In the opinion of the karmīs (fruitive workers), offering the results of karma is called servitorship. But according to Vaiṣṇava ācāryas like Rūpa Gosvāmī, servitorship means to be constantly engaged in some kind of service to the Lord.
In the Skanda Purāṇa it is said that those who are attached to ritualistic activities, the four orders of social life and the four orders of spiritual life, are considered devotees. But when devotees are actually engaged in offering service to the Lord directly, these must be bhāgavatas, or pure devotees. Those who are engaged in fruitive activities, or prescribed duties according to the four orders of social and spiritual life, are not actually pure devotees.
But still, because they are offering the result to the Lord, they are accepted as devotees. When one has no such desire, but acts spontaneously out of love of God, such a person must be accepted as a pure devotee. The conditioned souls who have come into contact with the material world are all more or less desirous of lording it over material nature. The system of varṇāśrama and the prescribed duties under this system are so designed that the conditioned soul may enjoy in the material world according to his desire for sense gratification and at the same time gradually become elevated to spiritual understanding. Under these prescribed duties of varṇa and āśrama there are many activities which belong to devotional service in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Those devotees who are householders accept Vedic ritualistic performances as well as the prescribed duties of devotional service, because both are meant for satisfying Kṛṣṇa. When householder devotees perform some Vedic ritualistic duties, they do so to satisfy Kṛṣṇa. As we have previously discussed, any activity aiming at satisfying the Supreme Personality of Godhead is considered devotional service.
Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī describes one who is fit for becoming engaged in devotional service. He says that persons who are neophytes and who have developed a little love of Godhead are not interested in the activities of sense gratification, in proportion to their devotion. But if there is still some attraction for sense gratifying activities, then the result of such activities should be offered to Kṛṣṇa. This is also called engagement in the service of the Lord, with the Lord as the master and the worker as the servant.
In the Nāradīya Purāṇa there is a statement of how this servitorship is transcendental. It is said there that a person who is constantly engaged in devotional service by his body, mind and words, or even a person who is not practically engaged but is simply desiring to be so, is considered to be liberated.
Devotional Service in Friendship
Devotional service in friendship can be divided into two categories: one is to act as the confidential servant of the Lord, and the other is to act as the well-wisher of the Lord. The devotee who has confidence in devotional service to the Lord systematically follows the rules and regulations, with the faith that he will achieve the platform of transcendental life. The second type of devotional friendship is to become a well-wisher of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In the Bhagavad-gītā it is said that the Lord accepts a preacher as the most dear servant. Anyone who is preaching the confidential message of the Gītā to the people in general is so dear to Kṛṣṇa that no one can be equal with him in human society.
In the Mahābhārata, Draupadī says, "My dear Govinda, Your promise is that Your devotee can never be vanquished. I believe in that statement, and therefore in all kinds of tribulations I simply remember Your promise, and thus I live." The purport is that Draupadī and her five husbands, the Pāṇḍavas, were put into severe tribulations by their cousin-brother, Duryodhana, as well as by others. The tribulations were so severe that even Bhīṣmadeva, who was both a lifelong brahmacārī and a great warrior, would sometimes shed tears thinking of them. He was always surprised that, although the Pāṇḍavas were so righteous and Draupadī practically the goddess of fortune, and although Kṛṣṇa was their friend, still they had to undergo such severe tribulations. Though their tribulations were not ordinary, still Draupadī was not discouraged. She knew that because Kṛṣṇa was their friend, ultimately they would be saved.
A similar statement is there in the Eleventh Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, 2nd Chapter, 5th verse, where Havi, the son of King Ṛṣabha, addresses Mahārāj Nimi: "My dear King, a person who never deviates even for a moment from engagement in service at the lotus feet of the Supreme Person (engagement which is sought after even by great demigods like Indra) with firm conviction that there is nothing more worshipable or desirable than this, is called the first-class devotee."
Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī says that a neophyte devotee who has simply developed a slight love of Godhead is certainly a prospective candidate for devotional service. When he becomes firmly fixed in such devotional service, that assured status becomes a confidential part of his devotional service.
Sometimes it is found that a pure devotee lies down in the temple of the Lord in order to serve Him as a confidential friend. Such friendly behavior of a devotee may be accepted as rāgānugā, or spontaneous. Although, according to regulative principles, no one can lie down in the temple of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, this spontaneous love of Godhead can be grouped under devotional service in friendship.
