DiscoverThe Essence of the Srimad Bhagavata Purana
The Essence of the Srimad Bhagavata Purana
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The Essence of the Srimad Bhagavata Purana

Author: Vedanta Society, San Francisco

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This podcast contains discourses on the Srimad Bhagavata Purana by Swami Tattwamayananda.

The Srimad Bhagavata Purana is as sacred as the Bhagavad Gita, as authentic as the Vedas, and as metaphysically deep as the Upanishads. Its author is Vyasa. It is presented in 12 skandas.

It is given in answer to the question, “what should a dying man do?” The answer is to die with God’s name on your lips and God’s form in your heart. Containing innumerable classic devotional stories, dialogues, and characters, the Srimad Bhagavata Purana illustrates in an unforgettable way exactly how to do that.

Lectures and Topics:

1. Three lectures delivered January 24-26, 2016 at the Jain Temple in Milpitas, CA. The topic is the Dialogue between King Nimi and the Nine Yogis.

2. The first three out of four lectures delivered August 23 - 25, 2019 at the Ramakrishna Vedanta Society of North Texas. The topic was Srimad Bhagavatam - A Blend of Knowledge and Devotion.

Speaker’s Introduction:

Swami Tattwamayananda, currently the Minister of the Vedanta Society of Northern California, San Francisco, (originally founded by Swami Vivekananda in 1900) served in various centers of the Ramakrishna Order in India as editor, publisher, and teacher of Sanskrit, Advaitic texts such as Sri Shankaracharya's commentaries on the 'Prasthanatraya' (the fundamental Sanskrit texts of Vedanta philosophy), Buddhism and Indian philosophy. He underwent traditional training in Hindu scriptures, Sanskrit, Vedic and Vedantic literature for many years, from his early days. Before coming to the United States in January 2012 he was teaching Sanskrit, Vedantic scriptures and Indian philosophy at the Training center in Belur Math, the institution that trains the monks of the Ramakrishna Order at the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Mission, Kolkata, India. Apart from his traditional education, the Swami has also received modern University education in English literature, psychology, European history, and Western philosophy. He is frequently invited for lectures on Yoga, Vedanta, and traditional Hindu scriptures and for participating in interfaith dialogues.

