muktanam api siddhanam
kotisv api maha-mune
Translation by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada:
O great sage, among many millions who are liberated and perfect in knowledge of liberation, one may be a devotee of Lord Narayana, or Krsna. Such devotees, who are fully peaceful, are extremely rare.
Purport by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada:
Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura gives the following purport to this verse. Simply desiring mukti, or liberation, is insufficient; one must become factually liberated. When one understands the futility of the materialistic way of life, one becomes advanced in knowledge, and therefore he situates himself in the vanaprastha order, unattached to family, wife and children. One should then further progress to the platform of sannyasa, the actual renounced order, never to fall again and be afflicted by materialistic life. Even though one desires to be liberated, this does not mean he is liberated. Only rarely is someone liberated. Indeed, although many men take sannyasa to become liberated, because of their imperfections they again become attached to women, material activities, social welfare work and so on.
Jñanis, yogis and karmis devoid of devotional service are called offenders. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu says, mayavadi krsne aparadhi: one who thinks that everything is maya instead of thinking that everything is Krsna is called an aparadhi, or offender. Although the Mayavadis, impersonalists, are offenders at the lotus feet of Krsna, they may nonetheless be counted among the siddhas, those who have realized the self. They may be considered nearer to spiritual perfection because at least they have realized what spiritual life is. If such a person becomes narayana-parayana, a devotee of Lord Narayana, he is better than a jivan-mukta, one who is liberated or perfect. This requires higher intelligence.
There are two kinds of jñanis. One is inclined to devotional service and the other to impersonal realization. Impersonalists generally undergo great endeavor for no tangible benefit, and therefore it is said that they are husking paddy that has no grain (sthula-tusavaghatinah). The other class of jñanis, whose jñana is mixed with bhakti, are also of two kinds — those who are devoted to the so-called false form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and those who understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead as sac-cid-ananda-vigraha, the actual spiritual form. The Mayavadi devotees worship Narayana or Visnu with the idea that Visnu has accepted a form of maya and that the ultimate truth is actually impersonal. The pure devotee, however, never thinks that Visnu has accepted a body of maya; instead, he knows perfectly well that the original Absolute Truth is the Supreme Person. Such a devotee is actually situated in knowledge. He never merges in the Brahman effulgence. As stated in Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.2.32):
ye ’nye ’ravindaksa vimukta-maninas
tvayy asta-bhavad avisuddha-buddhayah
aruhya krcchrena param padam tatah
patanty adho ’nadrta-yusmad-anghrayah
“O Lord, the intelligence of those who think themselves liberated but who have no devotion is impure. Even though they rise to the highest point of liberation by dint of severe penances and austerities, they are sure to fall down again into material existence, for they do not take shelter at Your lotus feet.” Evidence of this same point is also given in Bhagavad-gita (9.11), wherein the Lord says:
avajananti mam mudha
manusim tanum asritam
param bhavam ajananto
“Fools deride Me when I descend in the human form. They do not know My transcendental nature and My supreme dominion over all that be.” When rascals (mudhas) see that Krsna acts exactly like a human being, they deride the transcendental form of the Lord because they do not know the param bhavam, His transcendental form and activities. Such persons are further described in Bhagavad-gita (9.12) as follows:
raksasim asurim caiva
prakrtim mohinim sritah
“Those who are thus bewildered are attracted by demoniac and atheistic views. In that deluded condition, their hopes for liberation, their fruitive activities and their culture of knowledge are all defeated.” Such persons do not know that Krsna’s body is not material. There is no distinction between Krsna’s body and His soul, but because less intelligent men see Krsna as a human being, they deride Him. They cannot imagine how a person like Krsna could be the origin of everything (govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami). Such persons are described as moghasah, baffled in their hopes. Whatever they desire for the future will be baffled. Even if they apparently engage in devotional service, they are described as moghasah because they ultimately desire to merge into the Brahman effulgence.
Those who aspire to be elevated to the heavenly planets by devotional service will also be frustrated, because this is not the result of devotional service. However, they are also given a chance to engage in devotional service and be purified. As stated in Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.17):
srnvatam sva-kathah krsnah
hrdy antah-stho hy abhadrani
vidhunoti suhrt satam
“Sri Krsna, the Personality of Godhead, who is the Paramatma [Supersoul] in everyone’s heart and the benefactor of the truthful devotee, cleanses desire for material enjoyment from the heart of the devotee who relishes His messages, which are in themselves virtuous when properly heard and chanted.”
Unless the dirt within the core of one’s heart is cleansed away, one cannot become a pure devotee. Therefore the word su-durlabhah (“very rarely found”) is used in this verse. Not only among hundreds and thousands, but among millions of perfectly liberated souls, a pure devotee is hardly ever found. Therefore the words kotisv api are used herein. Srila Madhvacarya gives the following quotations from the Tantra Bhagavata:
nava-kotyas tu devanam
ye kecit tat-parayanah
“There are ninety million demigods and seventy million sages, who are all called narayanayana, devotees of Lord Narayana. Among them, only a few are called narayana-parayana.”
brahmadyah kecanaiva syuh
siddho yogya-sukham labhan
The difference between the siddhas and narayana-parayanas is that direct devotees are called narayana-parayanas whereas those who perform various types of mystic yoga are called siddhas.