|Canto 4: Creation of the Fourth Order||Chapter 22: Pṛthu Mahārāja's Meeting with the Four Kumāras|
Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 4.22.16
vyaktam ātmavatām ātmā
siddha-rūpī caraty ajaḥ
vyaktam — clear; ātma-vatām — of the transcendentalists; ātmā — the goal of life; bhagavān — the Supreme Personality of Godhead; ātma-bhāvanaḥ — always wishing to elevate the living entities; svānām — whose own devotees; anugrahāya — just to show mercy; imām — this way; siddha-rūpī — perfectly self-realized; carati — travels; ajaḥ — Nārāyaṇa.
The Supreme Personality of Godhead is always anxious to elevate the living entities, who are His parts and parcels, and for their special benefit, the Lord travels all over the world in the form of self-realized persons like you.
There are different kinds of transcendentalists, namely the jñānīs, or impersonalists, the mystic yogīs and, of course, all the devotees of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Kumāras, however, were both yogīs and jñānīs and finally bhaktas later on. In the beginning they were impersonalists, but later they developed devotional activities; therefore they are the best of the transcendentalists. The devotees are representatives of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and to elevate the conditioned souls to their original consciousness, they travel all over the universes to enlighten the conditioned souls about Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The best devotees are ātmavat, or those who have fully realized the Supreme Soul. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, as Paramātmā, is sitting within everyone's heart, trying to elevate everyone to the platform of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Therefore He is called ātma-bhāvana. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is always trying to give the individual soul the intelligence to understand about Himself. He is always with the individual as a friend sitting by the side of a friend, and He gives facilities to all living entities according to their desires.
The word ātmavatām is significant in this verse. There are three different kinds of devotees, namely kaniṣṭha-adhikārī, madhyama-adhikārī and uttama-adhikārī: the neophyte, the preacher and the mahā-bhāgavata, or the highly advanced devotee. The highly advanced devotee is one who knows the conclusion of the Vedas in full knowledge; thus he becomes a devotee. Indeed, not only is he convinced himself, but he can convince others on the strength of Vedic evidence. The advanced devotee can also see all other living entities as part and parcel of the Supreme Lord, without discrimination. The madhyama-adhikārī (preacher) is also well versed in the śāstras and can convince others also, but he discriminates between the favorable and the unfavorable. In other words, the madhyama-adhikārī does not care for the demoniac living entities, and the neophyte kaniṣṭha-adhikārī does not know much about śāstra but has full faith in the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Kumāras, however, were mahā-bhāgavatas because after scrutinizingly studying the Absolute Truth, they became devotees. In other words, they were in full knowledge of the Vedic conclusion. In the Bhagavad-gītā it is confirmed by the Lord that there are many devotees, but a devotee who is fully conversant in the Vedic conclusion is very dear to Him. Everyone is trying to elevate himself to the highest position according to his mentality. The karmīs, who have a bodily concept of life, try to enjoy sense gratification to the utmost. The jñānīs' idea of the highest position is merging into the effulgence of the Lord. But a devotee's highest position is in preaching all over the world the glories of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Therefore the devotees are actually the representatives of the Supreme Lord, and as such they travel all over the world directly as Nārāyaṇa because they carry Nārāyaṇa within their hearts and preach His glories. The representative of Nārāyaṇa is as good as Nārāyaṇa, but he is not to conclude, like the Māyāvādīs, that he has become Nārāyaṇa. Generally, a sannyāsī is addressed as Nārāyaṇa by the Māyāvādīs. Their idea is that simply by taking sannyāsa one becomes equal to Nārāyaṇa or becomes Nārāyaṇa Himself. The Vaiṣṇava conclusion is different, as stated by Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura:
uktas tathā bhāvyata eva sadbhiḥ
kinto prabhor yaḥ priya eva tasya
vande guroḥ śrī-caraṇāravindam **
According to the Vaiṣṇava philosophy, a devotee is as good as Nārāyaṇa not by becoming Nārāyaṇa but by becoming the most confidential servant of Nārāyaṇa. Such great personalities act as spiritual masters for the benefit of the people in general, and as such, a spiritual master who is preaching the glories of Nārāyaṇa should be accepted as Nārāyaṇa and be given all respects due Him.
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His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda, Founder Ācārya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness