As the contamination of the germs of a particular disease can influence a weaker person, similarly the influence of material nature, or illusory energy, can act on the weaker, or conditioned, soul but not on the liberated soul. Self-realization is the position of the liberated state. One understands his constitutional position by knowledge and vairāgya, renunciation. Without knowledge, one cannot have realization. The realization that one is the infinitesimal part and parcel of the Supreme Spirit makes one unattached to material, conditional life. That is the beginning of devotional service. Unless one is liberated from material contamination, one cannot engage in the devotional service of the Lord. In this verse, therefore, it is stated, jñāna-vairāgya-yuktena: when one is in full knowledge of one's constitutional position and is in the renounced order of life, detached from material attraction, then, by pure devotional service, bhakti-yuktena, he can engage himself as a loving servant of the Lord. Paripaśyati means that he can see everything in its right perspective. Then the influence of material nature becomes almost nil. This is also confirmed in Bhagavad-gītā. Brahma-bhūtaḥ prasannātmā: (BG 18.54) when one is self-realized he becomes happy and free from the influence of material nature, and at that time he is freed from lamentation and hankering. The Lord states that position as mad-bhaktiṁ labhate parām, the real beginning of devotional service. Similarly, it is confirmed in the Nārada Pañcarātra that when the senses are purified, they can then be engaged in the devotional service of the Lord. One who is attached to material contamination cannot be a devotee.
In the conditional state, we are influenced by material nature. We have already discussed how we are conditioned by the three modes of material nature - ignorance, passion and goodness. Goodness is superior to ignorance and passion because from the platform of goodness we can come to understand Kṛṣṇa and thereby transcend the modes altogether. In this age, people are generally influenced by the lower modes, the modes of ignorance and passion. In these modes, we are not able to serve Kṛṣṇa. It is our constitutional position to serve someone, but when we do not serve Kṛṣṇa, we serve māyā. In any case, we cannot become master. Who can say that he is a master, that he is not serving anyone? We may serve our family, society, country, business, automobile or whatever. If one cannot find anything to serve, he goes and buys a cat or dog and serves it. Why is this? It is because service is our nature. We are simply lacking the knowledge of where to direct the service. Service is meant to be rendered to Kṛṣṇa. In the material world we are serving our lusty desires, not Kṛṣṇa, and we are deriving no pleasure from this. We are also serving in an office or in some employment in order to get some money. In this case, we are serving money, not the person. Thus in the material world we serve the senses and money. In any case, service is there. We must serve.
Actually the only master is Kṛṣṇa. Ekale īśvara kṛṣṇa, āra saba bhṛtya (CC Adi 5.142). All the demigods, human beings, animals, trees and everything else are servants. Self-realization is realizing that one is the eternal servant of Kṛṣṇa and that one's duty is to serve Him. Self-realization is not thinking ahaṁ brahmāsmi, "I have become Brahman, Bhagavān." How can we become Bhagavān? If we are Bhagavān, we are actually the supreme powerful one. If this is the case, why are we in a miserable condition? Why are we under the influence of māyā? Does Bhagavān come under the influence of māyā? No. Kṛṣṇa says specifically in Bhagavad-gītā that prakṛti, māyā, is working under His directions. Māyā is the maidservant of Kṛṣṇa, and if we are the servants of maya, how can we be Kṛṣṇa, Bhagavān? When we come to our spiritual senses, we can understand that we are erroneously engaged in māyā's service and that our duty is to engage in Kṛṣṇa's service. That is self-realization. As stated here: jñāna-vairāgya-yuktena. Real understanding is knowing oneself to be the servant of Kṛṣṇa, no one else. Because we are under illusion, we are serving kāma, lobha, moha, mātsarya - lust and greed - without benefit and without pleasure. Kāmādīnāṁ kati na katidhā pālitā durnideśā: "There is no limit to the unwanted orders of lusty desires." (Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 3.2.25) When we come to the understanding that our pleasure lies in serving Kṛṣṇa only, we have attained jñāna-vairāgya. Therefore in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.2.7) it is stated:
