pañcabhih kurute svarthan
pañca vedatha pañcabhih
ekas tu sodasena trin
svayam saptadaso ’snute
Translation by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada:
Above the five senses of perception, the five working senses and the five objects of the senses is the mind, which is the sixteenth element. Above the mind is the seventeenth element, the soul, the living being himself, who, in cooperation with the other sixteen, enjoys the material world alone. The living being enjoys three kinds of situations, namely happy, distressful and mixed.
Purport by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada:
Everyone engages in work with his hands, legs and other senses just to achieve a certain goal according to his concocted ideas. One tries to enjoy the five sense objects, namely form, sound, taste, aroma and touch, not knowing the actual goal of life, which is to satisfy the Supreme Lord. Because of disobeying the Supreme Lord, one is put into material conditions, and he then tries to improve his situation in a concocted way, not desiring to follow the instructions of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Nevertheless, the Supreme Lord is so kind that He comes Himself to instruct the bewildered living entity how to act obediently and then gradually return home, back to Godhead, where he can attain an eternal, peaceful life of bliss and knowledge. The living entity has a body, which is a very complicated combination of the material elements, and with this body he struggles alone, as indicated in this verse by the words ekas tu. For example, if one is struggling in the ocean, he must swim through it alone. Although many other men and aquatics are swimming in the ocean, he must take care of himself because no one else will help him. Therefore this verse indicates that the seventeenth item, the soul, must work alone. Although he tries to create society, friendship and love, no one will be able to help him but Krsna, the Supreme Lord. Therefore his only concern should be how to satisfy Krsna. That is also what Krsna wants (sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja). People bewildered by material conditions try to be united, but although they strive for unity among men and nations, all their attempts are futile. Everyone must struggle alone for existence with the many elements of nature. Therefore one’s only hope, as Krsna advises, is to surrender to Him, for He can help one become free from the ocean of nescience. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu therefore prayed:
ayi nanda-tanuja kinkaram
patitam mam visame bhavambudhau
krpaya tava pada-pankaja-
“O Krsna, beloved son of Nanda Maharaja, I am Your eternal servant, but somehow or other I have fallen into this ocean of nescience, and although I am struggling very hard, there is no way I can save myself. If You kindly pick me up and fix me as one of the particles of dust at Your lotus feet, that will save me.”
In a similar way, Bhaktivinoda Thakura sang:
anadi karama-phale, padi’ bhavarnava-jale,
taribare na dekhi upaya
“My dear Lord, I cannot remember when I somehow or other fell into this ocean of nescience, and now I can find no way to rescue myself.” We should remember that everyone is responsible for his own life. If an individual becomes a pure devotee of Krsna, he is then delivered from the ocean of nescience.