How to be a Humble devotee? What is the meaning of “last bench devotee”?
Roshini Dubey asked like this:
“Hare Krishna . Please accept my humble obeisances . Prabhuji what does mean by when you say that you preferring to be a last bench devotee? Whenever any person regularly visit Iskcon temple and show some dedication then few services are allotted to him/her as per the capacity and talents . So one who prefer to be a last bench devotee then does that mean he don’t want to involve in managerial or preaching roles in temple ? Hope I am not offending you . Please clear my doubt. /\”
The meaning of a humble last bench devotee is observing the happenings keenly and learning from that and not desiring for and demanding any position in the temple voluntarily.
Go to the temple.
Do not talk mundane things unnecessarily.
Whenever the devotees ask any doubts, clarify them if you know the answer. Or, direct to the seniors.
Do not do anything voluntarily to show you are a big devotee. Because, most of us do things to be appreciated by other devotees and common people. But, we should do anything to be appreciated by Krishna. It need not be purposefully shown to others. If they voluntarily know that, its ok.
Of course, we need not hide our services. They can be open. But, we should not do a service in such a way others should see and think big about you. You should not feel or speak proud outside. Just do the service and go.
Even if we are given some responsibilities, we should take only if we are experienced in that.
For example, your temple manager requests you to cook, you should accept it only if you know cooking well. Otherwise, we can’t offer tasty food to Krishna. Take some other services and do.
In case, your temple manager requests you to make a garland from the flowers, you should accept it only if you know making garland well. Otherwise, we will be wasting the resources of the temple.
Only if you know the basic concepts well, you should go for preaching. First go with the seniors, learn preaching and do after that. Otherwise, just stop with distributing the books of acharyas like Srila Prabhupada.
Thus, we should definitely accept the services given by the temple manager, if you have sufficient time and knowledge genuinely.
Even if they do not ask you, in case you observe that some work is pending in the temple because of the non availability of helpers, you can do some voluntary services also. Eg: if the place is dirty and no person cleans it, you can take the mob and clean the hall.
My point is that you should not project your services to otherspurposefully. This may result in getting pride of our services that will destroy all the good effects of our service.
SERVICE MEANS DOING WITHOUT EXPECTATION AND PRIDE.
So, be humble. ‘Last bench’ is an indicative term to indicate humbleness. It is not sitting idle in the last row.
I too have done/ is doing some services in the temples. But, I do them without exposing to others purposefully. If they themselves notice me, it is ok.
But, if anyone starts appreciating me, I keep calm and pray to Krishna to accept that appreciations.
Do you know why I have been hiding my face for the past 8 years?
Just to avoid getting pride.
Nothing wrong in showing the face. But, when I started this preaching service in 2011, I took a decision to do this silently and humbly without projecting myself, but, Only Krishna and His exalted devotees. I also decided not to post my photos unless I feel the need for it.
I decided that the devotees may judge whether I am a good preacher or not based on my performance and quality. My face need not be a factor for such decisions.
And, I feared that some devotees may develop an attachment with me instead of Krishna. They may come to meet me visiting my place. I may have to spare time with them daily that may make this service to lakhs of people impossible. It may also force me to develop pride.
So, I decided that my preaching should be my face atleast for a few years. This gives sufficient humbleness to me.
Once I feel that I am sufficiently matured to face the appreciations and criticisms without developing pride, I will print my face.
I think that I am reaching that maturity. So, in near future, I may publish my picture in my forthcoming books that are being written by me.
Why I have told these things?
We should be very careful in NOT developing pride in our devotional service. This is the first and foremost barrier for our devotional growth.
Krishna too does not support such a proud attitude and service.
Thus, you too accept the possible services and help the temples. Most importantly, distribute the books that pleases Srila Prabhupada the most.
A devotee need not unnecessarily stand in the prominent place to be seen by others. Let them do their service humbly. Let others get inspiration seeing him.
In my decades of service in the temples, I have never spoken in the mike even once. Even when a few devotees requested me, I have refused. Because, I fear for pride. When there are senior devotees, why should I speak over the mike? It is over acting and I may expect the mike next day also.
We need not tell “I did this; I did that. Do you know how big achievement it is?” like that.
And, we should never gossip or speak against others in the temple and even outside. This is not a quality of a devotee.
That is why, I never speak hurting anyone in our sites and pages. I just tell which is right based on the vedic texts and my own observations. It is your duty to filter the wrong people using those details.
Offer your obeisances to the senior devotees. Offer pranams to others whenever you meet them.
Krishna sees your heart. Not just the external activities.
Never speak about what you did to others; If they praise you, tell them that only Krishna is to be praised and then gently move away. Do not entertain others to praise you.
Always evaluate yourself whether you are following the devotional services and humbleness properly.
This is what I call as Last Bench Devotee, ie, Humble devotee.
Hope you are clear now.