Tag Archives: God

Arjuna’s Non-Duality

SB 1.15.31

Without grief and endowed with spirituality, he [Arjuna] completely cut off all dualistic doubts and dissolved them into energy that is unqualified by shapes and manifestations.

Confusion and grief arises due to dvaita, duality. In the final issue, duality means to consider the self different from Godhead. We are not identical to God, but God is identical to us. It may not be feasible to suitably explain this subtle spiritual principle here in words, which are subject to argument and interpretation. But if the sincere soul meditates upon this with eagerness to please Godhead by the endeavor, it will become clear.

Arjuna felt himself to be separated from Kṛṣṇa, therefore he plunged into extreme doubt and grief. But by deeply contemplating the wisdom he received from Kṛṣṇa in Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna was able to rid himself of the grief that arises from dualism. He got rid of the duality (daita-saṁśaya) by dissolving it into spiritual energy, an energy that is beyond qualification (līna prakṛti-nairguṇyāt) by shapes (alinga) and manifestations (asambhava). Specifically, Arjuna felt that Kṛṣṇa was gone simply because his shape could no longer be tangibly seen manifest in the world. He got rid of this ignorance by realizing that Kṛṣṇa is everywhere at all times. The knowledge of Bhagavad Gita helped him realize this.

When he attained this realization his lamentation was finished (viśoka) and in its place he became filled with a wealth of spirituality (brahma-sampattyā). Another interpretation may be that his lamentation became very special, and purely spiritual as a result of realizing the non-duality of Kṛṣṇa and his simultaneous absence and presence.

32

Yudhiṣṭhira was very troubled about the road taken by the All-Attractive and the destruction of the Yadu family. Feeling lonely and alone, he made up his mind to himself follow the same road.

33

When Pṛthā [Kuntī] heard the Wealth Winner [Arjuna] speak of the Yadu’s destruction and the final destination of the All-Attractive, with undeviating and nakedly soulful divine love for the transcendent All-Attractive she ceased her material existence.

Arjuna’s mother gave up her life in Bhakti-Yoga Samadhi when she heard the horrible news from Arjuna.

34-35

One removes a thorn using another thorn and then discards both. Similarly the Unborn took a body to remove the burdens of the world and then discarded both. He grasps the forms of a fish and so on and then lets go of them, just like a magician. When they have relieved the world of her burdens, he lets go of that body.

36

When the All-Attractive Lotus Face in this world let go of his body, which is the subject for spiritual discussion and praise, right then and there Kali appeared, causing ill-fortune and underdevelopment of the mind and intellect.

37

Yudhiṣṭhira comprehended that serpent crawling forth through his city, state, and his home and even his own person. He saw greed, falsehood, trickery, violence and so on forming a wheel of immorality. So, he made ready to leave.

38

He had educated his grandson to be as qualified as him, and enthroned him to reign in Gajāhvaye City as the emperor of all the earth bordered by the seas.

39

Then he made Vajra the king of Śūrasena, in Mathurā. Having fulfilled his duties as a householder, he became capable to follow the inner fire.

40

Letting go of everything, his exquisite clothing and jewelry, without sense of “mine” and without selfishness, he completely cut off unlimited relationships.

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Safety in a House of Horrors

1.13.44

Maybe you think life is eternal, maybe you think it is temporary. In either case it is foolish to lament over affection, or anything else.

They key Sanskrit word in this text is dhruva, “permanent, real, reliable, changeless.” If the world is dhruva than nothing can be lost forever, so there is no need to lament. If the world is not dhruva than nothing can be kept forever, so what is the point of lamenting?

45

You worry, thinking, “But how can those poor helpless people survive without me?” You feel this way because you are ignorant of who and what you really are. Give this up.

46

You are in a body created by five elements and controlled by habit, causality and fate. You are like a person bitten by a snake, who rushes to help others.

The body is made of things we have no control over: the five primordial elements earth, water, fire, air and ether. It is controlled by habituations (guṇa), the law of causality (karma), and its resultant fate (kāla). To be encased in a body that is we can barely control is a perilous danger, like being bitten by a snake.

