Today is the auspicious occasion of vyāsa-pūjā. Sāyana Ekādaśī has passed, Śrī Hari has gone to rest; but really He is dallying in Vraja. For four months He does not wish to trouble Himself with the administration of the universe. The question now comes, “Who is qualified to look after the world in the Lord’s absence?” Demons such as Rāhu and Ketu want this post. They want everyone to worship them. Fighting is inevitable when people try to manage independently of Śrī Hari.
Bhagavān sends His own incarnation, Śrī Vedavyāsa, to watch over the jīvas and train them. Parents are often unable to teach their children effectively. A teacher is necessary to give them proper training. A stern teacher forces his students to sit in school for six to eight hours and attend classes on one subject after another. He is strict and disciplines his students if they misbehave. When children are at school with a strict teacher like this, they cry for their parents. Kṛṣṇa says, “This is what the conditioned souls need. I incarnate time and again to help them, but they do not change. They need a qualified teacher; they need Śrī Guru.”
No matter how hard the father tries, and regardless if he is a powerful director of a company or a group of people, his sons will always pinch him, climb on his lap, wrestle with him, and deal with him informally. They will not listen to his instructions. The only way he can make them qualified is by sending them to school, where they are taught by a teacher.
Not just the lives of the conditioned souls, but the lives of the demigods, demons, and everyone in the creation will be spoiled if people are not properly disciplined. Without proper training, people cannot know the true purpose of life and they fight amongst themselves because of deep-rooted bodily identification and addiction to bad habits and association. Thus, they bring about their own ruin. Understanding this, Bhagavān sends the ācārya to enlighten them.
Vyāsadeva divided the Vedas into four parts. He then composed the Vedānta-sūtras, Mahābhārata, and the Purāṇas. For the welfare of the people, he wrote according to their different levels of consciousness. He wrote sāttvika-purāṇas for the people in the mode of goodness, rājasika-purāṇas for those in the mode of passion, and the tāmasika-purāṇas for those in the mode of darkness. He thus helped the jīvas gradually progress to higher levels of consciousness.
Why are people addicted to phones, computers, and other devices? Why do they spend so much time reading novels, watching movies, and playing games? They absorb their consciousness in frivolous activities instead of serving Ṭhākurajī and chanting harināma because they are under the influence of tama-guṇa. People with this kind of consciousness need to hear stories and be told that if they don’t practice spiritual life they will be attacked by evil spirits. Then they will say, “Oh no! Ghosts will come for me? Who will save me?” Then they begin to contemplate how their lives can become auspicious and who can help them. Vyāsadeva expertly gave all types of jīvas the chance to progress.
Vyāsadeva’s appearance occurs just as Hari retires for rest. Vyāsadeva gave his first lesson during this Cāturmāsya period. He said, “Follow this Cāturmāsya-vrata to make your life successful. During these four months, stay in one place and practice bhajana attentively.”
As a boy, Nārada Ṛṣi received the mercy of pure devotees of the Lord during the time of Cāturmāsya. He and his mother served the ṛṣis—who fully utilized their time in devotional service—by picking flowers and fruits, collecting firewood, and cleaning. Nārada’s mother was fortunate enough to receive the food remnants of these great personalities. She ate a portion of these remnants herself and gave some to Nārada also.
bhakta-pada-dhūli āra bhakta-pada-jala
bhakta-bhukta-avaśeṣa—ei tina mahābala
Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Antya 16.60)
[The dust of the devotee’s feet, the water that has washed his feet, and the remnants of what he eats—these three substances are supremely powerful.]
Your Cāturmāsya-vrata will be successful when you adopt the vow not to accept any food other than the mahā-prasāda of the bhaktas. When you are thus determined, your character will be purified. You will no longer want to go to the cinema and play on a laptop. Your mind will not automatically run to the internet. This is the power of the pure devotees’ remnants. Nārada was a small child but by the mercy of the mahā-bhāgavata ṛṣis he became determined to also become a fully devoted servant of Bhagavān.
After four months, when the ṛṣis departed, Nārada cried piteously. Their association had made him attached to hearing hari-kathā, engaging in kīrtana, and practicing the other limbs of bhakti. He had lost his attachment to his mother. Although she showered him with affection day and night, he only prayed, “O Bhagavān, when will I be free? When will I also be able to become a ṛṣi? When will I be able to serve You eternally?”
One day, Nārada’s mother was bitten by a snake and died. Nārada thought, “Now I am free to worship the Lord with single-minded attention.” He then set out at once in search of sādhu-saṅga. Wherever he went, he chanted the Lord’s holy names:
hare murāre madhu-kaitabhāre
gopāla govinda mukunda saure
yajñeśa nārāyaṇa kṛṣṇa viṣṇo
virāśrayaṁ māṁ jagadīśa rakṣa
The Vaiṣṇavas’ special mercy is to remove our desire for rest and sense gratification—the source of our troubles.
At last, Bhagavān revealed Himself to Nārada and instructed him to continue chanting His holy names, and to advise others in spiritual life. Later, the Lord inspired Nārada to advise Vyāsadeva, who felt unsatisfied, despite having composed the Vedic corpus. The instructions that Nārada Ṛṣi gave Vyāsadeva are contained in the first canto of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.
