WHEN SRILA PRABHUPADA defined pure Krsna consciousness, he followed Srila Rupa Gosvami's definition. Rupa Gosvami said that for devotional service to be pure, it has to be performed only for Krsna's pleasure. And in order for us to become pure devotees, we have to perform it without interruption.
That sounds good for those who live in temples, but what about those who have to go to work in the world? Can they turn their work into pure devotion?
Srila Prabhupada was unequivocal in his assertions that material activity will always become a source of trouble. To him the facts were obvious: drink poison and you'll die, stick your hand in fire and you'll get burned, work with an aim to enjoy the results and you'll get stuck with the karmic reactions. To some, that may sound like a small thing, but doing anything in this world is like throwing a pebble into a pond: The splash spreads into ripples. One act in this world spreads out into ripples, and who can know all the big and small effects caused by our one little attempt to enjoy ourselves? Therefore, theSrimad-Bhagavatam states, "What, then, is the use of fruitive activities, which are naturally painful from the very beginning and transient by nature, if they are not utilized for the devotional service of Lord?"
Although there are thousands of occupations one can take up in this world, there are actually only two categories of work: work done to gain a material result, and work done as sacrifice. Work done for a material result is entangling. We all have to work to live, and all work, we hope, brings a material result a paycheck or some tangible benefit by which we can maintain ourselves. The problem comes when we claim proprietorship over the result and then try to enjoy it. If the material result is our only goal, we will naturally find ourselves tightly bound to the unlucky and unfulfilling prospect of moving quickly through a life with only death, disease, and old age as landmarks.
Therefore, Krsna has some other advice. He asserts that He is the actual proprietor of everything in this world, and as such, He is the rightful enjoyer. By taking the fruits of our work and offering them to Him, not only will we feel the natural happiness that comes from serving Krsna, but we will be able to avoid the pain that comes from attachment to material things, especially when we are to be separated from them by death.
Krsna states in the Bhagavad-gita that work should be performed as a sacrifice to Him, the original Visnu. That is, that the results of all work should be offered to Him for His pleasure. If we claim the results to satisfy our own senses, those results will "become an acute source of trouble."
Okay, but how exactly do we go about offering the fruit of our work to Krsna? It's not so hard. We can give money. That's obvious. We can also engage our talents in His service. We should do something tangible to purify the work of selfish attachment. Work becomes purified when the fruits go to the supreme enjoyer (bhoktaram yajna-tapasam). Giving the fruits is the act of sacrifice we perform to attain purification.
Sacrifice means more, however, than giving money, and pure devotion means more than tithing. The word "sacrifice" implies that we are giving up something dear. Although money and time are certainly dear to us, the more dear item we possess is our affection. If we want our sacrifice to enter into the realm of devotion, our sacrifice must be performed with love. Ultimately, Krsna doesn't need our fruits; He wants our devotion. Tagging part of your paycheck "For Krsna" is certainly nice, but without the affection to sweeten the offering, it is like a flower without scent.
The essence of an offering is devotion. A devotee will sacrifice everything to Krsna. Krsna asks us to offer our food to Him, even though He is not hungry. He asks for our money even though He is not poor. He asks us to use our talents in His service even though He is the source of those talents. What He is looking for is not the fruits but the love we express through the offering.
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.