Srimad Bhagavatam 11.03.35 - Three Stages of Devotion (download mp3)
by Sankirtan Prabhu at ISKCON Chowpatty
sthity-udbhava-pralaya-hetur ahetur asya
yat svapna-jagara-susuptisu sad bahis ca
dehendriyasu-hrdayani caranti yena
sañjivitani tad avehi param narendra
Sri Pippalayana said: The Supreme Personality of Godhead is the cause of the creation, maintenance and destruction of this universe, yet He has no prior cause. He pervades the various states of wakefulness, dreaming and unconscious deep sleep and also exists beyond them. By entering the body of every living being as the Supersoul, He enlivens the body, senses, life airs and mental activities, and thus all the subtle and gross organs of the body begin their functions. My dear King, know that Personality of Godhead to be the Supreme.
In the previous verse King Nimi inquired about various aspects of the Absolute Truth, namely Narayana, Brahman and Paramatma. Now the sage Sri Pippalayana explains these three features of the Absolute Truth in the same order in which the King mentioned them. Sthity-udbhava-pralaya-hetuh refers to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who expands Himself as the triple purusa incarnations — Maha-Visnu, Garbhodakasayi Visnu and Ksirodakasayi Visnu. As described in the Bhagavatam (1.3.1):
jagrhe paurusam rupam
“In the beginning of the creation, the Lord first expanded Himself in the universal form of the purusa incarnation and manifested all the ingredients for the material creation. And thus at first there was the creation of the sixteen principles of material action. This was for the purpose of creating the material universe.” Thus the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Narayana, is mentioned here as hetuh, or the supreme cause of the creation, maintenance and annihilation of the cosmic situation. Still, there is no cause of the Lord Himself; He is ahetuh. As expressed in the Brahma-samhita, anadir adir govindah sarva-karana-karanam. The Supreme Lord is the cause of all causes, and being the eternal Absolute Truth, He has no cause of Himself. The word ahetuh has also been explained by Srila Jiva Gosvami to indicate that the Supreme Lord has His original form as Krsna in His own transcendental abode, called Krsnaloka. Since Krsna is always engaged in His blissful pastimes in the company of His eternally liberated associates, He is aloof from the affairs of this world, which is created by His external potency, known as maya. Therefore it is stated, jagrhe paurusam rupam. The Lord expands Himself as Narayana and Visnu to facilitate the gross illusion and gradual rectification of the conditioned souls. The Lord’s aloofness from the material creation is also described in the Vedas: na tasya karyam karanam ca vidyate. The Absolute Truth has nothing to do, since everything is done self-sufficiently by His multipotencies. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura has pointed out that even though the Supreme Lord Krsna is ahetuh, or causeless and aloof from the cause of material creation, the Lord is also described in this verse as hetuh, or the ultimate cause of the creation, maintenance and annihilation of the material manifestation, because He expands Himself as Paramatma, or the Supersoul, who acts as the prime mover of the cosmic manifestation.
The word ahetuh may also be understood in another way. In Bhagavad-gita (7.5) the Lord says:
apareyam itas tv anyam
prakrtim viddhi me param
yayedam dharyate jagat
The conditioned living entities (jiva-bhuta) desire to engage in sense gratification with their material senses (manah-sasthanindriyani prakrti-sthani karsati). Thus the creation of the material world becomes necessary. In fact, the material cosmic manifestation continues to exist because of the desires of the conditioned souls to exploit it (yayedam dharyate jagat). The government must create a prison to accommodate those citizens who are inclined to criminal activity. There is no need for any citizen to live in the obnoxious conditions of the prison, but because a certain portion of the population is inclined toward antisocial behavior, the prison becomes necessary. In a higher sense, the prisoners themselves can be considered the hetuh, or the cause, for the construction of the prison. Similarly, the Supreme Personality of Godhead expands His internal potency according to His own desire to increase the ananda, or transcendental bliss, of Himself and His pure devotees, but He manifests the material universe in response to the illicit desires of the conditioned souls to live a life of sense gratification in willful forgetfulness of Him. Therefore the conditioned living entities themselves can be considered the hetuh, or cause, of the material manifestation. The external potency of the Lord, maya, who is charged with the duty of material manifestation, is called chaya, or the shadow of the Lord’s internal potency. Srsti-sthiti-pralaya-sadhana-saktir eka/ chayeva yasya bhuvanani bibharti durga. The Lord does not personally desire to manifest the shadow potency, called Durga or maya. The blissful spiritual planets, eternally manifest, contain the best possible facilities for the living entities who are parts and parcels of the Lord. But the conditioned souls, rejecting the inconceivable, eternal living arrangements the Lord has kindly provided, prefer to seek their misfortune in the shadow kingdom called the material world. Thus, both Durga and the conditioned living entities may be considered the hetuh, or cause, of the material manifestation. Since Lord Krsna is ultimately sarva-karana-karanam, the cause of all causes, He is to be known as the ultimate supreme cause. But how the Lord functions as the supreme cause of the material manifestation (sthity-udbhava-pralaya-hetuh) is described in the Thirteenth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita. Upadrastanumanta ca: the Lord acts as overseer and permitter. The actual desire of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is stated very clearly in Bhagavad-gita: sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja. The Lord desires every living entity to give up the shadow potency maya and return to the actual substance (vastavam vastu), which is the eternal kingdom of God.
Although various aspects of the Absolute Truth are being described, the Absolute Truth is ultimately one, as stated in this verse (tad avehi param narendra). King Nimi inquired about Brahman, and now this verse says, yat svapna-jagara-susuptisu sad bahis ca. The Lord’s all-pervading feature within wakefulness, dreaming and deep sleep, and His existence beyond these three mental states, are understood to be manifestations of Brahman, the spiritual potency of the Lord. Finally, the statement dehendriyasu-hrdayani caranti yena sañjivitani can be understood to refer to the Paramatma feature of the Lord. When the Lord expands Himself as Ksirodakasayi Visnu, the third of the three Visnu features, and enters the heart of every living entity, the gross and subtle organs of the body become enlivened for continuing the chain of fruitive activity called karma.
According to Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, the multifarious manifestations of the Supreme Personality of Godhead do not compromise His supremacy as one without a second. The Absolute Truth is paramavyoma-natha, or the Lord of the spiritual sky, who appears as two-armed Syamasundara, as four-armed, as eight-armed or as having one thousand arms. In each aspect His body is eternal and full of bliss and knowledge (sac-cid-ananda-murti). He appears on earth as Vasudeva and within the Causal Ocean as Maha-Visnu. He lies on the Milk Ocean as Ksirodakasayi Visnu and rescues His helpless young devotee as Nrsimhadeva. Appearing as Lord Ramacandra, He acts as a perfect king. And appearing as Krsna He steals the heart of everyone, and especially of young beautiful women. All these features of the Lord are indicated by the word Narayana, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead, just as the word president indicates not only the official duties of the president but his personal family life and long intimate friendships as well. According to Srimad-Bhagavatam, krsnas tu bhagavan svayam. When one transcends an official understanding of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and comes to the superior status of love of God, one can understand the Lord to be Krsna, the cause of all causes. The innumerable Visnu expansions of the Lord are also understood to be plenary portions of Sri Krsna. Krsnas tu bhagavan svayam. As the Lord Himself states in Bhagavad-gita, aham sarvasya prabhavah. These points have been explicitly clarified in the Tenth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam as well as in the opening verse, om namo bhagavate vasudevaya, janmady asya yato ’nvayad itaratas carthesu.