The Appearance of Sukadeva Gosvami

The Appearance of Sri Sukadeva Goswami

You are the spiritual master of great saints and devotees. I am therefore begging you to show the way of perfection for all persons, and especially for one who is about to die.

Please let me know what a man should hear, chant, remember and worship, and also what he should not do. Please explain all this to me.

Unless one is perfectly anxious to inquire about the way of perfection, there is no necessity of approaching a spiritual master. A spiritual master is not a kind of decoration for a householder. Generally a fashionable materialist engages a so-called spiritual master without any profit. The pseudo- spiritual master flatters the so-called disciple, and thereby both the master and his ward go to hell without a doubt. Mahārāja Parīkṣit is the right type of disciple because he puts forward questions vital to the interest of all men, particularly for the dying men. The question put forward by Mahārāja Parīkṣit is the basic principle of the complete thesis of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Now let us see how intelligently the great master replies. (from purport to SB 1.19.37)

Srimad Bhagavatam
By His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
Canto 1, Chapter 19, Text 29-40

The Appearance of Sukadeva Gosvami

sa viṣṇu-rāto ‘tithaya āgatāya
tasmai saparyāṁ śirasājahāra
tato nivṛttā hy abudhāḥ striyo ‘rbhakā
mahāsane sopaviveśa pūjitaḥ

saḥ—he; viṣṇu-rātaḥ—Mahārāja Parīkṣit (who is always protected by Lord Viṣṇu); atithaye—to become a guest; āgatāya—one who arrived there; tasmai—unto him; saparyām—with the whole body; śirasā—with bowed head; ājahāra—offered obeisances; tataḥ—thereafter; nivṛttāḥ—ceased; hi—certainly; abudhāḥ—less intelligent; striyaḥ—women; arbhakāḥ—boys; mahā-āsane—exalted seat; sa—he; upaviveśa—sat down; pūjitaḥ—being respected.

Mahārāja Parīkṣit, who is also known as Viṣṇurāta [one who is always protected by Viṣṇu], bowed his head to receive the chief guest, Śukadeva Gosvāmī. At that time all the ignorant women and boys ceased following Śrīla Śukadeva. Receiving respect from all, Śukadeva Gosvāmī took his exalted seat.

On Śukadeva Gosvāmī’s arrival at the meeting, everyone, except Śrīla Vyāsadeva, Nārada and a few others, stood up, and Mahārāja Parīkṣit, who was glad to receive a great devotee of the Lord, bowed down before him with all the limbs of his body. Śukadeva Gosvāmī also exchanged the greetings and reception by embrace, shaking of hands, nodding and bowing down, especially before his father and Nārada Muni. Thus he was offered the presidential seat at the meeting. When he was so received by the king and sages, the street boys and less intelligent women who followed him were struck with wonder and fear. So they retired from their frivolous activities, and everything was full of gravity and calm.

sa saṁvṛtas tatra mahān mahīyasāṁ
brahmarṣi-rājarṣi-devarṣi-saṅghaiḥ
vyarocatālaṁ bhagavān yathendur
graharkṣa-tārā-nikaraiḥ parītaḥ

saḥ—Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī; saṁvṛtaḥ—surrounded by; tatra—there; mahān—great; mahīyasām—of the greatest; brahmarṣi—saint among the brāhmaṇas; rājarṣi—saint among the kings; devarṣi—saint among the demigods; saṅghaiḥ—by the assembly of; vyarocata—well deserved; alam—able; bhagavān—powerful; yathā—as; induḥ—the moon; graha—planets; ṛkṣa—heavenly bodies; tārā—stars; nikaraiḥ—by the assembly of; parītaḥ—surrounded by.

Śukadeva Gosvāmī was then surrounded by saintly sages and demigods just as the moon is surrounded by stars, planets and other heavenly bodies. His presence was gorgeous, and he was respected by all.

