A golden opportunity to go Back to Godhead
The Sankirtana devotees are very very dear to Krsna. Because you are doing the field work of book distribution, Krsna has immediately recognized them as true servants. Just like during war time, a farm boy or ordinary clerk who goes to fight for his country on the front immediately becomes a national hero for his sincere effort. So Krsna immediately recognizes a preacher of Krsna consciousness who takes all risks to deliver his message. (Srila Prabhupada, letter to Uttamasoka, 11 December 1975)
We can cultivate five types of relationships with Krsna: neutrality, servitude, friendship, parental affection and conjugal relationship. According to our level of advancement and our natural propensity, we can serve Krsna in different ways. We can see that different devotees have different relationships with Krsna. For example, Sukadeva Gosvami, before hearing Srimad-Bhagavatam, was in neutrality, santa-rasa. Uddhava is in servitude, dasya-rasa. Arjuna is Krishna's friend, sakhya-rasa. Mother Yasoda has maternal affection, vatsalya-rasa; and the gopis have conjugal relationship with Krsna, they are madhurya-bhaktas. In the same way, in Goloka, we will be able to enjoy one of these five relationships with Krsna. But to achieve Goloka, we need to go through Lord Caitanya's mercy, for it's almost impossible to go by ourselves.
We can see that Krsna’s associates who joined Him in His lila five thousand years ago were very elevated personalities. Among the gopis, for example, there was one group that was previously the personified Vedas, another one the sages in the forest who got attracted to Lord Ramacandra, and a third one composed of the daughters of the demigods. They were very elevated personalities from the start, but still, they had to perform austerities for many lives to have the opportunity to join Krsna in His lila. From this, we can see that the direct process is very difficult.
The good news though, is that by the mercy of Lord Caitanya everything becomes easy. We can achieve perfection in this very life. That's one of the reasons why Mahaprabhu inaugurated the sankirtana movement. He considered:
"For a long time I have not bestowed unalloyed loving service to Me upon the inhabitants of the world. Without such loving attachment, the existence of the material world is useless. Everywhere in the world people worship Me according to scriptural injunctions. But simply by following such regulative principles one cannot attain the loving sentiments of the devotees in Vrajabhumi. Knowing My opulences, the whole world looks upon Me with awe and veneration. But devotion made feeble by such reverence does not attract Me.
By performing such regulated devotional service in awe and veneration, one may go to Vaikuntha and attain the four kinds of liberation. These liberations are sarsti [achieving opulences equal to those of the Lord], sarupya [having a form the same as the Lord’s], samipya [living as a personal associate of the Lord] and salokya [living on a Vaikuntha planet]. Devotees never accept sayujya, however, since that is oneness with Brahman. I shall personally inaugurate the religion of the age — nama-sankirtana, the congregational chanting of the holy name. I shall make the world dance in ecstasy, realizing the four mellows of loving devotional service. I shall accept the role of a devotee, and I shall teach devotional service by practicing it Myself". (CC Adi 3.14-20)
Other incarnations of the Lord descend with the purpose of protecting His devotees, annihilating the demons and establishing the eternal principles of religion; but only Lord Caitanya comes to give the highest type of prema.
With Krsna there are five different rasas, but with Lord Caitanya there is only santa and dasya, and the most elevated rasa is servitude. We can see that all associates of Lord Caitanya are in the same rasa, they see themselves as servants of Lord Caitanya: Advaita Acarya, Srivasa, Gadadhara, Lord Nityananda and all others. Even the ones that are older or senior to Lord Caitanya consider themselves as His servants. If we want the mercy of Lord Caitanya, we should also serve Him.
Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita, patram puspam phalam toyam: offer me fruits and flowers with devotion. That's the way to approach Him: through worship. But the way to approach Lord Caitanya is through service, and the best type of service to Him is to help Him in spreading the sankirtana movement. That's what really pleases Mahaprabhu: chanting Hare Krsna and giving it to others; that's the proper worship.
