The conclusion is that any process of self-realization or God realization other than bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, is extremely difficult. Taking shelter of devotional service to the Lord in full Kṛṣṇa consciousness is therefore the only way to become free from the contamination of material, conditioned life, especially in this age. Those who are not in Kṛṣṇa consciousness are simply wasting their time, and they have no tangible proof of spiritual life.
It is said by Lord Rāmacandra, “I always give confidence and security to anyone who surrenders unto Me and decides definitely that He is My eternal servant, for that is My natural inclination.” Similarly, Lord Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā, “The influence of the material nature is insurmountable, but anyone who surrenders unto Me can verily overcome the influence of material nature.” The devotees are not at all interested in arguing with the nondevotees to nullify their theories. Rather than wasting time, they always engage themselves in the transcendental loving service of the Lord in full Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
The personified Vedas continued: “Dear Lord, although great mystic yogīs may have full control over the elephant of the mind and the hurricane of the senses, unless they take shelter of a bona fide spiritual master they fall victim to the material influence and are never successful in their attempts at self-realization. Such unguided persons are compared to merchants going to sea on a ship without a captain.” By one’s personal attempts, therefore, one cannot get free from the clutches of material nature. One has to accept a bona fide spiritual master and work according to his direction. Then it is possible to cross over the nescience of material conditions. Śrīpāda Śrīdhara Svāmī has composed a nice verse in this connection, in which he says, “O all-merciful spiritual master, representative of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, when my mind will be completely surrendered unto your lotus feet, at that time, only by your mercy, I shall be able to get relief from all obstacles to spiritual life, and I shall be situated in blissful life.”
Actually, ecstatic samādhi, or absorption in the Supreme Personality of Godhead, can be achieved by constant engagement in His service, and this constant engagement in devotional service can be performed only when one works under the direction of a bona fide spiritual master. The Vedas therefore instruct that in order to know the science of devotional service one has to submit himself unto the bona fide spiritual master. The bona fide spiritual master is he who knows the science of devotional service in disciplic succession. This disciplic succession is called śrotriya. The prime symptom of one who has become a spiritual master in disciplic succession is that he is one hundred percent fixed in bhakti-yoga. Sometimes people neglect to accept a spiritual master, and instead they endeavor for self-realization by mystic yoga practice, but there are many instances of failure, even by great yogīs like Viśvāmitra. Arjuna said in the Bhagavad-gītā that controlling the mind is as impractical as stopping the blowing of a hurricane. Sometimes the mind is compared to a maddened elephant. Without following the direction of a spiritual master one cannot control the mind and the senses. In other words, if one practices yoga mysticism and does not accept a bona fide spiritual master, he will surely fail. He will simply waste his valuable time. The Vedic injunction is that no one can have full knowledge without being under the guidance of an ācārya. Ācāryavān puruṣo veda: one who has accepted an ācārya knows what is what. The Absolute Truth cannot be understood by arguments. One who has attained the perfect brahminical stage naturally becomes renounced; he does not strive for material gain because by spiritual knowledge he has come to the conclusion that in this world there is no insufficiency. Everything is sufficiently provided by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. A real brāhmaṇa, therefore, does not endeavor for material perfection; rather, he approaches a bona fide spiritual master to accept orders from him. A spiritual master’s qualification is that he is brahma-niṣṭha, which means that he has given up all other activities and has dedicated his life to working only for the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa. When a bona fide student approaches a bona fide spiritual master, he submissively prays to the spiritual master, “My dear lord, kindly accept me as your student and train me in such a way that I will be able to give up all other processes of self-realization and simply engage in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, devotional service.”