- vāsudeve bhagavati
- bhakti-yogaḥ prayojitaḥ
- janayaty āśu vairāgyaṁ
- jñānaṁ ca yad ahaitukam
"By rendering devotional service unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, one immediately acquires causeless knowledge and detachment from the world." If one engages in the service of Vāsudeva, Kṛṣṇa, this knowledge comes, and one becomes a mahātmā. A mahātmā is one who realizes that Kṛṣṇa is everything. He does not defy Kṛṣṇa or try to become Kṛṣṇa. One who does so is not a mahātmā but a durātmā, a rascal. What is the position and knowledge of a mahātmā? Kṛṣṇa states:
- mahātmānas tu māṁ pārtha
- daivīṁ prakṛtim āśritāḥ
- bhajanty ananya-manaso
- jñātvā bhūtādim avyayam
"O son of Pṛthā, those who are not deluded, the great souls, are under the protection of the divine nature. They are fully engaged in devotional service because they know Me as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, original and inexhaustible." (BG 9.13)
A mahātmā cannot be manufactured. He is under the daivī prakṛti, the divine nature. There are two kinds of prakṛti-parā prakṛti and aparā prakṛti. Aparā prakṛti is the material world, and daivī prakṛti is the spiritual world. As soon as one understands that he is uselessly serving māyā in the material world in the form of society, friends, country and so forth, one reaches the stage called jñāna, knowledge. As soon as one attains this knowledge, he reaches the brahma-bhūta (SB 4.30.20) stage, Brahman realization, and he becomes prasannātmā, happy. One may ask, "Why should I serve Kṛṣṇa?" We have already explained that being a part means serving the whole. The whole is Kṛṣṇa, and the individuals are meant for Kṛṣṇa's satisfaction. Īśāvāsyam idaṁ sarvam (ISO 1).
There are many īśvaras, controllers, but the supreme īśvara is Kṛṣṇa. As soon as one attains this realization, he has attained perfect knowledge, and he renders service in bhakti-yoga. Foolish people say that bhakti is meant for ajñanīs, unintelligent people, but this is not the case. In Bhagavad-gītā Kṛṣṇa indicates that after many births, the jñānī, the man in knowledge, surrenders unto Him.
As long as we do not understand Kṛṣṇa, Vāsudeva, we should understand that we are still fools. We may advertise ourselves as very great jñānīs, learned personalities, but we are actually fools. That is the śāstric conclusion. If we are actually jñānīs, we should surrender unto Kṛṣṇa.
There are many dharmas, or activities. Some are pious and some impious, but Kṛṣṇa tells us to give up both. Arjuna was thinking that it was impious to fight with his relatives, but Kṛṣṇa was insisting that he fight. How could Arjuna act impiously? He could not, because Kṛṣṇa's service is transcendental to pious and impious activity. At midnight, when the gopīs heard the sound of Kṛṣṇa's flute, they ran to the forest to join Him. According to the śāstras, it is immoral for young girls to go see a young boy in a forest in the dead of night. But this was not an impious activity because the gopīs did this for Kṛṣṇa. Caitanya Mahāprabhu, who was so strict that no woman could even come near Him to offer respects, actually said: ramyā kācid upāsanā vraja-vadhū-vargeṇa yā kalpitā. "What could be more wonderful than that worship conceived by the gopīs?" Although it actually appeared immoral for the gopīs to dance with Kṛṣṇa, Caitanya Mahāprabhu states that their relation with Kṛṣṇa is the highest
form of worship. This is actually transcendental knowledge. One becomes transcendental to all pious and impious activities when one serves Kṛṣṇa. After all, piety and impiety are within the material modes. Kṛṣṇa's service is transcendental to good and bad, pious and impious. Bhakti-yoga begins when jñāna and vairāgya are complete. Jñāna is knowledge, and vairāgya is detachment from matter and engagement of the mind in spirit. Both of these are automatically attained when we engage in devotional service to Kṛṣṇa.