In the great assembly of saintly personalities, there was Vyāsadeva the brahmarṣi, Nārada the devarṣi, Paraśurāma the great ruler of the kṣatriya kings, etc. Some of them were powerful incarnations of the Lord. Śukadeva Gosvāmī was not known as brahmarṣi, rājarṣi or devarṣi, nor was he an incarnation like Nārada, Vyāsa or Paraśurāma. And yet he excelled them in respects paid. This means that the devotee of the Lord is more honored in the world than the Lord Himself. One should therefore never minimize the importance of a devotee like Śukadeva Gosvāmī.

praśāntam āsīnam akuṇṭha-medhasaṁ
muniṁ nṛpo bhāgavato ‘bhyupetya
praṇamya mūrdhnāvahitaḥ kṛtāñjalir
natvā girā sūnṛtayānvapṛcchat

praśāntam—perfectly pacified; āsīnam—sitting; akuṇṭha—without hesitation; medhasam—one who has sufficient intelligence; munim—unto the great sage; nṛpaḥ—the King (Mahārāja Parīkṣit); bhāgavataḥ—the great devotee; abhyupetya—approaching him; praṇamya—bowing down; mūrdhnā—his head; avahitaḥ—properly; kṛta-añjaliḥ—with folded hands; natvā—politely; girā—by words; sūnṛtayā—in sweet voices; anvapṛcchat—inquired.

The sage Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī sat perfectly pacified, intelligent and ready to answer any question without hesitation. The great devotee, Mahārāja Parīkṣit, approached him, offered his respects by bowing before him, and politely inquired with sweet words and folded hands.

The gesture now adopted by Mahārāja Parīkṣit of questioning a master is quite befitting in terms of scriptural injunctions. The scriptural injunction is that one should humbly approach a spiritual master to understand the transcendental science. Mahārāja Parīkṣit was now prepared for meeting his death, and within the very short time of seven days he was to know the process of entering the kingdom of God. In such important cases, one is required to approach a spiritual master. There is no necessity of approaching a spiritual master unless one is in need of solving the problems of life. One who does not know how to put questions before the spiritual master has no business seeing him. And the qualification of the spiritual master is perfectly manifested in the person of Śukadeva Gosvāmī. Both the spiritual master and the disciple, namely Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī and Mahārāja Parīkṣit, attained perfection through the medium of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Śukadeva Gosvāmī learned Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam from his father, Vyāsadeva, but he had no chance to recite it. Before Mahārāja Parīkṣit he recited Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and answered the questions of Mahārāja Parīkṣit unhesitatingly, and thus both the master and the disciple got salvation.

parīkṣid uvāca
aho adya vayaṁ brahman
sat-sevyāḥ kṣatra-bandhavaḥ
kṛpayātithi-rūpeṇa
bhavadbhis tīrthakāḥ kṛtāḥ

parīkṣit uvāca—the fortunate Mahārāja Parīkṣit said; aho—ah; adya—today; vayam—we; brahman—O brāhmaṇa; sat-sevyāḥ—eligible to serve the devotee; kṣatra—the ruling class; bandhavaḥ—friends; kṛpayā—by your mercy; atithi-rūpeṇa—in the manner of a guest; bhavadbhiḥ—by your good self; tīrthakāḥ—qualified for being places of pilgrimage; kṛtāḥ—done by you.

The fortunate King Parīkṣit said: O brāhmaṇa, by your mercy only, you have sanctified us, making us like unto places of pilgrimage, all by your presence here as my guest. By your mercy, we, who are but unworthy royalty, become eligible to serve the devotee.

