त्वयि सुधियोऽभवे दधति भावमनुप्रभवम् ।
कथमनुवर्ततां भवभयं तव यद् भ्रुकुटि:
सृजति मुहुस्त्रिनेमिरभवच्छरणेषु भयम् ॥ ३२ ॥
tvayi su-dhiyo ’bhave dadhati bhāvam anuprabhavam
katham anuvartatāṁ bhava-bhayaṁ tava yad bhru-kuṭiḥ
sṛjati muhus tri-nemir abhavac-charaṇeṣu bhayam
nṛṣu — among humans; tava — Your; māyayā — by the illusory energy; bhramam — bewilderment; amīṣu — among these; avagatya — understanding; bhṛśam — fervent; tvayi — unto You; su-dhiyaḥ — those who are wise; abhave — unto the source of liberation; dadhati — render; bhāvam — loving service; anuprabhavam — potent; katham — how; anuvartatām — for those who follow You faithfully; bhava — of material life; bhayam — fear; tava — Your; yat — since; bhru — of the eyebrows; kuṭiḥ — the furrowing; sṛjati — creates; muhuḥ — repeatedly; tri-nemiḥ — three-rimmed (in the three phases of time, namely past, present and future); a — not; bhavat — from You; śaraṇeṣu — for those who take shelter; bhayam — fear.
The wise souls who understand how Your Māyā deludes all human beings render potent loving service to You, who are the source of liberation from birth and death. How, indeed, can fear of material life affect Your faithful servants? On the other hand, Your furrowing eyebrows — the triple-rimmed wheel of time — repeatedly terrify those who refuse to take shelter of You.
The Vedas reveal their most cherished secret — devotional service to the Personality of Godhead — only to those who are tired of material illusion, which is based on a false sense of independence from the Lord. The Vājasaneyī-saṁhitā (32.11) of the White Yajur Veda contains the following mantra:
parītya sarvāḥ pradiśo diśaś ca
“After passing beyond all the species of life, all the planetary systems and all the limits of space in all directions, one approaches the original Soul of immortality. Then one receives the opportunity to enter permanently into His domain and worship Him with personal service.”
The proponents of various contending materialistic philosophies may consider themselves very wise, but they are in fact all deluded by the Supreme Lord’s Māyā. Vaiṣṇavas recognize this pattern of general delusion and submit themselves to the Supreme Lord in the devotional moods of servitude, friendship and so on. Instead of the heat and strife of philosophical quarrel, the pure Vaiṣṇavas experience only delight at every moment, because the object of their love is He who brings an end to material entanglement. And the devotees of Lord Viṣṇu enjoy constant pleasure not only in this life but in future lives. In whatever births they take, they enjoy loving reciprocations with the Lord. Thus the sincere Vaiṣṇava prays:
yeṣu yeṣu bhramāmy aham
tatra tatrācyutā bhaktir
acyutāstu dṛḍhā tvayi
“Wherever I may wander, O master, among thousands of species of life, in each situation may I have firmly fixed devotion to You, O Acyuta.” (Viṣṇu Purāṇa)
Some philosophers will question how the Vaiṣṇavas can overcome their material entrapment without thorough analytic knowledge of the entities tvam (“you,” the jīva) and tat (“that,” the Supreme), and without developing a sufficient hatred of material life. The personified Vedas here answer that there is no chance of material illusion continuing to act on devotees of the Lord because even in the earliest stages of devotional service all fear and attachment are removed by the Lord’s grace.
Time is the root cause of all fear in this world. Indeed, with its three divisions of past, present and future it creates terror at the prospect of impending disease, death and hellish suffering — but only for those who have failed to obtain shelter at the feet of the Supreme Lord. As the Lord Himself says in the Rāmāyaṇa (Laṅkā-khaṇḍa 18.33):
tavāsmīti ca yācate
abhayaṁ sarvadā tasmai
dadāmy etad vrataṁ mama
“To whomever even once surrenders to Me, pleading ‘I am Yours,’ I give eternal fearlessness. This is my solemn vow.” Furthermore, in the Bhagavad-gītā (7.14) the Lord says:
mama māyā duratyayā
mām eva ye prapadyante
māyāṁ etāṁ taranti te
“This divine energy of Mine consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it.”
