Bhakti Sandarbha 254-256 : Hearing Lila
Two Types Of Līlā
किं बहुना, एतदर्थमेवास्य महापुराणाविर्भाव इति "भवतानुदितप्रायं यशो भगवतोऽमलम्" (भा. १.५.८) इत्यादौ, "समाधिनानुस्मर तद्विचेष्टितम्" (भा. १.५.१६) इत्यादौ च वर्णितम्।
What more can be said about the greatness of hearing Bhagavān's pastimes? The Mahāpurāṇa, known as Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, was manifested solely for this purpose, as explained earlier in verses such as these:
O Vyāsa, for the most part you have not described the pure fame of Bhagavān. I consider that knowledge to be incomplete which does not satisfy Bhagavān. (SB 1.5.8)
O greatly blessed sage, your vision is flawless, your fame is pure; you are dedicated to truth and established in vows. Therefore, in order to liberate all living beings from bondage, you should meditate on the pastimes of Bhagavān in trance, and then describe those pastimes. (SB 1.5.13)
The pastimes of Bhagavān are of two types—those which relate to the activities of creation, and those that consist of pure pleasure, being the expressions of those avatāras who descend simply for the sake of play. Out of these two, the second type is superior, as Brahmā told Śrī Nārada:
लीलावतारान् पुरुषस्य भूम्नः।
अनुक्रमिष्ये त इमान् सुपेशान्॥
O sage, scriptures primarily describe the līlāvatāras of the Supreme Person, which remove the defects of hearing mundane topics. I will describe these avatāras to you in order. Please drink the nectar of these beautiful topics. (SB 2.6.46)यद्यपि पूर्वम् "आद्योऽवतारः पुरुषः परस्य" (भा. २.६.४२) इत्यादिग्रन्थेन पुरुषं कालादितच्छक्तिं मनआदितत्कार्यं, ब्रह्मादितद्गुणावतारान्, दक्षादितत्तद्विभूतींश्चोक्तवान् अस्मि, तेन च सृष्ट्यादिलीलाः, तथापि यान् हे ऋषे पुरुषस्य भूम्नो लीलावतारान् प्राधान्येन आमनन्ति, तान् एव इमान् मम हृदयाधिरूढान् कर्णकषायशोषान् तदितरश्रवणरागहन्तॄन्। किं च, सुपेशान् परममनोहरान् अनुक्रमिष्ये। तदनुक्रमेण आ सम्यक् पीयताम्॥
Earlier in the same chapter, beginning with verse 2.6.42, Brahmā spoke about the original Supreme Bhagavān’s first avatāra, who initiates the creation, His energies, such as time; the by-products of creation, such as the mind; Bhagavān’s avatāras, such as Brahmā, who oversee the workings of the material guṇas: and beings empowered with specific potencies to assist in the unfolding of creation, such as Dakṣa. Through all of this, Brahmā related the pastimes of Bhagavān connected with creation. Yet in contrast to this, Brahmā declares to the sage Nārada in the verse quoted above that he will describe the līlāvatāras of the Supreme Person, which are the primary subject of scripture: which are directly perceived by him, being established in his heart: which drain all poison from the ear, thus destroying all interest in hearing other topics: and moreover, which are supremely captivating. Brahmā says, “Drink deeply the descriptions of these līlāvataras in the order I shall describe.”
Commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji Maharaj
Out of the two types of līlās of Bhagavān, that of a līlāvatāra is superior because it is more attractive to the mind. The reason for this is that these līlās depict the love and compassion of Bhagavān towards His devotees. The mind becomes more absorbed in hearing such narrations and thus one loses interest in hearing mundane topics, which are compared to poison. Brahmā is more eager to recite these pastimes because they have captivated his heart. These pastimes are pleasing to both the speaker and the audience. Śrī Śukadeva says that they purify the one who speaks them, the one who inquires about them and the one who listens to them (10.1.16).
