CHAPTER ONE: The Degraded Dynasties of Kali-yuga Shukadeva Gosvami said: The last king mentioned in our previous enumeration of the future rulers of the Magadha dynasty was Puranjaya, who will take birth as the descendant of Brhadratha. Puran jaya's minister Shunaka will assassinate the king and install his own son, Pradyota, on the throne. The son of Pradyota will be Palaka, his son will be Vishakhayupa, and his son will be Rajaka. The son of Rajaka will be Nandivardhana, and thus in the Pradyotana dynasty there will be five kings, who will enjoy the earth for 138 years. Nandivardhana will have a son named Shishunaga, and his son will be known as Kakavarna. The son of Kakavarna will be Ksemadharma, and the son of Ksemadharma will be Ksetrajna. The son of Ksetrajna will be Vidhisara, and his son will be Ajatashatru. Ajatashatru will have a son named Darbhaka, and his son will be Ajaya. Ajaya will father a second Nandivardhana, whose son will be Mahanandi. O best of the Kurus, these ten kings of the Shishunaga dynasty will rule the earth for a total of 360 years during the age of Kali. My dear Pariksit, King Mahanandi will father a very powerful son in the womb of a shudra woman. He will be known as Nanda and will be the master of millions of soldiers and fabulous wealth. He will wreak havoc among the ksatriyas, and from that time onward virtually all kings will be irreligious shudras. That lord of Mahapadma, King Nanda, will rule over the entire earth just like a second Parashurama, and no one will challenge his authority. He will have eight sons, headed by Sumalya, who will control the earth as powerful kings for one hundred years. A certain brahmana [Canakya] will betray the trust of King Nanda and his eight sons and will destroy their dynasty. In their absence the Mauryas will rule the world as the age of Kali continues. This brahmana will enthrone Candragupta, whose son will be named Varisara. The son of Varisara will be Ashokavardhana. Ashokavardhana will be followed by Suyasha, whose son will be Sangata. His son will be Shalishuka, Shalishuka's son will be Somasharma, and Somasharma's son will be Shatadhanva. His son will be known as Brhadratha. O best of the Kurus, these ten Maurya kings will rule the earth for 137 years of the Kali-yuga. My dear King Pariksit, Agnimitra will follow as king, and then Sujyestha. Sujyestha will be followed by Vasumitra, Bhadraka, and the son of Bhadraka, Pulinda. Then the son of Pulinda, named Ghosa, will rule, followed by Vajramitra, Bhagavata and Devabhuti. In this way, O most eminent of the Kuru heroes, ten Shunga kings will rule over the earth for more than one hundred years. Then the earth will come under the subjugation of the kings of the Kanva dynasty, who will manifest very few good qualities. Vasudeva, an intelligent minister coming from the Kanva family, will kill the last of the Shunga kings, a lusty debauchee named Devabhuti, and assume rulership himself. The son of Vasudeva will be Bhumitra, and his son will be Narayana. These kings of the Kanva dynasty will rule the earth for 345 more years of the Kali-yuga. The last of the Kanvas, Susharma, will be murdered by his own servant, Bali a low-class shudra of the Andhra race. This most degraded Maharaja Bali will have control over the earth for some time. The brother of Bali, named Krsna, will become the next ruler of the earth. His son will be Shantakarna, and his son will be Paurnamasa. The son of Paurnamasa will be Lambodara, who will father Maharaja Cibilaka. From Cibilaka will come Meghasvati, whose son will be Atamana. The son of Atamana will be Anistakarma. His son will be Haleya, and his son will be Talaka. The son of Talaka will be Purisabhiru, and following him Sunandana will become king. Sunandana will be followed by Cakora and the eight Bahus, among whom Shivasvati will be a great subduer of enemies. The son of Shivasvati will be Gomati. His son will be Puriman, whose son will be Medashira. His son will be Shivaskanda, and his son will be Yajnashri. The son of Yajnashri will be Vijaya, who will have two sons, Candravijna and Lomadhi. These thirty kings will enjoy sovereignty over the earth for a total of 456 years, O favorite son of the Kurus. Then will follow seven kings of the Abhira race from the ciq of Avabhrti, and then ten Gardabhis. After them, sixteen kings of the Kankas will rule and will be known for their excessive greed. Eight Yavanas will then take power, followed by fourteen Turuskas, ten Gurundas and eleven kings of the Maula dynasty. These Abhiras, Gardabhis and Kankas will enjoy the earth for 1,099 years, and the Maulas will rule for 300 years. When all of them have died off there will appear in the city of Kilakila a dynasty of kings consisting of Bhutananda, Vangiri, Shishunandi, Shishunandi's brother Yashonandi, and Praviraka. These kings of Kilakila will hold sway for a total of 106 years. The Kilakilas will be followed by their thirteen sons, the Bahlikas, and after them King Puspamitra, his son Durmitra, seven Andhras, seven Kaushalas and also kings of the Vidura and Nisadha provinces will separately rule in different parts of the world. There will then appear a king of the Magadhas named Vishvasphurji, who will be like another Puranjaya. He will turn all the civilized classes into low-class, uncivilized men in the same category as the Pulindas, Yadus and Madrakas. Foolish King Vishvasphurji will maintain all the citizens in ungodliness and will use his power to completely disrupt the ksatriya order. From his capital of Padmavati he will rule that part of the earth extending from the source of the Ganga to Prayaga. At that time the brahmanas of such provinces as Shaurastra, Avanti, Abhira, Shura, Arbuda and Malava will forget all their regulative principles, and the members of the royal order in these places will become no better than shudras. The land along the Sindhu River, as well as the districts of Candrabhaga, Kaunti and Kashmira, will be ruled by shudras, fallen brahmanas and meat-eaters. Having given up the path of Vedic civilization, they will have lost all spiritual strength. There will be many such uncivilized kings ruling at the same time, O King Pariksit, and they will all be uncharitable, possessed of fierce tempers, and great devotees of irreligion and falsity. These barbarians in the guise of kings will devour the citizenry, murdering innocent women, children, cows and brahmanas and coveting the wives and property of other men. They will be erratic in their moods, have little strength of character and be very short-lived. Indeed, not purified by any Vedic rituals and lacking in the practice of regulative principles, they will be completely covered by the modes of passion and ignorance. The citizens governed by these low-class kings will imitate the character, behavior and speech of their rulers. Harassed by their leaders and by each other, they will all suffer ruination. CHAPTER TWO The Symptoms of Kali-yuga Shukadeva Gosvami said: Then, O King, religion, truthfulness, cleanliness, tolerance, mercy, duration of life, physical strength and memory will all diminish day by day because of the powerful influence of the age of Kali. In Kali-yuga, wealth alone will be considered the sign of a man's good birth, proper behavior and fine qualities. And law and justice will be applied only on the basis of one's power. Men and women will live together merely because of superficial attraction, and success in business will depend on deceit. Womanliness and manliness will be judged according to one's expertise in sex, and a man will be known as a brahmana just by his wearing a thread. A person's spiritual position will be ascertained merely according to external symbols, and on that same basis people will change from one spiritual order to the next. A person's propriety will be seriously questioned if he does not earn a good living. And one who is very clever at juggling words will be considered a learned scholar. A person will be judged unholy if he does not have money, and hypocrisy will be accepted as virtue. Marriage will be arranged simply by verbal agreement, and a person will think he is fit to appear in public if he has merely taken a bath. A sacred place will be taken to consist of no more than a reservoir of water located at a distance, and beauty will be thought to depend on one's hairstyle. Filling the belly will become the goal of life, and one who is audacious will be accepted as truthful. He who can maintain a family will be regarded as an expert man, and the principles of religion will be observed only for the sake of reputation. As the earth thus becomes crowded with a corrupt population, whoever among any of the social classes shows himself to be the strongest will gain political power. Losing their wives and properties to such avaricious and merciless rulers, who will behave no better than ordinary thieves, the citizens will flee to the mountains and forests. Harassed by famine and excessive taxes, people will resort to eating leaves, roots, flesh, wild honey, fruits, flowers and seeds. Struck by drought, they will become completely ruined. The citizens will suffer greatly from cold, wind, heat, rain and snow. They will be further tormented by quarrels, hunger, thirst, disease and severe anxiety. The maximum duration of life for human beings in Kali-yuga will become fifty years. By the time the age of Kali ends, the bodies of all creatures will be greatly reduced in size, and the religious principles of followers of varnashrama will be ruined. The path of the Vedas will be completely forgotten in human society, and so-called religion will be mostly atheistic. The kings will mostly be thieves, the occupations of men will be stealing, lying and needless violence, and all the social classes will be reduced to the lowest level of shudras. Cows will be like goats, spiritual hermitages will be no different from mundane houses, and family ties will extend no further than the immediate bonds of marriage. Most plants and herbs will be tiny, and all trees will appear like dwarf shami trees. Clouds will be full of lightning, homes will be devoid of piety, and all human beings will have become like asses. At that time, the Supreme Personality of Godhead will appear on the earth. Acting with the power of pure spiritual goodness, He will rescue eternal religion. Lord Visnu - the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the spiritual master of all moving and nonmoving living beings, and the Supreme Soul of all - takes birth to protect the principles of religion and to relieve His saintly devotees from the reactions of material work. Lord Kalki will appear in the home of the most eminent brahmana of Shambhala village, the great soul Visnuyasha. Lord Kalki, the Lord of the universe, will mount His swift horse Devadatta and, sword in hand, travel over the earth exhibiting His eight mystic opulences and eight special qualities of Godhead. Displaying His unequaled effulgence and riding with great speed, He will kill by the millions those thieves who have dared dress as kings. After all the impostor kings have been killed, the residents of the cities and towns will feel the breezes carrying the most sacred fragrance of the sandalwood paste and other decorations of Lord Vasudeva, and their minds will thereby become transcendentally pure. When Lord Vasudeva, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, appears in their hearts in His transcendental form of goodness, the remaining citizens will abundantly repopulate the earth. When the Supreme Lord has appeared on earth as Kalki, the maintainer of religion, Satya-yuga will begin, and human society will bring forth progeny in the mode of goodness. When the moon, the sun and Brhaspati are together in the constellation Karkata, and all three enter simultaneously into the lunar mansion Pusya - at that exact moment the age of Satya, or Krta, will begin. Thus I have described all the kings - past, present and future - who belong to the dynasties of the sun and the moon. From your birth up to the coronation of King Nanda, 1,150 years will pass. Of the seven stars forming the constellation of the seven sages, Pulaha and Kratu are the first to rise in the night sky. If a line running north and south were drawn through their midpoint, whichever of the lunar mansions this line passes through is said to be the ruling asterism of the constellation for that time. The Seven Sages will remain connected with that particular lunar mansion for one hundred human years. Currently, during your lifetime, they are situated in the naksatra called Magha. The Supreme Lord, Visnu, is brilliant like the sun and is known as Krsna. When He returned to the spiritual sky, Kali entered this world, and people then began to take pleasure in sinful activities. As long us Lord Shri Krsna, the husband of the goddess of fortune, touched the earth with His lotus feet, Kali was powerless to subdue this planet. When the constellation of the seven sages is passing through the lunar mansion Magha, the age of Kali begins. It comprises twelve hundred years of the demigods. When the great sages of the Saptarsi constellation pass from Magha to Purvasadha, Kali will have his full strength, beginning from King Nanda and his dynasty. Those who scientifically understand the past declare that on the very day that Lord Shri Krsna departed for the spiritual world, the influence of the age of Kali began. After the one thousand celestial years of Kali-yuga, the Satya-yuga will manifest again. At that time the minds of all men will become self-effulgent. Thus I have described the royal dynasty of Manu, as it is known on this earth. One can similarly study the history of the vaishyas, shudras and brahmanas living in the various ages. These personalities, who were great souls, are now known only by their names. They exist only in accounts from the past, and only their fame remains on the earth. Devapi, the brother of Maharaja Shantanu, and Maru, the descendant of Iksvaku, both possess great mystic strength and are living even now in the village of Kalapa. At the end of the age of Kali, these two kings, having received instruction directly from the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vasudeva, will return to human society and reestablish the eternal religion of man, characterized by the divisions of varna and ashrama, just as it was before. The cycle of four ages - Satya, Treta, Dvapara and Kali - continues perpetually among living beings on this earth, repeating the same general sequence of events. My dear King Pariksit, all these kings I have described, as well as all other human beings, come to this earth and stake their claims, but ultimately they all must give up this world and meet their destruction. Even though a person's body may now have the designation 'king,' in the end its name will be 'worms,' 'stool' or 'ashes.' What can a person who injures other living beings for the sake of his body know about his own self-interest, since his activities are simply leading him to hell? [The materialistic king thinks:] 'This unbounded earth was held by my predecessors and is now under my sovereignty. How can I arrange for it to remain in the hands of my sons, grandsons and other descendants?' Although the foolish accept the body made of earth, water and fire as 'me' and this earth as 'mine,' in every case they have ultimately abandoned both their body and the earth and passed away into oblivion. My dear King Pariksit, all these kings who tried to enjoy the earth by their strength were reduced by the force of time to nothing more than historical accounts. CHAPTER THREE The Bhumi-gita Shukadeva Gosvami said: Seeing the kings of this earth busy trying to conquer her, the earth herself laughed. She said: 'Just see how these kings, who are actually playthings in the hands of death, are desiring to conquer me. 