1 First Canto Chapter One: Six questions lay the foundation of the entire Srimad-Bhagavatam


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1.0. First Canto Chapter One: Six questions lay the foundation of the entire Srimad-Bhagavatam.

1.1. Chapter One, Questions by the Sages, verses summary.
Srila Vyasadeva offers his obeisances to Lord Sri Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and immediately glorifies the Srimad Bhagavatam as completely pure, free from materially motivated activities, and especially nectarean having emamated from the lips of Sri Sukadeva Goswami. (1-3)

The narration of the Bhagavatam begins in the holy place of Naimisaranya, where great sages first glorify Srila Suta Goswami, the speaker of the Bhagavatam, and then begin inquiring from him (4-8) The sages begin by posing three questions. (9-13)

Then they glorify chanting and hearing about the Lord and request Suta to speak to them about the Lord and His incarnations. (14-20)
After Suta describes that the Age of Kali has just begun, the sages then ask a final (sixth) question: "Now that Sri Krsna, the Absolute Truth, the master of all mystic powers has departed for His abode, please tell us by whom religious principles are presently protected." (21-23)
1.2. Along with six questions, First Canto Chapter One presents five conditions essential for proper understanding of the Bhagavatam. Unless these five conditions are accepted then the inquiry represented by the six questions will come to no fruit. These are summarized from the Bhaktivedanta Purports. (BVPS)

1.One should hear the pastimes, names, and glories of the Lord from the Srimad Bhagavatam, in which all material forms of religion are rejected, from a bona fide spiritual master. One should become fixed in devotional service, and not allow his mind to be deflected to anything else. Patiently and submissively hearing the Srimad Bhagavatam immediately re-establishes a soul in his eternal relationship with Krsna. All other goals are rejected in the Bhagavatam. (1-3)

2. One must hear the Bhagavatam from a bona fide representative of Vyasadeva. (4-8)
3. If both the speaker and the hearer are qualified, the hearer will easily understand the Absolute Truth, Sri Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. (9-13)
4. Hearing of the ever-fresh pastimes, names, and glories of Krsna will attract one away from the horrible Kali yuga trap of the material world to the eternal blissful spiritual realm. (14-20)
5. Because of the shortness of life that Kali Yuga brings, one should fear the dangers of Kali, accept the shelter of a bona fide spiritual master, and adopt the process recommended by Lord Caitanya for self realization in Kali Yuga: hearing and chanting Krsna's glories as told in the Bhagavad-gita and the Srimad-Bhagavatam. (21-23)

Note: Whenever the marker BVPS appears in parentheses at the head of a section of this study guide, it stands for Bhaktivedanta Purports Summary. The reader should understand that material so marked does not consist of direct quotations of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. To illustrate: in the paragraphs just above numbered 1-5, a great deal of information is condensed from Prabhupada’s purports. For example, paragraph 1 is condensed from the purports to verses 1 through 3 of Chapter One of the First Canto. Therefore “(1-3)” appears at the end of that paragraph. Often the reader will come to a section of this study guide that present a “philosophical summary” or “the philosophical significance” of a question, an answer, a chapter of the Bhagavatam etc. The marker (BVPS) at the head of such a section means it presents a condensation of Srila Prabhupada’s writings. Sometimes, however, the marker (BVP) is used. This stands simply for Bhaktivedanta Purport. Here the exact words from a purport are quoted (though not necessarily the whole purport is quoted). The verse that the purport comments upon is indicated in parentheses at the end of the section, For example. section 2.2. below ends with (8), which refers to the purport of verse 8.

1.3. Questions One through Six (the foundational questions of the Bhagavatam) as summarized by Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura.
Regarding the six questions of the sages, in his commentary on Srimad Bhagavatam 1.2.1, Visvanath Cakravarti Thakura has summarized the six questions that the sages of Namasaranya asked Suta Gosvami as follows:
1. What is the ultimate benefit for mankind?

2. What is the essence of all scriptures?

3. For what reason did the Lord take His birth from Devaki?

4. Describe the wonderful deeds of the Lord when He assumed the forms of Brahma, Rudra, etc, for the purpose of creating, maintaining, and destroying the universe.

