atyāhāraḥ prayāsaś ca
prajalpo niyamāgrahaḥ
jana-sańgaś ca laulyaḿ ca
ṣaḍbhir bhaktir vinaśyati

One's devotional service is spoiled when one becomes too entangled in the following six activities:
(1) eating more than necessary or collecting more funds than required;
(2) overendeavoring for mundane things that are very difficult to obtain;
(3) talking unnecessarily about mundane subject matters;
(4) Practicing the scriptural rules and regulations only for the sake of following them
and not for the sake of spiritual advancement,
or rejecting the rules and regulations of the scriptures
and working independently or whimsically;
(5) associating with worldly-minded persons
who are not interested in Kṛṣṇa consciousness; and
(6) being greedy for mundane achievements.
(The Nectar of Instruction).

utsāhān niścayād dhairyāt
sańga-tyāgāt sato vṛtteḥ
ṣaḍbhir bhaktiḥ prasidhyati

There are six principles favorable to the execution of pure devotional service:
(1) being enthusiastic,
(2) endeavoring with confidence,
(3) being patient,
(4) acting according to regulative principles ( hearing, chanting and remembering Kṛṣṇa),
(5) abandoning the association of nondevotees, and
(6) following in the footsteps of the previous ācāryas.
These six principles undoubtedly assure the complete success of pure devotional service.
(The Nectar of Instruction).

Devotional service is not a matter of sentimental speculation or imaginative ecstasy.
Its substance is practical activity.

Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, in his Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu,
has defined devotional service as follows:

ānukūlyena kṛṣṇānu-
śīlanaḿ bhaktir uttamā

Uttamā bhakti, or unalloyed devotion unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa,
involves the rendering of devotional service in a way that is favorable to the Lord.
This devotional service should be free from any extraneous motive
and devoid of fruitive karma, impersonal jñāna and all other selfish desires.

Engagement in the devotional service of the Lord is the life and soul of the living entity.

It is the desired goal and supreme perfection of human life.

One has to become confident about this, and one also has to be confident
that all activities other than devotional service — such as mental speculation,
fruitive work or mystic endeavor — will never yield any enduring benefit.

Complete confidence in the path of devotional service
will enable one to attain his desired goal,
but attempting to follow other paths
will only succeed in making one restless.

In Bhagavad-gītā Kṛṣṇa says:

nehābhikrama-nāśo 'sti
pratyavāyo na vidyate
svalpam apy asya dharmasya
trāyate mahato bhayāt

"In this endeavor there is no loss or diminution,
and a little advancement on this path can protect one
from the most dangerous type of fear." (B.G.2:40).

Devotional service is so pure and perfect that once having begun,
one is forcibly dragged to ultimate success.

Sometimes a person will give up his ordinary material engagements
and out of sentiment take shelter of the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord
and thus begin the preliminary execution of devotional service.
Even if such an immature devotee falls down, there is no loss on his part.

On the other hand, what is the gain of one who executes the prescribed duties
according to his varṇa and āśrama but does not take to devotional service?
Although a fallen devotee may take his next birth in a low family,
his devotional service will nonetheless resume from where it left off.

Devotional service is ahaituky apratihatā;
it is not the effect of any mundane cause,
nor can it be terminated by any mundane cause
or permanently curtailed by any material interruption.

In Bhagavad-gītā Kṛṣṇa says:

mahātmānas tu māḿ pārtha
daivīḿ prakṛtim āśritāḥ
bhajanty ananya-manaso
jñātvā bhūtādim avyayam

"O son of Pṛthā, those who are not deluded, the great souls,
are under the protection of the divine nature.
They are fully engaged in devotional service because they know Me
as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, original and inexhaustible." (B.G.9:13).

Devotional service means transcendental activities.
On the transcendental platform there is no contamination
by the three modes of material nature.
This is called viśuddha-sat-tva, the platform of pure goodness,
or goodness free from contamination
by the qualities of passion and ignorance.

Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī explains how to perform devotional activities
in the association of other devotees.
There are six kinds of activities:
(1) giving charity to the devotees,
(2) accepting from the devotees whatever they may offer in return,
(3) opening one's mind to the devotees,
(4) inquiring from them about the confidential service of the Lord,
(5) honoring prasāda, or spiritual food, given by the devotees, and
(6) feeding the devotees with prasāda.

