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What role does karma play in devotional service?

Full questions:

Is good karma required for someone to come in contact with or to follow Krishna consciousness? What role does karma play in devotional service?

Good karma can surely help us get in contact with Krishna consciousness. If we're karmically in the mode of goodness or already on a spiritual path it will be more likely that we will come in contact with Krishna's devotees in this life.

There are other factors and opportunities as well. Sometimes, just by the mercy of the devotees, one gets a chance to eat prasadam, or hear the Holy Name, or hear someone speak about Krishna, or get a book like the Bhagavad-gita. Any of these things can act as starting points for our spiritual progress, and may inspire us to take up the practice of Krishna consciousness. There are many stories of this happening.

Once when I was with Srila Prabhupada in the early 1970s, one devotee asked Srila Prabhupada: "Srila Prabhupada, does the fact that I am practicing Krishna consciousness now mean that I was a yogi in my last life or I was practicing Krishna consciousness in my last life?"

Srila Prabhupada replied: "Well, some people come by mistake!" Of course, Srila Prabhupada was joking but the "mistake" is actually the mercy of the devotees and the Lord and should not be underestimated. It is ultimately by guru and Krishna's mercy that we advance in spiritual life. Narada Muni is famous for offering spiritual opportunities to hunters and other very fallen persons.

Your second question:

Karma can either have many "roles" in devotional service, or it may have none. Generally, karma determines what modes we are attracted to, what propensities we have, and what kind of family, wealth, beauty etc. we inherit in this body. These things can either be helpful or hinder our spiritual progress. Wealth may allow us free time in which to read transcendental literature, or give us the ability make donations to the temple, etc., or it may distract us with material things and bring us into contact with materialistic people so that we become distracted from spiritual practice. Poverty can either make us simple and grateful to God for whatever we have, or it can make us envious and anxious to acquire things—thinking that those things will make us happy.

If we're situated in the mode of goodness, it's more likely that we'll behave nonviolently with others and try to live a pure life, but there's also a danger of becoming complacent and proud. In general the mode of goodness is helpful if one wants to stay on the spiritual path.

The laws of karma are very complicated and also can change at any moment—by taking prasadam, seeing a Rathayatra cart, hearing the Holy name, etc.—so there's really no need to concern ourselves with karmic eligibility for Krishna's service.

If somehow you have come in contact with devotees—which you obviously have because you're on Krishna.com—then the more you dive into the process the less your karma will impede your spiritual progress. We have free will at every moment, so whatever our karma we can decide to conquer over it by serving Krishna just like someone who is inclined to be a drunkard can decide to change their life around and give up drinking and bad association.

Of course you always have to consider that there is some good karma in your life because you have a human body, and you have come in contact with Krishna's devotees! If you are of Indian descent, you have the added bonus of being able to hear about Lord Krishna and Lord Rama since childhood. The human form of life is relatively rare and the only real body from which one can practice Krishna Consciousness. So count your blessings in the form of your good karma and take advantage of your present situation. Become Krishna Conscious and good back to Godhead!
Hope this is helpful.
Sincerely
Laxmimoni dasi