Srimad Bhagawatham, Mahatmyam, Chapter One Sloka 19: Menire.
Translation: The Munis realised that Srimad Bhagavatham is the embodiment of the Supreme on the earth. Those who listen or read this sacred book will attain Vaikunta Prapti (will be liberated from the cycle of birth and death and go to Vaikunta, the abode of the Supreme).
Interpretation: Srimad Bhagawatham should be read for one’s uplift, not for self-gains. Even if you are not well-versed in Sanskrit, one can just listen to the slokas and interpretation. In the scriptures, ‘hearing’ is given more importance. This is why King Parikshit HEARS Srimad Bhagawatham and attains moksha or liberation. One may not understand the Sanskrit slokas; do not despair. Listen to the commentaries in a language that you understand. God has no language; other way round God understands the feelings in your heart rendered through any language – even English.
In the story of Prahalada, which we shall deal later, his father Hiranayakashipu asks him what he had learnt from his guru in the school. Without batting his eyelids, he describes 9 form of bhaktis in which shravanam or hearing tops the list. So, LISTEN to Srimad Bhagawatham in a language you understand.
This is what Prahalada says:
Sravanam keerthanam vishnoh smaranam paadasevanam
Archanam vandanam daasyam sakhyam aatmanivedanam
Ithi pumsaarpithavishnau bhakthischet nava lakshana
Kriyathe bhagavathyadhyaatmanye adheethamuttamam
Prahalada tells his father that there are nine forms of bhakti or devotion — sravanam, keerthanam, smaranam, paada sevanam, archanam, vandanam, daasyam, sakhyam, atma nivedanam. These should be done with total surrender of the mind to Vishnu or the Supreme. This is called nava vidhi bhakthi. What Prahalada says is similar to what Narada explains as ekaadasha bhakthi in the Narada Bhakthi Sutras.
Here are the details:
SRAVANAM – this is listening to the stories of the Lord, hearing the glories of the Lord. This is the most important one among all the forms of devotion. Sri Sukha could as well have told King Parikshit: “Here is a copy of Srimad Bhagawatham, read it and attain Moksha”. No, instead, realising the importance of listening intently, Sri Sukha narrates the Holy Book.
In modern management too, it is said a good listener makes a good leader.
KEERTHANAM – this is reflection of whatever we have learnt about the Lord. It is also chanting what you have heard. Just hearing Srimad Bhagawatham is not enough. You need to think, reflect and assimilate what you have heard. When it rains, the soil assimilates the water slowly and recharges the ground water where it remains for ages. So should our mind – assimilate and store. The problem with us is that our memory space is often limited. And unlike a computer, you cannot expand the memory by adding an external chip. So, you need to delete unwanted files in your brain and make space. Like in a pop-up in your computer which tells you that the following files are not needed, you need to delete hatred and jealousy for others and anger. These files occupy too much space in your brain. Delete them. See how light you feel.
Often, we hear discourses, but when we come home, your daughter or grandchild would ask: what did you hear? And most of us would fumble for an answer. Always when you go for a discourse, take a small notebook to jot down important points. You need to ASSIMILATE what is said.
SMARANAM – Once you think and reflect, you will remember the Lord through contemplation.
PAADASEVANAM – Prostrating or respecting the true devotees of the Lord. Also prostrating before the Lord and his devotees.
ARCHANAM – taking the names of the Lord by detaching the mind from external distractions.
VANDANAM – respecting devotees of the Lord.
DAASYAM – serve the Lord through His devotees.
SAKHYAM – treat the Lord as a friend, not someone who is to be feared. I have seen some people say that if we do not do this or that, the Lord will get angry. No, God is an eternal friend. He never gets angry. Emotions do not govern Him.
ATMA NIVEDANAM – All this will ultimately lead to offering oneself totally to the Lord. You become one with the Lord.
Srimad Bhagavatham is considered to be a complete (Purna) sacred book and the holy book’s 12 chapters represents the 12 parts of the Supreme. That is why it is called Paripurna Grantham or the complete and perfect holy book.
The chapters of Srimad Bhagavatham are often described as follows: First Chapter represents the foot, second knees, third thighs, four hip, fifth navel, sixth heart, seven chest, eight throat, nine shoulders, ten face, eleven forehead and twelve brain or the seat of Brahma.