विदन्त्यात्मानमात्मस्थं मथित्वा कवयोऽन्तत: ॥ ९ ॥
saṅghātān na vivicyate
vidanty ātmānam ātma-sthaṁ
mathitvā kavayo ’ntataḥ
jyotiḥ — fire; ādiḥ — and other elements; iva — just as; ābhāti — appear; saṅghātāt — from the bodies of demigods and others; na — not; vivicyate — are distinguished; vidanti — perceive; ātmānam — the Supersoul; ātma-stham — situated in the heart; mathitvā — by discerning; kavayaḥ — expert thinkers; antataḥ — within.
The all-pervading Personality of Godhead exists within the heart of every living being, and an expert thinker can perceive how He is present there to a large or small extent. Just as one can understand the supply of fire in wood, the water in a waterpot, or the sky within a pot, one can understand whether a living entity is a demon or a demigod by understanding that living entity’s devotional performances. A thoughtful man can understand how much a person is favored by the Supreme Lord by seeing his actions.
In Bhagavad-gītā (10.41) the Lord says:
śrīmad ūrjitam eva vā
tat tad evāvagaccha tvaṁ
“Know that all beautiful, glorious and mighty creations spring from but a spark of My splendor.” We have the practical experience of seeing that one person is able to do very wonderful things whereas another cannot do those same things and cannot even do things that require only a little common sense. Therefore, how much a devotee has been favored by the Supreme Personality of Godhead can be tested by the activities the devotee has performed. In Bhagavad-gītā (10.10) the Lord also says:
dadāmi buddhi-yogaṁ taṁ
yena mām upayānti te
“To those who are constantly devoted and who worship Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me.” This is very practical. A teacher instructs the student if the student is capable of taking more and more instructions. Otherwise, in spite of being instructed by the teacher, the student cannot make strides in his understanding. This has nothing to do with partiality. When Kṛṣṇa says teṣāṁ satata-yuktānāṁ bhajatāṁ prīti-pūrvakam/ dadāmi buddhi-yogaṁ tam, this indicates that Kṛṣṇa is prepared to give bhakti-yoga to everyone, but one must be capable of receiving it. That is the secret. Thus when a person exhibits wonderful devotional activities, a thoughtful man understands that Kṛṣṇa has been more favorable to this devotee.
This is not difficult to understand, but envious persons do not accept that Kṛṣṇa has bestowed His favor upon a particular devotee in accordance with his advanced position. Such foolish persons become envious and try to minimize an advanced devotee’s activities. That is not Vaiṣṇavism. A Vaiṣṇava should appreciate the service rendered to the Lord by other Vaiṣṇavas. Therefore a Vaiṣṇava is described in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam as nirmatsara. Vaiṣṇavas are never envious of other Vaiṣṇavas or of anyone else, and therefore they are called nirmatsarāṇāṁ satām.
As Bhagavad-gītā informs us, one can understand how one is saturated with sattva-guṇa, rajo-guṇa or tamo-guṇa. In the examples given herewith, fire represents the mode of goodness. One can understand the constitution of a container for wood, petrol or other inflammable substances by the quantity of the fire. Similarly, water represents rajo-guṇa, the mode of passion. A small skin and the vast Atlantic Ocean both contain water, and by seeing the quantity of water in a container one can understand the size of the container. The sky represents the mode of ignorance. The sky is present in a small earthen pot and also in outer space. Thus by proper judgment one can see who is a devatā, or demigod, and who is an asura, Yakṣa or Rākṣasa according to the quantities of sattva-guṇa, rajo-guṇa and tamo-guṇa. One cannot judge whether a person is a devatā, an asura or a Rākṣasa by seeing him, but a sane man can understand this by the activities such a person performs. A general description is given in the Padma Purāṇa: viṣṇu-bhaktaḥ smṛto daiva āsuras tad-viparyayaḥ. A devotee of Lord Viṣṇu is a demigod, whereas an asura or Yakṣa is just the opposite. An asura is not a devotee of Lord Viṣṇu; instead, for his sense gratification he is a devotee of the demigods, bhūtas, pretas and so on. Thus one can judge who is a devatā, who is a Rākṣasa and who is an asura by how they conduct their activities.
The word ātmānam in this verse means paramātmānam. The Paramātmā, or Supersoul, is situated in the core of everyone’s heart (antataḥ). This is confirmed in Bhagavad-gītā (18.61). īśvaraḥ sarva-bhūtānāṁ hṛd-deśe ’rjuna tiṣṭhati. The īśvara, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, being situated in everyone’s heart, gives directions to everyone in terms of one’s capabilities in taking the instructions. The instructions of Bhagavad-gītā are open to everyone, but some people understand them properly, whereas others understand them so improperly that they cannot even believe in the existence of Kṛṣṇa, although reading Kṛṣṇa’s book. Although the Gītā says śrī-bhagavān uvāca, indicating that Kṛṣṇa spoke, they cannot understand Kṛṣṇa. This is due to their misfortune or incapability, which is caused by rajo-guṇa and tamo-guṇa, the modes of passion and ignorance. It is because of these modes that they cannot even understand Kṛṣṇa, whereas an advanced devotee like Arjuna understands Him and glorifies Him, saying, paraṁ brahma paraṁ dhāma pavitraṁ paramaṁ bhavān: “You are the Supreme Brahman, the supreme abode and purifier.” Kṛṣṇa is open to everyone, but one needs the capability to understand Him.
By external features one cannot understand who is favored by Kṛṣṇa and who is not. According to one’s attitude, Kṛṣṇa becomes one’s direct adviser, or Kṛṣṇa becomes unknown. This is not Kṛṣṇa’s partiality; it is His response to one’s ability to understand Him. According to one’s receptiveness — whether one be a devatā, asura, Yakṣa or Rākṣasa — Kṛṣṇa’s quality is proportionately exhibited. This proportionate exhibition of Kṛṣṇa’s power is misunderstood by less intelligent men to be Kṛṣṇa’s partiality, but actually it is no such thing. Kṛṣṇa is equal to everyone, and according to one’s ability to receive the favor of Kṛṣṇa, one advances in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura gives a practical example in this connection. In the sky there are many luminaries. At night, even in darkness, the moon is extremely brilliant and can be directly perceived. The sun is also extremely brilliant. When covered by clouds, however, these luminaries are not distinctly visible. Similarly, the more one advances in sattva-guṇa, the more his brilliance is exhibited by devotional service, but the more one is covered by rajo-guṇa and tamo-guṇa, the less visible his brilliance, for he is covered by these qualities. The visibility of one’s qualities does not depend on the partiality of the Supreme Personality of Godhead; it is due to various coverings in different proportions. Thus one can understand how far he has advanced in terms of sattva-guṇa and how much he is covered by rajo-guṇa and tamo-guṇa.