Devotion to Krsna means sacrifice-“die to live.” By devotion to Krsna, our whole conception of mundane, self-centred, self-interested life will be finished totally.
tat paratvena nirmalam
sevanam bhaktir ucyate
“Pure devotion is service to the Supreme Lord which is free from all relative conceptions of self-interest.”
In his Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, Srila Rupa Goswami quotes this verse from the ancient Puranas. Upadhi means “all relative conceptions of self-interest.” We must be totally free of all upadhis. And Rupa Goswami also gives us a parallel verse describing bhakti:
silanam bhaktir uttama
“Pure devotional service is the favourable cultivation of Krsna consciousness free from all traces of ulterior motives, such as karma, self-promoting activities, jnana mental achievement, and so on.”
Bhakti, devotion, must be free from any fleeting desires (anyabhilasa), such as karma -the organised attempt for self-elevation -and jnana, the attempt to depend on our own ability, knowledge, and consciousness to reach the ultimate goal. To attempt to put one’s own self as the subject, to become the judge of one’s own fate -that is jnana. Here adi means yoga and other external things. These are all overcoatings (avrtam). In the soul proper, however, these elements are not found. The soul is an eternal slave of Krsna (krsna-nitya-dasa).
Mahaprabhu said: Jivera ,svarupa, haya-krsnera ,nitya-dasa’: “Slavery to Krsna is the innate nature of the jiva soul.” In order to realise the absolute, we must come to the standard of slavery; it will take nothing less than that. We must submit ourselves as slaves to the play of His sweet will.
Once, the British government had to entertain the Persian Shah, the king of Persia. They invited him to England and tried to please him in various ways to gain his sympathy so that he would not be converted to the side of the Russian Czar. They showed him many things, and at one point, he was taken to the place where men condemned to capital punishment were beheaded. There the Shah was shown the place of execution. They explained to him how that was the place where so many great men, including even one king, Charles the First, had been beheaded. When that place was shown to the King of Persia, he asked, “Oh, bring someone there and behead him! Let me enjoy how it was done.”
They were astonished. “What is he saying! For his pleasure, we shall have to murder a man? No,” they said. “We cannot allow this; British law cannot allow that a man can be beheaded like this.” The Shah said, “Oh, you do not understand the position of a king? I am a Persian king, and for my satisfaction you cannot sacrifice a human life? This is dishonor. Anyhow, if it is not possible for you, I will supply one of my own men. Take one of my attendants and show me how you execute people here in your country.”
With humility, they submitted to him, “Your Highness, the law of our country cannot allow this. You may do it in your own country, but here, your men also cannot be murdered simply for the pleasure of a man.” The Shah replied, “Then you do not know what a king is.”
This is the meaning of slavery: A slave has no position; by the sweet will of his master he may be sacrificed. Of course, in the lower material plane such things may be quite abominable and unthinkable, but we should understand that in the higher realm of divinity, in principle, such a degree of sacrifice is shown by the servants of the Lord. The depth of their love is such that they are prepared to sacrifice themselves wholesale, to die to live, for Krsna’s slightest satisfaction or whim. But we should remember that whatever is His pleasure, He is the absolute good. So by such sacrifice we do not actually die, but live by gaining entrance into a higher plane of dedication.
In Srimad-Bhagavatam (7.5.23-24) it is written:
sravanam kirtanam visnoh
arcanam vandanam dasyam
iti pumsarpita visnau
bhaktis cen nava-laksana
kriyeta bhagavaty addha
tan manye ,dhitam uttamam
“Hearing, speaking about, and remembering Krsna, serving His lotus feet, worshipping His Deity form, praying, becoming His servant, cultivating His friendship, and surrendering to Him utterly are the nine processes of devotion. One who cultivates these nine processes of devotion, offering himself completely to Krsna, can easily attain the ultimate goal of life.”
What are the forms of sadhana? What are the means to attain krsna-bhakti? How can we revive our innate love for Krsna? We are told to hear about Him, to talk about Him, to meditate upon Him, to praise Him, and so on. But in his commentary on this verse, Sridhara Swami has explained that we should not anticipate what benefit we shall derive from sravanam-kirtanam, hearing or talking or thinking about Krsna. Rather we should pray, “May whatever service I do go to my Lord. I am not the enjoying party. He is the sole proprietor.”
All these functions (sravanam, kirtanam etc.) will be considered devotion only if one condition is fulfilled; otherwise they may be karma, jnana, yoga, or anything else. They may even be vikarma, polluted misdeeds. One condition must be there to insure that all these different forms of devotional activity are actually bhakti: We are His property; we are not the owners of any wealth or property. We must think, “My Lord is the possessor and I am in His possession. Everything is His property.”
Krsna says, aham hi sarva-yajnanam: “I am the only enjoyer of every action. You must be fully conscious of this fact.” The stern reality is that devotion is not a cheap thing. Pure devotional service, suddha-bhakti, is above mukti, liberation. Above the negative plane of liberation, in the positive side, He is the only master. He is the Lord of everything.
He is the Lord of the land of dedication. We must try to obtain a visa to enter there. There, His sweet will is the only law. It is very easy to pronounce the word “absolute.” But if we are to enter into the meaning of the word, then it must be recognised that His sweet will is all in all. To get a visa to the world of reality we must recognise this.
And this is especially true in Goloka, where complete surrender is demanded. In Vaikuntha there is some consideration of justice; for those who are entering there, some sort of lenience is given. But Goloka is very tight. Complete surrender is demanded in that place. Otherwise, the atmosphere there is very free. After one has been tested and the superiors are satisfied that the souls who have come there are wholly sacrificed, then we gain their confidence. And when it is seen that one is fully surrendered, there is complete freedom; one may do anything.
[Excerpted from the Chapter Two: “The Environment” of “Loving Search of the Lost Servant”. From Srila Bhakti Rakshak Sridhar Maharaja’s Folio]