Nārada Maharishi thought, “This celestial voice appears secretive. There is no clarity in it. By adopting which method can devotion be spread across this world? How can devotion (bhakti) travel throughout the world? What is to be done by me in this regard?” Unable to find a solution to these doubts of his, Nārada Maharishi asked bhakti and her sons to remain seated there while he set off on a pilgrimage.
There was no sacred place (kshetra) that Nārada Maharishi did not visit during this pilgrimage. There was no great saint whom he missed out. At every place he visited people were with total attention listening to his tales about bhakti and her children, but none seemed to have a solution to the problem. Everyone was clueless. In fact some decisively told him that it was impossible to spread devotion across the entire universe. Some applauded him for this task. Some ridiculed him. Some were wonderstruck, some remained silent.
How could others understand that, which could not be grasped even through the medium of Vedas and Vedantas and which was beyond the understanding of even Sage Nārada? You think.
Nārada who was totally dejected and worried about his helplessness in spreading devotion across the entire globe, at last reached Badarivana. He resolved to undertake penance at this place. While he was thus engaged in severe austerities, one day he was blessed with the vision of Sanaka and other great sages. Nārada was ecstatic with this darshan. He begged these sages to show him the way by which he could reduce the sufferings of Bhakti devi and her sons Jnana and Vairagya (spiritual knowledge- dispassion).
The saints then said, “Nārada, do not grieve. We have already thought of a solution to this problem. Only a great devotee of your cadre can accomplish the task of propagating devotion across the globe. The saints have shown various paths by which sadhana (spiritual practices) can be performed but all of them are hard and difficult to follow. The sadhana called devotion, which can bless the aspirant with the vision of Lord Srihari, however has remained a secret. Only a few like you could understand about its greatness. As a result, the celestial voice entrusted you with the task of spreading devotion everywhere. Yagnas (a ritual of sacrifice) are of many types such as dravya-yajna, tapo-yajna, yoga-yajna, swadhyāya (study of the Self), jnana- yagna etc.
Sat-karma sūcakō nūnaṃ jnana-yajnaḥ smrto budhaih
Srimad-bhāgavatālāpah sa tu gitaḥ śukādibhih
Amongst all these sacrifices (yajnas), Jnana-yagna is the most supreme. This Jnana-yajna called singing Srimad Bhāgavatam has been performed by Maharishi Śuka and other eminent sages. You propagate Bhāgawatam in this world.
Praḷayaṃ hi gamiśyanti Srimad-bhāgavatā-dhvanēh
Kali-dośa ime sarve simha-sabdād vrka iva
Just as the wolf runs in fear upon hearing a lion’s roar, all the difficulties and sorrows of Kali Yuga will be destroyed if the devotee sings Bhāgawatam”.
Maharishi Nārada then enquired, “O great Saints! Even after I initiated Jnana and vairagya into Vedas and Vedangas, their sufferings could not come to an end. All my efforts were in vain. How then can their sufferings be mitigated with the singing of Bhāgawatam? Please explain this to me.”
Sanaka and other sages then answered, “O Nārada, Bhāgawatam is nothing but the cream of all Vedas and Upanishads. It thus contains supreme essence. Yoghurt is present in milk. Even then unless a few drops of yoghurt are added to milk, it will not convert into yoghurt. In the similar manner Bhāgawatam emerged. Sugar inherently exists in sugarcane. But only upon separation it actually converts to sugar particles. Bhāgawatam is the essence of all the Vedas.
Idaṃ bhāgavataṃ nāma purāṇaṃ braḥma-sammitaṃ
Bhakti -jnāna virāgāṇāṃ sthāpanāya prakāsitaṃ
This sacred Maha-purāna called Bhāgawatam is equivalent of the Vedas. In order to establish devotion (bhakti), supreme knowledge (jnana) and dispassion (vairagya) in this world, this has been lit/ illumined by the Supreme Lord himself.
Previously when Bhagavan Vyasa was sorrowful, you personally initiated him into the catus-śloki Bhāgawatam (Bhāgawatam in four verses, which contains the entire core of the text) which was at first taught by the Supreme Lord Mahanarayana to Lord Brahma and which you had learnt from Brahma. Vyasa expanded this and compiled it into a Maha-purana comprising of 18000 verses. He taught this to Maharishi Śuka. Maharishi Śuka in turn taught this to Emperor Parikshit. Due to this initiation, in just 7 days Parikshit could attain liberation. Taking the help of such Supreme Bhāgawatam, you spread devotion (bhakti) in this world. By doing so, you will be successful in dispelling the sorrows of bhakti, jnana and vairagya.
Srimad Bhāgawata śrāve śoka duḥkha vināśanaṃ –By listening to Srimad Bhāgawatam, all forms of suffering and grief is dispelled.”
After hearing this message of the great sages, Nārada Maharishi said, “O great saints! All my doubts have now been cleared. My difficulties have been washed away. I will henceforth propagate Bhāgawatam in this world. I will ensure that it is heard in every household.” Thus making a firm determination, Nārada offered obeisance to the four great sages and received their blessings.
