Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Perfect Questions, Perfect Answers

Sukadeva Gosvami instructs Maharaja Pariksit

      In his books and lectures, Srila Prabhupada often emphasized that human life begins with brahma-jijnasa, enquiry into the Absolute Truth, and that without such inquiries, humans are nothing but two legged animals.


“And when this inquiry begins, athato brahma-jijnasa, then your human life begins. Otherwise you remain in the category of cats and dogs.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 20.98-102 -- April 27, 1976, Auckland, New Zealand



ahara-nidra-bhaya-maithunam ca

samanam etat pasubhir naranam

                           dharmo hi tesam adhiko viseso        

dharmena hinah pasubhih samanah


"Eating, sleeping, fearing, and mating are equally engaged in by both animals and humans. That which is special to humans is religious duty. Those humans who are without religion are equal to animals." (Hitopadesa)


Actually, even in the animal kingdom we find inquiries into four subject matters: eating, sleeping, mating and defending. Therefore, the scope of inquiries of a civilized man should go beyond these and to accomplish the perfection of life one must know what the real questions are and to whom they should be put forth.


      The whole world is moving on the basis of questions and answers, and those who are materially engrossed indulge in topics like politics, economics, so-called science, so-called arts, etc., but ultimately all these topics fall into the category of animalistic propensity, for such people are blind for knowledge of self-realization:


srotavyadini rajendra

nrnam santi sahasrasah

apasyatam atma-tattvam

grhesu grha-medhinam


“Those persons who are materially engrossed, being blind to the knowledge of ultimate truth, have many subject matters for hearing in human society, O Emperor.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 2.1.2


Being in such a condition, they are not able to see their imminent destruction along with all their so-called possessions, titles, relatives and friends:



atma-sainyesv asatsv api

tesam pramatto nidhanam

pasyann api na pasyati


“Persons devoid of atma-tattva do not inquire into the problems of life, being too attached to the fallible soldiers like the body, children and wife. Although sufficiently experienced, they still do not see their inevitable destruction.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 2.1.4

Then, what is the use of all their lofty words? They are just like the singing of the frogs inviting the serpent of their own ruination:


bile batorukrama-vikraman ye

na srnvatah karna-pute narasya

jihvasati dardurikeva suta

na copagayaty urugaya-gathah


“One who has not listened to the messages about the prowess and marvelous acts of the Personality of Godhead and has not sung or chanted loudly the worthy songs about the Lord is to be considered to possess earholes like the holes of snakes and a tongue like the tongue of a frog.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 2.3.20


Such froglike people may talk the whole day, but they will never care to hear about spiritual matters, particularly about Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. At this point, some of you might be feeling this approach is somewhat pessimistic, with strong words that would hurt a lot of people. However, the Bhagavata philosophy does not compromise when exposing the reality as it is. Nor is any euphemism effective when the matter is death. Pariksit Maharaja was given seven days of life, therefore it was essential for him to have clearly understood what is really worth hearing and what is not. More specifically, what one hears before dying will be a determinant factor for his destination afterwards:


yam yam vapi smaran bhavam

tyajaty ante kalevaram

tam tam evaiti kaunteya

sada tad-bhava-bhavitah


“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, O son of Kunti, that state he will attain without fail.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => Bg 8.6


      Once a distinct Indian personality, Madan Mohan Malaviya, went to see Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, and upon meeting him, he was shown the Gaudiya Math publications, among which was the daily newspaper called “Nadiya Prakash.” Upon hearing that such a newspaper was a daily publication, Malaviya expressed his surprise that a paper exclusively dedicated to spiritual topics could be printed every day with different articles and news. To this, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta replied that this material world is in fact just one-third of the whole creation of the Lord, and even thus it is full of news, so imagine how much more news there must be in the spiritual world, which comprises the largest part of creation. He said that there is no lack of news to publish, but unfortunately there is a lack of customers for such literature. On the other hand, in the Srimad-Bhagavatam we see the best customer: Maharaja Pariksit, and because he is the best hearer, his questions are also the best:


sri-suka uvaca

variyan esa te prasnah

krto loka-hitam nrpa

atmavit-sammatah pumsam

srotavyadisu yah parah


“Sri Sukadeva Gosvami said: My dear King, your question is glorious because it is very beneficial to all kinds of people. The answer to this question is the prime subject matter for hearing, and it is approved by all transcendentalists.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 2.1.1



And why were his questions so relevant? Because they were meant to benefit all living entities. From the small ant up to the great demigods, everyone is on the threshold of death, for the sun decreases the duration of everyone’s life:


ayur harati vai pumsam

udyann astam ca yann asau

tasyarte yat-ksano nita



“Both by rising and by setting, the sun decreases the duration of life of everyone, except one who utilizes the time by discussing topics of the all-good Personality of Godhead.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 2.3.17





