SB 1.5 - The cause of bhakti
Nārada next gives his own example as to how he attained perfection by serving the devotees. In the previous millennium (in another kalpa of Brahmā), he was born as the son of a maidservant engaged in the service of brāhmaṇas. (Previous to this birth he was a Gandharva named Upabarhaṇa, and was cursed to take birth in an impoverished family and receive no education.) Nārada engaged in the service of the brāhmaṇas during the four months of the rainy season. The living entities are the marginal energy of the Lord, and thus are meant for being properly utilized in the transcendental loving service of the Lord. One can be free from illusion only by being engaged in the Lord’s service. From the example of Nārada, it is clear that the service of the Lord begins with the service of the Lord’s devotees. There is no cause for pure bhakti other than the mercy of the devotees. Austerity and other processes are not the cause. Service of the devotees is more valuable than the service of the Lord. One should therefore choose a bona fide servant of the Lord who is constantly engaged in His service, accept such a servant as the spiritual master and engage in his service. Such a guru is the transparent medium by which to visualize the Lord, who is beyond the conception of the material senses. The Lord then reveals Himself in proportion to the service rendered. The expert guru knows the art of using everything to glorify the Lord, and thus under his guidance the whole world can be turned into the spiritual abode.