The Importance Hearing Srimad-Bhagavatam
By Narasimha das
In the first and second cantos of Srimad-Bhagavatam emphasis is given to the importance of hearing Bhagavatam for the sake of liberation. This hearing is best done in an assembly of devotees and regularly, such as in a daily class or discussion group. The Bhagavatam was originally imparted in the assembly of great sages headed by Srila Sukadeva Gosvami, who heard it from Srila Vyasadeva, and then again in the assembly of devotees headed by Sri Suta Gosvami, who heard it from Sukadeva Gosvami.
TEXT 32: That very Srimad-Bhagavatam I shall recite before you because you are the most sincere devotee of Lord Krishna. One whogives full attention and respect to hearing Srimad-Bhagavatam achieves unflinching faith in the Supreme Lord, the giver of salvation.
Purport: “In Bhagavad Gita it is confirmed that to be in association with the Supreme Personality of Godhead by full surrender in transcendental love frees one from the miseries inflicted by the laws of material existence.” (SB. 2.7.32, Purport)
Non-sectarian God Realization:
Various scriptures in the Vedic world and outside where created especially for certain classes of men of different times and places. In other words, such scriptures are not universal or timeless or fully spiritual. Because Srimad-Bhagavatam focuses primarily on pure devotional service and never encourages karma-kanda, astanga-yoga, jnana–kanda, mundane piety, or other external paths that aim at material elevation, Lord Chaitanya highly praised Bhagavatam, calling it “the spotless Purana.”
“Srimad-Bhagavatam, which is full of narration of the activities of the Supreme Lord, is auspicious for all living beings residing in every planet. One who takes it as belonging to a particular sect is certainly mistaken. Srimad-Bhagavatam is certainly a very dear scripture for the devotees of the Lord, but it is auspicious even for the non-devotees also because it explains that even the non-devotees hovering under the spell of material energy can be delivered from such clutches if they hear with devotion and attention the narration of theSrimad-Bhagavatam from the right source, the representative of the Lord by disciplic succession.” (SB. 2.8.2, Purport)
The real purpose for hearing Srimad-Bhagavatam is liberation from the cycle of birth and death and promotion to the spiritual world. Unfortunately, professional reciters for Bhagavatam advertise the material benefits of hearing Bhagavatam and are not interested in the liberation of their followers.
The real purpose of hearing Bhagavatam is not material improvement but just the opposite: the complete cessation of material existence through purification and renunciation. Only a self-realized soul can impart the real message of Bhagavatam and thus enable everyone to associate with the Supreme Lord through hearing. By careful hearing even materialists and non-devotees can become free from all bodily attachments, including false ego. Such freedom enables one to become fearless in the face of death, as was Maharaja Pariksit, the perfect hearer of Bhagavatam, who was fortunate to hear it from the maha-bhagavata Srila Sukadeva Gosvami.
Although Maharaja Pariksit had left his opulent palace, wonderful family and unrivaled kingdom, he wanted to go further in his renunciation. Even homeless sadhus often remain attached to their bodies and prestige. Maharaja Pariksit knew such attachments based on misconceptions of self may remain deeply rooted even in the stage of vanaprastha or sannyasa and thus cause one to be fearful at the time of death. Fear at the time of death makes it difficult to perfectly remember Lord Krishna. Maharaja Pariksit was therefore eager to give up this final attachment to body and false ego through constant association with the Lord by dint of his careful hearing Bhagavatam from a self-realized soul.
“Maharaja Pariksit was not at all afraid of death because of being fully encouraged by the message of the Lord. One who is fully absorbed in Acyuta-katha can never be afraid of anything in this world.”
Hear From a Self-Realized Soul:
Srila Prabhupada comments in this connection that “it is the duty of the sane” to hear Bhagavatam from an authorized spiritual master and not from upstarts, impersonalists or professionals, who generally mislead their audiences and followers.
TEXT 3: 0 greatly fortunate Sukadeva Gosvami, please continue narrating Srimad-Bhagavatam so that I can place my mind upon the Supreme Soul, Lord Krishna, and, being completely freed from material qualities, thus relinquish this body. (SB.2.8.3)
Purport: “It is the duty of the sane to hear Srimad-Bhagavatam from a self-realized soul without being duped by professional men, and one should continue such hearing till the end of one’s life so that one can actually have the transcendental association of the Lord and thus be liberated simply by hearing Srimad-Bhagavatam. Maharaja Pariksit had already given up all his connections with his kingdom and family, the most attractive features of materialism, but still he was conscious of his material body. He wanted to be free of suchbondage also by the constant association of the Lord.” (SB.2.8.3, Purport)
“Mundane manufactured sound has no potency, and as such, seemingly transcendental sound received from an unauthorized person also has no potency. One should be qualified enough to discern such transcendental potency, and either by discriminating or by fortunate chance if one is able to receive the transcendental sound from the bona fide spiritual master, his path of liberation is guaranteed.” (SB.2.9.8, Purport)
Materialism vs. Devotional Service:
Materialistic devotees often believe they can remain attached to their home, family, wealth and prestige in pseudo-religious societies and at the same time make advancement in devotional service. They are often encouraged in their material desires by seeking and receiving “blessings” or cheap “initiation” from pet “gurus” who indulge them in their fantasies for the sake of lucrative donations. This is not the way of success in devotional service.
