Category Archives: 1.06 Narada’s Life Story

The Perfect Carefree Musician

1.6.34

Those with hearts troubled by the ceaseless hunger of the senses for sensual objects can cross that oceanic depth on the boat of hearing about the activities of Hari. I have seen it myself.

35

Following the rules of yoga can also destroy tenacious lust and greed, but does not truly satisfy the soul as does loving service of the Lotus Faced.

36

I’ve said all this to answer your questions, sinless one. These secrets behind my birth and activities will also bring you satisfaction.

As Nārada prepares to depart Vyāsa’s company, he leaves him with the most important instructions, “You are depressed because you feel you haven’t truly fulfilled your vow of truly helping humanity, despite your legendary efforts. You have even presented wonderful mystical and philosophical paths (Yoga, etc.) which can alleviate pain, but cannot grant positive pleasure. Your efforts are still incomplete because you have not yet adequately stressed the importance of divine love, which is cultivated and experienced through loving discussion of the glorious name and fame of the All-Attractive, Hari. That is how I became free from sadness and immersed in joy. That is how you will also overcome your depression and incompleteness and experience bliss, as will all of humanity.”

37-38

Sūta said: having said all this, the learned and blessed Nārada Vāsavī’s-son began playing his vīṇa and left to go wherever he might. Ah! The sage of the gods is so fortunate! He delights in playing this instrument and singing the kīrtan of the Bow-Carrier. Thus he brings pleasure into the world of distress.

Sūta expresses his honest and natural admiration of Nārada, whose sole duty is to go wherever he likes playing a divine musical instrument and singing in a manner that brings pleasure to a world otherwise thoroughly beset with distress and anxiety. Many musicians are envied by those who work hard, but none know the secret as well as Narada. To be the perfect carefree bard and musical genius, and to thus bring the highest joy constantly to oneself and one’s audience, one must sing the name and fame of the All-Attractive.

According to Vedic martial sciences, the finest human bows cannot match the weight and size of the bows of heaven, and in turn those heavenly bows cannot compare to one unique bow called Śārnga, which is the sole property of Vishnu. One name for Godhead therefore is “Bow-Carrier.”

English: Lady with Musical Instrument in Bengal

Bengali Lady Plays a Vina

 


The Reincarnation of Nārada

[1.6.25]

Having said that, that great master of beings known by sound not sight, stopped speaking. Feeling grateful for his favor I bowed my head to the glorified of the great.

The second time the boy directly experienced the All-Attractive was not visually, but aurally. However by analogy it is also true that God can be heard in sound more easily than seen by sight.

[26]

Shamelessly chanting the names of the Unlimited and remembering his auspicious and mysterious deeds I travelled the world with a mind full of satisfaction and void of desires, awaiting that time without pride or hatred.

After this second encounter with the All-Attractive, the boy received the news that they would not again meet until he was fully purified. So Nārada set out to accomplish that objective. It is quite essential for a spiritualist to be shameless. We cannot get far by feeling embarrassed of our affection for the All-Attractive. Without embarrassment the boy went about everywhere chanting the names of the Unlimited All-Attractive. By this chanting he constantly remembered the very confidential, mysterious, auspicious and purifying deeds of Kṛṣṇa. He knew that by doing so he would soon attain complete purity, and therefore kept no space in his heart reserved for pride or hatred.

[27]

Thus by keeping my mind on Kṛṣṇa I remained free from attachments and my soul became completely pure. In due course of time, that time appeared, like lightning from a cloud.

In due course, the boy attained complete purity by chanting the names of the All-Attractive and remembering his divine deeds. When that time came there was a very sudden illumination. The purified child was like a cloud, and suddenly the divine energy of Godhead appeared like a flash of golden lightning.

[28]

A pure body fit to associate with Godhead was awarded to me, and the limiting body of five elements fell away.

The flash of lightning of Godhead’s energy granted to the boy a form that is on a par with God’s own limitless form. The limiting, restrictive body created by earth, water, fire, air and ether just fell away unnoticed. This spiritual body is Nārada.

[29-30]

At the end of the kalpa, during devestation, Nārāyaṇa lay upon the ocean and recalled everything within himself by inhaling, including Brahmā and I. When this creation had expired for a thousand ages the desire to create caused the sages, headed by Marīci to appear from his exhalation. I too appeared.

A kalpa is a very long measure of time defined as a thousand revolutions of the four ages. By celestial reckoning this comes to roughly 4.32 billion years. This duration is equal to one day for the creator, Brahmā; just a day, not a night. At the end each day, Brahmā must sleep and during that time everything in his universe disintegrates. The Purusha (Original Incarnation of Godhead) from which Brahmā was born inhales and thus recalls within himself all the components of creation, including Brahmā. Not everything is destroyed by this inhalation. The very highest entities in the universe, like Brahmā and Nārada merely rest within the Purusha for another kalpa. When the kalpa of rest is completed, Purusha exhales and a new kalpa of creation begins.

