealth was distributed to the Kṛṣṇa conscious persons, namely the brāhmaṇas and the Vaiṣṇavas; twenty-five percent was distributed to relatives; and twenty-five percent was kept against emergency expenditures and personal difficulties. Later on, when Sākara Mallika also proposed to retire, the Nawab was very much agitated and put him into jail. But Sākara Mallika, who was later to become Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī, took advantage of his brother’s personal money, which had been deposited with a village banker, and escaped from the prison of Hussain Shah. In this way both brothers joined Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu.
Rūpa Gosvāmī later met Lord Caitanya at Prayāga (Allahabad, India), and on the Daśāśvamedha bathing ghāṭa of that holy city the Lord instructed him continually for ten days. The Lord particularly instructed Rūpa Gosvāmī on the science of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. These teachings of Lord Caitanya to Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī Prabhupāda are narrated in our book Teachings of Lord Caitanya.
Later, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī Prabhupāda elaborated the teachings of the Lord with profound knowledge of revealed scriptures and authoritative references from various Vedic literatures. Śrīla Śrīnivāsa Ācārya describes in his prayers to the Six Gosvāmīs that they were all highly learned scholars, not only in Sanskrit but also in foreign languages such as Persian and Arabic. They very scrutinizingly studied all the Vedic scriptures in order to establish the movement of Caitanya Mahāprabhu on the authorized principles of Vedic knowledge. The present Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is also based on the authority of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī Prabhupāda. We are therefore generally known as rūpānugas, or followers in the footsteps of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī Prabhupāda. It is only for our guidance that Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī prepared his book Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, which is now presented in the form of The Nectar of Devotion.
What is Bhakti?
Bhakti means “devotional service.” Every service has some attractive feature that drives the servitor progressively on and on. Every one of us within this world is perpetually engaged in some sort of service, and the impetus for such service is the pleasure we derive from it. Driven by affection for his wife and children, a family man works day and night. A philanthropist works in the same way for love of the greater family, and a nationalist for the cause of his country and countrymen. That force which drives the philanthropist, the householder, and the nationalist is called rasa, or a kind of mellow (relationship) whose taste is very sweet.
Bhakti-rasa is a mellow different from the ordinary rasa enjoyed by mundane workers. Mundane workers labor very hard day and night in order to relish a certain kind of rasa that is understood as sense gratification. The relish or taste of the mundane rasa does not long endure, and therefore mundane workers are always apt to change their position of enjoyment. A businessman is not satisfied by working the whole week; therefore, wanting a change for the weekend, he goes to a place where he tries to forget his business activities. Then, after the weekend is spent in forgetfulness, he again changes his position and resumes his actual business activities. Material engagement means accepting a particular status for some time and then changing it. This position of changing back and forth is technically known as bhoga-tyāga, which means a position of alternating sense enjoyment and renunciation.
A living entity cannot steadily remain either in sense enjoyment or in renunciation. Change is going on perpetually, and we cannot be happy in either state, because of our eternal constitutional position. Sense gratification does not endure for long, and it is therefore called capala-sukha, or flickering happiness. For example, an ordinary family man who works very hard day and night and is successful in giving comforts to the members of his family thereby relishes a kind of mellow, but his whole advancement of material happiness immediately terminates along with his body as soon as his life is over. Death is therefore taken as the representative of God for the atheistic class of men. The devotee realizes the presence of God by devotional service, whereas the atheist realizes the presence of God in the shape of death. At death everything is finished, and one has to begin a new chapter of life in a new situation, perhaps higher or lower than the last one. In any field of activity – political, social, national, or international – the result of our actions will be finished with the end of life. That is sure.
Bhakti-rasa, however, the mellow relished in the transcendental loving service of the Lord, does not finish with the end of life. It continues perpetually and is therefore called amṛta, that which does not die but exists eternally. This is confirmed in all Vedic literatures. The Bhagavad-gītā says that a little advancement in bhakti-rasa can save the devotee from the greatest danger – that of missing the opportunity to be a human being in the next life. The rasas derived from our feelings in social life, in family life, or in the greater family life of altruism, philanthropy, nationalism, socialism, communism, etc., do not guarantee that one’s next life will be as a human being. We prepare our next life by our actual activities in the present life. A living entity is offered a particular type of body as a result of his action in the present body. These activities are taken into account by a superior authority known as daiva, or the authority of God. This daiva is explained in the Bhagavad-gītā as the prime cause of everything, and in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam it is stated that a man takes his next body by daiva-netreṇa, which means by the supervision of the authority of the Supreme. In an ordinary sense, daiva is explained as “destiny.” Daiva supervision gives us a body selected from 8,400,000 forms; the choice does not depend on our selection but is awarded to us according to our destiny. If our body at present is engaged in the activities of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, then it is guaranteed that we will have at least a human body in our next life. A human being engaged in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, even if unable to complete the course of bhakti-yoga, takes birth in the higher divisions of human society so that he can automatically further his advancement in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Therefore, all bona fide activities in Kṛṣṇa consciousness are amṛta, or permanent. This is the subject matter of The Nectar of Devotion.
Benefits of Bhakti
This eternal engagement in bhakti-rasa can be understood by a serious student upon studying The Nectar of Devotion. Adoption of bhakti-rasa, or Kṛṣṇa consciousness, will immediately bring one to an auspicious life free from anxieties and will bless one with transcendental existence, thus minimizing the value of liberation. Bhakti-rasa itself is sufficient to produce a feeling of liberation, because it attracts the attention of the Supreme Lord, Kṛṣṇa. Generally, neophyte devotees are anxious to see Kṛṣṇa, or God, but God cannot be seen or known by our present materially blunt senses. The process of devotional service as it is recommended in The Nectar of Devotion will gradually elevate one from the material condition of life to the spiritual status, wherein the devotee becomes purified of all designations. The senses can then become uncontaminated, being constantly in touch with bhakti-rasa. When the purified senses are employed in the service of the Lord, one becomes situated in bhakti-rasa life, and any action performed for the satisfaction of Kṛṣṇa in this transcendental bhakti-rasa stage of life can be relished perpetually. When one is thus engaged in devotional service, all varieties of rasas, or mellows, turn into eternity. In the beginning one is trained according to the principles of regulation under the guidance of the ācārya, or spiritual master, and gradually, when one is elevated, devotional service becomes automatic and spontaneous eagerness to serve Kṛṣṇa. There are twelve kinds of rasas, which are explained in The Nectar of Devotion, and by renovating our relationship with Kṛṣṇa in five primary rasas we can live eternally in full knowledge and bliss.
