Srimad Bhagavatam- A Comprehensive Blend Of Bhakti, Jnana, And Vairagya

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Krishna, Bhakti and The Bhagavatam
Bhagavatam is a practical guide for all. It teaches that God-realization alone can give salvation for man, and shows the ways to attain God-consciousness. It teaches that God alone really exists and that God-realization is the be-all and end-all of life. It teaches us to realize God everywhere, always and in every situation in life.

The main thesis of the Bhagavatam is to advocate the glory and greatness of Krishna and inculcate a feeling of staunch devotion (Bhakti) to Him. Krishna being the Purna Avatar or a Perfect Incarnation, a Complete Person, human mind finds it a bit knotty to comprehend Him because it is accustomed more with the imperfection, fragmentation, exclusiveness and inadequacies than with excellence.

Lord Krishna has played various parts during His stay in the world. He drove the chariot of Arjuna. He was an unparalleled statesman. He was a master musician. He gave lessons to Narada in the art of playing the Veena. The music of His flute thrilled the hearts of the Gopis and all. He was a cowherd in Nandagaon and Gokul. He exhibited miracles even when he was a child and a boy. He killed many Rakshasas. He showed Visvaroopa to His mother. He did Rasalila, the secrets of which can only be understood by devotees like Narada, Radha and the Gopis. He taught the supreme truths of Yoga, Bhakti and Vedanta to Arjuna and Uddhava. He had mastery over the sixty-four arts.

This completeness and expanse of the Krishna Avatar made it possible to interpret the concept of Krishna in multifarious ways. One such view is that Krishna is not an incarnation of Vishnu, the Godhead, as ordinarily understood, but the Godhead (Bhagavan) Himself. The basis for this view is the verse 1.3.28 of the Bhagavatam which says “While all these (other 24 Avatars described earlier in the same chapter) are the parts and particles of the Supreme Being, Krishna is the Bhagavan Himself - (krishnastu bhagavan svayam). Krishna is the full revelation of the Lord, while the others come from age to age for the relieving the world from the sufferings caused by the particular set of the Asuras.” This view is opposed by the others who quote several verses from the other parts of the Bhagavtam itself wherein Krishna is expressly declared as a part of Mahavishnu, the Supreme Being.

If we avoid all this differentiation on emphasis, we get an overall picture in the Bhagavatam that there was a fuller manifestation of divine excellences in the Krishna Avatar than in any other incarnation.

Jnana, Bhakti and Karma are assigned their respective places in the Bhagavatam. Karma is prescribed for those who are very much attached to the body and this world. Jnana is prescribed for those who are detached and dispassionate (Virakta). Bhakti is prescribed for those who are neither very much attached nor very much detached and who are indifferent. It teaches all about Bhagavata Dharma or the religion of love. The Bhagavata Dharma as taught by the nine sages to King Nimi in the beginning of the eleventh Skandha, is soul-stirring.

The impression that a non-sectarian reader would have about the Bhagavatam is that it is not exclusively committed to any single system generally found in Indian philosophy. As in the Upanishads and the Bhaagvad Gita, dualism, identity-in-difference in its various shades, monism etc. all finds a place in the Bhagavatam in different contexts. The Text does not show any antipathy towards any of them and feels no contradiction in accommodating all of them. Its efforts are towards the synthesis of all and not positing opposition between the different schools of thought.

That kind of synthesizing agent for the Bhagavatam is Bhakti or devotion of the highest type, which is described as the 5th Purushartha or goal of life, the other four being dharma (morality), artha (wealth), kama (pleasure) and moksha (liberation).

Bhakti in the Bhagavatam is not merely the purifying agency or a means for a higher end as the non-dualist principle presumes but it is the highest end itself, transcending Mukti also. The Bhagavatam gives details about different categories of devotion based on three different Gunas. It also mentions nine-pronged devotional discipline. But at the highest level the Bhagavatam favors nirguna bhakti i.e. devotion based not on body or self or salvation for oneself from the cycle of birth and death but on the concept of self-forgetting love, expressing itself in the natural, unbroken and unobstructed flow of mind towards the Lord as the Ganga flows continuously towards the ocean.

Such seekers attain to the knowledge of their essence as one with the Lord, as against the concept of merging with the Lord advocated by the Advaita school, retaining a sense of difference without a distinction so that they may engage themselves in the unbroken service of the Lord as his servant or child or comrade or spouse etc.

The Bhagavatam considers this fulfillment of the seeker based on the inherent kinship with the Lord, motivated by pure love without any fear or self-centered expectation of freedom from Samsara as constituting the highest end of a Jiva.

This is the highest purushartha which it ranks even above Mukti or Moksha understood as mergence or becoming one with Him by the Advaita School. This is a state of difference without a distinction, a state of perfection, in which the state of oneness results not in mergence in Brahman, but in love and service of the Bhagavan, in becoming an instrument of his Divine play.