In the beginning of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Śrīla Vedavyāsa has stated:
dharmaḥ projjhita-kaitavo ’tra paramo nirmatsarāṇāṁ satāṁ
vedyaṁ vāstavam atra vastu śivadaṁ tāpa-trayonmūlanam
śrīmad-bhāgavate mahā-muni-kṛte kiṁ vā parair īśvaraḥ
sadyo hṛdy avarudhyate ’tra kṛtibhiḥ śuśrūṣubhis tat-kṣaṇāt
“In this Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, I will explain bhāgavata-dharma, the true and topmost duty of the living entities. If a person devotedly hears this most sublime scripture and follows the bhāgavata-dharma explained within, his threefold miseries will be destroyed, he will meet with all auspiciousness and he will then realize true knowledge about the Supreme Truth. Thus, he will become able to bind the Supreme Lord within his heart as per his own sweet will. “For a person desirous of attaining the above-mentioned symptoms, there is no need to hear or follow any scripture other than Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. But an applicant of the university of bhāgavata-dharma must have two qualifications. Firstly, he should not engage in kaitava (pretentious cheating), and secondly, he should be a nirmatsara sādhu, a person whose heart is full of compassion for all living beings, including himself.”
We will firstly discuss the word kaitava. Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī has written:
ajñāna-tamera nāma kahiye ‘kaitava’
dharma-artha-kāma-mokṣa-vāñchā ādi saba
tāra madhye mokṣa-vāñchā kaitava-pradhāna
ĵāhā hôite kṛṣṇa-bhakti haya antardhāna
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Ādī-līlā 1.90, 92)
The superlative degree of ignorance (ajñāna-tama) is called kaitava, and it refers to activities performed to attain dharma (religiosity), artha (wealth), kāma (sense gratification) and mokṣa (liberation). Amongst these, the desire for mokṣa is foremost, because it results in the disappearance of kṛṣṇa-bhakti.
From this, we can understand that acts performed with the aim of attaining dharma, artha, kāma or mokṣa are done so due to a superlative degree of ignorance, that is, a sheer lack of knowledge. It is essential for an aspiring sādhaka to understand the svarūpa (intrinsic nature) of these four things, and we will therefore discuss them at this time.
Here, dharma refers to the activities prescribed in the Vedas, such as varṇāśrama-dharma, and not ātmadharma. Varṇāśrama-dharma means to only perform the duties prescribed for one’s varṇa, or social order (brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya and sūdra), and āśrama, or spiritual order (brahmacārī, gṛhastha, vānaprastha and sannyāsa). Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī has stated that although one may be promoted to higher planetary systems by following varṇāśrama-dharma, in reality that person falls into a hellish condition of material life if he fails to render service to Kṛṣṇa.
cāri varṇāśramī ĵadi kṛṣṇa nāhi bhaje
svakarma kôrite se raurave paḓi’maje
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā, 22.26)
Such a person adhering to the deceptive path of varṇāśrama-dharma remains bereft of the eligibility to be promoted to his permanent transcendental residence, which is beyond this material existence. Therefore, he remains within the fourteen planetary systems, where he suffers the results of his karma, whether pious or impious.
For example, if a person is locked in a dark room and is not given anything to eat or drink, he will surely die of starvation or dehydration after some time. Alternatively, if a person is force-fed an abundant amount of eatables and is whipped every moment in which he refrains from eating, he will also surely die. Just as these two methods, starvation and overeating, are opposite but equally effective methods for killing someone, the jīva suffers both the punishment and pleasure meted out by Māyā-devī, who gives the jīvas residence in both the upper or lower planetary systems according to the their respective karma. Despite whether they are given residence in the upper or lower planetary systems, the jīvas verily suffer. It is for this reason that Śrīla Kavirāja Gosvāmī has envisioned the results of following varṇāśramadharma as hellish.
The word artha here refers to worldly material wealth, and not kṛṣṇa-prema-dhana, the supreme goal and true wealth of the jīva. In one of his kīrtanas, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has written:
dhane ĵadi prāṇa dita, dhanī rāja na marita,
dharamara hôite rāvaṇa
dhane nāhi rakhe deha, deha gele nahe keho,
ataeva ki kôribe dhana?
Śrī Kalyāṇa-kalpataru (1.12.3)
If wealth were to have the power to prolong life, then a rich king would never have to die, and Rāvaṇa, the king of Laṅkā (who had a palace made out of gold), would have become an eternal resident of the Earth planet. By wealth one cannot protect one’s body, and if the body goes, one does not have a connection with anyone. Therefore, what will be done with such wealth?
The conclusion is that material wealth does not protect anyone. Instead, we see that in most cases the words of Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī prove true:
tathāpi viṣayera svabhāva — kare mahā-andha
sei karma karāya, ĵāte haya bhava-bandha
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Antya-līlā 6.199)
The nature of viṣaya (material wealth) is to extend complete blindness and force a person to perform such activities by which he becomes trapped in material existence.
Although a person may externally wear Vaiṣṇava dress, tilaka, kaṇṭhi-mālā and so on, and though he may perform some act of bhajana-kriyā and externally take initiation, he is not to be considered a pure Vaiṣṇava until he is anyā-bhilāṣa śunya, devoid of all material desires. Wealth, in the form of finances, position and other things, are blinding, and they force one to perform such activities by which one becomes entangled in material affairs. If after hearing and being fully aware of this fact a person willfully engages his time and energy in accumulating the wealth of this material world, then it is purely self-deception.
Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī has stated:
prema dhana binā vyartha daridra jīvana
dāsa kôri’ vetana more deha prema-dhana
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Antya-līlā 20.37)
My unsustainable life is useless without the treasure of love for You, and I therefore pray that You accept Me as Your servant and give Me a wage in the form of prema.
The only wealth worthy of our aspiration is prema-dhana. It is eternal, full of transcendental bliss, and it completely attracts Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Thus, it has the capacity to take us to the spiritual world, our eternal home.
The word kāma has been described by Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī as follows:
ātmendriya-prīti-vāñcha - tāre bôli ‘kāma’
kṛṣṇendriya-prīti-icchā dhare ‘prema’ nāma
ataeva kāma-preme bahuta antara
kāma–andha-tamaḥ, prema–nirmala bhāskara
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Ādi-līla 4.165, 171)
The desire to gratify one’s own senses is kāma (lust), and the desire to please the senses of Śrī Kṛṣṇa is prema (love). Therefore, lust and love are quite different. Lust is the superlative degree of darkness, whereas love is like the shining sun.
Bhagavān has provided us with eyes, ears, a nose, a mouth, hands, legs, a heart, kidneys and many other bodily organs, as well as thousands of other things related to this material world. If we engage these things in His service, the satisfaction of all our senses will be completely ensured. But if we engage these objects, which have been provided to us by Him, in fulfilling our own sense desires or those of other similar-minded individuals, then is it not considered treacherous?
For example, when a qualified person earns a good job, the employer provides him a suitable salary, luxurious accommodations, an air-conditioned office and an air-conditioned car, so that he will be able to engage all his energy and efforts in efficiently executing his job. But if that person uses all the facilities provided by his employer in satisfying his own needs or the needs of his family members, relatives and friends instead of engaging them in his employer’s service, then it will be considered cheating. Such cheating will lead to the loss of his job and consequently deprival of the use of all the facilities previously given by the employer. Similarly, if we do not engage our senses and facilities provided by the Supreme Lord for the satisfaction of His transcendental senses, then we may be deprived of obtaining these senses in our next birth.
Here, the word mokṣa refers to sayujyā-mukti, or becoming one with Śrī Bhagavān by either merging into His body or by merging into His brahma effulgence. Any effort made to achieve this kind of mokṣa is the topmost act of duplicity. Foolish persons consider that by obtaining mokṣa, they will relieve themselves of the miseries of this material world, but such logic is equivalent to a person committing suicide in order to relieve a headache. In truth, the endeavor to attain mokṣa completely abolishes the desire to identify oneself as a loving servant of the all-compassionate Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and it is therefore considered as the foremost act of kaitva.
Kaitava and pratiṣṭhā
In his Śrī Manaḥ-śikṣā, Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī has stated in the verses beginning are cetaḥ prodyat-kapaṭa-kuṭināṭī-bhara-khara and pratiṣṭhāśā dhṛṣṭā śvapaca-ramaṇī me hṛdi naṭet that kaitava (duplicity) is the biggest enemy of the jīva, and has referred to it as the embodiment of a donkey and as the paramour of the shameless dog-eating, outcaste witch named Pratiṣṭhā (the desire for worldly fame and recognition).
Śrīla Dāsa Gosvāmī has expressed his feeling that his mind, while thinking itself to be purified by bathing in the urine of the kaitava-donkey, is actually being burned by such a bath. Finally, he requests his mind to cease engaging in this duplicity, and instead bathe in the nectarean ocean of pure love for Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa Yugala. With these verses of Śrī Manaḥ-śikṣā in mind, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has expressed in his kīrtana, “pratiṣṭhā lāgiyā, śāṭhya ācaraṇa—for the pleasure of (the witch named) pratiṣṭhā, my mind is inclined toward the performance of duplicitous activities.” Kapaṭa, the paramour of the witch named Pratiṣṭhā, does everything in his power to please his beloved, and even readies himself to perform the most vulgar activities avoided by even animals of the lowest species.
The word kaitava used by Śrīla Vedavyāsa has been elaborately explained by our ācāryas, who have advised us that in order to rid ourselves of kaitava, we must take shelter of the purest devotees of the Lord.
Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda has written:
rādhā-dāsya rahi, chāḓi’ bhoga-ahi
pratiṣṭhāśā nahe kīrtana-gaurava
Vaiṣṇava ke? (16)
Become situated in rādhā-dāsya (the service of Śrīmatī Rādhikā) and give up the serpent of material enjoyment. Know that the desire for respect and adoration is not the glory of kīrtana.
jaḓera pratiṣṭhā, śūkarera biṣṭhā
jāna nā ki tāhā māyāra vaibhava
bhāviyā ki kāja, anitya se-saba
tomāra kanaka, bhogera janaka
kanakera dvāre sevaho mādhava
Vaiṣṇava ke? (2, 3)
Worldly fame is the excrement of hogs. Do you not know that it is the glory of Māyā? What is the use of fixating day and night on gold and women, when all such things are temporary? Your gold breeds indulgence. With it, serve Mādhava.
Śrīla Prabhupāda has also mentioned that living for millions of lifetimes in the body of an animal, bird or insect is superior to acting with kaitava in a human body, and that only honest, non-duplicitous persons achieve the topmost spiritual welfare.
Dharma, artha, kāma and mokṣa can only be considered puruṣārtha, the goal of life, when they are used to attain prema, the topmost puruṣārtha; otherwise they are to be understood as sheer foolishness. A person desiring to follow bhāgavata-dharma must be well aware of this. These subjects can only be understood after one takes complete and unconditional shelter at the lotus feet of the dearest associates of the Lord, and then follows in their footsteps; otherwise they will be deceived by Śrī Kṛṣṇa.