In Bhakti-rasämåta-sindhu it is said that by executing devotional service to
the Lord, one can understand the transcendental position of the living being
and the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Supreme Personality of
Godhead cannot be understood by any means except bhakti. The Lord
confirms this in Çrémad-Bhägavatam (11.14.21). Bhaktyäham ekayä grähyaù:
"only by executing devotional service can one appreciate Me." Similarly, in
Bhagavad-gétä (18.55) Lord Kåñëa says, bhaktyä mäm abhijänäti: "simply by
discharging devotional service, one can understand Me." Thus for a bhakta to
become attached to family affairs is impossible, since a bhakta and his
associates are liberated. Everyone is searching after änanda, or bliss, but in the
material world there can never be any bliss. It is only possible in devotional
service. Attachment for family affairs and devotional service are incompatible.
Therefore Mahäräja Parékñit was somewhat surprised to hear that Mahäräja
Priyavrata was simultaneously attached to devotional service and to family life.


Çréla Narottama däsa Öhäkura has sung, nitäi pada-kamala, koöé-candra
suçétala, ye chäyäya jagat juòäya. He describes the shade of the lotus feet of
Lord Nityänanda as being so nice and cooling that all materialists, who are
always in the blazing fire of material activities, may come under the shade of
His lotus feet and be fully relieved and satiated. The distinction between
family life and spiritual life can be experienced by any person who has
undergone the tribulations of living with a family. One who comes under the
shelter of the lotus feet of the Lord never becomes attracted by the activities of
family life. As stated in Bhagavad-gétä (2.59), paraà dåñövä nivartate: one gives
up lower engagements when he experiences a higher taste. Thus one becomes
detached from family life as soon as he comes under the shelter of the lotus
feet of the Lord.


King Parékñit wondered how a person so attached to wife, children and
home could become so perfectly Kåñëa conscious. Prahläda Mahäräja has said:

matir na kåñëe parataù svato vä
mitho 'bhipadyeta gåha-vratänäm

A gåhavrata, one who has taken a vow to execute family duties, has no chance
to become Kåñëa conscious. This is because most gåhavratas are guided by sense
gratification and therefore gradually glide down to the darkest regions of
material existence (adänta-gobhir viçatäà tamisram [SB 7.5.30]). How can they
possibly become perfect in Kåñëa consciousness? Mahäräja Parékñit asked
Çukadeva Gosvämé to resolve this great doubt.


Çré Çukadeva Gosvämé accepted both of the King's propositions—that a
person who is advanced in Kåñëa consciousness cannot embrace materialistic
life again and that one who has embraced materialistic life cannot take up
Kåñëa consciousness at any stage of his existence. Although accepting both
these statements, Çukadeva Gosvämé qualified them by saying that a person
who has once absorbed his mind in the glories of the Supreme Personality of
Godhead may sometimes be influenced by impediments, but he still does not
give up his exalted devotional position.
According to Çréla Viçvanätha Cakravarté Öhäkura, there are two kinds of
impediments to devotional service. The first is an offense at the lotus feet of a
Vaiñëava. This is called vaiñëava-aparädha. Çré Caitanya Mahäprabhu warned
His devotees not to commit vaiñëava-aparädha, which He described as the mad
elephant offense. When a mad elephant enters a beautiful garden, it destroys
everything, leaving a barren field. Similarly, the power of vaiñëava-aparädha is
so great that even an advanced devotee becomes almost devoid of his spiritual
assets if he commits it. Since Kåñëa consciousness is eternal, it cannot be
destroyed altogether, but advancement may be checked for the time being.
Thus vaiñëava-aparädha is one kind of impediment to devotional service.
Sometimes, however, the Supreme Personality of Godhead or His devotee
desires to impede one's devotional service. For example, Hiraëyakaçipu and
Hiraëyäkña were formerly Jaya and Vijaya, the gatekeepers in Vaikuëöha, but
by the desire of the Lord, they became His enemies for three lives. Thus the
desire of the Lord is another kind of impediment. But in both cases, the pure
devotee, once advanced in Kåñëa consciousness, cannot be lost. Following the
orders of his superiors (Sväyambhuva and Lord Brahmä), Priyavrata accepted
family life, but this did not mean he lost his position in devotional service.
Kåñëa consciousness is perfect and eternal, and therefore it cannot be lost
under any circumstances. Because the material world is full of obstructions to
advancement in Kåñëa consciousness, there may appear to be many
impediments, yet Kåñëa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, declares in
Bhagavad-gétä (9.31), kaunteya pratijänéhi na me bhaktaù praëaçyati: once one
has taken shelter at the lotus feet of the Lord, he cannot be lost.
In this verse, the word çivatamäm is very significant. Çivatamäm means "the
most auspicious." The devotional path is so auspicious that a devotee cannot be
lost under any circumstances. This is described in the Çrémad Bhagavad-gétä by
the Lord Himself. pärtha naiveha nämutra vinäças tasya vidyate: "My dear
Arjuna, for a devotee there is no question of being lost, either in this life or in
the next." (Bg. 6.40) In Bhagavad-gétä (6.43) the Lord clearly explains how this
is so.

tatra taà buddhi-saàyogaà
labhate paurva-dehikam
yatate ca tato bhüyaù
saàsiddhau kuru-nandana

By the order of the Lord, a perfect devotee sometimes comes to this material
world like an ordinary human being. Because of his previous practice, such a
perfect devotee naturally becomes attached to devotional service, apparently
without cause. Despite all kinds of impediments due to surrounding
circumstances, he automatically perseveres in devotional service and gradually
advances until he once again becomes perfect. Bilvamaìgala Öhäkura had
been an advanced devotee in his previous life, but in his next life he became
greatly fallen and was attached to a prostitute. Suddenly, however, his entire
behavior was changed by the words of the very prostitute who had so much
attracted him, and he became a great devotee. In the lives of exalted devotees,
there are many such instances, proving that once one has taken to the shelter
of the lotus feet of the Lord, he cannot be lost (kaunteya pratijänéhi na me
bhaktaù praëaçyati [Bg. 9.31]).
The fact is, however, that one becomes a devotee when he is completely
freed from all reactions to sinful life. As Kåñëa states in Bhagavad-gétä (7.28):

yeñäà tv anta-gataà päpaà
janänäà puëya-karmaëäm
te dvanda-moha-nirmuktä
bhajante mäà dåòha-vratäù

"Persons who have acted piously in previous lives and in this life, whose sinful
actions are completely eradicated and who are freed from the duality of
illusion, engage themselves in My service with determination." On the other
hand, as Prahläda Mahäräja said:

matir na kåñëe parataù svato vä
mitho 'bhipadyeta gåha-vratänäm

A person who is too attached to materialistic family life—home, family, wife,
children and so on—cannot develop Kåñëa consciousness.
These apparent contradictions are resolved in the life of a devotee by the
grace of the Supreme Lord, and therefore a devotee is never bereft of his
position on the path of liberation, which is described in this verse as
çivatamäà padavém.