The very first time when Srila Prabhupad, then Abhay Charan De, went to see Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur Prabhupad,who was meant to be his spiritual master in the future, he received an important instruction from Srila Saraswati Thakur, which was later to become the mission of his life. Little did Abhay Charan De know that what the great Vaishnava sitting in front of him was about to say was going to be an instruction that would change the world. Seeing the intelligent and eloquent young man in front of him, Srila Saraswati Thakur instructed him to preach the message of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to the English speaking men of the west. Hearing this, Abhay Charan was struck with wonder and asked that how can we think of preaching when our Country is not even independent yet. To this Srila Bhakti Siddhanta answered, “Bhakti is not dependent on anything external.”
Being under the influence of the three modes of material nature, we often think, ‘Oh, I shall get serious about my spiritual life after I finish my education’; ‘Let me first get married then I shall concentrate on performing service to the Lord’; ‘I am very poor, let me first earn some money, then I shall be able to serve the Lord nicely with expensive paraphernalia’; ‘ I am now stuck in my job, I do not have time, I will chant nicely after I retire’ or ‘Now I am a householder, I will do Bhakti after renouncing home’. In this way we waste away our lives, thinking that a certain conducive time will come and then I shall take to Bhakti seriously. However, one must understand that this material world is Dukhalayam, a place full of miseries and problems. There is never going to be a perfect time and perfect situation. There are always going to be obstructions and unfavourable situations. That is the nature of this material world. One cannot expect to taste honey upon biting into a bitter gourd. Therefore, one must start immediately. An intelligent person is one who does not waste time, making an excuse of waiting for the opportune moment, but rather takes to the process of devotional service in whatever situation one may find himself. No where in the shastras is there any instruction that limits the performance of Bhakti to any external circumstances. Regardless of whether one is a householder or a renunciant, a student or a business man, poor or rich, born in a high class family or in a low class family, beautiful or ugly, young or old; Bhakti is not dependant on any of this. Srimati Bhakti devi is supremely independent and descends upon the heart of a sincere sadhak out of her own causeless mercy. She is not even dependent on the knowledge of the Scriptures, renunciation, or one’s endeavours. Even if one is an erudite scholar of the Shastras, a sanyasi or has been performing devotional service for hundreds of lifetimes, one cannot achieve the goal without being favoured upon by Bhakti devi herself. But if she so desires she can descend and make her manifestation even in the heart of a poor and destitute person. How then can one be blessed by her mercy? For this Sri Chatianya Mahaprabhu has said ‘tṛṇād api sunīcena taror api sahiṣṇunā, amāninā mānadena kīrtanīyaḥ sadā hariḥ’. Being pleased with the humility of a practitioner and seeing his sincere endeavours, completely free from any scent of pride in his performance of sadhana, then, being pleased with him, she shall surely make her manifestation in that fortunate soul’s heart.
One should, therefore, never attempt to make excuses for the avoidance of performing one’s sadhana, making an excuse of the external situation. Bhakti is never dependent on anything. May it be war, famine, disasters or a pandemic, one must keep endeavouring to attract the mercy of Bhakti devi, without being affected by the external circumstances of the World. Such staunch faith in and unwavering determination to achieve the mercy of Bhakti devi is the only means for one to achieve the ultimate good fortune of drowning in the ocean of transcendental bliss of service unto the lotus feet of Sri Sri Radha Shyamsundar.