The basic principle of the living condition is that we have a general propensity to love someone. No one can live without loving someone else. This propensity is present in every living being. Even an animal like a tiger has this loving propensity at least in a dormant stage, and it is certainly present in the human beings. The missing point, however, is where to repose our love so that everyone can become happy. At the present moment the human society teaches one to love his country or family or his personal self, but there is no information where to repose the loving propensity so that everyone can become happy. That missing point is Kṛṣṇa, and The Nectar of Devotion teaches us how to stimulate our original love for Kṛṣṇa and how to be situated in that position where we can enjoy our blissful life.
In the primary stage a child loves his parents, then his brothers and sisters, and as he daily grows up he begins to love his family, society, community, country, nation, or even the whole human society. But the loving propensity is not satisfied even by loving all human society; that loving propensity remains imperfectly fulfilled until we know who is the supreme beloved. Our love can be fully satisfied only when it is reposed in Kṛṣṇa. This theme is the sum and substance of The Nectar of Devotion, which teaches us how to love Kṛṣṇa in five different transcendental mellows.
Our loving propensity expands just as a vibration of light or air expands, but we do not know where it ends. The Nectar of Devotion teaches us the science of loving every one of the living entities perfectly by the easy method of loving Kṛṣṇa. We have failed to create peace and harmony in human society, even by such great attempts as the United Nations, because we do not know the right method. The method is very simple, but one has to understand it with a cool head. The Nectar of Devotion teaches all men how to perform the simple and natural method of loving Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If we learn how to love Kṛṣṇa, then it is very easy to immediately and simultaneously love every living being. It is like pouring water on the root of a tree or supplying food to one’s stomach. The method of pouring water on the root of a tree or supplying food to the stomach is universally scientific and practical, as every one of us has experienced. Everyone knows well that when we eat something, or in other words, when we put food into the stomach, the energy created by such action is immediately distributed throughout the whole body. Similarly, when we pour water on the root, the energy thus created is immediately distributed throughout the entirety of even the largest tree. It is not possible to water the tree part by part, nor is it possible to feed the different parts of the body separately. The Nectar of Devotion will teach us how to turn the one switch that will immediately brighten everything, everywhere. One who does not know this method is missing the point of life.
As far as material necessities are concerned, the human civilization at the present moment is very much advanced in living comfortably, but still we are not happy, because we are missing the point. The material comforts of life alone are not sufficient to make us happy. The root cause of our dissatisfaction is that our dormant loving propensity has not been fulfilled despite our great advancement in the materialistic way of life. The Nectar of Devotion will give us practical hints how we can live in this material world perfectly engaged in devotional service and thus fulfill all our desires in this life and the next.
The Nectar of Devotion is not presented to condemn any way of materialistic life, but the attempt is to give information to religionists, philosophers, and people in general how to love Kṛṣṇa. One may live without material discomfiture, but at the same time one should learn the art of loving Kṛṣṇa. At the present moment we are inventing so many ways to utilize our propensity to love, but factually we are missing the real point: Kṛṣṇa. We are watering all parts of the tree, but missing the tree’s root. We are trying to keep our body fit by all means, but we are neglecting to supply food to the stomach. Missing Kṛṣṇa means missing one’s self also. Real self-realization and realization of Kṛṣṇa go together simultaneously. For example, seeing oneself in the morning means seeing the sunrise also; without seeing the sunshine no one can see himself. Similarly, unless one has realized Kṛṣṇa there is no question of self-realization.
Definition of Pure Devotional Service
The authorized descriptions of bhakti, or devotional service, following in the footsteps of previous ācāryas, can be summarized in the following statement by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī: “First-class devotional service is known by one’s tendency to be fully engaged in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, serving the Lord favorably.” The purport is that one may also be in Kṛṣṇa consciousness unfavorably, but that cannot be counted as pure devotional service. Pure devotional service should be free from the desire for any material benefit or for sense gratification, as these desires are cultivated through fruitive activities and philosophical speculation. Generally, people are engaged in different activities to get some material profit, while most philosophers are engaged in proposing transcendental realization through volumes of word jugglery and speculation. Pure devotional service must always be free from such fruitive activities and philosophical speculations. One has to learn Kṛṣṇa consciousness, or pure devotional service, from the authorities by spontaneous loving service.
Acting for Kṛṣṇa: the Essence of Bhakti
This devotional service is a sort of cultivation. It is not simply inaction for people who like to be inactive or devote their time to silent meditation. There are many different methods for people who want this, but cultivation of Kṛṣṇa consciousness is different. The particular word used by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī in this connection is anuśīlana, or cultivation by following the predecessor teachers (ācāryas). As soon as we say “cultivation,” we must refer to activity. Without activity, consciousness alone cannot help us. All activities may be divided into two classes: one class may be for achieving a certain goal, and the other may be for avoiding some unfavorable circumstance. In Sanskrit, these activities are called pravṛtti and nivṛtti – positive and negative action. There are many examples of negative action. For instance, a diseased person has to be cautious and take medicine in order to avoid making his illness worse.
