The Bhagavata Purana

by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 780,972 words | ISBN-10: 8120838203 | ISBN-13: 9788120838208

This page describes Sanatkumara’s Sermon to Prithu which is chapter 22 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 twenty-second chapter of the Fourth Skandha of the Bhagavatapurana.

Chapter 22 - Sanatkumāra’s Sermon to Pṛthu

Maitreya said:

1. While people were thus extolling Pṛthu of mighty prowess, there approached four sages, brilliant like the Sun.

2. Attended upon by his servants, the king saw those lords of sages descending from the heavens. They were recognized to be Sanaka and others by their lustre which absolved the worlds of sins.

3. Just as the lord of sense-organs (jīva) rushes forth to the objects of senses, Pṛthu, the son of Vena, along with the courtiers and attendants, immediately stood up (and went forth to the sages), as if to recover his vital breaths which sprang forth at their sight.[1]

4. When the sages accepted preliminary reception (arghya)[2] and occupied the seats (offered to them), the courteous king, who was hypnotised with their august presence, bowed down his head out of modesty, and worshipped them with due formalities.

5. (To purify himself) he sprinkled the hair on his head with (the sanctifying drops of) water with which he washed their feet. He, thereby, observed the course of conduct of the virtuous, to show respect to them.

6. The king was endowed with deep faith and selfdiscipline, and was full of joy. He addressed those elder brothers of Lord Śiva, who occupied scats of gold, and were looking like sacrificial fires in their respective altars.

Pṛthu said:

7. “Oh! What meritorious deeds I must have performed that I have the privilege of seeing you, the abodes of auspiciousness, who are very difficult to be perceived even by masters of Yoga.

8. What is very difficult to attain here and hereafter to a person unto whom Brāhmaṇas (like you), and gods Śiva and Viṣṇu along with their attendants are gracious!

9. Just as Mahat and other principles (or Brahmā, Manu and other makers of the world)—which are the causes of the universe, do not visualize the Omniscient ātman (Soul), people do not at all see you even though you roam over the world (to help them to attain their puruṣārthas).

10. Verily, blessed are those saintly householders who, though penniless, have in their houses materials for worship such as water, mat of (darbha) grass, accommodation (or floor), the master of the household and his dependants ready (for receiving) the worthies.

11. (Unwelcome) like the trees which are haunted by poisonous serpents, are the houses which, though fully furnished with all kinds of riches, are not hallowed by the holy water used for washing the feet of Viṣṇu’s devotees.

12. Welcome is your arrival, Oh preeminent Brāhmaṇas who, determined to secure liberation, have been faithfully and with resolute mind, observing great vows (like lifelong celebacy) since your very childhood. (Or..... Brāhmaṇas whose course of observances of vows is followed by other ignorant persons desirous of Liberation).

13. Oh spiritual Masters! Is there any hope of good for us who regard the (achievement of) objects of senses as the goal of life and who, by our own deeds, have fallen into the saṃsāra, the bed of miseries.

14. The etiquette of enquiring after welfare of the guests is not applicable (or desirable) in the case of your honours, who are absorbed in the bliss of the ātman (Soul), and who are above the thoughts of welfare or otherwise.

15. You are the friends arid well-wishers of the distressed. With full faith in you, I, therefore, wish to enquire of you how one can speedily achieve the Summum bonum (Mokṣa) in this Saṃsāra?

16. It is obviously certain that the unborn Lord Nārāyaṇa who shines as the Soul of the self-knowing sages, and who manifests himself (in the heart of the devotees), goes about in the world, in the form of Siddhas (like you), for showering his grace upon his votaries.”

Maitreya said:

17. Having heard Pṛthu’s beautifully worded, logical, deeply significant, brief, melodious speech, Sanatkumāra slightly smiled, and verily replied with pleasure.

