“There is no difference between the holy name of the Lord and the Lord Himself. As such, the holy name is as perfect as the Lord Himself in fullness, purity and eternity. The holy name is no material sound vibration, nor has it any material contamination.” (Padma Purana quoted from The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 13)
“Let me describe a certain situation to you. It applies to the workplace, but I wanted to see if there was an equivalent in spiritual life. I found it interesting enough, especially considering the manager’s point of view.
“You have an office. This is a small team consisting of several employees, who then report to a manager. There are regular meetings, wherein each person discusses what they have been working on and what they plan to accomplish moving forward.
“The purpose is certainly understandable. This keeps every person engaged. The manager has an idea of what everyone is doing and there is less of a chance of slacking. Also, if one person sees what another person is doing, there is the tendency to compare and contrast. Healthy competition is an easy way to boost productivity.
“Invariably, the manager will see that one employee is doing more than the others. They may be the most responsible one in the lot. They take on one task after another. They juggle many responsibilities at the same time. They are not flustered. They do not buckle under the pressure. They can even handle irrational criticism hurled their way from those who are inferior in terms of work ability.
“Then, there is another employee who does much less, except they don’t view it that way. They think that they are doing a lot for what their position calls. Their plate is full, so to speak. The manager must accommodate for both employees. They must be able to guide and help all kinds, in fact.
“Is there an equivalent in spiritual life? We know that certain people are capable of doing more. They accomplish so much, like Shri Hanuman leaping over the ocean, burning Lanka to the ground, and heroically searching for Sita Devi. Then another person might offer something basic, like living accommodations for a night, to Shri Rama in His travels to the forest.
“What is the viewpoint of the manager, in this case? Does the Supreme Lord value every employee? Is there a grading system in terms of output in devotional service?”
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains that the sweeper in the temple is as much appreciated as the person seated on the vyasasana. One person performs a menial task. They clean the area on a regular basis. This does not require an advanced degree. Perhaps a little training, but it is not like such a skill is in high demand.
On the other side, the person in the renounced order of life, sannyasi, warrants respect wherever they go. As soon as they enter the temple grounds, the residents and guests hit the deck, in a manner of speaking. They descend to the floor and fall flat in front of the wandering ascetic. This is a form of respect, offering obeisance.
As highlighted above, not every person has the same level of ability. For this reason, there is no distinction in terms of the spiritual world. The person generally considered lower is as much loved and adored as the person speaking to thousands and instructing them on the ways of spiritual life.
At the same time, one tactic a manager might employ is to ask one of the people on their team to strive for higher goals. If they claim that their plate is already full, make the plate bigger. This certainly correlates to spiritual life, as one of the tools especially useful in the modern day is the chanting of the holy names.
The acharyas recommend repeating a certain mantra relating to the Supreme Lord. Chant the mantra for a certain number of rounds each day. This builds what is called “numerical strength.” The exact number is not very meaningful in the larger picture; though there is a connection to the honor and respect shown to the spiritual master, who is the one providing the mantra. The guru gives the seed of the creeper of bhakti life.
It is not possible to bust down the doors of the spiritual world and force your way in. It is not that after repeating a mantra a specific number of times I automatically qualify for entry. If I say the name of the Lord a single time in a pure way, that is enough to achieve liberation.
The numerical strength is a way to stay on the path, to not lose focus, to not get distracted by all that the life in illusion has to offer. The more strength we have, the more protected we are; both by the Supreme Lord and those in the chain of disciplic succession.
If possible, if I can make my plate bigger, if I can handle additional responsibility, if I can find more ways to stay connected to the all-attractive one, then I am better off for it: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
The travelling sannyasi came,
To temple’s sweeper the same.
Since Supreme Lord judgment making,
Account of level of ability taking.
But not excuse for suppression still,
More items on plate to fill.
So that always in devotion to stay,
And not with dangerous maya to play.