It is found in the Padma Purana that Narada Muni (heavenly sage) once desired to know how many auspicious activities people on earth perform, so he proceeded towards earth to find out. When searching he did not find any place where people were engaged in heartfelt devotional service, but saw that everyone was engaged in sense gratification. Almost everyone was hankering for obtaining objects for sense gratification and practically everyone had given up the path for self realization. As confirmed in the Padma Purana:
napasyat kutracic charma
manah santosa karakam
kalina dharma mitrena
dhareyam badhita dhuna
“Narada Muni did not see any peace or lasting happiness anywhere. Rather he saw Kaliyuga, with the help of Adharma (Irreligion personified), having everyone under his control. Everyone is under Kaliyuga’s grip. Seeing this situation, Naradaji became very morose.”
For want of seeing devotees of Lord Krsna, Narada Muni also traveled to places of pilgrimage, but he could not find any real devotees of the Lord. At last he reached Vrindaban where he saw Bhaktidevi, (the personification of devotional service) despondent. Her misery was due to the sins of everyone on earth. Her two sons, Jnana (the personification of knowledge) and Vairajna (the personification of detachment) looked very old and were sitting near her. No one was following the path of transcendental knowledge and detachment, which is why Jnana and Vairajna were languished. Practically no one was interested in following the path of self-realization. Narada saw that everyone was engaged in social life, healthy living, endeavoring for prosperity and that practically no one was focusing on practicing spiritual life to obtain the Lord’s blessings. No one seemingly cared about their relationship with the Supreme Lord. Hence Bhaktidevi was despondent.
Following the path of knowledge and detachment from material life make the soul peaceful and happy; and following Bhakti (path of devotion) makes one become very close to the Lord. But due to the influence of the age of Kaliyuga, people have ignored following these three auspicious paths, which is why Narada saw these three auspicious personalities in a miserable condition.
Upon seeing Narada Muni, Bhaktidevi became hopeful thinking a saint has come and will help her in some way. Using welcoming words, Bhaktidevi addressed Narada thus, “O sage, be pleased with me and help me in some way to obtain peace. Please give me a space at your lotus feet. I am at your shelter. Due to the transcendental potency of Vrindaban I am young and healthy, but due to the influence of time my sons have become old.” Narada asked her to introduce herself and she said, “I was born in Dravida (province of Andhra, in Southern India) and was raised in Karnataka (a state in Southern India). Later I reached Maharastra (another state in Southern India) where many saintly persons welcomed me and I begot two sons named Jnana and Vairajna. But when I reached Gujarat (a state in Western India) I became miserable because there I saw people worshipping demigods in the name of devotional service. The influence of such heretics caused me and my sons to become old. I tolerated this condition for a long time and while wandering I reached Vrindaban. As soon as I touched Vraja land (Vrindaban) I returned to my original youthful state, but my sons remained old. You must be aware that my duty is to move around everywhere, but due to my sons being old my moving has been hampered. For the parent to be elderly and the children to be young is justified, but for the children to be older and the parent to be younger is unheard of. Therefore, O saint, why has such a situation occurred to me? Please tell me so my doubt is removed.”
Narada Muni said, “O dear one, the land of Vrindaban is meant for Bhakti and is not meant for Jnana and Vairajna. That is why you are young and your sons are old. Furthermore, you are an associate of Lord Krsna and Vrindaban is the place of Lord Krsna, therefore Vrindaban is your playground. When Lord Krsna left this world you took your birth in the land of Dravida, but Vrindaban is your permanent place, therefore you please stay here. Your sons can go to holy places situated on the banks of Ganges, by whose influence they will also become rejuvenated. In holy places people search for transcendental knowledge, perform austerities and some follow the rules of detachment, hence your sons will receive respect in holy places like the Ganges etc. Jnana and Vairajna have no place in Vrindaban because Vrindaban is solely the place for Bhakti. The Supreme Lord Krsna Himself, before leaving this world, had ordered you that after His departure you should strengthen His devotees, for which you acquiesced His order by bowing your head. Being pleased with your acceptance, the Lord awarded you liberation personified (Muktidevi) as a maidservant to serve you. How surprising it is that Muktidevi, for which great sages hanker to receive, was given to you as a maidservant!” Which means whosoever has adopted Bhakti seriously has liberation on hand. Jnana and Vairajna are Bhakti’s sons, therefore wherever their mother is, they reside subtly. Hence complete scriptural knowledge and material detachment is seen in serious devotees, which means that when devotees perform pure devotional service to Lord Krsna, they do not need separate help from Jnana and Vairajna to achieve liberation from this world. To perform Bhakti a devotee requires love for the Lord, and when Bhakti is performed with love, Jnana and Vairajna automatically come to that devotee. As the poet Tualsidas states, “Bhakti (devotional service) is completely independent of everything and Jnana (knowledge) and Vairajna (detachment) stay under her control.” Therefore those who have real devotion for Krsna in their heart, have everything in their hands.
