This story is part of a lecture delivered by His Divine Grace Srila Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja on 21 July 1995 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
Sinful Activity is Rampant
Suka Gosvami, addressing Saunaka and the rsis, said, “I will narrate a story full of bhakti. I heard this bhakti-katha from my guru Sukadeva Gosvami in confidence.
Once, the four Kumaras— Sanaka, Sanatana, Sanat-kumara and Sanandana, met Devarsi Narada in Badarikasrama. They saw Devarsi Narada looking very unhappy. “O Naradji, where have you come from and where are you now going? It seems that you have lost something very dear and therefore you are depressed. Why are you looking so morose? What is the reason?”
Narada Muni, describing the condition of Kali-yuga said, “I have wandered all over this world but I could not find happiness anywhere. Now Kali-yuga, adharma bandhu, the friend of irreligion, sinful activity, is rampant. The people everywhere are envious, only quarrelling and fighting amongst each other.”
satyam nasti tapah saucam daya na vidyate
udarambharino jiva varakah kuta-bhasinah
mandah sumanda-matayo manda-bhagya hy upadrutah
pakhanda-niratah santo viraktah saparigrahah
(Srimad-bhagavata-mahatmyam Pt.1, verse 30-31)
In Kali-yuga there is no truthfulness, there is no tapasya, no austerity or penance, no sadacara, good behaviour. People everywhere are addicted to asadacara, illicit sex, pornography, drinking alcohol, taking drugs, eating, sleeping, defending and mating. They are all murkha, foolish, and manda-buddhi, their intelligence is impure, therefore they have no manda-bhagya, good fortune. They are suffering, afflicted with many types of disease. There is no krsna-katha. Even so-called sadhus, pseudo sadhus are engaged in sinful activity, running after women and wealth.
taruni-prabhuta gehe syalako buddhi-dayakah
kanya-vikrayino lobhad dampatinan ca kalkanam
asrama yavanai ruddhas tirthani saritas tatha
devatayatananyatra dusthair nadtani bhurisah
In almost every grha, household women are dominating over the men. The wife’s brother is the minister, mantri, syalako buddhi-dayakah, and it is he who is the guiding counsellor. Every human being is greedy, endeavouring only to accumulate more and more money, to acquire the objects of sense enjoyment. For this reason they are even selling their own daughters. Fighting and quarrelling is common between husband and wife, between father and son, between friends, because in Kali-yuga, the age of quarrel and hypocrisy, dambha, pride is the mapa-kari, the measuring rod. Everyone thinks they are greater than everyone else, “I am great.” One person says, “I am great!” Someone else says, “Oh, are you great? No, I am greater.” Then quarrelling and fighting begins. Two people quarrel and fight, two groups quarrel and fight, two communities quarrel and fight, two neighbours quarrel and fight, two cities quarrel and fight, two states and two nations are quarrelling and fighting, because, aham bada hai— “I am great!” This is Kali-yuga.
In Bharata-varsa, India, all the asramas, brahmacari-asrama, grhastha-asrama, vanaprastha, sannyasa are polluted. All the holy places, holy rivers are managed by mlecchas and yavanas. Many temples have been desecrated by the yavanas. It is very difficult to find one siddha-sadhaka in this yuga, because everything is being ravaged by the forest fire of Kali-yuga.
Narada Muni said,
attasula janapadah sivasula dvijatayah
kaminyah kesasulinyah sambhavanti kalaviha
In Kali-yuga all human beings are greedy. They are continuously meditating on how to earn more and more money, brighter than sunshine, sweeter than honey. In Kali-yuga they are selling anna, rice. So many hotels, restaurants are selling anna. In other yugas it was not like that. Anna should not be sold, it should be distributed. This is Kali-yuga.
The brahmanas are utilising the Veda, the Bhagavata like a commodity to be sold, as a way to earn their livelihood. This is Kali-yuga. Women sell their hair to be made into wigs. Women sell their body in prostitution to earn money. This is a horrible age, the age of Kali-yuga.
