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How to Hear Srimad Bhagavatam Properly

Once a brahmana from Bengal wrote a drama about the characteristics of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and came with his manuscript to induce the Lord to hear it. The brahmana was acquainted with Bhagavan Acarya, one of the devotees of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Therefore after meeting him at Jagannatha Puri, the brahmana made his residence at Bhagavan Acarya' s home. First the brahmana induced Bhagavan Acarya to hear the drama, and then many other devotees joined Bhagavan Acarya in listening to it. All the Vaisnavas praised the drama, saying,"Very good, very good." They also desired for Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to hear the drama. Customarily, anyone who composed a song, verse, literary composition or poem about Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu first had to bring it to Svarupa Damodara Gosvami to be heard. If passed by Svarupa Damodara Gosvami, it could be presented for Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to hear. If there were a hint that transcendental mellows overlapped in a manner contrary to the principles of the bhakti cult, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu would not tolerate it and would become very angry. Therefore Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu would not hear anything before Svarupa Damodara heard it first. The Lord made this etiquette a regulative principle. Bhagavan Acarya submitted to Svarupa Damodara Gosvami, "A good brahmana has prepared a drama about Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu that appears exceptionally well composed. First you hear it, and if it is acceptable to your mind, I shall request Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to hear it." Svarupa Damodara Gosvami replied, "Dear Bhagavan Acarya, you are a very liberal cowherd boy. Sometimes the desire awakens within you to hear any kind of poetry. "In the writings of so-called poets there is generally a possibility of overlapping transcendental mellows. When the mellows thus go against the conclusive understanding, no one likes to hear such poetry. A so-called poet who has no knowledge of transcendentaI mellows and the overlapping of transcendental mellows cannot cross the ocean of the conclusions of devotional service. A poet who does not know the grammatical regulative principles, who is unfamiliar with metaphorical ornaments, especially those employed in drama, and who does not know how to present the pastimes of Lord Krsna is condemned. Moreover, the pastimes of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu are especially difficult to understand. One who has accepted the lotus feet of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu as his life and soul can describe the pastimes of Lord Krnna or the pastimes of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Hearing the poetry of a person who has no transcendental knowledge and who writes about the relationships between man and woman simply causes unhappiness, whereas hearing the words of a devotee fully absorbed in ecstatic love causes great happiness.The standard for writing dramas has been set by Rupa Gosvami. If a devotee hears the introductory portions of his two dramas, they enhance his transcendental pleasure." Despite the explanation of Svarupa Damodara, Bhagavan Acarya requested, "Please hear the drama once. If you hear it, you can consider whether it is good or bad." For two or three days Bhagavan Acarya continually asked Svarupa Damodara Gosvami to hear the poetry. Because of his repeated requests, Svarupa Damodara Gosvami wanted to hear the poetry written by the brahmana from Bengal. Svarupa Damodara Gosvami sat down with other devotees to hear the poetry, and then the poet began to read the introductory verse. "The Supreme Personality of Godhead has assumed a golden complexion and has become the soul of the body named Lord Jagannatha, whose blooming lotus eyes are widely expanded. Thus He has appeared in Jagannatha Puri and brought dull matter to life. May that Lord, Sri Krnna Caitanyadeva, bestow upon you all good fortune."

When everyone present heard the verse, they all commended the poet, but Svarupa Damodara Gosvami requested him, "Kindly explain this verse." The poet said, "Lord Jagannatha is a most beautiful body, and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who is exceptionally grave, is the owner of that body. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has appeared here in Nilacala [Jagannatha Puri] to spiritualize the entire dull material world." Hearing this, everyone present was greatly happy. But Svarupa Damodara, who alone was very unhappy, began to speak in great anger. "You are a fool," he said."You have brought ill fortune upon yourself, for you have no knowledge of the existence of the two Lords, Jagannathadeva and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, nor have you faith in Them. Lord Jagannatha is completely spiritual and full of transcendental bliss, but you have compared Him to a dull, destructible body composed of the inert, external energy of the Lord. You have calculated Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, full in six opulences, to be on the level of an ordinary living being. Instead of knowing Him as the supreme fire, you have accepted Him as a spark."

In the Upanisads it is said, yathagner visphulinga vyuccaranti: the living entities are like sparks of fire, and His Lordship the Supreme Personality of Godhead is considered the original great fire. When we hear this sruti-vakya, or message from the Vedas, we should understand the distinction between the Supreme Lord Krsna and the living entities. A person under the control of the external energy, however, cannot understand that distinction. Such a person cannot understand that the Supreme Person is the original great fire, whereas the living entities are simply small fragmental parts of that Supreme Personality of Godhead. As Krnna says in Bhagavad-gita (15.7):

mamaivamso jiva-loke

jiva-bhutah sanatanah

manah nanthanindriyani

prakrti-sthani karnati

"The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal, fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind."

