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Srimad Bhagavatham- The Spotless Purana
We find a beautiful description by Srila Sukadeva Goswami of a very great yogi and who is also a Paramhamsa, a pure devotee of the Lord and how he performed a tremendous degree of penance and austerity constantly immersed in meditation on the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In this chapter of the 12th canto of the Bhagavatham there are many lessons to be learnt. In fact Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur would often say that this Srimad Bhagavatham is such a pure, spotless and perfect scripture with such divine potency, that if one were to understand even one syllable of Srimad Bhagavatham in truth one would have attained the Supreme goal of life. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu declared Srimad Bhagavatham “amalam puranam”, this means that of all of the Vedas the Srimad Bhagavatham is the most spotless and pure of all the Puranas. It is the essence, the cream of all Vedic literatures. The Vedas are summarised in the Vedanta Sutra or Brahma Sutra and the Srimad Bhagavatham is the commentary of the Vedanta Sutra by the author himself, Srila Veda Vyas.
It is described by Vyas Dev “nigama-kalpa-taror galitaà phalaàm”, that this Srimad Bhagavatham, it is the ripened fruit of the tree of all Vedic literatures.
‘dharmaù projjhita-kaitavo ‘tra paramo nirmatsaräëäà satäà
vedyaà västavam atra vastu çivadaà täpa-trayonmülanam
çrémad-bhägavate mahä-muni-kåte kià vä parair éçvaraù
sadyo hådy avarudhyate ‘tra kåtibhiù çuçrüñubhis tat-kñaëät’
This means that the Srimad Bhagavatham kicks out all the sub religious principles, which are mixed within the other literatures, spiritual literatures of the world and exclusively deals with the essence of all transcendental realizations which is
‘sa vai puàsäà paro dharmo
yato bhaktir adhokñaje
Unmotivated, uninterrupted loving service to the lord as the supreme occupation for all humanity.
So try to understand that many many of the great Acaryas have given there commentaries on Srimad Bhagavatham. In the English language, the commentary of His Divine Grace A.C. BhaktiVedanta Swami Prabhupada has literally changed the lives of millions of persons from living ordinary materialistic existences, addicted to varieties of sense gratification and sinful activities to persons who are pursuing the path of pure devotion and before him, of course there is a commentary of his gurudev, Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur Prabhupada. And there are commentaries by such great Acaryas of the Ramanuja Sampradayas, Raghava Acarya. There’s the commentary of Viswanath Chakravarthy Thakur. Srila Sanatan Goswami in his Brihad Bhagavatamrita, he describes the essence of Bhagavatham. And there’s the commentary, the original commentator, Srila Sridhar Swami. And all of these great authors in the most humble and submissive positions, they all explain that by the divine grace of Supreme Personality of Godhead they are only able to describe only a particle of 1 drop of glories of Bhagavatham.
This Srimad Bhagavatham was spoken by Sukadeva Goswami in 18000 verses and as I said any one syllable of any word understood in depth will liberate from the cycle of birth and death and grant you pure devotional love in the spiritual world eternally for Lord Sri Krsna.
There’s a story of a devotee named Markandeya Rsi. It is a long story but in brief summary, he performed great tapasya always immersed in utter surrender to the supreme personality of godhead. He controlled his sense to such an extreme and he was so much fixed in the highest Samadhi that the higher gods became very much afraid of the power he would attain. So they sent Kamadev, Kamadev is the power of Maya that through his amorous illusion intoxicates all living beings to mad after the objects of senses. But despite the best of arrows symbolise the most powerful temptations, the most irresistible enticements offered by Kamadev, Markandeya Rsi remained sober, fixed in the thought of Supreme Personality of Godhead. At that time Nara Narayan Rsi appeared before him to grant him transcendental darsan. Nara Narayan Rsi are none other than Supreme Personality of godhead, who had then appeared or advented on this earth in the holy place of Badrikasram. Markandeya Rsi offered beautiful prayers of love to the Lord and Lord offered him a benediction. This great great powerful yogi, incomparable to anyone in this age of kali. He was curious, he said to Nara Narayan Rsi, “Please my Lord, I would like to see your material illusory energy, I want to see just a glimpse of the extent of it”. Nara Narayan Rsi said “yes, so be it”.
