Category Archives: 1.0 Introduction

Bhagavatam… Buon Appetito!

There is a tree made of wisdom,
knowledge that fulfills your every desire and need.

On this tree is a fruit,
at the peak of ripeness.

A parrot lands upon the branches and pecks it with her beak,
its sugars and sweetness multiply.
Perfected,
like thickened juice within an impossibly thin skin.

Aho! You there!
You who crave for deep emotional significance!
You who wish to taste the true pleasures of life itself!
Yes you there, earthling!

DRINK IT!!!

Relish the nectar of this Bhagavatam-fruit,
again and again,
eternally without end!

This third verse of Srimad Bhagavatam is a beautiful poetic metaphor! The Sanskrit itself has an amazing meter. If “.” is a short syllable and “-” a long one, the meter of the Sanskrit is:

. . . – . . – | . . – . –

Here I will put the long syllables in bold:

nigama-kalpa-taror galitaM phalaM
zuka-mukhAd amRita-drava-saMyutam
pibata bhAgavataM rasam AlayaM
muhuraho rasikA bhuvi bhAvukAH

The meaning is as beautiful as the structure:

The Tree

The tree made of wisdom is a metaphor for the Vedic literature. “Vedic” literature is misunderstood by the definition of modern western scholastics. It is not merely the 3 or 4 original “Veda” but all the ancillary works which elaborate upon and elucidate it. That is the Indian conception of the term Vedic, and since India is the mother of the Veda, we ought to give it deference, no?

In any case, Vedic literature refers to the entire corpus of philosophical, practical, technological and religious material cultivated through at least a few dozen centuries in the region today called India. This includes the ritualistic four Veda; the explanation of their philosophical import, the Upanishad (108 principle books). The summary study of all this philosophy, the Vedanta Sutra. The application and retelling of the rituals and philosophy in semi-historical tales, the Purana and Itihasa (like Mahabharata, Bhagavad Gita, and Ramayan). And many other appendixes to the original four vedas in the form of manuals (Aranyas) and treatises (Samhitas and Siddhantas), etc.

To go back to the poetic image – it would be stupid to envision a tree of wisdom and knowledge with only four branches! The tree of wise knowledge (“veda”) has hundreds of branches spreading in all directions, in the form of Puranas, Itihasas, Upanishads, Aranyas, Samhitas, Siddhantas, Tikas, etc. etc.

The Fruit

There are many fruits on this huge tree, of course, but one fruit is particularly special because it is perfectly ripe. What does it mean to be “perfectly ripe”? It means to be at the absolute pinnacle of one’s maturity.

The Srimad Bhagavatam is thus depicted as the absolute pinnacle of Indian spiritual wisdom at the peak of ripeness. We will soon hear from its opening stories how the main author, Mahamuni Vyasa, compiled this after compiling all other Vedic works and having thus achieved a zenith of spiritual realization. In particular the Srimad Bhagavatam is the grand-finale of Vedic wisdom because it is (a) the sequel to the Vedanta Sutra, which is otherwise the most important Vedic book; the “second ripest fruit”, you might say; (b) the 18th of the 18 main purana, thus also the culmination of Indian thought as expressed through that medium. Thus the Srimad Bhagavatam represents the pinnicle of both the philosophical genius of the Vedanta-Sutra, as well as the poetic and theatrical mastery and relative ease-of-understanding developed in the Puranas.

The Parrot

The Sanskrit word for parrot is zuka. Mahamuni Vyasa is given credit as the compiler of Srimad Bhagavatam, but the main narrator of this tale is Vyasa’s son zuka-deva (“The divine parrot” – Sukadeva Goswāmī). Suka is really the one who expanded upon the core material within this Purana and made it as sweet and wonderful and easily digestible as it now is.

The imagery of a “parrot” is not always positive in English because it carries the meaning of one who simply repeats words without understanding their meaning. This connotation is absolutely absent from Sanskrit poetics. Instead the connotation of “parrot” is a bird with a special type of saliva that, when the bird bites a fruit, causes that fruit to become extremely sweet and ripe. So do not carry over the English connotation and imagine that the Bhagavatam is being narrated by someone who merely repeats what he heard from his father, without understanding. Not at all. Quite the opposite. The Bhagavatam is as sweet as it is because Sukadeva’s telling of it enhanced, expanded, and amplified the original meaning into an even more wondrous perfection.

Drink It!

Finally, we are implored to take our place in the poem. Our place is to grab the fruit and enjoy it!!!

What is unusual about this fruit is that it satisfies hunger without reducing the hunger, and it is eaten without ever diminishing. The more you meditate upon what you will hear in Srimad Bhagavatam, the more you will be able to meditate upon it! The more you enjoy it, the more and more you will be able to enjoy it.

Specifically this metaphor refers to the principle that meditation upon the Supreme Entity, Śrī Krishna is infinite. It is not a means to a goal, but is itself the goal and the means. Therefore it is never abandoned. Even the persons who are steeped in spiritual perfection continue to feast upon the perfect fruit of Srimad Bhagavatam. Even beyond liberation, even in the spiritual locus, our tongues will forever taste and vibrate the delicious topics discovered within this amazing book!


The Great Merits of this Beautiful Bhagavatam

I understand from the previous discussion that meditation upon the Supreme Entity – Sri Krishna, Vasudeva’s son – is the superlative directive for spiritual evolution. But, how do I perform this meditation?

Those who are well-intentioned perform this divine meditation by very deeply relishing this very book, Srimad Bhagavatam – without delay or distraction. (zrImad-bhAgavate… kRtibhiH zuzrUSubhis tat-kSaNAt)

Why? What is so special about this book?

Unlike other books, even those that are religious and spiritual, Srimad Bhagavatam goes direct and straight to the true heart of the heart of absolute reality, as well as all the wondrous realities which spring forth from it. (vedyaM vAstavam atra vastu)

How is that unlike other religious and spiritual books?

This Bhagavatam banishes from its pages all hints of mundane religiosity – which is really nothing more than common selfishness in a pious disguise, and thus provides the ideal subject matter even for the most elevated and pure-hearted spiritualists to meditate upon. (dharmaH projjhita-kaitavo ‘tra paramo narmatsarANAM satAM)

Religion, in its best forms at least, deals with the four needs of human beings: pleasure, stability, morality, and emancipation. All four, however, are evolutions from the root need: pleasure. And all four are immature evolutions because the retain a self-centered focus, albeit to lesser and lesser extents. Thus, from a critical point of view, all forms of religion are merely materialism (selfishness) in pious disguises. The Srimad Bhagavatam, on the other hand, is quite different because it deals with the true and ultimate human need, the perfection of all other needs: love. And in so doing establishes a selfless goal, centered upon the all-attractive all-fortunate cynosure of divine love, Sri Krishna, Vasudeva’s son. Thus the Srimad Bhagavatam is rightly differentiated here as unique among all the great spiritual and religious works of India and around the world as well.

What is the effect of meditation upon the Srimad Bhagavatam?

That which is inauspicious becomes absolutely annihilated, and that which is all-auspicious becomes absolutely established in your heart. The Supreme Entity himself, Sri Krishna, will at once become captured within the loving confines of your own heart, destroying all inauspiciousness as a mere side-effect! (zivadaM tApa-tray-onmUlanam… IzvaraH sadya hRdy avarudhyate ‘tra)

Srimad Bhagavatam has captured within its core a revelation of the all-attractive Sri Krishna. Therefore if you meditate upon this Bhagavatam’s contents, what is within it’s core will be transferred into your core. You then will become a “Bhagavata” – an entity carrying the all-attractive divine Krishna lovingly in your core.

This is the essence of all auspiciousness! If you are worried about obtaining or avoiding anything else beyond or besides this, don’t. Everything else will immediately be perfected when the all-perfect Supreme Entity is loving captured within you. All the various miseries of life will be completely uprooted, and all the auspiciousness beyond your wildest dreams will be irrevocably established! 

Therefore, besides this beautiful Bhagavatam, compiled by the great sage Mahamuni,  what else could you possibly require?

This great sage Mahamuni is purported to be Veda Vyasa, the figure said to be the author of the entire body of Indian spiritual literature, more or less. The bhagavatam itself consists of several layers of itself, several versions of itself wrapped in larger, more elaborative versions. At the core the Bhagavatam is only 4 verses long, but the many layers of tellings and retellings included in the Bhagavatam we have today expands those four to 18,000. Mahamuni Vyasa is credited here as the compiler, or maker (kRte) of this book, but we know from the book itself that it has many illustrious authors, including Sri Krishna, Shukadeva, and Suta Goswami.

