Bhakti is in a far higher position than mukti because a person's endeavor for liberation from the material encagement is automatically realized in devotional service. If the digestive power is sufficient, then whatever we eat will be digested by the fire in the stomach. Similarly, a devotee doesn't have to try separately to attain liberation. That very service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the process of liberation because to engage in the service of the Lord is to liberate oneself from material entanglement.
For a devotee, liberation is no problem at all. Liberation takes place without separate endeavor. Bhakti, therefore, is far better than mukti or the impersonalist position. The impersonalists undergo severe penances and austerities to attain mukti, but the bhakta, simply by engaging in the bhakti process, especially in chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare, immediately develops control over the tongue by chanting, and accepting the remnants of foodstuff offered to the Personality of Godhead. As soon as the tongue is controlled, all other senses are controlled automatically. Sense control is the perfection of the yoga principle, and one's liberation begins immediately as soon as he engages in the service of the Lord. It is confirmed by Kapiladeva that bhakti, or devotional service, is garīyasi, more glorious than siddhi, liberation.
It is stated in this verse that bhakti dissolves the subtle body. The spirit soul has two coverings - subtle and gross. The gross body is composed of earth, water, fire, air and ether. The subtle body is composed of mind, intelligence and ego. Of the eight material elements, five are gross and three are subtle. We cannot see the subtle, and the soul is even more subtle. Anyone with eyes can see the body, but not everyone can perceive the soul, the actual person. When we understand that the soul, or the person, has left the body, we cry, "Oh, my friend has left." We can perceive that the body is there, but something is obviously missing. Thus one's friend is actually different from the body. At the present moment when we say, "This is my friend," we refer to the body, but that is simply the vision of an animal. Animals think, "This is my dog friend, and this is my mother dog." They cannot see beyond the gross body. Similarly, we cannot see the soul, and if we cannot see the minute soul, how can we hope to see God with these blunt eyes? We cannot actually see one another. How, then, can we hope to see God? It is stated: ataḥ śri-kṛṣṇa-nāmādi na bhaved grāhyam indriyaiḥ (CC Madhya 17.136). "Material senses cannot appreciate Kṛṣṇa's holy name, form, qualities and pastimes."
Our present senses are incapable of seeing God. Generally, at death we can understand that something has gone. We understand that what we were seeing was not actually our friend but a lump of matter. This is knowledge. However, one who understands before death that the body is simply a lump of matter is called a wise man. He sees the soul through the eyes of knowledge. Those who are on the gross platform, who are like animals, can see neither the soul nor Bhagavān. The karmīs, the gross fruitive workers, do not understand the distinction between the body and the soul. Out of many millions of karmīs, there may be one jñānī, one wise man who can understand. The jñānī knows that he is not the body, and out of many millions of jñānīs, one may be actually liberated. The Māyāvādīs think that because they are spirit soul, they are one with the Supreme. Being equal in quality does not mean that one is the Supreme Soul. Because the Māyāvādīs think that they have become one with Nārāyaṇa, they address one another as Nārāyaṇa. They say, "You are Nārāyaṇa, I am Nārāyaṇa, everyone is Nārāyaṇa." From this misconception, the idea of daridra-nārāyaṇa (poor Nārāyaṇa) arises. The devotees fully engaged in the service of the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord do not think in this way. They think, "If I am one with the Supreme, how is it I have fallen into this condition?" They know that a drop of seawater is one in quality with the vast ocean, but they also know that a drop of water is never equal to the ocean itself.
Sometimes the Māyāvādīs worship Lord Viṣṇu, but they do not actually believe in the form of Lord Viṣṇu. They consider His image to be some imaginary form to utilize as a means for self-realization. Māyāvādīs say that the Absolute Truth has no rūpa, no form, but it is stated: īśvaraḥ paramaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ sac-cid-ānanda-vigrahaḥ (Bs. 5.1). "Kṛṣṇa, who is known as Govinda, is the supreme controller. He has an eternal, blissful, spiritual body."
The word vigraha refers to the supreme form, but the Māyāvādīs do not understand this. There are also many so-called Vaiṣṇavas who worship Lord Viṣṇu with an aim of becoming one with the Supreme. They sometimes give the example of a drop of water merging into the great ocean itself. This is simply nonsense. The ocean is a combination of countless molecules of water, and it is impossible for one molecule to merge into the totality. The sunshine is a combination of countless trillions of small shining particles, and each particle has its individual identity as an atom. Because we do not have the eyes to see the small atomic divisions, we think that they are one, but actually they are not homogeneous. Similarly, although we are very small particles of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, we all have different identities. In Bhagavad-gītā (2.12) Śrī Kṛṣṇa says:
- na tv evāhaṁ jātu nāsaṁ
- na tvaṁ neme janādhipāḥ
- na caiva na bhaviṣyāmaḥ
- sarve vayam ataḥ param
"Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be."
Kṛṣṇa never says that He, Arjuna, and all the soldiers shall eventually become one. Rather, He says that everyone will retain his own individuality.
Those who have complete knowledge never think that in the future they will become one with the Supreme. They simply want to remain in their constitutional position as part and parcel of Kṛṣṇa. Although we are now covered by the material body, the material body can be easily dissolved by the process of bhakti-yoga. If we are strong in bhakti-yoga, we actually no longer have a material body but a spiritual one. We are free.
