Tag Archives: Godhead

Why Do We Suffer?

SB 1.17.17

Dharma said:

“Such words which remove the fear of those who suffer are very befitting of a Pāṇḍava. These good qualities made All-Attractive Krishna become submissive to you.

18-20

“We don’t really know what the real cause of our suffering is, O great man. There are many confusing opinions about it.

 “The competent who are free from doubt declare that the self is responsible for the self. Others think the responsibility lies with the gods. Someone else thinks it is a cause and effect of nature. And still others think this is beyond our mental and intellectual capability to understand. O philosopher-king, form your own opinion of which of these is best.

Parīkṣit asked Dharma, “Who broke your legs?”

Dharma replies, “There are many different opinions.”

Who is responsible for our suffering? Some say no one is responsible; it is merely a chance event – a random cause and effect of nature. Others say it is a result of divine, celestial powers toying with our destiny. Others are simply confused and say there is no way of knowing for sure.

But competent thinkers who are free from doubt declare simply, “You are responsible for yourself!”

Our own freewill creates our own destiny. Dharma says, “You are responsible for your own destiny, because the self-of-the-self holds you responsible.”

Who holds us responsible for our choices? The “self-of-the-self,” Godhead, the Supersoul does. God is good. So know it clearly and without doubt that nothing in your destiny is harmful, even if it is painful. As Parīkṣit said, that which is good should be rewarded and that which is otherwise should be punished to curb it down. A leader should follow this principle. The ultimate king and leader of all living beings, Godhead does. The self-of-the-self rewards what is selfless in our free choices, and punishes what is selfish, to curb it down.

We create our destiny and the divine soul within enforces it.

Dharma’s answer to the question, “Who broke your legs?” is extremely interesting. “It is just destiny which has broken my legs,” he answers. “This evil man is not the true cause.”

Although the evil man is not the ultimate cause of Dharma’s pain, he is still instrumental in it. Therefore he is not absolved from punishment, and Parīkṣit is about to raise his sword to slay him! Any good leader must punish and curb down all those who are instrumental in causing harm to the harmless. This is more for the benefit of the offender than the offended, for it dissuades the lawless from behaving in a manner which creates their own dismal destiny.

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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.


Krishna: The Sexiest Man in the Universe (Conclusion of “Philosophy in the City”)

29-30

He took her from the midst of very powerful heroes headed by King Caidya [Śiśupāla] who were competing for her hand in marriage, belittling them all. He took others in a similar manner. So he has many children like Pradyumna and Sāmba. He even took thousands of women at once by killing Bhauma. They were no longer single, no longer pure, but oh how perfectly they express the highest aspirations of femininity! The Lotus-Eyed Husband always stays within their homes, with heartfelt gifts and caresses.

“He took her” refers to Kṛṣṇa’s first queen, Rukmiṇī. “He took others” refers to Satyabhāmā and Jāmbavatī. “Thousands” refers to all the women who had been kidnapped into the harem of King Bhauma. Kṛṣṇa killed Bhauma to rescue these women. Having been members of the harem, they were no longer good candidates for marriage, but Kṛṣṇa ignored such formalities and married them all.

A significant portion of male attractiveness lies in heroism and strength, which represents his capacity to defeat other men and thus protect women and children from harassment. Here, the city ladies appreciate the unparalleled extent to which Kṛṣṇa, the ultimate and original male, displays such heroic and manly attractiveness by boldly belittling and destroying other men to claim his brides.

Most of the remaining portion of male attractiveness lies in his ability to be gentle and sensitive to a woman. Truly attractive men (among whom even the most legendary cannot hold a candle to Kṛṣṇa) are bold and aggressive when appropriate, but gentle and sensitive at other times.

The city girls appreciate Kṛṣṇa’s gentleness as well as his boldness. He paid loving attention to each and every one of his thousands of wives. It is difficult for one man to pay sufficient attention to even two or three women, but Kṛṣṇa did so for thousands. Kṛṣṇa is the original Godhead and his form is formlessness itself. Thus he easily exists in thousands of different places simultaneously. In fact, because Kṛṣṇa is omnipresent he never leaves his beloved consorts. Even when he was on the chariot in the road of Hastinapura, he still remained with his wives in their palaces. And while at home with them the scene is always one of intimate, heartfelt love expressed through carefully chosen gifts and gentle caresses.

