The fundamental basis of all devotional practice.
Our sambandha-jnan will help our abhidheya, our practice of devotional activities in general. Mahaprabhu says:
sadhu-sanga, nama-kirtana, bhagavata-sravana
mathura-vasa, sri-murtira sraddhaya sevana
sakala-sadhana-srestha ei pancha anga
krsna-prema janmaya ei pachera alpa sanga
(Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta: Madhya-lila, 22.125–126)
[“(1) Associating with sadhus. (2) Chanting the Lord‘s Name. (3) Hearing the scriptures of pure devotion. (4) Residing in a holy place. (5) Faithfully serving the Lord’s Deity. These five are the best of all the limbs of devotional practice. Divine love for Krishna develops from even slight participation in these five limbs.”]
A slight connection with these sadhanas can give you divine love. But sadhu-sanga means sadhu-seva. Nam-kirtan means sevonmukha kirtan [kirtan with the intention to serve]. Bhagavat-sravan means again sevonmukha [it must be practiced with the intention of serving]. Adau arpita paschat kriyeta [“First offer, then act”]. I am hearing Hari-katha, Bhagavatam, whatever. Who will be the receiver? Who will get it? My master. Not myself. What benefit I shall derive from Bhagavat-sravan [hearing Bhagavatam] will go to my master. I am not a party to that. My master is the party. I am like his domestic animal. A domestic animal is fed and labours, but the product goes to the master, the owner, and not the animal.
sravanam kirtanam visnoh smaranam pada-sevanam
archanam vandanam dasyam sakhyam atma-nivedanam
iti pumsarpita visnau bhaktis chen nava-laksana
kriyeta bhagavaty addha tan manye ’dhitam uttamam
(Srimad Bhagavatam: 7.5.23–24)
[“Hearing, chanting, remembering, serving, worshipping, praying, considering oneself a servant, considering oneself a friend, and surrendering the self—if devotion consisting of these nine practices is first offered to the Supreme Lord and then directly performed I consider that the greatest learning.”]
So Sridhar Swami particularises here: adau arpita paschat kriyeta [“First offer, then act”]. You must keep a bond in your mind that whatever I shall acquire will go to my master. I am not the owner. I am not the party. With this attitude if we can approach sravan, kirtan, and any other forms of devotion, then our efforts will be devotion. Otherwise, they will be karma, jnan, or anything else. So we must be particular here, about the nature of our performance of devotional activities.
Spoken on 10 May 1982.
“As one does not worry about the maintenance of a sold animal, so one will not worry about maintaining oneself upon fully offering one’s body to the Supreme Lord.”