Tag Archives: Vasudeva

Krishna’s Affectionate Mothers

23

He entered the city with blessings from learned teachers and their impressive wives, and with respects from his admirers.

24

O learned one, Kṛṣṇa went by the royal road and all the women of Dvārakā’s important families rushed up to their rooftops to enjoy the greatest festival: the opportunity to see him!

25

The Dvārakā-dwellers regularly saw him, but still their thirst to see the Infallible body – the wellspring of all beauty – just couldn’t be slaked.

26

His chest is the abode of Goddess Beauty.
His face is a full goblet for the eyes.
His arms protect the worlds.
His lotus-like feet delight his lovers.

Bursting to a new level of expressiveness, Sūta composes a verse perfectly suited to impress upon a mixed audience the delightful beauty of the All-Attractive. He says, “Many appreciate the beauty of Śrī, the Goddess of Fortune and Beauty. His chest is where she dwells! Others among you search for a goblet full of Soma, to enjoy like the gods themselves. There is a full pot of it for your eyes if you look upon his face! Still others among you serve the gods for various blessings and protections. All the gods get their strength from his arms! And the rest of you, oh wonderful souls, are purely in love with him like swans delighting among the lotuses that are his feet.”

27

On the road a shade-umbrella, fans, and showers of flowers kept him cool. As these surrounded his yellow clothes and flower necklaces it seemed like a thick cloud was surrounded by the sun, the half-moon, a rainbow, and lightning.

Kṛṣṇa’s brilliant black complexion is the thick cloud. His yellow clothes are the sun. The flowers falling like confetti all around him twinkle and sparkle like lightning. The umbrella above his head is like the half-moon. His multicolored flower necklaces are like rainbows. This is how I envision the analogy.

28-29

As soon as he entered his father’s house, his mothers embraced him. He very gladly bowed his head in respect to the seven headed by Devakī. Their breasts swelled and became wet out of affection for their son, who they sat upon their laps. Overwhelmed with delight, the tears from their eyes soaked him.

Kṛṣṇa’s father, Vasudeva, eventually had 18 wives [SB 10.84.47]. All of them embrace Kṛṣṇa as their son, and Kṛṣṇa embraces all of them as his mothers. Kṛṣṇa’s biological mother is Vasudeva’s principle wife: Devakī. She married Vasudeva along with her six sisters: Śāntidevā, Upadevā, Śrīdevā, Devarakṣitā, Sahadevā and Dhṛtadevā [SB 9.24.21-23]. These are the “seven headed by Devakī.”

Of the remaining eleven I am aware only of the names: Pauravī, Rohiṇī, Bhadrā, Madirā, Rocanā, and Ilā [SB 9.24.45].

To see even one ordinary Indian mother embrace her ordinary son warms the heart. Imagine eighteen divine mothers embracing their All-Attractive “child!” The scene evokes the indescribable heights of infinite motherly love.

Motherly love is more intimate than all the other types of affection we have seen thus far from the residents of Dvārakā. Therefore the setting is now indoors in private quarters. Now Sūta will continue to graduate us towards romantic affection, the most intimate and exalted form of divine love.


Krishna, Prostitutes, and Dog Eaters.

16-17

When they heard that their darling had returned, the greatly respected Vasudeva, Akrūra, Ugrasena, astonishingly heroic Rāma, Pradyumna, Cārudeṣṇa, and Jāmbavatī’s son Sāmba stood up, forced by extreme eagerness to abandon their rest, seats, and meals.

Vasudeva is Kṛṣṇa’s father. Akrūra is a family relative who became the commander-in-chief and close confidant of Kṛṣṇa. Ugrasena is Kṛṣṇa’s grandfather. The “astonishingly heroic Rāma” is Balarāma, Kṛṣṇa’s brother. Pradyumna, Cārudeṣṇa and Sāmba are three important sons of Kṛṣṇa.

18

Putting before them great elephants and brāhmaṇas with all auspicious symbols, glorified by the spiritual sounds of conch shells and bugles, their chariots enthusiastically rushed towards him with attentive devotion.

19-20

Extremely desirous to see him, the city’s foremost courtesans came with dazzling earrings swaying over the cheeks of their beautiful faces, on palanquins by the hundreds; while dancers, actors, singers, bards, historians, and great orators sang of the wondrous activities of the Subject of Topmost Poetry.

21-22

The All-Attractive met all the relatives and citizens who came to meet him. He greeted each of them with befitting respect: by bowing, conversing, embracing, taking by the hand, glancing playfully, and by encouragements he greeted everyone down to the lowest class “dog-eater.” Thus the Almighty fulfilled their desired benedictions.


The Prayers of Grandfather Bhisma and his Passing into Vrindavana-Lila

1.9.32

Śrī Bhīṣma said:

Thus my contemplation has become thristless and dedicated
To the All-Attractive, foremost of the real, the all-powerful.
Everything that exists springs forth from his energies
Due to his full self-satisfaction and enjoyment.

Bhīṣma could completely dedicate all his perception and contemplation to the All-Attractive because he had lost all thirst for inferior subjects. Only the all-attractive, all-powerful, paramountly real Godhead could attract his attention.

Why do we exist? Why does anything exist? We exist as a result of expansion of the limitless enjoyment and pleasure inherent in the seed of reality – Godhead. Because Godhead is full of bliss, he desires to expand and multiply it, and therefore from his energies spring forth infinite varieties of creation. Thus the meaning of life is pleasure, and this pleasure is experienced fully when the soul is linked to Godhead.

