Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has enjoined the system of tat-tat-karma-pravartanat, acting according to the regulative principles, for those aspiring to perform devotional service. In the Upadeśāmṛta, activities by which pure devotional service is cultivated are called tat-tat-karma, prescribed duties. Śrī Kṛṣṇa tells Uddhava in the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (11.19.20-24):
pariniṣṭhā ca pūjāyāṁ
stutibhiḥ stavanaṁ mama
mad-artheṣv aṅga-ceṣṭā ca
mayy arpaṇaṁ ca manasaḥ
bhogasya ca sukhasya ca
iṣṭaṁ dattaṁ hutaṁ japtaṁ
mad-arthaṁ yad vrataṁ tapaḥ
evaṁ dharmair manuṣyāṇām
mayi sañjāyate bhaktiḥ
ko ‘nyo ‘rtho ‘syāvaśiṣyate
“Firm faith in the blissful narration of My pastimes, constant chanting of My glories, unwavering attachment to ceremonial worship of Me, praising Me through beautiful hymns, great respect for My devotional service, offering obeisances with the entire body, performing first-class worship of My devotees, consciousness of Me in all living entities, offering of ordinary, bodily activities in My devotional service, use of words to describe My qualities, offering the mind to Me, rejection of all material desires, giving up wealth for My devotional service, renouncing material sense gratification and happiness, and performing all desirable activities such as charity, sacrifice, chanting, vows and austerities with the purpose of achieving Me-these constitute actual religious principles, by which those human beings who have actually surrendered themselves to Me automatically develop love for Me. What other purpose or goal could remain for My devotee?”
Based on these instructions of the Lord, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has divided these activities into sixty-four items in his Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu. Śrīla Kṛṣṇa Dāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī has written about those activities in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya 22.115-129) as follows:
guru-pādāśraya, dīkṣā, gurura sevana
“On the path of regulative devotional service, one must observe the following items: (1) One must accept a bona fide spiritual master. (2) One must accept initiation from him. (3) One must serve him. (4) One must receive instructions from the spiritual master and make inquiries in order to learn devotional service. (5) One must follow in the footsteps of the previous ācāryas and follow the directions given by the spiritual master.
kṛṣṇa-prītye bhoga-tyāga, kṛṣṇa-tīrthe vāsa
“The next steps are as follows: (6) One should be prepared to give up everything for Kṛṣṇa’s satisfaction, and one should also accept everything for Kṛṣṇa’s satisfaction. (7) One must live in a place where Kṛṣṇa is present-a city like Vṛndāvana or Mathurā or a Kṛṣṇa temple. (8) One should acquire a livelihood that is just sufficient to keep body and soul together. (9) One must fast on the Ekādaśī day.”
sevā-nāmāparādhādi dūre visarjana
“(10) One should worship dhātrī trees, banyan trees, cows, brāhmaṇas and devotees of Lord Viṣṇu. (11) One should avoid offenses against devotional service and the holy name.”
avaiṣṇava-saṅga-tyāga, bahu-śiṣya nā kariba
“The twelfth item is to give up the company of non-devotees. (13) One should not accept an unlimited number of disciples. (14) One should not partially study many scriptures just to be able to give references and expand explanations.”
hāni-lābhe sama, śokādira vaśa nā ha-iba
anya-deva, anya-śāstra nindā nā kariba
“(15) The devotee should treat loss and gain equally. (16) The devotee should not be overwhelmed by lamentation. (17) The devotee should not worship demigods, nor should he disrespect them. Similarly, the devotee should not study or criticize other scriptures.”
viṣṇu-vaiṣṇava-nindā, grāmya-vārtā nā śuniba
prāṇi-mātre mano-vākye udvega nā diba
“(18) The devotee should not hear Lord Viṣṇu or His devotees blasphemed. (19) The devotee should avoid reading or hearing newspapers or mundane books that contain stories of love affairs between men and women or subjects palatable to the senses. (20) Neither by mind nor words should the devotee cause anxiety to any living entity, regardless how insignificant he may be.”
