Srimad-Bhagavatam: Canto 11 - Chapter 1 - Verse 8


पुंसोऽयुक्तस्य नानार्थो भ्रम: स गुणदोषभाक् ।कर्माकर्मविकर्मेति गुणदोषधियो भिदा ॥ ८ ॥


puṁso ’yuktasya nānārthobhramaḥ sa guṇa-doṣa-bhākkarmākarma-vikarmetiguṇa-doṣa-dhiyo bhidā


One whose consciousness is bewildered by illusion perceives many differences in value and meaning among material objects. Thus one engages constantly on the platform of material good and evil and is bound by such conceptions. Absorbed in material duality, such a person contemplates the performance of compulsory duties, nonperformance of such duties and performance of forbidden activities.


The illusory mental platform of existence is described in this verse. The word ayuktasya indicates the conditioned soul who does not fix his mind on the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is clearly described in Bhagavad-gītā and other Vedic literature that Lord Kṛṣṇa, the Absolute Truth, is within everything, and everything is within the Lord. The example may be given that when a woman loves a man, she is most eager to see him, and she daily sees him dressed in different clothes. Actually the woman is interested not in the clothes but in the man. Similarly, within every material object is the Supreme Personality of Godhead; therefore one who has developed love of God is constantly seeing the Lord everywhere, and not just the superficial material objects that cover the Lord. The word ayuktasya in this verse indicates one who has not come to the stage of reality. Such a person, being deprived of loving devotional service to Lord Kṛṣṇa, attempts to enjoy the innumerable forms and flavors of material experience. This temporary, illusory engagement is not the constitutional function of the bewildered living entity, who remains without any awareness of the ultimate reality, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Within the world of matter there are undoubtedly varieties. Among dogs there are pedigree poodles and common mutts, and among horses there are thoroughbreds and old gray mares. Similarly, some human beings are beautiful and educated and others are dull and homely. Some are rich and some are poor. In nature we find fertile land and sterile land, lush forests and useless deserts, invaluable gems and colorless stones, flowing transparent rivers and stagnant dirty ponds. In human society we find happiness and distress, love and hate, victory and defeat, war and peace, life and death, and so on. However, we do not have any permanent relationship with any of these conditions, because we are eternal spirit souls, part and parcel of Lord Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Vedic culture is arranged in such a way that everyone can become perfect in self-realization simply by performing his occupational duty for the satisfaction of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Sve sve karmaṇy abhirataḥ saṁsiddhiṁ labhate naraḥ. Some conditioned souls, however, believe that complete perfection in life may be achieved by performing ordinary, nonspiritual duties on behalf of family, nation, humanity, and so on. Others are interested in neither service to God nor noble mundane activities, and there are others who actively pursue sinful life. Such sinful persons generally rise from bed late in the afternoon and stay awake all night, taking intoxicants and engaging in illicit sex. Such a dark, hellish existence is caused by attraction to tamo-guṇa, the mode of ignorance. Actions in the mode of ignorance are called vikarma, as mentioned in this verse. Unfortunately, neither the materially responsible person nor the materially irresponsible person nor the sinful person can achieve the real perfection of life, Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Although different societies and different individuals maintain different concepts of good and evil, all material things are ultimately useless in terms of our eternal self-interest, which is Kṛṣṇa consciousness. This idea is expressed by the saintly King Citraketu in the Sixth Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (6.17.20): “This material world resembles the waves of a constantly flowing river. Therefore, what is a curse and what is a favor? What are the heavenly planets and what are the hellish planets? What is actually happiness and what is actually distress? Because the waves flow constantly, none of them has an eternal effect.” The argument may be given that since in the Vedas there are prescribed and forbidden activities, the Vedas also accept the concept of good and evil within the material world. The fact is, however, that it is not the Vedas themselves but the conditioned souls who are bound up in material duality. The function of Vedic literature is to engage each individual at the particular level on which he is presently situated and gradually elevate him to the perfection of life. The material mode of goodness is not itself spiritual, but it does not impede spiritual life. Since the material mode of goodness purifies one’s consciousness and creates a hankering for higher knowledge, it is a favorable platform from which to pursue spiritual life, just as the airport is a favorable place from which to travel. If a man desires to travel from New York to London, the New York airport is certainly the most favorable place from which to travel. But if the man misses his plane, he is no closer to London than anyone in New York who did not go to the airport. In other words, the advantage of the airport is meaningful only if one catches his plane. Similarly, the material mode of goodness is the most favorable situation from which to move up to the spiritual platform. The Vedas prescribe and forbid various activities to lift the conditioned soul to the material mode of goodness, and from that point he should rise to the spiritual platform by transcendental knowledge. Therefore if one does not come to the platform of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, his elevation to the material mode of goodness is useless, just as a trip to the airport is useless for one who misses his plane. In the Vedas there are injunctions and prohibitions that appear to accept good and evil among material things, but the ultimate purpose of the Vedic regulations is to create a favorable situation for spiritual life. If one can immediately take to spiritual life then there is no need to waste time with rituals within the modes of nature. Therefore Kṛṣṇa advises Arjuna in Bhagavad-gītā (2.45): “The Vedas mainly deal with the subject of the three modes of material nature. Rise above these modes, O Arjuna. Be transcendental to all of them. Be free from all dualities and from all anxieties for gain and safety, and be established in the Self.” In this connection, Śrīla Madhvācārya has quoted the following verses from Mahābhārata: “Within the material world, the conditioned souls consider residence on the heavenly planets and celestial pleasures, such as the pious enjoyment of beautiful women, to be good and desirable things. Similarly, painful or miserable conditions are considered to be evil or bad. However, all such perception of good and bad in the material world is undoubtedly based upon the fundamental mistake of considering oneself, and not the Supreme Personality of Godhead, to be the ultimate doer or performer of all actions.” “On the other hand, a person who knows that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the actual controller of material nature, and that it is ultimately He who is moving everything, can free himself from the bondage of material existence. Such a person goes to the abode of the Lord.”