In the Śrīmad Bhagavatam, two verses—nearly identical in the text—are present in two places. They talk about the destruction of the knot in the heart, and the realization of mastery.
The first time, the verse appears as SB 1.2.21:
kṣīyante cāsya karmāṇi
The knot in the heart is pierced, and all misgivings are cut to pieces. The chain of fruitive actions is terminated when one sees the self as master.
The second time, the verse appears as SB 11.20.30:
kṣīyante cāsya karmāṇi
mayi dṛṣṭe ’khilātmani
The knot in the heart is pierced, all misgivings are cut to pieces and the chain of fruitive actions is terminated when I am seen as the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
The first three lines of the two verses are identical, and the difference arises only in the last statement. In the first case, the termination of the knot in the heart, the destruction of misgivings, and the chain of action and reaction, are cut when one sees oneself as the master. In the second case, the same thing happens, when one sees the Lord as the master.
This difference is not significant, because even in the first case, there is a prior verse SB 1.2.20:
Thus, established in the mode of unalloyed goodness, the man whose mind has been enlivened by contact with devotional service to the Lord gains positive scientific knowledge of the Personality of Godhead in the stage of liberation from all material association.
The sequence of four verses from 1.2.18 to 1.2.21 summarizes the essence of the path of spiritual perfection. The process begins with listening, which prayesu or “almost completely” destroys the abhadra or “indecent” stuff in the heart. In the next step, a person is situated permanently in the mode of Sattva-guna. In the next step, when devotional service is performed in this state of Sattva-guna, the bhagavat-tattva-vijñānaṁ or “scientific knowledge of the Lord” is obtained. In this regard, jñāna is theoretical knowledge, and vijñāna is realized knowledge, which is obtained when something is directly perceived. The “scientific knowledge of the Lord” is the perception of the Lord. Finally, there is the destruction of the knot in the heart, the destruction of all misgivings, the destruction of all karma, and the seeing of the self as the master.
I have lost count of how many times I read these four verses, trying to remind myself of these four steps. Listening. Sattva-guna. Perception of the Lord. Destruction of the knot in the heart.
The process of listening is said to “almost completely destroy” all the “indecent” stuff, and devotion to the Lord is established as an irrevocable fact. This means that there is some revocable listening, where you listen, twiddle-toddle, and then go away. But if you listen carefully, then at the first stage itself devotion becomes an irrevocable fact. Since all the “indecency” is not completely destroyed, therefore, there may be some bad habits, some desires, some alternative preoccupations. But the goal of life is fixed onto the devotion to the Lord as an irrevocable fact. You can give up everything—even your life (and family, wealth, profession, reputation, etc. are implied), but you cannot give up the practice of devotion. Essentially, you are trapped forever. Anything can go, but devotion cannot go. And all this conviction—by which one becomes eternally tied to devotion to the Lord—comes just by hearing! Just by hearing! Just by hearing! Of course, one has to hear from the right person.
There is a long journey after this until one gets situated permanently in the Sattva-guna state, and then perceives the Lord, and finally destroys all doubts, misgivings, and knot in the heart. This means that the knot in the heart—doubt, suspicions, confusion, etc.—exists until the Lord is perceived. But that doubt, suspicion, confusion isn’t powerful enough to make one discard the process of devotion. Yes, there may be some doubt, some misgivings, some indecency in the heart, but the person sticks to the process. That sticking to the process is an irrevocable position, which cannot be reversed. Just by hearing!
If the irrevocable conviction is established, then the struggle of devotional life begins. That is the struggle to get to Sattva-guna. This is the most torturous period in spiritual life. But if we can get to Sattva-guna, then nityam sattve prasidati or “one is constantly in satisfaction”. From there, the journey of spiritual life becomes easy, because everything thereafter is evam prasanna manasah or “in this way with a happy mind”. The struggle ends, and the journey thereafter becomes easy. Once in Sattva-guna, there is nothing more to worry about. The vision of the Lord will come, and that vision will eventually destroy all remaining problems.
So, as teachers, there is only one job—make people listen—because by listening, devotion will become an irrevocable fact. Then, the struggle for devotional life will begin, but even though it is hard, one would be trapped and unable to give it up. They will struggle and struggle until they reach the state of Sattva-guna. As practitioners, we have to endure the struggle to get to Sattva-guna. Once we get there, nityam sattve prasidati (constantly in satisfaction) and evam prasanna manasah (in this way a happy mind). Four steps to perfection, and two steps to a state when the struggle for existence (which has been going on since eternity) ends.
If one has listened carefully, then the last three steps are inevitable. Yes, there may be struggles. Yes, there may be problems in practicing. But you cannot discard it, ignore it, or reject it. This is the power of listening to the Śrīmad Bhagavatam. Even if you haven’t achieved perfection, even if there is indecency in the heart, even if there are doubts and misgivings, even if there is a struggle to remain happy, even if we are unable to practice everything perfectly, we cannot give up the path because Śrīmad Bhagavatam has captured our heart, and nothing else seems remotely worthwhile. Then, it is not a question of if but only a question of when.