I Saw Something Very Wonderful
Narada Muni said, “Wandering throughout the world and seeing all these things, I cannot get happiness or satisfaction. At last I came to Våndavana-dhama where Krsna played in the rasa dance. O, great sages, I saw something very wonderful. I went to the bank of the Yamuna and there I saw a young girl, yuvati, sitting and weeping. She looked very unhappy. On her left side two very old people were lying on the ground with laboured breathing. That young girl was taking care of them, sometimes giving them consolation, and sometimes weeping.
I saw some sadhus there, and I also saw innumerable young women. The sadhus and young women were consoling the young girl with kind words, “O devi, O goddess, have patience. Good fortune will come to you. Lord Krsna will definitely shower mercy on you.” I was amazed. Out of curiosity I went to that young girl. Seeing me approach she got up and greeted me, saying, “O Narada Muni, you are a great sadhu, please stay here. The sight of you gives my heart solace, and soon my distress will vanish.” Because, when someone meets a sädhu, it is to be understood that their good fortune has arisen. She said, “By meeting a sadhu like you I think some good fortune has come to me.”
tatrapi durlabham manye
But I think that even those who have achieved human life rarely gain the association of pure devotees, who are dear to the Lord of Vaikuntha. (SB11.2.29).
Jnana and Vairagya
Then Narada said, “O devi, O goddess, who are you? Who are these two old men lying next to you? Who are these young women? Please tell me your tale of woe.”
The young girl replied, “I am celebrated by the name, Bhakti-devi. These two old men are my sons, Jnana and Vairagya. They have grown old, so now it is completely opposite, their mother is young, and her sons are old. All these ladies you see, they are all the tirthas, headed by Ganga, Yamuna, etc. They have come here to serve me,” to serve goddess Bhakti. “Though I am served by them, still I have no happiness. I have no good fortune. I am very distressed and unhappy. O Narada Muni, please listen as I tell you my woeful tale. If I express it to you I may get some solace in my heart.” It is true that, if you confide your unhappiness to a sympathetic friend you may find solace.
“Dravida-bhumi, south India is my birthplace. I grew up in Karnataka. Sometimes I stayed in Maharashtra, but when I went to Gujarata I became old. Kali reigns in Gujarata. Many pasandis reside there. They injured my body and I became old. My sons became old, morose and were lacking vitality. When I entered Våndavana I regained my youth, but my sons are becoming older. This is most unusual. Have you seen such a wonder anywhere, O Naradji?”
Narada replied, “O devi, O goddess, now I can understand what has happened to you. Don’t feel distressed. You are the famous Bhakti devi. Definitely Lord Hari will shower His mercy on you and you will find happiness.”
Suta Gosvami continued narrating everything to the rsis, headed by Saunaka. Narada Muni said, “O devi, please listen to me. It is now the dreadful age of Kali-yuga. All sat-karma is completely destroyed, and yoga-marga, the paths of yoga and tapasya are completely lost. All human beings are papis, cheaters and hypocrites, and their numbers are increasing as more and more people engage in sinful activity.
santo hy asmin su-duhkharta asanto håsta-manasah
drsyate dhira-cittas tu pandito ’pi na ko ’pi ca
In Kali-yuga the pasandis are very joyful, but genuine sadhus are suffering.
Why Pariksit Maharaja Did Not Kill Kali
“All right, please have patience. Those who are patient, dhira, are never deluded, dhiras tatra na muhyati. (Bg. 2.13) In Kali-yuga the burden of the earth is increasing day by day, because all are demons. Anantadeva, who is carrying this earth, is feeling its increasing weight. There is no auspiciousness in such a dreadful age. Now there is no one to take care of your two sons Jnana and Vairagya. They are completely ignored in Kali-yuga because everyone is attached to gratifying their senses. Who wants jnana-vairagya? Therefore you are distressed. It is your good fortune that you have come to Vrndavana-dhama and have become youthful again. Bhakti-devi is always dancing in Vrndavana. There are no customers for jnana and vairagya in Vrndavana because everyone wants bhakti. Therefore your two sons cannot shake off this old age. Still, they are getting a little happiness therefore they are sleeping soundly.” Then Bhakti-devi said, “Why didn’t Pariksit Maharaja kill Kali? How is it that the merciful Lord Hari is tolerating this burden on the earth? This is my doubt. Please dispel my doubt.”
