Srimad Bhagavatam

SB 1.2 - Anarthas that cause unsteadiness in bhakti

Kṛṣṇa removes abhadrāṇi, inauspiciousness from the hearts of those eager to hear about Him. Specific anarthas (abhadrāṇi) cause unsteady devotional service. Viśvanātha Cakravartī defines six anarthas that initially cause unsteadiness:

(a) utsāha-mayī: enthusiasm indicating pride. Pride in personal devotional achievements causes beginning devotees to immaturely think that they have mastered everything.

(b) ghana-taralā: moving unsteadily between diligence and negligence. Such a devotee reads scripture one day; the next he is too sleepy.

(c) vyūḍha-vikalpā: flickering determination. ‘Should I remain a householder or become renounced?’ ‘Should I enjoy my youth or should I practice renunciation now?’ Such persons offer quotations from śāstra that confirm each choice.

(d) viṣaya-saṅgarā: an ongoing struggle with sense pleasure. Seeing themselves being carried away by sense enjoyment, devotees resolve to take shelter of Kṛṣṇa’s holy name. They try to be determined but their practice is intermittent and they are forced by their own nature to enjoy what they have renounced.

(e) niyamākṣamā: inability to improve devotional practices. ‘From now on I will chant 64 rounds’. ‘From today on, I will read a chapter of Bhagavad gītā daily’. Despite such good intentions and vows, these devotees cannot increase or improve their practices.

(f) taraṅga-raṅgiṇī: delighting in the material facilities that bhakti produces. Devotees become enamored by the small waves of position, followers and wealth in the ocean of bhakti.

SB 1.2 - The way the impurities in heart are destroyed

What happens when we become eager to hear that clears material desires from the heart is next explained. By regularly attending classes on Bhāgavatam and by rendering service to the pure devotee, all that is troublesome to the heart is almost destroyed, and loving service to the Lord, who is praised with transcendental songs, is established. Śrīla Prabhupāda says that when 75 percent of the dirty things are cleansed from our heart, our faith in God becomes fixed up. There are two types of Bhāgavatas, namely the book Bhāgavata and the devotee Bhāgavata. A devotee Bhāgavata is as good as the book Bhāgavata because the devotee leads his life in terms of the book Bhāgavata, which is full of information about the Personality of Godhead and His devotees.

The devotee Bhāgavata is a direct representative of Bhagavān, and so by pleasing him, one can receive the benefit of the book Bhāgavata. This is seen in the life of Nārada, whose mother was a maidservant. The maidservant was engaged in the service of the sages, and thus he also came into contact with them. And simply by associating with them and accepting the remnants of foodstuff left by the sages, the son of the maidservant got the chance to become the great devotee and personality Śrīla Nāradadeva. The messages of the book Bhāgavata have to be received from the devotee Bhāgavata, and the combination of these two Bhāgavatas will help one to make progress. By serving the devotees and Bhāgavatam, the major portion of anarthas become weak. The anarthas arise from sin, from piety, from aparādha and from performance of bhakti. The effects of aparādha take longer to destroy and continue till the stage of bhāva. The weakening of anarthas continue till the stage of rati. When the anarthas are almost destroyed, one attains the stage of niṣṭhā.

The next stages in bhakti are indicated in verse 18. (6) bhakti – devotional service, is indicated in the phrase bhaktir bhavati naiṣṭhikī. (7) anarthāpagamam – disappearance of obstacles (anartha-nivṛtti). The phrase naṣṭa-prāyeṣv abhadreṣu means that inauspicious things, including nāmāparādhas, are almost completely destroyed. (8) niṣṭhā – steadiness. This is indicated in the phrase bhaktir bhavati naiṣṭhikī – naiṣṭhikī means niṣṭhā.

SB 1.2 - What happens when a devotee achieves steadiness?

As soon as loving service is established in the heart of a devotee, the effects of nature’s modes of passion and ignorance, such as lust, desire and hankering, disappear from the heart. Then the devotee is established in goodness, and he becomes completely happy. Although the modes of nature may to some extent still be acting, they are unable to actually influence such a devotee, whose heart is now qualified to receive the Lord’s direct audience. A living being is fully satisfied in spiritual bliss in the state of brahma-bhūta. This self satisfaction is not like the satisfaction of the inactive fool, who is simply in foolish ignorance. The stage of perfection is achieved when one is situated in devotional service, which is not inactivity, but the unalloyed activity of the soul. The effect of devotional service becomes manifest by complete elimination of lust, desire, inactivity, foolishness and sleep. Being fixed in goodness, the devotee makes further progress to rise to the position of vasudeva, or the state of śuddha-sattva. Only in this state can one always see Kṛṣṇa eye to eye by dint of pure love for the Lord. A devotee is always qualified with all the good qualities of the Lord, but quantitatively he is different from the Lord.

Verse 19 indicates two stages in the progression of bhakti. (9) ruci – taste. Since the heart is not pierced by sense objects (ceta etair anāviddham), one develops distaste for them. Thus one arrives at actual spiritual taste, ruci. Even though the word ruci was also mentioned in SB 1.2.16, Viśvanātha Cakravarti treated it only as a remote result of gurupādāśraya and bhajaneṣu-spṛhā. (10) āsakti – firm attachment. This is derived from sthitaṁ sattve prasīdati – sthitam means fixed or āsaktam (firmly attached). Even in the stage of ruci, one’s mind may wander. But we can control the mind by the strength of our intelligence. But in āsakti, if the mind wanders, the strength of our attraction to Kṛṣṇa automatically pulls it back. When the effects of passion and ignorance – lust, greed etc – no longer affect us we will become situated in goodness and feel fully happy.

SB 1.2 - The stages of loving and seeing the Lord

Thus established in unalloyed goodness, the devotee gains positive scientific knowledge of the Lord in the stage of liberation from all material association. Mostly men are conducted by passion and ignorance. Out of many thousands of such men, one may endeavor for perfection in life. And out of those who have attained perfection, one may know scientifically about the Personality of Godhead Śrī Kṛṣṇa. And Kṛṣṇa can be known only by bhakti yoga. Perfection of human life is attained when one can understand that he is not the product of matter but is in fact spirit. He then ceases his material hankerings and becomes enlivened as a spiritual being. This attainment of success is possible only when one is actually a brāhmaṇa by qualification. The brahminical stage is the highest stage of human life because of its good qualities. The devotee is already a brāhmaṇa by action. A brāhmaṇa has to become a Vaiṣṇava to be actually in the transcendental stage. Although a brāhmaṇa can realize Brahman, scientific knowledge of the Supreme Lord is lacking. One has to surpass the brahminical stage and reach the vasudeva stage to understand Kṛṣṇa.

The next four stages of bhakti are indicated in verse 20. (11) ratiḥ – fondness (bhāva). This is indicated by the phrase evaṁ prasanna manasaḥ – one whose mind is satisfied or one in whom fondness has arisen. Without rati, there could never be constant detachment from objects of material enjoyment, and without constant detachment there could never be satisfaction of the mind. (12) prema – love, from bhagavad bhakti yogataḥ. This means engaging in devotional love to Bhagavān. (13) atha darśanam – then direct vision, audience. This is from bhagavat tattva vijñānam. The word vijñānam means experience. Thus realization follows prema and refers to experiencing Kṛṣṇa’s form, pastimes, greatness, sweetness and qualities. (14) harer mādhuryānubhāva – experience of Hari’s sweetness. The stage of bhagavat tattva vijñānam occurs after one experiences Lord