Saintly devotees like Śukadeva Gosvāmī generally do not approach worldly enjoyers, especially those in royal orders. Mahārāja Pratāparudra was a follower of Lord Caitanya, but when he wanted to see the Lord, the Lord refused to see him because he was a king. For a devotee who desires to go back to Godhead, two things are strictly prohibited: worldly enjoyers and women. Therefore, devotees of the standard of Śukadeva Gosvāmī are never interested in seeing kings. Mahārāja Parīkṣit was, of course, a different case. He was a great devotee, although a king, and therefore Śukadeva Gosvāmī came to see him in his last stage of life. Mahārāja Parīkṣit, out of his devotional humility, felt himself an unworthy descendant of his great kṣatriya forefathers, although he was as great as his predecessors. The unworthy sons of the royal orders are called kṣatra-bandhavas, as the unworthy sons of the brāhmaṇas are called dvija-bandhus or brahma-bandhus. Mahārāja Parīkṣit was greatly encouraged by the presence of Śukadeva Gosvāmī. He felt himself sanctified by the presence of the great saint whose presence turns any place into a place of pilgrimage.

yeṣāṁ saṁsmaraṇāt puṁsāṁ
sadyaḥ śuddhyanti vai gṛhāḥ
kiṁ punar darśana-sparśa-
pāda-śaucāsanādibhiḥ

yeṣām—of whom; saṁsmaraṇāt—by remembrance; puṁsām—of a person; sadyaḥ—instantly; śuddhyanti—cleanses; vai—certainly; gṛhāḥ—all houses; kim—what; punaḥ—then; darśana—meeting; sparśa—touching; pāda—the feet; śauca—washing; āsana-ādibhiḥ—by offering a seat, etc.

Simply by our remembering you, our houses become instantly sanctified. And what to speak of seeing you, touching you, washing your holy feet and offering you a seat in our home?

The importance of holy places of pilgrimage is due to the presence of great sages and saints. It is said that sinful persons go to the holy places and leave their sins there to accumulate. But the presence of the great saints disinfects the accumulated sins, and thus the holy places continue to remain sanctified by the grace of the devotees and saints present there. If such saints appear in the homes of worldly people, certainly the accumulated sins of such worldly enjoyers become neutralized. Therefore, the holy saints actually have no self-interest with the householders. The only aim of such saints is to sanctify the houses of the householders, and the householders therefore should feel grateful when such saints and sages appear at their doors. A householder who dishonors such holy orders is a great offender. It is enjoined, therefore, that a householder who does not bow down before a saint at once must undergo fasting for the day in order to neutralize the great offense.

sānnidhyāt te mahā-yogin
pātakāni mahānty api
sadyo naśyanti vai puṁsāṁ
viṣṇor iva suretarāḥ

sānnidhyāt—on account of the presence; te—your; mahā-yogin—O great mystic; pātakāni—sins; mahānti—invulnerable; api—in spite of; sadyaḥ—immediately; naśyanti—vanquished; vai—certainly; puṁsām—of a person; viṣṇoḥ—like the presence of the Personality of Godhead; iva—like; sura-itarāḥ—other than the demigods.

Just as the atheist cannot remain in the presence of the Personality of Godhead, so also the invulnerable sins of a man are immediately vanquished in your presence, O saint! O great mystic!

There are two classes of human beings, namely the atheist and the devotee of the Lord. The devotee of the Lord, because of manifesting godly qualities, is called a demigod, whereas the atheist is called a demon. The demon cannot stand the presence of Viṣṇu, the Personality of Godhead. The demons are always busy in trying to vanquish the Personality of Godhead, but factually as soon as the Personality of Godhead appears, by either His transcendental name, form, attributes, pastimes, paraphernalia or variegatedness, the demon is at once vanquished. It is said that a ghost cannot remain as soon as the holy name of the Lord is chanted. The great saints and devotees of the Lord are in the list of His paraphernalia, and thus as soon as a saintly devotee is present, the ghostly sins are at once vanquished. That is the verdict of all Vedic literatures. One is recommended, therefore, to associate only with saintly devotees so that worldly demons and ghosts cannot exert their sinister influence.

api me bhagavān prītaḥ
kṛṣṇaḥ pāṇḍu-suta-priyaḥ
paitṛ-ṣvaseya-prīty-arthaṁ
tad-gotrasyātta-bāndhavaḥ

api—definitely; me—unto me; bhagavān—the Personality of Godhead; prītaḥ—pleased; kṛṣṇaḥ—the Lord; pāṇḍu-suta—the sons of King Pāṇḍu; priyaḥ—dear; paitṛ—in relation with the father; svaseya—the sons of the sister; prīti—satisfaction; artham—in the matter of; tat—their; gotrasya—of the descendant; ātta—accepted; bāndhavaḥ—as a friend.

