Pure Bhakti Is The Only Means To Perfection by Srila Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura
Bhakti is the only means to attain complete perfection. To abandon this path and accept voluntary hardships in pursuit of empirical knowledge is as futile as beating the empty husks of wheat. As the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.14.4) describes in the following verse, one gains nothing from it but useless toil.
śreyaḥ-sṛtiṁ bhaktim udasya te vibho
kliśyanti ye kevala-bodha-labdhaye
teṣām asau kleśala eva śiṣyate
nānyad yathā sthūla-tuṣāvaghātinām
My dear Lord, devotional service unto You is the best path for self-realization. If someone gives up that path and engages in the cultivation of speculative knowledge, he will simply undergo a troublesome process and will not achieve his desired result. As a person who beats an empty husk of wheat cannot get grain, one who simply speculates cannot achieve self-realization. His only gain is trouble.
The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.5.17) states, kovārtha āpto’ bhajatāṁ svadharmataḥ — that if a man gives up his occupational duties to serve the Supreme Lord, Hari, and in the process accidentally falls down before attaining perfection, then still there is no loss by his having abandoned his occupational duties. Again the Śrīmad- Bhāgavatam (10.14.5) describes that many yogis in the past tried to attain the Lord’s lotus feet by their own endeavors; they offered the results of yogic practices the Lord and, because of it, became eligible to hear about transcendental glories. Hearing those transcendental topics and rendering devotional service made them self-realized, and thus achieved the supreme destination. These scriptural evidences clearly indicate that for the yogis, jñānīs, and karmis to become successful in their individual paths, their engagement in devotional service is imperative. Whereas to attain perfection the path of bhakti which results in spontaneous love of Godhead prema, there is no need of yoga, jñāna and karma, or any other process. The scripture Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. (11.20.31) states that the cultivation of knowledge renunciation are not conducive to the path of bhakti, and that one who has left all other types of religion and is solely surrendered unto Krishna is the best of all saintly souls. From these instructions we understand that there is no question of bhakti ever being dependent on anything extraneous. In fact, all other processes like yoga, jñāna and karma are able to offer the practitioner the desired results only with the help of bhakti. Thus Bhakti-devi, instead of being dependent on the other processes, in turn lends her potency to them so that these other processes are able to give the desired results. Bhaktidevi on her own can offer same results. Hence the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.20.32-33) states, “Everything that can be achieved by fruitive activities, penance, knowledge, detachment, mystic yoga charity, religious duties, and all other means of perfecting life is easily achieved by devotees through loving service to Me.”
Besides, what is the use of acquiring such results without bhakti? Therefore the Hari-bhaktisudhodaya (3.11-12) declares:
bhagavad-bhakti-hīnasya jātiḥ śāstraṁ japas tapaḥ
aprāṇasyaiva dehasya maṇḍanaṁ loka-rañjanam
A person’s noble birth, studying the Vedas, chanting mantras performing penances, and so on are an worthless if he is bereft of devotion, or bhakti, Just like the decorations of a dead body.
— Taken from Sri Madhurya-Kadambini by Srila Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura. Translated by Sarvabhavana dasa.