If a person bit by a snake wants to help anyone else, the first thing he has to do is stop himself from dying in the next few moments. Similarly if we really want to help anyone, the first thing we have to do is gain control of our selves; which is truly accomplished by self-realization and liberation from the wheel of karma. A person tied to the wheel of karma cannot free anyone else.

47-48

The strong devour the weak. The four-legged devour the legless. Those with hands devour those without. Life lives at the expense of the living.

Nārada says, “You think, ‘Oh no, my Uncles and Aunt have left the safety of my palace!’ This is ignorant. In this world life devours itself to remain alive. Is this ‘safe’? Animals devour plants. Humans devour animals. The strong devour the week. Does this principle not operate within your palace, too? No place is ‘safe.’”

48

In this frightful situation, O Emperor, we must try to see the All-Attractive inside and outside of everything; the one soul of all souls. It is a bewilderment to look towards any other.

The soul is the source of life and safety. No one but the soul of all souls can truly protect our life and ensure our safety. Therefore, in this house of horrors, we must try to see that one All-Attractive soul inside and outside of everything – and look towards him for protection. Only a fool looks elsewhere.


Is God Toying With Us?

Painting of the heavenly musician Tumbara. &qu...

38

Just then godly Nārada arrived with Tumburu. Everyone stood up to offer respectful greetings to the scholar.

Tumburu is considered the best Gandharva, musicians of heaven. He accompanies Nārada to assist his kīrtana.

39-40

Yudhiṣṭhira said:

“O godly one, I don’t know where my uncles and austere aunt have gone, aggrieved over the death of their children.  Your ears can guide us beyond the insurmountable limits of our own limitations.”

Then, godly Nārada, the most spiritual scholar, began to speak.

The king tells the divine scholar, “Your ears can guide us beyond the insurmountable limits of our own limitations.” The Sanskrit here is karṇa-dhāra iva apāre pāra-darśakaḥ. The first compound, karṇa-dhāra, literally means “someone with ears.” It implies someone with excellent perception, to which everyone seems deaf and blind by comparison. The phrase is often used for pilots and helmsmen, the people who can see where they are going. (The thing that steers a vessel is called an “ear” in Sanskrit. A person who steers is the one who “has the ear.”)

A person with superior perception can show us (darśana) what is beyond (apāra) our own limited (pāra) perception. The metaphor is that a good pilot can take one across insurmountable distances and obstacles.

41

Nārada said:

By no means should you weep, King. Everything is controlled by the Master. Everyone and all their leaders pay tribute to him, seeking sanctuary. He brings living beings together, and also takes them apart.

42

A cow has a rope through its nose. For humans, the rope is made of his orders. Thus all pay him tribute and receive sanctuary.

43

Just like a playful child brings his toys together and separates them as he likes, so too are humans moved by the will of the Master.

The implication here is that God is “playing with us.” This begs a very wrong connotation, because God is fundamentally unique and different than every other living being. “Playing with something” implies using a thing for one’s own enjoyment. A child does not play with toys to make the toys happy. This is because there is no intrinsic unity of being between himself and the toy. Even in an abstract philosophical sense, the bond of existential unity between a child and a toy is created by the Supersoul, it is not inherent in the subjects and objects themselves. At a more practical, subjective level we obviously know that a child comes from his mother’s womb while a toy comes from somewhere else, probably a factory in China. This disunity of origin does not exist between Godhead and the souls, both of which have their root-of-being  in Godhead.  So God’s play is different from child’s play. God does “play with us” but does not “toy with us.” A toy has no unity with the child that plays with it. But the soul does have unity with Godhead. Thus what serves the child may not always serve the toy, but what serves God always does serve the soul as well. The “play” of Godhead is therefore free from the taint of selfishness. His play benefits everyone.

We have very small, localized vision. Therefore it is not always obvious to us how the movements of God’s drama, which often appear cruel and painful, can somehow be sweet and divine. That is why we sorely need people like Nārada; people whose “ears” extend beyond our range of hearing; people who can show us the sweetness of divine will even in the midst of our tears and confusion.