33

Who the three worlds lust for, of dark-complexion,
Wearing cloth as brilliantly gold as the sun,
Body and lotus-like face decorated with sandalwood,
Vijaya’s friend… unto him let me have purest love!

Vijaya is Arjuna, the “Especially Victorious.”

34

In battle, the dust raised by horses made ashen
The wavy hair scattered around his perspiration-decorated face.
My sharp arrows pierced his dazzling armor to touch his skin.
Unto Kṛṣṇa let me give my soul!

35

As soon as he heard his friend’s command
He took their strong chariot between the two sides.
There, he diminished their lifespan of the opposing soldiers by glancing over them.
Unto Pārtha’s Friend let me give my love!

“Pārtha” is Arjuna, the child of Pṛthā.

36

When Arjuna saw from afar the soldier’s faces,
And turned away from killing his own people… an intellectual flaw,
He destroyed this flaw by spiritual knowledge!
To his feet let me give the most paramount love!

37-38

Breaking his own word to fulfill mine
He descended from his place on the chariot
And, with its wheel in his hand he ran, trampling the ground
like a lion killing an elephant, as his upper-cloth fell away.

Wounded by my fierce arrows, which destroyed his shield
Covered in wounds, he came towards his aggressor in anger
Intent on killing me!
May he, the Lotus-Faced Liberator become my destination!

I have translated mukunda as “Lotus-Faced Liberator.”

These beautiful poems composed spontaneously by Grandfather Bhīṣma in an unusual and highly sophisticated Sanskrit meter at the moment of his death reveal romantic Kṛṣṇa to us through the eyes of a heroic warrior.

39

Taking care of Vijaya’s chariot, holding the driving goad,
And the ropes… what a beautiful sight!
May the love of this dying man be for the All-Attractive.
Those who see him while dying attain their spiritual beauty.

“Spiritual beauty” (sva-rūpa) directly implies a spiritual body. The soul can be encased in a material body or a spiritual body. The material body engages in ego-centric affairs, the spiritual body engages in God-centric affairs. Bhīṣma desires to attain his original, beautiful spiritual form by dying with his vision and attention fully focused on the All-Attractive.

What spiritual form does Bhīṣma desire? He now expresses it clearly:

40

Graceful gait, artfully sweet smiles,
Love-laden glances… most glorified conceptions!
They imitate him, at the heights of madness
Yes, into their nature, the wives of the cowherders.

Bhīṣma now unequivocally states the spiritual beauty he desires to attain by dying with his heart and mind fully enrapt in Kṛṣṇa: He wishes to attain the nature of the wives of the cowherders: The Gopīs of Vṛṇdāvana. Specifically, he desires a place among the Gopīs experiencing the highest madness of spiritual love during the affairs immediately following Kṛṣṇa’s world-famous “rāsa-dance.”

41-42

In the great assembly of sages and great kings
Called by Yudhiṣṭhira’s royal sacrifice
All of them worshipped my Beloved
I saw it with my own eyes. I was there.

Now I have him right here!
He is the unborn, within the heart of the embodied,
In the contemplative hearts of the thinkers.
I see him everywhere; like the one Sun is seen everywhere.
I have now attained Samadhi, and am freed from the foolishness of separatism.

True Samadhi is not an impersonal accomplishment or state. Bhīṣma desires to become a Gopī, not a void impersonal energy. He now states that he is completely ready to die, because he has achieved Samadhi. What is Samadhi, then? It is a state of perception (dhi) in which there is perfect oneness (sama). What is oneness??? Those who have not seen it do not know and cannot say. But Bhīṣma has seen it and he says what it is: it is seeing the beloved Kṛṣṇa everywhere – just like we see the sun everywhere. There is only one sun, but it shines on everyone’s head. Similarly there is one Godhead, but Godhead can be seen in everything and everyone – without destroying or contradicting the fact that there is one Godhead. There is indeed one personal, beautiful All-Attractive Godhead. We attain Samadhi when we see him everywhere at all times. Bhīṣma gives confidence to his family and friends by telling them he has attained Samadhi and is therefore perfectly ready to take his final death, they should not fear, worry or grieve.

These were his final words.

43

Sūta said:                                                                                   

He placed himself within All-Attractive Kṛṣṇa, the self of his self, along with his every thought, word, vision, and deed. He took a final breath and was at peace.

44-45

Realizing that Bhīṣma had attained perfect oneness with the unlimited spirit, everyone fell silent like birds at the end of the day. Then, drums resounded, beaten by men and gods alike who praised the saint among kings. A rain of flowers fell from the sky.

46

Yudhiṣṭhira became very morose when the time came to burn the body, O Bhārgava.

47

The sages made everyone satisfied and happy by glorifying the confidential names and deeds of Kṛṣṇa. Then, with Kṛṣṇa in their hearts, they returned again to their own ashrams.

There was enormous nāma-saṁkīrtan at the funeral of Bhīṣma, conducted by the most illustrious sages and saints. This brought peace and happiness to everyone’s heart.

48

After this, Yudhiṣṭhira went to Gajāhvayam to console his uncle and the austere Gāndhārī.

Yudhiṣṭhira’s aunt is an “austere woman” (tapasvī) primarily because she kept her eyes blindfolded as an austerity of love for her blind husband. Gajāhvayam is the capital palace in Hastinapura (now Delhi). Were Yudhiṣṭhira any lesser man he would have hated his uncle and aunt for the central role they played in the incidents which culminated in the disastrous war. Being a very elevated soul, however, Yudhiṣṭhira easily overlooks the faults in others and embraces whatever good is in them.

