SB 11.20: Pure Devotional Service Surpasses Knowledge and Detachment
The processes of karma-yoga, jñāna-yoga and bhakti-yoga are explained in this chapter, in terms of the presence of different good and bad qualities in particular candidates.
The Vedic śāstras are the words expressing the order of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In these Vedic literatures is found an outlook of duality, based on such concepts as the varṇāśrama system, and at the same time the Vedas reject this dualistic vision. Uddhava, desiring to understand the reason why the scriptures contain such conflicting ideas, and how these might be reconciled, inquired from Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa about this matter. In response the Supreme Lord replied that the Vedas describe the processes of karma-yoga, jñāna-yoga and bhakti-yoga for facilitating the attainment of liberation. Karma-yoga is designated for those persons who are not detached and who are full of gross desires; jñāna-yoga is for those who are detached from the fruits of activity and have given up material endeavors; and bhakti-yoga is for those persons who have taken to the principle of yukta-vairāgya, appropriate renunciation. As long as one has not become uninterested in enjoying the fruits of one’s work, or as long as one’s faith in the topics of discussion of the Supreme Personality of Godhead on the path of devotional service has not awakened, then one must continue to fulfill all the prescribed duties of his karma. But neither the renunciant nor the devotee of the Supreme Lord need carry out ritualistic duties.
Persons who follow their own duty, who abandon that which is forbidden and who are free from greed and other unhealthy characteristics attain either monistic knowledge or else, if they are fortunate, devotion to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Such knowledge and devotion can be achieved in the human form of life, which is therefore a desirable object both for those living in hell and for the demigods. The human body, even though it awards the whole purpose of existence in the form of knowledge and devotion, is ephemeral; therefore one who is discriminating should soberly strive for liberation before death comes. The human body is like a boat, Śrī Gurudeva is the helmsman, and the mercy of the Supreme Lord is the favorable breeze. If the person who has attained such a rare boat in the form of the human body does not desire to cross over the ocean of material existence, he is in fact the killer of the soul. The mind is fickle, but one should not indifferently allow it to act as it will. Rather, one should conquer the senses and the vital air and by intelligence endowed with the qualities of goodness should bring the mind under control.
Until the mind finally becomes stable, one should continue to meditate about the process of the creation of all material things in sequence from subtle to gross and of their destruction in reverse sequence of gross to subtle. One who has a sense of detachment and renunciation can give up false identification with the body and other sense objects by constantly studying the instructions of his spiritual master. By the yoga practice of yama, niyama and so forth, by cultivation of transcendental knowledge and by worship of and meditation upon the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one can remember the Supersoul.
Virtue, or guṇa, means to remain steadfast in the object of one’s particular platform of qualification. By developing the desire to reject one’s accumulated material association by pursuing the injunctions of what is good and what is bad, all of one’s inauspicious material activities become diminished. By devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead all perfections are achieved. Anyone who renders service to the Supreme Lord by constant devotional service will be able to steadily fix his mind upon the Supreme Lord, and thus all desires for sense gratification sitting within the heart will be destroyed to the root. When one directly perceives the presence of the Supreme Lord, his false ego becomes completely eradicated; all of his doubts are shattered, and heaps of material activities become diminished to nil. For this reason the devotees of the Supreme Personality of Godhead do not consider knowledge and renunciation to be the means for achieving the highest benefit. Only in the heart of a person who is devoid of material desire and disinterested in material things can devotional service to the Lord arise. The piety and impiety that result from ritualistic injunctions and prohibitions cannot be applied to the unalloyed pure devotees of the Supreme Lord.