A true devotee is one who loves Kṛṣṇa but he loves Kṛṣṇa’s paraphernalia like His clothes, utensils, and every object related to Kṛṣṇa more than Kṛṣṇa. This devotee knows how this paraphernalia can be engaged in the service of Kṛṣṇa, hence, he is a true devotee. Yaśodā always engages every person and object in Kṛṣṇa’s service. We should try to serve Kṛṣṇa with a favorable, sweet mood by our mind, body, and words. We should not accept anything that is not favorable for Kṛṣṇa and His service. Caitanya Mahāprabhu said:
tṛṇād api sunīcena
taror api sahiṣṇunā
kīrtanīyaḥ sadā hariḥ
Śrī Śikṣāṣṭaka, Verse 3
Thinking oneself to be even lower and more worthless than insignificant grass that has been trampled beneath everyone’s feet, being more tolerant than a tree, being prideless and offering respect to all others according to their respective positions, one should continuously chant the holy name of Śrī Hari.
All of you know this śloka. Always try to serve Vaiṣṇavas. Have much honor for all classes of Vaiṣṇavas. A person may not even be initiated, but if he has chanted one name of Kṛṣṇa, then he should also be honored. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has said:
Kṛṣṇeti yasya giri taṁ manasādriyeta—if a person even chants one name, we should offer our praṇāma. If the devotee is initiated and repeatedly chants the holy name, then he should be offered praṇāma and served. And, if a devotee has no mood of enmity to anyone, he has love and affection for all, he sees Kṛṣṇa in an ant, elephant, horse, cows, and in every being and object, then this pure devotee is worthy of the highest honor and respect. He always remembers Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes. He is āptakāma (self-satisfied) and ātmārāma (takes pleasure in the self). He is always absorbed in his service to Kṛṣṇa. The bliss and satisfaction he experiences is more than āptakāmīs and ātmārāmīs. He is a pure devotee.
But, there is an important consideration, a devotee may possess the primary characteristics of pure devotion, but if he has overlooked the secondary symptoms of bhakti, then the bhakti he practices is not uttamā-bhakti (the topmost form of devotion). The secondary symptoms of bhakti are ‘anyābhilāṣitā-śūnyam.’ You may be serving Kṛṣṇa by your mind, body, and words, but you must definitely follow the first two injunctions of the anyābhilāṣitā-śūnyam verse. They are secondary, but their significance can never be underestimated. If you don’t follow, your observance of bhakti is not complete and your bhakti will not blossom into uttamā-bhakti. You will have to think deeply on the difference between anyābhilāṣa and anyābhilāṣitā. There is great gulf of difference between them.
We cannot live without air. To maintain this body, you will have to take air, water, and other substances. Anyābhilāṣa must be avoided. But, how can we perform activities that will not be classified as being separate from kṛṣṇa-bhakti? Without performing the most basic actions, we cannot live. The actions we perform must be favorable for kṛṣṇa-bhakti and only these favorable actions must be adopted. In the beginning stages of devotion, we cannot live without jñāna. But anyhow, we will have to adopt the appropriate means of applying knowledge in our devotional services. Without the help of karma and jñāna, we cannot live.
Anyābhilāṣa has a special meaning. Any activity a devotee performs, he does for the service of Kṛṣṇa. But, if a man who is serving Kṛṣṇa is attacked by a gang of dacoits and being fearful of being killed at any time, he calls out and prays to Kṛṣṇa, “O Kṛṣṇa! Save me! Save me!” Then this is anyābhilāṣa and not anyābhilāṣitā. Kṛṣṇa can forgive this cry for help. When he cried out for help, he was not in his factual senses. His senses had been struck by fear. In that case, if he calls out to Kṛṣṇa and says, “O Kṛṣṇa! Save me!” then there is no fault on his part. But, if he is in a good, stable state of mind, and in that state prays to Kṛṣṇa and asks, “Oh Kṛṣṇa, give me wealth. Give me reputation and happiness in life. Give me peace.” If he prays in this way for his own satisfaction, then it is anyābhilāṣitā. We should avoid this mentality. If you are not careful to avoid this approach, your bhakti will not be pure in lakhs and lakhs of lives. But, if changing your mood, you ask, “Kṛṣṇa give me wealth,” then this desire is not bad. Why is it not bad?
Once, Yudhiṣṭhira Mahārāja told Kṛṣṇa, “Kṛṣṇa, I seek a benediction from You. Please bestow it.”
Kṛṣṇa replied, “You have nothing to beg or nothing to take from Me. For I know that you have no desire for anything except My service. I know that you only want to serve Me. But, why are you asking for a benediction? What is that you want?”
“I want immense wealth. I want a beautiful wife and qualified sons.”
On listening to Yudhiṣṭhira Mahārāja ask this benediction, Kṛṣṇa began to laugh. He asked Yudhiṣṭhira Mahārāja, “Why do you want such a benediction?”
“It has been told in the Bhāgavatam and other scriptures that those who take shelter of Kṛṣṇa become street beggars. So, all are fearful of engaging in Your service. Rather, they take shelter of Durgā-devī, Śaṅkara, and especially Gaṇeśa. And they serve them. In reality, though they worship different personalities, You Yourself, Kṛṣṇa fulfill the desires of the worshipers, through the agency of the demigods. You fulfill their desires and go away from there. Thus, I desire that all should realize that for those who serve You, they will be happy. They will be wealthy and healthy. They will have a beautiful wife and children. And on seeing this wealth, all will worship You. Therefore, I seek this benediction for the benefit of others and not for myself.”
Thus, asking for wealth from Kṛṣṇa on this pretext is bhakti. If you ever require wealth, you should only ask for it if you intend to use wealth in the service of Kṛṣṇa and His devotees, then there is no harm in asking for it. You should not ask for wealth because of your attachment to sense gratification or for any reason other than serving Kṛṣṇa. For instance, personalities like Ambarīṣa Mahārāja, Nanda Mahārāja, and Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja were incomparably rich. If Nanda Mahārāja and Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja weren’t rich, they could not have served Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. Wealth is needed, but not for us. If we are attached to wealth, then māyā will come and catch us. Hence, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī says, “Anyābhilāṣitā śūnyaṁ jñāna karmādy anāvṛtam.” You should only accept favorable knowledge, which is tattva-jñāna. As for karma, always engage yourself in serving Kṛṣṇa, Guru and Vaiṣṇavas. This is favorable karma.
Don’t try to have attachment for objects, which are unfavorable to your service to Śrī Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. Otherwise, your bhakti will be ruined. Possessing these moods of devotion as described by Rūpa Gosvāmī in this verse that defines bhakti, you should come to the understanding of the verse, ‘anarpita-carīṁ cirāt karuṇayāvatīrṇaḥ kalau.’ Caitanya Mahāprabhu has come to give pure prema. This love was never given before by any ācārya or any incarnation of Kṛṣṇa in one day of Brahmā.
[CC-by-NDNC Bhakta Bandhav]
Radlett 17 May 1996