There are five kinds of liberation stated in the scriptures. One is to become one with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, or to forsake one's individuality and merge into the Supreme Spirit. This is called ekātmatām. A devotee never accepts this kind of liberation. The other four liberations are: to be promoted to the same planet as God (Vaikuṇṭha), to associate personally with the Supreme Lord, to achieve the same opulence as the Lord and to attain His same bodily features. A pure devotee, as Kapila Muni will explain, does not aspire for any of the liberations. He especially despises the attempt to become one with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Śrī Prabodhānanda Sarasvatī, a great devotee of Lord Caitanya, said, kaivalyaṁ narakāyate: "The happiness of becoming one with the Supreme Lord, which is the aspiration of the Māyāvādīs, is considered hellish." That oneness is not for pure devotees.
There are many so-called devotees who think that in the conditioned state we may worship the Personality of Godhead but that ultimately there is no personality; they say that since the Absolute Truth is impersonal, one can imagine a personal form of the impersonal Absolute Truth for the time being, but as soon as one becomes liberated, the worship stops. That is the theory put forward by Māyāvāda philosophy. Actually the impersonalists do not merge into the existence of the Supreme person but into His personal bodily luster, which is called brahma-jyotir. Although that brahma-jyotir is not different from His personal body, that sort of oneness (merging into the bodily luster of the Personality of Godhead) is not accepted by a pure devotee because the devotees engage in greater pleasure than merging into His existence. The greatest pleasure is to serve the Lord. Devotees are always thinking about how to serve Him; they are always designing ways and means to serve the Supreme Lord, even in the midst of the greatest material obstacles.
Māyāvādīs accept the description of the pastimes of the Lord as myths, but actually they are not; they are historical facts. pure devotees accept the narrations of the pastimes of the Lord as Absolute Truth. The words mama pauruṣāṇi (My glorious activities) are significant. Devotees are very much attached to glorifying the activities of the Lord, whereas Māyāvādīs cannot even think of these activities. According to them, the Absolute Truth is impersonal, but without personal existence, how can there be activity? Because impersonalists take the activities mentioned in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Bhagavad-gītā and other Vedic literatures as fictitious stories, they interpret them most mischievously. They have no idea of the Personality of Godhead. They unnecessarily poke their noses into the scripture and interpret it in a deceptive way in order to mislead the innocent public. The activities of Māyāvāda philosophy are very dangerous to the public, and therefore Lord Caitanya warned His disciples never to hear from any Māyāvādī about any scripture. Māyāvādīs will spoil the entire process, and the person hearing them will never be able to come to the path of devotional service to attain the highest perfection. He only may be able to do so after a very long time.
It is clearly stated by Kapila Muni that bhakti activities are transcendental to mukti. This is called pañcama-puruṣārtha. Generally, people engage in the activities of religion, economic development and sense gratification, and ultimately they work with an idea that they are going to become one with the Supreme Lord (mukti). But bhakti is transcendental to all these activities. The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, therefore, begins by stating that all kinds of pretentious religiosity is completely eradicated from the Bhāgavatam. Ritualistic activities for economic development and sense gratification and, after frustration in sense gratification, the desire to become one with the Supreme Lord, are all completely rejected in the Bhāgavatam. The Bhāgavatam is especially meant for the pure devotees, who always engage in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, in the activities of the Lord, and always glorify these transcendental activities. Pure devotees worship the transcendental activities of the Lord in Vṛndāvana, Dvārakā and Mathurā as they are narrated in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and other purāṇas. The Māyāvādī philosophers completely reject them as myths, but actually they are great and worshipable subjects and thus are relishable only for devotees. That is the difference between a Māyāvādī and a pure devotee as they view scripture.
