Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.1.1, Part Three
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Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 1.1.1, Part Three
Continuing the explanation of the first verse of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, from the words tene brahma hṛdā:
Even the first of jīvas, Brahmā, with his vaster awareness and more creative power than all others, cannot be the ultimate creator. Rather, the ultimate creator taught Brahmā how to assist in a secondary role. Tene brahma: The Supreme Lord Garbhodaka-śāyī Viṣṇu imparted to him the original knowledge of the Vedas. The Vedas are also called brahma because they encompass all possible knowledge. Hṛdā ya ādi-kavaye: The Lord taught the first of learned scholars not through books or any external demonstration but from within his heart. Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī explains that the Vedic scriptures are an unlimited source of wisdom – wisdom that is unavailable by other means of knowing. And the Vedas themselves tell us that their origin is the intelligence of the Supreme. Therefore the Supreme is omniscient in the fullest sense. Without the intelligence He supplies, Brahmā and others could never know how to create all the worlds. Only the all-knowing Supreme can be the cause of creation.
Śrīdhara Svāmī takes the words muhyanti yat sūrayaḥ as answering the doubt that Brahmā should, on his own, be able to understand the Vedas, like a person waking from sleep. But no, this verse replies, in the matter of understanding the Supreme Truth, even the sūris, those with superhuman insight, become bewildered. Only divine guidance can overcome this bewilderment. And, as Śrīla Jīva points out, we should recognize the difference between the perfect full awareness of the Supreme Lord and the incomplete awareness of finite souls. Even the most elevated jīvas, including Brahmā and Śeṣa, fail to comprehend the mysteries of śabda-brahma, the Vedas, until the Supreme Lord Himself or His representative enlightens them.
There is a grammatical ambiguity in the phrase tri-sargo ’mṛṣā: by the rules of sound combination the second word can either be mṛṣā (false) or amṛṣā (not false). The material world is false in the sense that it is not what it seems to be. It is full of illusions, like a mirage reflected on hot air, or glass appearing as water or water as glass. Real water and real glass exist, but sometimes not where we think we see them. The Absolute Truth from which this world is created is eternally real, but we are deluded by our false vision, which tells us the combinations of the three modes of nature are really what we think they are – and that they are permanent.
But reading the word as amṛṣā, this world is not false. Strictly speaking, an illusion is the imagining of something in a place where it is not present – like imagining that a rope is a snake. What we see in the illusion is not a real snake, even though there are real snakes somewhere else. The Absolute Truth, however, is present everywhere. This world is created by His energies, which are also present everywhere. His creative energies are real, and so the material creation is not altogether false. Especially when we recognize that everything is created by His energies, we are not in illusion. The śruti-mantra of the Taittirīya Upaniṣad (3.1) says, yato vā imāni bhūtāni jāyante, yena jātāni jīvanti, yat prayanty abhisaṁviśanti: “From Him indeed all created beings are born, after birth they live by His power, and in the end they return to enter again in Him.” The Mahābhārata (Anuśāsana-parva 135.11) also confirms this, in Bhīṣmadeva’s instructions to Yudhiṣṭhira about the duty of charity. Yataḥ sarvāṇi bhūtāni / bhavanty ādi-yugāgame / yasmiṁś ca pralayaṁ yānti / punar eva yuga-kṣaye: “All created beings come from Him at the beginning of an age and are annihilated in Him at the end of the age.”
The word dhāma has several meanings, three of which are “power,” “radiant light,” and “place of residence.” The Supreme Lord is not covered by illusion just because He sometimes comes to the material world. Nor is He a bare abstraction with no possessions of His own. He is all-powerful and unlimitedly rich in all kinds of assets. He shines by His own light; all other luminous bodies simply reflect His effulgence. This effulgence emanates from His transcendental body, which constantly radiates all varieties of sweetness and power. And He enjoys His personal assets and shares them with His companions in His own spiritual abode. That spiritual world is always free from the illusion and deceit of material existence. Material nature is a maidservant of the Supreme Lord, with no permission to enter the Lord’s personal abode. Instead, she has the thankless duty of putting rebellious souls into illusion and keeping them there.
At the end of this verse the essential identity of Kṛṣṇa, the son of Vasudeva, is specified. He is satyam, the reality, and by this word being followed by the adjective param, it is understood that He is the supreme reality, the one existence which is constantly present within everything else that exists. He is the ultimate controller of everything, substantially real and beyond the effects of the three modes of matter. Moreover, He is satyam in the sense of being “beneficial to the sats,” His saintly devotees. The supreme auspicious activity of offering Him devotional service is also satyam because it nourishes Kṛṣṇa’s devotees. Thus the satyaṁ param revealed in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is both to the Supreme Lord Kṛṣṇa and His devotional service. Certainly the Bhāgavatam does not conceive of the satyaṁ param as an abstract, impersonal consciousness, as we see from this verse’s presentation of the personal object of meditation, the persons meditating on Him, and the personal process of the meditation.
The discussion of this verse continues in the next session.