dharma-mulam hi bhagavan
sarva-vedamayo harih
smrtam ca tad-vidam rajan
yena catma prasidati
dharma-mulam—the root of religious principles; hi—indeed; bhagavan—the Supreme Personality of Godhead; sarva-veda-mayah—the essence of all Vedic knowledge; harih—the Supreme Being; smrtam ca—and the scriptures; tat-vidam—of those who know the Supreme Lord; rajan—O King; yena—by which (religious principle); ca—also; atma—the soul, mind, body and everything; prasidati—become fully satisfied.
The Supreme Being, the Personality of Godhead, is the essence of all Vedic knowledge, the root of all religious principles, and the memory of great authorities. O King Yudhisthira, this principle of religion is to be understood as evidence. On the basis of this religious principle, everything is satisfied, including one’s mind, soul and even one’s body.
As stated by Yamaraja, dharmam tu saksad bhagavat-pranitam [SB 6.3.19]. Yamaraja, the representative of the Lord who takes care of the living beings after their death, gives his verdict as to how and when the living being will change his body. He is the authority, and he says that the religious principles consist of the codes and laws given by God. No one can manufacture religion, and therefore manufactured religious systems are rejected by the followers of the Vedic principles. In Bhagavad-gita (15.15) it is said, vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyah: Vedic knowledge means to understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna. Therefore, whether one speaks of the Vedas, scriptures, religion or the principles of everyone’s occupational duty, all of them must aim at understanding Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.6) therefore concludes:
sa vai pumsam paro dharmo
yato bhaktir adhoksaje
ahaituky apratihata
yayatma suprasidati
In other words, religious principles aim at learning how to render transcendental loving service to the Lord. That service must be unmotivated and unchecked by material conditions. Then human society will be happy in all respects.
The smrti, the scriptures following the principles of Vedic knowledge, are considered the evidence of Vedic principles. There are twenty different types of scripture for following religious principles, and among them the scriptures of Manu and Yajnavalkya are considered to be all-pervading authorities. In the Yajnavalkya-smrti it is said:
One should learn human behavior from sruti, the Vedas, and from smrti, the scriptures following the Vedic principles. Srila Rupa Gosvami in his Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu says:
pancaratra-vidhim vina
aikantiki harer bhaktir
utpatayaiva kalpate
pancaratra-vidhim vina
aikantiki harer bhaktir
utpatayaiva kalpate
“Devotional service of the Lord that ignores the authorized Vedic literatures like the Upanisads, Puranas and Narada-pancaratra is simply an unnecessary disturbance in society.” Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu 1.2.1011.2.101]
The purport is that to become a devotee one must follow the principles laid down in sruti and smrti. One must follow the codes of the puranas and the pancaratriki-vidhi. One cannot be a pure devotee without following the sruti and smrti, and the sruti and smrti without devotional service cannot lead one to the perfection of life.
Therefore, from all the evidence the conclusion is that without bhakti, devotional service, there is no question of religious principles. God is the central figure in the performance of religious principles. Almost everything going on in this world as religion is devoid of any idea of devotional service and is therefore condemned by the verdict of Srimad-Bhagavatam. Without devotional service, so-called religious principles are only cheating.

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