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Srimad Bhagavatam

SB 1.7 - Explanation of the ātmārāma verse -III

The word ittham-bhūta means complete bliss. Before this ocean of bliss, the bliss derived from merging into Brahman becomes like a piece of straw or like the scanty water contained in the hoof print of a calf. The personal form of Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa is so attractive that it comprehends all attraction, all bliss and all tastes (rasas). Pure bhakti is so sublime that one can very easily forget the happiness of bhukti, siddhi and mukti. When one is attracted to Kṛṣṇa on the transcendental platform there is no longer any logical argument on the basis of revealed scriptures, nor are there considerations of such conclusions. This is His transcendental quality that is the essence of all sweetness.

The word guṇa means quality. The qualities of Kṛṣṇa are transcendental and are unlimited in quantity. The devotees are attracted by His uncommon beauty, mellows and fragrance. The minds of the four sages were attracted by the aroma of tulasī leaves offered to Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet. Śukadeva Gosvāmī was attracted by hearing the pastimes of Kṛṣṇa, even though he was already situated in transcendental position. The gopīs are attracted by the beautiful bodily features of Kṛṣṇa. The Queens of Dvārakā headed by Rukmiṇī are attracted by hearing about His beauty and qualities. The goddess of fortune is attracted by hearing His flute. Kṛṣṇa attracts the minds of all the young girls in the three worlds as well. He attracts the minds of the elderly ladies by paternal affection, and the minds of the men of Vṛndāvana by the humors of servitude and friendship.

Although the word ‘hari’ has many different meanings, the chief import of the word is that the Lord vanquishes everything inauspicious, and takes away the mind of the devotee (or attracts the mind of the devotee) by ecstatic love. By remembering the Lord in acute distress one can be free from all miseries and anxieties. Lord Hari takes away the four miserable conditions of life due to the four kinds of sins: pātaka (preliminary sin), uru-pātaka (great sin), mahā-pātaka (greater sin) and ati-pātaka (topmost sin). When a devotee surrenders unto Kṛṣṇa, He protects him from all sinful reactions (BG 18.66). The Lord vanquishes all obstacles on the path of devotional service of a devotee, and the devotee then manifests his love for God thru devotional service in nine different ways – hearing, chanting etc.

By His personal features and transcendental attributes, the Lord attracts all activities of a pure devotee. The attraction is so powerful that a devotee never hankers for any one of the four principles of religion. And adding to this the words ‘api’ and ‘ca’, one can increase the imports unlimitedly. There are seven synonyms for these two words. So by interpreting each and every word of this verse, one can see unlimited numbers of transcendental qualities of Kṛṣṇa that attract the mind of a pure devotee.

SB 1.7 - Śukadeva's attraction to Bhāgavatam

Śuka was a liberated soul even within the womb of his mother. Vyāsa, knowing that his son would not stay home, impressed upon him the synopsis of Bhāgavatam. After his birth, the child was still more educated by recitation of Bhāgavatam. Śuka was very dear to the devotees, and he underwent the study of this great narration. The impersonalists are attached to Brahman. But by the association of pure devotees, even the liberated souls become attracted to the transcendental qualities of the Lord. By the power of hearing the verses of Bhāgavatam, Śuka’s trance was broken, and his mind was attracted to the sweetness of the verses. By Vyāsa’s mercy, Śuka was able to grasp the import of Bhāgavatam, and realized more transcendental bliss than what he realized in the impersonal feature of the Lord. From that time, he became dear to the devotees of the Lord, and the devotees also became very dear to him. Usually the devotees and impersonalists stay separate, but Śuka desired the association of devotees when he became a devotee.

SB 1.7 - The Bhāgavatam begins with a story of Mahabharata

Any historical fact which has connection with the activities of the Lord is transcendental. In Bhāgavatam, the activities of Kṛṣṇa are central and not just supplementary historical facts as in other scriptures. One should not foolishly conclude that only the tenth canto is related to Kṛṣṇa. All cantos are as important as the tenth canto. Kṛṣṇa and His pure devotees like the Pāṇḍavas are on the same plane. Kṛṣṇa is not without His devotees of all the rasas, and the pure devotees are not without Kṛṣṇa. Therefore talks about the devotees are all kṛṣṇa-kathā. Thus Sūta said he would begin his narration of Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and also topics of the birth, activities and deliverance of King Parīkṣit, as well as topics of the renunciation of the sons of Pāṇḍu. How Parīkṣit heard the Bhāgavatam while fasting till death and other topics will be explained. For the first time, we will see Kṛṣṇa in action. Kṛṣṇa makes His appearance by serving His devotee, Arjuna, as His chariot driver.

