Śrutadeva continued: “My dear Lord, You have entered this material world as if sleeping. A conditioned soul, while sleeping, creates false or temporary worlds in his mind; he becomes busy in many illusory activities—sometimes becoming a king, sometimes being murdered or sometimes going to an unknown city—and all these are simply temporary affairs. Similarly, Your Lordship, apparently also in a sleeping condition, enters this material world to create a temporary manifestation, not for Your personal necessities but for the conditioned soul who wants to imitate Your Lordship as enjoyer. The conditioned soul’s enjoyment in the material world is temporary and illusory. And yet the conditioned soul is by himself unable to create such a temporary situation for his illusory enjoyment. To fulfill his desires, although they are temporary and illusory, You enter this temporary manifestation to help him. Thus from the beginning of the conditioned soul’s entering into the material world, You are his constant companion. When, therefore, the conditioned soul comes in contact with a pure devotee and takes to devotional service, beginning with the process of hearing Your transcendental pastimes, glorifying Your transcendental activities, worshiping Your eternal form in the temple, offering prayers to You and engaging in discussion to understand Your transcendental position, he gradually becomes freed from the contamination of material existence. And as his heart becomes cleansed of all material dust, You gradually become visible there. Although You are constantly with the conditioned soul, only when he becomes purified by devotional service do You become revealed to him. Others, who are bewildered by fruitive activities, either by Vedic injunction or by customary dealings, and who do not take to devotional service, are captivated by the external happiness of the bodily concept of life. You are not revealed to such persons. Rather, You remain far, far away from them. But for one who engages in Your devotional service and purifies his heart by constant chanting of Your holy name, You are very easily understood as his eternal, constant companion.
“It is said that Your Lordship, sitting in the heart of a devotee, gives him direction by which he can very quickly come back home, back to You. This direct dictation by You reveals Your existence within the heart of the devotee. Only a devotee can immediately appreciate Your existence within his heart, whereas for a person who has only a bodily concept of life and is engaged in sense gratification, You always remain covered by the curtain of yogamāyā. Such a person cannot realize that You are very near, sitting within his heart. For a nondevotee, You are appreciated only as ultimate death. The difference is like the difference between a cat’s carrying its kittens in its mouth and carrying a rat in its mouth. In the mouth of the cat, the rat feels its death, whereas the kittens in the mouth of the cat feel motherly affection. Similarly, You are present to everyone, but the nondevotee feels You as ultimate cruel death, whereas for a devotee You are the supreme instructor and philosopher. The atheist, therefore, understands the presence of God as death, but the devotee understands the presence of God always within his heart, takes dictation from You and lives transcendentally, unaffected by the contamination of the material world.
“You are the supreme controller and superintendent of the material nature’s activities. The atheistic class of men simply observe the activities of material nature but cannot find You as the original background. A devotee, however, can immediately see Your hand in every movement of material nature. The curtain of yogamāyā cannot cover the eyes of the devotee of Your Lordship, but it can cover the eyes of the nondevotee. The nondevotee is unable to see You face to face, just as a person whose eyes are blocked by the covering of a cloud cannot see the sun, although persons flying above the cloud can see the sunshine brilliantly, as it is. My dear Lord, I offer my respectful obeisances unto You. My dear self-effulgent Lord, I am Your eternal servitor. Therefore, kindly order me—what can I do for You? The conditioned soul feels the pangs of material contamination as the threefold miseries as long as You are not visible to him. And as soon as You are visible by development of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, all miseries of material existence are simultaneously vanquished.”
The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, is naturally very much affectionately inclined to His devotees. When He heard Śrutadeva’s prayers of pure devotion, He was very much pleased and immediately caught his hands and addressed him thus: “My dear Śrutadeva, all these great sages, brāhmaṇas and saintly persons have been very kind to you by personally coming here to see you. You should consider this opportunity to be a great fortune for you. They are so kind that they are traveling with Me, and wherever they go they immediately make the whole atmosphere as pure as transcendence simply by the touch of the dust of their feet. People are accustomed to go to the temples of God. They also visit holy places of pilgrimage, and after prolonged association with such activities for many days by touch and by worship, they gradually become purified. But the influence of great sages and saintly persons is so great that by seeing them one immediately becomes completely purified.
“Moreover, the very purifying potency of pilgrimages or worship of different demigods is also achieved by the grace of saintly persons. A pilgrimage site becomes a holy place because of the presence of the saintly persons. My dear Śrutadeva, when a person is born as a brāhmaṇa, he immediately becomes the best of all human beings. And if such a brāhmaṇa, remaining self-satisfied, practices austerities, studies the Vedas and engages in My devotional service, as is the duty of the brāhmaṇa—or in other words, if a brāhmaṇa becomes a Vaiṣṇava—how wonderful is his greatness! My feature of four-handed Nārāyaṇa is not so pleasing or dear to Me as is a brāhmaṇa Vaiṣṇava. Brāhmaṇa means ‘one well conversant with Vedic knowledge.’ A brāhmaṇa is the insignia of perfect knowledge, and I am the full-fledged manifestation of all gods. Less intelligent men do not understand Me, nor do they understand the influence of the brāhmaṇa Vaiṣṇava. They are influenced by the three modes of material nature and thus dare to criticize Me and My pure devotees. A brāhmaṇa Vaiṣṇava, or a devotee already on the brahminical platform, can realize Me within his heart, and therefore he definitely concludes that the whole cosmic manifestation and its different features are effects of different energies of the Lord. Thus he has a clear conception of the whole material nature and the total material energy, and in every action such a devotee sees Me only, and nothing else.
“My dear Śrutadeva, you may therefore accept all these great saintly persons, brāhmaṇas and sages as My bona fide representatives. By worshiping them faithfully, you will be worshiping Me more diligently. I consider worship of My devotees to be better than direct worship of Me. If someone attempts to worship Me directly without worshiping My devotees, I do not accept such worship, even though it may be presented with great opulence.”
In this way both the brāhmaṇa Śrutadeva and the King of Mithilā, under the direction of the Lord, worshiped both Kṛṣṇa and His followers, the great sages and saintly brāhmaṇas, on an equal level of spiritual importance. Both brāhmaṇa and King ultimately achieved the supreme goal of being transferred to the spiritual world. The devotee does not know anyone except Lord Kṛṣṇa, and Kṛṣṇa is most affectionate to His devotee. Lord Kṛṣṇa remained in Mithilā both at the house of the brāhmaṇa Śrutadeva and at the palace of King Bahulāśva. And after favoring them lavishly by His transcendental instructions, He went back to His capital city, Dvārakā.