49

With the approval of his uncle, and the subsequent pleasure of Vasudeva’s Son, he administered the kingdom with morality as great as his grandfather’s.

A good student of a good teacher becomes a good teacher. Yudhiṣṭhira was a good student, and his grandfather Bhīṣma give him good advice about how to be a king. By deeply and faithfully implementing his grandfather’s advice, Yudhiṣṭhira’s kingdom was as moral and good as if Bhīṣma himself was the king.

Those aware of the fuller story arc presented in Mahābhārata will note that this completes a diversion to the flow of fate which started when Bhīṣma renounced his claim to the throne.

Krishna attacks Bhisma like a lion attacking an elephant - to return the touch of Bhisma's arrows upon his skin

Bhisma's Spiritual Aspiration


Prayers of Queen Kunti, Part II

Kuntī previously expressed so much gratitude to Kṛṣṇa for taking special care of her through so many calamities. Kṛṣṇa might say, “First you say I am the Original Godhead and then you say I took so much care of you, but this is a contradiction because Godhead does not show partiality to anyone!” Fearing this objection, Kuntī speaks these words:

1.8.28-29

I know you as the master of time itself,
Infinite, without beginning or end.
You distribute yourself equally in all circumstances.
Friendship or enmity is something living beings create.

Who can understand the behavior of the All-Attractive?
People confuse you to be like them.
How could anyone be your object of favor or disfavor?
Impartiality exists only in the human mind.

Kuntī says, “You are infinite time.” Time is the force which allows events to transpire. All good and bad things therefore happen as a result of time. Time is therefore synonymous with the concept of fate, destiny, karma.

Destiny is completely impartial. It plays no favorites and gives no dispensations. It merely enforces the appropriate result of your freewill. If a soccer player commits a foul, the referee calls a penalty. Is it the referees fault or the players? If the same player scores a goal, the referee awards a point. Is this favoritism? No, it is impartiality. The good and bad one experiences from an impartial being are ones own creation. God is not to fame or fault for the pleasures and pains of the world. It is we alone who create our fortunes.

The love and protection Kṛṣṇa gave Kuntī and her family is equally available to everyone at anytime. It is up to us to choose friendship or enmity with the All-Attractive.

30

It is completely confusing
That the unborn, deedless soul of the universe
Takes birth and performs deeds
Among animals, humans, sages, and aquatics.

For example:

31

When you were naughty, the cowherd woman grasped for a rope.
Then, mascara ran in the tears flowing from your frightened eyes.
Your face looked down and fear filled you up.
This confuses me, since even the god of fear fears you!

Now  Kuntī will try to unravel the confusing mystery of why and how the unborn and deedless is born and has deeds:

32-36

Someone says the unborn is born
To glorify the Subject of Pure Poetry,
As a dear friend to the Yadu dynasty,
Like sandalwood in the Malaya hills.

Someone else says he was born
To answer the prayers of Vasudeva and Devakī.
You are that unborn who protected them
By destroying those who hate the godly.

Another person says
The world was like a sinking boat at sea with too much weight,
And Brahmā prayed for your birth
On behalf of her distress.

“This world is full of the distress
Of ignorant desires and pursuits.
So he has enabled us to hear about, remember, and worship him”
– say many others.

Embracing constant hearing & singing;
Enjoying the consequent remembrance of your deeds;
Such a person soon sees your lotus-like feet,
And the flow of material destiny runs dry.

Kuntī cites different opinions which attempt to explain why the unborn and deedless is born and does deeds.

The first opinion she cites is that the unborn is born to create subject matter for pure poetry to be used in divine glorification (kīrtan).

She uses a metaphor of sandalwood in the Malayan hills. Sandal trees could potentially grow anywhere, but for whatever reason they wound up growing in a certain hilly region and thus that region is very famous and prosperous. Similarly the All-Attractive could take birth and perform deeds anywhere, but for whatever reason he does so among the Yadu dynasty (Kuntī’s royal family) who are therefore very famous and prosperous.

The next opinion she cites is that the unborn is born to protect the world from those who hate the godly. Foremost was to protect Devakī and Vasudeva from the wicked Kaṁsa.

The third opinion is similar: that the unborn is born because the armies of greedy kings made the earth distressed like a boat at sea with too much weight, so Kṛṣṇa appeared to destroy hundreds of thousands of warriors and kings.

The fourth opinion she sites is similar to the first: The unborn is born because the world is full of intense suffering, the ultimate cause of which is forgetfulness of our essential unifying link with the Supreme Blissful All-Attractive. So Kṛṣṇa takes birth to give us something truly uplifting to sing about and hear about, which allows us to remember our link to him and thus destroy the root of our suffering.

Finally, she gives her own opinion in support of the first and fourth opinions she cited. She says that the unborn and deedless is born and has deeds just to facilitate true love and enjoyment and thus save the forlorn soul from asphyxiation in a river of meaningless existence.

The primary reason that the Absolute exists in tangible personal form is to give us something perfect to love. Therefore the primary reason you and I exist in a tangible form is to love something perfect. Singing and hearing songs about the All-Attractive are the most effective way to fall into this divine love, and also the most powerful and pure way to enjoy, embrace and express it.

The divine exists for kīrtana, therefore so do we.

A modern painting of Kunti addressing Krsna before he could leave.


Prayers of Queen Kunti, Part I

1.8.17

Saved along with her children from the blast of the ultimate weapon, devoted Pṛthā went before Kṛṣṇa, who was still ready to depart, and said this:

18-19

Kuntī said:

I give myself to you, the Original Person,
Master of energies and their source,
The undelimited existence,
Inside and outside of everything.

