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The Glories of Srimad Bhagavatam — Part 4
Posted on May 25, 2015 · Posted in Philosophy

People claiming to be scholars are tested in Srimad Bhagavatam, vidyavatam bhagavate pariksa, “The test of those claiming to be learned is measured through their comprehension of Srimad Bhagavatam.” Srimad Bhagavatam is meant for highly advanced spiritual scholars and Krsna does not reveal the inner meaning of Srimad Bhagavatam to people who still have material desires. He only reveals it to those who have become free from sense gratification. Scholars who do not have the association of real devotees and thus still have material desires cannot understand the inner meaning of Srimad Bhagavatam, even though they may have memorized it by heart. Lord Siva states, “Everyone cannot understand Srimad Bhagavatam.” He further says, aham vedmi, “I know Srimad Bhagavatam,” and, suko vetti, “Sri Sukadeva Goswami knows Srimad Bhagavatam,” but vyaso vetti na vetti va, “I am not sure whether Vyasadeva knows it or not.” By considering this statement made by such a high authority about the author of Srimad Bhagavatam, one should contemplate the implied difficulty of understanding its true meaning. Still, people today learn some Srimad Bhagavatam verses, lecture on them and sing some devotional songs, thereby presenting themselves as learned scholars of it to the general public to gain wealth and respect. How surprising and alluring Kaliyuga is, that even a charlatan can divert innocent people away from God. How can anyone giving their own interpretation of Srimad Bhagavatam to earn money to maintain their family, know the essence of it, if Lord Siva even doubts the author’s (Vyasadeva’s) understanding of it? The Gopis of Vrindaban were not learned, but they understood the essence of Srimad Bhagavatam, which is why they did not care about anything except Krsna. They were not attached to family members, wealth, friends or relatives. They did not care about social shame. They even gave up their chastity for Krsna and abandoned their family dynasty traditions for Him. Such was their dedication. The Gopis could do this because they understood the culmination of Srimad Bhagavatam. According to Vaisnava philosophy, if someone understands the essence of something they relinquish everything else and surrender to that thing. This is the only way Krsna can be understood properly. At the battlefield of Kuruksetra Arjuna showed his religiosity to Lord Krsna and argued against Krsna’s will for him to fight. Arjuna said, “My grandfather, teacher, uncle and cousins are on the opposing side. I will not kill them but instead either get killed, live in a forest, or become a mendicant, but I will not kill any of my relatives, because by doing so I would implicate myself with sin by killing them.” At this point Arjuna did not understand Krsna, which is why he was presenting himself as a religious scholar. But after Krsna gave him the knowledge of Srimad Bhagavatam in the form of Bhagavad Gita, he then understood Krsna properly. At that point Arjuna understood the difference between Bhakti (Devotional service) and religion. After understanding Krsna, that same Arjuna who presented himself as a saintly person to Krsna, lifted his bow and arrows and killed everyone before him on the battlefield. Only by posing to be religious one cannot obtain Krsna, because following religious principles rewards material benefits, whereas Lord Krsna is obtained only through devotional service. This is the difference between spirituality and religion.

Any prudent person can memorize Srimad Bhagavatam verses and give lectures, but those who have developed real love for Krsna and perform devotional service to Him from the core of their heart know what Bhagavatam actually means. The love that is stated in Srimad Bhagavatam should be learnt from an authentic Spiritual Master who has come down in an unbroken chain of disciplic succession. Only by following this type of spiritual chain can one understand the loving process to attain Krsna. Anyone can read Srimad Bhagavatam and give discourses, but not everyone can understand Krsna in essence and what Srimad Bhagavatam is aimed at. Even great sages could not understand the essence of Krsna (essence of God or essence of God consciousness), what to speak of people of Kaliyuga posing as devotees. As stated in the Chaitanya Charitamrta, bhagavata padhi-padhi karo buddhi nasa, “Even though some people read Srimad Bhagavatam regularly they may lose their reasoning power and come to a wrong conclusion.” In essence, without following an authentic Spiritual Master and having real dedication to the Lord, no one can understand Srimad Bhagavatam or Krsna in truth. But for one truthfully dedicated to the lotus feet of a real devotee, the spiritual path becomes easy to understand. As Lord Krsna states in the Bhagavad Gita:

tad viddhi pranipatena pari prasnena sevaya
upadeksyanti te jnanam jnaninas tattva darsinah

“To understand God one must reach a realized devotee Spiritual Master and inquire submissively and render service unto him. Such a self-realized soul will then impart knowledge unto you because he knows the truth perfectly.”

