At first, I beg to pay my most humble prostrated obeisance at the lotus feet of my most adorable Guru, Srila Prabhupada, who is a direct representative of Lord Sri Krsna, who is filled with divine vigor, who imparted transcendental knowledge unto me and rescued me from the ocean of rebirth and death, and who has now forever entered into the divine pastimes of Lord Sri Krsna being performed in the spiritual world. I beg for his blessings to narrate Srimad Bhagavatam to benefit those souls interested in stopping their cycle of rebirth and death. I beg for the blessings of Lord Sri Sri Radha Govindadeva and Sri Sri Radha Madana Mohana to please help in this grand task. Srimad Bhagavatam liberates those who seriously study it and it is the storehouse of nectar for the truly dedicated devotees of the Lord.
Srimad Bhagavatam is a conversation between Sri Sukadeva Goswami and King Pariksit, which was put into writing over five thousand years ago by Srila Vyasadeva. Vyasadeva said that this same Srimad Bhagavatam was spoken at Haridwar by Maitreya Muni to Vidur Maharaja; then at Sukaraksetra by Sri Sukadeva Goswami to King Pariksit; and later at Naimisaranya by Sri Suta Goswami to eighty eight thousand sages headed by Sage Saunaka. Although Srimad Bhagavatam is depicted in three different conversations, it mainly takes place between Srila Sukadeva Goswami and King Pariksit. The speaker, Srila Sukadeva Goswami, is a pure devotee of the Lord and the listener, King Pariksit , is the most civilized royal personality on earth; and Srimad Bhagavatam includes every category of knowledge a person requires to live a peaceful life and reach the kingdom of God (after death).
Srimad Bhagavatam propagates the process of devotion that is free from all deceit and hypocrisy. Just by studying it or listening to it the Lord comes and sits in the heart of the person. For example, if a worldly person reads Srimad Bhagavatam daily, in due course they will develop loving feelings in their heart for the Lord, and by those loving thoughts Krsna will manifest to them. In other words, just by studying or listening to Srimad Bhagavatam a special place for the Lord is created in the person’s heart; because the Lord in the form of Srimad Bhagavatam enters the heart and sweeps it clean from all contamination. Thus, by the contact of Srimad Bhagavatam a sinner becomes purified. It is the desire fulfilling scripture, and by studying it Lord Krsna becomes locked in the heart. Thus in all situations a devotee thinks, “It does not matter how many problems I face in life, I shall not relinquish my service to the Lord.” This is the result of studying Srimad Bhagavatam and chanting the Lord’s names, which is why all the sages recommend, sravana kirtana jale karaha sechana, “The creeper-like devotion to Krsna should be nurtured by daily watering it with the water-like chanting of the Lord’s glories and listening to and/or studying Srimad Bhagavatam.”
The scriptures and Guru are on an equal level because they bring the conditioned soul to the spiritual path by authoritatively impelling them. Srimad Bhagavatam convinces the listeners or readers about what is beneficial and unbeneficial for a human being and reveals the correct spiritual path to them in a commanding spirit. There are many beneficial and non-beneficial things in this world for a human being, but only those who follow the commands from Srimad Bhagavatam correctly understand what is truly beneficial for them. Accepting scriptural guidance is the best method for obtaining the ultimate goal of life.
How wonderful and surprising it is that the very same Lord, who is rarely understood even by great sages, who is the Lord of all movable and immovable entities, comes to sit in the heart of the sincere reader or listener of Srimad Bhagavatam! The narration of Srimad Bhagavatam mesmerizes and controls the Supreme Lord, which is why all the sages and saintly people listen to it in rapt attention. Lord Siva speaks Srimad Bhagavatam to his wife Parvati. The Serpent Sesa sings Srimad Bhagavatam with his unlimited hoods. The four Kumaras, namely Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatana and Sanat Kumara, also speak Srimad Bhagavatam to glorify Lord Krsna, because every other spiritual and religious process fades before it.
