Constantly we wonder why we are not making all that much progress towards divine ecstacy and divine love. 99 times out of 100 it is because we don’t have a clear understanding of the correct path to spiritual progress. The path of Bhakti is exceedingly SIMPLE. This is it:
Sriman Mahaprabhu used to live in Jagannath Puri as a very strict sanyassi. Each year his old friends from his home town, Navadvip Mayapur, used to visit him for several months during the time surrounding the Ratha-Yatra celebration. It was always difficult to leave at the end of that time. They would spend a long time in goodbyes. Without fail many devotees would ask, “We are housholders, we are not strict like you. How can we attain Krsna?”
Three years in a row the Bengali devotees asked this to Mahaprabhu while saying goodbye. Three years in a row Mahaprabhu gave the same answer, with a slight variation each time on the followup question.
The answer always was: NAMA-SANKIRTANA.
Sankirtana is not japa, it is sankirtana. It means music, singing, and other people if possible. This is the MOST important, most powerful practice. Nothing else, no other spiritual practice even comes CLOSE.
However the Nama, (Krsna’s name) takes offenses and withholds himself from the heart of the offender. Therefore Mahaprabhu always said, “Nama-Sankirtana & Vaishnava Seva.”
The most serious offense to Krsna-nama is Vaishnava-ninda – ill feelings and expressions towards a Vaishnava. Therefore Mahaprabhu advised that along with Nama-Sankirtan one must also do Vaishnava seva (service to Vaishnavas, helping them, assisting them, etc.) – as a proactive measure to counteract and avoid offending them.
Each year the Bengali devotees asked a followup question – “OK, but who is a Vaishnava?”
The first year Mahaprabhu said, “If I hear someone say ‘Krsna’, I take that person to be a Vaishnava.” The import here is that ANYONE who even very casually chants Krsna-nama is to be served, assisted, loved, etc. This will allow us to open our hearts and receive the power of Krsna-Nama-Sankirtana.
The second year, answering the same question, Mahaprabhu said, “An even better Vaishnava is one who carefully cultivates the chanting of Krsna’s name.” Serving and respecting such persons will even more powerfully open our hearts to the unlimited prema-power inside Krsna-Nama-Sankirtana.
The third year, again answering the same question, Mahaprabhu said, “The best Vaishnava is one whose presence inspires others to chant Krsna-nama.” To serve and honor these persons is the most powerful and important way to make our hearts fully receptive to the prema-dhana (treasure of divine love) within the Krsna-Nama-Sankirtana.
Besides this, there is nothing important.
It doesn’t matter if you live in or out of a temple, as a renunciate or a sense gratifier, elevated or fallen, a sinner or a saint. There is no question of being “fallen” or not fallen. Nothing matters. What matters ONLY is that we become more and more greedy and starving to find each and every opportunity to dive into Krsna-Nama-Sankirtan with full abandon, loss of self-consciousness, and respectful enthusiasm while constantly offering all respect and services towards those who do and inspire Krsna-Nama-Sankirtana and NEVER EVER allowing ourselves to entertain any malice towards ANY such person.