Vaishnav-Seva: Highlight of Life
His Divine Grace Om Vishnupad
Today is a very fortunate day because today we can join a disappearance festival of a Vaishnav. "Bhakta-sangete mana anandita anuksana (ভক্ত-সঙ্গেতে মন আনন্দিত অনুক্ষণ)"—when we get the association of great Vaishnavs, we always feel pleasure from that association, and through association our hearts will be clean. That is why we arrange festivals—to get the association of great Vaishnavs.
All Vaishnavs are actually associates of the Lord, they are media—they come to spread Krishna's message to all of us. When we have some problem, we can tell about it to a Vaishnav, and the Vaishnav tells about it to the Lord. The Lord cannot always come Himself, but He always sends His associates to preach Krishna consciousness all over the world, so if we get association of a Vaishnav, we can get mercy of the Lord through them.
Krishna Himself says, "Those who say they are My devotees, are not My devotees; but those who are devotees of My devotees, are My devotees." If you invite Krishna, Krishna will not come, but if you invite Mother Yasoda, Yasoda will bring Krishna to you—that is why we must please, we must make devotees happy, that is why we must serve devotees.
When Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was in Puri, one householder devotee, Sivananda Sen, asked Him, "Prabhu, we are householder devotees, what is our duty?" Mahaprabhu replied, "Go to your home and serve Vaishnavs and engage in Nama sankirtan." Vaishnav seva means following the order and advice that a Vaishnav gives you. How can you do Vaishnav seva? How can you please a Vaishnav? If you follow their order, you can please them. For example, if you go to a big doctor, the doctor will give you a prescription, but if you just keep that prescription aside and you do not follow it, if you do not take the medicine, how will you then be cured? Your Guru gives you some advice, and if you do not follow that advice (if you do not take his medicine), how will you be cured?
When leaving Nabadwip to take sannyas, Mahaprabhu Himself said,
যদি আমা'-প্রতি স্নেহ থাকে সবাকার ।
yadi ama'-prati sneha thake sabakara
"If you have any love and affection for Me, then only say 'Krishna'—do not say anything except 'Krishna.'"
(Sri Chaitanya-bhagavata, Madhya-khanda, 28.27)
"If you have love and affection for Me, then say, 'Krishna,' speak about Krishna, and engage others in service to Krishna." This is what all of our Guru-varga (Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj, and others) preaches all over the world,
prthivite ache yata nagaradi-grama
"This Name will be distributed all over the world—in all the villages, towns, and cities that there are in this world."
They always fulfil Mahaprabhu's desire—they take His prescription and distribute it all over the world. What is the main teaching that Mahaprabhu Himself teaches us? Be humble, tolerant, and give honour to others.
তৃণাদপি সুনীচেন তরোরিব সহিষ্ণুনা ।
trnad api sunichena taror api sahisnuna
"One who is humbler than a blade of grass, more forbearing than a tree, who gives honour to others without desiring it for himself, is qualified to always chant the Holy Name of Krishna."
(Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita, Antya-lila, 6.239)
Be humble, tolerant, and give honour to others. This is what I have come here for, this is what we are preaching.
I am also thinking,
গৌর আমার যে সব স্থানে
gaura amara ye saba sthane
"In the company of loving devotees, I behold all the places my Gaurasundar roamed during His ecstatic Pastimes."
('Suddha-bhakata-charana-renu' by Srila Bhakti Vinod Thakur)
Mahaprabhu visited many places, He visited all of South India also, and we want to visit those places with devotees, that is why we have come here in Guntur [Andhra Pradesh, South India].
Actually, we have come here to serve everybody—we have not come to take service, we have come to serve everybody. Devotees always engage everybody and everything in service. For example, a flower is used on a birthday celebration, a wedding festival, or some marriage ceremony, but when a devotee gives one flower to Lord Krishna, he gives benefit to the flower tree. Krishna said that everything that exists in this world is for His service, but we are enjoying with that—we must understand that we are not enjoyers, Krishna is the only enjoyer. Because we have ego we suffer and enjoy ourselves. For example, you live in a family—you can enjoy with family life, but you must understand that this family is Krishna's family, then you can enjoy with Krishna's family. Work for Krishna, serve Krishna, cook for Krishna—whatever you do, you must do it for Krishna. If you want to eat something, first offer it to the Lord, then take prasadam.
Disappearance of a Vaishnav means Vaishnav viraha (separation from a Vaishnav). When Mahaprabhu was talking to Ramananda Ray, He asked him, "What is our real, main sadness?" Ramananda Ray replied, "When our devotee leaves some place, that is our greatest sadness."
Today is actually also a sad day because one sannyasi has left his body on this day, but at the same time we do not think that he died, we do not think that this is actually sad because we understand that Krishna sent him here to serve, to preach Krishna consciousness in this area of the world, and now his work has finished and Krishna has taken him again to His place. That is why, we make disappearance festivals, that is why we do Guru-puja and Vaishnav-puja (we worship the Guru and Vaishnavs). This is an important day in our spiritual life. "Chhadiya vaisnava-seva nistara payechhe keba (ছাড়িয়া বৈষ্ণব-সেবা নিস্তার পায়েছে কেবা): Without service to the Vaishnav, you cannot get any relief." You must always do Vaishnav seva—without service to the Vaishnavs we cannot proceed in our spiritual life.
হরিস্থানে অপরাধে তারে হরিনাম ।
hari-sthane aparadhe tare hari-nama
"If you make an offence to the Lord, Vaishnavs can remove that offence, but if you offend Vaishnavs, then not even Krishna can remove that offence." We must be always careful.
Also, the scriptures say that when you bring a Deity, it is necessary to have some installation, but for a Vaishnav and Tulasi Maharani no installation is necessary—they are always automatically established, or installed. So, when we see a Vaishnav (it does not matter whether it is a senior Vaishnav or a junior Vaishnav), we must pay obeisance to them. When Prabhupad Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur saw his disciple, even if it was a seven-eight-year-old boy, he would pay obeisance to him and say, "Daso 'smi, I am your servant."
Who is a Vaishnav? Those who have chanted the Holy Name once are Vaishnavs (kanistha-adhikari); those who always chant the Holy Name are Vaishnavs (madhyam-adhikari); and if seeing somebody you take the Holy Name, they are also Vaishnavs (uttam-adhikari, or senior great Vaishnav). The Guru is an uttam Vaishnav (highest Vaishnav), but, because the Guru has to make disciples, he has to come down to the level of a madhyam-adhikari.
So, I am very happy today to get association of so many Vaishnavs and hear the chanting of the Holy Name here—this is my pleasure, this is my happiness.
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