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Srimad Bhagavatam

SB 1.5 - Vyāsa can supply unlimited news from the spiritual world

Nārada being compassionate toward the unfortunate victims of worthless literatures, advised Vyāsa to compose transcendental literature which is not only attractive but which can also bring liberation from material bondage. Nārada said Vyāsa’s vision was perfect, and he was situated in truthfulness. Thus Vyāsa could think of the pastimes of the Lord in trance, and by writing about them he could bring liberation of the people. From this is it is understood that one can describe the pastimes of the Lord only if one is firm in his vows and situated in truth. The fallen souls are eager to receive novel information every day, and transcendentalists like Vyāsa can supply unlimited news from the spiritual world, compared to which this material world is just a fragment. None of the thousands of literary men nor their work have brought about peace on earth. This is due to a spiritual vacuum in those works. Bhagavad gītā spoken by Lord Kṛṣṇa, and Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, which is about Lord Kṛṣṇa, can satisfy the desires of the living beings and bring peace and liberation.

Bhāgavatam is the perfect description of the all-perfect Personality of Godhead by the all-perfect personality Śrīla Vyāsadeva. Only to such devotees do the transcendental nature of the Lord and His pastimes are revealed by dint of their devotional service. And these pastimes appear spontaneously in the pure mind filled with devotion, since they are all self revealing, infinite, most confidential, and impossible to speak or receive by any other means. Vyāsa was a person with pure eyes and pure ears, and so had seen some pastimes with his eyes and heard some with his ears. And by attached mind and determined intelligence, Nārada asks Vyāsa to remember some very confidential pastimes which cannot be seen or heard but which Vyāsa had observed.

SB 1.5 - The problem of a separate vision from the Lord

Vyāsa had described transcendental realization in different ways namely by karma, jñāna, yoga and bhakti. And he had recommended the worship of many demigods in different names and forms. The result is that people are puzzled how to fix their minds in the service of the Lord. Whatever is described that is separate in vision from the Lord simply reacts with different forms, names and results to agitate the mind. The intelligence of people desiring to speak on other subjects become disturbed by the words describing these other objects, and can never attain its proper object. Some people desire to speak about topics other than the pastimes of the Lord. Having desired, they speak, and having spoken, someone hears from them. And this causes a different type of vision. Just like a boat beaten by the wind goes in various directions, the intelligence of such people is destroyed because of skilful words, poetry, karma and jñāna.

People in general do not know the common factor in worshipping the demigods as the Supreme Lord. The demigods are different limbs of the Lord. There is nothing in existence except the Lord, who is manifested in different expansions. He is the root of the complete tree, and the stomach of the complete body. The most defective part of worshiping demigods is that it creates a conception of pantheism ending disastrously in many religious sects detrimental to the progress of the principles of the Bhāgavatam.

SB 1.5 - Nārada chastises Vyāsa

Nārada chastises Vyāsa saying that he had encouraged people to enjoy in the name of religion. Being guided by Vyāsa, people would accept activities in the name of religion without caring for prohibitions. Vyāsa had created a great disturbance by teaching a condemned subject to people attached to material enjoyment in order to make them accept dharma. Thinking what Vyāsa had taught is real dharma, they do not consider giving it up. The humans due to long association with material nature have a tendency to lord it over material energy. The human life is a chance to go back to Godhead, and that is the purpose of the Vedas. But in the name of religious functions, human beings plan for sense enjoyment. Vyāsa is the authority in Vedas, and his encouragement in sense enjoyment in some form or the other is a great barrier for spiritual advancement. When people indulged in animal sacrifice in the name of religion, the Lord advented as Buddha and decried the authority of the Vedas to stop killing of animals. Still the flesh eaters continue to sacrifice animals before some demigod in the name of religion, without understanding such sacrifices are recommended to discourage flesh eating.

