Impersonalists sometimes give the example that if one stands on a stone or a piece of wood one certainly stands on the surface of the land, because the stone and wood both rest on the surface of the earth. But it may be replied that if one stands directly on the surface of the earth he is more secure than if he stands on wood or a stone that rests on the earth. In other words, taking shelter of Paramātmā or taking shelter of impersonal Brahman is not as secure a course as taking direct shelter of Kṛṣṇa in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The position of the jñānīs and yogīs is therefore not as secure as the position of the devotees of Kṛṣṇa. Lord Kṛṣṇa has therefore advised in the Bhagavad-gītā that only a person who has lost his sense takes to the worship of demigods. And regarding persons attached to the impersonal Brahman, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam says, "My dear Lord, those who think of themselves as liberated by mental speculation are not yet purified of the contamination of material nature because of their inability to find the shelter of Your lotus feet. Although they rise to the transcendental situation of existence in impersonal Brahman, they certainly fall from that exalted position because they deride Your lotus feet." Lord Kṛṣṇa therefore advises that the worshipers of the demigods are not very intelligent persons because they derive only temporary, exhaustible results. Their endeavors are those of less intelligent men. On the other hand, the Lord assures that His devotee has no fear of falling.
The personified Vedas continued to pray, "Dear Lord, considering all points of view, if a person has to worship someone superior to himself, then just out of good behavior he should stick to the worship of Your lotus feet because You are the ultimate controller of creation, maintenance and dissolution. You are the controller of the three worlds, Bhūḥ, Bhuvaḥ and Svaḥ; You are the controller of the fourteen upper and lower worlds; and You are the controller of the three material qualities. Demigods and persons advanced in spiritual knowledge always hear and chant about Your transcendental pastimes because this process has the specific potency of nullifying the accumulated results of sinful life. Intelligent persons factually dip into the ocean of Your nectarean activities and very patiently hear about them. Thus they are immediately freed from the contamination of the material qualities; they do not have to undergo severe penances and austerities for advancement in spiritual life. This chanting and hearing of Your transcendental pastimes is the easiest process for self-realization. Simply by submissive aural reception of the transcendental message, one's heart is cleansed of all dirty things. Thus Kṛṣṇa consciousness becomes fixed in the heart of a devotee." The great authority Bhīṣmadeva has also given the opinion that this process of chanting and hearing about the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the highest religious process. And the Taittirīya Upaniṣad says that worship of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the essence of all Vedic ritualistic performances.
"Dear Lord," the personified Vedas continued, "the devotee who wants to elevate himself simply by the process of devotional activities, especially by hearing and chanting, very soon comes out of the clutches of the dualities of material existence. By this simple process of penance and austerity, the Supersoul within the devotee's heart is very much pleased and gives the devotee directions so that he may go back home, back to Godhead." It is stated in the Bhagavad-gītā that one who engages all his activities and senses in the devotional service of the Lord becomes completely peaceful because the Supersoul is satisfied with him; thus the devotee becomes transcendental to all dualities, such as heat and cold, honor and dishonor. Being freed from all dualities, he feels transcendental bliss, and he no longer suffers cares and anxieties due to material existence. The Bhagavad-gītā confirms that the devotee always absorbed in Kṛṣṇa consciousness has no anxieties for his maintenance or protection. Being constantly absorbed in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, he ultimately achieves the highest perfection. While in material existence, he lives very peacefully and blissfully, without cares and anxieties, and after quitting this body he goes back home, back to Godhead. The Lord confirms in the Bhagavad-gītā, "My supreme abode is a transcendental place from which, having gone, one never returns to this material world. Anyone who attains the supreme perfection, being engaged in My personal devotional service in the eternal abode, reaches the highest perfection of human life and does not have to come back to the miserable material world."
The personified Vedas continued: "Dear Lord, it is imperative that the living entities be engaged in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, always rendering devotional service by such prescribed methods as hearing and chanting and executing Your orders. If a person is not engaged in Kṛṣṇa consciousness and devotional service, it is useless for him to exhibit the symptoms of life. Generally if a person is breathing he is accepted to be alive. But a person without Kṛṣṇa consciousness may be compared to a bellows in a blacksmith's shop. The big bellows is a bag of skin which exhales and inhales air, and a human being who simply lives within the bag of skin and bones without taking to Kṛṣṇa consciousness and loving devotional service is no better than the bellows. Similarly, a nondevotee's long duration of life is compared to the long existence of a tree, his voracious eating capacity is compared to the eating of dogs and hogs, and his enjoyment in sex life is compared to that of hogs and goats."
