The Bhagavata Purana

by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | ISBN-10: 8120838203 | ISBN-13: 9788120838208

This page describes Dialogue between Suta and Shaunaka in the Naimisha forest which is chapter 1 of the English translation of the Bhagavata Purana, one of the eighteen major puranas containing roughly 18,000 metrical verses. Topics include ancient Indian history, religion, philosophy, geography, mythology, etc. The text has been interpreted by various schools of philosophy. This is the first chapter of the First Skandha of the Bhagavatapurana.

Chapter 1 - Dialogue between Sūta and Śaunaka in the Naimiśa forest

1. Let us meditate upon the Supreme Spirit who is real; from whom emanate the creation etc. (i.e. creation, preservation and destruction) of this (universe), (as can be inferred from) his presence in all that exists and his absence from all that is non-existent; who is omniscient and self-refulgent; who extended (i.e. revealed) to the first knower (or wise one) viz. god Brahmá, through his heart, the Veda about which even the learned ones are perplexed; in whom (i.e. resting on whom) the creation of the three attributes (viz., sattva, rajas and tamas) appears real like theapparent transmutation of the light, water and earth (for example, appearance of water in the heat and light of the sun as in the mirage etc.); who by his lustre has always dispelled illusion.

[See notes on first verse]

2. Here, in this celebrated Bhāgavata composed by the Great Sage[1], is explained the highest Duty (Dharma), completely free from deceit, (viz. interest about this world and even the desire about liberation—Bhāvāratha Dīpikā). (It is the Dharma) of the righteous who are devoid of envy (and hence kindly to all beings—Bhāvāratha Dīpikā). Here the thing to be known is the absolute Reality (Or it is the individual soul, when a part of this thing or Reality is meant; it is māyā or Cosmic Illusion, when the power of the thing is implied: it is the universe when its effects are understood—the non-difference of these all from the absolute Reality can be easily understood—Bhāvāratha Dīpikā.) It gives the highest bliss and destroys the three kinds of misery[2]. Can the Supreme Lord be realized in the heart immediately by the teachings of other (treatises)? No. (But in this (Bhāgavata) he can be so comprehended at once by the meritorious who have a desire to hear (and study) this (Bhāgavata Purāṇa).

[See notes on second verse]

3.[3] This (Bhāgavata Purāṇa) is the (ripe) fruit of the wish-yielding tree[4] of the Vedas, that has been dropped down from the mouth of (the sage) Śuka (as from the mouth of a parrot= Śuka); that is full of (lit. endowed with) ambrosial juice[5] (viz. the highest bliss). Oh appreciators of beauty, the connoisseurs of its (the Bhāgavata Purāṇa’s) peculiar excellences[6], you do drink[7] constantly this Bhāgavata—a fruit which is entirely a sweet juice—here and in the state of the Final Beatitude.[8]

4. In the Naimiśa[9] forest, a sacred place of Viṣṇu, sages whose leader was Śaunaka[10] held a sacrificial session lasting for one thousand years, for attaining the heavenly abode of Viṣṇu.[11]

5. The sages, who had offered the morning oblations[12] (both of the daily routine and the special ones of the sacrificial session), once[13], respectfully asked the Sūta[14] who was hospitably received and (comfortably) seated:

6. Oh sinless one! Mythological epics (Purāṇas)[15] along with history (Itihāsa e.g. the Mahā Bhārata) and[16] Law- books (like Smṛtis composed by sages, e.g. Manu, Yājñavalkya and others) as well[17], have been not only studied but also expounded by you.

7. Oh Sūta! Whatever the venerable Bādarāyaṇa[18], greatest among the learned ones, knows and whatever other sages who know the saguṇa (possessing attributes) and nirguṇa (attribute- less) [aspects of] Brahman[19], know,

8. Oh gentle one! You know all that (completely and) accurately through his (Bādarāyaṇa’s) favour. Teachers disclose even their deepest secrets to an affectionate pupil.

9. Oh long lived one! You are fit to tell immediately what is entirely for the good of men, as has been properly decided by your honour directly from the (Purāṇic) text.

10. Oh honourable one! In this Kali age, men are generally short-lived, lazy, of dull intelligence, unfortunate and victims of diseases.

11. Numerous are the religious rites (requiring a number of technical performances) which deserve to be heard in details. Hence, Oh righteous one! After determining the essentials out of these by your keen intelligence, tell them to us, the reverentials, so that our minds will be thoroughly soothed.

12. Oh Sūta! God bless you. You know (the objective) why the venerable Lord of the Sātvatas[20] (or the protector of His worshippers—Bhāvāratha Dīpikā) was born of Devakī[21] and Vasudeva.

13. Well, Sir! You will be pleased to describe to us who are desirous of hearing about him whose incarnation is for the good and prosperity of all beings.

14. A person who, having fallen into this dreadful circuit of worldly existence, becomes utterly helpless and utters his name, is then immediately liberated. Fear itself is afraid of him.

15. Oh Sūta! Sages who have taken resort to His feet and who are the abodes of tranquillity, purify immediately by their presence (when approached); whereas the water of the divine Gaṅgā sanctifies after actual contact, i.e., ablutions (lit. ‘by actual service’).

16. Or what person desirous of purity of heart, will not listen to the glory of the venerable Lord whose deeds are praised by persons of auspicious fame[22]—the glory that cleanses the sins of the Kali age.

17. Describe to us who are very eager (to hear) his great[23] acts which are eulogised by the learned ones (like Nārada, Vyāsa or Brahmā etc.)—acts of him who sportively assumes[24] different forms.[25]

18.Oh intelligent (Sūta)! Describe to us fully the auspicious narratives of the incarnations of Hari, the Supreme Ruler, who by his mystic power called “Illusion”[26] indulges at will in his pastimes.

19.We, however, do not feel thorough satisfaction in hearing about his glorious[27] prowess which according to listeners who are connoisseurs of tastes is of increasing sweetness[28] every moment.

20.Lord Keśava, (though the Supreme Being is) concealed in human disguise[29], has certainly performed superhuman acts of heroism, along with Balarāma[30].

21.We, apprehending the arrival of the Kali age, have engaged ourselves in a sacrifice of a long duration in this field consecrated by Lord Viṣṇu. Hence, we have sufficient leisure[31] to hear the story of Hari.

22. By the creator (or Lord Viṣṇu) you have been clearly pointed out as the helmsman (of a ship) to us (who are) desirous of crossing the ocean (in the form of) the Kali Age which is difficult to be crossed over and which deprives (men) of goodness[32] (or ‘Strength’ as applied to ocean).

23. Tell us to whom righteousness has now resorted for refuge (when) Kṛṣṇa, the master of Yogic-mystic powers, well-versed in the Vedas, the protector of religion, has returned to his abode.[33]

Footnotes and references:

[1]:

The great sage Nārāyaṇa is regarded as the original author of the Bhāgavata. The four verses in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa II.9.32-35, narrated by the Supreme Lord to God Brahmā are regarded as the nucleus of this big epic. But Bhāgavata Candrikā takes this sage as Vyāsa.

[2]:

The following is the traditional classification of miseries: (i) ādhyātmika—The internal and external pangs and miseries suffered by the body and/or the mind, (ii) ādhibhautika—miseries from contact with gross ele­ments and their products, e.g. accidents, tortures etc.(iii) ādhidaivika—tortures meted out after death, in the other world, according to one’s misdeeds.

Bālaprabodhini (Giridhara) however limits these miseries to life on the earth and classifies: (1) caused by fever, grief etc., (2) caused by evil influence of stars, ghosts etc., (3) caused by heat, cold, tigers, serpents etc.

[3]:

Padaratnāvalī interprets as follows:

‘Oh men of the world who can appreciate excellence! Till the fall of your material body (liṅga-śarīra) you do drink again and again the delicious juice of the ripened fruit called the Bhāgavata which was made to fall by me (Vyāsa) from the wish-yielding tree, viz. the Vedas, the sweetness of which is increased due to its flow from the mouth of Śuka (‘the sage’) and ‘the parrot.’ It is well-known that the parrots eat only the ripe fruit.

[4]:

nigama-kalpataroḥ [nigamakalpataru]Kalpataru is a mythological wish-yielding heavenly tree. The Vedas are the means of obtaining the objectives of human life (puruṣārthas). As the Vedas are thus productive of all desires, they are com­pared with kalpataruBhāvāratha Dīpikā, Bhāgavata Candrikā As the Bhāgavata Purāṇa contains the essence of the Vedas, it is called the ‘fruit’ of the Veda-Tree—Bhāgavata Candrikā

[5]:

amṛta-drava-saṃyuta—amṛta

(i) The highest bliss—Bhāvāratha Dīpikā,

(ii) Libera­tion—Bhāgavata Candrikā, Padaratnāvalī(a) mixed with the essence of liberation. Devotion full of the joy of experiencing (the presence of) the Lord—Bhāgavata Candrikā; (b) That which leads to Liberation (mukti)—Padaratnāvalī

(iii) The essence of the sports of Hari—Kramasandarbha.

