A person in the renounced order of life, a sannyāsī, is also called a sādhu because he renounces everything - his home, his comfort, his friends, his relatives and his duties to friends and to family. He renounces everything for the sake of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. A sannyāsī is generally in the renounced order of life, but his renunciation will be successful only when his energy is employed in the service of the Lord with great austerity. It is said here, therefore, bhaktiṁ kurvanti ye dṛḍhām. A person who seriously engages in the service of the Lord and is in the renounced order of life is a sādhu. A sādhu is one who has given up all responsibility to society, family and worldly humanitarianism, simply for the service of the Lord. As soon as he takes his birth in the world, a person has many responsibilities and obligations - to the public, demigods, great sages, general living beings, parents, forefathers and many others. When he gives up all these obligations for the service of the Supreme Lord, he is not punished for his renunciation. But if for sense gratification a person renounces these obligations, he is punished by the law of nature.
Kṛṣṇa and all the śāstras say that our only obligation is to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If we take to His service, we are no longer obliged to anyone. We are free. How is this possible? By almighty God's power. A man may be condemned to death, but if a president or a king excuses him, he is saved. Kṛṣṇa's final instruction in Bhagavad-gītā is to surrender everything to Him. We can sacrifice our life, wealth and intelligence, and this is called yajña. Everyone has some intelligence, and everyone uses his intelligence in one way or another. Generally people use their intelligence in trying to gratify their senses, but even an ant can do this. We should try to gratify not our senses but Kṛṣṇa's senses. Then we become perfect.
We have to learn this purificatory process from a sādhu. Inasmuch as we try to gratify our senses, we become attached to the material world. We may render service to the sādhu or to Kṛṣṇa. The sādhu is the representative of Kṛṣṇa. He will never say, "Serve me," but will say, "Serve Kṛṣṇa." Therefore we have to approach Kṛṣṇa through the sādhu. This is confirmed by the Vaiṣṇava ācārya Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura: chādiyā vaiṣṇava-sevā nistāra pāyeche kebā. We cannot directly approach Kṛṣṇa; we have to go through the transparent via media, Kṛṣṇa's representative.
Those who are after material concessions go to different demigods. They take something from Śiva, Durgā, Kālī, Gaṇeśa, Sūrya and whomever. However, it was the goddess Pārvatī who asked Lord Śiva, "What is the best type of worship?" Lord Śiva advised, ārādhanānāṁ sarveṣāṁ viṣṇor ārādhanaṁ param (Padma Purāṇa). "My dear Pārvatī, of all kinds of worship, worship of Lord Viṣṇu is the best." Then he added: tasmāt parataraṁ devi tadīyānāṁ samarcanam. "And even better than the worship of Lord Viṣṇu is the worship of a Vaiṣṇava, a devotee."
Spiritual life begins with the association of a devotee, a sādhu. One cannot progress an inch without the mercy of a sādhu. Prahlāda Mahārāja has also indicated this:
- naiṣāṁ matis tāvad urukramāṅghriṁ
- spṛśaty anarthāpagamo yad-arthaḥ
- mahīyasāṁ pāda-rajo-'bhiṣekaṁ
- niṣkiñcanānāṁ na vṛṇīta yāvat
"Unless they smear upon their bodies the dust of the lotus feet of a Vaiṣṇava completely freed from material contamination, persons very much inclined toward materialistic life cannot be attached to the lotus feet of the Lord, who is glorified for His uncommon activities. Only by becoming Kṛṣṇa conscious and taking shelter at the lotus feet of the Lord in this way can one be freed from material contamination." (SB 7.5.32) Hiraṇyakaśipu asked Prahlāda Mahārāja, "My dear son Prahlāda, how have you become so advanced in Kṛṣṇa consciousness?" Although Hiraṇyakaśipu was a demon, he was nonetheless inquisitive. Prahlāda Mahārāja replied, "My dear father, O best of the asuras, one can receive Kṛṣṇa consciousness only from the instructions of a guru. One cannot attain it simply by speculating. Ordinary men do not know that their ultimate destination is to return to Viṣṇu." In the material world, people are always hoping for something. They hope against hope, yet their hopes will never be fulfilled. People are trying to become happy by adjusting the external energy, but they do not know that happiness cannot be achieved without approaching God. People are thinking, "I must first of all see to my own interest." That's all right, but what is that interest? That they do not know. People are thinking that by adjusting the material energy they will be happy, and everyone is trying this individually, collectively or nationally. In any case, it is not possible. People will ultimately be frustrated. Why attempt a process that will ultimately meet with frustration? It is therefore said: adānta-gobhir viśatāṁ tamisraṁ punaḥ punaś carvita-carvaṇānām (SB 7.5.30). People are being baffled in so many ways because they cannot control their senses. Their only possibility of rescue is Kṛṣṇa. Therefore in this verse it is said: mayy ananyena bhāvena bhaktiṁ kurvanti ye dṛḍhām.
Prahlāda Mahārāja simply thought of Kṛṣṇa. Because of this, he had to undergo a great deal of trouble given by his father. Material nature will not give us freedom very easily. If we become strong enough to try to capture the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa, māyā will try to keep us under her clutches. However, if one gives up everything for Kṛṣṇa's sake, māyā can have no effect. The most excellent example of this is the gopīs. They gave up everything - family, prestige and honor - just to follow Kṛṣṇa. That is the highest perfection, but that is not possible for ordinary living entities. We should, however, follow the Gosvāmīs in their determination to worship Kṛṣṇa.
Sanātana Gosvāmī was an important minister in the government of Hussain Shah, but he gave up everything to follow Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. He adopted the life of a mendicant and lived under a different tree every night. One may ask, "After giving up material enjoyment, how can one live?" The Gosvāmīs lived by dipping into the ocean of the transcendental loving affairs between Kṛṣṇa and the gopīs. Since that was their asset, they could live very peacefully. We cannot simply give up everything. We will become mad if we try to give up everything without having staunch faith in Kṛṣṇa. Yet if we find Kṛṣṇa's association, we can easily give up our opulent positions - our family, business and everything. However, that requires sādhu-saṅga (CC Madhya 22.83), association with a sādhu, a devotee. When we associate with a devotee, the day will eventually come when we can give up everything and become liberated persons, fit to return home, back to Godhead.
presently we are attached to material enjoyment, and Kṛṣṇa even gives us a chance to gratify our senses. He lets us enjoy ourselves to the fullest extent because we have come to this material world to enjoy sense gratification. However, this is called māyā, illusion. It is not really enjoyment, but simply struggle. When one realizes that he is simply struggling life after life, that there is actually no real enjoyment in the material world, one becomes a devotee of Kṛṣṇa. That realization requires knowledge, and that knowledge can be acquired by association with a sādhu, a devotee.
Freedom from this struggle with material existence is further explained by Lord Kapila in the next verse.