Extracts from the Srimad Bhagavatam
Book 11 - Lord KRISHNA’S INSTRUCTIONS TO UDDHAVA
Chapters 7 to 29 form what is known as the Uddhava Gita, which consists, as the name indicates of the Lord’s teachings to Uddhava, which is the heart of the Bhagavata and considered to be an amplification of the Bhagavad Gita by those who are in doubt about whether Karma or Jnana is the latter’s message. Its crystal clear lucidity leaves no ground for any doubt on this subject.
VI ... The Celestials Demand the Return of the Lord
Sri Suka continues:
After Narada left Dwaraka, Brahma, Shiva and all the celestials, Siddhas and Rishis called on Krishna with garlands of celestial flowers in their hands and the singing of hymns. Brahma, who led them, spoke on their behalf as follows:
“One hundred and twenty five years ago, O Lord, You descended in the Yadu race in response to our prayer to lighten the burden of the earth. You have achieved that purpose in deeds which will be the talk of pious men of the whole Kaliyuga. You have firmly established righteousness, so that there remains nothing more for You to accomplish on earth, for even Your own race, which has grown arrogant and tyrannical, due to the wealth and support You have given to it, is as good as destroyed by the curse of the Rishis. Now we have come to pray You, O Supreme Vishnu, to return to Your transcendent Vaikuntha and bless us Your servants, the guardians of the spheres.”
The glorious Krishna answered:
“I have already decided on what you are now asking Me to do. Grown insolent by an unlimited prosperity and heroism, the Yadus feel inclined to dominate the whole world, and are only kept in leash by Me, as is the ocean by its shores. If I leave before destroying it, they will overwhelm and annihilate the human race by their overflowing energy. The sentence on them has already been passed by the Brahmins’ curse and I have only to see to its execution and then bid farewell to the earth, when I shall visit your spheres.”
Brahma and all the celestials fell prostrate before the Lord and departed. Calling the elders of the Yadus, Krishna spoke to them thus:
“You are well aware of the curse of the Brahmins on us and of the grave portents of its taking action. We must without loss of time betake ourselves to a safe place, which I suggest to be Prabhasa on the sacred Ganges, where once the moon god bathed and got rid of the phthisis which he had contracted by the curse of Daksha. By bathing there and propitiating the gods and the ancestors, and by giving gifts to the Brahmins, we will wash away our sins and cross the ocean of ignorance, as people cross the sea with boats.”
Whilst the Yadavas were busy packing their chariots for the journey, Uddhava, who had observed the ominous signs, approached his Master in private, touched His feet with his head, and with joined palms said:
“I have strong forebodings, O Supreme Yogi, that after destroying the Yadu race You will leave the earth altogether; for, almighty though You are, You have taken no steps to countermand the Rishis’ curse. I cannot bear being away from Your feet for even a second. Grant that I am taken with You to Your divine abode. I have always waited on You as Your humble servant and devotee in Your bed, bath, kitchen, or in Your entertainments. I wore the garlands that had decked Your breasts and the clothes that had wrapped Your body, and ate the remnant of Your food: how can I now be separated from You?”
VII - IX ... The Avadhuta’s Legend
Sri Krishna answered:
“Your forebodings are well founded, O highly blessed Uddhava. Brahma, Lord Shiva, and all the guardians of the spheres have demanded My return to Vaikuntha. Besides, I have accomplished the task for which I descended to the earth with Balarama, except the extinction of the Yadu race, which is destined to perish by its own hand. On the seventh day from now Dwaraka will go under the sea. The world will be invaded by the spirit of Kali and will lose its auspiciousness as soon as I turn My back on it; for no sooner the Kali age moves in, righteousness will move out of it: people will develop a taste for unrighteous ways. You must not remain here, O good Uddhava, but shake off all attachment to your family and kinsmen and move about the world with a mind centred wholly on Me.
