Here is a summary of the First Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam – updated as I progress through it. Please click the (numbered links) to read the texts in more detail.
Questions in the Forest
Many sages gathered in the forest to try to do something to help humanity during the oncoming Age of Darkness. Suta arrives and they make him their leader and place important questions before him (1.1.4-17 & 1.1.4-23). Suta confirms their suspicion that love, and loving discussion of the All-Attractive, is the most powerful way to benefit humanity (1.2.1-13).
Q: What is the result of divine love?
Divine love benefits a human in progressive stages of purification culminating in direct tangible relationship with the All-Attractive Beloved (1.2.14-21).
Q: Why must devotion be directed to a single All-Attractive being?
Suta carefully explains the relative natures of “God” and “Gods” (1.2.22-29). He explains how spiritual Godhead works in the material world through and among gods without sullying his transcendental position (1.2.30-33)
Incarnations of Godhead
Having established that Godhead can interact with the material world, Suta enumerates the more prominent of the limitless incarnations of Godhead. He describes the three facets of the original incarnation, Purusha (1.2.34-3.5). He describes ancient (1.3.6-14) and more contemporary incarnations, and singles Krsna out as being not only an incarnation but also the original source of all incarnations (1.3.15-29).
Q: Does God Really Have Form?
History of the Bhagavatam
Suta decides he can best answer these questions of the Sages by recounting the Srimad Bhagavatam. The sages are eager to first learn the history of this book (1.3.40-44) and the people behind it (1.4.1-13).
Suta answers the sages questions about when, why and how Vyasa conceived of this book. It was at the border of the 3rd and 2nd ages. It sprang from Vyasa’s depression and incompleteness even after all the monumental effort he put into creating the Vedic body of knowledge (1.4.14-26).
Narada’s Instructions to Vyasa
It was made possible by the inspiration Vyasa received from Narada (1.4.27 – 1.5.4), who pointed out the flaw in his work so far – lack of focus on divine love (1.5.5 – 11). Narada told Vyasa to remedy the situation by creating a book focusing on divine love. To do this, he must first meditate to perfectly understand the All-Attractive. In this book there must be nothing disconnected from divine love, for all such things are futile and backfire, even if they concern morality and philosophy (1.5.12-15). Nothing auspicious comes from by promoting any other path. Nothing inauspicious comes from promoting the path of divine love (1.5.16-19). Therefore give humanity the most auspicious thing, a vision of the All-Attractive Krsna and the All-Loving Radha in their divine love affair (1.5.20-22).
Narada’s Personal Story
Narada tells the story of his previous life, to illustrate that he attained his great spiritual condition by hearing about the All-Attractive from those who were deeply devoted to him (1.5.23-40). Narada tells of his previous renunciation, and meditation in the Himalayas as a boy (1.6.1-15). He directly perceived the beauty of Hari, but then lost that vision and couldn’t regain it (1.6.16-20). Hari returned in audible form to tell the boy he would not see him again during this lifetime (1.6.21-24). The boy then began blissfully roaming here and there, shamelessly singing the name and fame of the All-Attractive. When fully purified by this practice, he attained a spiritual form, becoming Narada (1.6.25-33).
Before departing, Narada reminds Vyasa that to truly complete his mission of creating the Veda he must directly glorify the name and fame of the All-Attractive (1.6.34-38).
Vyasa Implements Narada’s Instructions
Vyasa meditates through divine love and has a vision of the Original Person with all energies under his control. The energies facilitate the illusion of souls. That illusion is erased most efficaciously by divine love. (1.7.1-7). With this knowledge, Vyasa composed the Srimad Bhagavatam and passed it to his son, Suka – who was extremely interested in learning it, due to his own natural divine love for the All-Attractive (1.7.8-11).
About King Pariksit
Sequel to Mahabharata:
Events Surrounding Pariksit’s Birth
When the war was over and Duryodhan beaten, the son of Drona tried to please his defeated master by decapitating the five sons of the Pandavas as they slept. In an attempt to save himself from the ensuing rage of Arjuna, Drona’s son called forth a nuclear-like blast that he could not restrain (1.7.12-21). Arjuna turned to Krsna for help in averting the uncontrolled blast which threatened to destroy the world. Krsna advised him to cast his own weapon and withdraw it once it had thoroughly united with the original blast. After doing so, Arjuna arrested Drona’s son and tied him up like an animal (1.7.22-33). Krsna coaxed Arjun to give into his anger and kill the man, but Arjuna did not (1.7.34-39). He dragged Drona’s son before Draupadi for her judgement. She explained why the man should be shown leniency and not killed. He was punished in a more appropriate manner. (1.7.40-58).
The family then mourned their dead together. Yudhisthira took the throne of the emperor and performed three sacrifices demonstrating his power and opulence. Krsna then prepared to return to his own city (1.8.1-7). Just then, Drona’s son again sent another uncontrolled blast to assassinate the five Pandavas and their last remaining heir, the unborn child Pariksit. Krsna used the disc and mystical energy of Visnu to neutralize the explosion and save everyone, including the child (1.8.8-16).
Prayers of Queen Kunti
Kunti then addressed Krsna, “You are the original person, a being whose delimitations are limitless spiritual substance. Only spiritualists and great scholars can understand this, so how can a simple woman like I know you so well? Because I love you! Love is the only means to truly know you.
You showed us so much affection, protecting us from every danger. I wish the dangers will never end, because they keep you in our company! (1.8.17.-27). The favor you have shown us is not partiality, you are completely impartial. You are confusing indeed, for you enact the birth and deeds of the unborn and deedless. What is the meaning of this? I think you exist to facilitate the supreme bliss of divine love, by providing subject matter for divine songs! (1.8.28-36) Please do not leave us, without you everything will be useless (1.8.37-43).
