SB 1.7 - The ātmārāma verse

Sūta answered by citing the famous ātmārāma verse, which Lord Caitanya elaborately explained before Sanātana Gosvāmī. First Lord Caitanya presented 18 meanings of this text to Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya. After hearing this, Sārvabhauma understood that Mahāprabhu was the Supreme Lord. Later the Lord spoke extensive additional meanings to Sanātana Gosvāmī. The verse is: ātmārāmāś ca munayo / nirgranthā apy urukrame / kurvanty ahaitukīm bhaktim / ittham-bhūta-guṇa hariḥ. All different varieties of ātmārāmas though freed from all kinds of material bondage desire to render unalloyed devotional service unto the Personality of Godhead, who possesses transcendental qualities and thus attracts everyone, including liberated souls.

The Bhāgavatam is attractive to even those who are free from rules and prohibitions. Such persons perform bhakti without seeking results. Bhakti produces jñāna but is superior to jñāna. Therefore it is called best or uru. Therefore urukrama means ‘the Lord who produces the best method, bhakti’. Can bhakti deliver the liberated? Can the Bhāgavatam deliver those who have surpassed scriptures? Can a work discussing a server and the served (the Lord) deliver those who have given up all identities of ego? Can the rules of bhakti described in Bhāgavatam deliver those who have given up all rules and prohibitions? To destroy all such protests, the verse says ittham-bhūta-guṇa: the Lord has such attractive qualities that even ātmārāmas become attracted.

Due to their practice with predominance of bhakti or even just by mercy alone, the Lord gave mercy to the Kumāras thinking ‘Let them realize my qualities’. Vyāsa gave mercy to Śuka thinking ‘Let him realize Kṛṣṇa’s qualities’. Having attained that qualification for realizing the Lord’s qualities, these ātmārāmas perform unmotivated bhakti. Other ātmārāmas perform bhakti with the goal of merging into Brahman. The word ahaitukī cannot be applied to their bhakti. As stated in BG 18.54, the ātmārāma with the destruction of jñāna for liberation, since jñāna is in sattva guṇa, attains pure bhakti (mad-bhaktim labhate param). It is said pure bhakti because there is no covering of jñāna. By association of devotees, they can attain prema bhakti. Others, as said in BG 18.55, knowing Kṛṣṇa as Brahman by bhakti, can merge into Him. Their bhakti is not ahaitukī.