tac chraddadhānā munayo
paśyanty ātmani cātmānaṁ
The seriously inquisitive student or sage, well equipped with knowledge and detachment, realizes that Absolute Truth by rendering devotional service in terms of what he has heard from the Vedānta-śruti.
The Absolute Truth is realized in full by the process of devotional service to the Lord, Vāsudeva, or the Personality of Godhead, who is the full-fledged Absolute Truth. Brahman is His transcendental bodily effulgence, and Paramātmā is His partial representation. As such, Brahman or Paramātmā realization of the Absolute Truth is but a partial realization. There are four different types of human beings—the karmīs, the jñānīs, the yogis, and the devotees. The karmīs are materialistic, whereas the other three are transcendental. The first-class transcendentalists are the devotees who have realized the Supreme Person. The second-class transcendentalists are those who have partially realized the plenary portion of the absolute person. And the third-class transcendentalists are those who have barely realized the spiritual focus of the absolute person.
As stated in the Bhagavad-gītā and other Vedic literatures, the Supreme Person is realized by devotional service which is backed by full knowledge and detachment from material association. We have already discussed the point that devotional service is followed by knowledge and detachment from material association. As Brahman and Paramātmā realization are imperfect realizations of the Absolute Truth, so the means of realizing Brahman and Paramātmā, i.e., the paths of jñāna and yoga, are also imperfect means of realizing the Absolute Truth. Devotional service which is based on the foreground of full knowledge combined with detachment from material association and which is fixed by the aural reception of the Vedānta-śruti is the only perfect method by which the seriously inquisitive student can realize the Absolute Truth.
Devotional service is not, therefore, meant for the less intelligent class of transcendentalist. There are three classes of devotees, namely first, second, and third class. The third-class devotees, or the neophytes, who have no knowledge and are not detached from material association but who are simply attracted by the preliminary process of worshiping the Deity in the temple, are called material devotees. Material devotees are more attached to material benefit than transcendental profit. Therefore, one has to make definite progress from the position of material devotional service to the second-class devotional position. In the second-class position, the devotee can see four principles in the devotional line, namely the Personality of Godhead, His devotees, the ignorant, and the envious. One has to raise himself at least to the stage of a second-class devotee and thus become eligible to know the Absolute Truth.
A third-class devotee, therefore, has to receive the instructions of devotional service from the authoritative sources of Bhāgavata. The number one Bhāgavata is the established personality of devotee, and the other Bhāgavata is the message of Godhead. The third-class devotee therefore has to go to the personality of devotee in order to learn the instructions of devotional service. Such a personality of devotee is not a professional man who earns his livelihood by the business of the Bhāgavatam. Such a devotee must be a representative of Śukadeva Gosvāmī, like Sūta Gosvāmī, and must preach the cult of devotional service for the all-around benefit of all people. A neophyte devotee has very little taste for hearing from the authorities. Such a neophyte devotee makes a show of hearing from the professional man to satisfy his senses. This sort of hearing and chanting has spoiled the whole thing, so one should be very careful about the faulty process. The holy messages of Godhead, as inculcated in the Bhagavad-gītā or the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, are undoubtedly transcendental subjects, but even though they are so, such transcendental matters are not to be received from the professional man, who spoils them as the serpent spoils milk simply by the touch of his tongue.
A sincere devotee must therefore be prepared to hear the Vedic literature like the Upaniṣads, Vedānta, and other literatures left by the previous authorities or Gosvāmīs, for the benefit of his progress. Without hearing such literatures, one cannot make actual progress. And without hearing and following the instructions, the show of devotional service becomes worthless and therefore a sort of disturbance in the path of devotional service. Unless, therefore, devotional service is established on the principles of śruti, smṛti, purāṇa, and pañcarātra authorities, the make-show of devotional service should at once be rejected. An unauthorized devotee should never be recognized as a pure devotee. By assimilation of such messages from the Vedic literatures, one can see the all-pervading localized aspect of the Personality of Godhead within his own self constantly. This is called samādhi.
Here the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam states that the first requirement for achieving samādhi is śraddhā, faith. The Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya 22.62) defines śraddhā as follows:
'śraddhā'-śabde—viśvāsa kahe sudṛḍha niścaya
kṛṣṇe bhakti kaile sarva-karma kṛta haya
When you firmly believe that by becoming a devotee of Kṛṣṇa you will achieve all perfection, that is śraddhā, genuine faith. At the end of His instruction in the Bhagavad-gītā (18.66), Kṛṣṇa says,
sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ
"Voluntarily surrender unto Me and I will take charge of you. I will protect you from all sinful reactions; do not worry." When one accepts this instruction and surrenders to Kṛṣṇa immediately, without consideration, that is śraddhā. When you have such faith and you surrender to Kṛṣṇa, you become a muni or mahātmā, a great-minded soul endowed with knowledge and detachment (tac chraddadhānā munayaḥ jñāna-vairāgya-yuktayā [SB 1.2.12]). The aim of human life is to acquire knowledge and detachment. Knowledge alone is useless; one must also have detachment. Therefore Śrīpāda Śaṅkarācārya, the founder of the Māyāvāda school, told his followers, "First become a sannyāsī [renunciant]; then you can speak." So one who is a actually a jñānī, a wise man, must also be a vairāgī, one who has given up all attachment to material things. And the result of this faith, surrender, knowledge, and detachment is paśyanty ātmani cātmānam: one sees the Paramātmā, the Supreme Soul, within his mind and within his self. This is confirmed elsewhere in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (12.13.1): dhyānāvasthita-tad-gatena manasā paśyanti yaṁ yoginaḥ. "The perfect yogi always sees the Supreme Personality of Godhead within himself."