Then Narada said. “O Devi, please listen as I tell you, then your doubt will be dispelled and you will get peace.”
drsto dig vijaye rajna dina vac charanam gatah
na maya maraniyo ‘yam saranga iva sara bhuk
yat phalam nasti tapasa na yogena samadhina
tat phalam labhate samyak kalau kesava-kirtanat
“When Pariksit Maharaja was travelling throughout the world, he saw Kali. Just as the king was about to kill him, Kali surrendered. It is the dharma, the duty of a ksatriya that if someone surrenders they must be given shelter. Pariksit Maharaja is a sadhu and an ideal ksatriya raja so he didn’t kill Kali.
kaler dosa-nidhe rajann asti hy eko mahan gunah
kirtanad eva krsnasya mukta-sangah param vrajet
“Though Kali-yuga is a sinful, degraded age, an ocean of evils, there is this wonderful quality: kirtanad eva krsnasya mukta-sangah param vrajet, if someone does kåñëa-kirtana, immediately he will be delivered. This valuable opportunity is not available in any other yuga. People cannot obtain it through tapasya, yoga-sadhana or samadhi. It is possible only by kesava-kirtana, hari-kirtana, krsna-kirtana. For this reason it is such a good age. Pariksit Maharaja understood it and therefore he didn’t kill Kali. If he had killed Kali this auspicious opportunity for the people of Kali-yuga to do hari-kirtana would not have been possible.”
Bhagavata is Utilised as a Mercantile Commodity
In Kali-yuga, the people are always engaged in abominable activities, severely afflicted by lust, anger, greed, delusion, and enviousness. Some demons also undergo severe austerity and tapasya therefore the result of their tapasya is lust. So-called pandits, like quadrupeds, are only enjoying sex. They are very expert in producing children. They are completely forgetful of their goal of life in Kali-yuga. The essence of Bhagavata–katha is lost because non-devotees, avaisnavas, pandits, are selling Bhagavata, utilising it as a mercantile commodity. In Vrindavana, many pseudo-sadhus are giving Bhagavata pravacana and earning money. Some also come to the West, speak Bhagavata–katha and earn millions of dollars. Such is Kali-yuga.
There are no brahmanas in Kali-yuga, only sudras, kalau sudra sambhavah. They go to every home, speak Bhagavata and earn money. This is such a dreadful age. It is the nature of the yuga. So whom shall I blame? Lotus-eyed Lord Hari is tolerating everything.”
Then Bhakti devi said,” O Devarsi Narada, you are a glorified personality, therefore very good fortune has come to me because you have come here and I am meeting you. It is very rare to have the darsana of a sadhu like you.”
Then Narada said:
baddhvanjalim tvaya prstam kim karomiti caikada
tvam tadajnapayat krsno mad-bhaktan posayeti ca
(Bhagavata-mahatmyam verse 5)
“O Devi, one day, when you approached Lord Krsna with folded hands, and asked, ‘What shall I do?’ At that time Krsna said, ‘Maintain My devotees.’ Krsna’s order is with you. Krsna was pleased with you so He gave you mukti as your maidservant, and jnana and vairagya as your sons.”
anya-dharmams tiras krtya puras krtya mahotsavan
tada naham harer daso loke tvam na pravartaye
(Bhagavata-mahatmyam verse 14)
Then Narada Muni made a promise. “If I cannot establish bhakti, and only condemn other dharmas, such as varnasramadi-dharma, I promise you, O Devi, I will never be known by the name Haridasa.”
