Srimad-Bhagavatam: Canto 4 - Chapter 1 - Verse 11


मैत्रेय उवाचगङ्गायमुनयोर्नद्योरन्तरा क्षेत्रमावसन् ।आरब्धानेव बुभुजे भोगान् पुण्यजिहासया ॥ ११ ॥


maitreya uvācagaṅgā-yamunayor nadyorantarā kṣetram āvasanārabdhān eva bubhujebhogān puṇya-jihāsayā


The great saintly sage Maitreya told Vidura: My dear Vidura, King Pṛthu lived in the tract of land between the two great rivers Ganges and Yamunā. Because he was very opulent, it appeared that he was enjoying his destined fortune in order to diminish the results of his past pious activities.


The terms “pious” and “impious” are applicable only in reference to the activities of an ordinary living being. But Mahārāja Pṛthu was a directly empowered incarnation of Lord Viṣṇu; therefore he was not subject to the reactions of pious or impious activities. As we have already explained previously, when a living being is specifically empowered by the Supreme Lord to act for a particular purpose, he is called a śaktyāveśa-avatāra. Pṛthu Mahārāja was not only a śaktyāveśa-avatāra but also a great devotee. A devotee is not subjected to the reactions resulting from past deeds. In the Brahma-saṁhitā it is said, karmāṇi nirdahati kintu ca bhakti-bhājām: for devotees the results of past pious and impious activities are nullified by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The words ārabdhān eva mean “as if achieved by past deeds,” but in the case of Pṛthu Mahārāja there was no question of reaction to past deeds, and thus the word eva is used here to indicate comparison to ordinary persons. In Bhagavad-gītā the Lord says, avajānanti māṁ mūḍhāḥ. This means that sometimes people misunderstand an incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead to be an ordinary man. The Supreme Godhead, His incarnations or His devotees may pose themselves as ordinary men, but they are never to be considered as such. Nor should an ordinary man not supported by authorized statements of the śāstras and ācāryas be accepted as an incarnation or devotee. By the evidence of śāstra, Sanātana Gosvāmī detected Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu to be a direct incarnation of Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, although Lord Caitanya never disclosed the fact. It is therefore generally recommended that the ācārya, or guru, should not be accepted as an ordinary man.