'Great rulers of men, even those who are learned, meet frustration and failure because of material lust. Driven by lust, these kings place great hope and faith in the dead lump of flesh called the body, even though the material frame is as fleeting as bubbles of foam on water. 'Kings and politicians imagine: 'First I will conquer my senses and mind; then I will subdue my chief ministers and rid myself of the thorn-pricks of my advisors, citizens, friends and relatives, as well as the keepers of my elephants. In this way I will gradually conquer the entire earth.' Because the hearts of these leaders are bound by great expectations, they fail to see death waiting nearby. 'After conquering all the land on my surface, these proud kings forcibly enter the ocean to conquer the sea itself. What is the use of their self-control, which is aimed at political exploitation? The actual goal of self-control is spiritual liberation.' O best of the Kurus, the earth continued as follows: 'Although in the past great men and their descendants have left me, departing from this world in the same helpless way they came into it, even today foolish men are trying to conquer me. 'For the sake of conquering me, materialistic persons fight one another. Fathers oppose their sons, and brothers fight one another, because their hearts are bound to possessing political power. 'Political leaders challenge one another: 'All this land is mine! It's not yours, you fool!' Thus they attack one another and die. 'Such kings as Prthu, Pururava, Gadhi, Nahusa, Bharata, Kartavirya Arjuna, Mandhata, Sagara, Rama, Khatvanga, Dhundhuha, Raghu, Trnabindu, Yayati, Sharyati, Shantanu, Gaya, Bhagiratha, Kuvalayashva, Kakutstha, Naisadha, Nrga, Hiranyakashipu, Vrtra, Ravana, who made the whole world lament, Namuci, Shambara, Bhauma, Hiranyaksa and Taraka, as well as many other demons and kings who possessed great powers of control over others, were all full of knowledge, heroic, all-conquering and unconquerable. Nevertheless, O almighty Lord, although they lived their lives intensely trying to possess me, these kings were subject to the passage of time, which reduced them all to mere historical accounts. None of them could permanently establish their rule.' Shukadeva Gosvami said: O mighty Pariksit, I have related to you the narrations of all these great kings, who spread their fame throughout the world and then departed. My real purpose was to teach transcendental knowledge and renunciation. Stories of kings lend power and opulence to these narrations but do not in themselves constitute the ultimate aspect of knowledge. The person who desires pure devotional service to Lord Krsna should hear the narrations of Lord Uttamashloka's glorious qualities, the constant chanting of which destroys everything inauspicious. The devotee should engage in such listening in regular daily assemblies and should also continue his hearing throughout the day. King Pariksit said: My lord, how can persons living in the age of Kali rid themselves of the cumulative contamination of this age? O great sages please explain this to me. Please explain the different ages of universal history, the special qualities of each age, the duration of cosmic maintenance and destruction, and the movement of time, which is the direct representation of the Supreme Soul, the Personality of Godhead, Lord Visnu. Shukadeva Gosvami said: My dear King, in the beginning, during Satya-yuga, the age of truth, religion is present with all four of its legs intact and is carefully maintained by the people of that age. These four legs of powerful religion are truthfulness, mercy, austerity and charity. The people of Satya-yuga are for the most part self-satisfied, merciful, friendly to all, peaceful, sober and tolerant. They take their pleasure from within, see all things equally and always endeavor diligently for spiritual perfection. In Treta-yuga each leg of religion is gradually reduced by one quarter by the influence of the four pillars of irreligion - lying, violence, dissatisfaction and quarrel. In the Treta age people are devoted to ritual performances and severe austerities. They are not excessively violent or very lusty after sensual pleasure. Their interest lies primarily in religiosity, economic development and regulated sense gratification, and they achieve prosperity by following the prescriptions of the three Vedas. Although in this age society evolves into four separate classes, O King, most people are brahmanas. In Dvapara-yuga the religious qualities of austerity, truth, mercy and charity are reduced to one half by their irreligious counterparts - dissatisfaction, untruth, violence and enmity. In the Dvapara age people are interested in glory and are very noble. They devote themselves to the study of the Vedas, possess great opulence, support large families and enjoy life with vigor. Of the four classes, the ksatriyas and brahmanas are most numerous. In the age of Kali only one fourth of the religious principles remains. That last remnant will continuously be decreased by the ever-increasing principles of irreligion and will finally be destroyed. In the Kali age people tend to be greedy, ill-behaved and merciless, and they fight one another without good reason. Unfortunate and obsessed with material desires, the people of Kali-yuga are almost all shudras and barbarians. The material modes - goodness, passion and ignorance - whose permutations are observed within a person's mind, are set into motion by the power of time. When the mind, intelligence and senses are solidly fixed in the mode of goodness, that time should be understood as Satya-yuga, the age of truth. People then take pleasure in knowledge and austerity. O most intelligent one, when the conditioned souls are devoted to their duties but have ulterior motives and seek personal prestige, you should understand such a situation to be the age of Treta, in which the functions of passion are prominent. When greed, dissatisfaction, false pride, hypocrisy and envy become prominent, along with attraction for selfish activities, such a time is the age of Dvapara, dominated by the mixed modes of passion and ignorance. When there is a predominance of cheating, lying, sloth, sleepiness, violence, depression, lamentation, bewilderment, fear and poverty, that age is Kali, the age of the mode of ignorance. Because of the bad qualities of the age of Kali, human beings will become shortsighted, unfortunate, gluttonous, lustful and poverty-stricken. The women, becoming unchaste, will freely wander from one man to the next. Cities will be dominated by thieves, the Vedas will be contaminated by speculative interpretations of atheists, political leaders will virtually consume the citizens, and the so-called priests and intellectuals will be devotees of their bellies and genitals. The brahmacaris will fail to execute their vows and become generally unclean, the householders will become beggars, the vanaprasthas will live in the villages, and the sannyasis will become greedy for wealth. Women will become much smaller in size, and they will eat too much, have more children than they can properly take care of, and lose all shyness. They will always speak harshly and will exhibit qualities of thievery, deceit and unrestrained audacity. Businessmen will engage in petty commerce and earn their money by cheating. Even when there is no emergency, people will consider any degraded occupation quite acceptable. Servants will abandon a master who has lost his wealth, even if that master is a saintly person of exemplary character. Masters will abandon an incapacitated servant, even if that servant has been in the family for generations. Cows will be abandoned or killed when they stop giving milk. In Kali-yuga men will be wretched and controlled by women. They will reject their fathers, brothers, other relatives and friends and will instead associate with the sisters and brothers of their wives. Thus their conception of friendship will be based exclusively on sexual ties. Uncultured men will accept charity on behalf of the Lord and will earn their livelihood by making a show of austerity and wearing a mendicant's dress. Those who know nothing about religion will mount a high seat and presume to speak on religious principles. In the age of Kali, people's minds will always be agitated. They will become emaciated by famine and taxation, my dear King, and will always be disturbed by fear of drought. They will lack adequate clothing, food and drink, will be unable to properly rest, have sex or bathe themselves, and will have no ornaments to decorate their bodies. In fact, the people of Kali-yuga will gradually come to appear like ghostly, haunted creatures. In Kali-yuga men will develop hatred for each other even over a few coins. Giving up all friendly relations, they will be ready to lose their own lives and kill even their own relatives. Men will no longer protect their elderly parents, their children or their respectable wives. Thoroughly degraded, they will care only to satisfy their own bellies and genitals. O King, in the age of Kali people's intelligence will be diverted by atheism, and they will almost never offer sacrifice to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is the supreme spiritual master of the universe. Although the great personalities who control the three worlds all bow down to the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord, the petty and miserable human beings of this age will not do so. Terrified, about to die, a man collapses on his bed. Although his voice is faltering and he is hardly conscious of what he is saying, if he utters the holy name of the Supreme Lord he can be freed from the reaction of his fruitive work and achieve the supreme destination. But still people in the age of Kali will not worship the Supreme Lord. In the Kali-yuga, objects, places and even individual personalities are all polluted. The almighty Personality of Godhead, however, can remove all such contamination from the life of one who fixes the Lord within his mind. If a person hears about, glorifies, meditates upon, worships or simply offers great respect to the Supreme Lord, who is situated within the heart, the Lord will remove from his mind the contamination accumulated during many thousands of lifetimes. Just as fire applied to gold removes any discoloration caused by traces of other metals, Lord Visnu within the heart purifies the minds of the yogis. By one's engaging in the processes of demigod worship, austerities, breath control, compassion, bathing in holy places, strict vows, charity and chanting of various mantras, one's mind cannot attain the same absolute purification as that achieved when the unlimited Personality of Godhead appears within one's heart. Therefore, O King, endeavor with all your might to fix the Supreme Lord Keshava within your heart. Maintain this concentration upon the Lord, and at the time of death you will certainly attain the supreme destination. My dear King, the Personality of Godhead is the ultimate controller. He is the Supreme Soul and the supreme shelter of all beings. When meditated upon by those about to die, He reveals to them their own eternal spiritual identity. My dear King, although Kali-yuga is an ocean of faults, there is still one good quality about this age: Simply by chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, one can become free from material bondage and be promoted to the transcendental kingdom. Whatever result was obtained in Satya-yuga by meditating on Visnu, in Treta-yuga by performing sacrifices, and in Dvapara-yuga by serving the Lord's lotus feet can be obtained in Kali-yuga simply by chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. CHAPTER FOUR The Four Categories of Universal Annihilation Shukadeva Gosvami said: My dear King, I have already described to you the measurements of time, beginning from the smallest fraction measured by the movement of a single atom up to the total life span of Lord Brahma. I have also discussed the measurement of the different millennia of universal history. Now hear about the time of Brahma's day and the process of annihilation. One thousand cycles of four ages constitute a single day of Brahma, known as a kalpa. In that period, O King, fourteen Manus come and go. After one day of Brahma, annihilation occurs during his night, which is of the same duration. At that time all the three planetary systems are subject to destruction. This is called the naimittika, or occasional, annihilation, during which the original creator, Lord Narayana, lies down upon the bed of Ananta Shesa and absorbs the entire universe within Himself while Lord Brahma sleeps. When the two halves of the lifetime of Lord Brahma, the most elevated created being, are complete, the seven basic elements of creation are annihilated. O King, upon the annihilation of the material elements, the universal egg, comprising the elemental amalgamation of creation, is confronted with destruction. As annihilation approaches, O King, there will be no rain upon the earth for one hundred years. Drought will lead to famine, and the starving populace will literally consume one another. The inhabitants of the earth, bewildered by the force of time, will gradually be destroyed. The sun in its annihilating form will drink up with its terrible rays all the water of the ocean, of living bodies and of the earth itself. But the devastating sun will not give any rain in return. Next the great fire of annihilation will flare up from the mouth of Lord Sankarsana. Carried by the mighty force of the wind, this fire will burn throughout the universe, scorching the lifeless cosmic shell. Burned from all sides - from above by the blazing sun and from below by the fire of Lord Sankarsana - the universal sphere will glow like a burning ball of cow dung. A great and terrible wind of destruction will begin to blow for more than one hundred years, and the sky, covered with dust, will turn gray. After that, O King, groups of multicolored clouds will gather, roaring terribly with thunder, and will pour down floods of rain for one hundred years. At that time, the shell of the universe will fill up with water, forming a single cosmic ocean. As the entire universe is flooded, the water will rob the earth of its unique quality of fragrance, and the element earth, deprived of its distinguishing quality, will be dissolved. The element fire then seizes the taste from the element water, which, deprived of its unique quality, taste, merges into fire. Air seizes the form inherent in fire, and then fire, deprived of form, merges into air. The element ether seizes the quality of air, namely touch, and that air enters into ether. Then, O King, false ego in ignorance seizes sound, the quality of ether, after which ether merges into false ego. False ego in the mode of passion takes hold of the senses, and false ego in the mode of goodness absorbs the demigods. Then the total mahat-tattva seizes false ego along with its various functions, and that mahat is seized by the three basic modes of nature - goodness, passion and ignorance. My dear King Pariksit, these modes are further overtaken by the original unmanifest form of nature, impelled by time. That unmanifest nature is not subject to the six kinds of transformation caused by the influence of time. Rather, it has no beginning and no end. It is the unmanifest, eternal and infallible cause of creation. In the unmanifest stage of material nature, called pradhana, there is no expression of words, no mind and no manifestation of the subtle elements beginning from the mahat, nor are there the modes of goodness, passion and ignorance. There is no life air or intelligence, nor any senses or demigods. There is no definite arrangement of planetary systems, nor are there present the different