By Bhakti Rasamrita Swami
From today onwards for the next few sessions, I thought about discussing a certain section of the 11th Canto of Srimad Bhagvatam (Chapters 2 – 5).
The 4 chapters are a conversation between the great devotees Narada and Vasudev (father of Krsna). Usually, when we have such conversations that appear in the scriptures (especially in books like Srimad Bhagavatam), the conversation appears between two exalted personalities.
Narada is an associate of Krsna, a liberated soul, a pure devotee who is a transcendental space man traveling all over the universe simply for preaching the message of devotion to Lord Krsna. He has the complete freedom to travel anywhere & everywhere that he chooses. He is not dependent on normal modes of transport that we are limited by. Even the demi-gods in the higher plants can travel through the skyways. Narada is even more mobile than them because not only does he have access to the highest planet of Brahmaloka (which even some of the residents of the higher planets can’t go to) but he can also enter into Vaikuntha which is the planet of Lord Vishnu himself.
So Narada Muni’s body is entirely spiritual and he is well known for being a great devotee of the Lord. Sometimes in popular folklore, he is improperly understood because in order to facilitate the Lord’s pastimes, he goes to provoke certain situations and therefore people misunderstand the greatness of Narada Muni. For example when Kamsa imprisoned Devaki & Vasudev and after the first child was born, Vasudev had been true to his word and gone to hand over the child to Kamsa. At that time, Kamsa’s heart melted – such is the nature of a gentle devotee like Vasudev that even a demon like Kamsa softened upon seeing such behavior. Kamsa said the Akashvani in the sky noted the eighth child will kill me but this is only your first child so you can take him back. But Narada Muni came to actually provoke Kamsa later saying that the eighth child could be from the front or from the back and could be the last child or the first child because Narada Muni wanted to hasten the descent of Lord Krsna into this world because he had understand the Lord’s purpose.
The Lord had desired to enter into this material world for the sake of performing pastimes as per his promise in the Bhagavad Gita. So things were to happen per schedule and Narada Muni was eager that the Lord’s schedule should not be disturbed. So acting as an instrument of the Lord, he went to speak to Kamsa. People who do not understand the greatness of Narada Muni or who are not aware of the intricacies of devotional service may criticize Narada Muni for being very provocative to Kamsa. But once we understand that Narad Muni’s purpose is the same as Krsna’s purpose, he’s a very transparent & humble instrument of the Lord, then we will never criticize Narada Muni but rather we’ll glorify and appreciate all the wonderful services he does for the Lord.
Wherever Narada Muni goes, he is offered respect even when he goes to the courts of demons like Kamsa and so on, they would stand up & offer respect to him. What then to speak of great devotee, so this indicates the stature of Narada Muni. Narada Muni is also the guru for many great devotees in history. Vysasa dev, the author of the entire Vedic literature was his disciple. Dhruv Maharaj, Prahlad Maharaj, King Prachinha Praishad – these are some well-known examples of his disciples mentioned in the Srimad Bhagvatam and there are many many others like these. Narad Muni has come to Dwarka and he is about to have a conversation with Vasudev who is another great devotee. Vasudev is none other than the father of Lord Krsna. Of course, as we know Krsna has two sets of parents. One from who he appeared in Mathura (Devaki & Vasudev). Soon after his birth, Krsna was shifted to Vrndavan and there, Yasoda and Nand Maharaj became his parents (his foster parents and Krsna lived there for almost 10.5 years performing many wonderful childhood and boyhood pastimes).
Vasudev & Devaki were the mother & father of Krsna in Mathura & Dwarka. Being the father of Krsna is not an ordinary thing. We can understand that Vasudev is also not an ordinary person. In one sense, no one can be the father and mother of Krsna because Krsna is the father & mother of everyone but nonetheless, because Krsna wants to reciprocate and exchange the feelings of divine love with his devotees – so he assumes the role of a son or a friend or a brother & so on. He also nominates some of his devotees to eternally be his father & mother – so in the spiritual world of Dwarka & Mathura, Devaki & Vasudev are eternally the father and mother of Krsna. And in Golok Vrindavan in the spiritual world, Yasoda & Nand Maharaj are the mother and father of Krsna. So, they are eternally in that position, no one else can take that position. They are eternal associates of Krsna – so therefore we can understand how glories Vasudev is.
