|Canto 5: The Creative Impetus||Chapter 17: The Descent of the River Ganges|
Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 5.17.3
tataḥ sapta ṛṣayas tat prabhāvābhijñā yāḿ nanu tapasa ātyantikī siddhir etāvatī bhagavati sarvātmani vāsudeve 'nuparata-bhakti-yoga-lābhenaivopekṣitānyārthātma-gatayo muktim ivāgatāḿ mumukṣava iva sabahu-mānam adyāpi jaṭā-jūṭair udvahanti
tataḥ — thereafter; sapta ṛṣayaḥ — the seven great sages (beginning with Marīci); tat prabhāva-abhijñāḥ — who knew very well the influence of the Ganges River; yām — this Ganges water; nanu — indeed; tapasaḥ — of our austerities; ātyantikī — the ultimate; siddhiḥ — perfection; etāvatī — this much; bhagavati — the Supreme Personality of Godhead; sarva-ātmani — in the all-pervading; vāsudeve — Kṛṣṇa; anuparata — continuous; bhakti-yoga — of the mystic process of devotional service; lābhena — simply by achieving this platform; eva — certainly; upekṣita — neglected; anya — other; artha-ātma-gatayaḥ — all other means of perfection (namely religion, economic development, sense gratification and liberation); muktim — liberation from material bondage; iva — like; āgatām — obtained; mumukṣavaḥ — persons desiring liberation; iva — like; sa-bahu-mānam — with great honor; adya api — even now; jaṭā-jūṭaiḥ — with matted locks of hair; udvahanti — they carry.
The seven great sages [Marīci, Vasiṣṭha, Atri and so on] reside on planets beneath Dhruvaloka. Well aware of the influence of the water of the Ganges, to this day they keep Ganges water on the tufts of hair on their heads. They have concluded that this is the ultimate wealth, the perfection of all austerities, and the best means of prosecuting transcendental life. Having obtained uninterrupted devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, they neglect all other beneficial processes like religion, economic development, sense gratification and even merging into the Supreme. Just as jñānīs think that merging into the existence of the Lord is the highest truth, these seven exalted personalities accept devotional service as the perfection of life.
Transcendentalists are divided into two primary groups: the nirviśeṣa-vādīs, or impersonalists, and the bhaktas, or devotees. The impersonalists do not accept spiritual varieties of life. They want to merge into the existence of the Supreme Lord in His Brahman feature (the brahmajyoti). The devotees, however, desire to take part in the transcendental activities of the Supreme Lord. In the upper planetary system, the topmost planet is Dhruvaloka, and beneath Dhruvaloka are the seven planets occupied by the great sages, beginning with Marīci, Vasiṣṭha and Atri. All these sages regard devotional service as the highest perfection of life. Therefore they all carry the holy water of the Ganges on their heads. This verse proves that for one who has achieved the platform of pure devotional service, nothing else is important, even so-called liberation (kaivalya). Śrīla Śrīdhara Svāmī states that only by achieving pure devotional service of the Lord can one give up all other engagements as insignificant. Prabodhānanda Sarasvatī confirms his statement as follows:
kaivalyaḿ narakāyate tri-daśa-pūr ākāśa-puṣpāyate
viśvaḿ pūrṇa-sukhāyate vidhi-mahendrādiś ca kīṭāyate
yat kāruṇya-kaṭākṣa-vaibhavavatāḿ taḿ gauram eva stumaḥ
Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has perfectly enunciated and broadcast the process of bhakti-yoga. Consequently, for one who has taken shelter at the lotus feet of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, the highest perfection of the Māyāvādīs, kaivalya, or becoming one with the Supreme, is considered hellish, to say nothing of the karmīs' aspiration to be promoted to the heavenly planets. Devotees consider such goals to be worthless phantasmagoria. There are also yogīs, who try to control their senses, but they can never succeed without coming to the stage of devotional service. The senses are compared to poisonous snakes, but the senses of a bhakta engaged in the service of the Lord are like snakes with their poisonous fangs removed. The yogī tries to suppress his senses, but even great mystics like Viśvāmitra fail in the attempt. Viśvāmitra was conquered by his senses when he was captivated by Menakā during his meditation. She later gave birth to Śakuntalā. The wisest persons in the world, therefore, are the bhakti-yogīs, as Lord Kṛṣṇa confirms in Bhagavad-gītā (6.47):
yoginām api sarveṣāḿ
śraddhāvān bhajate yo māḿ
sa me yuktatamo mataḥ
"Of all yogīs, he who always abides in Me with great faith, worshiping Me in transcendental loving service, is most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all."
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His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda, Founder Ācārya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness