Srimad Bhagavatam 11.20.32-33 - Loving Devotional Service is a Supreme Endeavour (download mp3)
by Vrishbhanu Prabhu at ISKCON Chowpatty
yat karmabhir yat tapasa
jñana-vairagyatas ca yat
sreyobhir itarair api
mad-bhakto labhate ’ñjasa
kathañcid yadi vañchati
Everything that can be achieved by fruitive activities, penance, knowledge, detachment, mystic yoga, charity, religious duties and all other means of perfecting life is easily achieved by My devotee through loving service unto Me. If somehow or other My devotee desires promotion to heaven, liberation, or residence in My abode, he easily achieves such benedictions.
Lord Krsna here reveals the transcendental glories of devotional service to the Lord. Although pure devotees are desireless, desiring only the Lord’s service, sometimes a great devotee may desire the Lord’s benediction to facilitate his loving service. In the Sixth Canto of the Bhagavatam we find that Sri Citraketu, a great devotee of the Lord, desired promotion to heaven so that accompanied by the most attractive ladies of the Vidyadhara planet he could beautifully chant the glories of the Lord. Similarly, Sri Sukadeva Gosvami, the great narrator of Srimad-Bhagavatam, desiring to avoid entanglement in the illusory potency of the Lord, would not come out of his mother’s womb. In other words, Sukadeva Gosvami desired apavargam, or liberation from maya, so that his devotional service would not be disturbed. Lord Krsna personally sent the illusory energy far away so that Sukadeva Gosvami would come out of his mother’s womb. Because of intense loving desire to serve the lotus feet of the Lord, a devotee may also desire promotion to the spiritual world.
According to Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, a devotee, having given up the independent cultivation of knowledge and detachment, may have firm faith in the devotional service of the Lord and yet remain slightly attached to the fruits of such activities. By expert fruitive activities one gains residence in material heaven, and by cultivation of detachment one is relieved of all bodily distress. If Lord Krsna detects within a devotee’s heart the desire for such benedictions, the Lord can easily award them to His devotee.
The word itaraih in this verse indicates visiting holy places, accepting religious vows and so forth. Several auspicious processes of elevation are mentioned in the verse preceding this, but all the auspicious results of these processes are easily achieved by loving service to the Lord. Thus all devotees of the Lord, in whatever stage of advancement, should dedicate their energy exclusively to the Lord’s service, as affirmed in the Second Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam by Sri Sukadeva Gosvami:
akamah sarva-kamo va
yajeta purusam param
“A person who has broader intelligence, whether he be full of all material desire, without any material desire or desiring liberation, must by all means worship the supreme whole, the Personality of Godhead.” (Bhag. 2.3.10)