Chapter 22: The Śrīmad Bhāgavatam

Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: Teachings of Lord Caitanya

gopāla govinda rāma śrī-madhusūdana

When the Lord sang in this way, chanting and dancing, thousands of people gathered around Him, and when the Lord chanted, they roared. The vibration was so tumultuous that Prakāśānanda Sarasvatī, who was sitting nearby, immediately joined the crowd with his disciples. As soon as he saw the beautiful body of Lord Caitanya and the Lord dancing with His associates, Prakāśānanda Sarasvatī also joined and began to sing: "Hari! Hari!" All the inhabitants of Benares were struck with wonder upon seeing the ecstatic dancing of Lord Caitanya. However, Lord Caitanya checked His continuous ecstasy and stopped dancing when He saw the Māyāvādī sannyāsīs. As soon as the Lord stopped chanting and dancing, Prakāśānanda Sarasvatī fell at His feet. Trying to stop him, Lord Caitanya said, "Oh, you are the spiritual master of the whole world, jagad-guru, and I am not even equal to your disciples. You should therefore not worship an inferior like Me. You are exactly like the Supreme Brahman, and if I allow you to fall down at My feet, I will commit a very great offense. Although you have no vision of duality, for the sake of teaching the people in general you should not do this."

"Previously I spoke ill of You many times," Prakāśānanda Sarasvatī replied. "Now in order to free myself from the results of my offense, I fall down at Your feet." He then quoted a verse from Vedic literatures which states that when even a liberated soul commits an offense against the Supreme Lord, he again becomes a victim of material contamination. Prakāśānanda Sarasvatī then quoted another verse from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.34.9) regarding Nanda Mahārāja's being attacked by a serpent who was previously Vidyādharārcita. When the serpent was touched by the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa, he regained his previous body and was freed from the reactions of his sinful activities. When Lord Caitanya thus heard Himself equated with Kṛṣṇa, He mildly protested. He wanted to warn people in general not to compare the Supreme Lord with any living entity, and although He was the Supreme Lord Himself, He protested against this comparison in order to teach us. Thus He said that it is the greatest offense to compare anyone with the Supreme Lord Kṛṣṇa. Lord Caitanya always maintained that Viṣṇu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is great and the living entities, however great they may be, are but infinitesimal. In this connection, He quoted a verse from Padma Purāṇa which is found in the Vaiṣṇava tantra (Hari-bhakti-vilāsa 1.73): "A person who compares the Supreme Lord even with the greatest of demigods like Brahmā and Śiva must be considered a number one atheist."

"I can understand that You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa," Prakāśānanda Sarasvatī continued, "and even though You present Yourself as a devotee, You are still worshipable because You are greater than all of us in education and realization. Therefore by blaspheming You, we have committed the greatest offense. Please excuse us."

How a devotee becomes the greatest of all transcendentalists is stated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (6.14.5):

muktānām api siddhānāḿ


sudurlabhaḥ praśāntātmā

koṭiṣv api mahāmune

"There are many liberated souls and perfected souls, but out of all of them he who is a devotee of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is best. The devotees of the Supreme Lord are always calm and quiet, and their perfection is very rarely seen, even in millions of persons." Prakāśānanda also quoted another verse (Bhāg. 10.4.46) in which it is stated that one's duration of life, prosperity, fame, religion and the benediction of higher authorities are all lost when one offends a devotee. Prakāśānanda also quoted another verse from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (7.5.32) which said that all the misgivings of the conditioned soul disappear at the touch of the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. However, one cannot touch the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord unless one receives the benediction of the dust of the lotus feet of the Lord's pure devotee. In other words, one cannot become a pure devotee of the Supreme Personality of Godhead unless he is favored by another pure devotee of the Lord.

"Now I am taking shelter of Your lotus feet," Prakāśānanda Sarasvatī said, "for I want to be elevated to the position of a devotee of the Supreme Lord."

After talking in this way, both Prakāśānanda Sarasvatī and Lord Caitanya sat together. "Whatever You have said concerning discrepancies in the Māyāvādī philosophy is also known by us," Prakāśānanda said. "Indeed, we know that all the commentaries on Vedic scriptures by Māyāvādī philosophers are erroneous, especially those of Śańkarācārya. Śańkarācārya's interpretations of Vedānta-sūtra are all figments of his imagination. You have not explained the codes of the Vedānta-sūtra and Upaniṣads according to Your own imagination but have presented them as they are. Thus we are all pleased to have heard Your explanation. Such explanations of the codes of Vedānta-sūtra and the Upaniṣads cannot be given by anyone but the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Since You have all the potencies of the Supreme Lord, please explain the Vedānta-sūtra further so that I may be benefited."