Bhakti is Everything in Kali yuga
nrnam janma-sahasreëa bhaktiù su-krtinam bhavet
kalau bhaktih kalau bhaktir bhaktya krsnah purah-sthitah
On the strength of pious activities performed for hundreds of lifetimes a jiva becomes attracted to bhakti. Bhakti is everything in Kali-yuga. These three: jnana, karma, yoga are denied in Kali-yuga. Attracted by bhakti, Lord Krsna personally manifests Himself before His devotee because, ‘bhaktye’ krsna vasa haya, Krsna becomes submitted by prema-bhakti. Krsna appears before His premi-bhakta. Krsna will never appear otherwise.
kascid yatati siddhaye
yatatam api siddhanam
kascin mam vetti tattvatah
Out of thousands and thousands of jivas, one jiva endeavours for perfection. Out of those very few jivas who get perfection, hardly one understands Me in tattva.
Three things are denied, karma, jnana, yoga. Only bhakti is there. Kalau nasty eva nasty eva nasty eva gatir anyatha, therefore it is stressed, “no other way, no other way, no other way.”
Then Narada tried to awaken Jnana and Vairagya. He shouted loudly in their ears, “O Jnana, O Vairagya, wake up! Wake up! Wake up!” But they didn’t stir. Seeing his efforts had no effect, Narada Muni began to utter verses of the Upanisadas and Gita again and again into their ears. They raised their heads a little, yawned, and then fell back to sleep. They were very old and feeble. Their hair had turned white. Their limbs were weak like thin dry wood. Seeing Jnana and Vairagya in this condition Narada Muni felt great distress and became thoughtful. He said, “What shall I do? I cannot find a way to awaken them. Why are they not waking up? Why is their old age not going away?” When thinking like that Narada Muni remembered Bhagavan Govinda. Immediately an aerial voice was heard: “O Devarsi Narada, don’t be distressed. Don’t be disappointed. Your endeavour must bear fruit. Have no doubt. Sadhus like you are the ornaments of the world, prthivi bhusana. You must go now and meet with certain sädhus who will reveal to you the meaning of sat-karma. If you do that sat-karma then Jnana and Vairagya’s advancing old age will be arrested. They will regain their youth upon waking and their mother, Bhakti-devi will dance in blissfulness.”
Bhagavata Katha is Sat-Karma
Narada Muni thought, “Where will I find those sadhus who can tell me about sat-karma?” When Narada Muni arrived in Badarikasrama he met the four Kumaras and understood, “O, these are the sadhus I was searching for.” He asked, “O Kumaras, today I am fortunate in meeting you. Please, by your mercy, tell me about sat-karma-sadhana. How must it be performed?”
Then the Kumaras said, “O Devarsi Narada, you are a glorified personality. You are the chief hari-dasa, dear devotee of Krsna. Only you can establish bhakti. Please listen as we tell you about sat-karma-sadhana.
sat-karma sucako nunam jnana-yajnah smrto budhaih
srimad-bhagavatalapah sa tu gitah sukadibhih
bhakti-jnana-viragaëam tad-ghosena balam mahat
brajisyati dvayoh kastam sukham bhakter bhavisyati
The four Kumaras said, “All pandits declare jnana-yajna is sat-karma. That jnana-yajna is bhagavata–katha, the Bhagavata spoken by Sukadeva Gosvami. If you do sat-karma, bhagavata–katha, speak Bhagavata or do bhagavata-patha pravacana, then Bhakti, Jnana and Vairagya will get strength. Bhakti-devi will be blissful. Her two sons, Jnana and Vairagya will regain their youth and be imbued with new strength. This is sat-karma.
pralayam hi gamisyanti srimad-bhagavata-dhvaneh
kali-dosaime sarve simha-sabdad vrka iva
jnana-vairagya-samyukta bhaktih prema-rasavaha
prati-geham prati-janam tatah kridam karisyati
“Hearing the roaring of a lion, a tiger flees in fear. Similarly, in this Kali-yuga, if a pure devotee, pure bhakta-bhagavata speaks Bhagavata, then the ills of Kali-yuga will be destroyed. Jnana and Vairagya, along with Bhakti–devi, will regain their strength and there will be a flood of prema. If this will be done in Kali-yuga the flood of prema coming from Bhagavata-katha will inundate every household, then Bhakti-devi will be blissful and Jnana and Vairagya will become young once again.
