parabhavas tavad abodha-jato
yavan na jijnasata atma-tattvam
yavat kriyas tavad idam mano vai
karmatmakam yena sarira-bandhah
parabhavah—defeat, misery; tavat—so long; abodha-jatah—produced from ignorance; yavat—as long as; na—not; jijnasate—inquires about; atma-tattvam—the truth of the self; yavat—as long as; kriyah—fruitive activities; tavat—so long; idam—this; manah—mind; vai—indeed; karma-atmakam—absorbed in material activities; yena—by which; sarira-bandhah—bondage in this material body.
As long as one does not inquire about the spiritual values of life, one is defeated and subjected to miseries arising from ignorance. Be it sinful or pious, karma has its resultant actions. If a person is engaged in any kind of karma, his mind is called karmatmaka, colored with fruitive activity. As long as the mind is impure, consciousness is unclear, and as long as one is absorbed in fruitive activity, he has to accept a material body.
Generally people think that one should act very piously in order to be relieved from misery, but this is not a fact. Even though one engages in pious activity and speculation. he is nonetheless defeated. His only aim should be emancipation from the clutches of maya and all material activities. Speculative knowledge and pious activity do not solve the problems of material life. One should be inquisitive to understand his spiritual position. As stated in Bhagavad-gita (4.37):
yathaidhamsi samiddho ’gnir
bhasmasat kurute ’rjuna
jnanagnih sarva-karmani
bhasmasat kurute tatha
“As a blazing fire turns firewood to ashes, O Arjuna, so does the fire of knowledge burn to ashes all reactions to material activities.”
Unless one understands the self and its activities, one has to be considered in material bondage. In Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.2.32) it is also said: ye ’nye ’ravindaksa vimukta-maninas tvayy asta-bhavad avisuddha-buddhayah. A person who doesn’t have knowledge of devotional service may think himself liberated, but actually he is not. Aruhya krcchrena param padam tatah patanty adho ’nadrta-yusmad-anghrayah: [SB 10.2.32] such people may approach the impersonal Brahman effulgence, but they fall down again into material enjoyment because they have no knowledge of devotional service. As long as one is interested in karma and jnana, he continues enduring the miseries of material life—birth, old age, disease and death. Karmis certainly take on one body after another. As far as jnanis are concerned, unless they are promoted to the topmost understanding, they must return to the material world. As explained in Bhagavad-gita (7.19): bahunam janmanam ante jnanavan mam prapadyate. The point is to know Krsna, Vasudeva, as everything and surrender unto Him. Karmis do not know this, but a devotee who is one hundred percent engaged in the devotional service of the Lord knows fully what is karma and jnana; therefore a pure devotee is no longer interested in karma or jnana. Anyabhilasita-sunyam jnana-karmady-anavrtam [Madhya 19.167]. The real bhakta is untouched by any tinge of karma and jnana. His only purpose in life is to serve the Lord.

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