Female attractiveness – the real sort, which makes a man see a woman as wife, not a date – mainly depends on the purity of her love and devotion, for these are the qualities than enable a woman to repair and mend the troubles of men and children. Women from the harem of a fallen king would not exactly seem to be emblems of pure loving fidelity and devotion. But Kṛṣṇa was deeply attracted to all of them, and flaunted all social convention to marry them. Why? It is because they possessed the most attractive quality of all – abject devotion and love of the All-Attractive. This quality is the perfection of devotion, and therefore the perfection of femininity. The women liberated from Bhauma’s harem were therefore exemplars of the highest virtues of femininity.

The number of wives and children of Kṛṣṇa is impossible, of course, because Kṛṣṇa himself is impossibility in reality. He is the unlimited being. Numbers are insignificant in regards to his unfathomable dimension.

31

Hearing all this talk from the city ladies, Hari sent them his blissful glance and smile. Then he departed.

An ordinary human cannot hear the chatter of women on the rooftops when he is surrounded by drums and trumpets and crowds. But Kṛṣṇa is Paramātmā, the spiritual substance linking every ear to every soul. Thus he can easily hear everything and anything. The last thing he did before his chariot left the city is cast a love-laden, smiling glance upon the dear women who were speaking so affectionately about him.

One can hardly imagine the surge of bliss felt by those women upon receiving such a glance.

To summarize the salient points raised by the ladies of Hastinapura:

  1. Kṛṣṇa is the Complete Original Male who alone exists. Everything else is his energy, which flows out from and returns into him. The ladies wish to return into him in a highly intimate and personal manner, which is far superior to the impersonal and tasteless manner conceived by yogis and priests.
  2. Kṛṣṇa is more virile than any other man – from his seed comes all the life born from the womb of the material and spiritual worlds.
  3. Kṛṣṇa is not merely attractive to young, impressionable girls – the gods and godly strive to purify their hearts of selfishness so they too can see him as these girls do.
  4. Kṛṣṇa is the most enjoyable topic for song, poems, and even for chit-chat.
  5. The more intimately one embraces Kṛṣṇa, the more intimately Kṛṣṇa reveals himself. Understanding him in his officious feature as the creator, maintainer and destroyer of the universes is only the beginning of tasting what he truly is.
  6. Understanding the motive of his actions as the will to balance good and bad in the world is only the beginning of knowing the real inspiration behind his deeds.
  7. These ladies are fortunate to see him, but his family is more fortunate. He no longer lives with his family, though, so the residents of his city are even more fortunate because they regularly see him. Most fortunate of all those citizens are his queens, who always drink the nectar of his lips. But most fortunate of all his lovers are the cowherd girls of Vrindavana, who are so deeply and constantly connected to Kṛṣṇa that the mere hope of his kiss brings realization of Kṛṣṇa deeper than the queens can taste in thousands of kisses. So the ultimate hope of the ladies of Hastinapura  is to gain a place, any place, among these cowherd girls.
  8. Kṛṣṇa is infinitely more attractive than any other brave and heroic man, and infinitely more attentive a lover than any doting gentleman.

It is very difficult to argue with these sublime conclusions.

How The Cowherd Girls of Vrindavana Always Relish Krishna, and Visa Versa, even when they are not apparently together.


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’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.”


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.


Glories of the Self and God

The sages asked, “If God takes birth and ‘has incarnations,’ is he not just like us?”

Suta answered, “God’s form is itself pure spiritual formlessness, beyond the limitations of an individual shape created by material elements We souls are also beyond limitation of form but we confuse the observer with the observed and thereby identify our self with limiting things like our mind and body.”

[1.3.32]

Beyond this is something imperceptible, having no formal shape created by qualities. It is a substance unseen, unheard. It is the life-force which is born repeatedly.

Beyond the mind and body is the actual “self.” Both God and you are this substance, beyond all objectivity and subjectivity. Beyond objects and subjects is the true self. But, this self takes so many limiting forms again and again due to projection of the observer (the soul) into the observation (the world).

[33]

We can have spiritual vision when perfect knowledge itself rejects all these persistent and temporary forms imposed by ignorance.

