What can we actually do on our own? Can we achieve the highest goal of this human form of life if we try with all our might? Can we go back home to Godhead on our own endeavor?
The answer to these and any other such question is a plain ‘No’. We infinitesimal beings are completely incapable of independently accomplishing any task at all. Even the easiest task of breathing, which occurs without any conscious endeavor, is completely dependent upon the blessings of a higher authority. What, then, can be said about our endeavors to achieve entrance into the transcendental world, which is far beyond the perception of our materially contaminated senses. It is said in Sri Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu (1.2.234):
na bhaved grāhyam indriyaiḥ
sevonmukhe hi jihvādau
svayam eva sphuraty adaḥ
No one can understand the transcendental nature of the name, form, quality and pastimes of Śrī Kṛṣṇa through his materially contaminated senses. Only when one becomes spiritually saturated by transcendental service to the Lord are the transcendental name, form, quality and pastimes of the Lord revealed to him.
In the Bhagavad gita (7.25) as well, Krsna says,
naham prakasah sarvasya
mudho ‘yam nabhijanati
loko mam ajam avyayam
I am never manifest to the foolish and unintelligent. For them I am covered by My eternal creative potency [yoga-maya]; and so the deluded world knows Me not, who am unborn and infallible.
Sri Krsna, who is parama-isvara (the Supreme Controller) and sarva-karankaranam (the cause of all causes), can never be understood by the foolish and unintelligent materialists through the agency of their limited and minute intelligence. He can only be realized by those most fortunate devotees He Himself decides to reveal himself to, being satisfied with their sincere desire to serve Him. Similarly, achieving the highest benediction of direct service to the lotus feet of the Lord in the transcendental realm cannot be attained by those who are falsely proud about their personal endeavors and accomplishments in Krsna Consciousness.
One may then ask, what is the way to make progress on the path of bhakti? How can one achieve the highest goal of krsna-prema?
The answer to this important and most appropriate question is that the one and only method for attaining the most exalted love of Godhead, as has been mentioned in the Sri Chaitanya Caritamrita, is by receiving the mercy of exalted Vaishnavas.
brahmāṇḍa bhramite kona bhāgyavān jīva
guru-kṛṣṇa-prasāde pāya bhakti-latā-bīja
Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya-lila 19.151)
According to their karma, all living entities are wandering throughout the entire universe. Some of them are being elevated to the upper planetary systems, and some are going down into the lower planetary systems. Out of many millions of wandering living entities, one who is very fortunate gets an opportunity to associate with a bona fide spiritual master by the grace of Kṛṣṇa. By the mercy of both Kṛṣṇa and the spiritual master, such a person receives the seed of the creeper of devotional service.
It is only by the mercy of Sri Guru and Krsna that one’s bhakti lata bija (the seed of the vine of devotion) within the heart actually sprouts and fructifies. Sastra stresses time and again how it is of utmost importance to associate with devotees of the Lord. It has been mentioned in the Sri Caitanya-caritamrita (Madhya-lila 22.54):
‘sādhu-saṅga’, ‘sādhu-saṅga’ — sarva-śāstre kaya
lava-mātra sādhu-saṅge sarva-siddhi haya
The verdict of all revealed scriptures is that by even a moment’s association with a pure devotee, one can attain all success.
Srimad Bhagavatam (3.25.25) also states
satāṁ prasaṅgān mama vīrya-saṁvido
bhavanti hṛt-karṇa-rasāyanāḥ kathāḥ
taj-joṣaṇād āśv apavarga-vartmani
śraddhā ratir bhaktir anukramiṣyati
In the association of pure devotees, discussion of the pastimes and activities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is very pleasing and satisfying to the ear and the heart. By cultivating such knowledge, one gradually becomes advanced on the path of liberation, and thereafter he is freed, and his attraction becomes fixed. Then real devotion and devotional service begin.
It is only by the association of the devotees and by listening from their lotus mouths, the names, forms, qualities and pastimes of the Lord, that true devotion and devotional service can be awakened in the heart. By associating with such Vaishnavas and serving them, can we attain our true good fortune. And a true Vaishnava is one who in turn is fully surrendered to his own spiritual master. One should therefore endeavor to become gopī-bhartuḥ pada-kamalayor dāsa-dāsānudāsaḥ, the servant of the servant of the servant of the lotus feet of Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa.
Nowhere has it been mentioned that by simply studying the sastras by oneself or by mental speculation can one realize the Absolute Truth. Neither can one advance by performing devotional service independent of the guidance of the spiritual master and advanced devotees. It is merely an illusion to think that the highest transcendental world is within the grasp of our personal endeavor. Therefore, giving up all such duplicitous and false attempts, one should simply surrender oneself unto the lotus feet of the Lord and his devotees, for it is only through their causeless mercy that we can make steady progress in our Krsna Consciousness. Being thus completely dependent on the mercy of the Vaisnavas and the Lord, we shall become free from the false pride of being the doer. Then the doors to our good fortune shall open and we shall be carried forward by the mercy potency of the Lord to our ultimate goal of eternal service at the lotus feet of the fair and dark complexioned youthful couple in Their pleasure pastimes in the groves of Vraja.