The Implied Meaning of Śāstra

Question: In SB 1.5.15, Nārada Muni, the father of all preachers of Bhāgavata-dharma, is heavily condemning all the works of Vyāsadeva because they encourage people to engage in sense gratification. In SB 11.3.26, one of the Nava-yogendras instructs Nimi Maharaja to have faith in the Bhāgavata and not to criticize other śāstras. 

Can you give an explanation by which we can reconcile both of these statements of the Bhāgavatam?

Answer: When we read a book or hear a person, we need to understand the intention of the author or speaker and not just take their words at face value and misunderstand them. What is important is what the author or speaker is trying to convey and not what you understand from it, disregarding their intention. Keeping this in mind, if you read the fifth chapter of the First Canto, which is a dialogue between Nārada and Śrī Vyāsa, then you can see that Vyāsa himself has asked Nārada to find out the cause of the former’s  dissatisfaction even after writing various scriptures for the welfare of humanity (SB 1.5.2 –1.5.7).

Nārada gives a lengthy response, and the verse you mentioned is one of them. From the context, we understand that Nārada’s intention is not to criticize the scriptures other than Bhāgavata Purāṇa, but to inform Vyāsa of the cause of his dissatisfaction. If Vyāsa had not asked him this question, Nārada would have had no reason to speak in this way. If you read chapters Five and Six of the First Canto, which are mostly the words of Nārada, then you will see that the essence of his talk is in speaking about the essence of pure devotion, not criticizing other scriptures. To stress the importance of pure devotion, he has to point out to Vyāsa that by writing these other books, he has neglected this fact and that is why he is feeling dissatisfied. It is like a doctor who may speak in a negative manner about sweets to a diabetic patient. His intention is not to criticize sweets but to stress to his patients to avoid eating sweets. 

Question: Nārada Muni chastised Vyāsadeva (in 1.5.9) that even though he has described devotional service in his works, Vyāsadeva had only described devotional service as a means to obtain other goals such as sense gratification or mukti. 

But we see that the same Nārada Muni encourages Dhruva Maharāja to perform bhakti to fulfill his material ambition. This is exactly one of the reasons Nārada chastised Vyāsa.

How do we understand this? Why did Nārada chastise Vyāsadeva, for he himself is preaching, “perform bhakti to fulfill one’s material ambition or sense gratification”?.

Answer: You are making the same mistake as in your previous question. First of all, your question itself is wrong.

Nārada did not chastise Vyāsadeva for recommending bhakti as a means to fulfill his material ambition or sense gratification. You yourself have quoted SB 1.5.15, in which Nārada is referring to dharma and not to bhakti. Please read carefully and do not impose your understanding incorrectly unto Nārada. 

Furthermore, assuming you were right, then Nārada still is not wrong when prescribing bhakti to Dhruva Maharaja to fulfill his material ambition. If you read the 8th Chapter of Canto 4, beginning from verse 27, you will understand it is not that Nārada is prescribing bhakti to Dhruva without any reason. He sees that Dhruva was bent upon getting a kingdom superior to his father (SB 4.8.37). Seeing his determination, Nārada explained to Dhruva the greatness of bhakti and said that one can attain anything through bhakti (SB 4.8.41). He knows that Dhruva will engage in bhakti and then by the power of bhakti he will become purified of his material desire. So Nārada’s intention was not to preach to Dhruva to fulfill his material desire but there was no point in preaching to Dhruva about the path of pure devotion. He would not have accepted it because he was too determined to take revenge for the insult he got from his stepmother. An expert teacher knows how to bring his subject to pure devotion and not just be a fanatic, singing the same song to everybody. Like an expert doctor, he knows what medicine and what dose can be helpful for a patient. If you give a heavy dose of medicine to a patient which he cannot assimilate into his system, then instead of helping him, you are bringing more harm. Kṛṣṇa gives a similar advice in the Gītā, na buddhi-bhedaṁjanayed (“One should not unsettle the minds of unaware people,” 3.26)


Question: When Śukadeva Gosvāmī spoke Śrīmad Bhāgavatam to Parīkṣit Maharāja, he was just 16 years old according to SB 1.19.26. It is described in SB 1.9.8 that Śukadeva Gosvāmī was present when Bhīṣmadeva was passing away. How can Śukadeva Gosvāmī be present at that time because Pāṇḍavas ruled for 40/50 years after the war and then Parīkṣit Maharāja ruled for even more time. But when Śukadeva Gosvāmī spoke Śrimad Bhāgavatam to Parikṣit, he was described as 16 years old.

Answer: When it is said that he was 16 years old (SB 1.19.26), it means that he appeared like a 16-year old, although he was much senior in age. This has an implied meaning (vyan͂janā-vṛtti) that he was beyond the influence of time and thus beyond the influence of material guṇas, and thus a liberated person. This has a further implied meaning, that having such characteristics he is free from the four human defects of bhrama, pramāda, karaṇā-pāṭava, vipralipsā (illusion, inadvertence, imperfect senses, and deceiving mentality).

This also implies that what Śukadeva Gosvāmī will speak in response to King Parīkṣit’s question is authoritative and should not be doubted. Śāstra teaches not only by direct statement but also through implied meaning. Indeed, implied meaning is the heart of kāvya (poetry). This is what creates rasa. You know that in the very beginning, the Bhāgavata has been indicated as a book of rasa (SB 1.1.3), Kṛṣṇa is also described as nava-yauvana, a boy of fresh youth. This does not mean that he is only 16 years old. We know that He lived on earth for 125 years.