After dividing the Vedas and writing the Purāṇas and other literature, Vyāsadeva still felt dissatisfied. As he pondered the reason for his unhappiness, his spiritual master, Nārada Ṛṣi, appeared before him and said, “O great soul, you are despondent because you have misled the jīvas, showing them so many paths, but not leading them to the ultimate goal. In some places, you glorify karma as the greatest occupation. In other places you establish jñāna as supreme. You say that the Sun-god is the almighty lord in one place and in another place you describe the Moon-god in the same way. You say that Śiva is God and Brahma is God, and also that Viṣṇu is God. Although you have showed the jīvas how to progress in the path of dharma, artha, kāma, and mokṣa, you have not described the nature of pure bhakti and the activities of the Supreme Lord of lords. Bereft of this knowledge, the people will never realize true happiness.”
After deeply immersing himself in bhajana and praying to Kṛṣṇa under Nārada Ṛṣi’s guidance, Vyāsadeva had darśana of the Supreme Lord and His pastimes. He then composed the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. There are two bhāgavatas: the book bhāgavata and the devotee bhāgavata. The book bhāgavata is merely the descriptions of the devotee bhāgavatas’ glories and their bhakti for the Supreme Lord. The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam shows a gradation of devotees and concludes that the Vraja-devīs’ bhakti is supreme.
Vyāsadeva started a training center for the jīvas to teach them how to progress in spiritual life. Following in the footsteps of Śrī Vyāsadeva, Śrīla Gurudeva started a gurukula of his own in Mathurā, and from there he taught everyone how to observe vyāsa-pūjā. He said, “Do not be cheated by the pseudo followers of Vyāsadeva who say, “Worship me—that is vyāsa-pūjā.”
Real vyāsa-pūjā means to offer proper respect to Vyāsadeva and the Guru-varga. It should never be considered the day to accept adoration oneself.
Mahāprabhu and His associates observed vyāsa-pūjā on this Āṣāḍhī Pūrṇimā. This is written about in detail in the Śrī Caitanya-Bhāgavata. The glories of this day are unparalleled. Guru-pāda-padma instructed us how to be connected with Vyāsadeva, by properly following vyāsa-pūjā on Āṣāḍhī Pūrṇimā. In many branches of the Gauḍīya-māṭha, there is not an elaborate observance of vyāsa-pūjā on Vyāsadeva’s appearance— Āṣāḍhī Pūrṇimā. Rather, vyāsa-pūjā is performed on the gurus’ own appearance days. Many people criticized Gurudeva for giving prominence to vyāsa-pūjā on Āṣāḍhī Pūrṇimā.
Śrīla Gurudeva used to distribute Tulasī neck beads to the common people who came to see him on this day, even though some of them ate fish or garlic and onions. Many devotees disagreed with this also. When Gurudeva was challenged, he said, “I give them Vyāsadeva’s prasādam, and by receiving this prasādam their natures will change. Would it really be right to not give prasādam to those that visit the temple, and to send them back empty handed? If we do not help them experience a higher taste then how will they ever be inspired to renounce their lower natures?”
Śrīla Gurudeva gave Vyāsadeva’s prasāda to the people who had been attached to tāmasika and rajāsika objects for so long. They tried putting many red strings, black strings, and rudrākṣas around their necks to gain relief from their troubles, but only when they were touched by Tulasī did they feel peace of mind. As soon as the tulasī-mālās touched their necks they felt well. Despite criticism, Gurudeva was determined to help the people. He said in regards to the dissidents, “Should I follow them, or should I follow Vyāsa?”
Śrīla Gurudeva is an unparalleled ācārya. If someone worships him, he will surely understand Vyāsadeva and Vyāsadeva’s desire.
After writing the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Vyāsadeva felt satisfied at heart. He then spoke the Bhāgavatam to Śukadeva Gosvāmī and introduced the bhāgavata-paramparā. Śrīla Gurudeva used to say, “There is no need to take mantra and dīkṣā from me. Anyone who hears my hari-kathā is my parakīya disciple.” Whoever accepts Śrīla Gurudeva’s teachings is a real follower of Vyāsadeva and is under the shelter of the bhāgavata-paramparā, or the parakīya-paramparā. There is no fighting or party spirit in the parakīya-paramparā.
Ramānujācārya accepted Yamunācārya as his guru, although he did not have the chance to meet him before he left this world. Ramānujācārya’s godbrothers supported him in this regard. Nowadays if anyone not directly initiated by Śrīla Gurudeva says, “Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja is my Gurudeva,” then he is checked, and people say to him, “No, no. You must take dīkṣā from me. You are not Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s disciple.” The followers of the parakīya-paramparā go wherever their soul is nourished by pure love and hari-kathā.
We do not have the right to become the master of any jīva. It is absurd to think we have power over anyone. Instead we offer everything and everyone to Śrī Guru—sarvasvaṁ gurave dādyāt.
This knowledge of the bhāgavata or parakīya-paramparā is the most important treasure available in Vyāsadeva’s gurukula. We pray to the Guru-varga for the ability to properly understand and observe vyāsa-pūjā, and we beseech Vyāsadeva to insure our success in following Cāturmāsya-vrata. May our practice of hearing hari-kathā, engaging in saṅkīrtana, and chanting our sāṅkhya-pūrvaka-nāma (fixed number of rounds), be steady as lines in stone. Let us accept the dust from the feet of the Vaiṣṇavas as the goal of our life, and may we never fall victim to māyā’s distractions.
[A digest of Śrīpāda Premānanda Prabhu’s evening class in Jagannātha Purī, 14 July 2014]