WHAT THE Bhagavatam defines as religion far surpasses what most people think of as religion today. According to the Bhagavatam, religion means bhakti, pure devotion. Pure devotion is the only process by which we can rediscover our lost relationship with Krsna. Ultimately, it is performed in full consciousness of our spiritual identity. Until we know who we are in relation to Krsna, we cannot actually serve Krsna with our very selves.
For now, however, we can practice at devotion. That practice will provide us the opportunity to express our earnestness and sincerity to attain Krsna. If we have to sweat to surrender, we'll also have to see our unworthiness. Bhakti is not cheap.
Pure devotional service is not cheap, because it is free of all selfish desire. Even knowledge for knowledge's sake has to be left behind. That's why the practice of pure devotion can uncover and awaken our true identity as eternal, spiritual, blissful servants of the Supreme. "This relation of servant and the served is the most congenial form of intimacy."
This is not vague sentiment. Measure it against any stated goal of religion. The Bhagavatam says, "By rendering devotional service unto the Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna, one immediately acquires causeless knowledge and detachment from the world." Attachment for the spiritual equals detachment from the material.
Lord Krsna awards pure devotional service through contact with His pure devotees. Pure devotion cannot be had through hard work or by renunciation, by detachment, or by any other means. Therefore, we call its attainment causeless.
Lord Krsna is present in everyone's heart. When He sees that we sincerely want to serve Him, He will give us the intelligence by which we can approach Him. All living beings serve Krsna either out of love or because they are forced to by the laws of material nature. There are two similar words in Sanskrit that point to this: sastra and sastra. Sastra refers to the scriptures, the directions for religious life. Those who are intelligent obey the scriptures and follow the Lord. Sastra means "weapon." Those who refuse to follow the Lord are forced to surrender by the power of His weapons.
Being forced by the laws of nature to serve Krsna is like being in prison. Just look at how all of nature serves Krsna's purpose in this world. The plants clean the air, the earthworms aerate the soil, and one living being provides food for another. This is service but not bhakti, because there is no choice.
We want to render favorable service to Krsna. Srila Prabhupada says, "It requires nothing more than sincerity." And just imagine the result: "Only those who render unreserved, uninterrupted, favorable service unto the lotus feet of the Lord, who carries the wheel of the chariot in His hand, can know the creator of the universe in His full glory, power and transcendence."
How do we do it? Our constitutional position is to take the holy name into our minds and onto our lips. We chant to establish ourselves as tiny servants of God. We chant because we have survived another night and want to live another day in devotional service. We chant because we will have to meet death. We chant because Lord Krsna, the original person, is identical with His name, and because He is all-attractive.
We have come out of darkness by Prabhupada's mercy. Prabhupada said that he was not invited to come to America but he came anyway. No one here asked him to present the Bhagavatam, but he did it anyway. No one here asked him for the holy name, but he gave it anyway. Reluctantly, slowly, we have taken it. Prabhupada planted seeds of pure devotion indiscriminately. On Lord Caitanya's order, He did not screen prospective candidates. Rather, he distributed his mercy unconditionally just as the moon shines in everyone's yard whether one is rich or poor.
What does Srila Prabhupada say about the best way to attain pure devotional service? "Whenever you find time you must find time … read all these books, or chant. But when you are hungry, take prasadam. When you are sleepy, take a snap [that is, a nap], not very much, just to refresh. And go on, either chanting on the beads, reading the books, or talking about Krsna. In this way always remain in Krsna consciousness. … Krsna consciousness means to remember Visnu always, twenty-four hours a day, some way or other. … Everything Krsna. This is Krsna consciousness." (Lecture, May 31, 1972)
Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami travels extensively to speak and write about Krsna consciousness. He is the author of many books, including a six-volume biography of Srila Prabhupada.