Enthusiasm for serving Krishna
"So it is obvious that enthusiasm is the life of devotional service. We become enthusiastic to serve Krishna in association of devotees who are. As Prabhupada said Bhakti is a cultivation through practice."
In his Upadesh-amrita, text 3 Shrila Rupa Goswami has listed 6 principles that are favorable for pure devotional service. They are 1) being enthusiastic, 2) endeavoring with confidence, 3) being patient, 4) acting according to regulative principles [hearing, chanting and remembering about Krishna, etc], 5) abandoning the association of non-devotees, and 6) following in the footsteps of the previous acharyas. He says that following these principles will assure one of success. That sounds very good to me. They must be essential for those on the path or aspiring to be on the path of bhakti. For this blog I am focusing on enthusiasm.
The word enthusiasm has its origins in Greek (en-theos, or having a god within) where it indicated someone overcome with the spirit of some god. It wasn’t used then very positively. That definition is still given for the word, but in the last possible use. In that rarely used meaning of the word it indicates an extreme religious devotion, intensely emotional, and breaking with tradition. I thought this was an interesting aside for our discussion here, though that is not how the word is used in this verse.
Of more interest for understanding the importance of enthusiasm for our practical application, enthusiasm is defined in Websters Unabridged Dictionary as “absorbing or controlling possession of the mind by any interest or pursuit; lively interest”. Sounds like something good for the practice of yoga if we add Krishna as our interest!
For this brief discussion I am summarizing Prabhupada’s comments on enthusiasm in his purport to this verse and also from Shri Bhaktyaloka, where Thakur Bhaktivinode devotees a chapter to explain each word. The two compliment each other nicely.
Prabhupada begins his purport with a famous sentence that, “Devotional service is not a matter of sentimental speculation or imaginative ecstasy.” He describes Bhakti as a cultivation, which means an activity (distinguished from idle yogic meditation). We have to understand the value of devotional service by learning about it from devotees and engaging in its’ nine processes. He is saying that we show our enthusiasm by our practical activity in Krishna consciousness. In any occupation enthusiasm is essential, and this is certainly the case as well in Krishna’s devotional service.
His definition of devotional service is “endeavor executed with intelligence in Krishna consciousness”.
Looked at from this definition, when we become convinced of Krishna consciousness with our intelligence, then we enthusiastically engage in service. The more we realize the truth of Krishna consciousness the more we are enthusiastic. We also use our intelligence more to think of ways to serve Krishna and his representative, and share to our KC with others.
In Bhaktivinode’s discussion he begins by saying what enthusiasm is not or what the lack of enthusiasm causes: “Without utsaha [enthusiasm], one becomes negligent in his worship. Negligence is born out of inactivity, apathy, or indifference. Laziness and inertia are called inactivity. When utsaha is generated, laziness and inertia cannot remain. The absence of desire to work is inertia. This inertia is opposite to the nature of spirit. If one allows his inertia to remain in his body or heart, then how can he perform devotional service? The state of apathy develops from carelessness.”
Later on the Thakur refers to the Hari-bhakti-vilas where carelessness or inattention is one of the offenses against the holy name. There three types of inattention are described, namely, apathy, inactivity, and distraction. He says that unless we are able to give these up we can’t perform devotional service properly. Our attitude and intention are crucial for success!
To conclude he says that 1) enthusiasm is the only support for devotional service, 2) that all anarthas [unwanted ways of thinking and acting] are vanquished through devotional service performed with enthusiasm, and 3) faith without enthusiasm is meaningless. (or as the Bible says, “Faith without works is dead”---though we could add “Faith without enthusiastic actions is dead”. On this last point he says that just thinking we have faith without showing enthusiasm is insufficient and meaningless.
So it is obvious that enthusiasm is the life of devotional service. We become enthusiastic to serve Krishna in association of devotees who are. As Prabhupada said, Bhakti is a cultivation through practice. In the beginning our enthusiasm may be small, or at various times it may wane. However, we develop enthusiasm by assisting advanced devotees who have feeling for Krishna, and are enthusiastic for servicing him and the devotees.
Enthusiasm is contagious! While serving with enthused devotees we have to continuously hear about the glories of Krishna, and understand our predicament in the material world (positive and negative impetus). As we try to act with enthusiasm and pray for it, enthusiasm will naturally arise in the course of devotional service. Devotional service means enthusiastic in the highest sense of the word!