kāla—by the time factor; svabhāva—own nature; saṁskāra—reformation; kāma—desire; karma—fruitive action; guṇa—the three modes of material nature; ādibhiḥ—and by others; sva-mahi-dhvasta-mahibhiḥ—whose own independence was subordinate to the potency of the Lord; mūrti-madbhiḥ—possessing form; upāsitāḥ—were being worshiped.
Then Lord Brahmā saw that kāla (the time factor), svabhāva (one’s own nature by association), saṁskāra (reformation), kāma (desire), karma (fruitive activity) and the guṇas (the three modes of material nature), their own independence being completely subordinate to the potency of the Lord, had all taken forms and were also worshiping those viṣṇu-mūrtis.
No one but Viṣṇu has any independence. If we develop consciousness of this fact, then we are in actual Kṛṣṇa consciousness. We should always remember that Kṛṣṇa is the only supreme master and that everyone else is His servant (ekale īśvara kṛṣṇa, āra saba bhṛtya). Be one even Nārāyaṇa or Lord Śiva, everyone is subordinate to Kṛṣṇa (śiva-viriñcinutam). Even Baladeva is subordinate to Kṛṣṇa. This is a fact.
(Cc. Ādi 5.142)
One should understand that no one is independent, for everything is part and parcel of Kṛṣṇa and is acting and moving by the supreme desire of Kṛṣṇa. This understanding, this consciousness, is Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
“A person who considers demigods like Brahmā and Śiva to be on an equal level with Nārāyaṇa must certainly be considered an offender.” No one can compare to Nārāyaṇa, or Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa is Nārāyaṇa, and Nārāyaṇa is also Kṛṣṇa, for Kṛṣṇa is the original Nārāyaṇa. Brahmā himself addressed Kṛṣṇa, nārāyaṇas tvaṁ na hi sarva-dehinām: “You are also Nārāyaṇa. Indeed, You are the original Nārāyaṇa.” (Bhāg. 10.14.14)
Kāla, or the time factor, has many assistants, such as svabhāva, saṁskāra, kāma, karma and guṇa. Svabhāva, or one’s own nature, is formed according to the association of the material qualities. Kāraṇaṁ guṇa-saṅgo ’sya sad-asad-yoni janmasu (Bg. 13.22). Sat and asat-svabhāva—one’s higher or lower nature—is formed by association with the different qualities, namely sattva-guṇa, rajo-guṇa and tamo-guṇa. We should gradually come to the sattva-guṇa, so that we may avoid the two lower guṇas. This can be done if we regularly discuss Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and hear about Kṛṣṇa’s activities. Naṣṭa-prāyeṣv abhadreṣu nityaṁ bhāgavata-sevayā (Bhāg. 1.2.18). All the activities of Kṛṣṇa described in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, beginning even with the pastimes concerning Pūtanā, are transcendental. Therefore, by hearing and discussing Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, the rajo-guṇa and tamo-guṇa are subdued, so that only sattva-guṇa remains. Then rajo-guṇa and tamo-guṇa cannot do us any harm.
Varṇāśrama-dharma, therefore, is essential, for it can bring people to sattva-guṇa. Tadā rajas-tamo-bhāvāḥ kāma-lobhādayaś ca ye (Bhāg. 1.2.19). Tamo-guṇa and rajo-guṇa increase lust and greed, which implicate a living entity in such a way that he must exist in this material world in many, many forms. That is very dangerous. One should therefore be brought to sattva-guṇa by the establishment of varṇāśrama-dharma and should develop the brahminical qualifications of being very neat and clean, rising early in the morning and seeing maṅgala-ārātrika, and so on. In this way, one should stay in sattva-guṇa, and then one cannot be influenced by tamo-guṇa and rajo-guṇa.
The opportunity for this purification is the special feature of human life; in other lives, this is not possible. Such purification can be achieved very easily by rādhā-kṛṣṇa-bhajana, devotional service rendered to Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa, and therefore Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura sings, hari hari viphale janama goṅāinu, indicating that unless one worships Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa, one’s human form of life is wasted. Vāsudeve bhagavati bhakti-yogaḥ prayojitaḥ/ janayaty āśu vairāgyam (Bhāg. 1.2.7). By engagement in the service of Vāsudeva, one very quickly renounces material life. The members of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, for example, being engaged in vāsudeva-bhakti, very quickly come to the stage of being nice Vaiṣṇavas, so much so that people are surprised that mlecchas and yavanas are able to come to this stage. This is possible by vāsudeva-bhakti. But if we do not come to the stage of sattva-guṇa in this human life, then, as Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura sings, hari hari viphale janama goṅāinu—there is no profit in gaining this human form of life.
Śrī Vīrarāghava Ācārya comments that each of the items mentioned in the first half of this verse is a cause for material entanglement. Kāla, or the time factor, agitates the modes of material nature, and svabhāva is the result of association with these modes. Therefore Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura says, bhakta-sane vāsa. If one associates with bhaktas, then one’s svabhāva, or nature, will change. Our Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is meant to give people good association so that this change may take place, and we actually see that by this method people all over the world are gradually becoming devotees.
As for saṁskāra, or reformation, this is possible by good association, for by good association one develops good habits, and habit becomes second nature. Therefore, bhakta-sane vāsa: let people have the chance to live with bhaktas. Then their habits will change. In the human form of life one has this chance, but as Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura sings, hari hari viphale janama goṅāinu: if one fails to take advantage of this opportunity, one’s human life is wasted. We are therefore trying to save human society from degradation and actually elevate people to the higher nature.
As for kāma and karma—desires and activities—if one engages in devotional service, one develops a different nature than if one engages in activities of sense gratification, and of course the result is also different. According to the association of different natures, one receives a particular type of body. Kāraṇaṁ guṇa-saṅgo ’sya sad-asad-yoni janmasu (Bg. 13.22). Therefore we should always seek good association, the association of devotees. Then our life will be successful. A man is known by his company. If one has the chance to live in the good association of devotees, one is able to cultivate knowledge, and naturally one’s character or nature will change for one’s eternal benefit.
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