SB 11.28: Jñāna-yoga
This chapter briefly summarizes the process of jñāna-yoga, which previous chapters described in detail.
Every created thing in this universe is a material product of the three modes of nature, is subject to sensory perception, and is essentially unreal. Actually, the designations of “good” and “bad” that we assign to the various objects and activities of this world are all superficial. It is better to avoid condemning or praising anything of this world, because doing so simply entangles one in matter and deprives one of the higher goals of spiritual life. Hidden within every object of the material universe is the spirit soul, who underlies both the causes and products of manifest existence. One should see things in this light and thus move about the material world in a mood of detachment.
As long as there is a relationship between the bodily senses, which are comprised of matter, and the soul, which is the reality, one will continue in false consciousness. Although material existence is unreal, those who lack discrimination remain entangled in the cycle of birth and death because of their absorption in sense gratification. All the phases of material life — such as birth, death, sorrow and happiness — belong not to the soul but to the materialistic false ego. By learning to distinguish between the soul and its opposite, matter, one can destroy this false identification.
There is a single Absolute Truth present at the beginning and at the end of this world. During its interim, or maintenance phase, the cosmic manifestation is also founded upon the same Absolute Truth. This Absolute, Brahman, exists everywhere, both positively by its manifestations and negatively by its aloofness. Brahman is unique in being self-sufficient, whereas this world is the expansion of Brahman produced through the material mode of passion.
By the mercy of a bona fide spiritual master, one can understand the Absolute Truth and come to appreciate the nonspiritual nature of the material body and its extensions. Desisting from engagement in material sense enjoyment, one then becomes satisfied in the ecstasy of the self. Just as the sun remains untouched by the coming and going of clouds, the discriminating, liberated person remains unaffected by the activities of his senses. Nevertheless, until one becomes perfectly fixed in bhakti-yoga, pure devotional service to the Supreme Lord, one should carefully avoid contacting material sense objects. An aspiring devotee may meet various obstacles and fall down, but in his next life he will continue his practice by dint of what he has already accomplished in devotional service. He will never again become bound up by the laws of karma. The man who is liberated and established in discrimination will under no circumstances seek false enjoyment by indulging in material sense gratification. He knows that the soul is changeless and that any contrary conception imposed on the pure self is sheer illusion.
If, during the immature stage of spiritual practice, one suffers physical disease or other disturbances, the Vedas enjoin that he should certainly take proper measures to eradicate the problem. The prescribed remedies for lust and the other enemies of the mind are meditation on the Supreme Lord and saṅkīrtana, the loud chanting of His names. The remedy for the disease of false ego is rendering service to the Supreme Lord’s saintly devotees.
By practicing yoga, some nondevotees keep their bodies youthful and fit, and may even achieve mystic perfections or long life. But these attainments are actually worthless, because they are perfections only of the material body. An intelligent person is therefore uninterested in this kind of process. Rather, by taking shelter of the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord, an aspiring devotee who is seriously dedicated to the Lord rids himself of all disturbances and becomes empowered to attain the highest perfection, the full bliss of spiritual life.