The desire for liberation is made insignificant by ahaitukī-bhakti. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (4.9.10) states:
yā nirvṛtis tanu-bhṛtāṁ tava pāda-padma-
dhyānād bhavaj-jana-kathā-śravaṇena vā syāt
sā brahmaṇi sva-mahimany api nātha mā bhūt
kiṁ tv antakāsi-lulitāt patatāṁ vimānāt
O Lord, a drop of the bliss received from meditating on Your lotus feet, from hearing about Your pastimes – which flow from the mouths of Your devotees who are expert in relishing vraja-rasa – and from hearing descriptions of Your devotees’ pastimes, is not available in the bliss of merging into Brahman. What to speak of being available to others, it is not even available to the demigods of the heavenly planets, who fall down again, being cut by the sword of time.
tava pada-dhyāne bhakta-mukha tava kathā
śravaṇe ye sukha tāhā māgiye sarvathā
brahma-sukha nāhi bhāla lāge mora mane
ki chāra anitya loka-sukha-saṅghaṭane
In this prayer Dhruva Mahārāja describes the happiness he experienced after receiving darśana of Bhagavān: “O Master, the happiness found in hearing narrations of Your pastimes in the association of Your devotees is not available anywhere else. In the presence of the devotees’ sun-like premānanda, the pleasure of the impersonalists’ brahmānanda is like a firefly. The demigods’ heavenly enjoyment (svargānanda) is insignificant and also temporary, subject to being ultimately cut by the sword of time. The living entity can enjoy this pleasure only as long as the accumulated credit of his pious activities is not exhausted.” This is confirmed in Bhagavad-gītā (9.21):
te taṁ bhuktvā svarga-lokaṁ viśālaṁ
kṣīṇe puṇye martya-lokaṁ viśanti
evaṁ trayī-dharmam anuprapannā
gatāgataṁ kāma-kāmā labhante
Having enjoyed immense celestial pleasures, they again return to the mortal world when their pious merit is exhausted. In this way, those who perform fruitive activities as described in the three Vedas repeatedly come and go from this world.
Therefore only devotion to Bhagavān, which is devoid of the attraction to hear about the enjoyment available on Svarga and other higher planets, is supremely beneficial for the jīva. The wise spend their lives hearing and speaking hari-kathā in the company of pure devotees.
The glory of hearing the holy name from the mouth of a sādhu is described in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (4.20.24):
na kāmaye nātha tad apy ahaṁ kvacin
na yatra yuṣmac-caraṇāmbujāsavaḥ
vidhatsva karṇāyutam eṣa me varaḥ
O Lord, I do not want liberation. I receive no pleasure in hearing any topic other than the glorious narrations of the nectar of Your lotus feet. This nectar emanates from the mouths of saintly persons from deep within their hearts. I beg only for the boon that You will give me ten thousand ears with which I can always hear the sweetness of Your pastimes.
yāhāte tomāra pada-sevā-sukha nāi
sei rūpa vara āmi nātha kabhu nāhi cāi
bhaktera hṛdaya haite tava guṇa-gāna
śunite ayuta karṇa karaha vidhāna
Pṛthu Mahārāja prays to the lotus feet of Bhagavān to be able to hear and glorify the auspicious narrations of His pastimes only in the association of devotees. He says, “I offer my obeisances from far away to the topics of liberation and any other kind of talk that does not proclaim the glories of the nectar of Your lotus feet. My only treasured wish is to drink the nectar of Your līlā-kathā, which is filled with prema and which flows from the mouths of devotees. I do not even desire to hear about Your sweet pastimes from the mouths of non-devotees. Even fragrant water mixed with honey should be abandoned if it is salty.
“O Lord, I pray to You to please give me tens of thousands of ears to hear the sweet narrations of Your pastimes from the lotus mouths of devotees who are adept at relishing vraja-rasa. In other words, I pray that I may hear descriptions of Your pastimes with intense eagerness, and that the desire for impersonal liberation never arises in my heart. Drops of nectar from Your lotus feet in the form of pollen are carried by the breeze emanating from the mouths of great personalities, thus transmitting the potency of bhakti to us and making our lives successful. I am always ready to do anything to hear this kathā. May a spark of the mood of such personalities enter my heart and submerge me in an ocean of prema.”
