Mercy is the result of service
Many people come to me and request, “Mahārāja-jī, please bestow your mercy and extend your blessings to us, so that we may attain śuddha-bhakti (pure devotional service) and ultimately attain prema for Śrī Bhagavān.” But truly speaking, mercy and blessings are not things for which one ought to ask. Moreover śrī guru, Vaiṣṇavas and Bhagavān will not bestow their mercy simply because we have asked for it. Although through external vision it is seen at times that śrī guru and the Vaiṣṇavas extend their blessings and best wishes to others through sweet words or by keeping their hand on one’s head, such acts are not to be understood as true blessings. True blessings and mercy appear on their own from the very heart of śrī guru, Vaiṣṇavas and Bhagavān, even without being requested. Although such blessings may not have been expressed externally through words or actions, the effect and the fruits of such true blessings can be directly seen either immediately or in due course of time.
The desire to bestow mercy and blessings does not appear in the heart of śrī guru, Vaiṣṇavas and Bhagavān without reason; the manifestation of such things is solely dependent on whether or not one has performed snehamaya-sevā, service imbued with loving affection. For this reason alone, Śrīman Mahāprabhu has said:
sneha-sevapeksā mātra śrī-kṛṇṣa-kṛpāra
sneha-vaśa haĩyā kare svatantra ācāra
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 10.139)
Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s mercy is dependent only on service performed with the utmost love and affection. Because He is obliged only by affection, He acts independently.
The manifestation of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s mercy does not depend on caste, familial lineage or any other material qualifications, but it definitely depends on the loving and affectionate service performed by the seeker of mercy.
Even though Śrī Kṛṣṇa is supremely independent, He becomes controlled by His devotees’ snehayukta sevā, service imbued with love and affection. And in order to fulfill their desires, He engages Himself in performing pastimes, all the while maintaining His complete independence.
The true meaning of loving, affectionate service to Śrī Kṛṣṇa is to engage in His service according to His direct advice, moods and innermost desires. No one else can know this subject matter better than His anukūla-śakti, Śrīmatī Rādhikā. She is the embodiment of pure love for Kṛṣṇa, always absorbed in the mood of serving Him, and She is thus the topmost among all sādhus.
Observing rules is not enough
One attracts the divine mercy of Śrī Kṛṣṇa not by performing service according to the regulations prescribed in the scriptures (maryādā-sevā), but rather by performing service with the utmost love and affection, or with a sincere, intense greed to render such affectionate service. Loving, affectionate service means to be engaged in śrī kṛṣṇānuśīlana (service favorable to Kṛṣṇa) under the guidance of His anukūla-śakti, Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, the embodiment of uttamā-bhakti. No other method is as effective in attracting the mercy of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. In this regard, Śrīman Mahāprabhu has said:
maryādā hôite koṭi sukha sneha-ācaraṇe
paramānanda haya ĵāra nāma-śravaṇe
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 10.140)
In conclusion, affectionate dealings bring happiness millions of times greater than dealings that follow scriptural conduct. Simply by hearing the words ‘affectionate dealings,’ the heart merges in transcendental bliss.
This subject matter has been very clearly demonstrated in the instance of Śrīman Mahāprabhu’s bestowing His mercy upon King Pratāparudra, as described in Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā, Chapter 12).
King Pratāparudra’s desire
Initially, King Pratāparudra wrote a letter to Śrī Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya requesting permission to meet with Śrīman Mahāprabhu. When Śrī Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya wrote back stating that Śrīman Mahāprabhu had not given His consent for such a meeting, the king sent another letter saying, “Please submit a request on my behalf to all the associates of Śrīman Mahāprabhu. Being great devotees, they are full of spontaneous compassion for all jīvas, and they will thus definitely be merciful to me. Only if they request Śrīman Mahāprabhu to extend His mercy to me will I be able to attain the divine darśana of His lotus feet, without which I will give up this kingdom and become a mendicant.”
Śrī Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya showed the king’s letter to Śrīman Nityānanda Prabhu and all the other devotees. When Nityānanda Prabhu put forward the king’s request to Śrīman Mahāprabhu, the Lord replied, “I shall not meet with the king at the request of you all; I will only do so if Dāmodara Paṇḍita recommends it.”
