Srīla Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvami Mahārāja inaugurated Keśavaji Gauḍīya Maṭha on the same day as the Govardhana-annakūṭa festival. Henceforth Srila Gurudeva continued the tradition of Annakūṭa annually in Mathurā. He would arrange all the facilities, cooking, and decorations—spending up to fifteen days in preparation. On the day of the festival, he would worship the cows and Girirāja, perform abhiṣeka, honor the brāhmaṇas and Vaiṣṇavas, and distribute prasāda. On Annakūṭa day, Śrīla Gurudeva explained, “We are far away from Bhagavān, so we must strive to have a relation with those who are near and dear to Him. We should pray to Girirāja Govardhana:
nija-nikaṭa-nivāsaṁ dehī govardhana tvaṁ
“O Girirāja, please bring me close to those who are dear to you. By having a relation with those close to Girirāja, one naturally becomes related to Girirāja and Kṛṣṇa.”
Śrīla Gurudeva would become elated upon inspecting the hundreds of preparations offered to Thakurjī He would distribute the prasāda to all guests and only take a small amount himself. Gurudeva said, “Those who come to the temple are extremely fortunate. Get them prasādam, caraṇāmṛta, and speak sweetly to them.”
Some devotees would think, “Gurudeva has not taken any of the preparations I made,” but God’s pleasure is guru’s pleasure. If one feeds Bhagavān but neglects Guru and Vaiṣṇavas, Kṛṣṇa will never be pleased. One should always consider the service of Guru and Vaiṣṇavas to be his personal responsibility.
Even though all the brahmacārīs were busily engaged in services on festival days like Annakūṭa, Gurudeva instructed them to chant their guru-mantras and complete their fixed amount of harināma. He would care for them by asking if they had chanted their dīkṣā-mantras and prescribed number of japa rounds.
The night before Annakūṭa, the brahmacārī who took responsibility for cooking and serving in the temple thought, “I will wake early, but I will not start cooking until I have chanted my guru-mantras and fixed number of harināma.” Śrīla Gurudeva had told him to start cooking during brāhma-muhūrta, but by maṅgala-āratī the brahmacārī had still not started the fire, thinking he should first chant. If he were to start the fire, then the rest of the day would pass in service without a moment for guru-mantras or harināma.
After maṅgala-āratī, Śrīla Gurudeva went to the kitchen and saw the cooking had not yet begun. “Hey! Where is that boy?” He began shouting and looking for the brahmacārī. Then he collected some dry cow dung and wood, and with these started the fire himself. To make matters worse, Gurudeva couldn’t find all the pots and ingredients. The brahmacārī soon came running to the kitchen, but Gurudeva had locked the door from the inside.
Śrīla Gurudeva came out ten minutes later; then the cook entered and prepared the day’s feast. The festival went on as normal, except Srila Gurudeva refused to eat that day. All of the pilgrims and local Vrajavāsīs ate; but not one brahmacārī ate, because Gurudeva had not eaten.
Śrīla Gurudeva later asked the brahmacārī who cooked, “Will you act according to your own whims, or did you come to serve Guru and Vaiṣṇavas?”
“I came to serve you.”
“Listen carefully,” Gurudeva said, “harināma and mantras have been given to you by the causeless mercy of Śrī Guru. Why don’t you feel any responsibility for guru and Bhagavān’s service? Chanting your harināma and mantras is important; however, you should always think, ‘How should I best serve right now?’ If you don’t think like this, you will distance yourself from Guru and Vaiṣṇavas. Mantras will not protect or correct you if you have faults. Guru-sevā and vaisnava-sevā is foremost. Your personal bhajana is secondary. Śrī Guru gives you harināma and dīkṣā and instructs you to chant; doing so is your essential guru-sevā. When there is not a festival or urgent need to serve physically, then you should first chant your harināma in the early morning, but you should not neglect services when an emergency arises. While serving you must continue chanting, then your actions are sevā—otherwise, they are only karma. Both service and harināma are vital for the sādhaka.
“Some come to Vraja and engage in sādhana to achieve perfection. They think that they can do so by meditating and undergoing austerities.
One must serve Vraja and the Vrajavāsīs. Without service to the Vrajavāsīs, attaining perfection will remain a fleeting dream. When the Vrajavāsīs are pleased, they bestow perfection. Always engage in service—then you will gain benefit. One who only chants mantras soon becomes intoxicated with pride and engages others in worshiping himself.
“Don’t think that temple service is karma. Don’t think you are a great sādhu who has come only for meditation and that you should not cook, wash pots, clean the temple, throw out the garbage, distribute mahā-prasāda, or touch others’ unclean plates. Service is your bhajana. It is quite unfortunate for one to think that guru-sevā and kṛṣṇa-sevā are karma even after coming to Bhagavān’s abode and sharing the company of Bhagavān’s beloved devotees. Service to guru and to the temple is not less than vraja-sevā. This menial service will grant you qualification to enter into vraja-sevā of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa. You will never enter into Vraja if you avoid service as a sādhaka.
“Reflect on the activities of our previous ācāryas. A sweeper cleans pathways and drains but does not achieve prema-bhakti. But when Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura cleaned Lokanātha dāsa Gosvāmī’s latrine area and swept the pathways of Vraja, he received prema-bhakti. The activities of Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura and a sweeper may externally appear similar, but the mood while undergoing service is of utmost importance.
One action is done for pure love of Bhagavān, known as bhagavata-sevā, and another is only to fill one’s belly and is known as karma.
“When you serve Guru and Vaiṣṇavas, don’t t to control them and make them a according to your desire, and don’t serve expecting praise and worship. You should consider, ‘Am I the worshiper or the object of worship?’ If you are truly close and dear to Guru and Vaiṣṇavas, you will follow their instructions and they will accept your service and never isolate you by praising you. Guru and Vaiṣṇavas don’t get ordinary rewards like praise and prestige. Understand that Śrī Guru is pleased with you when, day after day, year after year, you remain inspired and absorbed in your services. When a spark of spiritual inspiration enters your heart in the course of serving, and you verify your realizations with reputable Vaiṣṇavas and śāstra, then it is understood that guru’s blessings are actually blossoming in your heart. Śrī Guru does not advertise with whom he has a heart-to-heart connection. When you feel his love without him needing to say anything—that is sambandha-jñāna. Spiritual service is profound. It is eternal and essential for the soul, and is not simply an external exhibition.”
Śrīla Gurudeva concluded, “Anyone who is lazy will remain far from Guru, Vaiṣṇavas, and Kṛṣṇa. In Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa’s nitya-līlā, service is perpetually and blissfully performed. Hence, even when he sleeps, a real sevaka, who is connected to the eternal pastimes of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa, is eager for his next service and will mentally prepare and serve in his mind. Nitya-sevā is unceasing and grants boundless joy.”
Srila Gurudeva ki Jaya! (excerpted from; “Sri Guru Darshan”; available from: [email protected] )