Varṇāśrama religion cannot be practised in an atmosphere of such chaos and violence. The system now being called varṇāśrama is actually ungodly, demoniac religion in disguise. To wear the holy thread and go through the purificatory process within this demoniac system does not result in piety. Discarding all purificatory processes and religious rites, the men of Kali-yuga vie with each other to become the biggest and the strongest. A person becomes a "brāhmaṇa" just by slipping a holy thread over his head-indeed, such has been predicted in the scriptures—but this does not earn him any piety. Lord Caitanya rejected this kind of cheating varṇāśrama system. Foreseeing the degraded condition of Kali-yuga, Lord Kṛṣṇa hardly discusses varṇāśrama religion in the Bhagavad-gītā and instead stresses the performance of work as sacrifice. Hence it is clearly understood that by the performance of sacrifice for Lord Viṣṇu, the Supreme Person, He becomes satisfied and all ill effects are eradicated.
Persons afflicted by disease or other miseries are known as ārta, "the distressed." Commonly, a sick person depends on a doctor and medicine to cure his disease. But far-sighted scholars say that suffering of any kind is a result of sinful activities performed in the past. Ordinary people do not understand that sinful reactions result from ignorance. This ignorance exists in manifest (prārabdha), unmanifest (aprārabdha) and latent (kuṭashta) form.
There is no material means of counteracting these sinful reactions. Administering a pain-killer provides temporary relief but cannot remove the root cause of a disease. Similarly, no materialistic effort aimed at counteracting sinful reactions can provide ultimate relief. One obtains maximum only by surrendering to the Supreme Lord. The Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (The Nectar of Devotion) supplies us with numerous proofs of how devotional service to the Lord destroys sinful reactions, and ignorance, the root of all sin. Hence we see that pious men depend solely on the Supreme Lord in moments of distress.
It is not the prime duty of human beings to try to relieve their present sufferings. The search in life is for that medicine—that panacea—which will cure the material disease altogether. This disease manifests itself in countless ways, such as birth, old age, disease, and death. The pious person seeks the association of saintly persons and follows the scriptures, and in this way he endeavors for his greatest good. The beginning of devotional service is the development of faith in the scriptures and the words of the saints. This faith destroys all unwanted desires in the heart and increases one's surrender to the Supreme Lord's will.
Innocent enquirers are known as jijñāsu, "those who are inquisitive." These innocent enquirers are society's hope for the future. Most intelligent and innocent young children are inquisitive: they question their parents about many things and remember the answers. When these bright young boys and girls receive proper guidance from parents and teachers who can lucidly answer their queries, they easily understand each point and gradually develop fine brains. From among these intelligent souls, those who are especially pious begin to keenly enquire about God and other spiritual topics. Others, who pursue ignoble material knowledge, cannot become successful in life and end up beating the chaff. Those who are inquisitive about the self and the Absolute Truth, Brahman, quickly surrender to Lord Kṛṣṇa and His devotees. Such surrender proves their good measure of piety brought over from their previous births. Beginning with fundamental enquiries about Brahman, they swiftly become elevated, understand the statement of Lord Kṛṣṇa in Bhagavad-gītā (14.27) that He is the basis of the impersonal Brahman, and begin to worship Him.
A person with meagre piety, however, can never become a devotee of the Supreme Lord. As the scripture states,
- mahā-prasāde govinde
- nāma-brahmaṇi vaiṣṇave
- svalpa-puṇyavatāṁ rājan
- viśvāso naiva jāyate
O king! A person with little piety can never develop faith in Lord Govinda, His mercy, His holy name, or His pure devotees.
