The spirit of humble service.

By Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj

In Advaya-jnan [the Absolute], there is harmony and adjustment between different stages and different natures of servitors; there is gradation. Although the absolute consideration (tatastha-vichar) is also there, that does not mean that we should be encouraged to be indifferent towards services of the lower order. We should not be. We should be careful against hating or undermining other servitors in their respective positions. We should be careful about this; it will be an offence to our Lord. We must not discourage those that are engaged in the services of a different layer. That will hamper our own cause. Rather, our tendency should be the opposite: we should hanker for services of the lower nature. That is the nature and law of the higher plane.

Radharani Herself says, “By the grace of Tulasi Devi, I came in contact with Krishna.” Although She is always in the best eternal contact with Krishna, She says, “By Tulasi Devi’s grace, I have attained such a position.” This is,

trnad api sunichena taror iva sahisnuna
amanina manadena kirtaniyah sada harih

[“One who is humbler than a blade of grass, is tolerant like a tree, is free from pride, and gives honour to others is qualified to always chant the Name of the Lord.”]

This primary statement of Mahaprabhu has very deep, deeper, and the deepest value. Pride cannot take us to hold a high office. Our tendency and sympathy will always be for lower services. Radharani Herself says, “My hankering is always towards the service of the divine feet. I want to serve as a maidservant, but because Krishna wants to enjoy Me in another way, only to fulfil His earnest desire do I offer Myself in any way He likes. My tendency is only to serve His feet.” That is Her nature, and that is the nature of the whole hierarchy. And that is its beauty.

Student: Maharaj, if we should aspire for the lowest service, then does that mean we should aspire for santa- or dasya-rasa?

Srila Sridhar Maharaj: In that way there is an easy jurisdiction. That is, from a particular position, we are to come to a revelation. There, our aspiration will be confined to what is within easier reach. Sometimes they even say, “We are jealous of the position of the flute.” So, it goes like that sometimes. That is the key to success: humility—trnad api sunich taror api sahisnu [“being humbler than a blade of grass and more tolerant than a tree”]. That is saranagati [surrender], and that is key to success. That will enhance the negative character of our life which can draw from Krishna the maximum. Our tendency will always be to go towards the lower.

sakhyaya te mama namo ’stu namo ’stu nityam
dasyaya te mama raso ’stu raso ’stu satyam
(Vilapa-kusumanjali: 16)

This nature has been expressed by Das Goswami: my real, internal, sincere tendency must go to the lower side, “I am unfit.” This increases our qualification, our quality, and this is the teaching of Mahaprabhu: trnad api sunichena. A long standing prospect is there in this verse:

trnad api sunichena taror api sahisnuna
amanina manadena kirtaniyah sada harih

This attitude will draw for you the greatest benefit. Don’t try to go up, but try to go down. That is the key to success in that domain: to be humble amongst the humble.


Spoken on 5 Spetember 1981.

Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj is the foremost modern exponent of the conception of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and the school of Srila Rupa Goswami. Subtle and profound yet vivid and practical, his representation of both the broadest and deepest spiritual truths has and continues to fortify and nurture the faith of spiritual aspirants the world over. For more information on Srila Sridhar Maharaj, please visit his biography page.
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