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The Process of Saptaha Yajna
The Kumaras said, "O Narada, now we will explain the process of performing Saptaha. Generally this process requires wealth and the assistance of others.1 First one should determine an auspicious times with the help of a good astrologer. If the Saptaha begins in the months of Bhadra, Asvina, Kartika, Margasirsa, Asadha or Sravana, the audience will get liberation.2 Even during these months, however, inauspicious periods such as Bhadra vyatipata should be avoided.
With the help of enthusiastic people, one should acquire as much wealth as needed to perform a marriage ceremony. he should then graciously invite various families, including women and sudras, to hear Hari-katha.3 One should publicly announce the event and send written invitations to Vaishnavas and other lovers of Hari-kirtana.
One should announce in writing that for seven day the rare opportunity to hear the transcendental message of Shrimad Bhagavatam and to associate with saintly persons is being made available. it should be explained that if one is unable to attend for the entire period, he should come for at least one day to give blessings. In this way one should humbly send invitations to Vaishnavas and make proper arrangements for their board and lodging.
The recitation of Bhagavatam should be done either in a holy place, a forest, or in one's house. It should be performed on an open ground that is properly cleaned and decorated. if performed in one's house, all household articles should be removed from the room used for the recitation.
One should start making arrangements five days in advance. A nice podium should be arranged and decorated with fruits, leaves, flowers, banana trees, and so forth. On the stage one should imagine the seven planetary systems. Proper seats should be offered to saintly persons and there should be a nice vyasasana for the speaker.
It is the opinion of scholars that if the speaker faces north, the audience should face eastwards; if the speaker faces east, the audience should face north; or both can face the east.
The speaker should be learned, expert, and able to explain the essence of Vedic literature and give proper examples. He should be a renounced brahmana, a devotee of the Lord and free from material desires. Those who are cheaters, attached to women, and who do not know the essence of religion, should not be invited to speak on Shrimad Bhagavatam. The speaker may have a learned assistant to remove doubts whenever necessary.
One day before the recitation the speaker should shave his head. He should take morning bath, chant Gayatri, perform other morning duties and then worship Ganesa for removing any obstacles in the Saptaha Yajna. He should offer oblations to the forefathers, perform prayascitta, and establish Lord Hari on the Mandala. Thereafter, he should worship Lord Krishna by chanting proper mantras and offer sixteen articles of worship. He should circumambulate the Lord and beseech Him in the following way, "O most merciful Lord, I am drowning in the ocean of this material world. I am very fallen and caught in the network of karma, which is like a crocodile. Please deliver me from this world."
Following the procedure, he should then worship Shrimad Bhagavatam with incense, ghee lamp, and so on. He should place one coconut in front of the book, pay obeisances, and offer the following prayer: "O Lord Krishna, You are directly the Shrimad Bhagavatam. I take shelter of You so I can free myself from this world. Please remove all obstacles so this ceremony may be successfully completed. O Lord Kesava, I am your servant."
Thereafter, the host should worship the speaker, give him nice cloth, and offer the following prayer, "You are the personification of Sukadeva and are expert in explaining the meaning of Shrimad Bhagavatam. Please reveal this knowledge to us and dispel our ignorance.
Then in a blissful mood, one should take a vow for his own good and maintain it for seven days without fail.4 To dispel all obstacles in the katha, five brahmanas should be selected to daily chant the twelve syllable mantra composed of names of Lord Hari. After this, the host should worship the brahmanas, the devotees, and give charity to the kirtana performers. He should offer them obeisances and with their permission, be seated.
Those who hear the katha attentively, with great faith and a pure mind, who have give up attachment to home, wealth, family, and so on, will receive the highest benefit.
The intelligent speaker will start the katha at sunrise and continue for nine hours. He should recite in a sweet medium tone and observe a one hour lapse at noon. During this interim the Vaishnavas should glorify the various names of Lord Hari associated with the particular history being narrated and there should be no idle talk. To avoid passing stool and urine during the time of katha, one should consume only light food. If possible, one should fast for seven days, or subsist only on ghee, or milk and happily listen to the Bhagavatam. Alternatively one can eat once a day or subsist only on fruit. One should observe a procedure that can be followed without much difficulty. I consider eating better than fasting if it helps one concentrate and hear properly. If fasting disturbs one's hearing, then he should avoid it.
O Narada, now listen to the principles to be observed while hearing Saptaha. A person who is not initiated into Vaishnava mantra is not qualified to hear it. A person who wants to properly hear the Saptaha should observe celibacy and sleep on the floor. After the recitation he should eat food served on leaves. He should not eat dhal, honey, oil, heavy, stale, or contaminated food.
He should completely avoid lust, pride, greed, envy, anger, illusion, hypocrisy and so on. He should also avoid criticising or hearing criticism of the Vedas, Vaishnavas, brahmanas, the guru, women, the king, great personalities, or those who render service to the cow.
He should also avoid contacting women during menstruation, a mleccha, a fallen person, a brahmana who is not initiated into Gayatri mantra, those who are antagonistic toward brahmanas, and those who do not accept the Vedas. He should always be clean, truthful, silent, simple, humble, merciful and generous.