The meaning of this verse is that only after fully surrendering at the lotus feet of a scripturally authentic Spiritual Master is one able to understand the essence of Srimad Bhagavatam. By studying it without accepting or without fully surrendering at the feet of an authentic Spiritual Master one can only understand the superficial meaning of it and thus cannot understand it in its proper sense. Without accepting an authentic Guru one cannot obtain Krsna. For example, entertainers acting like preachers and giving spiritual lectures may captivate an audience, but because their mind is not absorbed in God their habits and material desires do not change. Even though someone may give charismatic lectures about God, if they haven’t accepted initiation from an authentic Guru they are not freed from material desires, because they have not been placed on the right platform by the direct teachings of an authentic Spiritual Master. No one can reach the spiritual world by associating with such people, because it merely leads to more hankering for sense gratification, be it of a different type. Such performers make a nice show of spiritual life, but because their mind is rooted in sense gratification, the transference of spiritual knowledge is stagnant, whereas a saintly person’s mind, being fixed on the Supreme Lord, is filled with spiritual realizations. Therefore such devotees are via media God and thus are able to transfer the listener’s mind from material to spiritual. As the poet Tulasidasa states:

eka ghadi adhi ghadi adhi ki puni adhi
tulasi sangati sadhu ki harai koti aparadha

“One moment, or half a moment’s, or even one half of a half of a moment’s association with a real devotee can remove millions of offenses from a person and bring them to the platform of liberation. Such is the potency of a pure devotee’s association.”

Srimad Bhagavatam purifies and transforms all categories of sinners and rewards them liberation from this world. This is why the Padma Purana states that anyone who thinks that Srimad Bhagavatam is different from Lord Krsna Himself are equal to offenders of Brahmanas. There is no difference between Lord Krsna and Srimad Bhagavatam, but in order to receive full benefit one must listen to it from a real devotee. As confirmed in the Skanda Purana:

avaisnava mukhac chastram na srotavyam kadacana
suka sastram visesena na srotavyam avaisnavat

“One should not listen to scriptures from those who are not real devotees. Srimad Bhagavatam especially should never be heard from a non devotee.”

One may wonder how to detect who is a real devotee? To this the Skanda Purana states:

avaisnavo’tra dvijo jneyo yo visnor mukham ucyate
vipretara-gatam sastram asastratvam prapadyate

“When a person is born in an unbroken Brahmana dynasty he is said to be the mouth of the Lord Himself. When such a person is initiated by a devotee Spiritual Master descending in an unbroken chain of disciplic succession and lives by scriptural rules he is said to be Vaisnava. One should listen to Srimad Bhagavatam from such a Vaisnava. Besides listening from such a Vaisnava, listening to Bhagavatam from others does not bear enough result.”

It is further stated in the Skanda Purana:

vaktaram vaisnavam vipram visuddhobhaya vamsajam
sordhva pundram susilam ca kuryat krsna jana priyam

“Therefore, the speaker of Srimad Bhagavatam should be born into an unbroken Brahmana dynasty connected to the Lord Himself and should be initiated by a devotee Spiritual Master coming in an unbroken chain of succession from the Lord Himself. He must have the flame-like holy mark of Tilak on his forehead. If such a devotee is found, one should listen to Srimad Bhagavatam from him because such a devotee is very dear to the Lord and the listener receives blessings from the Lord for hearing from such a devotee.”

Hari Om Tat Sat

[Mahamandaleshwar Mahant Krsna Balaram Swami, How to Spend Your Best Seven Days on Earth]