Krishna’s Lust & Divine Ignorance

1.11.34

So, without fighting he inspired the kings (who were creatures that burdened the earth by hording powerful armies) to hate and kill each other, just like fire in the bamboo.

Kṛṣṇa is transcendental. What does that word mean? Trans- means across, -scend means movement, so the word means “a thing which moves across.” Specifically it indicates a thing which operates within a certain boundary, without being bound to or originated by anything within that boundary. When Krishna “incarnates” he operates within a field that ordinary material senses and minds can perceive and comprehend. Although moving within these boundaries, he is not bound within them and does not originate within them.

The wind is transcendental to a forest. It moves through the forest. It can be perceived within the forest. It causes things to happen within the forest, but it is not a product of the forest. In a bamboo forest, many of the reeds get brown and dry. When the winds come, friction between these reeds causes a huge fire. The green reeds survive because the fire burns very quickly. The brown reeds turn to ash and fertilize the ground.

What caused the fire, The wind?

In a sense, yes, but the wind is transcendent to the forest.

Friction?

Perhaps, but friction is dependent on the wind and the density of the dry reeds.

The real cause of the fire is the brownness of the bamboo itself. Similarly the real cause of all the kings dying in the Mahābhārata war is their own foulness. Our own deaths and misfortunes are also not caused by random fate. Fate is merely the friction enabled by the abundance of brown reeds in our mentality. As for God, his part in our suffering or fortune is extremely remote. He is merely the wind that blows impartially everywhere. The real cause of our misfortunes is not being “green bamboo,” not being rooted into the soul of divinity. Misusing our freewill to uproot ourselves from our true nature, we become dry and brown – and it is then only a matter of time before we are burnt.

The theme that Sūta will continue to present is that Kṛṣṇa is transcendental to all the effects caused within human perception.

35

He appears in the human world by his own magic. He enjoys amidst a host of jewel-like women, who are the All-Attractive energy.

Krishna is transcendental to the human world. How then does he fit inside it?

By his own all-powerful magic (sva-māyā).

What does he do in the human world?

He enjoys!

How?

He becomes the cynosure of a necklace made of jewel-like females (strī-ratna-kūṭastha).

Ordinary sexuality!?

Yes and no. Ordinary sexuality dimly reflects the external appearance of this necklace; but in truth these women are the direct All-Attractive Energies (bhagavān-prākṛti), the divine goddesses, eternal manifestations of the fullness of the Absolute All-Attractive Being.

36

Their limitlessly exciting and pure emotions expressed through lovely smiles and flirtatious glances overpower cupid himself, who gives up his bow. But the schemes of these utmost intoxicating women never could overpower his senses.

A human male reflexively drools and stupefies over a highly attractive woman out of an involuntary need to fulfill an inner hunger. The All-Attractive Male does not at any time relate to women in this manner, although his legendary pastimes with women crush any playboy or “Don Juan” into shameful dust. The All-Attractive male is exactly opposite to the material imitation of manhood. The deeds of the All-Attractive result from an overflowing of his inner self-satisfaction, a desire to amplify his pure and natural bliss by sharing it in infinite ways with infinite other beings.

37

So many ordinary people think that the unattached is attached. Ordinary people are tied up in ignorance and stupidity, and they think everyone else must be just like them.

38

This is the mastery of the master: Although situated within his energy, he does not merge himself with it but remains always fixed within his true self. This is also true of the wise who take shelter of him.

Godhead can most certainly operate in names and forms and deeds which the human mind can perceive and comprehend, but this does not mean that in doing so he becomes limited to those names, forms, and deeds! There is so much chatter about Krishna from the pens, keyboards and mouths of trolls. Such is not kirtan. We have confidence that we can come to understand and realize the All-Attractive by hearing from Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, not from loudmouths who cannot grasp the simple algebras of transcendence.

39

They think he is weak and foolish, secretly led around by women. Their opinion about The Husband is of no importance! He is the Supreme Master!

