The Nature of Moksha
The Vishnupurana says that comprehensive dissolution of the world constitutes Moksha. In this context, the term “comprehensive dissolution” must be understood to mean an absence of rebirth, i.e., a merging into the Parabrahman. Akin to how water merges with water. It is impossible for two intrinsically separate objects to fully merge with each other. When a body of water merges with another body of water, the latter will swell in quantity. However, the Parabrahman does not swell in this fashion. Therefore, the integral revelation (darshana) of ahaṃ brahmāsmi is itself Moksha.
The Path of Sadhana
The birth and death of the human is caused by his sins and virtues. Birth is simply the donning of the body. The body is the house of sensual enjoyment. In turn, enjoyment is the experience of the fruits of sins and virtues. When the relationship between sins and virtues is severed, Moksha dawns automatically:
kṣīṇādhikāraḥ sa yadā puṇyapāpavivarjitaḥ |
tadā sa bhagavad dhyānāt param nirvāṇamāptavān || (1.21.34)
The Vishnupurana describes the manner in which Prahlada attained Moksha in these verses. Likewise, although keśidhvaja was Enlightened, he performed his Karma with great diligence but remained aloof from its fruits and thereby attained Moksha. We can consider the foregoing term bhagavad dhyānāt. The actual method of performing this dhyāna is beautifully described in the conversation between khāṇdikyajanaka and keśidhvaja. The discourse of keśidhvaja which occurs in the seventh chapter of the sixth Amsa is as follows:
“The Ultimate Nature of Vishnu is the Knowledge of Brahman. Therefore, it is not easy to meditate upon. It is:
pratyastamitabhedaṃ yat sattāmātragocaraṃ|
vacasāmātmasaṃvedyaṃ tajjñānaṃ brahmasaṃjñitama || (6.7.53)”
This is the highest form of Vishnu-Bhakti. Its other aspect is the kṣetrajña (or the jīvātma). Its third aspect is the power of avidya (generally speaking, ignorance). The power of kṣetrajña is clouded by avidya. This kṣetrajña resides in all creatures in different forms. The Formless and the Ultimate Truth (Brahman) lends itself to meditation in its purest form only by the self-realized Yogis. However, the aspirant (or beginner) must meditate upon the Manifested Form of the Bhagavan. That Form must be a beautiful Murti of the eight-armed or four-armed Vishnu. That Murti must be embellished with the conch, discus and mace. Once the mind and the intellect is firmly embedded in this Murti, it must meditate upon the Murti that is bereft of the conch, discus and other weapons. This Murti must have only the rosary beads. Once the mind and intellect is firmly embedded in this Murti, it must meditate on the indivisible Murti of Vishnu sans any embellishment or ornamentation. After this stage, the mind and intellect must meditate on the Bodiless Atman. Once this stage is mastered, the mind and the intellect must merge itself into the Formless Nature of the Atman. This is known as Samadhi. In this State of Samadhi, the real nature of the Bhagavan will reveal itself. It is only then that the seeker will find complete fulfilment. Attaining a state of Becoming and residing with the Bhagavan in an indivisible (or inseparable) manner is known as Mukti or Moksha. The attitude of thinking that the Paramatman and the individual are separate is the work of the aforementioned ignorance. Once this ignorance is destroyed, differences cease to exist:
vibhedajanakejñāne nāśamātyantikam gate |
ātmano brahmaṇo bhedamasantam kaḥ kariṣyati || (6.7.96)
Worldly transactions occur on the difference-creating knowledge of “I,” “me” and “Mine,” derived from ignorance.
ahaṃ mametyavidyeyaṃ vyavahārastathānoḥ |
paramārthastavasamlopo gocare vacasāṃ na yaḥ || (6.7.100)
The Vishnupurana propounds that bhakti and unattached Karma are the vehicles for attaining True Knowledge (Jnana).
Chapter 4: The Specialty of the Bhagavatam
yaśodāyā bhāgyaṃ samupacitapuṇyaṃ vrajasadāṃ
vidhiḥ kaṃsādīnāṃ nidhiranavadhirvedavacasāṃ |
matiḥ kaunteyānām gatiramṛtadhātrī janibhṛtāṃ
maho me hrudyāstāṃ kimapi tirayanmohatimiram ||
The Bhagavatam is renowned as one among of the eighteen Puranas. bhagavantaṃ adhikṛtya kṛto granthaḥ bhāgavataṃ - the Bhagavatam is a work composed about Bhagavan Vishnu. This is the derivation of the word Bhagavatam. Some people also call it the Vishnu Bhagavatam. This is because another work by the name Devi Bhagavatam exists. This book is about the Bhagavati, Devi (Parvati). Both works comprise twelve Skandas (Subjects) and eighteen thousand verses. Both contain all the characteristics befitting the definition of a Bhagavata. When we consider its linguistic style, the Devi Bhagavata is analogous to the rest of the seventeen Puranas. However, the Bhagavata mentioned in the Padma Purana and Skanda Purana is the Vishnu Bhagavata.
Be that as it may. From the ancient times, the Bhagavatam has earned the esteem and affection of scholars and Vidvans. Every follower of the Vaidika Dharma has embraced and adored it. It is a delightful work embodying the stories of the various avataras of the Bhagavan (Vishnu) as well as other incidental stories. It can be said that the Vedantic tenets propounded in such a systematic fashion in this Purana do not appear in the other seventeen Puranas. The Bhagavata Purana is the crown-jewel of Puranic literature. It is not a coincidence that from times immemorial, our ancients have chosen the Bhagavatam for their discourses along with the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, which are regarded as Itihasa-s (generally speaking, history). Just like how the Upanishads, Brahmasutra and Bhagavad Gita are regarded as the prasthānatraya (the Philosophy Trio), the Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Bhagavatam are regarded as the pravacanatraya (Discursive Trio).
Composition of the Bhagavatam
Maharshi Vyasa composed the Mahabharata, which nourishes and expands the meaning of the Veda, for the benefit of the women, Sudra and Brahmanas. He incorporated timeless philosophical concepts in sections like the Bhagavad Gita with extraordinary clarity. However, even after he completed this great endeavor, his mind did not find peace. He sat on the banks of the Saraswati River, brooding. When the Sage Narada appeared before him, he confided his mental distress to him. To which, Narada said: “You have not described the glory of the Bhagavan in all its fulness. You have not upheld the greatness of the path of Bhakti with the extraordinariness it merits. If you compose another work that fills this shortcoming, you will overcome your distress and attain peace.” Heeding his advice, the great Muni, Vyasa authored the Bhagavatam—this is what we learn from the work (Bhagavatam: Skanda 1, Chapters 4-5). After completing the work, Maharshi Vyasa taught it to the Rishi, Suka. And then, for seven days, Suka discoursed the Bhagavatam to Maharaja Parikshit who was stricken with a curse (Bhagavatam 1-19).
To be continued