5. Fully describe the activities of Lord Hari's incarnations within this universe.

6. Where has religion taken shelter after Krsna has retired to His own abode?

1.4. Where the answers to the six questions are to be found, according to Srila Jiva Gosvami (summary).
Srila Jiva Gosvami has commented that of these six questions, four are answered in Chapter Two and two are answered in Chapter Three.
1.5. Questions One through Six and their answers in greater detail.
Next the questions are specficially identified by verse, as are their answers:
Question One (1.1.9): What is the absolute and ultimate good (sreyah) for people in general?

Answer: After describing that devotional service to Sri Krsna was the essence of the scriptures, Suta explains that the ultimate benefit for people in general is to become free from material bondage and develop love of God through devotional service offered only to Krsna or His plenary parts. (Especially SB 1.2.6- 7, but also until verse 27)

Question Two: (1.1.11): What is the essence of all scriptures?
Answer: Throughout the Second Chapter of the Bhagavatam and especially in SB 1.2.6-7, and continuing on to text 28, Sri Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is confirmed as the only object of worship, and establishing one's lost relationship with Him in love and service through devotional service is proclaimed as sum and substance of the Vedic literatures.
Question Three (1.1.12): Tell why Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead appeared (verse 13 may be included here – see purport).
Answer: This question is answered in 1.2.34, "to reclaim those in the mode of pure goodness." In addition, this question is answered in 1.8.35, 9.4.61, 10.8.48-50, and 10.33.37.
Question Four (1.1.17): Describe the activities of the incarnations of the Lord.
Answer: The Lord's incarnations are described in Chapter Three of the First Canto. More detailed descriptions of the incarnations are recounted throughout the remainder of the Bhagavatam.
Question Five (1.1.18): Tell us of the acts of Lord performs in relationship to creating the material world. (See purport).
Answer: This question is answered in 1.2.30-33, wherein the Bhagavatam explains how Vasudeva creates the material substance and enters into it as the Purusa incarnations. In addition, Cantos Three and Four relate the creation of the universe and its population by all species.

Question Six (1.1.23): Where have religious principles gone after Krsna's disappearance from this planet?

Answer: Suta Goswami answers this question in SB 1.3.43 by declaring, “This Bhagavat Purana is as brilliant as the sun, and it has arisen just after the departure of Lord Krsna to His own abode, accompanied by religion, knowledge, etc. Persons who have lost their vision due to the dense darkness of ignorance in the age of Kali shall get light from this Purana.”

2.0 Srimad-Bhagavatam First Canto Chapter Two is Suta Gosvami’s answer to the first four foundational questions. The specific verses that reply to specific questions are noted before (2.5). Still, Chapter Two as a whole is to be understood as Suta’s general answer.
2.1. Chapter Two, Divinity and Divine Service, verses summary.
Before replying, Suta Goswami first offers his obeisances to his guru, Srila Sukadeva Goswami, Lord Narayana, the sages Nara-Narayana Rsi, mother Sarasvati, and Srila Vyasadeva. (1-4)
Suta praises the sages' inquiries, for they are about Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He stresses the importance of the process of self-realization, and its goal--devotional service to Krsna. (5-10)
Suta says further that since Krsna is the Absolute Truth, one must satisfy Him by devotional service. (11-15)
He describes the gradual progress of consciousness of a devotee who overcomes the effects of the modes of nature and attains pure devotional service through the proper hearing of Srimad Bhagavatam and serving pure devotees. (16-22)
Suta explains Lord Krsna's position as beyond the modes of nature. Those who are serious about liberation worship only Him, for the Lord is the Supreme goal of life. (23-29)
The chapter ends with Suta's description of how the Lord, although transcendental to the material world, first creates the material world and then maintains His creation. (30-34)

2.2. Chapter Two summarized from a Bhaktivedanta Purport. (BVP)

The need of the spirit soul is that he wants to get out of the limited sphere of material bondage and fulfill his desire for complete freedom. He wants to get out of the covered walls of the greater universe. He wants to see the free light and the spirit. That complete freedom is achieved when he meets the complete spirit, the Personality of Godhead. There is a dormant affection for God within everyone; spiritual existence is manifested through the gross body and mind in the form of perverted affection for gross and subtle matter. Therefore we have to engage ourselves in occupational engagements that will evoke our divine consciousness. This is possible only by hearing and chanting the divine activities of the Supreme Lord, and any occupational activity which does not help one to achieve attachment for hearing and chanting the transcendental message of Godhead is said herein to be simply a waste of time. This is because other occupational duties (whatever ism they may belong to) cannot give liberation to the soul. Even the activities of the salvationists are considered to be useless because of their failure to pick up the fountainhead of all liberties. The gross materialist can practically see that his material gain is limited only to time and space, either in this world or in the other. Even if he goes up to the Svargaloka, he will find no permanent abode for his hankering soul. The hankering soul must be satisfied by the perfect scientific process of perfect devotional service. (8)