Power Of Lord’s External Manifestation
So at that time the Lord went back to Badrikasram. Markandeya muni, he saw evening was coming, he began his evening prayers. Then he saw clouds coming in the sky, started to rain, started to rain very hard, it was raining so hard that it was becoming dark and dark, torrents of rain were flooding from the sky, soon there were hurricanes, toronto’s. The rain was was just not anymore falling from the sky, it was pouring from the sky. And within minutes, the entire planet was completely flooded. There was no land to be seen. This entire section of universe just became vast limitless ocean. At times it was freezing cold and yet the rain was coming down and down and down and down and there was thunders, crushing thunders, there were huge gigantic demoniac fish big enough to swallow whales, they were coming at him to devour him. He had no place to rest; he was swimming and swimming and swimming. There was no place to go, it was pitching dark. The winds were blowing him this way and that. At times the waves were so hard that they were battering him, battering him down and then battering him up and smashing him north, south, east and west. He was like an insignificant leaf just being utterly controlled by vast limitless ocean. In midst of a storm, unimaginable millions of years went by, no food, no drink, he was starving to death, he was utterly starving of thirst. In complete exhaust he didn’t know whether he will live or die. And blindly he was just swimming, not knowing which direction he was going, where was the end, where was the beginning. As I say millions and millions and millions of years of passed by.
He saw in a distance an island, he was thinking of a place to rest, obviously from millions of years no only he didn’t eat, not only he didn’t drink, he couldn’t sleep. Some times when we have lot of service, or when we are very busy and we lose some sleep we become very annoyed, I haven’t slept, i haven’t slept from two days. He didn’t sleep for millions of years. Sometimes people don’t give the type of food we like and we think, “I haven’t eaten in a day”. He didn’t eat for millions of years, he wasn’t complaining. He was simply struggling for survival. And then he saw this island and thought “ahhh! I have a place to rest.” And has he came closer to this island, he saw beautiful greenery. And the source of that beautiful greenery was a huge wonderful banyan tree. With wonderful fresh banyan leaves, and on one of those leaves, he saw a little tiny baby.
This little tiny baby, just upon seeing all of his desires were being fulfilled. Just drinking his beauty through his eyes was quenching his thirst, hunger. Just by laying his eyes on this child, he found supreme resting place. He had a bluish complexion, black locks of curly hair, wonderful lotus eyes, lips red like a Bimba fruit, beautiful jewels adoring his tender form each irresistible in quality, and has he came closer and closer to the beautiful child, he didn’t know who it was. But then all at once, this little baby inhaled, he breathed in and when he breathed in, all of a sudden Markandeya Rsi felt himself sucked into the mouth of the child and soon he was within this baby child body. And then he looked around and he saw within this little baby’s body was the entire universe, all the creation, he saw all the planets, he saw all the Himalayan mountains and rivers and streams and demigods and all living beings. He’s thinking “what a wonderful thing this is!” And upon seeing this, struck with wonder, the baby child exhaled, he breathed out.
The Only Hope
And all of a sudden Markandeya Rsi found out himself again cast a distance away in this tormentful ocean with bashing him in, bashing him out, stormy weather and he looked at this beautiful child and began to offer prayers. And as he was looking at this child with prayerful heart the baby Gopal with a charming smiling face cast a side long glance at him with his lotus eyes and all at once the child Gopal disappeared and Markandeya Rsi was looking all over, “Where is he?” And in an instant, the whole illusion of Maya disappeared, there was no more ocean. Markandeya Rsi was back at his ashram, that same evening ready to offer his evening prayers. Then he understood just one little drop of the extent of this illusory energy. Krsna says in the Bhagavad Gita
daivé hy eñä guëa-mayé
mama mäyä duratyayä
mäm eva ye prapadyante
mäyäm etäà taranti te
This divine energy of mine is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto me can easily cross beyond it.
