The Method of the Bhagavatam

This article is part 18 of 20 in the series Puranas

“tat sṛṣṭvā tadevānuprāviśat anena jīvenātmānupraviśya nāmarūpe vyākaravāṇi.” The Upanishads mention this line about the Paramatman’s manifestation in the gross body. The non-dualists aver that the Paramatman first creates the body and then enters into it as jiva. In the Vedas, there is a non-duality indicator in the phrase, “anena jīvenātmanā.” However, the dualists supply the word saha and mention “jīvenā-saha,” meaning “along with jiva.” The mention of this manifestation occurs in the Bhagavatam.

svamāyayā sṛṣṭamidaṃ sadasallakṣaṇaṃ vibhuḥ|
praviṣṭa īyate tattat svaraupognirivaidhasi || (11.7.47)

The Paramatman enters bodies such as the celestial and the human which he has created through Maya. Akin to how fire is inside a log of wood, he appears in the respective forms of these bodies.

sruṣṭvedaṃ manasā viśvātmanānupraviṣya yaḥ |
guṇaiḥ kurvadbhirābhāti karteva svapnadrugyathā || (12.10.31) 

You create this world by your mind and then you enter it, and through gunas such Sattva, akin to how one witnesses a dream, you show yourself as if you are the doer.

Here, it is mentioned that the world has been created by the ‘mind.’ Thus, it becomes necessary to inquire whether this mind-creation is some kind of magic or whether it is indeed real. In many places in the Bhagavatam, there are descriptions that the Paramatman creates, maintains and destroys the world through his Maya. In all such instances, the word “Maya” occurs hundreds of times. So, what is the nature of the creation that occurred through Maya? Because every work is performed through the conscious intellect (Buddhi), it is clear that the mind assists it. Therefore, it is not necessary to explicitly use the word “by the mind.” It is mentioned that the gunas are the doers and that the one manifesting (the body) merely appears as the doer. Then it is also said that he is witnessing a dream as it were. So, who is it that performs the act of creation by the mind, who enters the body, who appears as the doer?

The exposition of Vedanta falls in three major traditions: Advaita, Dvaita and Vishishtadvaita. We have firmly tied ourselves to one of these traditions. Thus, in texts like Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Brahma-Sutras, and Srimad Bhagavatam, we try to find elements that conform to the tradition we believe in. We wantonly stretch the terminology and words in these texts and try to stubbornly prove that it is exactly our tradition that is found therein. However, we don’t exhibit this stubbornness in philosophical schools such as khya and vaiśeika. This is because we have no devotion or attachment to them and therefore we regard their hypotheses dispassionately. But the moment we enter the realm of Vedanta, our objectivity flies out of the window. When the pride of ownership arises, the vision of objectivity is clouded by attachment. This is entirely consistent in our dealings in worldly affairs.

Srimad Bhagavatam itself declares that it is the essence of all of Vedanta. This statement has been met with universal acceptance. The Puranas have set out to vastly expand the meaning of the Veda. Indeed, in the Bhagavata Purana, we observe how entire Vedic verses are reproduced verbatim and their word-by-word meanings are explained. The Bhagavatam explains the same topic not once or twice but twenty times. Because the topic is difficult, it is taken up as part of different episodes and elucidated upon so that this method of repetition helps deliver greater clarity of meaning. This is also the purpose of the Bhagavatam. However, traditional commentators explain such philosophical topics according to the method devised by their sect or school. It has remained impossible for them to untangle themselves from the chains of orthodoxy. It appears that we have been unable to develop an objective view. We do not seem to understand what the work is really saying sans bias. We try to force-fit our opinions into the work. We try to stretch the sentences in the work so that it somehow agrees with our opinion.

Our Sastric scholars have laid down that in order to establish the essence of a philosophical work, we must follow specific methodology such as upakrama. Because it is impossible to describe all of them in the constraints of this piece, we can only consider the abhyāsa method. abhyāsa means repeating the same subject over and over in consonance with the context. The sentences (from the Bhagavatam) cited below should hopefully make scholars and thinkers reassess their views as to the philosophical direction which the Bhagavatam points to. The Parabrahman is second to none. Nothing else exists apart from it.

1.    Everything that is perceived through the mind or speech or sight or through other sense organs, all of it is “I, and nothing but I.” Understand this truth through philosophical contemplation. (11.13.24)

2.    Nature is the applicatory cause for the effect known as the world. The Purusha is the supervisory edifice for Prakrti. Time is what brings disturbance to Prakrti. I, who am verily the Parabrahman is also the three: Prakrti, Purusha and Time. (11.24.19)

3.    The Ultimate Truth does not have distinctions. If anyone thinks that distinctions exist, such a person is ignorant. However, the distinctions that are manifested in the world are akin to microcosmic and macrocosmic Space, akin to the Sun inside water and in the sky, and akin to the air that exists inside our body and in the atmosphere. It is a mere apparition. (12.4.30)

4.    Time, space, operation, doer, cause, activity, knowledge, matter, and fruit – through Maya, Sri Hari has manifested as these nine forms. (12.11.31)

5.    nānyad bhagavataḥ kiñcid bhāvyaṃ sadasadātmakam (2.6.32). There is nothing in this world that is beyond Bhagavan.

