O n 8th February, 2015 morning Temple lecture was given by HH Bhanu Swami. Below is the transcript of the lecture.
As we know from the first canto of Srimad Bhagavatam, the whole purpose of Bhagavatam is to glorify and describe the pastimes of Krishna. Vedavyasa has divided up the Vedas into four and given them to different acharyas to pass on into Kali yuga. He wrote the Brahma sutras to explain the kanda kunda that is the Upanishads for the people of Kali yuga. He wrote the Mahabharata for the people of Kali yuga to get the meaning of the Vedas. Of course, Mahabharata is a long work but we get the essence of that in the Bhagavad Gita. He also wrote eighteen puranas for the people of Kali yuga to explain the meaning of the Vedas.
After doing all of this work he felt dissatisfied. Narada muni came and said that the reason for dissatisfaction is you have not clearly delineated in the simplest possible terms that everyone should simply worship Krishna. So he rewrote the Bhagavatam as one of the eighteen puranas to show that everyone should worship Krishna. In other words, the Bhagavatam represents the final step in Vedavyasa’s attempt to communicate the Brahmana or authoritative scripture to the people of Kali yuga.
Of course we know that there are three subjects of scripture. We have sambandaha, abhideya, and prayojana. What is the sambandaha of Bhagavatam? Krishna. What is the abhideya? It is bhakti to Krishna. What is the prayojana? Prema to Krishna. That is the Bhagavatam in its simplest form.
Then we will ask the question why do we have all of these other topics in here? We have the sarga and visarga, the sthiti, the creation and sub creation, geography of the universe in the fifth canto. We have posana and uthi and manvantaras and ishana katha and nirodha, mukti. Why do we have all of these topics, then? We see here that Pariksit Maharaj is asking about the sub creation, the visarga.
If we talk about how Brahma created devatas and demons and nagas and trees, what’s this got to do with Krishna lila? Why don’t we just study tenth canto and be finished? We could say the same thing about Bhagavad Gita. We see in Bhakti Sastri that the students have to study Bhagavad Gita for four or five months and go through karma yoga, jnana yoga, astanga yoga. Why couldn’t Krishna have made the whole process simpler?
Krishna does at the end. He says simply surrender unto Me, forget everything else. No more dharmas. Simply surrender unto Me, worship Me, finished. If we accept that then we don’t have to study for three or four months. The problem is that people do have doubts, questions, and all sorts of complicated minds. Then we have to satisfy the intellect. In addressing people in the Vedic culture, they had a background of scripture already and different processes like karma yoga and karma kanda, etc. Therefore all of these different subjects are included in Bhagavad Gita.
Srimad Bhagavatam also follows a similar principle. We see some sections like Kapila’s teachings, or Uddhava’s teachings. The teachings of Uddhava have sections that are dedicated to karma yoga, jnana yoga, and astanga yoga, as well as bhakti yoga. We see not only that bhakti yoga and Krishna are discussed, but all of these other topics as well. The Bhagavat Purana or Srimad Bhagavatam is following the model of the puranas. It has ten topics like the other puranas.
However, in following that tradition, the Bhagavatam is also a little unique. One, of course, is that the asraya is not as Bhagavan, but it is Krishna. That is the tenth topic. Instead of describing Vishnu or other forms of the Lord, the tenth canto is dedicated to Svayam Bhagavan Krishna.
The other point is that all of these other topics which are traditional topics of a purana, are meant to support that main topic of Krishna. It is not so difficult to understand that God is the creator, in charge of the secondary creation, and making the material world. Everyone can accept that. The nature of Krishna, however, is a little different.
In the tenth canto, Krishna is not described as the creator of the material world, so much. He’s described as a cowherd boy who plays around with the cows. Some people will doubt how a cowherd boy can be the Supreme Lord. Therefore all of the topics are related to explaining how that cowherd boy, who hides his greatness, and displays such sweetness that everyone forgets he is God, how he is powerful also. He is the creator, maintainer, and destroyer of the material world. We have svarga, the primary creation where the Supreme Lord glances over prakriti. Suddenly we get mahatattva, ahankara, and all of the other elements forming. Then that prakriti forms into the universes.
