By His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Canto One, Chapter Four
The Appearance of Śrī Nārada
iti bruvāṇaṁ saṁstūya
vṛddhaḥ kula-patiḥ sūtaṁ
bahvṛcaḥ śaunako ’bravīt
vyāsaḥ—Vyāsadeva; uvāca—said; iti—thus; bruvāṇam—speaking; saṁstūya—congratulating; munīnām—of the great sages; dīrgha—prolonged; satriṇām—of those engaged in the performance of sacrifice; vṛddhaḥ—elderly; kula-patiḥ—head of the assembly; sūtam—unto Sūta Gosvāmī; bahu-ṛcaḥ—learned; śaunakaḥ—of the name Śaunaka; abravīt—addressed.
On hearing Sūta Gosvāmī speak thus, Śaunaka Muni, who was the elderly, learned leader of all the ṛṣis engaged in that prolonged sacrificial ceremony, congratulated Sūta Gosvāmī by addressing him as follows.
In a meeting of learned men, when there are congratulations or addresses for the speaker, the qualifications of the congratulator should be as follows. He must be the leader of the house and an elderly man. He must be vastly learned also. Śrī Śaunaka Ṛṣi had all these qualifications, and thus he stood up to congratulate Śrī Sūta Gosvāmī when he expressed his desire to present Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam exactly as he heard it from Śukadeva Gosvāmī and also realized it personally. Personal realization does not mean that one should, out of vanity, attempt to show one’s own learning by trying to surpass the previous ācārya. He must have full confidence in the previous ācārya, and at the same time he must realize the subject matter so nicely that he can present the matter for the particular circumstances in a suitable manner. The original purpose of the text must be maintained. No obscure meaning should be screwed out of it, yet it should be presented in an interesting manner for the understanding of the audience. This is called realization. The leader of the assembly, Śaunaka, could estimate the value of the speaker, Śrī Sūta Gosvāmī, simply by his uttering yathādhītam and yathā-mati, and therefore he was very glad to congratulate him in ecstasy. No learned man should be willing to hear a person who does not represent the original ācārya. So the speaker and the audience were bona fide in this meeting where Bhāgavatam was being recited for the second time. That should be the standard of recitation of Bhāgavatam, so that the real purpose can be served without difficulty. Unless this situation is created, Bhāgavatam recitation for extraneous purposes is useless labor both for the speaker and for the audience.
sūta sūta mahā-bhāga
vada no vadatāṁ vara
kathāṁ bhāgavatīṁ puṇyāṁ
yad āha bhagavāñ chukaḥ
śaunakaḥ—Śaunaka; uvāca—said; sūta sūta—O Sūta Gosvāmī; mahā-bhāga—the most fortunate; vada—please speak; naḥ—unto us; vadatām—of those who can speak; vara—respected; kathām—message; bhāgavatīm—of the Bhāgavatam; puṇyām—pious; yat—which; āha—said; bhagavān—greatly powerful; śukaḥ—Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī.
Śaunaka said: O Sūta Gosvāmī, you are the most fortunate and respected of all those who can speak and recite. Please relate the pious message of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, which was spoken by the great and powerful sage Śukadeva Gosvāmī.
Sūta Gosvāmī is twice addressed herein by Śaunaka Gosvāmī out of great joy because he and the members of the assembly were eager to hear the text of Bhāgavatam uttered by Śukadeva Gosvāmī. They were not interested in hearing it from a bogus person who would interpret in his own way to suit his own purpose. Generally the so-called Bhāgavatam reciters are either professional readers or so-called learned impersonalists who cannot enter into the transcendental personal activities of the Supreme Person. Such impersonalists twist some meanings out of Bhāgavatam to suit and support impersonalist views, and the professional readers at once go to the Tenth Canto to misexplain the most confidential part of the Lord’s pastimes. Neither of these reciters are bona fide persons to recite Bhāgavatam. Only one who is prepared to present Bhāgavatam in the light of Śukadeva Gosvāmī and only those who are prepared to hear Śukadeva Gosvāmī and his representative are bona fide participants in the transcendental discussion of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.
kasmin yuge pravṛtteyaṁ
sthāne vā kena hetunā
kutaḥ sañcoditaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ
kṛtavān saṁhitāṁ muniḥ
kasmin—in which; yuge—period; pravṛttā—was begun; iyam—this; sthāne—in the place; vā—or; kena—on what; hetunā—ground; kutaḥ—wherefrom; sañcoditaḥ—inspired by; kṛṣṇaḥ—Kṛṣṇa-dvaipāyana Vyāsa; kṛtavān—compiled; saṁhitām—Vedic literature; muniḥ—the learned.
In what period and at what place was this first begun, and why was this taken up? From where did Kṛṣṇa-dvaipāyana Vyāsa, the great sage, get the inspiration to compile this literature?
Because Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is the special contribution of Śrīla Vyāsadeva, there are so many inquiries by the learned Śaunaka Muni. It was known to them that Śrīla Vyāsadeva had already explained the text of the Vedas in various ways up to the Mahābhārata for the understanding of less intelligent women, śūdras and fallen members of the family of twice-born men. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is transcendental to all of them because it has nothing to do with anything mundane. So the inquiries are very intelligent and relevant.
tasya putro mahā-yogī
gūḍho mūḍha iveyate
tasya—his; putraḥ—son; mahā-yogī—a great devotee; sama-dṛk—equibalanced; nirvikalpakaḥ—absolute monist; ekānta-matiḥ—fixed in monism or oneness of mind; unnidraḥ—surpassed nescience; gūḍhaḥ—not exposed; mūḍhaḥ—stunted; iva—like; iyate—appears like.
His [Vyāsadeva’s] son was a great devotee, an equibalanced monist, whose mind was always concentrated in monism. He was transcendental to mundane activities, but being unexposed, he appeared like an ignorant person.
Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī was a liberated soul, and thus he remained always alert not to be trapped by the illusory energy. In the Bhagavad-gītā this alertness is very lucidly explained. The liberated soul and the conditioned soul have different engagements. The liberated soul is always engaged in the progressive path of spiritual attainment, which is something like a dream for the conditioned soul. The conditioned soul cannot imagine the actual engagements of the liberated soul. While the conditioned soul thus dreams about spiritual engagements, the liberated soul is awake. Similarly, the engagement of a conditioned soul appears to be a dream for the liberated soul. A conditioned soul and a liberated soul may apparently be on the same platform, but factually they are differently engaged, and their attention is always alert, either in sense enjoyment or in self-realization. The conditioned soul is absorbed in matter, whereas the liberated soul is completely indifferent to matter. This indifference is explained as follows.
dṛṣṭvānuyāntam ṛṣim ātmajam apy anagnaṁ
devyo hriyā paridadhur na sutasya citram
tad vīkṣya pṛcchati munau jagadus tavāsti
strī-pum-bhidā na tu sutasya vivikta-dṛṣṭeḥ
dṛṣṭvā—by seeing; anuyāntam—following; ṛṣim—the sage; ātmajam—his son; api—in spite of; anagnam—not naked; devyaḥ—beautiful damsels; hriyā—out of shyness; paridadhuḥ—covered the body; na—not; sutasya—of the son; citram—astonishing; tat vīkṣya—by seeing that; pṛcchati—asking; munau—unto the muni (Vyāsa); jagaduḥ—replied; tava—your; asti—there are; strī-pum—male and female; bhidā—differences; na—not; tu—but; sutasya—of the son; vivikta—purified; dṛṣṭeḥ—of one who looks.
While Śrī Vyāsadeva was following his son, beautiful young damsels who were bathing naked covered their bodies with cloth, although Śrī Vyāsadeva himself was not naked. But they had not done so when his son had passed. The sage inquired about this, and the young ladies replied that his son was purified and when looking at them made no distinction between male and female. But the sage made such distinctions.
In the Bhagavad-gītā (5.18) it is said that a learned sage looks equally on a learned and gentle brāhmaṇa, a caṇḍāla (dog-eater), a dog or a cow due to his spiritual vision. Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī attained that stage. Thus he did not see a male or female; he saw all living entities in different dress. The ladies who were bathing could understand the mind of a man simply by studying his demeanor, just as by looking at a child one can understand how innocent he is. Śukadeva Gosvāmī was a young boy sixteen years old, and therefore all the parts of his body were developed. He was naked also, and so were the ladies. But because Śukadeva Gosvāmī was transcendental to sex relations, he appeared very innocent. The ladies, by their special qualifications, could sense this at once, and therefore they were not very concerned about him. But when his father passed, the ladies quickly dressed. The ladies were exactly like his children or grandchildren, yet they reacted to the presence of Vyāsadeva according to the social custom because Śrīla Vyāsadeva played the part of a householder. A householder has to distinguish between a male and female, otherwise he cannot be a householder. One should, therefore, attempt to know the distinction between spirit soul without any attachment for male and female. As long as such distinction is there, one should not try to become a sannyāsī like Śukadeva Gosvāmī. At least theoretically one must be convinced that a living entity is neither male nor female. The outward dress is made of matter by material nature to attract the opposite sex and thus keep one entangled in material existence. A liberated soul is above this perverted distinction. He does not distinguish between one living being and another. For him they are all one and the same spirit. The perfection of this spiritual vision is the liberated stage, and Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī attained that stage. Śrīla Vyāsadeva was also in the transcendental stage, but because he was in the householder’s life, he did not pretend to be a liberated soul, as a matter of custom.
katham ālakṣitaḥ pauraiḥ
katham—how; ālakṣitaḥ—recognized; pauraiḥ—by the citizens; samprāptaḥ—reaching; kuru-jāṅgalān—the Kuru-jāṅgala provinces; unmatta—mad; mūka—dumb; jaḍavat—stunted; vicaran—wandering; gaja-sāhvaye—Hastināpura.
How was he [Śrīla Śukadeva, the son of Vyāsa] recognized by the citizens when he entered the city of Hastināpura [now Delhi], after wandering in the provinces of Kuru and Jāṅgala, appearing like a madman, dumb and retarded?
The present city of Delhi was formerly known as Hastināpura because it was first established by King Hastī. Gosvāmī Śukadeva, after leaving his paternal home, was roaming like a madman, and therefore it was very difficult for the citizens to recognize him in his exalted position. A sage is not, therefore, recognized by sight, but by hearing. One should approach a sādhu or great sage not to see but to hear him. If one is not prepared to hear the words of a sādhu, there is no profit. Śukadeva Gosvāmī was a sādhu who could speak on the transcendental activities of the Lord. He did not satisfy the whims of ordinary citizens. He was recognized when he spoke on the subject of Bhāgavatam, and he never attempted jugglery like a magician. Outwardly he appeared to be a retarded, dumb madman, but in fact he was the most elevated transcendental personality.
kathaṁ vā pāṇḍaveyasya
rājarṣer muninā saha
saṁvādaḥ samabhūt tāta
yatraiṣā sātvatī śrutiḥ
katham—how is it; vā—also; pāṇḍaveyasya—of the descendant of Pāṇḍu (Parīkṣit); rājarṣeḥ—of the king who was a sage; muninā—with the muni; saha—with; saṁvādaḥ—discussion; samabhūt—took place; tāta—O darling; yatra—whereupon; eṣā—like this; sātvatī—transcendental; śrutiḥ—essence of the Vedas.
