There are different kinds of mystic yoga systems aiming for different phases of the Absolute Truth. The jñāna-yoga system aims at the impersonal Brahman effulgence, and the haṭha-yoga system aims at the localized personal aspect, the Paramātmā feature of the Absolute Truth, whereas bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, which is executed in nine different ways, headed by hearing and chanting, aims at complete realization of the Supreme Lord. There are different methods of self-realization. But here Devahūti especially refers to the bhakti-yoga system, which has already been primarily explained by the Lord. The different processes of the bhakti-yoga system are hearing, chanting, remembering, offering prayers, worshiping the Lord in the temple, accepting service to Him, carrying out His orders, making friends with Him and ultimately surrendering everything for His service.
The word nirvāṇātman is very significant in this verse. Unless one accepts the process of devotional service, one cannot end the continuation of material existence. As far as jñānīs are concerned, they are interested in jñāna-yoga, but even if one elevates oneself, after a great performance of austerity, to the Brahman effulgence, there is a chance of falling down again to the material world. Therefore, jñāna-yoga does not actually end material existence. Similarly, regarding the haṭha-yoga system, which aims at the localized aspect of the Lord, Paramātmā, it has been experienced that many yogīs, such as Viśvāmitra, fall down. But bhakti-yogīs, once approaching the Supreme Personality of Godhead, never come back to this material world, as confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā. Yad gatvā na nivartante: (BG 15.6) upon going, one never comes back. Tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma naiti: (BG 4.9) after giving up this body, he never comes back again to accept a material body. Nirvāṇa does not finish the existence of the soul. The soul is ever-existing. Therefore nirvāṇa means to end one's material existence, and to end material existence means to go back home, back to Godhead.
Sometimes it is asked how the living entity falls down from the spiritual world to the material world. Here is the answer. Unless one is elevated to the Vaikuṇṭha planets and is directly in touch with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he is prone to fall down, either from the impersonal Brahman realization or from an ecstatic trance of meditation. Another word in this verse, bhagavad-bāṇaḥ, is very significant. Bāṇaḥ means "arrow." The bhakti-yoga system is just like an arrow aiming up to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The bhakti-yoga system never urges one toward the impersonal Brahman effulgence or to the point of Paramātmā realization. This bāṇaḥ, or arrow, is so sharp and swift that it goes directly to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, penetrating the regions of impersonal Brahman and localized Paramātmā.
We must understand the Supreme Person, tattvataḥ, in truth. Generally people are not interested in knowing about God or their relationship with Him. However, the entire Vedic instruction is for this purpose. First of all we have to know God, then we have to know our relationship with God. The next step is acting on the basis of that relationship. Kṛṣṇa states that out of many millions of people, one may be interested in knowing the purpose of life. Human life is meant for this end, and if one does not come to this understanding, he is no better than an animal. We not only have to understand God and our relationship with Him but also how to act in that relationship. In this way we can perfect our lives. When one is a siddha, one understands himself - that is, one understands, ahaṁ brahmāsmi: "I am not this body." This is Brahman realization, the brahma-bhūta (SB 4.30.20) platform. When one attains this stage, he becomes very happy. However, we must progress beyond this and come to the platform of bhakti-yoga. On that platform, there is variety and ānanda, bliss. As stated previously, we are seeking spiritual variety, and if we do not enter the spiritual world, we will again fall down into the material atmosphere.
The varieties of the spiritual world are mentioned in the Brahma-saṁhitā (5.29-30):
- cintāmaṇi-prakara-sadmasu kalpa-vṛkṣa-
- lakṣāvṛteṣu surabhīr abhipālayantam
- govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
- veṇuṁ kvaṇantam aravinda-dalāyatākṣaṁ
- barhāvataṁsam asitāmbuda-sundarāṅgam
- govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
"I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, the first progenitor, who is tending the cows, yielding all desires, in abodes built with spiritual gems and surrounded by millions of purpose trees. He is always served with great reverence and affection by hundreds and thousands of goddesses of fortune.
"I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, who is adept in playing on His flute, with blooming eyes like lotus petals, with head decked with peacock's feather, with the figure of beauty tinged with the hue of blue clouds, and His unique loveliness charming millions of Cupids."
We should not consider Kṛṣṇa's form to be imagined by some artist. He is described in the Vedas as veṇuṁ kvaṇantam aravinda-dalāyatākṣam (Bs. 5.30). He plays a flute, and His eyes are like the petals of a lotus flower. He wears a peacock feather, and His complexion is very beautiful, like a dark cloud. He is so beautiful that He attracts many hundreds of thousands of Cupids (kandarpa-koṭi-kamanīya-viśeṣa-śobham). These are descriptions of Govinda found in the śāstras.
In the material world we are simply chewing the chewed, throwing it away, picking it up and then chewing it again. Spiritual variety is not like this. Spiritual variety is ānandāmbudhi-vardhanam: it is constantly increasing. It is even greater than the ocean, because the ocean does not increase. The shores of the ocean are set; they have certain limits. However, the ocean of bliss is constantly increasing. The more we enter into that spiritual bliss, the more we become joyful.
