“Sri Brhad-Bhagavatamrta is an epic work composed in Sanskrit during the sixteenth century by Sanatana Goswami, one of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s leading disciples. It is one of the first books written by any of the Six Goswamis of Vrindavan.
About the Author
Gopipararpdhana Dasa (1950-2011) was both a scholar of Sanskrit and a practitioner of devotional service to Lord Krsna. Under the guidance of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupdda, he developed an expertise in Sanskrit and served as an editor for the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. When Shia Prabhupada passed away, Gopiparanadhana served on the three-man team that completed Srila Prabhupada’s edition of S’rimad-Bhagavatam.
Until the end of his life, Gopiparanadhana Dasa lived with his wife and son in Govardhana, the north Indian village where the author of Sri Brhad-bhagavatamrta spent the last years of his life.
THE HERO’S QUEST for the extraordinary – an ever-recurring theme in literature – reflects the urge of every heart at its no-blest to discover the full possibilities of life. Anyone dissatisfied with the scant potential of mundane existence is naturally stimu-lated by the prospect of finding, even vicariously, a world of greater liberty. There should be some better place for the soul. Why should happiness be so elusive, and why should confusion and resentment always shroud the mind’s eye, making it unable to see clearly what’s in front of it?
Sandtana Gosvami’s Brhad-bhagavatamrta is a gemlike `example of the quest genre, but different from the sort com-monly encountered in fable and fiction. Narada and Gopa-kumara, the respective heroes of this book’s two parts, are searching for a key to fulfillment much subtler than wealth, influ-ence, mundane love, the Fountain of Youth, or even the Holy Grail. Narada has vast experience of the cosmos, Gopa-kumara is illiterate and naive, yet they share the same vision of what is most valuable. What both want is not to conquer or exploit on any level, but to explore the mystery of selfless service. As Narada already knows, and Gopa-kumara will gradually learn, the superior mode of life they seek is personal and defined by the interplay of those who take part in it, rather than by material laws of nature.
The cynosure of the spiritual world in which Sanatana Go-svami and his protagonists feel at home is one special person, the object of the selfless love Narada and Gopa-kumara value above all. Narada knows this special person, Krsna, as the prince of the Yadus, and Gopa-kumara contemplates Him as a young cowherd like himself. Srila Sanatana takes it for granted that Krsna-Gopala is supreme, that Krsna is the creator and controller of everything, and leaves the task of proving it to his brother RUpa Gosvami, who later takes it up in his Laghu- (“”smaller””) bhdgavatamrta. Here in the Brhad- (“”bigger””) bhagavatamrta the main questions are in whom and in what realm is love for the Supreme Person most intimately known.
At first glance the structure of Brhad-bhagavatdmrta may to modern readers seem repetitious, but the plot does have a logic of its own, which it develops the way classical Indian music develops themes, repeating them again and again with subtle embellishments. In Part One, for example, the same thing hap-pens to Narada over and over: He goes to someone who is sup-posed to be Krsna’s most favored devotee, praises that person, and is rebuked, refuted, and redirected to someone else. Yet in this cyclic repetition we discern a progress, although not a linear one aiming at a single point. We learn much more than the simple fact that someone in particular is the greatest lover of God. Yes, the young gopis of Vrndavana are unquestionably Krsna’s best devotees, but for neophytes still addicted to ma-terial lust, merely establishing the gopis as a distant ideal is of little practical use, and may even be dangerous. By understand-ing that to emulate the gopis’ perfect devotion is extremely dif-ficult, honest persons might feel frustrated, and the dishonest will imitate anyway and degrade themselves. Therefore Narada in his encounters with various devotees carefully traces out the real foundations and natural progress of pure devotion, in a way that readers can follow according to their own spiritual disposition.
Unlike the material existence we all know, in which survival depends on our ability to jockey ourselves into better positions than competitors and garner our share of the limited resources for control and enjoyment, on the transcendental plane of love of God the resources are unlimited, and everyone competes in-stead to prove that others are better than themselves. This re-markable quality, unknown in material life, is evident even in the sincere beginners in devotional practice whom Narada meets first, the brahmaria of Prayaga and the southern king.
THE FORMAT OF THIS VOLUME is the same as that of the first, with a few exceptions. Professor Joseph T. O’Connell’s Fore-word and my Preface and biography of Srila Sanatana Gosvami appear only in Volume One. The first appendix in that volume, explaining how my commentary derives from Sri1a Sanatana’s, has here been replaced with my “”confessions,”” a list of sentences in the commentary that represent not his words but my own.
Since repetition is a lesser fault than ingratitude, I’d like to thank again all the devotees engaged in the service of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust who have helped turn this into a read-able book, especially Jayadvaita Swami, Kegava Bharati Prabhu, Dravida Prabhu, Brahma Muharta Prabhu, Govinda Prabhu, Dina-bandhu Prabhu, Karijalocana Prabhu, Durmada Prabhu, Rasa-varsi Prabhu, and my wife, Arca-murti. My thanks also to Ananda-tirtha Prabhu, who joined us as an editorial assistant for this vol-ume, and my thanks to Madhupati Prabhu, Radha-jivana Prabhu, and Jaya-gaura Prabhu, who made kind contributions towards the cost for its first printing. And last, my thanks to the readers of this work.
I WOULD BE UNGRATEFUL not to express my thanks to all the thoughtful Vaisnavas who have shared with me their words of appreciation for the first two volumes of this book. I cannot take much credit for this work, since I’ve only served as a middleman between Srila Sanatana Gosvami, who provided the exquisite original poetry and his definitive commentary on it, and our editors – Ke§ava Bharati Dasa Goswami and Jayadvaita Swami – who made the English almost as delightful and elegant as the Sanskrit.”