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All Original Content © Vedanta Society of Northern California
3 Episodes
-The Srimad Bhagavata Purana is as sacred as the Bhagavad Gita, as authentic as the Vedas themselves, and as metaphysically deep as the Upanishads. -Vyasa says that the Vedas (shruti) take precedence over the Smrti, which in turn take precedence over the Puranas such as the Srimad Bhagavata Purana. -The Bhagavatam teaches transcendental values. What should we do after we have obtained enough wealth and enjoyment? A noble-hearted person will seek for something higher. Narada asked Vyasa to write the Bhagavatam to explain this.-King Parikshit, an ideal ruler, had only 7 days to live so asked a sage, “What should a dying man do?” One should be able to die with the form of God in our heart. The whole Bhagavatam is narrated as a response to this question.-Highest devotee of God feels the presence of God in all beings (immanence) and everything is in God (omnipresent)-The permanent residential address of God is the heart of a pure unselfish person.-The episode of King Nimi and the nine yogis comes in the 11th skanda of the Bhagavatam. Nine questions are asked to nine sages and the dialogue constitutes the essence of the Bhagavata Purana.-Question 1) Please teach me about the Bhagavata Dharma. -Kavi explains Bhagavata Dharma vs. Dharma-Link all actions to a spiritual reality.-This gets rid of fear, of divine discontentment.-Lord Krishna also tells Arjuna to never fear because all good actions will carry one forward in the next life.-Spiritualize the secular, do not secularize the spiritual.-Seeing God everywhere means there is no fear because there is oneness everywhere. -When we forget our true nature (avarana shakti), we inevitability think of ourselves as a physical/mental body and there is no end to problems. -At the highest level of Bhakti, you get the same experience as Advaita. –Question 2) What are the characteristics of a Bhagavatam (devotee)?-Hari answers that the highest devotee sees God in everything and everything in God. There is an identity between God and the creation. -At the experience level, it is the same as Advaita. Shankaracharya says Advaitins have no quarrel with anybody!-It is a distant goal, but just as in the Sthitaprajna sections of the Bhagavad Gita, we can practice these characteristics to evolve.-At the middle (Madhyama) stage, we practice prema, maitri, kripa, upeksha.-Maitri means living in the company of people who are on the spiritual path. This association is a highly effective way to reinforce our spiritual life.-Prema means having love for God.-Kripa means helping those good people who are less knowledgeable about spirituality and who want to progress.-Upeksha means remaining indifferent and at a long distance from those who may harm your interest in spiritual life. You need an inner filtering mechanism.-At the middle stage, we can learn to harmonize the need for God's grace and self-effort. A farmer needs to clear the weeds and grass (self-effort) before the rain (God's grace) will be of help. Similarly, we achieve grace-worthiness through self-effort. We are able to understand the usefulness of God's grace. Through this, we develop an inner filtering mechanism and evolve in the Madhyama stage.
-As we evolve in spiritual life, the direction is from the gross to the subtle, from the many to one, and from mechanical rituals to inner experience. In answer to the second question, the three stages in the evolution of a devotee are explained.-In Vedanta, God and creation are realized to be one. -A spiritual seeker is able to have the insight that all happy and unhappy experiences will change and make use of this insight while working and living life. -In the 12th Chapter of the Bhagavad Gita it is said that a devotee of God will have santushta, a deep unshakeable transcendental joy.-From a devotional standpoint, creation can be explained as the play of the lord. There is no definite reason for it, so it is not tiring. -Question 3) Why should the perfect Brahman become the imperfect universe? How can we explain Maya?-Maya is explained as Ma (negation) and Ya (pronoun indicating something). It is a something that exists in the relative sense but that does not exist in the Absolute sense.-Shankaracharya’s Vivekachudamani says it is beyond all explanation and a great mystery. We can ask why for many relative entities but can we ever answer the question of why for the entirety of creation? A person of spiritual insight is not deluded by this.-A person who is not able to see through Maya has a constant feeling of need to acquire and achieve, and is stuck in Samsara. -Question 4) How do we get out of this Maya?-The experience of a real devotee is that every moment is a celebration and auspicious. We gain a higher spiritual bliss. We can get this only by seeing the limitation of all worldly experience. It is not a life-negating philosophy.-In order to achieve para-bhakti, the mind should instinctively go towards God. -Svadhyaya, sravana, manana, nididhyasana are all important practices. -The Chandogya upanishad’s illustration of a man trying to reach his destination is given.-A seeker should 1) Make effort to get to the truth to obtain fitness to obtain God’s grace. 2) Meet a teacher and sincerely listen to his instructions about the route. 3) Remain steadfast in following the instructions and not get distracted.-The meaning of taking refuge in God is also explained. We can become an instrument in the hands of God. -We can link our mind to God by developing an intimate relationship. The 12th chapter of the Bhagavad Gita explains the stages in this practice.
-Question 4) How do we transcend Maya?-Any spiritual person may be a teacher. The sincerity of the disciple makes all of the difference.-The story of Nachiketa in the Katha Upanishad is used to explain the evolution of spiritual life.-The conflict between the mind and the intellect needs to be transcended. False justifications and procrastination in spiritual life can be overcome by accumulating good samskaras by performing good actions and taking good food through all of the senses and the body.-One should have great respect for your own tradition but do not unnecessarily run down other traditions.-Being admired transfers your merit to others. -A person who is feeling the constant presence of God creates transcendental joy in him and those around him. -The mind automatically flows towards God when one obtains Prema-bhakti.-Question 5) What is the nature of God, Narayana?-The language of experience is silence. God is beyond the five methods of verbalization: referring to something obvious, description by characteristic, description by function, categorization, and relation.-Scriptures and programs help us to become spiritually fit to understand that which is beyond words. -Mandukya Prakriya: the unchanging witness in the three states - waking, dreaming, deep sleep. -At the experience level, the highest devotion (bhakti) and knowledge (jnana) are the same according to the Bhagavata Purana as well as Shankaracharya in the Bhagavad Gita Bhasya. -The relation between the Shunya of Nagarjuna and Brahman of Shankaracharya is explained.-Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi gives two teachings in different contexts: 1) Work hard in spiritual life. (Self-effort) 2) God is not something you can purchase in the market. (God’s grace)-We should take the first step. The mind will evolve when we take the first step. A complete roadmap is not possible and not needed before we take the first step.
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