More such phrases and verses may be seen: 2.6.15, 2.6.41, 2.7.39, 2.5.14, 6.4.47, 6.16.51, 8.3.3., 11.13.31, 11.28.6, 11.28.19, 12.11.31.

The Paramatman is Attribute-less, Unqualified, Pure Knowledge and shows himself with attributes due to Maya.

1.    Sattva, Rajas and Tamas—these are the attributes of Buddhi and not that of the Atman. (11.13.1)

2.    na vidyate yasya ca janma karma vā
na nāmarūpe guṇadoṣa eva vā (8.3.8)

Paramatman has no material birth, activities, name, form, qualities or faults. To fulfil the purpose for which this material world is created and destroyed, He assumes name and form through the power of Maya.

3.    niṣedhaśeṣo jayatādaśeṣa: (8.3.24)

When we begin to reject forms and attributes, the thing that ultimately remains is Brahman. May Glory be to It!

4.    nirviśeṣāya sāmyāya namo jñānaghanāya ca (8.3.12)

I offer my obeisance unto the Brahman, who has no material qualities but who accepts the three qualities goodness, passion and ignorance within this material world.

5.    All the gunas take refuge in me who is without attributes and absolute. (11.13.40)

See also: 11.29.20, 1.2.31, 4.20.7, 4.21.34, 8.6.11.

To be continued

Author(s)

About:

Mahamahopadhyaya Vidwan Ranganatha Sharma was a renowned Sanskrit scholar and an authority on Vyakarana or Grammar. He is noted for his translation of the entire Valmiki Ramayana into Kannada, which was published with a foreword by DVG. He has authored several books in Kannada and Sanskrit. He is a recipient of the national award for Sanskrit learning and has received the Rajyotsava Award.  

Translator(s)

About:

Sandeep Balakrishna is a writer, author, translator, and socio-political-cultural analyst. He is the author of "Tipu Sultan: The Tyrant of Mysore" and "The Madurai Sultanate: A Concise History." He translated Dr. S L Bhyrappa's magnum opus "Avarana" into English.

Prekshaa Publications

The Mahābhārata is the greatest epic in the world both in magnitude and profundity. A veritable cultural compendium of Bhārata-varṣa, it is a product of the creative genius of Maharṣi Kṛṣṇa-dvaipāyana Vyāsa. The epic captures the experiential wisdom of our civilization and all subsequent literary, artistic, and philosophical creations are indebted to it. To read the Mahābhārata is to...

Shiva Rama Krishna

சிவன். ராமன். கிருஷ்ணன்.
இந்திய பாரம்பரியத்தின் முப்பெரும் கதாநாயகர்கள்.
உயர் இந்தியாவில் தலைமுறைகள் பல கடந்தும் கடவுளர்களாக போற்றப்பட்டு வழிகாட்டிகளாக விளங்குபவர்கள்.
மனித ஒற்றுமை நூற்றாண்டுகால பரிணாம வளர்ச்சியின் பரிமாணம்.
தனிநபர்களாகவும், குடும்ப உறுப்பினர்களாகவும், சமுதாய பிரஜைகளாகவும் நாம் அனைவரும் பரிமளிக்கிறோம்.
சிவன் தனிமனித அடையாளமாக அமைகிறான்....

ऋतुभिः सह कवयः सदैव सम्बद्धाः। विशिष्य संस्कृतकवयः। यथा हि ऋतवः प्रतिसंवत्सरं प्रतिनवतामावहन्ति मानवेषु तथैव ऋतुवर्णनान्यपि काव्यरसिकेषु कामपि विच्छित्तिमातन्वते। ऋतुकल्याणं हि सत्यमिदमेव हृदि कृत्वा प्रवृत्तम्। नगरजीवनस्य यान्त्रिकतां मान्त्रिकतां च ध्वनदिदं चम्पूकाव्यं गद्यपद्यमिश्रितमिति सुव्यक्तमेव। ऐदम्पूर्वतया प्रायः पुरीपरिसरप्रसृतानाम् ऋतूनां विलासोऽत्र प्रपञ्चितः। बेङ्गलूरुनामके...

The Art and Science of Avadhānam in Sanskrit is a definitive work on Sāhityāvadhānam, a form of Indian classical art based on multitasking, lateral thinking, and extempore versification. Dotted throughout with tasteful examples, it expounds in great detail on the theory and practice of this unique performing art. It is as much a handbook of performance as it is an anthology of well-turned...