 [31]

By the kindness of Mahā Viṣṇu I keep my unbroken vow going anywhere whenever I like, inside or outside of the three worlds.

What vow? The next text says…

[32]

I move about carrying this vīṇā given to me by God, which resonates ornate spiritual notes, singing about Hari.

This is the vow begun in Nārada’s previous life which remains still unbroken – to constantly sing the name and fame of the Heart-Stealer, Hari. In appreciation of this loving vow, Hari gave Nārada a special divine musical instrument.

[33]

When I sing of the heroism of the Delightful Topic, who feet create sacred places, he quickly appears in my consciousness and grants audience as if responding to my call.


Divine Visions

[1.6.21]

Alas, during this lifetime you will not be able to see me again. Your undissolved impurities interrupt our link, and I remain beyond your vision.

[22]

You saw my beauty once to increase your desires, O sinless. By increasing their desire for me, the saintly make their hearts completely pure.

[23]

This behavior of the saintly very quickly generates strong dedication to me. Casting off this deplorable world they become my personal associates.

We are given momentary glimpses of the infinite sweetness of the All-Attractive even when material impurities still remain encrusted around our pure being. These visions serve a purpose. They increase our desire to be rid of the impurities which interrupt the link that makes it possible for the infinitesimal soul to drink the beauty of the infinite Attractive One. Desire is the strongest impetus. Thus momentary glimpses of divine love increase our desire for pure love, and this increased desire causes the mind and intellect to become unyieldingly dedicated to again attaining realization of the All-Attractive. This complete dedication, fueled by desire, casts off the lasts remaining impurities and the pure soul goes into pure existence where it becomes a personal companion of the All-Attractive.

[24]

A mind dedicated to me can never be lost. Even when the universe is destroyed and created, all is remembered by my mercy.

This answers Vyāsa’s question, “How can you remember your previous life so vividly, especially considering that it was in a previous universe!?” The answer is that when intelligence is fixed in the eternality of the personality of Godhead, it can never be lost. Godhead himself protects the continuity of memory of a mind dedicated to him. Neither the creation and destruction of one’s own body nor the creation and destruction of the world itself can break the continuity of intelligence and memory rooted in Godhead.

 


The Boy Sees God

[1.6.16]

As I meditated upon his lotus-like feet, gradually all of my thoughts and emotions became enrapt in spiritual affection, I became very enthusiastic, tears rolled from my eyes, and Hari appeared within my heart.

[17]

O learned one, my body completely overwhelmed with ecstasies, an excess of incomparable divine love drowned me in a flood of spiritual bliss and I could not see a second thing.

[18]

The beauty of the All-Attractive charms the mind and makes everything else disappear. Suddenly losing sight of him, I stood up in distress like a person who has lost everything.

[19]

Desiring to find him, I again set my mind into my heart and searched. In spite of my effort, I could not see him and became tormented with dissatisfaction.

[20]

Seeing me struggling alone, he who is beyond reach spoke to me in a deep and delightful voice that pacified my sadness.

In 16 we see the six-year old boy’s spiritual practice begin and very soon attain bhāva, the eighth of nine stages of progress in bhakti-yoga. He began at this high stage because of his previous practice with the Kṛṣṇa Saṁkīrtanists during the previous rainy and autumn seasons, and his consequent contemplations and efforts.

In 17 we see bhāva maturing into prema, the final stage of progress. The nature of prema (divine love) is to completely submerge the consciousness in a deluge of ecstasy which is so all-consuming that one loses perception of anything and everything else.

In 18 we see that in the transition from bhāva to prema there are temporary perceptions of tangible spiritual reality. Losing touch with them causes extreme distress in the heart, which is the fire that finally burns off the last remaining impurities of self-centered ego.

In 19 we see the boy try to apply the same technique that previously worked, but this time it would not work. Text 20 answers the question of why it did not work: Godhead is beyond the boundaries of where our mind and senses can extend. Therefore by their own efforts they cannot directly perceive Godhead. The revelation of Hari’s divine beauty in text 17 came to the boy not directly as a result of his efforts to meditate, but as a result of those efforts invoking special mercy from Hari. In text 19 Hari is applying a different type of special mercy to prepare the boy for his full mercy. In text 20, merciful Hari feels compelled to speak to the child and explain all this.


Nārada Begins his Sādhana

[1.6.1]

Sūta said: O brahmins, hearing all this about the Sage of the Gods – the incarnation of the All-Attractive, Vyāsa Satyavatī’s-son asked more questions about his birth and deeds.

[2-4]

Vyāsa asked: What did you do between the departure of the wanderers who instructed you and the beginning of your present life? O Son of the Selfborn, how did you spend the rest of that lifetime? How did you eventually give up that life and attain your current body? O supermost of the learneds, all these things happened in a previous creation, but the annihilation of time seems to have not touched your memory at all. Why?

[5]

Nārada answered: This is what I did between the departure of the wanderers who instructed me and the start of my present lifetime.

[6-7]

I was my mother’s only child, a simple and low-born woman, a servant with no status. She had nothing but me. So she firmly embraced me in bonds of affection. She only wanted to care for and protect me, but she couldn’t. Like everyone, she is not independent, but is just like a puppet in the hands of fate.

[8]

I did not know left from right, before from after, I only knew my mother. But when I was five years old I went to live with a teacher for my schooling.

[9]

At that time, the poor woman went out at night to milk the cows. On the path a snake bit her foot, and thus time struck her down.

[10]

‘Fate is but a vehicle through which God expresses his affectionate blessings upon the devoted.’ Making up my mind like that, I departed towards the north.

The meeting with the Kṛṣṇa-saṁkīrtanists which awakened his spiritual enlightenment uccured when the boy was roughly four or five years old. After they left, the boy did not abandon his loving and dependent mother. He continued to be indebted to her affection. When he turned five, his mother enrolled him with a local teacher for education. While the boy was living there, his mother had to do his chores, such as going out at night to milk the cows. Once while doing so she was bitten by a snake and died. The young boy realized that the loss of his loving mother, though sad, represented the end of his normal responsibilities and duties. Therefore he left everything behind and began walking due north.

The four directions represent the four goals of life. North is the final direction, counted by following the Sun’s path beginning from sunrise in the northern hemisphere. Thus the north represents the final goal: liberation. That is why it is an ancient custom to walk due north without possessions to renounce ones material existence.

[11-15]

I passed flourishing populations, towns, villages, farms, mines, plains, valleys, gardens, nurseries and forests. I entered the hills and mountains of many precious metals. All around were trees with branches broken by huge elephants, and pure lakes with lotus flowers that would attract the hearts of the citizens of heaven, decorated with birds and bees. I also roamed through rows of bamboo, and pens of sharp grass and weeds; alone in inaccessible caves; in fearsome forests, the playgrounds of dangerous snakes, owls, and jackals. Exhausted body and soul, thirsty and hungry, I bathed and drank in the pool of a river and got relief. There, in an uninhabited forest, I sat beneath the shelter of a banyan tree, focused myself upon the self within myself, and contemplated what I had learned that time.

“That time” refers to the rainy season the boy spent with the Kṛṣṇa-saṁkīrtanists. As one walks due north in India one eventually enters the Himalayan peaks. It seems Nārada has retraced that path for us, a path gradually becoming less civilized and passing into the wonders and horrors of raw nature. The experience of leaving behind humanity and making peace with the raw forces of nature is an important pre-requisite to deep spiritual contemplation.


Nārada’s Previous Life

Nārada has just finished explaining to Vyāsa why if he really wants to accomplish his goal of benefitting humanity he must give direct voice to the names, forms, qualities, and activities of the All-Attractive. Now he tells the story of his past life to illustrate how powerfully purifying it is to hear about the All-Attractive.

[1.5.23]

O scholar, in a previous creation I was the child of an insignificant maidservant. During the rainy season she was assigned to carefully attend the domestic needs of philosophers and mystics.

Nārada is one of the first children of the first being in the universe, Brahmā. So the words Nārada uses to mean “a previous life” also mean “a previous universe.”

[24]

I was not like most children, obsessed with frivolous games. I had discipline, was quiet, and listened carefully to instructions. Therefore I could make good use of the impartial mercy the learned bestow.

Divine mercy is infinitely ever-present. It is only lack of humility which causes us to close ourselves off from it. This boy had natural humility, and thus made very good use of the time he spent with saintly people.

[25]

For example, they allowed me to eat what remained on their plates. This erased all my karma and made my heart very pure. Thus I became naturally attracted to their way of life.

Eating the food left behind after one has served a pure person infects one with purity. When the heart is pure its constitutional attraction to the spiritual becomes self-manifest.

[26]

So I would go and listen to them; and they would affectionately sing to me about Kṛṣṇa. With great interest and care I paid attention to everything they described. Thus I acquired a real taste, O dear one, for the Beloved Subject of Discussion.

The boy found, among all the philosophers and mystics gathered during the rainy season, a special group of people who always enthusiastically sang about All-Attractive Kṛṣṇa (kṛṣṇa-kathāḥ pragāyatām).  One name for the All-Attractive is Priyaśrava, “The Beloved Subject of Discussion.”

