by Srila Bhakti Vinode Thakura
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The Bhagavata itself tells us what it is:
nigama kala-taror galitam phalam
"It is the fruit of the tree of thought (Vedas) mixed with the nectar of the speech of Shukadeva. It is the temple of spiritual love! Oh! Men of Piety. Drink deep this nectar of Bhagavata repeatedly till you are taken from this mortal frame."
The Garuda Purana says, again
granto’stadasa sahasra srimad bhagavatam idha
"The Bhagavata is composed of 18,000 slokas. It contains the best parts of the Vedas and the Vedanta. Whoever has tasted its sweet nectar will never like to read any other religious book"
Every thoughtful reader will certainly repeat this eulogy. The Bhagavata is pre-eminently the Book in India. Once enter into it, and you are transplanted, as it were, into the spiritual world where gross matter has no existence. The true follower of the Bhagavata is a spiritual man who has already cut his temporary connection with phenomenal nature, and has made himself the inhabitant of that region where God eternally exists and loves. This mighty work is founded upon inspiration and its superstructure is based upon reflection. To the common reader it has no charm and is full of difficulty. We are therefore, obliged to study it deeply through the assistance of such great commentators as Shridhar Swami and the Divine Chaitanya and His contemporary followers.
Now the great preacher of Nadia, Who has been Deified by His talented followers, tells us that the Bhagavata is founded upon the four slokas which Vyasa received from Narada, the most learned of the created beings. He tells us further that Brahma pierced through the whole universe of matter for years and years in quest of the final cause of the world but when he failed to find it abroad he looked into the construction of his own spiritual nature, and there he heard the Universal Spirit speaking unto him the following words:
sri bhagavan uvaca
aham evasam evagre nanyad yat sad asat param
"Take, 0 Brahma! I am giving you the knowledge of My Own self and of My relations and phases which is in itself difficult of access. You are a created being, so it is not easy for you to accept what I give you, but then I kindly give you the power to accept, so you are at liberty to understand My essence, My ideas, My form, My property, and My action together with their various relations even with your imperfect knowledge. I was in the beginning before all spiritual and temporal things were created, and after they have been created I am in them all in the shape of their existence and truthfulness, and when they will be all gone I shall remain full as I was and as I am. Whatever appears to be true without being a real fact itself, and whatever is not perceived though it is true in itself are subjects of My illusory energy of creation, such as, light and darkness in the material world." (Sri Chaitanya's lecture to Prakashananda in Chaitanya Charitamrita.)
It is difficult to explain the above in a short compass. You must read the whole Bhagavata for its explanation. When the great Vyasa had effected the arrangements of the Vedas and the Upanishads, the completion of the eighteen Puranas with facts gathered from the recorded and unrecorded tradition of ages, and the composition of the Vedanta and the large Mahabharata, an epic poem of great celebrity, he began to ruminate over his own theories and precepts, and found like Fauste of Goethe that he had up to that time gathered no real truth. He fell back into his own self and reached his own spiritual nature and then it was that the above truth was communicated to him for his own good and the good of the world. The sage immediately perceived that his former works required supercession in as much as they did not contain the whole truth and nothing but the truth. In his new idea he got the development of his former idea of religion. He commenced the Bhagavata in pursuance of this change. From this fact our readers are expected to find out the position which the Bhagavata enjoys in the library of Hindu Theological works.
The whole of this incomparable work teaches us, according to our Great Chaitanya, the three great truths which compose the absolute religion of man. Our Nadia Preacher calls them Samvandha, Abhidheya and Prayojana, i.e., the relation between the Creator and the created, the duty of man to God and the prospects of humanity. In these three words is summed up the whole ocean of human knowledge as far as it has been explored up to this era of human progress. These are the cardinal points of religion and the whole Bhagavata is, as we are taught; by Chaitanya an explanation both by precepts and example, of these three great points.
The first cardinal point deals with establishment of the knowledge of the relation that exists between the Creator and His creation, which is not perceived by the conditioned souls as they are under the grasp of Maya, the enveloping Energy of the Creator.
In all its twelve Skandhas or divisions the Bhagavata teaches us that there is only one God without a second, Who was full in Himself and is and will remain the same. Time and space, which prescribe conditions to created objects are much below His Supreme Spiritual Nature,which is unconditioned and absolute. Created objects are subject to the influence of time and space, which form the chief ingredients of that principle in creation which passes by the name of maya.
Maya is a thing which is not easily understood by us who are subject to it, but God explains, as much as we can understand in our present constitution, this principle through our spiritual perception. The hasty critic starts like an unbroken horse at the name of maya and denounces it as a theory identical with that of Bishop Berkeley. "Be patient-in your inquiry, is our immediate reply. In the mind of God there were ideas of all that we perceive in eternal existence with him or else God loses the epithet of omniscient so learnedly applied to Him. The imperfect part of nature implying want proceeded also from certain of those ideas and what, but a principle of maya eternally existing in God subject to His Omnipotence, could have a hand in the world as it is? This is styled maya shakti of the Omnipresent God. Cavil as much as you can. This is a Truth in relation to the created universe.
This maya intervenes between us and God as long as we are not spiritual and when we are able to break off her bonds, we, even in this mortal frame learn to commune in our spiritual nature with the unconditioned and absolute. No maya does not mean a false thing only but it means concealment of eternal truth as well. The creation is not maya itself but is subject to that principle. Certainly the theory is idealistic but it has been degraded into foolishness by wrong explanations. The materialist laughs at the ideal theory saying, how could his body, water, air and earth be mere ideas without eternity, and he laughs rightly when he takes Shankaracharya's book in his hand as the butt end of his ridicule. [The Padmapuran thus puts the following expression into the mouth of Shiva, and Chaitanya puts great stress on this text in his denouncement of Shankara's Mayavada:
mayavadam asach shastram
Mayavada philosophy is Buddhism in disguise and I (Lord of tamo guna) have given expression to it in the shape of a Brahmin (meaning Shankara).]
The true idealist must be a dualist also. He must believe all that he perceives as nature created by God full of spiritual essence and relations, but he must not believe that the outward appearance is the truth.
The Bhagavata teaches that all that we healthily perceive is true; but its material appearance is transient and illusory. The scandal of the ideal theory consists in its tendency to falsify nature, but the theory as explained in the Bhagavata makes nature true, if not eternally true as God and His ideas. What harm can there be if man believes in nature as spiritually true and that the physical relations and phases of society are purely spiritual?
No, it is not merely changing a name but it is a change in nature also. Nature is eternally spiritual but the intervention of maya makes her gross and material. Man in his progress attempts to shake off this gross idea, childish and foolish in its nature and subduing the intervening principle of maya lives in continual union with God in his spiritual nature. The shaking off this bond is salvation of the human nature. The man who has got salvation will freely tell his brother that, "If you want to see God, see me, and if you want to be one with God you must follow me."
The Bhagavata teaches us this relation between man and God, and we must all attain this knowledge. This sublime truth is the point where the materialist and the idealist must meet like brothers of the same school and this is the point to which all philosophy tends.
This is called Samvandha Jnana of the Bhagavata or, in other words, the knowledge of relations between the conditioned and the Absolute.
We must now attempt to explain the second great principle inculcated by the Bhagavata, i.e., the principle of duty. Man must spiritually worship his God.There are three ways, in which the Creator is worshipped by the created.
vadanti tat tatva vidas tatvam yaj janam advayam
All theologians agree in maintaining that there is only one God without a second, but they disagree in giving a name to that God owing to the different modes of worship, which they adopt according to the constitution of their mind. Some call Hari by the name of Brahman, some by the name of Paramatma and others by the name of Bhagavan.
Those who worship God as infinitely great in the principle of admiration call him by the name of- Brahman. This mode is called Jnana or knowledge.
Those who worship God as the Universal Soul in the principle of spiritual union with Him give Him the name of Paramatma. This is yoga.
Those who worship God as all in all with all their heart, body and strength style Him as Bhagavan. This last principle is Bhakti.
The book that prescribes the relation and worship of' Bhagavan, procures for itself the name of Bhagavata and the worshipper is also called by the same name. [This explanation is gathered from what Chaitanya said to Sanatana - vide - Madhya. Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita.]
Such is the Bhagavata which is decidedly the Book for all classes of theists. If we worship God spiritually as all in all within our heart, mind, body and strength, we are called Bhagavatas and we lead a life of spiritualism, which neither the worshipper of Brahman, nor the Yogi uniting his soul with (Paramatma) the universal soul can obtain.
The superiority of Bhagavan consists in the uniting of all sorts of theistic worship into one excellent principle in human nature which passes by the name of Bhakti. This word bas no equivalent in the English language. Piety, devotion, resignation and spiritual love, unalloyed with any sort of petition except in the way of repentance, compose the highest principle of Bhakti. The Bhagavata tells us to worship God in that great and invaluable principle, which is infinitely superior to human knowledge and the principle of Yoga.
Our short compass will not admit of an explanation of the principle of Bhakti beautifully rising from its first stage of application in the form of Brahman worship in the shape of admiration which is styled the Shanta-Rasa, to the fifth or the highest stage of absolute union in love with God, sweetly styled the Madhura Rasa of Prema Bhakti. A full explanation will take a big volume which is not our object here to compose. Suffice it to say that the principle of Bhakti passes five distinct stages in the course of its development into its highest and purest form. (These five stages are called Shanta, dasya, Sakhya, Vatsalya and Madhura.)Then again when it reaches the last form, it is susceptible of further progress from the stage of Prema (Love) to that of Mahabhava which is in fact a complete transition into the spiritual universe where God alone is the Bride-groom of our souls in the purest state.
The voluminous Bhagavata is nothing more than a full illustration of this principle of continual development and progress of the soul from gross matter to the All-perfect Universal Spirit Who is distinguished as personal, eternal, absolutely free, all-powerful and all-intelligent. There is nothing gross or material in it. The whole affair is spiritual. In order to impress this spiritual picture upon the student who attempts to learn it, comparisons have been made with the material world, which cannot but convince the ignorant and the impractical. Material examples are absolutely necessary for the explanation of spiritual ideas. The Bhagavata believes that the spirit of nature is the truth in nature and is the only practical part of it.
The phenomenal appearance of nature is truly theoretical, although it has had the greatest claim upon our belief from the days of our infancy. The outward appearance of nature is nothing more than a sure index of its spiritual face. Comparisons are therefore necessary. Nature as it is before our eyes, must explain the spirit, or else the truth will ever remain concealed, and man will never rise from his boyhood though his whiskers and beard grow white as the snows of the Himalayas. The whole intellectual and moral philosophy is explained by matter itself. Emerson beautifully shows how all the words in moral philosophy originally came from the names of material objects. The words heart, head, spirit, thought, courage, bravery, were originally the common names of some corresponding objects in the material world.
All spiritual ideas are similarly pictures from the material world, because matter is the dictionary of spirit, and material pictures are but the shadows of the spiritual affairs which our material eye carries back to our spiritual perception. God in His infinite goodness and kindness has established this unfailing connection between the truth and the shadow in order to impress upon us the eternal truth which He has reserved for us. The clock explains the time, the alphabet points to the gathered store of knowledge, the beautiful song of a harmonium gives the idea of eternal harmony in the spirit-world, today and tomorrow and day-after-tomorrow thrust into us the ungrasped idea of eternity and similarly material pictures impress upon our spiritual nature the truly spiritual idea of religion.
It is on these reasonable grounds that Vyasa adopted the mode of explaining our spiritual worship with some sorts of material phenomena, which correspond with the spiritual truth. Our object is not to go into details (which we do in the Bhagavata arka maricimala) so we are unable to quote some of the illustrations within the short compass of this lecture.
We have also the practical part of the question in the 11th book of the Bhagavata. All the modes by which a man can train himself up to Prema Bhakti as explained above have been described at great length. We have been advised first of all, to convert ourselves into most grateful servants of God as regards our relation to our fellow brethren. Our nature has been described as bearing three different phases in all our bearings in the world. Those phases are named Sattwa, Raja, Tama. Sattwaguna is that property in our nature, which is purely good as far as it can be pure in our present state. Rajoguna is neither good nor bad. Tamo-guna is evil. Our Prabrittis or tendencies and affections are described as the mainspring of all our actions, and it is our object to train up those affections arid tendencies to the standard of Sattwa guna, as decided by the moral principle.
This is not easily done. All the springs of our actions should be carefully protected from tamo guna, the evil principle, by adopting the Rajoguna at first, and when that is effected, man should subdue his Rajoguna by means of the natural Sattva-guna which is the most powerful of them when cultivated. Lust, idleness, wicked deeds and degradation of human nature by intoxicating principles are described as exclusively belonging to Tamo guna, the evil phase of nature. These are to be checked by marriage, useful work and abstinence from intoxication and trouble to our neighbors and inferior animals.
