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Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 1.2.20 and 1.2.21
Continuing the explanation of the second chapter of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam with verse twenty:
“Thus established in the mode of unalloyed goodness, the man whose mind has been enlivened by contact with devotional service to the Lord gains positive scientific knowledge of the Personality of Godhead in the stage of liberation from all material association.”
A person can be called a brāhmaṇa for various reasons, some more valid than others. One may be considered a brāhmaṇa just because of the family he was born into. Or he may behave like a brāhmaṇa, engaging himself in study of scripture, worship, teaching, keeping himself clean, and living up to his word. Or he may have realization of the Supreme Truth, the mark of a real brāhmaṇa. Brahma jānātīti brāhmaṇaḥ: “Because someone knows Brahman, he is to be called a brāhmaṇa.” This realization can be intellectual or a direct experience, and impersonal or personal. Śrī Sūta Gosvāmī is talking about the best brāhmaṇa, who actually sees the Supreme Lord in his heart and wherever he looks. When a Vaiṣṇava brāhmaṇa’s mixed quality of goodness has been refined completely, he is at the stage described in this verse. A Vaiṣṇava may have been born in a lower class, but as soon as he faithfully takes up the authorized path of śuddha-bhakti, he can be recognized as good as any brāhmaṇa.
“But,” Śrīla Prabhupāda remarks in his purport, “that is not the end of it.” Initiation with hari-nāma and then the Gāyatrī mantra is only what the word “initiation” imports: the beginning of the process. A devotee should progress through purification, firm faith, taste for bhakti, and then attraction to Kṛṣṇa. Brahma-bhūtaḥ prasannātmā: Kṛṣṇa tells Arjuna that on reaching pure goodness, a devotee can feel real satisfaction, cleansed of the filth of material life. Mad-bhaktiṁ labhate parām: Then he can enter the higher realm of loving service. Attracted by everything about Kṛṣṇa, one cannot avoid falling in love with Him.
Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī describes that a devotee who worships Kṛṣṇa constantly with attachment to the activities of bhakti becomes peaceful and happy in his mind, and becomes personally attracted to Kṛṣṇa. Without this attraction, one cannot give up all contact with sense gratification, and without that one’s mind cannot be pacified. After reaching this stage of rati, one realizes prema, the essence of pure devotional service. With prema one can have scientific knowledge of the Personality of Godhead, or in other words, experience directly what He is, including His wonderful qualities, pastimes, opulences, and charm.
Now verse twenty-one:
kṣīyante cāsya karmāṇi
kṣīyante cāsya karmāṇi
“Thus the knot in the heart is pierced, and all misgivings are cut to pieces. The chain of fruitive actions is terminated when one sees the self as master.”
Here Sūta Gosvāmī describes the desirable consequence of discovering the Supreme. But from what Śrī Sūta has said so far, we should understand what “one sees the self as master” actually means. Materialists try to see the self as master in their own way, and so do impersonalists. The first want to master whatever they can in the material realm, and the second want to be God. The Bhāgavatam’s idea, however, is different. We should let the Supreme Self be the master. When we realize the Supreme Self as Bhagavān, especially as the original Bhagavān, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, then only can we correctly see everything and our own selves in relationship to Him.
We are in ignorance because we identify ourselves with dead matter, binding our hearts to what we do not really belong to. In this bondage, even when we feel inclined to revive our natural life we don’t know where to turn to do this, and we imagine ourselves not free to leave the obligations we work hard for. Our only help out of this darkness is to take shelter of the Personality of Godhead. He will be glad to respond to any interest in Him by enlightening us with instruction from revealed scripture, confirmed by our personal experience. To gain this light and stay within it, we only need to be sincerely devoted and match our good intentions honestly with our behavior.