SB 1.2 - Seeing the Lord destroys all doubts

The knot in the heart is pierced, and all misgivings are cut to pieces. The chain of fruitive actions is terminated when one sees the self as master, and seeing the Lord in the mind. The destruction of ignorance is not the main result sought in bhakti. All doubts, such as thinking that the attainment is impossible, are destroyed. A devotee has already progressed to seeing Kṛṣṇa directly, and thus the state described now is beyond liberation. Attaining scientific knowledge of the Lord means seeing one’s own self simultaneously. The materialist does not believe in the spirit soul, and empiric philosophers believe in the impersonal feature of the whole spirit without individuality of the living beings. But the transcendentalists affirm that the soul is different from the Supersoul quantitatively. All these different speculations are cleared off as soon as Kṛṣṇa is realized in truth by bhakti-yoga. The relative truths hidden within the dense darkness of ignorance become clearly manifested by the mercy of Kṛṣṇa, who is residing in everyone’s heart.

Seeing the Lord destroys all doubts. By hearing about the Lord, all theories opposing devotional service are cut to pieces, and by our meditating on the Lord, all meditations opposing bhakti are devastated. When the Lord personally appears, the devotee’s disqualifications are shredded. By the Lord’s desire, even the slightest trace of these disqualifications no longer remains.

In Bhagavad-gītā the Lord says that He personally eradicates the ignorance of His devotee by giving him knowledge within the heart. The devotee thus comes to know everything about the absolute and the relative truths. The truth cannot be known by those who speculate by their own limited power. Perfect knowledge is called parampara, or deductive knowledge coming down from the authority to the submissive listener. The Lord reserves the right not to be exposed to a challenging person. The devotees being submissive are helped by the Supersoul within to understand transcendental knowledge. The knot called ahaṅkāra falsely obliges a living being to become identified with matter. As soon as this knot is loosened all doubts are cleared off and one sees the self and engages in the service of the Lord. As soon as he engages in the service of the Lord, he becomes free from the chain of karma, and his actions no longer create any reaction.

Having a sinless heart is not the sole cause of seeing Kṛṣṇa directly. Our pure heart must be filled with devotional longing to see the Lord. Seeing the Lord increases our eagerness to serve Him. That eagerness powerfully overrules our feeling of being disqualified for this service. The stage in which one sees the Supreme Lord is called liberation. Although the soul may still reside in the material world, he nevertheless sees his original spiritual form directly. This means that the soul’s misidentification with the external material body (anyathā-rūpam) has been destroyed. The words dṛṣṭa evātmanīśvare in this verse 21 refers to the 13th stage of bhakti: seeing the Lord directly.

SB 1.2 - Kṛṣṇa is the last word in transcendence

Therefore since time immemorial, all transcendentalists have been rendering devotional service to Lord Kṛṣṇa, with great delight, because such service is enlivening to the self. The conclusion is Kṛṣṇa is the Absolute Truth and He alone should be served. By saying ‘with great delight’ it is indicated that even at the stage of sādhana-bhakti, there are no difficulties. Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the svayam-rūpa Personality of Godhead, and all other forms of Godhead are His plenary portions and integrated parts. The living entities are separated parts and parcels of the Lord. Thus Kṛṣṇa is the last word in Transcendence. Thus He is more attractive to the transcendentalists who participate in the eternal pastimes of the Lord. In other forms there is no facility for intimate personal contact as in Kṛṣṇa’s and Balarāma’s pastimes at Vraja. Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes are eternal and are manifested once in a day of Brahmā. Devotional service is performed with great delight, unlike material activities which cause only suffering. Both the aspiration to advance in devotional service and the perfection of our practice brings happiness.

SB 1.2 - Who should we worship?

One may ask should not we serve the powerful deities Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Śiva. Sūta describes the relationship between these deities and Kṛṣṇa.

The Lord is indirectly associated with the three modes of nature. For the material world’s creation, maintenance and destruction He accepts the three qualitative forms of Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Śiva. Of these three, all human beings can derive ultimate benefit from Viṣṇu, the form of the quality of goodness, which increases knowledge. It has just been explained that one should perform bhakti alone rather than karma or jñāna. Similarly one should worship Bhagavān alone, giving up the worship of the demigods.

