Love is an essential ingredient in service. In fact, it is the only ingredient. For to love, is to serve.
We naturally serve when we love. When we love our children, we serve them. When we love our spouses, we serve them. When we love our parents, we serve them. When we love our job, we serve the employer. When we love a cause, we serve it.
The supreme occupation [dharma] for all humanity is that by which men can attain to loving devotional service of the great Lord. Such devotional service must be motive-less and uninterrupted to completely satisfy the self.
Among all kinds of service, kainkaryam – service to God, Guru and their devotees – is indeed the highest. However, the difference between this and other kinds of service is that this kainkaryam is bestowed, not taken up.
The Guru chooses how He has any particular kainkaryam done, and through whom; and in most cases, he picks the one who is least qualified for that role. That is the greatness of the Guru. Because it is then always obvious that it is only the Guru who worked through the disciple, as the disciple by himself was completely incapable of that role.
Sri Sri Muralidhara Swamiji says, “Kainkaryam and bhakti cannot be separated. Kainkaryam done without love is simply ‘work’. ”
And the beauty is that kainkaryam leads naturally to bhakti.
Srimad Bhagavatam says:
shushrUṣhoḥ shraddhadAnasya vAsudeva-kathA-ruciḥ
syAn mahat-sevayA viprAḥ puṇya-tIrtha-niṣevaṇAt
This sloka says that by wholeheartedly serving devotees who are completely free of vice, one gains affinity for listening to the stories of the Lord, which is the easiest means to develop bhakti.
Kainkaryam is the greatest blessing one can get. When we look at what great devotees ask time and again to Bhagavan, it is only for kainkaryam.
The foremost bhakta of Sri Rama is Hanumanji. He is the epitome of bhakti to Bhagavan and always has the Lord’s Name on his lips. And what does Hanumanji do? Always serves the Lord.
Vritrasura, a terrible asura who came to kill Indra, was really a great devotee at heart. In the famous Vritrasura Chatusloki – four beautiful verses that are filled with intense bhakti – in the very first sloka, Vritrasura says:
aham hare tava pAdaika-mUla dAsAnudAso bhavitAsmi bhUyaḥ
manaḥ smaretAsu-pater guNAms te gṛNIta vAk karma karotu kAyaḥ
Oh my Lord, shall I be reborn as a servant of Your servant whose only shelter is to be at Your lotus feet? May my mind always remember Your wonderful qualities, may my words always praise You, and may my body be always engaged in working for You!
The Gopis, who are the very embodiments of love for Bhagavan, ask only for His kainkaryam.
tan naḥ prasIda vṛjinArdana tEnghri-mUlaṁ
prAptA visṛjya vasatIs tvad-upAsanAshAḥ
taptAtmanAṁ purusha-bhUshaNa dehi dAsyam
O vanquisher of all distress, please show us mercy. To approach Your lotus feet we abandoned our families and homes, and we have no desire other than to serve You. Our hearts are burning with intense desires generated by Your beautiful smiling glances. O jewel among men, please make us Your maidservants.
Even Lord Krishna’s consorts – Rukmini Devi, Satyabhama, Jambavati, Kalindi and others, the queens of Dwaraka, who all had the great fortune of being married by the Lord Himself, only aim to remain forever as His servants. One consort says, “I am His maidservant.” Another says, ”I am the one who sweeps His residence.” A third prays, ”May I always wash His feet and remain in servitude!”
Loving service pleases Bhagavan like nothing else.
Sri Krishna Himself says to Sudama, ”I, the Soul of All Beings, am not as satisfied by ritual worship, a new life, austerity or self-control as I am by faithful service to the Guru!”
How great then is this loving kainkaryam that exalted devotees crave for and Bhagavan Himelf extolls! And how fortunate are those who – though entirely incapable – have been bestowed, out of His compassion, with the fortune of performing some kind of service to Him.
Nisha Giri, Houston TX