Sanatkumāra said:

18. “With the welfare of all beings at your heart, a good enquiry has been made by Your Majesty, even though you know its answer, Oh great King! For such is the nature of the righteous.

19. The meeting of the righteous is highly approved by both (the speakers and the members of the audience) for, their dialogues and enquiries increase the happiness of all.

20. Oh King! Your honour has definitely a constant and abiding love for eulogizing the excellent attributes of the lotus-like feet of Lord Viṣṇu (the enemy of demon Madhu). Such constancy of love is difficult to be found in others. Such love (if generated) completely shakes off the sticky dirt of inner passions and desires in the heart (which is difficult to remove).

21. In the Śāstric texts which have made a thorough enquiry (about the good of beings), it has been positively decided that perfect non-attachment to things other than the Soul (e.g. one’s own body), firm and constant love of attributeless Brahman and the Self—these constitute the means of the final beatitude of men.

22-25. Attachment for attributeless Brahman and nonattachment to the entire non-self material world (un-ātman), both effect and cause are easily generated by intense faith, performance of righteous duties towards the Lord,[3] the desire to know (the details about the Truth), firm faith in the spiritual path of Yoga,[4] meditation about the Lord of Yoga,[5] and constant listening to the holy stories of the Lord of hallowed renown; by cessation of desire to associate with the tāmasa people who take pleasure in wealth, and with the rājasa people who revel in the enjoyment of sensual pleasure, and by nonattachment to the filthy lucre and to sense-gratification which are highly valued by them, through love of seclusion[6] for enjoying the blissfulness of the Self (ātman) except on occasions when the drink of the nectar of Hari’s excellent glories is available;[7] by practising non-violence, by following the course of conduct prescribed for the highest ascetic order called the paramahaṃsas, by drinking the highest form of nectar in the form of Lord Hari’s stories, by eschewing desires and by observing rules of self-discipline called yama (abstention)[8] and niyama (observance),[9] by refraining from slandering (and condemning other paths of God-realization prescribed in scriptures), by desirelessness, and by endurance of opposite states (such as heat and cold, pleasure and pain); by devotion to Hari that blossomed for the constantly glorifying Lord Hari’s excellences which form the ornaments to the ears of his devotees through faith and deep devotion.

26.[10] When his attachment and delight in Brahman becomes firmly established, a man seeks a spiritual preceptor. Just as fire ignited from araṇī (a piece of wood of the Śamī tree used for kindling fire by friction) consumes its own source (the piece of wood from which it arose), the man, by force of his knowledge and non-attachment burns down his subtle body consisting of five subtle elements[11] and enveloping his Soul, in such a way as to render it unrevivable.

27.[12] When the screen or sheath (of the subtle body enveloping the Soul) which, till then intervened between the Super-Soul (Paramātman) and the Soul, is destroyed,[13] the person becomes freed from all the attributes[14] pertaining to the subtle body which has been burnt down. (Thenceforth) he does not perceive (his subjective states of pleasure, pain etc.) which are within him,[15] nor objects (e.g. a pot, a piece of cloth) which are external to him, just as a man awakened from a dream does not see the objects he had been perceiving in his dream.[16]

28. (It is in the state of wakefulness and dream) while this upādhi (conditioning) of mind continues, that man can perceive himself (the seer), objects of senses and what is beyond them both (viz. ahaṃkāra which establishes relation between them—the seer and the seen), and not otherwise (as in sleep).

29. (For example), if, anywhere, (reflecting) condition —upādhi like water,[17] mirror or such other condition is present, a man can see the difference between himself (the object of reflection) and the other thing (his own reflection) and not in the absence of the reflecting medium.

30. The mind of those who brood over objects of worldly enjoyment is distracted by their senses which are attracted to objects of worldly pleasure, and thereby the intellect loses its power of thinking and discrimination, just as the water from a pool is (imperceptibly) sucked up by the roots of a clump of grass.[18]

31. As a consequence of the loss of the reasoning capacity memory is lost. The loss of memory[19] results in loss of knowledge and wisdom. The wise people call this loss of wisdom as the covering of the Self through one’s own Self.