How did it so happen that King Parīkṣit met this great sage, making it possible for this great transcendental essence of the Vedas [Bhāgavatam] to be sung to him?
Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is stated here as the essence of the Vedas. It is not an imaginary story as it is sometimes considered by unauthorized men. It is also called Śuka-saṁhitā, or the Vedic hymn spoken by Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī, the great liberated sage.
sa go-dohana-mātraṁ hi
tīrthī-kurvaṁs tad āśramam
saḥ—he (Śukadeva Gosvāmī); go-dohana-mātram—only for the time of milking the cow; hi—certainly; gṛheṣu—in the house; gṛha-medhinām—of the householders; avekṣate—waits; mahā-bhāgaḥ—the most fortunate; tīrthī—pilgrimage; kurvan—transforming; tat āśramam—the residence.
He [Śukadeva Gosvāmī] was accustomed to stay at the door of a householder only long enough for a cow to be milked. And he did this just to sanctify the residence.
Śukadeva Gosvāmī met Emperor Parīkṣit and explained the text of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. He was not accustomed to stay at any householder’s residence for more than half an hour (at the time of milking the cow), and he would just take alms from the fortunate householder. That was to sanctify the residence by his auspicious presence. Therefore Śukadeva Gosvāmī is an ideal preacher established in the transcendental position. From his activities, those who are in the renounced order of life and dedicated to the mission of preaching the message of Godhead should learn that they have no business with householders save and except to enlighten them in transcendental knowledge. Such asking for alms from the householder should be for the purpose of sanctifying his home. One who is in the renounced order of life should not be allured by the glamor of the householder’s worldly possessions and thus become subservient to worldly men. For one who is in the renounced order of life, this is much more dangerous than drinking poison and committing suicide.
tasya janma mahāścaryaṁ
karmāṇi ca gṛṇīhi naḥ
abhimanyu-sutam—the son of Abhimanyu; sūta—O Sūta; prāhuḥ—is said to be; bhāgavata-uttamam—the first-class devotee of the Lord; tasya—his; janma—birth; mahā-āścaryam—very wonderful; karmāṇi—activities; ca—and; gṛṇīhi—please speak to; naḥ—us.
It is said that Mahārāja Parīkṣit is a great first-class devotee of the Lord and that his birth and activities are all wonderful. Please tell us about him.
The birth of Mahārāja Parīkṣit is wonderful because in the womb of his mother he was protected by the Personality of Godhead Śrī Kṛṣṇa. His activities are also wonderful because he chastised Kali, who was attempting to kill a cow. To kill cows means to end human civilization. He wanted to protect the cow from being killed by the great representative of sin. His death is also wonderful because he got previous notice of his death, which is wonderful for any mortal being, and thus he prepared himself for passing away by sitting down on the bank of the Ganges and hearing the transcendental activities of the Lord. During all the days he heard Bhāgavatam, he did not take food or drink, nor did he sleep a moment. So everything about him is wonderful, and his activities are worth hearing attentively. Desire is expressed herein to hear about him in detail.
sa samrāṭ kasya vā hetoḥ
saḥ—he; samrāṭ—the Emperor; kasya—for what; vā—or; hetoḥ—reason; pāṇḍūnām—of the sons of Pāṇḍu; māna-vardhanaḥ—one who enriches the family; prāya-upaviṣṭaḥ—sitting and fasting; gaṅgāyām—on the bank of the Ganges; anādṛtya—neglecting; adhirāṭ—acquired kingdom; śriyam—opulences.
He was a great emperor and possessed all the opulences of his acquired kingdom. He was so exalted that he was increasing the prestige of the Pāṇḍu dynasty. Why did he give up everything to sit down on the bank of the Ganges and fast until death?
Mahārāja Parīkṣit was the Emperor of the world and all the seas and oceans, and he did not have to take the trouble to acquire such a kingdom by his own effort. He inherited it from his grandfathers Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira and brothers. Besides that, he was doing well in the administration and was worthy of the good names of his forefathers. Consequently there was nothing undesirable in his opulence and administration. Then why should he give up all these favorable circumstances and sit down on the bank of the Ganges, fasting till death? This is astonishing, and therefore all were eager to know the cause.
namanti yat-pāda-niketam ātmanaḥ
śivāya hānīya dhanāni śatravaḥ
kathaṁ sa vīraḥ śriyam aṅga dustyajāṁ
yuvaiṣatotsraṣṭum aho sahāsubhiḥ
namanti—bow down; yat-pāda—whose feet; niketam—under; ātmanaḥ—own; śivāya—welfare; hānīya—used to bring about; dhanāni—wealth; śatravaḥ—enemies; katham—for what reason; saḥ—he; vīraḥ—the chivalrous; śriyam—opulences; aṅga—O; dustyajām—insuperable; yuvā—in full youth; aiṣata—desired; utsraṣṭum—to give up; aho—exclamation; saha—with; asubhiḥ—life.
He was such a great emperor that all his enemies would come and bow down at his feet and surrender all their wealth for their own benefit. He was full of youth and strength, and he possessed insuperable kingly opulences. Why did he want to give up everything, including his life?
There was nothing undesirable in his life. He was quite a young man and could enjoy life with power and opulence. So there was no question of retiring from active life. There was no difficulty in collecting the state taxes because he was so powerful and chivalrous that even his enemies would come to him and bow down at his feet and surrender all wealth for their own benefit. Mahārāja Parīkṣit was a pious king. He conquered his enemies, and therefore the kingdom was full of prosperity. There was enough milk, grains and metals, and all the rivers and mountains were full of potency. So materially everything was satisfactory. Therefore, there was no question of untimely giving up his kingdom and life. The sages were eager to hear about all this.
