7-Minute Bhagavatam

7-Minute Bhagavatam

Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.23-24
by
Gopiparanadhana Dasa
Language 
English
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Transcript 


Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 1.2.23, Part Two, and 1.2.24
Continuing the explanation of verse 1.2.23:
Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī comments that after Śrī Sūta recommended engagement in devotional service to the Supreme Lord rather than endeavors for worldly success, knowledge of the self, and renunciation, now, in this verse and the six following it he further advises that one should also not engage in worshiping other gods, which is just another kind of karma. What to speak of lesser deities, those who want the highest perfection of life should not even worship Brahmā and Śiva. When Lord Viṣṇu appears in his avatāra as the controller of the mode of goodness, He remains the Supreme Absolute Truth, untouched by passion and ignorance. This is not true, however, of Brahmā and Śiva.
Those who worship Brahmā and Śiva with intelligence distorted by mundane conceptions may gain benefits in religiosity, economic development, and sense gratification, but because of the effects of being tainted by the violence of passion and the foolishness of ignorance, these gains give little satisfaction. Even if the distorted outlook of the worshipers is corrected, they still cannot obtain liberation directly and without delay. Only if a worshiper works hard to recognize his deity as a partial manifestation of the Supersoul will the Supersoul eventually give him liberation. Brahmā and Śiva are not immediate manifestations of the Supersoul, so the highest good is not available from them. But those who worship Lord Viṣṇu even with a material outlook will gain religious, economic, and enjoyable benefits that give real satisfaction, because the mode of goodness is pacifying. Those who worship Viṣṇu without ulterior motives will develop understanding of their qualitative oneness with Him, which leads to liberation. And whoever worships Him giving up all false identifications will achieve the fifth goal of life: pure devotion.
Now verse twenty-four:
pārthivād dāruṇo dhūmas
 tasmād agnis trayī-mayaḥ
tamasas tu rajas tasmāt
 sattvaṁ yad brahma-darśanam
“Firewood is a transformation of earth, but smoke is better than the raw wood. And fire is still better, for by fire we can derive the benefits of superior knowledge [through Vedic sacrifices]. Similarly, passion is better than ignorance, but goodness is best because by goodness one can come to realize the Absolute Truth.”
In Vedic sacrifices a special block of wood, the araṇi, is used to light sacred fire. Wood contains dormant fire, but without proper kindling that fire stays invisible and useless. When the mantras are chanted and friction applied to the araṇi, first smoke appears, the precursor of fire. Finally, if all goes right, the fire is lit and the sacrifice proceeds. Yajñas mainly make use of three of the Vedas – the Ṛg, Yajur, and Sāma – and so sacrificial fire is called trayī-maya. Successful performers of yajñas become gradually pure in heart and fit to understand the secrets of Vedic knowledge in the Upaniṣads.
Ignorance, passion, and goodness are compared to the wood, smoke, and fire. Someone under the influence of ignorance needs to improve himself to take full advantage of human life. If he rises from ignorance to passion, he can begin to see something of spiritual truth, but in a way distorted by prejudices. For clear perception of higher truth he must rise further to goodness, like the araṇi block rubbed to give smoke and then fire. Only when fixed in goodness can a human being effectively want to serve God and His devotees, understand how to serve them, and actually do it. With the help of pure devotees, those still covered by the lower modes can begin practicing bhakti, but this practice must include the means to rise to goodness. Although factually good, a person may not have yet been blessed by the divine potency of bhakti or tasted ecstatic love, but at least he knows the truth theoretically. He knows the means and goal of perfection, and since he is unencumbered by contamination he has a good chance for success. But devotional practice under the guidance of impure devotees with mixed motives will suffer from the disqualifications of passion and ignorance. Even with the right goal in mind, Śrī Govinda, one is also required to approach Him, the Lord who favors the cows and brāhmaṇas, in a way that pleases Him.
Those who argue that the three lords Brahmā, Viṣṇu, and Śiva are nondifferent are right in claiming that only the manifestations are different while the source is one: the Supreme Truth. However, they should also recognize that because the Supreme reveals Himself only indirectly in two of the three, there is no avoiding the conclusion that Lord Viṣṇu is the Supreme Lord Himself and the others are not.
Many insist that Brahmā, Viṣṇu, and Śiva are equally worshipable as perfect forms of the Supreme Truth, arguing that although the three manifestations are different, their source is one and the same. Yes, the Supreme is one and His forms are many, but Brahmā and Śiva are His forms only indirectly and incompletely. Such is the unavoidable difference among the three. They embody the three modes of nature, among which ignorance is lowest because it obscures consciousness, passion is somewhat better because it excites awareness, and goodness is best because it reveals things as they are. A person fixed in material goodness is not hindered by serious obstacles to progressing further to pure goodness. Beyond this, as Śrī Sūta is about to state, there can be no real hope of realizing the Supreme without taking to the practice of devotional service.