Most householders desire material gain. Nowadays especially, everyone is feeling the pinch of poverty. The ordinary man thirsts for money solely to enjoy his senses. Once a person falls into the useless company of sense gratifiers, he spends his wealth on fineries, gold, and women. With more wealth, he seeks adoration and distinction, and along with these he gets mansions, cars, and so on. There is only one interest in this endeavor, and that is to enjoy the senses. Persons whose only goal in life is to gratify the senses were referred to earlier as the less intelligent fruitive workers, or karmīs. If any among them happen to have some piety, then this select group will not merely fritter away all their time in titillating their senses, but will spend some time worshiping the Supreme Lord. Although these elite karmīs do not associate with the pure devotees of the Lord, they call themselves spiritualists. Actually, they harbor the desire to gratify their carnal desires. They fail to comprehend that the Supreme Lord is known as Hṛsīkeśa, "the supreme master of the senses." Sometimes a jñānī (a seeker of knowledge) or a practitioner of mystic yoga will also worship the Lord, but they also are merely interested ultimately in sensual pleasures. The only way these adulterated devotees can become pure devotees is if they read Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī's Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu. This book is an authority on the science of devotional service.
Genuine jñānīs know how everything is connected to Brahman, the Absolute Truth. They are humble, unassuming, clean, brahminical, and reverent toward the guru, and they possess many other good qualities. Most often they take to the renounced order (sannyāsa) and lead a pure and saintly life. Yet frequently these sannyāsīs develop one major fault: they consider themselves God. They misinterpret the meaning of the Vedic phrase ahaṁ brahmāsmi, "I am Brahman," and thus they cannot realize pure knowledge of Brahman. They end up deifying the process of negation, and that finally leads to absolute monism. In this way, many jñānīs who want to know the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Brahman, get somehow misled by the illusory potency, māyā. Māyā prepares her last fatal trap, liberation, by which she keeps the monists stranded in the ocean of material existence. She deludes them into thinking "I am that," "I am He," as if they were in a drunken daze.
If by some chance the Māyāvādī sannyāsīs can earn a little piety and then be graced by a pure Vaiṣṇava devotee—as the Māyāvādīs of Benares were by Lord Caitanya—then they can easily realize that knowledge of the impersonal Brahman or the Supersoul is incomplete. Then they can be enlightened with the transcendental knowledge of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Many sages in the past, like the great Sanaka Ṛṣi, and many self-realized renunciants, like the famous Śukadeva Gosvāmī, got a taste for knowledge of the Supreme Personality of Godhead after practicing their impersonal disciplines. Then they relished indescribable bliss by hearing the Supreme Lord's transcendental pastimes. In the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (2.1.9), Śukadeva Gosvāmī says,
- pariniṣṭhito 'pi nairguṇya
- gṛhīta-cetā rājarṣe
- ākhyānaṁ yad adhītavān
O saintly King (Parīkṣit), I was certainly situated in transcendence, yet I was still attracted by the delineation of the pastimes of the Lord, who is described by enlightened verses.
One of the stalwarts in the spiritual line of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas, Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura, has given his opinion on the four types of pious men who approach the Lord—namely, the distressed, those desiring material gain, the inquisitive, and those who knows things as they are. He says,
The distressed, those in need of material gain, and the inquisitive—these three are neophyte fruitive devotees. Their devotion is mixed with fruitive desires. All of them want to fulfill their desires according to their specific qualities. Finally, when they become purified, they desire to reach the divine abode of the Supreme Lord—the Vaikuṇṭha planets. They are not like the karmīs, or fruitive workers, who want to attain to the heavenly planets. As Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā (9.25) yānti mad-yājino 'pi mām: "One who worships Me attains My supreme abode." The jñānī, or one who knows things as they are, is the fourth type of pious man, and he is superior to the other three kinds. He attains a higher result because his devotion is mixed with knowledge. Like Sanaka Ṛṣi, he attains the devotional mellow of neutrality. Moreover, because the Lord and His pure devotees shower their causeless mercy upon him, a jñānī devotee can also achieve pure love of Godhead, as in the case of Śukadeva Gosvāmī. When devotion mixed with fruitive desires becomes free from those fruitive desires, it is automatically transformed into devotion mixed with knowledge. The result of practising this devotion mixed with knowledge is mentioned above.
Sometimes, when devotees belonging to the categories of mixed devotion develop a taste for the devotional mellow of servitude and practice it, they attain devotion in servitude mixed with awe and reverence. When their devotion becomes more purified, they attain pure devotion in the mellow of servitude, friendship, and so on, and due to their love for the Lord they become His eternal associates. All this is clearly delineated in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Here we have discussed only a few points for reference."