It is not necessary to separately practice Jnana or Vairajna if someone has real devotion for Krsna. Just by practicing Jnana alone, or by practicing the process of Vairajna alone, or by practicing both, no one can bring about any substantial change in their life. For this reason the scriptures state that if someone has developed real devotion to Lord Krsna, they automatically obtain Jnana and Vairajna. In other words, by accepting Bhakti in its real sense, one at once brings about a true change in his/her life.
The reading of Srimad Bhagavatam should be done after bathing, and it is always better to invite others to listen. One should keep their senses under control from the beginning of Srimad Bhagavatam till the end, and when the reading is completed, Prasadam (sanctified food) should be distributed. The reader of Srimad Bhagavatam should face towards the east and begin the recitation after Kirtan (singing of the Lord’s holy names) and offering incense to the Lord. If these rules are followed, the Lord Himself comes to that place together with the Goddess of Fortune to fulfill the desires of the participants. Those who study Srimad Bhagavatam on a daily basis are glorious, but people with a busy schedule who are unable to study daily can reserve seven days in a year from their busy schedule and study it.
The Srimad Bhagavatam is the essence of all the scriptures, because all other scriptures become secondary before it. As stated in the Padma Purana:
rajante tavad anyani
puranani satam gane
yavad bhagavatam naiva
sruyate mrta sugaram
“All other religious scriptures remain respected in an assembly of learned people as long as Srimad Bhagavatam, which is filled with nectar, does not enter their assembly. As soon as Srimad Bhagavatam comes to their hands, other spiritual scriptures become faded.”
In Kaliyuga the Supreme Lord infused Himself into Srimad Bhagavatam, which is why everyone should relinquish all other religious and spiritual duties and solemnly dedicate themselves to studying it. The knowledge of those who do not study Srimad Bhagavatam but follow other religious duties remains incomplete.
The Srimad Bhagavatam is very beneficial, pleasurable and easy to read, and every method for pleasing the Supreme Lord is included in it. It teaches how to properly perform devotional service to the Lord; and all the good qualities of the demigods manifest in those who perform truthful devotional service. But those who do not perform sincere devotional service remain bereft of good qualities, even though they may be well educated and well mannered. Such quality-less people do not obtain the Lord’s blessings.
After seeing the pitiful condition of Bhaktidevi, Narada Muni understood that most people have avoided following Bhakti. Thinking this, Narada Muni, while pacifying Bhaktidevi, spoke the following to her:
anya dharman tiraskrtya
tada naham harer daso
loke tvam na pravartaye
“If I cannot establish you (Bhaktidevi) above all religious and spiritual practices I should not be called a servant of God. I hereby promise you that I shall make you known to everyone.”
After saying this to Bhaktidevi, Narada Muni began pacifying Jnana and Vairajna and at that point an unseen voice came from the sky stating, “O Narada, search for true saints, they will tell you about Jnana and Vairajna.” Hearing these words, Narada proceeded in search of saintly people. He came across many saintly persons, but none of them could tell him about how Bhakti, Jnana and Vairajna could become firmly established in one’s heart. At last, in his quest to find real saints, Naradaji reached Badrinath in the Himalayas where he met the four Kumaras (Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatana and Sanat Kumaras). When these four Kumaras heard about Narada’s search they said, “O Narada, as long as people do not hear Lord Krsna’s narrations Bhakti does not get established in their hearts. Without Bhakti no one can obtain real knowledge, nor can they understand the real meaning of true detachment. The only necessary thing to invite Bhakti, Jnana and Vairajna in one’s heart is hearing Srimad Bhagavatam. If preaching Krsna’s narrations is done the whole world will perform Bhakti; and Jnana and Vairajna will automatically manifest in their hearts. Therefore, O Narada, you must endeavor to preach Krsna’s narrations.”
Hearing this Narada Muni said, “I cannot perform this endeavor alone, you please speak Krsna Katha (Krsna’s narration).” Following this request, the four Kumaras came down to Haridwar to speak Krsna Katha. Including Naradaji, many saints came in hope of listening to the nectar of Srimad Bhagavatam which would emanate from the four Kumaras. The leading sages among all gathered were Bhrgu, Vasistha, Bharadvaja, Saradvan, Angira, Vyasa, Chyavana and Gautama. After first glorifying Lord Krsna, the four Kumaras began speaking Srimad Bhagavatam saying:
sada sevya sada sevya
srimad bhagavatati katha
yasyah sravana matrena
haris cittam samasrayet
“Srimad Bhagavatam must be read and heard at every step because just by hearing or reading it the Supreme Lord Sri Krsna Himself manifests in the heart.”
