“The root cause of devotional service to Lord Krishna is association with advanced devotees. Even when one’s dormant love for Krishna awakens, association with devotees is still most essential.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 22.83)
कृष्ण-भक्ति-जन्म-मूल हय ऽसाधु-सङ्गऽ
कृष्ण-प्रेम जन्मे, तेङ्हो पुनः मुख्य अङ्ग
kṛṣṇa-bhakti-janma-mūla haya ‘sādhu-saṅga’
kṛṣṇa-prema janme, teṅho punaḥ mukhya aṅga
Devotional service will make a person happy; happier than anything else can. There is no qualification to this claim. No hedge. No exception to the rule. It is a universal truth, for the principle is rooted in dharma, which is the essence of living.
There may be a variety of religious traditions practiced and adhered to around the world. Within a single country you might find a handful of popular faiths, with their respective deities, books held in high esteem, and important personalities who roamed the world and preached the truth.
Despite the variety, dharma is always one. For this reason, the closest equivalent to the term “religion” in the Vedic tradition is sanatana-dharma. The essential characteristic of the living being, who defines an existence at the local level and also together at the collective within a specific population, is without beginning and without end.
There was never a time when the living being took birth. We have the brief history in the current lifetime. This is the known ancestry, but man’s recollection is imperfect. We cannot go back infinitely in the past and know exactly where we were at a specific period of time. The same applies to moving forward, travelling into the future.
At every point in the timeline of existence, dharma is the same. My essential characteristic is identical to yours. Dharma cannot be removed, even by force. The tragic event of death caused by infiltration of attacking enemies is merely the destruction of the temporary body. The soul continues to live.
न जायते म्रियते वा कदाचिन्
नायं भूत्वा भविता वा न भूयः
अजो नित्यः शाश्वतो ऽयं पुराणो
न हन्यते हन्यमाने शरीरे
na jāyate mriyate vā kadācin
nāyaṁ bhūtvā bhavitā vā na bhūyaḥ
ajo nityaḥ śāśvato ‘yaṁ purāṇo
na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre
“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.20)
The dharma of the individual is to serve. The ideal object of service is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is soul just like me, but of a different nature. I am individual, conditioned soul, jivatma. He is the Supreme Consciousness, distributed everywhere, though a single entity. He is Supersoul, Paramatma.
On the occasion of Vyasa Puja, we honor the appearance in this world of the supreme spiritual guide, the guru. He is the representative of Vyasadeva, and he reawakens my dormant consciousness through both instruction and example. I was otherwise wandering in the darkness, jumping from one temporary interest to another. I was suffering the entire time, though unaware through brief but frequent escapades in escape from the senses.
We learn that the root cause of devotional service is the association of saintly people. We need someone to show us the way. We cannot discover the miracle of the universe and its creation through our own research effort. The breadth and volume of information is too much to consume, and there is not enough time within a single lifetime to gather all of the data, let alone come to a rational conclusion as to its meaning.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada essentially opens the entire universe to me. Without having to move an inch in the physical sense, I can travel to any place I wish. Using the mind, I behold the splendor of the Divine, whose potency cannot be accurately measured by instruments, adhokshaja.
The guru shows the way in an eternal engagement, where there is renewing optimism, opportunity, and bliss. He explains that the meaning of an existence is to be aligned with dharma, to serve God and to always think of Him. He uses the authority of Bhagavad-gita as support.
मन्-मना भव मद्-भक्तो
मद्-याजी मां नमस्कुरु
माम् एवैष्यसि युक्त्वैवम्
man-manā bhava mad-bhakto
mad-yājī māṁ namaskuru
mām evaiṣyasi yuktvaivam
“Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, offer obeisances and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.34)
There is no way to properly repay the favor except to continue in devotion, to attempt to be a small example to others, in the hopes that they will also find eternal happiness. The goal is not to strive to increase the numbers in the flock, to convert a certain number of people to a new religion, or to boast over the successful propagation of a timeless tradition.
क्षिप्रं भवति धर्मात्मा
न मे भक्तः प्रणश्यति
kṣipraṁ bhavati dharmātmā
na me bhaktaḥ praṇaśyati
“He quickly becomes righteous and attains lasting peace. O son of Kunti, declare it boldly that My devotee never perishes.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.31)
The focus is on glorifying God and taking pleasure in seeing others happily engaged in the same service, which will do the best for them. The guru may not be universally popular during their time in the preaching world. They may face tremendous difficulties and obstacles along the way, but with Bhagavan as support there is never destruction in the link.
What better can one give?
Than with happiness to live.
Where the whole world opened for me,
Connection to Divine always to see.
The guru my fortunes to save,
Pathway to liberation gave.
Honoring the next and this day,
Possible never properly to repay.