Narada said, “I chanted Upanisada and Gita in their ears again and again but they didn’t wake up. Why did they not wake up when you have spoken about the glories of hearing Bhagavata–katha? Bhagavata is the essence of all Veda, Vedanta, Upanisada. I uttered Veda, Vedanta, Upaniñada, breathing the Gita repeatedly into the ears of Jnana and Vairagya but they didn’t wake up. How will they be awakened by Bhagavata-katha?”
Bhagavatam is the Fruit of the Vedic Tree
Then the Kumaras said, “Yes, Bhagavata is the essence of all Veda, Vedanta, Upanisadas, but the Bhagavata is their fruit, nigama-kalpa-taror galitam phala— Bhagavata is the, sweetest, nectarean juicy fruit of the Vedic tree. For example, ghee is present in milk, but when you drink milk can you taste ghee? By churning milk into butter, and preparing ghee from the butter then one can taste ghee. Similarly, cari veda-dadhi bhagavata navanita mathilena suke-khailenu pariksita—the four Vedas are like yoghurt. Sukadeva Gosvami churned that yoghurt then butter came out and Pariksit Maharaja ate it. Similarly, sugar is intrinsic to sugarcane. When sugarcane juice is boiled down and becomes more and more condensed then you can taste the sweetness of sugar. Similarly, bhagavata-katha is kalpa-taror galitam phala, the tasty sweet fruit of the Vedic tree.
yatra bhagavati varta tatra bhakty-adikam vrajet
katha-sabdam samakarnya tat trikam tarunayate
(Bhagavata-mahatmyam, Pt.3, verse 9)
Where Bhagavata is recited by the pure devotee, where Bhagavata-patha pravacana is going on, Bhakti, Jnana and Vairagya run there. Hearing that Bhagavata–katha they regain their youth.
The Kumaras said,” Hearing the glory of the Bhagavata, mukti becomes a maidservant, because mukti is the maidservant of bhakti. Similarly, when one develops bhakti then mukti becomes her maidservant.
Hear Bhagavata-Katha from a Bhakta-Bhagavata Daily
This is the glory of Srimad-Bhagavatam. One who hears Srimad-Bhagavata, sadyo hrdy avarudhyate, Sri Hari, who is there in the heart, immediately becomes bound up. Such is the glory of Bhagavata. As you eat food daily, take bath daily, pass stool daily, likewise hearing Srimad-Bhagavatam is a daily activity, nitya-bhagavata-sevaya. Don’t miss one day. If you follow my instruction and hear Bhagavata–katha from the bhakta-bhagavata then all your miseries will go and immediately old age will go and you will become a young man or a young woman. You will find eternal youth.
The Kumaras said:
tavat samsara-cakre ‘smin bhramate ‘jnanatah puman
yavat karna-gata nasti suka-sastra-katha ksanam
(Bhagavata-mahatmyam, Pt.3, verse 27)
“As long as one has not heard Bhagavata–katha from the lips of Sukadeva Gosvami, he will never be free. He will remain covered by the dense darkness of ignorance, fated to revolve in the cycle of birth and death.”
katha bhagavatasyapi nityam bhavati yad grhe
tad grham tirtha-rupam hi vasatam papa-nasanam
asva-medha-sahasrani vajapeya-satani ca
suka-sastra-kathayas ca kalam narhanti sodasim
(Bhagavata-mahatmyam, Pt.3, verse 29-30)
“Any home where bhagavata-katha is recited daily, any place where bhagavata-patha pravacana has been organised, becomes a holy place. The sinful reactions of the residents of that place will be dissolved. One may perform one thousand asvamedha-yajnas, horse sacrifices, or one hundred vajapeya–yajnas, but their results cannot be compared to one-sixteenth the benefit of hearing Srimad-Bhagavatam.
tavat papani dehe ‘smin nivasanti tapodhanah
yavan na sruyate samyak srimad-bhagavatam naraih
(Bhagavata-mahatmyam, Pt.3, verse 31)
“O Narada Muni whose wealth is austerity (tapodhanah), sins reside in a person’s body only until he properly hears Srimad-Bhagavatam.