Regarding complete self-surrender, there is a nice description in the Eleventh Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, 29th Chapter, 32nd verse, where the Lord says: "A person who has completely surrendered unto Me and has completely given up all other activities is protected by Me personally, both in this life and in the next. In other words, I wish to help him become more and more advanced in spiritual life. Such a person is to be understood as having already achieved sārṣṭi (having equal opulences with the supreme)." It is also confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā that as soon as a person surrenders unto the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa takes charge of him and gives him a guarantee of protection from all sinful reactions. He also instructs from within, so that the devotee may very quickly make advancement towards spiritual perfection.
This self-surrender is called ātma-nivedana. According to different authorities, "self" is differently defined. "Self" is sometimes considered to refer to the spirit self, or soul, and "self" is sometimes considered to refer to the mind or to the body. Full self-surrender, therefore, means not only surrendering one's self as spirit soul, but also surrendering one's mind and body to the service of the Lord. Śrīla Bhaktivinode Thākur has sung a nice song in this connection. While offering himself as a fully surrendered soul, he said, "My mind, my household affairs, my body, whatever is in my possession, my dear Lord, I offer to You for Your service. Now You can do with them as You like. You are the supreme possessor of everything, so if You like You can kill me, or if You like You can give me protection. All authority belongs to You. I have nothing to claim as my own."
Śrī Yāmunācārya, in his prayers to the Lord, has expressed a similar idea in the following words: "My dear Lord, I may be living within some body as a human being or as a demigod, but whatever mode of life, I do not mind, because these bodies are simply by-products of the three modes of material nature, and I, who am in possession of these bodies, am surrendering myself unto You."
In the Hari-bhakti-viveka, there is a statement regarding how one can offer his body in self-surrender. There the devotee says, "My dear Lord, as a sold-out animal has no need to think about his maintenance and sustenance, so, because I have given up my body and soul unto You, I am no longer concerned with my maintenance and sustenance." In other words, one should not bother about his personal or family maintenance or sustenance. If one is actually surrendered in body and soul, he should always remember that his only concern is to be engaged in the service of the Lord.
Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī says that devotional service in friendship and devotional service in self-surrender are two difficult processes. Therefore such relationships with the Lord can very rarely be seen. Only for the advanced devotees are these two processes easily executed. The purport is that it is very rare to see surrender which is mixed with sincere ecstatic devotion. One must give himself completely to the will of the Lord.
In the Eleventh Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, 40th verse, 11th Chapter, Lord Kṛṣṇa tells Uddhava: "My dear friend, if someone offers Me the best thing in his possession, or anything which is very pleasing to him, he will be eternally benefitted."
In the Nārada-pañcarātra there is a statement of how one can act in all spheres of life for the satisfaction of the Lord. It is stated there that a person who is actually in devotional service must be engaged in all kinds of activities, those prescribed in the revealed scriptures and also those which are accepted for livelihood. In other words, a devotee should engage himself not only in the prescribed duties of devotional service which are mentioned in the revealed scriptures, but he should also perform the duties of his practical life in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. For example, a devotee who has a great establishment, or factory, may offer the fruits of such a material possession for the service of the Lord.
In the Hari-bhakti-vilāsa there is the following statement about self-surrender: "My dear Lord, a person who has surrendered himself unto You, and who is in firm conviction that he is Yours, and actually acts in that way by his body, mind and words, can actually relish transcendental bliss."
In the Nṛsiṁha Purāṇa, Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva says: "Anyone who prays unto Me and takes shelter from Me becomes My ward, and I protect him always from all sorts of calamities."
Serving Trees such as the Tulasī
In the Skanda Purāṇa there is a statement eulogizing the tulasī tree as follows: "Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto the tulasī tree, which can immediately vanquish volumes of sinful activities. Simply by seeing or touching this tree one can become relieved from all distresses and diseases. Simply by offering obeisances to and pouring water on the tulasī tree, one can become freed from the fear of being sent to the court of Yamarāj (the King of death, who punishes the sinful)." If someone sows a tulasī tree somewhere, certainly he becomes devoted to Lord Kṛṣṇa. And when the tulasī leaves are offered in devotion at the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa, there is the full development of love of Godhead.
In India every Hindu, even those not belonging to the Vaiṣṇava group, take special care of the tulasī tree. Even in great cities where it is very difficult to keep a tulasī tree, people are to be found very carefully keeping this plant. They water it and offer obeisances to it, because worship of the tulasī tree is very important in devotional service.
In the Skanda Purāṇa there is another statement about tulasī, as follows: "Tulasī is auspicious in all respects. Simply by seeing, simply by touching, simply by remembering, simply by praying to, simply by bowing before, simply by hearing about or simply by sowing this tree, there is always auspiciousness. Anyone who comes in touch with the tulasī tree in the above-mentioned ways lives eternally in the Vaikuṇṭha world."