Those who are cultivating spiritual life and executing devotional service are always engaged in activity. Such activity can be performed with the body or with the mind. Thinking, feeling, and willing are all activities of the mind, and when we will to do something, the activity comes to be manifest by the gross bodily senses. Thus, in our mental activities we should always try to think of Kṛṣṇa and try to plan how to please Him, following in the footsteps of the great ācāryas and the personal spiritual master. There are activities of the body, activities of the mind, and activities of speech. A Kṛṣṇa conscious person engages his words in preaching the glories of the Lord. This is called kīrtana. And by his mind a Kṛṣṇa conscious person always thinks of the activities of the Lord – as He is speaking on the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra or engaging in His various pastimes in Vṛndāvana with His devotees. In this way one can always think of the activities and pastimes of the Lord. This is the mental culture of Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Similarly, we can offer many services with our bodily activities. But all such activities must be in relationship with Kṛṣṇa. This relationship is established by connecting oneself with the bona fide spiritual master, who is the direct representative of Kṛṣṇa in disciplic succession. Therefore, the execution of Kṛṣṇa conscious activities with the body should be directed by the spiritual master and then performed with faith. The connection with the spiritual master is called initiation. From the date of initiation by the spiritual master, the connection between Kṛṣṇa and a person cultivating Kṛṣṇa consciousness is established. Without initiation by a bona fide spiritual master, the actual connection with Kṛṣṇa consciousness is never performed.
This cultivation of Kṛṣṇa consciousness is not material. The Lord has three general energies – namely, the external energy, the internal energy, and the marginal energy. The living entities are called marginal energy, and the material cosmic manifestation is the action of the external, or material, energy. Then there is the spiritual world, which is a manifestation of the internal energy. The living entities, who are called marginal energy, perform material activities when acting under the inferior, external energy. And when they engage in activities under the internal, spiritual energy, their activities are called Kṛṣṇa conscious. This means that those who are great souls or great devotees do not act under the spell of the material energy, but act instead under the protection of the spiritual energy. Any activities done in devotional service, or in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, are directly under the control of the spiritual energy. In other words, energy is a sort of strength, and this strength can be spiritualized by the mercy of both the bona fide spiritual master and Kṛṣṇa.
In the Caitanya-caritāmṛta, by Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī, Lord Caitanya states that it is a fortunate person who comes in contact with a bona fide spiritual master by the grace of Kṛṣṇa. To one who is serious about spiritual life Kṛṣṇa gives the intelligence to come in contact with a bona fide spiritual master, and then by the grace of the spiritual master one becomes advanced in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. In this way the whole jurisdiction of Kṛṣṇa consciousness is directly under the spiritual energy – Kṛṣṇa and the spiritual master.
Definition of a Pure Devotee
The definition of a pure devotee, as given by Rūpa Gosvāmī in his Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, can be summarized thus: his service is favorable and is always in relation to Kṛṣṇa. In order to keep the purity of such Kṛṣṇa conscious activities, one must be freed from all material desires and philosophical speculation. Any desire except for the service of the Lord is called material desire. And “philosophical speculation” refers to the sort of speculation which ultimately arrives at a conclusion of voidism or impersonalism. This conclusion is useless for a Kṛṣṇa conscious person. Only rarely by philosophical speculation can one reach the conclusion of worshiping Vāsudeva, or Kṛṣṇa. This is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā itself. The ultimate end of philosophical speculation, then, must be Kṛṣṇa, with the understanding that Kṛṣṇa is everything, the cause of all causes, and that one should therefore surrender unto Him. If this ultimate goal is reached, then philosophical advancement is favorable, but if the conclusion of philosophical speculation is voidism or impersonalism, that is not bhakti.
Karma, or fruitive activities, is sometimes understood to consist of ritualistic activities. There are many persons who are very much attracted by the ritualistic activities described in the Vedas. But if one becomes attracted simply to ritualistic activities without understanding Kṛṣṇa, his activities are unfavorable to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Actually, Kṛṣṇa consciousness can be based simply on hearing about Kṛṣṇa, chanting about Him, remembering Him, etc. The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam describes nine different processes, besides which everything done is unfavorable to Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has also quoted a definition from the Nārada Pañcarātra, as follows: “One should be free from all material designations and, by Kṛṣṇa consciousness, must be cleansed of all material contamination. He should be restored to his pure identity, in which he engages his senses in the service of the proprietor of the senses.” So when our senses are engaged for Kṛṣṇa, the actual proprietor of the senses, that activity is called devotional service. In our conditioned state our senses are engaged in serving the bodily demands. When the same senses are engaged in executing the order of Kṛṣṇa, our activities are called bhakti.
As long as one identifies himself as belonging to a certain family, a certain society, or a certain nation, he is said to be covered with designations. When one is fully aware that he does not belong to any family, society, or country but is eternally related to Kṛṣṇa, he then realizes that his energy should be employed not in the interests of so-called family, society, or country but in the interests of Kṛṣṇa. This is purity of purpose and the platform of pure devotional service in Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Six Features of Pure Bhakti
Next Rūpa Gosvāmī gives six unique features of pure devotional service.
1. Pure devotional service brings immediate relief from all kinds of material distress.
2. Pure devotional service is the beginning of all auspiciousness.
3. Pure devotional service automatically puts one in transcendental pleasure.
4. Pure devotional service is rarely achieved.
5. Those in pure devotional service deride even the conception of liberation.
6. Pure devotional service is the only means to attract Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa is all-attractive, but pure devotional service attracts even Him. This means that pure devotional service is even transcendentally stronger than Kṛṣṇa Himself, because it is Kṛṣṇa’s internal potency.
