Explanation of the Atmarama Verse in Srimad Bhagavatam
Lord Caitanya next explained a very famous verse known as the Atmarama verse, which appears in Srimad-Bhagavatam as follows:
This verse indicates that those who are liberated souls and are fully self-satisfied will eventually become devotees of the Lord. This injunction is especially meant for the impersonalists, for the impersonalists have no information of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. They try to remain satisfied with the impersonal Brahman, but Krsna is so attractive and so strong that He attracts their minds. This is the purport of this verse.
This verse had been previously explained to a great Vedantist known as Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya. After taking lessons from Lord Caitanya, Sanatana Gosvami referred to this incident and prayed to the Lord to again explain the Atmarama verse. Kaviraja Gosvami, the author of Caitanya-caritamrta, appreciating the Lord's explanation of the Atmarama verse, has also glorified Lord Caitanya in his prayers. Falling flat at the feet of Lord Caitanya, Sanatana Gosvami requested Him to explain the verse as He had formerly explained it to Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya. Sanatana explained his eagerness to hear the same explanation in order that he might be enlightened. Being thus requested by Sanatana, the Lord replied: "I do not understand why Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya so much appreciated My explanation. As far as I am concerned, I don't even remember what I said to him. But because you are asking this of Me, I shall, with the help of your association, try to explain whatever I can remember." Thus the speaker and the audience are very intimately connected; the speaker is enlightened by the presence of the audience. The speaker, or master, can speak very nicely on transcendental subject matters before an understanding audience; therefore Lord Caitanya said that He did not know how to explain the Sanskrit verse but that since He was in the association of Sanatana He would try to explain it.
The Lord then went on to point out that there are eleven items in the Atmarama verse: (1) atmaramah, (2) ca, (3) munayah, (4) nirgranthah, (5) api, (6) urukrame, (7) kurvanti, (8) ahaitukim, (9) bhaktim, (10) ittham-bhuta-gunah, (11) harih. The Lord then began to explain each and every one of these items. As far as the word atmarama is concerned, the Lord explained that the word atma is used to indicate: (1) the Supreme Absolute Truth, (2) the body, (3) the mind, (4) endeavor, (5) conviction, (6) intelligence, and (7) nature. The word arama means enjoyer; therefore anyone who takes pleasure in the cultivation of the knowledge of these seven items is known as atmarama. The Lord then explained about the different kinds of atmaramas, or transcendentalists. As for the word munayah, or muni, those who are great thinkers are called munis. Sometimes the word muni is also applied to a person who is very grave. Great sages, great austere persons, great mystics and learned scholars are also called munis.
The next word, nirgrantha, indicates freedom from the bondage of illusion. Nirgrantha also means "One who has no connection with spiritual injunctions." Grantha means revealed scriptures, and nir is an affix which is used to mean "no connection," "constructing," and also "prohibiting." There are many instructions for spiritual realization, but persons who have no connection with such scriptural injunctions are also known as nirgrantha. There are many people who are foolish, low-born and misbehaved and who have no entrance into the revealed scriptures and injunctions, and therefore they are called nirgrantha. Because grantha is also used for the purpose of collecting riches, the word nirgrantha also indicates a poor man, bereft of all riches, who is attempting to collect riches.
The word urukrama is used to indicate a highly powerful person. The word krama is used to indicate the act of stepping, and the word urukrama indicates one who can step forward very far. The greatest step forward was taken by Lord Vamanadeva, who covered the whole universe in two steps. Thus the word urukrama indicates the Supreme Lord Vamanadeva. This extraordinary feature of Lord Vamanadeva is thus explained in Srimad-Bhagavatam (2.7.40).
visnor nu virya-gananam katamo 'rhatiha
yah parthivany api kavir vimame rajamsi
caskambha yah sva-ramhasaskhalata tri-prstham
yasmat tri-samya-sadanad uru-kampayanam
"No one can estimate the inconceivable potencies of Lord Visnu. Even if one can count the number of atomic combinations in this material world, he still cannot count the different energies of the Supreme Lord. As Vamanadeva, the Lord was so powerful that simply by stepping forward He covered the whole universe from Brahmaloka down to Patalaloka."
The inconceivable energies of the Lord are spread throughout the creation. He is all-pervading, and by His energy He sustains all planetary systems, yet through His pleasure potency He remains situated in His personal abode known as Goloka. By the expansion of His opulence, He is present in all the Vaikuntha planets as Narayana. By expanding His material energy, He creates innumerable universes with innumerable planets within them. Thus no one can estimate the wonderful activities of the Supreme Lord, and therefore the Supreme Lord is known as urukrama, the wonderful actor. In the Visvaprakasa dictionary, the word krama is defined as "an expert display of energies," as well as "stepping forward very quickly."
