Srimad Bhagavatam- A Comprehensive Blend of Bhakti, Jnana, and Vairagya

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.

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