My new mantra is "Love and Devotion." I chant it as I cook, begin my japa, dress the deities or offer an arati. "Love and devotion Syamesvari, love and devotion," I chant in my head as I heat the oil or ghee, as I pick out turban pieces or set the arati tray. There are so many things I try to do for Krsna everyday, big and little, quick or time-consuming, but how many of them do I do in the right mood? How many things do I do with a loving 'This is for Your pleasure Krsna, not for my benefit' attitude? Hardly anything, I'm ashamed to admit. I do things out of habit, out of obligation, or for the selfish reason of getting rid of bad karma and hopefully ending my time in the material world. But without those two all-important ingredients - love and devotion - really, what benefit am I gaining anyway? Inattentive chanting is not nearly as potent or beneficial as attentive chanting is, so similarly, devotional service without the devotion is not nearly as sweet or as meaningful to me, or to Krsna.
If it weren't for seeing first-hand what real devotional service is, I wouldn't be aspiring after it myself. There are some amazing vaisnavas who are eagerly and purely serving the Lord, their hearts full of surrender and genuine affection for Krsna. These devotees are my role-models and their association makes me want to be a better devotee.
Of course simply chanting 'love and devotion' does not bring about those feelings. Like Srila Prabhupada once said, 'Chanting water, water, water does not quench your thirst.' But just as chanting 'water, water, water' reminds you of water, makes you meditate on it and possibly hanker after it, my 'love and devotion' mantra reminds me of what the real point of rendering any service to the Lord is.
Sivarama Swami gave a class some time ago entitled "Will you make Krsna smile today?" The introduction to that class reads : Srila Prabhupada explains that making the Lord smile by our pure devotion is the conclusion of all spiritual practices and the essence of Vrndavana life.
So now I realise that the aim is not merely to do something devotionally related to get it done - it is to make Krsna happy and make Him smile. And with no other motivation than bringing a sweet smile to Krsna's lips, performing even the simplest of tasks, like peeling potatoes or washing puja items can become our most devotion-filled tasks and we will gain the greatest benefit and satisfaction.
Will you make Krsna smile today?