yo vedān api sanyasyati kevalam avicchinnānurāgaṁ labhate
yaḥ — who; vedān — the Vedas; api — even; sanyasyati — renounces; kevalam — exclusive; avicchinna — uninterrupted; anurāgam — loving attraction; labhate — obtains.
That person who renounces even the Vedas obtains exclusive and uninterrupted attraction for God.
By “renouncing the Vedas” Nārada means renouncing the fruitive sacrifices recommended in the Vedas’ karma-kāṇḍīya portions, which are for those pursuing fruitive results. Lord Kṛṣṇa advises Arjuna, “The Vedas deal mainly with the subject of the three modes of material nature. O Arjuna, become transcendental to these three modes…. All purposes served by a small well can at once be served by a great reservoir of water. Similarly, all the purposes of the Vedas can be served to one who knows the purpose behind them” (Bg. 2.45-46). The karma-kāṇḍīya instructions are for gradual development, but the ultimate goal is to know Lord Kṛṣṇa, the cause of all causes (see Bhagavad-gītā 15.15). If one is attached only to the rituals and not the goal, then he cannot rise to the transcendental stage.
Similarly, the study of the Vedānta-sūtra is meant for understanding Lord Kṛṣṇa. Śrīla Prabhupāda writes, “Vedānta is the last word in Vedic wisdom, and the author and knower of the Vedānta philosophy is Lord Kṛṣṇa; and the highest Vedāntist is the great soul who takes pleasure in chanting the holy name of the Lord” (Bg. 2.46, purport).
Śrīla Vyāsadeva begins the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.1.2) with the declaration that no lesser forms of religion will be taught: dharmaḥ projjhita-kaitavaḥ. Only pure devotional service is taught in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa. Lord Kṛṣṇa also concludes His instructions to Arjuna by advising him, sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja: “Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me.” (Bg. 18.66)
Still, although a pure devotee ignores the karma-kāṇḍīya portion of the Vedas and gives up all forms of dharma save bhakti, he never defies the bhakti-śāstras or gives up following their injunctions. In fact, liberated souls always relish hearing the pastimes of the Personality of Godhead from transcendental books like the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, the Caitanya-caritāmṛta, and the works of the six Gosvāmīs of Vṛndāvana. Śrīla Prabhupāda writes, “The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam… is purely transcendental literature which can be understood only by the pure devotees of the Lord who are transcendental to competitive sense gratification” (SB 1.1.2, purport). Śrīla Vyāsadeva says, “O thoughtful devotees, as long as you are not absorbed in transcendental bliss, you should continue tasting the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, and when you are fully absorbed in bliss you should go on tasting its mellows forever” (SB 1.1.3). The sages at Naimiṣāraṇya declare, “We never tire of hearing the transcendental pastimes of the Personality of Godhead, who is glorified by hymns and prayers. Those who enjoy association with Him relish hearing His pastimes at every moment” (SB 1.1.19).
Even great souls who were liberated in Brahman realization became attracted to the narrations of Kṛṣṇa in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. As Śukadeva Gosvāmī told Mahārāja Parīkṣit, “My dear King, although I was fully situated in the transcendental position, I was nonetheless attracted to the pastimes of Lord Kṛṣṇa. Therefore I studied Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam from my father.” (SB 2.1.9) And Lord Caitanya, though God Himself, constantly relished hearing the Bhāgavatam and other Vaiṣṇava literatures, as well as the poetry of Vaiṣṇava saints, which He discussed among His intimate devotees. So renouncing the karma-kāṇḍīya rituals of the Vedas does not mean giving up the eternal pastimes of Lord Kṛṣṇa.
For those who are striving for perfection, certainly the relevant part of the Vedas is not to be rejected. But sometimes devotees in the spontaneous stage appear to come into conflict with Vedic customs. Once Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya had to explain this stage of spontaneous love to King Pratāparudra. The king had observed the devotees of Lord Caitanya arriving in Purī without following some of the customary rules. The king asked Sārvabhauma, “Why have they not observed the regulations for visiting the pilgrimage place, such as fasting and shaving the head? Why have they first eaten prasādam?” Sārvabhauma replied to the king, “What you have said is right according to the regulative principles governing the visiting of holy places, but there is another path, which is the path of spontaneous love. According to those principles, there are subtle intricacies involved in the execution of religious principles” (Cc. Madhya 11.111-12). Because Lord Caitanya was personally present and distributing prasādam from His own hand, His intimate devotees neglected the regulative principle of fasting.
Nārada uses the word kevalam, which indicates that one’s love for Kṛṣṇa must be undivided and unalloyed. Bhakti as taught by Nārada is not part-time service, or devotion only up to a certain point. In the spontaneous stage, all considerations except bhakti are unimportant, as in the gopīs’ rejection of family and social considerations. The gopīs did not disregard their duties consciously, but they were simply unable to think of anything but going to Kṛṣṇa.
When a devotee reaches the stage Nārada describes here, his devotional service flows uninterruptedly. Queen Kuntī aspired for that stage: “O Lord of Madhu,” she prayed, “as the Ganges ever flows to the sea without hindrance, let my attraction be constantly drawn unto You without being diverted to anyone else” (SB 1.8.42). Śrīla Prabhupāda describes Nārada Muni’s own flow of devotional service:
Such a flow of devotional service cannot stop. On the contrary, it increases more and more without limitation. The flow of devotional service is so potent that any onlooker also becomes liberated from the influence of the modes of passion and ignorance. [SB 1.5.28, purport]
Neophyte devotees complain of sporadic enthusiasm. They are sometimes eager to chant and hear of Kṛṣṇa, but at other times they are troubled by thoughts of sense pleasure and a lack of taste for Kṛṣṇa consciousness. This up-and-down syndrome is not unusual for beginners. Every soul’s original state is to experience a spontaneous flow of love of God, but this love has been covered by countless millions of years of conditioning in the material world. This conditioning is not easy to overcome. In the early stages of bhakti, therefore, determination is of the utmost importance. At the same time, we may be inspired by the reality of spontaneous love as described by Nārada and exhibited by devotees who serve the Lord in prema-bhakti.
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