Introduction to Bhagavatam.

elmec elmec at GIASBG01.VSNL.NET.IN
Sat Jul 22 14:01:58 CDT 2000

Hari Om,
Sri Gurubhyo nama.h

Saraswathi namastubhyam varade kaamaroopini
Vidhyaarambham karishyaami Sidhdhirbhavatu me sadaa.

Dear Members,

I would like to first give a general introduction to puraana which will
be a " cut and paste " ( to borrow Shri Ravishankar's phrase ! ) from "
Srimad Bhaagavata " published by R.K.Math. ( my own words may get
sprinkled here and there )

Srimadbhaagavatam is a doctrine of devotion. It belongs to the class of
Hindu religious literature known as puraanaas. The word puraana
literally means
' narratives of ancient times ' . The earliest mention of puraana is in
the Atharva Veda, where it is said to have originated from the residue
(uchchishta) of yagna along with Riks, saamans and chandas. The
Brihadaaranyaka upanishad says that puraana has sprung from the breath
of Mahabhuta or the Paramaatma.

The puraanaas consist of traditional lore about creation, ancient
histories and anectodes, proverbial sayings and genealogies of kings and
Rishis. The recital of puraana was a regular practice during the periods
of interval between the rites and ceremonies of protracted vedic
sacrifices, specially at royal sacrifices like Ashwamedha and
Raajasooya. The beginning of this purana literature can be traced to
these narrative portions ( Akhyaana bhaaga ) of Vedic rites.

In the earliest stages, the recital of the puraana was by the brahmin
priests themselves ; but later on it came to be relegated to a mixed
class called the Suta, probably because its relation with the
sacrificial rite was not integral. The great sage Vyaasa, after
compiling the original puraana samhita, entrusted it to his suta
desciple Lomaharshana who inturn divided into six versions and taught
them to his six desciples. The desciples made separate samhitaas  they
together formed the basis of all puraana literature.

There are 18 major puraanaas and 18 upa-puraanaas. All of them are
mostly sectarian in nature, exalting one or the other of Cult-Gods lke
Vishnu, Shiva or Shakti. This exaltation of one aspect of the deity and
the subordination of the others should not be interpreted as narrow
sectarian rivalry among these cults. The intention is to strengthen the
faith of the follower of a particular cult in its deity and not to
disparage the faith of others.

Bhagavata is one of the major or Maha puraanaas whose excellences of its
transcending nature has made it the most widely studied by all devotees,
commended upon by scholars of all schools of thought. It is one of the
greatest productions of the literary and spiritual genius of India. The
main thesis of Bhaagavata is to inculcate glory and greatness of
Bhagavan Sri Krishna and the necessity of cultivating devotion to Him.

The principle of devotion or Bhakti here is of the highest type, which
is described as the fifth purushaartha or value of life, transcending
the other four, Dharma, Artha, Kaama and even Moksha. The Bhakthi
favoured by Bhaagavata is Nirguna, not based on the Gunaas of prakriti,
that is on the body and one's narrow self, or even thoughts of salvation
for one self from the cycle of samsaara. It springs from an attraction
that the Lord exercises on the individual spirit, which produces self
forgettong love, expressing tself in the natural, unbroken and
unobstructed flow of mind towards Him as of Ganga towards the ocean.
This form of Bhakthi is the acme of spiritual evolution which is called
the fifth purushaartha. Such devotees become Bhaagavattottamaas - a
state of perfection and they become an nstument of His Divine Play.


The story of Bhagavata will start n my next posting.

Latha Vidyaranya

bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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