Everyone of us in this material world have their own definition of what success is. Even the Vedas give ample information about the varieties of successes enjoyed by different people.
The Vedas describe three types of energies. These energies are active throughout the material and spiritual worlds. Spiritual energy (Cit potency), Marginal energy (Jiva potency or Tatastha potency) and Material energy (Maya potency). Material energy is considered to be the third class energy. Those living beings within the jurisdiction of the material energy sometimes act themselves like dogs and hogs working very hard simply for sense gratification.
However, in this life, or, after executing pious activities, in the next life, some materialistic people become strongly attracted to performing various kinds of sacrifices mentioned in the Vedas. Thus they become successful in increasing their standard of happiness. But as mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita (9.21) after exhausting the results of their so called pious activities, they again return to the earth, which is called martya loka, the place of death. Although such persons may be elevated to the heavenly planets by their pious activities and although they may enjoy life there for many thousands of years, they nonetheless must return to this planet when the results of their pious activities are exhausted.
These karmis are considered superior to those who completely discard Vedic injunctions. The Srimad Bhagavatam describes these vikarmis as follows· "Materialists who work hard like dogs and hogs simply for sense gratification are actually mad. They perform all kinds of abominable activities simply for sense gratification. Materialistic activities are not at all worthy of an intelligent man, for as a result of such activities, one gets a material body, which is full of misery." One should therefore be eager to understand the science of the soul (atma-tattva). Unless one comes to the platform of atma-tattva, by which one understands that the soul and not the body is oneself, one remains on the platform of ignorance. Out of thousands and even millions of ignorant people who are wasting their time simply gratifying their senses, one may come to the platform of knowledge and understand higher values of life. Such a person is called a jnani.
The jnani knows that fruitive activities will bind him to material existence and cause him to transmigrate from one kind of body to another. As indicated in Srimad Bhagavatam by the term sarira-bandha (bound to bodily existence), as long as one maintains any conception of sense enjoyment, his mind will be absorbed in karma, fruitive activity, and this will oblige him to transmigrate from one body to another.
Thus a jnani is considered superior to a karmi because he at least refrains from the blind activities of sense enjoyment. This is the verdict of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. However, although a jnani may be liberated from the ignorance of the karmis, unless he comes to the platform of devotional service he is still considered to be in ignorance (avidya). Although one may be accepted as a jnani, or one advanced in knowledge, his knowledge is considered impure because he has no information of devotional service and thus neglects the direct worship of the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
The karmis engaging in hard labor can reach utmost the Swarga Loka or the heavenly planets. The jnanis or the empirical philosophers can reach utmost the Brahma Loka or the residence of the highest Vedantist, Lord Brahma. Still none of these are even anywhere near the all spiritual planets of the spiritual world. The Supreme Lord is all spirit, the life there is all spiritual and the varieties there are all spiritual. None of them are comparable to the material varieties which are full of miseries, distress and are of the non permanent nature, even if they may be in the highest region of the 'Brahma Loka.'
Lord Buddha and Sripada Sankaracarya propagated the distressful nature of life in the material world. Sripada Sankaracarya gave a little information of the nature of spiritual life in full cognizance. But Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu not only gave the spiritually cognizant life but its full varieties of spiritual bliss. Spiritual life, which exists beyond the reach of the highest planet of 'Brahma Loka' is the highest attainable perfection. We get this information from Bhagavad Gita. And this perfection is attained by the great devotees who have been described in the Gita as 'Mahatmas'. Only the unalloyed devotees are Mahatmas and not the mental speculators or the hard laborers. The hard laborers or the Karmis can reach at most the Swarga Loka. The empiric philosophers can reach at most the 'Brahma Loka.' The highest Vedantist is Brahma himself and he lives in the Brahma Loka. The jnani or the empiric philosopher after many births when he is able to surrender unto the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord, then at once he can attain to the highest perfection of life in the abode of the Supreme Lord. The Supreme Lord is all spirit, the life in His abode is all spiritual and the varieries there are all spiritual. None of them are comparable to the material varieties which are full of miseries, distress and are of the non permanent nature.
Thus the pure devotees of the Lord are acrually successful in pushing the limits of success in life.
Syamananda Dasa