SB 11.21 Summary
Please note: The summary and following translations were composed by disciples of Śrīla Prabhupāda
There are persons who are unfit for all three of the forms of yoga-karma, jñāna and bhakti. They are inimical to Lord Kṛṣṇa, attached to sense gratification, and are dominated by fruitive activities aimed at fulfillment of material desires. This chapter describes their faults in terms of place, time, substance and beneficiary of actions.
For those who are perfect in knowledge and devotion to the Lord, there are no materially good qualities or faults. But for a candidate endeavoring on the platform of karma to achieve cessation of material life, execution of regular and special fruitive duties is good and the failure to execute such is evil. That which counteracts sinful reaction is also good for him.
For one on the platform of knowledge in the pure mode of goodness and for one on the platform of devotion, the proper actions are, respectively, cultivation of knowledge and practice of devotional service consisting of hearing, chanting and so forth. For both, everything detrimental to their proper actions is bad. But for persons who are not candidates for transcendental advancement or who are not perfected souls, namely those who are completely inimical to spiritual life and are devoted exclusively to fruitive work for fulfillment of lusty desires, there are numerous considerations of purity and impurity and auspiciousness and inauspiciousness. These are to be made in terms of one's body, the place of activity, the time, the objects utilized, the performer, the mantras chanted and the particular activity.
In actuality, virtue and fault are not absolute but are relative to one's particular platform of advancement. Remaining fixed in the type of discrimination suitable to one's level of advancement is good, and anything else is bad. This is the basic understanding of virtue and fault. Even among objects belonging to the same category, there are different considerations of their purity or impurity in relation to performance of religious duties, worldly transactions, and the maintenance of one's life. These distinctions are described in various scriptures.
The doctrine of varṇāśrama codifies precepts of bodily purity and impurity. With respect to place, purity and impurity are distinguished by such facts as the presence of black deer. In connection with time, there are distinctions of purity and impurity either in terms of the time itself or in terms of its specific relation with various objects. In connection with physical substances, distinctions of purity and impurity are made in terms of sanctification of objects and words and by such activities as bathing, giving charity, performing austere penances and remembering the Supreme Lord. There are also distinctions of the purity and impurity of the performers of actions. When one's knowledge of mantras is received from the lips of the bona fide spiritual master, one's mantra is considered pure, and one's work is purified by offering it unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If the six factors of place, time and so forth are purified, then there is dharma, or virtue, but otherwise there is adharma, or fault.
Ultimately, there is no substantial basis in distinctions of virtue and fault, because they transform according to place, time, beneficiary and so on. In regard to the execution of prescribed duties for sense gratification, the actual intent of all the scriptures is the subduing of materialistic propensities; such is the actual principle of religion that destroys sorrow, confusion and fear and bestows all good fortune. Work performed for sense gratification is not actually beneficial. The descriptions of such fruitive benefits offered in various phala-śrutis are actually meant to help one gradually cultivate a taste for the highest benefit. But persons of inferior intelligence take the flowery benedictory verses of the scriptures to be the actual purport of the Vedas; this opinion, however, is never held by those in factual knowledge of the truth of the Vedas. Persons whose minds are agitated by the flowery words of the Vedas have no attraction for hearing topics about Lord Hari. It should be understood that there is no inner purport to the Vedas apart from the original Personality of Godhead. The Vedas focus exclusively upon the Supreme Absolute Truth, the Personality of Godhead. Because this material world is simply the illusory energy of the Supreme Lord, it is by refuting material existence that one gains disassociation from matter.