jīve māyāmaye nyadhāt
taṁ cānuśayam ātma-stham
asāv anuśayī pumān
svarūpa-stho ’jahāt prabhuḥ
As stated in the Vedas, the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the source of material energy. Consequently He is sometimes called māyā-maya, or the Supreme Person, who can create His pastimes through His potency known as the material energy. The jīva, or the individual living entity, becomes entrapped by the material energy by the supreme will of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In Bhagavad-gītā (18.61) we understand:
hṛd-deśe ’rjuna tiṣṭhati
Īśvara, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is situated within the heart of all conditioned souls, and by His supreme will the living entity, or individual soul, gets the facility to lord it over material nature in various types of bodies, which are known as yantra, or the moving vehicle offered by the total material energy, māyā. Although the individual living entity (jīva) and the Lord are both situated within the material energy, the Lord is directing the movements of the jīva soul by offering him different types of bodies through the material energy, and thus the living entity is wandering throughout the universes in various forms of body and becomes implicated in different situations, partaking of the reactions of fruitive activities.
When Pṛthu Mahārāja became spiritually powerful by the enhancement of his spiritual knowledge (jñāna) and renunciation of material desires, he became a prabhu, or master of his senses (sometimes called gosvāmī or svāmī). This means that he was no longer controlled by the influence of material energy. When one is strong enough to give up the influence of material energy, he is called prabhu. In this verse the word svarūpa-sthaḥ is also very significant. The real identity of the individual soul lies in understanding or attaining the knowledge that he is eternally a servant of Kṛṣṇa. This understanding is called svarūpopalabdhi. By culturing devotional service, the devotee gradually comes to understand his actual relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This understanding of one’s pure spiritual position is called svarūpopalabdhi, and when one attains that stage he can understand how he is related with the Supreme Personality of Godhead as a servant or friend, or as a parent or conjugal lover. This stage of understanding is called svarūpa-sthaḥ. Pṛthu Mahārāja realized this svarūpa completely, and it will be clear in the later verses that he personally left this world, or this body, by riding on a chariot sent from Vaikuṇṭha.
In this verse the word prabhu is also significant. As stated before, when one is completely self-realized and acts according to that position, he can be called prabhu. The spiritual master is addressed as Prabhupāda because he is a completely self-realized soul. The word pāda means “position,” and Prabhupāda indicates that he is given the position of prabhu, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead, for he acts on behalf of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Unless one is a prabhu, or controller of the senses, he cannot act as spiritual master, who is authorized by the supreme prabhu, or Lord Kṛṣṇa. In his verses praising the spiritual master, Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura writes:
uktas tathā bhāvyata eva sadbhiḥ
“The spiritual master is honored as much as the Supreme Lord because he is the most confidential servitor of the Lord.” Thus Pṛthu Mahārāja can also be called Prabhupāda or, as described herein, prabhu. Another question may be raised in this connection: Since Pṛthu Mahārāja was a power incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, śaktyāveśa-avatāra, why did he have to execute the regulative principles in order to become a prabhu? Because he appeared on this earth as an ideal king and because it is the duty of the king to instruct the citizens in the execution of devotional service, he followed all the regulative principles of devotional service in order to teach others. Similarly, Caitanya Mahāprabhu, although Kṛṣṇa Himself, taught us how to approach Kṛṣṇa as a devotee. It is said, āpani ācari’ bhakti śikhāinu sabāre. Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu instructed others in the process of devotional service by setting the example Himself through His own personal actions. Similarly, Pṛthu Mahārāja, although a śaktyāveśa-avatāra incarnation, still behaved exactly as a devotee in order to achieve the position of prabhu. Furthermore, svarūpa-sthaḥ means “complete liberation.” As it is said (Bhāg. 2.10.6), hitvānyathā-rūpaṁ svarūpeṇa vyavasthitiḥ: when a living entity abandons the activities of māyā and attains the position from which he can execute devotional service, his state is called svarūpa-sthaḥ, or complete liberation.