TEXT 4: Persons who hear Srimad-Bhagavatam regularly and are always taking the matter very seriously will have the Personality of Godhead Sri Krishna manifested in their hearts within a short time.
Purport: “Cheap devotees or the material devotees of the Lord are very much desirous to see the Lord personally without making any requisite qualification. Such third-grade devotees should know well that material attachment and seeing the Lord eye to eye cannot go together. It is not such a mechanical process that the professional Bhagavatam reciters can do the job on behalf of the third-grade materialist pseudo-devotee. The professional men are useless in this connection because they are neither self-realized nor interested in the liberation of the audience. They are simply interested in maintaining the material establishment of family attachment and earning some material benefits out of the profession. Maharaja Pariksit had no more than seven days to live, but for others Maharaja Pariksit personally recommends that one should hear Srimad-Bhagavatam regularly, nityam, always by one’s own effort and with serious devotion also. That will help one to see the Lord Sri Krishna manifested in one’s heart within no time. The pseudo-devotee, however, is very anxious to see the Lord by his whims, not making any serious effort to hear Srimad-Bhagavatam regularly and with detachment from material benefit. That is not the way recommended by an authority like Maharaja Pariksit, who heard and benefitted by hearingSrimad-Bhagavatam.” (SB.3.8.4, Purport)
Text 5: The sound incarnation of Lord Krishna, the Supreme Soul [i.e. Srimad-Bhagavatam], entering into the heart of a self-realized devotee, sits on the lotus flower of his loving relationship and thus cleanses the dust of material association, such as lust, anger, hankerings, etc., and acts like the autumnal rains upon the pools of muddy water.
Who Can Relish Bhagavatam and Bhakti-yoga?
Due to misconceptions deeply ingrained into persons devoted to “blind societies” and false systems of education, most scriptural students misunderstand or fail to carefully study Srimad-Bhagavatam, which for them remains hidden behind a veil of maya. Even so-called followers of Vedic culture are sometimes misled to believe that Bhagavatam is a collection of mythological tales.
“Srimad-Bhagavatam can only be legitimately discussed among the devotees of the Lord. As the Bhagavad-gita was authoritatively discussed between Lord Krishna and Arjuna (the Lord and the devotee respectively), similarly Srimad-Bhagavatam, which is the postgraduate study of the Bhagavad-gita, can also be discussed between the scholars and devotees like Sukadeva Gosvami and Maharaja Pariksit. Otherwise the real taste of the nectar cannot be relished. Sukadeva Gosvami was pleased Maharaja Pariksit because he was not at all tired of hearing the topics of the Lord, and he was more and more anxious to hear them on and on with interest.” (SB.2.8.27, Purport)
“So the science of bhakti-yoga, of worshiping the Lord, glorifying the Lord, hearing the Srimad-Bhagavatam from the right sources (not from the professional man but from a person who is Bhagavatam in life) and being always in the association of pure devotees, should be adopted in earnestness without being misled by misconceptions of “I” and “mine”… The living entity has to be situated in the transcendental position where there is no more influence of time or of the material energy.” (SB.2.9.3, Purport)
“Thus the topic of the Srimad-Bhagavatam is the science of both the Lord and the living entity. Regular reading or hearing of Srimad-Bhagavatam is also performance of bhakti-yoga, and one can attain the highest perfection simply by the association of Srimad-Bhagavatam. Both Sukadeva Gosvami and Maharaja Pariksit attained perfection through the medium of Srimad-Bhagavatam.” (SB.2.9.4, Purport)
Who Can Be Initiated in Devotional Service?
Pseudo-gurus and veda-vada-ratas often stress the importance of receiving initiation from a current, or “living,” teacher—even though such teacher may not be self-realized. The absolute necessity of accepting initiation from a so-called living guru is not supported in any scripture, particularly notSrimad-Bhagavatam. The real necessity is that one surrenders to a self-realized soul and hears from him with great care and attention for the sake of serving the Supreme Lord and achieving liberation. Persons attracted to an unqualified, unauthorized, or duplicitous teacher for the sake of fashion or social function, or without a sincere desire for liberation, can never become a true disciple.
“The Lord is within every living entity as the Supersoul, and He initiated Brahma because Brahma was willing to receive the initiation. The Lord can similarly initiate everyone who is inclined to have it. The Lord is within every living entity as the Supersoul, and He initiated Brahma because Brahma was willing to receive the initiation. The Lord can similarly initiate everyone who is inclined to have it.”
“A devotee should not hanker after anything, but he should be satisfied with things that may automatically come to him by the will of the Lord. That should be the principle of a devotional life. And all these principles are easily learned under the guidance of a spiritual master like Sukadeva Gosvami. Maharaja Pariksit inquired from Sukadeva correctly, and one should follow his example.”
