Kṛṣṇa is vastu, the ultimate reality from which everything originates. The second and third cantos of Bhāgavatam describe Kṛṣṇa’s creation of the material world. By Mahā-Viṣṇu’s glance living entities, their karma and time are injected into the cloud like area of brahmajyoti known as pradhāna (which also emanates from Kṛṣṇa). Then by the agitation caused by the living entities, karma and time in pradhāna, the mahat-tattva evolves. Following that, the false ego, the mind, the sense objects, the demigods and so on are all created. Everything at every step depends on the Absolute Truth. Understanding Him and one’s relationship with Him causes śivadam, auspiciousness, and annihilation of misery. Śrīdhara Svāmī says that in Bhāgavatam, the ultimate reality in the highest manifestation is to be known, not merely in terms of substance, qualities and so on, as taught by the Vaiśeṣika philosophers and others.
The cause of Bhāgavatam’s glories is revealed in the words mahāmuni: because the author is the crest jewel of philosophers, the Bhāgavatam is glorious. Jīva Gosvāmī says that the second text explains that directly experiencing the Supreme Personality easily comes into one’s possession by relishing Bhāgavatam. Hearing the Bhāgavatam establishes the Lord in the living entity’s heart. Of course, Kṛṣṇa is already there (BG 15.15) but toward most living entities He remains neutral (BG 9.29). Lord Brahmā (in SB 3.9.12) confirms that the Lord in the heart is unavailable to non devotees. As soon as one desires to hear Śrīmad Bhāgavatam Kṛṣṇa personally removes all obstacles to their advancement in Kṛṣṇa consciousness by becoming actively established in one’s heart. It is not that everyone hears Bhāgavatam. The word sukṛtibhiḥ indicates that without having pious credits one will not develop the desire to hear Bhāgavatam and thus the Lord remains neutral to such souls.
Bhāgavatam is the essence of all scriptures and shows what is beneficial and unbeneficial for the soul. It laments for the great diversity of recommendations of what is beneficial and unbeneficial for the soul arising from people’s different qualifications and from different philosophical opinions. Thru the hearing process of Bhāgavatam the Lord is immediately brought under control and captured in the heart by accomplished persons, who are devoid of selfishness and who are qualified for this scripture. This indicates that prema arises in the devotees, since the Lord is brought under control only by prema.
Kṛṣṇa enters the hearts of even those who have suddenly developed the desire to hear, even from the moment they begin to hear. And the Lord being captured in the mind cannot leave. That imprisonment occurs immediately even without faith. Somehow this has the power to attract Kṛṣṇa completely. Bhāgavatam should thus be understood to be a great science. Kṛṣṇa is brought under control immediately for those who are qualified; whereas it happens after a slight delay for those who are not so qualified. Both the accomplished and the unaccomplished are qualified for Bhāgavatam.
Tat-kṣaṇāt can also mean that because of Kṛṣṇa’s merriment or festival (kṣaṇāt) He becomes caught in the devotee’s heart. Kṛṣṇa is happy and filled with prema when the devotees hear Bhāgavatam. This result is not achieved by any other scripture or other practices (kim vā paraiḥ). Mahāmuni indicates that the Lord Himself became the sage and planned the work. The Bhāgavatam was first revealed in an abbreviated form by the Lord Himself in four verses.
That object which is fixed in the beginning, middle and end of time (vāstavam) can be understood (vedyam) by those without selfishness. And the selfish by hearing will lose their selfishness. That object is what is to be understood in this work. This permanent object includes the name, form, qualities of the Lord, His abodes, His devotees and bhakti. Because other real objects such as the things of this world are not permanent, it should be understood that though both Vaikuṇṭha and the material world are real, Vaikuṇṭha is really substantial and the material world is not. By gaining knowledge of the permanently real, it gives auspiciousness (śivadam) in the form of becoming an associate of the Lord with prema as the desired result. It gives release from the three miseries (or liberation) as the unsought result.