The perfect yogi is one who has prema, pure love for Kṛṣṇa. As the Brahma-saṁhitā (5.38) states, premāñjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocanena santaḥ sadaiva hṛdayeṣu vilokayanti: "The devotee who has anointed his eyes with the ointment of love of Godhead always sees the beautiful blackish form of Kṛṣṇa within his heart." We cannot imagine how beautiful Kṛṣṇa is. It is said that Kṛṣṇa's body is more beautiful than millions of Cupids (kandarpa-koṭi-kamanīya-viśeṣa-śobhaṁ [Bs. 5.30]). Cupid is very beautiful, but even if you place millions of Cupids together, their beauty cannot compare with Kṛṣṇa's. These things cannot be understood unless one's eyes are smeared with the ointment of love of Godhead.
We cannot understand God with our present blunt material senses, which are simply after material gratification. With them how can we perceive Kṛṣṇa, who is completely spiritual? It is not possible. Therefore we must purify the senses through the process of bhakti:
ataḥ śrī-kṛṣṇa-nāmādi na bhaved grāhyam indriyaiḥ
sevonmukhe hi jihvādau svayam eva sphuraty adaḥ
[Cc. Madhya 17.136]
"No one can understand the transcendental nature of the name, form, qualities, and pastimes of Śrī Kṛṣṇa through his materially contaminated senses. Only when one becomes spiritually saturated by transcendental service to the Lord are the transcendental name, form, qualities, and pastimes of the Lord revealed to him" (Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.2.234).
Engaging in the service to the Lord helps one come to the platform of knowledge (jñāna) and detachment (vairāgya). One is in knowledge who understands, ahaṁ brahmāsmi: "I am not this material body; I am spirit soul." Now we have designated ourselves on the basis of our bodily relationships. We think, "I am an American," "I am an Indian," "I am a brāhmaṇa," "I am black," "I am white," "I am strong," "I am weak," "I am fat," "I am thin." These are all bodily designations. When one becomes free of these designations and thinks, "I am an eternal servant of Kṛṣṇa," one possesses real jñāna, or knowledge.
As mentioned earlier, when one engages in devotional service to Kṛṣṇa, knowledge and detachment automatically come. But, as the present verse states, one must perform that devotional service by following the injunctions of the Vedic literatures. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī confirms this in his Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.2.101),
aikāntikī harer bhaktir utpātāyaiva kalpate
"Devotional service of the Lord that ignores such authorized Vedic literatures as the Upaniṣads, Purāṇas, and Nārada Pañcarātra is simply a disturbance in society."
These books have to be received through the channel of the disciplic succession (paramparā). In other words, to learn the science of bhakti one must accept a guru coming in disciplic succession from Kṛṣṇa. To understand the Bhagavad-gītā, for example, one should accept it just as Arjuna did—from Kṛṣṇa or his representative, in a mood of submission and service. Arjuna is part of the disciplic succession. Because the disciplic succession had been broken and the knowledge of the Bhagavad-gītā had been lost, Kṛṣṇa spoke the Bhagavad-gītā again to Arjuna. So, if you understand the Bhagavad-gītā and Kṛṣṇa as Arjuna understood them, your understanding will be perfect. But if you invent some imaginary meaning for the Bhagavad-gītā, you are wasting your time.
Don't waste your time. Try to understand Kṛṣṇa as He is, as He describes Himself in the Bhagavad-gītā. If God says, "I am like this," why are you wasting your time manufacturing ways and means to understand God differently? Kṛṣṇa is canvassing you: "I am God. Here is My name, here is My address, here are My activities." Everything is provided. Why don't you understand God from God? Why are you manufacturing your own ways to understand Him?
The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is not presenting some manufactured way to understand God. It is simply presenting the standard way. In the Bhagavad-gītā Kṛṣṇa says, man-manā bhava mad-bhakto mad-yājī māṁ namaskuru: [Bg. 18.65] "Think of Me, become My devotee, worship Me, and bow down before Me." And we are teaching the same thing. It is not difficult to follow this process. Anyone can do it. Sometimes people say that I have done something wonderful by spreading the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement all over the world. But all I have done is present Kṛṣṇa as He is. That is the secret. So, anyone can understand Kṛṣṇa as He is from the Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and make his life perfect. Otherwise, any process you may invent for understanding God is simply a useless waste of time.