Since this material world is a product of the three qualities of material nature, all varieties of manifestations come from those three qualities. With the aid of materialistic science, modern civilization has created many machines and comforts, yet they are only varieties of the interactions of the three material qualities. Although the devotees of Lord Śiva are able to obtain many material acquisitions, we should know that such devotees are simply collecting products manufactured by the three qualities. The three qualities are again subdivided into sixteen, namely the ten senses (five working senses and five knowledge-acquiring senses), the mind, and the five elements (earth, water, air, fire and sky). These sixteen items are extensions of the three qualities. Material happiness or opulence means gratification of the senses, especially the genitals, the tongue and the mind. By exercising our minds we create many pleasurable things just for enjoyment by the genitals and the tongue. The opulence of a person within this material world is estimated in terms of his exercise of the genitals and the tongue, or, in other words, how well he is able to utilize his sexual capacities and how well he is able to satisfy his fastidious taste by eating palatable dishes. Material advancement of civilization necessitates creating objects of enjoyment by mental concoction just to become happy on the basis of these two principles: pleasures for the genitals and pleasures for the tongue. Herein lies the answer to King Parīkṣit’s question to Śukadeva Gosvāmī as to why the worshipers of Lord Śiva are so opulent.
The devotees of Lord Śiva are opulent only in terms of the material qualities. Factually, such so-called advancement of civilization is the cause of entanglement in material existence. It is actually not advancement but degradation. The conclusion is that because Lord Śiva is the master of the three qualities, his devotees are given things manufactured by the interactions of these qualities for the satisfaction of the senses. In the Bhagavad-gītā, however, we get instruction from Lord Kṛṣṇa that one has to transcend this qualitative existence. Nistrai-guṇyo bhavārjuna: the mission of human life is to become transcendental to the three qualities. Unless one is nistrai-guṇya, he cannot get free from material entanglement. In other words, favors received from Lord Śiva are not actually beneficial to the conditioned souls, although materially such facilities seem opulent.
Śukadeva Gosvāmī continued: “The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Hari, is transcendental to the three qualities of material nature.” In the Bhagavad-gītā the Lord states that anyone who surrenders unto Him surpasses the control of the three qualities of material nature. Therefore, since Hari’s devotees are transcendental to the control of the three material qualities, certainly He Himself is transcendental. In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam it is therefore stated that Hari, or Kṛṣṇa, is the original Supreme Personality. There are two kinds of prakṛtis, or potencies, namely the internal potency and the external potency, and Kṛṣṇa is the overlord of both. He is sarva-dṛk, or the overseer of all the actions of the internal and external potencies, and He is also described as upadraṣṭā, the supreme advisor. Because He is the supreme advisor, He is above all the demigods, who merely follow the directions of the supreme advisor. As such, if one directly follows the instructions of the Supreme Lord, as inculcated in the Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, then one gradually becomes nirguṇa, or above the interactions of the material qualities. To be nirguṇa means to be bereft of material opulences because, as we have explained, material opulence means an increase of the actions and reactions of the three material qualities. By worshiping the Supreme Personality of Godhead, instead of being puffed up with material opulences one becomes enriched with spiritual advancement of knowledge in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. To become nirguṇa means to achieve eternal peace, fearlessness, religiousness, knowledge and renunciation. All these are symptoms of becoming free from the contamination of the material qualities.
Śukadeva Gosvāmī, in answering Parīkṣit Mahārāja’s question, went on to cite a historical instance regarding Parīkṣit Mahārāja’s grandfather, King Yudhiṣṭhira. He said that after finishing the Aśvamedha sacrifice in the great sacrificial arena, King Yudhiṣṭhira, in the presence of great authorities, inquired from Lord Kṛṣṇa on that very same point: how is it that the devotees of Lord Śiva become materially opulent, whereas the devotees of Lord Viṣṇu do not? Śukadeva Gosvāmī specifically referred to King Yudhiṣṭhira as “your grandfather” so that Mahārāja Parīkṣit would be encouraged to think that he was related to Kṛṣṇa and that his grandfathers were intimately connected with the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Although Kṛṣṇa is always very satisfied by nature, when Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira asked this question the Lord became even more satisfied because this question and its answer would bear a great meaning for the entire Kṛṣṇa conscious society. Whenever Lord Kṛṣṇa speaks about something to a specific devotee, it is meant not only for that devotee but for all devotees, and indeed for the entire human society. Instructions by the Supreme Personality of Godhead are important even to Lord Brahmā, Lord Śiva and the other demigods, and if one does not take advantage of the instructions of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who descends within this world for the benefit of all living entities, he is certainly very unfortunate.
Lord Kṛṣṇa answered the question of Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira as follows: “If I especially favor a devotee and especially wish to care for him, the first thing I do is take away his riches. When the devotee becomes a penniless pauper or is put into a comparatively poverty-stricken position, his relatives and family members no longer take interest in him, and in most cases they give up their connection with him. The devotee then becomes doubly unhappy.” First of all the devotee becomes unhappy because his riches have been taken away by Kṛṣṇa, and he is made even more unhappy when his relatives desert him because of his poverty. We should note, however, that when a devotee falls into a miserable condition in this way, it is not due to past impious activities, known as karma-phala; the poverty of the devotee is a creation of the Personality of Godhead. Similarly, when a devotee becomes materially opulent, that is also not due to his pious activities. In either case, whether the devotee becomes poorer or richer, the arrangement is made by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This arrangement is especially made by Kṛṣṇa for His devotee just to make him completely dependent upon Him and to free him from all material obligations. He can then concentrate his energies, mind and body—everything—for the service of the Lord, and that is pure devotional service. In the Nārada-pañcarātra it is therefore explained, sarvopādhi-vinirmuktam (CC Madhya 19.170), which means “being freed from all designations.” Works performed for family, society, community, nation or humanity are all designated: “I belong to this society,” “I belong to this community,” “I belong to this nation,” “I belong to this species of life.” Such identities are all merely designations. When by the grace of the Lord a devotee is freed from all designations, his devotional service is actually naiṣkarmya. Jñānīs are very much attracted by the position of naiṣkarmya, in which one’s activities no longer have any material effect. The devotee’s activities are freed from material effects, and so they are no longer in the category of karma-phalam, or fruitive activities. As explained before by the personified Vedas, the happiness and distress of a devotee are produced by the Personality of Godhead, and the devotee therefore does not care whether he is in happiness or in distress. He goes on with his duties in executing devotional service. Although his behavior seems to be subject to the actions and reactions of fruitive activities, he is actually freed from the results of action.