How does one perform bhakti in daily life?
by Laxmimoni dasi
Until we're connected deeply with Krishna in love, it's difficult to know what He wants or how to show our love for Him, especially before our love for Him is truly developed, so we accept the order of Guru, one who already loves Him, or at least loves someone else who loves Him. In this way we get guidance about how to serve Him before we actually understand, in our heart, what He really wants.
For example, I see a girl, or boy, that I really like. I'm very attracted, I want to do something for that person to let them know I care for them but I don't really know them at all. So I decide that I will buy them a gift and I buy MY favorite thing - for example, I really like my purple sunglasses I have so I buy her a pair as well - but unfortunately she doesn't like purple sunglasses and she thinks that I'm a bit strange to give her such a strange gift. Now, if I ask a good friend who knows her well, what she likes, then I can get something she will really appreciate...she will think I am thoughtful, and careful. Also if her friend recommends me to her, then she will consider me more favorably because someone she already knows and likes also likes me. It's very simple really.
This is the principle of having a guru. Guru is someone who can direct you how to serve Krishna and help to recommend us to Him so we can advance more quickly on the path to true bhakti.
Bhakti is a progressive path; we start by giving some of what we do or have to Krishna and end with giving everything to Him. Ultimately, we won't want anything except His pleasure, and when He's happy we're automatically Happy--- this is prema bhakti, or ahaituki bhakti - "pure, unmixed devotion."
But the trick is that to have ahaituki bhakti there can be no tinge of personal desire. Even the desire to avoid sin, for fear of sinful reaction is a personal desire. It's a "good" personal desire, but it's still a personal desire.
There is a story that Krishna said He had a headache, and the only thing that would cure it was the dust from the lotus feet of one of His devotees. He sent Narada to search for this foot dust. Narada asked everyone, explaining that, "Krishna has a headache and He needs the dust from the feet of his devotee to cure it, so please give some dust," but everyone refused; "Me? Give my foot dust for putting on Krishna's head!! I'll go to hell! This will be very bad...no, no. I can't." But when Narada asked the gopis (Krishna's most intimate devotees, the cowherd girls of Vrindavan), they said, "Sure, here, please take the dust. Now quickly go and put it on His head." Then Narada asked, "Well, aren't you worried that you will go to Hell?" And they replied, "We don't care, let us go to hell! We have to cure His headache—that's all that matters!"
So from this we can see the difference. Any desire for my own protection or satisfaction or pleasure is not pure bhakti, but bhakti is a sure and gradual progression; and we have to walk before we can run!