Lord Kṛṣṇa and all His plenary parts are viṣṇu-tattva. From Kṛṣṇa, the next manifestation is Baladeva. From Baladeva is Saṅkarṣaṇa, from Saṅkarṣaṇa is Nārāyaṇa, from Nārāyaṇa there is the second Saṅkarṣaṇa, and from this Saṅkarṣaṇa the puruṣa-avatāras. The Viṣṇu or the Deity of the quality of goodness in the material world is the puruṣa-avatāra known as Kṣīrodakaśāyī Viṣṇu or Paramātmā. Brahmā is the deity of passion, and Śiva of ignorance. The materialists and the foolish worship Brahmā and Śiva respectively. But the pure transcendentalists worship the form of goodness, Viṣṇu, in His various forms. The integrated forms of the Lord are called Godhead, and the separated forms are called the jīvas. Both the jīvas and Godhead have their original spiritual forms.

The avatāras are of two types: those related to cit-śakti and those related to māyā-śakti. Those related to cit-śakti such as Matsya and Kūrma are to be worshiped. Those related to māyā-śakti thru sattva, rajas and tamas, are Viṣṇu, Brahmā and Śiva. Among them Viṣṇu is to be worshiped. When Viṣṇu appears in the material world He comes to deliver the living beings who are under the material energy. Such living beings come to the material world to become lords, and thus become entrapped by the three modes of nature. The prison house of the material world is created by Brahmā under instruction of the Personality of Godhead, and at the conclusion of a kalpa the whole thing is destroyed by Śiva. The maintenance is done by Lord Viṣṇu. Anyone, therefore, wishing to get out of material existence must please Viṣṇu for such liberation. Anyone wishing to continue his prison life in material existence may ask for relative facilities for temporary relief from the different demigods like Śiva, Brahmā and others. But only Viṣṇu can release a living being from the conditioned life of material existence and no one else.

SB 1.2 - Viṣṇu’s relation to the guṇas

The Lord is described as parama (beyond) because though He is linked with the guṇas, by His inconceivable energy He is situated separately from them, untouched by them. Viṣṇu is addressed as sattva-tanoḥ. This can only mean that Viṣṇu possesses a body of viśuddha-sattva as confirmed in SB 1.1.25, and not material sattva. In other Purāṇas also this is confirmed. Viṣṇu would not take up a body of material sattva because sattva has the qualities of revelation or knowledge and indifference to enjoyment. Sattva should not eclipse the spiritual manifestation of eternity, knowledge and bliss. Rajas agitates and causes addition (creation); and tamas is obscuring and causes subtraction (destruction). Thus rajas and tamas will disturb and cover bliss. Thus Brahmā and Śiva accept bodies of rajas and tamas because those guṇas eclipse bliss. They have bodies composed of guṇas, whereas Viṣṇu does not.

One cannot say that Viṣṇu’s existence beyond the guṇas is negated by His participation in the world, because He does not possess material sattva by relationship of contact or inherence. He is situated in sattva only by being next to it. His protection of His devotees also arises from śuddha-sattva of His svarūpa. Brahmā is a jīva since he is Hiraṇyagarbha, with a material body made of mahat-tattva. Only because of the powers conferred by the Lord on Brahmā, who is situated in rajas, he is considered an avatāra. The Brahma-saṁhitā confirms that Govinda becomes Brahmā, just as the sun displays a small portion of its powers of heat and light in all the sun stones which represent it.

Because Śiva is not a jīva, he is considered to be the Supreme Lord associated with the guṇas. Brahma-saṁhitā says Govinda becomes the form of Śiva, who is non different from Him, but who is also different because of his contact with the transformations of prakṛti. Some say that of Brahmā and Śiva, Śiva is īśvara or the Supreme Lord. Others say that he is connected with the guṇas. The verse (1.2.23) says ‘yuktaḥ parama-puruṣa’. Now yoga (related to yukta) means connection by proximity, by contact and by supervision. The puruṣa connected with the guṇas only as the supervisor is devoid of guṇas being situated in his svarūpa. Brahmā and Śiva, however, are connected to rajas and tamas by contact, and therefore called sa-guṇa, endowed with the guṇas.

