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Skandha 1 - Adhyāya 2 - Pure translation
This is the second Adhyāya (Lesson) belonging to the first Skandha (Section). It consists of 34 stanzas.
There will be no formal commentary, but into the explanatory notes I will insert, when necessary, fragments of the authoritative commentary of Śrīdhara Svāmī. There will be alternative translations too in order to enrich the meanings.
This is a "pure translation" document, that is, there will be no original Sanskrit, but sometimes there will be a minimal quantity of transliterated Sanskrit in the translations themselves of the stanzas. Of course, there will not be any word for word translation. Anyway, there will be very often transliterated Sanskrit in the explanatory notes. If you are a blind person using a screen reader and do not want to read the notes, or simply if you are not blind but want to skip the notes, click on the respective "Skip the notes" link to jump directly onto the next stanza.
Importante: All that is in parentheses and italicized within the translation has been added by me in order to complete the sense of a particular phrase or sentence. In turn, all that is between double hyphen (--...--) constitutes clarifying further information also added by me.
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Thus, the son of Romaharṣaṇa1, being completely pleased with the (appropriate) questions of the wise, (and) after having honored their --of such sages-- word(s), he began speaking2||1||
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1 Vyāsa refers to the sage Sūta who was a son of Romaharṣaṇa [the one who causes the hair to stand erect (on account of excessive bliss or terror)].
2 Śrīdhara explains the stanza in detail: "... Viprāṇāṁ ityevambhūtaiḥ samyak praśnaiḥ samyag hṛṣṭo romaharṣaṇasya putra ugraśravāsteṣāṁ vacaḥ pratipūjya satkṛtya pravaktumupacakrame upakrāntavān||1||" - "... Thus (iti), being completely pleased (samyak hṛstaḥ) with such (evam-bhūtaiḥ) appropriate (samyak) questions (praśnaiḥ) (asked) by the wise (viprāṇām), the son (putraḥ) of Romaharṣaṇa (romaharsaṇasya), (also known as) Ugraśravās --i.e. Sūta-- (ugraśravās), after honoring (pratipūjya) their (tesām) word(s) (vacas) -i.e. after having treated (them) with respect (sat-kṛtya)-, began (upacakrame) speaking (pravaktum). (The term 'upacakrame' means 'upakrāntavān' or) one who has undertaken or begun (upakrāntavān) --Śrīdhara is specifying this to make clear the meaning of 'upacakrame' ('he began') in this stanza--||1||".
As a conclusion, according to Śrīdhara: (1) The word "sampraśna" is an abbreviation of "samyak praśna" or "appropriate questions"; (2) The term "saṁhṛṣṭa" is an abbreviation of "samyak hṛṣṭa" or "completely pleased"; (3) The conjugation "upacakrame" (he began) means "upakrāntavān" (one who has undertaken or begun). The root "upakram" (to begin, undertake, etc.), when conjugated in 3rd Person singular (Ātmanepada) of the Reduplicative Perfect Tense (remote past), brings about the word "upacakrame" (he/she/it began). In turn, "upakrāntavān" is a typical Past Active Participle derived from the Past Participle "upakrānta" (begun, undertaken, etc.). In short, "upakrāntavān" means "one who has undertaken or begun". And "upakrāntavān" comes from the same root (i.e. "upakram") as "upacakrame". Simple!
I salute reverently to that sage who is in the heart1 of all beings. (I salute reverently to that sage) who, without having approached a teacher to be initiated (and being thoroughly) devoid of activities --i.e. free from all types of activities--, (once upon a time) left home to wander forth as a sannyāsī --i.e. one who is devoted to renunciation--. (And when he did so, his father, known as) Dvaipāyana --i.e. Vyāsa--2, being afraid of (such) a separation, called upon (him) "Son!". The trees, which (also) were absorbed in him --i.e. in Śuka, the son of Vyāsa--, sounded (as a response)3||2||
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1 The word "hṛdaya" (or "hṛd") is synonymous with "manas" (mind) according to Śrīdhara.
2 Vyāsa is called "Dvaipāyana" because he was born in a small "dvīpa" or "island" in the river Ganges.
3 Śrīdhara specifies the following: "... Tadā tanmayatayā śukarūpatayā taravo'bhineduḥ pratyuttaramuktavantaḥ| Pituḥ snehānubandhaparihārāya yo vṛkṣarūpeṇottaraṁ dattavānityarthaḥ|" - "... Then (tadā), the trees (taravaḥ), which (also) were absorbed (mayatayā) in him (tad) -i.e. (which were absorbed) in the form (rūpatayā) of Śuka (śuka)-, sounded (abhineduḥ) (as if) they had expressed (uktavantaḥ) an answer (pratyuttaram) (to Vyāsa. It is as though Śuka himself would have been) the one who (yaḥ), in the form (rūpeṇa) of trees (vṛksa), had given (dattavān) (that) response (uttaram) in order to take away (parihārāya) the binding (anubandha) of paternal (pituḥ) love (sneha). This is the meaning (iti arthaḥ)".
(It was Śuka) who, compassionately, declared the mysterious secret of Purāṇa-s1, which --i.e. this secret-- is the essence of the entire Śruti --or Veda-s-- (and) is endowed with its own special power and authority2. (What Śuka declared is) the only Light of the Supreme Self for the transmigratory souls who are excessively desirous to cross the darkness (also known as) Tamas --i.e. ignorance, dullness, etc.--3. I approach4 that son of Vyāsa (for protection,) who is the Guru of the sages --he refers to Śuka--||3||
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1 Śrīdhara explains: "... Purāṇānāṁ madhye guhyaṁ gopyam|..." - - "... The mysterious secret (guhyam) which is kept hidden (gopyam) within (madhye) the Purāṇa-s or Ancient Stories (purāṇānām)...".
2 Śrīdhara states the meaning of "svānubhāvam" here: "... Svo nijo'sādhāraṇo'nubhāvaḥ prabhāvo yasya tatsvānubhāvam|..." - "... (The compound 'sva-anubhāvam' means to) that (tad) whose (yasya) 'sva' (svaḥ) (or) own (nijaḥ) 'anubhāva' (anubhāvaḥ) (or) power and authority (prabhāvaḥ) (is) special or extraordinary (asādhāraṇaḥ)...".
In other words, Śuka declared that mysterious secret whose own power and authority is special or extraordinary.
3 Śrīdhara adds: "... Andhaṁ gāḍham tamaḥ saṁsārākhyamatitartumicchatām|..." - "... The darkness (andham) (called) the thick or dense (gādham) Tamas (tamas) (is also known) by the name (ākhyam) of Saṁsāra or (the ocean of) Transmigration (saṁsāra) to those who desire (icchatām) cross (it) (atitartum)...".
And Saṁsāra is obviously the beginningless wheel that turns round constantly, in which one is born to die and dies to be reborn. It is similar to an ocean because it is very difficult to be passed through.
4 Śrīdhara clearly declares the meaning of "upayāmi": "... Upayāmi śaraṇaṁ vrajāmi" - "... (The term) 'upayāmi' (upayāmi) (means) 'I go (vrajāmi) for refuge or protection (śaraṇam)' --in sum, 'I take refuge'--".
After offering salutations1 to Nārāyaṇa and Nara, the best of men2, (as well as) to the goddess Sarasvatī --the goddess of knowledge and eloquence-- (and) Vyāsa, one should utter Jaya --i.e. the Śrīmadbhāgavata--3||4||
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1 The word "tataḥ" means "after that, therefore, etc.". Here it is to be interpreted as "after that", i.e. after offering salutations. Anyway, to make my translation more understandable, I linked it to "namas-kṛtya" (having offered salutations). In order not to write "Having offered salutations to..., after that..." because it would sound strange in English, I preferred to join both words together (namaskṛtya and tataḥ) and translate the whole thing as "after offering salutations". Hopefully you have understand what I meant.
2 Here "Nara" is not merely "any man" but the primeval Man. Hence the additional description: "narottama" (the best of men). In turn, "Nārāyaṇa" is an epithet of Lord Viṣṇu as resting on Śeṣanāga (the celebrated divine serpent), which floats over the waters of the Garbha ocean... well, this topic is too complicated and difficult to explain and understand. Maybe later on I will explain it in detail. For now, take Nārāyaṇa as simply an epithet of Viṣṇu.
3 The entire Śrīdhara's commentary of the present stanza will elucidate several obscure points. It is short and simple to translate and understand (a white lie, hehe). Pay attention: "Jayatyanena saṁsāramiti jayo granthastamudīrayediti svayaṁ tathodīrayannanyānpaurāṇikānupaśikṣayati||4||" - "(This) book --i.e. the Śrīmadbhāgavata-- (granthaḥ) (is called) 'Jaya' --lit. victory-- (jayaḥ), (because) 'by means of it (anena) one is victorious (jayati) over Saṁsāra or Transmigration (saṁsāram iti)'. 'He should utter (udīrayet) it (tam... iti)' --literal translation-- (refers to) oneself (svayam) --in other words: 'one should utter it'--. Someone so uttering (it) (tathā udīrayan) (can also) teach (upaśiksayati) other (anyān) Purānic texts (paurāṇikān) --i.e. the remaining seventeen Purāṇa-s and the whole literature related to them--||4||".
As "paurāṇika" also means "conversant with Purāṇa-s", an alternative translation of the last part of the Śrīdhara's commentary on the fourth stanza would read: "... (can also) teach (upaśiksayati) other (anyān) people who are conversant with Purāṇa-s (paurāṇikān)".
The word "Jaya" (victory) is generally used as an interjection: "Victory!". At any rate, Śrīdhara clearly specifies that this is not the case here, but "Jaya" is an epithet of the present venerable Purāṇa.
Oh sages!, I (have been) rightly interrogated by (all of) you for the benefit of people, inasmuch as the question(s) (you have) asked are related to (Lord) Kṛṣṇa. By that (kind of questions,) the self becomes greatly pleased1||5||
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1 Śrīdhara explains: "... He munayaḥ sādhu yathā bhavati tathāhaṁ pṛṣṭaḥ| Yato lokānāṁ maṅgalametat| Yadyataḥ kṛṣṇaviṣayaḥ sampraśnaḥ kṛtaḥ|..." - "... Oh (he) sages (munayaḥ), I (aham) (was) so (tathā) rightly (sādhu) --i.e. "yathā" (or) properly (yathā)-- interrogated (pṛstaḥ) (by you). This (etad) (is) consequently (yatas) for the benefit (maṅgalam) of people (lokānām), because (yad yataḥ) the question(s) (sampraśnaḥ) being asked (kṛtaḥ) have (Lord) Kṛṣṇa (kṛṣṇa) for their object (viṣayaḥ)...".
Here Śrīdhara makes clear that "sādhu" in the stanza means "yathā" (properly), and that the word "yad" is synonymous with "yatas(ḥ)" (because) in this particular context.
The highest Dharma1 for people (is) certainly that in which (there is) causeless (and) uninterrupted devotion to Adho'kṣaja --an epithet of Viṣṇu--2. By means of that (devotion), the self becomes greatly pleased3||6||
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1 Although this word may be translated as "religion, duty, righteousness, etc.", no "single" word in English can translate it adequately in all contexts. That is why, I will not translate it in the text itself ever. Now an approximate translation: Dharma is "that which holds everything together", to wit, "it is the foundation on which all social, moral and religious order is built". Even by using long sentences, the meaning cannot rightly expressed, as you can see. Well, then Dharma is... Dharma.
