MADHU BINDAVAH

SRI BHAGAVATA KATHA

An introduction to Srimad Bhagavatam

Translated from the original Bengali text published in Rachanamrta

By Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj

Vyasa's Cave

 

Śrīmad Bhāgavatam is Śrīla Vedavyāsa’s final and foremost gift. Śrīla Vyāsadev divided the Veda into four parts and then gave it to the world. He composed the Upaniṣads, he composed the fifth Veda, the Mahābhārata, he composed the eighteen Purāṇas, and he wrote many other works. Then, understanding that the souls in the Age of Kali, with such short lifespans, would not be able to study all the Vedas or grasp their meaning, he composed the Vedānta-darśan as their condensed essence. The Vedānta is also known as the Brahma-sūtra. There, in the form of sūtras (aphorisms), he described everything. But even after that, his mental unrest did not subside.

Once, as he was sitting and thinking at Badarīk Ashram, his Gurudev Śrī Nārad Goswāmī came before him and asked, “My boy! How are you?”

Śrī Vyāsadev said, “O Master! I have no peace in my mind, and I cannot understand the reason why. You are always present within me, and thus you have mercifully come here at this time. Do you understand clearly how I feel?”

Śrī Nārad said, “Yes, I have come here precisely because of that.

“Really, what do you know? Everything you have been giving and doing for so long for the benefit of the world has done nothing more than pour ghee over ashes. You have given medicine for the disease, and you have given a diet for the patients, but you haven’t given any provisions for those who are healthy. Therefore, now you have to give the actual thing. If anyone other than you gives that, the people will not accept it—they will not have faith in it.

jugupsitaṁ dharma-kṛte ’nuśāsataḥ
svabhāva-raktasya mahān vyatikramaḥ
yad-vākyato dharma itītaraḥ sthito
na manyate tasya nivāraṇaṁ janaḥ
(Śrīmad Bhāgavatam: 1.5.15)

“You have created a disaster. People are content with what you have been giving them for so long, and if anyone else comes and gives them something, the people will say, ‘You know more than Vyāsa?’ No one will listen. So, I have come to you today to say that you have to distribute the thing with your own hand. You have to speak openly about the life of service  beyond liberation that is full of the nectar of immortality and the highest bliss. Packing and hiding muri and sugar together to get an equal rate for both will not do. Settling things by cooking up the books will not do. Dharma, artha, kāma, and mokṣa are far lower-level ideals. Above them all is bhakti, and not bhakti in general, but pure bhakti free from jñān (viśuddha jñāna-śūnyā-bhakti). That is the only door to enter the land of the playful Lord’s līlā, the land of His service. I have come to you to tell you to open that door.”

Saying this, Nārad Goswāmī gave instructions about the content of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam in ten verses. He also said, “Now, you think about this properly and then reproduce it.”

bhakti-yogena manasi samyak praṇihite ’male
apaśyat puruṣaṁ pūrṇaṁ māyāñ cha tad-apāśrayam
(Śrīmad Bhāgavatam: 1.7.4)

Śrī Vyāsadev reflected on Bhagavān Nārad’s instructions, engaged in meditation in bhakti-yoga, and understood everything; he became overwhelmed with divine feelings, re-adjusted and harmonised everything, and then took everything within himself. Thereafter, He composed Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, filling it with the wonderful Pastimes of the Lord’s devotees and the Lord Himself, He who is glorified by the finest poetry. Vyāsadev then felt complete satisfaction.

To introduce Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, Śrī Vyāsadev has written:

nigama-kalpa-taror galitaṁ phalaṁ
śuka-mukhād amṛta-drava-saṁyutam
pibata bhāgavataṁ rasam ālayaṁ
muhur aho rasikā bhuvi bhāvukāḥ
(Śrīmad Bhāgavatam: 1.1.3)

“This Śrīmad Bhāgavatam is the ripened fruit of the wish-fulling tree of the Vedas. Moreover, Śuka-mukhād amṛta-drava-saṁyutam: it is enriched with liquid nectar from the mouth of Śrī Śukadev Goswāmī. Therefore, O devotees who relish rasa, O thoughtful ones ecstatic with divine love! May you all, moment after moment, drink this nectarean līlā filled with eternal, spiritual joy and feel complete satisfaction.”

