“Rupa Gosvami has stated that five kinds of devotional activities – namely, residing in Mathura, worshiping the Deity of the Lord, reciting Shrimad-Bhagavatam, serving a devotee, and chanting the Hare Krishna mantra – are so potent that a small attachment for any one of these five items can arouse devotional ecstasy even in a neophyte.” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 13)
There is danger at every step in the material world. The threefold miseries can strike at any moment. Therefore it only makes sense to try to gain strength. Physical strength through exercise, yoga routines, and proper nutrition. Mental strength through perseverance, proper rest, and avoidance of stress.
Sadly, the material is destined for destruction. Powerful kings from the past like Hiranyakashipu and Ravana had built up tremendous strength. Despite what looked like impenetrable fortifications, they lost everything. They fell from the top, crashing hard to the ground.
Spiritual life is the way to eternal bliss and happiness. In the human form, it is practiced within the material world, meaning that strength is also required. Devotional strength can be gained through dedicated practice. Rupa Gosvami reveals that there are several activities which help to speed up the process.
1. Residing in Mathura
The place of pilgrimage is known in Sanskrit as a tirtha. Simply land, a collection of gross material elements. Dust. It doesn’t really matter from where it comes, right? Ah, but with the tirtha there is added significance due to association with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Bhagavan.
Mathura is the janma-bhumi for Shri Krishna. It is the place where He first appeared on this earth in His transcendental form. That event is so significant that it is still celebrated to this day, the occasion of Janmashtami.
Though the appearance took place so long ago, the memory is still there. Just residing in Mathura helps to foster Krishna consciousness, and quickly at that. Residing in other places of pilgrimage has similar benefits, as there is some association with Krishna.
2. Worshiping the deity of the Lord
In these places of pilgrimage, worship of the Lord is prominent. The worship is going on twenty-four hours a day, as all a person needs is consciousness. Just think of Krishna. That is vishno-smaranam, as Prahlada Maharaja describes. Remembering Him is just as good as being with Him.
The formal worship takes place in the ceremony. The object of worship is the archa-vigraha, or deity. This is to show others what is going on. God has kindly agreed to appear in a form that the human eyes of limited perception can comprehend. It is not that God is limited to a statue; it is that He has authorized the worship as a way to help man escape illusion. Deity worship is thus very powerful, and it plays a prominent role in bhakti-yoga societies.
3. Reciting Shrimad Bhagavatam
Shravanam. Hearing. Just hear about the Supreme Lord. There is plenty to hear, since He has glorious activities performed in this and many other worlds. Those pastimes have been preserved in beautiful, poetic form through the Puranas and other sacred texts.
Shrimad Bhagavatam, also known as the Bhagavata Purana, is like the ripened fruit of Vedic literature. Just sit down and hear this work. Hear it from someone who practices bhagavata-dharma, or devotional service. Then advancement happens very quickly. If there is no one around from whom to hear, just recite. Say the verses. Don’t worry about understanding right away. The association through sound is purifying.
4. Serving a devotee
There is the book bhagavata, and there is the person bhagavata. The book is served through hearing and reciting, and the person is honored through offering assistance. Both are very dear to the Supreme Lord, so just by helping a devotee a person makes so much advancement. Indeed, the benefit of approaching a spiritual master is due precisely to their being a devotee. The guru is a teacher, and what teacher doesn’t enjoy having eager, inquisitive, and interested students ready at full attention?
5. Chanting the Hare Krishna mantra
You can’t live in Mathura. Not even Vrindavana or some place that has a Krishna-dedicated temple. You can’t recite the Bhagavatam because you don’t own the books. There are no devotees around for you to offer service. Does this mean that all hope is lost?
Actually, just chanting the maha-mantra can do so much. “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” This chanting creates a Mathura-like atmosphere. The name is as good as the deity. The name includes the pastimes described in the Bhagavatam. The person who always chants becomes a devotee themselves, thus providing wonderful association for those around them.
Spared in this world not a one,
Danger from every corner can come.
Making sense strength to build,
Still even powerful kings were killed.
Bhakti for to the beyond going,
Helpful when Bhagavatam’s verses knowing.
Deity worship, in Mathura making home,
Serve devotee or even just chant alone.
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