bahunam janmanam ante
jnanavan mam prapadyate
vasudevah sarvam iti
sa mahatma su-durlabhah
After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.
Commentary by Srila Prabhupada
The living entity, while executing devotional service or transcendental rituals after many, many births, may actually become situated in transcendental pure knowledge that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the ultimate goal of spiritual realization. In the beginning of spiritual realization, while one is trying to give up one’s attachment to materialism, there is some leaning towards impersonalism, but when one is further advanced he can understand that there are activities in the spiritual life and that these activities constitute devotional service. Realizing this, he becomes attached to the Supreme Personality of Godhead and surrenders to Him. At such a time one can understand that Lord Sri Krishna’s mercy is everything, that He is the cause of all causes and that this material manifestation is not independent from Him. He realizes the material world to be a perverted reflection of spiritual variegatedness and realizes that in everything there is a relationship with the Supreme Lord Krishna. Thus he thinks of everything in relation to Vasudeva, or Sri Krishna. Such a universal vision of Vasudeva precipitates one’s full surrender to the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna as the highest goal. Such surrendered great souls are very rare.
This verse is very nicely explained in the Third Chapter (verses 14 and 15) of the Shvetasvatara Upanishad:
sa bhumim vishvato vrtva-
purusha evedam sarvam
yad bhutam yac ca bhavyam
In the Chandogya Upanishad (5.1.15) it is said, na vai vaco na caksumsi na srotrani na manamsity acakshate prana iti evacakshate prano hy evaitani sarvani bhavanti: “In the body of a living being neither the power to speak, nor the power to see, nor the power to hear, nor the power to think is the prime factor; it is life which is the center of all activities.” Similarly Lord Vasudeva, or the Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krishna, is the prime entity in everything. In this body there are powers of speaking, of seeing, of hearing, of mental activities, etc. But these are not important if not related to the Supreme Lord. And because Vasudeva is all-pervading and everything is Vasudeva, the devotee surrenders in full knowledge (cf. Bhagavad-gita 7.17 and 11.40).
Commentary by Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakur
“You say that this jnani attains the supreme goal. Being a devotee with a tinge of jnana, he attains you. But after how long does a jnani become qualified as a devotee?”
He who possesses knowledge, seeing Vasudeva everywhere, after many births surrenders to me. Such a saintly person attains me through chance association with devotees. That jnani who is a devotee has a very steady mind (mahatma), and is very rare. As I have said, manusyanam sahasresu, out of thousands, one person may know me in truth. What to speak of the rarity then, of the kevala or ekanta bhakta? Such a person is very, very rare.