stages of consciousness - sleep, wakefulness and deep sleep. There is no ether, water, earth, air, fire or sun. The situation is just like that of complete sleep, or of voidness. Indeed, it is indescribable. Authorities in spiritual science explain, however, that since pradhana is the original substance, it is the actual basis of material creation. This is the annihilation called prakrtika, during which the energies belonging to the Supreme Person and His unmanifest material nature, disassembled by the force of time, are deprived of their potencies and merge together totally. It is the Absolute Truth alone who manifests in the forms of intelligence, the senses and the objects of sense perception, and who is their ultimate basis. Whatever has a beginning and an end is insubstantial because of being an object perceived by limited senses and because of being nondifferent from its own cause. A lamp, the eye that views by the light of that lamp, and the visible form that is viewed are all basically nondifferent from the element fire. In the same way, intelligence, the senses and sense perceptions have no existence separate from the supreme reality, although that Absolute Truth remains totally distinct from them. The three states of intelligence are called waking consciousness, sleep and deep sleep. But, my dear King, the variegated experiences created for the pure living entity by these different states are nothing more than illusion. Just as clouds in the sky come into being and are then dispersed by the amalgamation and dissolution of their constituent elements, this material universe is created and destroyed within the Absolute Truth by the amalgamation and dissolution of its elemental, constituent parts. My dear King, it is stated [in the Vedanta-sutra] that the ingredient cause that constitutes any manifested product in this universe can be perceived as a separate reality, just as the threads that make up a cloth can be perceived separately from their product. Anything experienced in terms of general cause and specific effect must be an illusion, because such causes and effects exist only relative to each other. Indeed, whatever has a beginning and an end is unreal. Although perceived, the transformation of even a single atom of material nature has no ultimate definition without reference to the Supreme Soul. To be accepted as factually existing, something must possess the same quality as pure spirit - eternal, unchanging existence. There is no material duality in the Absolute Truth. The duality perceived by an ignorant person is like the difference between the sky contained in an empty pot and the sky outside the pot, or the difference between the reflection of the sun in water and the sun itself in the sky, or the difference between the vital air within one living body and that within another body. According to their different purposes, men utilize gold in various ways, and gold is therefore perceived in various forms. In the same way, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is inaccessible to material senses, is described in various terms, both ordinary and Vedic, by different types of men. Although a cloud is a product of the sun and is also made visible by the sun, it nevertheless creates darkness for the viewing eye, which is another partial expansion of the sun. Similarly, material false ego, a particular product of the Absolute Truth made visible by the Absolute Truth, obstructs the individual soul, another partial expansion of the Absolute Truth, from realizing the Absolute Truth. When the cloud originally produced from the sun is torn apart, the eye can see the actual form of the sun. Similarly, when the spirit soul destroys his material covering of false ego by inquiring into the transcendental science, he regains his original spiritual awareness. My dear Pariksit, when the illusory false ego that binds the soul has been cut off with the sword of discriminating knowledge and one has developed realization of Lord Acyuta, the Supreme Soul, this is called the atyantika, or ultimate, annihilation of material existence. Experts in the subtle workings of nature, O subduer of the enemy, have declared that there are continuous processes of creation and annihilation that all created beings, beginning with Brahma, constantly undergo. All material entities undergo transformation and are constantly and swiftly eroded by the mighty currents of time. The various stages of existence that material things exhibit are the perpetual causes of their generation and annihilation. These stages of existence created by beginningless and endless time, the impersonal representative of the Supreme Lord, are not visible, just as the infinitesimal momentary changes of position of the planets in the sky cannot be directly seen. In this way the progress of time is described in terms of the four kinds of annihilation - continuous, occasional, elemental and final. O best of the Kurus, I have related to you these narrations of the pastimes of Lord Narayana, the creator of this world and the ultimate reservoir of all existence, presenting them to you only in brief summary. Even Lord Brahma himself would be incapable of describing them entirely. For a person who is suffering in the fire of countless miseries and who desires to cross the insurmountable ocean of material existence, there is no suitable boat except that of cultivating devotion to the transcendental taste for the narrations of the Supreme Personality of Godhead's pastimes. Long ago this essential anthology of all the Puranas was spoken by the infallible Lord Nara-Narayana Risi to Narada, who then repeated it to Krsna Dvaipayana Vedavyasa. My dear Maharaja Pariksit, that great personality Shrila Vyasadeva taught me this same scripture, Shrimad-Bhagavatam, which is equal in stature to the four Vedas. O best of the Kurus, the same Suta Gosvami who is sitting before us will speak this Bhagavatam to the sages assembled in the great sacrifice at Naimisaranya. This he will do when questioned by the members of the assembly, headed by Shaunaka. CHAPTER FIVE Shukadeva Gosvami's Final Instructions to Maharaja Pariksit Shukadeva Gosvami said: This Shrimad-Bhagavatam has elaborately described in various narrations the Supreme Soul of all that be - the Personality of Godhead, Hari - from whose satisfaction Brahma is born and from whose anger Rudra takes birth. O King, give up the animalistic mentality of thinking, 'I am going lo die.' Unlike the body, you have not taken birth. There was not a time in the past when you did not exist, and you are not about to be destroyed. You will not take birth again in the form of your sons and grandsons, like a sprout taking birth from a seed and then generating a new seed. Rather, you are entirely distinct from the material body and its paraphernalia, in the same way that fire is distinct from its fuel. In a dream one can see his own head being cut off and thus understand that his actual self is standing apart from the dream experience. Similarly, while awake one can see that his body is a product of the five material elements. Therefore it is to be understood that the actual self, the soul, is distinct from the body it observes and is unborn and immortal. When a pot is broken, the portion of sky within the pot remains as the element sky, just as before. In the same way, when the gross and subtle bodies die, the living entity within resumes his spiritual identity. The material bodies, qualities and activities of the spirit soul are created by the material mind. That mind is itself created by the illusory potency of the Supreme Lord, and thus the soul assumes material existence. A lamp functions as such only by the combination of its fuel, vessel, wick and fire. Similarly, material life, based on the soul's identification with the body, is developed and destroyed by the workings of material goodness, passion and ignorance, which are the constituent elements of the body. The soul within the body is self-luminous and is separate from the visible gross body and invisible subtle body. It remains as the fixed basis of changing bodily existence, just as the ethereal sky is the unchanging background of material transformation. Therefore the soul is endless and without material comparison. My dear King, by constantly meditating upon the Supreme Lord, Vasudeva, and by applying clear and logical intelligence, you should carefully consider your true self and how it is situated within the material body. The snake-bird Taksaka, sent by the curse of the brahmana, will not burn your true self. The agents of death will never burn such a master of the self as you, for you have already conquered all dangers on your path back to Godhead. You should consider, 'I am nondifferent from the Absolute Truth, the supreme abode, and that Absolute Truth, the supreme destination, is nondifferent from me.' Thus resigning yourself to the Supreme Soul, who is free from all material misidentifications, you will not even notice the snake-bird Taksaka when he approaches with his poison-filled fangs and bites your foot. Nor will you see your dying body or the material world around you, because you will have realized yourself to be separate from them. Beloved King Pariksit, I have narrated to you the topics you originally inquired about - the pastimes of Lord Hari, the Supreme Soul of the universe. Now, what more do you wish to hear? CHAPTER SIX Maharaja Pariksit Passes Away Suta Gosvami said: After hearing all that was narrated to him by the self- realized and equipoised Shukadeva, the son of Vyasadeva, Maharaja Pariksit humbly approached his lotus feet. Bowing his head down upon the sage's feet, the King, who had lived his entire life under the protection of Lord Visnu, folded his hands in supplication and spoke as follows. Maharaja Pariksit said: I have now achieved the purpose of my life, because a great and merciful soul like you has shown such kindness to me. You have personally spoken to me this narration of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Hari, who is without beginning or end. I do not consider it at all amazing that great souls such as yourself, whose minds are always absorbed in the infallible Personality of Godhead, show mercy to the foolish conditioned souls, tormented as we are by the problems of material life. I have heard from you this Shrimad-Bhagavatam, which is the perfect summary of all the Puranas and which perfectly describes the Supreme Lord, Uttamashloka. My lord, I now have no fear of Taksaka or any other living being, or even of repeated deaths, because I have absorbed myself in that purely spiritual Absolute Truth, which you have revealed and which destroys all fear. O brahmana, please give me permission to resign my speech and the functions of all my senses unto Lord Adhoksaja. Allow me to absorb my mind, purified of lusty desires, within Him and to thus give up my life. You have revealed to me that which is most auspicious, the supreme personal feature of the Lord. I am now fixed in knowledge and self-realization, and my ignorance has been eradicated. Suta Gosvami said: Thus requested, the saintly son of Shrila Vyasadeva gave his permission to King Pariksit. Then, after being worshiped by the King and all the sages present, Shukadeva departed from that place. Maharaja Pariksit then sat down on the bank of the Ganges, upon a seat made of darbha grass with the tips of its stalks facing east, and turned himself toward the north. Having attained the perfection of yoga, he experienced full self- realization and was free of material attachment and doubt. The saintly King settled his mind within his spiritual self by pure intelligence and proceeded to meditate upon the Supreme Absolute Truth. His life air ceased to move, and he became as stationary as a tree. O learned brahmanas, the snake-bird Taksaka, who had been sent by the angry son of a brahmana, was going toward the King to kill him when he saw Kashyapa Muni on the path. Taksaka flattered Kashyapa by presenting him with valuable offerings and thereby stopped the sage, who was expert in counteracting poison, from protecting Maharaja Pariksit. Then the snakebird, who could assume any form he wished, disguised himself as a brahmana, approached the King and bit him. While living beings all over the universe looked on, the body of the great self- realized saint among kings was immediately burned to ashes by the fire of the snake's poison. There arose a terrible cry of lamentation in all directions on the earth and in the heavens, and all the demigods, demons, human beings and other creatures were astonished. Kettledrums sounded in the regions of the demigods, and the celestial Gandharvas and Apsaras sang. The demigods showered flowers and spoke words of praise. Hearing that his father had been fatally bitten by the snakebird, Maharaja Janamejaya became extremely angry and had brahmanas perform a mighty sacrifice in which he offered all the snakes in the world into the sacrificial fire. When Taksaka saw even the most powerful serpents being burned in the blazing fire of that snake sacrifice, he was overwhelmed with fear and approached Lord Indra for shelter. When King Janamejaya did not see Taksaka entering his sacrificial fire, he said to the brahmanas: Why is not Taksaka, the lowest of all serpents, burning in this fire? The brahmanas replied: O best of kings, the snake Taksaka has not fallen into the fire because he is being protected by Indra, whom he has approached for shelter. Indra is holding him back from the fire. The intelligent King Janamejaya, hearing these words, replied to the priests: Then, my dear brahmanas, why not make Taksaka fall into the fire, along with his protector, Indra? Hearing this, the priests then chanted this mantra for offering Taksaka together with Indra as an oblation into the sacrificial fire: O Taksaka, fall immediately into this fire, together with Indra and his entire host of demigods! When Lord Indra, along with his airplane and Taksaka, was suddenly thrown from his position by these insulting words of the brahmanas, he became very disturbed. Brhaspati, the son of Angira Muni, seeing Indra falling from the sky in his airplane along with Taksaka, approached King Janamejaya and spoke to him as follows. O King among men, it is not fitting that this king of snakes meet death at your hands, for he has drunk the nectar of the immortal demigods. Consequently he is not subject to the ordinary symptoms of old age and death. The life and death of an embodied soul and his destination in the next life are all caused by himself through his own activity. Therefore, O King, no other agent is actually responsible for creating one's happiness and distress. When a conditioned soul is killed by snakes, thieves, fire, lightning, hunger, disease or anything else, he is experiencing the reaction to his own past work. Therefore, my dear King, please stop this sacrificial performance, which was initiated with the intent of doing harm to others. Many innocent snakes have already been burned to death. Indeed, all persons must suffer the unforeseen consequences of their past activities. Suta Gosvami continued: Advised in this manner, Maharaja Janamejaya replied, 'So be it.' Honoring the words of the great sage, he desisted from performing the snake sacrifice and worshiped Brhaspati, the most eloquent of sages. This is indeed the Supreme Lord Visnu's illusory energy, which is unstoppable and difficult to perceive. Although the individual spirit souls are part and parcel of the Lord, through the influence of this illusory energy they are bewildered by their identification with various material bodies. But there exists a supreme reality, in which the illusory energy cannot fearlessly dominate, thinking, 'I can control this person because he is deceitful.' In that highest reality there are no