To worldly altruists who put forward humanitarian welfare work as the Highest good for suffering mankind, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati proposed:
"Krsna-bhakti is the only way to deracinate miseries from the world. You are working only of the body and treating the symptoms, not the original disease. Your patchwork schemes of various social, economic, and political ideologies are like blowing on a boil, which gives but a momentary and false sense of assuagement. The real cure is to lance the boil and squeeze out the pus. Similarly, the pus of material attachment must he excised by the sharp words of the expert devotee, the only genuine welt-wisher of human society."
"There has not been and will not be such benefactors of the highest merit as Mahaprabhu and His devotees. The offer of other benefits is only a deception, indeed a great harm, whereas the benefit one by Him and His followers is the truest and topmost eternal benefit. This benefit is not for one particular country causing mischief to another, hut is benefic for the whole universe."
(Sri Caitanya's Teachings 244)
He defined and analyzed true altruism:
"Welfare work is good, but has two defects: it directly or indirectly encourages godlessness and supports violence to animals and other living entities. Whatever attempts we make to help others while neglecting the Divinity are useless. Nor are we in favor of practicing spiritual life for any personal advantage. Those who want to utilize sadhus to accomplish something mundane demonstrate that they have no respect whatsoever for sadhus.
"Ordinary altruism is not the goal of life. In the human form there is a much more important duty: to serve Bhagavan. Serving Bhagavan can permanently liberate people from their material distress and allow them to taste eternal happiness. Our intention is to convert the entire human population to practitioners of bhakti.
"Serving Bhagavan is the soul's supreme eternal dharma. Hearing Sri Caitanya-deva's teachings on this point will in all respects help everyone:
bharata-bhumite haila manusya janma yara
janma sarthaka kari' kara para-upakara
"One who has taken birth as a human being in Bharata-varsa should make his life successful and work for the benefit of others, (Cc 1.941)
"Sri Caitanya-deva preached throughout the world for the welfare of all jivas, yet the welfare work He proposed was not of the small-minded, paltry, stopgap, changeable, or imaginary, pie-in-the-sky type, like that envisaged by so-called social reformers and mundane philanthropists. The welfare work He proposed is of the highest caliber and neither temporary nor insignificant. The ways to uplift others—already invented, being invented, and about to be invented by ordinary human beings according to their narrow considerations—will in no way profit anyone, because they are all makeshift. Sri Mahaprabhu revealed the actual means for elevating others:
vedyam vastavam atra vastu sivadarm tapa-trayonmulanam
"Bhagavata Purana describes the actual subject of knowledge, which is auspicious and uproots the threefold miseries. (SB 1.1.2)
"The process of doing good for others as described in Srimad-Bhagavatam was discovered and refined by Sri Caitanya-deva. This process destroys the threefold troubles, whereas the usual forms of mundane welfare work imagined by thoughtful persons of this world are neither beneficial nor able to deliver the ultimate goal of life; they cannot even destroy material miseries.
"Distresses are the effect of a particular cause. Until the cause is terminated, the effect will remain. Unless the root of a banyan tree is destroyed, it will again sprout even if one cuts down its trunk and branches thousands of times. The thousands of manmade proposals for social welfare are like an attempt to empty the ocean with one's bare hands; even if thousands of people engage continuously in such an endeavor for thousands of yugas, they will never be successful. By doing so they might cause a vast body of water to accumulate elsewhere. Similarly, we cannot empty the ocean of material suffering by our own strength. At most we will simply suceed in transferring the problems elsewhere. Of course by doing that we can certainly deceive others and even ourselves.
"The threefold miseries cannot be vanquished without following the instructions of Bhagavatam, There are unlimited varieties of distress, and we cannot invent a way to end even one of them. They are caused by nescience in the form of forgetfulness of the Supreme Lord. That nescience both covers the living entities and hurls them into further throes. Until we terminate the cause we will never overcome the miserable effect. If we wish to help others we must propagate devotional service. If the Lord's message is preached around the world, then all countries and all people will achieve the greatest success of all time.
(Amrta Vani 114-16)
"Devotional service benefits all beings in all countries at all times.' Those who chant the Lord's glories uplift every living entity on the planet, including beasts, birds, demigods, asuras, and even trees, creepers, and stones.
(Amrta Vani 176, 269)