Bhāgavatam rejects all paths that cheat a person from achieving his real goal. This means sakāma-karma is rejected. The prefix pra (completely) in dharma-projjhita indicates that even the path that promises liberation is rejected. Niṣkāma-karma-yoga, jñāna-yoga and aṣṭāṅga-yoga are also rejected. But parama-dharma, pure bhakti-yoga is to be performed. Bhakti is the best process because it gives all types of happiness – material, liberation and prema. It remains uncontaminated even though it bestows lesser benedictions. Thus this verse indicates the action to be performed.
In this scripture (atra) and not in any other work the Lord becomes controlled by devotees. In this work and not in any other work the substantial object is presented. In this work and no other work, the highest dharma which rejects all cheating is presented. All other yogas are excluded in this work alone.
Śrīmad Bhāgavatam is the mature fruit of the desire tree of Vedic literatures. It emanated from the lips of Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī. Therefore this fruit has become even more tasteful, although its nectarean juice (rasam ālayam) was already relishable for all, including liberated souls. Thus the Bhāgavatam is not only a superior literature, being transcendental to all mundane activities and knowledge, but it is the ripened fruit of all Vedic literatures. With great respect and attention, one should receive the message and lessons imparted by Śrīmad Bhāgavatam. Having described the powers of Bhāgavatam to capture the Lord in the heart, this verse describes the sweetness of Bhāgavatam.
The Vedas are compared to the desire tree because they contain all things knowable by man. They deal with mundane necessities as well as spiritual realization. They deal with regulated principles of knowledge covering social, political, religious, economic, military, medicinal and all that is necessary to keep body and soul together. The Vedas give fruit in the form of the four puruṣārthas, which are desired by those who resort to it. However, the fulfillment of material desires is not the ultimate purpose of the Vedas. Rather, the Vedas gradually encourages spiritual advancement, and thus they are divided into sections, each of which emphasizes appropriate practices for individuals at different levels of advancement. The eighteen Purāṇas, for example, are divided into three divisions for people influenced by each of the three modes of nature. One Purāṇa may therefore appear to contradict another in its instructions and emphasis. Even after compiling all Vedic literature, Vyāsa was dissatisfied till he compiled the Bhāgavatam. The Veda also gives the fruit known as Bhāgavatam because some people desire that.
Regulated knowledge involves a gradual raising of the living being to the spiritual platform, and the highest spiritual realization is knowledge that the Personality of Godhead is the reservoir of all spiritual tastes, or rasas. Everybody desires to relish some sort of taste derived from sense perceptions, and these sensual pleasures are called rasas. There are 12 varieties of rasas: (1) raudra (anger), (2) adbhuta (wonder), (3) śṛṅgāra (conjugal love), (4) hāsya (comedy), (5) vīra (chivalry), (6) dayā (mercy), (7) dāsya (servitorship), (8) sakhya (fraternity), (9) bhayānaka (horror), (10) bībhatsa (shock), (11) śānta (neutrality), (12) vātsalya (parenthood).
The sum total of all these rasas is called affection or love. Primarily, such signs of love are manifested in adoration, service, friendship, parental affection and conjugal love. And when these five are absent, love is present indirectly in anger, wonder, comedy, chivalry, shock, fear and mercy. The rasas were originally exchanged between the spiritual living being and the Supreme Lord, both of whom are spiritual. The Lord is the fountainhead of all rasas. Every living being is endowed with a particular type of rasa to be exchanged with the Lord. In the liberated condition, this primary rasa is experienced in full. In the material plane, the rasa is experienced in the perverted form, and thus the rasas of the material world are exhibited in the material form of anger and so on.