There is a distinction between the body and soul of the materially existing living being, but because Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Lord Jagannatha do not possess material bodies, there is no distinction between Their bodies and souls. On the spiritual platform, body and soul are identical; there is no distinction between them. As stated in Srimad-Bhagavatam:

etad isanam isasya

prakrti-stho 'pi tad-gunaih

na yujyate sadatma-sthair

yatha buddhis tad-asraya

"This is the divinity of the Personality of Godhead. He is not affected by the qualities of material nature, even though He is in contact with them. Similarly, the devotees who have taken shelter of the Lord cannot be influenced by the material qualities." (Bhag. 1.11.38)

His Lordship the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, is unaffected by the influence of the three modes of material nature. Indeed, His devotees are also unpolluted by the influence of the external energy because they engage in the service of His Lordship. Even the very body of a devotee becomes spiritualized, just as an iron rod put into fire becomes as qualified as fire because it becomes red hot and will immediately burn anything it touches. Therefore the poet from Bengal committed a great offense by treating Lord Jagannatha's body and Lord Jagannatha, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as two different entities, material and spiritual, as if the Lord were an ordinary living being. The Lord is always the master of the material energy; therefore He is not doomed to be covered by the material energy like an ordinary living entity.”

Svarupa Damodara continued, "Because you have committed an offense to Lord Jagannatha and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, you will attain a hellish destination. You do not know how to describe the Absolute Truth, but nevertheless you have tried to do so. Therefore you must be condemned. You are in complete illusion, for you have distinguished between the body and soul of His Lordship [Lord Jagannatha or Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu]. That is a great offense. At no time is there a distinction between the body and soul of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. His personal identity and His body are made of blissful spiritual energy. There is no distinction between them. Then Svarupa Damodara Gosvami quoted the Kurma Purana wherein it is stated:

"There is no distinction between the body and soul of the Supreme Personality of Godhead at any time.'

Similarly, he presented evidence from the Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.9.3-4) where the following verses were spoken by Lord Brahma:

"O my Lord, I do not see a form superior to Your present form of eternal bliss and knowledge. In Your impersonal Brahman effulgence in the spiritual sky, there is no occasional change and no deterioration of internal potency. I surrender unto You because, whereas I am proud of my material body and senses, Your Lordship is the cause of the cosmic manifestation. Yet You are untouched by matter.

" 'This present form, or any transcendental form expanded by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna, is equally auspicious for all the universes. Since You have manifested this eternal personal form upon whom Your devotees meditate, I therefore offer my respectful obeisances unto You. Those who are destined to be dispatched to the path of hell neglect Your personal form because of speculating on material topics.'

Svarupa Damodara Gosvami then continued:

"Whereas Krsna, the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is full of transcendental bliss, possesses all six spiritual opulences in full, and is the master of the material energy, the small conditioned soul, who is always unhappy, is the servant of the material energy.

After this Svarupa Damodara Gosvami quoted Sridhara Svami's Bhavartha-dipika (1.7.6), wherein Sridhara Svami quotes Sri Visnusvami:

"The Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Supreme Controller, is always full of transcendental bliss and is accompanied by the potencies known as hladini and samvit. The conditioned soul, however, is always covered by ignorance and embarrassed by the threefold miseries of life. Thus he is a treasure house of all kinds of tribulations."

Hearing this explanation, all the members of the assembly were struck with wonder. "Svarupa Damodara Gosvami has spoken the real truth," they admitted. "The brahmana from Bengal has committed an offense by wrongly describing Lord Jagannatha and Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu." When the Bengali poet heard this chastisement from Svarupa Damodara Gosvami, he was ashamed, fearful and astonished. Indeed, being like a duck in a society of white swans, he could not say anything. Seeing the poet's unhappiness, Svarupa Damodara Gosvami, who was naturally very kindhearted, advised him so that he could derive some benefit. "If you want to understand Srimad-Bhagavatam," he said, "you must approach a self-realized Vaisnava and hear from him. You can do this when you have completely taken shelter of the lotus feet of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu."

One should hear Srimad-Bhagavatam from a person who has no connection with material activities, or, in other words, from a paramahamsa Vaisnava, one who has achieved the highest stage of sannyasa. This, of course, is not possible unless one takes shelter of the lotus feet of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. The Srimad-Bhagavatam is understandable only for one who can follow in the footsteps of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. One should regularly hear Srimad-Bhagavatam from a self-realized Vaisnava. By such hearing, one becomes pious. Hrdy antahstho hy abhadrani vidhunoti suhrt-satam. As one thus hears the Bhagavatam regularly and sincerely, his heart is purified of all material contamination.

nanta-prayenv abhadrenu

nityam bhagavata-sevaya

bhagavaty uttama-sloke

bhaktir bhavati nainthiki

"As one regularly hears the Bhagavatam or renders service unto the pure devotee, all that is troublesome to the heart is practically destroyed, and loving service unto the glorious Lord, who is praised with transcendental songs, is established as an irrevocable fact."

(Bhag. 1.2.18)

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