If you look in the Nectar of Devotion there are different qualities of God. There are fifty qualities and then an extra five for Shiva, an extra five for Vishnu. With Maha Vishnu we have all of the universes in the pores of his skin. This distinguishes him from Shiva, who does not do that. Then what about Krishna?
We see in the tenth canto when Brahma steals all of the calves and cowherd boys that Krishna becomes all of the calves and cowherd boys. After one year when Brahma returns, he’s a little puzzled. He sees that the calves and cowherd boys are still there playing with Krishna. Then he looks in the caves where he hid the calves and cowherd boys and they are sleeping very silently. That’s very puzzling to him. He thinks, “I saw them down there, how can they be in here?” He looks outside again and sees they are outside. How can they be in both places at once? Maybe there are two sets of them. Which set is real? The ones sleeping in the cave or the ones playing with Krishna? Maybe they are both illusory and the real ones are somewhere else. So he was very puzzled and bewildered.
He was trying to fool Krishna, but instead he became very bewildered. As he looked at the calves and cowherd boys they suddenly transformed. They all became Vishnu forms. The Vishnu forms were in charge of universes. Then he saw all of the Devatas, including all of the Brahmas, Nagas, and Gandharvas, and all of these creatures and the mountains and the rivers, everything, giving praise to the Vishnu forms. So how many calves and cowherd boys were there? I think in the commentaries there’s a big, long number that’s kind of indescribable, like thirty-trillion or something like that.
Suddenly Brahma saw all of these trillions of Vishnu forms that were everywhere creating universes. Then he looked again and only Krishna was standing there as a cowherd boy. Finally Brahma understood that Krishna is this cowherd boy. He is the source of all the Vishnus who create universes. So if Vishnu is superior to Shiva because he has all of these universes in the pores of his skin, still Krishna is superior to that.
So that’s the asarga. And when we go to the visarga and it means that Garbodakshaya Vishnu gives rise to Brahma and then Brahma creates the bodies of the living entities here like the Nagas and the birds and the beasts. So Brahma comes from Vishnu. But we see here in the Srimad Bhagavatam and it’s confirmed in the Brahmasamhita that Brahma has to meditate. Who does he meditate on? The Supreme Lord. So normally we think that he’s meditating on Vishnu and then he creates. But the conclusion of our acharayas is no it’s not Vishnu. It’s Krishna. Brahma is getting his inspiration from Krishna who is Svayama Bhagavan. Therefore Krishna is responsible for visarga, the secondary creation. In this way we have all the different topics related to Krishna directly or indirectly.
Another point is why we even have to get involved with svarga and visarga and all of this. As I said, this is only for our understanding because we don’t have a very good intelligence. So we get this kind of example that God is the creator. And in the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna has to go through many types of explanations to convince us that bhakti is supreme.
As we see, some people cannot conceive of God and all of His wonderful powers. One of His powers is that He’s all pervading. If He’s all pervading, everything is in Him. Therefore we have a simple form of that in the Vishnurupa. Everything is in that form. Satyaloka is His head and Padaloka is His feet. The sun is His eyes and the fire is His voice, etc. All the senses, planets, elements, and the bodies of the living beings are parts of His universal form. This is all material. It’s not a real spiritual form of the Lord. The Lord manifests this form just to illustrate “I am everything.”
He shows His form to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita. He also tells Arjuna that I am this, I am that, I am the lion, I am so many things. Just to show that His powers are extended into the material world in so many wonderful ways. Still these things are not spiritual. A lion is not spiritual. A shark is not spiritual. Because we have limited intelligence, therefore the Lord does these different things. Similarly, He also describes how the Lord is the creator of everything so therefore He is the sarga and visarga and sthiti, etc.