Actually Vedic scripture is kṛṣṇa-kathā, topics about Kṛṣṇa, and kṛṣṇa-kathā is not a subject matter for a debate club. It is meant for the devotees. Nondevotees simply waste their time reading Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, and we have often mentioned that so-called scholars, politicians and philosophers simply give misleading commentaries when they try to interpret Bhagavad-gītā. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura used to say that they are like people trying to lick at a bottle of honey that is sealed closed. If one does not know how to taste honey, one begins licking at the bottle, but for one to actually taste the honey, the bottle must be opened, and the key to its opening is the devotee. Therefore it is said:
- satāṁ prasaṅgān mama vīrya-saṁvido
- bhavanti hṛt-karṇa-rasāyanāḥ kathāḥ
- taj joṣaṇād āśv apavarga-vartmani
- śraddhā ratir bhaktir anukramiṣyati
"In the association of pure devotees, discussion of the pastimes and activities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is very pleasing and satisfying to the ear and the heart. By cultivating such knowledge one gradually becomes advanced on the path of liberation, and thereafter he is freed, and his attraction becomes fixed. Then real devotion and devotional service begin." (SB 3.25.25)
God is eternal, and His instructions and followers are also eternal. In Bhagavad-gītā (4.1) Kṛṣṇa tells Arjuna that millions of years ago He spoke Bhagavad-gītā to the sun-god. Bhagavad-gītā was spoken to Arjuna five thousand years ago, and if we read it today we will still find that it is fresh. Bhagavad-gītā and Kṛṣṇa are never old. Although Kṛṣṇa is the most ancient one, the oldest of all, He always remains like a young boy in His teens. He never appears older than twenty. Kṛṣṇa's words are absolute, as well as His form, qualities and activities. They are always fresh and new. If they were not, how could the devotees glorify them day after day with greater enthusiasm? The more one glorifies Kṛṣṇa, the more enthusiastic one becomes in glorifying, glorifying, glorifying. This is the meaning of spiritual. In the material world, if we repeat something once, twice, thrice or four times, it finally becomes hackneyed and disgusting. However, this Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra can be chanted twenty-four hours daily, and one will still feel fresh and enthusiastic. It is not a material sound like the sounds we hear on the radio. It is a spiritual sound that comes from the spiritual world. Even in the material world we can release a sound from one place, and it can be heard thousands of miles away. A spiritual sound can be released from many trillions of miles away, and it can be heard, provided that one has the machine to capture it. That machine is bhagavat-premā. Those who have developed love of Godhead can hear it.
Arjuna was neither a Vedāntist nor a sannyāsī, nor was he particularly advanced in spiritual understanding. However, he heard Bhagavad-gītā because he was a bhakta. Atheistic scholars and politicians cannot understand the transcendental vibration. They can only lick at the honey bottle. Fools and rascals eat and drink everything without restriction, thinking that they are doing so in the name of religion. There are many so-called svāmīs and yogīs who tell their disciples that they can do anything and still advance spiritually, but this is not possible. One has to become a pure brāhmaṇa, control the mind and senses and discuss the Supreme Personality of Godhead among sādhus. This may sound very difficult, but one can become a sat, a saintly person, within a second. If one is eager, one can immediately surrender to Kṛṣṇa.
When one approaches Kṛṣṇa, one should say, "My dear Kṛṣṇa, I have forgotten You. Now I am fully surrendered unto You. You may kill me as You like or, if You like, You can give me protection." When Prahlāda was asked by the Supreme Lord what benediction he desired, Prahlāda Mahārāja replied, "My dear Lord, why should I ask for some benediction simply because I have suffered for You? You are supremely powerful, and whatever I get, I get from You. I was born into a family of demons and was inclined toward material enjoyment. I have seen my powerful father, who was feared even by the demigods, annihilated within a second. Why should I ask for anything? Please engage me in the service of Your servant. This is all I want. I do not want anything else." In this way a devotee never asks for anything material from the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The devotees are simply satisfied in glorifying the Lord. This is the way of bhakti-yoga.
Kṛṣṇa descends to please His devotees and destroy the demons. From the very beginning of Kṛṣṇa's birth, demons were present. Kaṁsa advised his constables, "As soon as Kṛṣṇa is born, tell me. I shall immediately kill Him." He was always thinking of Kṛṣṇa in this way, negatively. Similarly, we will find so many so-called religionists whose only purpose is to kill Kṛṣṇa. Somehow or other they try to take Kṛṣṇa out of Bhagavad-gītā. They will comment on Bhagavad-gītā, but in their commentaries there will never be mention of Kṛṣṇa. They will never say that Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and that He should be worshiped. This means that they are asuras, demons, although they may present themselves as big scholars. Somehow or other they try to evade kṛṣṇa-bhakti, and their entire propaganda is aimed toward this.