Hearing the Pastimes of Līlāvatāras is Most Potent
"एवं दुरवगमात्मतत्त्वनिगमाय" (भा. १०.८७.१७) इत्यादौ वेदस्तुतावपि तच्छ्लाघा द्रष्टव्या। अत एव प्रथमे भावयत्येषः (भा. १.२.३३) इत्यादौ, "लीलावतारानुरतः" (भा. १.२.३३) इति तद्विशेषणं दत्तम्।
Praise of Bhagavān’s pastimes can also be found in the prayers of the personified Vedas, as in this statement:
O Bhagavān, you manifest various forms in order to reveal the truth about Yourself, which is very difficult to fathom. Your stories are a great ocean of nectar, and those who dive into that ocean are relieved of all fatigue. Having abandoned their homes due to association with the swan-like devotees who relish Your lotus feet, they do not yearn even for liberation. (SB 10.87.21)
Bhagavān, the sustainer of all planets, accepting pastime avatāras among the gods, animals, and humans, maintains all living beings by the quality of goodness. (SB 1.2.33)
तथा च श्रीभगवद्गीतासु (गीता ४.९) —
त्यक्त्वा देहं पुनर्जन्म नैति मामेति सोऽर्जुन॥ इति।
Praise of Bhagavān’s pastimes is also found in the Gītā:
O Arjuna, My birth and activities are divine. He who knows them in reality is not reborn after giving up the body, but comes to Me. (Gītā 4.9)
एषा खलु मर्त्यशरीरमपि पार्षदभावेन जितमृत्युकं विदधाति। यदाह (भा. ३.१४.५६-५७)—
The pastimes of Bhagavān enable even the mortal body to conquer over death, by adopting the mood of the eternal associates of Bhagavān, as Śrī Maitreya said:
यत् त्वं पृच्छसि मर्त्यानां मृत्युपाशविशातनीम्॥
ययोत्तानपदः पुत्रो मुनिना गीतयार्भकः।
मृत्योः कृत्वैव मूर्ध्न्यङ्घ्रिमारुरोह हरेः पदम्॥
O hero, your question is apt because you are asking about the stories of the avatāras of Bhagavān Hari, which slit the noose of death of mortal beings. By hearing the stories of Bhagavān sung by the sage, the child Dhruva, son of King Uttānapada, extended his foot upon the head of death and ascended to the abode of Bhagavān Hari. (SB 3.14.5-6)मुनिना श्रीनारदेन। अतस्तेन भगवदवतारकथापि तं प्रति श्रावितास्तीति गम्यते। तेन शरीरेणैव मृत्युजयः पार्षदत्वं चोक्तम् (भा. ४.१२.२९) —
“By the sage" is a reference to Śrī Nārada.” From this it is understood that Nārada also narrated the stories of Bhagavān’s avatāras to Dhruva. Dhruva’s conquering over death in the same body and becoming an associate of Bhagavān is described in this verse:
इयेष तदधिष्ठातुं बिभ्रद्रूपं हिरण्मयम्॥ इति।
Thereafter, being greeted by the dvijas, Dhruva circumambulated and worshiped the celestial airplane. He then assumed a golden form and prepared to ascend the plane. (SB 4.12.29)
Commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji Maharaj
The pastimes of Bhagavān are trans-phenomenal. Not only the pastimes but their narrations and listening to them are also trans-phenomenal. Thus one who listens to them transcends the guṇas of prakṛti.
There are two types of liberation: one is called jīvan-mukti, being liberated while living in the material body, and ātyantika-mukti, final liberation. First one attains jīvan-mukti by following suitable spiritual practice. Then after giving up the present material body one attains ātyantika-mukti. If one has attained perfection by following the path of bhakti then ātyantika mukti comes in the form of attaining a spiritual body. An example of this is Śrī Nārada (1.6.28-29).
The case of Dhruva is very special. When time came for him to die, he got a spiritual body without going through the experience of death. Śrī Jīva says that this is by the power of hearing the līlā of Bhagavān which he had heard from his guru Śrī Nārada. This is understood from the statement of Maitreya cited in this Anuccheda.
