THE ULTIMATE “IT WASN’T ME”
न कर्त्तृत्वं न कर्म्माणि लोकस्य सृजति प्रभुः ।
न कर्म्मफलसंयोगं स्वभावस्तु प्रवर्त्तते ॥१४॥
na kartṛtvaṁ na karmāṇi lokasya sṛjati prabhuḥ
na karma-phala-saṁyogaṁ svabhāvas tu pravartate 
prabhuḥ–The Lord; na sṛjati–does not generate; lokasya–anyone’s; kartṛtvam–ego of considering themselves ‘the doer’; na karmāni–nor their actions; na karma-phala-saṁyogam–nor their association with the fruits of actions; tu–but; svabhāvaḥ–their nature (of ignorance since time immemorial); pravartate–initiates these.
“The Lord does not generate anyone’s ego of considering themselves ‘the doer’, nor their actions, nor their association with the fruits of their actions. These are all a result of their external nature of ignorance since time immemorial.”
Personally I find this verse quite humorous. The Lord is clearly telling us here, “Don’t blame me for the mess you are in now. You are responsible.”
So the main point here is that it is our own weak free will which has got us in this situation. Attracted (or intrigued) by the notion of an independent, superior position in a lower plane, we entered this world and acquired the ‘ahankar’ which causes us to have a false sense of self and conceive of ourselves as the “doer” (instead of being conscious of our natural dependence on and relationship with the Lord). In this spirit of independence and separate enjoyment we act in various ways and thus entangle ourselves further and further in karmic reactions.
Param Guru Maharaj discusses this point of free will in Search for Sri Krishna:
Once, an Indian political leader, Shyamasundara Chakravarti, asked Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur: “Why has the Lord granted such freedom to the jiva ?” Prabhupada Bhakti Siddhanta told him: “You are fighting for freedom. Don’t you know the value of freedom? Devoid of freedom, the soul is only matter.” Freedom offers us the alternative to do right or wrong.
Once, Gandhi told the British authorities: “We want freedom.” They replied: “You are not fit to have self-government. When you are fit, we shall give it to you.” But finally he told them: “We want the freedom to do wrong.”
So, freedom does not guarantee only acting in the right way; freedom has its value independent of right and wrong. Free will is only absolute with the Absolute Truth. Because we are finite, our free will is infinitesimal. The possibility of committing a mistake is there. Our first choice was to dominate, and so, gradually we have entered the world of domination. As a result of this first action, everything else has developed. So, in different ranks, the species have been divided, from the demigods down to the trees and stones. And watery bodies, gaseous bodies, anything that we find here has evolved in that way. The activating principle in any form of embryological development is the soul, and from the soul, everything has evolved.
Contemplating this Gita verse, these two Bhagavatam verses come to mind:
How it all began:
bhayam dvitiyabhinivesatah syad
isad apetasya viparyayo ’smrtih
tan-mayayato budha abhajet tam
“By the influence of the Lord’s maya, those who are intent upon selfish enjoyment and turn away from the Lord forget the Lord, consider themself to be the opposite of their true self, and become stricken with fear. Thus the wise should serve the Lord with unalloyed devotion, considering Sri Guru to be non-different from the Lord and most beloved.”
How to deal with it now it’s already happened:
tat te ’nukampam susamiksamano
bhunjana evatma-krtam vipakam
hrd-vag-vapurbhir vidadhan namas te
jiveta yo mukti-pade sa daya-bhak
“One who sees Your mercy perfectly, endures the reactions to one’s past actions, and lives in submission to You with one’s mind, body, and world is an heir to liberation—Your eternal service.”
THE LORD ONLY SEES DEVOTION
विद्याविनयसम्पन्ने ब्राह्मणे गवि हस्तिनि ।
शुनि चैव श्वपाके च पण्डिताः समदर्शिनः ॥१८॥
vidyā-vinaya-sampanne brāhmaṇe gavi hastini
śuni chaiva śvapāke cha paṇḍitāḥ sama-darśinaḥ 
sama-darśinaḥ eva–Those who see with equanimity, who see Brahma, transcendence; vidyā-vinaya-sampanne–in a learned and humble; brāhmaṇe–brāhmaṇ; gavi–a cow; hastini–an elephant; śuni cha–and a dog; śvapake cha–or a chaṇḍāl (dog-eater or outcast); (kathyate)–(such seers) are to be known as; paṇḍitāḥ–truly learned. 
“The enlightened souls see transcendence within all living beings, whether the humble and learned brāhmaṇ, the cow, the elephant, the dog, or the dog-eater. Therefore, they are to be known as paṇḍit—men of true wisdom.”
This is a fairly well-known verse, and especially the phrase “panditah sama-darsinah”, “the learned see all with equal vision” we hear often quoted, both by devotees and non-devotees. Those realized souls who are transcendentally situated on the nirgun platform (free from material qualities, both ‘good’ and ‘bad’) do not distinguish between material considerations of high and low, good or bad. They consider persons in terms of their spiritual qualifications only. From their high platform of vision, all the persons of high renown in this world, the movie stars, rock stars, sports stars, politicians, the intelligentsia and so on and so forth are no different from a humble beggar in the street or even an animal. They simply see that everyone is a spirit soul. Whatever material qualifications or disqualifications a person has they are just temporary, outer coverings to the eternal person within.
It’s also mentioned in Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta (3.4.176),
‘dvaite’ bhadrābhadra-jñāna, saba — ‘manodharma’
‘ei bhāla, ei manda’, — ei saba ‘bhrama’
“In the material world, conceptions of good and bad are all mental speculations. Therefore, saying ‘This is good’ and ‘This is bad’ is all a mistake.”