Regarding "Dharma", Śrīdhara states the following:"... Dharmo dvividhaḥ| Pravṛttilakṣaṇo nivṛttilakṣaṇaśca| Tatra yaḥ svargādyarthaḥ pravṛttilakṣaṇaḥ so'paraḥ| Yatastu dharmācchravaṇādarādilakṣaṇā bhaktirbhavati sa paro dharmaḥ sa evaikāntikaṁ śreya iti|..." - "... Dharma (dharmaḥ) is twofold (dvividhaḥ): (The former) is characterized (lakṣaṇaḥ) by Pravṛtti --i.e. an active involvement in the world-- (pravṛtti), and (ca) (the latter) is characterized (lakṣaṇaḥ) by Nivṛtti --i.e. the opposite to Pravṛtti; in short, the path of turning away from worldly activities-- (nivṛtti). Of those (tatra), that (saḥ) Dharma (dharmaḥ) which (yaḥ) is characterized (lakṣaṇaḥ) by Pravṛtti (pravṛtti) (and) whose goal (arthaḥ) (is) attaining Heaven (svarga), etc. (ādi), (is) inferior (aparaḥ). But (tu), since (yatas) from (Nivṛtti)dharma (dharmaḥ) there is (bhavati) a devotion (bhaktiḥ) characterized (lakṣaṇaḥ) by 'śravaṇa' --the act of hearing the Vedic scriptures, in this context-- (śravaṇa), respect (ādara), etc. (ādi), (this) Dharma (saḥ dharmaḥ) (is) superior (paraḥ). That (saḥ) very (eva) (Nivṛttidharma), being completely devoted to only one aim --i.e. Viṣṇu or Adho'kṣaja-- (ekāntikam), (is) 'the better state or condition' (śreyas iti)...".
For example, people practicing Pravṛttidharma performs pious acts in order to attain Heaven and other temporary worlds, while the ones following Nivṛttidharma have abandoned that type of actions and only devote his entire life to the Lord. This is the sense.
2 An well-known epithet of Viṣṇu meaning "The one who cannot be seen --i.e. perceived--", as "akṣa" means "eye". But, because "akṣa" also means "axis", an alternative translation might be "The one who is the (central) pivot". This term is very often erroneously written as "Adhokṣaja" but the right way to write this epithet is "Adho'kṣaja" as the portion "adho'kṣa" derives from "adhas(ḥ) + akṣa" by the 2nd Rule of Visarga Sandhi.
3 Śrīdhara describes that type of devotion:"... Ahaitukī hetuḥ phalānusandhānaṁ tadrahitā| Apratihatā vighnairanabhibhūtā||6||" - "... 'Hetu' or 'cause' (hetuḥ) (is) the act of aiming (anusandhānam) at the fruit (of an action) (phala) --i.e. one looks to obtain a fruit from his actions-- . (This kind of devotion is) 'causeless' (ahaitukī) (inasmuch as) it is devoid (rahitā) of that (tad). (And it is) 'uninterrupted' (apratihatā) (because) it is not defeated or subdued (anabhibhūtā) by obstacles (vignaiḥ)||6||".
(When) Bhaktiyoga or devotion-based Yoga is applied to the Fortunate Vāsudeva --epithet of Kṛṣṇa--, (it) quickly produces renunciation and knowledge, which (is) causeless1||7||
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1 Śrīdhara declares:"... Ahaitukaṁ śuṣkatarkādyagocaramaupaniṣadamityarthaḥ||7||" - "... (The word) 'ahaitukam' (ahaitukam) (means that such a knowledge) is related to Upaniṣad-s or secret doctrines (aupanisadam), (and consequently that) is not in the sphere (agocaram) of the dry or unprofitable (śuska) arguments (tarka), etc. (ādi). This is the sense (iti arthaḥ)||7||".
The Upaniṣad-s or secret doctrines are currently about 108 scriptures and constitute one of the three pillars of the Vedānta system (the other two being Bhagavadgītā and Brahmasūtra --also known as Vedāntasūtra--). See First Steps (1), First Steps (2) and First Steps (3) for more information.
If Dharma which is performed by people does not produce fondness for the stories of Viṣvaksena --an epithet of Viṣṇu--1, (it is) just hard work and pain2 indeed||8||
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1 This epithet means "One whose armies or powers are everywhere". A more complete description in Sanskrit would be: "Viṣūcī vyāpikā senā yasya sa viṣvakseno bhagavān" - "The fortunate (bhagavān) Viṣvaksena (visvaksenaḥ) (is) the One (saḥ) whose (yasya) armies (senāḥ) spread (vyāpikāḥ) everywhere (visūcī)". The word "viṣūcī" is "viṣvañc" (the crude form) in feminine gender, since "senā" (army) is a feminine noun in Sanskrit. In turn, "viṣvañc" assumes the form of "viṣvak" in the compound because the next word (sena) begins with "s". Hence: "viṣvak-sena". Anyway, the entire Bahuvrīhi compound (i.e. Viṣvaksena) acts now as a masculine noun because Viṣṇu is masculine in gender. Are you confused? Consult Compounds subsection within Sanskrit section for more information about compounds.
2 According to Śrīdhara "śramaḥ" is "viphalaḥ" or "bearing no fruits".
The object or purpose of (that) Dharma (which) really confers final Beatitude or Liberation does not lead to wealth. (Besides,) it is said that for the one whose only end or aim is Dharma, wealth is not for enjoying pleasure(s), undoubtedly1||9||
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1 Now, an elucidatory fragment of the Śrīdhara's commentary: "... Āpavargyasyoktanyāyenāpavargaparyantasya dharmasyārthāya phalatvāyārtho nopakalpate yogyo na bhavati| Tathārthasyāpyevambhūtadharmāvyabhicāriṇaḥ kāmo lābhāya phalatvāya nahi smṛto muninbhiḥ||9||" - "... By way (nyāyena) of the word (ukta) 'āpavargyasya' (in the stanza) (āpavargyasya), (the author refers to) 'apavargaparyantasya dharmasya', i.e. 'of Dharma (dharmasya) ending (paryantasya) in Apavarga or Mokṣa --final Liberation-- (apavarga)' --in short, of a Dharma which leads to final Liberation--. The goal (arthaḥ) (of that kind of Dharma) does not (na) lead (upakalpate) to the fruit (phalatvāya) (known as) wealth (arthāya), i.e. it is (bhavati) not (na) fit (yogyaḥ) (for producing riches). Similarly (tathā), it is declared (smritaḥ) by the sages (munibhiḥ) (that) even (api) wealth (arthasya) of one who is faithful (avyabhicāriṇaḥ) to such (evam-bhūta) Dharma (dharma), is doubtless not (na hi) for attaining (lābhāya) the fruit (phalatvāya) (called) pleasure (kāmaḥ)||9||".
The word "kāma" refers to "worldly pleasure" in this context, and not to the "divine one", of course.
As long as one is alive, the gain or fruit of pleasure --also, "desire"-- must not be the satisfaction of the senses. Here --in this world--, (all) activities --karma-s-- of a living being must not (have any other) object but desiring to know the (Supreme) Principle1||10||
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1 Now, the entire Śrīdhara's commentary of this stanza will shed light on some points. Besides, it is a good manner to conclude this first set of ten stanzas with all bells and whistles, hehe: "Kāmasya ca viṣayabhogasyendriyaprītirlābhaḥ phalaṁ na bhavati kiṁtu yāvatā jīveta tāvāneva kāmasya lābhaḥ| Jīvanaparyāpta eva kāmaḥ sevya ityarthaḥ| Jīvasya jīvanasya ca punaḥ karmānuṣṭhānadvārā karmabhirya iha prasiddhaḥ so'rtho na bhavati kiṁtu tattvajijñāsaiveti||10||" - "And (ca) as regards pleasure (kāmasya), (to wit, as regards) enjoyment (bhogasya) of objects (visaya), the gain (lābhaḥ) (or) fruit (phalam) must not (na) be (bhavati) the satisfaction (prītiḥ) of the senses (indriya). However (kiṁtu), so long (tāvān eva) (there is) obtainment (lābhaḥ) of pleasure or desire (kāmasya) as long as (yāvatā) one lives (jīveta). (Therefore,) pleasure or desire (kāmaḥ) is to be used (sevyaḥ) only (eva) for preserving (paryāptaḥ) life (jīvana). This is the sense (iti arthaḥ). Moreover (punar), that (saḥ) which (yaḥ) is accomplished (prasiddhaḥ) here --in this world-- (iha) by (all) the activities (karmabhiḥ) of the living being (jīvasya) and (ca) life (jīvanasya) --i.e. the usual result of such actions--, is not (in itself) (na bhavati) the goal (arthaḥ). Nevertheless (kiṁtu), 'desiring to know (jijñāsā) the (Supreme) Principle (tattva) (is) indeed (eva iti) (the object of all those activities and duties)'||10||".
The word "kāma" means both "pleasure" and "desire". Here I have tried to use these two meanings in an adequate manner. For example, regarding the commentary of Śrīdhara I would like to make this point clear: "(Therefore,) pleasure or desire is to be used only for preserving life", as when one defends oneself from an enemy due to his desire of surviving, or as when one has sex to make a child and obtains some pleasure as a by-product. Got the point? Thus, the word "kāma" may mean both things, pleasure and/or desire, and hence I must be careful when translating these texts (Bhāgavata and Śrīdhara's commentary). Sometimes it means "desire", sometimes it means "pleasure", but on certain occasions it means both.
The knowers of that (Supreme) Principle say (that) such a (Supreme) Principle (is) Knowledge which (is) non-dual1 (and) is to be known as "Brahma", "Paramātmā" (and) "Bhagavān"2||11||
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1 Śrīdhara explains the meaning of "non-dual": "... Advayamiti kṣaṇikavijñānapakṣaṁ vyāvartayati|..." - "... 'Non-dual' (advayam iti) (means that which) annuls (vyāvartayati) the side or portion (paksam) (known as) transient (kṣaṇika) knowledge (vijñāna)...".
In other words, non-dual Knowledge causes all momentary knowledge, which is dual, to cease. When the Supreme Principle reveals Himself, being non-dual Knowledge, makes dual knowledge in your mind vanish and all is seen as it is in reality, i.e. a unity.
2 Śrīdhara does not explains in his commentary on this stanza the meanings of these three aspects of the Divine, viz. "Brahma", "Paramātmā" and "Bhagavān", but he does specify the three classes of knowers of that Supreme Principle related to those three aspects. To make the things easier for you, he explains the class of knowers calling the Supreme Principle "Brahma" and so on. Listen up: "... Aupaniṣadairbrahmeti hairaṇyagarbhaiḥ paramātmeti sātvatairbhagavānityabhidhīyate||11||" - "... (The Supreme Principle) is called (abhidhīyate) "Brahma" (brahma iti) by the followers of the Upaniṣad-s (aupanisadaiḥ), "Paramātmā" (parama-ātmā iti) by the followers of Hiraṇyagarbha (hairaṇyagarbhaiḥ) (and) "Bhagavān" (bhagavān iti) by the followers of Sātvata or Kṛṣṇa (sātvataiḥ)||11||".
