In the Vedas there are three kāṇḍas, or divisions: karma-kāṇḍa, jñāna-kāṇḍa and upāsanā-kāṇḍa. The karma-kāṇḍa portion stresses the execution of fruitive activities. But ultimately it is advised that one abandon both karma-kāṇḍa and jñāna-kāṇḍa (speculative knowledge) and accept only upāsanā-kāṇḍa, or bhakti-kāṇḍa. One cannot attain love of Godhead by executing karma-kāṇḍa or jñāna-kāṇḍa. But by dedicating one’s karma, or fruitive activities, to the Supreme Lord, one may be relieved from the polluted mind, and becoming free from mental pollution helps elevate one to the spiritual platform. Then, however, one needs the association of a pure devotee, for only by a pure devotee’s association can one become a pure devotee of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa. When one comes to the stage of pure devotional service, the process of śravaṇaṁ kīrtanam is very essential. By executing the nine items of devotional service, beginning with śravaṇaṁ kīrtanam, one is completely purified. Anyābhilāṣitā-śūnyaṁ jñāna-karmādy-anāvṛtam [Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.1.11]. Only then is one able to execute Kṛṣṇa’s orders in the Bhagavad-gītā (BG 18.65):
- man-manā bhava mad-bhakto mad-yājī māṁ namaskuru
- mām evaiṣyasi satyam te pratijāne priyo ’si me
- sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaranaṁ vraja
- ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ
- (BG 18.66)
“Always think of Me, become My devotee, worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend. Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.” In this way one develops his original constitutional position of rendering loving service to the Lord.
One cannot be elevated to the highest platform of devotional service by karma-kāṇḍa or jñāna-kāṇḍa. Pure devotional service can be understood and attained only through the association of pure devotees. In this regard, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura states that there are two types of karma-kāṇḍa activities—pious and impious. Pious activities are certainly better than impious activities, but even pious activities cannot bring about ecstatic love of God, Kṛṣṇa. Pious and impious activities can bring about material happiness and distress, but there is no possibility of one’s becoming a pure devotee simply by acting piously or impiously. Bhakti, devotional service, means satisfying Kṛṣṇa. In every revealed scripture, whether stressing jñāna-kāṇḍa or karma-kāṇḍa, the principle of renunciation is always praised. The ripened fruit of Vedic knowledge, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, is the supreme Vedic evidence. In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (SB 1.5.12) it is said:
- naiṣkarmyam apy acyuta-bhāva-varjitaṁ
- na śobhate jñānam alaṁ nirañjanam
- kutaḥ punaḥ śaśvad abhadram īśvare
- na cārpitaṁ karma yad apy akāraṇam
“Knowledge of self-realization, even though freed from all material affinity, does not look well if devoid of a conception of the Infallible [God]. What, then, is the use of fruitive activities, which are naturally painful from the very beginning and transient by nature, if they are not utilized for the devotional service of the Lord?” This means that even knowledge, which is superior to fruitive activity, is not successful if it is devoid of devotional service. Therefore in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam—in the beginning, middle and end—karma-kāṇḍa and jñāna-kāṇḍa are condemned. For example, in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (SB 1.1.2) it is said, dharmaḥ projjhita-kaitavo ’tra.