It is said in Sri Caitanya-caritāmṛta:

nitya-siddha kṛṣṇa-prema 'sādhya' kabhu naya
śravaṇādi-śuddha-citte karaye udaya

"Pure love for Kṛṣṇa is eternally established in the hearts of living entities.
It is not something to be gained from another source.
When the heart is purified by hearing and chanting,
the living entity naturally awakens." (Madhya 22.107).

Since Kṛṣṇa consciousness is inherent in every living entity,
everyone should be given a chance to hear about Kṛṣṇa.

Simply by hearing and chanting, śravaṇaḿ kīrtanam,
one's heart is directly purified, and one's original
Kṛṣṇa consciousness is immediately awakened.

Kṛṣṇa consciousness is not artificially imposed upon the heart,
it is already there. When one chants the holy name
of the Supreme Personality of Godhead,
the heart is cleansed of all mundane contamination.

kṛṣṇeti yasya giri taḿ manasādriyeta
dīkṣāsti cet praṇatibhiś ca bhajantam īśam
śuśrūṣayā bhajana-vijñam ananyam anya-
nindādi-śūnya-hṛdam īpsita-sańga-labdhyā

One should mentally honor the devotee who chants the holy name of Lord Kṛṣṇa,
one should offer humble obeisances to the devotee who has undergone spiritual initiation
and is engaged in worshiping the Deity, and one should associate with and faithfully
serve that pure devotee who is advanced in undeviated devotional service
and whose heart is completely devoid of the propensity to criticize others.
(The Nectar of Instruction).

One should not remain a kaniṣṭha-adhikārī,
one who is situated on the lowest platform of devotional service
and is interested only in worshiping the Deity in the temple.

arcāyām eva haraye
pūjāḿ yaḥ śraddhayehate
na tad-bhakteṣu cānyeṣu
sa bhaktaḥ prākṛtaḥ smṛtaḥ

"A person who is very faithfully engaged in the worship of the Deity in the temple,
but who does not know how to behave toward devotees
or people in general is called a prākṛta-bhakta, or kaniṣṭha-adhikāri."

One therefore has to raise himself from the position of kaniṣṭha-adhikārī
to the platform of madhyama-adhikārī.

īśvare tad-adhīneṣu
bāliśeṣu dviṣatsu ca
yaḥ karoti sa madhyamaḥ

"The madhyama-adhikārī is a devotee who worships the Supreme Personality of Godhead
as the highest object of love, makes friends with the Lord's devotees,
is merciful to the ignorant and avoids those who are envious by nature."

While giving instructions to Sanātana Gosvāmī,
Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu divided devotional service into three categories.

śāstra-yukti nāhi jāne dṛḍha, śraddhāvān
'madhyama-adhikārī' sei mahā-bhāgyavān

"A person whose conclusive knowledge of the śāstras is not very strong
but who has developed firm faith in chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra
and who is also undeterred in the execution of his prescribed devotional service
should be considered a madhyama-adhikārī. Such a person is very fortunate."
(Cc.Madhya 22.67).

A madhyama-adhikārī is a śraddhāvān, a staunchly faithful person,
and he is actually a candidate for further advancement in devotional service.

Therefore in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya 22.64) it is said:

śraddhāvān jana haya bhakti-adhikārī
'uttama', 'madhyama', 'kaniṣṭha' — — śraddhā-anusārī

"One becomes qualified as a devotee on the elementary platform,
the intermediate platform and the highest platform of devotional service
according to the development of his śraddhā (faith)."

Again in Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya 22.62) it is said:

'śraddhā'-śabde — — viśvāsa kahe sudṛḍha niścaya
kṛṣṇe bhakti kaile sarva-karma kṛta haya

" 'By rendering transcendental service to Kṛṣṇa,
one automatically performs all subsidiary activities.'
This confident, firm faith, favorable to the discharge of devotional service,
is called śraddhā."

Śraddhā, faith in Kṛṣṇa,
is the beginning of Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Faith means strong faith.

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