Nobody knows when we shall die, but everyone knows that death is sure. Nevertheless, what are the activities of foolish people?


nidraya hriyate naktam

vyavayena ca va vayah

diva carthehaya rajan

kutumba-bharanena va


“The lifetime of such an envious householder is passed at night either in sleeping or in sex indulgence, and in the daytime either in making money or maintaining family members.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 2.1.3


And what do they hear?


srotavyadini rajendra

nrnam santi sahasrasah

apasyatam atma-tattvam

grhesu grha-medhinam


“Those persons who are materially engrossed, being blind to the knowledge of ultimate truth, have many subject matters for hearing in human society, O Emperor.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 2.1.2


But Pariksit Maharaja, although included among those about to die, has a special quality that distinguishes him:


sri-suka uvaca

evam etan nigaditam

prstavan yad bhavan mama

nrnam yan mriyamananam

manusyesu manisinam


“Sri Sukadeva Gosvami said: Maharaja Pariksit, as you have inquired from me as to the duty of the intelligent man who is on the threshold of death, so I have answered you.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 2.3.1


He was called an intelligent man, for he made the proper inquiry, at the proper time (i.e. before death), and to the proper person:


atah prcchami samsiddhim

yoginam paramam gurum

purusasyeha yat karyam

mriyamanasya sarvatha


“You are the spiritual master of great saints and devotees. I am therefore begging you to show the way of perfection for all persons, and especially for one who is about to die.”



yac chrotavyam atho japyam

yat kartavyam nrbhih prabho

smartavyam bhajaniyam va

bruhi yad va viparyayam


“Please let me know what a man should hear, chant, remember and worship, and also what he should not do. Please explain all this to me.”



>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 1.19.38-39


This is the real question for human beings and anything else is but a waste of time to be avoided:


gramya-katha na sunibe, gramya-varta na kahibe

bhala na khaibe ara bhala na paribe

"Do not talk like people in general or hear what they say. You should not eat very palatable food, nor should you dress very nicely.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => Antya 6.237


And because Sukadeva Gosvami was a rsi and a kavi (SB 2.3.13), and above all, a Vasudeva-parayana (SB 2.3.16), he could give the perfect answer to that perfect question:


tasmad bharata sarvatma

bhagavan isvaro harih

srotavyah kirtitavyas ca

smartavyas cecchatabhayam


“O descendant of King Bharata, one who desires to be free from all miseries must hear about, glorify and also remember the Personality of Godhead, who is the Supersoul, the controller and the savior from all miseries.”


etavan sankhya-yogabhyam


janma-labhah parah pumsam

ante narayana-smrtih


“The highest perfection of human life, achieved either by complete knowledge of matter and spirit, by practice of mystic powers, or by perfect discharge of occupational duty, is to remember the Personality of Godhead at the end of life.”



>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 2.1.5-6


      Nobody can avoid putting questions and giving answers, but everyone can become conversant with the science of Krishna consciousness so that we may dovetail our hearing and speaking propensities into Krishna-katha and thus benefit not only ourselves but also others. Actually, every one of us can have a daily spiritual exchange of questions and answers with the best answer-giver: Srila Prabhupada himself, by scrutinizingly studying his books, for they are on the transcendental platform:


“Every one of you must regularly read our books at least twice — in the morning and evening, and automatically all questions will be answered.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => Letter to: Ranadhira  --  Los Angeles 24 January, 1970


Devotee: Srila Prabhupada, when you are not present with us, how is it possible to receive instructions, for example, on questions that may arise?

Prabhupada: Well, the questions... Answers are there in my books.


>>> Ref. VedaBase => Morning Walk At Cheviot Hills Golf Course -- May 13, 1973, Los Angeles


“A temple is a place where by one is given the opportunity to render direct devotional service to the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna. In conjunction with this you should always read my books daily and all your questions will be answered and you will have a firm basis of Krishna Consciousness. In this way your life will be perfect.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => Letter to: Hugo Salemon  --  Bombay 22 November, 1974


“In my books the philosophy of Krishna Consciousness is explained fully so if there is anything which you do not understand, then you simply have to read again and again. By reading daily the knowledge will be revealed to you and by this process your spiritual life will develop.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => Letter to: Bahurupa  --  Bombay 22 November, 1974


“Soon we shall be instituting Bhakti-sastri examinations and all brahmanas will have to pass. So utilize whatever time you find to make a thorough study of my books. Then all your questions will be answered.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => Letter to: Upendra  --  Nellore 7 January, 1976


Thus, all those who in this human body reached the platform of brahma-jijnasa and who humbly approach Srila Prabhupada’s books can be as benefited as Pariksit Maharaja was by approaching Sukadeva Gosvami.

This essay was originally submitted for assessment during the first year of the Bhakti Vaibhava course at VIHE, second canto of Bhagavatam, on 15/10/02.

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