The young people in the Hare Kṛṣṇa movement chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra all the time. If this mantra were material, how long would they chant it? It is not possible to chant a material name for very long because the chanting would become hackneyed and very tiresome. No one could be satisfied simply by chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa unless Hare Kṛṣṇa itself were spiritual. We may chant, "Mr. John, Mr. John, Mr. John," but after an hour we will be fed up. However, the more we become spiritually advanced, the more bliss we will derive from chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa.
We can experience ānanda perfectly in the association of Kṛṣṇa. We can associate with Kṛṣṇa as a servant, a friend, a father, a mother or a conjugal lover. There are five basic rasas-śānta, dāsya, sakhya, vātsalya and mādhurya. In this material world, we experience the same rasas, or relationships. We are related to someone as a father, a son, a lover, a beloved, a master, a servant or whatever. These are perverted reflections of the relationship with Kṛṣṇa found in the spiritual world. Today in the material world I may be relishing my love for my son, but tomorrow my son may be my greatest enemy. There is no eternity in this kind of love. Or, if my son does not become my enemy, he may die. Today I may love some man or woman, but tomorrow we may break up. All of this is due to the defects of the material world. However, in the spiritual world these relationships never break up. They simply increase and increase, and this is called perfection.
Kṛṣṇa is very fond of tending surabhi cows, but the Māyāvādīs cannot understand this. They say, "What is this Kṛṣṇa?" Even Lord Brahmā was bewildered. He said, "How is it that this Kṛṣṇa, this boy of Vṛndāvana, is being worshiped? He is called the Supreme Personality of Godhead. How is that?" Lord Indra was also bewildered. Therefore if we do not wish to be bewildered we have to understand Kṛṣṇa in truth from Kṛṣṇa Himself or His bona fide representative.
The activities of Kṛṣṇa are not ordinary but divine. If we can understand this, we immediately become liberated. We need only understand the pastimes of Kṛṣṇa with the gopīs. These pastimes are not ordinary. In the material world, a young man wants to dance with many young girls, but Kṛṣṇa's dancing with the gopīs is different. Because people cannot understand Kṛṣṇa, when they hear about Kṛṣṇa's dancing with the gopīs, they take this as some kind of concession, and say, "Now let us dance with young girls." In this way they go to hell. Therefore we have to learn from the proper person about Kṛṣṇa's activities. We should not immediately try to understand Kṛṣṇa's dealings with the gopīs, for they are very confidential. These dealings are given in the Tenth Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, and this indicates that we have to understand Kṛṣṇa as He is by first reading the preceding nine cantos. When we have understood these nine cantos, we can go on to the tenth. In this way we can understand that Kṛṣṇa's activities are not ordinary but divine, and we can immediately become liberated.
We may either hear about Kṛṣṇa, chant His names, worship Him or offer prayers. In any case, we should work under the directions of our spiritual master or Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself. For instance, Hanumān simply carried out Lord Rāmacandra's orders. Hanumān apparently had no education, and he was not capable of teaching Vedānta, but he simply carried out the orders of Lord Rāmacandra and attained perfection. Arjuna, on the other hand, took Kṛṣṇa as his most intimate friend. Arjuna was not a Vedāntist but a fighter, a warrior. He had no time to study Vedānta because he had to deal with war and politics, but still he was the greatest devotee. People may say, "Oh, Arjuna was not a Vedāntist, nor even a brāhmaṇa or a sannyāsī. How could Kṛṣṇa accept him as a devotee?" Nonetheless, in Bhagavad-gītā (4.3), Kṛṣṇa says that Arjuna is His very dear friend and devotee: bhakto 'si me sakhā ceti. If one becomes a devotee, there is no material impediment.
Actually bhakti should be automatic and spontaneous. There should be no motive in serving Kṛṣṇa, but even if there is a motive, service rendered unto Kṛṣṇa is good. Even if one approaches Kṛṣṇa with some ulterior motive, one is considered pious. For instance, Dhruva Mahārāja initially worshiped Kṛṣṇa with a motive, but after attaining perfection in devotional service, his ulterior motive vanished. When he actually saw Kṛṣṇa, he said, "I do not want anything from You. I don't want any benediction other than Your service." After hearing about the many transcendental qualities of Kṛṣṇa, if we somehow or other become attracted to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, our lives will be successful. Tasmāt kenāpy upāyena manaḥ kṛṣṇe niveśayet: "Somehow or other we have to attach our minds to Kṛṣṇa consciousness." (SB 7.1.32) Then Kṛṣṇa will help us and give us intelligence from within, as He indicates in Bhagavad-gītā (10.10):
- teṣāṁ satata-yuktānāṁ
- bhajatāṁ prīti-pūrvakam
- dadāmi buddhi-yogaṁ taṁ
- yena mām upayānti te
"To those who are constantly devoted and worship Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me." This is actual buddhi-yoga. Bhakti-yoga means buddhi-yoga, because one who is highly intelligent decides to take to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. In this way, one can perfect his life by engaging in devotional service under the directions of the śāstras and the spiritual master. Devahūti understands this and is thus submitting to her son just as Arjuna submitted to Śrī Kṛṣṇa on the battlefield.