“There is a statement in the Skanda Purana wherein Parvata Muni tells Narada, ‘My dear Narada, of all saintly persons you are so great and glorious that simply by your good wishes a lowborn hunter also has become a great, elevated devotee of Lord Krishna.’” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 17)
God is so great that in Sanskrit there are much more descriptive names for Him. In fact, one of the most commonly used words is not even equivalent with the term “God.” The more generic is Ishvara, which means a great controller. Everyone is trying their hardest to effect outcomes at both the micro and macro level, but there is something more powerful controlling them.
“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.27)
These are the modes of nature, which must cooperate for any result to manifest. Above nature is Ishvara, and a more descriptive term for Him is Bhagavan. This refers to a person who has all fortunes. Beauty, wealth, strength, fame, wisdom and renunciation. Not only does Bhagavan have these simultaneously, but each one is at the highest level. The tank is always full, so to speak.
To understand Bhagavan is not easy. In fact, through mental speculation alone it is impossible. For this reason there is repeated instruction, strong emphasis, on the need for accepting a spiritual master. Approach one, make sincere inquiries, and render some service. Behave submissively and the person who has seen the truth will show you the way.
“Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.34)
A well-known spiritual master from Vedic literature is Narada Muni. A son of the creator, Lord Brahma, Narada travels the worlds chanting the names of Narayana repeatedly. This word is synonymous with Bhagavan, referring to a specific form, one that has four hands and is opulently adorned. Narada’s influence has caused amazing transformations in so many people. Indirectly, his reformative influence continues to this day through the parampara system, and from the past we learn of the impact of his direct association.
1. Daksha’s sons
Known as Prajapati, Daksha was one of the people in charge of populating the world. To do that interaction with females is required. In steps Narada Muni, innocently teaching about the science of self-realization, and the plan gets foiled. As a reward for his good deed, Narada was cursed by Daksha. Since Daksha’s sons were convinced to remain celibate throughout life and pursue tapasya and spiritual endeavors, Narada was cursed to never remain in any place for too long. He has since turned that curse into a great blessing for both himself and the world.
This is the literary incarnation of Bhagavan. He is also known as Vedavyasa since he divided the original Veda into four parts so that mankind could better understand. He also compiled the many Puranas, which teach the same concepts but in story and conversation form.
Despite so many important titles to his name, Vyasadeva felt unsatisfied. Upon meeting Narada Muni, the great sage got the inspiration to compile the Bhagavata Purana, which focused on devotional service, bhakti-yoga. The work in devotion is never done, since the joy continues to increase, but that single meeting with Narada caused endless inspiration.
He was a highway robber in his early life. Good people can go astray; anything is possible in a material creation. Bad association, or simply the lack of good association, can cause a person to do unspeakable things.
The robber had the good fortune of one day trying to steal from Narada. The spiritual master-to-be asked some important questions first, to which the robber went to get answers. Realizing the folly of his ways, the robber surrendered to Narada. The son of Brahma told him to chant the name of Rama for purification, but there was so much sin accumulated that the pronunciation simply wasn’t happening.
Narada did not let go. He did not doom the robber to hell or tell him to wait until another lifetime to try again. Narada found a way, telling the disciple to chant the name of Rama backwards. The reverse word means “death” and it was something the person was accustomed to. From chanting that name in the reverse, the sound of Rama was heard nonetheless. From chanting so long an anthill formed, and the disciple became known as Valmiki, who would go on to author the great historical Sanskrit work known as the Ramayana.
4. The half-killing hunter
During another time Narada ran into a hunter who took great pleasure in half-killing animals. Narada didn’t understand what the purpose was. The best thing is to leave animals alone, but if you’re going to kill them, at least put them out of their misery.
Upon further counseling the hunter was convinced to give up his profession. Narada made all preparations for sustaining life. The hunter went to the banks of a sacred river, lived simply, and just chanted the holy names in front of a tulasi plant. Nothing else. No extended tour of pilgrimage sites. No in-depth study of Vedic literature. No joining an established institution.
Sometime later Narada returned to see the former hunter, bringing Parvata Muni along. Parvata Muni was amazed at what he saw. That same hunter was now so cognizant of innocent life that he was stepping around ants on the ground, not wanting to crush them. The bhakti spirit had taken over, and once again Narada was responsible.
If towards Divine to proceed,
A spiritual master you’ll need.
Like Narada Muni from Vedas shown,
Cursed when Daksha’s anger grown.
Counseling sons for tapasya path to take,
The robber now life of chanting to make.
The half-killing hunter becoming cognizant so,
That around small ants now even to go.
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