sannyāsena ca karmaṇām
bhakti-yogena caiva hi
vairāgyeṇa dṛḍhena ca
īyate bhagavān ebhiḥ
saguṇo nirguṇaḥ sva-dṛk
kriyayā — by fruitive activities; kratubhiḥ — by sacrificial performances; dānaiḥ — by charity; tapaḥ — austerities; svādhyāya — study of Vedic literature; marśanaiḥ — and by philosophical research; ātma-indriya-jayena — by controlling the mind and senses; api — also; sannyāsena — by renunciation; ca — and; karmaṇām — of fruitive activities; yogena — by yoga practice; vividha-aṅgena — of different divisions; bhakti-yogena — by devotional service; ca — and; eva — certainly; hi — indeed; dharmeṇa — by prescribed duties; ubhaya-cihnena — having both symptoms; yaḥ — which; pravṛtti — attachment; nivṛtti-mān — containing detachment; ātma-tattva — the science of self-realization; avabodhena — by understanding; vairāgyeṇa — by detachment; dṛḍhena — strong; ca — and; īyate — is perceived; bhagavān — the Supreme Personality of Godhead; ebhiḥ — by these; sa-guṇaḥ — in the material world; nirguṇaḥ — beyond the material modes; sva-dṛk — one who sees his constitutional position.
By performing fruitive activities and sacrifices, by distributing charity, by performing austerities, by studying various literatures, by conducting philosophical research, by controlling the mind, by subduing the senses, by accepting the renounced order of life, by performing the prescribed duties of one’s social order, by performing the different divisions of yoga practice, by performing devotional service, by exhibiting the process of devotional service containing the symptoms of both attachment and detachment, by understanding the science of self-realization, and by developing a strong sense of detachment, one who is expert in understanding the different processes of self-realization realizes the Supreme Personality of Godhead as He is represented in the material world as well as in transcendence.
As it is stated in the previous verse, one has to follow the principles of the scriptures. There are different prescribed duties for persons in the different social and spiritual orders. Here it is stated that performance of fruitive activities and sacrifices and distribution of charity are activities meant for persons who are in the householder order of society. There are four orders of the social system: brahmacarya, gṛhastha, vānaprastha and sannyāsa. For the gṛhasthas, or householders, performance of sacrifices, distribution of charity, and action according to prescribed duties are especially recommended. Similarly, austerity, study of Vedic literature, and philosophical research are meant for the vānaprasthas, or retired persons. Study of the Vedic literature from the bona fide spiritual master is meant for the brahmacārī, or student. Ātmendriya-jaya, control of the mind and taming of the senses, is meant for persons in the renounced order of life. All these different activities are prescribed for different persons so that they may be elevated to the platform of self-realization and from there to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, devotional service.
The words bhakti-yogena caiva hi mean that whatever is to be performed, as described in verse 34, whether yoga or sacrifice or fruitive activity or study of Vedic literature or philosophical research or acceptance of the renounced order of life, is to be executed in bhakti-yoga. The words caiva hi, according to Sanskrit grammar, indicate that one must perform all these activities mixed with devotional service, otherwise such activities will not produce any fruit. Any prescribed activity must be performed for the sake of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is confirmed in Bhagavad-gītā (9.27), yat karoṣi yad aśnāsi: “Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you sacrifice, whatever austerities you undergo and whatever charities you give, the result should be given to the Supreme Lord.” The word eva is added, indicating that one must execute activities in such a way. Unless one adds devotional service to all activities, he cannot achieve the desired result, but when bhakti-yoga is prominent in every activity, then the ultimate goal is sure.
One has to approach the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, as it is stated in Bhagavad-gītā: “After many, many births, one approaches the Supreme Person, Kṛṣṇa, and surrenders unto Him, knowing that He is everything.” Also in Bhagavad-gītā, the Lord says, bhoktāraṁ yajña-tapasām: “For anyone who is undergoing rigid austerity or for anyone performing different kinds of sacrifices, the beneficiary is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” He is the proprietor of all planets, and He is the friend of every living soul.
The words dharmeṇobhaya-cihnena mean that the bhakti-yoga process contains two symptoms, namely attachment for the Supreme Lord and detachment from all material affinities. There are two symptoms of advancement in the process of devotional service, just as there are two processes taking place while eating. A hungry man feels strength and satisfaction from eating, and at the same time he gradually becomes detached from eating any more. Similarly, with the execution of devotional service, real knowledge develops, and one becomes detached from all material activities. In no other activity but devotional service is there such detachment from matter and attachment for the Supreme. There are nine different processes to increase this attachment to the Supreme Lord: hearing, chanting, remembering, worshiping, serving the Lord, making friendship, praying, offering everything and serving the lotus feet of the Lord. The processes for increasing detachment from material affinities are explained in verse 36.
One can achieve elevation to the higher planetary systems like the heavenly kingdom by executing one’s prescribed duties and by performing sacrifices. When one is transcendental to such desires because of accepting the renounced order of life, he can understand the Brahman feature of the Supreme, and when one is able to see his real constitutional position, he sees all other processes and becomes situated in the stage of pure devotional service. At that time he can understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Bhagavān.
Understanding of the Supreme person is called ātma-tattva-avabodhena, which means “understanding of one’s real constitutional position.” If one actually understands one’s constitutional position as an eternal servitor of the Supreme Lord, he becomes detached from the service of the material world. Everyone engages in some sort of service. If one does not know one’s constitutional position, one engages in the service of his personal gross body or his family, society or country. But as soon as one is able to see his constitutional position (the word sva-dṛk means “one who is able to see”), he becomes detached from such material service and engages himself in devotional service.
As long as one is in the modes of material nature and is performing the duties prescribed in the scriptures, he can be elevated to higher planetary systems, where the predominating deities are material representations of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, like the sun-god, the moon-god, the air-god, Brahmā and Lord Śiva. All the different demigods are material representations of the Supreme Lord. By material activities one can approach only such demigods, as stated in Bhagavad-gītā (9.25). Yānti deva-vratā devān: those who are attached to the demigods and who perform the prescribed duties can approach the abodes of the demigods. In this way, one can go to the planet of the Pitās, or forefathers. Similarly, one who fully understands the real position of his life adopts devotional service and realizes the Supreme Personality of Godhead.