(Kadamba Kanana Swami, 25 February 2015, Mayapur, India, Full Lecture: Srimad Bhagavatam 6.4.25)
deho ’savo ’ksa manavo bhuta-matram
atmanam anyam ca viduh param yat
sarvam puman veda gunams ca taj-jno
na veda sarva-jnam anantam ide
Because they are only matter, the body, the life airs, the external and internal senses, the five gross elements and the subtle sense objects [form, taste, smell, sound and touch] cannot know their own nature, the nature of the other senses or the nature of their controllers. But the living being, because of his spiritual nature, can know his body, the life airs, the senses, the elements and the sense objects, and he can also know the three qualities that form their roots. Nevertheless, although the living being is completely aware of them, he is unable to see the Supreme Being, who is omniscient and unlimited. I therefore offer my respectful obeisances unto Him.
Material scientists can make an analytical study of the physical elements, the body, the senses, the sense objects and even the air that controls the vital force, but still they cannot understand that above all these is the real spirit soul. In other words, the living entity, because of his being a spirit soul, can understand all the material objects, or, when self-realized, he can understand the Paramatma, upon whom yogis meditate. Nevertheless, the living being, even if advanced, cannot understand the Supreme Being, the Personality of Godhead, for He is ananta, unlimited, in all six opulences.
The life of Daksa
Before focusing on the content of the verse, I thought we could look a little bit at the context of these Hamsa-guhya prayers. It is described that this section of the Bhagavatam deals with Daksa, in three chapters. It is described in a previous verse that Daksa was the direct son of Lord Brahma, one of the mental sons of Lord Brahma. We remember that Daksa disrespected and offended Lord Siva and was punished for a very long duration of time with the head of a goat; for an entire kalpa, he had to wear the head of a goat.
He gave up that body and subsequently, in the beginning of this chapter, there is a description of the Prachetas who had performed austerities under water for a very long time. They came out of the water and saw that the Earth was overgrown by trees. They realized that the Earth had not been protected by dharmic kings who would have reserved land for agriculture. In a spirit of anger, they burnt those trees by mystic power.
It is said then, the deity that protects the trees came to them and asked them to refrain from this. He offered them the daughter of the trees in marriage. The daughter of the trees was a beautiful apsara who had been cared for by the trees. Therefore, the Prachetas were very impressed.
The marriage took place and Daksa became the son of this union. Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura explains that Daksa subsequently performed austerities for a period of five manvantaras. That is the same as seventy cycles of four yugas. It is a very long time for Daksa to perform austerities. Daksa then recited these Hamsa-guhya prayers. They were ancient prayers at that time of Vedic origin. The purpose of Daksa was to please the Supreme Personality of Godhead so that he could take up his mission of populating the universe.
Creating good progeny
The Brhad Bhagavatamrta gives us some interesting details about the situation of the universe. It describes that according to how living beings relate to sexuality, they are placed somewhere within the
planetary system of the universe. It is stated that those who engage in sexuality according to the mode of goodness can take birth on the heavenly planets. Being in the mode of goodness means that they are committed to the principles of dharma.
Those who are in the mode of passion and therefore by nature not inclined to his dharma, take birth on this planet. The principles are fundamentally difficult for the members of this planet. The more pious and more detached souls take their birth above the heavenly planets. They appear on the Mahar, Jana, and Tapa Lokas.
The Brhad Bhagavatamrta describes that the Mahar Loka is the residence of the Prajapatis. It says that the Prajapatis engage in sexuality, but their interest is very much to produce suitable offspring. Generally, their activity is to perform austerities for purification so that they will be qualified for this mission of populating the universe.
The piety of Daksa
In relating this, I wanted to show the other side of Daksa. As soon as we hear the name Daksa, generally we think of vaisnava aparadha and the personification of aparadha. I wanted to highlight the extraordinary piety of Daksa. For example, it is mentioned that Aditi, who is the mother of the demigods, is the daughter of Daksa. We can understand that Daksa was certainly a very exalted personality. This, of course, also indicates that even exalted personalities can make big mistakes.
Going beyond that, in this case, Daksa was preparing for his mission. He was assisting Lord Brahma in fulfilling the secondary creation of the universe. As such, Daksa was performing austerities and offering prayers to please the Lord.