On one hand, the followers of the Upaniṣad-s [108 ancient scriptures which are one of three pillars of Uttaramīmāṁsā or Vedānta --a philosophical system--; see First Steps (2) for more information] are the ones who adhere to the Vedānta system in any of its three forms: Advaita (non-dualistic), Viśiṣṭādvaita (qualified non-dualistic) and Dvaita (dualistic). On the other hand, the followers of Hiraṇyagarbha (the golden egg) are the ones who adhere to the doctrine of the cosmic form of the Supreme Self appearing as a golden egg, which, according to Ṛgveda, arose in the beginning of this Creation. Since there are some philosophical systems propounding the doctrine of Hiraṇyagarbha (the seed of the entire universe), so all those who follow the Hiraṇyagarbha doctrine, in any of its forms, are named Hairaṇyagarbha-s. In turn, the followers of Sātvata or Lord Kṛṣṇa are the devotees. According to what is specified by Śrīdhara, there might be some mixtures: e.g. some followers of the Upaniṣad-s are also followers of Kṛṣṇa. The same thing is true in respect to the followers of Hiraṇyagarbha. Therefore, the boundary separating these three types of followers is not so clear but somewhat indistinct, is it?
Finally, I want to make something clear: So far, neither Śrīmadbhāgavatapurāṇa nor Śrīdhara state that some of those three aspects, viz. Brahma, Paramātmā or Bhagavān, is the best. In fact, Śrīdhara does not even describe them in his commentary on the current stanza. Maybe he will do so later on, I do not know, as I have not read every portion of his commentaries on all stanzas of this Purāṇa yet.
In general, there are three ways to attain final Liberation or Enlightenment: action, knowledge and devotion. Some scriptures lay stress on action, others on knowledge or devotion, and even other scriptures lay emphasis on the three. The present scripture emphasizes devotion as his author, Vyāsa, was so asked by his Guru, i.e. Nārada. Therefore, the Bhagavān aspect will be predominant, undoubtedly. Anyway, not all people are interested in devotion, but some of them like knowledge or action the better. Thus, the current scripture is destined for all, no doubt, but not all spiritually-oriented people will be interested in it because of their particular tendencies. That is why there are plenty of philosophical systems and innumerable scriptures in order to give every person a path to attain final Liberation (the goal of life). To say that a philosophical system or scripture is better than the other is inconsistent and foolish indeed, because the question is: "Better for whom?"
Besides, for the Lord, none of His three aspects of Brahma, Paramātmā and Bhagavān can be superior to the other, because the three constitute an only substance. In fact, He does not perceive those three aspects at all, but they are perceived in that way by the respective followers according to their own viewpoints. The Supreme Principle is just non-dual Knowledge, but this Knowledge is called in three different ways by three different types of followers. As these followers are human beings, and the human being is prone to error, it is probable that some of them might think that their vision of the Lord is superior or better than that of the rest, but this is pure human stupidity and nothing else. As I stated above: At least so far, neither this Purāṇa nor even Śrīdhara's commentary has established as truth that one of these aspects is the best.
If some confusion arises regarding this matter, it is due to some of the respective followers who are human beings and therefore endowed with a tendency to error, arrogance and similar imperfections. The Lord does not support anyone specially, and for that reason He is the Lord and the entire Creation is His own Body.
Again, another common characteristic in the vast majority of scriptures is that they contain phrases such as: "this is the best scripture", "if you read this scripture you will attain all" and the like. This is seen commonly because each of the authors looks to extol his own writings. This is not to be taken to the letter but as a means to encourage the reader to keep reading. If all those expressions were to be true, I would have attained Enlightenment a great deal of times, hehe, as I read plenty of scriptures saying the same thing. Oh well, it was just an additional comment.
The sages who have faith in that (Supreme Principle) see certainly the Paramātmā aspect in their Self or Soul by means of devotion endowed with knowledge (as well as) renunciation, (and) gained from oral tradition1||12||
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1 Śrīdhara says in a portion of his commentary: "... Jñānavairāgyayuktayetyatra jñānaṁ paro'kṣam| Tacca tattvamātmani kṣetrajñe paśyanti| Kiṁ tat| Ātmānaṁ paramātmānam| Śrutena vedāntādiśravaṇena gṛhītayā prāptayeti bhakterdārḍhyamuktam||12||" - "... Knowledge (jñānam) here (atra), i.e. (in the phrase) "endowed (yuktayā) with knowledge (jñāna) (as well as) renunciation (vairāgya... iti)" (is) a mysterious one --lit. beyond the range of sight-- (paro'ksam)-. They certainly see (ca... paśyanti) that (tad) (Supreme) Principle (tattvam) in their Self (ātmani), viz. in 'kṣetrajña' or soul (ksetra-jñe). What (kim) (is) That (tad) (that they see? They see) Ātmā --lit. Self-- (ātmānam), (which is to be looked upon) Paramātmā (in this context) (paramātmānam). (How?:) It is firmly (dārḍhyam) said (uktam) (that they do so) through devotion (bhakteḥ) 'gained (gṛhītayā) or obtained (prāptayā) from oral tradition (śrutena), i.e. by hearing (śravaneṇa) Vedānta (vedānta), etc. (ādi... iti)'||12||".
Vedānta is one of the six traditional philosophical systems of India. See First Steps (1) through First Steps (3) if you want more information about it. By "Paramātmā", Śrīdhara refers to the second aspect in the triad "Brahma", "Paramātmā" and "Bhagavān", which was mentioned in the previous stanza.
