Tag Archives: Srimad Bhagavatam

Creation of the Universe

The 5th chapter of Srimad Bhagavatam’s Second Canto gives a fascinating, intriguing description of how the All-Attractive creates the primordial universe. Here is a footnote from the manuscript I am currently working on:

Text [2.5.]21 explains that the All-Attractive desires to be many, because its inherent nature is bliss – which is enjoyed in the form of love, which requires relationships, which requires multiple independent beings. The All-Attractive causes many beings to manifest from itself as a result of its own “magic” or mystical power (māyā) using three tools, time, destiny, and psychology.

Text 22 elaborates on this. It states the All-Attractive becomes the Puruṣa (a.k.a. Viṣṇu) to use these tools upon our “material world.” He uses time (kāla) as a catalyst to activate (vyatikara) the three qualities (guṇa). He then uses psychology (svabhāva) to stimulate evolutions (pariṇāma) within those qualities. “Psychology” refers to the various unique predilections and preferences of the various unique living entities who will populate the world. Then, the destiny (karma) that arises from the living entities psychological interaction with the three qualities causes the world to evolve out of the abstract realm and become the primeval form of the tangible universe (mahāt-tattva).


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.


Second Chapter, Second Canto – Finished

To celebrate finishing the presentation of the Second Chapter of the Second Canto – here is an excerpt, one of my favorite śloka from this chapter

35

Parīkṣit: These yogīs you described, how do they love the All-Attractive?

Śuka: They experience All-Attractive Hari by his qualities present within the core of all living beings.

Parīkṣit: What qualities?

Śuka: The qualities of consciousness. Yogīs know that they are conscious – they can see, experience, and comprehend. Everything they see, experience and comprehend also has this divine quality, consciousness. Thus they inferentially experience the All-Attractive divine everywhere.

krishna - the all attractive one


Second Canto Begins

I have, today, started work on Volume 2 of the Beautiful Tales of the All-Attractive series (on Śrīmad Bhāgavatam). To celebrate I will share with you the very first draft of the first five verses of Bhāgavatam’s Second Canto.

Śrī Śuka said, “O King, the question you’ve asked is the very best question. Asking it benefits everyone. All the people here who are well versed in spiritual knowledge approve of your question, because it is the brings up the very best topics of discussion.”

King Parīkṣit inquired, “Is it really such a rare question?”

Śuka explained, “Yes, very few people ask such a deep question. Their humanoid minds are completely absorbed in ordinary household affairs, blind to spiritual realities – and they have thousands of mundane topics to discuss. They have no time for anything else! Their nights are wasted in sleep, or for wasting their energy like teenagers. Their days are consumed by the pursuit of financial security, or in bearing the endless burdens of their clans.”

Parīkṣit asked, “Aren’t they concerned about inevitable death?”

Śuka replied, “They believe their unreal body, children and spouse are something like soldiers protecting them from harm. In this insanity, they cannot see the constant destruction visible all around them. So, if you want to be free of fear, avoid their topics of discussion! Instead hear about and speak about Hari: the soul of all, the All-Attractive, the master.”


Narayanam Namaskrtya

The supreme Godhead: Nārāyaṇa,
the best of humans: Nara,
the goddess of learning: Sarasvatī,
and the great author: Vyāsa…

After respecting them
our words can be successful

Sri Suta recites this verse at the beginning of his presentation of Srimad Bhagavatam. He quotes it from a previous source. Vyasa also speaks this verse at the beginning of every major division of Mahabharata.

In sanskrit:

नारायणं नमस्कृत्य नरं चैव नरोत्तमम् |
देवीं सरस्वतीं व्यासं ततो जयमुदीरयेत् ||

nārāyaṇaṁ namaskṛtya naraṁ caiva narottamam
devīṁ sarasvatīṁ vyāsaṁ tato jayam udīrayet

Considering that Vyasa himself is mentioned honorificly in the verse, it seems unlikely that he composed it himself. It was probably a composed by Ganesha during his task of scribing the dictations of Vyasa. Hence it is particularly appropriate for Suta to quote, as his task is similar to Ganesh’s: he wishes to represent the dictations of Suka (Vyasa’s son).


No Time for Jibber Jabber!!!

Srimad Bhagavatam 1.16.1

Sūta said:

Then, guided by the best of the twice-born, Parīkṣit governed the earth as a great devotee. Indeed, he developed all the great qualities foreseen by the astrologers when he was born.

“Twice-born” refers to a person with excellent education. The first birth is for the body, the second is for the mind. The word for “great devotee” is mahā-bhāgavata. This could be more elaborately translated as, “Great All-Attracted.” The word for “astrologers” is abhijāta-kovida, which could be more elaborately translated as, “experts in extrapolating the birth.”

