Bhagawatam 064: Parikshit begs Maharishi Śuka to teach him duties to be abided at time of death


The Maharishis said to Parikshit, “O chief among the saintly kings (rāja-rishis)! This deed of yours is not at all astonishing as you have been born in the lineage of the Pandavas, who walked on the path laid down by Srikrishna and who served Him with devotion! Your forefather Yudhisthira and others, seeking to reach the abode of that Supreme Lord, gave up the throne which was served by many smaller vassal kings, and which was the sign of their supremacy.

Let us all be seated here until this Parikshit, who is the foremost amongst the supreme devotees of the Lord, gives up this body and attains that ultimate state of liberation which is over and above the trigunas and which is devoid of grief!” All the Maharishis decided this in unison”.

What Parikshit displayed was a supreme state of dispassion that is not easily attained. It is common for a person to strive to drive away death when it arrives although it is not possible to run away from it. To be able to face death; to be able to give up all comforts and sit there awaiting its arrival by giving up food and water (prayopavesa), shows Parikshit’s exalted mental state!

“Hearing those words which were perfectly correct, impartial, nectarous and filled with essence, Parikshit praised the assembled Maharishis, who were all-knowing. Parikshit who was yearning to listen to the glories of the great Lord said to them, “You, who are like the Vedas which reside in their true form in Satyaloka, have assembled here, having come from various different directions. It is your natural tendency to bless and do good to others. Apart from this, there is nothing that you seek either in this world or in the next. O great saints! Therefore placing full faith in You, I ask you to please advise me what my duty is.

What is the specific duty of a human being, which he should abide by at all times and in all situations and more exceptionally at the time of death? Please think about this in great detail and teach me.” Hearing this question, all the saints assembled there began to reflect upon it.

Exactly at that moment, Maharishi Śuka, the son of Maharishi Vedavyasa, who had been wandering around the universe, arrived there as if by providence. Maharishi Śuka was over and above every form of desire; he did not show any symbols of being associated with any of the four stages of life; he had attained total contentment due to Self-realization and was an Avadhoota in the form of a digambara.

Maharishi Śuka simply wanders about the universe along with the wind. No one knows where he would be at any given point of time. Whom he will grace, at what point of time he will grace, where he will arrive no one knows. Such an exalted saint arrived there exactly at that time! He was surrounded by many women and children who were excitedly following him.

Śuka Maharishi was sixteen years of age. He had tender hands, legs, thighs, shoulders, arms, cheeks etc. He had a delicate fine-looking nose. His eyelids were exceptionally wide and beautiful. His ears were long and equally proportioned. His face was glowing radiantly. His neck was shaped like a beautiful conch. His chest was wide, fleshy and well raised. His navel was beautifully designed like a whirlpool and his abdomen had three beautiful folds. He was naked. With hair that was strewn all over his face and his long arms, he was shining like the Supreme Lord Mahavishnu.  He was dark complexioned. He is eternally like a sixteen year old boy. With his youth, charming face and tender smile he captivates the hearts of even women.

The supreme Maharishis who were seated there knew about the supremacy and greatness of this saint. They observed the splendor on His face as He arrived and immediately got up from their seats in order to receive him warmly.

Parikshit reverentially welcomed this unexpected guest, worshipped Him and bowed down before him. At that moment the women and children who had accompanied Maharishi Śuka returned back.

Maharishi Śuka, who was thus honorably welcomed by all the sages, sat down comfortably. He, who was the most supreme even amongst the supreme saints, was sitting surrounded by supremely accomplished saints (Brahma-rishis), Maharishis and celestial sages (Deva-rishis). Seated amidst them He glowed radiantly like the Moon which is surrounded by the stars, galaxies and other planets.

Parikshit, the supreme devotee who had achieved absolute concentration, approached Maharishi Śuka and reverentially bowed before Him time and again. Standing in front of him with joined palms, in a very melodious voice Parikshit said, “O Supreme Maharishi! How astonishing! We, the worthless kshatriyas (warrior clan) are today being blessed with the opportunity of serving exalted noble beings like you. Out of compassion, you have arrived here as a guest and are blessing us with this sacred opportunity.

Merely by thinking about You our places of residence are transformed into sacred places of pilgrimage. We get transformed into pure beings. What more can be said about the purity attained by seeing You, touching You and being blessed with the opportunity to offer worship to your feet?

O Mahayogi! Just as demons are destroyed by the mere presence of Mahavishnu, by merely associating with You ordinary humans are absolved of their sins. This is definitely true.

Lord Srikrishna is extremely dear to the Pandavas. The Lord perhaps has feelings of love and compassion towards me as I am born in the lineage of his cousins, the Pandavas. Hence perhaps He considers me as his relative. Otherwise how is it possible for an ordinary person like me to be blessed with Your darshan?

A highly enlightened Yogi like you eternally roams only in forests. No one knows where you will be at any point of time. If not for Srikrishna’s benevolent grace upon me, how could I, who am destined to die shortly, be blessed with this sacred opportunity of seeing You?

I seek to ask you, who are supreme amongst all Yogis, a question, “What are the actions that a person, who is destined to die shortly, should engage in? What should he listen? Which mantra should he recite? What should he recollect? Whom should he serve? What is his duty? What is it that he should give up? Please explain this to me in minute detail. O personification of the Supreme Lord! O great saint! You do not stay in a householder’s home for even that much time as is needed to milk a cow. Therefore I consider Your visit here as our greatest fortune”.

Mahatmas in general do not stay anywhere for long. Śukabrahma, who was an Avadhoota, would not stay for even so long as was needed to milk a cow.

In this manner, Emperor Parikshit, standing in front of Maharishi Śuka, questioned Him sweetly in this manner. Hearing this, the venerable Maharishi Śuka, who was an exponent in the knowledge of righteousness (dharma) begins his reply.

With this the First Canto of Srimad Bhagawatam comes to an end.

Narayana! Narayana!

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