Hence, oh you who are the best among the twice-born --i.e. Brāhmaṇa-s or priests--, complete accomplishment and perfection of Dharma performed by men according to the divisions of the Varṇāśrama system --i.e. the one related to castes and stages of life--1 (is) to please Hari --epithet of Viṣṇu--2||13||
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1 The Varṇāśrama system consists of four castes (varṇa-s) and four stages of life (āśrama-s). Here "āśrama" does not mean "hermitage" as usual, but "stage of life". The four castes are:
Brāhmaṇa (formed "generally" of priests... the topic is too complex for a mere explanatory note), Kṣatriya (constituted by the ones who rule or govern), Vaiśya (formed of the ones dedicated to trade as well as agriculture) and Śūdra (constituted by the ones who serve the previous three castes).
In turn, the four stages of life are:
Brahmacarya (till one is 25 years old he must live with his spiritual guru, learn Vedic knowledge and practice celibacy), Gṛhastha (till one is 50 years old, after having completed the first stage or Brahmacarya, he must live as a householder), Vānaprastha (till one is 75 years old, after having completed the second stage or Gṛhastha, he must abandon his family for an ascetic life in the woods), Sannyāsa (till death, after having completed the third stage or Vānaprastha, he must practice total renunciation as regards all that is related to this world and generally wander as a religious mendicant).
2 The entire commentary of Śrīdhara states the following: "Dharmasya phalaṁ bhaktirnārthakāmādikamitīmamarthamupapādyopasaṁharati - Ata iti| He dvijaśreṣṭhāḥ| Haritoṣaṇaṁ harerārādhanam| Saṁsiddhiḥ phalam||13||" - - "The (first) fruit or result (phalam) of Dharma (dharmasya) (is) devotion (bhaktiḥ) (and) not (na) wealth (artha), pleasure (kāma), etc. (ādikam) --another possible translation is '... (and) not desire of wealth, etc.'--. Thus (iti), (when such a devotion) comes into existence (upapādyā), it takes away (upasaṁharati) this (imam) wealth (artham). 'Hence' (atas iti), oh (he) you who are the best (śreṣṭhāḥ) among the twice-born --Brāhmaṇa-s or priests-- (dvija), to please (tosaṇam) Hari --an epithet of Viṣṇu-- (hari), i.e. Hari's (hareḥ) gratification (ārādhanam), (is) complete accomplishment and perfection (saṁsiddhiḥ). (In other words, it is) the (final) fruit (of Dharma) (phalam)||13||".
This is the process: By following one's own Dharma, devotion is brought about (i.e. it comes into existence). Then, this devotion is addressed to Hari, which pleases Him. And thus, the final fruit of Dharma or Hari's gratification is attained completely. The fruit of Dharma is not wealth at all. On the contrary, when the aforesaid devotion arises, wealth is taken away. Why is Śrīdhara affirming that? There are two reasons in my humble opinion: (1) Wealth is generally conducive to gratification of the senses, which is not recommended at all by any serious scripture, (2) The Lord wants a devotee to understand that He is his only support. Ordinary people in general use wealth to please their senses and not those of the Lord. Also, most people are based almost completely on wealth, to wit, they are convinced that if they lose their wealth they are practically "liquidated", as it were. This is not good for them at all because it is unreal and untrue. Hence, when real devotion to the Supreme Self emerges in someone, his wealth is taken away. This is the sense.
Of course, by "wealth" Śrīdhara is not referring to that amount of necessary wealth which you need to sustain life in your body, but he is speaking about unnecessary riches. If you analyze your own life, you will note that you spend money in many things that you really do not need. Despite you bought all those things, you keep being unhappy. Why? Because wealth, pleasure (gratification of the senses) and the like are not the fruit of Dharma. Well, if real devotion arises in you, it will take away all that unnecessary wealth. After that, when you apply that devotion to the Lord, you will be really happy, because true happiness does not derive from accumulating objects but pleasing the Lord. OK, this is a topic to talk about for hours, but this should be a short explanatory note, shouldn't it?
Ah, do you not know what Dharma is? Read note 1 under stanza 2 of the previous Adhyāya or Lesson.
Therefore, the Fortunate One, the Lord of (His) followers, is to be heard, praised, meditated on and worshipped constantly by an one-pointed mind1||14||
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1 Śrīdhara explains the meaning of "ekena manasā" as "ekāgreṇa manasā", to wit: "by an one-pointed (eka-agreṇa) mind --manas-- (manasā)".
The learned men, equipped with the sword of (constant) meditation on that (Fortunate One), cut the fetter (called) karmic knot. (For this reason,) who would not find pleasure in His stori(es)?1||15||
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1 The whole Śrīdhara's commentary is worthy of being read: "Bhaktirahito dharmaḥ kevalaṁ śrama eveti prapañcitam| Idānīṁ tu bhaktermuktiphalatvaṁ prapañcayati - Yaditi| Yasyānudhyā anudhyānaṁ saivāsiḥ svaṅgastena yuktā vivekino granthimahaṅkāraṁ nibadhnāti yatkarma tacchindanti tasya kathāyāṁ ratiṁ ko na kuryāt||15||" - "Dharma (dharmaḥ) with no (rahitaḥ) devotion (bhakti) (is) just (kevalam) hard work and pain --i.e. it does not bear any fruits-- (śramaḥ) indeed (eva), as it was explained in detail (previously, in the eight stanza) (iti prapañcitam). However (tu), in this case (idānīm), (the author) explains in detail (prapañcayati) the fruit (phalatvam) (known as) Liberation (mukti), (which is obtained) from devotion (bhakteḥ). (The word) 'Yad' (in the stanza) (yad iti) (means 'yasya' or 'on Him'. In turn, 'anudhyā' and 'asi' are synonymous with 'anudhyāna' and 'khaḍga', respectively. Thus, the sentence reads:) That (sā) 'anudhyā' (anudhyā) (or constant) meditation (anudhyānam) on Him --the Fortunate One-- (yad) (is) certainly (eva) (like) an 'asi' (asiḥ) (or) sword (khadgaḥ), (figuratively speaking). Equipped (yuktāḥ) with that --viz. with the sword of meditation on Him-- (tena), the ones who discern (properly) (vivekinaḥ), whose (yad) karma --residual impressions of their actions-- (karma) ties (nibadhnāti) the knot (granthim) (called) ego (ahaṅkāram), cut (chindanti) that (knot) (tad). (Therefore,) who (kaḥ) would not (na) find pleasure (ratim... kuryāt) in His (tasya) stori(es) (kathāyām)?||15||".
