When one engages in the nine different processes of bhakti-yoga enunciated in authoritative scriptures, such as hearing (śravaṇam), chanting (kīrtanam), remembering, worshiping, praying and offering personal service - either in one of them or two or three or all of them - he naturally has no opportunity to engage in the service of the three modes of material nature. Unless one has good engagements in spiritual service, it is not possible to become detached from material service. Those who are not devotees, therefore, are interested in so-called humanitarian or philanthropic work, such as opening a hospital or charitable institution. These are undoubtedly good works in the sense that they are pious activities, and the performer may get some opportunities for sense gratification, either in this life or in the next. Devotional service, however, is beyond the boundary of sense gratification. It is a completely spiritual activity. When one engages in the spiritual activities of devotional service, he does not engage in sense gratificatory activities. Kṛṣṇa conscious activities are performed not blindly but with the perfect understanding of knowledge and renunciation. This kind of yoga practice, in which the mind is always fixed upon the Supreme Personality of Godhead in devotion, results in liberation in this very life. The person who performs such acts gets in touch with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Lord Caitanya, therefore, approved the process of hearing from realized devotees about the pastimes of the Lord. It does not matter to what mundane category the audience belongs. If one meekly and submissively hears about the activities of the Lord from a realized soul, he will be able to conquer the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is unconquerable by any other process. Hearing and associating with devotees are the most important functions for self-realization.
In Goloka Vṛndāvana, the living entities are serving Kṛṣṇa as friends, cowherd boys, gopīs, lovers, fathers, mothers and so on. Even the trees, water, flowers, land, calves and cows serve Kṛṣṇa in Goloka Vṛndāvana. This is also our business, but somehow or other we do not like to serve Kṛṣṇa; therefore we have been put into the service of māyā, in the three modes of material nature. When a criminal does not like to obey the laws of the state, he is placed into prison and forced to abide by the laws. Our constitutional position is to render service to Kṛṣṇa as His part and parcel, and as soon as we refuse to render Him service, māyā is immediately there to capture us and say, "Serve me." It is not our nature to become master. Even if we become master, we will not be happy, because that is artificial. For instance, if the hand thinks, "Oh, now I have some nice sweets. Now I can eat," the hand will ultimately be frustrated. It is the duty and nature of the hand to place the food in the mouth. In this way the hand is nourished; otherwise everything is spoiled. Similarly, we are part and parcel of Kṛṣṇa, and our business is to satisfy Kṛṣṇa. From the Vedas we understand that God, who is one, has become many. We are the many parts and parcels of Kṛṣṇa. Svāṁśas are His personal expansions, and we are His differential expansions, vibhinnāṁśas. In any case, all expansions are meant to serve Kṛṣṇa. This is explained in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta (CC Adi 5.142): ekale īśvara kṛṣṇa, āra saba bhṛtya. "Lord Kṛṣṇa alone is the supreme controller, and all others are His servants."
It is our natural propensity to enjoy ourselves with Kṛṣṇa. As stated before, Kṛṣṇa is ānanda-maya, and, being part and parcel of Kṛṣṇa, we are also ānanda-maya. Now we are seeking ānanda (bliss) in different atmospheres. Because we have a little independence, we have decided to go to the prison house of material nature and try to serve our senses instead of Kṛṣṇa. Now we have to learn how to forget to serve this material nature, and that process is bhakti-mārga, the path of devotional service. When we come to the understanding that we are actually no one's servant but Kṛṣṇa's, we attain self-realization. We must come to this understanding not by sentiment but by real knowledge. After many births and deaths, when one realizes that vāsudevaḥ sarvam iti (BG 7.19) - Vāsudeva is all - he surrenders unto Kṛṣṇa. This is real knowledge - jñāna and vairāgya, knowledge and detachment from material things.
Once one engages fully in Kṛṣṇa's service, he comes to the brahma-bhūta (SB 4.30.20) platform. Presently we are on the māyā-bhūta platform, identifying ourselves with māyā and working according to the modes of material nature. However, when one comes to the realization that he is spirit (ahaṁ brahmāsmi), he will immediately become happy.
Under the modes of material nature, we are being carried away by the waves of material nature, and we have no control over where we are going. Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has stated: māyāra vaśe, yāccha bhese', khāccha hābuḍubu, bhāi. We are like straws on the waves of the ocean, and we are fully under the control of the waves. Atheists shudder when they think that there is a next life, because their lives are sinful and they fear punishment in the next. There is a Bengali proverb about a person who thought, "I have committed so many sinful acts that Yamarāja will come and punish me. How can I avoid him?" Thinking about this some time, he decided, "Let me smear my body with stool. Then Yamarāja will not touch me." However, this is simply foolishness. We are under the control of māyā, material nature, and it is not possible to avoid it. We have become infected by the disease of material nature, and no artificial means will save us. There is no way out other than surrender to Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa says that He will save us, even though we are very sinful.
If we turn our attention to Kṛṣṇa's service, to bhakti-yoga, we can force ourselves to give up all anarthas, unwanted things. We should get up early in the morning and engage ourselves in the service of Kṛṣṇa; then gradually we will forget the service of māyā. Bhakti-yoga is so strong that if we engage in it, māyā's service will automatically be negated. This is called vairāgya.
Kṛṣṇa is the original puruṣa, the original spirit, the original person. Everything has come from Kṛṣṇa, and therefore He is Purāṇa, the oldest. No one is older than Kṛṣṇa, but He is always young. That is Bhagavān. He is ādi, the original source, the cause of all causes. Yet we never see Kṛṣṇa as an old man. He is always fresh and youthful. Although Kṛṣṇa was a great-grandfather at the Battle of Kurukṣetra, He did not appear any older than a young man of twenty. Kṛṣṇa is always a young boy, and those living entities in the spiritual universe also have spiritual bodies the same as Kṛṣṇa's. In the Sixth Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam we read that when the Vaikuṇṭha-dūtas came to take Ajāmila, they were four-handed and very beautiful. In the spiritual world, there are four-handed living entities, and they are all nitya-mukta, eternally liberated.
Unfortunately, we are now prisoners in this material world, and we presently have material bodies. These bodies are changing. Sometimes they are young and sometimes old. However, if we become Kṛṣṇa conscious, we will not get another material body after leaving this body. We will go home, back to Godhead, and attain our original, spiritual body, which is the same kind of beautiful body that Kṛṣṇa, Nārāyaṇa, has. We should take this opportunity to become devotees of Kṛṣṇa by following the processes of bhakti-yoga-śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ smaraṇam (SB 7.5.23). pāda-sevanaṁ arcanam. We can take one or all of the nine processes of devotional service and make our lives successful. Caitanya Mahāprabhu has prescribed the most important process-śravaṇam. We need only hear, and that will make our lives successful.