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Devotional Service

Prahlāda Mahārāja said: Hearing and chanting about the transcendental holy name, form, qualities, paraphernalia and pastimes of Lord Viṣṇu, remembering them, serving the lotus feet of the Lord, offering the Lord respectful worship with sixteen types of paraphernalia, offering prayers to the Lord, becoming His servant, considering the Lord one’s best friend, and surrendering everything unto Him (in other words, serving Him with the body, mind and words)—these nine processes are accepted as pure devotional service. One who has dedicated his life to the service of Kṛṣṇa through these nine methods should be understood to be the most learned person, for he has acquired complete knowledge. (SB 7.5.23-24)


Any work begun on the material plane has to be completed, otherwise the whole attempt becomes a failure. But any work begun in Kṛṣṇa consciousness has a permanent effect, even though not finished. The performer of such work is therefore not at a loss even if his work in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is incomplete. One percent done in Kṛṣṇa consciousness bears permanent results, so that the next beginning is from the point of two percent; whereas, in material activity, without a hundred percent success, there is no profit. (Bhagavad-gītā As It Is 2:40 purport)


The process of bhakti-yoga is simultaneously very difficult and very easy to perform. Śrī Nārada Muni, the supreme spiritual master, is testing Dhruva Mahārāja to see how determined he is to prosecute devotional service. This is the process of accepting a disciple. The great sage Nārada has come to Dhruva under the direction of the Supreme Personality of Godhead just to initiate him, yet he is testing Dhruva’s determination to execute the process. It is a fact, however, that for a sincere person devotional service is very easy. But for one who is not determined and sincere, this process is very difficult. (SB 4.8.30 purport)


Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī expresses the opinion that the word kārtsnyena means that even if one has a desire to commit sinful actions, the roots of that desire are vanquished merely by ābhāsa-rūpā bhakti. The example of bhāskara, the sun, is most appropriate. The ābhāsa feature of bhakti is compared to twilight, and the accumulation of one’s sinful activities is compared to fog. Since fog does not spread throughout the sky, the sun need do no more than merely manifest its first rays, and the fog immediately disappears. Similarly, if one has even a slight relationship with devotional service, all the fog of his sinful life is immediately vanquished. (SB 6.1.15 purport)


Therefore Vaiṣṇava philosophers do not accept sāyujya-mukti to be within the category of mukti. According to them, mukti means transferal to the loving service of the Lord from one’s position of serving māyā. Lord Caitanya also says in this connection that the constitutional position of a living entity is to render service to the Lord. That is real mukti. When one is situated in his original position, giving up artificial positions, he is called mukta, or liberated. In the Bhagavad-gītā this is confirmed: anyone who engages in rendering transcendental loving service to the Lord is considered to be mukta, or brahma-bhūta. (SB 4.9.29 purport)


If we misuse our position and think that we are fully engaged in devotional service and can do whatever we like, we have to suffer like Bharata Mahārāja and be condemned to accept the type of body that impairs our devotional service. Only the human form is able to execute devotional service, but if we voluntarily give this up for sense gratification, we certainly have to be punished. This punishment is not exactly like that endured by an ordinary materialistic person. By the grace of the Supreme Lord, a devotee is punished in such a way that his eagerness to attain the lotus feet of Lord Vāsudeva is increased. By his intense desire, he returns home in the next lifetime. (SB 5.8.29 purport)


It is clear that to perform austerities or penances, or, for that matter, any form of devotional service, one has to be guided by a spiritual master. (SB 4.24.15 purport)


If one wants to make advancement in spiritual life, by great fortune he may meet a bona fide spiritual master and from him learn about Kṛṣṇa. By serving both the spiritual master and Kṛṣṇa he gets the seed of devotional service (bhakti-latā-bīja), and if he sows the seed within his heart and waters it by hearing and chanting, it grows into a luxuriant bhakti-latā, or bhakti creeper. The creeper is so strong that it penetrates the covering of the universe and reaches the spiritual world and continues to grow on and on until it reaches and takes shelter of the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa, just as an ordinary creeper also grows on and on until it takes a solid shelter on a roof; then it very steadily grows and produces the required fruit. (SB 4.22.23 purport)