Yudhisthira Hears the Last Instructions of Grandfather Bhishma
Krsna answers Kunti’s prayer by remaining with them. But neither he nor anyone could assuage the grief and guilt of King Yudhisthira over what happened in the war (1.8.44-52). He sets off with his retinue to get the advice of his dear grandfather Bhishma, who lies dying on the battlefield, surrounded by illustrious persons (1.9.1-11). Bhisma tells him that fate is inscrutable, and always good, and that he should focus on the future, not the past. He then turns his attention towards his devotion for Krsna (1.9.12-24). Yudhishthira asks Bhishma for advice on how to be a good king, so Bhishma explains all about human duties and how to help people achieve their goals and evolve. Then he withdraws his consciousness from the world and focuses it exclusively upon Krsna as he quits his body (1.9.25-31). Bhisma’s final words express his desire to become one of the Gopis of Vrindavana. After his funeral, Yudhisthira puts his advice into practice and becomes an excellent King (1.9.32-48).
Chatter of the Women as Krishna Leaves Hastinapura
It is an extremely emotional scene when Krishna finally leaves for his own city (1.10.1-20). The women begin to chatter about Krsna. “Here is the Complete Original Male from whom we all come and into whom we must all ‘merge.’ (1.10.21) Here is the man whose virile seed impregnates nature herself, empowering her to creates all living beings. Here is the man who the gods themselves struggle to see (1.10.22-23). He is the most secret and intimate of all secret and intimate knowledge, the greatest Godhead himself walking among us (1.10.24-26). He makes common places and things more wonderful than heaven and gods (1.10.27-28). He is the sexiest hero in the world!”
After hearing this Krsna glanced at the women as he departed (1.10.29-31).
Krishna Returns to Dvaraka
Krishna journeyed down the Yamuna, across the desert and along the Sarasvati to reach the outskirts of Dvaraka (1.10.32-35). There, he announced his return by blowing his conch, and the overjoyed citizens ran out to greet him (1.10-36-1.11.5). They told him, “You are the light for our eyes, without your glance we are blind!” (1.11.6-11). The city herself was ecstatic, beautiful and exquisitely decorated to welcome Krishna back into her embrace (1.11.12-15). Everyone rushed out to greet Krishna and Krishna greeted each and every one with perfectly appropriate respect (1.11.16-22). Arriving via the royal road at his fathers house, Krishna was very emotionally received by his mothers (1.11.23-29). Finally he entered his own palaces and was welcomed into the embraces of his dear queens (1.11.30-33). Krishna’s activities resemble ordinary deeds, but are fundamentally different from mundane affairs because they are expressions of fullness and overflowing bliss, not efforts to fill an emptiness (1.11.34-39).
Birth of Pariksit
When still in the womb Pariksit had a momentary vision of Visnu circling him to protect him from the radiation of a terrible weapon (1.12.1-11). He was born under auspicious astrological conditions. Astrologers foretold his character and his great exit from the world (1.12.12-31). Shortly thereafter is when Yudhisthira performed his horse rituals (1.12.32-36).
Vidura Convinces the King and Queen to Leave the World Respectably
Vidura returned from extended pilgrimage to a warm reception by his nephew Yudhisthira and the entire family (1.13.1-11). Vidura soon went to his brother, the former King, Dhritarashtra, and opened his eyes to see the pitiful state he had been reduced to. He inspired his brother, along with his wife, to abandon their fallen condition and renounce the world immediately to die with integrity (1.13.12-28). Yudhisthira feel into greif when he could not find his uncles and aunt (1.13.29-37). Narada arrived to speak words of wisdom to the grieving king (1.13.38-43). “No place is safe,” he said (1.13.44-48). “Your uncles and aunt do not need you, they are performing yoga and will attain the supreme destination. You will all be leaving soon, with Krishna.” he explained and then left (1.13.49-60).
Krishna Leaves the World
Arjuna went to visit Krishna but had not returned for months. Yudhisthira began to see terrible omens and worried that it meant Krishna had already left the world (1.14.1-21). Arjuna returned, sobbing and Yudhisthira worriedly tried to find out what was wrong (1.14.22-34). He realizes that it must be due to the departure of Krishna from the world (1.14.35-44). Sobbing and stuttering, Arjuna finally answers, confirming that Krishna was no longer with them. He begins remembering all the things they did together (1.15.1-10). Without Krishna, Arjuna has become bereft of all strength and will (1.15.11-20). Arjuna relates how Krishna’s family destroyed itself, and then regains his composure by focusing on the wisdom Krishna had previously given him (1.15.21-30).
Arjuna’s entire family decided to end their lives with dignity, unable to live without Krishna. Yudhisthira made preparations to renounce the world responsibly (1.15.31-40). They all then entered into Yoga and dissolved their earthly existence (1.15.41-51).
Pariksit Becomes King
Pariksit takes over as the king and tries to keep the ill effects of the Age of Kali at bay (1.16.1-9). Traveling through his kingdom, he enjoyed always hearing glorification of his relatives connection to Krishna (1.16.10-17). He then encountered Morality the Bull and Earth the Cow engaged in a discussion. The Cow was deeply covered in grief and the Bull was trying to find out why (1.16.18-24). Mother Earth reveals the intimacy of her relationship to Krishna, and that separation from him was the cause of her soul-wrenching sorrow (1.16.25-36).