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In his Shri Upadeshamrita, Shrila Rupa Gosvami has described atyahara, prayasa, prajalpa, niyamagraha, jana-sanga, and laulya as detrimental to devotional service. We have already separately described these six items. Now, in the third shloka he mentions the six items favorable for devotional service:
utsahan nishcayad dhairyat tat-tat-karma-pravartanat
sanga-tyagat sato vritteh shadbhir bhaktih prasidhyati
“There are six principles favorable to the execution of pure devotional service: (1) utsaha, being enthusiastic; (2) nishcaya, endeavoring with confidence; (3) dhairya, being patient; (4) tat-tat-karma-pravartana, acting according to regulative principles [such as shravanam kirtanam vishnoh smaranam—hearing, chanting and remembering Krishna]; (5) sanga-tyaga, abandoning the association of nondevotees; and (6) sato vritteh, or sadhu-vritti, following in the footsteps of the previous acaryas. These six principles undoubtedly assure the complete success of pure devotional service.”
Now we should discuss these six items separately. Therefore first I am speaking about the conclusions regarding utsaha.
Without utsaha, one becomes negligent in his worship. Negligence is born out of inactivity, apathy, or indifference. Laziness and inertia are called inactivity. When utsaha is generated, laziness and inertia cannot remain. The absence of desire to work is inertia. This inertia is opposite to the nature of spirit. If one allows this inertia to remain in his body or heart, then how can he perform devotional service? The state of apathy develops from carelessness. One should practice devotional service without deviation. This is instructed in the Bhagavad-gita (6.23) in the following words:
tam vidyad duhkha-samyoga- viyogam yoga-samjnitam
sa nishcayena yoktavyo yogo 'nirvinna-cetasa
“This indeed is actual freedom from all miseries arising from material contact. One should engage oneself in the practice of yoga with determination and faith and not be deviated from the path.” In his commentary on this verse, Shrila Baladeva Vidyabhushana Mahashaya has said: atmanya yogyatva-mananam nirvedas tad rahitena cetasa—“one becomes indifferent to whatever work he feels unqualified for.” Devotional service should be performed in this mentality. Regarding bhakti-yoga, it is said in the Shrimad Bhagavatam (11.20.7-8):
nirvinnanam jnana-yogo nyasinam iha karmasu
teshv anirvinëa-cittanam karma-yogas tu kaminam
yadricchaya mat-kathadau jata-shraddhas tu yah puman
na nirviëëo nati-sakto bhakti-yogo 'sya siddhi-dah
“Among these three paths, jnana-yoga, the path of philosophical speculation, is recommended for those who are disgusted with material life and are thus detached from ordinary, fruitive activities. Those who are not disgusted with material life, having many desires yet to fulfill, should seek perfection through the path of karma-yoga. If somehow or other by good fortune one develops faith in hearing and chanting My glories, such a person, being neither very disgusted with nor attached to material life, should achieve perfection through the path of bhakti-yoga.” The purport is this: For those who have attained indifference for material activities but have not yet realized spiritual activities, what can remain in their hearts besides indifference? For them the undifferentiated brahma-jnana is the topmost achievement. For those who have not attained indifference for material activities due to lack of spiritual realization, there is no way to cleanse the heart other than karma-yoga. Those who have realized spiritual activities and understood that material activities are insignificant attain indifference for all material activities. They accept some material activities as a support for their spiritual awakening, but they have no attachment for such activities. In proportion to the degree that they discuss spiritual topics in devotion, freedom from material association is awakened as an extraneous fruit. The symptoms of a devotee are given in Shrimad Bhagavatam (11.20.27-8) as follows:
jata-shraddho mat-kathasu nirviëëah sarva-karmasu
veda duhkhatmakam kaman parityage 'py anishvarah
tato bhajeta mam pritah shraddhalur dridha-nishcayah
jushamaëash ca tan kaman duhkhodarkamsh ca garhayan
“Having awakened faith in the narrations of My glories, being disgusted with all material activities, knowing that all sense gratification leads to misery, but still being unable to renounce all sense enjoyment, My devotee should remain happy and worship Me with great faith and conviction. Even though he is sometimes engaged in sense enjoyment, My devotee knows that all sense gratification leads to a miserable result, and he sincerely repents such activities.” Karma arises from lust, jnana arises from indifference, and bhakti arises from faith in the Supreme Lord. The person who has attained faith is naturally disgusted with material activities. He accepts without attachment only those activities that are favorable for increasing his faith in the Lord. Without the material body one cannot cultivate devotional service. So there is no benefit if one renounces the activities that are needed to maintain the physical body, thinking them to be the source of misery and lust. The fruits of those activities, which are the source of misery for others, are therefore enjoyed by the devotees, who condemn them as insignificant. They worship Krishëa with devotion and firm faith while enjoying the fruits of their work as they fulfill the necessities of life. Those who enjoy the results of material activities with ardent affection are called attached. Those who neglect the results of karma, but accept only what is favorable to devotional service are called unattached. Although they are unattached to material activity, they work enthusiastically in devotional life. The process of advancement for the practitioner of devotional service is stated in the Shrimad Bhagavatam (11.20.29-30, 35) as follows:
proktena bhakti-yogena bhajato masakrin muneh
kama hridayya nashyanti sarve mayi hridi sthite
bhidyate hridaya-granthish chidyante sarva-samshayah
kshiyante casya karmaëi mayi drishte 'khilatmani
nairapekshyam param prahur nihshreyasam analpakam
tasman nirashisho bhaktir nirapekshasya me bhavet
“When an intelligent person engages constantly in worshiping Me through loving devotional service as described by Me, his heart becomes firmly situated in Me. Thus all material desires within the heart are destroyed. The knot in the heart is pierced, all misgivings are cut to pieces, and the chain of fruitive actions is terminated when I am seen as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is said that complete detachment is the highest stage of freedom. Therefore, one who has no personal desire and does not pursue personal rewards can achieve loving devotional service unto Me.” The purport is this: It is useless trying independently to destroy ignorance and lust in the heart. But ignorance, lust, fruitive activities, all doubts, and material bondage are destroyed by the mercy of the Lord in the course of cultivating devotional service. The endeavor of karmis and jnanis does not yield such results. Therefore when one becomes neutral by giving up other desires and hopes, he attains pure devotional service to Krishëa.
We should not lose enthusiasm because we have no strength to destroy the reactions of karma. In the very beginning of devotional service the sadhaka must have faith with full enthusiasm. One pure Vaishëava acarya has written that the process of bhajana-kriya, devotional practice, is of two types—nishthita, fixed, and anishthita, flickering. With faith, one should learn devotional service under the merciful direction of a sadhu; and when he attains the stage of firm faith, he engages in nishthita, fixed, devotional service. Until he attains this fixed devotional service, his service remains flickering. In this stage of devotional service there are six symptoms: utsaha-mayi, false confidence; ghana-tarala, sporadic endeavor; vyudha-vikalpa, indecision; vishaya-sangara, struggle with the senses; niyamakshama, inability to uphold vows; and taranga-rangiëi, enjoying the facilities offered by bhakti.
In Shri Hari-bhakti-vilasa carelessness is counted among the offenses against the holy name. In that scripture the word pramada is described as inattentiveness. Shri Hari-nama-cintamaëi has further divided this inattentiveness in three ways—apathy, inactivity, and distraction. Until one gets free from these three types of inattentiveness, one cannot perform devotional service at all. Even if one gives up all other namaparadhas, if he remains inattentive, he can never have attraction for the holy names. If one has enthusiasm in the beginning of devotional service, and that enthusiasm does not become cold, then one will never become apathetic, lazy, or distracted in chanting the holy names. Therefore enthusiasm is the only support for all types of devotional service. By enthusiastically performing devotional service one can very quickly give up anishthita service and attain nishtha. Therefore Shrila Rupa Gosvami has said:
adau shraddha tatah sadhu- sango 'tha bhajana-kriya
tato 'nartha-nivrittih syat tato nishtha rucis tatah
By the awakening of faith, one becomes eligible for devotional service. When this eligiblity is attained, one achieves the association of devotees. By the association of devotees, one is engaged in the execution of devotional service. In the beginning there is no nishtha, or firm faith, in that service because various types of anarthas keep crushing the heart. All anarthas are vanquished, however, by performing devotional service with enthusiasm. The more anarthas are vanquished, the more nishtha is awakened.
The word shraddha certainly means faith, but enthusiasm is the life of shraddha. Faith without enthusiasm is meaningless. Many people think they have faith in God, but because they have no enthusiasm, their faith has no meaning. Therefore, due to lack of sadhu-sanga, they do not perform devotional service.