This anthology is a revised edition of the author's 1978 classic. This series of essays, containing his original research in various fields, throws light on the socio-cultural landscape of Tamil Nadu spanning several centuries. These compelling episodes will appeal to scholars and laymen alike.
“When superstitious mediaevalists mislead the country about its judicial past, we have to...

The cultural history of a nation, unlike the customary mainstream history, has a larger time-frame and encompasses the timeless ethos of a society undergirding the course of events and vicissitudes. A major key to the understanding of a society’s unique character is an appreciation of the far-reaching contributions by outstanding personalities of certain periods – especially in the realms of...

Prekṣaṇīyam is an anthology of essays on Indian classical dance and theatre authored by multifaceted scholar and creative genius, Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh. As a master of śāstra, a performing artiste (of the ancient art of Avadhānam), and a cultured rasika, he brings a unique, holistic perspective...

Yaugandharam

इदं किञ्चिद्यामलं काव्यं द्वयोः खण्डकाव्ययोः सङ्कलनरूपम्। रामानुरागानलं हि सीतापरित्यागाल्लक्ष्मणवियोगाच्च श्रीरामेणानुभूतं हृदयसङ्क्षोभं वर्णयति । वात्सल्यगोपालकं तु कदाचिद्भानूपरागसमये घटितं यशोदाश्रीकृष्णयोर्मेलनं वर्णयति । इदम्प्रथमतया संस्कृतसाहित्ये सम्पूर्णं काव्यं...

Vanitakavitotsavah

इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।

Vaiphalyaphalam

इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।

Nipunapraghunakam

इयं रचना दशसु रूपकेष्वन्यतमस्य भाणस्य निदर्शनतामुपैति। एकाङ्करूपकेऽस्मिन् शेखरकनामा चित्रोद्यमलेखकः केनापि हेतुना वियोगम् अनुभवतोश्चित्रलेखामिलिन्दकयोः समागमं सिसाधयिषुः कथामाकाशभाषणरूपेण निर्वहति।

Bharavatarastavah

अस्मिन् स्तोत्रकाव्ये भगवन्तं शिवं कविरभिष्टौति। वसन्ततिलकयोपनिबद्धस्य काव्यस्यास्य कविकृतम् उल्लाघनाभिधं व्याख्यानं च वर्तते।

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the third volume, some character sketches of great literary savants responsible for Kannada renaissance during the first half of the twentieth century. These remarkable...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the second volume, episodes from the lives of remarkable exponents of classical music and dance, traditional storytellers, thespians, and connoisseurs; as well as his...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the first volume, episodes from the lives of great writers, poets, literary aficionados, exemplars of public life, literary scholars, noble-hearted common folk, advocates...

Evolution of Mahabharata and Other Writings on the Epic is the English translation of S R Ramaswamy's 1972 Kannada classic 'Mahabharatada Belavanige' along with seven of his essays on the great epic. It tells the riveting...

Shiva-Rama-Krishna is an English adaptation of Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh's popular lecture series on the three great...

Bharatilochana

ಮಹಾಮಾಹೇಶ್ವರ ಅಭಿನವಗುಪ್ತ ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ವಿದ್ಯಾವಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಮರೆಯಲಾಗದ ಹೆಸರು. ಮುಖ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಶೈವದರ್ಶನ ಮತ್ತು ಸೌಂದರ್ಯಮೀಮಾಂಸೆಗಳ ಪರಮಾಚಾರ್ಯನಾಗಿ  ಸಾವಿರ ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ಇವನು ಜ್ಞಾನಪ್ರಪಂಚವನ್ನು ಪ್ರಭಾವಿಸುತ್ತಲೇ ಇದ್ದಾನೆ. ಭರತಮುನಿಯ ನಾಟ್ಯಶಾಸ್ತ್ರವನ್ನು ಅರ್ಥಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಇವನೊಬ್ಬನೇ ನಮಗಿರುವ ಆಲಂಬನ. ಇದೇ ರೀತಿ ರಸಧ್ವನಿಸಿದ್ಧಾಂತವನ್ನು...

Vagarthavismayasvadah

“वागर्थविस्मयास्वादः” प्रमुखतया साहित्यशास्त्रतत्त्वानि विमृशति । अत्र सौन्दर्यर्यशास्त्रीयमूलतत्त्वानि यथा रस-ध्वनि-वक्रता-औचित्यादीनि सुनिपुणं परामृष्टानि प्रतिनवे चिकित्सकप्रज्ञाप्रकाशे। तदन्तर एव संस्कृतवाङ्मयस्य सामर्थ्यसमाविष्कारोऽपि विहितः। क्वचिदिव च्छन्दोमीमांसा च...

The Best of Hiriyanna

The Best of Hiriyanna is a collection of forty-eight essays by Prof. M. Hiriyanna that sheds new light on Sanskrit Literature, Indian...

Stories Behind Verses

Stories Behind Verses is a remarkable collection of over a hundred anecdotes, each of which captures a story behind the composition of a Sanskrit verse. Collected over several years from...