slokardham sloka-padam va nityam bhagavatodbhavam
pathasva sva-mukhenaiva yadicchasi param gatim
(Bhagavata-mahatmyam, Pt.3, verse 33)
If you really want to achieve the supreme perfection, you should utter at least one Bhagavatam verse daily. That is why we recite the Bhagavatam slokas at the beginning of the class every morning. By this, all of your sinful reactions are destroyed and you will develop pure bhakti.
yas ca bhagavatam sastram vacayed arthato ‘nisam
janma-koti-krtam papam nasyante natra samsayah
(Bhagavata-mahatmyam, Pt.3, verse 37)
If any person utters even half a verse or one-fourth of a verse daily, he gets param gati, the supreme transcendental destination. He is to be considered a sukrtivan vyakti, a pious and fortunate person if he explains the Bhagavata daily, or quotes one sloka of the Bhagavata, or organises Bhagavata pravacana. All the sinful reactions he has accumulated over crores, tens of millions of lives will be destroyed immediately. There is no doubt in this. He gets the result of performing a rajasuya-yajna and asvamedha-yajna, the horse sacrifice and rajasuya sacrifice performed by great emperors.
anta-kale tu yenaiva sruyate suka-sastra-vak
pritya tasyaiva vaikuntham govindo ‘pi prayacchati
(Bhagavata-mahatmyam, Pt.3, verse 40)
“If at the time of death someone hears Bhagavata–katha, the flow of nectar that has come out from the lips of Sukadeva Gosvami, Lord Govinda becomes very pleased and takes that person to Vaikuntha-loka.” This Vedic system is still current in India. When someone is dying the Bhagavata is recited before him, with the understanding that if the sound vibration touches his ears, or if he hears directly, then Srimad-Bhagavatam, which is all-auspicious, will take him to Vaikuntha.”
dhik tam naram pasu-samam bhuvi bhara-rupam
evam vadanti divi deva-saroja-mukhyaù
(Bhagavata-mahatmyam, Pt.3, verse 43)
That person, who has never drunk even one drop of amrta flowing from Bhagavata-katha, is very sinful. Though living he is a dead body, jivanmrta, and a great burden on mother earth.
Therefore, O Narada Muni, O sage of vast wisdom, this is sat-karma. You should perform this sat-karma, and make arrangements for Bhagavata-patha pravacana. There are no rules or regulations for performing this event. At any place, at any time one can speak Bhagavata–katha, by the arrangement of sravana-kirtana and Bhagavata. This Bhagavata is saksad-dhari, it is as good as Lord Hari. It is the vani-avatara, the sound incarnation of Lord Hari, Krsna. By serving Bhagavata, hearing Bhagavata, reading Bhagavata or seeing Bhagavata, no papa will remain in the body of such a person.
Bhakti-Devi Resides in the Heart of the Vaisnavas
Suta Gosvami said, “Sanakadi, the four Kumaras in this way glorified Bhagavata. At that time a wonderful incident took place. Listen as I tell you.
Immediately Bhakti-devi, assuming the form of a beautiful young girl appeared there with Jnana and Vairagya who were now full with the charm and vigor of youth, all together they were chanting again and again, krsna govinda hare murare madhu kaitavare.
At that time the munis in Badarikasrama were arguing amongst themselves as to how Bhakti-devi had appeared there. The Kumaras said, “Because we glorified Bhagavata-katha, therefore Bhakti-devi appeared with her sons, Jnana and Vairagya, having regained their youth.” Then Bhakti-devi paid obeisances to the four Kumaras, and said, “In this Kali-yuga my limbs were injured, but hearing the glories of Srimad-Bhagavatam from your mouth, O Sanat Kumara, I am fully nourished now and my beautiful youthful body has returned. My two sons have also become young as before. Where shall I stay now?”
Then the Kumaras said, “You are Bhakti-devi. You maintain and care for the bhaktas, the dear devotees of Lord Hari so that they will get krsna-prema, and all bhava-roga, material disease, janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi, will be completely destroyed. Always stay patiently in the heart of the Vaisnavas, bhaktas. That is your place.”