Note: The reader is reminded of the Note at the end of the earlier section 1.2. The marker BVP—for Bhaktivedanta Purport seen in the heading of this section 2.2. means that that the words of 2.2 come directly from the purport to verse 8 of this chapter. These words are not a summary written by the author of the study guide. In the case of such a summary, the marker BVPS—for Bhaktivedanta Purport Summary would be used. At the end of such a summary, several verse numbers would be enclosed in parentheses—for example, at the end of paragraph 1 of section 1.2., the marker (1-3) is seen. This indicates that this paragraph is a summary of the purports to verses 1 through 3.

3.0 In First Canto Chapter Three Suta Gosvami replies to the fourth and sixth foundational questions of Srimad-Bhagavatam, and also, once more, touches on the fifth question.
3.1. Chapter Three, Krsna is the Source of All Incarnations, verses summary.
Suta Goswami describes the roles of the three Purusa avataras in the creation of both the total cosmos and the individual universes. (1-4)

Suta then briefly describes twenty-two incarnations of God that appear within this universe. He goes on to say that the Lord actually has unlimited incarnations. (5-27) Although innumerable incarnations exist, Krsna is Their fountainhead and so is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. (28)

Suta Goswami explains that the material forms (gross and subtle) of both the Lord (Virat-rupa) and the living beings are actually imaginary. Therefore, learned men describe the glories and pastimes of the Lord's incarnations so that the conditioned souls can be freed from ignorance and achieve ecstatic love for the Supreme Lord. (29-39)
Suta Goswami then glorifies the Srimad Bhagavatam as the incarnation of Lord Krsna meant for delivering the conditioned souls of Kali Yuga. He also describes how the Bhagavatam was transferred from Srila Vyasadeva to Sukadeva to Himself (40-44)
3.2. Suta Gosvami gives a 5-part answer to questions four, five and six. Part 1 is concerned with the Lord’s Purusa incarnations for the creation of the material world. This refers back to question five (1.1.18), which was primarily answered in the previous chapter (1.2.30-33). In part 2 he addresses question four (1.1.17), about the activities of the Lord’s incarnations. At part 3 his answer begins to turn from question four to question six (1.1.23--where is dharma now after Sri Krsna’s return to His abode?). (BVPS)

1. The Lord, through His Purusa incarnations--Karanadaksayi Visnu, Garbodaksayi Visnu, and Ksiradaksayi Visnu--creates the material world to facilitate the misguided ambitions of the jiva souls. One can perceive the spiritual nature of these incarnations, as well as all the Lord's other incarnations, if one is qualified through his devotional service. (1-4)

2. Through Garbodaksayi Visnu comes innumerable incarnations that constantly appear on different planets and in different universes, as water flows continuously from a waterfall. (5-27)

3. But Sri Krsna is not an incarnation. Rather He is the original, complete, Supreme Personality of Godhead. (28)

4. One should hear how the Lord descends into the material world, while having no connection with the material world, from bona fide sources like the Srimad Bhagavatam. Thus one will be be enriched with knowledge. One should then take shelter of the Lord, become self realized, and see the Lord face to face. (29-39)
5. To reach this stage of perfection, one should hear this Srimad Bhagavatam, the cream of Vedic literatures, with rapt attention from a bona fide spiritual master, and thus learn who is God, what one's relationship is with Him, and what one's ultimate destination is after leaving his body. Such a qualified reader of the Bhagavatam will see Sri Krsna, in person, within the Bhagavatam's pages. (40-44)
Note: The reader is again kindly reminded that the marker (BVPS) stands for Bhaktivedanta Purports Summary. The paragraphs numbered 1-5 above are not direct quotations from Srila Prabhupada. They are summaries of his purports to groups of verses in Chapter Three. For example, paragraph 1 is a summary of his purports to verses 1-4.