śivāya lokasya bhavāya bhūtaye
ya uttama-śloka-parāyaṇā janāḥ
jīvanti nātmārtham asau parāśrayaṁ
mumoca nirvidya kutaḥ kalevaram
śivāya—welfare; lokasya—of all living beings; bhavāya—for flourishing; bhūtaye—for economic development; ye—one who is; uttama-śloka-parāyaṇāḥ—devoted to the cause of the Personality of Godhead; janāḥ—men; jīvanti—do live; na—but not; ātma-artham—selfish interest; asau—that; para-āśrayam—shelter for others; mumoca—gave up; nirvidya—being freed from all attachment; kutaḥ—for what reason; kalevaram—mortal body.
Those who are devoted to the cause of the Personality of Godhead live only for the welfare, development and happiness of others. They do not live for any selfish interest. So even though the Emperor [Parīkṣit] was free from all attachment to worldly possessions, how could he give up his mortal body, which was shelter for others?
Parīkṣit Mahārāja was an ideal king and householder because he was a devotee of the Personality of Godhead. A devotee of the Lord automatically has all good qualifications. And the Emperor was a typical example of this. Personally he had no attachment for all the worldly opulences in his possession. But since he was king for the all-around welfare of his citizens, he was always busy in the welfare work of the public, not only for this life, but also for the next. He would not allow slaughterhouses or killing of cows. He was not a foolish and partial administrator who would arrange for the protection of one living being and allow another to be killed. Because he was a devotee of the Lord, he knew perfectly well how to conduct his administration for everyone’s happiness—men, animals, plants and all living creatures. He was not selfishly interested. Selfishness is either self-centered or self-extended. He was neither. His interest was to please the Supreme Truth, Personality of Godhead. The king is the representative of the Supreme Lord, and therefore the king’s interest must be identical with that of the Supreme Lord. The Supreme Lord wants all living beings to be obedient to Him and thereby become happy. Therefore the king’s interest is to guide all subjects back to the kingdom of God. Hence the activities of the citizens should be so coordinated that they can at the end go back home, back to Godhead. Under the administration of a representative king, the kingdom is full of opulence. At that time, human beings need not eat animals. There are ample food grains, milk, fruit and vegetables so that the human beings as well as the animals can eat sumptuously and to their heart’s content. If all living beings are satisfied with food and shelter and obey the prescribed rules, there cannot be any disturbance between one living being and another. Emperor Parīkṣit was a worthy king, and therefore all were happy during his reign.
tat sarvaṁ naḥ samācakṣva
pṛṣṭo yad iha kiñcana
manye tvāṁ viṣaye vācāṁ
snātam anyatra chāndasāt
tat—that; sarvam—all; naḥ—unto us; samācakṣva—clearly explain; pṛṣṭaḥ—questioned; yat iha—herein; kiñcana—all that; manye—we think; tvām—you; viṣaye—in all subjects; vācām—meanings of words; snātam—fully acquainted; anyatra—except; chāndasāt—portion of the Vedas.
We know that you are expert in the meaning of all subjects, except some portions of the Vedas, and thus you can clearly explain the answers to all the questions we have just put to you.
The difference between the Vedas and the Purāṇas is like that between the brāhmaṇas and the parivrājakas. The brāhmaṇas are meant to administer some fruitive sacrifices mentioned in the Vedas, but the parivrājakācāryas, or learned preachers, are meant to disseminate transcendental knowledge to one and all. As such, the parivrājakācāryas are not always expert in pronouncing the Vedic mantras, which are practiced systematically by accent and meter by the brāhmaṇas who are meant for administering Vedic rites. Yet it should not be considered that the brāhmaṇas are more important than the itinerant preachers. They are one and different simultaneously because they are meant for the same end, in different ways.
There is no difference also between the Vedic mantras and what is explained in the Purāṇas and Itihāsa. According to Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī, it is mentioned in the Mādhyandina-śruti that all the Vedas, namely the Sāma, Atharva, Ṛg, Yajur, Purāṇas, Itihāsas, Upaniṣads, etc., are emanations from the breathing of the Supreme Being. The only difference is that the Vedic mantras are mostly begun with praṇava oṁkāra, and it requires some training to practice the metric pronunciation of the Vedic mantras. But that does not mean that Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is of less importance than the Vedic mantras. On the contrary, it is the ripened fruit of all the Vedas, as stated before. Besides that, the most perfectly liberated soul, Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī, is absorbed in the studies of the Bhāgavatam, although he is already self-realized. Śrīla Sūta Gosvāmī is following his footsteps, and therefore his position is not the least less important because he was not expert in chanting Vedic mantras with metric pronunciation, which depends more on practice than actual realization. Realization is more important than parrotlike chanting.
jātaḥ parāśarād yogī
vāsavyāṁ kalayā hareḥ
sūtaḥ—Sūta Gosvāmī; uvāca—said; dvāpare—in the second millennium; samanuprāpte—on the advent of; tṛtīye—third; yuga—millennium; paryaye—in the place of; jātaḥ—was begotten; parāśarāt—by Parāśara; yogī—the great sage; vāsavyām—in the womb of the daughter of Vasu; kalayā—in the plenary portion; hareḥ—of the Personality of Godhead.
Sūta Gosvāmī said: When the second millennium overlapped the third, the great sage [Vyāsadeva] was born to Parāśara in the womb of Satyavatī, the daughter of Vasu.
There is a chronological order of the four millenniums, namely Satya, Dvāpara, Tretā and Kali. But sometimes there is overlapping. During the regime of Vaivasvata Manu, there was an overlapping of the twenty-eighth round of the four millenniums, and the third millennium appeared prior to the second. In that particular millennium, Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa also descends, and because of this there was some particular alteration. The mother of the great sage was Satyavatī the daughter of the Vasu (fisherman), and the father was the great Parāśara Muni. That is the history of Vyāsadeva’s birth. Every millennium is divided into three periods, and each period is called a sandhyā. Vyāsadeva appeared in the third sandhyā of that particular age.
sa kadācit sarasvatyā
upaspṛśya jalaṁ śuciḥ
vivikta eka āsīna
saḥ—he; kadācit—once; sarasvatyāḥ—on the bank of the Sarasvatī; upaspṛśya—after finishing morning ablutions; jalam—water; śuciḥ—being purified; vivikte—concentration; ekaḥ—alone; āsīnaḥ—being thus seated; udite—on the rise; ravi-maṇḍale—of the sun disc.
Once upon a time he [Vyāsadeva], as the sun rose, took his morning ablution in the waters of the Sarasvatī and sat alone to concentrate.
The River Sarasvatī is flowing in the Badarikāśrama area of the Himalayas. So the place indicated here is Śamyāprāsa in Badarikāśrama, where Śrī Vyāsadeva is residing.
parāvara-jñaḥ sa ṛṣiḥ
prāptaṁ bhuvi yuge yuge
para-avara—past and future; jñaḥ—one who knows; saḥ—he; ṛṣiḥ—Vyāsadeva; kālena—in the course of time; avyakta—unmanifested; raṁhasā—by great force; yuga-dharma—acts in terms of the millennium; vyatikaram—anomalies; prāptam—having accrued; bhuvi—on the earth; yuge yuge—different ages.
The great sage Vyāsadeva saw anomalies in the duties of the millennium. This happens on the earth in different ages, due to unseen forces in the course of time.
The great sages like Vyāsadeva are liberated souls, and therefore they can see clearly past and future. Thus he could see the future anomalies in the Kali age, and accordingly he made arrangement for the people in general so that they can execute a progressive life in this age, which is full of darkness. The people in general in this age of Kali are too much interested in matter, which is temporary. Because of ignorance they are unable to evaluate the assets of life and be enlightened in spiritual knowledge.
bhautikānāṁ ca bhāvānāṁ
śakti-hrāsaṁ ca tat-kṛtam
durbhagāṁś ca janān vīkṣya
munir divyena cakṣuṣā
dadhyau hitam amogha-dṛk
bhautikānām ca—also of everything that is made of matter; bhāvānām—actions; śakti-hrāsam ca—and deterioration of natural power; tat-kṛtam—rendered by that; aśraddadhānān—of the faithless; niḥsattvān—impatient due to want of the mode of goodness; durmedhān—dull-witted; hrasita—reduced; āyuṣaḥ—of duration of life; durbhagān ca—also the unlucky; janān—people in general; vīkṣya—by seeing; muniḥ—the muni; divyena—by transcendental; cakṣuṣā—vision; sarva—all; varṇa-āśramāṇām—of all the statuses and orders of life; yat—what; dadhyau—contemplated; hitam—welfare; amogha-dṛk—one who is fully equipped in knowledge.
The great sage, who was fully equipped in knowledge, could see, through his transcendental vision, the deterioration of everything material, due to the influence of the age. He could also see that the faithless people in general would be reduced in duration of life and would be impatient due to lack of goodness. Thus he contemplated for the welfare of men in all statuses and orders of life.
The unmanifested forces of time are so powerful that they reduce all matter to oblivion in due course. In Kali-yuga, the last millennium of a round of four millenniums, the power of all material objects deteriorates by the influence of time. In this age the duration of the material body of the people in general is much reduced, and so is the memory. The action of matter has also not so much incentive. The land does not produce food grains in the same proportions as it did in other ages. The cow does not give as much milk as it used to give formerly. The production of vegetables and fruits is less than before. As such, all living beings, both men and animals, do not have sumptuous, nourishing food. Due to want of so many necessities of life, naturally the duration of life is reduced, the memory is short, intelligence is meager, mutual dealings are full of hypocrisy and so on.
The great sage Vyāsadeva could see this by his transcendental vision. As an astrologer can see the future fate of a man, or an astronomer can foretell the solar and lunar eclipses, those liberated souls who can see through the scriptures can foretell the future of all mankind. They can see this due to their sharp vision of spiritual attainment.
And all such transcendentalists, who are naturally devotees of the Lord, are always eager to render welfare service to the people in general. They are the real friends of the people in general, not the so-called public leaders who are unable to see what is going to happen five minutes ahead. In this age the people in general as well as their so-called leaders are all unlucky fellows, faithless in spiritual knowledge and influenced by the age of Kali. They are always disturbed by various diseases. For example, in the present age there are so many TB patients and TB hospitals, but formerly this was not so because the time was not so unfavorable. The unfortunate men of this age are always reluctant to give a reception to the transcendentalists who are representatives of Śrīla Vyāsadeva and selfless workers always busy in planning something which may help everyone in all statuses and orders of life. The greatest philanthropists are those transcendentalists who represent the mission of Vyāsa, Nārada, Madhva, Caitanya, Rūpa, Sarasvatī, etc. They are all one and the same. The personalities may be different, but the aim of the mission is one and the same, namely, to deliver the fallen souls back home, back to Godhead.
cātur-hotraṁ karma śuddhaṁ
prajānāṁ vīkṣya vaidikam
vedam ekaṁ catur-vidham
cātuḥ—four; hotram—sacrificial fires; karma śuddham—purification of work; prajānām—of the people in general; vīkṣya—after seeing; vaidikam—according to Vedic rites; vyadadhāt—made into; yajña—sacrifice; santatyai—to expand; vedam ekam—only one Veda; catuḥ-vidham—in four divisions.
He saw that the sacrifices mentioned in the Vedas were means by which the people’s occupations could be purified. And to simplify the process he divided the one Veda into four, in order to expand them among men.