SB 1.2 - The mode of goodness

By fire we can derive the benefits of superior knowledge thru Vedic sacrifices. Thus fire is better than smoke, which is better than raw wood, which is a transformation of earth. Smoke is superior to wood because it heralds the coming of fire and is thus closer to the goal (fire). Similarly rajas is better than tamas but goodness (sattva) is best because it is favorable to realize the Absolute Truth. Passion produces results that may be offered to Kṛṣṇa, but goodness is better. Passion can lead to goodness but ignorance cannot. We come closer to seeing the Supreme in the mode of passion than in ignorance, but since it is agitating and troublesome, passion does not allow us to see Him properly. Tamas, rajas and sattva have the respective qualities of obscuring, agitating and revealing knowledge. Of these sattva is the best because it is not unfavorable for śuddha-sattva.

An expert spiritual master can direct a disciple even from tamas to sattva so that one becomes eligible for devotional service of the Lord. It is a mistake to consider that worship of any quality or form of the Lord is equally beneficial. Except Viṣṇu, all separated forms are manifested under the conditions of material energy. Uncivilized life or the life of the lower animals is controlled by the mode of tamas. The civilized life of man, with a passion for material benefits is the stage of rajas. This stage gives a slight clue to the realization of the Absolute Truth in the form of fine sentiments in philosophy, art and culture with moral and ethical principles, but the mode of sattva helps one in realizing the Absolute Truth.

SB 1.2 - Viṣṇu is worthy of worship

It is said of the Lord’s form ānando brahmaṇo rūpam: the Lord has a form of bliss. By the will of the Lord, by His touch alone, that ānanda becomes qualified by agitation in the form of Brahmā. Being qualified by revelation, ānanda becomes Viṣṇu, and being qualified with obscuration, ānanda becomes Śiva. Since there is no damage when ānanda is combined with revelation, Viṣṇu is worthy of worship. These three are equal in that they are all avatāras of the Lord. They are unequal in that Viṣṇu is not covered by the guṇas, whereas Brahmā and Śiva are. This is how the contrary statements of difference and non difference of the Purāṇas can be harmonized.

Both the Paramātmā and jīvātmā are by their nature devoid of the guṇas. Paramātmā is the Supreme Lord, an ocean of cit, self enjoying, not subject to birth in the world, without diminution of knowledge of himself and by His own will contacts the guṇas and thus is in possession of the effects of the guṇas such as anger. However, the jīva is only a particle of cit, controlled by the Lord and loses knowledge of his real nature. He takes birth in this world by contacting the guṇas where the guṇas act upon Him.

Previously all great sages worshipped the Supreme Lord due to His being above the three modes of nature, situated in viśuddha-sattva. They worshipped Him to become free from material conditions and thus derive the ultimate benefit. Whoever follows such great authorities is also eligible for liberation from the material world. The ultimate aim of religious performances is to regain the life of freedom in the transcendental world, where the Personality of Godhead is the Supreme Person. Laws of religion are enacted by the Supreme Lord or the mahajanas, the authorized agents of the Lord. Persons desiring their own good may follow these mahajanas and thus attain the supreme benefit.

Viśuddha-sattva means having a body composed of cit-śakti arising from His svarūpa, because the śruti (Gopāla-tāpanī 2.20) says the Lord is neither material knowledge nor ignorance. The smṛti (SB 8.5.27) says in the Lord there is no ignorance or knowledge which causes prejudice towards the jīva. One cannot say that viśuddha-sattva means the vidyā arising from māyā-śakti because the body of Viṣṇu is beyond māyā.