32. In this world, there is no worse loss of his self-interest to a man than the loss of his own Self (through himself) for whose sake every other thing in the world becomes dear (lit. on whom depends the dearness of every other thing in the world).[20]

33. Constantly brooding over wealth and objects of senses leads to the loss of all puruṣārthas (goals to be achieved in life). Having thus lost knowledge of Brahman and worldly knowledge, he enters (= is born in) immobile yonis—births e.g. a vegetable).

34. A person who desires to cross the dense darkness (of Saṃsāra), should not entertain attachment to anything whatever. For that attachment is extremely harmful to Dharma, Artha, Kāma and Mokṣa (the four puruṣārthas).

35. Even among these objectives of life, Mokṣa (Liberation) is acknowledged as the highest goal of life. For, the remaining goals of life, are always subject to the fear of death.

36. For the jīvas of the higher order (like Brahmā) and lower order like us who are created after the equilibrium of the three guṇas of Prakṛti was disturbed (at the time of creation), there is no security and happiness, as all their blessings and hopes (of attaining their objectives) are ruined by the All-powerful Time.[21]

37. Therefore, Oh King, you realize that you are (the same as) the Lord (the only existing reality)—the Lord who manifests himself and directly shines everywhere in the Self as antaryāmin (the inner controller) in the hearts of all mobile and immobile jīvas who are covered (i.e. invested) with body, sense-organs, vital airs, intellect and ego (ahaṃkāra).

38.[22] I take shelter with the Supreme Soul who is eternally free, extremely pure, highly enlightened, Reality itself and who has overpowered the Prakṛti (primordial nature) contaminated by Karmas (of various jīvas), and in whom appears this universe of superior and inferior things (or of cause and effect) as Māyā, which disappears due to (the dawn of) discriminating wisdom like (the dispelling of) the misapprehension of a garland of flowers as a serpent.

39.[23] You (therefore) take resort to Lord Vāsudeva as your asylum[24]—Lord Vāsudeva, through devotion (and concentration) on the splendour[25] of petal like toes of whose lotus-feet the saintly devotees so easily cut the knot of the egotism (ahaṃkāra) formed at the heart by karmas, that even recluses and ascetics who have cleared their mind[26] (of all worldly thoughts and kept it vacant) and have controlled their senses, are unable to do so.

40. There is a great trouble here to those who have not resorted to the Lord as a boat for crossing the ocean of saṃsāra which is infested with crocodiles in the form of sixfold [ passions viz. kāma (desire), krodha (anger), lobha (avarice), mada (conceit), moha (delusion), matsara (jealousy) or the mind and five senses]. For they desire to cross it (saṃsāra) by painful means (e.g. practice of Yoga). You should therefore make the adorable feet of Lord Hari as a boat and reach the other end of this impassable ocean of saṃsāra easily without any difficulty.”

Maitreya said:

41. The king to whom the real nature of ātman (Soul) was thus expounded by Sanatkumāra, the son of god Brahmā, the knower of Brahman, praised him appropriately and enquired.

The king said:

42. Oh venerable Brāhmaṇa! Lord Hari is compassionate to the afflicted. He had formerly conferred his grace upon me. You all have now come to consummate it.

43. Your venerable Selves, merciful as you are, you have translated into reality the blessing in its entirety. Everything that I possess, including my own self, belongs to the saintly souls who have graciously returned it to me as a favour. What can I give to you?

44. My life, wife, sons, houses with all their furnishings, kingdom, army, earth, treasury—everything is offered to you although it already belongs to you.

45. And a person who is well-versed in Vedas and Śāstras really deserves to command an army, (to rule over) a kingdom, to direct military operations and to govern all the world.

