प्रियव्रतो भागवत आत्माराम: कथं मुने ।
गृहेऽरमत यन्मूल: कर्मबन्ध: पराभव: ॥ १ ॥
ātmārāmaḥ kathaṁ mune
gṛhe ’ramata yan-mūlaḥ
rājā uvāca — King Parīkṣit said; priya-vrataḥ — King Priyavrata; bhāgavataḥ — the great devotee; ātma-ārāmaḥ — who takes pleasure in self-realization; katham — why; mune — O great sage; gṛhe — at home; aramata — enjoyed; yat-mūlaḥ — having which as the root cause; karma-bandhaḥ — the bondage of fruitive activities; parābhavaḥ — the defeat of one’s human mission.
King Parīkṣit inquired from Śukadeva Gosvāmī: O great sage, why did King Priyavrata, who was a great, self-realized devotee of the Lord, remain in household life, which is the root cause of the bondage of karma [fruitive activities] and which defeats the mission of human life?
In the Fourth Canto, Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī explains that Nārada Muni perfectly instructed King Priyavrata about the mission of human life. The mission of human life is to realize one’s self and then gradually to go back home, back to Godhead. Since Nārada Muni instructed the King fully on this subject, why did he again enter household life, which is the main cause of material bondage? Mahārāja Parīkṣit was greatly astonished that King Priyavrata remained in household life, especially since he was not only a self-realized soul but also a first-class devotee of the Lord. A devotee actually has no attraction for household life, but surprisingly, King Priyavrata enjoyed household life very much. One may argue, “Why is it wrong to enjoy household life?” The reply is that in household life one becomes bound by the results of fruitive activities. The essence of household life is sense enjoyment, and as long as one engrosses his mind in working hard for sense enjoyment, one becomes bound by the reactions of fruitive activities. This ignorance of self-realization is the greatest defeat in human life. The human form of life is especially meant for getting out of the bondage of fruitive activities, but as long as one is forgetful of his life’s mission and acts like an ordinary animal — eating, sleeping, mating and defending — he must continue his conditioned life of material existence. Such a life is called svarūpa-vismṛti, forgetfulness of one’s real constitutional position. Therefore in Vedic civilization one is trained in the very beginning of life as a brahmacārī. A brahmacārī must execute austerities and refrain from sex indulgence. Therefore if one is completely trained in the principles of brahmacarya, he generally does not enter household life. He is then called a naiṣṭhika-brahmacārī, which indicates total celibacy. King Parīkṣit was thus astonished that the great King Priyavrata, although trained in the principles of naiṣṭhika-brahmacarya, entered household life.
The words bhāgavata ātmārāmaḥ are very significant in this verse. If one is self-satisfied as is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he is called bhāgavata ātmārāmaḥ. There are different types of satisfaction. Karmīs are satisfied in their fruitive activities, jñānīs are satisfied to merge into the effulgence of Brahman, and devotees are satisfied to engage in the Lord’s service. The Lord is self-satisfied because He is fully opulent, and one who is satisfied by serving Him is called bhāgavata ātmārāmaḥ. Manuṣyāṇāṁ sahasreṣu: out of many thousands of persons, one may endeavor for liberation, and of many thousands of persons attempting to become liberated, one may achieve liberation from the anxieties of material existence and become self-satisfied. Even that satisfaction, however, is not the ultimate satisfaction. The jñānīs and the karmīs have desires, as do the yogīs, but devotees have no desires. Satisfaction in the service of the Lord is called akāma, freedom from desire, and this is the ultimate satisfaction. Therefore Mahārāja Parīkṣit inquired, “How could one who was fully satisfied on the highest platform be satisfied with family life?”
The word parābhavaḥ in this verse is also significant. When one is satisfied in family life, he is doomed because he must already have forgotten his relationship with the Lord. Prahlāda Mahārāja describes how the activities of family life implicate one more and more. Ātma-pātaṁ gṛham andha-kūpam: household life is like a dark well. If one falls into this well, his spiritual death is assured. How Priyavrata Mahārāja remained a liberated paramahaṁsa even within family life is described in text 23 of this chapter.