He also said,

artho ’yaṁ brahma-sūtrāṇāṁ bhāratārtha-vinirṇayaḥ
gāyatrī-bhāṣya-rūpo ’sau vedārtha-paribṛṁhitaḥ
(Garuḍa-purāṇa)

“This Śrīmad Bhāgavatam is the explanation of the gāyatrī, the mother of the Vedas, and the essential meaning of the Brahma-sūtra; you will find within it the fundamental message of the Mahābhārata and all the Purāṇas. Through it, you will get entrance into the līlā of the ever-playful Supreme Lord above all (Līlā-Puruṣottam).”

dharmaḥ projjhita-kaitavo ’tra paramo nirmatsarāṇāṁ satāṁ
vedyaṁ vāstavam atra vastu śivadaṁ tāpa-trayonmūlanam
śrīmad-bhāgavate mahāmuni-kṛte kiṁ vā parair īśvaraḥ
sadyo hṛdy avarudhyate ’tra kṛtibhiḥ śuśrūṣubhis tat-kṣaṇāt
(Śrīmad Bhāgavatam: 1.1.2)

Vedavyās himself is fully certified. But if someone has to start a revolution within the world of dharma he instituted, one will have to be tested: who is there that is free from entanglement in all respects, beyond māyā, and fully situated in nirguṇa brahma (transcendental spirit)? That person is Śrī Vyāsadev’s own son, Śrī Śukadev. He is the beautiful, naked, sixteen year-old boy whose vision was completely pure and free from distinction between women and men. He didn’t even have awareness of a distinction between women and men. He was always immersed in the bliss of brahma. Vyāsadev went out searching for him; he ran behind him, calling out, “My boy! My boy!”, but Śukadev didn’t even glance at him. The plants and trees answered Vyāsadev, but Śukadev did not, and as he had no answer for Vyāsadev, so too others took no notice of him. He had such pure vision! Women who had disrobed and were bathing naked in water or were going to do so—when Śukadev came by along the path, they paid no heed to him even when they saw him coming. But when they saw Vedavyās come along after him, they immediately came over and quickly put on their clothes to avoid shame.

How could a person like Śukadev ever be caught? Instead of physically pursuing him any further, Vyāsadev decided to teach two wood-cutters some verses from the Bhāgavata about the Lord’s līlā and said, “As soon as you see Śukadev, recite these verses.” And so it happened. Nothing could attract Śukadev, but Śukadev was attracted by the Bhāgavata’s description of the Lord’s līlā, and he asked the wood-cutters, “Were did you learn those verses?” The wood-cutters then told him about Vyāsadev.

harer guṇākṣipta-matir bhagavān bādarāyaṇiḥ
(Śrīmad Bhāgavatam: 1.7.11)

Śrī Śukadev then ran to Śrī Vyāsadev, and with joy in his heart, Vyāsadev recited and taught Śukadev Śrīmad Bhāgavatam.

Śukadev later said to Parīkṣit Mahārāj:

pariniṣṭhito ’pi nairguṇya uttama-śloka-līlayā
gṛhīta-chetā rājarṣe ākhyānaṁ yad adhītavān
(Śrīmad Bhāgavatam: 2.1.9)

idaṁ bhāgavataṁ nāma purāṇaṁ brahma-sammitam
adhītavān dvāparādau pitur dvaipāyanād aham
(Śrīmad Bhāgavatam: 2.1.8)

“Mahārāj, I myself know, and everyone else also knows, that I am full situated in nirguṇa brahma. Even for a moment, I have never lapsed in my awareness of brahma. I was attracted, however, to discussion of the Lord’s līlā, and with my father I studied Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, which is a direct manifestation of Bhagavān, the Lord Himself. I have now attained awareness of His līlā, and today I am giving that to you.”

Śukadev’s prayer at the beginning of the Bhāgavatam is very beautiful.

tapasvino dāna-parā yaśasvino
manasvino mantra-vidaḥ sumaṅgalāḥ
kṣemaṁ na vindanti vinā yad-arpaṇaṁ
tasmai subhadra-śravase namo namaḥ
(Śrīmad Bhāgavatam: 2.4.17)

[“I continuously offer my obeisance unto that Lord of all-auspicious glory without offering (their actions) to whom the ascetics, philanthropists, dignitaries, meditators, scholars of the scriptures, and persons of fine conduct cannot attain any good fortune.”]

Everyone attended the assembly of Parīkṣit Mahārāj. Atri, Vaśiṣta, Chyavan, Śaradvān, Ariṣṭhanemi, Bhṛgu, Aṅgirā, Vyāsa’s father Parāśar, Viśvāmitra, Paraśurām, Vyāsadev, and even Bhagavān Nārad attended. All these great ṛṣis were the guardians of the directions (dik-pālas). Śukadev, however, made it unmistakably clear to all the ascetics, dignitaries, meditators, and scholars who perform sacrifice, that the only means to attain good fortune is to surrender oneself to the Lord.

