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Srimad Bhagavatam

SB 1.5 - Bhakti mixed with karma

While performing duties according to the order of Kṛṣṇa, one constantly remembers Him, His names and His qualities. It has just been said that by karma yoga mixed with bhakti (bhakti-miśra-karma) one achieves jñāna mixed with bhakti, which aims at liberation. Now it is said that sometimes, some people who practice niṣkāma-karma mixed with bhakti can develop bhakti mixed with karma (karma-miśra-bhakti) by association with devotees having karma-miśra-bhakti. This bhakti is characterized by chanting and remembering the Lord. This is superior to bhakti-miśra-jñāna mentioned previously.

In BG 9.27 Kṛṣṇa had advised to do everything as an offering to Him. This teaching is not directed to the karma-yogī since this verse falls in the section on bhakti. Moreover, the karma-yogī offers only Vedic karmas to the Lord in order that the results will come to him. The devotees, however, take Vedic, mundane and daily duties and offer them all to the Lord. This verse from BG like the SB verse under discussion refers to karma-miśra-bhakti. While doing karmas according to the Lord’s instructions and simultaneously performing bhakti in the form of chanting and remembering, this verse indicates bhakti as the principal action mixed with karma. Then one achieves jñāna-miśra-bhakti. From that one achieves rati for the Lord along with liberation. This is called śānta-bhakti. The ātmārāma verse (SB 1.7.10) confirms this: the Lord possesses qualities that attract (rati) even the ātmārāmas.

The order of the Lord as given in Bhagavad gītā is that one should work only for Him in all spheres of life. According to the Vedic rites, even in the worship of demigods, the representation of Viṣṇu must be there as yajñeśvara, or the controller of the sacrifice. Apart from Vedic duties, even in our ordinary dealings we must give our results to the supreme enjoyer, Kṛṣṇa. A pure devotee remembers that Kṛṣṇa is the supreme enjoyer, supreme proprietor and supreme friend, and in doing so the devotee repeats the name, fame and qualities of the Lord. Thus he is in constant touch with the Lord. Kṛṣṇa says that no one is more dear to Him than one who preaches His name and fame all over the world. He wants the message of the Gītā to be taught among the devotees, but not among those who have no credit of austerities, charity etc. Therefore, the attempt must go on to convert the unwilling persons to become His devotees. Lord Caitanya’s simple method of singing, dancing and feasting is very effective in this connection, and all spiritual activities must be conducted under the guidance of a pure devotee.

SB 1.5 - Nārada's personal mantra

It has been explained that both jñāna and karma without bhakti are condemned (1.5.12). It has also been said in three verses (1.5.17-19) that pure bhakti beyond the guṇas is the supreme process. The whole process from the first appearance of pure bhakti to its increase up to prema has also been described in six verses (1.5.23-28). Then according to qualification, bhakti-miśra-jñāna was permitted (1.5.35), and karma-miśra-bhakti was mentioned as superior to that (1.5.36). Now desiring to teach his personal mantra received from the gurus, Nārada first creates faith in those mantras. Nārada advises us all to chant the glories of Vāsudeva along with His plenary expansions Pradyumna, Aniruddha and Saṅkarṣaṇa. The question raised by the great sages headed by Śaunaka regarding the confidential part of Sūta’s achievement thru the spiritual masters is explained herein by chanting of this hymn of 33 letters – oṁ namo bhagavate tubhyaṁ, vāsudevāya dhīmahi, pradyumnāya aniruddhāya, namaḥ saṅkarṣaṇāya ca. (1.5.37). The central figure is Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa and the plenary portions expanded as Vāsudeva, Saṅkarṣaṇa, Pradyumna and Aniruddha are His aides-de-camp. These expansions are the original Deities for all other truths, namely either viṣṇu-tattva or śakti-tattvas. By placing the members out of order, one can understand that this is a listing of the members of Kṛṣṇa’s catur-vyūha with His son Pradyumna and grandson Aniruddha placed next to Kṛṣṇa followed by Balarāma, rather than the one in Vaikuṇṭha.