A story is now told to show how Parīkṣit even in the womb was able to see Kṛṣṇa. When the warriors of both Kauravas and Pāṇḍavas were killed on the battlefield of Kurukṣetra and attained their deserved destinations, and when Duryodhana’s spine was broken by Bhīma, Aśvatthāmā beheaded the five sleeping sons of Draupadī and delivered them as a prize to his master, thinking that he would be pleased. Duryodhana, however, disapproved of the heinous act, and was not pleased in the least. He understood that the Kuru dynasty had been destroyed by the death of the children but felt sorrow that his enemies such as Bhīma were still alive. Thus Duryodhana died with both joy and sorrow.

SB 1.7 - Arjuna's vow

Draupadī, hearing the massacre of her sons, cried in distress. Arjuna tried consoling her saying that he would wipe her tears off by presenting the head of Aśvatthāmā, by beheading him with his Gāṇḍīva bow. Then, after burning her son’s bodies, she could take her bath standing on his head. Arjuna addressed Aśvatthāmā as brahma-bandhu or a degraded brāhmaṇa. Usually a brāhmaṇa is not to be killed. But because the so-called brāhmaṇa acted like a butcher there was no sin in killing him.

Arjuna, who was guided by the infallible Lord as friend and driver (acyuta-mitra-sūtaḥ), then dressed in armor got into his chariot and set out to follow Aśvatthāmā. Aśvatthāmā, seeing Arjuna coming at him with great speed, fled in his chariot as Brahmā (or Sūrya) fled in fear from Lord Śiva. Brahmā once became allured by his daughter and followed her, which infuriated Śiva, who attacked Brahmā with his trident. Brahmā fled in fear of his life. As far as Sūrya is concerned, there was a demon called Vidyunmālī, who was gifted with a golden airplane which traveled to the back of the sun, and night disappeared because of the glowing effulgence of the plane. The sun-god became angry and he melted the plane. This enraged Śiva, who attacked the sun-god, who fled away and at last fell down at Kāśī. This place became famous as Lolārka (unsteady sun).

SB 1.7 - The subtle nuclear weapon

When Aśvatthāmā saw that his horses were tired, he thought there was no alternative but to use brahmāstra. He touched water in sanctity and concentrated upon the chanting of the hymns for throwing nuclear weapons, although he did not know how to withdraw such weapons. Nuclear weapons were released thru subtle means by purification of sound – chanting hymns. A glaring light spread in all directions, and Arjuna thought his life was in danger. Fear and its accompanying need to defend are the core principles governing the material world. Everyone is afraid and lack security.

Arjuna prayed to Lord Kṛṣṇa addressing Him as the almighty Lord, whose energies are unlimited. Therefore, only Kṛṣṇa is competent to instill fearlessness in the hearts of His devotees. A devotee thus becomes fearless under the protection given by the Lord. Material existence is like a blazing fire in the forest, and thus everyone in the flames of material miseries can find the path of liberation in Kṛṣṇa alone. The guru is the mercy representative of the Lord, and thru his words, the guru can penetrate into the heart of the suffering person and inject transcendental knowledge, which alone can extinguish the fire of material existence.

SB 1.7 - The purpose of Kṛṣṇa's descent

Kṛṣṇa is the original personality of Godhead who is transcendental to material energy. From Him, all other Personalities of Godhead expand. The Lord expands Himself in innumerable forms of Godhead and living beings, along with His different energies. Distancing Himself from māyā composed of both vidyā and avidyā, He is situated in His spiritual form along with His cit-śakti arising from His svarūpa. By His cit-śakti (spiritual potency), He has cast aside the effects of material energy, and is always situated in eternal bliss and knowledge. The cit-śakti is non different from Kṛṣṇa and is situated in the form of His body, senses and associates. The external energy māyā is different and non different from the Lord being His śakti. The idea that māyā is the only śakti is rejected. He has nothing to do with the actions and reactions of the material manifestation because He is far above the material creation. Thru His diverse energies, He creates, maintains and destroys the material world. Transcendence is not at all static, but full of dynamic variegatedness. Kṛṣṇa is full of bliss.