Thus when Rajo guna has obtained supremacy in the heart, it is our duty to convert that rajo-guna into sattva-guna which is pre-eminently good. That married love, which is first cultivated, must now be sublimated into holy, good and spiritual love, i.e., love between soul and soul. Useful work will now be converted into work of love and not of disgust or obligation. Abstinence from wicked work will be made to lose its negative appearance and converted into positive good work. Then we are to look to all living beings in the same light in which we look to ourselves, i.e., we must convert our selfishness into all possible disinterested activity towards all around us. Love, charity, good deeds and devotion to God will be our only aim. We then become the servants of God by obeying His High and Holy wishes.
Here we begin to be Bhaktas and we are susceptible of further improvement in our spiritual nature, as we have described above. All this is covered by the term Abhidheya, the second cardinal point in the supreme religious work, the Bhagavata.
We have now before us, the first two cardinal points in our religion, explained somehow or other in the terms and thoughts expressed by our savior who lived only four and a half centuries ago in the beautiful town of Nadia, situated on the banks of the Bhagirathi. We must now proceed to the last cardinal point termed by that great Re-establisher as Prayojana or prospects.
What is the object of our devotion and our union with God? The Bhagavata tells that the object is not enjoyment or sorrow, but continual progress in spiritual holiness and harmony. Rupa Goswami, one of the disciples of Mahaprabhu Chaitanya tells us that the object is no enjoyment or sorrow, but continual progress in perfectly attaining spiritual holiness and symmetry or harmony both within and all around in perfect bliss. Rupa Goswami, one of the disciples of Mahaprabhu Chaitanya, says:
bhukti mukti spriha yavat pisachi hrdi vartate
In the common place books of the Hindu religion in which the rajo and tamo gunas have been described as the ways of religion, we have descriptions of a local heaven and a local hell; the heaven as beautiful as anything on earth, and the Hell as ghastly as any picture of evil. Besides this heaven we have many more places where good souls are sent up in the way of promotion! There are 84 divisions of the hell itself, some more dreadful than the one that Milton has described in his "Paradise Lost." These are certainly poetical and were originally created by the rulers of the country in order to check evil deeds of the ignorant people, who are not able to understand the conclusions of philosophy.
The religion of the Bhagavata is free from such poetry. Indeed, in some of the chapters we meet with descriptions of these hells and heavens, and accounts of curious tales, but we have been warned somewhere in the book, not to accept them as real. facts, but as inventions to overawe the wicked and to improve the simple and the ignorant. The Bhagavata, certainly tells us of a state of reward and punishment in future according to deeds in our present situation. All poetic inventions, besides this spiritual fact, have been described as statements borrowed from other works in the way of preservation of old traditions in the book which superseded them and put an end to the necessity of their storage
If the whole stock of Hindu Theological works which preceded the Bhagavata were burnt like the Alexandrian Library and the sacred Bhagavata preserved as it is, not a part of the philosophy of the Hindus except that of the atheistic sects, would be lost. The Bhagavata therefore, may be styled both as a religious work and a compendium of all Hindu history and philosophy.
The Bhagavata does not allow its followers to ask anything from God except eternal Love towards Him. In the third skandha of the Bhagavata Kapila tells his mother, "God offers all sorts of happiness to His servants but they do not want them except His holy service." The kingdom of the world, the beauties of the local heavens and the sovereignty over the material world are never the subjects of Vaishnava prayer.
The Vaishnava meekly and humbly says, "Father, Master, God, Friend and Husband of my soul! Hallowed be Thy Name! I do not approach You for anything which You have already given me. I have sinned against You and I now repent and solicit Your pardon. Let Thy Holiness touch my soul and make me free from grossness. Let my spirit be devoted meekly to Your Holy service in absolute Love towards Thee.I have called You my God, and let my soul he wrapped up in admiration at Your Greatness! I have addressed You as my Master and let my soul be strongly devoted to Your service. I have called You my Friend and let my soul be in reverential Love towards You and not in dread or fear! I have called You my Husband and let my spiritual nature be in eternal union with You, for ever loving and never dreading, or feeling disgust. Father! let me have strength enough to go up to You as the Consort of my soul, so that we may be one in eternal Love! Peace to the world."!