Srimad Bhagavatam, if read with full faith, transforms the reader very quickly and the reader receives its maximum benefit, whereas those who are hypocritical, insincere, lusty, wicked by nature, malicious in heart, envious, angry or jealous receive benefit based on their degree of material contamination. One does not have to first stop his/her bad habits to qualify to read Srimad Bhagavatam, nor first become pure to read it, one can read it at any stage and in any condition of life because it only rewards the participant. The sole remedy for removing contamination from the heart is reading Srimad Bhagavatam and chanting Krsna’s names.
Performing devotion to Krsna removes all misery of life. Present miseries and losses are experienced only due to past karma, which can be mitigated by chanting Krsna’s names and engaging in His devotional service. Chanting Krsna’s names on Tulasi (holy plant) rosary beads is the perfect way to reform the soul; and hearing about Krsna, reading about Him, chanting His names and performing devotional service to Him are remedies to purify the soul. Therefore, the scriptures state that adopting these activities is very intelligent because they bring a change of heart, but while reading or listening to Srimad Bhagavatam one should examine if the narration is being understood properly. One should contemplate their own shortcomings and mediate about how best to remove them.
While chanting or reading Srimad Bhagavatam one should consider that the Lord came to Prahlada, and the Lord rescued Dropadi, but why is He not coming to my aid? Such contemplation is called, “Seeing one’s own shortcomings.” Studying or listening to Srimad Bhagavatam, chanting Krsna’s names and accepting an authentic Spiritual Master are the remedies to protect oneself from misdeeds, and they are the pathways to liberation from this world.
Every spiritual process remains ineffective as long as the desire to receive liberation remains in the heart, which is why Srimad Bhagavatam disproves all categories of austerities, ritualistic ceremonies and sacrifices and establishes the path of devotion to be supreme. But one needs to follow the commentaries of great spiritual teachers who are perfect examples of devotional life in order to receive the correct meaning of Srimad Bhagavatam. Accepting speculative interpretations of Srimad Bhagavatam will not help. Simply memorizing some Bhagavatam verses and giving lectures on them to earn one’s livelihood or respect are simply other ways to mislead the innocent. The speaker should be a living example of Srimad Bhagavatam, which reveals that the speaker firmly believes what he preaches and is not materially motivated. That is why Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu warned everyone stating, bhagavata padha giya vaisnavera sthane, “One must study Srimad Bhagavatam under a real devotee because he knows the correct meaning of it, thus he will reveal the truth.” Only a true Vaisnava can impart the real meaning of Srimad Bhagavatam. Those who are not sincere devotees may speak on it, but they have not yet understood the inner meaning of it. If they understood the real meaning of Srimad Bhagavatam they would have become real devotees themselves and would have stopped their hypocrisy. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu stated that one must study Srimad Bhagavatam under the guidance of a pure devotee, without which one cannot understand the real meaning of it. Srimad Bhagavatam is the book form of God; therefore only a real devotee who knows God can realize and explicate its true meaning. There is no other way. Therefore the scriptures state that the association of a pure devotee rewards all perfection in life. If one does not keep connection with a pure devotee or if someone lost such association it must be understood that Krsna could not be obtained by them.
Srimad Bhagavatam includes the pure occupation of the soul and nowhere else can such a pure process to obtain Krsna be found. Therefore Srila Sridhara Swami states, atraiva avarudhyate, “Lord Krsna is locked within Srimad Bhagavatam and no where else, and those fortunate enough to understand what it instructs, obtain Him.” Srimad Bhagavatam is the summit of knowledge and there is no scripture that is equal to or greater than it. It is the culmination of all spiritual processes and nowhere else can absolute knowledge be found.
Srimad Bhagavatam explains solely about Krsna in each verse. It states that Krsna is the creator, maintainer and destroyer of this universe and there is no other God than Him anywhere. It states that Krsna is the Absolute Truth and therefore at every moment one should meditate and serve Him only.