In this way we can understand to some degree the nature of the Supreme Lord. At the same time we should not think that after we’ve understood all of these different topics, etc., that we know God completely. Because we study, study, study, and we examine, examine, examine, this is using our material intelligence. Ultimately the Supreme Lord is beyond material intelligence. If we have spiritual intelligence then we can understand and realize. Therefore along with understanding all of this, we have to have a practice of developing our spiritual intelligence.
In the Nectar of Devotion, Rupa Goswami says near the beginning that if you do not have ruci, or taste, for the Lord, you cannot understand all of the topics of Nectar of Devotion. To understand Srimad Bhagavatam we also have to have some spiritual taste. That means there is some qualification even for Srimad Bhagavatam, though it has put spiritual life in its simplest terms. Some people are not qualified for this work.
Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura points out a very distinct example. He says that Srimad Bhagavatam is like Mohini Avatara. So Mohini Avatara is very famous because She is a woman, God as a woman. She’s most attracting and bewildering. She manifests this form for a particular reason: to bewilder the demons. What was Her purpose in bewilderment? She stole the nectar from the demons. Without fighting, without any problems, She approached the demons. They looked at Her and they became bewildered. They were fighting over the nectar. When they saw Mohini they said, “Oh, She is very attractive. She likes us. What should we do? We’ll do anything She says.” So She said, “Give me the nectar.” And though they were all fighting over the nectar, immediately they said, “Yes, we will give Her the nectar. She is so wonderful that She will give it back to us anyway.” Immediately when She got the nectar She gave it to the devatas. So Mohini bewildered the demons and gave the nectar to the devatas.
Similarly, Srimad Bhagavatam is bewildering to the demons. Certainly they can study it and they find many interesting things there. We find many scholars who will write PhD thesis on Srimad Bhagavatam. We also find many impersonalists who will also study Srimad Bhagavatam and give lectures on it. But they will not get the nectar. They may think that they are getting some nectar out of it, but actually they are losing the real nectar. In this way Srimad Bhagavatam hides the nectar from the demons and very willingly gives the nectar to the devotees. It’s not that Srimad Bhagavatam is hiding anything. But certainly we need qualification to deeply understand and experience the sweetness of Krishna.
This is one reason why it’s not just Krishna lila. We have so many other topics like karma yoga, jnana yoga, astanga yoga. Also, there are various types of people, as we had different types of people listening to this topic when Sukadeva Goswami was speaking to Pariksit Maharaj. However, there was a little trick because by initial interest in these topics which are not about Krishna, then through the devotees they can gradually develop an attraction for Krishna. That is one of the reasons why Srimad Bhagavatam is like Mohini and you need to be a devotee to get the sweetness.
Another example is that the Srimad Bhagavatam is like Krishna. We have the example of Krishna when he came into the arena of Kamsa. It was one form, but different people saw Him differently. The young women of Mathura saw Him as cupid and fell in love with Him. They expressed Madhurya rasa saying, “Oh, He’s the most beautiful boy.” The cowherd boys came with Krishna to Mathura. When He came into the arena they were joking with Him in friendship. Vasudeva and Devaki, when they saw Krishna they said, “Oh yes, He’s our little son. He’s very small and unprotected and these huge wrestlers are like thunderbolts and they’re going to kill Him!” Then the general people, the men thought how this is a wonderful person who is so powerful. They expressed surprise. Kamsa saw Krishna as death. He was afraid. The friends of Kamsa saw Krishna as a punisher, He was angry and going to punish them. The priests of Kamsa looked at Krishna and saw him coming in with elephant tusks and blood on his body. They looked at Krishna with disgust. He’s just a contaminated little boy. There were some sages in the audience. They thought oh, this is very peaceful, just like Brahman. The Vrishnis saw Krishna and thought how He is their Lord.
It was only one person. Only Krishna entered the arena but everybody saw him differently. The reason is because Krishna is the personification of all rasas. There are five primary rasas and seven secondary rasas. The people who saw Him in Mathura were expressing all of these different rasas.