illusory argumentative philosophies. Rather, there the true students of spiritual science constantly engage in authorized spiritual investigation. In that supreme reality there is no manifestation of the material mind, which functions in terms of alternating decision and doubt. Created material products, their subtle causes and the goals of enjoyment attained by their utilization do not exist there. Furthermore, in that supreme reality there is no conditioned spirit, covered by false ego and the three modes of nature. That reality excludes everything limited or limiting. One who is wise should therefore stop the waves of material life and enjoy within that Supreme Truth. Those who desire to give up all that is not essentially real move systematically, by negative discrimination of the extraneous, to the supreme position of Lord Visnu. Giving up petty materialism, they offer their love exclusively to the Absolute Truth within their hearts and embrace that highest truth in fixed meditation. Such devotees come to understand the supreme transcendental situation of the Personality of Godhead, Lord Visnu, because they are no longer polluted by the concepts of 'I' and 'my,' which are based on body and home. One should tolerate all insults and never fail to show proper respect to any person. Avoiding identification with the material body, one should not create enmity with anyone. I offer my obeisances to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the invincible Lord Shri Krsna. Simply by meditating upon His lotus feet I have been able to study and appreciate this great literature. Shaunaka Risi said: O gentle Suta, please narrate to us how Paila and the other greatly intelligent disciples of Shrila Vyasadeva, who are known as the standard authorities of Vedic wisdom, spoke and edited the Vedas. Suta Gosvami said: O brahmana, first the subtle vibration of transcendental sound appeared from the sky of the heart of the most elevated Lord Brahma, whose mind was perfectly fixed in spiritual realization. One can perceive this subtle vibration when one stops all external hearing. By worship of this subtle form of the Vedas, O brahmana, mystic sages cleanse their hearts of all contamination caused by impurity of substance, activity and doer, and thus they attain freedom from repeated birth and death. From that transcendental subtle vibration arose the omkara composed of three sounds. The omkara has unseen potencies and manifests automatically within a purified heart. It is the representation of the Absolute Truth in all three of His phases - the Supreme Personality, the Supreme Soul and the supreme impersonal truth. This omkara, ultimately nonmaterial and imperceptible, is heard by the Supersoul without His possessing material ears or any other material senses. The entire expanse of Vedic sound is elaborated from omkara, which appears from the soul, within the sky of the heart. It is the direct designation of the self- originating Absolute Truth, the Supersoul, and is the secret essence and eternal seed of all Vedic hymns. Omkara exhibited the three original sounds of the alphabet - A, U and M. These three, O most eminent descendant of Bhrgu, sustain all the different threefold aspects of material existence, including the three modes of nature, the names of the Rig, Yajur and Sama Vedas, the goals known as the Bhur, Bhuvar and Svar planetary systems, and the three functional platforms called waking consciousness, sleep and deep sleep. From that omkara Lord Brahma created all the sounds of the alphabet - the vowels, consonants, semivowels, sibilants and others - distinguished by such features as long and short measure. All-powerful Brahma made use of this collection of sounds to produce from his four faces the four Vedas, which appeared together with the sacred omkara and the seven vyahrti invocations. His intention was to propagate the process of Vedic sacrifice according to the different functions performed by the priests of each of the four Vedas. Brahma taught these Vedas to his sons, who were great sages among the brahmanas and experts in the art of Vedic recitation. They in turn took the role of acaryas and imparted the Vedas to their own sons. In this way, throughout the cycles of four ages, generation aher generation of disciples - all firmly fixed in their spiritual vows - have received these Vedas by disciplic succession. At the end of each Dvapara-yuga the Vedas are edited into separate divisions by eminent sages. Observing that people in general were diminished in their life span, strength and intelligence by the influence of time, great sages took inspiration from the Personality of Godhead sitting within their hearts and systematically divided the Vedas. O brahmana, in the present age of Vaivasvata Manu, the leaders of the universe, led by Brahma and Shiva, requested the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the protector of all the worlds, to save the principles of religion. O most fortunate Shaunaka, the almighty Lord, exhibiting a divine spark of a portion of His plenary portion, then appeared in the womb of Satyavati as the son of Parashara. In this form, named Krsna Dvaipayana Vyasa, he divided the one Veda into four. Shrila Vyasadeva separated the mantras of the Rig, Atharva, Yajur and Sama Vedas into four divisions, just as one sorts out a mixed collection of jewels into piles. Thus he composed four distinct Vedic literatures. The most powerful and intelligent Vyasadeva called four of his disciples, O brahmana, and entrusted to each of them one of these four samhitas. Shrila Vyasadeva taught the first samhita, the Rig Veda, to Paila and gave this collection the name Bahvrca. To the sage Vaishampayana he spoke the collection of Yajur mantras named Nigada. He taught the Sama Veda mantras, designated as the Chandoga-samhita, to Jaimini, and he spoke the Atharva Veda to his dear disciple Sumantu. After dividing his samhita into two parts, the wise Paila spoke it to Indrapramiti and Baskala. Baskala further divided his collection into four parts, O Bhargava, and instructed them to his disciples Bodhya, Yajnavalkya, Parashara and Agnimitra. Indrapramiti, the self-controlled sage, taught his samhita to the learned mystic Mandukeya, whose disciple Devamitra later passed down the divisions of the Rig Veda to Saubhari and others. The son of Mandukeya, named Shakalya, divided his own collection into five, entrusting one subdivision each to Vatsya, Mudgala, Shaliya, Gokhalya and Shishira. The sage Jatukarnya was also a disciple of Shakalya, and after dividing the samhita he received from Shakalya into three parts, he added a fourth section, a Vedic glossary. He taught one of these parts to each of four disciples - Balaka, the second Paila, Jabala and Viraja. Baskali assembled the Valakhilya-samhita, a collection from all the branches of the Rig Veda. This collection was received by Valayani, Bhajya and Kashara. Thus these various samhitas of the Rig Veda were maintained through disciplic succession by these saintly brahmanas. Simply by hearing of this distribution of the Vedic hymns, one will be freed from all sins. The disciples of Vaishampayana became authorities in the Atharva Veda. They were known as the Carakas because they executed strict vows to free their guru from his sin of killing a brahmana. Once Yajnavalkya, one of the disciples of Vaishampayana, said: O master, how much benefit will be derived from the feeble endeavors of these weak disciples of yours? I will personally perform some outstanding penance. Addressed thus, the spiritual master Vaishampayana became angry and said: Go away from here! Enough of you, O disciple who insults brahmanas! Furthermore, you must immediately give back everything I have taught you. Yajnavalkya, the son of Devarata, then vomited the mantras of the Yajur Veda and went away from there. The assembled disciples, looking greedily upon these yajur hymns, assumed the form of partridges and picked them all up. These divisions of the Yajur Veda therefore became known as the most beautiful Taittiriya-samhita, the hymns collected by partridges [tittira]. My dear brahmana Shaunaka, Yajnavalkya then desired to find out new yajur- mantras unknown to even his spiritual master. With this in mind he offered attentive worship to the powerful lord of the sun. Shri Yajnavalkya said: I offer my respectful obeisances to the Supreme Personality of Godhead appearing as the sun. You are present as the controller of the four kinds of living entities, beginning from Brahma and extending down to the blades of grass. Just as the sky is present both inside and outside every living being, you exist both within the hearts of all as the Supersoul and externally in the form of time. Just as the sky cannot be covered by the clouds present within it, you are never covered by any false material designation. By the flow of years, which are made up of the tiny fragments of time called ksanas, lavas and nimesas, you alone maintain this world, drying up the waters and giving them back as rain. O glowing one, O powerful lord of the sun, you are the chief of all the demigods. I meditate with careful attention on your fiery globe, because for those who offer prayers to you three times daily according to the Vedic method passed down through authorized disciplic succession, you burn away all sinful activities, all consequent suffering and even the original seed of desire. You are personally present as the indwelling lord in the hearts of all moving and nonmoving beings, who depend completely on your shelter. Indeed, you animate their material minds, senses and vital airs to act. The world has been seized and swallowed by the python of darkness in its horrible mouth and has become unconscious, as if dead. But mercifully glancing upon the sleeping people of the world, you raise them up with the gift of sight. Thus you are most magnanimous. At the three sacred junctures of each day, you engage the pious in the path of ultimate good, inducing them to perform religious duties that situate them in their spiritual position. Just like an earthly king, you travel about everywhere spreading fear among the unholy as the powerful deities of the directions offer you in their folded palms lotus flowers and other respectful presentations. Therefore, my lord, I am prayerfully approaching your lotus feet, which are honored by the spiritual masters of the three worlds, because I hope to receive from you mantras of the Yajur Veda unknown to anyone else. Suta Gosvami said: Satisfied by such glorification, the powerful sun-god assumed the form of a horse and presented to the sage Yajnavalkya yajur-mantras previously unknown in human society. From these countless hundreds of mantras of the Yajur Veda, the powerful sage compiled fifteen new branches of Vedic literature. These became known as the Vajasaneyi-samhita because they were produced from the hairs of the horse's mane, and they were accepted in disciplic succession by the followers of Kanva, Madhyandina and other rsis. Jaimini Risi, the authority of the Sama Veda, had a son named Sumantu, and the son of Sumantu was Sutvan. The sage Jaimini spoke to each of them a different part of the Sama-veda-samhita. Sukarma, another disciple of Jaimini, was a great scholar. He divided the mighty tree of the Sama Veda into one thousand samhitas. Then, O brahmana, three disciples of Sukarma - Hiranyanabha, the son of Kushala; Pausyanji; and Avantya, who was very advanced in spiritual realization - took charge of the sama- mantras. The five hundred disciples of Pausyanji and Avantya became known as the northern singers of the Sama Veda, and in later times some of them also became known as eastern singers. Five other disciples of Pausyanji, namely Laugaksi, Mangali, Kulya, Kushida and Kuksi, each received one hundred samhitas. Krta, the disciple of Hiranyanabha, spoke twenty four samhitas to his own disciples, and the remaining collections were passed down by the self-realized sage Avantya. CHAPTER SEVEN The Puranic Literatures Suta Gosvami said: Sumantu Risi, the authority on the Atharva Veda, taught his samhita to his disciple Kabandha, who in turn spoke it to Pathya and Vedadarsha. Shauklayani, Brahmabali, Modosa and Pippalayani were disciples of Vedadarsha. Hear from me also the names of the disciples of Pathya. My dear brahmana, they are Kumuda, Shunaka and Jajali, all of whom knew the Atharva Veda very well. Babhru and Saindhavayana, disciples of Shunaka, studied the two divisions of their spiritual master's compilation of the Atharva Veda. Saindhavayana's disciple Savarna and disciples of other great sages also studied this edition of the Atharva Veda. Naksatrakalpa, Shantikalpa, Kashyapa, Angirasa and others were also among the acaryas of the Atharva Veda. Now, O sage, listen as I name the authorities on Puranic literature. Trayyaruni, Kashyapa, Savarni, Akrtavrana, Vaishampayana and Harita are the six masters of the Puranas. Each of them studied one of the six anthologies of the Puranas from my father, Romaharsana, who was a disciple of Shrila Vyasadeva. I became the disciple of these six authorities and thoroughly learned all their presentations of Puranic wisdom. Romaharsana, a disciple of Vedavyasa, divided the Puranas into four basic compilations. The sage Kashyapa and I, along with Savarni and Akrtavrana, a disciple of Rama, learned these four divisions. O Shaunaka, please hear with attention the characteristics of a Purana, which have been defined by the most eminent learned brahmanas in accordance with Vedic literature. O brahmana, authorities on the matter understand a Purana to contain ten characteristic topics: the creation of this universe, the subsequent creation of worlds and beings, the maintenance of all living beings, their sustenance, the rule of various Manus, the dynasties of great kings, the activities of such kings, annihilation, motivation and the supreme shelter. Other scholars state that the great Puranas deal with these ten topics, while lesser Puranas may deal with five. From the agitation of the original modes within the unmanifest material nature, the mahat-tattva arises. From the mahat-tattva comes the element false ego, which divides into three aspects. This threefold false ego further manifests as the subtle forms of perception, as the senses and as the gross sense objects. The generation of all these is called creation. The secondary creation, which exists by the mercy of the Lord, is the manifest amalgamation of the desires of the living entities. Just as a seed produces additional seeds, activities that promote material desires in the performer produce moving and nonmoving life forms. Vrtti means the process of sustenance, by which the moving beings live upon the nonmoving. For a human, vrtti specifically means acting for one's livelihood in a manner suited to his personal nature. Such action may be carried out either in pursuit of selfish desire or in accordance with the law of God. In each age, the infallible Lord appears in this world among the animals, human beings, sages and demigods. By His activities in these incarnations He protects the universe and kills the enemies of Vedic culture. In each reign of Manu, six types of personalities appear as manifestations of Lord Hari: the ruling Manu, the chief demigods, the sons of Manu, Indra, the great sages and the partial incarnations of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Dynasties are lines of kings originating with Lord Brahma and extending continuously through past, present and future. The accounts of such dynasties, especially of their most prominent members, constitute the subject of dynastic history. There are four types of cosmic annihilation - occasional, elemental, continuous and ultimate - all of which are effected by the inherent poteney of the Supreme Lord. Learned scholars have designated this topic dissolution. Out of ignorance the living being performs material activities and thereby becomes in one sense the cause of the creation, maintenance and destruction of the universe. Some authorities call the living being the personality underlying the material creation, while others say he is the unmanifest self. The Supreme Absolute Truth is present throughout all the stages of awareness - waking consciousness, sleep and deep sleep - throughout all the phenomena manifested by the illusory energy, and within the functions of all living entities, and He also exists separate from all these. Thus situated in His own transcendence, He is the ultimate and unique shelter. Although a material object may assume various forms and names, its essential ingredient is always present as the basis of its existence. Similarly, both conjointly and separately, the Supreme Absolute Truth is always present with the created material body throughout its phases of existence, beginning with conception and ending with death. Either automatically or because of one's regulated spiritual practice, one's mind may stop functioning on the material platform of waking consciousness, sleep and deep sleep. Then one understands the Supreme Soul and withdraws from material endeavor. Sages expert in ancient histories have declared that the Puranas, according to their various characteristics, can be divided into eighteen major Puranas and eighteen secondary Puranas. The eighteen major Puranas are the Brahma, Padma, Visnu, Shiva, Linga, Garuda, Narada, Bhagavata, Agni, Skanda, Bhavisya, Brahma-vaivarta, Markandeya, Vamana, Varaha, Matsya, Kurma and Brahmanda Puranas. I have thoroughly described to you, O brahmana, the expansion of the branches of the Vedas by the great sage Vyasadeva, his disciples and the disciples of his disciples. One who listens to this narration will increase in spiritual strength. CHAPTER EIGHT Markandeya's Prayers to Nara-Narayana Risi Shri Shaunaka said: O Suta, may you live a long life! O saintly one, best of speakers, please continue speaking to us. Indeed, only you can show men the path out of the ignorance in which they are wandering. Authorities say that Markandeya Risi, the son of Mrkandu. was an exceptionally long-lived sage who was the only survivor at the end of Brahma's day, when the entire universe was merged in the flood of annihilation. But this same Markandeya Risi, the foremost descendant of Bhrgu, took birth in my own family during the current day of Brahma, and we have not yet seen any total annihilation in this day of Brahma. Also, it is well known that Markandeya while wandering helplessly in the great ocean of annihilation, saw in those fearful waters a wonderful personality - an infant boy lying alone within the fold of a banyan leaf. O Suta, I am most bewildered and curious about this great sage, Markandeya Risi. O great yogi, you are universally accepted as the authority on all the Puranas. Therefore kindly dispel my confusion. Suta Gosvami said: O great sage Shaunaka, your very question will help remove everyone's illusion, for it leads to the topics of Lord Narayana, which cleanse away the contamination of this Kali age. After being purified by his father's performance of the prescribed rituals leading to Markandeya's brahminical initiation, Markandeya studied the Vedic hymns and strictly observed the regulative principles. He became advanced in austerity and Vedic knowledge and remained a lifelong celibate. Appearing most peaceful with his matted hair and his clothing made of bark, he furthered his spiritual progress by carrying the mendicant's waterpot, staff, sacred thread, brahmacari belt, black deerskin, lotus-seed prayer beads and bundles of kusha grass. At the sacred junctures of the day he regularly worshiped the Supreme Personality of Godhead in five forms - the sacrificial fire, the sun, his spiritual master, the brahmanas and the Supersoul within his heart. Morning and evening he would go out begging, and upon returning he would present all the food he had collected to his spiritual master. Only when his spiritual master invited him would he silently take his one meal of the day; otherwise he would fast. Thus devoted to austerity and Vedic study, Markandeya Risi worshiped the supreme master of the senses, the Personality of Godhead, for countless millions of years, and in this way he conquered unconquerable death. Lord Brahma, Bhrgu Muni, Lord Shiva, Prajapati Daksa, the great sons of Brahma, and many others among the human beings, demigods, forefathers and ghostly spirits - all were astonished by the achievement of Markandeya Risi. In this way the devotional mystic Markandeya maintained rigid celibacy through penance, study of the Vedas and self-discipline. With his mind thus free of all disturbances, he turned it inward and meditated on the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who lies beyond the material senses. While the mystic sage thus concentrated his mind by powerful yoga practice, the tremendous period of six lifetimes of Manu passed by. O brahmana, during the seventh reign of Manu, the current age, Lord Indra came to know of Markandeya's austerities and became fearful of his growing mystic potency. Thus he tried to impede the sage's penance. To ruin the sage's spiritual practice, Lord Indra sent Cupid, beautiful celestial singers, dancing girls, the season of spring and the sandalwood- scented breeze from the Malaya Hills, along with greed and intoxication personified. O most powerful Shaunaka, they went to Markandeya's hermitage, on the northern side of the Himalaya Mountains where the Puspabhadra River passes by the famous peak Citra. Groves of pious trees decorated the holy ashrama of Markandeya Risi, and many saintly brahmanas lived there, enjoying the abundant pure, sacred ponds. The ashrama resounded with the buzzing of intoxicated bees and the cooing of excited cuckoos, while jubilant peacocks danced about. Indeed, many families of maddened birds crowded that hermitage. The springtime breeze sent by Lord Indra entered there, carrying cooling drops of spray from nearby waterfalls. Fragrant from the embrace of forest flowers, that breeze entered the hermitage and began evoking the lusty spirit of Cupid. Springtime then appeared in Markandeya's ashrama. Indeed, the evening sky, glowing with the light of the rising moon, became the very face of spring, and sprouts and fresh blossoms virtually covered the multitude of trees and creepers. Cupid, the master of many heavenly women, then came there holding his bow and arrows. He was followed by groups of Gandharvas playing musical instruments and singing. These servants of Indra found the sage sitting in meditation, having just offered his prescribed oblations into the sacrificial fire. His eyes closed in trance, he seemed invincible, like fire personified. The women danced before the sage, and the celestial singers sang to the charming accompaniment of drums, cymbals and vinas. While the son of passion [greed personified], spring and the other servants of Indra all tried to agitate Markandeya's mind, Cupid drew his five-headed arrow and fixed it upon his bow. The Apsara Punjikasthali made a show of playing with a number of toy balls. Her waist seemed weighed down by her heavy breasts, and the wreath of flowers in her hair became disheveled. As she ran about after the balls, glancing here and there, the belt of her thin garment loosened, and suddenly the wind blew her clothes away. Cupid, thinking he had conquered the sage, then shot his arrow. But all these attempts to seduce Markandeya proved futile, just like the useless endeavors of an atheist. O learned Shaunaka, while Cupid and his followers tried to harm the sage, they felt themselves being burned alive by his potency. Thus they stopped their mischief, just like children who have aroused a sleeping snake. O brahmana, the followers of Lord Indra had impudently attacked the saintly Markandeya, yet he did not succumb to any influence of false ego. For great souls such tolerance is not at all surprising. The mighty King Indra was most astonished when he heard of the mystic prowess of the exalted sage Markandeya and saw how Cupid and his associates had become powerless in his presence. Desiring to bestow His mercy upon the saintly Markandeya, who had perfectly fixed his mind in self-realization through penance, Vedic study and observance of regulative principles, the Supreme Personality of Godhead personally appeared before the sage in the forms of Nara and Narayana. One of Them was of a whitish complexion, the other blackish, and They both had four arms. Their eyes resembled the petals of blooming lotuses, and They wore garments of black deerskin and bark, along with the three-stranded sacred thread. In Their hands, which were most purifying, They carried the mendicant's waterpot, straight bamboo staff and lotus-seed prayer beads, as well as the all- purifying Vedas in the symbolic form of bundles of darbha grass. Their bearing was tall and Their yellow effulgence the color of radiant lightning. Appearing as austerity personified, They were being worshiped by the foremost demigods. These two sages, Nara and Narayana, were the direct personal forms of the Supreme Lord. When Markandeya Risi saw Them, he immediately stood up and then with great respect offered Them obeisances by falling down flat on the ground like a stick. The ecstasy of seeing Them completely satisfied Markandeya's body, mind and senses and caused the hairs on his body to stand on end and his eyes to fill with tears. Overwhelmed, Markandeya found it difficult to look at Them. Standing with his hands folded in supplication and his head bowed in humility, Markandeya felt such eagerness that he imagined he was embracing the two Lords. In a voice choked with ecstasy, he repeatedly said, 'I offer You my humble obeisances.' He gave Them sitting places and washed Their feet, and then he worshiped Them with presentations of arghya, sandalwood pulp, fragrant oils, incense and flower garlands. Markandeya Risi once again bowed down at the lotus feet of those two most worshipable sages, who were sitting at ease, ready to bestow all mercy upon him. He when addressed Them as follows. Shri Markandeya said: O Almighty Lord, how can I possibly describe You? You awaken the vital air, which then impels the mind, senses and power of speech to act. This is true for all ordinary conditioned souls and even for great demigods like Brahma and Shiva. So it is certainly true for me. Nevertheless, You become the intimate friend of those who worship You. O Supreme Personality of Godhead, these two personal forms of Yours have appeared to bestow the ultimate benefit for the three worlds - the cessation of material misery and the conquest of death. My Lord, although You create this universe and then assume many transcendental forms to protect it, You also swallow it up, just like a spider who spins and later withdraws its web. Because You are the protector and the supreme controller of all moving and nonmoving beings, anyone who takes shelter of Your lotus feet can never be touched by the contamination of material work, material qualities or time. Great sages who have assimilated the essential meaning of the Vedas offer their prayers to You. To gain Your association, they bow down to You at every opportunity and constantly worship You and meditate upon You. My dear Lord, even Lord Brahma, who enjoys his exalted position for the entire duration of the universe, fears the passage of time. Then what to speak of those whom Brahma creates, the conditioned souls. They encounter fearful dangers at every step of their lives. I do not know of any relief from this fear except shelter at Your lotus feet, which are the very form of liberation. Therefore I worship Your lotus feet, having renounced my identification with the material body and everything else that covers my true self. These useless, insubstantial and temporary coverings are merely presumed to be separate from You, whose intelligence encompasses all truth. By attaining You - the Supreme Godhead and the master of the soul - one attains everything desirable. O my Lord, O supreme friend of the conditioned soul, although for the creation, maintenance and annihilation of this world You accept the modes of goodness, passion and ignorance, which constitute Your illusory potency, You specifically employ the mode of goodness to liberate the conditioned souls. The other two modes simply bring them suffering, illusion and fear. O Lord, because fearlessness, spiritual happiness and the kingdom of God are all achieved through the mode of pure goodness, Your devotees consider this mode, but never passion and ignorance, to be a direct manifestation of You, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Intelligent persons thus worship Your beloved transcendental form, composed of pure goodness, along with the spiritual forms of Your pure devotees. I offer my humble obeisances to Him, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is the all-pervading and all-inclusive form of the universe, as well as its spiritual master. I bow down to Lord Narayana, the supremely worshipable Deity appearing as a sage, and also to the saintly Nara, the best of human beings, who is fixed in perfect goodness, fully in control of his speech, and the propagator of the Vedic literatures. A materialist, his intelligence perverted by the action of his deceptive senses, cannot recognize You at all, although You are always present within his own senses and heart and also among the objects of his perception. Yet even though one's understanding has been covered by Your illusory potency, if one obtains Vedic knowledge from You, the supreme spiritual master of all, he can directly understand You. My dear Lord, the Vedic literatures alone reveal confidential knowledge of Your supreme personality, and thus even such great scholars as Lord Brahma himself are bewildered in their attempt to understand You through empirical methods. Each philosopher understands You according to his particular speculative conclusions. I worship that Supreme Person, knowledge of whom is hidden by the bodily designations covering the conditioned soul's spiritual identity. CHAPTER NINE Markandeya Risi Sees the Illusory Potency of the Lord Suta Gosvami said: The Supreme Lord Narayana, the friend of Nara, was satisfied by the proper glorification offered by the intelligent sage Markandeya. Thus the Lord addressed that excellent descendant of Bhrgu. The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: My dear Markandeya, you are indeed the best of all learned brahmanas. You have perfected your life by practicing fixed meditation upon the Supreme Soul, as well as by focusing upon Me your undeviating devotional service, your austerities, your study of the Vedas and your strict adherence to regulative principles. We are perfectly satisfied with your practice of lifelong celibacy. Please choose whatever benediction you desire, since I can grant your wish. May you enjoy all good fortune. The sage said: O Lord of lords, all glories to You! O Lord Acyuta, You remove all distress for the devotees who surrender unto You. That you have allowed me to see You is all the benediction I want. Such demigods as Lord Brahma achieved their exalted positions simply by seeing Your beautiful lotus feet after their minds had become mature in yoga practice. And now, my Lord, You have personally appeared before me. O lotus-eyed Lord, O crest jewel of renowned personalities, although I am satisfied simply by seeing You, I do wish to see Your illusory potency, by whose influence the entire world, together with its ruling demigods, considers reality to be materially variegated. Suta Gosvami said: O wise Shaunaka, thus satisfied by Markandeya's praise and