Lord Kṛṣṇa, the Personality of Godhead, who is very dear to the sons of King Pāṇḍu, has accepted me as one of those relatives just to please His great cousins and brothers.

A pure and exclusive devotee of the Lord serves his family interest more dexterously than others, who are attached to illusory family affairs. Generally people are attached to family matters, and the whole economic impetus of human society is moving under the influence of family affection. Such deluded persons have no information that one can render better service to the family by becoming a devotee of the Lord. The Lord gives special protection to the family members and descendants of a devotee, even though such members are themselves nondevotees! Mahārāja Prahlāda was a great devotee of the Lord, but his father, Hiraṇyakaśipu, was a great atheist and declared enemy of the Lord. But despite all this, Hiraṇyakaśipu was awarded salvation due to his being the father of Mahārāja Prahlāda. The Lord is so kind that he gives all protection to the family members of His devotee, and thus the devotee has no need to bother about his family members, even if one leaves such family members aside to discharge devotional service. Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira and his brothers were the sons of Kuntī, the paternal aunt of Lord Kṛṣṇa, and Mahārāja Parīkṣit admits the patronage of Lord Kṛṣṇa because of his being the only grandson of the great Pāṇḍavas.

anyathā te ‘vyakta-gater
darśanaṁ naḥ kathaṁ nṛṇām
nitarāṁ mriyamāṇānāṁ
saṁsiddhasya vanīyasaḥ

anyathā—otherwise; te—your; avyakta-gateḥ—of one whose movements are invisible; darśanam—meeting; naḥ—for us; katham—how; nṛṇām—of the people; nitarām—specifically; mriyamāṇānām—of those who are about to die; saṁsiddhasya—of one who is all-perfect; vanīyasaḥ—voluntary appearance.

Otherwise [without being inspired by Lord Kṛṣṇa] how is it that you have voluntarily appeared here, though you are moving incognito to the common man and are not visible to us who are on the verge of death?

The great sage Śukadeva Gosvāmī was certainly inspired by Lord Kṛṣṇa to appear voluntarily before Mahārāja Parīkṣit, the great devotee of the Lord, just to give him the teachings of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. One can achieve the nucleus of the devotional service of the Lord by the mercy of the spiritual master and the Personality of Godhead. The spiritual master is the manifested representative of the Lord to help one achieve ultimate success. One who is not authorized by the Lord cannot become a spiritual master. Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī is an authorized spiritual master, and thus he was inspired by the Lord to appear before Mahārāja Parīkṣit and instruct him in the teachings of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. One can achieve the ultimate success of going back to Godhead if he is favored by the Lord’s sending His true representative. As soon as a true representative of the Lord is met by a devotee of the Lord, the devotee is assured a guarantee for going back to Godhead just after leaving the present body. This, however, depends on the sincerity of the devotee himself. The Lord is seated in the heart of all living beings, and thus he knows very well the movements of all individual persons. As soon as the Lord finds that a particular soul is very eager to go back to Godhead, the Lord at once sends His bona fide representative. The sincere devotee is thus assured by the Lord of going back to Godhead. The conclusion is that to get the assistance and help of a bona fide spiritual master means to receive the direct help of the Lord Himself.

ataḥ pṛcchāmi saṁsiddhiṁ
yogināṁ paramaṁ gurum
puruṣasyeha yat kāryaṁ
mriyamāṇasya sarvathā

ataḥ—therefore; pṛcchāmi—beg to inquire; saṁsiddhim—the way of perfection; yoginām—of the saints; paramam—the supreme; gurum—the spiritual master; puruṣasya—of a person; iha—in this life; yat—whatever; kāryam—duty; mriyamāṇasya—of one who is going to die; sarvathā—in every way.

