Navadwip, West Bengal, India — Monday, April 3rd

Our first service

A few days ago, Srila Gurudeva suddenly quoted this single line by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur:

seva mora namabrahma-nada

"My service is to chant and glorify the divine name of Lord Krishna."

We are all familiar with the extraordinary contribution that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur has given to our sampradaya, yet Srila Gurudeva singled out this one line. Why?

With so many aphorisms in Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur's vast library of ideas to choose from, why choose this particular line? Did Srila Gurudeva choose it for its economy of words? Did he choose it for its beautiful poetic style? Or did he choose it for something else?

I think Srila Gurudeva chose this line because we all need to be reminded of this service every so often. Chanting the holy name of the Lord is so important that it is repeated three times in this one verse quoted by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu:

harer nama harer nama / harer namaiva kevalam
kalau nasty eva nasty eva / nasty eva gatir anyatha

"Chant the holy name! Chant the holy name! Chant the holy name of the Lord! There is no other way, no other way, no other way to achieve self-realization in this current Age of Quarrel (Kali-Yuga)."

"To chant and glorify the divine name of Lord Krishna" is the very first service that Srila Gurudeva gave us when he gave us harinama initiation. Remember?

Srila Gurudeva chanted the maha-mantra on our japa mala

hare krishna hare krishna / krishna krishna hare hare
hare rama hare rama / rama rama hare hare

and then solemnly handed the beads to us with the words:

"I received this mantra from my Guru Maharaj, and he has instructed me to give to this mantra to anyone who sincerely asks for it. Because I consider you to be a sincere seeker, I am giving this mantra to you."

Srila Gurudeva also handed us a book which contains the ten offenses to be avoided when chanting the holy name, and told us: "If you chant this holy name offenselessly, Krishna will reveal Himself in your heart."

We cannot chant the holy name properly, it is true, because the pure holy name cannot be touched by our materially contaminated senses:

atah sri-krsna-namadi / na bhaved grahyam indriyaih

But still we have to chant because we are ordered to do so by Srila Gurudeva, and it is only the earnest desire to serve Srila Gurudeva that will act as the medium to connect us to the transcendental sound of the holy name:

sevonmukhe hi jihvadau / svayam eva sphuraty adah

When we received the maha-mantra and our japa-mala from Srila Gurudeva, he exhorted us to "chant sixteen rounds or more every day," and if that was not possible (due to our other service obligations), we were advised to "try to at least chant four rounds daily."

How many of us follow Srila Gurudeva's order to chant sixteen rounds every day? How many of us even chant the basic daily minimum of four rounds? And even if we do chant the daily minimum, should we be content with that? It's hardly something to write home about, is it?

Since when has fulfilling the barest minimum requirement of anything yielded good (or even satisfactory) results? Besides, such laziness — doing the very minimum permitted — can hardly be construed as an "earnest desire to serve Srila Gurudeva," now can it?

By emphasizing this one line from Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur's entire literary contribution to our sampradaya, Srila Gurudeva is reminding us of the importance of the very first service that he gave us when he initiated us into the chanting of the holy name:

"My service is to chant and glorify the divine name of Lord Krishna."

Tags: Chanting

Navadwip, West Bengal, India — Friday, April 7th

Another reminder

Srila Gurudeva liked this line by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur so much that he had it printed in large letters, in Bengali and English —

seva mora namabrahma-nada
"My service is to chant and glorify the divine name of Lord Krishna"

— and mounted on the recessed shelf in the wall just above his head, behind his desk on the veranda.

If you have ever had Srila Gurudeva's darshan here on the veranda in Navadwip, you know that the most prominent item displayed on this shelf is the frame with the third verse of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's Siksastakam embroidered in blue letters:

trnad api sunicena / taror api sahisnuna
amanina manadena / kirtaniyah sada harih

A few days later, just before lunch, Srila Gurudeva swivels around in his chair, stares at the shelf briefly, then begins to read aloud:

"My service is to chant and glorify the divine name of Lord Krishna."

He pauses for a moment before swinging back to ask, "And how shall I do that?"

I lean forward expectantly...

His Divine Grace smiles, points over his shoulder to the embroidery, and begins to chant:

"Trnad api sunicena..."

I sink back into the sofa... "I knew that..."

But how well did I know that?

Well, I knew that it is one of the basic tenets of Krishna consciousness: humility (trnad api sunicena), tolerance (taror api sahisnuna), giving respect to others (manadena) without expecting any in return (amanina) are prerequisites for "chanting and glorifying the divine name of Lord Krishna" (kirtaniyah sada harih).

But, unfortunately, we so often forget the basics. We "forget" to chant our prescribed number of rounds, we "forget" about humility, tolerance, and respect, and then we wonder why we no longer feel enlivened in Krishna consciousness. Well, what else can we expect if we do not even follow the basic process?

We want to be Krishna conscious, but we don't want to have to work too hard, so we waste our lives looking for a miracle — a shortcut to Krishna consciousness — instead of following this simple formula that Srila Gurudeva has given us.

We are too lazy to perform our sadhana (devotional practices) yet we waste so much time and energy foolishly looking for an easier, quicker way to become Krishna conscious. There is no easier way. There is no "instant Krishna consciousness!"

There is no mysterious, abstruse secret to Krishna consciousness (that Srila Gurudeva has not told us about yet)! We are not going to discover some arcane text in a musty book somewhere that will jump-start our stalled spiritual lives. There is no "Da Vinci Code." Sorry.

Srila Gurudeva reminds us that Krishna consciousness is not an esoteric process intelligible to only a chosen few. It is for everybody — even fools like us. All we have to do is follow this basic principle:

Just try to be humble, tolerant, and respectful to everybody while offenselessly "chanting and glorifying the divine name of Lord Krishna."

Tags: Humility, tolerance, respect

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Layout by iMonk — April 7th, 2006.