In Mahābhārata there are spiritual subjects along with material topics. Vyāsa’s intention was to promote scriptures to materialistic persons who do not want bhakti, and so he first presented material happiness in his works so that people could hear the glories of the Lord. Vidura confirms the true intentions of Vyāsa when he says in Mahābhārata, Vyāsa attracted men’s attention to topics of the Lord thru topics about material happiness. But this has caused a great disturbance for materialistic people who are attached to enjoy from impressions arising from sense objects because Vyāsa had taught material dharma. The materially minded men ascertaining what Vyāsa had explained to be the correct path – thinking it is not a fault to offer meat to the devatās and pitṛs – do not consider giving up that path. They do not consider what is to be actually done as explained by Kṛṣṇa in BG 18.66.

The Bhagavad gītā is there in the Mahābhārata. But materialistic men are more attracted to the politics, economics and philanthropic activities in the Mahābhārata than to the principal topic, namely the Bhagavad gītā. Even in the gītā it is said that a man attached to fruitive work should not be discouraged, for gradually he may be elevated to the position of self realization. This is applicable to the dry empiric philosophers but not to the devotees. Nārada advises Vyāsa to directly proclaim that the prime necessity of human life is to realize one’s eternal relation with the Lord and thus surrender to Him without delay.

SB 1.5 - Setting an example by the expert devotees

The Supreme Lord is unlimited, and only one freed from desires of material happiness can understand Him. Therefore those who are not so situated due to material attachment should be shown the ways of transcendental realization, thru descriptions of the transcendental activities of the Lord. In the Bhagavad gītā it is said that out of many hundreds and thousands of men, only one person is interested in self realization. And out of those persons, only a few can understand the theological science dealing with God as a person. Vyāsa is advised to describe this science of God directly by relating His activities. Vyāsa is unattached to material enjoyment, and so is the right person to describe it, and Śuka is the right person to receive it.

The wise person, giving up material happiness, can realize the happiness of the Lord and then take to bhakti, setting an example for others. It was said previously that people without discrimination were certain that Vyāsa recommended the material path. But people with discrimination can understand the happiness of the Lord, who is beyond time and measurement. Understanding that happiness to be unlimited, he would perform bhakti to attain that happiness. By seeing such persons, others would also take up the process of bhakti. Bhāgavatam is the literary incarnation of Kṛṣṇa. The layman, who hears the narration of the activities of the Lord as depicted in Bhāgavatam, is able to associate with the Lord directly and thus become purified from material diseases. The expert devotees also can discover novel ways and means to convert the non devotees in terms of particular time and circumstances.

SB 1.5 - Forsaking material occupation

One who has forsaken his material occupations to engage in the devotional service of the Lord may sometimes fall down while in an immature stage. Yet there is no danger of his being unsuccessful. On the other hand, a non devotee (abhajatām), though fully engaged in occupational duties, does not gain anything. Everyone is duty bound to parents, family members, country, humanity, other living beings like poets, philosophers and others, demigods etc. One can relinquish all such duties and surrender unto the service of the Lord. One may fall down from the service of the Lord due to undesirable association. Bharata Mahārāja became attached to a stag and fell down from his devotion. Ajāmila, though a devotee, fell down. But still all these personalities were saved by the Lord at the end. Thus spiritual progress is never destroyed, whereas relentless time would destroy all of one’s possessions anyway. So one who forsakes material progress for Kṛṣṇa’s service does not lose anything.

In BG 3.26 it is said that one should not disturb the ignorant who is attached to the results of work but engaging in all work himself with detachment, he should engage them in activity. But this instruction is given to one who is teaching jñāna to another person. Practicing jñāna depends on inner purification, and that purification depends on niṣkāma-karma. This is not an instruction for one teaching another about bhakti, for bhakti is independently powerful, not depending on inner purification. Thus the Lord also says in BG 18.66 to abandon everything else and surrender unto Him alone. Even in the beginning stage of bhakti, practice of karma is forbidden. Having given up one’s dharma even at the beginning stages of bhakti, a person who worships the lotus feet of the Lord incurs no sin by giving up that dharma. And if the person dies without being qualified to attain the Lord, or falls down because of sinful acts, being attached to material pleasures, even then there is no misfortune because the impression created by bhakti are indestructible and remain in subtle form. In such a state one should revert to performance of karma. The sprout of bhakti will eventually bear leaves, flowers and fruits.

