A Hare Krishna Devotee who is a skilled flute player recently visited our community here in alachua, florida, uSa. after he’d left, I heard that when he was first learning to play the instrument, his teacher insisted that he play the same note for a full year. before he moved on to other aspects of flute playing, his teacher wanted him to master tone.

To achieve mastery in any field requires dedication and commitment. One especially has to master the basics, setting up a solid foundation upon which to build. achieving mastery in Krishna consciousness is no exception. The guru, or spiritual master, is qualified to accept disciples by dint of having mastered the subject of Krishna consciousness, in both theory and practice. To rise to that level, one has to build from a solid base.

just what does a solid base in Krishna consciousness entail? I suggest that it requires understanding that the heart of Krishna consciousness is service.

Srila Prabhupada used the terms Krishna consciousness and devotional service synonymously because devotional service is the essence of Krishna consciousness. being conscious of Krishna is not the full picture. even Kamsa, who wanted to kill Krishna, was always conscious of Him. More is required. It’s essential to understand right from the beginning that Krishna consciousness means service, specifically devotional service, or service in love.

I could also say, more simply perhaps, that the essence of Krishna consciousness is to love Krishna. but, as Srila Prabhupada repeatedly stressed, love implies service. There’s no Krishna consciousness without service to Krishna and His devotees. aspiring devotees need to grasp this point from the beginning and hold on to it. We can easily get sidetracked by secondary aspects of the Krishna conscious culture. for example, lots of enjoyable things are part of the Krishna conscious way of life, but we have to carefully remember that the essence is service.

How do we nurture an appreciation for the primacy of service? Mainly by hearing. The quality of our hearing is revealed by the quality of our service. faithful hearing from Srila Prabhupada and his dedicated followers inspires us to serve Krishna.

To master a musical instrument, hearing a master musician play is essential. The flute player trying to get the tone right must first hear it from a teacher who has mastered it. When we hear from Srila Prabhupada and other pure devotees, we hear the perfect tone of devotional service. We might also call that “mood.” Prabhupada’s followers often speak of his particular mood of service. He taught by word and example that Krishna consciousness means selfless service to our spiritual superiors: God and His pure servants.

In Srimad-Bhagavatam Prahlada Maharaja lists nine kinds of devotional service, or bhakti, beginning with hearing about Krishna and chanting His holy names. not only are these bhakti practices service in themselves, but they inspire us to want more service. It’s important for us to remember, for example, that while performing the bhakti practice of chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, we are begging radha-Krishna for nothing else but the privilege to serve Them.

fortunately, even if our bhakti foundation is weak, we can still strengthen it. We may tend to forget the essence of Krishna consciousness, but Srila Prabhupada left us everything we need to remember it again.