Tag Archives: India

Have you forever lost the friend of your very soul?

35-36

The Original Person reclines upon the ocean of the Yadu family with the original Ananta, for the benefit, protection and evolution of all the worlds. The Yadava are fit to live in his own city, protected by the scepters of his arms, and relishing pastimes of paramount bliss.

In these two verses the King very finely crafts a poetic metaphor. He compares Kṛṣṇa to Mahā-Viṣṇu, the Original Person who reclines upon the ocean of causality with a multi-headed dragon who is a form of his own unlimited energy (“ananta”), and from whom the worlds evolve and are preserved. The persons who live with this Mahā-Puruṣa (Viṣṇu) are exalted (Mahā-Pauruṣa), and by association they enjoy Viṣṇu’s own topmost spiritual bliss. The King says that the Yadu family is the ocean upon which Kṛṣṇa reclines as Viṣṇu and Bālarāma reclines as Ananta. Dvārakā is the world that evolves from this “Viṣṇu.” The people in Dvārakā Mahā-Pauruṣa who enjoy the topmost spiritual bliss.

37

Very attentively caring for his feet is the prime duty
Of the twice eight-thousand women headed by Satyabhāmā.
Undefeated when counted against the thrice-ten, claiming their treasures
And enjoying what belongs to the wives of the thunderbolt’s master.

Here, Yudhiṣṭhira breaks into more elaborate poetry to give an example to illustrate his previous statement that the people related to Kṛṣṇa are enjoying tremendously under his protection and blessings. There are roughly 16 thousand queens of Kṛṣṇa. There are roughly 30 important gods. Satyabhāmā is the queen who induced Kṛṣṇa to fight with the gods and take away a special tree with celestial flowers for her.

This continues the metaphor from the previous verses by stating that Kṛṣṇa’s 16 thousands queens are analogous to Lakṣmī, who always massages Viṣṇu’s legs and feet.

38

Always living under the protection of his scepter-arms,
The Yadava have become great heroes, ever fearless in every way.
So they strode in on foot and took by force
The Sudharmā assembly house, which belongs to the very best gods.

Yudhiṣṭhira continues to give examples of how those related to Kṛṣṇa enjoy life more fully than even the gods. Fearless and powerful due to the blessings and protection of Kṛṣṇa, the Yadus simply strode into heaven and took away Indra’s assembly hall by force. They brought it to Dvārakā for Kṛṣṇa to use and enjoy daily.

39-43

Dear brother, is your health OK? You look very pale and weak. Have you been disrespected and neglected during this long time you have been gone? Could someone have addressed you so carelessly and foully? Have they said they you did not give to a beggar, or did not fulfill a promise? Or that you did not give shelter to intellectuals, children, cows, the elderly, the sick, or women who came to you seeking it? Did you embrace one not fit to embrace, or did you mistreat a woman? Or maybe you were defeated by a person who was not your superior or peer? Or could it be that you dined alone, without also feeding the old and young? Have you done something horrible and unforgivable?

These are the basic moral principles by which an ancient prince of India lived. They valued respect and reputation and this was gained by being a good person and following codes like

  • always giving charity,
  • always fulfilling promises,
  • always taking care of anyone who needs caring for,
  • following principles regarding interaction with the opposite sex
  • never mistreating a woman
  • being undefeated by anyone junior
  • never eating before feeding others

Yudhiṣṭhira is giving one last hope towards there being some tolerable reason for Arjuna’s abject dejection. But Arjuna does not reply to any of these hopes. He merely cries more forcefully as tears pool on the ground beneath his lowered face.

44

“Alas! I have become a void, having forever lost the most beloved, heart-to-heart friend of my very soul.” Besides this thought, what else could be so troubling you?


Krishna’s Affectionate Mothers

23

He entered the city with blessings from learned teachers and their impressive wives, and with respects from his admirers.

24

O learned one, Kṛṣṇa went by the royal road and all the women of Dvārakā’s important families rushed up to their rooftops to enjoy the greatest festival: the opportunity to see him!

