The following is a morning lecture by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada given on January 15, 1977 at the Kumbha-mela in Allahabad.
People do not understand that there is life after death, but Bhagavan says, “Yes, there is life after death”– tatha dehantara-praptih (‘the atma transmigrates from one body to another at the time of death’). There are two kinds of dehantara-prapti – either towards hell or towards heaven; towards liberation and towards bondage. Liberation means mahat-sevam dvaram ahur vimukteh (‘one attains the path of liberation by serving pure devotees’). We want liberation. Mahat-seva – we have to take shelter of a mahatma. And if you want to go to the darkest region of material existence, then yositam sangi-sangam – sense enjoyment. Yosit means woman. The last resort of sense enjoyment is sex life. If we indulge in sex life, then yositam sangi-sangam. Not only directly we indulge in sex life, but even indirectly if we associate with persons who are only interested in sex life. The whole world is interested in sex life. Pumsah striya mithuni-bhavam etat – this material world is existing on this mithuni-bhava. Tamo-dvaram yositam sangi-sangam. Therefore you'll find in the Vedic way of life, sex indulgence is restricted. If we indulge in sex life than it is absolutely required, then we are gliding towards a hellish condition of life. And if we follow the path of mahatmas, mahat-seva, that is dvaram ahur vimukteh. We are making progress towards liberation.

This Kumbha-Mela is a chance to get the opportunity of mahat-seva. Mahat-seva dvaram ahur vimukteh. Of course, it is Kali-yuga. There are so many so-called mahatmas who dress for earning livelihood. That kind of ‘mahatma’ is not required. Mahatma is also described in the Bhagavad-gita: sa mahatma su-durlabhah. Actually we have to associate with such a mahatma who is su-durlabhah – not very easily obtainable. And who is that su-durlabhah mahatma? That is also described:
bahunam janmanam ante jnanavan mam prapadyate vasudevah sarvam iti sa mahatma su-durlabhah

After many births, one who possesses knowledge surrenders unto Me. He realizes that Vasudeva is the source of everything. Such a great personality is very rare. (Gita 7.19)
You'll get so many ‘mahatmas’ who are declaring atheism: “There is no God. I am God. You are God. Where you are searching out God? The God is loitering in the street – the daridra-narayana.” They are not mahatmas. They are duratmas. So be careful that you may not mistake who is mahatma. A mahatma is a very simple thing:
mahatmanas tu mam partha daivim prakrtim ashritah

Those great personalities who take shelter of My divine nature (Gita 9.14)
A mahatma has nothing to do with this material world. They are under the care of daivi-prakrti, the spiritual world. Bhajanty ananya-manaso– the symptom is that he's fully engaged in serving Krishna. Krishna is the original, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. So we have to catch the lotus feet of Krishna. Bahunam janmanam ante (‘it is achieved after any births’). It is not very easy, but it can be done if we have got intelligence. Krishna says:

mam eva ye prapadyante
mayam etam taranti te Those that take shelter of Me can cross beyond material nature. (Gita 7.15)

If you take to Krishna consciousness, immediately—of course, we must take sincerely, not a show; everything is seriously—then immediately we become on the path of mahat-sevam dvaram ahur vimukteh.And this line of devotional service is seva, service. Ultimately we are all servants, but in the absence of being a mahatma, we are serving maya. Service is there. We cannot become master. That is not possible.

jivera svarupa haya nitya krishna dasa

The eternal position of the living being is that of a servant of Krishna (Cc. Madhya 20.108).

There are two things – Krishna and maya; light and shadow. If you don't serve Krishna, then you have to serve maya. And those who are serving maya in the name of Krishna, they are called Mayavadi. Actually, they are serving maya, but they say that they have become liberated –vimukta-maninah. They are described as vimukta-maninah. Maninah means one who is not actually the thing, but falsely one is thinking that, “I am liberated. I have become equal with Narayana.” They are called vimukta-maninah. Actually that is not the fact. We shall be very careful to avoid these kind of ‘mahatmas’, who are thinking themselves as equal to Narayana, or sometimes they claim to be greater than Narayana. So we shall be very careful.

At this Mela, there are so many so-called ‘mahatmas’. But the symptom of mahatma is described in the Bhagavad-gita – bhajanty ananya-manaso (They worship Me with a steady mind). That is the qualification. And to become a devotee of Krishna is not at all difficulty. There is no difficulty. Anyone can become.

mam hi partha vyapashritya ye 'pi syuh papa-yonayah

O Partha, even if persons of impious birth can take shelter of Me. (Gita. 9.32)
Even the lowborn can also take shelter of Krishna, and what to speak of others?
kim punar brahmanah punya
bhakta rajarsayas tatha

What to say of the pure brahmanas and pious kings? (Gita. 9.33)

