The Real Devotee Care

Hare Krishna Dear Prabhujis and Matajis,
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada and Srila Gurudev.

Recently the concept of 'Devotee Care' is becoming widely popular in the Krishna consciousness movement. The idea of this system is to take personal care of the devotees and that the culture of service, love and care permeates all our activities. Now this is supposed to be part of the system implicitly in each one of us who are practicing devotees. This need not be taught to us externally. But somehow we might have gone drastically wrong in our sophisticated life as "devotees" during the course of our devotional practice that we have to be reminded about these basic qualities of devotees. Our grandfathers and grandmothers were never taught these things in seminars but they imbibed these qualities naturally. Unless the feeling of love and care becomes part of our 'system' internally, we may not be able to fully take advantage of this concept. How do we get there? First, our life has to become simple both in our minds as well as our deeds. Then everything else will automatically follow.

One of the vision statements of the devotee care system is, "We need to give life long personal care to the devotees for them to make continuous progress in spiritual life." The first key word in this statement is 'life long personal care to devotees'. The care need to be given life long. Unfortunately for us most of the time, the mutual interactions becomes 'transactional' and based on utility. When the utility is over, the devotee becomes low in priority. Secondly, the care is also not 'personal'. When there is personal care, every one - both the care giver and care receiver become pleased and happy. But we usually have an impersonal approach to relationships. The first word we utter when our approach is impersonal is - "I don't have time". When our life is dedicated for the service of others, when we see Krishna's hand in everything, we will not utter this statement. We have seen this practically in our Guru Maharaj H H Mahavishnu Goswami. When we sit with him in his room, every few minutes there will be calls from devotees in different parts of the world and he would patiently hear their difficulties, concerns etc and tirelessly give suitable Krishna conscious solution to them. In betweem, there will be administrative challenges to deal with - like school, temple related, construction related and so many others. But we have never heard him say, "I have no time". Whenever we talked to him over phone or in person, he seemed to have had all the time in the world and that too exclusively for us.

The second key word is 'to make continuous progress in spiritual life'. The care should be given in such a way, in such a mood that the devotee is able to progress in spiritual life. They should neither become zombie nor become a parasite to the care offered to them. There is always a feeling of warmth that we get when personal attention is given to us, but that should act as an impetus rather than impedence to our progress. Whatever care is given to us, we should transfer that to others, by caring for them and helping in their struggles and challenges in both devotional as well as maintenance activities. This help has to be rendered with a long term perspective, ie., the system has to continue in the absence of the care giver as well. Srila Prabhupada established the world wide Krishna consciousness movement and it is running successfully inspite of the physical absence of of its founder acarya. That is the real success of any system. This similar challenge was given to Parikshit Maharaj and he showed us the real way of devotee care system. This is revealed by the Shamika rshi in his question about Parikshit Maharaj in SB 1.4.12, as to why he gave up his body which was the shelter for everyone,

śivāya lokasya bhavāya bhūtaye
ya uttama-śloka-parāyaṇā janāḥ
jīvanti nātmārtham asau parāśrayaṁ
mumoca nirvidya kutaḥ kalevaram

Those who are devoted to the cause of the Personality of Godhead live only for the welfare, development and happiness of others. They do not live for any selfish interest. So even though the Emperor [Parikshit] was free from all attachment to worldly possessions, how could he give up his mortal body, which was shelter for others?

The real devotee care is possible when we live only for the welfare, development and happiness of others. This is the true hallmark of a devotee. Parikshit Maharaj was already like that. And moreover, he was not attached to any worldy possession, so naturally he was not exploiting anyone. In spite of this, there is a very important question raised here by Shaunaka rshi as to why did Parikshit Maharaj give up his body which was the shelter and protection for others? This is a very nice question because a king and a pure devotee like Parikshit Maharaj naturally gives fearless to his subjects and moreover by his noble rule, the entire universe was flourishing. So naturally, Parikshit Maharaj can start feeling that if I leave, what will happen to these subjects in the age of kali? Let me stay for some more time so that the subjects will not feel the effects of Kali. But the ultimate teaching a care taker can teach to his dependents is that "We all have to go and I too am no exception to that rule". There is no suble attachment to staying in this world in the name of doing 'devotional service', completing some project or taking care of devotees. He was completely detached. But in that process, Parikshit Maharaj also gave the eternal one-stop solution to all the suffering living entities - kīrtanād eva kṛṣṇasya mukta-saṅgaḥ paraṁ vrajet. This is the real long term love and care, not only for the devotees but for all the living entities that Parikshit Maharaj gave - 'Even when I am not there, the devotees have to be taken care of'. This is the systematic and organized effort that Maharaj Parikshit did. Srila Prabhupada says beautifully in his purport to SB 1.18.7, "At the end of the Srimad-Bhagavatam it is said that even though all nefarious activities of the personality of Kali are present, there is a great advantage in the age of Kali. One can attain salvation simply by chanting the holy name of the Lord. Thus Maharaj Parikshit made an organized effort to propagate the chanting of the Lord's holy name, and thus he saved the citizens from the clutches of Kali."

We can learn an important lesson from the examples of Parikshit Maharaj, Srila Prabhupada and many of his sincere followers like our Guru Maharaj that devotee care can truly become successful when we internalize the concept of love and care and not do it with any ulterior motive.

Thank you very much.
Yours in service of Srila Prabhupada and Srila Gurudev,
Kalacakra Krsna das.