NoD 4: Devotional Service Surpasses All Liberation
How much a devotee is seriously attached to the devotional service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead can be understood from the statement of Mahārāja Pṛthu (Ādi-rāja) which is described in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Fourth Canto, Twentieth Chapter,
The impersonalists desire to merge into the existence of the Supreme, but without keeping their individuality they have no chance of hearing and chanting the glories of the Supreme Lord. Because they have no idea of the transcendental form of the Supreme Lord, there is no chance of their chanting and hearing of His transcendental activities. In other words, unless one is already beyond liberation, one cannot relish the transcendental glories of the Lord, nor can one understand the transcendental form of the Lord.
A similar statement is found in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Fifth Canto, Fourteenth Chapter,
In the Bhāgavatam, Sixth Canto, Eleventh Chapter,
This statement is confirmed by Lord Śiva in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Sixth Canto, Seventeenth Chapter,
There is a similar statement by Indra, the King of heaven, in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Sixth Canto, Eighteenth Chapter,
In the Seventh Canto of the Bhāgavatam, Sixth Chapter,
Similarly, in the same Seventh Canto, Eighth Chapter,
The purport of this statement by Indra is that beginning from Brahmā down to the insignificant ant, no living entities are meant for enjoying the material opulences. They are simply meant for offering everything to the supreme proprietor, the Personality of Godhead. By doing so, they automatically enjoy the benefit. The example can be cited again of the different parts of the body collecting foodstuffs and cooking them so that ultimately a meal may be offered to the stomach. After it has gone to the stomach, all the parts of the body equally enjoy the benefit of the meal. So, similarly, everyone's duty is to satisfy the Supreme Lord, and then automatically everyone will become satisfied.
A similar verse is found in the Eighth Canto, Third Chapter, of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam,
In the Ninth Canto of the Bhāgavatam, Fourth Chapter,
There is a similar prayer by the nāga-patnīs (wives of the Kāliya serpent), in the Tenth Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Sixteenth Chapter,
There is a similar statement in the Tenth Canto, Eighty-seventh Chapter,
In explaining this verse it should be noted that spiritual knowledge means understanding the self and the Supersoul, or Superself. The individual soul and the Supersoul are qualitatively one, and therefore both of them are known as Brahman, or spirit. But knowledge of Brahman is very difficult to understand. There are so many philosophers engaged in the matter of understanding the soul, but they are unable to make any tangible advancement. It is confirmed in Bhagavad-gītā that out of many millions of persons, only one may try to understand what is spiritual knowledge, and out of many such persons who are trying to understand, only one or a few may know what is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. So this verse says that spiritual knowledge is very difficult to achieve, and so in order to make it more easily attainable, the Supreme Lord Himself comes in His original form as Śrī Kṛṣṇa and gives His instruction directly to an associate like Arjuna, just so that the people in general may take advantage of this spiritual knowledge. This verse also explains that liberation means having completely given up all the material comforts of life. Those who are impersonalists are satisfied by simply being liberated from the material circumstances, but those who are devotees can automatically give up material life and also enjoy the transcendental bliss of hearing and chanting the wonderful activities of Lord Kṛṣṇa.
In the Eleventh Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Twentieth Chapter,
Similarly, there is a statement in Padma Purāṇa describing the ritualistic function during the month of Kārttika (October-November). During this month, in Vṛndāvana it is the regulative principle to pray daily to Lord Kṛṣṇa in His Dāmodara form. The Dāmodara form refers to Kṛṣṇa in His childhood when He was tied up with rope by His mother, Yaśodā. Dāma means "ropes," and udara means "the abdomen." So mother Yaśodā, being very disturbed by naughty Kṛṣṇa, bound Him round the abdomen with a rope, and thus Kṛṣṇa is named Dāmodara. During the month of Kārttika, Dāmodara is prayed to as follows: "My dear Lord, You are the Lord of all, the giver of all benedictions." There are many demigods, like Lord Brahmā and Lord Śiva, who sometimes offer benedictions to their respective devotees. For example, Rāvaṇa was blessed with many benedictions by Lord Śiva, and Hiraṇyakaśipu was blessed by Lord Brahmā. But even Lord Śiva and Lord Brahmā depend upon the benedictions of Lord Kṛṣṇa, and therefore Kṛṣṇa is addressed as the Lord of all benefactors. As such, Lord Kṛṣṇa can offer His devotees anything they want, but still, the devotee's prayer continues, "I do not ask You for liberation or any material facility up to the point of liberation. What I want as Your favor is that I may always think of Your form in which I see You now, as Dāmodara. You are so beautiful and attractive that my mind does not want anything besides this wonderful form." In this same prayer, there is another passage, in which it is said, "My dear Lord Dāmodara, once when You were playing as a naughty boy in the house of Nanda Mahārāja, You broke the box containing yogurt, and because of that, mother Yaśodā considered You an offender and tied You with rope to the household grinding mortar. At that time You delivered two sons of Kuvera, Nalakūvara and Maṇigrīva, who were staying there as two arjuna trees in the yard of Nanda Mahārāja. My only request is that by Your merciful pastimes You may similarly deliver me."
