mahat-sevam dvaram ahur vimuktes
tamo-dvaram yositam sangi-sangam
mahantas te sama-cittah prasanta
vimanyavah suhrdah sadhavo ye
mahat-sevam—service to the spiritually advanced persons called mahatmas; dvaram—the way; ahuh—they say; vimukteh—of liberation; tamah-dvaram—the way to the dungeon of a dark, hellish condition of life; yositam—of women; sangi—of associates; sangam—association; mahantah—highly advanced in spiritual understanding; te—they; sama-cittah—persons who see everyone in a spiritual identity; prasantah—very peaceful, situated in Brahman or Bhagavan; vimanyavah—without anger (one must distribute Krsna consciousness to persons who are hostile without becoming angry at them); suhrdah—well-wishers of everyone; sadhavah—qualified devotees, without abominable behavior; ye—they who.
One can attain the path of liberation from material bondage only by rendering service to highly advanced spiritual personalities. These personalities are impersonalists and devotees. Whether one wants to merge into the Lord’s existence or wants to associate with the Personality of Godhead, one should render service to the mahatmas. For those who are not interested in such activities, who associate with people fond of women and sex, the path to hell is wide open. The mahatmas are equipoised. They do not see any difference between one living entity and another. They are very peaceful and are fully engaged in devotional service. They are devoid of anger, and they work for the benefit of everyone. They do not behave in any abominable way. Such people are known as mahatmas.
The human body is like a junction. One may either take the path of liberation or the path leading to a hellish condition. How one can take these paths is described herein. On the path of liberation, one associate; with mahatmas, and on the path of bondage one associates with those attached to sense gratification and women. There are two types of mahatmas—the impersonalist and the devotee. Although their ultimate goal is different, the process of emancipation is almost the same. Both want eternal happiness. One seeks happiness in impersonal Brahman, and the other seeks happiness in the association of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As described in the first verse: brahma-saukhyam. Brahman means spiritual or eternal; both the impersonalist and the devotee seek eternal blissful life. In any case, it is advised that one become perfect. In the words of Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya 22.87):
To remain unattached to the modes of material nature, one should avoid associating with those who are asat, materialistic. There are two kinds of materialists. One is attached to women and sense gratification, and the other is simply a nondevotee. On the positive side is association with mahatmas, and on the negative side is the avoidance of nondevotees and women-hunters.
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