na hy ātyantika iṣyate
śrī-bādarāyaṇiḥ uvāca—Śukadeva Gosvāmī, the son of Vyāsadeva, replied; karmaṇā—by fruitive activities; karma-nirhāraḥ—counteraction of fruitive activities; na—not; hi—indeed; ātyantikaḥ—final; iṣyate—becomes possible; avidvat-adhikāritvāt—from being without knowledge; prāyaścittam—real atonement; vimarśanam—full knowledge of Vedānta.
Śukadeva Gosvāmī, the son of Vedavyāsa, answered: My dear King, since acts meant to neutralize impious actions are also fruitive, they will not release one from the tendency to act fruitively. Persons who subject themselves to the rules and regulations of atonement are not at all intelligent. Indeed, they are in the mode of darkness. Unless one is freed from the mode of ignorance, trying to counteract one action through another is useless because this will not uproot one’s desires. Thus even though one may superficially seem pious, he will undoubtedly be prone to act impiously. Therefore real atonement is enlightenment in perfect knowledge, Vedānta, by which one understands the Supreme Absolute Truth.
The guru, Śukadeva Gosvāmī, has examined Parīkṣit Mahārāja, and it appears that the King has passed one phase of the examination by rejecting the process of atonement because it involves fruitive activities. Now Śukadeva Gosvāmī is suggesting the platform of speculative knowledge. Progressing from karma-kāṇḍa to jñāna-kāṇḍa, he is proposing, prāyaścittaṁ vimarśanam: “Real atonement is full knowledge.” Vimarśana refers to the cultivation of speculative knowledge. In Bhagavad-gītā, karmīs, who are lacking in knowledge, are compared to asses. Kṛṣṇa says in Bhagavad-gītā (7.15):
“Those miscreants who are grossly foolish, lowest among mankind, whose knowledge is stolen by illusion, and who partake of the atheistic nature of demons, do not surrender unto Me.” Thus karmīs who engage in sinful acts and who do not know the true objective of life are called mūḍhas, asses. Vimarśana, however, is also explained in Bhagavad-gītā (15.15), where Kṛṣṇa says, vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyaḥ: the purpose of Vedic study is to understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If one studies Vedānta but merely advances somewhat in speculative knowledge and does not understand the Supreme Lord, one remains the same mūḍha. As stated in Bhagavad-gītā (7.19), one attains real knowledge when he understands Kṛṣṇa and surrenders unto Him (bahūnāṁ janmanām ante jñānavān māṁ prapadyate). To become learned and free from material contamination, therefore, one should try to understand Kṛṣṇa, for thus one is immediately liberated from all pious and impious activities and their reactions.
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