This verse has another implication: “Kṛṣṇa’s wives, although knowing that their husband is the supreme controller (bhartuḥ īśvaram matayaḥ yathā), still treat him as if he is a weak, simple, submissive man (abalāḥ mūḍhāḥ strainam ca) as they lead him around in private affairs (anuvratam rahaḥ).

In a philosophy class I once took in college I encountered some sort of Zen saying, “In the beginning a teapot is a teapot. In the middle a teapot is not a teapot. In the end a teapot is a teapot.” It is appropriate here. Fools do not treat Kṛṣṇa as Godhead; the enlightened do; but the most enlightened again do not.

Fools do not treat Kṛṣṇa as Godhead because they are bewildered by ignorance and are so egotistical that they think everyone, including Kṛṣṇa, must be fundamentally just like them. The enlightened are not burdened by this ignorance, so they treat Kṛṣṇa as Godhead. But the fully enlightened become intoxicated by the universal desire to amplify the infinite all-expansive bliss of Kṛṣṇa, and thus submerge themselves into roles within the Divine Play. The Queens of Dvārakā take the roles of Kṛṣṇa’s wives.

Here is another way to understand it. The all-powerful awe-inspiring stature of Godhead is like a huge mountain. Blind men cannot see it. The sighted can. But when there is a flood of divine bliss, the mountain submerges. The greater the divine love, the higher the flood. In the topmost divine lovers the mountain is entirely submerged. The mountain, however, never ceases to exist.


The Origin of Karma and Illusion

1.7.1

Śaunaka asked: After Bādarāyaṇa heard godly Nārada speak and then leave, what did he do, O Sūta?

Bādarāyaṇa is a name of Vyāsa, whose main headquarters is at Badarīk Ashram in the Himalayas.

2

Sūta answered: On the western shore of the sacred river Sarasvatī, in a place called Śamyāprāsa, is an ashram reputed to be ideal for spiritual research.

3

There, surrounded by Badarī trees, is Vyāsa’s personal ashrama where he sat, washed his hands and focused his mind within.

Vyāsa’s headquarter is called Badarīk Ashrama because it is surrounded by Badarī trees; a type of cotton shrub called Jujube. The Śrīmad Bhāgavatam does not agree with those who contend that Bādarāyaṇa and Vyāsa are entirely different people. The arguments of those who dissect the universe into slices which fit their preconceived misconceptions are endless and serve little purpose.

4-6

[4:] Perfectly linking his mind in pure devotion, he saw the Complete Original Person, with all energies at his command. [5:] These energies bewilder the transcendent soul to blindly conceive of itself as a product of matter; and to become caught up in the endeavor for useless things. [6:] This entanglement with useless things can be erased straightaway by linking oneself to the Supreme in divine love. Because people in general don’t know this, Vyāsa compiled this spiritual treatise.

7

Just listen carefully to it and devotion for the All-Attracative Paramount Personality, Kṛṣṇa, will take root, extinguishing the laments, confusions, and fears of humanity.

I will offer my insignificant but hopefully useful comments on texts one through seven.

Nārada told Vyāsa to personally realize the importance of divine love and then express that realization as a new addition to the Veda. So when Nārada departed, Vyāsa went to his ashram and sat in deep meditation.

Text 4 describes the type of meditation and the vision he obtained by it. Vyāsa meditated by the yoga of devotion. Thus he succeeded in attaining an absolutely perfect link from his mind to the Paramount Person (bhakti-yogena manasi samyak paṇihite ‘male). What he then beheld was a vision of that Supreme Person with all energies completely at his command (apaśyat puruṣaṁ pūrṇaṁ māyāṁ ca tad-apāśrayam).

Vyāsa saw that the Personal Being of Godhead is in control of every other energy. This directly contradicts the idea that a personal God is a figment, a myth, a primitive anthropomorphic impulse of simple minds. Even people within the modern religions of the world are infected with this concept. It is not the concept held by Vyāsa when he composed Śrīmad Bhāgavatam. Vyāsa saw that the creative and illusive powers that be are under the control of Godhead, not visa versa (māyām ca tad-apāśrayam).

