Srimad Bhagavatam

SB 1.4 - Vyāsa divides the Veda

Prior to kali yuga religious texts were memorized and not recorded. Vyāsa attempted to adapt the Vedic processes to the times. The Vedas require adjustment because to make proper use of the Vedas one is required to know the intricacies of Vedic Sanskrit, which is more difficult than contemporary Sanskrit. In addition the cryptic verses of the Vedas require a qualified guru under whom they can be studied. In kali yuga there are no such gurus. Before undertaking the study of the Vedas, one should have studied the six Vedic corollaries, or limbs called the Vedāṅgas: śikṣā, pronunciation; kalpa, the process of performing sacrifices; vyākaraṇa, grammar; nirukta, the meanings and derivations of difficult words used in the Vedas; jyotiṣa, astronomy and astrology; and chandas, Vedic meters. Who would teach these subjects and who would be capable of learning them in Kali yuga?

Vyāsa saw that the sacrifices mentioned in the Vedas were means by which the occupation of the people could be purified. To simplify the process, he divided the one Veda, Yajur, into four – Ṛg, Yajur, Sāma and Atharva. Seeing the purifying power of Vedic rites performed by the four priests for the people at large who were not inclined for jñāna, yoga or bhakti, Vyāsa divided the one Veda into four for continuation of sacrifice. These sacrifices were accomplished by four priests, the hotā (reciter of Ṛg-veda, offerer of oblations), udgātā (reciter of Sāma-veda, corrector of irregularity), adhvaryu (reciter of Yajur-veda, preparer of items for sacrifice), and the brahmā (reciter of Atharva-veda, knower of all vedas, supervisor). The historical facts (itihāsās) and authentic stories (Purāṇas) are called the fifth Veda. The Chāndogya Upaniṣad (7.1.4) also confirms that the Purāṇas and the itihāsās are the fifth Veda. These explain the teaching of the four Vedas.

SB 1.4 - The division of the Vedas

The four Vedas were entrusted to different sages for development in various ways: Ṛg Veda to Paila Ṛṣi, Sāma Veda to Jaimini, Yajur Veda to Vaiśampāyana, and the Atharva Veda to Aṅgirā. The Purāṇas and Itihāsās were entrusted to Romaharṣaṇa, the father of Sūta. All these learned sages, in turn, rendered their entrusted Vedas unto their many disciples, grand disciples and great grand disciples, and thus the respective branches of the followers of the Vedas came into being. The Vedic knowledge, broken into different branches by different disciplic succession, has been distributed all over the world. There are no branches of knowledge, either mundane or transcendental, which do not belong to the original Vedas. Vyāsa’s followers divided the four Vedas into 1130 branches. The Ṛg Veda was divided into 21 branches. The Yajur Veda into 100 branches, the Sāma Veda into 1000 branches, and Atharva Veda into 9 branches. Each of these branches has four subdivisions called Saṁhitā, Brāhmaṇa, Ārāṇyaka, and Upaniṣad. All together the four Vedas consist of 1130 Saṁhitās, 1130 Brāhmaṇas, 1130 Ārāṇyakas, and 1130 Upaniṣads - a total of 4520 titles.

Thus Vyāsa, who is very kind to the ignorant masses, edited the Vedas so they might be assimilated by less intellectual men. The Vedas cannot be easily understood by any ordinary person. There is a stricture that no one should learn the Vedas who is not a qualified brāhmaṇa. This stricture has been wrongly misinterpreted that the caste brāhmaṇas think that Vedas is their monopoly. Others take this as an injustice to members of other castes. But both of them are misguided. The Vedas had to be explained even to Brahmā, by the Supreme Lord. Thus the subject matter is understood only by those with exceptional qualities of goodness. Persons in the modes of passion and ignorance cannot understand the Vedas. The ultimate goal of Vedic knowledge is Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the Personality of Godhead, who cannot be understood by persons in passion and ignorance. Since in the present age, the mode of goodness is almost nil, Vyāsa divided the Vedas to help the less intelligent people in the lower modes.

