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February 12, 1999   VNN3025  

Bhagavat Purana: A Vedanta Of Aesthetics


EDITORIAL, Feb 12 (VNN) — (from Sanga wfd@efn.org)

The Bhagavata Purana is by far the most popular of all the Puranas. It enjoys this status both within India and abroad. It was the first Purana ever to be translated into English. Bengal alone has more than 40 translations of the text. It has been translated into thousands of Indian dialects, including aboriginal languages. According to some, had it not been for the Bhagavata Purana, within which the amorous sports of Shri Krishna are related, the whole of Hindu India might have been converted during the Muslim occupation. Even the great Moghul emperor Akbar humbled himself before the Bhagavata Purana as represented by the Vrindavana Goswamis.

The Bhagavata Purana is itself a Vedanta of aesthetics. It is considered a commentary on the Vedanta-sutra by the sutra's compiler. The Padma Purana states that when the Bhagavatam is recited, the Vedas, Puranas, and Vedanta-sutra assemble to hear it. The text describes itelf as the essence of the shruti, the Upanishads. Because of its Vedantic nature, its aesthetic content is an advocacy of an ultimate reality that is the form of beauty, the ultimate form of aesthetic experience.

At the same time, the Bhagavata Purana is a literary masterpiece of Sanskrit poetics. With respect to relish, suggestive poetry, embellishments, lyric poetry, and metre, its position is unique within the Puranic literature of India. It is a book of asethetic experience tht the reader is to drink from until he is rendered unconscious, only to rise and drink again its intoxicating elixir of rasa.

The tenth canto of the Bhagavata Purana describes the life of Krishna.

Before Krishna's birth, and omen foretold that he would kill the envious King of Mathura. King Kamsa was thus bent on destroying the divine child and commissioned his demoniac assistants to perform heinous acts with this in mind. None of the assistants were successful. Just as Krishna prevailed and with him his devotees, similarly our spiritual life will flourish in spite of all opposition if we make a regular practice of hearing the Bhagavata Purana.

Great devotees regularly hear the Bhagavata Purana's narration of Krishna lila and meditate on both the philosophical ramifications of the lilas and ultimately their aesthetic content. This is meditation on the private life of God. As a means it its quite sublime in comparison to other methods of stilling the mind. In meditation upon the lilas of Krishna, the mind can continue to move as it is so accustomed, yet remain still as required in meditation. Moving from one lila to the next, the mind is simultaneously stilled, for the subject of its meditation is the all pervading Absolute.

Moreover, the lilas of Krishna with Radha are palatable to the mind, as it is already accustomed to contemplate romance.

While other methods of stopping the mind are troublesome to think about, what to speak of putting into practice, meditation on Krishna lila is easy and sublime. His lila, being full of the impossible, melts the constructs of the mind. Such meditation further prepares one for the life of the soul in a world beyond the mind. This is a life of lila, divine play, wherin one can do whatever one wants, whenever one wants, by making one's desire one with God's.

"As the rasa dance commenced, the gopi's ankle bells, bangles, and bracelets shimmered, keeping time with their steps and orchestrating a concert that even the heavenly denizens had never witnessed. All of nature's movements personified the gods of sun, moon, wind, and stars, along with their wives, the goddesses became captivated by the dancing of the gopis and Gopala."

"The gods and goddesses turned earthward, where love finds its fullest expression. The dance of Krishna and the gopis thus demonstrated that it is indeed love that makes the world go round. All stopped at the sight and sound of this wonderful dance of aesthetic rapture, although its Vedanta, its truth, was not easily understood. Yet the gods and goddesses gave testimony to its sanctity, as heaven looked down to look up beyond itself."

'Aesthetic Vedanta: The Sacred Path of Passionate Love'
by Swami B.V. Tripurari

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