प्राय: प्रगल्भया भक्त्या विषयैर्नाभिभूयते ॥ १८ ॥
prāyaḥ pragalbhayā bhaktyā
bādhyamānaḥ — being harassed; api — even though; mat-bhaktaḥ — My devotee; viṣayaiḥ — by the sense objects; ajita — without having conquered; indriyaḥ — the senses; prāyaḥ — generally; pragalbhayā — effective and strong; bhaktyā — by devotion; viṣayaiḥ — by sense gratification; na — not; abhibhūyate — is defeated.
My dear Uddhava, if My devotee has not fully conquered his senses, he may be harassed by material desires, but because of his unflinching devotion for Me, he will not be defeated by sense gratification.
Abhibhūyate indicates falling down into the material world and being defeated by māyā. But even though one’s senses are not fully conquered, one who has unflinching devotion for Lord Kṛṣṇa does not run the risk of being separated from Him. The words pragalbhayā bhaktyā indicate a person who has great devotion for Lord Kṛṣṇa, and not one who desires to commit sinful activities and chant Hare Kṛṣṇa to avoid the reaction. Because of previous bad habits and immaturity, even a sincere devotee may be harassed by lingering attraction to the bodily concept of life; but his unflinching devotion for Lord Kṛṣṇa will act. Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura gives the following two examples. A great warrior may be struck by the weapon of his enemy, but because of his courage and strength he is not killed or defeated. He accepts the blow and goes on to victory. Similarly, one may contract a serious disease, but if he takes the proper medicine he is quickly cured.
If those who follow the impersonal system of speculation and austerity deviate even slightly from their path, they fall down. A devotee, however, even though immature, never falls from the path of devotional service. Even if he displays occasional weakness, he is still considered a devotee if his devotion to Lord Kṛṣṇa is very strong. As the Lord states in Bhagavad-gītā (9.30):
bhajate mām ananya-bhāk
sādhur eva sa mantavyaḥ
samyag vyavasito hi saḥ
“Even if one commits the most abominable actions, if he is engaged in devotional service he is to be considered saintly because he is properly situated.”