worship, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, smiling, replied, 'So be it,' and then departed for His hermitage at Badarikashrama. Thinking always of his desire to see the Lord's illusory energy, the sage remained in his ashrama, meditating constantly upon the Lord within fire, the sun, the moon, water, the earth, air, lightning and his own heart and worshiping Him with paraphernalia conceived in his mind. But sometimes, overwhelmed by waves of love for the Lord, Markandeya would forget to perform his regular worship. O brahmana Shaunaka, best of the Bhrgus, one day while Markandeya was performing his evening worship on the bank of the Puspabhadra, a great wind suddenly arose. That wind created a terrible sound and brought in its wake fearsome clouds that were accompanied by lightning and roaring thunder and that poured down on all sides torrents of rain as heavy as wagon wheels. Then the four great oceans appeared on all sides, swallowing up the surface of the earth with their wind-tossed waves. In these oceans were terrible sea monsters, fearful whirlpools and ominous rumblings. The sage saw all the inhabitants of the universe, including himself, tormented within and without by the harsh winds, the bolts of lightning, and the great waves rising beyond the sky. As the whole earth flooded, he grew perplexed and fearful. Even as Markandeya looked on, the rain pouring down from the clouds filled the ocean more and more until that great sea, its waters violently whipped into terrifying waves by hurricanes, covered up all the earth's islands, mountains and continents. The water inundated the earth, outer space, heaven and the celestial region. Indeed, the entire expanse of the universe was flooded in all directions, and out of all its inhabitants only Markandeya remained. His matted hair scattered, the great sage wandered about alone in the water as if dumb and blind. Tormented by hunger and thirst, attacked by monstrous makaras and timingila fish and battered by the wind and waves, he moved aimlessly through the infinite darkness into which he had fallen. As he grew increasingly exhausted, he lost all sense of direction and could not tell the sky from the earth. At times he was engulfed by the great whirlpools, sometimes he was beaten by the mighty waves, and at other times the aquatic monsters threatened to devour him as they attacked one another. Sometimes he felt lamentation, bewilderment, misery, happiness or fear, and at other times he experienced such terrible illness and pain that he felt himself dying. Countless millions of years passed as Markandeya wandered about in that deluge, his mind bewildered by the illusory energy of Lord Visnu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Once, while wandering in the water, the brahmana Markandeya discovered a small island, upon which stood a young banyan tree bearing blossoms and fruits. Upon a branch of the northeast portion of that tree he saw an infant boy lying within a leaf. The child's effulgence was swallowing up the darkness. The infant's dark-blue complexion was the color of a flawless emerald, His lotus face shone with a wealth of beauty, and His throat bore marks like the lines on a conchshell. He had a broad chest, a finely shaped nose, beautiful eyebrows, and lovely ears that resembled pomegranate flowers and that had inner folds like a conchshell's spirals. The corners of His eyes were reddish like the whorl of a lotus, and the effulgence of His corallike lips slightly reddened the nectarean, enchanting smile on His face. As He breathed, His splendid hair trembled and His deep navel became distorted by the moving folds of skin on His abdomen, which resembled a banyan leaf. The exalted brahmana watched with amazement as the infant took hold of one of His lotus feet with His graceful fingers, placed a toe within His mouth and began to suck. As Markandeya beheld the child, all his weariness vanished. Indeed, so great was his pleasure that the lotus of his heart, along with his lotus eyes, fully blossomed and the hairs on his body stood on end. Confused as to the identity of the wonderful infant, the sage approached Him. Just then the child inhaled, drawing Markandeya within His body like a mosquito. There the sage found the entire universe arrayed as it had been before its dissolution. Seeing this, Markandeya was most astonished and perplexed. The sage saw the entire universe: the sky, heavens and earth, the stars, mountains, oceans, great islands and continents, the expanses in every direction, the saintly and demoniac living beings, the forests, countries, rivers, cities and mines, the agricultural villages and cow pastures, and the occupational and spiritual activities of the various social divisions. He also saw the basic elements of creation along with all their by-products, as well as time itself, which regulates the progression of countless ages within the days of Brahma. In addition, he saw everything else created for use in material life. All this he saw manifested before him as if it were real. He saw before him the Himalaya Mountains, the Puspabhadra River, and his own hermitage, where he had had the audience of the sages Nara-Narayana. Then, as Markandeya beheld the entire universe, the infant exhaled, expelling the sage from His body and casting him back into the ocean of dissolution. In that vast sea he again saw the banyan tree growing on the tiny island and the infant boy lying within the leaf. The child glanced at him from the corner of His eyes with a smile imbued with the nectar of love, and Markandeya took Him into his heart through his eyes. Greatly agitated, the sage ran to embrace the transcendental Personality of Godhead. At that moment the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is the original master of all mysticism and who is hidden within everyone's heart, became invisible to the sage, just as the achievements of an incompetent person can suddenly vanish. After the Lord disappeared, O brahmana, the banyan tree, the great water and the dissolution of the universe all vanished as well, and in an instant Markandeya found himself back in his own hermitage, just as before. CHAPTER TEN Lord Shiva and Uma Glorify Markandeya Risi Suta Gosvami said: The Supreme Lord Narayana had arranged this opulent display of His bewildering potency. Markandeya Risi, having experienced it, took shelter of the Lord. Shri Markandeya said: O Lord Hari, I take shelter of the soles of Your lotus feet, which bestow fearlessness upon all who surrender to them. Even the great demigods are bewildered by Your illusory energy, which appears to them in the guise of knowledge. Suta Gosvami said: Lord Rudra, traveling in the sky on his bull and accompanied by his consort, Rudrani, as well as his personal associates, observed Markandeya in trance. Goddess Uma, seeing the sage, addressed Lord Girisha: My lord, just see this learned brahmana, his body, mind and senses motionless in trance. He is as calm as the waters of the ocean when the wind has ceased and the fish remain still. Therefore, my lord, since you bestow perfection on the performers of austerity, please award this sage the perfection that is obviously due him. Lord Shiva replied: Surely this saintly brahmana does not desire any benediction, not even liberation itself, for he has attained pure devotional service unto the inexhaustible Personality of Godhead. Still, my dear Bhavani, let us talk with this saintly personality. After all, association with saintly devotees is man's highest achievement. Suta Gosvami said: Having spoken thus, Lord Shankara - the shelter of pure souls, master of all spiritual sciences and controller of all embodied living beings - approached the sage. Because Markandeya's material mind had stopped functioning, the sage failed to notice that Lord Shiva and his wife, the controllers of the universe, had personally come to see him. Markandeya was so absorbed in meditation that he was unaware of either himself or the external world. Understanding the situation very well, the powerful Lord Shiva employed his mystic power to enter within the sky of Markandeya's heart, just as the wind passes through an opening. Shri Markandeya saw Lord Shiva suddenly appear within his heart. Lord Shiva's golden hair resembled lightning, and he had three eyes, ten arms and a tall body that shone like the rising sun. He wore a tiger skin, and he carried a trident, a bow, arrows, a sword and a shield, along with prayer beads, a damaru drum, a skull and an ax. Astonished, the sage came out of his trance and thought, 'Who is this, and where has he come from?' Opening his eyes, the sage saw Lord Rudra, the spiritual master of the three worlds, together with Uma and Rudra's followers. Markandeya then offered his respectful obeisances by bowing his head. Markandeya worshiped Lord Shiva, along with Uma and Shiva's associates, by offering them words of welcome, sitting places, water for washing their feet, scented drinking water, fragrant oils, flower garlands and arati lamps. Markandeya said: O mighty lord, what can I possibly do for you, who are fully satisfied by your own ecstasy? Indeed, by your mercy you satisfy this entire world. Again and again I offer my obeisances unto you, O all-auspicious transcendental personality. As the lord of goodness you give pleasure, in contact with the mode of passion you appear most fearful, and you also associate with the mode of ignorance. Suta Gosvami said: Lord Shiva, the foremost demigod and the shelter of the saintly devotees, was satisfied by Markandeya's praise. Pleased, he smiled and addressed the sage. Lord Shiva said: Please ask me for some benediction, since among all givers of benedictions, we three - Brahma, Visnu and I - are the best. Seeing us never goes in vain, because simply by seeing us a mortal achieves immortality. The inhabitants and ruling demigods of all planets, along with Lord Brahma, the Supreme Lord Hari and I, glorify, worship and assist those brahmanas who are saintly, always peaceful, free of material attachment, compassionate to all living beings, purely devoted to us, devoid of hatred and endowed with equal vision. These devotees do not differentiate between Lord Visnu, Lord Brahma and me, nor do they differentiate between themselves and other living beings. Therefore, because you are this kind of saintly devotee, we worship you. Mere bodies of water do not constitute holy places, nor are lifeless statues of the demigods actual worshipable deities. Because external vision fails to appreciate the higher essence of the holy rivers and the demigods, these purify only after a considerable time. But devotees like you purify immediately, just by being seen. By meditating upon the Supreme Soul, performing austerities, engaging in Vedic study and following regulative principles, the brahmanas sustain within themselves the three Vedas, which are nondifferent from Lord Visnu, Lord Brahma and me. Therefore I offer my obeisances unto the brahmanas. Even the worst sinners and social outcastes are purified just by hearing about or seeing personalities like you. Imagine, then, how purified they become by directly speaking with you. Suta Gosvami said: Drinking with his ears Lord Shiva's nectarean words, full of the confidential essence of religion, Markandeya Risi could not be satiated. Markandeya, having been forced by Lord Visnu's illusory energy to wander about for a long time in the water of dissolution, had become extremely exhausted. But Lord Shiva's words of nectar vanquished his accumulated suffering. Thus he addressed Lord Shiva. Shri Markandeya said: It is indeed most difficult for embodied souls to understand the pastimes of the universal controllers, for such lords bow down to and offer praise to the very living beings they rule. Generally it is to induce embodied souls to accept religious principles that the authorized teachers of religion exhibit ideal behavior while encouraging and praising the proper behavior of others. This apparent humility is simply a show of mercy. Such behavior of the Supreme Lord and His personal associates, which the Lord effects by His own bewildering potency, does not spoil His power any more than a magician's powers are diminished by his exhibition of tricks. I offer my obeisances to that Supreme Personality of Godhead, who has created this entire universe simply by His desire and then entered into it as the Supersoul. By making the modes of nature act, He seems to be the direct creator of this world, just as a dreamer seems to be acting within his dream. He is the owner and ultimate controller of the three modes of nature, yet He remains alone and pure, without any equal. He is the supreme spiritual master of all, the original personal form of the Absolute Truth. O all-pervading lord, since I have received the benediction of seeing you, what other benediction can I ask for? Simply by seeing you, a person fulfills all his desires and can achieve anything imaginable. But I do request one benediction from you, who are full of all perfection and able to shower down the fulfillment of all desires. I ask to have unfailing devotion for the Supreme Personality of Godhead and for His dedicated devotees, especially you. Suta Gosvami said: Thus worshiped and glorified by the eloquent statements of the sage Markandeya, Lord Sharva [Shiva], encouraged by his consort, replied to him as follows. O great sage, because you are devoted to Lord Adhoksaja, all your desires will be fulfilled. Until the very end of this creation cycle, you will enjoy pious fame and freedom from old age and death. O brahmana, may you have perfect knowledge of past, present and future, along with transcendental realization of the Supreme, enriched by renunciation. You have the brilliance of an ideal brahmana, and thus may you achieve the post of spiritual master of the Puranas. Suta Gosvami said: Having thus granted Markandeya Risi benedictions, Lord Shiva went on his way, continuing to describe to goddess Devi the accomplishments of the sage and the direct exhibition of the Lord's illusory power that he had experienced. Markandeya Risi, the best of the descendants of Bhrgu, is glorious because of his achievement of perfection in mystic yoga. Even today he travels about this world, fully absorbed in unalloyed devotion for the Supreme Personality of Godhead. I have thus narrated to you the activities of the highly intelligent sage Markandeya, especially how he experienced the amazing power of the Supreme Lord's illusory energy. Although this event was unique and unprecedented, some unintelligent persons compare it to the cycle of illusory material existence the Supreme Lord has created for the conditioned souls - an endless cycle that has been continuing since time immemorial. O best of the Bhrgus, this account concerning Markandeya Risi conveys the transcendental potency of the Supreme Lord. Anyone who properly narrates or hears it will never again undergo material existence, which is based on the desire to perform fruitive activities. CHAPTER ELEVEN Summary Description of the Mahapurusa Shri Shaunaka said: O Suta, you are the best of learned men and a great devotee of the Supreme Lord. Therefore we now inquire from you about the definitive conclusion of all tantra scriptures. All good fortune to you! Please explain to us, who are very eager to learn, the process of kriya-yoga practiced through regulated worship of the transcendental Lord, the husband of the goddess of fortune. Please also explain how the Lord's devotees conceive of His limbs, associates, weapons and ornaments in terms of particular material representations. By expertly worshiping the Supreme Lord, a mortal can attain immortality. Suta Gosvami said: Offering obeisances to my spiritual masters, I shall repeat to you the description of the opulences of Lord Visnu given in the Vedas and