SB 1.4 - Vyāsa's compassion for all classes

Out of great compassion, Vyāsa compiled the Mahābhārata for women, laborers and friends of the twice born, who were not qualified to hear the Vedas. There are different purificatory rites one need to undergo to be a proper twice born. The seed giving reformatory process if called garbhādhāna-saṁskāra. A second ceremony is done at the time of spiritual initiation when one is given the sacred thread. Thus one birth is calculated during the seed giving saṁskāra, and the second birth is calculated at the time of spiritual initiation. One who undergoes such reformatory rites can be called a bona fide twice born. The friends of the twice born are those who are born in the families of brāhmaṇas, kṣatriyas and vaiśyas but who have not undergone the purification process. These dvija-bandhus are classified with the śūdras and the women class, who do not have to undergo any saṁskāra except the marriage ceremony.

Since these classes do not have the necessary qualifications to understand the Vedas, Vyāsa prepared the Mahābhārata, which administers the purpose of the Vedas, and therefore within it, the summary Veda of Bhagavad-gītā is placed. The less intelligent are more interested in stories than philosophy, and therefore the philosophy of the Vedas in the form of Gītā is spoken by Lord Kṛṣṇa.

SB 1.4 - Vyāsa's dissatisfaction

Even after preparing literatures for the all-round welfare of the general mass of people, Vyāsadeva was still not satisfied in his mind. Thus he began to reflect the cause for his dissatisfaction. He had worshipped the Vedas under strict vows, and also the spiritual masters and the altar of sacrifice. He had shown the import of disciplic succession thru the Mahābhārata. Vyāsa was feeling incomplete, though he was fully equipped with everything required by the Vedas. Purification of the living beings submerged in matter is made possible by the prescribed activities in the Vedas, but the ultimate achievement is different.

Vyāsa then understood the cause for his dissatisfaction because he did not specifically point out bhāgavata dharma – devotional service of the Lord, which is dear both to perfect beings – the paramahaṁsas, and to Acyuta, the infallible Lord. The path of bhakti is pleasing to the most elevated devotees, and the elevated devotees alone are dear to the Lord. Bhāgavata dharma is emphasized repeatedly in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, especially by Ṛṣabhadeva, Yamarāja, King Citraketu, Prahlāda, and the nine Yogendras. Unless one is fixed in the normal condition of service, neither the Lord nor the living being can become fully satisfied. The vacuum felt by Vyāsadeva was not due to his lack of knowledge. In none of his works were the transcendental activities of the Lord properly explained. Thus not even writing spiritual masterpieces can replace alienation with a lasting sense of completeness. Nothing short of devotedly serving and glorifying Kṛṣṇa can deeply satisfy the soul. The monist has no access to pure bhakti, and they are not counted amongst the paramahaṁsas. It is said here (1.4.31) that bhāgavata dharma is pleasing to the paramahaṁsas. The word bhāgavata dharma cannot mean jñāna, and thus paramahaṁsas can refer only to the devotees and not to the jñānīs. Bhāgavatam should always be connected with the devotees and never taken as the property of the jñānīs. It is definitely expressed herein that without loving service to the Lord, everything is void.

Lacking complete knowledge and being dissatisfied are impossible for Vyāsa, since he is an avatāra of the Lord. Thus it should be understood that these conditions were strongly produced by Kṛṣṇa Himself in order to manifest the Bhāgavatam. Similarly, even Balarāma’s knowledge became covered by Kṛṣṇa for the beauty of the pastimes in bewildering Brahmā. The chief goal of human endeavor, liberation, is achieved only by bhakti. And the unique meaning of all the scriptures becomes visible to all people by bhakti. Just as Vyāsa was regretting his defects, Nārada reached his cottage on the banks of Sarasvatī. Seeing Nārada, Vyāsadeva got up respectfully and worshipped him giving him respects equal to that given to Brahmā, the creator. Nārada is the representative of Brahmā, and thus respected exactly like Brahmā, the father of all vidhis (regulations).

SB 1.5 - Mere Brahman realization cannot satisfy the soul

Nārada knowing well, the cause of Vyāsa’s disappointment, smiled and asked him if he was satisfied by identifying with the body or the mind as objects of self realization. Having had the privilege of a great parentage, Vyāsa should not have been despondent. Being a great son of a great father (Parāśara), Vyāsa should not have identified the self with the body or mind. One cannot be cheerful by nature unless one is factually seated in self realization, which is transcendental to the body and mind. Vyāsa had sufficient knowledge and had fully inquired about the Vedas, as a result of which he had compiled Mahābhārata, which is a full explanation of the Vedas. It was complete with all instructions on artha, dharma, kāma and mokṣa. The source of his dissatisfaction cannot thus be lack of scriptural knowledge. He had fully delineated the subject of impersonal Brahman, as well as the knowledge derived there from. The Vedānta-sūtra as is commonly understood is the full deliberation of the impersonal absolute feature. It covers the subject of eternity, and the methods are scholarly. Not only did Vyāsa inquire about Brahman, but had understood and realized Brahman. So why would Vyāsadeva still lament?

