Nārada Muni, after offering respects to Nārāyaṇa Ṛṣi, went to the āśrama of Vyāsadeva, his disciple. Being properly received by Vyāsadeva in his āśrama and seated very comfortably, Nārada Muni narrated the entire story of what he had heard from Nārāyaṇa Ṛṣi. In this way Śukadeva Gosvāmī informed Mahārāja Parīkṣit of the answers to his questions regarding the essence of Vedic knowledge and what is considered to be the ultimate goal in the Vedas. The supreme goal of life is to achieve the transcendental blessings of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and thus become engaged in the loving service of the Lord. One should follow in the footsteps of Śukadeva Gosvāmī and all the other Vaiṣṇavas in the disciplic succession and should pay respectful obeisances unto Lord Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Hari. The four sects of Vaiṣṇava disciplic succession, namely the Madhva-sampradāya, the Rāmānuja-sampradāya, the Viṣṇu-svāmi-sampradāya and the Nimbārka-sampradāya, in pursuance of all Vedic conclusions, agree that one should surrender unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
The Vedic literature is divided into two parts: the śrutis and the smṛtis. The śrutis are the four Vedas—Ṛg, Sāma, Atharva and Yajur—and the Upaniṣads, and the smṛtis are the Purāṇas and the Itihāsas like the Mahābhārata, which includes the Bhagavad-gītā. The conclusion of all these is that one should know Śrī Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is the Parama-puruṣa, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead, under whose superintendence material nature works. For creation, maintenance and annihilation, the Supreme Lord incarnates into three—Lord Brahmā, Lord Viṣṇu and Lord Śiva—after manifesting the material cosmos. All of these take charge of the three modes of material nature, but the ultimate direction is in the hand of Lord Viṣṇu. The complete activities of material nature under the three modes are conducted under the direction of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa. This is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā (mayādhyakṣeṇa (BG 9.10)) and in the Vedas (sa aikṣata).
The atheistic Sāṅkhyaite philosophers will of course offer their arguments that the material cosmic manifestation is due to prakṛti and puruṣa—material nature and the living entity, or the material cause and the effective cause. But Kṛṣṇa is the cause of all causes. He is the cause of both the material and the effective causes. Prakṛti and puruṣa are not the ultimate cause. Superficially it appears that a child is born due to the combination of the father and mother, but the ultimate cause of both the father and the mother is Kṛṣṇa. He is therefore the original cause, or the cause of all causes, as confirmed in the Brahma-saṁhitā.
Both the Supreme Lord and the living entities enter into the material nature. The Supreme Lord, Kṛṣṇa, by one of His plenary expansions, manifests as Kāraṇodakaśāyī, Mahā-Viṣṇu, the gigantic Viṣṇu form lying in the Causal Ocean. Then from that gigantic form of Mahā-Viṣṇu, Garbhodakaśāyī Viṣṇu expands and enters into every universe. From Him, Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Śiva expand. Viṣṇu as Kṣīrodakaśāyī enters into the hearts of all living entities, as well as into all material elements, including the atom. The Brahma-saṁhitā says, aṇḍāntara-stha-paramāṇu-cayāntara-stham: (Bs. 5.35) "The Lord is within this universe and also within every atom."
The living entity has a small material body taken in various species and forms, and similarly the whole universe is but the material body of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This body is described in the śāstras as virāṭ-rūpa. As the individual living entity maintains his particular body, the Supreme Personality of Godhead maintains the whole cosmic creation, entering within it. As soon as the individual living entity leaves the material body, the body is immediately annihilated, and similarly as soon as Lord Viṣṇu leaves the cosmic manifestation, everything is annihilated. Therefore only when the individual living entity surrenders unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead is his liberation from material existence possible. This is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā: mām eva ye prapadyante māyām etāṁ taranti te (BG 7.14). Surrendering unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and nothing else, is therefore the cause of liberation. How the living entity becomes liberated from the modes of material nature after surrendering unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead is illustrated by the example of a sleeping man within a room. When a man is sleeping, everyone sees that he is present within the room, but actually the man himself is not within that body, for while sleeping a man forgets his bodily existence, although others may see that his body is present. Similarly, a liberated person engaged in devotional service to the Lord may be seen by others to be engaged in the household duties of the material world, but since his consciousness is fixed in Kṛṣṇa, he does not live within this world. His engagements are different, exactly as the sleeping man's engagements are different from his bodily engagements. It is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā that a devotee engaged full time in the transcendental loving service of the Lord has already surpassed the influence of the three modes of material nature. He is already situated on the Brahman platform and is in the transcendental realm, although he appears to be living within the body or within the material world.
In this connection, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī states in his Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu that the person whose only desire is to serve the Supreme Personality of Godhead may be situated in any condition in the material world, but he is to be understood as jīvan-mukta; that is to say, he is to be considered liberated while living within the body or the material world. The conclusion, therefore, is that a person fully engaged in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is a liberated person. Such a person actually has nothing to do with his material body or the material world. Those who are not in Kṛṣṇa consciousness are called karmīs and jñānīs, and they hover on the bodily and mental platforms and thus are not liberated. This situation is called kaivalya-nirasta-yoni. But a person situated on the transcendental platform is freed from the repetition of birth and death. This is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā, Fourth Chapter: "Simply by knowing the transcendental nature of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, one becomes free from the chains of the repetition of birth and death, and after quitting his present body he goes back home, back to Godhead." This is the conclusion of all the Vedas. Thus after understanding the prayers offered by the personified Vedas, one should surrender unto the lotus feet of Lord Kṛṣṇa.