The Duties of a Householder-Devotee II
INDIVIDUAL SOULS or Jivas being the transformation of a power,- called the Jiva-Sakti,-of Krishna, the Absolute Godhead, the proper and only function of every Jiva-soul in his perfectly normal state is submission to the Master of all the Powers i.e. the All Powerful (), and to serve the Absolute Godhead under all circumstances as an eternal servant of His. Hence the service of Krishna, the Absolute Godhead, is the only duty of a Jiva: it is the very condition of his true existence. Existence of a Jiva away from such service is abnormal fallen state; it is the perversion of the real life in utter forgetfulness of his true self. Shorn of the willing service of Krishna, the Jiva becomes a slave to the miseries of the world, while as a faithful servant of the Lord he is far above their reach.
But in this fallen state of forgetfulness of Krishna and his own self, a Jiva cannot of himself understand the value of the conscious service of Krishna, nor regain it independently. He has to learn it from a Vaishnava, the eternal servant of Godhead, by means of sincere submission and service. Hence the service of the Vaishnava is the only possible duty of the Jiva in the fallen state. But the service of the Vaishnava is not a different thing from the duty of the service of Krishna. It means, on the part of the aspiring Jiva, close touch with the Vaishnava, submission to him, and devotedly associating with him in all his activities in order to obtain the benefit of quasi-conscious service of Krishna under the direction of the latter,-there being under the circumstances no other alternative than these for carrying up the Jiva to Krishna. The true Vaishnava, the wholetime servant of the Godhead, has no desire of his own to fulfil. His only concern is to fulfil by all means the desires of Krishna-in which all desires of his own are merged. Without any expectation on his own account from the surrendering and serving Jiva-soul, the Vaishnava accepts his service to Krishna for his benefit only, i.e. to teach him the service of the Godhead, his own long-forgotten duty, which he cannot, in the first stage, himself understand and perform independently. For this purpose the Vaishnava would further advise him to always similarly associate with all other pure Vaishnavas who form an indivisible community of spiritual brotherhood and serve them all in every way, and to sing constantly the Name of Krishna in their company, carefully avoiding all the ten kinds of offences.*
The singing of the Name of Krishna is the best form of service of Krishna,-God-head’s Name being identical with His own self. Unlike the mundane world there is nothing in the transcendental spiritual world to intervene between the Absolute God-head, and His Name, Form, Qualities, Pastimes (lila) and Paraphernalia, and to differentiate them from one another. They are severally and collectively one individual identity eternally manifesting an endless diversity. And this singing which is the only means available in this Iron Age to a fallen creature for regaining his natural position, can be performed in the proper manner in the company of the pure Vaishnavas. For, the Name, the transcendental Word, descends only on the spiritual tongues of pure Vaishnavas. The material tongue is not fit ground for Its manifestation. So the Supreme Lord advised those three things in the first year to suit the understanding and requirements of a devotee in the first stage.
Now we have seen that the service of Krishna, that of pure Vaishnava, and the singing of the Name-all the three make one identical and inseparable whole; they are but three phases of one and the same thing, the service of Krishna. Here the goal- the service of Krishna,-and the means-the other two-belong to the same category and are without any distinction from one another, the means merging in the end. Herein lies the unequalled and unsurpassed superiority of Bhakti (Devotion) the only eternal and natural path to Absolute Freedom,-over all other means which are necessarily different from their promised goal, the real goal which is only one being beyond their reach. Whereas in the path of pure Devotion the God-head is reached through the God-head Himself, as it were.
To an immature devotee these three appear to be distinct and apart up to a certain stage of his advancement. As he reaches the second stage of advancement the misconception that the worship (service) of Krishna is distinct from the other two, viz., the service of Vaishnava, and the singing of the Name,- wears off and he gradually realises the identity of the end and its means,- the identity of the service of Krishna with the service of Vaishnava and the singing of the Name. Nay, he realises with due advancement that the true service of Krishna lies only in the sincere service of pure Vaishnavas, and the uninterrupted singing of His Name in their company, and that this is the only means open in the Iron Age of reaching Sree-Krishna’s lotus feet-the only place of non-death, non-fear, and non-sorrow. Hence the Supreme Lord’s advice in the second year,- ‘Serve Vaishnava, and sing the Name. By these two only you will quickly secure Krishna’s feet.’ This is clear to the devotee only in the second stage,- the Madhyama Bhagavata;- for the devotee of the next or the highest stage, i.e., the Maha-Bhagavata, there is nothing more to be added. For his very existence, very breath, is but the constant and uninterrupted service of Krishna.
One not initiated by Sat-Guru, (the good Preceptor), can hardly distinguish, due to his ignorance and empirical ideas,- between a Vaishnava and a non-Vaishnava. He cannot understand the purpose and movements of a true Vaishnava, and confounds them with those of a pseudo Vaishnava or of ordinary people. To him a true Vaishnava and a hypocrite appear to be the same. Yet the service (i.e. association with) of pure Vaishnavas is indispensable to one who seeks the service of Krishna. So in order to learn the mode of service, and the distinction between pure and pseudo-Vaishnavas he must surrender himself to the good Preceptor (Sad-Guru). Listen to his instructions, and learn them by submission, sincere questioning and service. To a devotee of the first stage, a pure Vaishnava must be as one on whose tongue the pure Name mercifully manifests Himself for his deliverance by the method of attentive listening.
As the devotee advances, he should seek the service and association of the Vaishnavas of the higher stage,- Madhyama Bhagavatas, who have completely risen above all miseries and mundane desires, and whose devotion is now constant and is no longer intercepted by Jnana or mundane Knowledge that aims at identification and ultimate merging of self in the Brahman; or by Karma or performance of meritorious acts securing great and finer enjoyments to the performer in the more enjoyable worlds; or by other desires after inferior enjoyments of immoral people and atheists. The merciful Lord’s Name constantly and freely plays on their tongues in His form of transcendental sound. The lives of such Vaishnavas are wholly transformed into the exclusive service of Krishna. The service and company of such Vaishnavas enable devotees, i.e., sincere seekers of pure devotion, to shake off all doubts and errors, and to gradually understand and realise the perfectly transcendental nature of the service of Krishna, and His identical Name.
The company of the good really means the company of the Vaishnavas of this class, which is by all means to be sought and lived in, and is the only means of all success. From such associations only, the devotee can appreciate the Maha-Bhagavata at whose very sight the Name of Krishna comes out of Himself on the lips.
*Ten kinds of offences are:-(1) to calumniate the true Vaishnava, (2) to differentiate the Name, Form etc. of Vishnu from Vishnu, (3) contempt of the Preceptor, (4) to deride the authority of Sruti-shastras, (5) to consider the efficacy of virtue of the Name as laudatory exaggeration, (6) to attribute fanciful and different interpretations to the Name, (7) inclination to sins on the strength of the Name, (8) to consider the singing of the Name on par with other virtuous acts, (9) to instruct the Name to the contemptuous, (10) want of faith in the Name even after hearing of Its greatness.