Dovetailing in Devotional Service


Back To Prabhupada, Issue 65, Vol 1, 2020

In Krsna consciousness we are supposed to dovetail our activities for Krsna:

"The living entity cannot enjoy life in opposition to the Supreme Lord; he has to dovetail his activities with Him by practicing bhakti-yoga."
(SB, 3.29.35, purport)

However, as we shall see, though "dovetailing" our activities is meant to be a common activity, it is also commonly misunderstood. All emphases added.

Don't learn anything extra

Srila Prabhupada explains that "dovetailing" simply means that whatever talent we already have should be used to serve Krsna:

"Now this is dovetailing. [...] You need not change. You are fighting man; you remain a fighting man. If you are musician, you remain a musician. If you are a medical man, remain a medical man. Whatever you are, you remain, but dovetail it. [...] If by, by my fighting the Lord is satisfied, then that is my perfection."
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, 19/4/66)

Hence, dovetailing means only applying what one is already doing, or the resources one already has, for Krsna, and not acquiring anything extra:

"Expert does not mean that I do not know how to drive motorcar, and I will have to imitate somebody, "Oh, I shall become driver." Why? If you do not know driving, why should you attempt driving? Whatever you know, you just try it, that business, and try to satisfy Krsna. If you know driving, that's all right. But don't take... My Guru Maharaja explained that you haven't got to learn anything extra for Krsna's service. Whatever you know, you just apply it in Krsna's service. Then you become successful. Because our time is very short. We do not know when I am going to die."
(Srila Prabhupada, Room Conversation, 16/7/68)

"Regarding your intention to study Sanskrit and Hindi at the university, that is not good. You have to give service with whatever you already have, not that you have to learn anything extra. [...] As for your idea that your preaching will be more appreciated in the west if you are a professional or professor, we are already being appreciated by the professors. We don't want more. That is not our achievement. Real achievement is how we are advanced in Krsna Consciousness. That does not depend on degrees. [...] One doesn't become a great devotee on account of university degrees."
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, 19/2/77)

Learn something extra

However, contrary to Srila Prabhupada's instructions just given, it is not unusual in ISKCON for members to expend considerable time, effort and money to learn some new knowledge or skill. The justification given for this is that it can then be used or "dovetailed" for Krsna's service. Some examples:

1) GBC guru HH Bir Krsna Dasa Goswami became a follower of Clinical Psychologist Marshall B. Rosenberg and went on an intensive training course to study his teachings. He then said he "adapted" these teachings to "Krsna consciousness", and "developed workshops and seminars that have been well-received in the society of devotees." Please see BTP 59, "Only Srila Prabhupada's Teachings Required", where more information of this is provided.

2) GBC guru Mahatma Dasa admitted to having attended "several" self-development workshops – some lasting many days and costing thousands of dollars – which teach techniques that can be used to get people to change (Mahatma Dasa Lecture, 3/2/18).

3) And we have already given the example of ISKCON guru HH Hridayananda Dasa Goswami who admitted to teaching himself Sanskrit in order to unauthorisedly complete the Srimad-Bhagavatam:

"I just heard Krsna telling me, "Okay, you passed the test. Now you need to learn Sanskrit and finish the Bhagavatam." [...] I just became immersed, just absorbed in the Sanskrit, I would study all day."
(Hridayananda Goswami Talk, posted on 18/8/17)

Fame for Krsna?

Similarly, it is not unusual for ISKCON members to desire to become famous or rich in order to claim that they will then use that "for Krsna". For example, in BTP 61, we highlighted GBC guru Sankarshan Dasa wanting to make his music more famous "than the Beatles", and directing all his followers to help him in this task. However, Srila Prabhupada warns:

"But to come to the point of a reputed artist will require long duration of time. And our time is very short. We have to finish our Krishna Consciousness during our lifetime, and we should not waste a single moment for anything else. According to Caitanya Caritamrta, a man is famous who is known as a great devotee of Krishna. [...] I do not think there is any necessity to improve our artistic craftsmanship. We should be satisfied with our pictures hanging in our different temples. But we may not sacrifice our valuable time for becoming famous artists so that pictures may be sold like hotcakes. [...] we should not waste time in this way."
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, 13/4/68)

Thus, again Srila Prabhupada explains what dovetailing is not: making an endeavour to achieve fame or whatever, even if one claims one is doing it "for Krsna".

Additionally, all attempts at "dovetailing" must also be in harmony with Srila Prabhupada's orders. Thus, for example, one who thinks he is a "writer" should not attempt to use this ability to compete with Srila Prabhupada's books, by writing rival books to Srila Prabhupada's books. Nor should one who thinks he is a "musician" make some musical "show" and disobey orders such as:

"So far the Road Show and this Yoga Village are concerned, these things should be stopped. [...] Simply have kirtana, nothing else. Don't manufacture ideas."
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, 5/11/72)

And so on.


1) Dovetailing our activities for Krsna means we must only use whatever we already have for Krsna, and not endeavour to acquire other things.

2) These activities should also be in harmony with Srila Prabhupada's orders.

Otherwise, rather that dovetailing, we may simply be deviating due to wanting to fulfil our own desires and just claiming that we are doing it "for Krsna" as the excuse.

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