25

The Dvārakā-dwellers regularly saw him, but still their thirst to see the Infallible body – the wellspring of all beauty – just couldn’t be slaked.

26

His chest is the abode of Goddess Beauty.
His face is a full goblet for the eyes.
His arms protect the worlds.
His lotus-like feet delight his lovers.

Bursting to a new level of expressiveness, Sūta composes a verse perfectly suited to impress upon a mixed audience the delightful beauty of the All-Attractive. He says, “Many appreciate the beauty of Śrī, the Goddess of Fortune and Beauty. His chest is where she dwells! Others among you search for a goblet full of Soma, to enjoy like the gods themselves. There is a full pot of it for your eyes if you look upon his face! Still others among you serve the gods for various blessings and protections. All the gods get their strength from his arms! And the rest of you, oh wonderful souls, are purely in love with him like swans delighting among the lotuses that are his feet.”

27

On the road a shade-umbrella, fans, and showers of flowers kept him cool. As these surrounded his yellow clothes and flower necklaces it seemed like a thick cloud was surrounded by the sun, the half-moon, a rainbow, and lightning.

Kṛṣṇa’s brilliant black complexion is the thick cloud. His yellow clothes are the sun. The flowers falling like confetti all around him twinkle and sparkle like lightning. The umbrella above his head is like the half-moon. His multicolored flower necklaces are like rainbows. This is how I envision the analogy.

28-29

As soon as he entered his father’s house, his mothers embraced him. He very gladly bowed his head in respect to the seven headed by Devakī. Their breasts swelled and became wet out of affection for their son, who they sat upon their laps. Overwhelmed with delight, the tears from their eyes soaked him.

Kṛṣṇa’s father, Vasudeva, eventually had 18 wives [SB 10.84.47]. All of them embrace Kṛṣṇa as their son, and Kṛṣṇa embraces all of them as his mothers. Kṛṣṇa’s biological mother is Vasudeva’s principle wife: Devakī. She married Vasudeva along with her six sisters: Śāntidevā, Upadevā, Śrīdevā, Devarakṣitā, Sahadevā and Dhṛtadevā [SB 9.24.21-23]. These are the “seven headed by Devakī.”

Of the remaining eleven I am aware only of the names: Pauravī, Rohiṇī, Bhadrā, Madirā, Rocanā, and Ilā [SB 9.24.45].

To see even one ordinary Indian mother embrace her ordinary son warms the heart. Imagine eighteen divine mothers embracing their All-Attractive “child!” The scene evokes the indescribable heights of infinite motherly love.

Motherly love is more intimate than all the other types of affection we have seen thus far from the residents of Dvārakā. Therefore the setting is now indoors in private quarters. Now Sūta will continue to graduate us towards romantic affection, the most intimate and exalted form of divine love.


Kṛṣṇa’s Itinerary from Hastināpura to Dvārakā

1.10.32

The Foeless king sent four squadrons of guards to accompany Madhu’s Enemy, desiring out of affection to protect him.

33

Overwhelmed by the impending separation from the god, the Kurus followed him for a great distance. But he affectionately yet firmly persuaded them to return. Then he continued towards his beloved home city.

34-35

In the lands of the Kurus he went through the Kuru Jungle (kuru-jāñgala), and along the Yamunā river past Fivelands (pāñcāla),  Godsland (śūrasena), to Creatorsland (brahmā-varta). Then he passed the Fisherlands (matsya) and went through the dry desert s towards the Sarasvatī river. There he entered Heroic Country (Sauvīra) at the Powerful City (abhīra) and finally came to the Land of Plenty (ānartā). O Bhārgava, the horses seemed to become weary at the end of the long journey.

Here is the route Kṛṣṇa traveled from Hastinapura to Dvaraka. He followed rivers as much as possible, and crossed the desert directly and in a hurry.