śravaṇa, kīrtana, smaraṇa, pūjana, vandana
paricaryā, dāsya, sakhya, ātma-nivedana
“After one is established in devotional service, the positive actions are (1) hearing, (2) chanting, (3) remembering, (4) worshiping, (5) praying, (6) serving, (7) accepting servitorship, (8) becoming a friend and (9) surrendering fully.”
agre nṛtya, gīta, vijñapti, daṇḍavan-nati
abhyutthāna, anuvrajyā, tīrtha-gṛhe gati
“One should also (10) dance before the Deity, (11) sing before the Deity, (12) open one’s mind to the Deity, (13) offer obeisances to the Deity, (14) stand up before the Deity and the spiritual master just to show them respect, (15) follow the Deity or the spiritual master and (16) visit different places of pilgrimage or go see the Deity in the temple.”
parikramā, stava-pāṭha, japa, saṅkīrtana
“One should (17) circumambulate the temple, (18) recite various prayers, (19) chant softly, (20) chant congregationally, (21) smell the incense and flower garlands offered to the Deity, and (22) eat the remnants of food offered to the Deity.”
nija-priya-dāna, dhyāna, tadīya-sevana
“One should (23) attend ārati and festivals, (24) see the Deity, (25) present what is very dear to oneself to the Deity, (26) meditate on the Deity, and (27-30) serve those related to the Lord.”
‘tadīya’—tulasī, vaiṣṇava, mathurā, bhāgavata
ei cārira sevā haya kṛṣṇera abhimata
“Tadīya means the tulasī leaves, the devotees of Kṛṣṇa, the birthplace of Kṛṣṇa (Mathurā), and the Vedic literature Śrīmad Bhāgavatam. Kṛṣṇa is very eager to see His devotee serve tulasī, Vaiṣṇavas, Mathurā and Bhāgavatam.”
kṛṣṇārthe akhila-ceṣṭā, tat-kṛpāvalokana
janma-dinādi-mahotsava lañā bhakta-gaṇa
“(31) One should perform all endeavours for Kṛṣṇa. (32) One should look forward to His mercy. (33) One should partake of various ceremonies with devotees-ceremonies like Lord Kṛṣṇa’s birthday or Rāmacandra’s birthday.”
sarvathā śaraṇāpatti, kārtikādi-vrata
‘catuḥ-ṣaṣṭi aṅga’ ei parama-mahattva
“(34) One should surrender to Kṛṣṇa in all respects. (35) One should observe particular vows like Kārttika-vrata. These are some of the sixty-four important items of devotional service.”
sādhu-saṅga, nāma-kīrtana, bhāgavata-śravaṇa
mathurā-vāsa, śrī-mūrtira śraddhāya sevana
“One should associate with devotees, chant the holy name of the Lord, hear Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, reside at Mathurā and worship the Deity with faith and veneration.”
sakala-sādhana-śreṣṭha ei pañca aṅga
kṛṣṇa-prema janmāya ei pāṅcera alpa saṅga
“These five limbs of devotional service are the best of all. Even a slight performance of these five awakens love for Kṛṣṇa.”
Aspiring devotees should first take shelter of the lotus feet of a bona fide guru. Without taking shelter of a guru, one cannot achieve anything auspicious. There are two types of people-one has developed intelligence and one has undeveloped intelligence. Those whose intelligence is undeveloped are absorbed in the so-called happiness of this world. If by chance they get the association of a mahājana, then they also become intelligent. Then they consider, “How unfortunate I am! I’m always engaged in sense gratification. I’m passing my days hankering for material enjoyment.” This initial association with a great soul is also called association with the guru by hearing. By good fortune, at this time faith is awakened. When faith is awakened, one endeavours for devotional service. Then it is essential for one to take shelter of the lotus feet of a guru. In this way by good fortune persons with undeveloped intelligence become intelligent and take shelter of the lotus feet of a guru.
What type of guru one should take shelter of is explained in the śāstras. One who has conquered the six enemies beginning with lust, one who is pure, one who performs devotional service on the path of rāga, one who is brahminical, one who knows the clear path of the Vedas, one who sadhus can respect as guru, one who is able to control the senses, one who is merciful to all living entities, one who is cultured, one who is without duplicity, and one who is truthful-this type of householder is fit to be a guru. All these qualities are considered in two ways. The principle quality of a guru is attachment to Kṛṣṇa and detachment for what is not related with Kṛṣṇa. All other qualities are secondary. That is why Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has said in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya 8.127):
kibā vipra, kibā nyāsī, śūdra kene naya
yei kṛṣṇa-tattva-vettā, sei ‘guru’ haya
“Whether one is a brāhmaṇa, a sannyāsī or a śūdra – regardless of what he is-he can become a spiritual master if he knows the science of Kṛṣṇa.”
If one possesses this principle symptom of a guru, then he is eligible to be guru even though he lacks one or two secondary symptoms. Being a brāhmaṇa and being a householder are counted as secondary symptoms. It is good if a person possesses these two secondary symptoms along with the principle qualification. But those who are defective in the principle symptom are unqualified to be guru even though they possess the other two. As stated in Śrī Padma Purāṇa:
brāhmaṇo vai gurur nṛnām
sarveṣām eva lokānām
asau pūjyo yathā hariḥ
mahākula prasūto ‘pi
sarva yajñeṣu dīkṣitaḥ
na guruḥ syād avaiṣṇavaḥ
“Among all human beings the brāhmaṇa who is a mahā–bhāgavata, or great devotee, is topmost and qualified as guru. He is as worshipable as Lord Hari. A non-Vaiṣṇava is never fit to be guru even if he has taken birth in a great family, performed all sacrifices, and studied many branches of the Vedas.”
After finding a qualified guru, a faithful disciple should serve him with firm conviction and without duplicity. One should accept initiation and kṛṣṇa-mantra after pleasing the guru. Those who are averse to taking initiation and only make a drama of pseudo-kīrtana while advertising themselves as Vaiṣṇavas certainly cheat themselves. It is not the duty of materialistic persons to renounce the process of initiation because a few great souls like Jaḍa Bharata did not take initiation. Initiation is a constitutional injunction for every birth of the living entity. If initiation is not seen in the life of a perfected soul, it should not be taken as an example. General rules are not changed because something happens to a particular person in a special situation. Śrī Dhruva Mahārāja went to Dhruvaloka in his material body; seeing that, should one waste time hoping for the same? The general rule is a living entity gives up his material body and goes to Vaikuṇṭha in his spiritual body. General rules should be accepted by people in general. Whenever and whatever is desired by the Lord, who is full of inconceivable potencies, that only happens. Therefore we should never transgress the general rules. After pleasing the guru by serving him without duplicity, one should receive from him instructions on the Absolute Truth and initiation into chanting the holy name of the Lord.
After receiving initiation and instructions from a bona fide guru, a fortunate disciple should follow the path of the previous sadhus. Those who are proud neglect the previous mahājanas and create new paths. As a result, they soon proceed on their inauspicious path and ruin themselves. It is said in the Skanda Purāṇa:
sa mṛgyaḥ śreyasāṁ hetuḥ
yena santaḥ pratasthire
“One should strictly follow the easy path which the previous mahājanas have accepted. That path bestows great auspiciousness and is devoid of all misery.”
By discussing the path of the previous sādhus, one gets determination, courage, and satisfaction. When we discuss the path of devotional service exhibited by Śrī Rūpa, Śrī Sanātana, Śrī Raghunātha, and Śrī Haridāsa Ṭhākura, then we feel such happiness that it cannot be described. When the miscreant Mohammedans tortured Haridāsa Ṭhākura, he said:
khaṇḍa khaṇḍa hai’ deha yāya yadi prāṇa
tabu āmi vadane nā chāḍi hari-nāma
e saba jīvere kṛṣṇa! karaha prasāda
mora drohe nahu e sabāra aparādha
“Even if my body is cut into pieces and I loose my life, I will never give up chanting the Lord’s holy name. O Kṛṣṇa, please be merciful upon these poor souls, kindly excuse them for their offense of torturing me.”