If spiritual substance is beyond objectivity and subjectivity how can it be experienced? It can be experienced only by “knowledge itself” – sva-saṁvit. Godhead possesses three categories of spiritual potency: existence, awareness, and enjoyment. The second, awareness, is termed saṁvit. We must beg from the divine an infusion of saṁvit as a catalyst to awaken the saṁvit inherent within us, now rusted shut from disuse. Awakened self-knowledge casts off the haze of all illusory objects and subjects and grants spiritual perception (brahma-darśan), and thus access to the realm of transcendent objectivity and subjectivity.

[34]

If the goddess’ illusion withdraws, comprehension becomes perfect. Thus enriched, one understands one’s inherent exalted glories.

We possess the inherent capacity to understand and experience Godhead and spiritual truth. All that is required is for the intoxication of the “goddess’ illusion” (devī-māyā) to wear off. When we beg the saṁvit catalyst, it blows away the fog of delusions that currently obscure our capacity for transcendental perception and comprehension. Without such illusions, the inherently exalted glories of the self become self-evident.

What is the essence of that glory? We are made of God, by God, for God. The full richness of this exaltation is tasted when we let go of the illusion of all other self-conceptions.

[35]

The births of the birthless and the deeds of the deedless have been thus described by the learned. The lord of the heart is the confidential secret of true knowledge.

In one sense the lord of the heart (hṛt-pateḥ) is the self, for the self dwells in the core of what we are and empowers our body and mind to be “alive.” In another sense the lord of the heart is God, for God dwells in the core of the self and empowers it to exist and comprehend.

The lord of the heart is birthless, without beginning. Yet we see that we have been born, and we hear that even Godhead incarnates. The lord of the heart has no action and reaction, beyond causality. Yet we are completely entangled in the reactions of our actions, and we hear that Godhead also performs deeds. Both the self and Godhead are thus a true mystery, the final subject of true knowledge (veda-guhya). Suta has tried to pass on to us the benefit of what those who have studied thus subject to its utmost have explained about it.

[36]

So too is He of Untainted Activity. He creates and destroys everything without entanglement in anything. He is within all beings, but is independently self-situated. He is the master of six powers, the mere fragrance of which are the six qualities.

The sages asked if Godhead is limited like we are, since he takes birth and has a name, form and activities like we do. Suta answered by explaining that even the soul is not limited by its birth, name, form and activities. Neither the soul nor Godhead is limited by its name and form, etc.

Suta explained the difference between Godhead and the soul. The soul accepts material illusions and confuses the observation (non-self) with the observer (self), thus forgetting its unlimited nature. Godhead never does so. His activities are always untainted by ignorance (amogha-līla). He never acts out of ignorant selfishness and therefore he never gets entangled in his karma, even in his “dirty work” of creation and destruction. He is within all things and beings, but never loses his individual identity. He is the master of all opulent powers, which he enjoys with cognizant intent and without impurity.

[37-38]

Who, with meager knowledge, can understand the names, forms, and activities of the expert creator? The theories and arguments of fools cannot grasp the dramas he plays! Only one who unreservedly, unrelentingly, and lovingly adores the lotus-flower scent of his feet He can understand the creator – who held a chariot wheel in his hand, whose prowess is endless, and whose praise is transcendent.  

Suta has explained that Godhead is always unlimited, but the soul becomes bewildered by illusions. How can a bewildered thing comprehend something beyond bewilderment? By its own means, it cannot. The soul must beg saṁvit from Godhead. The light of saṁvit dispels the darkness of illusion and the soul’s inherent capacity for transcendental perception and activity awakens. Therefore if you desire to truly comprehend spirituality and Godhead, you must approach the study as a beggar, not as a conquistador. You must take a childlike attitude towards Godhead, feeling in need to shelter and protection and education. This is quite embarrassing for proud fools such as we, or at least such as I. Therefore Suta asks us to cast aside our shame and inhibitions. Unreservedly, unrelentingly adore the fragrance of Śrī Kṛṣṇa which spreads like a lotus perfume on the pleasant breezes of kirtan spoken and sung by those whose hearts are enrapt with his charm.

Do you have such opportunities? You do now. Suta will speak Śrīmad Bhāgavatam to give us exactly this chance to hear.