Even though Kṛṣṇa is beyond the purview of material energy, He executes the four principles of liberation for the ultimate good of the conditioned souls. He descends on the manifested world without being influenced by the material modes of nature. Still He is situated eternally and fully in Goloka Vṛndāvana. He descends out of His causeless mercy only to reclaim the fallen souls who are captivated by the illusory energy and to give happiness to His devotees by letting them worship Him. Under illusion, the fallen souls want to enjoy, but the Lord eradicates their false sense of enjoyment and reclaims them. Thus He descends to remove the burden of the world and to benefit His friends, especially those who are His exclusive devotees and are rapt in meditation upon Him. Although the Lord is equal to everyone, yet He is more inclined to His devotees. This is His transcendental pastime, and being above the modes of nature, the Lord’s dealings are not mundane. Śrīdhara Svāmī says that the Lord need not personally appear to remove the earth’s burden, for He can do that simply by wishing it to be done. He descends to benefit His friends as given here.

Jīva Gosvāmī says that Kṛṣṇa appeared to remove the burden of earth, who is His great devotee, and to enable His devotees to constantly relish the happiness of worshipping and meditating on Him. Just because the Lord appears to give happiness to His devotees does not mean He is forced to come and thus has no independence. He comes because He is merciful to His devotees. He is free from all faults, and because lack of mercy is a fault, He is free from all mercilessness. Thus He voluntarily comes to give happiness to His devotees. The Lord is both independent and merciful even though they may sometimes contradict one another. The Kūrma Purāṇa states that the Lord possesses such mutually contradictory qualities.

SB 1.7 - Arjuna counteracts the brahmāstra

Arjuna asked wherefrom the dangerous effulgence, which was spreading all around, was coming from. Anything that is presented before the Lord should be done so after due presentation of prayers, like Arjuna did. Kṛṣṇa replied that the son of Droṇa had released the brahmāstra but did not know how to retract it. The subtle science of releasing weapons, done by chanting mantras, is still material. A chanter of hymns knew how to apply the weapon as well as how to retract it. Since Aśvatthāmā did not know how to retract the weapon, what he did was irreligious. Kṛṣṇa said that only another brahmāstra could counteract the weapon, and asked Arjuna to subdue it with the power of Arjuna’s own weapon.

Hearing this from Kṛṣṇa, Arjuna touched water for purification, and after circumambulating the Lord, cast his brahmāstra to counteract the other one. When the rays of the two brahmāstras combined, a great circle of fire covered all outer space and the whole firmament of planets. It was like the combination of the sun and the fire emanating from Saṅkarṣaṇa’s mouth at the time of devastation. The radiation of atomic energy is very insignificant compared to the heat produced by a brahmāstra. The former can utmost blow up one globe, but the latter can destroy the whole cosmic situation. The heat generated by brahmāstra resembles the fire exhibited by the sun at the time of cosmic annihilation. Although the brahmāstra was released on this earth, the heat produced by the combination of both weapons covered the three worlds.

Seeing the disturbance of the general populace and the imminent destruction of the planets, Arjuna at once retracted both the weapons, as Lord Kṛṣṇa desired. Without the Lord’s sanction the world cannot be destroyed, for the natural laws work under His direction. By the Lord’s will only, the many powerful agents of the Lord can execute His desires.

SB 1.7 - Violence and animal killers

Kṛṣṇa said that Arjuna should not show mercy to Aśvatthāmā, for he had killed innocent boys in their sleep. A person who knows the principles of religion does not kill an enemy who is careless, intoxicated, insane, asleep, afraid or devoid of his chariot. Nor does he kill a boy, a woman, a foolish creature or a surrendered soul. Formerly war was never declared by the whims of selfish leaders; it was carried out on religious principles free from all vices. Violence carried out on religious principles is far superior to so-called non violence.