The word kurvanti is used to mean "working for others." There is another word similar to this which is used when one's activities are done for one's own personal sense gratification, but the word kurvanti is used when activities are performed for the satisfaction of the Supreme. Thus in this verse the word can only indicate the rendering of transcendental service to the Lord.
The word hetu is used to indicate the reason or cause. Generally people are engaged in transcendental activities for three reasons: some want material happiness, some want mystic perfection and some want liberation from material bondage. As far as material enjoyment is concerned, there are so many varieties that no one can enumerate them. As far as perfections in mystic power are concerned, there are eighteen, and as far as types of liberation from material bondage are concerned, there are five. The state of being where all these varieties of enjoyment are conspicuous by their absence is called ahaituki. The ahaituki qualification is especially mentioned because by the ahaituki service of the Lord, one can achieve the favor of the Lord.
The word bhakti can be used in ten different ways. Out of these ten, there is sadhana-bhakti, or occupational devotional service. The other nine are called prema-bhakti, love of Godhead. Those who are situated in the neutral position attain perfection up to love of Godhead. Similarly, those who are situated in the relationship of master and servant attain love of Godhead to the stage of attachment. Those who are related in friendship attain love of God to the point of fraternity. Those who are in love with God as His parents are elevated to the point of transcendental emotion. But only those who are related with the Supreme in conjugal love can experience the highest of ecstasies. Thus there are different meanings for the word bhakti.
The Lord next explained the different meanings of ittham-bhuta-guna. Ittham bhuta indicates fully transcendental pleasure before which the transcendental pleasure known as brahmananda becomes like straw. In the Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya (14.36), a devotee says:
"My Lord, O Supreme, simply by understanding You or seeing You, the pleasure which we derive is so great that the pleasure of brahmananda becomes insignificant." In other words, the pleasure derived by understanding Krsna as He is-as the all-attractive reservoir of all pleasures and the reservoir of all pleasure-giving tastes with all transcendental qualifications-attracts one to become His devotee. By virtue of such attraction, one can give up fruitive activities and all endeavors for liberation and can even abandon the intense desire to achieve success in yoga mystic power. The attraction of Krsna is so intense that one can lose respect for all other means of self-realization and simply surrender unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
The Lord also explained the word guna in all its different meanings. Guna indicates the unlimited transcendental qualities of Krsna, primarily His sac-cid-ananda form. In His transcendental blissful knowledge and eternity, He is fully perfect, and His perfection is increased when He is controlled by the attention of His devotee. God is so kind and merciful that He can give Himself in exchange for the devotional service of the devotee. His transcendental qualities are such that the perfection of His beauty, His perfect reciprocation of love between Himself and His devotees, and the flavor of His transcendental qualities attract different kinds of transcendentalists and liberated souls. For example, He attracted the mind of Sanaka Kumara simply by the aroma emanating from the flowers offered to Him. The mind of Sukadeva Gosvami was attracted by the transcendental pastimes of Lord Krsna, and the minds of the damsels of Vrndavana were attracted by His personal beauty. Rukmini's attention was attracted by His bodily features and transcendental qualities, and the mind of the goddess of fortune was attracted by His flute playing and other transcendental features. Lord Krsna attracts the minds of all young girls and elderly ladies by His childlike activities. He also attracts the minds of His friends by His friendly activities. When He appeared in Vrndavana, He even attracted the birds, beasts, trees and plants. Indeed, everyone became attracted in love and affection for Krsna.
The word hari has different meanings, of which two are foremost. Hari means that He takes away all inauspicious things from the devotee's life and that He attracts the mind of the devotee by awarding him transcendental love of Godhead. Krsna is so attractive that anyone who can remember Him in some way or another becomes freed from the four kinds of material miseries. The Lord gives special attention to His devotee and banishes the devotee's various sinful activities, which are stumbling blocks for the advancement of devotional service. This is called routing the influence of ignorance. Simply by hearing about Him, one develops love for Him. That is the gift of the Lord. On one side He takes away inauspicious things, and on the other side He awards the most auspicious things. That is the meaning of hari. When a person is developed in love of Godhead, his body, mind and everything else are attracted by the transcendental qualities of the Lord. Such is the power of Krsna's merciful activities and transcendental qualities. He is so attractive that out of transcendental attachment, a devotee will abandon all four principles of spiritual life-religiosity, economic development, regulation of sense gratification and salvation.