Until Srimad Bhagavatam is heard, the tie to the cycle of rebirth and death is not severed and the illusion trapped in one’s mind cannot be cleared. In other words only through Srimad Bhagavatam can liberation from this world be achieved. No other spiritual processes, such as performing fire sacrifices, giving charity, the search for knowledge, going to holy places, performance of austerities, worship of demigods, bathing in the Ganges, or any other spiritual process can sufficiently help one attain spiritual peace. Only through Krsna Katha can one obtain lasting peace.
Narada questioned the four Kumaras thus, “O worshipable ones, can a ghost also achieve liberation by listening to Srimad Bhagavatam?” The Kumaras replied, “O Narada, every category of living entity in the eight million four hundred thousands types of bodies and even ghosts can achieve liberation just by hearing Srimad Bhagavatam.” To help illustrate their statement the Kumaras narrated the following history:
On the bank of the Tungabhadra River lived a Brahmana named Atmadeva. He was well versed in the scriptures and had all good qualities required for achieving liberation from this world. His wife’s name was Dhundhuli and she was very cunning, arrogant and barren. Atmadeva was very gentle by nature and did not interfere with anything Dhundhuli did, but he was in anxiety because they were childless. One day, without informing his wife, Atmadeva went to a forest where he met a swami whose face was filled with vigor. Atmadeva revealed to him that he had no children and the swami wanted to help him. The swami extended his mercy saying, “No one can remove what is written in their luck, but everyone should endeavor for their fulfillment.” The swami then gave a piece of fruit to Atmadeva and said, “This fruit is generative and is infallible, if your wife eats this fruit she will surely become pregnant.” When Atmadeva returned home he gave this piece of fruit to his wife and revealed the quality of this special fruit, but Dhundhuli, being unprincipled by nature, did not eat the fruit but instead fed it to their cow. A few days later Dhundhuli’s sister came to visit her and told her she was pregnant. Dhundhuli told her sister the history of the special fruit and that she did not want to take a pregnancy to term, so she fed the fruit to their cow. Dhundhuli then requested her sister to give up her newly born child for monetary compensation and her sister being poor, agreed to the transaction. Atmadeva was unaware of this covert scheme. The Sastra (ancient scripture) states that the luck of a man can be foretold through astrology, but what a cunning woman will do next cannot be foretold even by the creator of the universe, Lord Brahma. But well mannered ladies are glorified in the scriptures because they act properly at every step.
After some time Dhundhuli’s sister gave birth to a boy and he was secretly taken to Dhundhuli, unknown to Atmadeva. When Atmadeva heard a child crying he came to know that a boy had taken birth in his house. After some time their cow also gave birth to a human looking child. Dhundhuli named her boy Dhundhukari; and because the cow’s offspring appeared human but had cow-like ears, Atmadeva named him Gokarna (for having ears resembling that of a cow’s). During the children’s upbringing, Dhundhukari did not learn anything in school, whereas Gokarna learned all the scriptures properly in a short time. When Dhundhukari reached youth, he was rowdy and mischievous, whereas Gokarna was very gentle and well mannered. Dhundhukari would daily engage with prostitutes, eat meat, took intoxication, stole, gambled, engaged in criminal acts, set fire to others’ houses, and kept the company of unwanted people. Seeing the undesirable acts of his son, Atmadeva became very morose and by the advice of Gokarna, left for the forest to perform austerity.
Gokarna thought living with such a mischievous person is not good, so he left to visit places of pilgrimage. With his father and Gokarna gone, Dhundhukari squandered all the wealth of the house on prostitutes and then beat his mother for want of more money. But being unable to supply money to Dhundhukari, Dhundhuli committed suicide by jumping into a nearby well. Now Dhundhukari was free to do as he liked. Therefore he daily went to the forest and killed animals to bring home to eat and brought five prostitutes to live in the house. In order to fulfill the prostitutes’ demands he would gamble, commit robbery, and engage in many other illegal activities. For a normal man it can be difficult to fulfill the demands of one wife, therefore one can only imagine how much anxiety Dhundhukari was in to have to provide for five prostitutes. One day the prostitutes had a discussion and concluded that some day Dhundhukari will be caught by constables for robbing people, and when he is interrogated they will also be implicated and punished. Therefore they decided to kill Dhundhukari. One day when he was asleep, four of the prostitutes strangled him with a rope while the fifth one poured burning red hot charcoal into his mouth, killing him. The prostitutes then collected all the remaining wealth and left the house. Dhundhukari, being a very sinful person and having received such an untimely death, became a ghost and haunted the house. After some time Gokarna returned from pilgrimage and being tired, fell asleep in the house. In his ghostly existence, Dhundhukari made many disturbing noises, which disturbed Gokarna’s sleep. Gokarna then understood that the sinner Dhundhukari had died untimely and had become a ghost. A genuine devotee only thinks of benefiting others; thus Gokarna being a genuine devotee decided to liberate the ghost (Dhundhukari) from that existence.