In reply to Mahāprabhu’s statement, Śrī Dāmodara Paṇḍita said, “Who am I to say anything to you in this regard? Still, I can assuredly say You will definitely meet the king, and I shall be a witness to that meeting. If You ask me about my confidence in this, then my reply is:
rājā tomāre sneha kare, tumi-sneha-vaśa
tā̃ra snehe kôrābe tā̃re tomāra paraśa
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā, 12.28)
“King Pratāparudra has the utmost love and affection for You. It is Your nature to be easily controlled by the love and affection of Your devotees. By virtue of this affection alone, what to speak of receiving Your darśana, the king will also get Your mercy in the form of Your touch.”
A question may arise here about how it can be concluded from the previously mentioned letter alone that King Pratāparudra had great affection for Śrīman Mahāprabhu, and whether there were any other indications of his love. Although Śrī Dāmodara Paṇḍita has said in the above verse, “The king has the utmost love and affection for You,” the actual meaning is, “The king’s heart is filled with the desire to render devotional service unto You with all love and affection.” This is evident by the fact that the king had rendered direct service to the associates of Śrīman Mahāprabhu with all his heart and resources in order to please them.
Śrī Dāmodara Paṇḍita further said to Śrīman Mahāprabhu, “Although You are the supremely independent Lord, it is Your nature to be controlled by the love of Your unalloyed devotees, and You are therefore prema-paratantra, dependent on prema.”
Here it appears that the Supreme Lord is controlled by devotees who serve Him with deep love and affection. In referring to His devotee King Ambarīṣa, the Lord Himself has said to Śrī Durvāsā Muni:
hy asvatantra iva dvija
I am completely under the control of My devotees. Indeed, I am not at all independent. Because My devotees are completely devoid of material desires, I sit within the cores of only their hearts. What to speak of My devotee, even those who are devotees of My devotee are very dear to Me.
The Lord further stated:
vaśe kurvanti māṁ bhaktyā
sat-striyaḥ sat-patiṁ yathā
As chaste women bring their gentle husbands under control by service, the pure devotees, who see everyone according to their respective position and are completely attached to Me in the core of the heart, bring Me under their full control. If such is the Lord’s expression of love for His devotee Ambarīṣa Mahārāja, then we can consider how intense His love for anukūla-śakti Śrīmatī Rādhikā must be. In this regard, Kṛṣṇa once assumed the form of Śrī Jayadeva Gosvāmī and Himself penned the words “smara garala khaṇḍanam, māmā śirasi maṇḍanaṁ, dehī pada-pallavam udaraṁ—Rādhike! Offer the fresh buds of Your enchanting feet as an ornament upon My head,” (Gīta-govinda 10.8) and thereby expressed His sentiment. For Kṛṣṇa to make such statements or truly feel these sentiments, there is absolutely no loss of His supremely divine independence. He is not controlled by any person, but rather by His own heartfelt desire alone. Therefore, this submission of His is known as prema-paratantrata, dependent only on prema.
The king’s affectionate service
While Dāmodara Paṇḍita was assuring Śrīman Mahāprabhu that He would certainly meet with King Pratāparudra at some point, Nityānanda Prabhu submitted a suggestion to the Lord. He proposed that if Śrīman Mahāprabhu were to supply the king with a cloth He had personally worn, perhaps the king’s agitation would be pacified to some extent, enabling him to retain his life. Śrīman Mahāprabhu accepted this proposal and had one of His used garments sent to the king. Although the king became overjoyed at receiving the Lord’s prasāda in the form of His cloth, he still yearned to attain His direct darśana.
Thereafter, King Pratāparudra approached Śrī Rāmānanda Rāya and requested him to convey to the Lord his sincere prayers to receive His divine darśana. Agreeing to the king’s request, Śrī Rāmānanda Rāya repeatedly informed the Lord of the king’s desire and petitioned Him to meet with the king. Śrīman Mahāprabhu declined, but mentioned that He would be willing to meet with the king’s son. At their meeting, the Lord embraced the prince, imparted him with prema, and even gave him the order to visit Him daily.