1. Kṛṣṇa Consciousness Brings Relief from All Material Distress
In the Bhagavad-gītā, the Lord says that one should surrender unto Him, giving up all other engagements. The Lord also gives His word there that He will protect surrendered souls from the reactions of all sinful activities. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī says that the distresses from sinful activities are due both to the sins themselves and to sins committed in our past lives. Generally, one commits sinful activities due to ignorance. But ignorance is no excuse for evading the reaction – distresses. Sinful activities are of two kinds: those which are mature and those which are not mature. The sinful activities for which we are suffering at the present moment are called mature. The many sinful activities stored within us for which we have not yet suffered are considered immature. For example, a man may have committed criminal acts but not yet been arrested for them. Now, as soon as he is detected, arrest is awaiting him. Similarly, for some of our sinful activities we are awaiting distresses in the future, and for others, which are mature, we are suffering at the present moment.
In this way there is a chain of sinful activities and their concomitant distresses, and the conditioned soul is suffering life after life due to these sins. He is suffering in the present life the results of sinful activities from his past life, and he is meanwhile creating further sufferings for his future life. Mature sinful activities are exhibited if one is suffering from some chronic disease, if one is suffering from some legal implication, if one is born in a low and degraded family, or if one is uneducated or very ugly.
There are many results of past sinful activities for which we are suffering at the present moment, and we may be suffering in the future due to our present sinful activities. But all of these reactions to sinful deeds can immediately be stopped if we take to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. As evidence for this, Rūpa Gosvāmī quotes a verse from the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.14.19). This verse is in connection with Lord Kṛṣṇa’s instruction to Uddhava, where He says, “My dear Uddhava, devotional service unto Me is just like a blazing fire that can burn into ashes unlimited fuel supplied to it.” The purport is that as the blazing fire can burn any amount of fuel to ashes, so devotional service to the Lord in Kṛṣṇa consciousness can burn up all the fuel of sinful activities. For example, in the Gītā Arjuna thought that fighting was a sinful activity, but Kṛṣṇa engaged him on the battlefield under His order, and so the fighting became devotional service. Therefore, Arjuna was not subjected to any sinful reaction.
Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī quotes a verse from the Third Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (3.33.6), in which Devahūti addresses her son, Kapiladeva, an incarnation of Kṛṣṇa who taught a type of yoga called sāṅkhya, and says, “My dear Lord, there are nine different kinds of devotional service, beginning from hearing and chanting. Anyone who hears about Your pastimes, who chants about Your glories, who offers You obeisances, who thinks of You and, in this way, executes any of the nine kinds of devotional service – even if he is born in a family of dog-eaters [the lowest grade of mankind] – becomes immediately qualified to perform sacrifices.” As such, how is it possible that anyone actually engaged in devotional service in full Kṛṣṇa consciousness has not become purified? It is not possible. One who is engaged in Kṛṣṇa consciousness and devotional service has without doubt become freed from all contaminations of material sinful activities. Devotional service therefore has the power to actually nullify all kinds of reactions to sinful deeds. A devotee is nevertheless always alert not to commit any sinful activities; this is his specific qualification as a devotee. Thus the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam states that by performing devotional service a person who was born even in a family of dog-eaters may become eligible to take part in the performance of the ritualistic ceremonies recommended in the Vedas. It is implicit in this statement that a person born into a family of dog-eaters is generally not fit for performing yajña, or sacrifice. The priestly caste in charge of performing these ritualistic ceremonies recommended in the Vedas is called the brāhmaṇa order. Unless one is a brāhmaṇa, he cannot perform these ceremonies.
A person is born in a brāhmaṇa family or in a family of dog-eaters due to his past activities. If a person is born in a family of dog-eaters it means that his past activities were all sinful. But if even such a person takes to the path of devotional service and begins to chant the holy names of the Lord – Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare – he is at once fit to perform the ritualistic ceremonies. This means that his sinful reactions have immediately become neutralized.
It is stated in the Padma Purāṇa that there are four kinds of effects due to sinful activities, which are listed as follows: (1) the effect which is not yet fructified, (2) the effect which is lying as seed, (3) the effect which is already mature, and (4) the effect which is almost mature. It is also stated that all these four effects become immediately vanquished for those who surrender unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Viṣṇu, and become engaged in His devotional service in full Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Those effects described as “almost mature” refer to the distress from which one is suffering at present, and the effects “lying as seed” are in the core of the heart, where there is a certain stock of sinful desires, which are like seeds. The Sanskrit word kūṭam means that they are almost ready to produce the seed, or the effect of the seed. “An immature effect” refers to the case where the seedling has not begun. From this statement of Padma Purāṇa it is understood that material contamination is very subtle. Its beginning, its fruition and results, and how one suffers such results in the form of distress, are part of a great chain. When one catches some disease, it is often very difficult to ascertain the cause of the disease, where it originated, and how it is maturing. The suffering of a disease, however, does not appear all of a sudden. It actually takes time. And as in the medical field, for precaution’s sake, the doctor injects a vaccination to prevent the growing of contamination, the practical injection to stop all the fructifications of the seeds of our sinful activities is simply engagement in Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Ajāmila, a Sinner Saved
In this connection, Śukadeva Gosvāmī speaks in the Sixth Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (6.2.17) about the story of Ajāmila, who began life as a fine and dutiful brāhmaṇa but who in his young manhood became wholly corrupted by a prostitute. At the end of his wicked life, just by calling the name “Nārāyaṇa [Kṛṣṇa],” he was saved despite so much sin. Śukadeva points out that austerity, charity, and the performance of ritualistic ceremonies for counteracting sinful activities are recommended processes, but that by performing them one cannot remove the sinful desire-seed from the heart, as was the case with Ajāmila in his youth. This sinful desire-seed can be removed only by achieving Kṛṣṇa consciousness. And this can be accomplished very easily by chanting the mahā-mantra, or Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra, as recommended by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. In other words, unless one adopts the path of devotional service, one cannot be one-hundred-percent clean from all sinful reactions.
