Hearing these questions put forth, Suta Maharishi, son of Romaharshana Maharishi, was extremely pleased. He said:
“yaṁ pravrajantam anupetam apeta-kṛtyaṁ
dvaipāyano viraha-kātara ājuhāva
putreti tan-mayatayā taravo ‘bhinedus
taṁ sarva-bhūta-hṛdayaṁ munim ānato ‘smi
On account of being a jnani (highly knowledgeable being), Maharishi Śuka was freed from all karmic bondages. Even before he had undergone the sacred thread ceremony he renounced everything and was leaving home to proceed alone. At that time his father Maharishi Vyasa, being afraid of this separation called out to him, “My son”. All the trees, that were the form of Śuka’s Self (ātma), echoed with the same feelings in response. I offer my obeisance to that Śuka Maharishi who shines within every living being in the form of the Self (ātma)”.
The moment the word ‘Śuka Mahamuni’ is uttered all the trees, rocks, mountains, birds and all other entities become like a single Self (ātma).
Bhāgawatam, which is kept secretively in the Purāṇās, contains unimaginable and extra-ordinary power! This Bhagawata-purāṇa which contains the essence of all Vedas is like a lamp that illumines Self-knowledge amongst those who are desirous of crossing this utter darkness called samsara (repeated cycle of re-births). “I seek Self-realization, I want to see my ‘Self’, I seek to know what is the meaning of Self” – to those who seek answers to such questions Bhāgawatam is a lamp!
People struggle in this darkness called repeated re-births (samsara) and feel desolate that they are not able to attain Self-realization or that they have not been able to have the vision of their inner Self. “I still remain an ignorant fool, I am unable to understand principle/ nature of the Supreme Lord”- to everyone who feels lost in this manner, Bhagawatam is a lamp!
This life filled with afflictions and this repeated cycle of re-births is nothing but utter darkness. This body is full of diseases. Grief is seen at every step. Happiness is nowhere to be found. True happiness is attained only when knowledge of the Self or Self-realization is had. That is when light is seen. This light itself is Paramātma! If you want to see this light called Paramātma, you must listen to Bhāgawatam! You should read this text! You should try to know its greatness and significance!
What a profound declaration is being made here! Bhāgawatam has been addressed as a lamp when everything is enveloped by utter darkness. Out of supreme compassion Maharishi Śuka, the son of Maharishi Vyasa, preached it. Śuka Maharishi is the one who can bestow ‘Self-realization’! This is because the Bhāgawatam that He has preached contains such immense significance! This Bhāgawatam will bless with Self-realization.
If Śuka Maharishi had not preached Bhāgawatam, perhaps we would continue to live in darkness. That is why it is said that due to his limitless compassion he preached this. I surrender to this Maharishi Śuka, who is an ocean of compassion and who is the Guru to many great saints. This is the meaning of the verse.
Nārāyanaṃ namaskṛtya naraṃ caiva narottamam
Deveem Saraswateem vyāsam tato jayamudeerayet ǀǀ
Nārāyaṇa Maharishis, the greatest among humans, Mother Goddess Saraswati and Maharishi Vyasa should be worshipped at first and then reading of Srimad Bhāgawatam, the holy book which grants victory (jaya) to the Self, should be begun.
Bhagawatam is also known as ‘jaya’. Even Mahabharata has the same name. The word ‘Jaya’ is symbolic of the numeral 18. Mahabharata has 18 chapters. Srimad Bhāgawatam has 18000 verses. Therefore both are addressed as Jaya.
In this manner after offering reverential respects to Maharishi Vyasa, Maharishi Śuka and to the holy text Srimad Bhāgawatam, Maharishi Suta began as follows.
“O Maharishis! You have asked a very auspicious question about Lord Sri Krishna, which will cause the welfare of the world. By just hearing your question, my mind feels at peace.
Sa vai puṁsāṁ paro dharmo yato bhakti radhokṣaje
Ahaituky apratihatā yayātmā suprasīdati
Vāsudeve bhagavati bhakti-yogaḥ prayojitaḥ
Janayatyāsu vairāgyaṁ jñānaṁ ca yadahaitukaṃ
That dharma which causes devotion (bhakti) towards the Supreme is itself the most supreme one. This is because selfishness, obstacles and fear are absent in it. The mind attains supreme happiness with such devotion. Devotion towards Vāsudeva, the Lord of the universe, causes detachment towards material world among people. It bestows the knowledge of the Self that knows no limitations.
Where the righteous deeds (dharmic activities) of people do not cause increased love towards divine stories/ glories, then such righteous deeds are merely a waste of resources. It is nothing but bodily exhaustion. It is a waste. That’s all.