Srimad-Bhagavatam: Canto 5 - Chapter 1 - Verse 23


इति ह वाव स जगतीपतिरीश्वरेच्छयाधिनिवेशितकर्माधिकारोऽखिलजगद्ब‍न्धध्वंसनपरानुभावस्य भगवत आदिपुरुषस्याङ्‌घ्रियुगलानवरतध्यानानुभावेन परिरन्धितकषायाशयोऽवदातोऽपि मानवर्धनो महतां महीतलमनुशशास ॥ २३ ॥


iti ha vāva sa jagatī-patir īśvarecchayādhiniveśita-karmādhikāro ’khila-jagad-bandha-dhvaṁsana-parānubhāvasya bhagavata ādi-puruṣasyāṅghri-yugalānavarata-dhyānānubhāvena parirandhita-kaṣāyāśayo ’vadāto ’pi māna-vardhano mahatāṁ mahītalam anuśaśāsa.


Following the order of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Mahārāja Priyavrata fully engaged in worldly affairs, yet he always thought of the lotus feet of the Lord, which are the cause of liberation from all material attachment. Although Priyavrata Mahārāja was completely freed from all material contamination, he ruled the material world just to honor the orders of his superiors.


The words māna-vardhano mahatām (“just to show honor to superiors”) are very significant. Although Mahārāja Priyavrata was already a liberated person and had no attraction for material things, he engaged himself fully in governmental affairs just to show respect to Lord Brahmā. Arjuna had also acted in the same way. Arjuna had no desire to participate in political affairs or the fighting at Kurukṣetra, but when ordered to do so by the Supreme Lord, Kṛṣṇa, he executed those duties very nicely. One who always thinks of the lotus feet of the Lord is certainly above all the contamination of the material world. As stated in Bhagavad-gītā: “Of all yogīs, he who always abides in Me with great faith, worshiping Me in transcendental loving service, is most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all.” (Bg. 6.47) Mahārāja Priyavrata, therefore, was a liberated person and was among the highest of yogīs, yet superficially he became the emperor of the universe in accordance with the order of Lord Brahmā. Showing respect to his superior in this way was another of his extraordinary qualifications. As stated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (6.17.28): A devotee who is actually advanced is not afraid of anything, provided he has the opportunity to execute the order of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This is the proper explanation of why Priyavrata engaged in worldly affairs although he was a liberated person. Also, only because of this principle does a mahā-bhāgavata, who has nothing to do with the material world, come down to the second platform of devotional service to preach the glories of the Lord all over the world.