Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.1.3, Part Two
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Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 1.1.3, Part Two
Continuing the explanation of the third verse of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, from the words pibata bhāgavatam:
Vyāsadeva urges the sincere hearers of the Bhāgavatam to drink its nectar. But, one may ask, if this scripture is like a fruit, then it must have a skin and seed that need to be removed before its pulp can be eaten. No, Śrīla Vyāsa declares, this fruit is pure juice – no skin or seed. There is nothing extraneous and unwanted in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam; it can be accepted whole, without discrimination. It should be freely imbibed and allowed to enter deep within one’s inner self. This unadulterated nectar of immortality is called Bhāgavatam because the Lord it glorifies is Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa and because that Lord has given it as His gift to His devotees. Only the devotees of Bhagavān, therefore, have the moral right to possess Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and distribute it to others.
More literally, of course, the Bhāgavatam is a Sanskrit text made of words, not the juice of a fruit. Still, the Bhāgavatam is in fact nothing but rasa in the most important sense of the word. Every statement – every word – of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is full of the highest spiritual realizations, the substance of which is transcendental rasa, or the emotions of love shared between the Supreme Lord and His devotees. Rasa is the medium of communication through which pure devotion is conveyed. It is a medium not just of information but of real ecstasies – the most meaningful form of communication – and it is a language that can be shared by those who know how to use it. Whereas human language can only be spoken between humans, the language of rasa is familiar to both Kṛṣṇa and whichever of His creatures are properly situated in their natural spiritual condition. Just as ordinary rasa is a sweet juice, so the absolute rasa of śuddha-bhakti is an experience of pure pleasure.
The inferior tastes of material pleasure are also sometimes called rasas by mundane poets, but this is not the rasa the Taittirīya Upaniṣad speaks of. The Upaniṣad says raso vai saḥ, “The Absolute Truth is rasa Himself,” because He is the source and the object of all ecstasies. Raso hy evāyaṁ labdhvānandī bhavati: “When we, the finite souls, make proper contact with this fountainhead of rasa, we become surcharged with limitless joy.”
Transcendental rasa comes in five major varieties, which can be mixed with an additional seven supplementary tastes. Material emotions are mostly perverted reflections of these rasas; they are rendered unpalatable because they are tainted by the reflections of the seven secondary spiritual emotions, which are pleasurable when suitably combined in their original forms with the original primary rasas but distasteful in material combinations. For example, transcendental envy and anger are enjoyable in their right context, but material envy and anger only add to suffering.
Followers of the path of jñāna tend to be impersonal. They reject the material rasas, but without receiving the mercy of Vaiṣṇavas are unable to understand spiritual rasa. Apart from the jñānīs, the cheap imitators of devotional service may be better, but their behavior is also an insult to bhakti-rasa and those who actually know it.
Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī comments that the scripture Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is described by the word rasa to indicate that every word in it is imbued with rasa, and it is called Bhāgavatam to exclude the possibility that the rasa the Bhāgavatam expresses can have anyone other than Śrī Bhagavān as its object. Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī adds that the Taittirīya Upaniṣad’s identification of the Supreme Truth as rasa is reconfirmed by both the Bhagavad-gītā, in which Kṛṣṇa calls Himself “the rasa in water,” and by Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam in this third verse and elsewhere in the twelve cantos.
Because the rasa of bhagavad-bhakti is purely spiritual, even liberated souls should continue relishing it. In the word ā-layam, the prefix ā- indicates “inclusive extension”: this rasa should be drunk not only up to the point of liberation but also beyond it. This pleasure is not like enjoyments of material heaven, which liberated sages are right to neglect. Because this rasa is incomparably sweet, those who know its taste can never have enough of it. And, as Śrīla Viśvanātha suggests, laya is also a name of the last of the eight sāttvika ecstasies, devastation. A devotee should continue drinking the Bhāgavatam’s nectar at least until he experiences these existential ecstasies. He should have confidence that the Bhāgavatam can lead him this far on the spiritual path. And if while experiencing spiritual laya he momentarily forgets to drink from the Bhāgavatam, as soon as he regains his senses he should begin drinking again (muhur). This rasa is meant for constant and repeated drinking. Aho: Just see how amazing it is! Even after it has been taken so many times, it only becomes more and more palatable.
Especially those who are living in the modest domains of the earth (bhuvi) should take the opportunity to elevate themselves by relishing Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. They are so fortunate that this fruit, otherwise inaccessible to them, has fallen to the ground. It has come down to them from the highest tip of the tree of the Vedas in Vaikuṇṭha. In particular those on the earth, who are rasika and bhāvuka, should be interested. Because the Bhāgavatam is full of narrations of the Supreme Lord’s pastimes and the lives of his devotees, spoken by the lips of Śukadeva, these most qualified humans should be eager to take full advantage of it. The rasikas are those who know the taste of love for the Supreme Lord. The bhāvukas are those fully absorbed in these tastes – and not only theoretically. They are both perfectly fortunate and are able to make others perfectly fortunate by training them to also taste bhakti-rasa. Only fully surrendered devotees of the Supreme Lord can factually know rasa, because only they have progressed to the stage of spiritual development called rati, in which they realize the Lord’s all-attractiveness. Ordinary jñānīs, karmīs, and yogīs therefore have no right to claim this rasa for themselves.
The next session continues with explanation of the fourth verse.