As devotees, we are interested in conversations between exalted personalities. A devotee does not like to hear ordinary discussions between ordinary people that have no real benefit. When we speak of real benefit, we mean something spiritual that can bring us closer to Krsna that can increase our devotion to Krsna.
In the material world, there are so many topics that people like to talk about and all these topics are mostly material topics that have no benefit for spiritual life. However, when devotees come together, they have no business to talk about mundane things unless there is some connection to Krsna consciousness.
When Krsna & Arjuna are speaking for example and the Bhagavat Gita conversation takes place, we can understand the subject matter must be bhakti because Krsna is the supreme Lord and Arjuna is his pure devotee so how can the pure devotee and the Lord discuss anything else? Hence, the topic of the Bhagavad Gita is definitely bhakti. Similarly, when two exalted devotees come together, they will only talk about Krsna, about bhakti or something connected to these two. They will never have elaborate discussions on things which have no connection with this. Similarly, the topic of discussion between Narada and Vasudev is also devotional service. Specifically, in the verses mentioned here, the words Bhagavad dharma are used. In other words, Narada Muni gives instructions on Bhagavad dharma to Vasudev who is playing the role of a faithful inquirer about Krsna consciousness.
The word “Bhagavad dharma” is basically Krsna consciousness. There are many terms that we can use for bhakti or Krsna consciousness. Krsna consciousness means to be conscious of Krsna with love. So our movement is called Krsna conscious movement. Srila Prabhupad used to say that two most important words we have in our dictionary are “Krsna” and “conscious”. So we have to be conscious of Krsna. In other words, we have to constantly think of Krsna with devotion. Srila Prabhupad didn’t deliberately name the society as the International Society of God Consciousness. He named it is as the International Society of Krsna Consciousness because he wanted us to understand that God is not something that is impersonal or vague. God has a name. He has millions of names but his most intimate and attractive name is Krsna because it refers to his all attractive aspect.
The process of Krsna consciousness is also called bhakti because bhakti means devotional service. Generally, when people speak of bhakti, they translate it as devotion but Srila Prabhupad defined it as devotional service meaning thereby when there is pure love of God, we will serve Him. Loves is not something passive where we will sit back and say “I love the Lord” “I love Krsna” and not undertake any service. If we really love Krsna, we will serve Him to the best of our capacity. There are different terms which mean the same thing Krsna consciousness, bhakti, devotional service. In terms of the word dharma, Srila Prabhupad also used the term sanatan dharma to mean the same thing as Krsna consciousness. Sanatan means eternal and dharma is a deep word but suffice to say it refers to our eternal function is to serve the Supreme Lord because we are eternally a part & parcel of Krsna and there is an eternal connection between every eternal soul & Krsna.
We can speak of 3 eternal truths: Krsna, devotee (individual soul) and the relationship of love between the devotee and Krsna (that is called bhakti). Because both the soul & Krsna are eternal, the relationship between the two is also eternal. Presently, we have forgotten that relationship but by practicing Krsna consciousness, we can revive that relationship.
Another equivalent term to Krsna consciousness or bhakti used by Srila Prabhupad is Bhagavat dharma. In a series of famous lectures given in New Govardhan, Srila Prabhupad spoke on Bhagavat Dharma famously known as “Bhagavat Dharma lectures”. That which pertains to Bhagavan is Bhagavat. Bhagavat can refer to a person (or a devotee or a book or anything connected to the Lord) and in this case, it is the process of loving the Lord.