The cosmic manifestation has been made possible because of the entrance of the Supreme Personality of Godhead as Mahā-Viṣṇu within this material world. The total material energy is agitated by the glance of Mahā-Viṣṇu, and only then does the interaction of the three material qualities begin. Therefore it should be concluded that whatever material facilities we are trying to enjoy are available only due to the mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Within the body there are five different departments of existence, known as anna-maya, prāṇa-maya, mano-maya, vijñāna-maya and, at last, ānanda-maya. In the beginning of life, every living entity is food conscious. A child or an animal is satisfied only by getting nice food. This stage of consciousness, in which the goal is to eat sumptuously, is called anna-maya. Anna means "food." After this one lives in the consciousness of being alive. If one can continue his life without being attacked or destroyed, one thinks himself happy. This stage is called prāṇa-maya, or consciousness of one's existence. After this stage, when one is situated on the mental platform, his consciousness is called mano-maya. The materialistic civilization is primarily situated in these three stages, anna-maya, prāṇa-maya and mano-maya. The first concern of civilized persons is economic development, the next concern is defense against being annihilated, and the next consciousness is mental speculation, the philosophical approach to the values of life.
If by the evolutionary process of philosophical life one happens to reach the platform of intellectual life and understands that he is not this material body but a spiritual soul, he is situated in the vijñāna-maya stage. Then, by evolution in spiritual life, he comes to the understanding of the Supreme Lord, or the Supreme Soul. When one develops his relationship with Him and executes devotional service, that stage of life is called Kṛṣṇa consciousness, the ānanda-maya stage. Ānanda-maya is the blissful life of knowledge and eternity. As it is said in the Vedānta-sūtra, ānanda-mayo ’bhyāsāt. The Supreme Brahman and the subordinate Brahman, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the living entities, are both joyful by nature. As long as the living entities are situated in the lower four stages of life— anna-maya, prāṇa-maya, mano-maya and vijñāna-maya—they are considered to be in the material condition of life, but as soon as one reaches the stage of ānanda-maya, he is a liberated soul. This ānanda-maya stage is explained in the Bhagavad-gītā as the brahma-bhūta (SB 4.30.20) stage. There it is said that in the brahma-bhūta stage of life there is no anxiety and no hankering. This stage begins when one is equally disposed toward all living entities, and it then expands to the stage of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, in which one always hankers to render service unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This hankering for advancement in devotional service is not the same as hankering for sense gratification in material existence. In other words, hankering remains in spiritual life, but it becomes purified. Similarly, when our senses are purified, they are freed from all material stages, namely anna-maya, prāṇa-maya, mano-maya and vijñāna-maya, and they become situated in the highest stage—ānanda-maya, or blissful life in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The Māyāvādī philosophers consider ānanda-maya to be the state of being merged in the Supreme. To them, ānanda-maya means that the Supersoul and the individual soul become one. But the real fact is that oneness does not mean merging into the Supreme and losing one's own individual existence. Merging into the spiritual existence is the living entity's realization of qualitative oneness with the Supreme Lord in His aspects of eternity and knowledge. But the actual ānanda-maya (blissful) stage is attained when one is engaged in devotional service. That is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā: mad-bhaktiṁ labhate parām (BG 18.54). Here Lord Kṛṣṇa states that the brahma-bhūta ānanda-maya stage is complete only when there is an exchange of love between the Supreme and the subordinate living entities. Unless one comes to this ānanda-maya stage, his breathing is like the breathing of a bellows in a blacksmith's shop, his duration of life is like that of a tree, and he is no better than the lower animals like the camels, hogs and dogs.
Undoubtedly the eternal living entity cannot be annihilated at any point. But the lower species of life exist in a miserable condition, whereas one who is engaged in the devotional service of the Supreme Lord is situated in the pleasurable, or ānanda-maya, status of life. The different stages described above are all in relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Although in all circumstances there exist both the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the living entities, the difference is that the Supreme Personality of Godhead always exists in the ānanda-maya stage, whereas the subordinate living entities, because of their minute position as fragmental portions of the Supreme Lord, are prone to fall to the other stages of life. Although in all the stages both the Supreme Lord and the living entities exist, the Supreme Personality of Godhead is always transcendental to our concept of life, whether we are in bondage or in liberation. The whole cosmic manifestation becomes possible by the grace of the Supreme Lord, it exists by the grace of the Supreme Lord, and when annihilated it merges into the existence of the Supreme Lord. As such, the Supreme Lord is the supreme existence, the cause of all causes. Therefore the conclusion is that without development of Kṛṣṇa consciousness one's life is simply a waste of time.