|Chapter 6: How to Discharge Devotional Service|
Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: Nectar of Devotion
These ten items are preliminary necessities for beginning the discharge of devotional service in regulative principles. In the beginning, if a neophyte devotee observes the above-mentioned ten principles, surely he will quickly make good advancement in Krishna consciousness.
The next set of instructions is listed as follows: (1) One should rigidly give up the company of nondevotees. (2) One should not instruct a person who is not desirous of accepting devotional service. (3) One should not be very enthusiastic about constructing costly temples or monasteries. (4) One should not try to read too many books, nor should one develop the idea of earning his livelihood by lecturing on or professionally reciting Srimad-Bhagavatam or Bhagavad-gita. (5) One should not be neglectful in ordinary dealings. (6) One should not be under the spell of lamentation in loss or jubilation in gain. (7) One should not disrespect the demigods. (8) One should not give unnecessary trouble to any living entity. (9) One should carefully avoid the various offenses in chanting the holy name of the Lord or in worshiping the Deity in the temple. (10) One should be very intolerant toward the blasphemy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, or His devotees.
Without following the above-mentioned ten principles, one cannot properly elevate himself to the platform of sadhana-bhakti, or devotional service in practice. Altogether, Srila Rupa Gosvami mentions twenty items, and all of them are very important. Out of the twenty, the first three -- namely accepting the shelter of a bona fide spiritual master, taking initiation from him and serving him with respect and reverence -- are the most important.
The next important items are as follows: (1) One should decorate the body with tilaka, which is the sign of the Vaishnavas. (The idea is that as soon as a person sees these marks on the body of the Vaishnava, he will immediately remember Krishna. Lord Caitanya said that a Vaishnava is he who, when seen, reminds one of Krishna. Therefore, it is essential that a Vaishnava mark his body with tilaka to remind others of Krishna.) (2) In marking such tilaka, sometimes one may write Hare Krishna on the body. (3) One should accept flowers and garlands that have been offered to the Deity and the spiritual master and put them on one's body. (4) One should learn to dance before the Deity. (5) One should learn to bow down immediately upon seeing the Deity or the spiritual master. (6) As soon as one visits a temple of Lord Krishna, one must stand up. (7) When the Deity is being borne for a stroll in the street, a devotee should immediately follow the procession. (In this connection it may be noted that in India, especially in Vishnu temples, the system is that apart from the big Deity who is permanently situated in the main area of the temple, there is a set of smaller Deities which are taken in procession in the evening. In some temples it is the custom to hold a big procession in the evening with a band playing and a nice big umbrella over the Deities, who sit on decorated thrones on the cart or palanquin, which is carried by devotees. The Deities come out onto the street and travel in the neighborhood while the people of the neighborhood come out to offer prasada. The residents of the neighborhood all follow the procession, so it is a very nice scene. When the Deity is coming out, the servitors in the temple put forward the daily accounts before Them: so much was the collection, so much was the expenditure. The whole idea is that the Deity is considered to be the proprietor of the whole establishment, and all the priests and other people taking care of the temple are considered to be the servants of the Deity. This system is very, very old and is still followed. So, therefore, it is mentioned here that when the Deity is on stroll the people should follow behind.) (8) A devotee must visit a Vishnu temple at least once or twice every day, morning and evening. (In Vrindavana this system is followed very strictly. All the devotees in town go every morning and evening to visit different temples. Therefore during these times there are considerable crowds all over the city. There are about five thousand temples in Vrindavana city. Of course it is not possible to visit all the temples, but there are at least one dozen very big and important temples which were started by the Gosvamis and which should be visited.) (9) One must circumambulate the temple building at least three times. (In every temple there is an arrangement to go around the temple at least three times. Some devotees go around more than three times -- ten times, fifteen times -- according to their vows. The Gosvamis used to circumambulate Govardhana Hill.) One should also circumambulate the whole Vrindavana area. (10) One must worship the Deity in the temple according to the regulative principles. (Offering arati and prasada, decorating the Deity, etc. -- these things must be observed regularly.) (11) One must render personal service to the Deities. (12) One must sing. (13) One must perform sankirtana. (14) One must chant. (15) One must offer prayers. (16) One must recite notable prayers. (17) One must taste maha-prasada (food from the very plate offered before the Deities). (18) One must drink caranamrita (water from the bathing of the Deities, which is offered to guests). (19) One must smell the incense and flowers offered to the Deity. (20) One must touch the lotus feet of the Deity. (21) One must see the Deity with great devotion. (22) One must offer arati (aratrika) at different times. (23) One must hear about the Lord and His pastimes from Srimad-Bhagavatam, Bhagavad-gita and similar books. (24) One must pray to the Deity for His mercy. (25) One should remember the Deity. (26) One should meditate upon the Deity. (27) One should render some voluntary service. (28) One should think of the Lord as one's friend. (29) One should offer everything to the Lord. (30) One should offer a favorite article (such as food or a garment). (31) One should take all kinds of risks and perform all endeavors for Krishna's benefit. (32) In every condition, one should be a surrendered soul. (33) One should pour water on the tulasi tree. (34) One should regularly hear Srimad-Bhagavatam and similar literature. (35) One should live in a sacred place like Mathura, Vrindavana or Dvaraka. (36) One should offer service to Vaishnavas (devotees). (37) One should arrange one's devotional service according to one's means. (38) In the month of Karttika (October and November), one should make arrangements for special services. (39) During Janmashtami (the time of Krishna's appearance in this world) one should observe a special service. (40) One should do whatever is done with great care and devotion for the Deity. (41) One should relish the pleasure of Bhagavatam reading among devotees and not among outsiders. (42) One should associate with devotees who are considered more advanced. (43) One should chant the holy name of the Lord. (44) One should live in the jurisdiction of Mathura.
Now, the total regulative principles come to an aggregate of sixty-four items. As we have mentioned, the first are the primary ten regulative principles. Then come the secondary ten regulative principles, and added to these are forty-four other activities. So all together there are sixty-four items for discharging the regulative practice of devotional service. Out of these sixty-four items, five items -- namely worshiping the Deity, hearing Srimad-Bhagavatam, associating among the devotees, sankirtana, and living in Mathura -- are very important.
The sixty-four items of devotional service should include all of our activities of body, mind and speech. As stated in the beginning, the regulative principle of devotional service enjoins that all of our senses must be employed in the service of the Lord. Exactly how they can be thus employed is described in the above sixty-four items. Now, Srila Rupa Gosvami will give evidence from different scriptures supporting the authenticity of many of these points.
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His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness