Devotional Service is more Powerful and Practical

Srimad Bhagavatam 11.11.48 - Devotional Service is more Powerful and Practical (download mp3)
by Sridama Sakha Prabhu at ISKCON Chowpatty

 SB 11.11.48
prayena bhakti-yogena
 sat-sangena vinoddhava
nopayo vidyate samyak
 prayanam hi satam aham

My dear Uddhava, I am personally the ultimate shelter and way of life for saintly liberated persons, and thus if one does not engage in My loving devotional service, which is made possible by associating with My devotees, then for all practical purposes, one possesses no effective means for escaping from material existence.


Lord Krsna has described to Uddhava the characteristics of jñana-yoga and bhakti-yoga, both of which are considered to be spiritual processes. Now, however, Lord Krsna clearly indicates that bhakti-yoga is the only real means to totally free oneself from material existence, and that bhakti-yoga is not possible without sat-sanga, or association with other Vaisnavas. On the path of bhakti-misra jñana, or speculation on the Absolute Truth mixed with devotion, one is still affected by the three modes of material nature. The pure soul, liberated from all material qualities, has no tendency or desire to engage in philosophical speculation, severe austerities or impersonal meditation. The pure soul simply loves Krsna and wants to serve Him constantly. Jivera ‘svarupa’ haya — krsnera ‘nitya-dasa.’ Pure devotional service to the Lord is called kevala-bhakti, whereas devotional service mixed with speculative propensities is called guna-bhuta-bhakti, or devotional service polluted by the material modes of nature. One who is actually intelligent does not make a show of philosophical wizardry but rather discerns the superiority of pure love of Godhead and takes to the path of kevala-bhakti. One who emphasizes so-called intellectual achievements is actually less intelligent, because such a person is more attracted to intelligence than to the pure soul, which is superior. It should be understood, however, that pure devotional service is not nonphilosophical or anti-intellectual. The Absolute Truth is far more extensive than partial truth. Therefore, one who is in full knowledge of Lord Krsna has the greatest facility to engage in philosophical analysis, since a pure devotee is working with the entire range of conceptual categories. Those who do not know Lord Krsna are attracted to the impersonal Brahman or the localized Paramatma, but they are not aware of the ultimate category of understanding called Bhagavan, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Lacking knowledge of Bhagavan, such imperfect philosophers certainly do not understand the expansion, interaction and withdrawal of the Lord’s innumerable potencies and thus cannot fully analyze them. By faithfully accepting everything Lord Krsna speaks as the absolute truth, one comes to the mature platform of philosophy and achieves perfect knowledge.

In addition to philosophical or intellectual understanding, pure devotional service also awards all other benefits in life, both material and spiritual; therefore one who for any purpose whatsoever accepts a process other than devotional service has unfortunately misunderstood the nature of pure devotional service to Lord Krsna. It is emphasized here that one must cultivate devotional service in the association of other devotees. On the other hand, the jñana-yoga process is cultivated alone, because it is difficult for even two mental speculators to be in the same place without their association degenerating into constant quarrel. Other processes of self-realization are compared to the nipples on a goat’s neck. They look just like breast nipples, but they will not give any milk whatsoever. In this regard Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura has quoted the following verses, spoken by Sri Uddhava, Sukadeva Gosvami and Narada Muni respectively.

tapa-trayenabhihitasya ghore
 santapyamanasya bhavadhvaniha
pasyami nanyac charanam tavanghri-
 dvandvatapatrad amrtabhivarsat

“My dear Lord, for one who is being cruelly burned in the blazing fire of material miseries, having fallen into the network of material existence, I do not see any other possible shelter besides Your two lotus feet, which are a shower of nectar extinguishing the fire of suffering.” (Bhag. 11.19.9)

samsara-sindhum ati-dustaram uttitirsor
 nanyah plavo bhagavatah purusottamasya
lila-katha-rasa-nisevanam antarena
 pumso bhaved vividha-duhkha-davarditasya

“Material existence is like an ocean that is extremely difficult to cross. The conditioned souls have fallen into this ocean, which is not cool but rather burns them with the fire of misery. For one who has fallen into this sea and desires to get out, there is no other rescue boat except the constant relishing within oneself of the pastime narrations of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” (Bhag. 12.4.40)

kim va yogena sankhyena
 nyasa-svadhyayayor api
kim va sreyobhir anyais ca
 na yatratma-prado harih

“What is the use of the yoga system, philosophical speculation, mere renunciation of the world, or Vedic studies? In fact, what is the use of any so-called auspicious process without Lord Krsna, who is the source of our very existence?” (Bhag. 4.31.12)

If, as stated in this verse, it is generally (prayena) impossible to escape material bondage without devotional service in the association of devotees, one can simply imagine the probabilities of liberation in Kali-yuga without the Krsna consciousness movement. The chances are certainly zero. One may concoct a type of liberation on the mental platform, or one may live in a so-called spiritual society of mutual flattery, but if one actually wants to go back home, back to Godhead, and see with spiritual eyes the beautiful kingdom of God called Krsnaloka, one must take to Lord Caitanya’s movement and worship Lord Krsna in the association of the bhakta-gana, the devotees of the Lord.

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