Sa saṁhitāṁ bhāgavatīṁ kṛtvānukramya cātma-jam
Śukam adhyāpayām āsa nivṛtti-nirataṁ muniḥ
The great sage Maharishi Vyasa composed Śrimad Bhāgawata Samhita, thereafter scrutinized his work thoroughly and then taught it to his son Maharishi Śuka, who was an exponent in Supreme Knowledge and who had attained ultimate dispassion. He got him to read the text,” said Maharishi Suta.
Śounaka and other saints asked, “O Maharishi Suta! What was the necessity for Maharishi Śuka, who had attained total dispassion and who was an exponent in Self-knowledge to study Bhāgawatam when he was already all-knowing and had reached the pinnacle? He was experiencing supreme bliss and was Self-realized, isn’t it?”
Maharishi Suta replied, “It is true that for yogis and saints who dwell in the Self, the necessity of reading any scripture does not exist. Nevertheless, they possess selfless devotion towards the omnipresent Lord. Lord Srihari’s glories and His supreme traits are infinite. At the same time they are melodious and pleasant. As a result, they attract even the hearts of such saints who dwell in the Self.
This saint had deep love towards the dear devotees of the Lord. The venerable Maharishi Śuka, the son of Maharishi Vyasa, being attracted towards the qualities of the Supreme Lord every single day studied this great text Bhāgawatam. He recollected the glories every single day.
O Maharishis! Now along with the story of Lord Krishna, I shall narrate the birth of the saintly king Parikshit, his noble deeds, the manner in which he attained liberation as well as the story of the Pandavas’ ascent to Heaven. Please listen.
During the war, Dristadyumna, the commander in chief of Pandava army, together with many other warriors from Pandava and Kaurava camps attained heaven. Bhima attacked Duryodhana with his mace and broke his thighs. At that time Ashwatthama wanted to bring happiness to his King Duryodhana. He chopped the heads of Draupadi’s sons, who were sleeping, and gave them as a gift to Duryodhana. However Duryodhana disapproved this action.
Draupadi greatly bemoaned the ghastly death of her sons. To console her Arjuna said, “O Draupadi, using the arrows from my bow Gandiva, I will behead that lowly Brahmin Ashwatthama, the murderer of children and gift it to you. With this I shall wipe away your tears. After cremating your sons, you can kick the head of Ashwattama and then have your bath”.
Pacifying Draupadi in this manner, Arjuna, who had Krishna as his friend, wore his armour. Holding the bow in his hand he mounted the chariot and chased Ashwatthama. From a great distance Ashwatthama saw Arjuna who was approaching him at unimaginably high speeds. He was petrified. In great panic he boarded his chariot and sped hastily as far as he could. Arjuna continued to chase him. Ashwatthama could not find anyone who could save him and his horses were tired. He thought the mighty weapon Brahmāstra alone could save him. Although he did not have the knowledge of recalling this weapon, Ashwatthama who was panicking for his life, quickly performed acamana (a purification procedure) and going into meditation released the Brahmāstra upon Arjuna.
That weapon, which could take away life, travelled in all directions and neared Arjuna. Brahmāstra is a very powerful weapon and should not be used per one’s whims and fancies. One should have total knowledge about it i.e. the procedure to release it, pacify it and recall it back. Seeing the Brahmāstra approaching him, Arjuna addressed Krishna and said,
Kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa mahā-bāho bhaktānām abhayaṅkara
Tvam eko dahya-mānānām apavargo ‘si saṁsṛteḥ
O Krishna! O Paramātma! You the one who showers ‘abhaya’ (assurance of fear-not) upon the devotee! To people who have fallen into this samsara (cycle of repeated re-births) and are burning in its flames, You are the embodiment of liberation. You destroy samsara”.
Swamiji explains: There are many who talk about getting rid of samsara while in reality they increase their bondages. They do not chant the Divine names. In case they chant divine names, samsāra will disappear. Instead of thinking about the Supreme Lord, they make their own plans. Only when there is total faith in the Lord and the person believes that God is everything, the plans he makes will turn out to be successful.
“O Krishna, you are the cause for this universe. Due to your transcendental nature you have rejected māya (illusion) and stay eternally in the Parabrahma state. You have taken on the duty of bringing auspiciousness to people who are drowned in illusion. This incarnation of yours is solely to reduce the load of earth”.