A cruel person who maintains his existence at the cost of others’ lives deserves to be killed for his own benefit, otherwise he will go down to hell by his own actions. Political morality is to punish a person by death sentence, and this saves that person from going to hell. He will not have to suffer for his act in his next life. Men who are punished on the principle of a life for a life are purified of all their sins, so much so that they may be eligible for being promoted to the heavenly planets. Even the killer of an animal is to be considered a murderer. In the act of killing an animal, there is a conspiracy by the party of sinners, and all of them are liable to be punished. He who gives permission, he who kills the animal, he who sells the killed animal, he who cooks the animal, he who administers the distribution of foodstuff, and he who eats the cooked animal are all murderers, and all of them are liable to be punished by the laws of nature.

For the meat eaters, the scriptures have sanctioned restricted animal sacrifices, and following this procedure is good for both the animal sacrificed and the animal eaters. It is good for the animal because it gets promoted at once to the human form of life after being sacrificed, and the meat eater is saved from grosser types of sins of eating meat supplied by organized slaughter houses.

SB 1.7 - Kṛṣṇa's test of His devotees

Kṛṣṇa said that Arjuna had also promised Draupadī that he would bring the head of the killer of her sons, and so asked Arjuna to kill Aśvatthāmā, who had dissatisfied his master Duryodhana, who never approved of the heinous act of killing the five sleeping sons of the Pāṇḍavas. Although Kṛṣṇa was examining Arjuna in religion and encouraged him to kill the son of Droṇa, Arjuna did not like the idea of killing him. Arjuna considered that the son of his great teacher should be spared, even though he was an unworthy son. Lord Kṛṣṇa encouraged Arjuna outwardly just to test Arjuna’s sense of duty. It is not that Arjuna was incomplete in the sense of his duty, nor was Kṛṣṇa unaware of Arjuna’s sense of duty. But Kṛṣṇa put to test many of His devotees just to magnify the sense of duty. The gopīs were put to such tests as well. Prahlāda Mahārāja also was put to test. All pure devotees come out successfully in the respective tests by the Lord.

Kṛṣṇa tested Arjuna, possessor of dharma, by showing vīra and raudra rasas when He said that Arjuna should not release Aśvatthāmā. In the same way He tested the gopīs, possessors of prema, by showing karma and jñāna in such verses as SB 10.29.24: the highest duty for a woman is to serve her husband; and in SB 10.47.29: the gopīs are never separated from Kṛṣṇa, for He is the soul of all creation. Kṛṣṇa also tested Pṛthu, Prahlāda and others, who were filled with devotion, by promising enjoyment and powers to them. In SB 4.20.16 He said Pṛthu could ask any benediction from Him; and in SB 7.9.52 He said Prahlāda could fulfill his desire by asking any benediction. Even Kṛṣṇa’s siddhi devotees test others. Thus Śukadeva tests Parīkṣit. In the 6th canto, he tests his knowledge of siddhānta when he speaks of regular atonements when Parīkṣit asks the method of getting free from sins. In the 9th canto, he tests Parīkṣit’s eagerness for Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes by summarizing those pastimes, and in the 12th canto, he tests his steadiness in bhakti by talking of brahma-jñāna. The real meaning is not always in the directly observed events.

SB 1.7 - Draupadī's mild nature

After reaching his camp, Arjuna, along with his dear friend and charioteer, entrusted the murderer unto his lamenting wife. Arjuna is related to Kṛṣṇa as a dear friend, and the Lord acted as his charioteer. When Draupadī saw Aśvatthāmā she showed him due respects as a brāhmaṇa, even though he was condemned by Kṛṣṇa. This showed her vāma-svabhāvā, her mild and virtuous nature. Aśvatthāmā was not an ordinary person. From portions of Lord Śiva and the lord of death, and personified lust and anger – all mixed into one – he took birth.

Draupadī asked Aśvatthāmā be released, for he was a brāhmaṇa and their guru. A teacher or spiritual master is liable to be rejected if he proves himself unworthy of such a position. Aśvatthāmā failed to be a proper brāhmaṇa, and thus Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna condemned him. But for Draupadī the matter was considered not from the angle of scriptures, but as a matter of custom. A devotee of the Lord can tolerate all sorts of tribulation personally but they are never unkind to others.