SB 1.5 - Endeavoring only for the permanent

Persons who are intelligent and philosophically inclined should endeavor only for that which is not obtainable even by wandering from the topmost planet down to the lowest planet. As far as happiness derived from sense enjoyment is concerned, it can be obtained automatically in course of time, by the law of karma, just as in course of time we obtain miseries even though we do not desire them. Men are engaged in various activities to get happiness in this life, and some are engaged in fruitive work to become happy in the next life. By good work only, as prescribed in the scriptures, can one obtain birth in a good family, opulence, good education and good bodily features. The positions in the topmost Brahmaloka and in the lowest Pātāla are changeable according to our own work. But all these positions are impermanent.

The śrutis encourage people to seek happiness of Svarga in the next life by saying ‘karmaṇā pitṛ-loka’: by karma one goes to Pitṛ-loka (BṛA Up 1.5) and ‘apām somam amṛtā abhūma’ (Ṛg Veda 8.48.3). So how can one promote bhakti for people by rejecting one’s dharma and consequently the happiness in this and next life? True, but the wise are not deluded by this at all. A person with discrimination should endeavor for that which is not attained by wandering up to Brahma-loka or down to non moving bodies. Miseries and mixed happiness are two features of material life, and they are obtainable everywhere. They may vary by degree and quality but no one is free from the miseries of birth, death, old age and disease. No one can get more or less of happiness or misery simply by personal endeavors. One should therefore endeavor only to go back to Godhead.

SB 1.5 - The state of a fallen devotee

Even if a devotee of Kṛṣṇa falls down, he does not undergo material existence like others because having once relished the taste of the lotus feet of Lord Mukunda, he can do nothing but remember that ecstasy again and again. A devotee may fall down due to uncongenial association but he is not like a fallen karmī. The person who serves Mukunda never returns to saṁsāra, the place for enjoying the results of karma. This is because the devotee does not experience happiness and distress from karmas, but only the fruit of happiness and distress directly given by the Lord. Padma Purāṇa confirms that the Vaiṣṇavas do not have rebirth caused by karma. If a devotee foolishly wants to accumulate some material power, he is put into difficulty by the Lord, who as a special favor may remove all material paraphernalia. By such action, the devotee is forsaken by all friends and relatives, and so he comes to his senses again by the mercy of the Lord and is set right to execute his devotional service.

Sometimes the fallen devotees are given a chance to take birth in a rich family but that position is not as fortunate as one who is chastised by the Lord and put into a position of seemingly helplessness. The fallen devotees born in a good family may forget the lotus feet of the Lord because they are less fortunate, but the forlorn devotee swiftly returns to the lotus feet of the Lord. Pure devotional service is so spiritually relishable that a devotee becomes automatically uninterested in material enjoyment. That is the sign of perfection in progressive devotional service.

Remembering from previous practice alone the mental embrace of the Lord’s lotus feet, he has no desire to give that up. Even if a devotee gives up worshiping the Lord once, twice or three times due to poor determination, after some time by remembering his previous state of bliss and remembering his present state of distress, he repents and begins worshiping the Lord. The devotee desires he be devoid of pride in his practice. The accomplishment is in the hands of the Lord. Since he is haunted by rasa, he does not desire to give up worship of the Lord. After the stages of niṣthā, ruci and āsakti, worship becomes actual rasa at the stage of rati. However, even from the first day of worshipping the Lord, there is certainly a portion of tasting rasa in a covered form.

SB 1.5 - Separation from the Lord is an illusion

Having taught about bhakti, Nārada next taught knowledge of the worshipable Lord, which is necessary for the devotees. Everyone is related to Kṛṣṇa. Thus the incompleteness and alienation one feels is an illusion. This is because the Supreme Lord is Himself the cosmos, and still He is aloof from it. From Him only has this cosmic manifestation emanated, in Him, it rests, and unto Him it enters after annihilation. The universe is like the Lord because it exists, has life and a form of bliss, but it is not the Lord’s form of eternity, knowledge and bliss. This is because the Lord’s qualities like existence are eternal, whereas the quality of existence of the universe is temporary, because the Lord is different from the universe.

