NAMES OF TERMINOLOGY
Shri Krishna,dark as a rain filled cloud, adorned with peacock feathers, flowers and a gunja bead necklace, graces the banks of the Yamuna river. When He applies His lips to the flute, melodious noted fill Vrindavan and enrapture the hearts of the love-smitten Gopis. This Krishna, a herder of cows, the son of Yashoda, the butter thief and the beloved of the Gopis, is the object, means and reward of the Grace filled practice of seva.
Shri Vallabhacharya explained that to attain God you must please Him and to do so, practitioners should apply their bodies and wealth in Shri Krishna’s seva. This will help thread their minds and hearts directly into Shri Krishna. Shri Vallabhacharya received the Brahma Samandh Mantra from Shri Krishna on 11 th day of the bright fortnight of the month of Shravana (usually August). Shri Krishna instructed Shri Vallabhacharya to initiate bhaktas with mantra. It marks their spiritual marriage and connects the soul to its divine source.
After this initiation, the bhakta is eligible to perform Shri Krishna’s seva.
Seva is an integral part of Shri Vallabh’s doctrine. It is very essence and is motivated by love. It uses flowers, fruits and other materials found in this world for His pleasure. It is performed within bhakta’s own world, in the home. Shri Vallabhacharya tells us, “One should always be engaged in Shri Krishna’s seva.
Seva can be offered to Shri Krishna in the tender mood of mother Yashoda or with the passion of the Gopis. In any case, it always begins with the feeling that “ I am Shri Krishna’s das, His devoted follower.” Shri Krishna is remembered and sung too. His praises are heard and the bhakta bows his head to Him and adorns his feet. After becoming his true follower, the bhakta rises to the level of being Shri Krishna’s friend and ultimately offers her soul and everything to Him called atma nivedanam.
Shri Vallabhacharya identifies devotion as progressing through three stages. “When divine love arises, it removes worldl hankering. When you become attached to the Beloved, there is no taste for the worldly home and the bhakta sees it as unconnected to one’s true self. When the blessed one becomes totally addicted to Shri Krishna and can no longer live without Him, she has attained devotional excellence.”
Today Shri Krishna’s seva is found in the homes, havelis and temples of Shri Vallabhacharya’s descendants as well as in the houses of their followers. In the Shri Subodhiniji, Shri Vallabhacharya calls Lord Krishna a “householder”. Although Shri Krishna wanders the forest havens of Vrindavan, He actually lives at home. He resides with mother Yashoda. He is also at home with His Bhaktas and makes special visits to the houses of His Beloved Gopis, the dairy maids of Braja.
Shri Krishna’s householder tradition has been continued by Shri Vallabhacharyaji and his descendents. The lineage-holder’s spacious homes (havelis) have housed various forms and lilas of Shri Krishna since the times of Shri Vallabhacharyaji. Today their homes can be found all over India. The sacred architecture found in their resindences always centers around Shri Krishna’s pleasure and His blessed worship. His inner sanctuary is the most private part of the house. The kitchens are also hidden aways from onlookers. A porch with triple archways called a Tivari, provides a space for Shri Krishna to swing during the spring and rainy seasons. A large courtyard where the bhaktas congregate to have Shri Krishna’s Darshan.
Traditionally, followers would come to pay their respects to their guru in his haveli and while there, they would take the blessed opportunity to have Darshan of the guru’s personal Krishna seva. To see Krishna at home with the Vallabh lineage-holders inspires bhaktas to make Shri Krishna’s seva in their own residences. Wherever Shri Krishna resides is the Vrindavan and the bhakta’s natural dharma is to worship Shri Krishna at home.
Shri Vallabhacharya developed the initial forms of seva and his son, Shri Vitthalnathji, greatly enhanced the practice.
Shri Krishna’s seva is very personal and differs the practice of puja because it is generated by love. Although it has a format, the main concern is His pleasure and any rule can be transcended if it is for His delight.
God made this world and so it is fit for His pleasure. Fresh leaves, flowers, vegetables, fruits dry fruits, water etc are all offered to Shri Krishna. He promises us in Gita that as His bhaktas worship Him, so he honors them and accepts whatever is offered with love. Lord Krishna’s seva is performed in ShriNathji’s temple and other havelis pr homes is often eight-fold. It unfolds according to His daily life. Shri Krishna lives with and for his bhaktas and they honor Him from the moment he gets up in the morning until He retires for the evening.
Shri Krishna’s seva is a joyous and beautiful affair. A multitude of arts are employed in His pleasing seva. Shri Krishna is served food (bhog) in thousands of varieties, always made with finest ingredients. Shri Krishna is always adorned with variety of clothes and jewellery. Seva is also full of music. Lovely songs composed by the great bhaktas are sung in different ragas that correspond to the various seasons, festivals and times of day and offered to Shri Krishna, the master of enjoyment.
Many bhaktas have a svarupa, a form of Shri Krishna that resides with them in their homes. Sometimes the Krishna svarupa can be a picture or Shri Krishna’s very form. Svarupas are often down from generation to generation and regarded as Shri Krishna Himself. Food offerings are prepared and after they are offered , they become Prasad, portions of grace. The Bhaktas, by replicating the daily routine of Shri Krishna’s activites, make their homes to be Shri Krishna’s homes. Their towns all become Gokul.
Shri Vallabhacharya’s descendents serve Shri Krishna at eight different times during the day starting early in the morning. After lunch there is a four hour break (approximate) before the afternoon worship. Each period is called a Darshan. The seva that is performed in the homes of the bhaktas follows a similar format, but rarely has eight Darshans. Home worship is done according to the ability of the bhakta. Each of the Darshans have their own time, mood, and lila: Shri Krishna is either worshipped as a child or as a young lover. The gurus of path of seva as the Gopis who worshipped Shri Krishna as their beloved. Mother Yashoda is the role model for worshipping Shri Krishna as a child, but both these arise from the foundations of devotional servitude.