When we are baffled, we want to become the husband of goddess Lakṣmī. The husband of goddess Lakṣmī is Nārāyaṇa, God Himself. In this material world, we are hankering after Lakṣmī, the goddess of fortune, but we are frustrated in our attempts. We think, "Now let me become the husband of Lakṣmī." Actually, no one can enjoy Lakṣmī but Nārāyaṇa. Even exalted demigods like Lord Brahmā and Lord Śiva are inferior to Lord Nārāyaṇa, but we are so foolish that we are thinking of assuming Nārāyaṇa's position, or making Nārāyaṇa into daridra-nārāyaṇa, the poor man in the street. The śāstras never equalize Nārāyaṇa with anyone, not even Lord Brahmā or Lord Śiva, what to speak of foolish rascals.
One may ask why Nārāyaṇa has created us, why it is we are part and parcel of Nārāyaṇa. Eko bahu-syām. Why has Nārāyaṇa become many? He has created us for enjoyment. Ānandamayo 'bhyāsāt (Vedānta-sūtra 1.1.12). He has created us in the same way a gentleman accepts a wife. If one takes on a wife, he
will beget children. A man takes on the responsibility of maintaining a wife and children because he thinks that through them he will enjoy life. In the material world we see that during the evening a man tries to enjoy life with his wife, children and friends. Therefore he takes on so many responsibilities. This is supposed to be ānanda, bliss, but because it takes place in the material world, the ānanda is converted into something distasteful. However, we can enjoy this ānanda when we are with our Supreme Father, Kṛṣṇa. We are all children of the Supreme Father, and in Bhagavad-gītā (14.4) Kṛṣṇa claims all species of life as His children:
- sarva-yoniṣu kaunteya
- mūrtayaḥ sambhavanti yāḥ
- tāsāṁ brahma mahad yonir
- ahaṁ bīja-pradaḥ pitā
"It should be understood that all species of life, O son of Kuntī, are made possible by birth in this material nature, and that I am the seed-giving father."
The Supreme Father, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, has created us for His enjoyment, not to create distress. Although we are Kṛṣṇa's children, we have given up our Supreme Father because we wish to enjoy ourselves independently. Consequently we are suffering. If a rich man's son gives up his home to try to enjoy life independently, he simply suffers. It is to our benefit to return home, back to Godhead, to enjoy ourselves with our original father, Kṛṣṇa. This will give us happiness. Kṛṣṇa is full of all opulence. He possesses in totality wealth, strength, beauty, fame, knowledge and renunciation. He possesses everything in unlimited quantity. If we return to our original father, we can enjoy ourselves with Him unlimitedly. It is not that we can enjoy ourselves independent of Kṛṣṇa. Nor can we say that to enjoy ourselves we have to become one with Kṛṣṇa. In the material world, our father gives us our birth, and we are an entity separate from him. If we are suffering, do we say, "My dear father, I am suffering. Will you please once again make me one with you?" Is this a very good proposal? A father says, "I have begotten you separately to enjoy yourself. You remain separate, and I remain separate, and in this way we will enjoy. Now you are asking to become one with me. What is this nonsense?"
The Māyāvādīs want to become one with the Supreme because they are suffering in the material world. Kṛṣṇa has created us to enjoy ourselves in His company, but due to our desire for independent enjoyment, we are not doing that. Consequently we are suffering in this material world, and because we are suffering we are thinking of becoming one with our father. It is māyā's business to try to build up the living entity, to puff him up, and māyā's last snare is to make the living entity think that he can become one with God. Māyāvādīs think that becoming one with the Supreme is the highest perfection, but this is not perfection because our original constitutional position is to enjoy the company of Kṛṣṇa. Friends sit together in a room and enjoy one another's company. What enjoyment can one have by himself? Variety is the mother of enjoyment, and real enjoyment is being in Kṛṣṇa's company. Therefore devotees never desire to become one with the Supreme. It is Caitanya Mahāprabhu who says:
- mama janmani janmanīśvare
- bhavatād bhaktir ahaitukī tvayi
"My dear Lord, I do not want to put an end to the process of birth and death. I am not anxious for mukti. Let Me go ahead and take one birth after another. It doesn't matter. Simply let Me engage in Your service birth after birth (CC Antya 20.29, Śikṣāṣṭaka 4)." This is real ānanda. Unless we are fully qualified devotees, we cannot enter into the Vaikuṇṭha planets. We have to live outside in the brahma-jyotir. If we desire this, Kṛṣṇa will give us the opportunity. After all, Kṛṣṇa is everything. He is brahma-jyotir and Paramātmā also. If we want to become one with the Supreme, we will be allowed to live outside the Vaikuṇṭha planets, in the brahma-jyotir. However, that position is not eternal. As we have explained before, we cannot live eternally in the brahma-jyotir because we want variety. Without variety, there is no enjoyment.
In all conditions, the pure devotee is liberated. He may engage in some occupation or business, but he is always thinking of how to serve Kṛṣṇa, and in this way he is automatically liberated. It is not that he thinks of becoming one with the Supreme and attaining liberation. Rather, his liberation lies in his personal relationship with the Supreme Lord Himself.