Even those who are poor, sick, unfortunate, childless, and desirous of liberation, are qualified to hear this katha. Women who are barren, who have only one child, whose child had died, who have reached menopause, or who always suffer miscarriages, should also hear this katha. If they hear attentively, they will attain imperishable benefit. The recitation of Bhagavatam gives the highest benefit to the human being.
After observing these rules, one should perform the concluding ceremony of the Saptaha. Those who desire special benefit should observe this just like the Janmastami celebration. However, it is not necessary for renunciates to observe it.5 They are purified just by hearing the Saptaha.
When the Saptaha Yajna is over, the audience should worship the book and the speaker with great devotion. The speaker should distribute prasada, Tulasi leaves, and the offered garlands to the audience. Everyone should perform kirtana with mrdanga and karatalas and sing with beautiful voices. The Jaya Dhvani should be chanted, obeisances should be offered, conches should be blown, and food and charity should be distributed to the brahmanas and beggars.
On the following day a renounced person from the audience should recite Bhagavad-gita to create peace and remove all improprieties. If one is a householder, he should perform a sacrifice, recite slokas from the tenth canto, and offer oblations to the fire. Or he should chant Gayatri mantra with a concentrated mind and perform sacrifice. In reality, Shrimad Bhagavatam is the personification of the Gayatri mantra.
A person who does not have the means to perform sacrifice, should give charity to the brahmanas and recite Vishnu sahasranama, to remove all deficiencies. This will bring him all success. Thereafter he should fee twelve brahmanas with sweet rice, honey, and delicious foodstuffs. He should give cows and gold in charity. If he has the means, he should place the Shrimad Bhagavatam on a throne made of thirty-six grams of gold and donate it to the spiritual master. By this he will become free from the cycle of birth and death.
This process of performing Saptaha removes all sins. If performed properly, the most auspicious Bhagavatam will bestow whatever one desires, be it dharma, artha, kama or moksa.6 There is no doubt about it."
The Kumaras continued, "O Narada, in this way I have explained hearing Bhagavatam-Saptaha. The Shrimad Bhagavatam can deliver both bhoga and moksa. What more do you want to know?"
Suta Gosvami said, "O Saunaka, after saying this, the Kumaras recited Shrimad Bhagavatam for one week. This is most pure, dispels all sins, and is capable of granting sense enjoyment as well as liberation. While they observed all the rules and regulations, the assembly listened attentively. After this, they worshipped the Personality of Godhead according to the scriptural injunctions. After recitation, Jnana, Vairagya, and Bhakti were rejuvenated. Being young and enthusiastic, they attracted the hearts of all living entities.7 Seeing his desire fulfilled, Narada Muni was completely absorbed in bliss and his hairs stood up in ecstasy.
Narada, who is very dear to the Lord, spoke to the Kumaras in a sweet loving voice with folded hands, "Indeed I am very fortunate to get your mercy. Today I have attained Lord Hari who is the dispeller of sins. O austere sages, hearing this Bhagavatam is the best religious act, as by doing so, one attains Lord Krishna, who always resides in Goloka."
Suta Gosvami said, "O Saunaka, while the topmost Vaishnava, Narada, was speaking in this way, Sukadeva Gosvami, the best of the yogis appeared there. He was completely satisfied within himself and looked just like a sixteen year old youth. He appeared like a full moon to bring tide in the ocean of knowledge. He was blissfully reciting Bhagavatam in a very low voice. Upon seeing Sukadeva Gosvami, the entire assembly stood up and offered him an elevated seat. Then Shri Narada Muni worshipped him with love and affection."
When Sukadeva Gosvami was comfortably seated, he said, "Dear ones, please hear my words. O devotees who taste devotional mellows, Shrimad Bhagavatam is the mature fruit of the wish fulfilling tree of the Vedas. It has come from my mouth and is full of nectar. This fruit has no skin or stone -- it is pure nectar and is easily available only on earth.8 Therefore, as long as you are conscious, please drink it again and again.
"The great sage Vyasa compiled this Maha Purana which describes the highest religious process, and is free from all cheating propensities. It explains the absolute reality and is meant for those whose hearts are pure. It relieves one of the three miseries. If one takes shelter of the Shrimad Bhagavatam, there is no need for any other scripture or process. Whenever a pious soul desires to hear it, the Personality of Godhead immediately appears within his heart.
Shrimad Bhagavatam is the crest-jewel among the Puranas and the wealth of the Vaishnavas. It describes that pure knowledge is dear to the paramahamsas and illuminates the path of detachment along with Bhakti, Jnana and Vairagya.9 Those who hear, read, or meditate on its meaning, are liberated. This nectar is not available in heaven, Satya-loka, Kailasa, or Vaikuntha. Therefore, O fortunate listeners, please drink it again and again and never leave it."