“You must always remember that whatever is thought by the mind, perceived by the eye and the ear, and spoken by the tongue is the creation of the mind and, therefore, illusory. The restless mind easily falls victim to the illusion of diversity, which leads to the conception of good and evil and the discrimination between prescribed action, inaction, and prohibited action. By controlling your mind and senses you will see the world in your own self, and your own self in Me, the Supreme Lord. Possessed of this knowledge, and immersed in the contentment of Self-realisation, you will experience no obstructions in life. He who rises above both good and evil will not refrain from a prohibited action out of fear of evil consequences, nor will he perform a prescribed action out of hope for rewards, but will act like a child who takes no thought of consequences. Being a friend to all, and possessing a serene mind which sees the world as Myself, you never again suffer the pangs of transmigration.
“It is for my highest good that You, the Embodiment the Soul and Goal of Yoga, are preaching the Yoga of Renunciation, which is extremely difficult to practise. I am very ignorant, O Lord, profoundly attached to my body and children, who are, after all, the creation of Your Maya. I pray You, O Master, to instruct me, Your servant, how to attain easily the sublime Renunciation of which You speak. There is no one other than Yourself either here on earth or among the gods who is qualified to teach the self-luminous Atman, the one and only Reality. Even Brahma is under the influence of Your Maya, for he looks upon the world as real. Afflicted as I am with grief for having to part with You, O Lord I seek Your guidance, You the friend of all, perfect, eternal and infinite, the omniscient Ruler of the universe Whose eternal abode is the transcendent Vaikuntha.”
The Lord answered:
“Those who take to the investigation into the nature of the world raise themselves above their sensuous cravings. The Self itself is the surest guide to itself through direct observation and inference. Men of right judgement and of knowledge of the secrets of Sankhya and Yoga end by directly perceiving Me as their own Self, possessing all the faculties (whereby the phenomena are perceived). Of all the forms which emanate from Me, I cherish most the human body, because through it, keen and vigilant seekers can have a direct knowledge of Me, who am otherwise difficult to perceive. Let Me illustrate this by an ancient legend.”
“The highly intelligent King Yadu, who was as great in piety as he was in heroism, once meeting a young Brahmin ascetic (avadhuta) of a high order (obviously Lord Dattatreya) of unclean body, though full of wisdom, roaming about aimlessly, addressed him thus:
‘Men strive after wealth, power and religious merits with the purpose of acquiring fame, worldly enjoyments and long life; but you seem to desire nothing, to do nothing, and behave like a dunce, although you are in sturdy health and appear to be wise. It is a wonder that in the midst of people who are burning in the blazing fire of lust and envy you remain cool like the elephant who is half-immersed in the cold water of the Ganges. Pray tell me the secret of this abiding peace of yours.’
"The Avadhuta answered:
‘By wandering freely in the world my keen intellect has furnished me with many teachers from whom I have learnt much wisdom. They are the earth, the air, the tree, the dove, the bee, the wasp, the body, etc. - twenty-four in number. By watching their behaviour and nature I have gathered many practical lessons. From the earth, for example, I have learnt its imperturbability under the great stress of having to bear all the created things. The tree, which is subject to depredation by every passer-by, human and non-human, has taught me to submit my will to that of others ungrudgingly. A seeker of Truth should be satisfied with bare subsistence, like the air in the breath (which is sustained by the life principle), and should not seek to tickle his palate by various delicious edibles. Like the air he should move about all things without attaching himself to any, and be unaffected by their merits and demerits. Although he has a body possessing many characteristics, shape, complexion, smell, etc., the ascetic whose mind is fixed on his own Self, knows himself to be devoid of them, like the odourless air which carries the smells of the objects which it pervades. From the dove I have learnt that the ascetic must conceive no fondness for any person or object, which will end in sorrow, like the family of doves which were excessively devoted to one another and which came to grief when they were caught by a fowler, who first trapped the two fledglings, and then one after another the parents who, out of love for their babies, had gone to witness their misfortune and cry with them. The infatuated householder parts completely with his peace of mind. He who digresses from the quest of the final beatitude to a family life resembles the man who, having climbed to a great height, instead of soaring higher still, hurls himself down to the earth. From the python I have learnt to feed on only what comes my way without exertion. The ascetic should remain inactive and profound like the calm, deep sea, allowing himself to be under no one’s control, nor be affected by likes and dislikes, elation and depression. The uncontrolled mind comes under the Lord’s deluding power as soon at it sees an alluring woman decked with jewels and a fine dress, and gets consumed by the fire of hell, as does a moth by the candlelight that lures it.
