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According to us, everything is form of God, but without knowing this concept also people could be serving people. There are many people in the world who does not worship Gods or do not know about such concepts as they have no opportunity. Even though many of them could be serving devotees who actually worship God. How do this scenario is handled in Sanathana Dharma? What difference does this make? Which is considered best, serving devotee or directly serving God?

  • Do you want to "serve" the omnipotent God? And do you think a real devotee of that Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Omniscient God, "needs" to be "served", at all? Now, about "serving" a "common" miserable human, who is getting fruits of HIS OWN Karma. How about you "help" that poor soul, realize the same Divinity in his own Self, that made you rise above all and think "Vasudhaiva-Kutumbakam"? We don't "serve" anyone, but our OWN deep rooted desires. People suffer, NOT because they lack something "outside" (that you intend to fulfill by "serving" them), rather the void is "inside". – Hindu Dec 6 '14 at 15:24
  • Humans are Divine, an image of God. And have you ever seen your image ever "serving" you? Rather its always with you, but "on the darker side". It always does things what you do, but "on the darker side". So remain what you actually are, an image of God. Create lasting self-sufficient systems (like God Himself, Who made this perpetual creation), Inspire lost ones, make them realize their potential. The idea of serving, or the "dasa-culture", was a poison injected, by Victorian Catholic historians in Hinduism, to make it "Baptized" in a sense. Its had NEVER been a Sanatan-Dharma thing. – Hindu Dec 6 '14 at 15:44
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There is no difference between serving a devotee and serving God. In fact the question need not even come up. Here is why:

Who is God? Where is He present? Sri Krishna says thus in Bhagavad Gita 10:20:

I am the Self, O Gudakesa, seated in the hearts of all creatures. I am the beginning, the middle and the end of all beings.

So He is present in all. So there is no difference between serving one being vs another, whether they are devotees or God Himself, so long as one is aware of this fact that God resides in ALL.

Secondly, what is service? Does God need our service? Sri Krishna says this in Bhagavad Gita 10:41 42

Know that all beautiful, glorious, and mighty creations spring from but a spark of My splendor. But what need is there, Arjuna, for all this detailed knowledge? With a single fragment of Myself I pervade and support this entire universe.

God can do everything. There is nothing He cannot do. Why does He need Our service? Who are we really serving. So there is no question of serving God. All service is merely gift or opportunity for us!

What about serving devotees of the One:

Sri Krishna says this in Gita 9:22 verse of assurance:

But those who worship Me with devotion, meditating on My transcendental form--to them I carry what they lack and preserve what they have.

So Lord Himself takes care of all needs of His devotees, so what is the meaning of us serving them. This question too does not arise. We are serving no-one nor is there a need to serve His devotees, for God Himself takes care of Him.

Finally the last point, which is 'better' service of the two. This means that there is a result for service. If the result of X is better than the result of Y, then X > Y right? But Sri Krishna says this in His Bhagavad Gita 2:47

Thy right is to work only, but never with its fruits; let not the fruits of actions be thy motive, nor let thy attachment be to inaction

So God says that there should not be any attachment or desire for rewards when performing actions. Such duty is liberating and therefore becomes best. So then which produces better fruits: serving devotee or serving God? Neither, for the best is to serve WITHOUT thinking of rewards/fruits, in other words, just go ahead and SERVE, do not think which is better.

SO there is no difference. Go ahead and serve all beings, fixing your mind on God (all forms are nothing but His Forms - God is One) and without expecting any fruits in return for such service, because after all there is NO SUCH THING as service, because God does not need it, nor do the devotees. All the best sir!

This is just one possible interpretation from scriptures, and there may be many possible ones.

  • Nice Answer. By the way, this reminds me of the beliefs of Thenkalais, one of the subsects of Sri Vaishnavism. See this answer: hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/831/36 In the beginning of any Hindu ritual, you have to say a Sankalpam, and in that Sankalpam there is a line beginning with "Sri Bhagavatagya" meaning "I am doing this ritual as per the command of Bhagavan". Advaitins follow that line with "Parameshwara Preethiyartham", meaning "for the pleasure of Parameshwara". – Keshav Srinivasan Dec 7 '14 at 5:11
  • (continued) But Thenkalais don't even think they should be so arrogant as to have an expectation that their measly actions can increase the pleasure of Vishnu, so after "Sri Bhagavatagya" they just say "Bhagavat Kainkarya Rupam", meaning "as a form of service to Bhagavan." So your statement "God can do everything. There is nothing He cannot do. Why does He need Our service? All service is merely gift or opportunity for us!" sounds more like what a Thenkalai would say than what an Advaitin would say ;-) – Keshav Srinivasan Dec 7 '14 at 5:15
  • @KeshavSrinivasan thank you so much. Glad that it resonates with the philosophy that you believe :). Have GREAT respect and reverence for Sri Ramanujacharya (and other Vaishnava saints) and his loving humility and sharanagati path which He propagated. Thanks alot for sharing the philosophical differences between the various schools of thoughts. – Sai Dec 7 '14 at 6:09
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    As for me, I personally believe in validity of all paths, Vishishtadvaita, Achintyabhedabheda, Dvaita and Advaita (although I mostly write advaitist comments). I believe this: all scriptures are like oranges and mangos. One must extract the sweet essence in them and discard the peels. It does not matter whether we crush them into juice and take it, or if we chew it ourselves manually! Similarly all the great Saints of this country gave us the ESSENCE present in Vedas and Upanishads. Only difference is their technique, the essence is ONE - sweet and unadulterated divinity. Thanks once again :) – Sai Dec 7 '14 at 6:14
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    When we help others, we are not really helping others, what we are doing is helping our own self. When we help others we are giving up the selfish desires of our own small egos. We learn that we can be happy when others are happy and we learn that "I eat through all mouths." and experience Oneness. – Swami Vishwananda Dec 8 '14 at 10:01

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