46. A Brāhmaṇa eats his own food, wears the clothes belonging to him and offers his own belongings. It is through his (Brāhmaṇa’s) grace that Kṣattriyas and others enjoy their own food.

47. You are past-masters in the Vedic lores. In your discourse about ātman (and other spiritual matters), you have succinctly and definitely explained to us the nature of the Lord as above. Abounding in mercy as you are, may you be forever pleased with your action of redeeming the afflicted. Who can return your obligations except by folding his palms in reverence or (become an object of ridicule in his supposed attempts to repay your kindness).”

Maitreya said:

48. Those masters of ātma-yoga (the Yogic path of selfrealization) were worshipped by the first monarch Pṛthu. They appreciated his righteous character and rose up to the heavens while people were looking on (agape).

49. Pṛthu (ṭhe son of Vena), the foremost among great Souls, became firmly established in his Soul due to concentration achieved by their instruction in the spiritual lore. He felt as if[27] he had achieved all his desires in life.

50. It was as an offering to Brahman that he performed all his actions at the proper time, at the proper place, to the best of his ability, according to proper foṛmalities, according to his means and property.

51. Thus with concentrated mind, he consigned the fruit (of his deeds) to Brahman. He remained unattached by regarding his Self as distinct and beyond Prakṛti, a mere witness to all actions'

52. Just as the Sun (remains unattached and unsoiled by the objects on which it shines), the king, though leading the life of a householder and endowed with imperial majesty and splendour, remained free from egotism (ahaṃkāra), and hence unattached to the objects of the senses.

53-56. While he was, in this way, doing his prescribed duties properly and in time, with his heart fixed on his ātman (Self), he begot through his queen Arcis five sons who were resembling and agreeable to him. They were Vijitāśva, Dhūmrakeśa, Haryakṣa, Draviṇa and Vṛka. But Pṛthu was a part of Lord Viṣṇu. For the protection of the created world, only Pṛthu combined in him (and manifested) powers of all loka- pālas (protectors of worlds like Indra, Varuṇa), from time to time as was necessary (according to the exigency of the situation). He bore significantly the title Rājā by delighting his subjects with his thoughts, words and deeds, and pleasing Soma-like (saumya) qualities as if he was another king Soma (the Moon or the Soma—juice—which has rājā as its epithet). Like the Sun (evaporating water from the earth and collecting it in clouds), he levied taxes from the world only to give it back to the people (for their welfare) and governed them (as the Sun gives light and heat to them).

57. By his majestic splendour he was unassailable like Agni (Fire-god); he was unconquerable like the great Indra; in forebearance he was like the earth; he was like the heaven (Svarga) in granting desired objects to his subjects.

58. Like the rain-god he showered to the satisfaction (of his subjects) all that they desired; like the (unfathomable) sea, he was too deep to be understood; in his firmness he was like Meru, the king of mountains.

59. He was comparable to Yama-dharma, in dispensing punishment; in marvellousness (in scenes, findings of ores etc.), he was like the Himālayas. He had rich treasure like Kubera (The god of wealth). He possessed immense undivulged treasures like Varuṇa.

60. In physical strength, force and energy and in his ability to move anywhere he was like Vāyu. In his irresistibility he was comparable to god Śiva.

61. He was a compeer of the god of Love in beauty; in spiritedness he was like a lion; in fatherly affectionateness he was like Manu; while in his lordship over man, he was like god Brahmā.

62. He was Bṛhaspati in his knowledge of Vedas, while in self-control he was like Lord Hari himself. (While he was comparable to himself only in his devotion to cows, Brāhmaṇas, preceptor, votaries of Hari and in qualities like modesty, humility, good nature and work for the benefit of others.

63. As his glory was loudly sung by people everywhere in the three worlds, he reached the ears of women just as Ṛāma entered the ears of the saintly people.