Formerly there was only the Veda of the name Yajur, and the four divisions of sacrifices were there specifically mentioned. But to make them more easily performable, the Veda was divided into four divisions of sacrifice, just to purify the occupational service of the four orders. Above the four Vedas, namely Ṛg, Yajur, Sāma, and Atharva, there are the Purāṇas, the Mahābhārata, Saṁhitās, etc., which are known as the fifth Veda. Śrī Vyāsadeva and his many disciples were all historical personalities, and they were very kind and sympathetic toward the fallen souls of this age of Kali. As such, the Purāṇas and Mahābhārata were made from related historical facts which explained the teaching of the four Vedas. There is no point in doubting the authority of the Purāṇas and Mahābhārata as parts and parcels of the Vedas. In the Chāndogya Upaniṣad (7.1.4), the Purāṇas and Mahābhārata, generally known as histories, are mentioned as the fifth Veda. According to Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī, that is the way of ascertaining the respective values of the revealed scriptures.
vedāś catvāra uddhṛtāḥ
pañcamo veda ucyate
ṛg-yajuḥ-sāma-atharva-ākhyāḥ—the names of the four Vedas; vedāḥ—the Vedas; catvāraḥ—four; uddhṛtāḥ—made into separate parts; itihāsa—historical records (Mahābhārata); purāṇam ca—and the Purāṇas; pañcamaḥ—the fifth; vedaḥ—the original source of knowledge; ucyate—is said to be.
The four divisions of the original sources of knowledge [the Vedas] were made separately. But the historical facts and authentic stories mentioned in the Purāṇas are called the fifth Veda.
sāmago jaiminiḥ kaviḥ
niṣṇāto yajuṣām uta
tatra—thereupon; ṛg-veda-dharaḥ—the professor of the Ṛg Veda; pailaḥ—the ṛṣi named Paila; sāma-gaḥ—that of the Sāma Veda; jaiminiḥ—the ṛṣi named Jaimini; kaviḥ—highly qualified; vaiśampāyanaḥ—the ṛṣi named Vaiśampāyana; eva—only; ekaḥ—alone; niṣṇātaḥ—well versed; yajuṣām—of the Yajur Veda; uta—glorified.
After the Vedas were divided into four divisions, Paila Ṛṣi became the professor of the Ṛg Veda, Jaimini the professor of the Sāma Veda, and Vaiśampāyana alone became glorified by the Yajur Veda.
The different Vedas were entrusted to different learned scholars for development in various ways.
sumantur dāruṇo muniḥ
pitā me romaharṣaṇaḥ
atharva—the Atharva Veda; aṅgirasām—unto the ṛṣi Aṅgirā; āsīt—was entrusted; sumantuḥ—also known as Sumantu Muni; dāruṇaḥ—seriously devoted to the Atharva Veda; muniḥ—the sage; itihāsa-purāṇānām—of the historical records and the Purāṇas; pitā—father; me—mine; romaharṣaṇaḥ—the ṛṣi Romaharṣaṇa.
The Sumantu Muni Aṅgirā, who was very devotedly engaged, was entrusted with the Atharva Veda. And my father, Romaharṣaṇa, was entrusted with the Purāṇas and historical record.
In the śruti-mantras also it is stated that Aṅgirā Muni, who strictly followed the rigid principles of the Atharva Vedas, was the leader of the followers of the Atharva Vedas.
ta eta ṛṣayo vedaṁ
svaṁ svaṁ vyasyann anekadhā
śiṣyaiḥ praśiṣyais tac-chiṣyair
vedās te śākhino ’bhavan
te—they; ete—all these; ṛṣayaḥ—learned scholars; vedam—the respective Vedas; svam svam—in their own entrusted matters; vyasyan—rendered; anekadhā—many; śiṣyaiḥ—disciples; praśiṣyaiḥ—grand-disciples; tat-śiṣyaiḥ—great grand-disciples; vedāḥ te—followers of the respective Vedas; śākhinaḥ—different branches; abhavan—thus became.
All these learned scholars, in their turn, rendered their entrusted Vedas unto their many disciples, grand-disciples and great grand-disciples, and thus the respective branches of the followers of the Vedas came into being.
The original source of knowledge is the Vedas. There are no branches of knowledge, either mundane or transcendental, which do not belong to the original text of the Vedas. They have simply been developed into different branches, They were originally rendered by great, respectable and learned professors. In other words, the Vedic knowledge, broken into different branches by different disciplic successions, has been distributed all over the world. No one, therefore, can claim independent knowledge beyond the Vedas.
ta eva vedā durmedhair
dhāryante puruṣair yathā
evaṁ cakāra bhagavān
te—that; eva—certainly; vedāḥ—the book of knowledge; durmedhaiḥ—by the less intellectual; dhāryante—can assimilate; puruṣaiḥ—by the man; yathā—as much as; evam—thus; cakāra—edited; bhagavān—the powerful; vyāsaḥ—the great sage of Vyāsa; kṛpaṇa-vatsalaḥ—very kind to the ignorant mass.
Thus the great sage Vyāsadeva, who is very kind to the ignorant masses, edited the Vedas so they might be assimilated by less intellectual men.