You see Bhagavad Gits gives us in short quotes the basic philosophical principles which constitute all the Vedic knowledge. But the Srimad Bhagavatham expands upon the essence of Gita to give us full understanding and description in every sense. Krsna says “This material energy of mine is very difficult to overcome.” But how difficult to overcome. Srimad Bhagavatham explains in many places, tonight we are reading about the story of Markandeya Rsi. How difficult it is to cross over the ocean of birth and death. This is just one little fraction of the power of illusory energy and such a great souls as Markandeya Muni, what was his hopes to overcome it on his own. There was no hope, what is our position, until he took shelter of the lotus feet of this beautiful child Gopal. Then he was released of this great great great challenge of birth and death. A soon as he surrendered to the child Gopal he attained liberation and he was brought back to his natural position. So this is the position of every one of us.
Srimad Bhagavatam – The Perfect Encyclopedia
Similarly Bhagavad Gita also explains,
na tad bhäsayate süryo
na çaçäìko na pävakaù
yad gatvä na nivartante
tad dhäma paramam mama
He says that “beyond this material creation, there is another world, the eternal spiritual world, where there is no need of Sun or the Moon. This is Param Dham,” this is all the detail that Krsna goes into to describe the spiritual world in Bhagavad Gita. But in 10th canto of Srimad Bhagavatham we read in great great glorious intricate detail of the spiritual world, of Vaikuntha and also of the spiritual world of Goloka or Vrindavan. Therefore Srimad Bhagavatham is the perfect encyclopaedia which contains everything needed to know for the highest of all transcendental realizations.
In fact our spiritual master His Divine Grace A.C. Bhakti Vedanta Swami Prabhupada, before he came to America, he was living in Vrindavan at the Radha-Damodar mandir, which is the holy place for Srila Jiva Goswami, he worships the holy form of the lord Radha-Damodar. It was also the place of Srila Rupa Goswami, Sanatan Goswami, Raghunath das Goswami, Raghunath Bhatta Goswami, Gopal Bhatta Goswami, Sri Jiva Goswami would all meet together to discuss of glories of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and how to spread those glories throughout the world by their behaviour and by their writings and by their teachings. So, there, Srila Prabhupada found great inspirations from these great Acaryas to prepare himself for his life’s mission, to spread the glories of the highest teachings of Sri Gaur Sundar, Sriman Mahaprabhu all throughout the world. And he began by translating 1st of the 12 cantos of Bhagavatham. He translated the 1st canto in three volumes. And he explained to us when he came to the west that in these three volumes of the 1st canto of Srimad Bhagavatham is absolutely everything you will ever need to know to attain the supreme highest perfection of Krsna consciousness. It’s all within these three books. Anything beyond this is simply for transcendental variegatedness, but everything is in here.
He said “I specifically translated in this way the 1st canto because i began my journey when i was 70 years old and at any moment i could leave this world, so I wanted to make sure that in the English language, which is the most current language all over the world, that all the living beings will have the chance to attaining the supreme highest perfection of consciousness of Radha-Krsna, simply by this. This is the power of Bhagavatham.
But it describes in the 1st canto of Bhagavatham,
bhaktir bhavati naiñöhiké
“That one can only understand the Bhagavatham by hearing one from who is a surrendered devotee to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the person Bhagavatham and one can only realize the content of that understanding by humbly rendering service to such a great soul.”
You see the Bhagavatham cannot be understood in truth, in essence, unless we have the great opportunity of perceiving the living embodiments of these truths of the Bhagavatham within our lives. Of course in this age of Kali Yuga people don’t have the physical capacity of Markandeya Rsi, but the qualitative principle of complete devotion and faith on lord under any circumstance is consistence amongst all true person Bhagavathams, great souls throughout the ages.
Lord Uses His Devotees To Teach Us a Lesson
Markandeya Rsi, was put into an impossibly situation for millions and millions and millions of years. Why? Why did he ask to see the illusory energy? Such great soul, they are not simply curious because they want to enjoy what this material energy has to offer. By resisting the temptations of Kamadev, cupid, he already proved that he is beyond any trace of desire of sense enjoyment. But it was the will of God to use him, his devotee, to show the glory of his devotee and to show the power of material energy and to show how he is the only refuge.
