Such a sadhu engages in staunch devotional service to the Lord without deviation. For the sake of the Lord he renounces all other connections, such as family relationships and friendly acquaintances within the world.
A person in the renounced order of life, a sannyasi, is also called a sadhu because he renounces everything—his home, his comfort, his friends, his relatives and his duties to friends and to family. He renounces everything for the sake of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. A sannyasi is generally in the renounced order of life, but his renunciation will be successful only when his energy is employed in the service of the Lord with great austerity. It is said here, therefore, bhaktim kurvanti ye drdham. A person who seriously engages in the service of the Lord and is in the renounced order of life is a sadhu. A sadhu is one who has given up all responsibility to society, family and worldly humanitarianism, simply for the service of the Lord. As soon as he takes his birth in the world, a person has many responsibilities and obligations—to the public, demigods, great sages, general living beings, parents, forefathers and many others. When he gives up all these obligations for the service of the Supreme Lord, he is not punished for his renunciation. But if for sense gratification a person renounces these obligations, he is punished by the law of nature.
Krsna and all the sastras say that our only obligation is to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If we take to His service, we are no longer obliged to anyone. We are free. How is this possible? By almighty God’s power. A man may be condemned to death, but if a president or a king excuses him, he is saved. Krsna’s final instruction in Bhagavad-gita is to surrender everything to Him. We can sacrifice our life, wealth and intelligence, and this is called yajna. Everyone has some intelligence, and everyone uses his intelligence in one way or another. Generally people use their intelligence in trying to gratify their senses, but even an ant can do this. We should try to gratify not our senses but Krsna’s senses. Then we become perfect.
We have to learn this purificatory process from a sadhu. Inasmuch as we try to gratify our senses, we become attached to the material world. We may render service to the sadhu or to Krsna. The sadhu is the representative of Krsna. He will never say, “Serve me,” but will say, “Serve Krsna.” Therefore we have to approach Krsna through the sadhu. This is confirmed by the Vaisnava acarya Narottama dasa Thakura: chadiya vaisnava-seva nistara payeche keba. We cannot directly approach Krsna; we have to go through the transparent via media, Krsna’s representative.
Those who are after material concessions go to different demigods. They take something from Siva, Durga, Kali, Ganesa, Surya and whomever. However, it was the goddess Parvati who asked Lord Siva, “What is the best type of worship?” Lord Siva advised, aradhananam sarvesam visnor aradhanam param (Padma Purana). “My dear Parvati, of all kinds of worship, worship of Lord Visnu is the best.” Then he added: tasmat parataram devi tadiyanam samarcanam. “And even better than the worship of Lord Visnu is the worship of a Vaisnava, a devotee.”
Spiritual life begins with the association of a devotee, a sadhu. One cannot progress an inch without the mercy of a sadhu. Prahlada Maharaja has also indicated this:
naisam matis tavad urukramanghrim
sprsaty anarthapagamo yad-arthah
mahiyasam pada-rajo-’bhisekam
niskincananam na vrnita yavat
“Unless they smear upon their bodies the dust of the lotus feet of a Vaisnava completely freed from material contamination, persons very much inclined toward materialistic life cannot be attached to the lotus feet of the Lord, who is glorified for His uncommon activities. Only by becoming Krsna conscious and taking shelter at the lotus feet of the Lord in this way can one be freed from material contamination.” (Bhag. 7.5.32) Hiranyakasipu asked Prahlada Maharaja, “My dear son Prahlada, how have you become so advanced in Krsna consciousness?” Although Hiranyakasipu was a demon, he was nonetheless inquisitive. Prahlada Maharaja replied, “My dear father, O best of the asuras, one can receive Krsna consciousness only from the instructions of a guru. One cannot attain it simply by speculating. Ordinary men do not know that their ultimate destination is to return to Visnu.” In the material world, people are always hoping for something. They hope against hope, yet their hopes will never be fulfilled. People are trying to become happy by adjusting the external energy, but they do not know that happiness cannot be achieved without approaching God. People are thinking, “I must first of all see to my own interest.” That’s all right, but what is that interest? That they do not know. People are thinking that by adjusting the material energy they will be happy, and everyone is trying this individually, collectively or nationally. In any case, it is not possible. People will ultimately be frustrated. Why attempt a process that will ultimately meet with frustration? It is therefore said: adanta-gobhir visatam tamisram punah punas carvita-carvananam (Bhag. 7.5.30). People are being baffled in so many ways because they cannot control their senses. Their only possibility of rescue is Krsna. Therefore in this verse it is said: mayy ananyena bhavena bhaktim kurvanti ye drdham.
Prahlada Maharaja simply thought of Krsna. Because of this, he had to undergo a great deal of trouble given by his father. Material nature will not give us freedom very easily. If we become strong enough to try to capture the lotus feet of Krsna, maya will try to keep us under her clutches. However, if one gives up everything for Krsna’s sake, maya can have no effect. The most excellent example of this is the gopis. They gave up everything—family, prestige and honor—just to follow Krsna. That is the highest perfection, but that is not possible for ordinary living entities. We should, however, follow the Gosvamis in their determination to worship Krsna.
Sanatana Gosvami was an important minister in the government of Hussain Shah, but he gave up everything to follow Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He adopted the life of a mendicant and lived under a different tree every night. One may ask, “After giving up material enjoyment, how can one live?” The Gosvamis lived by dipping into the ocean of the transcendental loving affairs between Krsna and the gopis. Since that was their asset, they could live very peacefully. We cannot simply give up everything. We will become mad if we try to give up everything without having staunch faith in Krsna. Yet if we find Krsna’s association, we can easily give up our opulent positions—our family, business and everything. However, that requires sadhu-sanga, association with a sadhu, a devotee. When we associate with a devotee, the day will eventually come when we can give up everything and become liberated persons, fit to return home, back to Godhead.
presently we are attached to material enjoyment, and Krsna even gives us a chance to gratify our senses. He lets us enjoy ourselves to the fullest extent because we have come to this material world to enjoy sense gratification. However, this is called maya, illusion. It is not really enjoyment, but simply struggle. When one realizes that he is simply struggling life after life, that there is actually no real enjoyment in the material world, one becomes a devotee of Krsna. That realization requires knowledge, and that knowledge can be acquired by association with a sadhu, a devotee.
Freedom from this struggle with material existence is further explained by Lord Kapila in the next verse.

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