“As soon as the living entity becomes situated in his constitutional glory and begins to enjoy the transcendence beyond time and material energy, he at once gives up the two misconceptions of life [mine and I] and thus becomes fully manifested as the pure self.”(SB.2.9.3)
Who Can Preach Bhagavatam?
Srila Prabhupada wanted all of his disciples to preach Krishna conscious according to their capacity and understanding. The preaching of disciples must always be on behalf of the authorized acharya who is directly empowered by the guru-parampara and Lord Chaitanya. The real potency for preaching is embodied in the pure devotee, who is like the full moon. When the moon is full no starlight is needed, but the brightest stars near the moon become beautiful by association.
“Every devotee should be very enthusiastic, not only in performing his daily rituals of devotional service, but in trying to preach the cult peacefully by following in the footsteps of Lord Chaitanya. If he is not superficially successful in such an attempt, he should not be deterred from the discharge of his duty. Success or failure has no meaning for a pure devotee because he is a soldier in the field. Preaching the cult of devotional service is something like declaring war against materialistic life.”
Purport: “It is said that a single pure devotee of the Lord can deliver all the fallen souls of the world, and thus one who is actually in the confidence of a pure devotee like Narada or Sukadeva Gosvami and thus empowered by one’s spiritual master, as Narada was by Brahmaji, can not only deliver himself from the clutches of maya, or illusion, but can deliver the whole world by his pure and empowered devotional strength.” (SB.2.8.5. Purport)
Who is Fearless?
In the material world everyone is fearful. Fear truly is “the greatest misery of material existence.” This one misery makes all joys in the material world null and void–even for the bravest of people. Padam padam yad vipadam na tesam. Srila Prabhupada said only the fool and theparamahamsa are happy in this world. Of course, the fool is not truly happy and not happy for long. Only pure devotees are truly fearless and happy in this world.
“But one can ply over the ocean of material existence by the grace of the Lord very easily, without any fear of storm or fog. It all depends on the will of the Lord; no one can help if there is some unfortunate danger in the state of conditional life. The devotees of the Lord, however, cross the ocean of material existence without anxiety because a pure devotee is always protected by the Lord (Bg. 9.13). The Lord gives special attention to His devotees in their activities within material, conditional life. (Bg. 9.29) Therefore everyone should take shelter of the lotus feet of the Lord and be a pure devotee of the Lord by all means.” (SB. 2.8.21, Purport)
Who Are the Real Acharyas?
Many pretenders imitate the acharyas, thinking that such great souls are dead and gone. Such posers can’t help themselves or their followers become free from all misery and illusion. Serious students of Krishna consciousness should not settle for imitators but should rather accept only the real acharya, Srila Prabhupada Himself, as their eternal guide and guru. Real gurus are always free from the miseries and illusions of material existence, yet they gladly accept all difficulties in this world for the sake of preaching the mission of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu for the benefit of all conditioned souls.
“A true representative of the Lord like Narada, Sukadeva Gosvami, Lord Chaitanya, the six Gosvamis and later Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura or Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, etc., can deliver all people by their empowered devotional service. All such pure devotees like Narada are not only self-realized souls, but they are engaged in preaching work automatically by spiritual impetus, and thus they deliver many poor souls entangled in the material mode. They became so powerful because they sincerely followed theBhagavatam principle by regular hearing and worshiping.”
“In discharging such devotional service, as it was ordered by Brahmaji to Narada in the preaching of Srimad-Bhagavatam, sometimes the representative of the Lord engaged in preaching work meets various so-called difficulties of life. This was exhibited by Lord Nityananda when He delivered the two fallen souls Jagai and Madhai, and similarly Lord Jesus Christ was crucified by the nonbelievers. But such difficulties are suffered by the devotees in preaching work very gladly because in such activities, although apparently very severe, the devotees of the Lord feel transcendental pleasure because the Lord is satisfied. Prahlada Maharaja suffered greatly, but still he never forgot the lotus feet of the Lord.” (SB.2.8.6, Purport)
“People following the principles of devotional service of the Lord can never be put into difficulty, and thus there cannot be any question of apad-dharma, or religion in distress…” (SB.2.8.18, Purport)
Best Method of Liberation:
Srimad-Bhagavatam and many other scriptures, particularly Sri Chaitanya-Caritamrita, give stress to the chanting of the holy names of the Supreme Lord, particularly the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. Srila Prabhuapda has often explained that chanting and hearing Bhagavatam is the same as chanting Hare Krishna because this most exalted scripture is nothing but pure glorification of the name, fame, and pastimes of the Supreme Lord and His Pure Devotees.
“Devotional service to the Lord, with specific attention for hearing Srimad-Bhagavatam regularly and always, is the best recommended method for liberation from the clutches of illusion.” (SB. 2.8.5, Purport)
“For such a blind human society in the darkness of ignorance, Srimad-Bhagavatam is the torchlight to see things in proper perspective. Therefore it was necessary to describe the science of God from the very beginning, or from the very birth of the phenomenal world. As we have already explained previously, Srimad-Bhagavatam is so scientifically presented that any sincere student of this great science will be able to understand the science of God simply by reading it with attention or simply by regularly hearing it from the bona fide speaker.”