SB 1.5 - Receiving the mantra from guru

One who worships the yajña-puruṣa, Lord Viṣṇu, who has no material form (amūrtikam), in the form of transcendental sound vibration (mantra mūrtim) is the actual seer. One should worship the Lord, who is the subject of the dhyāna-mantra with the 16 items of worship while uttering vāsudevāya namaḥ. Anything which is beyond the scope of experience by our imperfect senses can be realized fully by the sound representation. This is a factual experience of the transcendental Personality of Godhead, who possesses a pure form of sac-cid-ānanda. The transcendental form of the Lord can be experienced without difficulty (amūrtikam – mūrti also means difficulty) by our original spiritual senses which can be revived by chanting the holy mantras. Such sound should be received from the transparent agency of the bona fide guru, and the chanting may be practiced by the direction of the spiritual master. This method of worship is recommended in the pāñcarātrika system, and this is more important than the Vedānta for this modern age. One who worships the Lord possesses complete scriptural conclusion. This does not refer to scriptures devoid of bhakti, which are not wholesome but deficient as confirmed in SB 1.5.8 where Nārada said that Vyāsa’s writing of Vedānta was insufficient because he was never satisfied.

Thus by Lord Kṛṣṇa, Nārada was endowed first with transcendental knowledge of the Lord, then with the spiritual opulences like aṇima and other siddhis, and then with His intimate loving service (prema). By chanting the holy names of the Lord without offenses, one can understand the Lord’s existence in the transcendental realm. The Lord reveals His identity gradually to one who has unflinching faith in guru and Kṛṣṇa. After this, the devotee is endowed with mystic opulences, and above all he is accepted in the confidential entourage of the Lord and is entrusted with specific service of the Lord thru the agency of the spiritual master. Vyāsa then learnt the mantra from Nārada.

SB 1.5 - Bhāgavatam is meant for one who wants his welfare

Nārada advises Vyāsa to describe the Almighty’s activities which he had learned by his vast knowledge of the Vedas, for that would satisfy the hankerings of great learned men and at the same time mitigate the miseries of common people. There are four classes of good men, who acknowledge the authority of the Lord. They are those who are in distress, who are in need of money, who are advanced in knowledge and the inquisitive. There are four kinds of bad men too: those who are addicted to the mode of progressive fruitive work (karmīs), those addicted to vicious work for sense enjoyment (vikarmīs), those who are materially advanced in knowledge but do not acknowledge the authority of the Lord, and the atheists. Nārada advised Vyāsa to describe the glories of the Lord just to do good to all eight classes of men, both good and bad. By knowing the glories of the Lord, one would become devoted solely to the confidential scriptures and not have a desire for jñāna. Thus the Bhāgavatam is meant for anyone who wants his own welfare and peace of mind.

SB 1.6 - Nārada's spiritual body

Hearing about Nārada’s birth and activities, Vyāsadeva was inquisitive to know more about the perfection of Nārada. So Vyāsa asked Nārada what he did after the sages left before the beginning of his present birth. This desire to inquire from the spiritual master is an essential factor to the progressive path, and this process is technically called sad-dharma-pṛcchā. Vyāsa wanted to know how Nārada attained his spiritual body. Since time annihilates everything in due course, how was it that Nārada was able to remember this subject matter, which happened in the previous day of Brahmā. As spirit is not annihilated even after the annihilation of the material body, so also spiritual consciousness is not destroyed. Nārada developed this spiritual consciousness even when he had his material body in the previous kalpa.

SB 1.6 - Nārada's dependence on his mother

Nārada said that the sages who imparted scientific knowledge of transcendence (vijñānam) to him departed for other places. Nārada wanted to leave home after hearing the instructions of the sages, but he awaited Kṛṣṇa’s arrangement. Nārada’s mother was a maidservant and a simple woman. She bound him, who was her only child, with the tie of affection. She wanted to look after him properly but was unable to do anything for him because she was dependent on others. The world is under the full control of the Lord, and thus everyone is like a wooden doll in the hands of a puppet master. Only five years old and inexperienced with time, place and direction, Nārada lived in a brāhmaṇa school, and was dependent on his mother’s affection.

One day when his mother went out to milk a cow, she was bitten on the leg by a serpent, influenced by supreme time. The poor boy was being looked after only by his affectionate mother, and yet the mother was taken away by the supreme will in order to put him completely at the mercy of the Lord.

