Tag Archives: Nārada

Srimad Bhagavatam as an Expansion of Rg Veda

Veda pathashala students doing sandhya vandana...

The conversation between Brahmā and Nārada presented in the Second Canto (especially the part of that conversation described in the Sixth Chapter) is directly connected to a very important section of Ṛg Veda – 10.90, the puruṣa sūkta. You can say that the Bhāgavatam’s version of this conversation is a commentary or elaboration upon puruṣa sūkta, or that the Ṛg Veda contains a poetic summary of the conversation. In either case, the direct link between the two is important for demonstrating that (a) The bhakti approach presented in Bhāgavata Purāṇa is grounded firmly in the most ancient Ṛg Veda, and (b) The Ṛg Veda is not devoid of the fundamental principles of Vaiṣṇava-bhakti.

Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 2.5.27 explains the puruṣa sūkta line that begins with, “sahasra-śīrṣā” and its three verses that start with, “brāhmaṇi ‘sya mukham asit.” (Describing the Original Person as having infinite, omnipresent heads, arms, legs, etc. and being the original source of all the elements of the universe)

SB 2.6.13-16 explain the line, “puruṣa evedaṁ sarvam” (The Original Person is certainly everything that exists), and the line, “sa bhūmiṁ sarvataḥ spṛṣṭvā atyatiṣṭhad daśāṅgulam” (pervating everything in the world, he exists ten widths beyond it).

SB 2.6.18 explains the line, “utāmṛtatvasyeśāno uad annenāti-rohati” (He enjoys the greatest nectar, far surpassing mundane pleasures), and the line, “etāvān asya mahimāto jyāyāṁś ca pūruṣaḥ” (The greatness of the original person is extreme).

SB 2.6.19 explains the line, “pādo ‘sya viśva-bhūtāni tri-pādasy āmṛtaṁ divi” (All living entities exist within this one-fourth. Those in the three-fourths are divine and eternally joyful).

SB 2.6.20 explains the line, “tripād-ūrdhva udait puruṣaḥ pādo ‘syehābhavat punaḥ” (The three-fourths is above and beyond the one-fourth, which is repeatedly manifest and unmanifest).

SB 2.6.21 explains the line, “tato viṣvaṅ vyakrāmat sāśanāśanaśane ubhe” (They wander everywhere, in two directions, towards the real and unreal).

SB 2.6.28 explains the line, “yajñena yajñam ayajanta” (They worshipped by using Sacrifice to perform sacrifice).

SB 2.6.29 explains the line, “puruṣaṁ jātam agrataḥ tena deva ayajanta” (the gods came in front of the Original Person and worshipped him).


Within & Beyond this World

Srimad Bhagavatam 2.6.17

Nārada: It seems unusual that an entity so essential and fundamental to this world should have its true, original position beyond it.

Brahmā: It is not unusual. Take life-air (prāṇa) for example. It has its own energy, but it also lends its energy to other things. Another example is the Sun, it shines by its own power, but lends its radiance to all things. In a similar way, the Supreme Person is situated apart, within his own power, but lends his power to all things. Thus he is both within and beyond everything.

18-20

Nārada: I really want to know how the Supreme Person exists beyond this world. Please explain this to me!

Brahmā: He is the perfection of fearless nectar, far exceeding any mortal happiness! My dear spiritually inspired child, we cannot find any limit on his excellence!

Please understand that the place in which we all dwell reflects merely one-fourth of the Supreme Person. His true abode is beyond even what is beyond the three worlds – a place of nectar, security, and fearlessness.

That place beyond our world represents three-fourths of the Supreme Person. It is the abode of those who are not forced into rebirth. Those who instead take birth within our three worlds do so because they have a selfish bent, being without very strong convictions toward that Supreme Person.

21

Nārada: What happens to those souls?

Brahmā: They roam far and wide within our worlds.

Nārada: In what directions?

Brahmā: Those with some knowledge move towards emancipation. Those without knowledge move towards accumulation. In truth, the Supreme Person is the shelter for both of them.

22

Nārada: I can see why he would be the shelter of those striving towards enlightenment, but how is he also the shelter of those striving to accumulate material objects?

Brahmā: What are they searching for except him!? The egg of the universe comes from him. It produces elements, senses, and powers that allow the two to interact – everything they desire.

Nārada: Then, since they both seek the Supreme Person, are the those who strive for material objects on an equal footing with those who strive for emancipation?

Brahmā: No. Those who seek enlightenment are more evolved.

Nārada: Why?

Brahmā: Their outlook is more like the divine outlook of the Supreme Person.

Nārada: How so?

Brahmā: The Supreme Person is uninterested in the material objects he manifests in this world.

Nārada: Why?

Brahmā: All these things are simply like sunshine, but he is the brilliant sun!


Ensnaring The Eternally Free Soul

I am currently working on Chapter Five of Beautiful Tales of the All Attractive, Volume 2. The 19th śloka is too mind-blowing not to share immediately.