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Nārada Maharishi continued, “Forget about Jnana and vairagya (supreme knowledge, dispassion) in this Kali Yuga, even devotion has diminished in people. This is the reason why the three of you turned old. It is your great fortune that you have reached Brindavan. Due to the merit of this land, O bhakti, you could regain your youth. In this Brindavan, devotion (bhakti) reigns.
But no one is bothered about attaining Supreme Knowledge and dispassion (jnana, vairagya). As a result, even though you regained your youth your sons continue to remain old. However due to the merit of this sacred land, after a long time at least now they are able to sleep comfortably”.
Hearing this Bhakti devi asked, “O Maharishi, how is it that Emperor Parikshit worshipped the impure Kali (yuga)? How, why did he establish Kali Yuga? What happened to the essence of Dharma (righteousness) when Kali Yuga started? Where did it disappear? Why does the Supreme Lord Hari, the personification of compassion, tolerate this (sinful) Kali? Please be kind enough to explain this to me.”
To this Maharishi Nārada replied, “O young lady, I will tell you something which will dispel your doubts as well as your difficulties. Kali Yuga established itself on earth the moment Lord Krishna left earth to return back to His abode. Emperor Parikshit came across Kali Puruśa (the presiding Lord of Kali Yuga), when he was on his victory tour (digvijay yatra). Kali Puruśa tearfully rushed forward, fell at the emperor’s feet and sought refuge. Initially Parikshit wanted to kill Kali, but then he began to think on the following lines-
‘Yat phalam nāsti tapasā na yōgena samādhi nām
Tat phalam labhate samyak kalou keśava keertanāt
Meaning: That result which penance (tapas), yoga and samādhi could not give in the Kṛta, Treta and Dwāpara (the first three eons) Yugas, can be attained in Kali Yuga merely by chanting the name of Hari.’
Parikshit thought that the benefit of Kali cannot be attained unless Kali, who presently was in a single form and in a single place, is divided into many. This was because essence (sāram) had been eroded from temples, rivers, schools and sacred places. This was happening because the presiding Lord of this Kali Yuga was in a single form. In this however there was no fault of his. This is was Yuga dharma (aspect of righteousness applicable to the particular eon).
‘What was Kali’s fault in all this? Therefore there is no point in killing him, I will just divide him’, thought Parikshit. He immediately divided Kali.” Thus Nārada completed the story of Kali.
Bhakti then extolled Nārada Maharishi and sang his praises. Lord Nārada then said,
“Vrthā kherayase bāle aho chintāturā katham
Sri Krishna caranām bhojam smara duḥkham gamiśyati
Meaning: O young lady, why do you unnecessarily grieve? Think of the lotus feet of Lord Krishna. Your sorrows will be dispelled.
He protected Draupadi from the Kauravas. He protected the Gopikas. O bhakti, you are very dear to Lord Vishnu. He will definitely come if you call out to Him. In the Kṛta, Treta and Dwāpara Yugas, Jnana (supreme knowledge) and vairagya (dispassion) were tools that granted liberation. Kalou tu kevalā bhaktir brahma sāyujya kārini – which means- in Kali Yuga only bhakti (devotion) can grant liberation.
With this intention, the Supreme Lord created you. He has also entrusted you the responsibility of nurturing devotees. You have also consented to this. He has made liberation (mukti) your servant. Jnana and vairagya (Supreme Knowledge and dispassion) were given as your sons. Your real form exists in Vaikunṭha (abode of Lord Vishnu). That which exists here is only your shadow. Until Dwāpara Yuga (the third eon) you were always happy. In Kali Yuga, liberation has weakened and diminished. It has gone back to Vaikunṭha. Now, only if you intend, liberation will descend from Heaven.
Until now you have protected these sons of yours called knowledge and dispassion. But people in this Kali Yuga do not respect them. For this reason, they have turned old.
Even then you should not be disheartened. Remember that there is no other period which is equal to Kali in status! In this Kali Yuga, I will establish you in every household. From this day onwards, this is my determined intention (sankalpa).
Through the medium of devotion, people in this Kali Yuga will wash away their sins. Even demons, ghosts etc. will, with devotion, think about Lord Hari. Lord Srihari can be very easily attained through proper devotion. He cannot be as easily attained through any other means as easily as He is attained through devotion. Only devotion (bhakti) can grant liberation (mukti)”. In this manner Nārada Maharishi instilled confidence in Bhakti devi.
Hearing these words of the great saint, bhakti devi was absolved of all sorrows. But the old age of her sons still remained intact. She now prayed that even this sorrow of hers should be washed away.
Nārada Maharishi then held the ears of both her sons and initiated them. Both of them slowly opened their eyes, sat down, feebly looked at Nārada Maharishi and then slipped back into slumber once again. Seeing this, Nārada Maharishi repeatedly initiated them but they did not even move a little. His efforts were in vain. Now Nārada began to get worried.