By performing Vedic ritualistic activities, by giving money in charity, and by undergoing austerity one can temporarily become free from the reactions of sinful activities, but at the next moment one must again become engaged in sinful activities. For example, a person suffering from venereal disease on account of excessive indulgence in sex life has to undergo some severe pain in medical treatment, and he is then cured for the time being. But because he has not been able to remove the sex desire from his heart, he must again indulge in the same thing and become a victim of the same disease. So medical treatment may give temporary relief from the distress of such venereal disease, but unless one is trained to understand that sex life is abominable, it is impossible to be saved from such repeated distress. Similarly, the ritualistic performances, charity, and austerity that are recommended in the Vedas may temporarily stop one from acting in sinful ways, but as long as the heart is not clear, one will have to repeat sinful activities again and again.
Another example given in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam concerns the elephant who enters a lake and takes a bath very seriously, cleansing his body thoroughly. Then as soon as he comes onto the shore he again takes some dust from the earth and throws it over his body. Similarly, a person who is not trained in Kṛṣṇa consciousness cannot become completely free from the desire for sinful activities. Neither the meditative yoga process nor philosophical speculations nor fruitive activities can save one from the seeds of sinful desires. Only by being engaged in devotional service can this be done.
There is another evidence in the Fourth Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (4.22.39), wherein Sanat-kumāra says, “My dear king, the false ego of a human being is so strong that it keeps him in material existence as if tied up by a strong rope. Only the devotees can cut off the knot of this strong rope very easily, by engaging themselves in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Others, who are not in Kṛṣṇa consciousness but are trying to become great mystics or great ritual performers, cannot advance like the devotees. Therefore, it is the duty of everyone to engage himself in the activities of Kṛṣṇa consciousness in order to be freed from the tight knot of false ego and engagement in material activities.”
This tight knot of false ego is due to ignorance. As long as one is ignorant about his identity, he is sure to act wrongly and thereby become entangled in material contamination. This ignorance of factual knowledge can also be dissipated by Kṛṣṇa consciousness, as is confirmed in the Padma Purāṇa as follows: “Pure devotional service in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is the highest enlightenment, and when such enlightenment is there, it is just like a blazing forest fire, killing all the inauspicious snakes of desire.” The example is being given in this connection that when there is a forest fire the extensive blazing automatically kills all the snakes in the forest. There are many, many snakes on the ground of the forest, and when a fire takes place, it burns the dried foliage, and the snakes are immediately attacked. Animals who have four legs can flee from the fire or can at least try to flee, but the snakes are immediately killed. Similarly, the blazing fire of Kṛṣṇa consciousness is so strong that the snakes of ignorance are immediately killed.
Everyone in the material world is full of anxieties. That is the nature of material existence. One after another, problems come. So if someone would promise us, “Just depend on me; I will solve all your problems,” how much relief we would feel! Just imagine! Of course, we may not believe it. If some ordinary human being says to us, “Do not worry; I will take charge of all your affairs,” we may doubt his ability to do so because we know his limitations. But when Kṛṣṇa says, “I will take charge of you,” we should have full faith in His words and feel so much relief. Kṛṣṇa is not an ordinary man – He is the all-powerful Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is Yogeśvara, the master of all mystic power, and He is the Absolute Truth. Therefore, when He promises in the Bhagavad-gītā, “Give up all other attempts to solve your problems and just surrender to Me. I will take charge of you and nullify all your sinful reactions,” we should feel assured that we will be delivered from the reactions of all our sinful activities.
2. Kṛṣṇa Consciousness is All-Auspicious
Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has given a definition of auspiciousness. He says that actual auspiciousness means welfare activities for all the people of the world. At the present moment groups of people are engaged in welfare activities in terms of society, community, or nation. There is even an attempt in the form of the United Nations for world-help activity. But due to the shortcomings of limited national activities, such a general mass welfare program for the whole world is not practically possible. The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, however, is so nice that it can render the highest benefit to the entire human race. Everyone can be attracted by this movement, and everyone can feel the result. Therefore, Rūpa Gosvāmī and other learned scholars agree that a broad propaganda program for the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement of devotional service all over the world is the highest humanitarian welfare activity.
The End of All Suffering
We suffer because of our sinful activities, and we enjoy because of our pious activities. But in this material world, whether we enjoy or suffer, the common factor is suffering. Suppose in my next life I get a good birth due to my pious activities in this life – I may have sufficient wealth, a good education, and physical beauty. But even if I’m born into the family of a rich man, the sufferings of taking birth will be the same as those of a child born into a poor family. The sufferings of taking birth are equal for the poor and the rich. Similarly, when there is some disease – a fever, for example – it is not less painful for the rich man than for the poor man. The pain is the same. Therefore, as long as there is material existence, this suffering and enjoyment will remain on the same level: ultimately painful. But if we take to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, Kṛṣṇa assures us, ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo mokṣayiṣyāmi: “I will free you from all sins and all suffering.” That is real auspiciousness.
When Kṛṣṇa takes charge of us, He gradually educates us from within and without so that we may go back home, back to Godhead. From the material point of view it is auspicious to achieve wealth, education, beauty, high parentage, and so on, but all these are adulterated with so many sufferings. Therefore, they are not actually auspicious. Real auspiciousness is to go back home, back to Godhead, for an eternal life of bliss and knowledge. And that can be achieved only by engagement in pure devotional service to Lord Kṛṣṇa, without any material motive. So engaging in pure devotional service is the beginning of all auspiciousness. And to achieve that we have to follow the rules and regulations, chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra daily, and engage always in the service of the Lord.
3. Kṛṣṇa Consciousness Produces Supreme Happiness
Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has analyzed the different sources of happiness. He has divided happiness into three categories, which are (1) happiness derived from material enjoyment, (2) happiness derived by identifying oneself with the Supreme Brahman, and (3) happiness derived from Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
In the tantra-śāstra Lord Śiva speaks to his wife, Satī, in this way: “My dear wife, a person who has surrendered himself at the lotus feet of Govinda and who has thus developed pure Kṛṣṇa consciousness can be very easily awarded all the perfections desired by the impersonalists; and beyond this, he can enjoy the happiness achieved by the pure devotees.”
