Bhakti Yoga practice involves regular chanting of mantras, the holy names of the Divine. However this chanting is not an isolated activity; it’s part of a holistic culture of loving service and appreciation. A person may be administered the best medicine during sickness, still his complete recovery also depends on the diet he takes. If he is careful about the diet, his quick recovery is granted. Similarly the chanting of God’s names is the medicine for the soul. It can cure us of our materialistic consciousness and fills our heart with rich spiritual emotions for God. However, we have to simultaneously work on creating a healthy culture for chanting. This culture acts as the diet; it provides a framework for making this yoga effective.
A critical element of this spiritual culture is creating an atmosphere of service and appreciation of other sincere spiritual practitioners. Sri Chaitanya, the incarnation and apostle of Bhakti, who appeared five hundred years ago in the Nawadwip district of West Bengal, India, taught by his personal example the need to serve other devotees. Sri Chaitanya would personally invite devotees to his home. He and his family members would cook a feast and serve the devotees with great happiness. He would even wash the clothes of his own devotees to teach the importance of serving other servants of God. He would also glorify and appreciate them. It is said by his biographers that Sri Chaitanya glorified devotees as if He had five mouths. When He appreciated Vasudeva Dutta who had exhibited unparalleled compassion to serve the distressed, he did it with ‘thousand of mouths’.
A fertile soil can help the plant grow. Similarly a culture of genuine service attitude is the fertile soil that helps the plant of our connection to God grow luxuriantly. If we don’t understand the spirit of humble service, we’ll never be dear to God, no matter what we do. We can chant the whole day and night, but it’s only when we have a genuine service attitude that God takes our chanting seriously. The essence of religion is to chant the Holy Names of God, serve all children of God and be compassionate instruments of God’s mercy to the world.