Hamsa-guhya, guhya means secret and hamsa means swan or transcendentalist. So the secrets of the transcendentalists are being revealed in these prayers. We can see here that there is a description of material existence. Dehah, the body is mentioned; asavah, the life-airs are mentioned; aksah, the different senses, are mentioned; manavah, the mind, the intellect, the ego; the five gross material elements; the buta; and also the sense object, the matram, are mentioned.
All of these are various levels of our material existence. We simultaneously exist on various levels. We exist here on the gross bodily platform. Through the senses, we are relating to the gross physical reality. We are physically present in this Bhagavatam lecture. At the same time, our mind is, in between the words of the speaker, traveling all over the universe. So we have these two separate existences – the physical existence and the mental existence.
Whether the gross body or the subtle material body, it all remains within the realm of matter. Matter is by nature described as chalda, as dull. As Srila Prabhupada said, “Life comes from life.” Matter has no life. Therefore, matter cannot “know.”
I saw in the news that Bill Gates was in anxiety about a possible takeover by the computers. It is a fact, in some sense, that computers are taking over our lives. Electronic gadgets are highly addictive, they lock people into all kinds of compulsive behaviours, “I have to look…” all of the time. One has to fight it. One has to limit oneself. Every day, we are very religiously checking-in on the internet, maybe even before we put our hand in our bead bag.
Back to the topic. Bill Gates’ fear is contradicted in this verse. Matter can never ultimately control spirit. Matter has no independence. Matter is moved by spirit. That is the principle!
In his introduction to the Caitanya Caritamrta, Srila Prabhupada is making this point that behind all movement, there is spirit. Therefore, the Supreme Personality of Godhead is sometimes referred to as the prime mover who started the process of endless changing manifestations of the material
In this verse, it is described that ultimately, the soul is the knower. However, in the conditioned state, the soul becomes covered.
avrtam jnanam etena
duspurenanalena ca, (Bhagavad-gita 3.39)
It is explained that the cause for being covered is lust. It says, “which burns like fire,” or to say it in a more modern way, “which becomes obsessive.” In this way, the living being becomes forgetful of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Thus, he can no longer know the Supreme Lord. It is stated that the living being, when his original consciousness becomes awakened through the process of devotional service,
nitya-siddha krsna-prema ‘sadhya’ kabhu naya
sravanadi-suddha-citte karaye udaya, (CC Madhya 22.107)
When his original consciousness becomes awakened, then the living being is always in direct contact with the supersoul. He becomes like the instrument of the Supreme Lord. He becomes the external manifestation of the supersoul.
It is said that Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura is taking those words tat jna as being in touch with the supersoul therefore knowing all things about material nature and knowing the real purpose of things. Just as that story where Srila Prabhupada was approached by a journalist who had done some homework before starting the interview.
A perfect answer
The journalist prefaced his question and said, “I have heard that the pure devotee knows the answers to all questions. Is this correct?” Srila Prabhupada said, “Yes.” Then, the journalist said, “Then how many windows are there in the Empire State Building?” Srila Prabhupada said, “How many drops of water are there in a mirage?” In that way, giving the perfect answer from the pure, spiritual platform!
One who is situated in transcendental knowledge, indeed, has the answer to all questions. He knows everything because he sees everything in its relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Therefore, he knows the purpose of everything. He knows the roots of everything. In that way, he knows everything.
In another way, how can one know the Supreme Lord? As it is mentioned in the tenth canto of Srimad Bhagavatam that the Supreme Lord does not even know the limit of His own qualities. Therefore, one can never know the Supreme Lord in full, na veda sarva-jnam anantam ide, (SB 6.4.25) na veda, that one cannot know. The Supreme Lord is omniscient. He is present everywhere and is unlimited. One can only offer obeisances in reverence to that unlimited Supreme Lord.
A prayer to the Lord
That is basically what Daksa is doing in this prayer. It may not be a prayer composed by him, but it is his identification. He is seeing the unlimited greatness of the Lord and offering his obeisances. In the back of his mind is the thought, “My dear, unlimited, Lord, You are unlimitedly great. Please bless me that I will be successful in my mission to create suitable progeny to populate the universe.”
Daksa’s aims were noble. He wanted that great, elevated personalities would populate the universe so that the principles of dharma could disseminate throughout the universe but Daksa was not a pure devotee. Daksa saw the unlimited nature of the Lord and bowed down before Him in awe and
reverence but he approached the Lord with a personal agenda. He approached the Lord to fulfill his own purposes. He did not approach the Lord in that spirit to fully dedicate all of his energy in service to the Lord for the satisfaction of the Lord.
