The sages thus concluded that by following the principles of vaiṣṇava-dharma one becomes actually perfect, but that if one follows all the religious principles of a particular sect and does not become advanced in understanding the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Viṣṇu, all such labor of love is fruitless. To execute religious principles means to come to the platform of perfect knowledge. If one comes to the platform of perfect knowledge, then he will be uninterested in material affairs. Perfect knowledge means knowledge of one’s own self and the Supreme Self. The Supreme Self and the individual self, although one in quality, are different in quantity. This analytical understanding of knowledge is perfect. Simply to understand “I am not matter; I am spirit” is not perfect knowledge. The real religious principle is devotional service, or bhakti. This is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā, where Lord Kṛṣṇa says, “Give up all other religious principles and simply surrender unto Me.” Therefore, the term dharma applies only to vaiṣṇava-dharma, or bhagavad-dharma, by following which one automatically achieves all good qualities and advancements in life.
The highest perfectional knowledge is knowledge of the Supreme Lord. He cannot be understood by any process of religion other than devotional service; therefore, the immediate result of perfect knowledge is achieved by executing devotional service. After attainment of knowledge, one becomes uninterested in the material world. This is not because of dry philosophical speculation. The devotees become uninterested in the material world not simply because of theoretical understanding but because of practical experience. When a devotee realizes the effect of association with the Supreme Lord, he naturally hates the association of so-called society, friendship and love. This detachment is not dry but is due to achieving a higher status of life by relishing transcendental mellows. It is further stated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam that after attainment of such knowledge and such detachment from material sense gratification, one’s advancement in the eight opulences attained through mystic yoga practice, such as the aṇimā, laghimā and prāpti siddhis, is also achieved without separate effort. The perfect example is Mahārāja Ambarīṣa. He was not a mystic yogī but a great devotee, yet in a disagreement with Mahārāja Ambarīṣa, the great mystic Durvāsā was defeated in the presence of the King’s devotional attitude. In other words, a devotee does not need to practice the mystic yoga system to achieve power. The power is behind him by the grace of the Lord, just as when a small child is surrendered to a powerful father, all the powers of the father are behind him.
When a person becomes famous as a devotee of the Lord, his reputation is never to be extinguished. Lord Caitanya, when discoursing with Rāmānanda Rāya, questioned, “What is the greatest fame?” Rāmānanda Rāya replied that to be known as a pure devotee of Lord Kṛṣṇa is the perfect fame. The conclusion, therefore, is that viṣṇu-dharma, or the religion of devotional service unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is meant for persons who are thoughtful. By proper utilization of thoughtfulness, one comes to the stage of thinking of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. By thinking of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one becomes free from the contamination of the faulty association of the material world, and thus one becomes peaceful. The world is in a disturbed condition because of a scarcity of such peaceful devotees in human society. Unless one is a devotee, one cannot be equal to all living entities. A devotee is equally disposed toward the animals, the human beings and all living entities because he sees every living entity as a part and parcel of the Supreme Lord. In the Īśopaniṣad it is clearly stated that one who has come to the stage of seeing all living beings equally does not hate anyone or favor anyone. The devotee does not hanker to possess more than he requires. Devotees are therefore akiñcana; in any condition of life a devotee is satisfied. It is said that a devotee is even-minded whether he is in hell or in heaven. A devotee is callous to all subjects other than his engagement in devotional service. This mode of life is the highest perfectional stage, from which one can be elevated to the spiritual world, back home, back to Godhead. The devotees of the Supreme Personality of Godhead are especially attracted by the highest material quality, goodness, and the qualified brāhmaṇa is the symbolic representation of this goodness. Therefore, a devotee is attached to the brahminical stage of life. He is not very much interested in passion or ignorance, although these qualities also emanate from the Supreme Lord, Viṣṇu. In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam the devotees are described as nipuṇa-buddhayaḥ, which means that they are the most intelligent class of men. Uninfluenced by attachment or hatred, the devotee lives very peacefully and is not agitated by the influence of passion and ignorance.