[The following is an excerpt from the upcoming Bhaktabandhav publication, Sri Harinama Cintamani]

Once, Arjuna and Kṛṣṇa went to the forest and saw a sādhu who had a sword as well as a bow and arrow. He was sharpening his sword and arrows very attentively.

Arjuna asked him, “You are a sādhu, why are you doing this?”

“Why are you asking? You should not challenge sādhus.”

“It is not good for sādhus to have weapons.”

“Why do you question me. Who are you?”

Arjuna said, “Please explain to me why you have these weapons. I do not understand your activities.”

“Well, if you must know, I have these weapons and keep them well-sharpened, because whenever I happen to come across Arjuna, I will cut him into many pieces with this sword. And if I ever see Draupadī, I will shoot her in the heart with this bow and arrow.”

Hearing this, Arjuna began to shake in fear, and not being able to remain standing, fell to the ground.

He then asked the sādhu, “Why would you do that? What is the reason?”

The sādhu explained, “Arjuna calls for Kṛṣṇa by chanting Kṛṣṇa’s name, and then employs Him as his servant. He made Kṛṣṇa his charioteer! Not only that, he even made Kṛṣṇa the servant of his horses! He had Kṛṣṇa feed them grass, massage them, and give them water to drink. The living beings should serve Kṛṣṇa, not make Kṛṣṇa their own servant.”

We chant harināma, and we pray for Kṛṣṇa to free us from all mundane anxiety, disease, and sickness. However, if a phone call comes while we are chanting, we will put down our mālā and pick up the phone. We consider nāma secondary, and whoever is calling as our prime minister. Why are you thinking about anything else and going far away from Kṛṣṇa? How can you really be with Kṛṣṇa? No one resides in the desert or in the sky. Similarly, just dryly calling out to Kṛṣṇa without offering anything is not enough. One should consider, “Kṛṣṇa is my friend, Kṛṣṇa is my beloved. I will serve Kṛṣṇa. I will make a nice seat for Kṛṣṇa and I will call Kṛṣṇa to come. I will arrange many nice things for Him.”

In his mānasi-sevā, Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī would arrange a seat for Kṛṣṇa as well as make pastes out of sandal, aguru, and kastūrī. He would perform the abhiṣeka of Kṛṣṇa with a golden pot of water, then carefully apply tilaka to Kṛṣṇa. Then he would go to milk the cows and bring back the milk to prepare sweet rice in another golden pot.

If you cannot do like this, then first forbid your mind, “While chanting, O mind, do not go away from Kṛṣṇa. Do not think about māyā. Be present with Kṛṣṇa.” Where is Kṛṣṇa? My Kṛṣṇa is at Govardhana. My Kṛṣṇa is in Vṛndāvana. My Kṛṣṇa is in Nandagrāma. I will go there and offer praṇāma to all the Vraja-vasis and request them, “Please give me a chance to be Kṛṣṇa’s servant. Please give me the qualification to serve Kṛṣṇa. I have no taste, and I am a great rascal. My mind is always running here and collecting mundane things.” Pray to the Vaiṣṇavas, “Please give me the taste to serve Kṛṣṇa and be related with the Vrajavasis.” Then while chanting harināma you will receive a service, and by engaging in that service your mind will never be restless.

Without the conscious effort of praying in this way, you will be bound to try and make Kṛṣṇa your servant when chanting harināma. You will pray to Kṛṣṇa, “Give me happiness. Give me respect. Give me name and fame. I want to speak so eloquently. I want a nice temple and garden, and a large bank balance.” You desire Kṛṣṇa to serve you every minute. Kṛṣṇa will say, “You are chanting my name, but you are pulling Me simply to serve you.” Then Kṛṣṇa’s servants will instruct you not to chant anymore. Gurudeva gives us the instruction to chant harināma, but unfortunately we always disturb Kṛṣṇa with our personal desires while chanting. If we do not chant in the proper mood of service, māyā will arrange for us to forget harināma. We will set aside our mālā and mice will come inside the beadbag, making it their nest and give birth to many babies. Otherwise, maybe a monkey will take it and wear it around his neck. Somehow or another, we will lose our harināma.

Mahāprabhu teaches that if you chant harināma but have no relation with Hari and no desire to serve Him, then certainly you will give up chanting and will never progress toward achieving pure bhakti.

We chant harināma and guru-mantra, yet while doing so we think of māyā. Gurudeva says, “When chanting harināma, offer yourself to Guru-pāda-padma and do praṇāma to the Vaiṣṇavas. Within your mind, go to the holy dhāma and pray, “Please give me some chance, tendency, and mood to serve Kṛṣṇa.” This is called śakti-yoga. We must pray for this śakti, or energy.

The jīvas are very weak, and their mind and intelligence are very small and insignificant. They have no capacity to follow bhakti. While their bodies are young, they are especially attracted to māyā. When they see a charming face, they are ready to surrender themselves to the owner of the face. When chanting harināma they also think of these objects of māyā, likened to urinal pots, which they go to lick and thus ride the train to hell. But even then, they do not pray to Kṛṣṇa, “I am like a pig. O Prabhu, please save me! Where have You gone? How can I come back to You? I have this habitual nature from so many millions of lives, please save me.”

If you request Kṛṣṇa like this, then He will send Guru and Vaiṣṇavas to lift you out of the sewage of māyā.

Śrīla Gurudeva had a strong tri-daṇḍa. He would beat the brahmacārīs with his daṇḍa and sometimes with his umbrella. Often he would use his wooden shoes as well. If a brahmacārī went out from the temple, he would beat him. Gurudeva would look to see who came and went from the temple. He had his room nearby the door, and when a brahmacārī came inside, he would slap him and say, “Where were you?”

Having this type of strong personality in our life is necessary if we want to progress in bhakti. If everything is very easy, we will be very busily engaged in māyā and will not be able to control ourselves. We are not afraid enough of māyā; we are careless and fearless.

Therefore, while chanting harināma, come to the holy dhāma and to Guru and Vaiṣṇavas. If your mind is not naturally surrendering to Guru and Vaiṣṇavas and the holy dhāma, then drag it by force. Tell your mind, “If you do not chant and come to the holy dhāma or to the feet of the Vaiṣṇavas, I will not give you any food or drink! First practice harināma and serve, then I will give you some facility.”

Be strong with your mind. Then it will be scared and will no longer disturb you. It may try to disturb you for a few days, but then it will come in the proper line. First chant, then give the mind and body food and water. Otherwise, you can try to control your breath. You can address your mind, “O mind, you are running here and there?” Then stop breathing. Now how long will your mind disturb you? You can even leave your body, but you must chant. This should be your conviction. Be very strong.

Our ācāryas perform puraścaraṇa; they take a vow to chant harināma in a regulated manner, for example, they may vow to chant the holy name 300,000 times daily, until they have chanted one billion names. Rūpa Gosvāmī, Sanātana Gosvāmī, Prabhupāda Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, and all our ācāryas performed strong austerities like this. They show us by their perfect example how we should behave, otherwise we would only continue chanting nāma-aparādha.