The conversation between Narad Muni and Vasudev is on Bhagavat Dharma. For aspiring devotees, it’s important to know what is the subject of their talk. We always learn by looking at the example of the great souls. For example, we do not know how to pray to the Lord. Suppose we go in front of deities of the Lord, what should we pray? Unless we learn from the great acharyas, we will not even know what to pray? We may ask for something material or something not connected to Krsna consciousness but when we study the prayers of the great devotees of the Lord, hear their examples in history that are found in scriptures, then we understand how to pray & how to serve the Lord. Similarly, when we have discussions amongst then devotees, we don’t know what to talk about unless we learn from great devotees what is the subject matter to discuss amongst devotees. Studying such conversations in Srimad Bhagvatam and other Vedic scriptures is extremely important. Srimad Bhagvatam is itself a conversation between Suta Goswami and the sages at Naimisharanya. There, Suta Goswami verbatim quotes the Bhagavatam as was discussed between Sukhdev Goswami and Parikshit Maharaj as Suta Goswami was personally present there when Sukhdev Goswami spoke to Maharaj Parikshit. So, it’s a conversation within a conversation. As per the topics being discussed, Sukhdev Goswami quotes other conversations in history (sometimes between the Lord and the devotees, sometimes between devotees). One such example is the conversation between Narad Muni and Vasudev. When Narad Muni speaks to Vasudev, he narrates another conversation between King Nimi and nine sages (Yogendras) who were the sons of Rishabhdev and that is essentially the subject of these chapters. The conversation between King Nimi and Nine Yogendras is within a conversation between Narada Muni and Vasudev which is another conversation between Sukhdev Goswami and Parikshit Maharaj which is in another conversation between Suta Goswami and the Sages at Naimisharanya. Everything we know about devotional service is coming from such sublime discussion between great devotees of the Lord or between the Lord and his devotees. The background of this conversation is that Narad Muni has already seen the glories of Lord Krsna in Dwarka. In the 10th Canto, there is a description that when Krsna married 16,108 queens and was living with great opulence in Dwarka. Narada wanted to hear how the Lord was performing his pastime because devotees of the Lord always want to participate or see His pastimes and talk about them. When Narada went to different palaces, he would see Krsna in each one of those palaces and performing different activities in each palace with each of His 16,108 queens. In other words, Krsna had expanded into 16,108 forms and each one was doing some unique and different from the other expansions. Narad Muni was wonderstruck to see all this and he offered his respects to Krsna. But Krsna started offering his respects to Narad Muni, he worshipped him & washed his feet and Narad Muni quietly accepted this worship without a word because he knew Krsna wanted that. Krsna had appeared within the human society and in order to teach human society how to behave, Krsna was acting in that way to set an example. From that time on, Narad Muni was constantly living in Dwarka. From time to time, Krsna would send him on different services on this planet or different parts of the universe and as soon as he would finish that service, he would come back and would stay in Dwarka. That is the position of Narad Muni – he would never stay away from the Lord. Since he was staying there from time to time, he got an opportunity to discuss with Vasudev and Vasudev wanted to ask questions of Narada Muni. Narada Muni was feeling awkward because Vasudev is the father of Krsna. Narad Muni said how can I give instructions to the father of the Supreme Lord but Vasudev was also playing the part of a human being and exalted devotees of the Lord never consider themselves to be very advanced or great; they always take a humble position and are eager to question great devotees and hear from them even if they may be pure devotees of the Lord. This is the nature of pure devotees, they always want to hear the glories of the Lord from other devotees. So Narada Muni stayed there and in this conversation with Vasudev, he narrated this conversation that took place between King Nimi and the nine Yogendras. Nine Yogendras, also called the Nava Yogendras, were the sons of a great king, Rishabhdev. We have all heard of King Rishabhdev; he is considered as an incarnation of the Lord (Shaktyavesh avatar). It is mentioned that the first manu was Svayambhuva Manu who had a son called Priyavrta whose son was Agnidhra whose son was Nabhi and Nabhi’s son was Rishabhdev. Rishabhdev was a very famous king and in the Srimad Bhagvatam, we find many pastimes about King Rishabhdev and the most instructive section is where he instructs his 100 sons when they were still young princes, preparing them for their future responsibilities of this world. The interesting thing about these 100 sons is that the oldest of them was Bharat after whom the land became known as Bharat or Bharatvarsa. He was a pure devotee of the Lord and became king after Rishabhdev. Nava Yogendras were paramhamsas, exalted pure devotees and they took to a life of