The words api and ca are adverbs and can be used for virtually any purpose. The word ca, or "and," can render seven different readings to the whole construction.
The Lord thus established the import of the eleven words in the Atmarama verse, and then He began to explain the import of each item as follows. The word brahman indicates the greatest in all respects. The Lord is the greatest in all opulences. No one can excel Him in wealth, strength, fame, beauty, knowledge and renunciation. Thus the word brahman indicates the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna. In the Visnu Purana (1.12.57) the word brahman is given to indicate the greatest of all; the Supreme Lord is the greatest, and there is no limit to His expanding as the greatest. One may conceive of Brahman's greatness, yet this greatness grows in such a way that no one can estimate how great He actually is.
The Supreme Personality of Godhead is realized in three aspects, but they are all one and the same. The Absolute Truth, the Supreme Personality, Krsna, is everlasting. In Srimad-Bhagavatam (2.9.33) it is said that He exists before the manifestation of this cosmic world, that He exists during its continuance, and that He continues to exist after its annihilation. Therefore He is the soul of everything great. He is all-pervading and all-witnessing, and He is the supreme form of everything.
There are three different kinds of transcendental processes mentioned in Vedic literature by which one can understand and achieve that supreme perfection of the Absolute Truth. They are called the process of knowledge, the process of mystic yoga, and the process of devotional service. The followers of these three processes realize the Absolute Truth in three different aspects. Those who follow the process of knowledge realize Him as impersonal Brahman; those who follow the process of yoga realize Him as the localized Supersoul; and those who follow the process of devotional service realize Him as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna. In other words, although the word Brahman indicates Krsna and nothing else, still, according to the process that is followed, the Lord is realized in three different aspects.
As far as devotional service is concerned, there are two divisions. In the beginning there is vidhi-bhakti, or devotional service with regulative principles. In the higher stage there is raga-bhakti, or devotional service in pure love.
The Supreme Personality of Godhead is the Absolute Truth, but He is manifested by the expansions of His different energies also. Those who follow the regulative principles of devotional service ultimately attain the Vaikuntha planets in the spiritual world, but one who follows the principles of love in devotional service attains to the supreme abode, the highest planet in the spiritual world known as Krsnaloka or Goloka Vrndavana.
Transcendentalists can also be divided into three categories. The word akama refers to one who does not have any material desires. Moksa-kama refers to one who seeks liberation from material miseries, and sarva-kama refers to one who has the material desire to enjoy. The most intelligent transcendentalist gives up all other processes and engages himself in the devotional service of the Lord, even though he may have many desires. It is not by any kind of transcendental activity-neither fruitive action, nor the cultivation of knowledge, nor cultivation of mystic yoga-that a person can achieve the highest perfection without adding a tinge of devotional service. But for devotional service, all other transcendental processes are just like nipples on the neck of a goat. The nipples on a goat's neck may be squeezed, but they do not supply milk. If one is to derive actual perfection from his process, he must take to the devotional service of Krsna. In Bhagavad-gita it is stated:.
"O best among the Bharatas [Arjuna], four kinds of pious men render devotional service unto Me-the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of the Absolute." (Bg. 7.16)
When these four types of people amass righteous activities, they come to the devotional service of the Lord. Out of these four, those who are distressed and those who desire wealth are called devotees with desires, whereas the other two, the inquisitive and the searcher for wisdom, are seekers of liberation. Because they worship Krsna, they are all considered to be very fortunate. In due course of time, if they give up all desires and become pure devotees of the Supreme Lord, they can be considered most fortunate. Such fortunate beginners can develop only in the association of pure devotees of Lord Krsna. When one associates with pure devotees, he becomes a pure devotee himself. This is confirmed in Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.10.11):
"A person who is actually intelligent is able-by association of pure devotees-to hear about Lord Krsna and His activities." These activities are so attractive that when one hears of them, he does not give up his association with the Lord.
But for the association of pure devotees, all other association is kaitava, or cheating. This is confirmed in the First Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam wherein it is stated that all cheating processes which obstruct transcendental realization are to be thrown off. By Srimad-Bhagavatam one can understand reality as it is, and such understanding helps one transcend the three kinds of material miseries. Srimad-Bhagavatam is compiled by the greatest sage, Vyasadeva, and it is a work coming out of his mature experience. By understanding Srimad-Bhagavatam and rendering devotional service, one can immediately capture the Supreme Lord within his heart.