In modern geography, Hastinapura is north of Delhi, and the jungles to its west (whatever little remain, since the desert has spread over the centuries) are now the eastern part of Haryana. Pāñcāla a confederacy of five clans between the Ganges and Yamuna, which would now be considered part of Uttara Khandha. Godsland, the land of Brahmā (brahma-varta) is south of there and probably centered around modern Kanpur (of Rajasthana). From there Kṛṣṇa went through the Fisherlands (matsya) which was a province founded by fishers on the Yamuna, and represented the entrance into the deserts of Rajasthan – probably passing what is now Jaipur. The country of Heroes is now Pakistan. Abhira has no major city near it now but is the border of India and Pakistan along the Sarasvati river in the direction of Pakistani Hyderabad, coming from Rajasthani deserts. There Kṛṣṇa moved south along the Sarasvati river coming to Anarta – the land of plenty, which is now essentially the north eastern border of Gujarat. From there Kṛṣṇa could proceed the last easy stretch westward towards his home city, Dvārakā, which is now under water.

Krsna's Approximate Route from Hastinapura to Dvaraka


Sequel to Mahabharata Begins With A Nuclear Explosion

1.7.12

Now, to begin our discussion of Kṛṣṇa I will tell you about the birth, deeds, and rescue of Parīkṣit, the sage among kings, and the final end of the sons of Pāṇḍu.

By discussing a person who is in love with someone, invariably the discussion comes to their beloved. So by discussing those devoted to Kṛṣṇa one sets the scene for deep discussion of Kṛṣṇa.

The Śrīmad Bhāgavatam will now begin a “sequel” to the Mahābhārata, again illustrating that it is the culmination of everything important and revered in classical Indian civilization. Besides providing a sequel to the beloved Mahābhārata, it is also an elaboration upon the purport of the Gayatrī Mantra, a clarification of the conclusion of Vedānta-Sūtra, and an illustration of the principles and conclusions of Bhagavad-Gītā. The Gayatrī Mantra is the zenith of Vedic Mantras, so by elaborating on the Gayatrī the Bhāgavatam effectively elaborates upon the entire body of Vedic Mantra. The Gītā and especially the Vedānta-Sūtra is the crème of the Upanishads, so by expanding upon these the Bhāgavatam expands upon the Upanishads.

The first verse of Bhāgavatam ends with the word dhīmahī, a word reserved for Gayatrī mantra which means “meditation.” So the Bhāgavatam provides the subject matter that the Gayatrī directs us to contemplate and meditate upon.  

That same verse begins with the word janmādyasyayatha, which is also the first word in Vedānta-Sūtra. This repetition is Vyāsa’s device indicating that the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam discusses the same conclusions as Vedānta-Sūtra.

The second verse of Bhāgavatam begins with dharmaḥ projjhita-kaitavaḥ, “abandoning all selfish duties.” The concluding instruction in Bhagavad-Gītā is sarva-dharmān parityajya, “abandon all selfish duties.” And now the Bhāgavatam will give an extension or “sequel” to Mahābhārata. We cannot sidestep the fact that the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam expresses the penultimate culmination of Indian civilization and thought. It is the effort of Vyāsa in his full maturity.

13-14

When the heroes among the Kurus and Pāṇḍavas attained their heroic ends, and the son of Dhṛtarāṣṭra wept with a spine broken by the crushing blows of Wolf-Belly’s club, the son of Droṇa beheaded the sleeping sons of Kṛṣṇā, thinking it would please his master, who deplored the disgusting deed.

Kurus and Pāṇḍavas are two groups within the same royal family. The feud between them and the war it culminated in is the main subject of Mahābhārata.

Dhṛtarāṣṭra is a blind man who refused to relent the stewardship of the throne he assumed when his brother unexpectedly died before his five children were old enough to take the throne. The son of Dhṛtarāṣṭra is the leader of the Kurus: Duryodhana, who intends to be the next king.

The “Wolf-Bellied” is Bhīma, the second of the five main Pāṇḍava children.