If qualified brahmanas can take shelter, then what to speak of others? Their progress is very quick. Without sukrti nobody can take birth in the family or society of brahmanas. First of all, we have to become pure brahmanas.
jnanam-vijnanam astikyam brahma-karma svabhava-jam
Knowledge, wisdom and faith in the Supreme – these are the natural activities of a brahmana. (Gita 18.42)

These are the brahminical qualification. Unfortunately, nobody is interested to become a brahmana, and what to speak of becoming a Vaishnava. Vaishnava is above the brahmanas.
sat-karma-nipuno vipro

A brahmana is engaged in six types of activities and is expert in mantra and tantra. (Padma Purana)

A brahmana's business is sat-karma: pathana pathana yajana yajana dana pratigraha. So even a brahmana is very expert in this brahmana's business. Pathana pathana – he has studied Vedas very thoroughly, and he has many students whom he has taught the Vedic knowledge. This is pathana pathana. Yajana yajana – he is expert in worshiping the Deity, and he teaches other disciples also –

The spiritual master is always engaged in worshipping the Deity of the Lord, decorating Him and cleaning the Lord’s temple. (Guruvastakam 3)
So there are brahmanas who are not Vaishnava, worshiper of demigods other than the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Such a brahmana is not required. Such brahmanas are condemned.

kamais tais tair hrta-jnanah
yajante anya-devatah

Those whose intelligence has been lost to various material desires take shelter in other gods. (Gita 7.20)

Vishnu is the original devata, and then next devata, Lord Brahma, Lord Shiva, and then others. So they are all anya-devatah. Om tad visnoh paramam padam – one has to worship Vishnu. That is Vaishnava. Vishnur asya devata iti vaishnavah (‘One who exclusively worships Vishnu is a Vaishnava’). Vaishnava means that he's not worshiper of any other demigods. There is no question of disrespect for any other demigods. But sharanam sharanyam – to take shelter of and to worship is recommended to the Supreme Lord—mam ekam—not everyone. We can show our respectful obeisances even to the ant, but worshipable Deity, or God, is Krishna, or Vishnu, vishnu-tattva. There are many forms of vishnu-tattva. Ramadi-murtisu kala-niyamena tisthan – He's expanded in many forms such as Rama, Nrsimha, Varaha. There are so many incarnations of vishnu-tattva. They're all one – advaitam acyutam anadi ananta-rupam
So vishnu-tattva, or krishna-tattva is worshipable. And to pin our staunch faith in Vishnu, we should discuss about vishnu-tattva. That is called siddhanta. Siddhanta boliya citte na kara alasa – “Don't be lazy to discuss about siddhanta.” Iha haite krsne lage sudrdha manasa – “The more you discuss the factual presentation of Vishnu-tattva, maya, and jiva-tattva, shakti-tattva, then it will be clear what is Krishna.” Krishna is the origin of everything.
aham sarvasya prabhavo
mattah sarvam pravartate

I am the source of everything. All things emanate from Me. (Gita 10.8)
We should try to understand this fact, that Krishna is the origin of everything. And if we take to Krishna consciousness, if you become Krishna conscious, then all your other duties are automatically taken care of. The same example as we have given – if you pour water on the root of the tree, then all other duties are automatically done. There is no question of separate attempt—philanthropy, philosophy and nationalism, this “ism,” that “ism.” We have discovered so many things and diversion of the real duty. That we shall have to concentrate. That is siddhanta.

siddhanta boliya citte na kara alasa iha haite krishne lage sudridha manasa

One should not neglect discussions on siddhanta out of laziness. Such topics create help tofix one’s mind on Krishna. (Chaitanya-charitamrita, Adi. 2.117)

We become more and more faithful to Krishna by understanding the siddhanta.
mayavadi-bhashya shunile haya sarvanasha

If one listens to the commentaries of the Mayavadis, he will be ruined. (Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya. 6.169)
To avoid this Mayavadi philosophy is for the kanistha-adhikari, that, “Everyone is God. I am God. You are God...” This is atheism. It is cheating. One class of atheism is Shunyavadi – “There is no God.” That we can understand, that he is atheist. “There is no God.” He publicly declares, “We don't believe in God.” But the Mayavadis are dangerous because they say that there is God, but without any form – no head, no legs. It ultimately becomes zero. Go on making “no, no, no”—”No head, no legs, no hands, no...” So what remains? So this is another trick for saying there is no God. Therefore Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has said that this class of men, who give the negative definition of God—”Not this, not this, not this, not this”—the Mayavadi – they are greater atheists.

veda na maniya bauddha haya ta nastika vedashraya nastikya-vada bauddhake adhika

Buddhists do not accept the Vedas and are therefore considered to be atheists. But those who have accepted the Vedas but preach atheism are worse than Buddhists. (Cc. Madhya 6.168)

Therefore it is very dangerous to associate with Mayavadis. Of course, those who are fixed up in Krishna consciousness can mix with anyone. Nobody can influence them. They are protected. If one has become a pure devotee, for preaching work he can go anywhere.