Just then they heard a celestial announcement from the sky (ākasa vani)- “O Maharishi, do not grieve. Your efforts will be rendered successful. You complete your task of spreading devotion (bhakti) in this world. With this not only will bhakti be extremely happy, but also her sons, spiritual knowledge and dispassion, will be rid of their old age. They will shine in full resplendence once again”.
Hearing this voice from the sky, Nārada Maharishi thought as follows- Om Namo Nārāyaṇāya!
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Śri Mahā Ganapataye namaḥ
Śri Saraswatyai Namaḥ
Śri Pāda vallabha Nrusimha Saraswati
Śri Guru Dattatreyaya namaḥ
This life given by God attains fulfillment only when vision of the Supreme Lord (Paramātma darshana) is attained! Bhakti Sutras and other Granthas (texts) authoritatively state that to attain this vision, there is no tool greater than devotion (bhakti). In this path of bhakti, Srimad Bhāgawatam assumes an extremely prominent place!
Even after composing the 18 Puranas, the 18 Upa-puranas, Brahma Sutras as well as Mahabharata, Maharishi Veda Vyasa was lacking complete peace and hence was dejected. At such time Maharishi Nārada advised him to compose the Bhāgavatam. Following this advice Maharishi Vyasa composed the Bhāgavatam and attained unsurpassed mental peace!
Such a sacred Bhāgawatam contains 12 Skandas (Canto)! Let us try to understand each of these chapters in great detail!
‘Bhāgawatam’ means ‘a scripture (shastra) that pertains to the Supreme Lord’. Every aspect pertaining to the Supreme Lord has been explained in this text. Every characteristic of a Purāṇa is found in it and hence it has become a Mahā-purāna.
It appears that it was Maharishi Vyasa’s intention to establish the doctrine of non-dualism (advaita shastra) through the medium of bhakti and thus enable the person to attain vision of the Supreme Lord!
If Bhāgatawam praises itself, there can be no speciality in it. For this reason the highly esteemed Pādma Purana has extolled the greatness of Bhāgawatam! From this we understand the special significance and status of Bhāgawatam.
Long time ago Maharishi Nārada felt like visiting all the pilgrim centres on earth. He visited Pushkara, Prayaga, Kashi, Godavari, Srikshetra, Kurukshetra, Sriranga, Rameshwara and many other sacred places. But He did not enjoy mental peace anywhere.
He realized that Kali (Yuga), who was the friend of unrighteousness (adharma), had enveloped the entire earth. Wandering everywhere in search of mental peace, he at last reached Brindavan, the land where little Krishna had demonstrated His miracles.
There on the banks of Yamuna, he saw a young lady grieving piteously. On her either side were two aged men who were unconscious. This young lady was serving these two aged men, all the while lamenting loudly. Surprised, Nārada Maharishi approached her. Upon seeing Nārada, the lady stood up and offering obeisance (namaskara) to him said,
“O great saint! Please accept my obeisance. Please stop here for a moment and listen to my difficulties. Only when we have sufficient punya (merit, fortune) we can be blessed with the darshan of great saints of your stature.”
Narada Maharishi asked her, “O young lady, who are you? Who are these two aged men beside you? Please tell me the cause of your distress in detail”.
The lady replied, “O Maharishi! I am bhakti (devotion). These two are my sons, Jnana (supreme knowledge) and Vairagya (dispassion). These ladies who have surrounded me are Vrinda and other rivers. They are here to offer me service. Even after all their services I am not peaceful.
I was born in Dravida deśa (South India). I grew up in Karnataka. In Maharashtra, Andhra and other places also I prospered a little. After spreading everywhere I reached Bhurjana deśa. There I turned into an old woman. By the time I reached this Bhurjana deśa, Kali Yuga had spread its tentacles everywhere. Even my children, Jnana and Vairagya, quickly turned old.
Wandering thus after a lot of time I reached this Brindavan. Strangely as soon as I reached here my old age vanished and I regained my youth. But these two children of mine still continue to be old and infirm. This fact troubles me a lot. I am clueless as to what is to be done.
I am debating whether I should move away from this country and reside in other foreign lands. I am unable to see my sons suffer due to old age. Even after regaining youth I am unable to be happy and peaceful. What is the reason behind this? O great saint! O Yoganidhi (treasure chest of Yoga)! Please dispel my sorrows”. In this manner Bhakti prayed to the saint.
Narada Maharishi meditated for some time. Then addressing her he said, “O young lady, please listen to me. This is the most terrible period of Kali Yuga. As such good conduct, path of Yoga and penance have diminished completely. People seem to be greatly inclined toward sinful deeds. Saints are suffering. Non-saintly persons are happy.
Forget about jnana and vairagya (supreme knowledge, dispassion), in people even devotion (bhakti) has depleted. That is why all three of you turned old. It is your good luck that you could reach Brindavan. Due to the sacredness of this place, you could regain your youth.”
Om Namo Narayana.
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