Therefore in the loving service of the lord, for the benefit of the lord showing a great message, he asked his illusory energy. Sometimes devotees ask “If I begin to become a devotee of the lord that means there should be no longer any struggle.” Markandeya was a devotee. My god! How much he struggled. Why are you not struggling so much, because you are not qualified. You are no so dear and advanced to the lord that he can put you in such an incredibly wonderful predicament to show the whole world your glories.
We are struggling when we are little sick or when our tooth is feeling some pain or when somebody is not true about us or when it’s too hot or when the electricity goes out. “Oh my God! How will I live?” Impossible what’s happening to this civilization, or when our child gets bad grade,” My god, How will i live? Why is this happening to me? I am a devotee.” How easily we are tormented by the most ridiculously little things considering all the miseries taking place in the universe, just a slightest thing not according to our plan creates havoc in our mind. “People don’t understand me, its end of world, am lonely.”
Material Existence Is a Struggle
Markandeya Muni for millions of years he was lonely. And he was devotee, the Lord wanted to show that material existence is a struggle whether you are a devotee or not a devotee. The difference is for a devotee Krsna attracts you by his inconceivably beautiful form and by that attraction your consciousness so much bliss, so much ecstasy, so much higher taste. As Bhagavad Gita explains “The miseries of material existence become insignificant challenges”. Do not think that this is an example that only applies to Satya Yuga. This is a universal principle for spiritual advancement that must be understood. Therefore we find in the lives of great souls, they are the person Bhagavathams, who are teaching us same principles for us to see within our own lives the living reality of Srimad Bhagavatham.
Krsnas Plans Are Uniquely Perfect
How Krsnas plan is uniquely perfect, take Srila Prabhupada for instance. He was a pure devotee of the lord from birth, he was Nithya Siddha. He was a perfectly honest and sincere devotee of the lord. I remember, some years back we were in the New York City and Srila Prabhupada was being interviewed by Newsweek Magazine.
Reporter : “Swamiji, Please answer my question. When did you 1st see god, Krsna.”
Srila Prabhupada, not very anxious to be talking about his own realizations, he wanted to teach him how he could see Krsna.
Srila Prabhupada : “Krsna is in everyone’s heart. Krsna can be seen by everyone, we simply have to chant holy name and follow the four regulative principles and you will see Krsna.”
Reporter : “Yes Swamiji. I’m sorry; perhaps i didn’t frame my question correctly. But when did YOU 1st saw Krsna.”
Srila Prabhupada : “Krsna is the supreme cause of all causes; he has created this material and spiritual energy. This body is made up of the material energy. You are not this body; this body is a temporary residence. Growing old, getting diseased, and dying. As you go from boyhood, to youth to old age, similarly the enters in different body and at the time of death you are the soul, when you realize the soul you understand you are the part and parcel of god, Krsna, then you will see Krsna.”
Reporter : “Yes Swamiji. I’m sorry; perhaps my English is not so correct. But I’m trying to explain my, I’m not correctly expressing myself not, but when did YOU 1st saw Krsna.”
Srila Prabhupada : ”Krsna is non-different than his name.
näma cintämaëiù kåñëaç
pürëaù çuddho nitya-mukto
“You chant the names of Krsna purely, you will see Krsna with all of his opulence in his name, you, you can do it. It is everyone’s birth right.
Reporter : ” I’m sorry Swamiji, very very sorry. Your answers are perfect, no doubt. But am afraid, no fault in you, but I am not properly explaining, when, at what age did you 1st see Krsna.
Srila Prabhupada : ”The first I remember seeing Krsna, I was four years old.”
(All the time while Maharaj was narrating this incident, devotees and Maharaj were heartily laughing)
So Prabhupada was completely liberated soul. Why didn’t he go to western world and spread the glories of the lord when he was 20 years old or when he was 16 years old like Sukadeva Goswami. Sukadeva Goswami stayed in the womb of his mother for 16 years, but as soon as he came out naked as he was he started preaching the glories of Bhagavatham. Why Prabhupada waited till he was 70? And why he was ready to go at 70, Krsna gave him no money; he gave him no contacts in America. He came to Bombay, where he was given passage on a cargo ship that goes very very slow across the Atlantic. And why while he was on the boat across the Atlantic, why did Krsna send storms, bashing waves to cause him sea sickness and heart attacks. And why when he arrived at New York City why was there not wonderful vaisnavas, angels, demigods with flowers, drums, syllables saying “Jaya Prabhupada, Jaya Prabhupada”. Why when he got out of the ship he was alone, there was nobody there. He had no money. He met the captain of the ship and said “Please buy my books. Please give 16 dollars for my books, so that I have at least something. I have 40 rupees but no one wants rupees in America.” The captain gave him 20 dollars. He got off the boat with 20 dollars not knowing enough that’s enough for a person to live in New York City. Why?