One who attains full knowledge of the rasas can understand the false representations of the original rasas, which are reflected in the material world. The less intelligent transcendentalists cannot go beyond the conception of becoming one with the spirit whole, without knowing the different rasas. Here it is stated that spiritual rasa, which is relished in the liberated stage, can be experienced in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam due to its being the ripened fruit of all Vedic knowledge. One should receive this knowledge, however, from the right source. It was brought by Nārada from the spiritual world and given to Vyāsa. Vyāsa gave it to Śuka, who delivered the message to Parīkṣit. Śuka was liberated even from his birth, although he did not undergo any spiritual training. Yet he was attracted to the transcendental rasa of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Lord’s pastimes are more attractive to liberated souls. He is of necessity not impersonal because it is only possible to carry on transcendental rasa with a person.
When a ripened fruit is cut by the red beaks of a parrot (śuka), the sweet flavor of the fruit is enhanced. Śukadeva is compared to the parrot not for his ability to recite the Bhāgavatam exactly as he heard it from his father, but for his ability to present the work in a manner appealing to all classes of men. Any sincere listener can at once relish transcendental tastes which are distinct from the perverted tastes of the material world. The ripened fruit is not dropped all of a sudden from the highest planet of Kṛṣṇaloka. Rather, it has come down carefully thru the chain of disciplic succession without change or disturbance.
One should hear in disciplic succession from a representative of Śukadeva Gosvāmī. One should refrain from hearing from a professional man, who makes a business of living from Bhāgavatam. Such men usually plunge into the subject matter of rāsa dance, which some take as immoral, while others try to cover it up by their own stupid interpretations. Śrīmad Bhāgavatam is so carefully presented that a sincere student can at once enjoy the ripened fruit of Vedic knowledge simply by drinking the nectarean juice thru the mouth of Śuka or his bona fide representative. The fruit remains unbroken coming down step by step from the branch of Sūta and others. What is implied here is that without the guru-paraṁparā, one cannot drink Bhāgavatam in its unbroken form, just by trying to taste it thru the use of one’s limited intelligence.
The Bhāgavatam offers only the ripe fruit of the tree of Vedic literature. The ripened fruit of a tree is the last stage in the development of the tree and requires many years of effort to obtain. But the tasty, ripened fruit of the tree of the Vedas is directly available in this age in the form of Bhāgavatam. Jīva Gosvāmī asks the learned souls, expert in the mellows of love for the Supreme Lord, to relish in their hearts the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is the sweet fruit of the desire tree of the Vedas, a tree that has come to this earth from Vaikuṇṭha.
This fruit should be drunk, for it is the essence of taste, devoid of skin, seed and other objectionable parts. One should drink it until one develops the eight symptoms of sāttvika-bhāva up to the final one, pralaya or fainting. Though one will not be able to drink the nectar when one has fainted, when the fainting wears off, one awakens to consciousness, and begins drinking until one faints again. One cannot give up drinking and thus the word muhur (continuously) is used. Or though one has drunk it, by again drinking it, one develops more relish for it. This refers only to the devotees, for they develop rati, which becomes the sthāyi-bhāva.
The Lord is rasa personified, which is confirmed in Taittirīya Upaniṣad (2.7): ‘raso vai saḥ’. The Bhāgavatam 10.43.17 also confirms that Kṛṣṇa is the form of all rasas combined because different types of people realized different rasas in Kṛṣṇa just on seeing Him. The jīva attains the highest level of bliss on attaining Kṛṣṇa. Other forms of the Lord also become filled with bliss on seeing Kṛṣṇa as confirmed in SB 10.89.58 and SB 3.2.12. Kṛṣṇa is rasa, the fruit, but this fruit is not directly situated on the tree of the Vedas. It has fallen down nearby. So the fruit is not to be searched out in the Vedas but rather it is found in the mouth of Śuka. The rasa is sweeter because of coming from the mouth of Śuka. The fully ripened fruit is rāgānuga-bhakti following after the sentiments of the gopīs. This is an acceptable meaning of the verse because it is said that the Vedas, taking up that type of bhakti, accepted the forms of hundreds of thousands of gopīs, and drank the sweet rasa of Kṛṣṇa’s lips.