Text 5 describes the illusion created by one of the Paramount Person’s energies. This energy bewilders not God, but the infinitesimal fragment of God, the soul (yasyā sammohito jīva).

Why does God want to bewilder anyone?

God loves everyone. Loving a person means that you want to fulfill their desires and care for their needs. God uses his energy for this purpose alone. When someone wants to experience existence from the point of view of being the center, the focal point of all attention and affection – God, as always, wants to fulfill that desire. Normally this is exclusively God’s experience of reality, but to share it with the souls who so desire God employs his energy to create a completely compelling and fully believable illusion. In this illusion the soul accepts an temporary identity like a role in a drama (ātmānaṁ triguṇātmakam paro ‘pi manute), and in that persona pursues various goals, which are props of no real value or use to us outside the context of the drama (anarthaṁ tat-kṛtaṁ cābhipadyate).

Love means to fulfill the beloved’s desires, and care for their needs. So God’s energies not only fulfill our desires, they tend to our needs. The soul may desire to be self-centered, but what it eventually needs is to be willingly harmonious with its essential nature. God’s energy bewilders the soul into a sensation which fulfills its impossible dreams, but also provides the possibility of reform. How? By responsibility. The energy of illusion (māyā) bewilders us, and the energy of responsibility (karma) offers us reformation.

Text 6 describes the best method of reform. Vyāsa saw that the best way to delete the complications of illusion is by divine love. We are also an energy of Godhead, so we should also place ourselves into his shelter and control. The best way to place oneself in the hands of another is by pure love. Thus Vyāsa understood that divine love (bhakti-yoga) is the best remedy for illusion.

So Vyāsa became personally inspired to do what Nārada asked of him: create a new spiritual treatise (sātvata-saṁhita) which would help the common man understand what Vyāsa has just personally understood in his mystical vision.

Text 7 tells us that if we just listen carefully to that treatise, divine love for the All-Attractive Paramount Personality, Kṛṣṇa, will take root in our heart (yasyāṁ vai śrūyamāṇāyāṁ kṛṣṇe parama-pūruṣe bhaktir utpadyate). The side effect of that divine love is to extinguish all human lamentation, illusion and fear (śoka-moha-bhayāpahā).

The River Sarasvati Closeby Vyasa's Ashrama in the Himalayas


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.

 


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.


The People Behind the Bhagavatam

 [1.4.1]

Elderly Śaunaka, leader of the sages at the prolonged sacrifice, congratulated and encouraged Sūta.

In this section the head of the sages stood up to congratulate Sūta for his plan to retell the Bhāgavatam, and in excitement inquires about the three most important people responsible for creating the Bhāgavatam: Vyāsa, who conceived of it, Śuka, who put it into words, and Parīkṣit, who inspired Śuka to do so.

[2]

“O Sūta! O greatly blessed Sūta!!! O greatest speaker among speakers, speak to us! Tell us the purifying messages of the All-Attractive, which you learned from blessedly powerful Śuka.

 [3]

A portrayal of Vyasa, who classified the Vedas...

Dark Complexioned Vyasa

“When, where and why was The Black inspired to create this book?

“The Black” is a name for Vyāsa, whose complexion was black. He is therefore also called Kṛṣṇa (“black”), as a short form of his full name: Kṛṣṇa-Dvaipāyana-Vyāsa.

[4]

“His son was a great mystic who saw everything as the same, had no ulterior motives, and was of one mind, fully-awakened; but kept it hidden by appearing to be a fool.

Vyāsa’s son is Śuka. Next, Śaunaka will illustrate the above qualities with an incident he heard about:

[5]

“When naked Śuka passed a group of beautiful bathing women they felt no shyness at all. When his father, Vyāsa came following close behind, however, they scrambled to cover their bodies. Astonished, Vyāsa inquired from the ladies, who told the sage, ‘You see differences between men and women, but your son does not. His sight is pure.’