tantras by great authorities, beginning from lotus-born Brahma. The universal form [virat] of the Personality of Godhead includes the nine basic elements of creation, starting with the unmanifest nature, and their subsequent transformations. Once this universal form is instilled with consciousness, the three planetary systems become visible within it. This is the representation of the Supreme Lord as the universal person, in which the earth is His feet, the sky His navel, the sun His eyes, the wind His nostrils, the demigod of procreation His genitals, death His anus and the moon His mind. The heavenly planets are His head, the directions His ears, and the demigods protecting the various planets His many arms. The god of death is His eyebrows, shame His lower lip, greed His upper lip, delusion His smile, and moonshine His teeth, while the trees are the almighty Purusa's bodily hairs, and the clouds the hair on His head. Just as one can determine the dimensions of an ordinary person of this world by measuring his various limbs, one can determine the dimensions of the Mahapurusa by measuring the arrangement of the planetary systems within His universal form. Upon His chest the almighty, unborn Personality of Godhead bears the Kaustubha gem, which represents the pure spirit soul, along with the Shrivatsa mark, which is the direct manifestation of this gem's expansive effulgence. His flower garland is His material energy, comprising various combinations of the modes of nature. His yellow garment is the Vedic meters, and His sacred thread the syllable om composed of three sounds. In the form of His two shark- shaped earrings, the Lord carries the processes of Sankhya and yoga, and His crown, bestowing fearlessness on the inhabitants of all the worlds, is the supreme position of Brahmaloka. Ananta, the Lord's sitting place, is the unmanifest phase of material nature, and the Lord's lotus throne is the mode of goodness, endowed with religion and knowledge. The club the Lord carries is the chief element, prana, incorporating the potencies of sensory, mental and physical strength. His excellent conchshell is the element water, His Sudarshana disc the element fire, and His sword, pure as the sky, the element ether. His shield embodies the mode of ignorance, His bow, named Sharnga, time, and His arrow-filled quiver the working sensory organs. His arrows are said to be the senses, and His chariot is the active, forceful mind. His external appearance is the subtle objects of perception, and the gestures of His hands are the essence of all purposeful activity. The sun globe is the place where the Supreme Lord is worshiped, spiritual initiation is the means of purification for the spirit soul, and rendering devotional service to the Personality of Godhead is the process for eradicating all one's sinful reactions. Playfully carrying a lotus, which represents the various opulences designated by the word bhaga, the Supreme Lord accepts service from a pair of camara fans, which are religion and fame. O brahmanas, the Lord's umbrella is His spiritual abode, Vaikuntha, where there is no fear, and Garuda, who carries the Lord of sacrifice, is the threefold Veda. The goddess of fortune, Shri, who never leaves the Lord's side, appears with Him in this world as the representation of His internal potency. Visvaksena, the chief among His personal associates, is known to be the personification of the Pancaratra and other tantras. And the Lord's eight doorkeepers, headed by Nanda, are His mystic perfections, beginning with anima. Vasudeva, Sankarsana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha are the names of the direct personal expansions of the Supreme Godhead, O brahmana Shaunaka. One can conceive of the Supreme Personality of Godhead in terms of awakened consciousness, sleep and deep sleep - which function respectively through external objects, the mind and material intelligence - and also in terms of the fourth, transcendental level of consciousness, which is characterized by pure knowledge. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Hari, thus appears in four personal expansions, each exhibiting major limbs, minor limbs, weapons and ornaments. Through these distinct features, the Lord maintains the four phases of existence. O best of brahmanas, He alone is the self-luminous, original source of the Vedas, perfect and complete in His own glory. By His material energy He creates, destroys and maintains this entire universe. Because He is the performer of various material functions, He is sometimes described as materially divided, yet He always remains transcendentally situated in pure knowledge. Those who are dedicated to Him in devotion can realize Him to be their true Soul. O Krsna, O friend of Arjuna, O chief among the descendants of Vrsni, You are the destroyer of those political parties that are disturbing elements on this earth. Your prowess never deteriorates. You are the proprietor of the transcendental abode, and Your most sacred glories, which are sung by Vrndavana's cowherd men and women and their servants, bestow all auspiciousness just by being heard. O Lord, please protect Your devotees. Anyone who rises early in the morning and, with a purified mind fixed upon the Mahapurusa, quietly chants this description of His characteristics will realize Him as the Supreme Absolute Truth residing within the heart. Shri Shaunaka said: Please describe to us, who have great faith in your words, the different sets of seven personal features and associates the sun-god exhibits during each month, along with their names and activities. The associates of the sun-god, who serve their lord, are personal expansions of the Supreme Personality of Godhead Hari in His feature as the presiding deity of the sun. Suta Gosvami said: The sun travels among all the planets and thus regulates their movements. It has been created by Lord Visnu, the Supreme Soul of all embodied beings, through His beginningless material energy. The sun-god, being nondifferent from Lord Hari, is the one soul of all the worlds and their original creator. He is the source of all the ritualistic activities prescribed in the Vedas and has been given many names by the Vedic sages. Being the source of the material energy, the Personality of Godhead Lord Hari in His expansion as the sun-god is described in nine aspects, O Shaunaka: the time, the place, the endeavor, the performer, the instrument, the specific ritual, the scripture, the paraphernalia of worship and the result to be achieved. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, manifesting His potency of time as the sun- god, travels about in each of the twelve months, beginning with Madhu, to regulate planetary motion within the universe. Traveling with the sun-god in each of the twelve months is a different set of six associates. My dear sage, Dhata as the sun-god, Krtasthali as the Apsara, Heti as the Raksasa, Vasuki as the Naga, Rathakrt as the Yaksa, Pulastya as the sage and Tumburu as the Gandharva rule the month of Madhu. Aryama as the sun-god, Pulaha as the sage, Athauja as the Yaksa, Praheti as the Raksasa, Punjikasthali as the Apsara, Narada as the Gandharva and Kacchanira as the Naga rule the month of Madhava. Mitra as the sun-god, Atri as the sage, Pauruseya as the Raksasa, Taksaka as the Naga, Menaka as the Apsara, Haha as the Gandharva and Rathasvana as the Yaksa rule the month of Shukra. Vasistha as the sage, Varuna as the sun-god, Rambha as the Apsara, Sahajanya as the Raksasa, Huhu as the Gandharva, Shukra as the Naga and Citrasvana as the Yaksa rule the month of Shuci. Indra as the sun-god, Vishvavasu as the Gandharva, Shrota as the Yaksa, Elapatra as the Naga, Angira as the sage, Pramloca as the Apsara and Varya as the Raksasa rule the month of Nabhas. Vivasvan as the sun-god, Ugrasena as the Gandharva, Vyaghra as the Raksasa, Asarana as the Yaksa, Bhrgu as the sage, Anumloca as the Apsara and Shankhapala as the Naga rule the month of Nabhasya. Pusa as the sun-god, Dhananjaya as the Naga, Vata as the Raksasa, Susena as the Gandharva, Suruci as the Yaksa, Ghrtaci as the Apsara and Gautama as the sage rule the month of Tapas. Ritu as the Yaksa, Varca as the Raksasa, Bharadvaja as the sage, Parjanya as the sun-god, Senajit as the Apsara, Vishva as the Gandharva and Airavata as the Naga rule the month known as Tapasya. Amshu as the sun-god, Kashyapa as the sage, Tarksya as the Yaksa, Ritasena as the Gandharva, Urvashi as the Apsara, Vidyucchatru as the Raksasa and Mahashankha as the Naga rule the month of Sahas. Bhaga as the sun-god, Sphurja as the Raksasa, Aristanemi as the Gandharva, Urna as the Yaksa, Ayur as the sage, Karkotaka as the Naga and Purvacitti as the Apsara rule the month of Pusya. Tvasta as the sun-god; Jamadagni, the son of Ricika, as the sage; Kambalashva as the Naga; Tilottama as the Apsara; Brahmapeta as the Raksasa; Shatajit as the Yaksa; and Dhrtarastra as the Gandharva maintain the month of Isa. Visnu as the sun-god, Ashvatara as the Naga, Rambha as the Apsara, Suryavarca as the Gandharva, Satyajit as the Yaksa, Vishvamitra as the sage and Makhapeta as the Raksasa rule the month of Urja. All these personalities are the opulent expansions of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Visnu, in the form of the sun-god. These deities take away all the sinful reactions of those who remember them each day at dawn and sunset. Thus, throughout the twelve months, the lord of the sun travels in all directions with his six types of associates, disseminating among the inhabitants of this universe purity of consciousness for both this life and the next. While the sages glorify the sun-god with the hymns of the Sama, Rig and Yajur Vedas, which reveal his identity, the Gandharvas also sing his praises and the Apsaras dance before his chariot. The Nagas arrange the chariot ropes and the Yaksas harness the horses to the chariot, while the powerful Raksasas push from behind. Facing the chariot, the sixty thousand brahmana sages known as Valakhilyas travel in front and offer prayers to the almighty sun-god with Vedic mantras. For the protection of all the worlds, the Supreme Personality of Godhead Hari, who is unborn and without beginning or end, thus expands Himself during each day of Brahma into these specific categories of His personal representations. CHAPTER TWELVE The Topics of Shrimad-Bhagavatam Summarized Suta Gosvami said: Offering my obeisances to the supreme religious principle, devotional service; to Lord Krsna, the supreme creator; and to all the brahmanas, I shall now describe the eternal principles of religion. O great sages, I have narrated to you the wonderful pastimes of Lord Visnu, as you inquired about them from me. Hearing such narrations is the suitable engagement for a person who is actually a human being. This literature fully glorifies the Supreme Personality of Godhead Hari, who removes all His devotees' sinful reactions. The Lord is glorified as Narayana, Hrsikesha and the Lord of the Satvatas. This literature describes the mystery of the Supreme Absolute Truth, the source of the creation and annihilation of this universe. Also presented are divine knowledge of Him together with the process of its cultivation, and the transcendental realization one achieves. The following topics are also narrated: the process of devotional service together with its subsidiary feature of renunciation, and the histories of Maharaja Pariksit and the sage Narada. Also described are saintly King Pariksit's sitting down to fast until death in response to the curse of a brahmana's son, and the conversations between Pariksit and Shukadeva Gosvami, who is the best of all brahmanas. The Bhagavatam explains how one can attain liberation at the time of death by practicing fixed meditation in yoga. It also contains a discussion between Narada and Brahma, an enumeration of the incarnations of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and a description of how the universe was created in progressive sequence, beginning from the unmanifest stage of material nature. This scripture also relates the discussions Vidura had with Uddhava and with Maitreya, inquiries about the subject matter of this Purana, and the winding up of creation within the body of the Supreme Lord at the time of annihilation. The creation effected by the agitation of the modes of material nature, the seven stages of evolution by elemental transformation, and the construction of the universal egg, from which arises the universal form of the Supreme Lord - all these are thoroughly described. Other topics include the subtle and gross movements of time, the generation of the lotus from the navel of Garbhodakashayi Visnu, and the killing of the demon Hiranyaksa when the earth was delivered from the Garbhodaka Ocean. The Bhagavatam also describes the creation of demigods, animals and demoniac species of life; the birth of Lord Rudra; and the appearance of Svayambhuva Manu from the half-man, half-woman Ishvara. Also related are the appearance of the first woman, Shatarupa, who was the excellent consort of Manu, and the offspring of the pious wives of Prajapati Kardama. The Bhagavatam describes the incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead as the exalted sage Kapila and records the conversation between that greatly learned soul and His mother, Devahuti. Also described are the progeny of the nine great brahmanas, the destruction of Daksa's sacrifice, and the history of Dhruva Maharaja, followed by the histories of King Prthu and King Pracinabarhi, the discussion between Pracinabarhi and Narada, and the life of Maharaja Priyavrata. Then, O brahmanas, the Bhagavatam tells of the character and activities of King Nabhi, Lord Risabha and King Bharata. The Bhagavatam gives an elaborate description of the earth's continents, regions, oceans, mountains and rivers. Also described are the arrangement of the celestial sphere and the conditions found in the subterranean regions and in hell. The rebirth of Prajapati Daksa as the son of the Pracetas, and the progeny of Daksa's daughters, who initiated the races of demigods, demons, human beings, animals, serpents, birds and so on - all this is described. O brahmanas, also recounted are the births and deaths of Vrtrasura and of Diti's sons Hiranyaksa and Hiranyakashipu, as well as the history of the greatest of Diti's descendants, the exalted soul Prahlada. The reign of each Manu, the liberation of Gajendra, and the special incarnations of Lord Visnu in each manv-antara, such as Lord Hayashirsa, are described as well. The Bhagavatam also tells of the appearances of the Lord of the universe as Kurma, Matsya, Narasimha and Vamana, and of the demigods' churning of the milk ocean to obtain nectar. An account of the great battle fought between the demigods and the demons, a systematic description of the dynasties of various kings, and narrations concerning Iksvaku's birth, his dynasty and the dynasty of the pious Sudyumna - all are presented within this literature. Also related are the histories of Ila and Tara, and the description of the descendants of the sun-god, including such kings as Shashada and Nrga. The histories of Sukanya, Sharyati, the intelligent Kakutstha, Khatvanga, Mandhata, Saubhari and Sagara are narrated. The Bhagavatam narrates the sanctifying pastimes of Lord Ramacandra, the King of Kosala, and also explains how King Nimi abandoned his material body. The appearance of the descendants of King Janaka is also mentioned. The Shrimad-Bhagavatam describes how Lord Parashurama, the greatest descendant of Bhrgu, annihilated all the ksatriyas on the face of the earth. It further recounts the lives of glorious kings who appeared in the dynasty of the moon-god - kings such as Aila, Yayati, Nahusa, Dusmanta's son Bharata, Shantanu and Shantanu's son Bhisma. Also described is the great dynasty founded by King Yadu, the eldest son of Yayati. How Shri Krsna, the Supreme personality of Godhead and Lord of the universe, descended into this Yadu dynasty, how He took birth in the home of Vasudeva, and how He then grew up in Gokula - all this is described in detail. Also glorified are the innumerable pastimes of Shri Krsna, the enemy of the demons, including His childhood pastimes of sucking out Putana's life air along with her breast-milk, breaking the cart, trampling down Trnavarta, killing Bakasura, Vatsasura and Aghasura, and the pastimes He enacted when Lord Brahma hid His calves and cowherd boyfriends in a cave. The Shrimad-Bhagavatam tells how Lord Krsna and Lord Balarama killed the demon Dhenukasura and his companions, how Lord Balarama destroyed Pralambasura, and also how Krsna saved the cowherd boys from a raging forest fire that had encircled them. The chastisement of the serpent Kaliya; the rescue of Nanda Maharaja from a great snake; the severe vows performed by the young gopis, who thus satisfied Lord Krsna; the mercy He showed the wives of the Vedic brahmanas, who felt remorse; the lifting of Govardhana Hill followed by the worship and bathing ceremony performed by Indra and the Surabhi cow; Lord Krsna's nocturnal pastimes with the cowherd girls; and the killing of the foolish demons Shankhacuda, Arista and Keshi - all these pastimes are elaborately recounted. The Bhagavatam describes the arrival of Akrura, the subsequent departure of Krsna and Balarama, the lamentation of the gopis and the touring of Mathura. Also narrated are how Krsna and Balarama killed the elephant Kuvalayapida, the wrestlers Mustika and Canura, and Kamsa and other demons, as well as how Krsna brought back the dead son of His spiritual master, Sandipani Muni. Then, O brahmanas, this scripture recounts how Lord Hari, while residing in Mathura in the company of Uddhava and Balarama, performed pastimes for the satisfaction of the Yadu dynasty. Also described are the annihilation of each of the many armies brought by Jarasandha, the killing of the barbarian king Kalayavana and the establishment of Dvaraka City. This work also describes how Lord Krsna brought from heaven the parijata tree and the Sudharma assembly hall, and how He kidnapped Rukmini by defeating all His rivals in battle. Also narrated are how Lord Krsna, in the battle with Banasura, defeated Lord Shiva by making him yawn, how the Lord cut off Banasura's arms, and how He killed the master of Pragjyotisapura and then rescued the young princesses held captive in that city. There are descriptions of the powers and the deaths of the King of Cedi, Paundraka, Shalva, the foolish Dantavakra, Shambara, Dvivida, Pitha, Mura, Pancajana and other demons, along with a description of how Varanasi was burned to the ground. The Bhagavatam also recounts how Lord Krsna relieved the earth's burden by engaging the Pandavas in the Battle of Kuruksetra. How the Lord withdrew His own dynasty on the pretext of the brahmanas' curse; Vasudeva's conversation with Narada; the extraordinary conversation between Uddhava and Krsna, which reveals the science of the self in complete detail and elucidates the religious principles of human society; and then how Lord Krsna gave up this mortal world by His own mystic power - the Bhagavatam narrates all these events. This work also describes people's characteristics and behavior in the different ages, the chaos men experience in the age of Kali, the four kinds of annihilation and the three kinds of creation. There are also an account of the passing away of the wise and saintly King Visnurata [Pariksit], an explanation of how Shrila Vyasadeva disseminated the branches of the Vedas, a pious narration concerning Markandeya Risi, and a description of the detailed arrangement of the Lord's universal form and His form as the sun, the soul of the universe. Thus, O best of the brahmanas, I have explained herein what you have inquired from me. This literature has glorified in full detail the activities of the Lord's pastime incarnations. If when falling, slipping, feeling pain or sneezing one involuntarily cries out in a loud voice, 'Obeisances to Lord Hari!' one will be automatically freed from all his sinful reactions. When people properly glorify the Supreme Personality of Godhead or simply hear about His power, the Lord personally enters their hearts and cleanses away every trace of misfortune, just as the sun removes the darkness or as a powerful wind drives away the clouds. Words that do not describe the transcendental Personality of Godhead but instead deal with temporary matters are simply false and useless. Only those words that manifest the transcendental qualities of the Supreme Lord are actually truthful, auspicious and pious. Those words describing the glories of the all-famous Personality of Godhead are attractive, relishable and ever fresh. Indeed, such words are a perpetual festival for the mind, and they dry up the ocean of misery. Those words that do not describe the glories of the Lord, who alone can sanctify the atmosphere of the whole universe, are considered to be like unto a place of pilgrimage for crows, and are never resorted to by those situated in transcendental knowledge. The pure and saintly devotees take interest only in topics glorifying the infallible Supreme Lord. On the other hand, that literature which is full of descriptions of the transcendental glories of the name, fame, forms, pastimes and so on of the unlimited Supreme Lord is a different creation, full of transcendental words directed toward bringing about a revolution in the impious lives of this world's misdirected civilization. Such transcendental literatures, even though imperfectly composed, are heard, sung and accepted by purified men who are thoroughly honest. Knowledge of self-realization, even though free from all material affinity, does not look well if devoid of a conception of the Infallible [God]. What, then, is the use of even the most properly performed fruitive activities, which are naturally painful from the very beginning and transient by nature, if they are not utilized for the devotional service of the Lord? The great endeavor one undergoes in executing the ordinary social and religious duties of the varnashrama system, in performing austerities, and in hearing from the Vedas culminates only in the achievement of mundane fame and opulence. But by respecting and attentively hearing the recitation of the transcendental qualities of the Supreme Lord, the husband of the goddess of fortune, one can remember His lotus feet. Remembrance of Lord Krsna's lotus feet destroys everything inauspicious and awards the greatest good fortune. It purifies the heart and bestows devotion for the Supreme Soul, along with knowledge enriched with realization and renunciation. O most eminent of brahmanas, you are all indeed extremely fortunate, since you have already placed within your hearts Lord Shri Narayana - the Personality of Godhead, the supreme controller and the ultimate Soul of all existence - beyond whom there is no other god. You have undeviating love for Him, and thus I request you to worship Him. I also have now been fully reminded of the science of God, which I previously heard from the mouth of the great sage Shukadeva Gosvami. I was present in the assembly of great sages who heard him speak to King Pariksit as the monarch sat fasting until death. O brahmanas, I have thus described to you the glories of the Supreme Lord Vasudeva, whose extraordinary activities are most worthy of glorification. This narration destroys all that is inauspicious. One who with undeviating attention constantly recites this literature at every moment of every hour, as well as one who faithfully hears even one verse or half a verse or a single line or even half a line, certainly purifies his very self. One who hears this Bhagavatam on the Ekadashi or Dvadashi day is assured of long life, and one who recites it with careful attention while fasting is purified of all sinful reactions. One who controls his mind, fasts at the holy places Puskara, Mathura or Dvaraka, and studies this scripture will be freed from all fear. Upon the person who glorifies this Purana by chanting or hearing it, the demigods, sages, Siddhas, Pitas, Manus and kings of the earth bestow all desirable things. By studying this Bhagavatam, a brahmana can enjoy the same rivers of honey, ghee and milk he enjoys by studying the hymns of the Rig, Yajur and Sama Vedas. A brahmana who diligently reads this essential compilation of all the Puranas will go to the supreme destination, which the Supreme Lord Himself has herein described. A brahmana who studies the Shrimad-Bhagavatam achieves firm intelligence in devotional service, a king who studies it gains sovereignty over the earth, a vaishya acquires great treasure and a shudra is freed from sinful reactions. Lord Hari, the supreme controller of all beings, annihilates the accumulated sins of the Kali age, yet other literatures do not constantly glorify Him. But that Supreme Personality of Godhead, appearing in His innumerable personal expansions, is abundantly and constantly described throughout the various narrations of this Shrimad-Bhagavatam. I bow down to that unborn and infinite Supreme Soul, whose personal energies effect the creation, maintenance and destruction of the material universe. Even Brahma, Indra, Shankara and the other lords of the heavenly planets cannot fathom the glories of that infallible Personality of Godhead. I offer my obeisances to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is the eternal Lord and the leader of all other deities, who by evolving His nine material energies has arranged within Himself the abode of all moving and nonmoving creatures, and who is always situated in pure, transcendental consciousness. Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto my spiritual master, the son of Vyasadeva, Shukadeva Gosvami. It is he who defeats all inauspicious things within this universe. Although in the beginning he was absorbed in the happiness of Brahman realization and was living in a secluded place, giving up all other types of consciousness, he became attracted by the pleasing, most melodious pastimes of Lord Shri Krsna. He therefore mercifully spoke this supreme Purana, Shrimad-Bhagavatam, which is the bright light of the Absolute Truth and which describes the activities of the Lord. CHAPTER THIRTEEN The Glories of Shrimad-Bhagavatam Suta Gosvami said: Unto that personality whom Brahma, Varuna, Indra, Rudra and the Maruts praise by chanting transcendental hymns and reciting the Vedas with all their corollaries, pada-kramas and Upanisads, to whom the chanters of the Sama Veda always sing, whom the perfected yogis see within their minds after fixing themselves in trance and absorbing themselves within Him, and whose limit can never be found by any demigod or demon - unto that Supreme Personality of Godhead I offer my humble obeisances. When the Supreme Personality of Godhead appeared as Lord Kurma, a tortoise, His back was scratched by the sharp-edged stones lying on massive, whirling Mount Mandara, and this scratching made the Lord sleepy. May you all be protected by the winds caused by the Lord's breathing in this sleepy condition. Ever since that time, even up to the present day, the ocean tides have imitated the Lord's inhalation and exhalation by piously coming in and going out. Now please hear a summation of the verse length of each of the Puranas. Then hear of the prime subject and purpose of this Bhagavata Purana, the proper method of giving it as a gift, the glories of such gift-giving, and finally the glories of hearing and chanting this literature. The Brahma Purana consists of ten thousand verses, the Padma Purana of fifty- five thousand, Shri Visnu Purana of twenty-three thousand, the Shiva Purana of twenty-four thousand and Shrimad-Bhagavatam of eighteen thousand. The Narada Purana has twenty-five thousand verses, the Markandeya Purana nine thousand, the Agni Purana fifteen thousand four hundred, the Bhavisya Purana fourteen thousand five hundred, the Brahma-vaivarta Purana eighteen thousand and the Linga Purana eleven thousand. The Varaha Purana contains twenty-four thousand verses, the Skanda Purana eighty-one thousand one hundred, the Vamana Purana ten thousand, the Kurma Purana seventeen thousand, the Matsya Purana fourteen thousand, the Garuda Purana nineteen thousand and the Brahmanda Purana twelve thousand. Thus the total number of verses in all the Puranas is four hundred thousand. Eighteen thousand of these, once again, belong to the beautiful Bhagavatam. It was to Lord Brahma that the Supreme Personality of Godhead first revealed the Shrimad-Bhagavatam in full. At the time, Brahma, frightened by material existence, was sitting on the lotus flower that had grown from the Lord's navel. From beginning to end, the Shrimad-Bhagavatam is full of narrations that encourage renunciation of material life, as well as nectarean accounts of Lord Hari's transcendental pastimes, which give ecstasy to the saintly devotees and demigods. This Bhagavatam is the essence of all Vedanta philosophy because its subject matter is the Absolute Truth, which, while nondifferent from the spirit soul, is the ultimate reality, one without a second. The goal of this literature is exclusive devotional service unto that Supreme Truth. If on the full moon day of the month of Bhadra one places Shrimad-Bhagavatam on a golden throne and gives it as a gift, he will attain the supreme transcendental destination. All other Puranic scriptures shine forth in the assembly of saintly devotees only as long as that great ocean of nectar, Shrimad-Bhagavatam, is not heard. Shrimad-Bhagavatam is declared to be the essence of all Vedanta philosophy. One who has felt satisfaction from its nectarean mellow will never be attracted to any other literature. Just as the Ganga is the greatest of all rivers, Lord Acyuta the supreme among deities and Lord Shambhu [Shiva] the greatest of Vaisnavas, so Shrimad- Bhagavatam is the greatest of all Puranas. O brahmanas, in the same way that the city of Kashi is unexcelled among holy places, Shrimad-Bhagavatam is supreme among all the Puranas. Shrimad-Bhagavatam is the spotless Purana. It is most dear to the Vaisnavas because it describes the pure and supreme knowledge of the paramahamsas. This Bhagavatam reveals the means for becoming free from all material work, together with the processes of transcendental knowledge, renunciation and devotion. Anyone who seriously tries to understand Shrimad-Bhagavatam, who properly hears and chants it with devotion, becomes completely liberated. I meditate upon that pure and spotless Supreme Absolute Truth, who is free from suffering and death and who in the beginning personally revealed this incomparable torchlight of knowledge to Brahma. Brahma then spoke it to the sage Narada, who narrated it to Krsna-dvaipayana Vyasa. Shrila Vyasa revealed this Bhagavatam to the greatest of sages, Shukadeva Gosvami, and Shukadeva mercifully spoke it to Maharaja Pariksit. We offer our obeisances to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Vasudeva, the all-pervading witness, who mercifully explained this science to Brahma when he anxiously desired salvation. I offer my humble obeisances to Shri Shukadeva Gosvami, the best of mystic sages and a personal manifestation of the Absolute Truth. He saved Maharaja Pariksit, who was bitten by the snake of material existence. O Lord of lords, O master, please grant us pure devotional service at Your lotus feet, life after life. I offer my respectful obeisances unto the Supreme Lord, Hari, the congregational chanting of whose holy names destroys all sinful reactions, and the offering of obeisances unto whom relieves all material suffering.