Srimad Bhagavatam

SB 1.6 - Freedom is the pivot in bhakti

Thus Nārada explained the confidential knowledge of his birth and activities to Vyāsadeva for Vyāsa’s personal satisfaction. Nārada had explained how the seeds of devotion were sown by transcendental association and how they gradually developed by hearing from the sages. The result was detachment from worldliness so much so that a small boy could receive the death news of his mother as the blessing of God. A sincere urge led him to have an interview with the Lord. Nārada’s execution of pure bhakti got rid of all karma, and he transformed his body into a spiritual one, which alone enables one to enter the kingdom of God. Hearing such an authority one can have some idea of the results of devotional life, which are hardly delineated even in the original Vedas. The knowledge is confidential because it is not understood by those who study Vedānta.

Nārada then left to wander at his free will vibrating on his vīṇā instrument. Every living being is anxious for full freedom because that is his transcendental nature. And this freedom is obtained only thru the service of the Lord. Nārada moves about without a motive. The system of devotional service is causeless. It may or may not develop in a particular person even after he undergoes all the detailed formulas. The association of the devotees is also causeless. One may be fortunate to have it, or one may not have it even after many endeavors. Thus, in all spheres of devotional service, freedom is the main pivot. Without freedom there is no execution of devotional service. The freedom surrendered to the Lord does not mean that the devotee becomes dependent in every respect. To surrender unto the Lord thru the medium of guru is to attain complete freedom of life.

Nārada muni glorifies the activities of the Personality of Godhead, and so doing takes pleasure and also enlivens all the distressed souls of the universe. What one feels as happiness within the universe is māyā’s illusion. No one can be happy within the material world. Nārada in order to enlighten the miserable inhabitants wanders everywhere to get them back home, back to Godhead. That is the mission of all genuine devotees of the Lord following the footsteps of that great sage. A little service to Kṛṣṇa pacifies the soul, then what can be said of the effect of describing his glories? One owes praise to the fortunate person who chants the Lord’s glories.

SB 1.7 - The vision of Vyāsadeva

Śaunaka asked Sūta what Vyāsadeva did after Nārada left having heard everything from Nārada. Before commencing Bhāgavatam, Vyāsa realized the whole truth by trance in meditation. Sūta said that on the western bank of the river Sarasvatī, there was a cottage for meditation at Śamyāprāsa, which enlivens the transcendental activities of the sages. For spiritual advancement of knowledge a suitable place and atmosphere are required. An āśrama is a place where spiritual culture is fostered. The whole varṇāśrama system is so designed that each and every status of life is called an āśrama. This means that spiritual culture is the common factor for all.

After touching water for purification, Vyāsa sat down to meditate as Nārada had directed. Nārada had instructed Vyāsa to think of the pastimes of the Lord in trance for the liberation of people. Fixing his mind in bhakti yoga (bhakti yogena manasi), Vyāsadeva saw the Absolute Personality of Godhead (pūrṇaṁ puruṣaṁ), Kṛṣṇa, with His external energy (māyā), which was under His full control (tad-apāśrayam). The form Nārada saw was that of Kṛṣṇa as it will later be said kṛṣṇe parama-puruṣe (SB 1.7.7). The word pūrṇam indicates the cit-śakti arising from His svarūpa and all His aṁśas and kalās. It is also confirmed in SB 2.7.47 that māyā flees from the Lord’s presence due to shame. Perfect vision of the Lord is possible only by bhakti yoga, as also confirmed in Bhagavad-gītā. When the curtain of the veil of impersonal Brahman, which is the golden effulgence covering His form, is removed by the mercy of the Lord, the real face of the Absolute Truth is seen. This is the form that Vyāsa saw. The māyā, which Vyāsa saw is the external energy of the Lord, as will be clear from the statement of her activities. The internal potency of the Lord is called māyā and is exhibited in the absolute realm. The ātmārāmas take shelter of this māyā. Devotional service is the function of the internal energy.

