7-Minute Bhagavatam

7-Minute Bhagavatam

Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.1.8-9
by
Gopiparanadhana Dasa
Language 
English
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Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 1.1.8 and 1.1.9
Continuing the explanation of the first chapter of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam with verse eight:
vettha tvaṁ saumya tat sarvaṁ
 tattvatas tad-anugrahāt
brūyuḥ snigdhasya śiṣyasya
 guravo guhyam apy uta
“And because you are submissive, your spiritual masters have endowed you with all the favors bestowed upon a gentle disciple. Therefore you can tell us all that you have scientifically learned from them.”
To assure Sūta Gosvāmī that he is well qualified to present Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam to them, the sages remind him that he is expert in all these scriptures – the numerous Purāṇas, itihāsas, and dharma-śāstras – because Vyāsadeva and his other teachers on these subjects were satisfied with his attitude. In Śrīla Prabhupāda’s words, Ugraśravā Sūta was an obedient and submissive student. As the two words are generally used, saumya means “gentle” and snigdha means “affectionate.” Śrīla Śrīdhara Svāmī glosses saumya in this verse as “saintly” and snigdha as “affectionate to one’s gurus.” A real gentleman in spiritual culture, in contrast to the self-interested so-called gentlemen of material societies, is completely honest, dedicating his life to the service of others and willingly obeying the laws of God and nature. A disciple in training who is not a pretender but truly loves his gurus will listen and serve submissively.
Śrīla Prabhupāda’s term for a genuine spiritual master is “bona fide.” He preferred not to talk about a genuine guru as sat or “perfect” as if he were literally God. Bona fide, from the Latin of legal jargon, means “in good faith,” as when a contract may be judged unbroken even when one cannot deliver what he promised, on the grounds that the contract was signed with all good intentions. A bona fide spiritual master is not God Himself, and so he should not be presumed omnipotent and omniscient; rather, he is perfectly faithful to the disciplic succession of gurus he represents. Śrīla Prabhupāda here characterizes the bona fide Vaiṣṇava guru as “learned and self-realized.” Or, as the same idea was expressed by Prabuddha Yogendra to King Nimi, śābde pare ca niṣṇātaṁ brahmaṇi: “He is deeply devoted to the Supreme in His two forms of the Vedic scriptures and the Personality of Godhead.”
A bona fide guru is pleased to share everything he knows with a faithful disciple. His sincere blessings take the form of instructions that penetrate the student’s heart and remain fixed there. When the guru is satisfied, the disciple can understand his words tattvatas, scientifically, as representing accurately the transcendental facts. Through this clear line of spiritual communication, even the most confidential topics can be revealed. Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī points out, noting the imperative form of the verb brūyuḥ (“they indeed must have spoken”), that Śrī Sūta is being told that it is for certain his teachers have imparted to him all the secrets of Vedānta philosophy, even though he was not even born as a brāhmaṇa. Thus the sages are confident that Śrī Sūta will be able to address all different schools of thought, defeat all their improper claims to truth, and speak definitively on all departments of knowledge.
Now verse nine:
tatra tatrāñjasāyuṣman
 bhavatā yad viniścitam
puṁsām ekāntataḥ śreyas
 tan naḥ śaṁsitum arhasi
“Please, therefore, being blessed with many years, explain to us, in an easily understandable way, what you have ascertained to be the absolute and ultimate good for the people in general.”
Several of the sages addressing Sūta Gosvāmī are eminent authorities on various Vedic scriptures. Śaunaka Ṛṣi wrote the Ṛk-pratiśākhya, the standard textbook on correct pronunciation of the Ṛg Veda mantras. Śrī Sūta is a certified expert only on secondary texts, particularly the epics and Purāṇas, which are meant for common people. But the sages are confident that by the empowerment Sūta has received from Vyāsadeva and his other teachers he can piece together from all the texts he has studied (tatra tatra) the essential means for achieving the final purpose of life.
When Lord Balarāma killed Romaharṣaṇa, who had been blessed by these sages with a long life, part of the Lord’s atonement was to transfer the blessing to Romaharṣaṇa’s son. The participants at the great yajña at Naimiṣāraṇya all hope that Ugraśravā will live long to benefit the suffering people of Kali-yuga. For all the sages’ refined Vedic knowledge, Śrī Sūta is the one who knows best how to speak to the people in general in their own language – how to give them Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam to lift them out of ignorance. Even though at Naimiṣāraṇya the same Bhāgavatam previously heard by Parīkṣit was simply repeated verbatim, nonetheless, it is after this second recitation that the Bhāgavatam became well known throughout Bharata-varṣa. Both Śukadeva and Sūta are worshiped for repeating exactly, unchanged, what they had heard, only adding in an inconceivable way the additional potency of their personal realization.
Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī has some special understanding of this verse. He suggests that Sūta Gosvāmī may have offered to recount every single thing he had learned, but the sages declined the offer. “Although you are fated to live a long life, and you have already spent many years studying all these scriptures, the time is quickly changing, and people are going to become short-lived. Please tell us the essence in brief (añjasā) in a simple language that can be easily grasped. Please get right to the point and reveal the final perfection of life, which is not heaven or liberation but pure love of God.”