Droṇa is a great martial artist, who was the instructor of the entire royal family. His son is Aśvatthāmā, who beheaded the five sleeping children of “Kṛṣṇā.” The master of Droṇa’s son is Duryodhana, because he was the leader under whose cursed banner Droṇa and his son fought.

Kṛṣṇā is a name for the wife of the five Pāṇḍavas (Yes, all five brothers had a single wife. It’s a long story). She is so named because of her intense love for Kṛṣṇa, and is more commonly known by the name Draupadī.

15-16

When the mother heard of the ghastly massacre of her children she began to wail and weep. Then the famous Arjuna, with tears in his own eyes, pacified her by saying, “I will wipe away your tears, oh auspicious woman, when I give you the head of that so-called brahmin, pierced with the arrows of my bow. Then, stand on it while you take the bath you must after cremating your children.”

17

So the friend of the Infallible pacified his beloved with various heartfelt words. He then set off on his chariot in pursuit of his teacher’s son, dressed in armor and carrying his terrible bow.

18

When the child-killer saw Arjuna approaching furiously from the distance, he jumped on his chariot and fled for his life at full speed, panic striken – much like Brahmā and Sūrya fled from Śiva.

Śiva became furious when Brahmā expressed sexual desires towards a woman who was his daughter (mind you, since Brahmā is the first being in the universe everyone is his decedent in some way or another). Śiva also became enraged when Sūrya (the sun god) attacked someone he had blessed. The fear and panic with which Brahmā and Sūrya fled from Śiva is reminiscent of the fear with which the child-killer fled from Arjuna. The import here is that Arjuna’s ferocity and rage was on a par with Śiva’s, the god of destruction.

19

Eventually seeing that his horses were tired and he had no other alternative to save his life, that brahmin’s son invoked the ultimate weapon.

Although he is the son of a brahmin, he is not considered a brahmin because his behavior was immoral. If India paid more thoughtful attention to her own classical literature, the disgrace of the caste system would have been mitigated. Status in the four castes is to be acquired by behavior, not by birth.

20

So, because his life was in danger he took a drop of water and concentrated on those mantras even though he did not know how to restrain the weapon.

One should not do anything one cannot control. An attack one cannot restrain and balance should not be used by a warrior. Aśvatthāmā did not care for these principles because his only concern was for his own useless life. Therefore he put thousands of lives at risk by calling forth a magic weapon equivalent to a nuclear detonation without knowing how to restrain the explosion. Selfish people are always irresponsible, and when push comes to shove the implications are alarming. When such persons happen to be powerful, the implications are absolutely disastrous. Therefore the selfish must be kept from positions of power. Unfortunately, it is only they who desire power. Thus the world is invariably in turmoil.

21

Then a fierce life-threatening explosion erupted in all directions. Seeing it, Arjuna turned to speak to Kṛṣṇa.

There is a nice poetry in the Sanskrit that I cannot translate into English. Sūta names Kṛṣṇa “Viṣṇu” and Arjuna “Jiṣṇu” – creating a wonderful rhyme. Arjuna has the name Jiṣṇu because he was an ever-victorious warrior.

Operation Ivy, MIKE EVENT - Atomic bomb explos...

The fierce life-threatening explosion erupted in all directions.


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.


Why Bhagavatam is the Topmost Work of Vyasa

Narada Inspired Vyasa

[1.4.27-31]

Not fully satisfied at heart, that knower of dharma sat in a quiet and pure place on the shore of the Sarasvatī River to think. “I have held firmly to my vow,” he said. “I have explained what I learned from my gurus about how to properly use mantra and fire for worship. I put together the History of India in such a way that even non-intellectuals like housewives, laborers, and pseudo-civilized people can clearly see all the important things necessary moral progress. I have given everything required for an embodied being to realize the self within the self. But still, there is some defect. I seem to have not yet given the supreme explanation of spirituality. Maybe that is because I have basically neglected to delineate the All-Attractive Dharma, which is beloved to the topmost swans and is even dear to the Infallible One.

“That knower of dharma” is Vyāsa.

He summarizes his lengthy and strenuous effort to fulfill his vow of helping the people of the world to escape the brunt of the ignorance that would best them in our current Age. “Explaining how to properly use mantra and fire for ritual worship” refers to the four Veda that Vyāsa created and established schools to develop. The “History of India” is the Mahābhārata, which he wrote to solve the problem of reaching the common man not interested in Vedic complexities. “Everything required to realize the self within the self” is a reference to Vedānta-Sūtra, a concise explanation and reconciliation of all the philosophical content of the four Vedas.

The “supreme explanation of spirituality” Vyāsa feels he has still failed to give is a clear and direct delineation of the “All-Attractive Dharma” (bhāgavata dharma), the most exquisitely beautiful and beloved of all topics, which attracts the affections even of “topmost swans” – those who are already completely purified and spiritually developed (paramahaṁsa), and even attracts the heart of the Infallible Godhead himself (acyuta)!

The delineation of All-Attractive “Bhāgavata Dharma” which would finally satisfy Vyāsa’s heartfelt mission is what became the book we are now reading, the Bhāgavatam.

The prior works of Vyāsa – the four Veda and their expansions, and the other Purāṇa and histories – do not entirely neglect to present the All-Attractive Bhāgavata Dharma. But considering the importance of this subject, they “basically” do (prāyeṇa) neglect it.

[32]

Thus The Black was regretfully contemplating his incompleteness when Nārada arrived from the east at the ashram. Realizing this, the sage suddenly stood up and respectfully venerated Nārada, whom the gods venerate, as if he were the creator himself.

“The Black” is a named for Vyāsa in reference to his complexion.

Nārada’s father is the creator, Brahmā. Vyāsa venerates Nārada as if he were Brahmā himself, on the principle that a good son or student carries out the functions and purposes of his superior.

[1.5.1]

When the very famous Sage of Gods with vīṇa in hand was happily seated, he spoke smilingly to the Sage of Learneds, who sat nearby.

The “Sage of Gods” is Nārada. The “Sage of Learneds” is Vyāsa. A “Vīṇa” is a beautiful stringed instrument, usually with a fretted neck. Nārada almost always carries this instrument with him at all times and sings.

[2-4]

Nārada said, “O greatly blessed son of Parāśara, do you find it satisfying to consider the body and mind as the self? That is why – in spite of inquiring thoroughly and explaining in a very well-versed manner, in spite of presenting the History of India in a most amazing manner clearly explaining everything important, and in spite of giving clear and careful revelations regarding the eternal spiritual substance – still, sir, you weep and feel like everything you’ve done is useless.”

Vyāsa must have certainly been shocked to hear Nārada say this! It is the ABC’s of elementary philosophy that the self is an entity distinct from its body and mind. Vyāsa must have been rattled to hear the great Nārada point out that the cause of Vyāsa’s disappointment with his work has something to do with the very elementary topics of assigning to much focus and importance to the body and mind! Nārada said, “You are dissatisfied? Of course you are dissatisfied! How could anyone be satisfied by treating the body or mind as if it were the all-important self? Although everything you have done is glorious, all of it was primarily directed only at benefiting the bodies and minds of humanity. Your work so far has neglected the true self!”

Bear in mind that this criticism includes the Upanishads and their summary in Vedānta-Sūtra! Nārada’s opinion of those works, therefore, is that they mainly benefit the mind by freeing it from ignorance. They do not directly benefit the soul itself, in Nārada’s greatly esteemed opinion.

Due to the shocking nature of this direct disclosure, Vyāsa will ask Nārada to repeat it. This is often the case when we hear something very surprising, that we have completely overlooked.


When, Why and How Vyasa Conceived Srimad Bhagavatam

[1.4.14]

Sūta said, “When the Second Age was beginning within the Third, the expansion of Hari was born to the mystic Parāśara and Vāsavyā.

