In the lower stage of human civilization there is always competition between men in their attempt to dominate material nature. In other words, there is continuous rivalry in an attempt to satisfy the senses. Thus driven by sense gratificatory consciousness, men enact religious rituals. Thus pious activities and religious functions are performed with an aim to acquire some material gain, and if such material gain is obtainable in another way, this so-called religion is neglected. This can be seen in modern human civilization. Since the economic desires of the people appear to be fulfilled in another way, no one is interested in religion now. The churches, mosques and temples are practically vacant, for people are more interested in factories, shops and cinemas. Thus they have deserted the religious places erected by their forefathers. This is evidence that religion is generally performed for the sake of economic development, and economic development is required for sense gratification. When one is baffled in his attempt to attain sense gratification, he takes to the cause of salvation in order to become one with the supreme whole. All these activities arise with the same aim in view—sense gratification.
In the Vedas, the four primary subjects mentioned above are prescribed in a regulative way so that there will not be undue competition for sense gratification. However, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is transcendental to all the sense gratifying activities of the material world. It is a pure transcendental literature, understandable by the devotees of the Lord who are above competition in sense gratification. In the material world there is keen competition between animals, men, communities and even nations in an attempt to gratify the senses, but the devotees of the Lord are above all this. Devotees have no need to compete with materialists because they are on the path back to Godhead, back home where everything is eternal, full and blissful. Such transcendentalists are a hundred percent nonenvious and are therefore pure in heart. Because everyone in the material world is envious, there is competition. The devotees of the Lord are not only free from all material envy, but they are also kind to everyone in an attempt to establish a competitionless society with God in the center.
The socialist's idea of a society devoid of competition is artificial because even in the socialist states there is competition for power. It is a fact that the principle of sense gratification is the basic principle of materialistic life, and this can be realized either from reading the Vedas or simply from observing common human activities. The Vedas recommend fruitive activities by which people can advance to higher planets, and they also recommend worship of the various demigods for the purpose of attaining their planets. Ultimately the Vedas recommend activities by which one can reach the Absolute Truth and realize His impersonal feature in order to become one with Him. However, the impersonal aspect of the Absolute Truth is not the last word. Above the impersonal feature is the Paramātmā, or the Supersoul, and above that is the Supreme Personality. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam gives information about the personal qualities of the Absolute Truth, qualities which are beyond the impersonal aspect. Topics concerning these qualities are greater than topics of impersonal philosophical speculation; consequently Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is given higher status than the jñāna-kāṇḍa portions of the Vedas. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is also greater than the karma-kāṇḍa and upāsanā-kāṇḍa portions as well because it recommends the worship of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the divine son of Vasudeva. The karma-kāṇḍa portion of the Vedas is fraught with competition to reach heavenly planets for better sense gratification, and this competition is also seen in the jñāna-kāṇḍa and upāsanā-kāṇḍa portions. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is above all of these because it aims only at the Supreme Truth, the substance or root of all categories.
In other words, from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam we can know the substance as well as the relativities in their true sense and perspective. The substance is the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and the relativities are the different forms of energy which emanate from Him. Since the living entities are also related to His energies, there is nothing really different from the substance. At the same time, the energies are different from the substance. In the material sense, this conception is self-contradictory, but Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam explicitly deals with this aspect of simultaneous oneness and difference. This philosophy is also found in the Vedānta-sūtra beginning with the janmādy asya sūtra. Knowledge of the simultaneous oneness and difference found in the Absolute Truth is imparted for the well-being of everyone. Mental speculators mislead people by establishing the energy of the Lord as absolute, but when the truth of simultaneous oneness and difference is understood, the imperfect concepts of monism and dualism cease to satisfy. By understanding the Lord's simultaneous oneness with and difference from His creation, one can immediately attain freedom from the threefold miseries—miseries inflicted by the body and mind, by other living entities and by acts of nature.
Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam begins with the surrender of the living entity unto the Absolute Person. This surrender is made with clear consciousness and awareness of the devotee's oneness with the Absolute, and, at the same time, of his eternal position of servitorship. In the material conception, one thinks himself to be the Lord of all he surveys; consequently he is always troubled by the threefold miseries of life. As soon as one comes to know his real position in transcendental service, he at once becomes freed from all these miseries. The position of servitor is wasted in the material conception of life. In an attempt to dominate material nature, the living entity is forced to offer his service to relative material energy. When this service is transferred to the Lord in pure consciousness of spiritual identity, the living entity at once becomes free from the encumbrances of material affection.