Calcutta, West Bengal, India — Friday, April 14th

Sadhana is also service

For the past three weeks, Srila Gurudeva has been frequently quoting, regularly reminding us of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur's truism: "My service is to chant and glorify the divine name of Lord Krishna."

Why so much emphasis on this? Everybody knows this already, right? It's not like this is something new. It's cliché. Let's move on. We get it!

Um, perhaps Srila Gurudeva keeps quoting this axiom because we don't get it. Perhaps we need to be reminded because, as Srila Gurudeva said the other day, "nobody follows the rules and regulations any more."

Sometimes we think that because service is stressed above all else, our sadhana (regulated spiritual practice, like chanting japa and gayatri) is not so important. This cavalier interpretation, if we are not careful, can become a slippery slope that leads to doing nothing at all because our sadhana is also our service to Srila Gurudeva.

When Srila Gurudeva initiated us into the chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra he told us to "chant sixteen rounds or more every day," and as a concession to some of the many other service obligations that we might have, he told us to "chant a minimum of four rounds daily."

But the concession soon became the norm, the exception soon became the rule, the minimum soon became the maximum... and now we justify chanting four rounds a day with the excuse: "I'm doing service!"

How much service do we do anyway?

Think about it...

A pujari serves almost twenty-four hours a day: there are very few of us who can claim to follow such a rigorous schedule. Yet one such hard-working pujari who was late opening the doors to the temple room one afternoon provoked this stern aside from Srila Gurudeva: "He is lazy..."

So where does that leave us? We are doing almost nothing compared to the pujari, so how can we think that our meager service excuses us from chanting our full complement of rounds?

When we received initiation we made a vow to follow the rules and regulations (to chant all our rounds, to avoid the ten offenses against the Holy Name, to keep the four regulative principles) but now, as Srila Gurudeva once lamented: "Circumstances are changing our promise, and we are becoming a slave to circumstances."

When we neglect our sadhana, we gradually lose our motivation; when we lose our enthusiasm, we become disillusioned; when we become disenchanted, we begin to doubt the process. But faith is a prerequisite on the path of Krishna consciousness:

adau sraddha tatah sadhu-sango 'tha bhajana-kriya
tato 'nartha-nivrttih syat tato nistha rucis tatah

In the beginning we must have faith (sraddha). When our faith grows strong in the association of the devotees (sadhu-sangha) we will aspire for a life of dedication, request initiation from Srila Gurudeva, and begin our devotional service under his direction and guidance (bhajana-kriya).

The very first service that Srila Gurudeva gives us when we are initiated is "to chant and glorify the divine name of Lord Krishna." His Divine Grace promises: "If you chant this maha-mantra without offense, Krishna will reveal Himself in your heart."

How can Krishna reveal Himself in our hearts if our hearts are impure? How can the process of purification begin (tato 'nartha-nivrttih syat), how can we develop resolute faith (tato nistha), how can we get a real taste for Krishna consciousness (rucis tatah), if we do not follow Srila Gurudeva's first and most basic instruction?

If we do not have faith in Srila Gurudeva's instructions, how can we profess to be his disciples? According to the Bhagavad Gita, a good disciple must have three qualifications: sincerity (pranipatena), humility (pariprasnena), and dedication (sevaya). If we do not follow Srila Gurudeva's order "to chant and glorify the divine name of Lord Krishna," we disqualify ourselves on all three counts.

We must not forget that our sadhana (chanting the Holy Name) is also our service to Srila Gurudeva. We cannot ignore our sadhana and still expect to make advancement in Krishna consciousness.

Tags: Chanting

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Layout by iMonk — April 14th, 2006.