The fool’s eye,
Covered by a curtain of illusion,
Cannot see your limitless transcendental delimitations;
As an actor in costume goes unrecognized.

Do not think that the intimate associates of Kṛṣṇa are unaware of his majestic divinity! They are more aware of Kṛṣṇa than anyone else, because nothing reveals a person in more depth and clarity than a deep loving relationship with him. The do not always focus upon the power and majesty of Godhead because their relationship with Kṛṣṇa is more than that. But this does not mean that they lack any understanding of the true position of Kṛṣṇa.

Kuntī, mother of the Pāṇḍavas, immediately addresses Kṛṣṇa as the “Original Person.” The Sanskrit she uses, puruṣaṁ ādyam, directly connotes Kṛṣṇa as the original Viṣṇu.

She calls Kṛṣṇa “master of energies and their source” – īśvaraṁ prakṛteḥ param. This means that Kṛṣṇa is the controller of this world of energy, as well as the spiritual source from which the energy originates. Following this to its conclusion, Kuntī addresses Kṛṣṇa as the lover of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, who is the original spiritual source of all Kṛṣṇa’s energy (param-prakṛti).

She describes Kṛṣṇa as “undelimited existence inside and outside of everything.” She says that only a fool looks at Kṛṣṇa and thinks, “he sort of looks and acts like a human being, so… how can he be God?” Kṛṣṇa’s so called “delimitations” (name, color, shape, etc) are that very infinite undefinable spiritual substance itself. An eye befooled by the curtains of illusion cannot, or will not, see this. Illusion is the mechanism by which we experience something impossible. What is impossible is that an infinitesimal being such as you or I can be All-Attractive. When the true All-Attractive is placed before such eyes illusion closes a curtain over the truth, lest our hallucination of centrality become extinct.

Thus pitiful fools such as we overlook Kṛṣṇa every day, everywhere.

20

The greatest souls,
The scholars, the liberated,
Can see you by the means of devotion.
Can a simple woman also see?

Kuntī previously expressed that the eye covered by illusion cannot see the All-Attractive. Now she explains the cure to this blindness. The cure is to change what we want; instead of wanting to be All-Attractive we must want to be All-Attracted. Instead of wanting people to be devoted to us, we must become devoted to them and ultimately to Godhead. This is the “means of devotion” which allows great souls, scholars, and liberated people to see the Infinite Being in a concrete and tangible personal form.

Kuntī then humbly expresses, “I am no scholar or sage or spiritualist, yet I too can see you! How can a simple woman have this topmost divine realization? By the process of devotion.” The process of devotion is open to everyone, scholar and simpleton alike. In fact in some ways it is simpler for a simple person to embrace it.

Kuntī then gives two beautiful verses expressing her loving devotional sentiments.

21-22

I give myself, I give myself to Krsna,
Son of Vasudeva, Darling child of Devakī,
Cowherd Nanda’s dear boy;
Delight of our senses.

I give myself to you whose naval is like a lotus,
Who wears a necklace of lotuses,
Whose eyes are like lotuses,
Whose feet are like lotuses

23

Oh master of our senses,
As you freed your mother Devaki from her long imprisonment by treacherous Kamsa;
So you protected my sons and I, O Powerful,
From danger after danger:

Kuntī expresses her appreciation to Kṛṣṇa for treating her as lovingly and carefully as he did his own mother.

24-27

From poison, inferno, and the attacks of man-eaters,
From the vile assembly and the sufferings of exile,
From the midst of the weapons of countless warriors,
And from the weapon of Droṇa’s son, you kept us completely safe.

Let there be such dangers forever!
For, O Guide of the Universe, each and every one
Granted us your wonderful company;
Freeing us from the company of repeated birth and death.

Status, power, erudition, and beauty
Only increase the human hallucination
Completely Inhibiting us from sincerely turning to you
Who are within reach of those who have nothing else.

I give myself to you, the wealth of the wealthless
Who are unimpressed by the qualities of material things.
I submit myself unto you,
Lord of the Self-satisfied, gentle and pure.

When she enumerated all the dangers Kṛṣṇa protected her from his eyes asked of her, “Is that the goal of devotion then, to receive something in return?”

She passionately replied, “No! I want more dangers!”

Why?

Because in these times of danger she and her family always turned to Kṛṣṇa, found themselves in his company, and freed from the greatest danger: constant death in the cycle of reincarnation. It is implied here that devotional awareness of Kṛṣṇa delivers one from the cycle of reincarnation (saṁsāra) as a mere side effect.

She explains that people in illusion want more status, power, erudition and attractiveness – but these things only inflate our hallucinations. Such fantasies inhibit us from embracing the reality of our abject dependence on Godhead. Thus people who gain “good things” are at risk of losing their sincere connection to the best thing, the All-Attractive.

The All-Attractive is always within the embrace of those who hold on to no possession except him.


Arjuna Counteracts the Nuclear Explosion

1.7.22-25

Arjuna said:

Kṛṣṇa! O mighty-armed Kṛṣṇa who makes his devotees fearless! You alone are the relief for those suffering worldly miseries. You are the Original Person himself, the transcendent master of all energy. You set aside your illusory energy and exist purely within the spiritual energy of your own self. The worlds are full of people with hearts captivated by your illusory energy. Your trademark is that you see to their ultimate welfare by personally inspiring them towards morality, etc. You incarnate in this world just to lighten our burdens, and to fully satisfy your exclusively devoted companions with subject matter by which to always meditate upon you.