The story behind this verse is that the two sons of Kuvera (the treasurer of the demigods) were puffed up on account of the opulence of their father, and so once on a heavenly planet they were enjoying themselves in a lake with some naked damsels of heaven. At that time the great saint Nārada Muni was passing on the road and was sorry to see the behavior of the sons of Kuvera. Seeing Nārada passing by, the damsels of heaven covered their bodies with cloth, but the two sons, being drunkards, did not have this decency. Nārada became angry with their behavior and cursed them thus: "You have no sense, so it is better if you become trees instead of the sons of Kuvera." Upon hearing this, the boys came to their senses and begged Nārada to be pardoned for their offenses. Nārada then said, "Yes, you shall become trees, arjuna trees, and you will stand in the courtyard of Nanda Mahārāja. But Kṛṣṇa Himself will appear in time as the foster son of Nanda, and He will deliver you." In other words, the curse of Nārada was a benediction to the sons of Kuvera because indirectly it was foretold that they would be able to receive the favor of Lord Kṛṣṇa. After that, Kuvera's two sons stood as two big arjuna trees in the courtyard of Nanda Mahārāja until Lord Dāmodara, in order to fulfill the desire of Nārada, dragged the grinding mortar to which He was tied and struck the two trees, violently causing them to fall down. From out of these fallen trees came Nalakūvara and Maṇigrīva, who had by then become great devotees of the Lord.
There is a passage in the
In the same
In a similar passage in the Nārada Pañcarātra it is stated, "My dear Lord, I do not wish any perfectional stage by performing the ritualistic religious ceremonies or by economic development or by sense gratification or liberation. I simply pray that You grant me the favor of keeping me under Your lotus feet. I do not wish any kind of liberation such as sālokya (to reside on Your planet) or sārūpya (to have the same bodily features as You). I simply pray for Your favor that I may be always engaged in Your loving service."
Similarly, in the Sixth Canto, Fourteenth Chapter,
In the above verse, the most important thing to be noted is that there may be many liberated persons who have merged into the existence of the impersonal Brahman, but a devotee of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Nārāyaṇa, is very, very rare. Even out of millions of liberated persons, only one is fortunate enough to become a devotee.
In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, First Canto, Eighth Chapter,
Another passage which is very important is in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, First Canto, Seventh Chapter,
From the above statement it is found that a devotee is not after any of the stages of liberation. There are five stages of liberation, already explained as being (1) to become one with the Lord, (2) to live on the same planet as the Lord, (3) to obtain the same bodily features as the Lord, (4) to have the same opulences as the Lord and (5) to have constant association with the Lord. Out of these five liberated stages, the one which is known as sāyujya, or to merge into the existence of the Lord, is the last to be accepted by a devotee. The other four liberations, although not desired by devotees, still are not against the devotional ideals. Some of the liberated persons who have achieved these four stages of liberation may also develop affection for Kṛṣṇa and be promoted to the Goloka Vṛndāvana planet in the spiritual sky. In other words, those who are already promoted to the Vaikuṇṭha planets and who possess the four kinds of liberation may also sometimes develop affection for Kṛṣṇa and become promoted to Kṛṣṇaloka.
So those who are in the four liberated states may still be going through different stages of existence. In the beginning they may want the opulences of Kṛṣṇa, but at the mature stage the dormant love for Kṛṣṇa exhibited in Vṛndāvana becomes prominent in their hearts. As such, the pure devotees never accept the liberation of sāyujya, to become one with the Supreme, though sometimes they may accept as favorable the other four liberated states.
Out of many kinds of devotees of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the one who is attracted to the original form of the Lord, Kṛṣṇa in Vṛndāvana, is considered to be the foremost, first-class devotee. Such a devotee is never attracted by the opulences of Vaikuṇṭha, or even of Dvārakā, the royal city where Kṛṣṇa ruled. The conclusion of Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī is that the devotees who are attracted by the pastimes of the Lord in Gokula, or
A devotee who is attached to a particular form of the Lord does not wish to redirect his devotion to other forms. For example, Hanumān, the devotee of Lord Rāmacandra, knew that there is no difference between Lord Rāmacandra and Lord Nārāyaṇa, and yet he still wanted to render service only unto Lord Rāmacandra. That is due to the specific attraction of a particular devotee. There are many, many forms of the Lord, but Kṛṣṇa is still the original form. Though all of the devotees of the different forms of the Lord are in the same category, still it is said that those who are devotees of Lord Kṛṣṇa are the topmost in the list of all devotees.