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yad gatvā na nivarteta
yogī liṅgād vinirgame
Actual self-realization means becoming a pure devotee of the Lord. The existence of a devotee implies the function of devotion and the object of devotion. Self-realization ultimately means to understand the Personality of Godhead and the living entities; to know the individual self and the reciprocal exchanges of loving service between the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the living entity is real self-realization. This cannot be attained by the impersonalists or other transcendentalists; they cannot understand the science of devotional service. Devotional service is revealed to the pure devotee by the unlimited causeless mercy of the Lord. This is especially spoken of here by the Lord: mat-prasādena, “by My special grace.” This is also confirmed in Bhagavad-gītā. Only those who engage in devotional service with love and faith receive the necessary intelligence from the Supreme Personality of Godhead so that gradually and progressively they can advance to the abode of the Personality of Godhead.
Niḥśreyasa means “the ultimate destination.” Sva-saṁsthāna indicates that the impersonalists have no particular place to stay. The impersonalists sacrifice their individuality so that the living spark can merge into the impersonal effulgence emanating from the transcendental body of the Lord, but the devotee has a specific abode. The planets rest in the sunshine, but the sunshine itself has no particular resting place. When one reaches a particular planet, then he has a resting place. The spiritual sky, which is known as kaivalya, is simply blissful light on all sides, and it is under the protection of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As stated in Bhagavad-gītā (14.27), brahmaṇo hi pratiṣṭhāham: the impersonal Brahman effulgence rests on the body of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In other words, the bodily effulgence of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is kaivalya, or impersonal Brahman. In that impersonal effulgence there are spiritual planets, which are known as Vaikuṇṭhas, chief of which is Kṛṣṇaloka. Some devotees are elevated to the Vaikuṇṭha planets, and some are elevated to the planet Kṛṣṇaloka. According to the desire of the particular devotee, he is offered a particular abode, which is known as sva-saṁsthāna, his desired destination. By the grace of the Lord, the self-realized devotee engaged in devotional service understands his destination even while in the material body. He therefore performs his devotional activities steadily, without doubting, and after quitting his material body he at once reaches the destination for which he has prepared himself. After reaching that abode, he never comes back to this material world.
The words liṅgād vinirgame, which are used here, mean “after being freed from the two kinds of material bodies, subtle and gross.” The subtle body is made of mind, intelligence, false ego and contaminated consciousness, and the gross body is made of five elements — earth, water, fire, air and ether. When one is transferred to the spiritual world, he gives up both the subtle and gross bodies of this material world. He enters the spiritual sky in his pure, spiritual body and is stationed in one of the spiritual planets. Although the impersonalists also reach that spiritual sky after giving up the subtle and gross material bodies, they are not placed in the spiritual planets; as they desire, they are allowed to merge in the spiritual effulgence emanating from the transcendental body of the Lord. The word sva-saṁsthānam is also very significant. As a living entity prepares himself, so he attains his abode. The impersonal Brahman effulgence is offered to the impersonalists, but those who want to associate with the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His transcendental form as Nārāyaṇa in the Vaikuṇṭhas, or with Kṛṣṇa in Kṛṣṇaloka, go to those abodes, wherefrom they never return.