26

This extremely dangerous blast moves towards every direction. Oh god of gods, what is it? Where does it come from? I don’t know.

It appears that the explosion of the ultimate weapon expands relatively slowly. It looks like Arjuna may have taken from 15 seconds to almost a minute to react to it.

Before asking the crucial, emergency question, Arjuna praises Kṛṣṇa. Why? It is because we should not ask important questions to people who cannot give good answers. Arjuna demonstrates the principle that the inquirer should first express his reasons for having faith in the answer that might be given. Arjuna is in trouble, he is bewildered, and Kṛṣṇa is the one who saves people from trouble and is never bewildered. Arjuna’s trouble arises from an explosively powerful energy, and Kṛṣṇa is one who is always in mastery of all energies. Arjuna is in need, and Kṛṣṇa is naturally inclined to be helpful to those in need, especially towards those who, like Arjuna, are his intimate companions full of selfless love for him. After expressing why he has full faith in any answer Kṛṣṇa might give to the question, Arjuna finally asks it.

27-28

The All-Attractive said:

Understand that this is the ultimate weapon, set forth by Droṇa’s son out of fear of death, even though he has no idea how to control it. Definitely no other weapon can counteract this. But you are a very expert warrior, so destroy the blast of this weapon by an even more powerful blast from your own.

29

Sūta said:

Hearing these words from the All-Attractive, Phālgunaḥ, the destroyer of heroes, took a drop of water and circumambulated the Supreme before casting the ultimate weapon. The blasts of the two weapons combined and seemed to swallow up the whole sky, outer space and even the sun. The three worlds appeared to singe from the great heat of the combined blast, about to be consumed in flame as if the end of the universe were at hand. Knowing that the people of the worlds were about to be destroyed, the son of Vasudeva told Arjuna to withdraw the blast.

Phālgunaḥ is a name for Arjuna, probably because he was born under the stars of Phalgunī. Unlike Aśwatthāmā, Arjuna knew how to control and withdraw the ultimate weapon. When he did so, it also withdrew Aśwatthāmā’s blast, because the two weapon blasts had mingled and united.

33

Then, with angry eyes burning like fiery copper, he deftly arrested the dangerous son of Gautama and bound him in ropes like an animal.

Being the “son of Gautama” means that Aśwatthāmā was a member of a brahmin family. But Arjuna was duty bound to treat him like an animal, because that is what Aśwatthāmā’s behavior merited. Classical Indian literature evaluates social status not primarily by birth-caste, but by actual behavior.


The Flaws of the Vedas

[1.5.5]

Vyāsa said, “O son of the self-born, everything you’ve said about me is true. I place this question yet again before your unlimited comprehension: what is the unknown root of my lack of satisfaction?

Nārada is the son of Brahmā, who is known as “self-born” because he has no mother or father but appeared atop a type of flower sprouted directly from Viṣṇu. Nārada already told Vyāsa why he was dissatisfied despite his monumental accomplishments, but the answer was so shocking that Vyāsa needed to ask Nārada to say it again unequivocally.

Truly great souls are sensitive to their limitations, not their greatness. This is how they continually become less limited and more great. So Nārada would naturally recoil from the praises of Vyāsa regarding his “unlimited comprehension.” Vyāsa therefore shows that he is not being sentimental and he considers Nārada’s greatness to be due to his connection to the Original Person. This is a proposition which a humble soul like Nārada can reluctantly accept.

[6-7]

“Certainly you know every secret truth! You are a devotee of the Original Person – who is the master of this realm and the spiritual realm as well; whose will alone creates and destroys everything; and who is beyond the embrace of limiting qualities. You move through the three worlds like the Sun. You enter within things like the air. Indeed you are like the Witnessing Soul. Please clearly elucidate the flaw I had in the all-encompassing pursuit of my spiritual path.”

The “Original Person” (Puruṣa Puāṇa) is the origin of the first incarnation: All-Attractive Kṛṣṇa. The “Witnessing Soul” (ātma-sākṣī) is the Supersoul, the third facet of the first incarnation.

Here Vyāsa reveals that his sentiment about Nārada being great and all-knowing is not sentiment alone. He is aware of the deep greatness of Nārada, which originally stems from his intimate devotional connection to the Original Person.

[8]

Nārada answers:

You basically neglected to give voice to the spotless fame of the All-Attractive. I think any such philosophical system is inferior and cannot satisfy anyone!

Vyāsa labored for thousands of years to create the five Vedic schools, which then developed six darśana (philosophical systems). Up till this encounter with Nārada Vyāsa considered his Vedanta-Sutra to be the crowning achievement of his labor. The Vedanta Sutra, however, does not really come right out and present the spotless glories of the All-Attractive. Vyāsa was also happy to have written the Mahābhārata, but even in that book, the glories of All-Attractive Kṛṣṇa are a sideshow, in a supporting role to illustrate religious and moral principles for the common man. The Veda barely mention the All-Attractive at all. The Purāṇa existing up till this encounter with Nārada do mention the glories of the All-Attractive, but insufficiently; being unfocused and diluted as they are mixed up with so many other glorifications and details.

So Nārada quite bluntly says, “Everything you have produced so far, including your elaborate philosophical expositions, is inferior and unsatisfactory because it neglects to properly glorify All-Attractive Kṛṣṇa.”

[9]

O Best of Scholars, again and again you described morality and so on as the goals of life. You certainly did not give similar attention to enunciating the greatness of Vasudeva’s son.

