Once there was a lady in India called Kamabai. She lived in a small straw hut and materially speaking she was very poor. However, she had strong love for our Lord, Jagannatha, in her heart. Every morning before the Lord received His over 30 food preparations from the first-class priests in the temple, she cooked a simple stew called kitchari which traditionally consists of rice, beans and if you have enough money also vegetables. It is easy to digest and the main food of the money-less. So she cooked this every morning and because she did it with so much love Jagannatha – who lives on a golden throne – came to her straw hut every day and relished it with great pleasure. One morning a great devotee of Jagannatha came by Kamabai’s hut and noticed that she was cooking for the Lord who is worshipped with the highest standards of cleanliness without having taken a shower. Her eyes were puffy like in someone who had just risen and her clothes were wrinkled and smelled of sleep. So he told her, “You cannot cook for the Lord like this. You have to take a shower, then turn around in three circles, look towards the sun, chant om namo narayanaya for the mind, then you have to do acamana with sprinkling water and chanting mantras and then… “ and on he went with his explanation. “Really?”, she asked. “Yes, otherwise the Lord who is worshipped by the foremost priests of Puri cannot accept your offering.” “Ok, then I will change the way I do it.”
So the next day she followed the instructions of the devotee precisely before she started cooking. Of course this took a long time and Jagannatha, the Lord of the universe, was already waiting in her hut, “When will you finally finish?” He asked her. At some point she was done and offered the Lord His bowl of stew. “Here you go – I did everything immaculately.” Jagannatha then had to eat very quickly because the altar in the temple would open three minutes later and he had to get back before that. So he hurried and left without washing his hands and mouth.
When the altar opened punctually Jagannatha had kitchari all over his cheeks and hands. When the priests saw Him they were astonished. In meditation an elevated priest asked Jagannatha about what had happened. Jagannatha replied, “Well, yes, this is because of one of you who went to Kamabai and told her to follow certain standards of cleanliness, but that is not at all what bhakti is about. There are so many different procedures in my service and opinions about which of them is the best. It is not right for a devotee to try to change the attitude of another devotee who is spontaneously attracted to a certain procedure.”
I want to express it very simply: if I go to one of you who is spontaneously attracted to worshiping the Lord in a certain way and try to shift you into a different direction by speaking strongly and quoting verses, I would be doing you a disservice. Spiritual life only has one goal: love and devotion to the Lord. We can make intense endeavors and endure harsh austerities, but if we overlook the main point of the bhakti-bhava in us or someone else we are doing it wrong. This is a very essential and important point.
In his Krsna-bhajanamrta Srila Narahari Sarakara Thakura wrote about the future of the Hare Krsna movement, Gaudiya Vaisnavism. He lists two main problems we will face: people who are unqualified, but try to take leading positions and secondly, that the members of the movement will be mistaken about the main point. Instead of understanding bhakti to be the main point, they will place ordinary worldly ethical and moral considerations in the foreground. The Thakura luckily also informs us about the solution to these threats: to remember how Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu spread bhakti without considering qualifications or disqualifications. That is the main point – that is what our movement is about.