Lord Caitanya protested against being called the Supreme Lord, and He said, "My dear sir, I am an ordinary living entity. I cannot know the real meaning of Vedānta-sūtra, but Vyāsadeva, who is an incarnation of Nārāyaṇa, knows its real meaning. No ordinary living entity can interpret Vedānta-sūtra according to his mundane conceptions. In order to curb commentaries on Vedānta-sūtra by unscrupulous persons, the author himself, Vyāsadeva, has already commentated upon the Vedānta-sūtra by writing Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam." In other words, the best explanation of a book is written by the author himself. No one can understand the author's mind unless the author himself discloses the purpose behind his writing. Therefore Vedānta-sūtra should be understood through Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, the commentary written by the author of Vedānta-sūtra.

Praṇava, or oḿkāra, is the divine substance of all the Vedas. Oḿkāra is further explained in the gāyatrī mantra exactly as it was explained in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. There are four verses written in this connection, and these are explained to Brahmā by Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself. In his turn, Brahmā explains them to Nārada, and Nārada explains them to Vyāsadeva. In this way the purport of the verses of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam come down through disciplic succession. It is not that anyone and everyone can make his own foolish commentaries on Vedānta-sūtra and mislead readers. Anyone who wants to understand Vedānta-sūtra must read Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam carefully. Under the instructions of Nārada Muni, Vyāsadeva compiled Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam with the purpose of explaining the Vedānta-sūtra. In writing Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Vyāsadeva collected all the essence of the Upaniṣads, the purpose of which was also explained in Vedānta-sūtra. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is thus the essence of all Vedic knowledge. That which is stated in the Upaniṣads and restated in Vedānta-sūtra is explained very nicely in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.

There is a passage in Īśopaniṣad similar to a verse found in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (8.1.10) which states that whatever one sees in the cosmic manifestation is but the Supreme Lord's energy and is nondifferent from Him. Consequently He is the controller, friend and maintainer of all living entities. We should live by the mercy of God and take only those things which are allotted to us. In this way, by not encroaching on another's property, one can enjoy life.

In other words, the purpose of the Upaniṣads, Vedānta-sūtra and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is one and the same. If one studies Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam carefully, he will find that all the Upaniṣads and the Vedānta-sūtra are nicely explained therein. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam teaches us how to reestablish our eternal relationship with the Supreme Lord, how to act in that relationship, and, lastly, how to achieve the highest benefit from it.

The four verses beginning with aham eva are the gist of the whole Bhāgavatam. These are: "I am the supreme center for the relationships of all living entities, and My knowledge is the supreme knowledge. That process by which I can be attained by the living entity is called abhidheya. By it, one can attain the highest perfection of life, love of Godhead. When one attains love of Godhead, his life becomes perfect." The explanation of these four verses is given in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, and Lord Caitanya gave a short description of the principles of these verses. He said that no one can understand the constitutional position of the Supreme Lord — His situation, His transcendental qualities, His transcendental activities and His six opulences. These cannot be understood by mental speculation or academic education; they can only be understood by the mercy of the Lord. As stated in Bhagavad-gītā, one who is fortunate enough to receive the Lord's favor can understand all these explanations by the mercy of the Lord.

The Lord existed before the material creation; therefore the material ingredients, nature and the living entities all emanated from Him, and after dissolution they rest in Him. When the creation is manifest, it is maintained by Him; indeed, whatever manifestation we see is but a transformation of His external energy. When the Supreme Lord withdraws His external energy, everything enters into Him. In the first of the four verses, the word aham is given three times in order to stress that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is full with all opulences. Aham is stated three times just to chastise one who cannot understand or believe in the transcendental nature and form of the Supreme Lord.

The Lord possesses His internal energy, His external, marginal and relative energies, the manifestation of the cosmic world and the living entities. The external energy is manifested by the qualitative modes (guṇas) of material nature. One who can understand the nature of the living entity in the spiritual world can actually understand vedyam, or perfect knowledge. One cannot understand the Supreme Lord simply by seeing the material energy and the conditioned soul, but when one is in perfect knowledge, he is freed from the influence of the external energy. The moon reflects the light of the sun, and without the sun the moon cannot illuminate anything. Similarly, this material cosmic manifestation is but the reflection of the spiritual world. When one is actually liberated from the spell of the external energy, he can understand the constitutional nature of the Supreme Lord. Devotional service to the Lord is the only means by which the Lord can be attained, and this devotional service can be accepted by everyone and anyone in any country and under any circumstance. Devotional service is above the four principles of religion and the understanding derived from liberation. Even the preliminaries of devotional service are transcendental to the highest understanding derived from liberation and the understanding derived from ordinary religion.

One should therefore approach a bona fide spiritual master — irrespective of caste, creed, color, country, etc. — and hear from him everything about devotional service. The real purpose of life is to revive our dormant love of God. Indeed, that is our ultimate necessity. How that love of God can be attained is explained in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. There is theoretical knowledge and specific or realized knowledge, and perfect realized knowledge is attained when one realizes the teachings received from the spiritual master.

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His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda, Founder Ācārya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness