“In summary, to reach the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the highest goal, there are two processes: one process is by gradual development, and the other process is direct. Devotional service in Krishna consciousness is the direct method, and the other method involves renouncing the fruits of one’s activities.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 12.12 Purport)
“Let’s say that a person is firmly situated in the devotional life. They agree that there is a central controller, Ishvara. They understand the subordinate position of man, who is tossed this way and that by external forces. Earthquakes, hurricanes, a swarm of locusts, internal disease, government harassment – the miseries are endless.
“At the same time, this person is unsure about how to behave on a daily basis. They wonder if devotion is enough. They acknowledge the presence of God, but how does that actually manifest? How do we decipher between someone who is devoted and someone who is not a believer?
“The two people might be engaged in the same type of work. Let’s say they travel to a farm on a daily basis. They both pick crops. They suffer the scorching heat of summer. They prepare in anticipation for the frost signaling winter.
“What is the difference in the two, really? Is faith everything? What about someone who decides to do good deeds? They claim that this is their way of serving God. They are helping their fellow man. Nothing can be of higher service than that.
“What is the perspective of the Vedic tradition? Specifically within the Vaishnava tradition, are answers readily available? Is there some text we can reference?”
It should be admitted that service arrived at through mental speculation can be fatally flawed. For instance, a parent decides to inject their child with new medical treatment. This was rushed to market, to deal with a supposed health emergency.
The child will actually be just fine if they end up with the disease being protected against. They will hardly notice that they have had the disease. Invasive testing might be required in the asymptomatic state. Therefore, the insistence on the injection is ridiculous.
The parent proceeds. Either they implicitly trust the corrupt health officials or they fail to see any downside. The problem is that there are negative consequences. The safety records show an increased risk of heart inflammation. Children have died in what is the largest clinical trial known to human history.
This service to another human being is actually the greatest disservice. How, then, can such work please the Almighty? How can the behavior align with godly principles? Is it praiseworthy to put children in needless danger, all because you mistakenly think you are serving them?
The highest principle of worship of God is to always think of Him. This is the explicit instruction from Bhagavad-gita. There is no ambiguity.
मय्येव मन आधत्स्व मयि बुद्धिं निवेशय ।
निवसिष्यसि मय्येव अत ऊर्ध्वं न संशय: ॥
mayy eva mana ādhatsva
mayi buddhiṁ niveśaya
nivasiṣyasi mayy eva
ata ūrdhvaṁ na saṁśayaḥ
“Just fix your mind upon Me, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and engage all your intelligence in Me. Thus you will live in Me always, without a doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 12.8)
The idea is to live with God in consciousness. Fortunately, the Supreme Lord understands that this is a difficult standard to reach. For those who are unable, there are other options.
They can follow the principles of yoga in a mechanical sort of way. Something like enrolling in an institution to learn a better way of living. Knowledge is another option, as is dedicated meditation.
The best option of all, subordinate to always thinking of Krishna, is to work without attachment to the results. Follow duty, but relinquish interest in the effects. Those fruits can be distributed in charity or set aside for other purposes. This would be the equivalent of serving man.
This is never the superior option, but it is a way to improve, to gradually rise to transcendence, which is the birthright of every living being. The best work of all is to please the Supreme Lord and bring others into His shelter. This can be done through explicit instruction or by leading a life of devotion, which gives a shining example for others to follow.
That doing good thinking,
But into disservice sinking.
Since ultimately harm to befall,
Mistakenly as welfare to call.
How God then to be pleased?
When creating more as diseased.
From Gita highest principle to know,
That always remembering so.