‘The acquisition of what one loves most is, indeed, the source of all afflictions. He attains unlimited happiness who, knowing this, does not attempt to acquire anything, not even companionship, for where many people live together discord is bound to arise. With the cessation of desire the two lower gunas are transcended, and through the pure Sattva guna one passes to the bliss of samadhi (absorption in the Self) by constant concentration on the Self. This is the lesson I have learnt from the wasp, which, in its original form, is a larva, but living in a wasp’s hole and fixing its mind on the wasp is transformed into a wasp. From my body I learned that the process of birth and death is painful, yet it eventually induces thinking, discrimination and renunciation. The palate drags one in one direction, the generative organ in another, the eyes in a third, the nose, the stomach, the ear in a number of other directions, like the wealthy husband of many wives who is incessantly tortured by their rivalries and their insatiable needs. Yet the reason with which the Lord endows him, enables him ultimately to realise the Supreme Reality.
‘Having freed myself of all attachments, I roam about the world fully established in the knowledge and freedom of my own Self. It is therefore impossible to build a comprehensive and stable knowledge from only one teacher.’ “
(This legend illustrates Krishna’s statement that the human body can be made the best instrument for the attainment of the Supreme Goal.)
X ...Fatuity of Celestial Enjoyment and of Action
The Lord continued:
“My devotee should abstain from all desire and should conduct himself in conformity with the rules prescribed for his caste order and family status. With a purified mind he will be able to observe how the actions of the person who pursues pleasure produce diametrically opposite results, namely, misery. My devotee should therefore abstain from actions which are prompted by desire and should perform the prescribed duties as taught by Me. He alone is exempt from duties whose mind is fully engaged on the inquiry of the Self. My seeker should devoutly attend on his guru, who must be of serene mind and has realised Me and whom he should regard as identical with Myself.
“Just as fire assumes the shapes of the pieces of wood which it consumes, so does the Self assume* the qualities (gunas) of the bodies which it pervades, the bodies being in effect nothing but qualities, and the Self the Substance that supports them. Identifying the one with the other leads to transmigration, and separating the one from the other by investigation to Supreme Knowledge. The perfect wisdom which is imparted by the perfect guru promptly destroys not only the illusion of the qualities but the qualities themselves. (This is called transcendence of the gunas into the absolute Brahman.)
* This, the Self, as jiva, does under the influence of avidya. Being pure consciousness occupying every point of the body, it naturally takes the shape of the body, as does the space in a pot. Hence it ascribes to itself all the characteristics of the body and thinks, I am thin or fat, tall or short, dark or fair, etc. It thus becomes an entity separate from other jivas with interests entirely different from, often even conflicting with, theirs, which causes it to be subjected to the laws of karma and transmigration.
“As for the enjoyment of heaven, it is also subject to impermanence, frustration and failure. The sacrifices which propitiate the gods entitle the sacrificer to the same heavenly pleasures as the gods themselves enjoy, but only for so long as the fruits of his merits last: thereafter he takes birth in lower regions, according to his past actions and associations. So long as, propelled by the gunas, the senses are active, they perceive diversity in the Atman and impel action, the fruits of action and bondage for the jiva. All actions result in misery and cause new actions in new bodies, so that in this world there is little peace for the jiva.”