The result of associating with a great devotee is explained by King Muchukunda thus:
bhavapavargo bhramato yada bhavet
janasya tarhy acyuta sat samagamah
sat-sangamo yarhi tadaiva sad-gatau
paravarese tvayi jayate matih
“The living entity entangled in the cycle of rebirth and death wanders all over the universe and takes countless births in the eight million four hundred thousand different species. When its time to receive liberation from this world arrives it gets the opportunity to associate with a real devotee of the Lord. Such a devotee has a direct connection with the Supreme Lord and the Lord does not want His devotee’s association to go in vain, therefore the Lord helps develop interest in that human being for chanting and worshipping the Lord, by which that human being receives liberation from this world.”
To liberate the ghost from that existence, Gokarna decided to recite Srimad Bhagavatam in seven days in that house. He invited the local residents to attend and informed them that Dhundhukari had become a ghost. The local residents accepted the invitation and the recitation of Bhagavatam began on Asadha Sukla Navami day (which takes place in light part of June-July). Gokarna got a seven-knotted bamboo and erected it before the seat he would recite Bhagavatam from so that the ghost (Dhundhukari) could sit upon the tip and listen to the Bhagavatam narration (per the scriptures a ghost can only sit upon a bamboo and no where else). After the first day of narration was complete, the first knot of the bamboo cracked, which indicated that Dhundhukari was getting closer to liberation. Day after day the knots cracked until the seventh knot cracked, indicating that Dhundhukari had become free from that ghostly existence. Then a celestial Vimana aircraft arrived from the spiritual world to take him there. Upon seeing the spiritual Vimana aircraft, Gokarna asked the aircraft attendants, “Why have you brought only one aircraft? Other people have heard the Srimad Bhagavatam narration as well. Why haven’t you brought Vimana for them?” To this the aircraft attendants replied, “Even though the others have heard Srimad Bhagavatam, they did not develop sufficient faith as Dhundhukari has and they did not accept the ideals of Bhagavatam. After hearing Bhagavatam they remained fixed in their ways. Except for Dhundhukari, no one genuinely adopted the path of Srimad Bhagavatam, which is why only Dhundhukari is qualified to be liberated at this time. Only Krsna is the Supreme God, Lord of all the Lords, and no one other than Him is God. He is the ultimate well-wisher of all. Anyone who does not accept this absolute truth will never be benefited in life. Those who do not accept scriptural instructions and those who do not accept the Supremacy of Lord Krsna cannot be liberated from this world even though they are religious and/or are practicing spiritual life.”
Upon hearing the Vimana attendants words, Gokarna again recited Srimad Bhagavatam, by hearing which all the listeners developed unshakable faith in Lord Krsna and concluded that He is the Supreme God; that glorifying the Lord and chanting His name is the sole goal of every human being; and that every living entity is His servant. With this firm faith and by Gokarna’s mercy, another Vimana came from the spiritual world and took everyone there to live eternally.
While the four Kumaras were still speaking, both Jnana and Vairajna became youthful again and together with their mother, Bhaktidevi, began dancing while reciting the names of Lord Sri Krsna. Bhaktidevi then asked Narada Muni where their sitting place is. Witnessing this lady questioning Narada, the listeners of Bhagavatam asked, “Who is this female?” To this Narada Muni replied, “She is the result of listening to Krsna’s narration with firm faith. This female is the wife of Lord Krsna and her name is Bhaktidevi. The two boys are her sons, named Jnana and Vairajna. These three personalities reward liberation to Srimad Bhagavatam listeners.” After answering the listeners questions, Narada Muni turned to Bhaktidevi and her sons and said, “Your appropriate sitting place is in the heart of Srimad Bhagavatam listeners. Please be seated in the hearts of the listeners.” Thus, following Narada Muni’s advice, the three of them entered into the hearts of the Bhagavatam listeners. When Lord Krsna found that His wife was sitting in the hearts of the Bhagavatam listeners, He left His spiritual abode and manifested inside the hearts of the Bhagavatam listeners as well, thus illustrating that wherever unalloyed Bhakti is being performed, Lord Krsna is surely found there.
The essence of this history is that if Srimad Bhagavatam is heard with firm faith, one obtains all three divine qualities at once. After a person obtains Bhakti, Jnana and Vairajna, there is nothing else in this world needed to attain peace. The degree of happiness one obtains by listening to Srimad Bhagavatam cannot be obtained by achieving everything of this world, because when Krsna Himself comes and sits inside one’s heart, the soul inside the heart becomes overwhelmed with bliss. After listening to Narada Muni, all the Bhagavatam listeners present became jolly and started chanting the names of Lord Krsna.
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna
Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare
[How to Spend Your Best Seven Days on Earth, by Sri Krsna Balaram Swamiji, KBS5139]