SB 1.7 - The jīva illusioned by māyā

Due to this external energy (yayā), the jīva is illusioned (sammohita jīva). Although transcendental to the three modes of material nature, the jīva thinks of himself as a material product and thus undergoes the reactions of material miseries. This means that the present mode of thinking, feeling and willing is not natural for the living being. The present conditional state is due to the influence of the external energy, which means that the illusory energy takes the initiative while the Supreme Lord is aloof. The Lord does not desire that a living being be illusioned by external energy. The external energy is aware of this fact, but still she accepts a thankless task of keeping the soul under illusion. The Lord, however, descends from His kingdom upon the kingdom of illusory energy and personally gives relief to the conditioned soul in the form of Bhagavad gītā. Thus the souls are reclaimed both by the process of punishment by the external energy, and by the Lord Himself as the spiritual master within (as the Supersoul) and without (as scriptures, saints and guru).

The purpose of Vyāsa seeing māyā is to explain the disease first and then the prescription to the cure. The external energy is, however, under the control of the Lord as previously explained. Therefore, it is sheer imagination that the Supreme Lord being illusioned by māyā becomes a living being. Had the Lord and the living beings been the same, Vyāsa could have seen that, and Śuka would not have taken the trouble to describe the “illusory” pastimes of the Lord for one’s liberation. Both the Lord and the living beings are qualitatively one, and their eternal relation is transcendental.

SB 1.7 - Removing the illusory identification with matter

The material miseries of the living entity, which are superfluous to him, can be directly mitigated by the process of bhakti yoga. Since the mass of people are unaware of this, Vyāsa compiled Bhāgavatam, which is sātvata-saṁhitā (the Vedic literature in relation to the Supreme Truth). The prescription for cure of the disease is seen by Vyāsa as bhakti yoga. Vyāsa in meditation first saw the Lord who is pūrṇa, with His aṁśas, the purusa and guṇāvatāras. Then Vyāsa saw His cit-śakti with many varieties such as Vimalā and Utkarṣiṇī, which are manifestations of His beauty. He then saw the external energy, māyā-śakti, behind the Lord. He saw in the Lord, bhakti – the chief element of the cit-śakti – which is more powerful than all others and which can destroy the illusion caused by māyā and which arises from the actions of His anugrahā-śakti. Having seen all this, he then wrote the Bhāgavatam, which reveals all of this for the ignorant people.

Revival of the dormant affection of love of God does not depend on the mechanical process of hearing and chanting, but depends on the causeless mercy of the Lord. When the Lord is fully satisfied with the sincere efforts of the devotee, He may endow him with transcendental loving service. But even with hearing and chanting, there is at once mitigation of the unwanted miseries of material existence. Such mitigation of miseries does not wait for development of transcendental knowledge. Rather, knowledge is dependent on devotional service for realization of the Supreme Truth.

SB 1.7 - Hearing Bhāgavatam produces prema

Simply by giving aural reception to Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, the feeling for loving devotional service to Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Person (kṛṣṇe parama-pūruṣe), sprouts up (utpadyate) to extinguish the fire of lamentation, illusion and fearfulness (śoka-moha-bhayāpahā). Simply by hearing Bhāgavatam, prema arises. What to speak then of the greater effect if one engages others in hearing it. And what greater effect speaking it must have! And what even greater effect will engaging others in speaking it produce!

There are various senses, of which the ear is the most effective, which works even when one is asleep. The importance of hearing is mentioned here in connection with attaining the highest perfection of life. Everyone is full of lamentation chasing after the mirage of illusory things and being always afraid of his supposed enemy. But by hearing Bhāgavatam, one gets attachment to Kṛṣṇa and develops pure love for Him. The living entities are prakṛti while the Lord is puruṣa, and thus love exists between them. Loving devotional service begins with hearing about the Lord.

The transcendental sound vibration is so powerful that it removes at once all material affections. Under illusion one accepts the material body as an actual fact. Even in the most developed stage of human life, the same illusion prevails in the form of many isms and divides the loving relation with the Lord and thereby divides the loving relation between man and man. By hearing the subject matter of Bhāgavatam the false complexity of materialism is removed. One can have direct connection with the Supreme Personality of Godhead Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and attain the highest perfection of life by transcending worldly miseries, illusion and fearfulness. Hearing Bhāgavatam captures the Lord in the heart, and the Lord is captured only by prema, which is the result of sādhana-bhakti. Thus hearing Bhāgavatam produces prema.