“Do explain to me, O Lord, how does the jiva (which is said to be the unaffected Self) remain free from the actions of the body? Also how can the regenerate be distinguished from the unregenerate and how does he behave in eating, sleeping, walking, playing, etc.?”
XI ... Transcendence of Action
The Lord answered:
“It is only with reference to the actions of the gunas, not to My essential nature, that I am said to be in bondage or Liberation. And as the gunas are rooted in illusion, there can be neither true bondage nor true Liberation for Me, but only a dream-like apprehension of them. Even transmigration is unreal. You may compare the two entities, one in bondage and the other in Liberation, in one and the same individual to two birds alike in nature living in companionship in the same nest on a peepul tree. One of them plucks and eats the fruits of the tree, whilst the other, though remaining unfed, is superior to it in strength. The latter is aware of itself as well as of the other, and is free from desire, whereas the former is not aware of its companion and has always been bound by desire (on account of this unawareness).
“The man of vidya (knowledge of Truth, i.e., the regenerate) though he has a body, is not conditioned by it, any more than a dreamer just awakened from the dream is conditioned by his dream body; and when he apprehends objects through the sensory organs, he knows that he is not doing so. The man of avidya (the unregenerate), on the contrary, remains in the illusion that he is the doer of his actions, which are actually done by the Indriyas (organs of actions and perceptions). He who comprehends this will lose interest in all perceived objects as well as in all actions, remaining free like the ether. He is really free and wise who remains unaffected though his senses feed on objects of sense. He is really free and wise whose mind, heart, senses and breath function without his thinking of them. He is really free and wise who does not show annoyance when he is subjected to afflictions and disrespect, nor pleasure when he is treated with respect. The sage who has transcended the diversity does not distinguish good from evil, merits from demerits, and, therefore, he neither praises nor condemns anything.
“He who is well versed in the Vedas, but has not realised the Supreme Brahman is like him who tends a dry cow. He who has cured himself from the disease of perceiving diversity in the souls and has concentrated his mind on Me, should abstain completely from action. He who is unable to fix his mind on the Perfect Brahman will do well to do his prescribed duties with complete dispassion. Occupying the mind with Myself My births and deeds, and observing for My delight all the duties relating to dharma, kama and artha, and relying wholly on Me, he will develop unswerving devotion to Me, O Uddhava. By associating with saints he will surely attain to Me.”
“Whom, O glorious Lord, do You consider pious?”
The Lord answered:
“He is considered pious who is compassionate towards all beings, forbearing, truthful, clean in mind, well-balanced, self-controlled, gentle, of unclouded judgement, effortless, sparing in eating, free from passion and excitement, loyal, depending wholly on Me, contemplative, alert, capable of imparting knowledge, does not seek respect for himself but bestows it on others. He is the most pious of men who completely abandons all the prescribed duties, though he is fully aware of the sin of neglecting them, and directs his worship solely to Me.”
XII ... Supreme Efficacy of Satsanga
The Lord continued:
“Neither Yoga, Sankhya, righteousness, austerities, study of the Vedas, sacrifices, nor philanthropic works, mantras, yama, niyama so win Me as does the association with saints - satsanga - which puts an end to all attachment. It is only through the company of the wise that many daityas, nagas, gandharvas, vaishyas, sudras, women and outcasts have attained to My State. All these were born with rajasic and tamasic dispositions in the several yugas, did not study the Vedas, nor sought learning, nor made tapas, but only through association with the righteous that they attained to Me. By loving Me, gopis, cows, deer, snakes, trees in hundreds of thousands (in Vraja) became accomplished and attained to Me, the Supreme Brahman. Therefore, O Uddhava, turn your back on all actions, whether prescribed or not, as well as on all learning, past or future, and seek shelter with all your heart in Me, the Self of all, and you will be free from all fear. It is by this Self that the body is permeated, and in it that the universe is woven like the warp and woof of a cloth.”
..... the Uddhava Gita continued
These pages will be supplemented from time to time with further extracts from important works.
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