Here, Śrīdhara calls "learned men" (kovida-s) "vivekī-s" or people who discern adequately. The karmic knot is formed of all latencies or karma-s brought about by one's actions. According to Śrīdhara, these latent impressions ties the knot, that is, create the knot known as ego. That is why ego is generally defined as the aggregate of all karma-s or latencies. Oh well, it is a long story, you know. Notice that the word "karma" does not mean "action" or "law of cause and effect ", etc. in this context, but "the residual impressions left by one's own actions".
Regarding "anudhyā" or "meditation", Śrīdhara says that it is "anudhyāna" or a "constant meditation". If you consult a Sanskrit dictionary, you will probably see that both "anudhyā" and "anudhyāna" mean "meditation". Anyway, going deep at it, the word "anudhyāna" is "anu-dhyāna". "Dhyāna" is meditation, while the prefix "anu" denotes, in this particular case, "something which goes on and on", i.e. "constant". Hence I added the word "constant" to the translation.
Also note that I have to make some arrangements in the translation of the Śrīdhara's commentary in order to give structure to the sentences in English. Śrīdhara simply puts the original words of the stanza along with his interpretation in a uninterrupted way (e.g. "yasyānudhyā anudhyānam..."). I cannot translate literally "meditation on Him (is) meditation (on Him)..." or something, because it makes no sense in English. Thus, remember this whenever you see some other arrangements, which are always in parentheses, within the translations. Sometimes, the people, out of sheer ignorance, complain about the lack of a literal translation "the whole time". However, this is impossible because the Sanskrit structure is not the same thing as the English one.
In Sanskrit, there are many redundancies and ways of expressing certain things, which would look ugly in English if literally translated. Thus, the process of translating from Sanskrit into English is an adaptative one. The more proficient the translator, the better his/her translation. Besides, now and then, "something" is lost during the translation, because Sanskrit language is much richer than English as far as vocabulary is concerned. In fact, some fragments of complex scriptures full of secret meanings are recommended to be read directly in Sanskrit, because any translation, however good it may be, would not be adequate ever. So, the ideal situation would be that all readers learn Sanskrit and read the scriptures directly, but this is impossible, as you surely know. Why? Firstly, because not everyone is interested or capable of doing so. Secondly, even if they knew Sanskrit grammar thoroughly, to translate is an art requiring many years of practice. Thirdly, to properly understand and translate certain difficult scripture (e.g. the current Purāṇa), a translator needs both the Grace of the Lord and direct experience of the subject being dealt with... to a certain extent, at least. No mere academic translator, if any, might "appropriately" translate this kind of scriptures without His Grace and some direct experience of what is being described in them. Do you not believe me? Just try it!
Well, hopefully you have understood what I meant.
Oh sages, for one who is desirous of hearing (and) has faith, occurs --i.e. arises-- a delight (in listening to) the stories related to Vāsudeva --epithet of Lord Kṛṣṇa-- from serving a great being (and) frequently visiting divines places of pilgrimage1||16||
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1 In the second portion of his commentary, Śrīdhara describes the process developing in one who is desirous of hearing:"... Puṇyatīrthaniṣevaṇānniṣpāpasya mahatsevā syāttayā ca taddharmaśraddhā tataḥ śravaṇecchā tato ruciḥ syādityarthaḥ" - "... For one who is sinless (nispāpasya), the act of serving (sevā) a great being (mahat) turns out (syāt) from frequently visiting (nisevaṇāt) divines places of pilgrimage (puṇya-tīrtha). And (ca) by means of that (service) (tayā) (appears) faith (śraddhā) in that (tad) dharma (dharma). Afterward (tatas), (arises) a desire (icchā) of listening (to the stories related to Lord Kṛṣṇa) (śravaṇa). Then (tatas), (the aforesaid) delight (ruciḥ) occurs (syāt). This is the meaning (iti arthaḥ)||16||".
For those who listen to His stories, Kṛṣṇa, the One who is possessed of the virtuous Śravaṇa --i.e. the act of hearing His pastimes-- (and) Kīrtana --i.e. the act of mentioning His names--, (the One who) remains inside of the heart (and who) is well-disposed toward the good people, removes the inauspicious (tendencies or vāsanā-s) indeed1||17||
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1 The entire Śrīdhara's commentary on this stanza will make its meaning clear:"Tataśca śriṇvatāmiti| Puṇye śravaṇakīrtane yasya saḥ| Satām suhṛddhitakārī| Hṛdi yānyabhadrāni kāmādivāsanāstāni| Antastho hridayasthaḥ san||17||" - "Therefore (tataḥ ca), 'As regards the ones who listen (to His stories) (śṛṇvatām iti)', He (saḥ) who (owns) (yasya) the virtuous (puṇya) Śravaṇa --the act of hearing His pastimes-- (śravaṇa) (and) Kīrtana --the act of mentioning His names-- (kīrtane) --viz. Lord Kṛṣṇa-- (is) a well-disposed (suhṛd) benefactor (hita-kārī) to those good people (satām). (The phrase 'Hṛdy... hyabhadrāṇi' in the stanza means:) Those (tāni) inauspicious (abhadrāṇi) tendencies (vāsanāḥ) (such as) desire (kāma), etc. (ādi), which (yāni) (are) in the heart (hṛdi). (The compound) 'antaḥsthaḥ' (in the stanza, which is generally written 'antasthaḥ') (antasthaḥ) (means that the Lord) remains (sthaḥ) (or) is present (san) in the heart (hṛdaya)||17||".