The attentive reader will find that the Srimad Bhagavatam is the most brilliant exposition of pure selfless love for the Divine Supreme and is therefore the most auspicious subject mater for the human heart and mind to contemplate. Let us meditate on the all-fortunate, all-attractive Sri Krishna by attentively and eagerly hearing the beautiful words of this Bhagavatam!


Who and What is the “Supreme Entity”?

Now hear this transcendental declaration:

Krishna, the Son of Vasudeva is the all-attractive, all-fortunate one – not you or I! (oḿ namo bhagavate vāsudevāya)

The great Gayatri Mantra says, “meditate!” (dhīmahi)

But what is the topmost topic for mediation???

The absolute reality is! (satyaḿ paraḿ)

But how shall we meditate upon the absolute reality!?
What shall we focus upon?

 The great Vedanta Sutra defines the absolute reality as:

That creative entity from which all other creative entities in the universe spring forth. (janmādy asya yato)

This entity is all-knowing: fully aware of everything which springs from it – both directly and indirectly, and therefore knows fully well how to fulfill all its goals and intentions. (‘nvayād itarataś cārtheṣv abhijñaḥ)

Yet this entity never becomes entangled in any of the pettiness that indirectly springs from it – nor is this entity ever dependent on anything which has come from it. It is fully self-complete and independent. (svarAT)

There are many beings which have sprung forth from this entity in the history of the universe who seem nearly all-knowing and totally independent creators of all things. But you must not divert your meditation to them! All of them are dependent in all respects on this Supreme, Absolute Entity. Brahma, for example, is the all-wise creator of everything within the universe – but all his wisdom and power was granted to him by this Supreme Entity. (tene brahma hRdA ya Adi kavaye) Many other gods exist who rule the atom, the heat, the rain, the sky, space, etc. etc. Many powerful human beings also exist who are powerful and smart. They all appear to be all-knowing and all-powerful creators, but they are all dependent upon this Supreme Entity, who confuses and confounds their inferior powers and comprehensions. (muhyanti yat sUrayaH)

This entity is not only the wellspring of all creators and all creativity, it is also the fountainhead of the creative materials and elements themselves! It is only because of this Supreme Entity that the world within the realm of our experience appears to have sensible form, taste, smell, etc. (tejo-vAri-mRdAM yathA vinimayo yatra tri-sargo ‘mRSA)

So meditate upon the Absolute Entity as the all-knowing, fully-independent origin of all creativity, creators, and creation.

This explains how the absolute reality exists in relation to the world we are aware of, our own universe. But how does the absolute reality exist in relation to itself, in its own context, in it’s own world?

The Supreme Entity is an eternal and infinite manifestation of pleasures, replete with all the talents and paraphernalia required by and enjoyed in the process of such bliss. These blissful objects have a resemblance to those sights, smells, and forms which have also sprung from the Supreme into our small realm of experience, our “material world.” But the bliss and pleasures of the absolute are distinct from the dim reflections of the same known to us, because there is no sense of lack or emptiness or need driving them – no dire, miserable hunger at the root of it as is the case with us. All the pleasures and delights of the Supreme Entity are overflowing effulgences of its own naturally inherent self-sufficient bliss. (dhAmnA svena sadA)

Why is there no obstruction to the bliss and pleasures in the wold of the Supreme Entity? Because there is no falsehood there! We have given a home to falsehood and allowed it to embrace and enclose our cores. Therefore we cannot experience unimpeded bliss until we entirely cast off all lies and cheats. What is the essential lie?

The essential truth is that Sri Krishna, the son of Vasudeva is all-fortunate and all-attraction. The essential lie is that we can compete with him for a similar position as the focal point of affection, pleasure, admiration, power, knowledge, etc.

This is the lie that must be cast off if we are to realize our true potential as entity that factually exist. To meditate upon the all-fortunate beauty and attractiveness of Sri Krishna is the medicine that allows and encourages us to cast off our lie and cut our hearts free from it’s thick encrusting embrace.

The Srimad Bhagavatam is 18,000 verses of such meditation.

We have just tasted a drop of the first!