Despite the fact that King Pratāparudra had many of Śrīman Mahāprabhu’s associates petition the Lord on his behalf, he was still unable to obtain the Lord’s darśana. But Śrī Dāmodara Paṇḍita’s prediction that Śrīman Mahāprabhu would meet with him quickly proved true when the Lord witnessed him performing snehamaya-sevā.
On the occasion of the Ratha-yātrā festival, King Pratāparudra took a golden broom in his hands and swept the road in front of the chariots. Afterward, he sprinkled the pathway with sandalwood-scented water. Although he was a king, he performed these apparently menial services with great love and affection, realizing fully the significance of service to the Supreme Lord.
mahāprabhu sukha pāila se-sevā dekhite
mahāprabhura kṛpā hôilô se-sevā hôite
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 13.18)
Śrīman Mahāprabhu became blissful upon seeing King Pratāparudra’s service, and as a result of that service alone, King Pratāparudra saw Śrīman Mahāprabhu dancing in seven groups of devotees simultaneously and performing saṅkīrtana during the chariot festival, a scene not witnessed by most of the devotees. Later, the king also received the fortune of reciting Gopī-gīta to Mahāprabhu, a song very dear to Him, while engaging in the rarest service of massaging His lotus feet. Upon hearing the verse of Gopī-gīta that starts tava-kathāmṛtaṁ, Mahāprabhu became so pleased that He not only touched the king, but also embraced him tightly, saying, “You have given Me priceless jewels. I am embracing you because I do not have anything with which to repay you.” Receiving Mahāprabhu’s touch, the king manifested symptoms of prema. In this way, Śrīman Mahāprabhu became controlled by the king’s affectionate and loving service, and He thus accepted all his services, as per his desire.
The meaning of 'ahaitukī'
Now, a question arises here that if the Lord’s manifesting His mercy is dependent on the loving and affectionate service performed by His devotees, then what is the purport of the term ahaitukī quoted in the scriptures with reference to His mercy? Although ahaitukī is generally understood to mean ‘that which manifests without any hetu (cause),’ there is another meaning. The vowel a [in ahaitukī] refers to Viṣṇu, and in turn Kṛṣṇa, just as it does in the word auṁ [the combination of a, u and m]. The word haitukī means ‘in relation to,’ ‘only for’ and ‘unto’ the person or object in question. When we add these two concepts together, the complete meaning of the word ahaitukī becomes ‘with relation to Kṛṣṇa, only for Kṛṣṇa, and unto Kṛṣṇa.’
When it is mentioned in the scriptures that Bhagavān bestows His ahaitukī mercy, it means that when He finds a devotee’s heart to be devoid of even a scent of attachment for anyone else except Him, and sees that devotee totally absorbed in His exclusive devotion—ananyāś cintayanto māṁ (Bhāgavad-gītā 9.22)— only then does He bestow His mercy upon him.
On the other hand, when a devotee prays to the Lord in a mood similar to that of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s kīrtana based on the fourth verse of Śrī Śikṣāṣṭakam, “ahaitukī bhakti hṛde jāge anukṣane— may ahaitukī-bhakti for the Supreme Lord awaken in my heart,” the true meaning of ahaitukī here is that the devotee is praying for the mood of loving and affectionate service related to Kṛṣṇa, directly for Kṛṣṇa, and toward Kṛṣṇa to manifest in his heart. If the other meaning of ahaitukī were to be applied here—that is, ‘without any cause or purpose’—then it would indicate niṣkāma-karma (selfless activity), and then the word would have no special significance or importance. In such a case, Kṛṣṇa’s bestowal of His mercy to one person and not another without reason would charge Him with committing the fault of discrimination (pakṣa-pāta). But Kṛṣṇa Himself has said in Bhagavad-gītā (9.29):
samo ’ham sarva-bhūteṣu
na me dveṣyo ’sti na priyaḥ
ye bhajanti tu mām bhaktyā
mayi te teṣu cāpyaham
I am equally disposed to all living beings and am neither inimical nor partial to anyone. But as those who serve Me with bhakti are attached to Me, I, too, am bound by affection for them.
Therefore, the word ahaitukī does not mean ‘without cause,’ but rather ‘only for Kṛṣṇa’s cause’; this definition is more appropriate.