prajārtho bhuvi mukti-dam
apūjayaṁ na mokṣāya
According to Śrīdhara Svāmī the word kila (meaning “indeed, it is true,” “it is said” or “as is well known”) indicates that Vasudeva was remembering the words the Lord had spoken to him when the Lord had appeared as four-armed Viṣṇu in the prison of Kaṁsa. Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī states that from the anxiety of Vasudeva, which is expressed in this verse by the words apūjayaṁ na mokṣāya mohito deva-māyayā, it is to be discerned that Vasudeva had heard of the curse of the brāhmaṇas at Piṇḍāraka against the Yadu dynasty and that he could understand from this curse that the Lord’s disappearance from the earth was imminent. Vasudeva understood that the Lord’s manifest pastimes within this universe were coming to an end, and he now lamented that he had not directly taken advantage of the opportunity to worship Kṛṣṇa to go back home, back to Godhead.
Significantly, Vasudeva has used the word mukti-dam to describe the Lord. Mukti-dam is a synonym of Mukunda, or that personality who can give liberation from the cycle of birth and death. It is stated in Vedic literature that even the demigods are bound to the cycle of birth and death, although their life span is inconceivably long by earthly calculations. It is the almighty God alone who can free the conditioned soul from the reactions to his previous sinful activities and award him an eternal life of bliss and knowledge.
Vasudeva lamented that he had desired Kṛṣṇa to come to him as a son instead of desiring to go back to Kṛṣṇa, back to Godhead, to serve the Lord in the spiritual sky. Commenting on this incident in the Tenth Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Śrīla Prabhupāda has emphasized that we should desire to go back home, back to Godhead, rather than try to bring the Lord to this world as our son. Nor can we artificially imitate the severe penances Vasudeva and Devakī performed for thousands of heavenly years in their previous births as Sutapā and Pṛśni. In this connection Śrīla Prabhupāda states, “If we want to get the Supreme Personality of Godhead to become one of us in this material world, this requires great penance, but if we want to go back to Kṛṣṇa (tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma naiti mām eti so ’rjuna), we need only understand Him and love Him. Through love only we can very easily go back home, back to Godhead.” Śrīla Prabhupāda goes on to explain that Caitanya Mahāprabhu freely bestows the benediction of love of Kṛṣṇa, which allows one to return to Kṛṣṇa’s abode, through the chanting of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra. This chanting process is far more effective in this age than artificial attempts to perform severe penances and austerities. Śrīla Prabhupāda concludes, “Therefore, one need not undergo severe penances for many thousands of years. One need only learn how to love Kṛṣṇa and be always engaged in His service (sevonmukhe hi jihvādau svayam eva sphuraty adaḥ). Then one can very easily go back home, back to Godhead. Instead of bringing the Lord here for some material purpose, to have a son or whatever else, if we go back home, back to Godhead, our real relationship with the Lord is revealed, and we eternally engage in our eternal relationship. By chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra, we gradually develop our eternal relationship with the Supreme Person and thus attain the perfection called svarūpa-siddhi. We should take advantage of this benediction and go back home, back to Godhead.” (Bhāg. 10.3.38 purport)
Although Vasudeva and Devakī desired that Kṛṣṇa become their son, it should be understood that they are devotees eternally situated in love of Kṛṣṇa. As stated by the Lord Himself (Bhāg. 10.3.39), mohitau devamāyayā: Vasudeva and Devakī, His pure devotees, were covered by His internal potency. In the Fourth Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (4.1.20) the great sage Atri Muni prayed to the Lord, prajām ātma-samāṁ mahyaṁ prayacchatu: “Kindly be pleased to offer me a son exactly like You.” Atri Muni said he wanted a son exactly like the Lord, and therefore he was not a pure devotee, because he had a desire to be fulfilled and that desire was material. If he had desired the Supreme Personality of Godhead as his child, he would have been completely free of material desires because he would have wanted the Supreme Absolute Truth, but because he wanted a similar child, his desire was material. Thus Atri Muni cannot be counted among the pure devotees. Vasudeva and Devakī, however, did want the Lord Himself, and therefore they were pure devotees of the Lord. In this verse, therefore, Vasudeva’s statement apūjayaṁ na mokṣāya mohito deva-māyayā should be taken to mean that Kṛṣṇa’s internal potency bewildered Vasudeva so that he would desire Kṛṣṇa as his son. This paved the way for the Lord’s appearance as the son of His loving devotees.