The word "Kīrtana" (mentioning, repeating, saying, telling) is to be translated in this context as "the act of mentioning His names". Anyway, "Kīrtana" is not "chanting" as usually and erroneously interpreted. "Kīrtana" comes from the root "kīrt" (to mention, tell, name, call, recite, praise, glorify, etc.). Thus, one does not need indispensably to "chant" loudly the names of Lord Kṛṣṇa, as lots of people think, in order to perform "Kīrtana". Not at all. By merely mentioning or telling them, one is already practicing "Kīrtana". If he wants to chant them, it is up to him, but he should not mistake "Kīrtana" for chanting, got it? Besides, "Kīrtana" is not "necessarily" related to the names of Kṛṣṇa in all contexts, but it may be connected with the names of other deities.
Also, there is another popular word formed from adding the prefix "sam" (indicating "together with" in the sense of a "group", in this case) to the word "Kīrtana": "Saṅkīrtana" (note how "sam" became "saṅ" due to a rule of Sanskrit Sandhi or combination). Here, "Saṅkīrtana" may be interpreted exactly as "Kīrtana", or include the purport hinted at by the prefix "sam": "group mentioning", "group telling", etc. Nonetheless, even "Saṅkīrtana" is not "chanting" either. Oh well, most people will keep interpreting Kīrtana or Saṅkīrtana as "chanting", but perhaps some people reading my detailed explanation now will help reduce the number of mistakes.
At least in the Yoga universe, I have noted that the vast majority of people pronounces Sanskrit awfully. On top of that, they have plenty of misconceptions about the meanings of many Sanskrit terms. Why? Because they were erroneously informed. I was exactly in the same position as those people till I started learning Sanskrit language in depth, no doubt about it. A lot of people speak and speak of Yoga, Veda-s, Tantra and so on, but just a handful of them know what they are saying, be sure. Only learned men should speak about those topics, as most of them are really complex and intricate. The reason for all that mess lies in those "inauspicious vāsanā-s or tendencies" being present in the heart. Ignorance is really powerful, isn't it? To get rid of this all-pervading ignorance, in all its forms, according to this Purāṇa, one must listen to the stories of Lord Kṛṣṇa.
(When,) by constantly serving Bhāgavata, (those) inauspicious (vāsanā-s or tendencies) are mostly destroyed, devotion to the Fortunate One, who is highly renowned, becomes firm and definitive1||18||
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1 This portion of the Śrīdhara's commentary is very useful to understand some points. Listen up: "... Bhāgavatānāṁ bhāgavataśāstrasya vā sevayā| Naiṣṭhikī niścalā vikṣepakābhāvāt||18||" - "... By serving (sevayā) (Bhāgavata means by serving either) the followers of Bhagavat or Viṣṇu (bhāgavatānām) or (vā) the scripture (śāstrasya) (known as) Śrīmadbhāgavatapurāṇa (bhāgavata). (The term) 'naiṣṭhikī' (naiṣṭhikī) (means) steady and invariable (niścalā) due to the absence (abhāvāt) of distraction and confusion (vikṣepa)||18||".
Then, the mind, by remaining in Sattva (and) not being overcome by these, viz. Rajas, Tamas, (their) states and (what arises from them, i.e.) desire, covetousness, etc., becomes pleased1||19||
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1 The whole Śrīdhara's commentary now: "Rajaśca tamaśca ye ca tatprabhavā bhāvāḥ kāmādaya etairanāviddhamanabhibhūtam| Prasīdatyupaśāmyati||19||" - "(There are the Guṇa-s) Rajas (rajas) and (ca... ca) Tamas (tamas), their (tad) products (prabhavāḥ) (or) states (bhāvāḥ), as well as (ye ca) (what arises from them, that is to say), desire (kāma), etc. (ādayaḥ). (A sattvic mind) is not overcome (anāviddham) (or) conquered (anabhibūtam) by these (etaiḥ). (As result, such a mind) becomes pleased (prasīdati), i.e. it becomes calm (upaśāmyati)||19||".
Sattva, Rajas and Tamas are the three Guṇa-s or qualities of Prakṛti. Read the "Sāṅkhya" section in First Steps (3) for more information.
1 Śrīdhara comments succinctly this stanza: "Bhagavadbhaktiyogataḥ prasannamanaso'ta eva muktasaṅgasya||20||" - "(That understanding of the true nature of the Fortunate One emerges) in a mind (manasaḥ) pleased (prasanna) by means (yogataḥ) of devotion (bhakti) to the Fortunate One --i.e. the Lord-- (bhagavat), (which,) for this very reason (atas eva) --i.e. due to that devotion to the Lord-- (is also) free (mukta) from attachment (saṅgasya)||20||".
Thus, "bhakti" or devotion to the Lord makes one's mind become pleased and freed from attachment. The final result of this process is a profound understanding of the true nature or state of the Supreme Self. This is the sense.
to be continued
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