This describes the birth of Vyāsa. Thus Sūta begins to answer Śaunaka’s first question – when, why and how did Vyāsa conceive of Śrīmad  Bhāgavatam?

The ages are counted “backwards” from the smallest, due to the math regarding how they are calculated as multiples of the smallest unit. Thus the Fourth Age is chronologically first, then comes the Third, followed by the Second, followed by the final age: “Quarrel.” Vyāsa was born a very long time ago, at the beginning of the Second Age (dvāpara yuga) about 870 thousand years ago, or, if we count ages according to Manu Samhita’s method, about three or four thousand years ago.

[15]

“Once, after finishing his morning bath in the pure water of Sarasvati River, he took a seat alone in concentration as the Sun rose over the riverbank.

[16]

“That sage could perceive the past and future. He saw that soon the unstoppable forces of the next age would cause an upheaval in morality, as occurred in the past as well, whenever this age comes.  

[17-18]

“That age would ruin humanity’s powers, character, and creations. People would be reduced to stone-hearted, confused, dull-witted, short-lived and luckless creatures. Seeing this by divine vision, the Sage whose vision is always clear contemplated how to help all varieties of people.

[19]

“He saw that the four types of rituals purified the deeds of the general population. So he expanded their definition from one concise summary into four discrete sections.

Vyāsa thought, “Rituals are useful to purify the deeds of ordinary people. So perhaps if I make it easier and clearer how and why to perform ritual, the people of the coming age will be rescued from the brunt of the calamity I foresee?”

[20-23]

“Those four are called Ṛg, Yajur, Sāma, and Atharva. He then made what is called the fifth division, consisting of histories and ancient tales. Then he carefully put Paila in charge of the Ṛg Veda, Jaimini in charge of the Sāma, and Vaiśampāyana in charge of the Yajur. He gave charge of the Atharva to Angirā, the fierce sage also named Sumantu. The histories and tales he entrusted to my father, Romaharṣaṇa. Each of these sages passed the Veda in their charge down through their limitless students, students’ students, the students of those students. Thus arose the different Vedic schools.

So, Vyāsa did not create the five divisions of Vedic knowledge in a few months. It took many generations before the five different schools were clearly and firmly established. During the Second Age the people, especially the sages, were very long-lived, so this would amount to quite a lot of time – thousands if not tens of thousands of years or more.

[24]

“That is how blessed Vyāsa, out of compassion for the miserable, compiled the Veda in a manner that a dull-minded man might better grasp.

 [25]

“Then he considered that certain people do not have much natural attraction to reading and academics – housewives, laborers, and those who are not truly cultured. ‘How can I help the less intellectually inclined?’ So thinking, he compassionately created the Tale of India.

The ritualistic Vedas, histories, and Purāṇas that Vyāsa created so far, though greatly simplified and clarified from their original format, were still quite “high-brow.” Vyāsa foresaw that most of the men and women in the coming age would be non-intellectual and have no interest in studying high-brow complexities. Therefore he compiled the extremely dramatic and colorful tales of Mahābharata (“The Great Tale of King Bhārata, King of India”) in such a way that would communicate essential knowledge through an entertaining medium.

[26]

“O cultured sages, having done all this work tirelessly and wholeheartedly for the benefit of so many people, his heart still could not find satisfaction.”

The next post will reveal why Vyāsa was still unsatisfied, and what he finally did about it.


Bhagavatam… Buon Appetito!

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

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

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

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

DRINK IT!!!

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

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

. . . – . . – | . . – . –

Here I will put the long syllables in bold:

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

The meaning is as beautiful as the structure:

The Tree

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

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

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

The Fruit

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

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

The Parrot

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

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

Drink It!

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

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

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


The Great Merits of this Beautiful Bhagavatam

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

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

Why? What is so special about this book?

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

How is that unlike other religious and spiritual books?

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

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

What is the effect of meditation upon the Srimad Bhagavatam?

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

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

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

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

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

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