Different Levels of Devotional Services

Srimad Bhagavatam 11.11.33 - Different Levels of Devotional Services (download mp3)
by Ameya Vilas Swami at ISKCON Chowpatty

 SB 11.11.33
jñatvajñatvatha ye vai mam
 yavan yas casmi yadrsah
bhajanty ananya-bhavena
 te me bhaktatama matah

My devotees may or may not know exactly what I am, who I am and how I exist, but if they worship Me with unalloyed love, then I consider them to be the best of devotees.

According to Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, although yavan indicates that Lord Krsna cannot be limited by time or space, He becomes limited by the love of His pure devotees. For example, Lord Krsna never steps one foot out of Vrndavana, because of the intense love of its inhabitants for Him. In this way, the Lord comes under the control of His devotees’ love. The word yah indicates that Krsna is the Absolute Truth who appears as the son of Vasudeva, or as Syamasundara. Yadrsa indicates that the Lord is atmarama, or completely self-satisfied, and also apta-kama, or “one who automatically fulfills all of His desires.” Still, being affected by the love of His devotees, the Lord sometimes appears to be anatmarama, or dependent on the love of His devotees, and anaptakama, unable to achieve His desire without the cooperation of His devotees. Actually, the Supreme Lord, Krsna, is always independent, but He reciprocates the intense love of His devotees and thus appears to be dependent on them, just as He apparently became dependent on Nanda Maharaja and Yasoda during His childhood pastimes in Vrndavana. The word ajñatva (“inexperienced, lacking knowledge”) indicates that sometimes a devotee may not have a proper philosophical understanding of the Personality of Godhead or due to love may temporarily forget the Lord’s position. In Bhagavad-gita (11.41) Arjuna says:

sakheti matva prasabham yad uktam
 he krsna he yadava he sakheti
ajanata mahimanam tavedam
 maya pramadat pranayena vapi

“I have in the past addressed You as ‘O Krsna,’ ‘O Yadava,’ ‘O my friend,’ without knowing Your glories. Please forgive whatever I may have done in madness or in love.” Arjuna’s words ajanata mahimanam have the same meaning as Krsna’s words ajñatva mam in this verse of the Bhagavatam. Both indicate incomplete understanding of Krsna’s glories. In Bhagavad-gita Arjuna says, pranayena: his forgetfulness of Krsna’s supreme position was caused by his love for Him. In this verse, Krsna excuses such lapses on the part of His devotees with the words ajñatva mam, which indicate that even though devotees may not fully appreciate His exalted position, Krsna accepts their loving service. Thus this verse clearly reveals the supreme position of bhakti. Lord Krsna also states in Bhagavad-gita (11.54):

bhaktya tv ananyaya sakya
 aham evam-vidho ’rjuna
jñatum drastum ca tattvena
 pravestum ca parantapa

“My dear Arjuna, only by undivided devotional service can I be understood as I am, standing before you, and can thus be seen directly. Only in this way can you enter into the mysteries of My understanding.”

Although one may develop innumerable saintly qualities, without love of Krsna one will not achieve complete success. One must understand the Personality of Godhead as He is and love Him. Even if one is not capable of analytically understanding the position of God, if one simply loves Krsna, then one is certainly perfect. Many of the residents of Vrndavana had no idea that Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, nor did they know of Krsna’s potencies or incarnations. They simply loved Krsna with their hearts and souls, and therefore they are considered most perfect.

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