4.0 Questions and answers in First Canto Chapter Four of Srimad-Bhagavatam. (Q7.)
4.1. Chapter Four, The Appearance of Sri Narada, verses summary.
Saunaka Rsi inquires from Suta Goswami about the history of Sukadeva Goswami's speaking the Bhagavatam to Maharaja Pariksit.(1-13)
Suta tells how Veda Vyasa compiled and edited the Vedic literatures for the benefit of the unfortunate souls of Kali Yuga. (14-25)

Even after his great work was complete, Veda Vyasa still felt dissatisfied. Just as he was contemplating the cause of his despondency, his spiritual master, Narada Muni, appeared.(26-33)

4.2. Question Seven of Srimad-Bhagavatam is asked by Saunaka of Suta.
Question Seven in essential form: O Suta Gosvami, may you please relate the pious message of Srimad-Bhagavatam as spoken by Srila Sukadeva Gosvami? (2)
4.2.1 In verses that follow Saunaka Rsi expands Question Seven to include these 6 specific items:
Item 1: When, where and why was the Bhagavatam recited? (3)
Item 2: From where did Sukadeva’s father, Krsna Dvaipayana Vyasadeva, get the inspiration to compile the Bhagavatam? (3)
Item 3: After wandering about the earth like a naked madman, how was Sukadeva Gosvami recognized as the great sage he actually was when he entered Hastinapura? (7)
Item 4: How did Emperor Pariksit meet Sukadeva Gosvami? (8)
Item 5: Why did wealthy and powerful Emperor Pariksit renounce his kingdom to fast to death on the bank of the Ganges? (10, 11)
Item 6: Emperor Pariksit did not live to enjoy his wealth and power he lived to give shelter to his subjects; so why did he give up his body which was the shelter for others? (12)
4.2.3. The philosophical significance of Question Seven and its 6 item. (BVPS)

This Bhagavatam, which contains the direct pastimes of the Lord and which leads the conditioned souls of Kali to engage in pure devotional service, the only activity that will truly satisfy them, is effective only when heard from a pure devotee who is representing Sukadeva Goswami. (1-13)

Note; Yet another reminder: the marker (BVPS) stands for Bhaktivedanta Purports Summary.
4.3. Summary of the answer to Question Seven that Suta Gosvami begins to give in verses 14-33 of Chapter Four. (BVPS)
1. This Bhagavatam only describes devotional service and the transcendental pastimes of Lord Krsna, and is Srila Vyasadeva's special arrangements so the unfortunate souls trapped by Kali can approach the ultimate achievement, devotional service, which alone can bring complete satisfaction to the self.(14-25)
2. One cannot feel true satisfaction until one engages in direct devotional service as the Bhagavatam describes, even though one may understand and become purified by assimilating all the knowledge of the Vedas and the Mahabharata.(26-33)

4.4. Suta’s answer to Question Seven, of course, carries on until the very end of Srimad-Bhagavatam. The six specific items, though, are addressed in First Canto.
Item One is addressed from 1.4.14 to the end of the First Canto (1.19.40).
Item Two is addressed in Chapters Five and Six.
Item Three is addressed in Chapter Nineteen, specifically 1.19.30.
Item Four is addressed in Chapter Nineteen.
Item Five is addressed in Chapters Sixteen through Nineteen.
Item Six is addressed in Chapter Nineteen, specifically 1.19.13-16 (spoken by Pariksit Maharaja).

5.0 Questions and answers in First Canto Chapter Five of Srimad-Bhagavatam. (Q8-9.)

5.1. Chapter Five, Narada’s Instructions on Srimad-Bhagavatam for Vyasadeva, verses summary. .

Narada Muni, fully understanding the situation, inquires from Vyasa about the root cause of Vyasa's unhappiness, and hints at the solution.(1-4)
Srila Vyasadeva requests his spiritual master Narada to reveal the cause of his despondency. (5-7)
Narada informs Vyasa about the importance of directly describing the glorious pastimes of Krsna. He also tells him the dangers that could arise due to Vyasa's previous writings, which only indirectly hint at the glories of the Lord. (8-16)
Narada then tells Vyasa about the secure position of a devotee serving Krsna. (17-19)
After describing the Lord as both impersonal as well personal, Narada asks Vyasa to vividly and directly describe the pastimes of Krsna. (20-22)
He tells Vyasa how in his previous birth as a sudra, Narada became fixed in the confidential devotional service of the Lord through the association of great Bhaktivedantas, (23-31)
Narada glorifies working in Krsna's service while remembering His glories.(32-36)
After glorifying transcendental sound, Narada then requests Vyasa to directly glorify the Lord's activities for the benefit of suffering humanity.(37-40)
5.2. Questions Eight and Nine of Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Question Eight is asked by Narada Muni to Vyasadeva: After compiling the Mahabharata, full of all kinds of Vedic knowledge, and presenting the philosophy of impersonal Brahman, are you satisfied by identifying the body and mind as objects of self-realization? (1-4)

Question Nine (which also serves as the answer to Question Eight) is asked by Vyasadeva to Narada Muni: In spite of these accomplishments you mentioned, I am not satisfied and therefore ask you to find out the deficiency in me. (5-7)

5.3. The philosophical significance of Questions Eight and Nine. (BVPS)
Q8: True satisfaction cannot come by any means other than by pure devotional service. (1-4)
Q9: Even if one is complete in material knowledge, one must become trained to render pure devotional service and thus remove one's miseries; therefore, one must approach and surrender to training from a bona fide spiritual who is one hundred percent a pure devotee engaged in Krsna's service. (5-7)
5.4. Narada Muni’s answer to Question Nine, in 6 parts. (BVPS)
1. Because the Srimad Bhagavatam directly presents the pastimes and glories of the Lord, hearing the Bhagavatam from a pure devotee is the best method of removing our impurities and again reviving our devotional service to Krsna. Although we may be attracted to other literatures due to our impure, conditioned desires, attentively studying the Bhagavatam will remove those desires. The Bhagavatam is therefore the most superior literature, superior to even the Vedic literatures which promote gradual purification and thereby confuse readers about life's ultimate goal. (8-16)
2. On one hand, any gain outside of devotional service is doomed, and on the other hand, devotional gains are eternal. Advancing through devotional service is so perfect that even if a devotee falls the Lord personally takes charge of rectifying him. (17-19)

3. For the living entity to regain his constitution position of serving Krsna through devotional service, he must seek shelter of the Lord's representative, the bona fide spiritual master, and then, under the spiritual master's direction, the disciple can purify his material attachments by using them to glorify the Lord. (20-22)

4. Therefore one who is determined to go back to Godhead must surrender to, take training from, and hear the Bhagavatam from a pure spiritual master who represents Krsna. One must serve such a spiritual master, and rejecting all desires for material happiness, use his material abilities and opulences in Krsna's service while cultivating a strong desire to serve Krsna in the spiritual world. (23-31)
5. No plan to remove our miseries other than taking shelter of the Lord in devotional service will succeed. We should become determined to purify our inclination to lord it over the material world by dovetailing our material tendencies in Krsna's service. Thus, under the direction of a pure devotee, we can always remember Krsna and go back to Godhead. (32-36)
6. Rejecting as useless everything that doesn't bring us closer to Krsna, one should uncover his relationship with Krsna through offenselessly chanting transcendental sound vibrations, like the Bhagavatam. Because all classes of men can become purified through the potency of transcendental sound vibrations, these vibrations should be widely broadcast. (37-40)

6.0 Questions and answers in First Canto Chapter Six of Srimad-Bhagavatam. (Q10.)
6.1. First Canto Chapter Six, Conversations Between Narada and Vyasadeva, verses summary.
Vyasa inquires from Narada about how he passed his life after the departure of the sages. (1-4)
Narada describes that after his mother was bitten by a poisonous snake and died, he began traveling. Once, as he sat beneath a banyan tree, he began meditating on the Lord in the heart. (5-15)

As Narada Muni meditated, the Supersoul first appeared to him and then departed. Narada Muni was grief stricken. (16-20)

The Lord then spoke to Narada, His words dispelled Narada's unhappiness. Four points He made are most relevant to the philosophical significance of Q8-9 (see section 5.3 above). 1) Unqualified persons cannot have the Lord’s darsan. 2) Still, the Lord granted darsan to Narada in order to increase his desire for Him. 3) By devotional service, even for few days, young Narada (at that time, remember, he was still in the body of the son of a sudra) will get drdha-matih, firm intelligence. 4) This intelligence is eternal. (21-25)
After recounting his meeting with the Supersoul, Narada tells Vyasa how he spent the remainder of his life. Narada then describes his next birth as the great sage, Narada Muni. (26-30)
Vyasadeva is then told of the transcendental activities that Narada Muni now continuously performs. (31-33)

Narada finishes his instructions to Vyasa, and Suta Goswami narrates the departure of Narada. Suta then describes Narada's glories. (34-38)

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