mattasya tam avijñasya
kim asat-karmabhir bhavet
Translation by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada:
[Narada Muni had said that there is a river flowing in both directions. The Haryasvas understood the purport of this statement.] Material nature functions in two ways — by creation and dissolution. Thus the river of material nature flows both ways. A living entity who unknowingly falls in this river is submerged in its waves, and since the current is swifter near the banks of the river, he is unable to get out. What will be the benefit of performing fruitive activities in that river of maya?
Purport by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada:
One may be submerged in the waves of the river of maya, but one may also get free from the waves by coming to the banks of knowledge and austerity. Near these banks, however, the waves are very strong. If one does not understand how he is being tossed by the waves, but simply engages in temporary fruitive activities, what benefit will he derive?
In the Brahma-samhita (5.44) there is this statement:
chayeva yasya bhuvanani bibharti durga
The maya-sakti, Durga, is in charge of srsti-sthiti-pralaya, creation and dissolution, and she acts under the direction of the Supreme Lord (mayadhyaksena prakrtih suyate sa-caracaram). When one falls in the river of nescience, he is always tossed here and there by the waves, but the same maya can also save him when be surrenders to Krsna, or becomes Krsna conscious. Krsna consciousness is knowledge and austerity. A Krsna conscious person takes knowledge from the Vedic literature, and at the same time he must practice austerities.
To attain freedom from material life, one must take to Krsna consciousness. Otherwise, if one very busily engages in the so-called advancement of science, what benefit will he derive? If one is carried away by the waves of nature, what is the meaning of being a great scientist or philosopher? Mundane science and philosophy are also material creations. One must understand how maya works and how one can be released from the tossing waves of the river of nescience. That is one’s first duty.