Vyāsa would submit that indeed All-Attractive Kṛṣṇa is the hidden subject within each and every word he wrote in each and every branch of the Vedas. Nārada counters with the practical truth: “You constantly stress how to achieve the four goals of life (pleasure, stability, morality, and emancipation). In comparison to the emphasis you gave these topics, you completely neglected Kṛṣṇa, Vasudeva’s son.”

[10]

I think words that do not pronounce the fame of Hari, the purifier of everything, however wondrous or poetic they may be are vacation spots for crows. Perfected spiritual swans do not delight there.

Vyāsa would submit that the four goals of human life are also important. But this would miss the point: Yes, they have relative importance, but developing a devotional relationship to the All-Attractive Kṛṣṇa is far more important. That fact is not at all borne out in the Vedas preceding Śrīmad Bhāgavatam – which elaborately stress every other goal of life and only here and there mention the true significance of spiritual devotion to the Original Person. Therefore Nārada becomes somewhat blunt and heavy with Vyāsa, saying, “I think what you have made so far amounts to a heap of garbage.”

[11]

The words which pronounce his names and depict his limitless fame will truly revolutionize the miseries of humanity. Even if each and every line is full of flaws – great souls embrace them, listen to them, and sing them.

Vyāsa would submit that purification is required before one can appreciate the All-Attractive. Therefore his efforts to gradually purify people might not be just “garbage.” Nārada counters that the All-Attractive is himself the purifier. No extraneous means of purification is required. Nārada says that Vyāsa should never have created all of those Vedas! He should have immediately put his full effort into directly announcing the names and famous deeds and qualities of All-Attractive Kṛṣṇa. The misdirection of his energy is why he feels incomplete despite all he accomplished.

Of course, Vyāsa’s works are extremely meritorious and monumentally outstanding accomplishments in human history. But Nārada says that to be monumental and outstanding is of no real consequence. Even if one is a terrible writer and a cloudy thinker – if one tries to speak or sing about the name and fame of Kṛṣṇa, whatever one produces however small or amateur is better than the entire corpus of Vedic literature cultivated over thousands of years by Vyāsa himself!

Swanlike people are repulsed by anything that is devoid of the All-Attractive, however beautifully it may be decorated. But they wholeheartedly embrace everything that contains the name and fame of Hari, however poorly it may be prepared.


Glories of the Self and God

The sages asked, “If God takes birth and ‘has incarnations,’ is he not just like us?”

Suta answered, “God’s form is itself pure spiritual formlessness, beyond the limitations of an individual shape created by material elements We souls are also beyond limitation of form but we confuse the observer with the observed and thereby identify our self with limiting things like our mind and body.”

[1.3.32]

Beyond this is something imperceptible, having no formal shape created by qualities. It is a substance unseen, unheard. It is the life-force which is born repeatedly.

Beyond the mind and body is the actual “self.” Both God and you are this substance, beyond all objectivity and subjectivity. Beyond objects and subjects is the true self. But, this self takes so many limiting forms again and again due to projection of the observer (the soul) into the observation (the world).

[33]

We can have spiritual vision when perfect knowledge itself rejects all these persistent and temporary forms imposed by ignorance.

If spiritual substance is beyond objectivity and subjectivity how can it be experienced? It can be experienced only by “knowledge itself” – sva-saṁvit. Godhead possesses three categories of spiritual potency: existence, awareness, and enjoyment. The second, awareness, is termed saṁvit. We must beg from the divine an infusion of saṁvit as a catalyst to awaken the saṁvit inherent within us, now rusted shut from disuse. Awakened self-knowledge casts off the haze of all illusory objects and subjects and grants spiritual perception (brahma-darśan), and thus access to the realm of transcendent objectivity and subjectivity.

[34]

If the goddess’ illusion withdraws, comprehension becomes perfect. Thus enriched, one understands one’s inherent exalted glories.

We possess the inherent capacity to understand and experience Godhead and spiritual truth. All that is required is for the intoxication of the “goddess’ illusion” (devī-māyā) to wear off. When we beg the saṁvit catalyst, it blows away the fog of delusions that currently obscure our capacity for transcendental perception and comprehension. Without such illusions, the inherently exalted glories of the self become self-evident.

What is the essence of that glory? We are made of God, by God, for God. The full richness of this exaltation is tasted when we let go of the illusion of all other self-conceptions.

[35]

The births of the birthless and the deeds of the deedless have been thus described by the learned. The lord of the heart is the confidential secret of true knowledge.

In one sense the lord of the heart (hṛt-pateḥ) is the self, for the self dwells in the core of what we are and empowers our body and mind to be “alive.” In another sense the lord of the heart is God, for God dwells in the core of the self and empowers it to exist and comprehend.

The lord of the heart is birthless, without beginning. Yet we see that we have been born, and we hear that even Godhead incarnates. The lord of the heart has no action and reaction, beyond causality. Yet we are completely entangled in the reactions of our actions, and we hear that Godhead also performs deeds. Both the self and Godhead are thus a true mystery, the final subject of true knowledge (veda-guhya). Suta has tried to pass on to us the benefit of what those who have studied thus subject to its utmost have explained about it.

[36]

So too is He of Untainted Activity. He creates and destroys everything without entanglement in anything. He is within all beings, but is independently self-situated. He is the master of six powers, the mere fragrance of which are the six qualities.

The sages asked if Godhead is limited like we are, since he takes birth and has a name, form and activities like we do. Suta answered by explaining that even the soul is not limited by its birth, name, form and activities. Neither the soul nor Godhead is limited by its name and form, etc.

