Kṛṣṇa creates, maintains and annihilates the whole cosmic manifestation by expanding Himself in different incarnations. Everything is Kṛṣṇa, and everything depends on Kṛṣṇa, but He is not perceived in the material energy, and therefore it is called māyā, or illusion. In the spiritual energy, however, Kṛṣṇa is perceived at every step, in all circumstances. This perfectional stage of understanding is represented by the gopīs. As Kṛṣṇa is always aloof from the cosmic manifestation although it is completely dependent on Him, so a living entity is also completely aloof from his material, conditioned life although the material body has developed on the basis of spiritual existence. In the Bhagavad-gītā the whole cosmic manifestation is accepted as the mother of the living entities, and Kṛṣṇa is the father. As the father impregnates the mother by injecting the living entity within the womb, Kṛṣṇa injects all the living entities into the womb of the material nature. They come out in different bodies according to their different fruitive activities. But in all circumstances, the living entity is aloof from this material, conditioned life.
If we simply study our own bodies, we can understand how a living entity is always aloof from this bodily encagement. Every action of the body takes place by the interactions of the three modes of material nature. We can see at every moment many changes taking place in our bodies, but the spirit soul is aloof from all changes. One can neither create nor annihilate nor interfere with the actions of material nature. The living entity is therefore entrapped by the material body and conditioned in three stages, namely while awake, asleep and unconscious. The mind acts throughout all three conditions of life; the living entity in his sleeping or dreaming condition sees something as real, and when awake he sees the same thing as unreal. It is concluded, therefore, that under certain circumstances he accepts something as real, and under other circumstances he accepts the very same thing as unreal. These matters are the subject of study for the empiric philosopher or the sāṅkhya-yogī. To come to the right conclusion, sāṅkhya-yogīs undergo severe austerities and penances, practicing control of the senses and renunciation.
All these different ways of determining the ultimate goal of life are compared to rivers, and Kṛṣṇa is compared to the ocean. As the rivers flow down toward the ocean, all attempts for knowledge flow toward Kṛṣṇa. After many, many births of endeavor, when one actually comes to Kṛṣṇa, he attains the perfectional stage. Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā, kleśo ’dhikataras teṣām avyaktāsakta-cetasām: (BG 12.5) “All are pursuing the path of realizing Me, but those who have adopted courses without any bhakti find their endeavor very troublesome.” Kṛṣṇa cannot be understood unless one comes to the point of bhakti.
Three paths are enunciated in the Bhagavad-gītā: karma-yoga, jñāna-yoga and bhakti-yoga. Those who are too much addicted to fruitive activities are advised to perform actions which will bring them to bhakti. Those who are addicted to the pursuit of empiric philosophy are also advised to act in such a way that they will realize bhakti. Karma-yoga is therefore different from ordinary karma, and jñāna-yoga is different from ordinary jñāna. Ultimately, as stated by the Lord in the Bhagavad-gītā, bhaktyā mām abhijānāti: (BG 18.55) only through execution of devotional service can one understand Kṛṣṇa. The perfectional stage of devotional service was achieved by the gopīs because they did not care to know anything but Kṛṣṇa. It is confirmed in the Vedas, kasmin bhagavo vijñāte sarvam idaṁ vijñātaṁ bhavati. This means that simply by knowing Kṛṣṇa one automatically acquires all other knowledge.
Uddhava continued reading Kṛṣṇa’s message: “ ‘Transcendental knowledge of the Absolute is no longer necessary for you. You were accustomed to loving Me from the very beginning of your lives.’ ” Knowledge of the Absolute Truth is specifically required for persons who want liberation from material existence. But one who has attained love for Kṛṣṇa is already on the platform of liberation. As stated in the Bhagavad-gītā, anyone engaged in unalloyed devotional service is to be considered situated on the transcendental platform of liberation. The gopīs did not actually feel any pangs of material existence, but they felt the separation of Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa therefore said, “My dear gopīs, to increase your superexcellent love for Me, I have purposely separated Myself from you so that you may be in constant meditation on Me.”