2

He married Uttara’s daughter, Irāvatī. They had four children: Janamejaya, etc.

3

He held three horse sacrifices [aśvamedhā] by the Ganges. At these he gave abundant charity. He made Śaradvan’s son [Kṛpā] the master. There, the gods could came within the range of the senses.

4

Once, while victoriously travelling the world, he heroically used his power to arrest Kali, a low class man in the form of a king who was destroying the legs of a cow-couple.

Here, Kali refers to the personified kali-yuga. Pretention and fakery is his primary character trait. The cow-couple refers to the cow of Mother Earth and the bull of dharma. Dharma has four “legs” – pillars that hold up morality: truthfulness, simplicity, compassion, and cleanliness. In each age another leg is broken. The only leg that remains in Kali Yuga is truthfulness. The age itself pummels away at this leg so that it crumbles and is completely destroyed as the age progresses.

5

Śaunaka said:

During this victory travels, why did he arrest Kali, a low class man in a king’s costume beating the leg of a cow? O blessed one, please tell us about this if it is a part of what you wish to tell us about Kṛṣṇa.

Śaunaka is surprised that Parīkṣit merely arrested and did not kill such a dangerous person. But this verse is very special because it clearly shows the standard by which the Bhāgavatam was composed, and by which we must also present it. There are all sorts of topics covered in Bhāgavatam, but all of them have explicit and direct relevance to devotional discussion of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, Vasudeva’s son.

6

Those who drink the real nectar from his lotus-like feet have no interest in wasting their life on unreal jabbering.

7

My boy, short-lived human mortals who desire immortality should befriend the lord of death, who suspends his activities when invited to devotional discussions.

8

No one dies so long as the death-lord is present. That is why the great sages invited him here. Ho! Let us humans now drink the immortal nectar of words about the activities of Hari!

Śaunaka tells Sūta he would like to hear more details about Parīkṣit’s arrest of Kali, if and only insofar as such discussion involves Kṛṣṇa. He wants to drink the delicious nectar from the lotus-like feet of Kṛṣṇa, so he has no interest at all in wasting his life by jibber jabbering about illusions and unreal details. When one discusses Kṛṣṇa the lord of death, Yāma, himself comes to hear the delightful narrations suspending his normal activities. Thus one who submerges himself in Kṛṣṇa-kathā never dies, but goes on and on relishing the ever-new deliciousness of the All-Attractive. This is the poetic metaphor Śaunaka spontaneously composed.

9

Small, small-minded, and certainly with small lifespan; the people of this age sleep away their nights and work away their days for nothing.

Without the immortal nectar of Hari-kathā our short lives are wasted on nothing of importance; we become stunted in every way.


Arjuna Remembers Krishna

Srimad Bhagavatam 1.15.1

Sūta said:

Thus Kṛṣṇa’s friend, “Kṛṣṇa” became more and more bereaved over the loss of Kṛṣṇa as his brother, the King, expressed so many fears and doubts.

2

Sadness had dried his mouth, and the lotus of his heart was robbed of luster. Enrapt in memory of his great friend, he could not answer.

3

With great effort he held back his sobbing, and smeared the tears from his eyes with his hands. He became more and more pained by powerful affection for one who was now out of sight.

4

Remembering his friend, companion, and well-wisher who had been his chariot driver and so much else, he turned to his eldest brother, the King, and spoke; his words stuttering and exploding.

5

Arjuna said:

O Emperor, I am bereft of Hari, who became our relative. Without him all my astounding strength, which amazed even the gods, is gone.

6

Even a moment without him makes the entire word look ugly, like all these bodies would look if they were corpses bereft of life.

7

By his strength, in the assembly at Drupada’s palace
During the moment she was choosing her husband amongst all the princes smitten by her.
I erased all their power and shot the arrow straight into the fish,
Gaining Kṛṣṇā [Draupadī].

8

O!
In his company I could deliver Indra to Agni, from his hiding in Khāṇḍava forest;
Expertly defeating all the immortals;
Obtaining Maya to build an assembly house of wondrous craftsmanship,
In which princes from every direction brought taxes and gifts to you.

9

By his power, your great younger brother who is as powerful as an army of elephants
Freed all the kings from he who had collected the heads of kings at his feet
After sacrificing them to the Lord of Madness.
And all of them gave you gifts.

10

Your wife, gloriously dressed and bathed with a beautiful hair knot
Was caught in the great assembly of cheaters,
Who tried to untie that knot while tears fell down her face.
He turned their wives into widows, with untied hair.