Because Krsna wanted to show, the person Bhagavatham, Srila Prabhupada was coming to teach us the book Bhagavatham, but the people of the world wouldn’t take it seriously unless they see the demonstration of person Bhagavatham. How a person in his devotion and love for the lord is willing to overcome with a grateful heart all the obstacles that may come upon him. Factually, if Prabhupada didn’t come to America just in the way Krsna arranged him to come; nobody would have taken it seriously. We would have read and said “Yes, there are so many nice books like this.” But my god! He is actually living this book to the extreme; therefore words coming from such a person, they come alive in my heart.
Tribulations are there in this material world. The question is how we respond to the tribulations? If he is responding in an attitude of pure devotion, welcoming in God’s mercy, being more and more inspired and enlivened under any situation. We have used example, that fool’s gold are false gold. If you want to test it, you put it in the fire. Because under the test of burning fire, the false gold will either comes covered by the black of the fire or burns to ashes. But real gold, the hotter the fire becomes, the brighter the gold shines. So those who are really person Bhagavathams, the more the material energy test them, actually its Krsna testing them through the agent of material nature, the more they shine, the more their devotion and their inspiration and their love of god manifest brighter and brighter and brighter. Because after all there will be many tests and tribulations on our path back home back to godhead.
Bhagavatam – A Way Of Life
Bhagavatham explains like this, we have to keep our mind fixed on the goal as Markandeya Rsi, despite all of his difficulties; he survived because of his Krsna consciousness. So similarly, the lord takes his most qualified devotees and puts them through the most extreme situations just to show that the Bhagavatham is just not a scripture written 500 years ago. But the Bhagavatham is a way of life that is practised today by those great souls who have put in their faith in the lotus feet of Sri Krsna. In all circumstances and all situations the Bhagavatham explains, the great shelter is in the holy name.
I would like to read, of the 18000 verses by Srila VedaVyas, in his final of all his Vedic writings the Srimad Bhagavatham, the last verse of Bhagavatham is the last word of Vedanta. The last word spoken by VedaVyas in this literary incarnation of godhead in this scripture, which he himself declares to be nothing but the literary incarnation of God, the Bhagavatham. And he concludes, sometimes it is said, the last statement is the one that sticks.
Srila VedaVyas spoke 100s and 100s and lakhs and lakhs and lakhs, perhaps millions of slokas in all the Vedic literatures he wrote, the Rg Veda, the Yajur Veda, the Atharva Veda, the Sama Veda, 108 Upanishads, the Ethihasas, the Puranas, the Vedanta Sutras, this is his last word. The final, the conclusion of the message of all the scriptures
taà namämi harià param
“I offer my respectful obeisances unto the Supreme Lord, Hari, the congregational chanting of whose holy names destroys all sinful reactions, and the offering of obeisances unto whom relieves all material suffering.”
Since this is the last word of Vyas Dev we have nothing more to say ourselves. As his humbly aspiring servant of the servant of the servant if his representatives rather than giving a commentatory, I think we should put it into practise. I will read it once more and we will put it into practise. Do you know what it means to put it into practise? Everyone Please stand up, repeat after me, loud as you can please (Maharaj reading the verse and translation and devotees repeating it).
So there are two principles here, which are considered most important, to offer obeisances unto the supreme personality of godhead and to congregationally chant his holy names, so we will begin by accepting the conclusion, the essence, the summum bonum of all the knowledge of all the scriptures to congregationally chant holy names of the lord. Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has personally taken the conclusion of Vedas and put them into his lives and those great devotees, the Acaryas and the humble servants of those great souls, they are simply pleading with all the living beings in the world, “Take to this Simple Process.”