Footnotes and references:


As Bhāvāratha Dīpikā explains, it is the belief that when an elderly person comes, the vital breaths of young people immediately go forth to receive them. The youth catches back his vital breath, by immediately standing up to show respect, and by bowing down before the elders.


arghya—Water and other articles respectfully offered to gods or venerable persons. ASD. 51.


Bhagavad-dharma-caryayā— In the case of all (even uninitiated ones): (i) By performing the five mahāyajñas and other round of religious duties for propitiating the Lord—Bhāgavata Candrikā

(ii) By religious duties according to one’s own caste and stage of life (varṇāśrama)—Padaratnāvalī

(iii) Bālaprabodhini emphasizes the dedication of these religious duties to the Lord.


ādhyātmika-yoga-niṣṭhayā—In the case of the initiated ones: With faith in the meditation as a part of adoration of the Lord as enunciated by the spiritual preceptor—Bhāgavata Candrikā


Service of great Yogis like KapilaBālaprabodhini


vivikta-rucyā—Taste limited to food uncontaminated by the touch of other caste; by the delight and satisfaction one gets in the realisation of the Soul—Bhāgavata Candrikā


By attending the congregations when Hari’s līlās are sung—Sārārthadarśinī


By renunciation of objects of sensual enjoyment which are as if the pleasure-garden to the body and sense-organs, by non-acceptance of flower-garlands, cosmetics, women which are agreeable to them, by the sense of enoughness (alaṃ-buddhi) about carnal pleasures enjoyable by the body.—Padaratnāvalī


Patanjali gives the following list of Yamas and niyamas:

(i) Yamas (abstentions)—Abstinence from injuries, from falsehood, from theft, from incontinence and from acceptance of gifts (VSP. II.30).

(ii) niyama (observance): Cleanliness, Contentment, Self-castigation, Study and Devotion to Īśvara (VSP. ii.32).

Padaratnāvalī quotes from Yājñavalkya Yoga Śāstra 10 Yamas but as given in ASD. 455 the lists include 10 or 12 Yamas according to different authors. ASD. 290 quotes the following 10 niyamas:

śaucam ijyā tapo dānaṃ svādhyāyo'pastha-nigrahaḥ /
vrata-mauno'pavāsaṃ ca snānaṃ ca niyamā daśa //


According to Bhāgavata Candrikā, firm fixation of love in Brahman leads to the grace of spiritual preceptor (and not vice versa). With the force of knowledge, renunciation and the love or delight in Brahman, a man burns down the seed of karmas (both merit and sin) which is the cause of the body (and Saṃsāra).

Padaratnāvalī explains that the heart is an external upādhi (condition or attribute) and its burning does not harm and not the Soul or seed so enveloped by the external sheath.


Pañcātmakam [Pañcātmaka]: (i) Consisting of five kleśas viz. avidyā (nescience), ahaṃkāra (ego), rāga (attachment), dveṣa (hatred) and abhiniveśa (instinctive clinging to worldly life and bodily enjoyment and the fear of being deprived of this—ASD. 39) Bhāvāratha Dīpikā and Bālaprabodhini Sārārthadarśinī endorses this view while Siddhāntapradīpa supports the first interpretation given.

(ii) Consisting of five Kośas (sheaths) which lying one within the other make the body enshrining the Soul. They are: (1) annamaya, (2) manomaya, (3) Prāṇamaya, (4) Vijñānamaya and (5) ānandamaya. Sarvopaniṣatsāra, however, gives Prāṇamaya Kośa the 2nd place before Manomaya Kośa.


Padaratnāvalī differs: When the ‘heart’ and its attributes e.g. knowledge, disappear, the jīva does not perceive any difference—within and without like a blind person. When in the Saṃsāra, there is a screen between the Supreme Lord and the jīva, there exists a semblance of knowledge like doubt, as in a dream. But when the subtle body is lost, the jīva also will disappear. And the Saṃsāra with its modicum of knowledge is preferable to the vanishing of the jīva. Who would then bother about Liberation (Mukti)?


