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Pitfalls of Vaishnav Seva

His Divine Grace Om Vishnupad
Srila Bhakti Nirmal Acharya Maharaj
Translated from Bengali
9 December 2018, Tarakeshwar, part 9


When someone gives me a garland, sometimes I think it is so heavy—but as soon as I take shelter of Gurudev, "Gurudev, I am offering this garland at your lotus feet," I feel light again. Then there is no pratistha. If someone gives you a garland, remember Gurudev. "O Gurudev, I am offering this garland at your lotus feet." If you indulge your ego and run behind pratistha, then you will become very heavy and your boat will sink. People easily become proud of their money, education, knowledge, beauty, house, etc. Watch out—do not indulge your ego and become heavy.

If someone comes to your house to chant kirtan or speak Hari-katha, be careful that you do not become proud, "Oh, I have brought Gurudev to this house!", "Oh, I have served Gurudev!" Always think about the Lord, always think, "O Lord, I have not been able to do any service to Gurudev! I have not been able to do any service to the Vaishnavs!" Such mood must come to you. "Oh, I have neglected those who are in this house. Can I serve devotees? How do I know how to serve Vaishnavs? How do I know how to serve Gurudev? How do I know how to serve Krishna? O Lord, I must have done some wrong, please be merciful, forgive me." It is necessary to have such humility, such mood.

If you bring Vaishnavs to your house to give people chance to hear Hari-katha, then you will get good result—you will eventually reach the Lord, but if you become proud of yourself or some pratistha comes to you, then you will be in danger. "Danger" means the service of the Lord will go away from you. Always remember this. Always be careful that such things do not come to your heart.

দৈন্য, দয়া, অন্যে মান, প্রতিষ্ঠা বর্জ্জন ।
চারিগুণে গুণী হই করহ কীর্ত্তন ॥

dainya, daya anye mana, pratistha-varjana
chari gune guni hai karaha kirtana

Humility, compassion, honouring others, and giving up prestige—become qualified with these four qualities and chant the Name.

(Sri Siksastakam Giti)

Dainya: we must be humble. Jive daya (kindness to the souls) means we spend months going place to place, meeting people, inviting them to festivals and parikramas, giving them chance to hear kirtan and Hari-katha. If some devotees come to you and you can serve them—if you can take care of them making sure they do not experience any difficulty—that will be your Vaishnav seva.

You have probably heard how Sanatan Goswami arranged Vaishnav seva. One day, he told Rupa Goswami, "Rupa, I am going to arrange some prasadam for everyone. Please invite all Vaishnavs who stay here in Govardhan and make sure you invite every single Vaishnav and that no one is left out." Then, Rupa Goswami walked all around Govardhan and approached every single Vaishnav with the invitation.

On the day of the Vaishnav seva, when everyone was taking prasad, Sanatan Goswami asked Rupa Goswami, "Look carefully and tell me whether everyone who you have invited has come. Look carefully and see if there is anyone who is left out." Having looked around, Rupa Goswami said, "Prabhu, there is a Vaishnav who stays at Govinda Kunda, he has a little different gait—he fell down once and has been walking in a little crooked way since then. This Vaishnav has not come." Sanatan Goswami was very upset, "Oh, surely I must have committed some offence at his holy feet. He must have got angry and did not come... I must go see him."

When all the Vaishnavs had taken prasad and had been given pranami (donation), Sanatan Goswami went with Rupa Goswami to the kutir of the Vaishnav who had not come. Sanatan Goswami paid dandavat to him and asked,

"Prabhu, Rupa Goswami invited you, but you have not come today. I must have made some offence at your holy feet. Please forgive my offence. I must have made some offence—"

"Yes, you have!"

"If I have, please forgive me... Can I tell me what offence I have made? I do not understand when I could make an offence to you."

"Do you remember last rasa purnima day? You were doing Govardhan parikrama early in the morning. I went to Govinda Kunda that day, and when you were coming to Govinda Kunda to pay obeisance here, I was going back to my kutir. When you saw me limping past, you burst out laughing! Do you remember that rasa purnima day?"

"Yes, I do... I remember I was walking here that day and started to laugh so much, but Prabhu, I was not laughing because I had seen you. I was doing the parikrama of Govardhan, chanting Radha-Krishna's Name, and when I looked up, I suddenly got the darshan of Radha-Krishna's antaranga-lila (internal pastimes). Seeing the pastimes of Krishna and Radharani, I laughed myself to tears!"

"Oh, so you were not laughing at me... You saw the pastimes of Radha-Krishna at that time? God, I have made a mistake!"

"Prabhu, it is OK, you thought I was laughing at you. Please come with me. I have actually come here to bring you to my place. Come with me, I want to feed you."

They went to Sanatan Goswami's place where Sanatan Goswami fed him and gave him pranami. Then, he said, "Prabhu, please forgive my offence," but the Vaishnav said, "No, Prabhu, I have made a mistake. You please forgive me."

This is Vaishnav seva.

You have also probably heard how Draupadi offended one cobbler when she was doing Vaishnav seva. She had cooked very nice preparations, but when the cobbler came to take prasad, he mixed everything together and took it. Seeing it, Draupadi thought, "I have cooked everything so nicely, but he did not even bother to taste anything—he mixed everything and ate it like that!" She felt proud of her cooking, but the truth is that you do not cook anything—Radharani cooks. When you cook for the Lord, you must think, "I am not cooking, Radharani cooks for Govinda"—Radharani cooks with your hands. And if you think, "I am cooking," then Krishna may not eat it. You may have heard the popular phrase, "Ami yar hate khai, tar hate khai, yar tar hate khai na (আমি যার হাতে খাই, তার হাতে খাই, যার তার হাতে খাই না)." Krishna says that He does not take food from anyone and everyone—He eats from the hand of those whose hand He wishes to eat from. So, if you get proud, "I am cooking! Krishna eats my cooking!" this is ego, this is pratistha.

কনক-কামিনী প্রতিষ্ঠা-বাঘিনী
ছাড়িয়াছে যারে সেই ত বৈষ্ণব

kanaka-kamini, pratistha-baghini,
chhadiyachhe yare sei ta vaisnava

"Those who have given up money, women, and fame, are the true Vaishnavs."

(Vaishnav Ke? 11)

Pratistha is like a tigress (baghini). Who can become a Vaishnav? Those who can give up money, who can give up women (men), and those who can give up name and fame. At the same time, we must remember that "Vaisnavi pratistha, tate koro nistha (বৈষ্ণবী প্রতিষ্ঠা তাতে কর নিষ্ঠা): you must firmly establish yourself as a servant of the Lord." This kind of 'Vaishnav pratistha' must be there.

When we go down the street, a thousands of people crowd and walk behind us, everyone pays obeisance to us, they chant kirtan with us, etc. Someone can see it and become jealous, but this is an offence. Vaishnavs actually do not wish for all this. Their disciples give them 'jay', chant kirtan for them, garland them, but it is necessary to be firm (nista) amidst all this. You can say, "Oh, this sadhu says we must not think about money, but he has a big expensive car! He goes by plane, he drives his car everywhere!" but we actually do not have anything—all this is the Lord's property. He has given this for His service, and we only use it for His service. Even when we get into the car, when we start the car, we offer obeisance to Gurudev. We use the car for Gurudev's service. We do not claim anything—we do not buy anything for ourselves, everything is for the Lord. When devotees give something for service, we use it for the service of the devotees.


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