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Serving the Spiritual Master

In Hari-bhakti-vilasa, Sanatana Gosvami has enumerated the basic principles of devotional service to be followed by the Vaisnavas. There are a total of sixty-four regulative principles. The first ten items, which are the primary regulative principles, are preliminary necessities for beginning the discharge of devotional service in regulative principle. If a neophyte devotee observes these principles from the beginning, he will quickly advance in Krsna consciousness.

Next are the ten secondary regulative principles, by which one can elevate himself to the platform of sadhana-bhakti, or devotional service in practice. These twenty are followed by an additional forty-four activities. Out of these sixty-four items for discharging the regulative practice of devotional service, five are considered the most important: worshiping the Deity, hearing Srimad-Bhagavatam, associating among the devotees, sankirtana, and living in Mathura.

Ten Primary Regulative Principles

  1. Accepting the shelter of the lotus feet of a bona fide spiritual master

  2. Becoming initiated by the spiritual master and learning how to discharge devotional service from him

  3. Obeying the orders of the spiritual master with faith and devotion

  4. Following in the footsteps of great acaryas (teachers) under the direction of the spiritual master

  5. Inquiring from the spiritual master how to advance in Krsna consciousness

  6. Being prepared to give up anything material for the satisfaction of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna (this means that when we are engaged in the devotional service of Krsna, we must be prepared to give up something which we may not like to give up, and also we have to accept something which we may not like to accept)

  7. Residing in a sacred place of pilgrimage like Dvaraka or Vrndavana

  8. Accepting only what is necessary, or dealing with the material world only as far as necessary

  9. Observing the fasting day on Ekadasi

  10. Worshiping sacred trees like the banyan tree

Ten Secondary Regulative Principles

  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, Krsna, or His devotees.

Forty-four Other Activities

  1. One should decorate the body with tilaka, which is the sign of the Vaisnavas. (The idea is that as soon as a person sees these marks on the body of the Vaisnava, he will immediately remember Krsna.)

  2. In marking such tilaka, sometimes one may write Hare Krsna 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 Krsna, one must stand up.

  7. When the Deity is being borne for a stroll in the street, a devotee should immediately follow the procession.

  8. A devotee must visit a Visnu temple at least once or twice every day, morning and evening.

  9. One must circumambulate the temple building at least three times.

  10. One must worship the Deity in the temple according to the regulative principles. (Offering arati and prasada, decorating the Deity, etc.)

  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 caranamrta (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 Krsna'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, Vrndavana or Dvaraka.

  36. One should offer service to Vaisnavas (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 Janmastami (the time of Krsna'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.

Paraphrased from Nectar of Devotion, Text 6

Of the sixty-four items mentioned above, Lord Caitanya instructed that five are the most important due to the present conditions of civic life. They are as follows:

    1. "One should associate with the devotees. Association with devotees is made possible by hearing them attentively, by asking them relevant questions, by supplying them food and by accepting food from them, and by giving them charity and by accepting from them whatever they offer.

    2. One should chant the holy name of the Lord in all circumstances. The chanting of the Lord's name is an easy and inexpensive process of realization. One can chant any of the innumerable names of the Lord at any time. One should try to avoid offenses. There are ten offenses which one can commit while chanting the transcendental names, and these should be avoided as far as possible, but in any event, one should try to chant the holy names of the Lord at all times.

    3. One should hear the transcendental topics enunciated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. This hearing is made possible through platform lectures by bona fide devotees and by authorized translations of the Bhagavatam.

    4. One should make his home at Mathura, the birthplace of Lord Krsna. Or one may make his home as good as Mathura by installing the Deity of the Lord to be worshiped by all members of the family after proper initiation from the spiritual master.

    5. One should worship the installed Deity with attention and devotion so that the whole atmosphere of one's home becomes the replica of the Lord's abode. This is made possible by the direction of the spiritual master who knows the transcendental art and can show the candidate the proper method.

The above five items can be adopted by any man in any part of the world. Thus anyone can prepare himself for returning home, back to Godhead, by the simple method recognized by authorities such as Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who specifically advented Himself to deliver the fallen souls of this age.

....The above-mentioned five items of devotional activities are so spiritually powerful that their performance by a devotee, even in the preliminary stage, can very quickly promote the sincere executor to the stage of bhava (the stage just prior to love of Godhead), or emotion on the spiritual plane, which is transcendental to mental and intellectual functions. A complete absorption in bhava, or love of God, makes one fit to be transferred to the spiritual sky just after leaving the material tabernacle. The perfection of love of God by a devotee actually situates him on the spiritual platform, even though he may still maintain a gross material body. He becomes like a red-hot iron which, when in contact with fire, actually ceases to be iron and acts like fire. These things are made possible by the Lord's inscrutable and inconceivable energy, which material science has not the scope to calculate. One should therefore engage himself in devotional service with absolute faith, and to make his faith steadfast one should seek the association of the standard devotees of the Lord by personal association (if possible) or by thinking of them. This association will help one develop factual devotional service to the Lord, which will cause all material misgivings to disappear like a flash of lightning. All these different stages of spiritual realization will be personally felt by the candidate, and this will create in him a firm belief that he is making positive progress on the way to the spiritual sky. Then he will become sincerely attached to the Lord and His abode. Such is the gradual process of evolving love of God, which is the prime necessity for the human form of life."

Easy Journey to Other Planets, Text 1
Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada.

Associating With Devotees

Residing in a Sacred Place