Prayers of Queen Kunti, Part II

Kuntī previously expressed so much gratitude to Kṛṣṇa for taking special care of her through so many calamities. Kṛṣṇa might say, “First you say I am the Original Godhead and then you say I took so much care of you, but this is a contradiction because Godhead does not show partiality to anyone!” Fearing this objection, Kuntī speaks these words:

1.8.28-29

I know you as the master of time itself,
Infinite, without beginning or end.
You distribute yourself equally in all circumstances.
Friendship or enmity is something living beings create.

Who can understand the behavior of the All-Attractive?
People confuse you to be like them.
How could anyone be your object of favor or disfavor?
Impartiality exists only in the human mind.

Kuntī says, “You are infinite time.” Time is the force which allows events to transpire. All good and bad things therefore happen as a result of time. Time is therefore synonymous with the concept of fate, destiny, karma.

Destiny is completely impartial. It plays no favorites and gives no dispensations. It merely enforces the appropriate result of your freewill. If a soccer player commits a foul, the referee calls a penalty. Is it the referees fault or the players? If the same player scores a goal, the referee awards a point. Is this favoritism? No, it is impartiality. The good and bad one experiences from an impartial being are ones own creation. God is not to fame or fault for the pleasures and pains of the world. It is we alone who create our fortunes.

The love and protection Kṛṣṇa gave Kuntī and her family is equally available to everyone at anytime. It is up to us to choose friendship or enmity with the All-Attractive.

30

It is completely confusing
That the unborn, deedless soul of the universe
Takes birth and performs deeds
Among animals, humans, sages, and aquatics.

For example:

31

When you were naughty, the cowherd woman grasped for a rope.
Then, mascara ran in the tears flowing from your frightened eyes.
Your face looked down and fear filled you up.
This confuses me, since even the god of fear fears you!

Now  Kuntī will try to unravel the confusing mystery of why and how the unborn and deedless is born and has deeds:

32-36

Someone says the unborn is born
To glorify the Subject of Pure Poetry,
As a dear friend to the Yadu dynasty,
Like sandalwood in the Malaya hills.

Someone else says he was born
To answer the prayers of Vasudeva and Devakī.
You are that unborn who protected them
By destroying those who hate the godly.

Another person says
The world was like a sinking boat at sea with too much weight,
And Brahmā prayed for your birth
On behalf of her distress.

“This world is full of the distress
Of ignorant desires and pursuits.
So he has enabled us to hear about, remember, and worship him”
– say many others.

Embracing constant hearing & singing;
Enjoying the consequent remembrance of your deeds;
Such a person soon sees your lotus-like feet,
And the flow of material destiny runs dry.

Kuntī cites different opinions which attempt to explain why the unborn and deedless is born and does deeds.

The first opinion she cites is that the unborn is born to create subject matter for pure poetry to be used in divine glorification (kīrtan).

She uses a metaphor of sandalwood in the Malayan hills. Sandal trees could potentially grow anywhere, but for whatever reason they wound up growing in a certain hilly region and thus that region is very famous and prosperous. Similarly the All-Attractive could take birth and perform deeds anywhere, but for whatever reason he does so among the Yadu dynasty (Kuntī’s royal family) who are therefore very famous and prosperous.

The next opinion she cites is that the unborn is born to protect the world from those who hate the godly. Foremost was to protect Devakī and Vasudeva from the wicked Kaṁsa.

The third opinion is similar: that the unborn is born because the armies of greedy kings made the earth distressed like a boat at sea with too much weight, so Kṛṣṇa appeared to destroy hundreds of thousands of warriors and kings.

The fourth opinion she sites is similar to the first: The unborn is born because the world is full of intense suffering, the ultimate cause of which is forgetfulness of our essential unifying link with the Supreme Blissful All-Attractive. So Kṛṣṇa takes birth to give us something truly uplifting to sing about and hear about, which allows us to remember our link to him and thus destroy the root of our suffering.

Finally, she gives her own opinion in support of the first and fourth opinions she cited. She says that the unborn and deedless is born and has deeds just to facilitate true love and enjoyment and thus save the forlorn soul from asphyxiation in a river of meaningless existence.

The primary reason that the Absolute exists in tangible personal form is to give us something perfect to love. Therefore the primary reason you and I exist in a tangible form is to love something perfect. Singing and hearing songs about the All-Attractive are the most effective way to fall into this divine love, and also the most powerful and pure way to enjoy, embrace and express it.

The divine exists for kīrtana, therefore so do we.

A modern painting of Kunti addressing Krsna before he could leave.


Capital Punishment

1.7.34-37

When Arjuna began to drag his enemy, bound in ropes, back to the camp, the All-Attractive spoke with anger in the glance of his lotus-like eyes: “Pārtha, it is not at all right to spare this so-called brahmin! Kill him!!! He killed your faultless children while they dreamt at night! A truly moral person does not kill an enemy who is frightened, without weapons, begging for mercy, ignorant of their mistake, ridiculous, intoxicated, unaware, asleep, a youth, or a woman. One who kills others just to save his own life is shamelessly wicked. Death is good for such people, otherwise their horrific faults drag them ever lower.

