Srimad Bhagavatam - Prayers

Introduction

The 'Book of God' - which means Srimad Bhagavatam in sanskrit - is regarded as a literary masterpiece by even great sanskrit scholars in India.

Its message is sublime. If one has the moral courage to treat the scripture with the respect due to it, without the vain and hypocritical 'devotion' with which it is worshipped by those who have not the slightest intention of even understanding its extremely practical teaching, one will find in it an inexhaustible mine of scientific, metaphysical, philosophical, as well as socio-political information. Nuclear and even more advanced weapon systems are alluded to. Astronomical events are graphically - if anthropomorphically - portrayed. Now and then we come across marvels of 'genetic engineering' which are one step ahead of today's science fiction. Space travel is portrayed. The story of Krsna is central to the book. The similarities between the life of Krsna and the life of Christ are too many to be dismissed as accidental coincidences or just plagiarism. Twentieth and even twenty-first century civilizations are described with a prophetic vision.

The 'Book of God' purports to be the most authoritative text on everything dealt with in it. If the testimony of the scripture is accepted, and the author regarded only as a scribe who has faithfully transmitted the teachings of others, then in the scripture we learn 'dharma' (the code of appropriate conduct) expounded by sages like Maitreya and Narada, samkhya and yoga by the reputed founders of those schools like Kapila and jada Bharata, the truth concerning creation by the creator himself, and the glory of devotion to the Lord in inspiring stories of pre-eminent devotees like Ambarisa, Sudama (Kucela), Dhruva, Prahrada and Gajendra. A whole section is devoted to the wisdom of Krsna, whose biography is the crowning glory of the scripture.

'Devotion to the Lord' is the main theme and purport of the scripture; but it is not blind or ignorant devotion. In fact, truly great devotees of the Lord are convinced that no one can love what he does not know thoroughly; hence they declare that jnana or the highest wisdom is the indispensable pre-requisite to the love of God. Hence, in this scripture the nature of God is dealt with in great detail.

Academic knowledge of God is useless; superstitious and sentimental 'love' of God is sentiment and not love. True love of God spontaneously arises only in the heart of one who has come face to face with the truth concerning this creation.

And, how graphically the scripture describes this creation! How vast is the universe; how insignificant is this little earth! How immeasurable is time, and how brief and momentary is one's life-span in comparison! Juxtaposed against the biographies of mighty gods and often equally mighty demons - both of whom held sway not only over this earth-plane but over other celestial bodies as well, aspired for immortal existence and succeeded in living for very long periods of time - human life-span of even a hundred years seems but a fleeting moment, not really worth the homage it is paid.

When this message goes home into our heart, ego-centred living loses its meaning. The vacuum thus created is immediately filled by the love of God.

If this love of God meant life-and-world-denial or withdrawal from the world, the whole purport of the scripture would be lost, and only the grossest form of perversion would be left. For, God is the all, not pantheistically, but in reality. God is not in all; God does not appear as everything in this universe; God alone is - we say 'God' only because we say. As the scripture declares in the very beginning, it is on account of him that the entire creation shines as a valid reality.

This God is 'realised' when the ego-centred personality is seen to be a non-entity, when it is 'surrendered' - whether it is in love, in fear, in hate or in wisdom. He alone is - and the ego itself is part of his creation. As such it is a real entity; but when it oversteps its bounds there arises illusion - even as the lungs are meant to receive air and the stomach to receive food, and when there is confusion of their functions there is trouble.

When, thus, God is all and all conflict arises on account of the egocentred confusion, there is no essential difference between the divine, the human and the sub-human. All are subject to the fall consequent on confusion; and all are equally eligible for redemption. Whereas the very gods who attend upon the supreme Lord himself are subject to fall, 'animals' like the elephant Gajendra and the demons and the demonesses who figure in the story of lord Krsna are instantly redeemed. The distinctions between the different orders of creation are based upon the 'guna' or qualities of nature, and not on their essential reality.

One has to understand the evolution of the universe. The evolution of the material universe seems to have taken place in a well-defined succession of events. The one - God - who has in himself intelligence - satva, power - rajas, and materiality - tamas, willed through the agency of time a 'disturbance' of these three. These three got mixed up and thus the first cosmic elements or principles were 'born' or created. The disturbance continued - perhaps it goes on even now - and successive created elements collided among themselves creating more and more complex elements or principles.

Everything in the thus created universe partakes of these three qualities of nature: gods, humans and demons also fall under these categories. In their ascendancy and fall time plays an almost almighty role. God alone is the reality 'in' all; and God is time. The seeming ascendancy of evil, is therefore, within time, determined by time and paradoxically sanctioned and protected by time. There is a time therefore when evil is in the ascendant; and the Lord himself often pleads with the gods to be patient till time is favourable to them. He who truly sees this sees no evil - or sees everything as vanity - The Holy Bible, Ecclesiastes.

It is the purpose of the 'Book of God' to divert man's attention from the shadow-play of world-existence - with all its ugliness and conflict, and to direct it towards the ever-enduring reality. Thus, though historically speaking the conflicts dealt with in the scripture may well refer to facts of ancient history and though the parties to the conflicts might have been real-life personalities, the text wisely veils their identity so that their present-day descendants may not remember to perpetuate the enmity. The message is vital, not the names and their political identification.

This is the first time the Srimad Bhagavatam is presented as a book of daily readings - parayanam. The intention is to encourage people to devote a few minutes every day to its study. It is my humble prayer that after the day's reading, the reader will meditate, commune with the Lord who will surely reveal the truth from the reader's own heart. The book is but the story of his glory, and it is humbly dedicated to the feet of the Lord enshrined in the heart of his devotee.

Swami Venkatesananda.

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