When a person becomes firmly convinced about the importance of devotional service, he surrenders unto the Supreme Lord. There are six symptoms of surrender: (1) One should perform only those actions favorable for devotional service to Kṛṣṇa. (2) One should give up everything unfavorable for discharging devotional service. (3) One should firmly believe that Kṛṣṇa will protect one in all circumstances and that no one is a better protector than Kṛṣṇa. This conviction should be distinct from the monistic philosophy that one is as good as Kṛṣṇa. Rather, one should always think that Kṛṣṇa, or God, is great and that one is always protected by Him. (4) One should have the conviction that Kṛṣṇa is one's maintainer, and one should not take shelter of any demigod for maintenance. (5) One should always remember that one's activities and desires are not independent. In other words, the devotee should feel completely dependent on Kṛṣṇa, and thus he should act and think as Kṛṣṇa desires. (6) One should always think himself the poorest of the poor and feel totally dependent on the mercy of Kṛṣṇa.
A devotee who follows these six principles of surrender always thinks, "O Lord, I am Yours in every respect; I am Your eternal servant." In this way a pure devotee becomes cleansed. There is a nice verse in this connection in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (SB 11.29.34):
- martyo yadā tyakta-samasta-karmā
- niveditātmā vicikīrṣito me
- tadāmṛtatvaṁ pratipadyamāno
- mayātma-bhūyāya ca kalpate vai
"A person who gives up all fruitive activities and offers himself entirely unto Me, eagerly desiring to render service unto Me, achieves liberation from birth and death and is promoted to the status of sharing My own opulences." To be elevated to such a point of devotional life, one has to execute the directions of the scriptures. But even after becoming elevated in devotional life, one should not think, "Oh, I am already elevated to the highest stage; therefore I may violate the scriptural regulations for executing devotional service."
Devotional service is dormant in every living being, for by nature every living being is part and parcel of the Supreme Lord and it is the healthy condition of the part to serve the whole. It is just like the situation of the parts of the body. The hand and the leg serve the body; similarly, as part and parcel of the Supreme Lord, every living entity is bound to serve the Supreme Lord in his healthy condition. When he is not thus engaged, he is in a diseased condition, but as soon as he engages all his senses in the transcendental loving service of the Lord, he is in his normal, healthy condition.
The devotee should engage his senses in the Lord's service according to the directions of the authoritative scriptures and under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master. The beginning of one's devotional training is to engage the ear in aural reception of the teachings of the Bhagavad-gītā and the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. There are many authoritative books of spiritual knowledge, but all of them are more or less supplements to the Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Even the Nārada-bhakti-sūtra is a summary of the Bhagavad-gītā and the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Therefore the beginning of devotional service is to hear these two important transcendental books of knowledge. Simply by aural reception of these two books from the bona fide spiritual master, one becomes enlightened about devotional service, which is dormant within the heart.
Devotional service executed under the guidance of the spiritual master and according to scriptural injunctions is called vaidhi-bhakti, a part of sādhana-bhakti, or devotional service in practice. The other division of sādhana-bhakti is rāgānuga-bhakti, spontaneous devotional service.
One who wishes to advance to the platform of rāgānuga-bhakti must follow the injunctions of the authoritative scriptures under the direction of the spiritual master. According to Sūtra 12, even a person on a highly elevated platform of devotional service must execute the rules and regulations of the scripture, what to speak of persons who are not elevated. In other words, neophytes in devotional service must strictly and scrupulously follow the rules and regulations of the scriptures to rise to the platform of unalloyed devotional service.
As mentioned above, such strict practice of regulative devotional service is called vaidhi-bhakti. The prime principle of vaidhi-bhakti is stated in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (SB 2.1.5):
- tasmād bhārata sarvātmā bhagavān īśvaro hariḥ
- śrotavyaḥ kīrtitavyaś ca smartavyaś cecchatābhayam
"A person serious about making progress in devotional service must always think of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, must always chant His glories, and must always hear about His activities." These are the preliminary principles of following the scriptural rules and regulations.
The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (SB 11.5.2) states,
- mukha-bāhūru-pādebhyaḥ puruṣasyāśramaiḥ saha
- catvāro jajñire varṇā guṇair viprādayaḥ pṛthak::
Every person, whatever he may be, emanates from some part of the universal form of the Supreme Lord, the virāṭ-puruṣa. The brāhmaṇas (intelligentsia) emanate from the face, the kṣatriyas (warriors and administrators) emanate from the arms, the vaiśyas (farmers and merchants) emanate from the thighs, and the śūdras (laborers) emanate from the feet. But wherever we may be situated, we have some particular function to execute in the service of the Supreme Whole, the Personality of Godhead. If we do not, therefore, engage our particular propensities in the service of the Lord, then we are fallen, just like a useless limb amputated from the body.
