Why Bhagavatam is the Topmost Work of Vyasa

Narada Inspired Vyasa

[1.4.27-31]

Not fully satisfied at heart, that knower of dharma sat in a quiet and pure place on the shore of the Sarasvatī River to think. “I have held firmly to my vow,” he said. “I have explained what I learned from my gurus about how to properly use mantra and fire for worship. I put together the History of India in such a way that even non-intellectuals like housewives, laborers, and pseudo-civilized people can clearly see all the important things necessary moral progress. I have given everything required for an embodied being to realize the self within the self. But still, there is some defect. I seem to have not yet given the supreme explanation of spirituality. Maybe that is because I have basically neglected to delineate the All-Attractive Dharma, which is beloved to the topmost swans and is even dear to the Infallible One.

“That knower of dharma” is Vyāsa.

He summarizes his lengthy and strenuous effort to fulfill his vow of helping the people of the world to escape the brunt of the ignorance that would best them in our current Age. “Explaining how to properly use mantra and fire for ritual worship” refers to the four Veda that Vyāsa created and established schools to develop. The “History of India” is the Mahābhārata, which he wrote to solve the problem of reaching the common man not interested in Vedic complexities. “Everything required to realize the self within the self” is a reference to Vedānta-Sūtra, a concise explanation and reconciliation of all the philosophical content of the four Vedas.

The “supreme explanation of spirituality” Vyāsa feels he has still failed to give is a clear and direct delineation of the “All-Attractive Dharma” (bhāgavata dharma), the most exquisitely beautiful and beloved of all topics, which attracts the affections even of “topmost swans” – those who are already completely purified and spiritually developed (paramahaṁsa), and even attracts the heart of the Infallible Godhead himself (acyuta)!

The delineation of All-Attractive “Bhāgavata Dharma” which would finally satisfy Vyāsa’s heartfelt mission is what became the book we are now reading, the Bhāgavatam.

The prior works of Vyāsa – the four Veda and their expansions, and the other Purāṇa and histories – do not entirely neglect to present the All-Attractive Bhāgavata Dharma. But considering the importance of this subject, they “basically” do (prāyeṇa) neglect it.

[32]

Thus The Black was regretfully contemplating his incompleteness when Nārada arrived from the east at the ashram. Realizing this, the sage suddenly stood up and respectfully venerated Nārada, whom the gods venerate, as if he were the creator himself.

“The Black” is a named for Vyāsa in reference to his complexion.

Nārada’s father is the creator, Brahmā. Vyāsa venerates Nārada as if he were Brahmā himself, on the principle that a good son or student carries out the functions and purposes of his superior.

[1.5.1]

When the very famous Sage of Gods with vīṇa in hand was happily seated, he spoke smilingly to the Sage of Learneds, who sat nearby.

The “Sage of Gods” is Nārada. The “Sage of Learneds” is Vyāsa. A “Vīṇa” is a beautiful stringed instrument, usually with a fretted neck. Nārada almost always carries this instrument with him at all times and sings.

[2-4]

Nārada said, “O greatly blessed son of Parāśara, do you find it satisfying to consider the body and mind as the self? That is why – in spite of inquiring thoroughly and explaining in a very well-versed manner, in spite of presenting the History of India in a most amazing manner clearly explaining everything important, and in spite of giving clear and careful revelations regarding the eternal spiritual substance – still, sir, you weep and feel like everything you’ve done is useless.”

Vyāsa must have certainly been shocked to hear Nārada say this! It is the ABC’s of elementary philosophy that the self is an entity distinct from its body and mind. Vyāsa must have been rattled to hear the great Nārada point out that the cause of Vyāsa’s disappointment with his work has something to do with the very elementary topics of assigning to much focus and importance to the body and mind! Nārada said, “You are dissatisfied? Of course you are dissatisfied! How could anyone be satisfied by treating the body or mind as if it were the all-important self? Although everything you have done is glorious, all of it was primarily directed only at benefiting the bodies and minds of humanity. Your work so far has neglected the true self!”

Bear in mind that this criticism includes the Upanishads and their summary in Vedānta-Sūtra! Nārada’s opinion of those works, therefore, is that they mainly benefit the mind by freeing it from ignorance. They do not directly benefit the soul itself, in Nārada’s greatly esteemed opinion.

Due to the shocking nature of this direct disclosure, Vyāsa will ask Nārada to repeat it. This is often the case when we hear something very surprising, that we have completely overlooked.

About Vraja Kishor


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