Jīva Gosvāmī says that mere Brahman realization cannot satisfy the soul. The soul’s true need is love, prīti. Direct perception of Bhagavān is the highest liberation. In that state the most exalted spiritual activities are known by names like bhakti and prīti.

SB 1.5 - The perfection of Nārada

Vyāsa answered that despite all this, he was not pacified. Thus he asked Nārada the root cause for his dissatisfaction, for Nārada was a man of unlimited knowledge due to being the offspring of Brahmā. All knowledge disseminated in the material world is related either with the body or with the mind, since everyone is engrossed with identifying the self with the body or mind. Thus one should approach a personality like Nārada, who knows everything mysterious because he worships the creator and destroyer of the material world, the original Personality of Godhead, who is transcendental to the three modes.

A devotee like Nārada, who is an avatāra, can act wonderfully by his spiritual perfection. A devotee of the Lord in full perfection of devotional service is also perfect by the qualification of the Lord. Vyāsa asked such a personality, Nārada, to find out the deficiency in him, for Nārada can penetrate the internal region of everyone like the air, and thus as good as the Supersoul. He knows the whole secret and the secret behind all things. Nārada wanders throughout the three worlds like the sun, which sees everything, and like the life air which moves within, knowing the actions of the intellect. Vyāsa was proficient in the Vedas and have realized the Brahman by proper methods. Still it was not enough.

SB 1.5 - Nārada's analysis for Vyāsa's despondency

Nārada said that Vyāsa had not broadcast the sublime and spotless glories of the Personality of Godhead. That philosophy which does not satisfy the transcendental senses of the Lord is worthless. The Lord has expanded Himself as living beings in order to accept loving service from them, and this alone can satisfy both the Lord and the living beings. Dry philosophical speculations even on the transcendental subject of the Absolute have very little attraction without directly dealing with the glorification of the Lord. Only such descriptions of the Lord’s glories would awaken love for Him. The compiler of Vedānta is Vyāsa himself. Yet he is troubled. So what sort of bliss can the readers and listeners of Vedānta derive, which is not explained directly by Vyāsadeva, the author? Writing the Vedānta sūtras was insufficient because his mind could never be satisfied with it. Herein arises the necessity of explaining the Vedānta-sūtra in the form of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam by the self same author. The reasons Bhāgavatam manifested was to show that mere knowledge of Brahman is insufficient to satisfy the soul, and that the Supreme Lord can be seen directly only thru loving devotional service.

Although Vyāsa had broadly described the four principles of dharma, artha, kāma and mokṣa, he had not given many descriptions of the glories of Kṛṣṇa. As a matter of course, he has given descriptions of the glories of the Lord but not as many as given to the above four principles. Thus these four items are far inferior to engagement in devotional service of the Lord. Though Vāsudeva is the crest jewel of human goals, Vyāsa had not described Him as the goal of human endeavor. Though he had described the glories of Kṛṣṇa abundantly in many places, they have been described only as a means of getting mokṣa.

After liberation, one is engaged in pure devotional service, and this is the brahma-bhūta stage. After this stage, one is satisfied. But satisfaction is the beginning of transcendental bliss. One should first progress by attaining neutrality and equality in the relative world. And passing this stage of equanimity, one is then fixed in the transcendental loving service of the Lord. To maintain the status-quo of the brahma-bhūta stage, as also to increase the degree of transcendental realization, Nārada recommended that Vyāsa should eagerly describe the path of devotional service. Although Vyāsa had described in Padma Purāṇa that bhakti is higher than liberation, he had not done so repeatedly. He must do so because it is said that the meaning of scriptures is revealed by repetition as in ‘ānandamayo ‘bhyāsāt’: the ānandamaya-puruṣa is the Supreme Lord because of repetition of words to indicate this (Vs 1.1.13).