The Veda is one, and the reasons for its divisions in many parts are explained herewith. The seed of all knowledge, or the Veda, is not a subject matter which can easily be understood by any ordinary man. There is a stricture that no one should try to learn the Vedas who is not a qualified brāhmaṇa. This stricture has been wrongly interpreted in so many ways. A class of men, who claim brahminical qualification simply by their birthright in the family of a brāhmaṇa, claim that the study of the Vedas is a monopoly of the brāhmaṇa caste only. Another section of the people take this as an injustice to members of other castes, who do not happen to take birth in a brāhmaṇa family. But both of them are misguided. The Vedas are subjects which had to be explained even to Brahmājī by the Supreme Lord. Therefore the subject matter is understood by persons with exceptional qualities of goodness. Persons who are in the modes of passion and ignorance are unable to understand the subject matter of the Vedas. The ultimate goal of Vedic knowledge is Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the Personality of Godhead. This Personality is very rarely understood by those who are in the modes of passion and ignorance. In the Satya-yuga everyone was situated in the mode of goodness. Gradually the mode of goodness declined during the Tretā and Dvāpara-yugas, and the general mass of people became corrupt. In the present age the mode of goodness is almost nil, and so for the general mass of people, the kindhearted, powerful sage Śrīla Vyāsadeva divided the Vedas in various ways so that they may be practically followed by less intelligent persons in the modes of passion and ignorance. It is explained in the next śloka as follows.
trayī na śruti-gocarā
śreya evaṁ bhaved iha
iti bhāratam ākhyānaṁ
kṛpayā muninā kṛtam
strī—the woman class; śūdra—the laboring class; dvija-bandhūnām—of the friends of the twice-born; trayī—three; na—not; śruti-gocarā—for understanding; karma—in activities; śreyasi—in welfare; mūḍhānām—of the fools; śreyaḥ—supreme benefit; evam—thus; bhavet—achieved; iha—by this; iti—thus thinking; bhāratam—the great Mahābhārata; ākhyānam—historical facts; kṛpayā—out of great mercy; muninā—by the muni; kṛtam—is completed.
Out of compassion, the great sage thought it wise that this would enable men to achieve the ultimate goal of life. Thus he compiled the great historical narration called the Mahābhārata for women, laborers and friends of the twice-born.
The friends of the twice-born families are those who are born in the families of brāhmaṇas, kṣatriyas and vaiśyas, or the spiritually cultured families, but who themselves are not equal to their forefathers. Such descendants are not recognized as such, for want of purificatory achievements. The purificatory activities begin even before the birth of a child, and the seed-giving reformatory process is called Garbhādhāna-saṁskāra. One who has not undergone such Garbhādhāna-saṁskāra, or spiritual family planning, is not accepted as being of an actual twice-born family. The Garbhādhāna-saṁskāra is followed by other purificatory processes, out of which the sacred thread ceremony is one. This is performed at the time of spiritual initiation. After this particular saṁskāra, one is rightly called twice-born. One birth is calculated during the seed-giving saṁskāra, and the second birth is calculated at the time of spiritual initiation. One who has been able to undergo such important saṁskāras can be called a bona fide twice-born.
If the father and the mother do not undertake the process of spiritual family planning and simply beget children out of passion only, their children are called dvija-bandhus. These dvija-bandhus are certainly not as intelligent as the children of the regular twice-born families. The dvija-bandhus are classified with the śūdras and the woman class, who are by nature less intelligent. The śūdras and the woman class do not have to undergo any saṁskāra save and except the ceremony of marriage.
The less intelligent classes of men, namely women, śūdras and unqualified sons of the higher castes, are devoid of necessary qualifications to understand the purpose of the transcendental Vedas. For them the Mahābhārata was prepared. The purpose of the Mahābhārata is to administer the purpose of the Vedas, and therefore within this Mahābhārata the summary Veda of Bhagavad-gītā is placed. The less intelligent are more interested in stories than in philosophy, and therefore the philosophy of the Vedas in the form of the Bhagavad-gītā is spoken by the Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Vyāsadeva and Lord Kṛṣṇa are both on the transcendental plane, and therefore they collaborated in doing good to the fallen souls of this age. The Bhagavad-gītā is the essence of all Vedic knowledge. It is the first book of spiritual values, as the Upaniṣads are. The Vedānta philosophy is the subject matter for study by the spiritual graduates. Only the post-graduate spiritual student can enter into the spiritual or devotional service of the Lord. It is a great science, and the great professor is the Lord Himself in the form of Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. And persons who are empowered by Him can initiate others in the transcendental loving service of the Lord.
evaṁ pravṛttasya sadā
bhūtānāṁ śreyasi dvijāḥ
nātuṣyad dhṛdayaṁ tataḥ
evam—thus; pravṛttasya—one who is engaged in; sadā—always; bhūtānām—of the living beings; śreyasi—in the ultimate good; dvijāḥ—O twice-born; sarvātmakena api—by all means; yadā—when; na—not; atuṣyat—become satisfied; hṛdayam—mind; tataḥ—at that.
O twice-born brāhmaṇas, still his mind was not satisfied, although he engaged himself in working for the total welfare of all people.
Śrī Vyāsadeva was not satisfied with himself, although he had prepared literatures of Vedic value for the all-around welfare of the general mass of people. It was expected that he would be satisfied by all such activities, but ultimately he was not satisfied.
sarasvatyās taṭe śucau
idaṁ covāca dharma-vit
na—not; atiprasīdat—very much satisfied; hṛdayaḥ—at heart; sarasvatyāḥ—of the River Sarasvatī; taṭe—on the bank of; śucau—being purified; vitarkayan—having considered; vivikta-sthaḥ—situated in a lonely place; idam ca—also this; uvāca—said; dharma-vit—one who knows what religion is.
Thus the sage, being dissatisfied at heart, at once began to reflect, because he knew the essence of religion, and he said within himself:
The sage began to search out the cause of not being satisfied at heart. Perfection is never attained until one is satisfied at heart. This satisfaction of heart has to be searched out beyond matter.
dhṛta-vratena hi mayā
chandāṁsi guravo ’gnayaḥ
hy āmnāyārthaś ca pradarśitaḥ
dṛśyate yatra dharmādi
strī-śūdrādibhir apy uta
dhṛta-vratena—under a strict disciplinary vow; hi—certainly; mayā—by me; chandāṁsi—the Vedic hymns; guravaḥ—the spiritual masters; agnayaḥ—the sacrificial fire; mānitāḥ—properly worshiped; nirvyalīkena—without pretense; gṛhītam ca—also accepted; anuśāsanam—traditional discipline; bhārata—the Mahābhārata; vyapadeśena—by compilation of; hi—certainly; āmnāya-arthaḥ—import of disciplic succession; ca—and; pradarśitaḥ—properly explained; dṛśyate—by what is necessary; yatra—where; dharma-ādiḥ—the path of religion; strī-śūdra-ādibhiḥ api—even by women, śūdras, etc.; uta—spoken.
