This passage is a quotation from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (SB 5.6.18). While Śukadeva Gosvāmī was describing the character of Ṛṣabhadeva, he distinguished between bhakti-yoga and liberation by reciting this verse. In relationship with the Yadus and Pāṇḍavas, the Lord acted sometimes as their master, sometimes as their advisor, sometimes as their friend, sometimes as the head of their family and sometimes even as their servant. Kṛṣṇa once had to carry out an order of Yudhiṣṭhira’s by carrying a letter Yudhiṣṭhira had written to Duryodhana regarding peace negotiations. Similarly, He also became the chariot driver of Arjuna. This illustrates that in bhakti-yoga there is a relationship established between the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the devotee. Such a relationship is established in the transcendental mellows known as dāsya, sakhya, vātsalya and mādhurya. If a devotee wants simple liberation, he gets it very easily from the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as confirmed by Bilvamaṅgala Ṭhākura. Muktiḥ svayaṁ mukulitāñjali sevate ’smān: for a devotee, mukti is not very important because mukti is always standing on his doorstep waiting to serve him in some way. A devotee, therefore, must be attracted by the behavior of the inhabitants of Vṛndāvana, who live in a relationship with Kṛṣṇa. The land, water, cows, trees and flowers serve Kṛṣṇa in śānta-rasa, His servants serve Him in dāsya-rasa, and His cowherd friends serve Him in sakhya-rasa. Similarly, the elder gopīs and gopas serve Kṛṣṇa as father and mother, uncle and other relatives, and the young gopīs, the cowherd girls, serve Kṛṣṇa in conjugal love.
While executing devotional service, one must be naturally inclined to serve Kṛṣṇa in one of these transcendental relationships. That is the actual success of life. For a devotee, to get liberation is not very difficult. Even one who is unable to establish a relationship with Kṛṣṇa can achieve liberation by merging into the Brahman effulgence. This is called sāyujya-mukti. Vaiṣṇavas never accept sāyujya-mukti, although sometimes they accept the other forms of liberation, namely sārūpya, sālokya, sāmīpya and sārṣṭi. A pure devotee, however, does not accept any kind of mukti. He wants only to serve Kṛṣṇa in a transcendental relationship. This is the perfectional stage of spiritual life. Māyāvādī philosophers desire to merge into the existence of the Brahman effulgence, although this aspect of liberation is always neglected by devotees. Śrīla Prabodhānanda Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, describing this kind of mukti, which is called kaivalya, or becoming one with the Supreme, has said, kaivalyaṁ narakāyate: “Becoming one with the Supreme is as good as going to hell.” Therefore the ideal of Māyāvāda philosophy, becoming one with the Supreme, is hellish for a devotee; he never accepts it. Māyāvādī philosophers do not know that even if they merge into the effulgence of the Supreme, this will not give them ultimate rest. An individual soul cannot live in the Brahman effulgence in a state of inactivity; after some time, he must desire to be active. However, since he is not aware of his relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead and therefore has no spiritual activity, he must come down for further activities in this material world. This is confirmed in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (SB 10.2.32):
- āruhya kṛcchreṇa paraṁ padaṁ tataḥ
- patanty adho ’nādṛta-yuṣmad-aṅghrayaḥ
Because Māyāvādī philosophers have no information regarding the transcendental service of the Lord, even after attaining liberation from material activities and merging into the Brahman effulgence, they must come down again to this material world to open hospitals or schools or perform similar philanthropic activities.