SB 1.6 - The vision of a pure devotee

Confidential devotees of the Lord see in every step a benedictory direction of the Lord. Nārada took his mother passing as the special mercy of the Lord, who always desires the welfare of His devotees. What is considered an odd or difficult moment in the mundane sense is accepted as special mercy of the Lord. Mundane prosperity is a kind of material fever, and by the grace of the Lord the temperature of this material fever is gradually diminished, and spiritual health is obtained step by step. Nārada, without performing the funeral rites of his mother, started for the North, and passed thru many flourishing towns, villages, farms, mines, agricultural lands, valets, flower gardens and natural forests. After getting an impetus in spiritual life, Nārada did not waste even a single moment with economic development, although he passed towns and villages, mines and industries. Bhāgavatam portrays history as it happened millions of years ago, and such history repeats itself. The mundane wranglers waste time with archaeological excavations without searching into the vital necessities of life.

SB 1.6 - Experiencing all varieties of God's creation

Nārada passed thru hills and mountains full of minerals like gold, silver and copper, and thru tracts of land with reservoir of water filled with beautiful lotus flowers decorated with bees and singing birds. He then passed thru many forests of rushes, bamboo, sharp grass, weeds and caves, which were difficult to pass thru alone. He visited deep, dark and dangerous forests, which were the play yards of snakes, owls and jackals. It is the duty of a mendicant to experience all varieties of God’s creation by traveling alone thru all forests, hills, towns and villages to gain faith in God and strength of mind as well as to enlighten the inhabitants with the message of God. Wandering without external shelter increases one’s dependence on Kṛṣṇa because it tests and strengthens one’s faith. One begins to realize fearlessness. Nārada was absorbed in tasting the sweetness of the Lord and so did not experience surprise or fear.

A sannyāsī is duty bound to take all risks without fear, and the most typical sannyāsī of the present age is Lord Caitanya, who traveled in the same manner thru the jungles. One should take the vow to stop social intercourse completely and devote life exclusively to the service of the Lord. In this age, devotional service of hearing and chanting the holy glories of the Lord is recommended, and one need not imitate the parivrājakācārya like Nārada or Caitanya, but may sit down at some holy place and devote his time to hear and repeatedly chant the holy scriptures left by great ācāryas like the six Gosvāmīs of Vṛndāvana.

SB 1.6 - The meditation of Nārada

Being exhausted from traveling, Nārada took a bath in a river and also drank water. Thus he got relief from exhaustion. A traveling mendicant can meet the needs of body, namely thirst and hunger, by the gifts of nature. Thus his purpose in visiting the house of a householder is not to beg but to enlighten him spiritually. After that, under the shadow of a banyan tree (aśvattha or pippala) in an uninhabited forest, Nārada began to meditate upon the Supersoul, as he had learned from liberated souls. The Paramātmā was situated permanently in his mind because Nārada had developed prema. One should not meditate whimsically, but know everything perfectly well from authorized scriptures thru the guru, and then by proper use of one’s trained intelligence, one should meditate on the Supersoul.

As soon as Nārada began to meditate upon the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord with his mind transformed in transcendental love (bhāva-nirjita), tears rolled down his eyes, and without delay Kṛṣṇa appeared on the lotus of his heart. Nārada attained the stage of bhāva, which is just prior to the stage of prema. In this stage there are eight different kinds of ecstasies, of which tears from one’s eyes is one of them. The Lord first appeared in Nārada’s heart and then appeared in the three functions of the mind – nose, ear and eye, so that Nārada could experience the fragrance of the Lord’s body, the sound of His ankle bells and the beauty of His face.

SB 1.6 - Nārada's prema on seeing the form of the Lord

Being overpowered by feelings of happiness, every part of Nārada’s body became enlivened. Being absorbed in an ocean of ecstasy, he could neither see himself nor the Lord. All his limbs developed the symptoms of prema, and being covered with goose bumps prema became difficult to bear. Nārada lost the form of the Lord which he was seeing. Spiritual feelings of happiness and intense ecstasies have no mundane comparison. Each and every part of the body or senses has its particular function. After seeing the Lord, all the senses become fully awakened to render service unto the Lord because in the liberated state the senses are fully efficient in serving the Lord. As such, in that transcendental ecstasy, it so happened that the senses became separately enlivened to serve the Lord.

The transcendental form of the Lord satisfies the mind’s desire and at once erases all mental incongruities. Thus the Lord is not formless. But His form is completely different from all forms of our material experience. None of the material forms can satisfy the mind, nor can they vanish the disturbances of the mind. One who has seen that form even once is not satisfied with anything else. When it is said the Lord is formless, it means that He has nothing like a material form. As spiritual beings, we are searching after that form of the Lord life after life. We are not satisfied by any other form of material appeasement. Nārada got a glimpse of the form, but upon losing it, he became perturbed and stood up to search it out.