So Srimad Bhagavatam is like Krishna. Different people approach it and they see something different. There is something for everybody. We see that Srimad Bhagavatam expresses that Bhagavan is supreme and Krishna is Svyama Bhagavan. Yet Krishna is also Paramatma, Mahavishnu, Garbhodakasaya Vishnu. He’s also Brahma, the impersonal aspect of God.
Krishna is everything. Therefore when people approach the Bhagavatam they can find these different things which are interesting to them. The devotees will see the spiritual aspect of Krishna. Those who are most fortunate will see the highest spiritual rasa of Krishna. It is advised that we should hear the Bhagavatam from a devotee with taste. A devotee who can appreciate the sweetness of Krishna in His cowherd boy form, this is the person who will deliver that person in the Bhagavatam.
Srimad Bhagavatam is so merciful that everybody can get something from it. Still, the intention of Vedavyasa, Sukadeva Goswami, and Caitanya Mahaprabhu is to reveal the highest aspect of Bhagavan. Even in Krishna, not just Krishna, but the highest aspect of Krishna.
In the center of the tenth canto are the chapters of the Rasa Lila, and the center of the Rasa Lila are Radha and Krishna. That’s why we have Radha and Krishna in our Temples. In other words, Radha and Krishna who are the center of the Srimad Bhagavatam are also the center of our Temples.
All of this has to be understood through the proper parampara. We are fortunate that Caitanya Mahaprabhu assigned His followers to explain the philosophy and comment on the Bhagavatam. We have Brihad Bhagavatamrita, Laghu Bhagavatamrita, we have commentaries on the Bhagavatam. We have other works which expand on that. If we hear the Srimad Bhagavatam in association with devotees hearing from the parampara, then we can get this highest experience.
Therefore everything we hear in the Srimad Bhagavatam is related to Krishna. We relate all of these topics like sarga and visarga ultimately to Krishna. We can also relate all of the different processes to Krishna, like karma yoga, jnana yoga, astanga yoga. They are only steps to qualify us for worshipping Krishna.
Another point of Bhagavatam is to show that these processes are actually inferior and material. They are in the gunas. They can’t actually liberate us from the gunas. But bhakti is beyond the gunas. It is the svarup shakti of Krishna. Very easily it can take us beyond the material world.
How can these processes work at all? Only because of the shakti of the Lord. If you do karma yoga but you don’t worship the Lord, zero effect. If you offend the Lord but you do all your karma yoga, you can’t even go to svargaloka. If you do jnana or yoga for thousands of lifetimes, you cannot get liberation if you offend the Lord. So the results of all these other processes are actually dependent upon bhakti. The results are inferior to what we get in bhakti, but even those results, only by bhakti.
The easier process is that if you want to go to svargaloka, just worship Krishna and go to svargaloka. If you want to get liberation, just worship Krishna. We see Ajamila, he just accidentally chanted the name of Narayana and just like that destroyed all of his karma: past, present, and future. Ajamila gets his liberation in one second and the jnani goes for twenty lifetimes to get his mukti. If accidentally we can chant the name of Krishna once and get such results, what to speak of chanting constantly and intentionally the name of Krishna.
This is the good fortune we have to be born in Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s movement. The generosity of Caitanya Mahaprabhu is to reveal the highest treasure. So the highest treasure is not just prema, and not just Krishna prema, but Radha Krishna prema. To not just deliver and qualify people, everybody, even aparadhis. Therefore He is most generous. Generally they don’t give to aparadhis. But Caitanya Mahaprabhu wants to save even the aparadhis. How is it possible? Through Sri Nama Sankirtan. Even a person like Ajamila can get so much from chanting even once the name of Narayana, what to speak of chanting the name of Krishna. We are most fortunate to have this wonderful process coming in our sampradaya, delivered to us by Srila Prabhupada.
As I said, ultimately after all of the intellectual convictions that we need through scripture, the solution is very simple. Prabhupada said to chant and be happy. Simply chant the holy name and you will get the highest bliss possible in the universe. Our understanding should be that the name is not a material sound. It is non different from Krishna. By the achintya sakti of the Lord, it is everything.