[6]:

bhāvukāḥ [bhāvuka]—(i) Expert judges of qualities of special kinds of tastes—Bhāvāratha Dīpikā

(ii) Persons devoted to the enquiries about the glorious Lord—Bhāgavata Candrikā

(iii) The abode of the highest auspiciousness (parama-maṅgalāyana)—Kramasandarbha.

[7]:

pibata rasam [rasa]—It is not possible ‘to drink’ a fruit. But the Bhāgavata Purāṇa is like a fruit which is entirely full of juice without any seed.

(i) The word rasa is used as a correlative of phala as juice when fallen down cannot be drunk—Bhāvāratha Dīpikā, Bhāgavata Candrikā

(ii) Pā (pib) means ‘to eat’ as well—Padaratnāvalī

[8]:

ālayam [ālaya]—(i) upto death—Bhāgavata Candrikā (ii) till the fall of the physical body (liṅga śarīra)—Padaratnāvalī (iii) laya or pralaya is the 8th sāttvika stage. Till one reaches that stage—VC. (Viśvanātha Cakravartī). (iv) Which is the cause of the dissolution of the cycle of births and deaths (prapañca)—Subodhinī Or it (The Bhāgavata Purāṇa juice) should be drunk disregarding the desire for liberation

[9]:

Bhāvāratha Dīpikā and Subodhinī record the popular etymology of the word “Naimiśa” as “a place where the felly of the wheel (created by god Brahmā) was bro­ken”: Brahmaṇā visṛṣṭasya cakrasya nemiḥ śīryate kuṇṭhībhavati yatra / Bhāvāratha Dīpikā quotes the authority of the Vāyavīya which states that when some sages went to Brahmā for a suitable place for performingpenance, he created a wheel and asked the sages to follow it till it came to a standstill. The wheel owing to the breakage of its felly stopped at a place which came to be known as Naimiśa:

The alternative spelling of this word is “Naimiṣa” which according to the quotation of the Varāha Purāṇa given by Bhāvāratha Dīpikā is derived from Viṣṇu’s exploit of destroying an army of Dānavas (demons) within the twinkling of eyelids (nimiṣa).

Modern Nimsar, on the bank of the Gomatī in the Sītāpur district of the Uttar Pradesh is regarded as the site of the old sacred place called Naimiṣāraṇya (Vide Śiva Purāṇa, P. 432, F.N.).

[10]:

He belonged to the Bhṛgu clan according to Mahābhārata He was the leader of the sages who performed the great sacrificial session in the Naimiṣa forest and to whom the Mahābhārata, and the Purāṇas were recited by the Sūta. (Vide 1, F.N. 1).

[11]:

According to Bhāvāratha Dīpikā, svarga means the God Viṣṇu, He explains svargāya lokāya as follows:

svaḥ svarge gīyata iti svargāya hariḥ, sa eva loko bhaktānāṃ nivāsa-sthānaṃ, tasmai tat-prāptaye /

Padaratnāvalī slightly differs. He interprets svarga as Viṣṇu svarato viṣṇuḥ tena gato loko Vaikuṇṭhākhyaḥ tasmai /

Subodhinī also disapproves the explanation of Bhāvāratha Dīpikā and explains “Bhagavadānandāṃśa-bhūtah svargaḥ / lokātmakastu mahān aiśaḥ / sa hyatra phalam /”

[12]:

In the place of huta-utāgnayaḥ, Padaratnāvalī accepts the reading huta- hutāśanāḥ which is better, though we have followed Bhāvāratha Dīpikā in the above trans­lation.

[13]:

ekadā: Subodhinī interprets as “ṃe time of singing or reciting the Kṛṣṇa- legend” (Hari-Gāthopagājana-kālaḥ). It is at this time of the sacrificial session that the Sūtas come. Subodhinī thinks that this Sūta is not a Brahmin and though as per formalities, he was expected to stand in the assembly of those Brahmin sages, he was specifically asked to sit comfortably for narrating Kṛṣṇa’s life, (vide Subodhinī 1.1.5, page 8).

[14]:

A.D. Pusalkar thinks that this narrator of the Purāṇas is a Brah­min, a view accepted by the editor of the (vide P. 1, FN. 2). But I think it is still an open question.

