yo vivikta-sthānaṁ sevate yo loka-bandham unmūlayati nistraiguṇyo bhavati yo yoga-kṣemaṁ tyajati
yaḥ — who; vivikta — secluded; sthānam — a place; sevate — serves; yaḥ — who; loka — of mundane society; bandham — the bondage; unmūlayati — uproots; nistrai-guṇyaḥ — free from the influence of the three modes of material nature; bhavati — becomes; yaḥ — who; yoga — (desire for) gain; kṣemam — and security; tyajati — gives up.
[Who can cross beyond illusion?] That person who stays in a secluded place, cuts off at the root his attachment to mundane society, becomes free from the influence of the three modes of nature, and gives up hankering for material gain and security.
Nārada is giving more ways to cross beyond māyā. The first is solitude (vivikta-sthānaṁ sevate). Several times in the Bhagavad-gītā Lord Kṛṣṇa advises that one practice spiritual life alone. Solitude is particularly stressed in meditative yoga, which requires that one live alone in a secluded place (rahasi sthitaḥ ekākī) (Bg. 6.10). And in the Thirteenth Chapter, when listing the items of knowledge, Lord Kṛṣṇa includes vivikta-deśa-sevitvam, “aspiring to live in a solitary place” (Bg. 13.11). Again, in the Eighteenth Chapter, when describing a person who has been elevated to the position of self-realization, Lord Kṛṣṇa says that he “lives in a solitary place” (vivikta-sevī) (Bg. 18.52).
Neophyte devotees, however, are not advised to live alone. Although solitary bhajana was practiced by Nāmācārya Haridāsa Ṭhākura, and sometimes by Lord Caitanya, Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura criticized devotees who prematurely wanted to chant in a solitary place. He wrote, “My dear mind, why are you so proud of being a Vaiṣṇava? Your solitary worship and chanting of the holy name of the Lord are based on a desire for cheap popularity, and therefore your chanting of the holy name is only a pretension” (quoted in Kṛṣṇa, p. 882).
A sacred and solitary place, as mentioned in the Gītā, also refers to a place of pilgrimage. Śrīla Prabhupāda writes, “In India the yogīs—the transcendentalists or the devotees—all leave home and reside in sacred places such as Prayāga, Mathurā, Vṛndāvana, Hṛṣīkeśa, and Hardwar and in solitude practice yoga where the sacred rivers like the Yamunā and Ganges flow” (Bg. 6.11-12, purport). For devotees of Kṛṣṇa, the most sacred place of pilgrimage is Mathurā-maṇḍala, the district that includes Mathurā and Vṛndāvana. Rūpa Gosvāmī recommends living in Mathurā-maṇḍala as one of the five main principles of bhakti-yoga, and Śrīla Prabhupāda praises Mathurā-maṇḍala as follows in his summary study of Rūpa Gosvāmī’s Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu:
A pure devotee of Lord Kṛṣṇa resides in the district of Mathurā or Vṛndāvana and visits all the places where Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes were performed…. Actually, if someone goes to Vṛndāvana, he will immediately feel separation from Kṛṣṇa, who performed such nice activities when He was present there. [The Nectar of Devotion, p. 139]
Śrīla Prabhupāda worked hard for many years to establish temples in Vṛndāvana and in Māyāpur, the birthplace of Lord Caitanya, so that Westerners could come and be purified by living in the dhāma. Of Vṛndāvana Śrīla Prabhupāda states, “The places in the eighty-four-square-mile district of Mathurā are so beautifully situated on the banks of the river Yamunā that anyone who goes there will never want to return to this material world…. Transcendental feelings are aroused immediately without fail after one arrives in Mathurā or Vṛndāvana” (The Nectar of Devotion, p. 111). The essential benefit of a solitary place is that it provides freedom from worldly people and passions. For devotees, this can best be attained in the dhāma, in the association of like-minded souls.
Nārada also says that one who wants to overcome māyā must break the bonds of material attachment and live above the modes of nature. These are some of the natural results of Kṛṣṇa conscious life. In the Fourteenth Chapter of the Bhagavad-gītā Lord Kṛṣṇa describes how the three modes of nature—goodness, passion, and ignorance—bind the living entity in saṁsāra. To become free of the modes, one has to hear the truth from the spiritual master. Then one will gradually understand his original spiritual nature and how one is entrapped by the modes. If one lives in the association of transcendentalists and serves Lord Kṛṣṇa along with them, one will not be controlled by the modes of goodness, passion, and ignorance. The ācāryas tell us that living in the forest is in the mode of goodness, living in a town is in the mode of passion, and living in a brothel is in the mode of ignorance—but to live in a temple of Viṣṇu, in the society of devotees, is Vaikuṇṭha. Indeed, another meaning of “secluded and sacred place” is the temple of the Lord. Śrīla Prabhupāda writes, “In this bhakti-yoga system, the temple is considered the sacred place. The temple is nirguṇa, transcendental” (The Path of Perfection, p. 38).
Nārada also recommends renouncing anxieties for acquisition and maintenance: yoga-kṣemaṁ tyajati. Lord Kṛṣṇa also mentions yoga-kṣema in the Bhagavad-gītā (9.22):
ananyāś cintayanto māṁ ye janāḥ paryupāsate
teṣāṁ nityābhiyuktānāṁ yoga-kṣemaṁ vahāmy aham
“But those who always worship Me with exclusive devotion, meditating on My transcendental form—to them I carry what they lack, and I preserve what they have.”
Dependence on the Lord for maintenance is an advanced stage of spiritual life, but it is not based on imagination. The principle is that one should not want more than what is absolutely necessary. Wanting anything beyond that will simply cause anxiety. In any case, whether one is a poor brāhmaṇa, a mendicant sannyāsī, a businessman, or an administrator in a religious institution, he or she should realize that the Supreme Lord is the actual maintainer. If we live simply, engaging in Kṛṣṇa’s service and not creating unnecessary demands, we will be able to reduce concerns for maintenance and enter the spirit of yoga-kṣemaṁ tyajati, as recommended by Nārada Muni.
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