Srimad Bhagavatam 2.5.19

Ensnaring the Eternally Free Soul

[kārya-kāraṇa-kartṛtve dravya-jñāna-kriyāśrayāḥ | badhnanti nityadā muktaḿ māyinaḿ puruṣaḿ guṇāḥ ]

Nārada: Earlier you said that the universe is composed of five things, the root of which is “projected consciousness.” Now you are saying that the universe begins from three qualities of Nārāyaṇa’s energy. Are these two statements compatible?

Brahmā: Yes. These three qualities attract beings to project their consciousness into the universe. Thus consciousness, which has the capacity for eternal transcendence, binds itself to an illusory world.

Nārada: How do the three qualities attract the attention of conscious away from its potential eternal freedom?

Brahmā: By manifesting the five things I previously mentioned: objects of pleasure and the means for enjoying those objects.

Nārada: What are those means?

Brahmā: Senses, the ability to use the senses, and the intellectual inclination to do so.


The Flaws of the Vedas (II)

After directly and indirectly compiling the four Vedas, the histories, their expansions, the Upanishads, the Mahabharata, and the Vedanta Sutra Vyasa still felt incomplete. The divine sage Narada Muni arrived to help him understand why. (This story is told in the Srimad Bhagavata Purana 1.5)

Nārada answered with the same direct honesty as before: “Basically, you neglected to voice the spotless fame of the All-Attractive. I think any such philosophical system is inferior, and cannot really satisfy anyone!”

Vyāsa would think, “But I did glorify the all-attractive throughout all my works!”

So Nārada continues, “O Best of Scholars, again and again you lauded morality and the like as being the true goals of life. Comparatively speaking, how much attention did you give to the greatness of Vasudeva’s son?”

Vyāsa was silent in the face of this truth.

Seeing his acceptance of the facts, Nārada spoke out even more strongly. “What is the use of all the words you have written!? No matter how wondrous or poetic such words might be, since they do not pronounce the fame of Hari – who purifies everything – I think your words are trash; playgrounds for the crows. Beautiful spiritual swans take no delight in them!

“If you would have given your words instead to pronouncing his all-attractive names and limitless fame you would have truly revolutionized the miseries of humanity! Even if each and every line would have been full of flaws, great souls would embrace them, listen to them, and sing them!”


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.


The Beauty of the All Attractive

1.7.8

Having conceived of and polished that godly treatise, he taught it to his learned and renounced son, Śuka.

9

Śaunaka asked: He was dedicated to giving up everything, completely uninterested in acquiring anything. So why would a learned soul already immersed in spiritual bliss bother to take up such a vast study?

10

Sūta answered: From those immersed in spiritual bliss to those who are scholars and even to those who are lawless, everyone wants pure, unmotivated divine love. The qualities of Hari are that wonderful.

11

The thoughts of godly Badarāyaṇa’s son were enraptured by those qualities of Hari. Therefore he eagerly took up the study of that which is dear to those dedicated to Viṣṇu.

This section clarifies how Vyāsa passed the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam on to his son, Śuka. It is a topic of question because Śuka left home immediately upon being born with a fully developed youthful body. Vyāsa followed the boy calling for him to return home, but his calls were replied to only by their own echoes. Śuka had no interest in associating with Vyāsa and did not remain in his company for a moment. So how and when could Vyāsa have passed Śrīmad Bhāgavatam to Śuka?

In the current section, Śaunaka raises this very question: “We know Śuka was completely uninterested in anything his father Vyāsa had to say or offer, so how could he have learned Śrīmad Bhāgavatam from him?”

The answer is: The birth of Śuka took place before Vyāsa met Nārada. After Vyāsa learned about divine love from Nārada he deeply meditated upon it and personally realized it. Thereafter he composed the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam. He then went out in search of his son. Upon hearing the change in his father’s level of realization, Śuka understood that Vyāsa had now come to fully appreciate divine love and therefore happily agreed to sit and learn Śrīmad Bhāgavatam from him.

The tenth text in particular is an extreme favorite of the great exemplar of divine love, Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya. He personally explained this text to a handful of fortunate people bringing out dozens of facets within it. The essence of all of them is that everyone is attracted to divine love. It doesn’t matter if you are learned or illiterate, self-realized or self-ignorant, saintly or sinful. The wonderful attributes of Hari are so delightful that everyone is attracted.

Hari is a name describing the All-Attractive as a being so captivating that he steals the heart and mind. Hari is All-Attractive to everyone, but especially to those who are pure, selfless and free from illusion, such as Śuka. Thus Śuka was even more powerfully attracted than anyone else would be to the proposition of learning Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, the Beautiful Exposition of the All-Attractive. Therefore he eagerly and attentively devoted himself to studying it under Vyāsa.


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 Perfect Carefree Musician

1.6.34

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

35

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

36

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

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

37-38

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

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

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

English: Lady with Musical Instrument in Bengal

Bengali Lady Plays a Vina

 


The Reincarnation of Nārada

[1.6.25]

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

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

[26]

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

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

[27]

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

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

[28]

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

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

[29-30]

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

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

 [31]

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

What vow? The next text says…

[32]

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

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

[33]

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