Kṛṣṇa continued: “One cannot purify himself merely by traveling to holy places of pilgrimage and taking a bath there or by seeing the demigods’ forms in the temples. But if one happens to meet a great devotee, a mahātmā who is a representative of the Personality of Godhead, one is immediately purified. To become purified, one is enjoined to worship the fire, the sun, the moon, the earth, the water, the air, the sky and the mind. By worshiping all the elements and their predominating deities, one can gradually become free from the influence of envy, but all the sins of an envious person can be nullified immediately simply by serving a great soul. My dear revered sages and respectable kings, you can take it from Me that a person who accepts this material body made of three elements—mucus, bile and air—as his own self, who considers his family and relatives his own, who accepts material things as worshipable, or who visits holy places of pilgrimage just to take a bath there but never associates with great personalities, sages and mahātmās—such a person, even though in the form of a human being, is nothing but an animal like an ass.”
When the supreme authority, Lord Kṛṣṇa, was thus speaking with great gravity, all the sages and ascetics remained in dead silence. They were amazed upon hearing Him speak the absolute philosophy of life in such a concise way. Unless one is very much advanced in knowledge, one thinks his body to be his self, his family members to be his own, and the land of his birth to be worshipable. From this concept of life, the modern ideology of nationalism has sprung up. Lord Kṛṣṇa condemned such ideas, and He also condemned persons who take the trouble to go to holy places of pilgrimage just to take a bath and come back without taking the opportunity to associate with the great devotees and mahātmās living there. Such persons are compared to the most foolish animal, the ass. All those who heard considered the speech of Lord Kṛṣṇa for some time, and they concluded that Lord Kṛṣṇa was actually the Supreme Personality of Godhead playing the role of an ordinary human being, who is forced to take a certain type of body as a result of the reactions of his past deeds. He was assuming this pastime as an ordinary human simply to teach the people in general how they should live for perfection of the human mission.
Having concluded that Kṛṣṇa was the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the sages addressed Him thus: “Dear Lord, we, the leaders of human society, are supposed to possess the proper philosophy of life, yet we are bewildered by the spell of Your external energy. We are surprised to see Your behavior, which is just like that of an ordinary human being and which conceals Your real identity as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and we therefore consider Your pastimes to be all-wonderful.
“Our dear Lord, by Your own energy You create, maintain and annihilate the whole cosmic manifestation of different names and forms, in the same way that the earth creates many forms of stone, trees and other varieties of names and forms and yet remains the same. Although You create varieties of manifestations through Your energy, You are unaffected by all those actions. Our dear Lord, we are simply stunned to see Your wonderful acts. Although You are transcendental to this entire material creation and are the Supreme Lord and the Supersoul of all living entities, You appear on this earth by Your internal potency to protect Your devotees and destroy the miscreants. By such an appearance You reestablish the principles of eternal religion, which human society forgets by long association with the material energy. Our dear Lord, You are the creator of the social orders and spiritual statuses of human society according to quality and work, and when these orders are misguided by unscrupulous persons, You appear and set them right.