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January 24, 2004   VNN8529  About the AuthorOther Stories by this Author

From Bhagavad-Gita To The Bhagavatam


EDITORIAL, Jan 24 (VNN) — "Surrender (saranagati), the note on which the Gita ends, is the key to entering into the world of the Bhagavatam. Saranagati is what brings sravanam (hearing about Krsna), kirtanam (chanting about Krsna), and smaranam (remembering Krsna) to life."

Q & A with Swami B. V. Tripurari

Q. Fear of death and rebirth seems to be the primary motivation for devotional activities. Will this motivation recede as we advance and attain higher stages of bhakti?

A. Scripture confirms that the desire for liberation recedes as one advances in bhakti. Caitanya Mahaprabhu says, na dhanam na janam na sundarim kavitam va jagadisa kamaye, mama janmani janmanisvare bhavatad bhaktir ahaituki tvayi, "I have no desire for wealth, beautiful women, or followers. I only want your causeless devotional service birth after birth" (Siksastakam 4).

This verse represents the devotional stage of ruci (spiritual taste), negatively characterized as a condition in which one has no taste for material life and positively characterized as not caring about death or liberation due to absorption in bhakti. At this stage, a devotee begins to live within his or her purified mind in Vraja, vraje tad anuragi-jananugami (Upadesamrta 8), the abode of Krsna where there is no death.

Q. I have a question regarding this verse from Bhagavad-gita: "Even if you are the worst of sinful persons you can cross over all sin by the boat of transcendental knowledge" (Bg. 4.36). Srila Visvanatha Cakravati Thakura states that three contradictory conditions are implied in this verse that when juxtaposed with transcendental knowledge (jnana) serves to glorify it. My sense is that the Thakura's comments refer to the jnana arising in a bhakta. The term "jnana plavena" in 4.36 seems to refer to the situation of jnana arising within an unsteady sadhaka (practitioner) or a steady sadhaka who still has within him the seeds of sin. Otherwise, how could one on the path of jnana commit sins and simultaneously be a part of the jnana-marga, which as Sankaracarya taught requires one to be situated on the platform of pure goodness?

A. In Bhagavad-gita 4.36 Sri Krsna is speaking of the purifying nature of jnana and thus posits an impossible scenario to underscore its power: jnana does not manifest in a sinful heart, but if it somehow did, it would purify that heart.

He is not speaking of bhakti in this verse, but rather the result of niskama karma yoga, the yoga of selfless action. However, the discussion of the purifying power of knowledge in Bg. 4.36 is carried over into 4.37, where according to Srila Prabhupada the knowledge under discussion is synonymous with bhakti. His interpretation of this verse in reminiscent of how Baladeva Vidyabhusana more or less equates knowledge with bhakti in his commentary on Vedanta-sutra.

Q. Can you please comment on this verse from the Srimad-Bhagavatam: dharmah projjhita-kaitavo 'tra paramo nirmatsaranam satam (SB 1.1.2)?

A. This is a very significant verse, the vastu-nirdesa sloka of Srimad-Bhagavatam. It is the verse that describes what the Bhagavatam is essentially all about. It picks up exactly where the Bhagavad-gita leaves off.

At the Gita's conclusion Sri Krsna says, sarva dharman parityajya, "Give up all concern with dharma." This parallels the verse of the Bhagavatam under discussion, dharmah projjhita-kaitavo 'tra. In this verse kaitava dharma refers to all expressions of dharma not aimed at prema (love of God). This includes the entire karma-marga aimed at mere religious life and material acquisition as well as the jnana-marga aimed at liberation.

Sridhara Swami, the ancient Bhagavatam commentator who was so dear to Caitanya Mahaprabhu, has written that the word projjhita (completely rejecting) in this verse includes within its scope not only foregoing dharma but moksa (liberation) as well. Thus it should be clear from this Bhagavatam verse that the Gita's conclusion it follows in the wake of is not merely the advocacy of transcending dharma in pursuit of liberation. As does the Bhagavatam, the Gita calls us to the ideal of prema dharma.