The Sūta who narrated the BH.P. was the son of Romaharṣaṇa, the disciple of Bādarāyaṇa (BH.P. 1.1.6-8).

[15]:

Purāṇa—‘Ancient legendary history’. Name applied to 18 well- known sacred works containing the whole body of Hindu mythology; supposed to be composed by Vyāsa. Each Purāṇa treats of the following topics: The creation, the destruction and renovation of the universe, the genealogy of Gods and ancient heroes, the reigns of Manus and the narratives of their descendants.

These are enumerated thus:

sargaś ca prati-sargaś ca vaṃśo manvantarāṇi ca /
vaṃśānucaritaṃ caiva purāṇam pañca-lakṣaṇam //

Different lists of the 18 Purāṇas are available. ASD. 67 gives the follow­ing titles:

1. Brahma, 2. Padma, 3. Viṣṇu, 4. Śiva, 5. Bhāgavata, 6. Nārada, 7. Mārkaṇḍeya, 8. Agni, 9. Bhaviṣya, 10. Brahma-Vaivarta, 11. Liṅga, 12. Varāha, 13. Skanda, 14. Vāmana, 15. Kūrma, 16. Matsya, 17. Garuda, 18. Brahmāṇḍa.

For a succinct statement about the epics and Purāṇas vide A.D. Pusalkar’s Studies in the Epics and the Purāṇas, (Bombay, 1963).

[16]:

Ca, Padaratnāvalī include Upa-Purāṇaṣ, 18 in number, but Bhāratīya Saṃskṛti Kośa (Vol. I, P. 667) enumerates 51 titles.

[17]:

ŚāstrāṇiSubodhinī includes secular sciences like artha-śāstra under this.

[18]:

A name of Veda Vyāsa, the reputed author of the Brahma Sūtras. Authorship of all Purāṇas and Upa-Purāṇas and the Mahābhārata is attributed to him.

[19]:

I followed Bhāvāratha Dīpikā in interpreting the words para and avara. The other commentators differ as follows:

Bhāgavata Candrikā The Supreme Soul (paramātma-tattva) and the lower self or prakṛti-puruṣa-tattva.

Padaratnāvalī takes these as two aspects of Brahman and as an alternative ex­planation “One who knows the past and the future”—an explanation endor­sed by Subodhinī VB. also thinks that para signifies Gods like Brahman while avara means men like ourselves. Anvitārthaprakāśikā. takes para as ‘Brahman’ and apara as prakṛti etc.

[20]:

Sātvata—Name of the Yādava clan. It is also interpreted as ‘Worshipper’.

[21]:

Devakī—Wife ofVasudeva, mother of Kṛṣṇa and cousin of Kaṃsa; regarded as an incarnation of Aditi and Pṛśni. According to Padma P., in Devaki’s marriage a voice from heaven predicted the death of Kaṃsa at the hands of the 8th child of Devakī. As a precautionary measure, Kaṃsa impris­oned both Vasudeva and Devakī and tried to kill all her children. But Kṛṣṇa, the 8th child, was saved. Kṛṣṇa killed Kaṃsa and got his parents honourably released. She stayed with him throughout his life. After Kṛṣṇa’s death, she entered fire. (Bhāratavarṣīya Prācīna Caritra Kośa p. 452)

[22]:

It is alternately explained: ‘...... Lord who is of sanctifying fame as well as of praiseworthy deeds.’ Padaratnāvalī, Bhāvārtha-dīpikā-prakāśa

[23]:

1. great e.g. the creation of the universe—Bhāvāratha Dīpikā Siddhāntapradīpa 2. removing sins—udgata-doṣaPadaratnāvalī 3. creating (lit. giving) highest rapture—Kramasandarbha. 4. giving the desired objects to devotees—VC. 5. awarding the four highest goals in human life (puruṣārtha) viz. dharma, artha, kāma and mokṣa—G.D.

[24]:

dadhataḥ—This present participle signifies the eternal nature of His pastimes—VC.