The illusioned living beings perceive themselves as separate from the Lord. The devotee accepts both the personal and impersonal conceptions of the Lord. The impersonal cosmic situation is also Mukunda because it is an emanation of His energy. The part and parcel hands and legs are called the body, but the body as a whole is neither the hands nor the legs. The universe is described as a form of the Lord in small portion because it is an effect of the Lord. Because the Lord is the cause, He is different. The Lord is the transcendental form of eternity, cognition and beauty. And thus the creation of the energy of the Lord appears to be partially eternal, full of knowledge and beautiful. The conditioned souls accept the cosmic creation as all in all.

SB 1.5 - Nārada's advice

The universe is designated as Brahman because Brahman is the cause. The energies of the Lord are perfect and identical with Him. The external energy is inferior, whereas the internal potency is superior. The superior energy is living force, and she is identical but the external energy, being inert, is partially identical. But both the energies are neither equal to nor greater than the Lord, who is the generator of all energies. All living beings are products of the Lord’s internal energy. Thus they are identical to the Lord. But the living being is never equal to or superior to the Lord. Nor the creations of the humans equal to or superior to that of the Lord’s. The Lord and living beings are all individual persons. In a diseased condition only, the foolish being claims to be one with the Lord and thus becomes misled by the illusory energy. The misguided souls must accept the supremacy of the Lord and agree to render loving service to Him. For this, they have been created. Vyāsa is advised by Nārada to expand this idea in the Bhāgavatam. Nārada had shown only a small portion of bhakti and knowledge of the powers of the Lord who measures more than ten million times a hundred trillion.

Vyāsa is an empowered plenary incarnation of the Lord. He was born as a portion of the Supreme Person for the benefit of the world. Thus he knows the Supreme Lord well. He appeared on this earth for the well being of all people. All the Vedic literatures are put into systematic order for the benefit of the fallen souls, so that they can take advantage of them and be freed from the bondage of material existence. Vyāsa is the spiritual master of everyone, and as an ācārya he accepted Nārada as his guru. Nārada advised Vyāsa to describe the transcendental pastimes of the Lord more vividly (adhigaṇya-tām).

SB 1.5 - The infallible purpose of everything

Learned circles have positively concluded that the infallible purpose (avicyuta arthaḥ) of the advancement of knowledge (buddhi), namely austerities (tapasaḥ), study of the Vedas (śrutasya), sacrifice (sviṣṭasya), chanting of hymns (sūktasya) and charity culminates in the transcendental descriptions of the Lord, who is defined in choice poetry. The results of austerity and other acts are achieved by bhakti. Everything that can be achieved by karma, tapa, jñāna, dāna etc is easily achieved by bhakti. So all the other dharmas are unnecessary. By culture of knowledge the human society can attain perfection of life, which culminates in the realization of the Supreme Being, Viṣṇu. But persons enamored by illusion do not understand this, and they use advancement of knowledge for sense enjoyment. Nārada had already explained that everything in the universe is an emanation from the Lord. They come to be out of His energy, rest on His energy, and after annihilation merge into Him. Nothing is, therefore, different from Him, but at the same time the Lord is always different from them.

All sages and devotees of the Lord have recommended that the subject matter of art, science, philosophy, physics, chemistry, psychology and all other branches of knowledge should be wholly and solely applied in the service of the Lord. The writers, poets and celebrated litterateurs can describe the pastimes of the Lord, just like Vālmīki and Vyāsadeva did. The purport of all scriptural statements is the Supreme Lord. Philosophy and science should be engaged to establish the glory of the Lord. Knowledge not engaged in the service of the Lord is nescience. Scientific knowledge engaged in the service of the Lord and all similar activities are all hari-kīrtana, or glorification of the Lord. Nārada states that the gradual method Vyāsa has delineated is unsatisfactory because it encourages the readers’ tendency to seek self centered pleasure. Pious deeds cannot break their attraction to mundane enjoyment. Although people were meant to understand that all Vedic teachings culminate in devotion to Kṛṣṇa, few people would understand that and would instead chase a mixed perfection thru karma and jñāna.