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tri-vargasya ca yo vidhih
Translation by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada:
Please explain unto me how the living beings are generated, how they are maintained, and how they are annihilated. Tell me also of the advantages and disadvantages of discharging devotional service unto the Lord. What are the Vedic rituals and injunctions of the supplementary Vedic rites, and what are the procedures of religion, economic development and sense satisfaction?
Purport by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada:
Samplavah, in the sense of “perfect means,” is employed to denote the discharging of devotional service, and pratisamplavah means just the opposite, or that which destroys the progress of devotional service. One who is firmly situated in the devotional service of the Lord can very easily execute the function of conditional life. Living the conditional life is just like plying a boat in the middle of the ocean. One is completely at the mercy of the ocean, and at every moment there is every chance of being drowned in the ocean by slight agitation. If the atmosphere is all right, the boat can ply very easily, undoubtedly, but if there is some storm, fog, wind or cloud, there is every possibility of being drowned in the ocean. No one can control the whims of the ocean, however one may be materially well equipped. One who has crossed the oceans by ship may have sufficient experience of such dependence upon the mercy of the ocean. But one can ply over the ocean of material existence by the grace of the Lord very easily, without any fear of storm or fog. It all depends on the will of the Lord; no one can help if there is some unfortunate danger in the state of conditional life. The devotees of the Lord, however, cross the ocean of material existence without anxiety because a pure devotee is always protected by the Lord (Bg. 9.13). The Lord gives special attention to His devotees in their activities within material, conditional life (Bg. 9.29). Therefore everyone should take shelter of the lotus feet of the Lord and be a pure devotee of the Lord by all means.
One should know, therefore, from the expert spiritual master, the advantages and disadvantages of discharging devotional service, just as Maharaja Pariksit asked his spiritual master, Srila Sukadeva Gosvami. According to Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, the science of devotional service, one should not eat more than what he requires to maintain body and soul together. Vegetable diets and milk are sufficient for maintenance of the human body, and therefore one has no need to eat anything more to satisfy the palate. One should also not accumulate money to become puffed up in the material world. One should earn his livelihood easily and honestly, for it is better to become a coolie for an honest livelihood than to become a great man in society by hook and crook. There is no harm if one becomes the richest man in the world by honest dealings, but one should not sacrifice the honest means of livelihood simply to accumulate wealth. Such an endeavor is harmful to devotional service. One should not talk nonsense. A devotee’s business is to earn the favor of the Lord. Therefore a devotee should always glorify the Lord in His wonderful creations. A devotee should not decry the creation of the Lord, defying Him by saying that He has created a false world. The world is not false. Factually we have to take so many things from the world for our maintenance, so how we can say that the world is false? Similarly, how can one think of the Lord as being without form? How can one become formless and at the same time have all intelligence and consciousness, direct and indirect? So there are many things for a pure devotee to learn, and he should learn them perfectly from a bona fide personality like Sukadeva Gosvami.
The favorable conditions for discharging devotional service are that one should be very enthusiastic in serving the Lord. The Lord in His form of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu wanted the cult of devotional service to the Lord to be preached all over the world, in every nook and corner, and therefore a pure devotee’s duty is to discharge this order as far as possible. Every devotee should be very enthusiastic, not only in performing his daily rituals of devotional service, but in trying to preach the cult peacefully by following in the footsteps of Lord Caitanya. If he is not superficially successful in such an attempt, he should not be deterred from the discharge of his duty. Success or failure has no meaning for a pure devotee because he is a soldier in the field. Preaching the cult of devotional service is something like declaring war against materialistic life. There are different kinds of materialists, such as the fruitive workers, the mental speculators, the mystic jugglers, and so many others. All of them are against the existence of Godhead. They would declare that they are themselves God, although in every step and in every action they are dependent on the mercy of the Lord. Therefore a pure devotee may not associate with such gangs of atheists. A strong devotee of the Lord will not be misled by such atheistic propaganda of the nondevotees, but a neophyte devotee should be very cautious about them. A devotee should see to the right discharge of devotional service under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master and should not stick only to the formalities. Under the direction of the bona fide spiritual master, one should see how much service is being executed, and not simply in the matter of rituals. A devotee should not hanker after anything, but he should be satisfied with things that may automatically come to him by the will of the Lord. That should be the principle of a devotional life. And all these principles are easily learned under the guidance of a spiritual master like Sukadeva Gosvami. Maharaja Pariksit inquired from Sukadeva correctly, and one should follow his example.
Maharaja Pariksit inquired about the process of creation, maintenance and destruction of the material world, the process of Vedic rituals and the method of executing pious activities in terms of the supplementary Vedas like the Puranas and Mahabharata. As explained before, the Mahabharata is the history of ancient India, and so also are the Puranas. Pious acts are prescribed in the supplementary Vedas (smrtis), which specifically mention digging tanks and wells for the water supply of the people in general. To plant trees on the public roads, to construct public temples and places of worship of God, to establish places of charity where the poor destitutes can be provided with foodstuff, and similar activities are called purta.
Similarly, the process of fulfilling the natural desires for sense gratification was also inquired about by the King for the benefit of all concerned.