[27]

O genius, when I got that taste my attention could not waver from the Beloved Subject. I saw that I was bewildered by thinking of myself as something temporary. I came to know myself as transcendental spirit.

[28]

So, throughout the rainy season and into the autumn I continued hearing the saṁkīrtan of those learned great-souls glorifying the pure fame of Hari. My devotion began to flow and the passion and ignorance that had covered me eroded.

Both the boy and the great souls were enjoying their kīrtana so much that they could not part when the time came at the end of the rainy season. All the other philosophers and mystics departed but the boy and the great souls continued hearing and chanting about All-Attractive Kṛṣṇa. This soon caused a river of divine love to begin pouring from what was previously the glacier of the boy’s spiritual heart. That river quickly and powerfully eroded the dirt of passion and ignorance which had covered his pure, clear spiritual existence.

[29]

I really loved them, and so listened to and followed them carefully. All the impurities of that faithful boy were destroyed I began to behave like them.

[30]

Being affectionate and compassionate towards the needy, before leaving me they instructed me on the most confidential knowledge that the All-Attractive himself gives.

[31]

By this instruction certainly I understood the powerful influence of the true creator – the Son of Vasudeva – and became prepared to attain him.

[32]

O Brahmin, the instruction was this: ‘The learned know that the best remedy for all miseries is to dedicate ones duty to the All-Attractive Master.’

When finally departing, the great souls told the boy how to perfect what he had begun to attain in their company. They gave him the same knowledge that Kṛṣṇa himself gives in Bhagavad-Gītā: Do not renounce active life, but change your activities so that their motive is to please the All-Attractive Master.

Vyāsa may be surprised that such great souls gave such an apparently simplified instruction to a boy who had already attained so much spiritual advancement. After all, action and duty is the very first rung on the Vedic ladder of spirituality. So Nārada said…

[33-34]

O man of good action, can’t same thing that causes a disease cure it when administered properly? So, activities cause our material bondage, but activities can also destroy it when they are dedicated towards spiritual ends.

This is a homeopathic principle.

[35]

Whatever one does to please the All-Attractive thoroughly links one to the All-Attractive with the bonds of divine love. What we call “knowledge” is but a dependent of this link.

Normally duty purifies one of selfishness, and thus allows one to more clearly perceive knowledge. Thus normally duty is subservient to knowledge. But when duties are dedicated to the pleasure of Godhead the paradigm is reversed. Knowledge becomes a maidservant facilitating the link of divine love.

[36]

By endeavoring to please the All-Attractive by following his instructions, one naturally always remembers and embraces the qualities and names of Kṛṣṇa.

Activities dedicated to pleasing Kṛṣṇa are so purifying because they cause one to always remember Kṛṣṇa. It is actually the remembrance of Kṛṣṇa which is purifying, not the action itself. But the action is a catalyst.

[37]

‘Now hear this transcendental message: I focus on you, the All-Attractive, and contemplate you. Vāsudeva, Pradyumna, Aniruddha and Saṁkarṣaṇa are the focus, not I.’

To validate that duties properly performed cause one to remember Kṛṣṇa, Nārada here quotes a Vedic mantra to be invoked when doing regular duties.

 [38]

A person with perfect vision worships the Object of Sacrifice in the form of sound.

The “Object of Sacrifice” is Yajña, another name for Viṣṇu. God “in the form of sound” (mantra-mūrti) is especially the Saṁkīrtan Yajña singing of the mahā-mantra:

hare kṛṣṇa, hare kṛṣṇa, kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa, hare hare
hare rāma, hare rāma, rāma rāma, hare hare

Since the power of divine action is in its ability to inspire remembrance of the names and forms of the All-Attractive, one with good vision wants to spend as much time as possible directly engaged in discussing and singing the names and qualities of Kṛṣṇa. Therefore the best action to perform for Kṛṣṇa’s pleasure is to discuss and sing about the Subject of Topmost Poetry.

[39]

O brahmin, that is how I obtained realized knowledge of Godhead. I acted upon it and was granted knowledge of Godhead’s opulent and multifarious powers. This lead me to personal affection for The Most Beautiful.

Nārada attained his status by Kṛṣṇa-saṁkīrtana: singing and discussing the names and qualities of the Divine Beloved. Keśava is a name for the All-Attractive indicating his beauty, especially due to his beautiful hair.

[40]

You also have learned by compiling the vast Veda that the wise who always seek knowledge try to please the Almighty. Describe this, and the miserable masses will get liberated from their constant suffering and sadness; from which there is no other escape.

Nārada concludes his story of his past life by saying, “Give direct voice to the names, forms, qualities, and activities of the All-Attractive. Thus accomplish your goal of liberating people from suffering. I am the proof that it works. Make them attracted to the All-Attractive.”