The vastu-nirdesa sloka of the Bhagavatam appears three times in Sri Krsnadasa Kaviraja Goswami's Caitanya-caritamrta. In the first chapter of Adi-lila in his own namaskara sloka, he cites it in the context of glorifying Gaura-Nityananda, vande sri krsna caitanya nityanandau sahoditau. There he says:

"Krsna and Balarama, the Personalities of Godhead, who formerly appeared in Vrndavana and were millions of times more effulgent than the sun and moon, have arisen over the eastern horizon of Gaudadesa (West Bengal), being compassionate for the fallen state of the world. The appearance of Sri Krsna Caitanya and Prabhu Nityananda has surcharged the world with happiness. As the sun and moon drive away darkness by their appearance and reveal the nature of everything, these two brothers dissipate the darkness of ignorance covering the living beings and enlighten them with knowledge of the Absolute Truth. The darkness of ignorance is called kaitava, the way of cheating, which begins with religiosity, economic development, sense gratification and liberation."

Following these words Krsnadasa Kaviraja Goswami cites the entire vastu-nirdesa sloka of the Bhagavatam. In this section of Caitanya-caritamrta Srila Prabhupada translates it thus:

"The great scripture Srimad-Bhagavatam, compiled by Maha-muni Vyasadeva from four original verses, describes the most elevated and kindhearted devotees and completely rejects the cheating ways of materially motivated religiosity. It propounds the highest principle of eternal religion, which can factually mitigate the threefold miseries of a living being and award the highest benediction of full prosperity and knowledge. Those willing to hear the message of this scripture in a submissive attitude of service can at once capture the Supreme Lord in their hearts. Therefore there is no need for any scripture other than Srimad-Bhagavatam."

To put this in a Christian context for further illumination, the Bhagavatam is really the New Testament of the Vedic scripture. All that has come before it that stresses the four goals of life, namely religiosity, economic development, sense gratification, and liberation--is superseded by its message of love. Love of God--prema dharma--fulfills all the laws and teachings of the Vedas.

Gaura and Nityananda have brought out the significance of the Bhagavatam. They have given us the "book Bhagavatam," revealing all of its implications, and they have given us the "person Bhagavatam" through guru-parampara who personifies its message. Sri Kaviraja Goswami says:

dui bhai hrdayera ksali' andhakara dui bhagavata-sange karana saksatkara

"These two brothers (Gaura-Nityananda) dissipate the darkness of the inner core of the heart, and thus they help one meet the two kinds of bhagavatas."

They also personally demonstrate the efficacy of the Bhagavatam's principal advocacy of nama sankirtana.

tattva-vastu--krsna, krsna-bhakti, prema-rupa
nama-sankirtana--saba ananda-svarupa

"The Absolute Truth is Sri Krsna, and loving devotion to Krsna exhibited in pure love is achieved through congregational chanting of the holy name, which is the essence of all bliss."

One of the things that follows naturally from the logic that sees the Gita introducing the Bhagavatam--the teaching of Krsna introducing the pastimes of Krsna--is that surrender (saranagati), the note on which the Gita ends, is the key to entering into the world of the Bhagavatam. Saranagati is what brings sravanam (hearing about Krsna), kirtanam (chanting about Krsna), and smaranam (remembering Krsna) to life. Saranagati is the spirit of the resolve to make spiritual progress in exclusive devotion to Sri Krsna. This is what the Bhagavatam is speaking about in the first line of its vastu-nirdesa sloka, the second of three introductory verses.

Here at Audarya we sing about saranagati with these words every morning: satya kori magi ami sukomala prana, tava priti bine prabhu na cahibo ana:

"O when can I truthfully say with a tender, purified heart that I want nothing other than Mahaprabhu?"

Questions or comments may be submitted at the Q&A Forum http://www.swami.org/sanga/ or email sangaeditor@swami.org.

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