You are the spiritual master of great saints and devotees. I am therefore begging you to show the way of perfection for all persons, and especially for one who is about to die.

Unless one is perfectly anxious to inquire about the way of perfection, there is no necessity of approaching a spiritual master. A spiritual master is not a kind of decoration for a householder. Generally a fashionable materialist engages a so-called spiritual master without any profit. The pseudo- spiritual master flatters the so-called disciple, and thereby both the master and his ward go to hell without a doubt. Mahārāja Parīkṣit is the right type of disciple because he puts forward questions vital to the interest of all men, particularly for the dying men. The question put forward by Mahārāja Parīkṣit is the basic principle of the complete thesis of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Now let us see how intelligently the great master replies.

yac chrotavyam atho japyaṁ
yat kartavyaṁ nṛbhiḥ prabho
smartavyaṁ bhajanīyaṁ vā
brūhi yad vā viparyayam

yat—whatever; śrotavyam—worth hearing; atho—thereof; japyam—chanted; yat—what also; kartavyam—executed; nṛbhiḥ—by the people in general; prabho—O master; smartavyam—that which is remembered; bhajanīyam—worshipable; vā—either; brūhi—please explain; yad vā—what it may be; viparyayam—against the principle.

Please let me know what a man should hear, chant, remember and worship, and also what he should not do. Please explain all this to me.

nūnaṁ bhagavato brahman
gṛheṣu gṛha-medhinām
na lakṣyate hy avasthānam
api go-dohanaṁ kvacit

nūnam—because; bhagavataḥ—of you, who are powerful; brahman—O brāhmaṇa; gṛheṣu—in the houses; gṛha-medhinām—of the householders; na—not; lakṣyate—are seen; hi—exactly; avasthānam—staying in; api—even; go-dohanam—milking the cow; kvacit—rarely.

O powerful brāhmaṇa, it is said that you hardly stay in the houses of men long enough to milk a cow.

Saints and sages in the renounced order of life go to the houses of the householders at the time they milk the cows, early in the morning, and ask some quantity of milk for subsistence. A pound of milk fresh from the milk bag of a cow is sufficient to feed an adult with all vitamin values, and therefore saints and sages live only on milk. Even the poorest of the householders keep at least ten cows, each delivering twelve to twenty quarts of milk, and therefore no one hesitates to spare a few pounds of milk for the mendicants. It is the duty of householders to maintain the saints and sages, like the children. So a saint like Śukadeva Gosvāmī would hardly stay at the house of a householder for more than five minutes in the morning. In other words, such saints are very rarely seen in the houses of householders, and Mahārāja Parīkṣit therefore prayed to him to instruct him as soon as possible. The householders also should be intelligent enough to get some transcendental information from visiting sages. The householder should not foolishly ask a saint to deliver what is available in the market. That should be the reciprocal relation between the saints and the householders.

sūta uvāca

evam ābhāṣitaḥ pṛṣṭaḥ
sa rājñā ślakṣṇayā girā
pratyabhāṣata dharma-jño
bhagavān bādarāyaṇiḥ

sūtaḥ uvāca—Śrī Sūta Gosvāmī said; evam—thus; ābhāṣitaḥ—being spoken; pṛṣṭaḥ—and asked for; saḥ—he; rājñā—by the King; ślakṣṇayā—by sweet; girā—language; pratyabhāṣata—began to reply; dharma-jñaḥ—one who knows the principles of religion; bhagavān—the powerful personality; bādarāyaṇiḥ—son of Vyāsadeva.

Śrī Sūta Gosvāmī said: The King thus spoke and questioned the sage, using sweet language. Then the great and powerful personality, the son of Vyāsadeva, who knew the principles of religion, began his reply.

Thus end the Bhaktivedanta purports of the First Canto, Nineteenth Chapter, of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, entitled “The Appearance of Śukadeva Gosvāmī.”

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