Maintaining this type of determination and being compassionate to all living entities while always chanting the holy name of Kṛṣṇa is the path of devotional service exhibited by the previous mahājanas. A path cannot be manufactured. Whatever path is there should be accepted by sadhus. Those who are proud and want fame try vigorously to discover new paths. Those who have good fortune from past lives give up pride and respect the established path. Those who are unfortunate promenade on a new path and thus cheat the world. Regarding such persons, the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.2.46-47) quotes the Brahma-yāmala as follows:
aikāntikī harer bhaktir
vastu tastu tathā naiva
“Devotional service of the Lord that ignores the authorized Vedic literatures like the Upaniṣads, Purāṇas, and Nārada Pañcarātra is simply an unnecessary disturbance in society. Such activities are born out of speculation and therefore they only superficially resemble unalloyed devotion because they are disrespectful to the Vedic injunctions. Disrespecting Vedic injunctions falls in the category of atheism. Whenever there is disrespect for the scriptures, which are the Lord’s instructions, that cannot be devotional service.”
The purport is that although the path of devotion is of two kinds – vaidhi and rāgānugā – the previous mahājanas have clearly prescribed them according to one’s qualification. These paths are explained in the scriptures such as the śruti, smṛti, and pañcarātra. Rejecting these paths, the new paths discovered by Lord Buddha and Dattatreya ultimately create disturbance. Due to improper consideration these new paths are advertised as unalloyed devotional service to Kṛṣṇa, although they are not actually so. The proper path is exhibited in the Vedic literatures. Nowadays many new paths are discovered, and they ultimately disappear along with their propounder.
Inquiring about sad-dharma, eternal religious principles, is one of the disciple’s devotional duties. Therefore, Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.2.47) quotes the following statement from the Śrī Nāradīya Purāṇa:
acirād eva sarvārthaḥ
sidhyaty eṣām abhīpsitaḥ
yeṣāṁ nirbandhinī matiḥ
“Those who are eager to awaken their spiritual consciousness and who thus have unflinching, undeviated intelligence certainly attain the desired goal of life very soon.”
As fortunate persons wish to follow the characteristics of the sadhus’ devotional service, they similarly desire to know their duty. Unfortunate proud persons act just the opposite. As they search paths different from those of the sadhus, they disrespect the sadhus’ determined conclusions while respecting their own. They do not care to preach the teachings of Mahāprabhu to the people of this world, rather they preach doctrines contradictory to those of Mahāprabhu. They do not know how much misfortune they are creating by this. Those who are simple endeavour to properly learn the teachings of the Lord from Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta. The Lord’s teachings are our only life. Sad-dharma lies in this alone. The bona fide disciple especially tries to understand sad-dharma. If he cannot understand on his own, then he prays at the feet of his śikṣā-guru ad learns from him. Those who have this kind of determination to know sad-dharma quickly achieve their desired goal. The Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.1.9) says:
śīlanaṁ bhaktir uttamā
“One should render transcendental loving service to the Supreme Lord Kṛṣṇa favourably and without desire for material profit or gain through fruitive activities or philosophical speculation. That is called pure devotional service.”
As long as this pure devotional symptom, in the form of understanding sad-dharma, has not clearly manifest in the heart of an inquisitive person, his heart remains covered with darkness and he cannot know what is pure devotional service. If one depends on his own speculation, then unalloyed devotional service will not manifest in his heart. We meet many so-called paṇḍitas who think they have understood the constitution of bhakti by their knowledge and intelligence. Some of them have concluded that devotional service mixed with jñāna is pure bhakti, and some of them have concluded that devotional service mixed with karma is pure bhakti. They are so proud that if they hear the teachings of Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, they say, “Everyone can make their own conclusion. What is the need for taking the conclusion of Caitanya-caritāmṛta?” These people never come in touch with sad-dharma because they have no desire to know it. The result of performing their own concocted new process of devotional service is they can never relish pure devotion.
It is the duty of a sādhaka to give up personal enjoyment for the sake of Kṛṣṇa. Sense gratification is called enjoyment. Dovetailing one’s lust for sense gratification in the service of Kṛṣṇa is renunciation of enjoyment. When one converts his world of enjoyment into what is favourable for devotional service, thus giving up the spirit of enjoying those objects and accepting everything as kṛṣṇa-prasāda, then this is called renunciation of enjoyment.
To reside in a holy place related with Kṛṣṇa is also a limb of sādhana. If one resides in Śrī Dvārakā, Śrī Mathurā, on the bank of the Ganges, or at pastimes sites of the Lord, then one naturally remembers Kṛṣṇa. What greater gain can there be than this?
