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Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 1.1.18 and 1.1.19
Continuing the explanation of the first chapter of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam with verse eighteen:
athākhyāhi harer dhīmann
līlā vidadhataḥ svairam
līlā vidadhataḥ svairam
“O wise Sūta, please narrate to us the transcendental pastimes of the Supreme Godhead’s multi-incarnations. Such auspicious adventures and pastimes of the Lord, the supreme controller, are performed by His internal powers.”
The sages first expressed to Śrī Sūta their interest in hearing about Kṛṣṇa’s birth and activities. Now, as a secondary consideration, they also ask about Kṛṣṇa’s various avatāras. The first of His avatāras is Mahā-viṣṇu, who begins the process of creation. He is followed by the other two Puruṣas, and then the guṇa-āvatāras and countless līlā-avatāras. Over thirty of these avatāras have at least one chapter of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam dedicated to describing them.
In assuming all these incarnations Kṛṣṇa fulfills His own pleasure (svairam). He depends on no material conditions and requires no one else’s support. Because it increases His pleasure He shares His pastimes with His energies and devotees. Thus He chooses to come to this world through the agency of His ātma-māyā, the pure potency who acts to carry out His desires.
Now verse nineteen:
vayaṁ tu na vitṛpyāma
svādu svādu pade pade
svādu svādu pade pade
“We never tire of hearing the transcendental pastimes of the Personality of Godhead, who is glorified by hymns and prayers. Those who have developed a taste for transcendental relationships with Him relish hearing of His pastimes at every moment.”
Matter has no consciousness and cannot actually move unless made to by a living force. What seems to happen in this world – what is reported as news – is no more than the meaningless, shifting combinations of the three modes of nature. The real news of interest hides behind the curtain of Māyā: the ecstatic life of spirits interacting with the supreme spirit. In the spiritual realm everything that moves, all emotions, are full of purpose and satisfaction. A living soul can be happy only when engaged in dynamic personal reciprocation with another person, not in the living death of people treating one another as things, repeating again and again the same senseless motions.
Worldly history is too limited in its scope. It views only the progress and setbacks of civilizations through puny scans of centuries, ignoring the real story that has been going on forever. Vedic sages have recorded a higher history in the Purāṇas. This universal history looks at epochs as broad as the billions of years contained in a breath of Lord Viṣṇu. In that larger time frame the readers of this history can discern the Supreme Lord’s activities in His avatāras. This reading and only this reading can satisfy the soul’s urges and awaken in him remembrance of his original life. The literary value of ordinary reading matter is of little importance because all three modes of matter are simply relative degrees of ignorance. The Purāṇas form a unique class of literature meant to evoke the highest levels of consciousness. Especially in this disoriented age, seekers who could otherwise become lost in the complex labyrinths of Vedic scripture can easily find their bearings from the simple teachings of the Purāṇas.
Ritualists follow the Vedas to find their dharma, but because they let matter allure them, their intelligence is blunted by promises of prosperity and heaven. Better thinkers imagine themselves freed from entanglement and busy themselves in the meditations on the Supreme taught in the Upaniṣads. But they also are misled – even more seriously than the ritual karmīs – as long as they refuse to acknowledge their servitude to the Supreme Person. They take words of the Upaniṣads like ahaṁ brahmāsmi out of context and read them to mean that there is no other God than themselves. When pondering ahaṁ brahmāsmi provides them no satisfaction, they try something else, either a sham pretense of relishing Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam without faith in the Deity of the Bhāgavatam, or else one or another pedestrian kind of good works.
Many of the sages assembled at Naimiṣarāṇya were once karmīs or jñānīs, but after hearing the histories of the universe from Ugraśravā Sūta they gained a higher taste. “We have had enough of meditation and sacrifices,” they in effect say here, “but we will never hear enough of the nectar you are now pouring in our ears, even if others think they have had enough.” A person may decide to stop eating for three reasons: his belly is full, he can’t perceive any taste, or he tastes something but can’t appreciate the special quality of the taste. The sages mention that they are receiving Śrī Sūta’s message by the sense of hearing (śṛṇvantām). Hearing is more subtle than other senses because it operates in the ether, the most subtle element. According to Vedic science, the auditory sense resides not in the bones and muscle tissue of the ears but in the small portion of the universal ether contained in the ears. That small part of the sky echoes the reverberation of the complete sky. There is no question of the infinite ether becoming filled up, especially by the perfectly pure sound of kṛṣṇa-kathā. Nor, the sages indicate, are they receiving this sound thoughtlessly, like dull animals. No, they say, rasa-jñānām: “We know the taste of rasa.” They perceive the nectar and recognize its special flavor. And unlike the taste enjoyed by a child chewing a stick of sugarcane, their taste will never wear out. Just the opposite, the more they relish it the more the taste improves. Pade pade, the satisfaction only continues to increase with each moment and each word heard.