Footnotes

jugupsitaṁ dharma-kṛte ’nuśāsataḥ
svabhāva-raktasya mahān vyatikramaḥ
yad-vākyato dharma itītaraḥ sthito
na manyate tasya nivāraṇaṁ janaḥ
(Śrīmad Bhāgavatam: 1.5.15)

“You have created a great disturbance for those who are attached to their conditioning by teaching them a condemnable thing in the name of dharma; people in general are convinced by your words as to what is dharma and do not accept any prohibition against it.”

bhakti-yogena manasi samyak praṇihite ’male
apaśyat puruṣaṁ pūrṇaṁ māyāñ cha tad-apāśrayam
(Śrīmad Bhāgavatam: 1.7.4)

“Through practice of bhakti, Vyāsadev saw within his pure and completely steady mind the Lord in full, as well as māyā situated behind Him.”

nigama-kalpa-taror galitaṁ phalaṁ
śuka-mukhād amṛta-drava-saṁyutam
pibata bhāgavataṁ rasam ālayaṁ
muhur aho rasikā bhuvi bhāvukāḥ
(Śrīmad Bhāgavatam: 1.1.3)

“The ripened fruit of the wish-fulfilling tree of the Vedas,
Enriched with liquid nectar from the mouth of Śrī Śukadev Goswami—
Continuously drink the rasa of the Bhāgavatam,
Until you fall still, O relishers of rasa! O thoughtful ones!”

artho ’yaṁ brahma-sūtrāṇāṁ bhāratārtha-vinirṇayaḥ
gāyatrī-bhāṣya-rūpo ’sau vedārtha-paribṛṁhitaḥ
(Garuḍa-purāṇa)

Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, fortified by the meaning of all the Vedas, is the meaning of the Brahma-sūtra, the final ascertainment of the meaning of the Mahābhārata, and the explanation of the gāyatrī-mantra.”

dharmaḥ projjhita-kaitavo ’tra paramo nirmatsarāṇāṁ satāṁ
vedyaṁ vāstavam atra vastu śivadaṁ tāpa-trayonmūlanam
śrīmad-bhāgavate mahā-muni-kṛte kiṁ vā parair īśvaraḥ
sadyo hṛdy avarudhyate ’tra kṛtibhiḥ śuśrūṣubhis tat-kṣaṇāt
(Śrīmad Bhāgavatam: 1.1.2)

“Here the highest dharma, in which cheating is utterly rejected, is described for the sādhus who are free from envy. Here can be known the absolute truth, which bestows the highest good and uproots the threefold miseries. What need is there of any other scripture than this Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, complied by the best of the sages? Here, the Lord is immediately bound within the heart by fortunate souls who desire to listen from the moment they begin.”

harer guṇākṣipta-matir bhagavān bādarāyaṇiḥ
adhyagān mahad ākhyānaṁ nityaṁ viṣṇu-jana-priyaḥ
(Śrīmad Bhāgavatam: 1.7.11)

“Bhagavān Bādarāyaṇi (Śrī Śukadev Goswāmī, the son of Vyāsadev), whose mind was captivated by the qualities of the Lord and who held the Vaiṣṇavas most dear, studied this great narration (Śrīmad Bhāgavatam).”

pariniṣṭhito ’pi nairguṇya uttama-śloka-līlayā
gṛhīta-chetā rājarṣe ākhyānaṁ yad adhītavān
(Śrīmad Bhāgavatam: 2.1.9)

“O insightful king! Although I was completely immersed in the transcendental (nirguṇa-brahma), my mind was captivated by the līlā of the Lord, and I studied this narration (Śrīmad Bhāgavatam).”

idaṁ bhāgavataṁ nāma purāṇaṁ brahma-sammitam
adhītavān dvāparādau pitur dvaipāyanād aham
(Śrīmad Bhāgavatam: 2.1.8)

“I learned this Purāṇa named Bhāgavatam, which is equal to the Absolute Himself, from my father Dvaipāyan at the beginning of the end of the Age of Dvāpar.”

tapasvino dāna-parā yaśasvino
manasvino mantra-vidaḥ sumaṅgalāḥ
kṣemaṁ na vindanti vinā yad-arpaṇaṁ
tasmai subhadra-śravase namo namaḥ
(Śrīmad Bhāgavatam: 2.4.17)

“I continuously offer my obeisance unto that Lord of all-auspicious glory without offering (their actions) to whom the ascetics, philanthropists, dignitaries, meditators, scholars of the scriptures, and persons of fine conduct cannot attain any good fortune.”

Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj is the foremost modern representative of the teachings of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Both definitive and progressive, his exemplary life, practice, and teachings brilliantly illuminate the path of divine love. For more information on Srila Govinda Maharaj, please visit his biography page.
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