Of such a nature is the prayer of the Bhagavata. One who can read the book will find the highest form of prayer in the expressions of Prahlad towards the universal and omnipresent Soul with powers to convert all unholy strength into meek submission or entire annihilation. This prayer will show what is the end and object of a Vaishnava's life. He does not expect to be the king of a certain part of the universe after his death, nor does he dread a local fiery and turbulent hell, the idea of which would make the hairs of young Hamlet stand erect like the forks of a porcupine. His idea of salvation is not total annihilation of personal existence as Buddhists and the 24 Gods of the Jains procured for themselves! The Vaishnava, the meekest of all creatures, is devoid of all ambition. He wants to serve God spiritually after death as he has served Him both in spirit and matter while here. His constitution is a spirit and his highest object of life is Divine and holy Love both here and hereafter.
There may arise a philosophical doubt as to how the human soul could have a distinct existence from the universal Soul when the gross part of the human constitution will be no more? The Vaishnava can't answer it, nor can any man on earth explain it. The Vaishnava meekly answers, he feels the truth but he cannot understand it. The Bhagavata merely affirms that the Vaishnava soul,when freed from gross matter will distinctly exist not in time and space but spiritually in the eternal spiritual Kingdom of God where Love is life, and hope and charity and continual ecstasy without change are its various manifestations.
In considering about the essence of the Deity, two great errors stare before us and frighten us back to ignorance and its satisfaction. One of them is the idea that God is above all attributes both material and spiritual and is consequently above all conception. This is a noble idea but useless. If God is above conception and without any sympathy with the world, how is then this creation? This Universe is composed of properties, the distinctions and phases of existence, the difference of value, man, woman, beast, trees, magnetism, animal magnetism, electricity, landscape, water and fire. In that case, Shankaracharya's Mayavada theory would be absolute philosophy.
The other error is that God is all-attribute, intelligence, truth, goodness and power. This is also a ludicrous idea. Scattered properties can never constitute a Being. It is more impossible in the case of belligerent principles, such as Justice and Mercy and Fullness and Creative Power. Both ideas are imperfect.
The truth, as stated in the Bhagavata is that properties though many of them belligerent (contradictory), are united in a spiritual Being where they have full sympathy and harmony. Certainly this is beyond our comprehension. It is so owing to our nature being finite and God being infinite. Our ideas are constrained by the idea of space and time, but God is above that constraint. This is a glimpse of Truth and we must regard it as Truth itself. Often, says Emerson, a glimpse of truth is better than an arranged system and he is right.
The Bhagavat has, therefore, a personal, all-intelligent, active, absolutely free, holy, good, all- powerful, omnipresent, just and merciful and supremely Spiritual Deity without a second,creating, preserving all that is in the Universe. The highest object of the Vaishnava is to revere that Infinite Being for ever spiritually in the activity of absolute Love.
These are the main principles of the religion inculcated by the work, called the Bhagavata, and Vyasa, in his great wisdom, tried his best to explain all these principles with the aid of pictures in the material world. The shallow critic summarily rejects this great philosopher as a man-worshipper. He would go so far as to scandalize him as a teacher of material love and lust and the injurious principles of exclusive asceticism.
The critic should first read deeply the pages of the Bhagavata and train his mind up to the best eclectic philosophy which the world has ever obtained, and then we are sure he will pour panegyrics upon the principal of the College of Theology at Badrikasrama which existed about 4,000 years ago.
The shallow critic's mind will undoubtedly be changed, if he but reflects upon one great point, i.e. how is it possible that a spiritualist of the School of Vyasa teaching the best principles of Theism in the whole of the Bhagavata and making the four texts quoted in the beginning as the foundation of his mighty work, could have forced upon the belief of men that the sensual connection between a man with certain females is the highest object of worship! This is impossible, dear Critic! Vyasa could not have taught the common Vairagi to set up an- Ashram (a place of worship) with a number of females ! Vyasa who could teach us repeatedly in the whole of the Bhagavata that sensual pleasures are momentary like the pleasure of rubbing the itching hand and that man's highest duty is to have spiritual Love with God, could never have prescribed the worship of sensual pleasures. [Vyasa himself apprehended these stupid critics, and with a view to prevent degradation of his piritua l principles he gave the following text in the mouth of Kapila in the third Skandha,
na tathasya bhaven moho
"The company of a woman or that of a man who cultivated friendship with woman with an immoral heart is very injurious to the man of a religious temperament.]
His descriptions are spiritual and you must not connect matter with it. With this advice, dear critic, go through the Bhagavata and I doubt not you will, in three months, weep and repent to God for despising this Revelation through the heart and brain of the great Badrinarayana.
Yes, you nobly tell-us that such philosophical comparisons produced injury in the ignorant and the thoughtless. You nobly point to the immoral deeds of the common Vairagis, who call themselves the followers of the Bhagavata and the great Chaitanya. You nobly tell us that Vyasa, unless purely explained, may lead thousands of men into great trouble in time to come. But dear critic! Study the history of ages and countries! Where have you found the philosopher and the reformer fully understood by the people?
The popular religion is fear of God and not the pure spiritual love which Plato, Vyasa, Jesus, and Chaitanya taught to their respective peoples! Whether you give the absolute religion in figures or simple expressions, or teach them by means of books or oral speeches, the ignorant and the thoughtless must degrade it. It is indeed very easy to tell and swift to hear that absolute truth has such an affinity with the human soul that it comes through it as if intuitively. No exertion is necessary to teach the precepts of true religion. This is a deceptive idea.
It may be true of ethics and of the alphabet of religion but not of the highest form of faith which requires an exalted soul to understand. It certainly requires previous training of the soul in the elements of religion just as the student of the fractions must have a previous attainment in the elemental numbers and figures in Arithmetic and Geometry. Truth is good, is an elemental truth, which is easily grasped by the common people. But if you tell a common patient, that God is infinitely intelligent and powerful in His spiritual nature, he will conceive a different idea from what you entertain of the expression.
All higher Truths, though intuitive, require previous education in the simpler ones. That religion is the purest which gives you the purest idea of God, and the absolute religion requires an absolute conception by man of his own spiritual nature. How then is it possible that the ignorant will ever obtain the absolute religion as long they are ignorant? When thought awakens the thinker is no more ignorant and is capable of obtaining an absolute idea of religion.
This is a truth and God has made it such in His infinite goodness, impartiality and mercy. Labor has its wages and the idle must never be rewarded. Higher is the work, greater is the reward, is a useful truth. The thoughtless must be satisfied with superstition till he wakes and opens his eyes to the God of Love.
The reformers, out of their universal love and anxiety for good, endeavor by some means or other to make the thoughtless drink the cup of salvation, but the latter drink it with wine and fall to the ground under the influence of intoxication, for the imagination has also the power of making a thing what it never was. .Thus it is that the evils of nunneries and the corruption of the Akharas proceeded. No, we are not to scandalize the Savior of Jerusalem or the Savior of Nadia for these subsequent evils. Luthers, instead of critics, are what we want for the correction of those evils by the true interpretation of the original precepts.
Two more principles characterize the Bhagavata. viz. liberty and progress of the soul throughout eternity. The Bhagavata teaches us that God gives us truth, as He gave it to Vyasa, when we earnestly seek for it. Truth is eternal and unexhausted. The soul receives a revelation when it is anxious for it. The souls of the great thinkers of the by-gone ages, who now live spiritually, often approach our inquiring spirit and assist it in its development. Thus Vyasa was assisted by Narada and Brahma.
Our different Shastras, or in other words, books of thought, do not contain all that we could get from the infinite Father. No book is without its errors. God's revelation is absolute truth, but it is scarcely received and preserved in its natural purity.
We have been advised in the 14th Chapter of the sixth Skandha of the Bhagavata
man maya sohita dhiyah
to believe that truth, when revealed, is absolute but it is liable to be imbued with the tincture of the nature of the receiver in course of time and is converted into error by continual exchange of hands from age to age. Consequently sincere revelations from authentic sources are continually necessary in order to keep truth in its original purity.
We are thus warned to be careful in our studies of old authors, however wise they are reputed to be. Here we have full liberty to reject the wrong idea, which is not sanctioned by the peace of conscience.
Vyasa was not satisfied with what he collected in the Vedas, arranged in the Puranas and composed in the Mahabharata.The peace of his conscience did not sanction his labors. It told him from inside, "No, Vyasa! You can't rest contented with the erroneous picture of truth which was necessarily presented to you, by the sages of by-gone days! You must yourself knock at the door of the inexhaustible store of truth from which the former ages drew their wealth. Go, go up to the Fountain-head of truth where no pilgrim meets with disappointment of any kind. Vyasa did it and obtained what he wanted. We have been advised to do so.
Liberty then is the principle which we must consider as the most valuable gift of God. We must not allow ourselves to be led by those who lived and thought before us. We must think for ourselves and try to get further truths which are still undiscovered. We must think for ourselves and try to get for ourselves further truths which are still undiscovered or unadapted in the present conditions and circumstances for purpose of our realization of the same.