From the perspective of devotion, we take a different angle to this truth: although persons with various material qualifications should be viewed with equal vision, persons who have affinity for bhakti should be viewed differently, because they are connected to the eternal current of reality.
Our faith in this is something often tested in our daily lives, especially when it comes to partiality for sattvic qualities: we may meet persons who are very qualified from the perspective of sattva-guna (the mode of goodness)—intelligent, honest, clean, philanthropic, non-violent—and think highly of them, but they may have no connection with the nirgun plane of bhakti. On the other hand we may meet someone full of rajasic (of the mode of passion) and tamasic (of the mode of ignorance) qualities—they could be drug addicts, meat-eaters, rough, ignorant people, etc—and be repelled by them, but they may actually have appreciation for that nirgun current of bhakti.
It is true that following a sattvic lifestyle is the most supportive of spiritual culture and we try to follow that as much as possible, but it is not the determining factor when it comes to the absolute, fundamental current of devotion. In and of themselves these ‘good’ qualities don’t have any substantial value. Someone may wake up early, be vegetarian, clean, etc. but if they are doing these things just for their own peace of mind, without connection to the central cause, without devotion for the prime cause, the Lord, there is no value from the absolute consideration of things. A philanthropist or an environmentalist may be doing much for the welfare of humanity, which has some relative, temporary value; but in the big picture of things their activity is not worth anything at all. Without realizing our true identity, true purpose and true necessity, of what lasting value will be anything that we do?
Having the association of a true saint like our Gurudev, Srila Govinda Maharaj, was very eye-opening in this regard. Various devotees have shared stories expressing their shock at how non-judgemental and even comfortable Srila Gurudev could appear at times with very non-sattvic persons, even persons who might be labeled as evil by your average ‘conscious’ person in the world. One devotee shared how just outside the London Math once where Gurudev standing a big truck full of meat pulled up for a delivery next to the temple. While our devotee was disturbed, by this offending sight (and smell!) and this man’s nasty occupation, as well as by the consideration that he was intruding right on Srila Gurudev’s space, Srila Gurudev himself was not disturbed in the slightest and even smiled at the man and exchanged greetings with him in Hindi. Another told of one occasion when Gurudev watched a documentary showing Eskimos cutting open a reindeer. While others in the room were horrified and had to turn their faces away, Srila Gurudev sat unperturbed while eating a snack of muri (puffed rice). At the end His Divine Grace commented to Goswami Maharaj, “Maharaj, I think we can give Krishna-nama to the Eskimos.” He did not judge these persons by their material activity; he simply saw them as spirit souls with potential for devotion.
In his personal dealings with the devotees Srila Gurudev always showed himself to be a true paramahamsa, always prioritizing the devotional mood over material purity. One favourite example is of an occasion when someone offered Gurudev some biscuits that had an impure ingredient. Gurudev was opening the packet and about to eat one when another devotee rushed over and whispered in Gurudev’s ear that it was not pure. Gurudev responded, “Prabhu, I am accepting the affection of the devotees” and proceeded to eat the biscuit. Like Sri Krishna happily eating the banana peels that Vidura’s wife madly offered in her ecstasy, Srila Gurudev was not considering whether the offering was suitable from an external point of view, but simply seeing the heart of the devotee and accepting that.
Once when considering whether a particular devotee was suitable for a challenging service, Srila Gurudev concluded that “he was chaste” and trustworthy enough for the duty at hand. This was quite a striking comment because this devotee had a reputation of being a womanizer. What Srila Gurudev was referring to was his chastity to the spiritual ideal of Krishna consciousness. He was not considering his lack of material chastity and good behavior.
At the same time of course Srila Gurudev did not throw these things out the window. He referred to the regulative principles (of no meat-eating, intoxication, illicit sex and gambling) once as the ‘abc’s’ in the sense of them being basic codes of behavior which are helpful for everyone to follow. He explained that they were not actually Vaishnava principles, not things that will directly effect our spiritual advancement, but ‘regulations’ which could support our practice. Not determining factors, but indirectly supportive. On the other hand he described the principles of humility, tolerance, and respect as true Vaishnava principles which could directly cause our advancement.
In Revealed Truth (the chapter ‘Spiritual Revolution) Srila Gurudev discusses these points quite extensively, here’s a short excerpt where he cites a verse illustrating the point of devotion being the only thing of true value:
vyādhasyācharaṇaṁ dhruvasya cha vayo vidyā gajendrasya kā kubjāyāḥ kim u nāma rūpam adhikaṁ kiṁ tat sudāmno dhanam vaṁsaḥ ko vidurasya yādava-pater ugrasya kim pauruṣaṁ bhaktyā tuṣyati kevalaṁ na cha guṇair bhakti-priyo mādhavaḥ
“This verse explains that Kṛṣṇa consciousness does not depend upon any external qualifications, and it presents many examples from Śrīmad Bhāgavatam to prove this. A hunter who killed deer in the jungle and did not follow Vedic culture got a chance to worship Nārāyaṇ, so proper behaviour cannot be the cause of pleasing the Lord. Dhruva received Viṣṇu’s mercy when he was only five years old, so age cannot be the cause of receiving the Lord’s mercy. Gajendra the elephant had no proper Vedic knowledge, but the Lord answered his prayer; so knowledge cannot be the cause of receiving the Lord’s grace. Kubjā was not beautiful, but she satisfied the Lord with her devotion. Sudāma Vipra had no money, but he satisfied the Lord through his devotion. Through these examples and others, this verse shows that the Lord is satisfied by the mood of devotion within His devotees, not their external qualifications.”