Hearing in Sequence: Name, Form, Virtues, Associates and Pastimes
We have thus described the practice of hearing about the names, forms, virtues and pastimes of Bhagavān. Hearing about Bhagavān's associates is also included within this practice, as Śrī Vidura said:
तत्तद्गुणानुश्रवणं मुकुन्द पादारविन्दं हृदयेषु येषाम्॥ इत्यादौ।
@To repeatedly hear the good qualities of those who keep the lotus feet of Bhagavān Mukunda in their hearts, is the prime fruit of the extensive labor undertaken by human beings in the study of scriptures. This has been rightly esteemed by the wise. (SB 3.13.4) #तत्र यद्यप्येकतरेणापि व्युत्क्रमेणापि सिद्धिर्भवत्येव, तथापि प्रथमं नाम्नः श्रवणमन्तःकरणशुद्ध्यर्थमपेक्ष्यम्। शुद्धे चान्तःकरणे रूपश्रवणेन तदुदययोग्यता भवति। सम्यगुदिते च रूपे गुणानां स्फुरणं सम्पद्यते। ततस्तेषु नामरूपगुणेषु तत्परिकरेषु च सम्यक् स्फुरितेष्वेव लीलानां स्फुरणं सुष्ठु भवतीत्यभिप्रेत्य साधनक्रमो लिखितः। एवं कीर्तनस्मरणयोश्च ज्ञेयम्।
It is a fact that hearing about any one of these four—the names, forms, qualities or pastimes of Bhagavān—and in any given order, leads to perfection. Yet in order for purification of the heart to take place, it is necessary to begin with hearing the name. When the heart is thus purified, one can hear about Bhagavān’s form, and by so doing, the heart becomes fit for the revelation of Bhagavān's form. When Bhagavān’s form fully manifests, revelation of His qualities ensues. Thereafter, when Bhagavān’s name, form and qualities have fully manifested along with His associates, the pastimes of Bhagavān unfold properly. It is with this intention that hearing topics in a specific order was originally stated. The same conclusions also apply in regard to singing and remembering the names, forms, virtues, associates, and pastimes of Bhagavān.
इदं च श्रवणं श्रीमन्महन्मुखरितं चेन् महामाहात्म्यं, जातरुचीनां परमसुखदं च। तच्च द्विविधं—महदाविर्भावितं महत्कीर्त्यमानं चेति।
If one hears about Bhagavān from the mouth of great devotees, it is supremely glorious and grants immense delight to those who have attained relish for such topics. There are two categories of hearing from great devotees—to hear literature composed by a great devotee, and to hear literature recited by a great devotee.
तत्र श्रीभागवतमुपलक्ष्य पूर्वं यथा (भा. १.३.४०)—
उत्तमश्लोकचरितं चकार भगवान् ऋषिः॥
अत्र तन्माहात्म्यसूचनार्थमेव तत्कर्तृकत्ववचनम्॥
An example of the first is found in Śrī Sūta’s statement in reference to Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam:
O Śaunaka, this Bhāgavata Purāṇa is equal to the Vedas, it contains the exploits of the glorious Bhagavān and is composed by the powerful sage Śrī Vyāsadeva. (SB 1.3.40)In this verse the author’s name has been given simply to emphasize the glory of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.
Commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji Maharaj
Just as hearing about the name and so on of Bhagavān is elevating, so it is also with hearing about His associates, parikaras. The associates of Bhagavān are equally powerful. This was described in Bhagavat Sandarbha (Anu. 76).
Here it may be added that hearing about contemporary devotees is also equally purifying. Indeed, hearing about them may be even more inspiring than hearing about Bhagavān or His associates because a practitioner can relate and feel more close to them. The listener can understand the struggle undergone by such devotees and feel inspired by it.
Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī also reveals the importance of hearing and chanting the name. Hearing and chanting the name is one of the most important spiritual practices in the Gauḍīya school. He recommends that one should first hear the name for purification of the heart. Unless the heart is purified by hearing and chanting the name, the other processes will not easily yield their result. Therefore, Śrī Jīva suggests this order beginning with the hearing of the name.
He further recommends that one should hear from the mouth of a great devotee and narrations that have been composed by great devotees. In this regard he gives the example of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa itself, which was manifested by sage Vyāsa and recited by Śukadeva.
In the next Anuccheda he gives the example of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa as giver of supreme pleasure to the listener.
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Bhakti Sandarbha 251-253 : Hearing About Bhagavan's Attributes and Pastimes
Bhakti Sandarbha 248-250 : Introduction to Śravaṇam
Bhakti Sandarbha 246-247 : Honor Should be Given to All Vaiṣṇavas
Bhakti Sandarbha 243-245 : More Benefits of Sat-sanga
Bhakti Sandarbha 240-242 : The Power of Sat-saṅga to Grant Love for Krishna
Bhakti Sandarbha 239: Sat-saṅga Brings Bhagavān Under Control
Bhakti Sandarbha 238 : Sat-saṅga Captivates Bhagavān
Bhakti Sandarbha 237: Guru-sevā is the Key to Success
Bhakti Sandarbha 236 : Sharanagati or Surrender
Bhakti Sandarbha 235 : Vaidhī Nirguṇā Bhakti