Why The Emphasis On Service

[Krishna's lotus feet]“Generally, people are convinced of the impersonal feature of the Absolute Truth. Because they do not associate with devotees, they cannot understand that the Absolute Truth can be a person and have personal activities. This is a very difficult subject matter, and unless one has personal understanding of the Absolute Truth, there is no meaning to devotion. Service or devotion cannot be offered to anything impersonal. Service must be offered to a person.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.25.25 Purport)

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“Everything I hear from the bhakti side is about service. The acharyas translate bhagavata-dharma and bhakti-yoga as ‘devotional service.’ They sometimes do the same for karma-yoga, which I have a difficult time understanding.

“I guess karma-yoga is similar to bhakti-yoga, but with explicit work. It is like going to the office each day, as a person engaged in karma, except the ultimate purpose is yoga. You are giving up the results of your work in a sacrifice, yajna.

“Regardless of the specifics, we hear about service. That is the common theme. There are some similarities to religious traditions outside of the Vedas. If you read the first Thanksgiving Proclamation in the United States, George Washington talks about dedicating that day to service to the Almighty.

“It makes sense to me, but what if someone doesn’t want to serve? What is the big deal in offering something to someone else? Why not simply appreciate the singular energy flowing through the universe?

“Isn’t that what scientists do? They marvel at the creation. They may not attribute everything to a single, intelligent source, but there is appreciation all the same. Is it not true? Why the focus on service and personalism?”

With every recommendation flowing from the river of Vedic culture, which has its origins in the spiritual world, the ultimate objective is to make the affected individual happy. Not in the ordinary way, where sukha and duhkha fluctuate as if on opposite ends of a pendulum. That kind of happiness and distress take place automatically, without additional effort.

मात्रा-स्पर्शास् तु कौन्तेय
आगमापायिनो ऽनित्यास्
तांस् तितिक्षस्व भारत

mātrā-sparśās tu kaunteya
āgamāpāyino ‘nityās
tāṁs titikṣasva bhārata

“O son of Kunti, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.14)

[seasons]There is a transcendental kind of happiness, often described as ananda. This is the soul’s natural state: ananda-mayo ‘bhyasat. Only in the conditioned state do we experience the dualities of attraction and aversion. These dualities are essentially forced upon us from the time of birth.

इच्छाद्वेषसमुत्थेन द्वन्द्वमोहेन भारत।
सर्वभूतानि संमोहं सर्गे यान्ति परन्तप।।

icchādveṣasamutthena dvandvamohena bhārata।
sarvabhūtāni saṃmohaṃ sarge yānti parantapa।।

“O scion of Bharata [Arjuna], O conquerer of the foe, all living entities are born into delusion, overcome by the dualities of desire and hate.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.27)

As the recommendations from the Vedas merge into the singular purpose of ananda, this corresponds with the inherent state of being of the individual. Hence the corresponding term dharma. Following dharma is for reaching the constitutional position.

Therefore, if the acharya and the shastra they reference emphasize service to a personal God, it should be understood that this aligns with the constitutional position of the living being. Aversion to service indicates a diseased condition.

In essence, something is not right. The original tendency, dharma, gets reflected in an improper way. Dharma turns into adharma, and adharma is the root of all troubles and miseries. The effect of adharma spans multiple lifetimes.

If we think that God is impersonal, that there is only this nameless and attribute-less source running through the creation, then it is impossible to offer service. As the original dharma remains at the foundation, there will be some kind of service offered in its place.

In that alternative, I will serve my senses. Following that direction, I can become overwhelmed by the sense urges. This is known as ajitendriyah, which is a description the goddess of fortune once affixed to the king of ogres in Lanka, the ten-headed Rakshasa known as Ravana.

अवश्यं विनशिष्यन्ति सर्वे रावण राक्षसाः|
येषां त्वं कर्कशो राजा दुर्बुद्धिरजितेन्द्रियः||

avaśyaṃ vinaśiṣyanti sarve rāvaṇa rākṣasāḥ|
yeṣāṃ tvaṃ karkaśo rājā durbuddhirajitendriyaḥ||

“O Ravana, inevitably all of the Rakshasas will be completely destroyed, for they have a person like you, who is stupid, lustful, and unable to control his senses, for their king.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 48.22)

For these reasons and more, it is important to associate with those who understand the personal side to the Divine. Within such association, there is the opportunity to relish a higher taste. This is a transcendental experience, aligning with the dharma of the individual, and also incorporating a full and proper understanding of the source of everything.

As Shrimad Bhagavatam explains, within such association the hearing of transcendental topics becomes blissful. It ignites a spark to service, to take action in pleasing the one from whom everything has come. The source material should be heard within such association; otherwise the meanings will be lost.

In Closing:

On service emphasis placed,
Otherwise ananda erased.

And interest on senses instead,
And to further rebirth led.

Willingness already there,
But when of dharma aware.

Then to the Supreme properly directed,
To liberation life connected.

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1 reply

  1. Radhe Radhe ❤️ oshriRadhekrishnaBole ❤️ Hare Ram Hare Ram Ram Ram Hare Hare Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
    Jay Jay Shree Siya Ram

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