Introduction: Srimad Bhagavatham is considered the foremost and prominent of all Puranas as is mentioned in other Puranas like Garuda Purana and Skanda Purana. Srimad Bhagavatham is the essence of Vedanta and a natural commentary of Vedanta sutra, both compiled by Srila Vyasadev. Srimad Bhagavatham is like a torch that can redeem us from this dense dark age of Kali.
Srimad Bhagavatham is the spotless Purana. It is most dear to the Vaisnavas because it describes the pure and supreme knowledge of the enlightened. – Srimad Bhagavatham – 12.13.18.
The twenty-six qualities of a Vaisnava mentioned by Srila Prabhupada’s purport to Srimad Bhagavatham – 5.18.12 are:
(1) Very kind to everyone.
(2) Does not make anyone his/her enemy.
(4) Equal to everyone.
(5) No one can find any fault in him/her.
(8) Always clean.
(9) Without possessions.
(10) Works for everyone’s benefit.
(11) Very peaceful.
(12) Always surrendered to Krishna.
(13) Has no material desires.
(14) Very meek.
(16) Controls the senses.
(17) Does not eat more than required.
(18) Not influenced by the Lord’s illusory energy.
(19) Offers respect to everyone.
(20) Does not desire any respect for himself/herself.
(21) Very grave.
Regular study of Srimad Bhagavatham will definitely develop these qualities in us and enable us to reach the abode of Lord Shri Krishna.
Canto 1 reflects several prominent Vaishnava characters and their exalted behaviour under exacting circumstances. They are a great lesson for us to inculcate. They are highly inspirational and the way they conquered their senses due to their devotion to Lord Krishna is exemplary.
I attempt to reflect on these qualities that would inspire us to achieve similar results:
- Narada – Epitome of Bhakti (devotion – always surrendered to Krishna).
- Draupadi – Epitome of Dhaya (mercifulness) – Srimad Bhagavatham – 1.7.43-48.
- Queen Kunti – Unalloyed devotion to Lord Shri Krishna – Srimad Bhagavatham – 1.8.18-43.
- Vidura – Epitome of Dharma – Srimad Bhagavatham –1.13.18-30.
- The Pandavas.
- Maharaj Parikshit – The examiner – Last 7 days of life Vs temporary material existence.
Narada: Even after compiling the Vedas and the great Mahabharata, the great sage Srila Vyasadev felt despondent. Sage Narada approached Srila Vyasadev and asked him to describe the transcendental pastimes of Lord Shri Krishna more vividly and exclusively.
Sage Narada described his birth as the son of a maid servant in his previous birth and how he developed the unalloyed qualities of a Vaishnava.
Even as a small boy, Narada engaged himself in the personal service of Vaishnavas, being self-controlled, peaceful and did not eat or speak than required. He always listened to the glories of Lord Shri Krishna. Due to his exemplary behaviour, he was instructed with the most confidential knowledge from the sages.
When his mother was bitten by a serpent, the boy was not at all perturbed, but utilised the transcendental knowledge to gain self-realisation by severe penance. He was ultimately reborn as Narada Muni in his next birth.
Draupadi: Draupadi’s Vaishnava qualities is really very difficult to surpass. When her five children was brutally murdered during their sleep by Aswatthama and this act was disapproved even by the heinous Duryodhana, Draupadi asked Arjuna to release him from the shackles. She gave due respects to him and said Guru Dronacharya still exist in the form of his son and that Krpi, the mother of Aswatthama should not get to lament for the loss of her son.
Thus Draupadi is kind, equal and offer respects to everyone, merciful, magnanimous, peaceful, does not make anyone her enemy and above all not at all influenced by the Lord’s illusory energy. This also shows she is always surrendered to Krishna. She clearly understands everything is temporary in this world and always ready to sacrifice for a higher cause.
Queen Kunti: Queen Kunti’s unflinching devotion to Lord Krishna had managed to keep every trouble at bay. After Aswatthama intended to kill Uttara’s son by invoking the Brahmastra again, Lord Krishna neutralised it. Queen Kunti offered her prayers to Lord Krishna establishing her as an exemplary Vaishnava. Her prayers clearly indicate that she is not influenced by the Lord’s illusory energy which could delude those who are not Krishna Conscious. She is very meek and gentle. She has no material desires as mentioned below:
” My Lord, Your Lordship can easily be approached, but only by those who are materially exhausted. One who is on the path of material progress, trying to improve himself with respectable parentage, great opulence, high education and bodily beauty, cannot approach You with sincere feeling. My obeisances are unto You, who are the property of the materially impoverished.” – Srimad Bhagavatham – 1.8.26-27.
Vidura: Vidura is a staunch devotee of Lord Krishna and an ardent well-wisher of the Pandavas. Vidura was always detached, free from material desire and without any possessions. He offers respect to everyone but does not desire any respect for himself as can be evidenced when Duryodhana spoke to him very harshly after he offered sound advice to Dhritarashtra to hand over half the kingdom to Pandavas. Vidura just kept his bow on the door side and left the place without saying any word thus displaying his immense control of senses.
Vidura is very kind to everyone and works for everyone’s benefit. Due to unequivocal advice to his brother King Dhritharashtra, he managed to break him from the shackles of his degraded existence in the house of Bhima to a life of renunciation and then liberation. (Srimad Bhagavatham 1.13.18-30)
The Pandavas: The Pandavas dedicated themselves to Lord Shri Krishna throughout their life, so much that as soon they heard about the disappearance of Lord Krishna and the impending arrival of Kali, they relinquished everything! (Srimad Bhagavatham 1.15) While this act is considered almost impossible for us in this age, it will be virtuous for us to study the Mahabharata to know about their tribulations and how they overcame it.
Maharaja Parikshit: Maharaja Parikshit was under the tutelage of his illustrious grandfathers, the Pandavas and is therefore naturally a staunch Vaishnava. He is always surrendered to Krishna, does not make anyone his enemy (his enemies offers themselves to him), offers respect to everyone, merciful (even to the Personality of Kali when he sought his surrender). Even after knowing the curse that he will die within 7 days due to snakebite, he displayed immense control of his senses with no material desires and offered to surrender himself exclusively to Lord Krishna by fasting until death.
Conclusion: The main takeaway from Canto 1 is this: Our existence in this world is temporary and death can strike us any moment. King Parikshit is fortunate enough to know it a week before and was able to realise the absolute truth but we are not so fortunate. We live a very busy life dedicating very little time to read, understand and apply the knowledge of our scriptures, especially Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatham to our lives. However, if we are able to inculcate these Vaishnava qualities during the course of our life, our life will be successful. For this, the study of Srimad Bhagavatham plays a very important role.