It is extremely astonishing that a naked young man could pass a group of naked young women bathing without either parties minding or even significantly noticing one another. This is a powerful tribute to the depth of spiritual realization attained by Śuka. True realization is obvious to everyone, you can “sense” it. The women were fully aware that Śuka did not see them as naked women, but as spiritual entities. Therefore they did not mind or even respond at all when the naked young man passed them.

What does this say about Vyāsa’s level of realization? Is it inferior to his son’s?

In a sense, yes, that is what the sage is trying to convey. “Śuka is so great, even superior to Vyāsa.” Although Vyāsa had the same deep realization as his son, the practicalities of his lifestyle were not on that level, and thus his vision was not accustomed to operate on a par with his true realization. Vyāsa was a family man involved in having children, etc. Therefore in practice Vyāsa had to, as a duty, differentiate on a material level between things like male and female. Śuka, however, immediately renounced any type of normal lifestyle and existed on the platform of his pure realization without compromise. Therefore his functional vision was even superior to his father, the revered Vyāsa.

The quality of complete indifference to the male-female polarity in nature is a deep and inimitable trademark of the “equal-vision” which accompanies deep spiritual understanding. It is important to remember that our tendency to see and treat men and women differently is an embarrassment, albeit an embarrassment that is required to keep normal affairs functioning.

[6]

“When he reached the city of Gaja Sāhvage looking wild, deaf and dumb coming out of the Kuru Jungle, how did the citizens appreciate him?

Gaja Sāhvage is another name for Hastināpura, which has now become Delhi.

[7]

“My dear boy, how did he meet the Pandava King – thus setting the stage for this pure discussion of wisdom?

[8]

“He lingers in a worldly home only as long as it takes them to milk a cow. Thus the house becomes a most blessed holy ashram.

Śaunaka had no interest in possessions or food. On the rare occasion that he needed to beg from a common home, he would only accept milk, and would only stay for as long as it took them to get the milk. By his short presence in a home, the character of the place would transform with a spiritually enlivened atmosphere. That was his true purpose in occasionally begging something trifling from the worldly.

[9]

“O Sūta, Abhimanyu’s Son is said to be a topmost blessed lover of Godhead. Please tell us about his greatly wondrous life and deeds!

“Abhimanyu’s Son” is the emperor, Parīkṣit. The leader of the sages, Śaunaka, now turns his appreciations and inquiries to Parīkṣit.

[10]

“He was an emperor in the extremely wealthy Pāṇḍu dynasty. Why would he discard his power and opulence to sit and fast by the Ganges?

The emperor took a vow to fast until death. The sages are astonished about this.

[11]

“Even his enemies would bow down, placing their wealth at his feet for their own best interest. Oh why would such a powerful, opulent, beautiful, young, unconquerable man want to give up his life?

[12]

“People who live to please The Subject of Topmost Poetry live not for their own interest, but for the welfare, growth and prosperity of the world. Why then did he want to give up all connection with his mortal life, which protected so many people?

“The Subject of Topmost Poetry” is another name for Godhead.

Śaunaka surmises that probably Emperor Parīkṣit would easily give up worldly things like power and opulence due to natural lack of interest in them, since he was a greatly elevated lover of Godhead. Devotees of God do not seek annihilation, they always wish to exist to please Godhead; living vigorously for the welfare of Gods energies – the creation and all the people in it. As an emperor, the welfare of many, many people rested upon Parīkṣit. So Śaunaka has to ask Sūta to explain why this emperor was willing to give up his life.

 [13]

“We ask you all these questions because, although you do not practice rituals, we think you are fully acquainted with all subjects and the language used to describe them. Therefore you can clearly explain all of this to us.”

Śaunaka indicates that the ritualistic facets of the Vedas (or of any culture) are inconsequential and it is not important for anyone’s spiritual progress to be well acquainted with them. What is important is to deeply understand complicated subjects and the subtleties of the words sages use to explain them. Śaunaka and the sages felt that Sūta was fully conversant in these topics, and that is why they put so many questions to him, with such eagerness.