I have, under strict disciplinary vows, unpretentiously worshiped the Vedas, the spiritual master and the altar of sacrifice. I have also abided by the rulings and have shown the import of disciplic succession through the explanation of the Mahābhārata, by which even women, śūdras and others [friends of the twice-born] can see the path of religion.
No one can understand the import of the Vedas without having undergone a strict disciplinary vow and disciplic succession. The Vedas, spiritual masters and sacrificial fire must be worshiped by the desiring candidate. All these intricacies of Vedic knowledge are systematically presented in the Mahābhārata for the understanding of the woman class, the laborer class and the unqualified members of brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya or vaiśya families. In this age, the Mahābhārata is more essential than the original Vedas.
tathāpi bata me daihyo
hy ātmā caivātmanā vibhuḥ
tathāpi—although; bata—defect; me—mine; daihyaḥ—situated in the body; hi—certainly; ātmā—living being; ca—and; eva—even; ātmanā—myself; vibhuḥ—sufficient; asampannaḥ—wanting in; iva ābhāti—it appears to be; brahma-varcasya—of the Vedāntists; sattamaḥ—the supreme.
I am feeling incomplete, though I myself am fully equipped with everything required by the Vedas.
Undoubtedly Śrīla Vyāsadeva was complete in all the details of Vedic achievements. Purification of the living being submerged in matter is made possible by the prescribed activities in the Vedas, but the ultimate achievement is different. Unless it is attained, the living being, even though fully equipped, cannot be situated in the transcendentally normal stage. Śrīla Vyāsadeva appeared to have lost the clue and therefore felt dissatisfaction.
kiṁ vā bhāgavatā dharmā
na prāyeṇa nirūpitāḥ
ta eva hy acyuta-priyāḥ
kim vā—or; bhāgavatāḥ dharmāḥ—devotional activities of the living beings; na—not; prāyeṇa—almost; nirūpitāḥ—directed; priyāḥ—dear; paramahaṁsānām—of the perfect beings; te eva—that also; hi—certainly; acyuta—the infallible; priyāḥ—attractive.
This may be because I did not specifically point out the devotional service of the Lord, which is dear both to perfect beings and to the infallible Lord.
The dissatisfaction which was being felt by Śrīla Vyāsadeva is expressed herein in his own words. This was felt for the normal condition of the living being in the devotional service of the Lord. Unless one is fixed in the normal condition of service, neither the Lord nor the living being can become fully satisfied. This defect was felt by him when Nārada Muni, his spiritual master, reached him. It is described as follows.
tasyaivaṁ khilam ātmānaṁ
kṛṣṇasya nārado ’bhyāgād
āśramaṁ prāg udāhṛtam
tasya—his; evam—thus; khilam—inferior; ātmānam—soul; manyamānasya—thinking within the mind; khidyataḥ—regretting; kṛṣṇasya—of Kṛṣṇa-dvaipāyana Vyāsa; nāradaḥ abhyāgāt—Nārada came there; āśramam—the cottage; prāk—before; udāhṛtam—said.
As mentioned before, Nārada reached the cottage of Kṛṣṇa-dvaipāyana Vyāsa on the banks of the Sarasvatī just as Vyāsadeva was regretting his defects.
The vacuum felt by Vyāsadeva was not due to his lack of knowledge. Bhāgavata-dharma is purely devotional service of the Lord to which the monist has no access. The monist is not counted amongst the paramahaṁsas (the most perfect of the renounced order of life). Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is full of narrations of the transcendental activities of the Personality of Godhead. Although Vyāsadeva was an empowered divinity, he still felt dissatisfaction because in none of his works were the transcendental activities of the Lord properly explained. The inspiration was infused by Śrī Kṛṣṇa directly in the heart of Vyāsadeva, and thus he felt the vacuum as explained above. It is definitely expressed herewith that without the transcendental loving service of the Lord, everything is void; but in the transcendental service of the Lord, everything is tangible without any separate attempt at fruitive work or empiric philosophical speculation.
tam abhijñāya sahasā
pūjayām āsa vidhivan
tam abhijñāya—seeing the good fortune of his (Nārada’s) arrival; sahasā—all of a sudden; pratyutthāya—getting up; āgatam—arrived at; muniḥ—Vyāsadeva; pūjayām āsa—worship; vidhi-vat—with the same respect as offered to Vidhi (Brahmā); nāradam—to Nārada; sura-pūjitam—worshiped by the demigods.
At the auspicious arrival of Śrī Nārada, Śrī Vyāsadeva got up respectfully and worshiped him, giving him veneration equal to that given to Brahmājī, the creator.
Vidhi means Brahmā, the first created living being. He is the original student as well as professor of the Vedas. He learned it from Śrī Kṛṣṇa and taught Nārada first. So Nārada is the second ācārya in the line of spiritual disciplic succession. He is the representative of Brahmā, and therefore he is respected exactly like Brahmā, the father of all vidhis (regulations); similarly all other successive disciples in the chain are also equally respected as representatives of the original spiritual master.
Thus end the Bhaktivedanta purports of the First Canto, Fourth Chapter, of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, entitled “The Appearance of Śrī Nārada.”
Text and Purport pasted from; Causless Mercy