Question: What if I can only chant Hare Krsna right now, but I can't do much service?
Answer: Chanting Hare Krsna is service. However, when you are chanting “Hare Krsna,” you are also requesting service. After chanting, don't be surprised when you are awarded more service.
And then when Krsna gives you service, there may be a question about how much service you should take.
On the one hand, Krsna advises in the Gita (18.66) that we simply surrender to Him. And this is actually the main business of a devotee. On the other hand, Krsna tells Uddhava in the Srimad-bhagavatam, sve sve adhikari ya nistah . . . “It is a good quality to take service according to one's adhikari, or current capacity.” (SB 11.21.2)
Bhaktivinoda Thakura, in his Sri Caitanya Siksamrita, explains how to reconcile these two sides through vigilant introspection.
He says, If we are ready for more service, but hesitate to take it, our devotional service will slacken. Or, if we aren't fixed in the service we have now, and we hastily take more than we are qualified for, we may fall down.
To advance therefore, Srila Bhaktivinoda recommends that we move like a person climbing a ladder, who moves from a lower rung to a higher one only after finding a secure footing. In our devotional service, we should similarly gain a solid footing in whatever service we have now and then grasp for the next highest level of service when we can actually reach it. Our gaining solid footing and our looking for the next higher rung should go on simultaneously, he says.
“If we are in too much in a hurry to climb to a higher step, we may slip and be forced to step down. Or, if we don't try to take the higher step when we are actually ready, our progress will stop. Therefore, considering both haste and hesitancy as obstacles, we should rise up by becoming fixed on the rung of advancement we have achieved and then reach for the next higher step. Many express sorrow about not getting devotion to Krishna; but the fact is that they do not try their best to rise up to the steps leading to advanced devotion to Krishna.” (Adapted from Caitanya Siksamrta; p 112. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura)
In Sri Upadesamrta, Rupa Goswami introduces the word niyamagraha, meaning that one should neither neglect the rules and regulations of scripture, nor follow them without knowing why.
Our gradual progress in devotional service, as described above by Bhaktivinoda Thakura, also requires a balanced approach. As the Thakura inidicates, niyamagraha can also describe two sides of a danger, haphazardly jumping up or lingering on a lower level when one has an opportunity to advance.
Srila Bhaktivinoda optimistically points out that, “Intrinsic in every jiva is the ability to rise in course of time.”