Suta Gosvami said, "While Shri Sukadeva spoke in the midst of that assembly, Lord Hari appeared along with Prahlada, Bali, Uddhava, Arjuna and other associates.10 Shri Narada then worshipped the Lord along with His devotees. Seeing the Lord in a blissful mood, Narada Muni gave Him a nice seat and then everyone performed kirtana. Lord Siva, Parvati, and Lord Brahma came there to listen. Prahlada, who is very swift, played the karatalas and Uddhava played big cymbals. Narada Muni played his vina and Arjuna, who is adept in ragas, sang melodiously. Indra played the mrdanga, and the Kumaras shouted Jaya! Jaya! Shri Sukadeva Gosvami moved his limbs in an ecstatic trance. In the midst of everyone, Bhakti, Jnana and Vairagya danced like expert actors."
Observing this, the Lord said, "I am very pleased with this recitation and kirtana. all of you have controlled Me by your love and affection therefore you may ask some boon from Me."
Everyone was pleased to hear this and with love-laden hearts they requested, "O Lord, we desire that whenever and wherever there is recitation of the Saptaha, You kindly appear along with your associates."
The Lord said, "Let it be so", and then disappeared. After that Narada Muni paid obeisances in the direction which the Lord and His devotees departed. He offered obeisances to Sukadeva Gosvami and the assembled saints. Everyone was in ecstasy after drinking the nectar of Shrimad Bhagavatam and were free from delusion. Thereafter, everyone returned to their respective places.
At that time Shri Sukadeva Gosvami established Bhakti and her two sons in the Shrimad Bhagavatam. By rendering service to the Bhagavatam Lord Hari becomes fixed in. he heart of the Vaishnavas. The Shrimad Bhagavatam bestows auspiciousness to those burning in misery, troubled by Maya, or drowning in an ocean of nescience.
Saunaka asked, "O Suta Gosvami, when did Sukadeva recite the Bhagavatam to Pariksita, Gokarna to Dhundhukari, and the Kumaras to Narada Muni?"
Suta Gosvami replied, "About thirty years after Lord Krishna's departure to His abode,11 on the ninth day of the bright fortnight in the month of Bhadra, Sukadeva recited Bhagavatam to Pariksita. Two hundred years later in the month of Asadha, on the ninth day of the bright fortnight Gokarna recited Bhagavatam to Dhundhukari. Thirty years later, in the month of Kartika on the ninth day of the bright fortnight, the Kumaras recited it to Narada Muni.
"O sinless Saunaka, I have replied to everything you have asked. Bhagavata-katha is the panacea for all problems in Kali-yuga. All of you are saintly, therefore, please drink it. Bhagavatam destroys all sins and is very dear to Lord Krishna. It increases one's devotion and is the only means to attain liberation. What is the value of serving the holy places or engaging in other processes of liberation?
When the Yamadutas are sent to arrest someone with ropes Yamaraja instructs them, 'Don't approach those who are maddened by hearing the pastimes of Lord Hari. I do not have the power to chastise them, for Vaishnavas are beyond my jurisdiction.'
"The nectar which came from the mouth of Sukadeva Gosvami brings all auspciousness to those who are attached to the poison of sense gratification. My dear friends, why wander in the forest of sense enjoyment and hear useless talks? As soon as this katha enters the ears, one is liberated. The proof is Pariksita Maharaja.
Shri Sukadeva Gosvami spoke the Bhagavatam while in ecstasy. anyone who recites the Bhagavatam is qualified to go to Vaikuntha. O Saunaka, after studying the various scriptures, I have revealed this secret to you. This is the essence of all scriptures. There is nothing superior to this Bhagavatam which was spoken by Sukadeva Gosvami.
For the attainment of transcendental bliss, you should always drink the Bhagavatam which is composed of twelve cantos. anyone who hears the Bhagavatam from the lips of a devotee, with faith, and a pure heart, or recites it to the devotees, will attain the supreme goal. In the three worlds there is nothing unattainable for them.
Comments on Chapter Six
1. Generally karma-kanda activities and spiritual festivals require the assistance and co-operation of other people.
2. An auspicious time is not required for performing pure devotional service, but sometimes devotees follow such rules to set a good example.
3. Women and sudras are not allowed to hear the Vedas, but there is no such restriction for Shrimad Bhagavatam, although it is considered the mature fruit of the Vedas. In the same way there are restrictions for chanting Vedic mantras, but none for chanting the holy name of the Lord, which is the essence of Vedic mantras.
4. Vows help one to control the flickering mind.
5. The concluding ceremony requires great wealth, which renunciates cannot afford, therefore, it is not compulsory for him."
6. Because Shrimad Bhagavatam is the personification of Lord Krishna, it can fulfil ones material as well as spiritual desires.
7. It means that after hearing Shrimad Bhagavatam, one develops a taste for Bhakti, Jnana and Vairagya.
8. Shrimad Bhagavatam is like a very juicy fruit. Though it is a fruit, it has no skin or stone. And though it is only juice, it is a fruit.
9. Detachment without bhakti is worthless.
10. The Lord is omnipresent and manifests Himself wherever His devotees sing His glories.
11. Lord Shri Krishna left the earth 5 091 years ago.