Canto 11: General HistoryChapter 3: Liberation from the Illusory Energy

Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 11.3.40

yarhy abja-nābha-caraṇaiṣaṇayoru-bhaktyā

ceto-malāni vidhamed guṇa-karma-jāni

tasmin viśuddha upalabhyata ātma-tattvaḿ

śākṣād yathāmala-dṛśoḥ savitṛ-prakāśaḥ


yarhi — when; abja-nābha — of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, whose navel is shaped like a lotus; caraṇa — the feet; eṣaṇayā — desiring (only); uru-bhaktyā — by powerful devotional service; cetaḥ — of the heart; malāni — the dirt; vidhamet — cleanses away; guṇa-karma-jāni — generated from the modes of nature and material activities in those modes; tasminin that; viśuddhe — completely purified (heart); upalabhyate — is perceived; ātma-tattvam — the true nature of the self; sākṣāt — directly; yathā — just as; amala-dṛśoḥ — of pure eyes; savitṛ — of the sun; prakāśaḥ — the manifestation.


When one seriously engages in the devotional service of the Personality of Godhead, fixing the Lord's lotus feet within one's heart as the only goal of life, one can destroy the innumerable impure desires lodged within the heart as a result of one's previous fruitive work within the three modes of material nature. When the heart is thus purified one can directly perceive both the Supreme Lord and one's self as transcendental entities. Thus one becomes perfect in spiritual understanding through direct experience, just as one can directly experience the sunshine through normal, healthy vision.


In the previous verse it was explained that one can have a preliminary glimpse of the eternal, unchanging soul by remembering one's experience of peacefully sleeping even while the mind and senses were totally inactive. One may ask, If in deep sleep there is a preliminary experience of the soul, why upon waking does one return to illusory material existence? It may be answered that because of material desires lodged within the heart the conditioned soul is addicted to the nescience of material sense gratification. A prisoner may glimpse through the bars the free light outside the prison window but still remain captive behind the bars. Similarly, although a conditioned soul may have a glimpse of the spirit soul, he remains captured within the bondage of material desires. Therefore, although one may have a preliminary understanding of the eternal soul that exists within the temporary body, or even of the Supersoul that accompanies the individual soul within the heart, a specific process is still required to eliminate the cause of material existence, namely material desire.

As explained in Bhagavad-gītā (8.6),

yaḿ yaḿ vāpi smaran bhāvaḿ

tyajaty ante kalevaram

taḿ tam evaiti kaunteya

sadā tad-bhāva-bhāvitaḥ

"Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail." According to one's desire at the time of death a suitable material body is awarded by material nature. Karmaṇā daiva-netreṇa jantur dehopapattaye [SB 3.31.1]. According to one's fruitive desires and actions and under the jurisdiction of the representatives of the Lord called demigods, the living entity is awarded a particular material body, which is inevitably subject to harassment by birth, death, old age and disease. If one can eliminate the cause of a particular phenomenon, logically he also eliminates the effect. Therefore, this verse states that one should desire only to achieve shelter at the lotus feet of the Personality of Godhead. One should give up illusory desires for material society, friendship and love, since such desires cause further material bondage. One should fix his mind on the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, so that without fail one can remember Kṛṣṇa at the time of death. As the Lord states,

anta-kāle ca mām eva

smaran muktvā kalevaram

yaḥ prayāti sa mad-bhāvaḿ

yāti nāsty atra saḿśayaḥ

"Whoever, at the time of death, quits his body remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt." (Bg. 8.5) The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, is the actual shelter for every living being. And the Lord can be directly perceived as soon as one's heart has become transparently clean through bhakti-yoga.

Bhagavad-gītā describes the state of achieving the Supreme Personality of Godhead by the words tato māḿ tattvato jñātvā viśate tad-anantaram, and sometimes impersonalists falsely interpret these words to be a description of brahma-sāyujyam, or impersonal merging into the existence of the Lord. It is clearly mentioned in this verse that one must fix his mind and devotion on the lotus feet of abja-nābha, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If the individual living entity were equal to the Personality of Godhead, the living entity could simply think of himself in order to be purified. But even then a contradiction would arise: the Personality of Godhead has no need to be purified, since He is described in Bhagavad-gītā as pavitraḿ paramam, or the supreme pure. Therefore, one should not artificially try to twist an impersonal meaning out of the statements of the Vedic literature.

Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura has stated that the perfect stage of devotional service indicated in this verse can be observed in the activities of such great devotees as Dhruva Mahārāja. Dhruva Mahārāja approached the Personality of Godhead desiring a political adjustment on the material platform, but when purified by chanting the holy name of God (oḿ namo bhagavate vāsudevāya) he felt no further need for material sense gratification. As stated in the First Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, janayaty āśu vairāgyam. As soon as one advances in devotional service, one is freed from the embarrassment of superficial material desires.

The words upalabhyata ātma-tattvam are significant in this verse. Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura says that ātma-tattvam, or knowledge of the soul, indicates knowledge of the Supreme Personality of Godhead along with His various expansions such as the impersonal brahmajyoti and the marginal living entity himself. As indicated here by the word sākṣāt, perceiving the Personality of Godhead means seeing the personal form of the Lord, His hands and legs, His various transcendental vehicles and servants, and so on, just as by devotion to the sun-god one can gradually perceive the personal body of the sun-god, along with his chariot and personal attendants.

Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura has pointed out that in verses 35 through 39 the various stages of standard logic are demonstrated. Verse 35 establishes the viṣaya, or general thesis. Verse 36 manifests saḿśaya, or an expression of doubt. Verse 37 gives the pūrva-pakṣa, or opposing argument. And verse 38 definitely establishes the siddhānta, or conclusion. Verse 39 presents sańgati, the summary. The sańgati, or final word, is that one should become a pure devotee of the Personality of Godhead and worship the Lord's lotus feet. Thus by cleansing the mirror of the heart one can see the Lord, just as a normal human being with healthy 20/20 vision can very easily see the brilliant rays of the sun or as an advanced devotee of the sun-god himself can see the personal body of the sun-god.

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