Srimad Bhagavatam 01.01.03 - Choosing the Right Fruit from The Desire Tree (download mp3)
by Dwarkadhish Prabhu at ISKCON Chowpatty
nigama-kalpa-taror galitaṁ phalaṁ
pibata bhāgavataṁ rasam ālayam
muhur aho rasikā bhuvi bhāvukāḥ
O expert and thoughtful men, relish Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, the mature fruit of the desire tree of Vedic literatures. It emanated from the lips of Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī. Therefore this fruit has become even more tasteful, although its nectarean juice was already relishable for all, including liberated souls.
In the two previous ślokas it has been definitely proved that the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is the sublime literature which surpasses all other Vedic scriptures due to its transcendental qualities. It is transcendental to all mundane activities and mundane knowledge. In this śloka it is stated that Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is not only a superior literature but is the ripened fruit of all Vedic literatures. In other words, it is the cream of all Vedic knowledge. Considering all this, patient and submissive hearing is definitely essential. With great respect and attention, one should receive the message and lessons imparted by the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.
The Vedas are compared to the desire tree because they contain all things knowable by man. They deal with mundane necessities as well as spiritual realization. The Vedas contain regulative principles of knowledge covering social, political, religious, economic, military, medicinal, chemical, physical and metaphysical subject matter and all that may be necessary to keep the body and soul together. Above and beyond all this are specific directions for spiritual realization. Regulative knowledge involves a gradual raising of the living entity to the spiritual platform, and the highest spiritual realization is knowledge that the Personality of Godhead is the reservoir of all spiritual tastes, or rasas.
Every living entity, beginning from Brahmā, the first-born living being within the material world, down to the insignificant ant, desires to relish some sort of taste derived from sense perceptions. These sensual pleasures are technically called rasas. Such rasas are of different varieties. In the revealed scriptures the following twelve varieties of rasas are enumerated: (1) raudra (anger), (2) adbhuta (wonder), (3) śṛṅgāra (conjugal love), (4) hāsya (comedy), (5) vīra (chivalry), (6) dayā (mercy), (7) dāsya (servitorship), (8) sakhya (fraternity), (9) bhayānaka (horror), (10) bībhatsa (shock), (11) śānta (neutrality), (12) vātsalya (parenthood).
The sum total of all these rasas is called affection or love. Primarily, such signs of love are manifested in adoration, service, friendship, parental affection, and conjugal love. And when these five are absent, love is present indirectly in anger, wonder, comedy, chivalry, fear, shock and so on. For example, when a man is in love with a woman, the rasa is called conjugal love. But when such love affairs are disturbed there may be wonder, anger, shock, or even horror. Sometimes love affairs between two persons culminate in ghastly murder scenes. Such rasas are displayed between man and man and between animal and animal. There is no possibility of an exchange or rasa between a man and an animal or between a man and any other species of living beings within the material world. The rasas are exchanged between members of the same species. But as far as the spirit souls are concerned, they are one qualitatively with the Supreme Lord. Therefore, the rasas were originally exchanged between the spiritual living being and the spiritual whole, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The spiritual exchange or rasa is fully exhibited in spiritual existence between living beings and the Supreme Lord.
The Supreme Personality of Godhead is therefore described in the śruti-mantras, Vedic hymns, as “the fountainhead of all rasas.” When one associates with the Supreme Lord and exchanges one’s constitutional rasa with the Lord, then the living being is actually happy.
These śruti-mantras indicate that every living being has its constitutional position, which is endowed with a particular type of rasa to be exchanged with the Personality of Godhead. In the liberated condition only, this primary rasa is experienced in full. In the material existence, the rasa is experienced in the perverted form, which is temporary. And thus the rasas of the material world are exhibited in the material form of raudra (anger) and so on.
Therefore, one who attains full knowledge of these different rasas, which are the basic principles of activities, can understand the false representations of the original rasas which are reflected in the material world. The learned scholar seeks to relish the real rasa in the spiritual form. In the beginning he desires to become one with the Supreme. Thus, less intelligent transcendentalists cannot go beyond this conception of becoming one with the spirit whole, without knowing of the different rasas.
In this śloka, it is definitely stated that spiritual rasa, which is relished even in the liberated stage, can be experienced in the literature of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam due to its being the ripened fruit of all Vedic knowledge. By submissively hearing this transcendental literature, one can attain the full pleasure of his heart’s desire. But one must be very careful to hear the message from the right source. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is exactly received from the right source. It was brought by Nārada Muni from the spiritual world and given to his disciple Śrī Vyāsadeva. The latter in turn delivered the message to his son Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī, and Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī delivered the message to Mahārāja Parīkṣit just seven days before the King’s death. Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī was a liberated soul from his very birth. He was liberated even in the womb of his mother, and he did not undergo any sort of spiritual training after his birth. At birth no one is qualified, neither in the mundane nor in the spiritual sense. But Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī, due to his being a perfectly liberated soul, did not have to undergo an evolutionary process for spiritual realization. Yet despite his being a completely liberated person situated in the transcendental position above the three material modes, he was attracted to this transcendental rasa of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is adored by liberated souls who sing Vedic hymns. The Supreme Lord’s pastimes are more attractive to liberated souls than to mundane people. He is of necessity not impersonal because it is only possible to carry on transcendental rasa with a person.
In the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam the transcendental pastimes of the Lord are narrated, and the narration is systematically depicted by Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī. Thus the subject matter is appealing to all classes of persons, including those who seek liberation and those who seek to become one with the supreme whole.
In Sanskrit the parrot is also known as śuka. When a ripened fruit is cut by the red beaks of such birds, its sweet flavor is enhanced. The Vedic fruit which is mature and ripe in knowledge is spoken through the lips of Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī, who is compared to the parrot not for his ability to recite the Bhāgavatam exactly as he heard it from his learned father, but for his ability to present the work in a manner that would appeal to all classes of men.
The subject matter is so presented through the lips of Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī that any sincere listener that hears submissively can at once relish transcendental tastes which are distinct from the perverted tastes of the material world. The ripened fruit is not dropped all of a sudden from the highest planet of Kṛṣṇaloka. Rather, it has come down carefully through the chain of disciplic succession without change or disturbance. Foolish people who are not in the transcendental disciplic succession commit great blunders by trying to understand the highest transcendental rasa known as the rāsa dance without following in the footsteps of Śukadeva Gosvāmī, who presents this fruit very carefully by stages of transcendental realization. One should be intelligent enough to know the position of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam by considering personalities like Śukadeva Gosvāmī, who deals with the subject so carefully. This process of disciplic succession of the Bhāgavata school suggests that in the future also Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam has to be understood from a person who is factually a representative of Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī. A professional man who makes a business out of reciting the Bhāgavatam illegally is certainly not a representative of Śukadeva Gosvāmī. Such a man’s business is only to earn his livelihood. Therefore one should refrain from hearing the lectures of such professional men. Such men usually go to the most confidential part of the literature without undergoing the gradual process of understanding this grave subject. They usually plunge into the subject matter of the rāsa dance, which is misunderstood by the foolish class of men. Some of them take this to be immoral, while others try to cover it up by their own stupid interpretations. They have no desire to follow in the footsteps of Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī.
One should conclude, therefore, that the serious student of the rasa should receive the message of Bhāgavatam in the chain of disciplic succession from Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī, who describes the Bhāgavatam from its very beginning and not whimsically to satisfy the mundaner who has very little knowledge in transcendental science. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is so carefully presented that a sincere and serious person can at once enjoy the ripened fruit of Vedic knowledge simply by drinking the nectarean juice through the mouth of Śukadeva Gosvāmī or his bona fide representative.