In the 23rd text 21st Chapter 11th Skandha of the Bhagavata we have been advised to take the spirit of the Shastras and not the words.
phala srutriyam nrigam na sreyo rocan param
The Bhagavata is therefore a religion of liberty, unmixed truth and absolute love.
The other characteristic is progress. Liberty certainly is the father of all progress. Holy liberty is the cause of progress upwards and upwards in eternity and endless activity of love. Liberty abused cause's degradation and the Vaishnava must always carefully use this benign and beautiful gift of God. The progress of the Bhagavata is described as the rise of the soul from Nature up to Nature's God, from maya up to the absolute and the infinite Energy to the Transcendental Absolute Person Himself.
Hence the Bhagavata says of itself,
nigama kala-taror galitam phalam
"It is the fruit of the tree of thought, mixed with the nectar of the speech of Sukhadeva. It is the temple, of spiritual Love! Oh men of piety! Drink deep this Nectar of Bhagavata repeatedly till you are taken from this mortal frame!"
Then in the same vein the Saragrahi or the progressive Vaishnava adds:
surasa sarayutam phala matrayat
"That fruit of the tree of thought is a composition, as a matter of course of' the sweet and the opposite principles. Oh! Men of piety, like the bee taking honey from the flower, drink the sweet principle and reject that which is not so."
The Bhagavata is undoubtedly a difficult work and here it does not relate to picturesque description of' traditional and poetical life. Its literature is stiff and its branches are covered in the garb of an unusual form of Sanskrit poetry. Works on philosophy must necessarily be of this character. Commentaries and notes are therefore required to assist us in our study of the book. The best commentator is Sridhara Swami and the truest interpreter is our great and noble Chaitanyadeva. God bless the spirit of our noble guides who impart wisdom for our eternal good.
These great souls were not like comets appearing in the firmament for a while and disappearing as soon as their mission is over. They are like so many suns shining all along to give light and heat to the succeeding generations. It may be a long time before they will be succeeded by others of their mind, beauty and caliber.
The texts of Vyasa are still ringing in the ears of all theists as if some great spirit is singing to them from a distance. Badrikasram, the seat of Vyasa and the selected religion of thought! What a powerful name! The pilgrim tells us that the land is cold.! How mightily did the genius of Vyasa generate the heat of philosophy in such a cold region! Not only did he heat the locality but sent its ray far to the shores of the sea! Like the great Napoleon in the political world, he knocked down empires and kingdoms of old and by-gone philosophy by the mighty stroke of his transcendental thoughts! This is real power!
Atheistic philosophers of Sankhya, Charbak, the Jains and the Buddhists shuddered with fear at the approach of the spiritual sentiments and creations of the Bhagavata philosopher! The, army .of the atheists was composed of gross and impotent creatures like the legions that stood under the banner of the fallen Lucifer; but the pure, holy and spiritual soldiers of Vyasa, sent by his Almighty Father were invincibly fierce to the enemy and destructive of the unholy and the unfounded.
He that works in the light of God, sees the minutest things in creation, he that works the power of God is invincible and great, and he that works with God's Holiness in his heart, finds no difficulty against unholy things and thoughts. God works through his agents and these agents are styled by Vyasa himself as the Incarnation of the power of God. All great souls were incarnations of this class and we have the authority of this fact in the Bhagavata itself:
avatarah yasam svyeya hareh satva nidhedvimjah
"0! Brahmins! God is the soul of the principle of goodness! The incarnations of that principle are innumerable! As thousands of water-courses come out of one inexhaustible fountain of water, so these incarnations are but emanations of that infinitely good energy of God which is full at all times."
The Bhagavata, therefore, allows us to call Vyasa and Narada, as Shaktyavesha Avatars of the infinite energy of God, and the spirit of this text goes far to honor all great reformers and teachers who lived and will live in other countries. The Vaishnava is ready to honor all great men without distinction of caste, because they are filled with the energy of God.
See, how universal is the religion of Bhagavata. It is not intended for a certain class of the Hindus alone but it is a gift to man at large in whatever country he is born and in whatever society is bred In short Vaishnavism is the Absolute Love binding all men together into the infinite unconditioned and absolute God.
May it in peace reign for ever in the whole universe in the continual development of its purity by the exertion of the future heroes, who will be blessed according to the promise of the Bhagavata with powers from the Almighty Father, the Creator, Preserver and the Annihilator of all things in Heaven and Earth.