Suta explained the difference between Godhead and the soul. The soul accepts material illusions and confuses the observation (non-self) with the observer (self), thus forgetting its unlimited nature. Godhead never does so. His activities are always untainted by ignorance (amogha-līla). He never acts out of ignorant selfishness and therefore he never gets entangled in his karma, even in his “dirty work” of creation and destruction. He is within all things and beings, but never loses his individual identity. He is the master of all opulent powers, which he enjoys with cognizant intent and without impurity.

[37-38]

Who, with meager knowledge, can understand the names, forms, and activities of the expert creator? The theories and arguments of fools cannot grasp the dramas he plays! Only one who unreservedly, unrelentingly, and lovingly adores the lotus-flower scent of his feet He can understand the creator – who held a chariot wheel in his hand, whose prowess is endless, and whose praise is transcendent.  

Suta has explained that Godhead is always unlimited, but the soul becomes bewildered by illusions. How can a bewildered thing comprehend something beyond bewilderment? By its own means, it cannot. The soul must beg saṁvit from Godhead. The light of saṁvit dispels the darkness of illusion and the soul’s inherent capacity for transcendental perception and activity awakens. Therefore if you desire to truly comprehend spirituality and Godhead, you must approach the study as a beggar, not as a conquistador. You must take a childlike attitude towards Godhead, feeling in need to shelter and protection and education. This is quite embarrassing for proud fools such as we, or at least such as I. Therefore Suta asks us to cast aside our shame and inhibitions. Unreservedly, unrelentingly adore the fragrance of Śrī Kṛṣṇa which spreads like a lotus perfume on the pleasant breezes of kirtan spoken and sung by those whose hearts are enrapt with his charm.

Do you have such opportunities? You do now. Suta will speak Śrīmad Bhāgavatam to give us exactly this chance to hear.


Does God Really Have Form Like Us?

Some of the sages ask, “An ordinary soul has many reincarnations. Now it seems from what you have just told us that Godhead also has many incarnations and reincarnations. Does God really incarnate and take forms like us?”

[1.3.30]

Suta answers, “God’s forms are really formless spiritual consciousness. The individual’s incarnations are material elements manufactured by the qualities of illusion.”

Some philosophers argue that to think of God with some sort of eyes and ears and arms and legs is primitive anthropomorphism. They think that God must be beyond all form. Suta agrees that God is beyond form, but does not agree that God therefore must be formless, without specific beauty and individuality. He says that “the forms of God are beyond form.” He does not say that God is formless, but that the form of God is beyond form. There is a world of difference!

Suta teaches that God has form, but this form is beyond form because it is made of limitless pure consciousness. This contrasts against the form we see in the mirror: a thing manufactured from material elements by the qualities of illusion.

In summary, God has limitless form.

 [31]

Seeing clouds or dust in the sky, we think it is dirty. The foolish observer transposes an observation upon the observed.

When we look at a thing, we do not see it! We see only our perception of it. An observation is different from the thing observed. This difference is the mind that comprehends the observation. We do not directly observe reality. We observe only what our minds can make sense of. This is really quite important to admit. Especially today, in a world that defines reality based on what some people can observe empirically.

English: The sunrising behind some clouds.

Image via Wikipedia

Suta makes the idea more concrete by using an analogy: “When you see clouds or dust in the sky, you think the sky is cloudy or dusty.” The sky is always clear blue. Clouds and dust exist only at a low level of atmosphere. If our observation point is below that level, the sky seems cloudy or dirty. We wrongly impart our vantage point upon the reality of what we see.

An ordinary person looks at a painting or statue of Godhead and sees something like what they see in the mirror: hair, eyes, hands, feet, etc. “That can’t be right,” they ponder, “because that means Godhead is just like me: limited within a certain form, susceptible to bad-hair days, eye infections, arthritis, etc.” This logic has the flaw of imposing one’s own conditions upon things one observes. Our experience of form is limiting and prone to be problematic. Therefore when we observe form, we think it must be restrictive. However, our experience of form is troublesome only because our form is an artificial imposition manufactured by illusions. Just because spiritual forms superficially look like material forms does not make them material. God’s forms are pure spiritual formlessness. They are not forms of illusory material energy. We must not transpose our small comprehension of form upon the infinite spiritual form of the All-Attractive.


On God and Gods

 Thus far, Suta has explained to the sages that:

  • Devotion to the Supreme Entity is the most beneficial human goal
  • It completely liberates a person from all troubles and fates, and delivers complete satisfaction and joy.
  • It revolves around the service of loving discussion about the divine beloved
  • Such loving discussion destroys all troubles and delivers supreme bliss in progressive stages beginning with interest in the topic and culminating in direct personal relationship with the divine beloved.

Suta concludes this section by saying:

[22] “That is why wise people always want to busy themselves in the extraordinarily delightful and soul-satisfying affairs of devotion to the all-attractive son of Vasudeva, Krishna.”

Now some of the sages listening to Suta pose a question, “Why is all this only about Krishna and other incarnations of Vishnu? Why don’t you mention devotion to other divinities?”

[23] Suta answers with a quote: “The Supreme Person, though beyond the world and singular, takes three forms that operate within the three energies of the world – clarity, ambition, and rest – and perform tasks like creation. They are known as Hari, Viriñci, and Hara. Humanity derives the highest benefit, as expected, from the form operating in the energy of clarity.”

There is one supreme deity just beyond the world, overseeing its existence. That one deity does not directly touch the world and become involved in its complications. But he creates expansions of himself to do so, for it is necessary. These expansions are “the gods” and similar powerful creatures. Primary among all of them are three gods, who take charge of the three fundamental natural energies for the sake of performing three tasks crucial to the unfolding of the universe.

