Srimad Bhagavatam 12.03.17-18 - Two Mahajans of Charity-Jiva Goswami and Bali Maharaj (download mp3)
by Radhika Vallabh Prabhu at ISKCON Chowpatty
yugāni yuga-dharmāṁś ca
gatiṁ viṣṇor mahātmanaḥ
Please explain the different ages of universal history, the special qualities of each age, the duration of cosmic maintenance and destruction, and the movement of time, which is the direct representation of the Supreme Soul, the Personality of Godhead, Lord Viṣṇu.
kṛte pravartate dharmaś
catuṣ-pāt taj-janair dhṛtaḥ
satyaṁ dayā tapo dānam
iti pādā vibhor nṛpa
Śukadeva Gosvāmī said: My dear King, in the beginning, during Satya-yuga, the age of truth, religion is present with all four of its legs intact and is carefully maintained by the people of that age. These four legs of powerful religion are truthfulness, mercy, austerity and charity.
Just as there are four seasons, there are four ages of the earth, each lasting hundreds of thousands of years. The first of these is Satya-yuga, when such good qualities as charity are prominent.
Actual charity, here referred to as dānam, is to award fearlessness and freedom to others, not to give them some material means of temporary pleasure or relief. Any material “charitable” arrangement will inevitably be crushed by the onward march of time. Thus only realization of one’s eternal existence beyond the reach of time can make one fearless, and only freedom from material desire constitutes real freedom, for it enables one to escape the bondage of the laws of nature. Therefore real charity is to help people revive their eternal, spiritual consciousness.
Religion is here referred to as vibhu, “the mighty,” because universal religious principles are not different from the Supreme Lord Himself and ultimately lead one to His kingdom. The qualities mentioned here — truthfulness, mercy, austerity and charity — are universal, nonsectarian aspects of pious life.
In the First Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, the fourth leg of religion is listed as cleanliness. According to Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura, this is an alternative definition of the word dānam in the present context.