"Following the examples of the previous acaryas, all the members of the Krsna consciousness movement should try to benefit the conditioned souls by inducing them to become Krsna conscious and giving them all facilities to do so. Such activities constitute real welfare work. By such activities, a preacher or anyone who endeavors to spread Krsna consciousness is recognized by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As the Lord Himself confirms in Bhagavad-gita (18.68–69): ya idam paramam guhyam mad-bhaktesv abhidhasyatibhaktim mayi param krtva mam evaisyaty asamsayah na ca tasman manusyesu kascin me priya-krttamahbhavita na ca me tasmad anyah priyataro bhuvi “For one who explains the supreme secret to the devotees, devotional service is guaranteed, and at the end he will come back to Me. There is no servant in this world more dear to Me than he, nor will there ever be one more dear.” (SB 6.4.44 purport)
Nobody can be happy in this material world, because it’s an artificial situation for us. The soul is spiritual, therefore to be satisfied the soul needs spiritual enjoyment. But in the material world there isn’t any type of spiritual enjoyment: there is only temporary material enjoyment, that comes from the contact of the senses with their objects. This, however, doesn't have anything to do with the soul -- it's only for the body. In this way, the soul is always hankering for spiritual pleasure, which can't be found in the material energy. The only way to have it is to get back in contact with the spiritual energy which means to associate with the Lord by chanting Hare Krsna.
Lord Krsna came as Lord Caitanya, He manifested His lila and then went back. But at the same time He is available in the form of His holy name, and by chanting we can have direct contact with Him. The Holy Name is powerful by Himself, but the effect on us becomes even stronger when we distribute to others. Lord Caitanya says: "I am the only gardener. If I do not distribute these fruits, what shall I do with them? How many fruits can I alone eat?" (CC Adi 9.37). And then: "Distribute this Krsna consciousness movement all over the world. Let people eat these fruits and ultimately become free from old age and death." (CC Adi 9.39)
These are the Krsna prema fruits that appear on Lord Caitanya’s tree, in the sankirtana movement. However, one particular thing that we need to understand about these fruits is that we can't taste them alone. If we try to hide in some corner and eat alone, they just disappear. The way we can taste these fruits is by distributing them to others. The more we distribute, the more we can taste ourselves.
The more we work to spread Krsna consciousness, in one way or another, the more we get the mercy of Lord Caitanya, the stronger we become connected with Him. That's why Srila Prabhupada organized ISKCON society as a preaching movement. That's why it's called a "movement" in the first place: it should keep moving. It's not a part-time religion or a couch philosophy. It's something that we are supposed to practice and spread. And the more we can preach Krsna consciousness, the more ecstatic everybody becomes. That's the real nectar. That's why Lord Caitanya says:
ataeva ami ajna dilun sabakare
yahan tahan prema-phala deha’ yare tare
“Therefore I order every man within this universe to accept this Krsna consciousness movement and distribute it everywhere.” (CC Adi 9.36)
In the Bhagavad-gita (2.16), The Lord explains that everything that is real is eternal, and that which is not eternal is actually illusory, without substance. Using this simple logic, we can examine and distinguish things that are real from the ones that are illusory.
The soul is eternal, therefore the soul is real. Krsna is eternal, and so is our relationship with Him, therefore both are real. The spiritual world and devotional service are also eternal, therefore they are also real. The material body, material positions and relationships, as well as material duties and possessions and even the material world itself, are not eternal, therefore they are without substance.
“Those who are seers of the truth have concluded that of the nonexistent there is no endurance, and of the existent there is no cessation. This seers have concluded by studying the nature of both.” (Bg. 2.16).
If we are going to dedicate our lives to something, better to dedicate it to something that is real. The best is to accept the mission of Lord Caitanya as our life and soul, and therefore do something that will bring permanent benefit to us and to others.