Residence in the heavenly planets, residence in Brahmaloka, sovereignty over the Earth and lower planetary systems, the perfections of yoga and the eighteen mystic perfections are all insignificant from the perspective of a devotee. This is confirmed in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (6.11.25):
na nāka-pṛṣṭhaṁ na ca pārameṣṭhyaṁ
na sārva-bhaumaṁ na rasādhipatyam
na yoga-siddhīr apunar-bhavaṁ vā
samañjasa tvā virahayya kāṅkṣe
O source of all good fortune, I have no desire to have a position of great sovereignty like that of Dhruva or Brahmā, or rulership over the Earth; nor do I desire aṇimā or any other mystic perfection. I do not even want liberation, if attaining it means I would have to give You up.
svarga parameṣṭhī-sthāna, sarvabhauma-pada
rasātala-ādhipatya, yogera sampada
nirvāṇa ityādi yata chāḍi’ sevā tava
nāhi māgi, e mora pratijñā akaitava
Bhagavān prevents His devotees from endeavouring for dharma, artha, kāma and mokṣa, and this infers His mercy. While His mercy is easily attained by the akiñcana-bhaktas, it is extremely difficult to attain for living entities who are absorbed in sense enjoyment.
This Text is a prayer by Vṛtrāsura. While fighting with Indra, Vṛtrāsura considered it better to choose death over either victory or defeat, so that he could quickly cut his bodily bondage. He would then be able to directly serve Bhagavān.
Directly perceiving Bhagavān, Vṛtrāsura expressed the moods of his heart. “O source of all good fortune, I do not want a position in Dhruvaloka or Brahmaloka, nor do I want sole rulership of the Earth. I have no desire for mystic perfections or even liberation – which is the goal of impersonalists, who perform severe practices to attain it – if I have to give You up. My life is leaving my body in the fire of separation from You. O Prabhu, how can I ever attain eternal service to Your lotus feet?”
Devotees long to attain the eternal service of Bhagavān. Only one who has factually realised the bliss of serving (sevānanda) knows the significance of this. By obtaining dharma, artha and kāma, the living entity does not stop his transmigration, and by sāyujya-mukti, the living entity simply remains like an inert object in the effulgent Brahman. However, devotees relish the sweetness of service in newer and newer ways in the eternal abode of Bhagavān. This is the unique characteristic of the bhakta and bhakti. Bhakti-devī disappears from the heart of that person who eagerly desires liberation, and this is confirmed in Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Ādi-līlā 1.92):
tāra madhye mokṣa-vāñchā kaitava-pradhāna
yāhā haite kṛṣṇa-bhakti haya antardhāna
The foremost process of cheating is the desire for liberation, for this causes the disappearance of kṛṣṇa-bhakti.
The symptom of attachment (āsakti) that is developed by taking shelter of the holy name is described in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.29.34):
cittaṁ sukhena bhavatāpahṛtaṁ gṛheṣu
yan nirviśaty uta karāv api gṛhya-kṛtye
pādau padaṁ na calatas tava pāda-mūlād
yāmaḥ kathaṁ vrajamatho karavāma kiṁ vā
[The gopīs said to Kṛṣṇa:] O stealer of minds (cittacora), by playing on Your vaṁśī, You have stolen our minds, which were absorbed in household affairs. This was not difficult for You. However, having lost our minds, our working senses are not functioning, and our movements and intelligence have therefore become abnormal. Our feet do not want to leave You to go anywhere else. Please tell us then, how can we possibly return to our homes?
gṛhasukhe citta chila, gṛhakārye kara
hariyā layecha tumi prāṇera īśvara
tava pādamūla chāḍi’ pada nāhi yāya
yāba kothā ki kariba balaha upāya
With the sweet sound of His flute, Śrī Kṛṣṇacandra, the crown jewel of experts in amorous pastimes (vidagdha-śiromaṇi), called to the vraja-gopīs, who were abundantly endowed with paramour love. Forgetting everything, the gopīs assembled on the bank of the Yamunā at Vaṁśivaṭa, which was beautifully decorated by bright moonlight. Then Śrī Kṛṣṇacandra, concealing His real motive (avahitthā-bhāva), joked with them by instructing them to return to their respective homes. His intention, however, was as follows: during His previous pastime of stealing the gopīs’ clothes, Śrī Kṛṣṇacandra, the great connoisseur of the rāsa-līlā, saw the vraja-devīs’ entire bodies, but on this day He wanted to see the inner moods of their hearts. This is one unique attribute of the ocean of prema-rasa.