SB 1.7 - Vyāsa's revision of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam

Śrīmad Bhāgavatam is the natural commentary on the Brahma-sūtras compiled by the same author. After compiling the Vedas and summarizing their conclusions in the Vedānta-sūtra, Vyāsa experienced his revelation about the Absolute Truth and then wrote and revised the Bhāgavatam. Although the Bhāgavatam is meant for the paramahaṁsas, or those totally engaged in self realization, it works into the depths of the hearts of those who may be worldly men, who can find remedial measures for their material diseases. Vyāsa first gave a synopsis of Bhāgavatam and then gave a detailed description under instruction of Nārada. Nārada gave instructions after the disappearance of Kṛṣṇa and before Parīkṣit punished Kali because even at that time there was a tendency towards irreligion among everyone. Vyāsa was dissatisfied in his heart because of this. It is understood that before the beginning of Kali-yuga he would not have been dissatisfied in heart. Now at this time he revised the Bhāgavatam which was previously written.

When he compiled the Purāṇas, Vyāsa compiled the Bhāgavatam in an abbreviated form, and later having been instructed by Nārada and experiencing his own realizations, he revised the Bhāgavatam. The revised Bhāgavatam is the one that is referred when it says it arose after the departure of Kṛṣṇa. Again it is the present Bhāgavatam that is referred to when it is said that it is one among the 18 Purāṇas. Then Vyāsa taught it to his own son, Śuka, who was already engaged in self realization (nivṛtti mārga). The path of pravṛtti mārga was condemned by Nārada, and Bhāgavatam is the science for those following the path of nivṛtti mārga. Bhāgavatam was compiled not less than five thousand years ago.

SB 1.7 - Śrīmad Bhāgavatam - the Post graduate study

Śaunaka asked Sūta why Śuka took the trouble to undergo the study of such a vast literature, when he was already an ātmārāma on the path of self realization. The highest perfection of life is to cease from material activities and be fixed on the path of self realization. Those who are indifferent to material enjoyment and take pleasure in the self are called ātmārāmas. Śuka was one and still he was attracted to Bhāgavatam, which shows that it is a post graduate study even for the ātmārāmas. Although Vyāsa wanted Śuka to hear Bhāgavatam, Śuka left home immediately after his birth. Vyāsadeva then sent Śuka two exquisite Bhāgavatam verses SB 3.2.23 and 10.21.5 thru messengers. These verses respectively describe Kṛṣṇa’s compassion and beauty, and they so captivated Śuka’s mind that he returned home, enticed by a desire to hear the Bhāgavatam.

SB 1.7 - The ātmārāma verse

Sūta answered by citing the famous ātmārāma verse, which Lord Caitanya elaborately explained before Sanātana Gosvāmī. First Lord Caitanya presented 18 meanings of this text to Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya. After hearing this, Sārvabhauma understood that Mahāprabhu was the Supreme Lord. Later the Lord spoke extensive additional meanings to Sanātana Gosvāmī. The verse is: ātmārāmāś ca munayo / nirgranthā apy urukrame / kurvanty ahaitukīm bhaktim / ittham-bhūta-guṇa hariḥ. All different varieties of ātmārāmas though freed from all kinds of material bondage desire to render unalloyed devotional service unto the Personality of Godhead, who possesses transcendental qualities and thus attracts everyone, including liberated souls.

The Bhāgavatam is attractive to even those who are free from rules and prohibitions. Such persons perform bhakti without seeking results. Bhakti produces jñāna but is superior to jñāna. Therefore it is called best or uru. Therefore urukrama means ‘the Lord who produces the best method, bhakti’. Can bhakti deliver the liberated? Can the Bhāgavatam deliver those who have surpassed scriptures? Can a work discussing a server and the served (the Lord) deliver those who have given up all identities of ego? Can the rules of bhakti described in Bhāgavatam deliver those who have given up all rules and prohibitions? To destroy all such protests, the verse says ittham-bhūta-guṇa: the Lord has such attractive qualities that even ātmārāmas become attracted.

Due to their practice with predominance of bhakti or even just by mercy alone, the Lord gave mercy to the Kumāras thinking ‘Let them realize my qualities’. Vyāsa gave mercy to Śuka thinking ‘Let him realize Kṛṣṇa’s qualities’. Having attained that qualification for realizing the Lord’s qualities, these ātmārāmas perform unmotivated bhakti. Other ātmārāmas perform bhakti with the goal of merging into Brahman. The word ahaitukī cannot be applied to their bhakti. As stated in BG 18.54, the ātmārāma with the destruction of jñāna for liberation, since jñāna is in sattva guṇa, attains pure bhakti (mad-bhaktim labhate param). It is said pure bhakti because there is no covering of jñāna. By association of devotees, they can attain prema bhakti. Others, as said in BG 18.55, knowing Kṛṣṇa as Brahman by bhakti, can merge into Him. Their bhakti is not ahaitukī.

SB 1.7 - Explanation of the ātmārāma verse

Lord Caitanya’s explanation of the verse follows.

There are eleven words in the verse, namely (1) ātmārāma (2) munayaḥ (3) nirgrantha (4) api (5) ca (6) urukrama (7) kurvanti (8) ahaitukīm (9) bhaktim (10) ittham-bhūta-guṇaḥ (11) hariḥ.

There are seven synonyms for the word ātmā: (1) Brahman (brahma) (Absolute Truth) (2) body (deha) (3) mind (mana) (4) endeavor (yatna) (5) endurance (dhṛti) (6) intelligence (buddhi) (7) nature (svabhāva). The word ātmārāma refers to one who enjoys these seven items.

The word munayaḥ refers to (1) those who are thoughtful (manana śīla) (2) those who are grave or silent (maunī) (3) ascetics (tapasvī) (4) those who keep great vows (vratī) (5) mendicants (yati) (6) sages (ṛṣi).

The word nirgrantha refers to one who is liberated from nescience (avidyā-granthi-hīna), one who is freed from the obligation of the rules and regulations (vidhi-niṣedha) mentioned in the Vedas (veda-śāstra), one who has no knowledge (jñāna), an illiterate (mūrkha), lowborn (nīca), unclean persons (mleccha), unregulated (śāstra-rikta-gaṇa), capitalist (dhana-sañcayī), and the penniless (nirdhana). The prefix ni is used in the sense of certainty, gradation, construction or forbiddance, and grantha is used in the sense of wealth, thesis and composition.

The word urukrama means one whose activities are glorious. This word specifically indicates the Lord’s incarnation as Vāmana, who covered the whole universe by immeasurable steps (krama). Thru His all pervasive feature, the Lord has expanded the entire creation, and in His personal feature He is always present in Goloka. He maintains the material creation by His external potency, Goloka by His conjugal potency and Vaikuṇṭha planets by His aiśvarya potency. The word kurvanti refers to doing things for someone else. Therefore, it means that the ātmārāmas render devotional service unto the Lord not for personal interest but for the pleasure of the Lord, Urukrama. In Sanskrit, the verb ‘to do’ has two forms, called parasmai-pada and ātmane-pada. When things are done for one’s personal satisfaction, the form is called ātmane-pada. In that case kurvate is used in Sanskrit. When things are done for others, the verb form changes to kurvanti.

SB 1.7 - Explanation of the ātmārāma verse -II

The word ‘hetu’ means causal – to do something with a motive. There can be three motives for which one does things: bhukti (material enjoyment), siddhi (mystic perfections) and mukti (liberation). There are innumerable varieties of material enjoyment. There are 18 kinds of siddhis. And there are five kinds of liberations. Unalloyed devotional service is unmotivated by any of these desires for personal benefit. When one is free from all these contaminations, he can bring Kṛṣṇa under control. Practice of devotional service in the material field is influenced by the three modes of nature, and above such activities is the transcendental practice called sādhana bhakti.

When this is matured into love for the Lord, the transcendental loving service of the Lord begins gradually developing into nine progressive stages of prema bhakti: rati (attraction), prema (love), sneha (affection), māna (adverse feelings), praṇaya (affinity), rāga (attachment), anurāga (sub attachment or following), bhāva (ecstatic love) and mahābhāva (sublime ecstatic love). Attraction to Kṛṣṇa of devotees in śānta rasa increases up to prema; in dāsya rasa up to rāga; in sakhya rasa up to the point of anurāga; in vātsalya rasa up to the end of anurāga; the gopīs in mādhurya rasa can increase their attraction till mahābhāva. These are some of the meanings of the word bhakti.