“The Krsna consciousness movement introduced by Lord Caitanya is extremely important because one who takes to it becomes eternal, being freed from birth, death and old age. People do not recognize that the real distresses in life are the four principles of birth, death, old age and disease. They are so foolish that they resign themselves to these four miseries, not knowing the transcendental remedy of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. Simply by chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, one can become free from all misery, but because they are enchanted by the illusory energy, people do not take this movement seriously. Therefore those who are actually servants of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu must seriously distribute this movement all over the world to render the greatest benefit to human society”. (CC Adi 9.39 purport)
As Srila Prabhupada points out in his purport, what prevents us to take this mission of Lord Caitanya as our own is our enchantment with the material energy. We have other missions in life, other priorities that we create for ourselves. Because we have so many priorities, there is not enough time and energy left to also accept Mahaprabhu's mission. If we want to accept fully the mission of Lord Caitanya, we need to get detached from these egoistic goals, or, at least, we need to connect whatever we are doing with His mission.
Even if one is not doing the preaching on the front lines, at least he should support others who are; thus he also gets into the team. It's just like football in the Olympic games: eleven are playing and eleven more are simply sitting on the bench. They just help in the trainings and play when they are needed. Yet, when the team wins the Olympics, the twenty two get the medals, not only the eleven titulars. Similarly, even if one can't go to the front lines himself, by supporting the preachers he shares the merit.
"The government should be so conducted that automatically one is elevated to Krsna consciousness. King Prthu therefore wanted his citizens to cooperate fully with him, for if they assented, they would enjoy the same profit as he after death. If Prthu Maharaja, as a perfect king, were elevated to the heavenly planets, the citizens who cooperated by approving of his methods would also be elevated with him. Since the Krsna consciousness movement going on at the present moment is genuine, perfect and authorized and is following in the footsteps of Prthu Maharaja, anyone who cooperates with this movement or accepts its principles will get the same result as the workers who are actively propagating Krsna consciousness". (SB 4.21.26, purport)
However, we need to leave behind our egoistic propensities, of doing things for self-aggrandizement. Whatever we do should be to serve Lord Caitanya and His mission, that's the difference between Krsna consciousness and material consciousness. Material consciousness means that I do things for my own satisfaction. Krsna consciousness means whatever I do is for Krsna's satisfaction: what will please the Lord. Actually it’s very simple: because our mind is crooked, sometimes it's difficult to practice, but in reality, it’s easy.
We can see practically that in yatras with great emphasis on preaching, everybody tends to be engaged, happy, optimistic and so on. Yet, as soon as this preaching spirit is lost, problems manifest and things start falling apart. As Srila Prabhupada wrote in a letter on 27 December 1972: “enthusiastic mood is maintained when everyone is always without fail chanting 16 rounds daily, rising early for mangal arati, reading books, preaching”.
Preaching is what gives life to the yatra: harinamas, book and prasadam distribution, organization of different programs, etc. This is what makes devotees happy. If we stop doing these things, everybody becomes mental and strange things infiltrate.
HH Bhakti Charu Swami: "Our main objective is to become good devotees. How? By developing our relationship with Krsna. And our relationship with Krsna develops because of Srila Prabhupada’s pleasure. In this connection, Krsna says, “Those who say they are My devotees are not My devotees. Those who are the devotees of My devotees are actually My devotees.” So when Srila Prabhupada is pleased, Krsna will be pleased. If we therefore try to please Srila Prabhupada, knowing well what will please him the most, knowing well that the distribution of his books is going to give him the greatest pleasure, and if we continue to distribute books, Srila Prabhupada will be pleased, and the result will be that we will see that we are making rapid spiritual advancement.
In the history of ISKCON we have seen that those who regularly distribute Srila Prabhupada’s books generally don’t have many problems in their spiritual life. Those who don’t distribute Srila Prabhupada’s books, who don’t preach Krsna consciousness, often have difficulties. So please rest assured that Srila Prabhupada’s pleasure will enhance your spiritual advancement, and that the best way to please Srila Prabhupada is to distribute his books." (The Treasure of the Brhat-mrdanga, Ch. 10)