The rasika-ācāryas of the amorous mellow of Vraja ascertain that when the lover (nāyaka) assumes a submissive mood (dākṣiṇya-bhāva), the beloved (nāyikā) exhibits a contrary mood (vāmya-bhāva). And when the lover assumes a contrary mood, the beloved exhibits a submissive mood. The gopīs who assembled at the rāsa-maṇḍala displayed various waves of sentiments. Some of them were pragalbhā (bold and outspoken), some mṛdvī (sweet and gentle) and some madhyā (with qualities halfway between pragalbhā and mṛdvī). In this way, through the combination of such different sentiments, the ocean of rasa was adorned with unprecedented sweetness.
Śrī Kṛṣṇa said, “A virtuous woman’s only duty is to serve her husband. It is improper for her to stay, even for a moment, with a brahmacārī in a lonely forest at night. Therefore you should all quickly return home.”
Hearing these instructions, the gopīs, who possessed great anurāga, responded with words saturated with rasa: “O emperor of thieves! We did not come here to reside in an uninhabited place, nor did we come to ask anything from You. Our minds were happily absorbed in household affairs, when You stole them away with Your flute. The wealth of our hearts is already looted, so how can we return home? O You who are expert in rendering a person powerless by means of great mantras! Please return the faculty of our minds. In their absence the activities of all our senses are disabled and also our feet will not move; so return them and we will happily go back to our homes.”
One vraja-devī began to speak sarcastically: “O Mohana, do You think that we have come to this place because we were attracted by the sound of Your flute? No, no, this is not the case! Our minds are deeply absorbed in our happy household life; You could not steal away even the smallest part of them. Do not think that we will rest here, even for a moment. Indeed, what would we do here in this desolate place? If You ask why we have come to this lonely forest, O Śyāmasundara, it is because You were so eager to have our darśana. That is the only reason we have come. Now that You have seen us, we are going.”
As described in the following verse, all virtue and peacefulness appear in the devotee. Prahlāda Mahārāja explains in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (5.18.12):
yasyāsti bhaktir bhagavaty akiñcanā
sarvair guṇais tatra samāsate surāḥ
harāv abhaktasya kuto mahad-guṇā
manorathenāsati dhāvato bahiḥ
All the demigods and their exalted qualities, such as religiosity and knowledge, always dwell in the heart of a person who possesses selfless devotion to Bhagavān (niṣkāma-bhakti). But how can a person who is not a devotee of Bhagavān possess these qualities of great personalities? He constantly runs after insignificant and superfluous things, even after taking many different vows to renounce them.
akiñcanā bhakti yāṅra tāṅhāra śarīre
sarva-guṇa saha sarva-devatā vihare
abhakta sarvadā mano-rathete caḍiyā
asad bāhye bhrame guṇa varjita haiyā
The ācāryas have ascertained that once the tendency arises in someone to serve Kṛṣṇa without selfish motive (niṣkāma-sevā-vṛtti), all good qualities such as religiosity, knowledge and renunciation become apparent in him. This is simply the fruit of serving Mukunda. The fifty virtuous qualities of the demigods headed by Indra reside in the hearts of devotees. They cannot manifest in a deceitful and envious heart. A person who is devoid of hari-bhakti is attached to maintaining his body and home, and to extraneous desires, jñāna, karma, yoga and so on. He always runs towards external sense enjoyment through the avenues of profit, worship, name and fame, and mental speculation. In Prema-bhakti-candrikā (8.8) Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura says: “karma-kāṇḍa jñāna-kāṇḍa kevala viṣera bhāṇḍa – fruitive activities and mental speculation are simply pots of poison.” Mundane people, who are attached to material things, obtain different births according to their karma. The devotees, on the other hand, are preoccupied with performing service in the association of devotees and are thereby submerged in the ocean of supreme transcendental happiness. Thus they remain satisfied.