What interrupted the knowledge of the relations between the Supreme Soul and the jīva.


The attributes like love, hate which deserve to be shed off (heyaguṇa [heya-guṇāḥ])—Bhāgavata Candrikā


All internal blemishes, e.g. love, hate etc.—Bhāgavata Candrikā


Bhāvāratha Dīpikā explains: Just as a person who in a dream sees himself to be a king attended upon by an army of soldiers, sees no more his kingship and the army when the dream is over.

S.D.: In the dream the externals are friend, foe etc. and the internals are the honour, dishonour etc. meted out by them. These disappear when the dream is over.


jalādau—But Bhāgavata Candrikā reads jaḍādau and interprets: jaḍa is the inert body. When the limiting condition like this inert body continues as interruption, the jīva experiences separateness from his Self and the Supreme Soul. But in Liberated stage this limitation of the body ceases, he sees no such difference between the two.

VC. thinks that this upādhi (limiting condition) is destroyed by knowledge and the jīva, by his powerful love of God enjoys the blissful nature of the Lord.

Siddhāntapradīpa thinks that the extreme difference between the Soul (ātman) and Brahman is due to ignorance. When real knowledge dawns, he realizes the Brahmahood in ātman (ātmano brahmātmakatvam paśyati).


stamba—The canal or outlet from a tankPadaratnāvalī


bhraśyatyanu smṛtiś cittam / Bhāgavata Candrikā connects the words anu-smṛtis and interprets it as ‘the sense of the proper time for upāsanā or Yoga (anusmṛtir upāsanam, Yoga-kālānusandhānam /)


Gf. ātmanas tu kāmāya sarvam priyam bhavati /—Bṛhad. Upa. 4.5.6.


After verse 36, Padaratnāvalī gives the commentary on 3 verses which are not noted by other commentators. The Bhāgavata Vidyā Peeth, Ahmedabad edition does not give the text of those verses but only the commentary. Hence they are not included here.


Bhāgavata Candrikā emphasizes the point that the Lord is not directly affected by Karmas, ignorance etc., but it is through the jīva (kṣetrajña) which is his body (as he is the antaryāmin) that he experiences these.


(i) The above verses expound the path of knowledge which is difficult. Hence these two (39 and 40) verses describe bhakti (the path of devotion)—Bhāvāratha Dīpikā, VC.

(ii) Bhāgavata Candrikā treats the last two lines of the verse as qualifying the saintly devotees who meditate on nothing else but the Lord and who control themselves.

(iii) VC.—Vilāsa-bhaktyā—through the devotion to the ever-increasing beauty of petal-like toes of the lotus feet of Vāsudeva and bhakti i.e. devotion, is both the means and the end.

OR: Through worshipping in a rich way; or
Trough meditation over or memory of his toes.

The duties pertaining to God being the reverse of saṃsāra, the knot of ahaṃkāra formed by karmas is very easily cut asunder, while the recluses control their senses—an impossible task, an evidence of their dull-witted-ness. It it easy for the righteous Bhaktas to destroy ahaṃkāra but it is not possible for sannyāsins to achieve, for they being vacant-minded are ‘intellectless’ while the bhaktas have their mind filled with God. Bhaktas enjoy the beauty etc. of God to the full.


araṇam [araṇa]. Bhāvārtha-dīpikā-prakāśa treats this as a pun: a-raṇa [a-raṇam] who is beyond fight; If you do not resort to Vāsudeva, you will have to battle with your senseorgans which by their brute majority will defeat you.


vilāsa—beauty which increases every moment—VC.,Bhāvārtha-dīpikā-prakāśa


rikta-matayaḥ [riktamati]—Whose minds have no support of the Lord—Bālaprabodhini


iva—Being a true devotee, his real satisfaction was in devotion. This is implied by ivaBhāvārtha-dīpikā-prakāśa

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: