Acting for Kṛṣṇa: the Essence of Bhakti
This devotional service is a sort of cultivation. It is not simply inaction for people who like to be inactive or devote their time to silent meditation. There are many different methods for people who want this, but cultivation of Kṛṣṇa consciousness is different. The particular word used by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī in this connection is anuśīlana, or cultivation by following the predecessor teachers (ācāryas). As soon as we say “cultivation,” we must refer to activity. Without activity, consciousness alone cannot help us. All activities may be divided into two classes: one class may be for achieving a certain goal, and the other may be for avoiding some unfavorable circumstance. In Sanskrit, these activities are called pravṛtti and nivṛtti – positive and negative action. There are many examples of negative action. For instance, a diseased person has to be cautious and take medicine in order to avoid making his illness worse.
Those who are cultivating spiritual life and executing devotional service are always engaged in activity. Such activity can be performed with the body or with the mind. Thinking, feeling, and willing are all activities of the mind, and when we will to do something, the activity comes to be manifest by the gross bodily senses. Thus, in our mental activities we should always try to think of Kṛṣṇa and try to plan how to please Him, following in the footsteps of the great ācāryas and the personal spiritual master. There are activities of the body, activities of the mind, and activities of speech. A Kṛṣṇa conscious person engages his words in preaching the glories of the Lord. This is called kīrtana. And by his mind a Kṛṣṇa conscious person always thinks of the activities of the Lord – as He is speaking on the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra or engaging in His various pastimes in Vṛndāvana with His devotees. In this way one can always think of the activities and pastimes of the Lord. This is the mental culture of Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Similarly, we can offer many services with our bodily activities. But all such activities must be in relationship with Kṛṣṇa. This relationship is established by connecting oneself with the bona fide spiritual master, who is the direct representative of Kṛṣṇa in disciplic succession. Therefore, the execution of Kṛṣṇa conscious activities with the body should be directed by the spiritual master and then performed with faith. The connection with the spiritual master is called initiation. From the date of initiation by the spiritual master, the connection between Kṛṣṇa and a person cultivating Kṛṣṇa consciousness is established. Without initiation by a bona fide spiritual master, the actual connection with Kṛṣṇa consciousness is never performed.
This cultivation of Kṛṣṇa consciousness is not material. The Lord has three general energies – namely, the external energy, the internal energy, and the marginal energy. The living entities are called marginal energy, and the material cosmic manifestation is the action of the external, or material, energy. Then there is the spiritual world, which is a manifestation of the internal energy. The living entities, who are called marginal energy, perform material activities when acting under the inferior, external energy. And when they engage in activities under the internal, spiritual energy, their activities are called Kṛṣṇa conscious. This means that those who are great souls or great devotees do not act under the spell of the material energy, but act instead under the protection of the spiritual energy. Any activities done in devotional service, or in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, are directly under the control of the spiritual energy. In other words, energy is a sort of strength, and this strength can be spiritualized by the mercy of both the bona fide spiritual master and Kṛṣṇa.
In the Caitanya-caritāmṛta, by Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī, Lord Caitanya states that it is a fortunate person who comes in contact with a bona fide spiritual master by the grace of Kṛṣṇa. To one who is serious about spiritual life Kṛṣṇa gives the intelligence to come in contact with a bona fide spiritual master, and then by the grace of the spiritual master one becomes advanced in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. In this way the whole jurisdiction of Kṛṣṇa consciousness is directly under the spiritual energy – Kṛṣṇa and the spiritual master.