na vidanti janā yaṁ vai
so ’sāv iti na veti ca
karmaṇā—by activities; ākṛtibhiḥ—by bodily features; vācā—by words; liṅgaiḥ—by symptoms; varṇa-āśrama—pertaining to the particular material and spiritual divisions of varṇa and āśrama; ādibhiḥ—and by other symptoms; na vidanti—could not understand; janāḥ—people in general; yam—whom; vai—indeed; saḥ—whether that person; asau—was the same person; iti—thus; na—not; vā—or; iti—thus; ca—also.
Neither by that saintly person’s activities, by his bodily features, by his words nor by the symptoms of his varṇāśrama status could people understand whether he was the same person they had known.
The inhabitants of that particular place on the bank of the Kāverī in the valley of the mountain known as Sahya were unable to understand whether that saint was the same man they had known. It is therefore said, vaiṣṇavera kriyā mudrā vijñe nā bhujhaya. A highly advanced Vaiṣṇava lives in such a way that no one can understand what he is or what he was. Nor should attempts be made to understand the past of a Vaiṣṇava. Without asking the saintly person about his previous life, Prahlāda Mahārāja immediately offered him respectful obeisances.
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