SB 8.1.14

Text

athāgre ṛṣayaḥ karmāṇ-
īhante ‘karma-hetave
īhamāno hi puruṣaḥ
prāyo ‘nīhāṁ prapadyate

Synonyms

atha—therefore; agre—in the beginning; ṛṣayaḥ—all learned ṛṣis, saintly persons; karmāṇi—fruitive activities; īhante—execute; akarma—freedom from fruitive results; hetave—for the purpose of; īhamānaḥ—engaging in such activities; hi—indeed; puruṣaḥ—a person; prāyaḥ—almost always; anīhām—liberation from karma; prapadyate—attains. 

Translation

Therefore, to enable people to reach the stage of activities that are not tinged by fruitive results, great saints first engage people in fruitive activities, for unless one begins by performing activities as recommended in the śāstras, one cannot reach the stage of liberation, or activities that produce no reactions. 

Purport

In Bhagavad-gītā (Bg. 3.9) Lord Kṛṣṇa advises, yajñārthāt karmaṇo ‘nyatra loko ‘yaṁ karma-bandhanaḥ: “Work done as a sacrifice for Viṣṇu has to be performed, otherwise work binds one to this material world.” Generally, everyone is attracted to hard labor for becoming happy in this material world, but although various activities are going on all over the world simply for the sake of happiness, unfortunately only problems are being created from such fruitive activities. Therefore it is advised that active persons engage in activities of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, which are called yajña, because then they will gradually come to the platform of devotional service. Yajña means Lord Viṣṇu, the yajña-puruṣa, the enjoyer of all sacrifices (bhoktāraṁ yajña-tapasāṁ sarva-loka-maheśvaram [Bg. 5.29]). The Supreme Personality of Godhead is actually the enjoyer, and therefore if we begin our activities for His satisfaction, we will gradually lose our taste for material activities. 

Sūta Gosvāmī declared to the great assembly of sages at Naimiṣāraṇya: 

ataḥ pumbhir dvija-śreṣṭhā
varṇāśrama-vibhāgaśaḥ
svanuṣṭhitasya dharmasya
saṁsiddhir hari-toṣaṇam

“O best among the twice-born, it is concluded that the highest perfection one can achieve, by discharging his prescribed duties [dharma] according to caste divisions and order of life, is to please the Lord Hari.” (SB 1.2.13) According to Vedic principles, everyone must act according to his classification as brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya, śūdra, brahmacārī, gṛhastha, vānaprastha or sannyāsī. Everyone should progress toward perfection by acting in such a way that Kṛṣṇa will be pleased (saṁsiddhir hari-toṣaṇam). One cannot please Kṛṣṇa by sitting idly; one must act according to the directions of the spiritual master for the sake of pleasing the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and then one will gradually come to the stage of pure devotional service. As confirmed in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.5.12)

naiṣkarmyam apy acyuta-bhāva-varjitaṁ
na śobhate jñānam alaṁ nirañjanam

“Knowledge of self-realization, even though freed from all material affinity, does not look well if devoid of a conception of the infallible [God].” Jñānīs recommend that one adopt naiṣkarmya by not doing anything but simply meditating and thinking of Brahman, but this is impossible unless one realizes Parabrahman, Kṛṣṇa. If there is no Kṛṣṇa consciousness, any kind of activity, be it philanthropic, political or social, simply causes karma-bandhana, bondage to material work. 

As long as one is entangled in karma-bandhana, one must accept different types of bodies that spoil the human form of facility. Therefore, in Bhagavad-gītā (Bg. 6.3) karma-yoga is recommended: 

ārurukṣor muner yogaṁ
karma kāraṇam ucyate
yogārūḍhasya tasyaiva
śamaḥ kāraṇam ucyate

“For one who is a neophyte in the yoga system, work is said to be the means; and for one who has already attained to yoga, cessation of all material activities is said to be the means.” Nonetheless: 

karmendriyāṇi saṁyamya
ya āste manasā smaran
indriyārthān vimūḍhātmā
mithyācāraḥ sa ucyate

“One who restrains the senses and organs of action, but whose mind dwells on sense objects, certainly deludes himself and is called a pretender.” (Bg. 3.6) One should act for Kṛṣṇa very seriously in order to become fully Kṛṣṇa conscious and should not sit down to imitate such great personalities as Haridāsa Ṭhākura. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura condemned such imitation. Me said: 

duṣṭa mana! tumi kisera vaiṣṇava?

pratiṣṭhāra tare, nirjanera ghare,

tava hari-nāma kevala kaitava

“My dear mind, what kind of devotee are you? Simply for cheap adoration, you sit in a solitary place and pretend to chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra, but this is all cheating.” Recently at Māyāpur an African devotee wanted to imitate Haridāsa Ṭhākura, but after fifteen days he became restless and went away. Do not suddenly try to imitate Haridāsa Ṭhākura. Engage yourself in Kṛṣṇa conscious activities, and gradually you will come to the stage of liberation (muktir hitvānyathā rūpaṁ svarūpeṇa vyavasthitiḥ [SB 2.10.6]).