Lord Caitanya then explained that the word projjhita means"desire for liberation." One great commentator explained that desire for liberation is the most obstructive stumbling block on the path of God realization. Somehow or other, if one comes to Krsna and begins to hear about Him, Krsna is so kind that He awards him His lotus feet as a center. Having such a focal point, a devotee or transcendentalist forgets everything and engages himself in the devotional service of the Lord. When one comes to the Lord in devotional service, or in full Krsna consciousness, the reward is the Supreme Himself. Once engaged for the Supreme, one no longer asks for anything, as do the distressed man and he who desires material possessions. The method of devotional service, the service itself, association of pure devotees and the causeless mercy of the Lord all act so wonderfully that one can give up all activities and become absorbed in Krsna, even if he is distressed, in want of material possessions, inquisitive or is actually a wise man cultivating knowledge.
In summary, Krsna is the meaning behind all the words in the Atmarama verse. Up to this point Lord Caitanya spoke only of the introduction to the Atmarama verse. Next He explains its real position.
In the cultivation of knowledge there are two kinds of transcendentalists. One of them worships the impersonal Brahman, and the other desires liberation. Since monists worship the impersonal feature of Brahman, they are therefore called worshipers of Brahman. These Brahman worshipers are further divided into three categories: the neophyte, one who is absorbed in Brahman realization, and one who has actually realized himself as Brahman. If devotional service is added, the knower of Brahman can then become liberated; otherwise there is no possibility of liberation. Anyone who is fully engaged in devotional service in Krsna consciousness is understood to be already realized in Brahman. Devotional service is so strong that one is attracted to Krsna even from the platform of Brahman worship. The Lord awards the devotee the perfection of a spiritual body, and he eternally engages in the transcendental service of Krsna. It is when the devotee understands and becomes attracted by Krsna's transcendental qualities that he wholeheartedly engages in devotional service. For instance, the four Kumaras and Sukadeva Gosvami were liberated from the beginning, yet in their later life they became attracted to the pastimes of Krsna and became devotees. Sanaka Kumara was attracted by the aroma of the flowers offered to Krsna, and the other Kumaras were attracted by the transcendental qualities of the Lord and thus engaged in His devotional service. The nine mystics mentioned in the Eleventh Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam are understood to have been transcendentalists from birth by virtue of hearing of the transcendental qualities of Krsna from Brahma, Lord Siva and Narada.
Sometimes one becomes attracted to Krsna and His transcendental qualities simply by looking upon the beautiful features of His transcendental body, in which case one abandons the desire for liberation and engages in His devotional service. The devotee regrets his loss of time in the so-called cultivation of knowledge and becomes a pure devotee of the Lord.
There are two kinds of liberated souls having material bodies: the soul liberated by devotional service and the soul liberated by the cultivation of knowledge. The liberated soul in devotional service, attracted by the transcendental qualities of Krsna, becomes more and more elevated, whereas those who engage in dry speculation and simply cultivate knowledge without devotion fall due to their many offenses. This is confirmed in Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.2.32) where it is stated:
ye 'nye 'ravindaksa vimukta-maninas
tvayy asta-bhavad avisuddha-buddhayah
aruhya krcchrena param padam tatah
patanty adho 'nadrta-yusmad-anghrayah
"O Lord, the intelligence of those who think themselves liberated but who have no devotion is not pure. Even though they rise to the highest point of liberation by dint of severe penances and austerity, they are sure to fall down again into this material existence, for they do not take shelter at Your lotus feet." This is also confirmed in Bhagavad-gita:
"One who is transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman. He never laments nor desires to have anything; he is equally disposed to every living entity. In that state, he attains pure devotional service unto Me." (Bg. 18.54)
Thus one who is actually situated in Brahman realization has no reason to lament or desire. He is equal to everyone and is thus eligible for devotional service. This was also accepted by Bilvamangala Thakura, who, in his later life, lamented: "I was situated as a monist in order to become one with the Supreme, but somehow or other I contacted a naughty boy and became His eternal servitor." In other words, those who attain self-realization by the execution of devotional service attain a transcendental body, and, being attracted to the transcendental qualities of Krsna, engage fully in pure devotional service.
Anyone who is not attracted to Krsna is understood to be still under the spell of the illusory energy (maya), but one who is attempting to be liberated by the process of devotional service is actually liberated from the spell of maya. In the Eleventh Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam there are many instances recorded of devotees who became liberated in this life simply by engaging in devotional service.
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