According to the Padma Purāṇa, the sum and substance of all the regulative principles of the scripture is that Lord Viṣṇu, or Kṛṣṇa, should always be remembered and should never be forgotten. We should therefore mold our lives in such a way that in every activity we shall be able to remember the Supreme Lord. Any activity that reminds one of the Supreme Lord is a regulative principle in devotional service, and any activity that makes one forget the Supreme Lord is a forbidden activity for a devotee. In the Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya 22.115-28), Lord Caitanya lists sixty-four regulative principles one must follow to be elevated to the highest platform of devotional service. And, as stressed here in Sūtra 12, even after being elevated to the highest platform of devotional service, one must continue following the scriptural injunctions for devotional life. The sixty-four regulative principles are as follows:
(1) To accept a bona fide spiritual master. (2) To become initiated by the spiritual master. (3) To engage oneself in the service of the spiritual master. (4) To receive instructions from the spiritual master and inquire about advancing on the path of devotional service. (5) To follow in the footsteps of previous ācāryas and follow the directions given by the spiritual master. (6) To give up anything for the satisfaction of Kṛṣṇa, and to accept anything for the satisfaction of Kṛṣṇa. (7) To live in a place where Kṛṣṇa is present—a city like Vṛndāvana or Mathurā, or a Kṛṣṇa temple. (8) To minimize one's means of living as much as one can, while living comfortably to execute devotional service. (9) To observe fasting days, such as Ekādaśī. (10) To worship cows, brāhmaṇas, Vaiṣṇavas, and sacred trees like the banyan.
These ten principles of devotional service are the beginning. Additional principles are as follows: (11) One should avoid committing offenses against the holy name, the Deity, etc. (12) One should avoid associating with nondevotees. (13) One should not aspire to have many disciples. (14) One should not unnecessarily divert his attention by partially studying many books so as to appear very learned. For devotional service, it is sufficient to scrutinizingly study books like the Bhagavad-gītā, the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, and the Caitanya-caritāmṛta. (15) One should not be disturbed in either loss or gain. (16) One should not allow oneself to be overwhelmed by lamentation for any reason. (17) One should not blaspheme the demigods, although one should not worship them. Similarly, one should not criticize other scriptures, although one should not follow the principles therein. (18) One should not tolerate blasphemy of the Supreme Lord or His devotees. (19) One should not indulge in idle talks, such as those about relationships between men and women. (20) One should not unnecessarily disturb any living being, whatever he may be.
The above-mentioned twenty items are the doorway to devotional service. And among them, the first three—namely, acceptance of the spiritual master, initiation by the spiritual master, and service to the spiritual master—are the most important. Then come the following items: (21) To hear about the Lord. (22) To chant His glories. (23) To remember Him. (24) To serve and meditate upon the lotus feet of the Lord and His devotees. (25) To worship Him. (26) To pray to Him. (27) To think of oneself as the Lord's eternal servant. (28) To become the Lord's friend. (29) To offer everything to the Lord. (30) To dance before the Deity. (31) To sing before the Deity. (32) To inform the Lord of everything about one's life. (33) To bow down to the Lord. (34) To offer respect to the spiritual master and the Supreme Lord by standing up at the appropriate time. (35) To follow the spiritual master or the Supreme Lord in procession. (36) To visit places of pilgrimage and temples of the Supreme Lord. (37) To circumambulate the temple. (38) To recite prayers. (39) To chant the Lord's name softly to oneself. (40) To chant the Lord's name loudly in congregation. (41) To smell incense and flowers offered to the Deity. (42) To eat the remnants of food offered to the Deity. (43) To regularly attend the ārati offered to the Deity, as well as special festivals. (44) To regularly look upon the Deity. (45) To offer one's dearmost possessions to the Supreme Lord. (46) To meditate on the Lord's name, form, pastimes, etc. (47) To water the tulasī plant. (48) To serve the Lord's devotees. (49) To try to live in Vṛndāvana or Mathurā. (50) To relish the topics of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. (51) To take all kinds of risks for Kṛṣṇa. (52) To always expect the mercy of Kṛṣṇa. (53) To observe ceremonies like Janmāṣṭamī (the appearance day of Lord Kṛṣṇa) and Rāma-navamī (the appearance day of Lord Rāmacandra) with devotees. (54) To fully surrender to Kṛṣṇa. (55) To observe special regulations like those followed during the month of Kārttika (Oct.-Nov.). (56) To mark the body with Vaiṣṇava tilaka (clay markings). (57) To mark the body with the holy names of God. (58) To accept the remnants of garlands that have been offered to the Supreme Lord. (59) To drink caraṇāmṛta, the water that has washed the lotus feet of the Deity.
Among these fifty-nine items, five are considered so important that they are mentioned again separately, thus completing the sixty-four items of devotional service. These five are (60) associating with devotees, (61) chanting the holy name of the Lord, (62) hearing the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, (63) residing at a place of pilgrimage like Mathurā, and (64) worshiping the Deity with faith and veneration.