  • Creation is one such task. It is accomplished through the energy of ambition (rajo-guṇa) by the deity who is the embodiment of that creative energy, Brahmā (“Viriñci”).
  • Destruction is another essential task. This is accomplished via the energy of rest (tamo-guṇa) by the deity who embodies that energy, Śiva (“Hara”).
  • Maintenance of things between their creation and destruction is the third essential task. It is accomplished through the energy of clarity (sattva-guṇa) by the deity of clarity, Viṣṇu (“Hari”).

In quoting this, Suta recognizes and affirms a plurality of deities and gods worthy of respect and all linked to the Original Person. But in the final line of the quote he explains why devotion to these many gods does not have the same significance and effect as devotion to Krishna and the forms of Vishnu. The logic in this line is that since the mode of clarity is the most beneficial form of nature, it makes perfect sense that Vishnu, who is the embodiment of that clarity, is the most beneficial form of divinity. The divine loving devotion Suta speaks of in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam is directed towards Krishna and the forms of Vishnu, and not to other less beneficial divinities.

Suta proceeds to explain why the energy of clarity is supremely beneficial:

[24] “From earth grows wood, which creates smoke and fire. But it is only fire which is most beneficial to humanity. Similarly there is rest, ambition and clarity but only clarity grants direct spiritual perception.”

Here Suta references a very sophisticated analogy. The earth is similar to the One Great Person. The earth is the root source of wood (trees), smoke and fire – just as the One Great Person is the root source of the three main gods. But this does not indicate that all three gods are of equal importance and relevance to humanity’s ultimate good. Fire is the most important thing for humanity, more important than wood or smoke. Wood is analogous to the solidifying and strengthening mode of rest (tamas), smoke to the dust-raising mode of creative ambition (rajas), and fire to the illuminating mode of clarity (sattva). The mode of clarity alone has the power to illuminate the human mind and grant it direct spiritual perception and joyful self-realization. Thus, sensibly, the deity of clarity – Vishnu – is more beneficial to humanity than any other form of divinity, because Vishnu most powerfully possess the powers of clarity (sattva) and therefore can deliver the most important, joyful, and real benedictions.

[25] “That is why,” Suta continues, “sages have always engaged themselves in devotions for the all-attractive one beyond contamination of the material energies. Thus they attained absolutely undistorted spiritual clarity, as will any of you who follow them.”

The word adhokṣaja (“beyond contamination of material energies”), deserves at least a short comment. If Vishnu is the deity of the material energy of clarity, how can he be worthy of this name, Adhokṣaja? The word sattvaṁ viśuddhaṁ (“absolutely undistorted clarity of existence”) answers. It says that the mode of clarity, unmixed with the other two: ambition or rest, is the state of being in the pure reality which exists transcendentally to the material creation. Within the material creation we experience clarity as a material phenomenon because it is always mixed with some amounts of the need to create or destroy some condition, and is therefore never experienced in its pure state, unadulterated by the energies of ambition and rest. But in the transcendental manifestation pure clarity exists as the underlying foundation of transcendent reality. Vishnu is pure clarity, and is therefore a transcendent divinity: Adhokṣaja. Thus, other divinities – though certainly worthy of deep respect – are categorically inferior to Vishnu and his expansions.

At this point, some of the sages presented Suta with another question, “Why then do many people worship non-transcendent gods?”

[26] “Those who want a permanent solution to their troubles seek liberation. They are always respectful and never spiteful of anyone, much less any powerful divinity, but they certainly reject the often horrific forms of such material gods and are exclusively devoted to the peaceful and pleasant expansions of the Supreme Personality.”

Because material nature, with constant creation and destruction, is often horrific and ghastly, the deities of this world are often grotesque and frightening beings. Transcendence, however, is joyful and peaceful. Transcendental deities, the expansions of the Original Person Nārāyaṇa, are thus always blissful and pleasant to see.

[27] “Others have more base desires, requiring creation or destruction of various practical goal or obstacles. Naturally they are devoted to deities connected to creation and destruction, and thus worship their ancestors, powerful spirits, and superhuman universal forefathers due to their hunger for power and wealth.”

Suta has explained the reasonable cause for worshiping inferior powers. But now wants to make a powerful statement dissuading such:

[28-29]

Krishna is paramount education

Krishna is paramount ritualism

Krishna is paramount mysticism

Krishna is paramount duty

Krishna is paramount knowledge

Krishna is paramount sacrifice

Krishna is paramount religion

Krishna is the paramount objective

This resoundingly powerful statement surely set the hairs of the sages bristling with joy and excitement. In it, Suta mentioned the main components of human culture, the main paths through which human beings try to obtain their objectives: education, rituals, mystic power, dutiful righteousness, comprehension and knowledge, self-sacrifice, & religious morality. For each he says that the son of Vasudeva, Krishna is the paramount finish line.

What Suta says here is that the ultimate aim of every human desire is joy, satisfaction, & happiness. Such cannot be had in the constantly shifting environment of creation and destruction. It can only be had in the beginningless and endless transcendence. Thus the ultimate goal of any person – be he spiritually minded or not – can only be satisfied perfectly by Vishnu and Vishnu’s expansions, the deity of transcendent clarity.

Therefore everyone, regardless of their immediate proclivities or interests, should turn their devotions towards topics of Śrī Krishna – the topics we are about to enjoy in this Śrīmad Bhāgavatam.

 


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