38

“And I personally heard you promise your wife, ‘Pāñcālī, I shall bring you the head of he who you say killed our children!’

39

“Therefore kill this evil assassin of his own doom who killed your children and defiled his own master. O warrior, a person who has done what he has is nothing but a burnt branch of his family.”

When Arjuna dismantled Aśvatthāmā’s insanely uncontrolled explosion and finally captured him, he did not cut off his head. Why?!? His whole intention in chasing the man was to cut off his head and return it to his grieving wife. Why didn’t he carry out his desire now that he had the chance?

Arjuna could not kill him because was a very saintly and pure hearted man. Such people always naturally feel compassion and pity, even when it is not deserved.

He specifically thought, “This evil wretch killed my sleeping children, but he was just trying to please his master. And after all, he is the son of my guru. It is night right to punish ones superiors, and because he is in my guru’s family, he is among my superiors.”

Kṛṣṇa argues against everything Arjuna is thinking, “Just because someone is in the family of your guru does not make them your guru! Just because someone is born to a brahmin does not make them a brahmin! This man is the worst of all criminals. Look what he did to your children! And he did not even satisfy his master either. You should not let yourself be overwhelmed by compassion for a person who deserves to die!”

As the story continues we will see Kṛṣṇa’s deeper intentions and ultimate suggestion for the issue. But for the present he is putting Arjuna’s compassion to trial.

krishna angrily advises arjuna to kill ashvatthama


Arjuna Counteracts the Nuclear Explosion

1.7.22-25

Arjuna said:

Kṛṣṇa! O mighty-armed Kṛṣṇa who makes his devotees fearless! You alone are the relief for those suffering worldly miseries. You are the Original Person himself, the transcendent master of all energy. You set aside your illusory energy and exist purely within the spiritual energy of your own self. The worlds are full of people with hearts captivated by your illusory energy. Your trademark is that you see to their ultimate welfare by personally inspiring them towards morality, etc. You incarnate in this world just to lighten our burdens, and to fully satisfy your exclusively devoted companions with subject matter by which to always meditate upon you.

26

This extremely dangerous blast moves towards every direction. Oh god of gods, what is it? Where does it come from? I don’t know.

It appears that the explosion of the ultimate weapon expands relatively slowly. It looks like Arjuna may have taken from 15 seconds to almost a minute to react to it.

Before asking the crucial, emergency question, Arjuna praises Kṛṣṇa. Why? It is because we should not ask important questions to people who cannot give good answers. Arjuna demonstrates the principle that the inquirer should first express his reasons for having faith in the answer that might be given. Arjuna is in trouble, he is bewildered, and Kṛṣṇa is the one who saves people from trouble and is never bewildered. Arjuna’s trouble arises from an explosively powerful energy, and Kṛṣṇa is one who is always in mastery of all energies. Arjuna is in need, and Kṛṣṇa is naturally inclined to be helpful to those in need, especially towards those who, like Arjuna, are his intimate companions full of selfless love for him. After expressing why he has full faith in any answer Kṛṣṇa might give to the question, Arjuna finally asks it.

27-28

The All-Attractive said:

Understand that this is the ultimate weapon, set forth by Droṇa’s son out of fear of death, even though he has no idea how to control it. Definitely no other weapon can counteract this. But you are a very expert warrior, so destroy the blast of this weapon by an even more powerful blast from your own.

29

Sūta said:

Hearing these words from the All-Attractive, Phālgunaḥ, the destroyer of heroes, took a drop of water and circumambulated the Supreme before casting the ultimate weapon. The blasts of the two weapons combined and seemed to swallow up the whole sky, outer space and even the sun. The three worlds appeared to singe from the great heat of the combined blast, about to be consumed in flame as if the end of the universe were at hand. Knowing that the people of the worlds were about to be destroyed, the son of Vasudeva told Arjuna to withdraw the blast.

Phālgunaḥ is a name for Arjuna, probably because he was born under the stars of Phalgunī. Unlike Aśwatthāmā, Arjuna knew how to control and withdraw the ultimate weapon. When he did so, it also withdrew Aśwatthāmā’s blast, because the two weapon blasts had mingled and united.

33

Then, with angry eyes burning like fiery copper, he deftly arrested the dangerous son of Gautama and bound him in ropes like an animal.

Being the “son of Gautama” means that Aśwatthāmā was a member of a brahmin family. But Arjuna was duty bound to treat him like an animal, because that is what Aśwatthāmā’s behavior merited. Classical Indian literature evaluates social status not primarily by birth-caste, but by actual behavior.