Happiness derived from pure devotional service is the highest because it is eternal, whereas the happiness derived from material perfection or from understanding oneself to be Brahman is inferior because it is temporary. There is no preventing one’s falling down from material happiness, and there is even every chance of falling down from the spiritual happiness derived out of identifying oneself with the impersonal Brahman.
It has been seen that great Māyāvādī sannyāsīs – very highly educated and almost realized souls – may sometimes take to political activities or to social welfare activities. The reason is that they actually do not derive any ultimate transcendental happiness in the impersonal understanding and therefore must come down to the material platform and take to such mundane affairs. There are many instances, especially in India, where these Māyāvādī sannyāsīs descend to the material platform again. But a person who is fully in Kṛṣṇa consciousness will never return to any sort of material platform. However alluring and attractive they may be, he always knows that no material welfare activities can compare to the spiritual activity of Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Happiness from Nondevotional Yoga is Inferior
The mystic perfections achieved by actually successful yogis are eight in number. Aṇimā-siddhi refers to the power by which one can become so small that he can enter into a stone. But modern scientific improvements also enable us to enter into stone, because they provide for excavating so many subways, penetrating the hills, etc. So aṇimā-siddhi, the mystic perfection of trying to enter into stone, has also been achieved by material science. Similarly, all of the yoga-siddhis, or perfections, are material arts. For example, in one yoga-siddhi there is development of the power to become so light that one can float in the air or on water. That has also been achieved by modern science. It has enabled us to fly in the air, float on the surface of the water, and travel under the water.
Of course, in the categories of mystic perfection there are certain processes that the material scientists have not yet been able to develop. For instance, a mystic yogi can enter into the sun planet simply by using the rays of the sunshine. This perfection is called laghimā. Similarly, a yogi can touch the moon with his finger. Though the modern astronauts go to the moon with the help of spaceships, they undergo many difficulties, whereas a person with mystic perfection can extend his hand and touch the moon with his finger. This siddhi is called prāpti, or acquisition. With this prāpti-siddhi, not only can the perfect mystic yogi touch the moon planet, but he can extend his hand anywhere and take whatever he likes. He may be sitting thousands of miles away from a certain place, and if he likes he can take fruit from a garden there. This is prāpti-siddhi.
The modern scientists have manufactured nuclear weapons with which they can destroy an insignificant part of this planet, but by the yoga-siddhi known as īśitā one can create and destroy an entire planet simply at will. Another perfection is called vaśitā, and by this perfection one can bring anyone under his control. This is a kind of hypnotism that is almost irresistible. Sometimes it is found that a yogi who may have attained a little perfection in this vaśitā mystic power comes out among the people and speaks all sorts of nonsense, controls their minds, exploits them, takes their money, and then goes away.
There is another mystic perfection, which is known as prākāmya (magic). By this prākāmya power one can achieve anything he likes. For example, one can make water enter into his eye and then again come out from within the eye. Simply by his will he can perform such wonderful activities.
The highest perfection of mystic power is called kāmāvasāyitā. This is also magic, but whereas the prākāmya power acts to create wonderful effects within the scope of nature, kāmāvasāyitā permits one to contradict nature – in other words, to do the impossible. Of course, one can derive great amounts of temporary happiness by achieving such yogic materialistic perfections.
Material Happiness: Temporary at Best
Foolishly, people who are enamored of the glitter of modern materialistic advancement are thinking that the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is for less intelligent men. “I am better off being busy with my material comforts – maintaining a nice apartment, family, and sex life.” These people do not know that at any moment they can be kicked out of their material situation. Due to ignorance, they do not know that real life is eternal. The temporary comforts of the body are not the goal of life, and it is due only to darkest ignorance that people become enamored of the glimmering advancement of material comforts. Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has therefore said that the advancement of material knowledge renders a person more foolish, because it causes one to forget his real identity by its glitter. This is doom for him, because this human form of life is meant for getting out of material contamination. By the advancement of material knowledge, people are becoming more and more entangled in material existence. They have no hope of being liberated from this catastrophe.
Rejecting the Dream of Material Happiness
We are enamored by the glitter of this material world just as moths are attracted by a fire. Moths enter with great speed into the fire, without knowing that they are going to die. Their forceful entrance into the fire means sure death. Similarly, modern science has created some so-called comforts of life for temporary enjoyment, but at the same time we take the risk of so many dangerous conditions. As the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam says, padaṁ padaṁ yad vipadām: In this world there is danger at every step.
Our attempts to mitigate discomfort are like the attempts of a laborer to get some relief when carrying a heavy burden. When he is too uncomfortable, he shifts the burden from his head to his shoulder. But that does not eliminate the difficulty of carrying the burden. Similarly, we are trying to get material comforts by producing so many scientific inventions, but they do not actually provide happiness. We are simply changing the position of our burden. For instance, in America the people have to accept so much danger just to drive around in their motorcars. They may try to increase their happiness by improving transportation, but they are just shifting the burden around. They therefore create more and more problems. They have so many cars that they have to construct more roads and highways, one on top of another. Still they experience traffic congestion, accidents, pollution, and discomfort. This is a vain endeavor. The scientists think they are solving the problems of life, but the discomforts of life are still there. And the scientists must fail, because this material world is by nature full of discomfort, as Kṛṣṇa Himself confirms in the Bhagavad-gītā: duḥkhālayam aśāśvatam. How, then, can you make it a happy place?
We may dream of something dangerous, that a tiger or snake is coming, and then we want to change to another dream. Similarly, our attempt to become happy in this material world by manufacturing some artificial means of happiness is simply a useless dream. Real happiness is to take shelter of the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa.