Therefore, Daksa was not worshiping the Supreme Lord in love, unlike the followers of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu who are approaching the Supreme Personality of Godhead in that mood. These followers know that Krsna is unlimitedly powerful but they especially like His personal form and the
amazing pastimes that He performs with His personal devotees in Vrindavan. There, the Supreme Lord deals in a very intimate way with His devotees. Unlike the relationship in awe and reverence, which is a relationship at great distance, the relationship in Vrindavan is very intimate.
In that way, in these verses, Srimad Bhagavatam is preparing the ground. In these verses, Bhagavatam has not yet fully disclosed the ultimate conclusion that simply pure devotional service to Krsna, for His pleasure, is the only aim in life. Srimad Bhagavatam is leading up to that understanding.
First, in these Hamsa-guhya prayers, we are totally reminded of how we are not this body, not only ‘that’ we are not this body, but also ‘how’ we are not this body. That is very important. The tendency to identify with the body is so strong. Sometimes, even a great devotee will be influenced by the bodily relationship.
Arjuna became influenced by bodily relationships; his bow was slipping from his hand. Yudhisthira Maharaj became influenced when Dhrtarashtra left home. Yudhisthira Maharaj felt great sadness, after all, Dhrtarashtra was the one who had brought him up. Bhagavad-gita calls for broader vision; that vision of our eternal relationship with Krsna, that vision where, as spirit souls, we do not actually have a relationship with this material body.
In these verses, the same message is reiterated to us in preparation to unalloyed pure devotional service which will be elaborately revealed in the conclusion to Srimad Bhagavatam.
Question: In the Srimad Bhagavatam, there are so many topics that are complex and seemingly not connected to pure devotional service. But we hear that every sloka in the Srimad Bhagavatam is about pure devotional service. How do we understand this?
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, in the Caitanya Bhagavat, makes that statement. He says that the Srimad Bhagavatam, in the beginning, in the middle and at the end, is all dealing with pure devotional service. We must read each verse in the context of the whole book. The modern academic reads each verse separately. We see that Srila Prabhupada and the acharyas read each verse in the context of the entire text.
Sometimes, Srila Prabhupada is criticized for his translations because they say he writes words in there which are not given in the original sanskrit. They say that he adds things and gives a twist to what is pure devotional service while some of these verses are not at all about pure bhakti, so they say – but this is the reading of the shallow reader who reads texts out of context.
The texts are all part of the same work, Bhagavatam, and the texts are all supporting the conclusion of the Bhagavatam. Therefore, all of the texts provide the context for pure devotional service.
Just as I explained that this verse is also leading up to pure devotional service. Studying the situation of Daksa how in his great piety, he is engaged in a noble mission to help disseminate dharma throughout the universe. And yet, we see that Daksa, turns to the Supreme Personality of Godhead and offers his obeisances, but his mood is still limited. He is doing so in reverence and with some other motive. With this, we are highlighting the path towards pure devotional service and how we are to rise above. Through this Hamsa-guhya prayer, we see how we are to rise above the bodily platform. We are to rise above the fruitive platform and even the pious platform; even above the platform of awe and reverence – to the platform of pure devotional service.
We look at every verse with its relationship to pure devotional service. Then, the true meaning becomes clear. When Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu explains the atmarama verse to Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya in so many different ways, he commented at the end that actually, every verse of the Srimad Bhagavatam has unlimited meaning. The gross materialist cannot see the bhakti meaning of many verses. Maybe our impure intelligence also cannot see the bhakti meaning in all of the verses.
As Srila Prabhupada mentioned on several occasions, that his purports are more important than the verses. By reading the verses, we may not get the message of pure devotional service but by reading the purports, you cannot miss it. Therefore, by the grace of Srila Prabhupada’s purports, we can see
how every verse is dealing with pure devotional service!
Thank you very much. Srila Prabhupada ki jaya!
Why can’t one actually see a copy of the prayer in Sanskrit or Hindi (Roman script) its laughafable that something that great is commented on and it’s English meaning praised but you can’t see or hear it chanted.
Hare Krishna Akash,
I’m not sure what you mean with your comment. Would you care to explain?