History of the Bhagavatam & Qualities of True Teachers

Suta gave a list of important incarnations of Godhead. Then there was a question, “Isn’t God limited by taking incarnations and having form?” – Suta explained that God’s form is beyond form, and the individual’s soul is similar. He then stated bluntly that no one can grasp what this truly means by their logic and intellect alone. To understand such infinite subjects one must be empowered by the infinite Godhead. Thus one must approach the topics of Godhead in a devotional mood.

Suta intends to deliver the topics of Godhead in a devotional mood, by explaining Śrīmad Bhāgavatam to them.

[1.3.40]

This Purāṇa named “Bhāgavatam” is nothing but pure spirit. It is full of the activities of he who inspires the ultimate poetry. It was compiled by the Sage Incarnation especially for the ultimate good of the world. In it reside blessedness, auspiciousness, and greatness!

The term “Sage Incarnation” (bhagavān ṛṣi) is a reference to Vyāsa, the incarnation who recompiled knowledge into more readily understandable formats.

[41-42]

He extracted the essence of the essence of all knowledge and history and put it in the care of his great, self-realized son. It was his son who actually gave it shape by explaining it to Emperor Parīkṣit, who was fasting until his end, surrounded by exalted sages on the Ganges’ shore.

Suka's Bhagavatam Kirtan

The Kirtan of Suka and Pariksit

Vyāsa’s constant task is to extract the essence of the abstracts of knowledge and explain it in more graspable ways. This requires utilization of analogy, metaphor and stories. Thus Vyāsa does not merely extract the essence of philosophy but also of art, presentation, and history. He combines the essence of philosophy with the essence of such subjects to create a presentation that can deliver deep understanding of spiritual concepts not just to dedicated sages living in a forest, but to blue collar workers as well.

He is not primarily a historian or an artist. His primary aim is to communicate knowledge, and he employs the essence of arts and histories to that end, as he deems appropriate.

His work came to a culmination due to the guidance of Narada. He then composed the Srimad Bhagavatam and taught it to his son, Suka. Suka then gave it fuller form by explaining it to Emperor Pariksit.

[43]

Krishna has returned to his own realm, and morality and knowledge have gone with him. The Age of Darkness has ruined the vision of everyone who remains. But now arises the new sun of this Purāṇa!

This is Suta’s direct answer to one of the earlier questions from the Sages, “How can morality and knowledge be protected now that Krishna has left our world?” They will be protected by the Bhāgavata Purāṇa.

[44]

O scholars, I was also in the kirtan of that greatly empowered sage of scholars. By his kindness I could concentrate upon it clearly and understand it. Now I will pass those words on to you, as far as my ability might allow.

A summary of the Bhāgavatam’s history: It was conceived of by Vyāsa as the perfected essence of the essence of his efforts to make true knowledge available. Vyāsa’s son, Śuka, presented it to an audience for the first time – during his kīrtana with the Emporer on the banks of the Ganges. Suta was present there and will now pass on what he learned to the sages of the forest.

Suta exemplifies the qualities of a truly valuable spiritual teacher.

The first quality is to attend to “kīrtana.” Kīrtana means audible glorification. Sometimes it is spoken, sometimes it is sung. Sometimes it is prose, sometimes it is poetry, and sometimes it is merely an important, meaningful word or name repeated with attention and devotion. The greatest “spiritual lottery” one could win would be to attend the kirtan of highly realized speakers and singers, as Suta did by attending the Kirtan of Śuka and Parīkṣit.

The second quality is appreciativeness. Understanding the topics of that exalted kīrtana, Suta did not become proud or arrogant. Instead, he felt so grateful to Śuka for kindly making the effort to explain the topics so easily and thoroughly.

The third quality of a truly valuable spiritual teacher is humility. The true teacher is appreciative towards his or her own teachers and humble before his students. Suta does not consider himself a superman. He admits natural limitations and does his best to communicate what he learned in a manner both relevant and intact.

One who attends kīrtana with full appreciation and who conducts kīrtana with full humility becomes a rising sun of spiritual blessing, dispelling the darkness of the Age of Quarrel.