A Pure Devotee Wants Nothing But Bhakti
In the Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya it is stated that Prahlāda Mahārāja, a great devotee of the Lord, prayed to Nṛsiṁhadeva (the half-lion, half-man incarnation) as follows: “My dear Lord, I repeatedly pray unto Your lotus feet that I may simply be stronger in devotional service. I simply pray that my Kṛṣṇa consciousness may be more strong and steady, because happiness derived from Kṛṣṇa consciousness and devotional service is so powerful that with it one can have all the other perfections of religiousness, economic development, sense gratification, and even the attainment of liberation from material existence.”
Actually, a pure devotee does not aspire after any of these perfections, because the happiness derived from devotional service in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is so transcendental and so unlimited that no other happiness can compare to it. It is said that even one drop of happiness in Kṛṣṇa consciousness stands beyond comparison with an ocean of happiness derived from any other activity. Thus, any person who has developed even a little quantity of pure devotional service can very easily kick out all the other kinds of happiness derived from religiousness, economic development, sense gratification, and liberation.
There was a great devotee of Lord Caitanya known as Kholāvecā Śrīdhara, who was a very poor man. He was doing a small business selling cups made from the leaves of plantain trees, and his income was almost nothing. Still, he was spending fifty percent of his small income on the worship of the Ganges, and with the other fifty percent he was somehow living. Lord Caitanya once revealed Himself to this confidential devotee, Kholāvecā Śrīdhara, and offered him any opulence he liked. But Śrīdhara informed the Lord that he did not want any material opulence. He was quite happy in his present position and wanted only to gain unflinching faith and devotion unto the lotus feet of Lord Caitanya. That is the position of pure devotees. If they can be engaged twenty-four hours each day in devotional service, they do not want anything else, not even the happiness of liberation or of becoming one with the Supreme.
In the Nārada Pañcarātra it is also said that any person who has developed even a small amount of devotional service doesn’t care a fig for any kind of happiness derived from religiousness, economic development, sense gratification, or the five kinds of liberation. Any kind of happiness derived from religiousness, economic development, liberation, or sense gratification cannot even dare to enter into the heart of a pure devotee. It is stated that as the personal attendants and maidservants of a queen follow the queen with all respect and obeisances, similarly the joys of religiousness, economic development, sense gratification, and liberation follow the devotional service of the Lord. In other words, a pure devotee does not lack any kind of happiness derived from any source. He does not want anything but service to Kṛṣṇa, but even if he should have another desire, the Lord fulfills it without the devotee’s asking.
4. The Rarity of Pure Devotional Service
In the preliminary phase of spiritual life there are different kinds of austerities, penances, and similar processes for attaining self-realization. However, even if an executor of these processes is without any material desire, he still cannot achieve devotional service. And aspiring by oneself alone to achieve devotional service is also not very hopeful, because Kṛṣṇa does not agree to award devotional service to merely anyone. Kṛṣṇa can easily offer a person material happiness or even liberation, but He does not agree very easily to award a person engagement in His devotional service. Devotional service can in fact be attained only through the mercy of a pure devotee. In the Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya 19.151) it is said, “By the mercy of the spiritual master who is a pure devotee and by the mercy of Kṛṣṇa one can achieve the platform of devotional service. There is no other way.”
The rarity of devotional service is also confirmed in the tantra-śāstra, where Lord Śiva says to Satī, “My dear Satī, if one is a very fine philosopher, analyzing the different processes of knowledge, he can achieve liberation from material entanglement. By performance of the ritualistic sacrifices recommended in the Vedas one can be elevated to the platform of pious activities and thereby enjoy the material comforts of life to the fullest extent. But all such endeavors can hardly offer anyone devotional service to the Lord, not even if one tries for it by such processes for many, many thousands of births.”
In the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam Prahlāda Mahārāja confirms that merely by personal efforts or by the instructions of higher authorities one cannot attain to the stage of devotional service. One must become blessed by the dust of the lotus feet of a pure devotee, who is completely freed from the contamination of material desires.
Tasting the Honey of Bhakti
Devotional service is dependent on the mercy of Kṛṣṇa and His devotees. Unless we surrender to the lotus feet of a pure devotee, it is not possible to come to the platform of pure devotional service. By his own efforts a bee cannot taste the honey within a bottle. The bottle must be opened by a superior. If the bee simply licks the outside of the bottle, thinking, “Now I am tasting honey,” then he is in illusion. Similarly, no one can enter into devotional service unless the door is opened by a devotee. Therefore Rūpa Gosvāmī says, ādau gurvāśrayam: The first step in devotional service is to accept a guru from a disciplic succession that follows the principles of bhakti. Then you will very easily enter onto the path of devotional service. You have to select a guru who is niṣkiñcana, “free of material desires.” One who has accepted the lotus feet of the Lord has finished with all material desires. Such a pure devotee wants only to be engaged in the Lord’s service in whatever condition of life he is in.
King Yudhiṣṭhira was such a pure devotee. In the Fifth Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (5.6.18) Nārada says to Yudhiṣṭhira, “My dear king, it is Lord Kṛṣṇa, known as Mukunda, who is the eternal protector of the Pāṇḍavas and the Yadus. He is also your spiritual master and instructor in every respect. He is the only worshipable God for you. He is very dear and affectionate, and He is the director of all your activities, both individual and familial. And what’s more, He sometimes carries out your orders as if He were your messenger! My dear king, how very fortunate you are, because for others all these favors given to you by the Supreme Lord would not even be dreamt of.” The purport to this verse is that the Lord easily offers liberation but He rarely agrees to offer a soul devotional service, because by devotional service the Lord Himself becomes purchased by the devotee.
5. Bhakti Minimizes the Happiness of Becoming One with the Supreme
Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī says that if brahmānanda, or the happiness of becoming one with the Supreme, is multiplied by one trillionfold, it still cannot compare to an atomic fraction of the happiness derived from the ocean of devotional service.