Vaiṣṇavas do not like to waste their time in prolonged and fruitless wrangling over dry philosophic subjects. They would rather worship the Personality of Godhead than quarrel with philosophical adversaries. The Vaiṣṇavas’ understanding concurs with the essential message of revealed scripture. These devotees’ conception of the Supreme Absolute Truth as the infinite ocean of personality and loving pastimes in His worshipable forms of Kṛṣṇa, Rāma and other divine manifestations, and their conception of themselves as His eternal servants, amount to the perfect conclusion of Vedānta philosophy in terms of the entities tat and tvam.
The Personality of Godhead and His emanations, such as the jīva souls, are simultaneously different and nondifferent, just like the sun and its expanding rays. There are more jīvas than anyone can count, and each of them is eternally alive with consciousness, as the śrutis confirm: nityo nityānāṁ cetanaś cetanānām. (Kaṭha Upaniṣad 5.13 and Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad 6.13) When they are sent forth from the body of Mahā-Viṣṇu at the beginning of material creation, the jīvas are all equal in the sense that they are all atomic particles of the Lord’s marginal energy. But according to their differing conditions, they divide into four groups: Some are covered by ignorance, which obscures their vision like a cloud. Others become liberated from ignorance through a combination of knowledge and devotion. A third group of souls become endowed with pure devotion, with a slight mixture of desire for speculative knowledge and fruitive activity. Those souls attain purified bodies composed of perfect knowledge and bliss with which they can engage in the Lord’s service. Finally, there are those who are devoid of any connection with ignorance; these are the Lord’s eternal associates.
The marginal position of the jīva soul is described in the Nārada Pañcarātra:
sa jīva iti kathyate
“The taṭa-stha potency should be understood as emanating from the Lord’s saṁvit [knowledge] energy. This emanation, called the jīva, becomes conditioned by the qualities of material nature.” Because the minute jīva lives within the margin between the Lord’s external, illusory potency, Māyā, and His internal, spiritual potency, cit, the jīva is called taṭa-stha, “marginal.” When he earns liberation by cultivating devotion to the Lord, however, he comes completely under the shelter of the Lord’s internal potency, and at that time he is no longer tainted by the modes of material nature. Lord Kṛṣṇa confirms this in Bhagavad-gītā (14.26):
sa guṇān samatītyaitān
“One who engages in full devotional service, unfailing in all circumstances, at once transcends the modes of material nature and thus comes to the level of Brahman.”
The object of the soul’s worship is realized in three aspects: Brahman, Paramātmā and Bhagavān. Impersonal Brahman is like the radiant effulgence of the sun; the Supersoul, or Paramātmā, is like the sun globe; and the Personality of Godhead, Bhagavān, is like the presiding deity within the sun, complemented by his elaborate entourage and paraphernalia. Or, to cite another analogy, travelers approaching a city from a distance cannot at first distinguish its features but rather see something vaguely shining ahead of them. As they come closer, they may discern a few of the taller buildings. Then, when they are sufficiently close, they will see the city as it is — a bustling metropolis with many citizens, residences, public buildings, highways and parks. In the same way, persons inclined to impersonal meditation may at best gain some realization of the Supreme Lord’s effulgence (Brahman), those who approach closer can learn to see Him as the Lord in the heart (Paramātmā), and those who come very close can know Him in His full personality (Bhagavān).
In summary, Śrīla Śrīdhara Svāmī prays:
kathañcid āpannam iha prapannaṁ
tvam uddhara śrī-nṛhare nṛ-lokam
“O Śrī Nṛhari, please deliver those human beings who have suffered all kinds of torments and been ripped apart by the sharp edge of saṁsāra’s wheel but who have now somehow found You and are surrendering themselves unto You.”