The Lord is the shelter of Brahman too as explained in BG 14.27. It may be questioned how one can attain realization of Brahman, which has no qualities, by worshiping the Lord. To this Kṛṣṇa says that one can do it because He is the shelter of even the Brahman, which is famous in the śrutis as the shelter of everything. The Lord is the shelter of liberation (amṛtasya) because the word avyayasya indicates indestructible, which excludes the amṛta of the heavens. Kṛṣṇa is also the shelter of bhakti (dharmasya) which is continuous (śāśvatasya), being present as sādhana and as the result of sādhana (prema). He is the shelter of prema (aikāntikasya sukhasya), the goal of sādhana bhakti. Because everything is dependent on Him, one can merge into Brahman, by worshiping with such a desire.
Vyāsadeva had spoken the Bhāgavatam to his son Śuka, but both Vyāsa and Nārada were present when Śuka spoke the Bhāgavatam to Parīkṣit. These great souls experienced Śuka’s words as if they had never heard these teachings before. For this reason, Vyāsa says the Bhāgavatam is enriched with nectarean juice from the mouth of śuka. Śuka presented nectar in an easily digestible form that he presented the confidential Vraja pastimes only in the tenth canto, after systematically presenting all topics needed to appreciate and digest these pastimes. One will never become satiated by tasting the nectar of the Bhāgavatam, and one’s desire to taste will never diminish. Thus even after liberation one will continue to drink the nectar. Although being a liberated soul since birth, Śukadeva Gosvāmī eagerly relished the Bhāgavatam. The Bhāgavatam is described by the word rasa because it deals only with spiritual mellows and not with anything else. When one understands Kṛṣṇa as the reservoir of rasa, one becomes transcendentally blissful.
Śrīmad Bhāgavatam after its first recitation by Śuka was repeated for the second time at Naimiṣāraṇya. After the prelude of the book was spoken in three verses, the main topic is presented. The first text defines the Absolute Truth, the second describes the glories of Bhāgavatam and defines actual religion, and the third invites humankind to taste the Bhāgavatam’s sweetness.
Once in the forest of Naimiṣāraṇya, great sages headed by Śaunaka assembled to perform a thousand year sacrifice for the satisfaction of the Lord and His devotees. They performed the sacrifice also to attain the planet of the Supreme Lord. Brahmā, the engineer of this universe, contemplated a great wheel which could enclose the universe. The hub of this great circle was fixed at the place of Naimiṣāraṇya, where the performances of sacrifice would curtail the strength of the demoniac. The devotees offer sacrifices for the pleasure of Lord Viṣṇu. Anything done for any reason other than the pleasure of the Lord causes bondage to the material world.
The sages perform sacrifice to do good to the people in general, which would bring about peace and prosperity. Lord Viṣṇu is like a great tree, and all others including the demigods, men, Siddhas, Cāranās and other living beings are like branches, twigs and leaves of the tree. By pouring water on the root of the tree, all the parts of the tree are automatically nourished. Human society, when it is detached from the Personality of Godhead like detached branches and leaves, is not capable of being watered. Thus all the plans of the atheistic leaders to bring about peace and prosperity are baffled at every step. In this age, the congregational chanting of the holy names of the Lord is the prescribed method to worship the Lord, and the intelligent persons engage in such a sacrifice to bring about real peace and prosperity.
In the beginning, Śaunaka and other sages were attached to sakāma-karma, and thus performed sacrifice to attain Svarga (svargāya lokāya). However, after hearing and contemplating various Purāṇas and other scriptures from Romaharṣaṇa, they became inquisitive about spiritual life. By association with Sūta Gosvāmī they developed a small taste of bhakti. Then their inquisitiveness became weakened and performance of sacrifice for attaining Svarga became false. The power of bhakti is indicated by the cessation of their attachment to prescribed duties which arose in them from hearing Bhāgavatam. Svargāya lokāya also means the abode of the Lord who is glorified in Svarga.