yaḥ svānubhāvam akhila-śruti-sāram ekam
adhyātma-dīpam atititīrṣatāṁ tamo 'ndham
saṁsāriṇāṁ karuṇayāha purāṇa-guhyaṁ
taṁ vyāsa-sūnum upayāmi guruṁ munīnām
yaḥ—he who; sva-anubhāvam—self-assimilated (experienced); akhila—all around; śruti—the Vedas; sāram—cream; ekam—the only one; adhyātma—transcendental; dīpam—torchlight; atititīrṣatām—desiring to overcome; tamaḥ andham—deeply dark material existence; saṁsāriṇām—of the materialistic men; karuṇayā—out of causeless mercy; āha—said; purāṇa—supplement to the Vedas; guhyam—very confidential; tam—unto him; vyāsa-sūnum—the son of Vyāsadeva; upayāmi—let me offer my obeisances; gurum—the spiritual master; munīnām—of the great sages.
Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto him [Śuka], the spiritual master of all sages, the son of Vyāsadeva, who, out of his great compassion for those gross materialists who struggle to cross over the darkest regions of material existence, spoke this most confidential supplement to the cream of Vedic knowledge, after having personally assimilated it by experience.
In this prayer, Śrīla Sūta Gosvāmī practically summarizes the complete introduction of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is the natural supplementary commentary on the Vedānta-sūtras. The Vedānta-sūtras, or the Brahma-sūtras, were compiled by Vyāsadeva with a view to presenting just the cream of Vedic knowledge. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is the natural commentary on this cream. Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī was a thoroughly realized master on the Vedānta-sūtra, and consequently he also personally realized the commentary, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. And just to show his boundless mercy upon bewildered materialistic men who want to cross completely over nescience, he recited for the first time this confidential knowledge.
There is no point in arguing that a materialistic man can be happy. No materialistic creature-be he the great Brahmā or an insignificant ant-can be happy. Everyone tries to make a permanent plan for happiness, but everyone is baffled by the laws of material nature. Therefore the materialistic world is called the darkest region of God's creation. Yet the unhappy materialists can get out of it simply by desiring to get out. Unfortunately they are so foolish that they do not want to escape. Therefore they are compared to the camel who relishes thorny twigs because he likes the taste of the twigs mixed with blood. He does not realize that it is his own blood and that his tongue is being cut by the thorns. Similarly, to the materialist his own blood is as sweet as honey, and although he is always harassed by his own material creations, he does not wish to escape. Such materialists are called karmīs. Out of hundreds of thousands of karmīs, only a few may feel tired of material engagement and desire to get out of the labyrinth. Such intelligent persons are called jñānīs. The Vedānta-sūtra is directed to such jñānīs. But Śrīla Vyāsadeva, being the incarnation of the Supreme Lord, could foresee the misuse of the Vedānta-sūtra by unscrupulous men, and, therefore, he personally supplemented the Vedānta-sūtra with the Bhāgavata Purāṇa. It is clearly said that this Bhāgavatam is the original commentary on the Brahma-sūtras. Śrīla Vyāsadeva also instructed the Bhāgavatam to his own son, Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī, who was already at the liberated stage of transcendence. Śrīla Śukadeva realized it personally and then explained it. By the mercy of Śrīla Śukadeva, the Bhāgavata-vedānta-sūtra is available for all those sincere souls who want to get out of material existence.
Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is the one unrivaled commentary on Vedānta-sūtra. Śrīpāda Śaṅkarācārya intentionally did not touch it because he knew that the natural commentary would be difficult for him to surpass. He wrote his Śārīraka-bhāṣya, and his so-called followers deprecated the Bhāgavatam as some "new" presentation. One should not be misled by such propaganda directed against the Bhāgavatam by the Māyāvāda school. From this introductory śloka, the beginning student should know that Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is the only transcendental literature meant for those who are paramahaṁsas and completely freed from the material disease called malice. The Māyāvādīs are envious of the Personality of Godhead despite Śrīpāda Śaṅkarācārya's admission that Nārāyaṇa, the Personality of Godhead, is above the material creation. The envious Māyāvādī cannot have access to the Bhāgavatam, but those who are really anxious to get out of this material existence may take shelter of this Bhāgavatam because it is uttered by the liberated Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī. It is the transcendental torchlight by which one can see perfectly the transcendental Absolute Truth realized as Brahman, Paramātmā and Bhagavān.
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