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The Story of Vyasadeva's Visions
Five thousand years ago was a time when many wise and powerful sages traversed the area of India and the Himalayan Mountains. They would engage in potent spiritual practices that could give them mystic powers and abilities. One such great and powerful sage was Vyasadeva. So great was he that by the mental power of his concentrated meditations he could enter the spiritual state of consciousness known as labdhopashanti. In this state of being there are no effects from devastating time, which control even the superior celestial beings and demigods who live in the higher levels of existence. Nor is there any effect from false ego, the material nature, nor the material modes of goodness, passion, and ignorance, which create the appearance of past, present, and future. Vyasadeva was completely beyond all material inclinations and influences. In this state of consciousness, Vyasadeva could perceive the workings of every portion of the material cosmic creation, and all events in time, both past or future. He could see how the universe had been created and how it expanded, and the process by which the innumerable living beings were placed into various species of life that became scattered throughout the universe. He could see the future changes of society, the degradation of civilization, and the coming changes in the physical stature and mental ability of human beings. He could also see the planetary cataclysms; even the universal annihilation when this whole material creation would be no more. He could see all of this, and he was greatly disturbed.
One morning as the sun rose over the mountains in Shamyaprasa, in the Badarikashrama area of the Himalayas, Vyasadeva sat alone on the western bank of the Sarasvati River. He could see that as the present age of Kali-yuga progressed, people would become more and more interested in temporary material pleasures and pursuits, and more forgetful of their spiritual identity. He could see that the duration of life would be reduced and such materialistic people would be impatient, greedy, lustful, unfortunate, and always disturbed. Also, Vyasadeva could see that in the future the earth would no longer produce sufficient food grains, cows would not give as much milk, and fruits and vegetables would be fewer and less nourishing. This would cause lower standards of health, intelligence, memory, duration of life, and moral principles. People would resort to lower and lower methods to survive, squeezing whatever pleasure they could out of their lives. Diseases previously unknown would appear, creating incurable epidemics. Vyasadeva also saw that spiritual practices meant for the true advancement of human society would be given up. Gradually spiritual knowledge and the mode of goodness would be lost. This would cause people to become more corrupt, dishonest, and hypocritical. To help prevent this rapid decay in civilization, Vyasadeva compiled the first spiritual texts, known as the Vedas. He expanded them into the Upanishads, Vedanta Sutras, the Puranas, the Mahabharata, and so forth, and, with the help of his disciples, he handed them down to the rest of society. (This is more elaborately explained in the second volume of this series, The Universal Path to Enlightenment, so we will not explain it fully here.) In this way, he compiled various levels of spiritual understanding so even the less intelligent people in this age could study and assimilate this knowledge. Even after compiling so many texts, Vyasadeva was still not satisfied in his heart, and he questioned his dissatisfaction.
As Vyasadeva was contemplating this problem one morning, Narada Muni, the sage among the gods, appeared before him. Narada, acting as Vyasadeva's spiritual master, instructed him to write one more book that would elaborate on the most important and confidential knowledge of our spiritual identity and the qualities, characteristics, and pastimes of the Supreme Being, Sri Krishna, explaining how to reach the highest levels of spiritual realizations. After being instructed by Narada Muni, Vyasadeva sat and fixed his mind in bhakti-yoga and saw the Absolute Truth and, thus, wrote the Srimad-Bhagavatam for the good of all people. In this way, Vyasadeva wrote his own commentary on all of his previous writings. Furthermore, because of his focus on the Absolute Truth without any material motivations, and because Vyasadeva also is an empowered incarnation of God, the Srimad-Bhagavatam is considered the literary incarnation of God that can deliver from ignorance all who approach it. Vyasadeva also recited the Srimad-Bhagavatam to his son, Shukadeva, who later spoke it to the great Emperor Pariksit at a huge gathering of sages. Within the ancient text of the Srimad-Bhagavatam and many other Puranas are numerous prophecies regarding the future of this world. Just as Vyasadeva and Shukadeva presented it for the good of all, similarly we are now using it, along with many other portions of Vedic literature, to explain the many ways our world will change as time unfolds into the future.