“The great sage Narada Muni has a spiritual body; therefore old age, disease, birth and death do not affect him. Narada is the most kind devotee of the Supreme Lord, and his only business is to travel all over the universe and preach God consciousness.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.27.22 Purport)Download this episode (right click and save)
It’s only natural to ask things from the Almighty. If He does indeed exist, why not expect Him to supply things that are otherwise difficult to procure? For instance, we know that the ability in man is both limited and impossible to alter through personal effort. When a child is born, there is no way to guarantee beforehand important aspects like gender, height, intelligence, and dexterity. These things come from the higher forces.
sarvasya cāhaṁ hṛdi sanniviṣṭo
mattaḥ smṛtir jñānam apohanaṁ ca
vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyo
vedānta-kṛd veda-vid eva cāham
“I am seated in everyone's heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas am I to be known; indeed I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.15)
Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, confirms in the Bhagavad-gita that remembrance and forgetfulness come from Him. The things which are out of our control are easily controlled by Him. Therefore when we are in need, it only makes sense to approach the Supreme Lord to get some help.
Yet this style of worship has similarities to a business transaction. My action is with a motive. I do one thing and expect something in return. Real love is selfless. Since God is a person, He is a candidate for receiving love. This is not merely a theory, some abstract proposal to only be discussed by intellectuals in a faculty lounge. There are real-life examples of people who serve God without motive, and much can be learned from them.
1. Narada Muni
The creator of the universe is Lord Brahma. One of his names is Svayambhu, which means self-born. He gets this title because he doesn’t have the typical mother and father. His birth comes from the stem that grows out of the lotus-like navel of Lord Vishnu, who is one form of the original Personality of Godhead.
Every creature in the world can trace their ancestry back to Brahma. One of the direct sons of Brahma is Narada. He is a muni, or great thinker. He was once cursed to not be able to stay in a single location for more than three days at a time. Since then he is known as a triloka-sanchari, a person who travels the three worlds: heaven, earth, and hell.
He happily travels in this way. Wherever he goes, he sings the names of Narayana, which is another word for God the person. Narada trains others also. So many important people got their start in spiritual life through the wise counsel of Narada. He serves God without motive and without interruption. He practices bhakti purely, and he is extremely happy as a result.
Sometimes, through God’s personal intervention Narada may ask something from Vishnu. The Lord then assesses the request to see if it will be beneficial to Narada. Vishnu is not obligated to say “yes.” This is a special mercy for the devotees. He maintains their devotion, and it is especially true in the case of Narada, whom He holds very dear.
2. Bharata, the son of Dasharatha
Bharata is a partial incarnation of Vishnu, but he provides a great example of bhakti nonetheless. One time when Narada asked something from Vishnu, the Supreme Lord denied the request. Narada became angry as a result and then cursed Vishnu to appear on earth. Though never bound to a curse, Vishnu happily agreed to appear, taking the form of the warrior prince named Rama. Vishnu also partially incarnated as Rama’s three younger brothers.
Rama appeared from the womb of Queen Kausalya. Bharata appeared from Kaikeyi. As the events in that incarnation played out, Rama was asked to leave the kingdom for fourteen years and Bharata was handed over control from the father Dasharatha. Bharata had no role in either decision. He did not agree with either.
Bharata had already served Rama, who is God, as a devoted younger brother. After the unfortunate events, Bharata continued to serve. After much persuasion from Rama, he agreed to remain the ruler of Ayodhya, but he would do so without enjoying any of the perks of royalty. He symbolically placed Rama on the throne through the Lord’s sandals. Bharata then worshiped those sandals constantly, living in a tiny ashrama.
Many people served Rama during His time on earth and were awarded various things in return. Vibhishana and Sugriva both became kings as a result of serving Rama. Others regained their old forms after previously having been cursed. Bharata is the lone person who gave up everything as a result of serving Rama. His devotion was pure. There was no motive.
Hanuman was the chief minister to the monkey-king Sugriva. He met Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana in the forest of Kishkindha. Hanuman went on to serve Rama valiantly, becoming especially famous for his brave and difficult journey to Lanka in search of Sita, Rama’s wife.
After Rama emerged successful and returned home to be crowned king, many of the important members of His team were offered benedictions. When it came Hanuman’s time, all he asked was that he remain on earth for as long as Rama’s glories continued to be sung. Thus the greatest servant, who pleased Sita and Rama the most, showed the entire world what the most worthy benediction in life is: bhakti.
4. The gopis of Vrindavana
Shri Krishna is famously depicted in paintings as dancing with many beautiful young girls under the brightest moon of Sharada Purnima. The less intelligent will never understand this image, as they see everything through their lens of material exploitation. A person who has no discrimination in eating and drinking can never understand the pastimes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
The gopis are the innocent cowherd girls of the rural community of Vrindavana. They love Krishna purely and they are willing to give up everything to serve Him in their preferred mood of choice: conjugal love. If Krishna is indeed God, then He can enjoy the most. Dharma, or religiosity, does not apply to Him since He is the objective in following dharma.
The gopis wish to dance with Krishna, and He obliges. They love Him no matter what He does. Their example is the height of devotion, as affirmed by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Himself. No one is more dear to Krishna than the gopis.
5. The spiritual master
The bona fide guru follows in the footsteps of the gopis. The spiritual master is a servant of God, through and through. They travel wherever necessary to rescue fallen souls. They rescue through shining the light of devotion. This light brings a person out of the darkness of ignorance. From the good fortune of meeting a spiritual master and inquiring from them submissively, a person can see the truth.
tad viddhi praṇipātena
upadekṣyanti te jñānaṁ
“Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.34)
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is one such spiritual master. Like Narada he constantly travelled the globe to bring the names of Narayana to the people who desperately needed to hear them. Like Bharata he gave up everything to serve God without motive. Like Hanuman he crossed the vast ocean to bring the message of Godhead to the troubled people in a foreign land. Like the gopis he thought only of Krishna day and night.
In this way we see that there is much more to God than a standard order supplier. He is a person with whom a lasting relationship can be formed. In that relationship, He acts as the best counterpart, whether as a brother, friend, teacher or lover. Shri Krishna can indeed be all things to all people.
Person who with Krishna name to call,
Can indeed be all things to people all.
Advance through pure bhakti trying,
Not looking for your orders supplying.
Examples of Hanuman and Bharata take,
And gopis dancing through moonlit night awake.
The spiritual master home for others forsaking,With him light of the divine wherever taking.