यथा कृष्णार्पितप्राणस्तत्पुरुषनिषेवया ॥ १६ ॥
na — not; tathā — so much; hi — certainly; agha-vān — a man full of sinful activities; rājan — O King; pūyeta — can become purified; tapaḥ-ādibhiḥ — by executing the principles of austerity, penance, brahmacarya and other purifying processes; yathā — as much as; kṛṣṇa-arpita-prāṇaḥ — the devotee whose life is fully Kṛṣṇa conscious; tat-puruṣa-niṣevayā — by engaging his life in the service of Kṛṣṇa’s representative.
My dear King, if a sinful person engages in the service of a bona fide devotee of the Lord and thus learns how to dedicate his life unto the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa, he can be completely purified. One cannot be purified merely by undergoing austerity, penance, brahmacarya and the other methods of atonement I have previously described.
Tat-puruṣa refers to a preacher of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, such as the spiritual master. Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura has said, chāḍiyā vaiṣṇava-sevā nistāra pāyeche kebā: “Without serving a bona fide spiritual master, an ideal Vaiṣṇava, who can be delivered from the clutches of māyā?” This idea is also expressed in many other places. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (5.5.2) says, mahat-sevāṁ dvāram āhur vimukteḥ: if one desires liberation from the clutches of māyā, one must associate with a pure devotee mahātmā. A mahātmā is one who engages twenty-four hours daily in the loving service of the Lord. As Kṛṣṇa says in Bhagavad-gītā (9.13):
daivīṁ prakṛtim āśritāḥ
jñātvā bhūtādim avyayam
“O son of Pṛthā, those who are not deluded, the great souls, are under the protection of the divine nature. They are fully engaged in devotional service because they know Me as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, original and inexhaustible.” Thus the symptom of a mahātmā is that he has no engagement other than service to Kṛṣṇa. One must render service to a Vaiṣṇava in order to get freed from sinful reactions, revive one’s original Kṛṣṇa consciousness and be trained in how to love Kṛṣṇa. This is the result of mahātma-sevā. Of course, if one engages in the service of a pure devotee, the reactions of one’s sinful life are vanquished automatically. Devotional service is necessary not to drive away an insignificant stock of sins, but to awaken our dormant love for Kṛṣṇa. As fog is vanquished at the first glimpse of sunlight, one’s sinful reactions are automatically vanquished as soon as one begins serving a pure devotee; no separate endeavor is required.
The word kṛṣṇa-arpita-prāṇaḥ refers to a devotee who dedicates his life to serving Kṛṣṇa, not to being saved from the path to hellish life. A devotee is nārāyaṇa-parāyaṇa, or vāsudeva-parāyaṇa, which means that the path of Vāsudeva, or the devotional path, is his life and soul. Nārāyaṇa-parāḥ sarve na kutaścana bibhyati (Bhāg. 6.17.28): such a devotee is not afraid of going anywhere. There is a path toward liberation in the higher planetary systems and a path toward the hellish planets, but a nārāyaṇa-para devotee is unafraid wherever he is sent; he simply wants to remember Kṛṣṇa, wherever he may be. Such a devotee is unconcerned with hell and heaven; he is simply attached to rendering service to Kṛṣṇa. When a devotee is put into hellish conditions, he accepts them as Kṛṣṇa’s mercy: tat te ’nukampāṁ susamīkṣamāṇaḥ (Bhāg. 10.14.8). He does not protest, “Oh, I am such a great devotee of Kṛṣṇa. Why have I been put into this misery?” Instead he thinks, “This is Kṛṣṇa’s mercy.” Such an attitude is possible for a devotee who engages in the service of Kṛṣṇa’s representative. This is the secret of success.