SB 1.5 - The literatures of the crows

Those words which do not describe the glories of the Lord, which purify not only the author but the whole world, are considered by saintly persons to be like a place of pilgrimage for crows. Since the all perfect persons are inhabitants of the transcendental abode, they do not derive any pleasure there. The fruitive workers or passionate men are compared to the crows, whereas the saintly persons are compared to the swans. The swans do not take pleasure in the places where crows are assembled for conferences and meetings.

Nature has influenced different species of life with different mentalities, and it is not possible to bring them up into the same rank and file. There are different kinds of literature for different types of men. The market literatures which attract men of the crow’s categories are those related to the gross body and subtle mind, and contain refused remnants of sensuous topics. Such poetry and prose is considered decoration of a dead body. The swanlike spiritually advanced men have nothing to do with such literatures, which are in the modes of passion and ignorance. They avoid the fruitive activities for gross bodily sense satisfaction or the subtle speculation of the material egoistic mind. Social literary men, scientists, mundane poets, theoretical philosophers and politicians are all dolls of the material energy. Indulging in the pleasure of the prostitute hunters, they take pleasure where rejected subject matters are thrown.

But literatures which describe the glories of the Lord are enjoyed by the paramahaṁsas who have grasped the essence of human activities. It may be said that none of the Purāṇas written by Vyāsa should be considered a place for crows, since nothing there is completely devoid of the glories of the Lord. But in SB 12.12.66 it is said that Nārāyaṇa is not glorified much in other works, but is abundantly and constantly described throughout the various narrations of Bhāgavatam. Thus we can understand that in other Purāṇas many of the stories are devoid of the glories of the Lord.

SB 1.5 - The literatures of the paramahaṁsas

But literatures which describe the glories of the Lord are enjoyed by the paramahaṁsas who have grasped the essence of human activities. It may be said that none of the Purāṇas written by Vyāsa should be considered a place for crows, since nothing there is completely devoid of the glories of the Lord. But in SB 12.12.66 it is said that Nārāyaṇa is not glorified much in other works, but is abundantly and constantly described throughout the various narrations of Bhāgavatam. Thus we can understand that in other Purāṇas many of the stories are devoid of the glories of the Lord.

On the other hand, that literature which is full of descriptions of the glories of the name, fame, forms, pastimes, etc of the unlimited Supreme Lord is a different creation. These are full of transcendental words directed toward bringing about a revolution in the impious lives of this world’s misdirected civilization. Such transcendental literatures even though imperfectly composed are heard, sung and accepted by honest men. These literatures are sometimes composed strictly and sometimes carelessly, but with sparse ornaments in the verses contain names and descriptions of the Lord’s glories. The devotees hear, and having heard, sing, and having sung, again hear, since they are not satiated. If a speaker is present, they hear the glories. If a hearer is present they speak the glories. Otherwise, they spontaneously sing the glories.

SB 1.5 - The glory of Śrīla Prabhupāda

A saintly person is always absorbed in glorifying the Lord because by broadcasting the holy name and fame of the Lord, the polluted atmosphere of the world would change. In the age of Kali there is always quarrel on slight provocation. There is systematic propaganda to stop glorification of the Lord. Thus there is a great need to disseminate the message of Bhāgavatam all over the world. If this message is received only by the leaders of the world, there will be a change of heart, and naturally the people in general will follow them.

Śrīla Prabhupāda says that his attempt to write Bhāgavatam to revive God consciousness and re-spiritualize the world would be fraught with difficulties. He says there would be many literary discrepancies despite his honest attempt to present it in a proper way. But he was confident that his attempt would succeed due to it being an honest one to glorify the Lord. After all, it is a technical science of spiritual values, and if this great literature of Bhāgavatam is understood by the people, there would be success. Śrīla Prabhupāda indeed succeeded in respiritualizing the whole world with Kṛṣṇa consciousness.

The world is full of so many unwanted literatures filled with materialistic ideas of sense enjoyment. People in general want to read but because their minds are polluted they want such literatures. Thus transcendental literatures like Śrīmad Bhāgavatam will not only diminish the activities of the corrupt mind in general, but also will supply food for their hankering after reading some interesting literature. Systematic propaganda for popularizing reading of Bhagavad gītā and Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, would act like sugar candy for the jaundice-like condition of sense gratification.