renunciation. They travelled all over the universe just like Narad Muni. On the remaining sons of Rishabhdev, some were Kstriyas who assisted King Bharat rule the planet and more than 80 of the others, took on the role of Brahmanas. We can see that being a Ksytriya or a Brahmana is not a simply a matter of birth but a matter of qualification. So of these 100 sons of King Rishabhdev, there were 10 Ksytriyas, 9 paramhansas & 81 Brahmanas. The names of the nine Yogendras is mentioned in the Srimad Bhagvatam: Kavi, Havir, Antariksha, Prabuddha, Pippalayana, Avirhotra, Drumila, Camasa and Karabhajana. They were all well versed in the knowledge of self-realisation and fixed on this path. They were very exalted and they were free to move anywhere in the world and were associates of the Lord. When they came to King Nimi’s palace, King Nimmi was very happy. Having seen them arrive all of a sudden, he welcomed them. He worshipped them in a humble and cheerful spirit and he inquired from them about Bhagavad Dharma. Bhagavad Dharma or pure devotional service is the highest in all humanity / creation. King Nimmi started asking a lot of questions and the nine Yogendras started answering them one-by-one. Before we come to that, lets come back Sukhdev Goswami in the beginning of 2nd chapter of the 11 Canto says being eager to engage in the worship of Krsna, Narada Muni stayed in Dwarka which is always protected by the arms of Govinda. The word used here are k op sana-l lasa . “Opasana” means worship and “Lalasah” means greed or eagerness – so this is one of the symptoms of the pure devotee; he is always greedy or eager to serve the Lord more & more. The pure devotee is never satiated by devotional service. There is no question of vacation from devotional service. For example, even if a devotee wants to take a break from devotional service, he or she would do it with some other form of devotional service. Not that we would take a break from devotional service and do some other mundane activities like watching television or going to the cinema. That is not how we would deal if we are in need of a break, we would go to some quiet or holy place, read Prabhupad’s books, go for long walks & chant, be in association of devotees or perform sankirtan, hear some lectures or bhajans or watch some devotional programs and so on. The eagerness to serve is a hallmark of a pure devotee of the Lord. Narada Muni was staying in Dwarka which is the govinda-bhu a-gupt y which means it was protected by the arms of Krsna. The holy places of the Lord are always protected by the Lord himself. The work “ bh k a ” indicates Narad Muni was staying there e cept for the short time that he was being sent out now & then for doing some services for Krsna but then he would return and continue to do some service in Dwarka. Actually, we all know the story that Narad Muni was cursed by Daksha such that he could not stay in the one place for a long time. Daksha is a prajapati, one of the populators of the universe and a son of Brahma. Narada made 11,000 sons of Daksha in Brahamcharis and they led lives of renunciation. Therefore, Daksha was furious and cursed Narada. Although it was not Daksha’s position to curse a great devotee like Narada Muni; that was a great offence & a mistake. Nevertheless, he did it and Narad Muni gracefully accepted it as a blessing. Narada travelled from place to place and never stayed in one place. So the question may be asked: “How did he stay in Dwarka for such a long time continuously?” Our archariyas explain that the curses that are given in the material world apply only in the material world. They do not apply to the spiritual world. Dwarka, Vrindavan, Mathura etc… even though apparently in the material world, are not actually part of the material world. They are directly part of the spiritual world – so within such spiritual places, there is no influence of such curses because they are the direct abode of the Supreme Lord and protected by his arms. Sukdev Goswami is speaking to King Parikshit and explaining that in this material world, conditioned souls are confronted by death at every step and so should render service to the lotus feet of the Lord who is worshippable by the greatest of the liberated souls. Sukhdev Goswami goes onto to say that one day Narada Muni, who is also called Dev Rishi (sage amongst demi-gods) came to the house of Vasudev in Dwaraka. Vasudev welcomed him appropriately, fed him comfortably, bowed down before him. Vasudev didn’t say “Well I am father of the Supreme Lord, why should I offer any respect to any sadhu who comes?” Because Vasudev is a genuine devotee of the Lord, he was very happy to welcome and worship Narada Muni. It is also the etiquette that when an exalted soul comes to our home, then we should welcome him with sweet words and also genuinely and sincerely offer some words of glorification. Vasudev started speaking to Narada and after the initial words of courtesy, then he began to ask some questions. Based on which, Narada Muni started narrating the conversation between Maharaj Nimi and the Nava Yogendras which we will discuss in the next session. So this was just the background of this wonderful conversation that is to take place between Maharaj Nimmi and the nine Yogendras. So we will stop here now and if you have any questions, I will try to answer them. Hare Krishna!