At every stage of life one should accept only as much wealth as needed for the practice of devotional service. By desiring more than needed, bhakti will disappear. If wealth is not accepted according to one’s need, however, then the practice of devotional service will be hampered.
One should carefully respect śrī hari-vāsara, Ekādaśī. By observing Ekādaśī all the supporting principles of devotional service are practiced. The practice of devotional service becomes continuous by giving up all enjoyment and practicing devotional service once every fortnight.
For one who worships and meditates on the earth, banyan trees, tulasī, cows, brāhmaṇas, and Vaiṣṇavas, all his sinful reactions are diminished. By these activities one can please Kṛṣṇa, because these objects are auspicious for the world.
These ten limbs of devotional service are the preliminary activities for worshiping the Lord. For those who neglect these ten limbs, attaining devotional service and Kṛṣṇa is very difficult.
Therefore, those who are aspiring for devotional service should first take shelter of Śrī Guru, take initiation and instruction from him, and serve him. They should also follow the behaviour of the sādhus and learn the conclusions taught by the sadhus. In order to make one’s life Kṛṣṇa conscious, one should reside in a sacred place related to Kṛṣṇa and give up the enjoyment of sense gratification for the service of Kṛṣṇa. In one’s ordinary dealings one should only accept the wealth that is necessary to favourably maintain Kṛṣṇa’s business. To practice devotional service one should observe fast days like Ekādaśī and Janmāṣṭamī. One should respect banyan trees in order to maintain the glories of this world, which is one of the Lord’s opulences. These ten rules must be followed. And the following ten rules must be rejected, otherwise the practice of devotional service cannot be steady.
One should not associate with persons who are averse to the Lord’s service. One will have to meet such people in his ordinary dealings, but one should deal with them only until the work is finished. After the work is finished one should not deal with them. Those who have not had loving devotion to Kṛṣṇa awakened in their heart are always proud of remaining under the shelter of jñāna and karma. Therefore, they are called bhagavad-bahirmukha, averse to Kṛṣṇa. Those who worship many gods, those who are māyāvādīs and thirsty for impersonal jñāna, and those atheists who defy Vedic literatures are all bhagavad-bahirmukha, averse to Kṛṣṇa.
One whose faith in pure devotional service has not developed should not be accepted as a disciple, otherwise the disciplic chain of devotional service will be polluted. One should give up the endeavour for starting new big projects, because it diminishes one’s devotion to Kṛṣṇa.
One should not read or explain various types of books, except those which lead to the advancement of devotional service. One should discuss those scriptures wherein devotional service is instructed and explained, such as the Vedas, smṛtis, Purāṇas, Pañcarātra, and the writings of the mahājanas. From books with other opinions, only useless arguments are learned.
The endeavour for food and clothing must always remain, either in household life or in renounced life. Therefore, there is a need of generosity in such dealings. According to the Padma Purāṇa:
alabdhe vā vinaṣṭe vā
harim eva dhiyā smaret
“The mind of one who has taken shelter of the holy name is undisturbed even if food and clothes are not easily obtained or if they are obtained but then lost. Leaving behind all material attachments, he takes complete shelter of Govinda.”
The purport is that whether a sādhaka stays at home or in the forest, he will have to endeavour for food and clothing. A householder should find out his food and clothing through agriculture or business, protecting the citizens, or by serving others. A renunciate should accomplish this by begging alms. In those activities a devotee should not be agitated if food and clothing are not obtained or if they are obtained and then lost. He should peacefully remember Kṛṣṇa.
Householders lament if they lose their wife, children, etc. But a practitioner of devotional service should not maintain this lamentation very long. They should quickly give up their lamentation and engage in the cultivation of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. A renunciate should not lament if he does not possess a quilt, a waterpot, or other alms, or if these things are stolen by man or animal. A practicing Vaiṣṇava should give up all urges like lamentation and anger, otherwise there will be obstacles in his constant remembrance of Kṛṣṇa. It is explained in the Padma Purāṇa:
ākrāntaṁ yasya mānasam
kathaṁ tasya mukundasya
sphūrttiḥ sambhāvanā bhavet
“Within the heart of one who is full of anger or pride, or lamentation on the state of his wife or sons, there is no possibility of Kṛṣṇa being manifest.”
Those who endeavour for devotional service should only worship Kṛṣṇa. They should not worship various demigods. But they should not also disrespect the demigods or the scriptures. When coming before a demigod, one should offer respect, knowing them to be Kṛṣṇa’s servant. In the Padma Purāṇa it is said:
harir eva sadārādhyaḥ
“Kṛṣṇa, or Hari, is the master of all demigods, and therefore He is always worshipable. But this does not mean that one should not offer respect to the demigods headed by Brahmā and Śiva.”
The purport is that the Supreme Lord is one, and others (Brahmā and Śiva) are His qualitative incarnations (guṇāvataras). Particular demigods are worshiped by people according to their qualifications. But Lord Viṣṇu is the only worshipable Lord for people who are in the mode of goodness. After worshiping various demigods for many lifetimes, one’s life becomes auspicious when he comes to the point of accepting Viṣṇu as the only Supreme Lord. Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the topmost manifestation of viṣṇu-tattva. When a living entity transcends the three modes by worshiping in the mode of goodness, he attains the service of Lord Kṛṣṇa.
One should be merciful and not cause anxiety to any living entity. The heart should always be filled with compassion for others. Exhibiting mercy to all living entities is one of the limbs of devotional service. A person aspiring for devotional service should carefully practice this characteristic.
It is most essential for an aspiring devotee to give up the ten offenses in chanting and the offenses in the matter of serving the Lord. For ordinary devotees there is some consideration of offenses in serving the Deity of the Lord. It is not possible to give up all the offenses in serving the Lord, but one must give up some of the offenses before entering the temple room. The ten offenses in chanting have been discussed in many places. The practitioner should carefully give up those offenses. For those who are negligent in this regard, endeavouring for devotional service becomes useless. It is written in the Padma Purāṇa:
sarvāparādha kṛd api
mucyate hari saṁśrayaḥ
harer apy aparādhān yaḥ
kuryād dvi-pada pāṁsanaḥ
nāmāśrayaḥ kadācit syāt
taraty eva sa nāmataḥ
nāmno hi sarva suhṛdo
hy aparādhāt pataty adhaḥ
The purport is that if one takes shelter of Lord Hari, then all his offenses are vanquished. All offenses committed in the service of the Lord are destroyed by taking shelter of the holy names. The holy name alone delivers the Vaiṣṇavas. But those who have taken shelter of the holy names must give up the ten offenses in chanting. Otherwise they will surely fall down even though they have taken shelter of the holy names.
A practitioner should not allow blasphemy of Kṛṣṇa or the Vaiṣṇavas to enter his ears. Wherever such blasphemy is taking place, he should leave. Those with weak hearts who tarry out of social etiquette to hear blasphemy of Kṛṣṇa or the Vaiṣṇavas are gradually distracted from devotional service.
By careful practice of the above mentioned twenty limbs one’s bhāva, devotional sentiment, is awakened. The mercy of Kṛṣṇa is the root cause of awakening bhāva. Without sādhu-saṅga, one cannot achieve the mercy of Kṛṣṇa. The principle forms of sādhu-saṅga are taking shelter of the lotus feet of the spiritual master, taking initiation from him, and serving him.
Among the other limbs of devotional service mentioned after these, accepting the symbols of a Vaiṣṇava up to meditation come under the category of arcana. One should practice all these limbs of bhakti to the best of one’s capacity after receiving them from the spiritual master. Servitude, friendship, and complete surrender are the activities for awakening bhāva. In reality, these activities themselves become bhāva. Only in the stage of sādhana are they counted as sādhana-bhakti.
Whatever one’s most cherished items are in this world and whatever is very dear should be offered to Kṛṣṇa-this statement has several meanings. The purport is that one should not enjoy anything just because it is very dear to oneself, but one should offer it to Kṛṣṇa and enjoy it as His prasāda.
Whatever ordinary and spiritual endeavours are there, when done for the sake of Kṛṣṇa, they become auspicious. It is said in the Nārada Pañcarātra and quoted in the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu:
laukikī vaidikī vāpi
yā kriyā kriyate mune
sā kāryā bhaktim icchatā
“One should perform only those activities, either worldly or prescribed by Vedic rules and regulations, which are favourable for the cultivation of Kṛṣṇa consciousness.”
Marriage and other purificatory ceremonies of the smārtas are vaidikī, or prescribed Vedic regulations, and social and bodily activities performed to maintain one’s status quo are laukikī, or worldly. Marriage is for the establishment of Kṛṣṇa’s family; producing children is for increasing Kṛṣṇa’s servants; offering oblations to the forefathers is for the satisfaction of Kṛṣṇa’s servants; feasting is for the gratification of Kṛṣṇa’s living entities-all these activities should be dovetailed in the favourable service of Kṛṣṇa. Then one will not fall into the grip of unfavourable fruitive activities. The body, house, and everything else belongs to Kṛṣṇa-thinking in this way one should protect the body, the house, and the community. This is called Kṛṣṇa’s family.
The whole life of a practitioner should be decorated with full surrender. Six types of surrender are explained in many places in the devotional scriptures. The life of a living entity is useless without surrender. The living entity should always worship Kṛṣṇa with full surrender.
Items that are related to Kṛṣṇa are called tadīya. Serving tulasī is the primary form of tadīya-sevā. It is said in the Skanda Purāṇa:
dṛṣṭā spṛṣṭā tathā dhātā
kīrtitā manitā śrutā
ropitā sevitā nityaṁ
pūjitā tulasī śubhā
navadhā tulasīṁ devīṁ
ye bhajanti dine dine
yuga koṭi sahasrāṇi
te vasanti harer gṛhe
“Tulasī is auspicious in all respects. Simply by seeing, simply by touching, simply by remembering, simply by praying to, simply by bowing before, simply by hearing about, simply by sowing, simply by offering water to, or simply by worshiping tulasī there is always auspiciousness. Anyone who comes in touch with the tulasī tree in the above-mentioned nine ways lives eternally in the Vaikuṇṭha world.”
Literatures that substantiate devotion to Kṛṣṇa are counted among tadīya. Śrīmad Bhāgavatam is the topmost amongst them. In the same way, Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta commands similar respect. Those who regularly read and hear these devotional scriptures are glorious.
Holy places associated with Lord Kṛṣṇa, such as Mathurā, are appropriate residences for a practitioner. Among such places, residence in Mathurā is the topmost. Residing in Śrīdhāma Navadvīpa is as good. It is written in Śrī Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa:
śrutā smṛtā kīrtitā ca
vāñcitā prekṣitā gatā
spṛṣṭāśritā sevitā ca
“One who hears about, remembers, glorifies, desires to achieve, sees from a distance, comes near, touches, accepts as one’s shelter, and serves Mathurā achieves fulfilment of all desires.”
The devotees of Kṛṣṇa are also counted among tadīya. It is written in the Ādi Purāṇa:
ye me bhakta-janāḥ pārtha
na me bhaktāś ca te janāḥ
mad-bhaktānāṁ ca ye bhaktās
te me bhakta-tamā matāḥ
“Lord Kṛṣṇa told Arjuna, ‘Those who are My direct devotees are actually not My devotees, but those who are the devotees of My servant are factually My devotees.’”
In regard to serving devotees, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has quoted the following verse from the Ādi Purāṇa in his Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu:
yāvanti bhagavad bhakter
prāyastāvanti tad bhakta
bhakter api budhā vidhuḥ
The purport is that almost all the above mentioned limbs of serving Kṛṣṇa are accepted in the service of His devotees. The reason for the use of the word “almost” is that the devotees should be worshiped by offering them kṛṣṇa-prasāda. All other limbs such as offering obeisances remain the same.
The practitioner should hold festivals according to his capacity. Organizing festivals in the association of devotees is a prominent activity. However, one should be careful not to associate with non-devotees in the course of holding such festivals.
There is a need of organizing festivals on the occasion of the Lord’s appearance day. One should maintain love and devotion while serving the Deity. Being attached to the impersonal aspect of the Lord, foolish people without proper consideration disrespect the Deity. But if they associate with devotees and properly consider, then they will see the need for serving the Deity.
One should relish devotional scriptures like Śrīmad Bhāgavatam with advanced devotees. If one relishes devotional scriptures with rationalists, people fond of argument, and dry speculators, then one’s heart becomes dry and the awakening of transcendental mellows does not take place.