Srimad Bhagavatam propagates what the soul is, with whom it is connected, and what its duty is. It instructs that performing devotional service helps develop relief from material influences, by which can help one obtain Lord Sri Krsna’s blessings, and to whom a human being should dedicate their life, and what will be obtained by dedicating it. Srimad Bhagavatam also vividly explains how to perform spiritual life and explains in detail the true goal of life. It states that while performing spiritual life one should not beg only for good health, wealth, respect, position and family relationships etc. from the Lord, because these things may jeopardize their spiritual advancement. Srimad Bhagavatam’s goal is to explain the soul’s real need, with whom it is really related to, and what its real duty is. It also explains that at the time of death there is no one capable of helping the person (soul) in this world, and that their only real shelter is the Supreme Lord. The Srimad Bhagavatam is the medium that introduces human beings to the Supreme Lord and makes them understand that except for God they have no shelter or real well-wisher. It also explains that in order to obtain Him one has to develop love for Him. It states that to truly love Krsna one has to follow the path of conjugal love as exhibited by all the Gopis (cowherd girls) of Vrindaban. The Gopis exemplify the proper quality of love one should strive for to attain Lord Krsna. Srila Sridhara Swami states:
adyasya sresthasya janmadi yatah tatah
sriman radha govindasya sannidhye
itaratas carthesv abhijnah svarat
“This transcendental love named conjugal love is the supreme way to please the Lord because it appeared from the relationship between Lord Sri Sri Radha Govinda and the Gopis of Vraja (Vrindaban area).”
Srimad Bhagavatam is filled with such narrations that the Lord Himself hankers to hear it on a regular basis. The Lord Himself leaves His spiritual abode and comes down to the place where Srimad Bhagavatam is being read (spoken) and sits down to carefully listen. As He Himself stated to Narada Muni:
naham vasami vaikunthe yoginam hrdaye na ca
mad bhaktah yatra gayanti tatra tisthami narada
“O Narada, I do not live in My spiritual abode, nor do I live in the hearts of great meditating yogis, but I live at the place where My devotees speak about My transcendental pastimes.”
The proof of this incident is found in the history of Dwaraka, where Rohini (mother of Balaram) became the speaker of Lord Krsna’s pastimes and the queens of Dwaraka became the listeners of them. This narration was secretly done without informing Lord Krsna and Balaram. But because Lord Krsna is all knowing and because He had promised that wherever His narration is taking place He will be present, is why even though sixteen thousand one hundred eight queens had closed all the doors and windows of the palace, still the Lord entered and listened to His own glories. When He heard about the love of His Vraja Gopis for Him He became so astonished that His beautiful Govinda appearance shrank and turned into His Jagannatha form, which is worshipped in Jagannatha Puri (a city in India) today.
The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krsna, is omnipresent; therefore, even though the narration of Srimad Bhagavatam was spoken with all the doors and windows closed, still no one could prevent the Lord from participating. In other words, wherever Lord Krsna’s pastimes are being spoken, Krsna is present. As stated in the Padma Purana:
tulasi kananam yatra yatra padma vanani ca
purana pathanam yatra tatra sannihito harih
“Wherever there is an abundance of Tulasi plants growing, wherever there is an abundance of lotuses growing, and wherever Srimad Bhagavatam is being narrated, Lord Krsna Himself is personally present.”
The inner meaning of this verse is that wherever Lord Krsna’s pastimes are not narrated there cannot be any happiness, peace, prosperity or self improvement. Lord Sri Krsna personally resides in His own narration and that is why world peace, all auspiciousness, good fortune, all categories of happiness, all categories of prosperity and self-improvement reside where the narration of Lord Krsna’s pastimes take place. Those who study Srimad Bhagavatam obtain the highest abode of the Lord. The hearts of those who listen to Srimad Bhagavatam become purified from all contamination and become free from the entanglement of the cycle of rebirth and death. Thus they reach the abode of the Supreme Lord. Connecting oneself with Srimad Bhagavatam makes one become a devotee of the Lord, thus gradually becoming eligible to become dear to the Lord. Meaning all auspiciousness is included in Srimad Bhagavatam for those who become connected to it. This is the true benefit of studying Srimad Bhagavatam.
[How to Spend Your Best Seven Days on Earth, by Sri Krsna Balaram Swamiji, KBS5139]