Emperor Parikshit continued, “Please explain to me in detail the exact measures of the space within the universal form of the Lord and the space outside of it, the stories of supreme Mahatmas, the regulation and classification of the four castes and four stages of life (varna-ashrama).
Please narrate to me the wonderous and astonishing divine plays of the Supreme Lord, the calculation of time and years within an eon (yuga), and also the rules of righteousness as applicable to that Yuga. What are the normal duties and rules (dharma) to be adhered by an ordinary person? What are the special duties to be adhered during times of emergencies or extreme situations? What are the dharmas to be adhered by persons belonging to different professions, the dharmas to be followed by noble, righteous kings, dharma to be followed at times of difficulties by ordinary beings?
What are the different principles that govern this creation? Please explain their forms, their numbers, their characteristics and their causes. Please explain the method of worshipping the Supreme Puruśa Srihari, the form of the eight limbs of Yoga (ashṭānga yoga) and knowledge of the Self.
Please also teach me about the eight supernatural powers that are acquired by great ascetics, the supreme meritorious planes which they obtain and the method in which they dissolve their subtle bodies.
Please teach me about the form of Vedas, upa-vedas, dharma-shastras (scriptures pertaining to dharma), history (itihasa) and Puranas.
Please explain how living beings emerged, their sustenance and their annihilation. Please also teach the importance of the Vedic sacrificial rituals such as Yagnas and yāgas and the benefit of performing good auspicious deeds undertaken for the welfare of other living beings. What should be done by a person to fulfill his own material desires? What is the method to abide by dharma (righteousness), artha (material earnings) and kāma (fulfillment of desires)?
How are beings who merge back into Nature (Prakriti) at the time of destruction re-born? How did the path of the atheists (Pākhanda-mārga) emerge? What is the form of bondage and liberation experienced by a being? What way does a liberated person eternally and exclusively remain as the form of the Self (atma)?
How does the eternally free, omnipotent Lord, through the help of His power of illusion, perform divine transcendental activities? At the time of annihilation, how does this Lord setting aside His illusory energy remain a witness? Please explain all this to me.
O revered saint! Only You possess the capacity to clarify all these doubts and explain to me the truth as it is really exists, in the proper sequential order. I have sought refuge in You.
Amongst the Devatas, Brahma is the greatest. Being equal to such Brahma in all aspects, You are well versed in this entire knowledge. All the elders present in this assembly, having heard about the greatness of the traditions and spiritual pursuits from their ancestors, are merely abiding by them.
O Maharishi! Barring the thought that death is going to approach me shortly due to the curse of the sage’s son, I do not feel any exhaustion or agitation due to my fasting. Please do not worry that I have abstained from even water. I, who am drinking in the nectarous stories of Lord Srikrishna through You, do not lack anything. I have no fear.” In this way Parikshit earnestly prayed and put forth his doubts.
In the presence of the entire assembly, Parikshit pleaded with Maharishi Śuka to narrate to him the stories of the original being Lord Srihari, who is the protector of all noble beings and who is also the universal Lord.
Extremely pleased with this request, Maharishi Śuka began narrating the Bhagawata Purana.
At the beginning of the creation, Lord Srihari taught sacred Purana, which is equivalent of the Vedas, to Lord Brahma. In a sequential order Maharishi Śuka began to answer all the questions asked by Parikshit, the most supreme person of the Pandava lineage.
With this the eighth chapter of the Second Canto comes to an end.
Second Canto Ninth Chapter
In this chapter, Maharishi Śuka replying to Parikshit’s questions, Lord Brahma visiting Vaikunṭha, and there at the request of Brahma, Lord Srihari teaching him Chatusśloki Bhagawatam (Bhagawtam in four verses) are covered.
Maharishi Śuka replied, “Self-knowledge which has experience as its form, is distinctly different from the body and the senses. Such Self has no connection with seeing, listening or any other deeds. Just as a person who is dreaming has no connection with the objects seen in the dream, the Self is unconnected with everything around it.
Nevertheless, due to the illusion caused by the Supreme Lord, the Self presumes that it has many connections. Due to His power of illusion, along with the many forms seen such as those of Devatas, humans, childhood, youth, old-age, it appears as if the Self also transforms and experiences various stages in varied different bodies.
The individual enjoys the body and other worldly comforts which are nothing but creations of the illusionary energy together with its attributes. Through this he falls into the illusion called ‘me and mine’.
When the person stabilizes in his inherent Self-knowledge, which is beyond time and illusion, and begins to enjoy that bliss, he is freed totally from illusion. He will give up attachment and egoism. Being totally detached, he will remain eternally blissful.
O Parikshit! I am going to explain that supreme secret which Lord Srihari, who is pleased when served through pure devotional austerities, explained to Brahma for the purposes of granting to him Self-experience i.e. for making him eligible to have a vision of that Self, which was his original form. Please listen.
The first God (ādi deva) is more supreme than every other created universe. Seated in His abode, the Brahma-loka, this Supreme Guru Lord Brahma wanted to begin creation. With this intent he went into deep meditation.
Nevertheless, he was unable to get total clarity in matters pertaining to creation. He did not have with him the required wisdom to progress with the creation. When Lord Brahma, who is the most efficient in every aspect, began to ponder seriously about creation, two syllables, which were once upon a time uttered at the time of annihilation near the waters of dissolution, fell upon His ears. He heard them twice.
They were ‘ta’ the sixteenth consonant and ‘pa’ the twenty-first consonant. The word ‘tapa’ was heard twice. Our elders state that this word is the wealth of the poor.
Hearing this sound, Brahma developed a desire to see the person who had uttered them. He searched for him in all directions but could not find him anywhere. He then decided that penance (tapa) alone would bestow auspiciousness upon Him. He firmed up His mind, immediately sat down in Padmasana, stopped all mental activities and immersed himself in penance (tapas).