It is necessary to associate with devotees. Jñānīs and karmīs are not counted amongst devotees due to their illicit desires. A practitioner of devotional service should associate with more advanced persons who are affectionate and on the same path. Otherwise his heart will not take shelter of pure devotional service. In the Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya (8.51) it is written:
yasya yat saṅgatiḥ puṁso
maṇivat syāt sa tad guṇaḥ
svakularddhyai tato dhimān
svayūthāny eva saṁśrayet
“As the qualities of a nearby object are reflected in a crystal, one similarly takes on the qualities of a person with whom he associates. Therefore, in order to increase one’s devotional sentiment in his own line, a wise person should take shelter of those who have the same temperament.”
One should be particularly careful in this regard. Association with sahajiyās and bāulas yields unfavourable results. But if one associates with pure Vaiṣṇavas who are followers of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, then pure love for Kṛṣṇa is awakened. Among all limbs of devotional service, association with devotees is one of the main limbs.
Among all the above mentioned limbs of devotional service, the following five principle items are the best of all: worshiping the Deity, relishing the purport of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam with advanced devotees, associating with more advanced devotees who are affectionate and in the same line, congregational chanting of the holy names, and residing in Mathurā. If we further summarize, then chanting the holy names and serving the Vaiṣṇavas are the topmost. It is written in the Padma Purāṇa:
yena janma-śataiḥ pūrvaṁ
sadā tiṣṭhanti bhārata
“O descendant of Bharata, the holy names of Lord Viṣṇu are always vibrating in the mouth of one who has previously worshiped Vāsudeva perfectly for hundreds of lifetimes.”
Also from the Padma Purāṇa and quoted in the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.2.108-109):
nāma cintāmaṇiḥ kṛṣṇaś
pūrṇaḥ śuddho nitya-mukto
’ bhinnatvān nāma-nāminoḥ
na bhaved grāhyam indriyaiḥ
sevonmukhe hi jihvādau
svayam eva sphuraty adaḥ
“The holy name of Kṛṣṇa is transcendentally blissful. It bestows all spiritual benedictions, for it is Kṛṣṇa Himself, the reservoir of all pleasure. Kṛṣṇa’s name is complete, and it is the form of all transcendental mellows. It is not a material name under any condition, and it is no less powerful than Kṛṣṇa Himself. Since Kṛṣṇa’s name is not contaminated by the material qualities, there is no question of its being involved with māyā. Kṛṣṇa’s name is always liberated and spiritual; it is never conditioned by the laws of material nature. This is because the name of Kṛṣṇa and Kṛṣṇa Himself are identical. Therefore, material senses cannot appreciate Kṛṣṇa’s holy name, form, qualities and pastimes. When a conditioned soul is awakened to Kṛṣṇa consciousness and renders service by using his tongue to chant the Lord’s holy name and taste the remnants of the Lord’s food, the tongue is purified, and one gradually comes to understand who Kṛṣṇa really is.”
This is the independent mercy of the Absolute Truth.
Śrī Mathurā-maṇḍala, the holy names of the Lord, devotional scriptures like Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, pure devotees, and Deities-these five items are transcendental. By associating with them, a devotee quickly attains bhāva, transcendental emotions, and Kṛṣṇa.
In the process of sādhana-bhakti, these types of vaidhi-bhakti are explained. Again, rāgānugā-sādhana-bhakti is very powerful in the process of sādhana. When one practices devotional service by following the footsteps of the residents of Vṛndāvana, that is called rāgānugā-bhakti. Persons who are endeavouring for devotional service should follow the activities of the Vrajavāsīs with their body, mind, and speech. According to his qualification, a practitioner should engage in whatever activities are mentioned in either the process of vaidhi-sādhana-bhakti or rāgānugā-sādhana-bhakti.
Someone may attain the highest result by practicing one of the limbs, and someone may attain the highest result by practicing several limbs. The unalloyed devotion of those who have exclusively taken shelter of the service of the holy names and the Vaiṣṇavas does not find taste in other limbs. Therefore, the practitioner should work in devotion with full surrender, enthusiasm, firm confidence, and patience.