In the Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya Prahlāda Mahārāja, while satisfying Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva with his prayers, says, “My dear Lord of the universe, I am feeling transcendental pleasure in Your presence and have become merged in the ocean of happiness. I now consider the happiness of brahmānanda to be no more than the water in the impression left by a cow’s hoof in the earth, compared to this ocean of bliss.” Similarly, it is confirmed in the Bhāvārtha-dīpikā, Śrīdhara Svāmī’s commentary on the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, “My dear Lord, some of the fortunate persons who are swimming in the ocean of Your nectar of devotion, and who are relishing the nectar of the narration of Your pastimes, certainly know ecstasies that immediately minimize the value of the happiness derived from religiousness, economic development, sense gratification, and liberation. Such a transcendental devotee regards any kind of happiness other than devotional service as no better than straw in the street.”
6. Only Bhakti Can Attract Kṛṣṇa
Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has stated that devotional service attracts even Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa attracts everyone, but devotional service attracts Kṛṣṇa. The symbol of devotional service in the highest degree is Rādhārāṇī. Kṛṣṇa is called Madana-mohana, which means that He is so attractive that He can defeat the attraction of thousands of Cupids. But Rādhārāṇī is still more attractive, for She can attract even Kṛṣṇa. Therefore devotees call Her Madana-mohana-mohinī – the attractor of the attractor of Cupid.
Madana means sex attraction. So since Kṛṣṇa is Madana-mohana, one can neglect even sex attraction if one is attracted to Kṛṣṇa. Sex attracts everyone in this material world. Indeed, the whole material world is running on sex, and so-called happiness begins from sexual intercourse. Generally, a man marries to satisfy his sex desire. In that way, he begets children. When the children are grown, they marry and have more children. It is all for the same purpose: sex. Material happiness means these three things: śrī (a beautiful woman), aiśvarya (wealth), and prajā (offspring). Generally, people want a good wife, a good bank balance, and a good family. If a man has these things, he is considered successful.
Through the effort to acquire and maintain a wife, children, friends, and wealth, the attraction for this material world becomes tighter and tighter. We should avoid being attracted by the glitter of this material world and try to become attracted by Kṛṣṇa. In this connection, Śrī Yāmunācārya said,
yad-avadhi mama cetaḥ kṛṣṇa-pādāravinde
nava-nava-rasa-dhāmany udyataṁ rantum āsīt
tad-avadhi bata nārī-saṅgame smaryamāne
bhavati mukha-vikāraḥ suṣṭhu niṣṭhīvanaṁ ca
“Since I have been attracted by the beauty of Kṛṣṇa and have begun to serve His lotus feet, I am experiencing an ever-new taste. Therefore, as soon as I think of sexual intercourse, my lips curl with distaste and I want to spit.” When one is attracted by Kṛṣṇa, Cupid is defeated and one conquers over this material world. Otherwise, the material world is very difficult to surpass. But if anyone grabs Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet very strongly, calling out, “Kṛṣṇa, save me!” Kṛṣṇa promises, “I will save you. Do not worry.” In the Bhagavad-gītā Kṛṣṇa tells Arjuna, “You can declare to the world, I will protect My pure devotee.” People do not know that their only business is to take shelter of the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa and thus achieve the aim of human life, which is to get out of the clutches of the material world. Any other business means we are becoming entangled in this material world.
Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, the Queen of Bhakti
To perform devotional service means to follow in the footsteps of Rādhārāṇī, and devotees in Vṛndāvana put themselves under the care of Rādhārāṇī in order to achieve perfection in their devotional service. In other words, devotional service is not an activity of the material world; it is directly under the control of Rādhārāṇī. In the Bhagavad-gītā it is confirmed that the mahātmās, or great souls, are under the protection of daivī prakṛti, the internal energy – Rādhārāṇī. So, being directly under the control of the internal potency of Kṛṣṇa, devotional service attracts even Kṛṣṇa Himself.
This fact is corroborated by Kṛṣṇa in the Eleventh Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.14.20), where He says, “My dear Uddhava, you may know it from Me that the attraction I feel for devotional service rendered by My devotees is not to be attained even by the performance of mystic yoga, philosophical speculation, ritualistic sacrifices, the study of Vedānta, the practice of severe austerities, or the giving of everything in charity. These are, of course, very nice activities, but they are not as attractive to Me as the transcendental loving service rendered by My devotees.”
How Kṛṣṇa becomes attracted by the devotional service of His devotees is described by Nārada Muni in the Seventh Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (7.10.48–49). There Nārada addresses King Yudhiṣṭhira while the king is appreciating the glories of the character of Prahlāda Mahārāja. A devotee always appreciates the activities of other devotees. Yudhiṣṭhira Mahārāja was appreciating the qualities of Prahlāda, and that appreciation is one symptom of a pure devotee. A pure devotee never thinks himself great; he always thinks that other devotees are greater than himself. The king was thinking, “Prahlāda Mahārāja is actually a devotee of the Lord, while I am nothing,” and while thinking this he was addressed by Nārada as follows: “My dear King Yudhiṣṭhira, you [the Pāṇḍava brothers] are the only fortunate people in this world. The Supreme Personality of Godhead has appeared on this planet and is presenting Himself to you as an ordinary human being. He is always with you in all circumstances. He is living with you and covering Himself from the eyes of others. Others cannot understand that He is the Supreme Lord, but He is still living with you as your cousin, as your friend, and even as your messenger. Therefore you must know that nobody in this world is more fortunate than you.”
In the Bhagavad-gītā, when Kṛṣṇa appeared in His universal form Arjuna prayed, “My dear Kṛṣṇa, I thought of You as my cousin-brother, and so I have shown disrespect to You in so many ways, calling You ‘Kṛṣṇa’ or ‘friend.’ But You are so great that I could not understand.” So that was the position of the Pāṇḍavas: although Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the greatest among all greats, He remained with those royal brothers, being attracted by their devotion, by their friendship, and by their love. That is the proof of how great this process of devotional service is. It can attract even the Supreme Personality of Godhead. God is great, but devotional service is greater than God because it attracts Him. People who are not in devotional service can never understand what great value there is in rendering service to the Lord.