It is a completely mistaken idea that one can worship Kṛṣṇa in any form or in any way and still attain the ultimate result of receiving the favor of the Lord. This is a decision made by gross materialists. Generally such men say that you can manufacture your own way of worshiping the Supreme Lord and that any type of worship is sufficient to approach the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Certainly there are different means for attaining different results in fruitive activity, speculative knowledge, mystic yoga and austerity. Crude men therefore say that one who adopts any of these methods achieves the Supreme Personality of Godhead’s favor. They claim that it doesn’t matter what kind of method one adopts. A general example is given: If one wishes to arrive at a certain place, there are many roads leading there, and one can go to that place by any one of these roads. Similarly, these gross materialists say, there are different ways to attain the favor of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. They claim that one can conceive of the Supreme Personality of Godhead as goddess Durgā, goddess Kālī, Lord Śiva, demigod Gaṇeśa, Lord Rāmacandra, Kṛṣṇa, the impersonal Brahman or whatever, and one can chant the Lord’s name in any way and in any form. Such materialists claim that since ultimately all these names and forms are one, the result is the same. They also give the example that a man who has different names will answer if called by any one of them. Therefore, they claim, there is no need to chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra. If one chants the name of Kālī, Durgā, Śiva, Gaṇeśa or anyone else, the result will be the same.
Such claims made by mental speculators are no doubt very pleasing to mental speculators, but those who are actually in knowledge do not admit such conclusions, which are against the authority of the śāstras. A bona fide ācārya will certainly not accept such a conclusion. As Kṛṣṇa clearly states in the Bhagavad-gītā (BG 9.25):
- yānti deva-vratā devān pitṟn yānti pitṛ-vratāḥ
- bhūtāni yānti bhūtejyā yānti mad-yājino ’pi mām
“Those who worship the demigods will take birth among the demigods, those who worship the ancestors go to the ancestors, those who worship ghosts and spirits will take birth among such beings, and those who worship Me will live with Me.” Only the devotees of the Lord can be admitted to His kingdom—not the demigod worshipers, karmīs, yogīs or anyone else. A person who desires elevation to the heavenly planets worships various demigods, and material nature may be pleased to offer such devotees their desired positions. The material nature gives a person his own nature, by which he increases affection for different types of demigods. However, the Bhagavad-gītā (BG 7.20) says that demigod worship is meant for men who have lost all their intelligence:
- kāmais tais tair hṛta-jñānāḥ prapadyante ’nya-devatāḥ
- taṁ taṁ niyamam āsthāya prakṛtyā niyatāḥ svayā
“Those whose intelligence has been stolen by material desires surrender unto demigods and follow the particular rules and regulations of worship according to their own natures.” Although one may be elevated to the heavenly planets, the results of such a benediction are limited:
- anta-vat tu phalaṁ teṣāṁ tad bhavaty alpa-medhasām
- devān deva-yajo yānti mad-bhaktā yānti mām api
“Men of small intelligence worship the demigods, and their fruits are limited and temporary. Those who worship the demigods go to the planets of the demigods, but My devotees ultimately reach My supreme planet.” (BG 7.23) Being elevated to the heavenly planets or other material planets does not mean attaining an eternal life of knowledge and bliss. At the end of the material world, all attainments of material elevation will also end. Again, according to Kṛṣṇa in the Bhagavad-gītā (BG 18.55), only those who engage in His loving devotional service will be admitted to the spiritual world and return to Godhead, not others:
- bhaktyā mām abhijānāti yāvān yaś cāsmi tattvataḥ
- tato māṁ tattvato jñātvā viśate tad-anantaram
“One can understand Me as I am, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, only by devotional service. And when one is in full consciousness of Me by such devotion, he can enter into the kingdom of God.” Impersonalists cannot understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead; therefore it is not possible for them to enter into the spiritual kingdom of God and return home, back to Godhead. Actually one attains different results by different means. It is not that all achievements are one and the same. Those interested in the four principles of dharma, artha, kāma and mokṣa cannot be compared to those interested in the unalloyed devotional service of the Lord. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (SB 1.1.2) therefore says:
- dharmaḥ projjhita-kaitavo ’tra paramo nirmatsarāṇāṁ satāṁ
- vedyaṁ vāstavam atra vastu śiva-daṁ tāpa-trayonmūlanam
- śrīmad-bhāgavate mahā-muni-kṛte kiṁ vā parair īśvaraḥ
- sadyo hṛdy avarudhyate ’tra kṛtibhiḥ śuśrūṣubhis tat-kṣaṇāt
“Completely rejecting all religious activities which are materially motivated, this Bhāgavata Purāṇa propounds the highest truth, which is understandable by those devotees who are pure in heart. The highest truth is reality distinguished from illusion for the welfare of all. Such truth uproots the threefold miseries. This beautiful Bhāgavatam, compiled by the great sage Śrī Vyāsadeva, is sufficient in itself for God realization. As soon as one attentively and submissively hears the message of Bhāgavatam, he becomes attached to the Supreme Lord.” Those who aspire after liberation attempt to merge into the impersonal Brahman. To this end they execute ritualistic religious ceremonies, but Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam considers this a cheating process. Indeed, such people can never dream of returning home, back to Godhead. There is a gulf of difference between the goal of dharma, artha, kāma and mokṣa and the goal of devotional service.
The goddess Durgā is the superintending deity of this material world, which is made of material elements. The demigods are simply different directors engaged in operating the departments of material activities, and they are under the influence of the same material energy. Kṛṣṇa’s internal potencies, however, have nothing to do with the creation of this cosmic material world. The spiritual world and all spiritual activities are under the direction of the internal, spiritual energy, and such activities are performed by Yogamāyā, the spiritual energy. Yogamāyā is the spiritual or internal energy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Those who are interested in being promoted to the spiritual world and engaging in the service of the Lord attain spiritual perfection under the control of Yogamāyā. Those who are interested in material promotion engage in ritualistic religious ceremonies and economic development to develop sense gratification. They ultimately attempt to merge into the impersonal existence of the Lord. Such people generally become impersonalists. They are interested in worshiping Lord Śiva or goddess Durgā, but their return is one hundred percent materialistic.
Following the example of the gopīs, the devotees sometimes worship the goddess Kātyāyanī, but they understand that Kātyāyanī is an incarnation of Yogamāyā. The gopīs worshiped Kātyāyanī, Yogamāyā, to attain Kṛṣṇa as their husband. On the other hand, it is stated in the Sapta-śatī scripture that a kṣatriya king named Suratha and a rich vaiśya named Samādhi worshiped material nature in the form of goddess Durgā to attain material perfection. If one tries to mingle the worship of Yogamāyā with that of Mahāmāyā, considering them one and the same, he does not really show very high intelligence. The idea that everything is one is a kind of foolishness indulged in by those with less brain substance. Fools and rascals say that the worship of Yogamāyā and the worship of Mahāmāyā are the same. This conclusion is simply the result of mental speculation, and it has no practical effect. In the material world, sometimes one gives an exalted title to an utterly worthless thing; in Bengal this is known as giving a blind child a name like Padmalocana, which means “lotus-eyed.” One may foolishly call a blind child Padmalocana, but such an appellation does not bear any meaning.
In the spiritual world the Absolute Lord is always identical with His name, fame, form, qualities and pastimes. Such identity is impossible in the material world, where the name of a person is different from the person himself. The Supreme Lord has many holy names like Paramātmā, Brahman and “the creator,” but one who worships the Lord as the creator cannot understand the relationship between a devotee and the Lord in the five types of transcendental mellows, nor can he understand the conception of Kṛṣṇa. One cannot understand the six transcendental opulences of the Lord simply by understanding the Supreme Personality of Godhead as impersonal Brahman.
Impersonal realization of the Absolute Truth is certainly transcendental, but this does not mean that one who has attained this realization can understand the sac-cid-ānanda form of the Lord. Similarly, Paramātmā realization—realization of the plenary expansion of the Absolute Truth within everyone’s heart—is also an incomplete understanding of the Absolute Truth. Even a devotee of the Personality of Godhead Nārāyaṇa cannot actually understand the transcendental attractive features of Kṛṣṇa. Indeed, a devotee of Kṛṣṇa who is attached to the sublime attractive features of the Lord does not consider Nārāyaṇa very important. When the gopīs sometimes saw Kṛṣṇa in the form of Nārāyaṇa, they were not very much attracted to Him. The gopīs never addressed Kṛṣṇa as Rukmiṇī-ramaṇa. Kṛṣṇa’s devotees in Vṛndāvana address Him as Rādhāramaṇa, Nandanandana and Yaśodānandana, but not as Vasudeva-nandana or Devakī-nandana. Although according to the material conception Nārāyaṇa, Rukmiṇī-ramaṇa and Kṛṣṇa are one and the same, in the spiritual world one cannot use the name Rukmiṇī-ramaṇa or Nārāyaṇa in place of the name Kṛṣṇa. If one does so out of a poor fund of knowledge, his mellow with the Lord becomes spiritually faulty and is called rasābhāsa, an overlapping of transcendental mellows. The advanced devotee who has actually realized the transcendental features of the Lord will not commit the mistake of creating a rasābhāsa situation by using one name for another. Because of the influence of Kali-yuga, there is much rasābhāsa in the name of extravagance and liberal-mindedness. Such fanaticism is not very much appreciated by pure devotees.