prayascittani cirnani
na nispunanti rajendra
sura-kumbham ivapagah
prayascittani—processes of atonement; cirnani—very nicely performed; narayana-paranmukham—a nondevotee; na nispunanti—cannot purify; rajendra—O King; sura-kumbham—a pot containing liquor; iva—like; apa-gah—the waters of the rivers.
My dear King, as a pot containing liquor cannot be purified even if washed in the waters of many rivers, nondevotees cannot be purified by processes of atonement even if they perform them very well.
To take advantage of the methods of atonement, one must be at least somewhat devoted; otherwise there is no chance of one’s being purified. It is clear from this verse that even those who take advantage of karma-kanda and jnana-kanda, but are not at least slightly devoted cannot be purified simply by following these other paths. The word prayascittani is plural in number to indicate both karma-kanda and jnana-kanda. Narottama dasa Thakura therefore says, karma-kanda, jnana-kanda, kevala visera bhanda. Thus Narottama dasa Thakura compares the paths of karma-kanda and jnana-kanda to pots of poison. Liquor and poison are in the same category. According to this verse from Srimad-Bhagavatam, a person who has heard a good deal about the path of devotional service, but who is not attached to it, who is not Krsna conscious, is like a pot of liquor. Such a person cannot be purified without at least a slight touch of devotional service.

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