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.