[25]:

Kalāḥ [Kalā]—1. Forms e.g., Brahman, Rudra etc.—Bhāvāratha Dīpikā 2. All in­carnations—Padaratnāvalī, Sārārthadarśinī 3. Incarnations in the shape of man etc.—Kramasandarbha. 4. Kṛṣṇa was the only complete incarnation (pūrṇāvatāra) is implied by this—Bhāgavata Candrikā, Bālaprabodhini 5. Bhāvārtha-dīpikā-prakāśa waxes eloquent in explaining the concept of incarna­tion (avatāra). The incarnations are of three types—(i) puruṣāvatāra viz. Saṅkarṣaṇa, Pradyumna and Aniruddha of the Pañcarātra system; (ii) guṇāvatāra e.g. Brahman (representing rajoguṇa), Rudra (for tamoguṇa) etc. (iii) līlāvatāra—All incarnations from. Sanaka, Sanandana upto Kalki (described in BH.P.I.3).

Bhāvārtha-dīpikā-prakāśa gives another fourfold classiñcation of these incarnations in as­cending powerfulness, according as they are due to: (1) influence or āveśa (e.g. Sanaka, Nārada, Pṛthu etc.); (2) miraculous power or Prabhāva (e.g. Mohinī, Vyāsa, Datta etc.); (3) magnificence or Vaibhava (e.g. Nara, Nārāyaṇa, Hayagrīva etc.) and (4) of the highest stage or Parāvasthā, which are in ascending hierarchy Narasiṃha, Rāma and Kṛṣṇa.

Thus Kṛṣṇa is regarded as the most complete incarnation. Kṛṣṇa eva svayaṃ bhagavān, na tato'dhikaḥ ko'pyastiBhāvārtha-dīpikā-prakāśa

[26]:

ātma-māyā—(1) His own power called ‘miracle’ (āścarya- śakti).—Bhāgavata Candrikā (2) ‘Knowledge’ (saṅkalpa-rūpa jñāna) (3) ‘Will-power’, but with the following different implications: (a) Svarūpa-bhūta-icchāPadaratnāvalī (b) nijecchārūpa-śaktiḥ—[Kramasandarbha., Bhāvārtha-dīpikā-prakāśa quote mahāsaṃhitā: Ātma-māyā tad-icchā syādGuṇa-māyā jaḍātmikā /] (4) ‘Mystic power’ (yoga-māyā)—Sārārthadarśinī

[27]:

Uttama-śloka—(i) whose glory dispells the darkness in the form of ignorance of the mind or nescience (avidyā—SR., Bālaprabodhini (ii) which is praised by the best (persons)—Sārārthadarśinī,Bhāvārtha-dīpikā-prakāśa (iii) whose glory is the best—Sārārthadarśinī (iv) one who is praised by the liberated who experience the joy of Brahman, Subodhinī

[28]:

Svādu-svādu—more tasteful than tasteful things—Bhāvāratha Dīpikā However, Padaratnāvalī is followed here.

[29]:

Kapaṭa-mānuṣaḥ [kapaṭamānuṣa]—(a) ‘Disguised as man; Having the appearance of man.’—Bhāgavata Candrikā, Bālaprabodhini &c. Kramasandarbha. explains: The Supreme Lord has no material body implied by the word ‘man’. He is the Supreme being appearing in human shape, (b) ‘Mānuṣeṣvapi kaṃ sukham patati prāpnoti /: Padaratnāvalī

[30]:

Balarāma: An incarnation of Śeṣa, son of Vasuḍeva and origi­nally of Devaki but by womb-transfer, was born of Rohiṇī, another wife of Vasudeva. He was fair in complexion aṇḍ was usually dressed in blue. He was brought up along with Kṛṣṇa by Nanda in Gokula. He is represented as armed with a ploughshare and a pestle-like club. He was a lifelong asso­ciate of Kṛṣṇa, sharing with him all vicissitudes of life. He was noted for his great physical power and short temper and addiction to wine and dice. He married Revatī. At the time of the last internecine fight among the Yādavas, he quietly retired and left his human mortal body by yogic process and resumed his form as Śeṣa (Details—Viṣṇu Purāṇa; Harivaṃśa). DHM. 40-41, Purāṇa Index. 2.463-65.

[31]:

kṣaṇa—Joy, desire (utsava)—Bhāvārtha-dīpikā-prakāśa

[32]:

sattva—‘courage, morale’—V D.

[33]:

svāṃ kāṣṭhām [kāṣṭhā]—
—His own boundary i.e. His own Self—Bhāvāratha Dīpikā
—His own direction, i.e. Vaikuṇṭha-lokaBhāgavata Candrikā
—His own attribute, full form (guṇa-pūrṇa-svarūpam)—Padaratnāvalī
—His quarter, i.e. His own eternal abode (nija-nitya-dhāma)—Kramasandarbha.
—His boundary, the span of life of 125 years while he was in this world—VC.

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