On The Expression of Our Eternal Serving Nature Part 1
As souls, we are all individuals with the innate awareness of our serving disposition, but it is now hidden by our identification with matter. Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu taught us that the svarupa, or constitutional nature of the soul, is the rendering of service to Krishna. The more we understand and apply this, the more we spiritually awaken. Our serving nature is explained in code by the concept of dharma, as outlined in Prabhupada’s introduction to his Bhagavad-gita As It Is. The “dharma” of something refers to its nature or quality which can’t be changed. Specifically, sanatana dharma means the nature of the soul to serve God.
In other words, our intrinsic spiritual nature is to serve, and we can’t help but serve, wherever we are in the material or spiritual world. Although not often referred to as service the material world is run by people serving one another in different capacities. Even a small-minded absorption in serving bodily appetites is a limited expression of this natural urge. If the body is not served by food and nourishment, it will die, so we are forced to begin serving at least this much if we want to continue living. We cease being merely animals when we voluntarily give, or sacrifice to benefit others.
Out of many kinds of service, the highest and most fulfilling is done with love, and without material motivation. When we love, we want to serve. As we increase in love, we increase in service. When we love Krishna, we will love and serve everyone in relationship to this love which so consumes us. Self-realization progresses from stages of bodily identification, to identifying our self with God’s purpose. At birth a child has a tiny sense of self and expresses love for his or her parents in relationship to getting their material needs met. With increasing self-understanding, one loves their siblings, and gradually their love expands into a wider and wider circle.
Depending on a person’s conception of self, this circle may include their extended family, community, larger society, the Nation, or even the whole world or Universe. However, until our love, which is expressed through service and sacrifice, is reposed in Krishna (the Supreme Source of all), our serving capacity will remain imperfect and not completely satisfying. This is because our love and service is meant for God, who as Krishna, is the Supreme Beloved. When we know we are part of Krishna, then we realize that giving to the Spiritual Center, is what nourishes us! At this time we will have no separate self-interest, but only act in relation to the Supreme interest. Such service is effortless, natural, and the law of our being.
Selfishness is the perverted reflection of the unconditional giving nature of the soul. We see darkness as the absence of light, and not the other way around. A candle lights up a room at night, as a little bit of service lights our life, and begins our spiritual awareness. Although our eternal spiritual nature is covered by our physical bodies and minds, it still is expressed in our material life to the degree we have the desire to serve and give to others. This is because we are a spark of the Supreme Giver and Server, Shri Radha-Krishna. Prabhupada profoundly instructs us in his Nectar of Devotion, that “Our loving propensity expands just as a vibration of light or air expands, but we do not know where it ends.” Therefore, we have to learn the true purpose of loving service and also how the serving propensity is improperly used.
The serving tendency of human beings is recognized by many people and most religions. Unfortunately, without knowledge of the reality of God, with His nature, desires, and personality, this awareness often remains on the level of material welfare or lessening suffering by only physical adjustment. This is an emotional issue for many people and I am not saying that helping people meet their basic survival needs is bad--it should be lovingly done--yet I am speaking of the consciousness or intention of the giver, and the importance of doing whatever we do as an offering to God. Even religious people often have no knowledge of the soul’s primeval requirements for Godly service, the nature of (bhakti) devotional service, or the nature of God beyond a universal impersonal force, or some distant old man concerned with judging our sins. Thus, their sense of service can’t go beyond the body and mind. Helping people is good, yet there are levels of benefits recipients will derive according the type of service provided.
Although advanced devotees know that the real solution to suffering is a spiritual one, they never the less feel a natural compassion for the suffering of others, and want to see it lessened. When we are helped by someone on any level, we remember that person fondly. Giving is the preliminary way our soul expands, and giving to others in spiritual consciousness uncovers our soul. From a bhakti yogic perspective, material welfare has value in relationship to reviving our spiritual service to Krishna. Consciousness of Krishna and the attitude of service to Him will transform material service to bhakti, or at least activities favorable for bhakti.