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The sages headed by Shaunaka said: O Suta, may you live a long life and continue instructing us. Today we have heard the wonderful glories of Shrimad-Bhagavatam from your mouth. O Suta, now please mercifully describe for us the characteristics of Shrimad-Bhagavatam, its authenticity, the procedure for hearing, and the symptoms of the speaker and the listener.
Shrila Suta Gosvami said: The characteristics of Shrimad-Bhagavatam and the Personality of Godhead are both eternal, full of knowledge and bliss.
You should know that whatever transcendental, sweet words come from the mouths of those whose hearts are attached to Krishna, those statements are Shrimad-Bhagavatam. You should also know that Shrimad-Bhagavatam consists of knowledge, realized knowledge, and the four limbs of devotional service, such as hearing and chanting. It is expert in eradicating the influence of maya, the illusory energy.
Who can understand the authenticity of Shrimad-Bhagavatam, which is the unlimited sound representation of the Lord? In the beginning of creation, Lord Hari spoke four verses to Lord Brahma. O brahmanas, only personalities such as Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva are able to attain their desired goal by merging into the ocean of the unlimited Shrimad-Bhagavatam, others are able.
Whatever Shrila Vedavyasa has described in the conversation between Parikshit Maharaja and Shukadeva Gosvami for the benefit of the less intelligent, that is known as Shrimad-Bhagavatam. Shrimad-Bhagavatam consists of 18,000 verses, and it is the only shelter for those who are captured by the crocodile of Kali.
Now I will describe those who listen to Shrimad-Bhagavatam. There are two types of listeners-superior and inferior. The superior listeners are of four kinds-namely, cataka bird, swan, parrot, and fish. And the inferior listeners are also of four kinds-wolf, bhurunda bird, bull, and camel.
Just as the cataka bird does not take water from any source other than the raincloud, one who does not hear any scripture or book other than those related with Lord Krishna is called a cataka listener.
Just as the swan can extract milk from a mixture of milk and water, one who can extract the essential topics of Lord Krishna while listening to various topics is called a swan listener.
Just as a parrot can recite to its master and others whatever it is taught, one who can nicely repeat the topics he has heard from the scriptures to his guru and other listeners is called a parrot listener.
Just as the fish that is situated in an ocean of condensed milk quietly drinks milk without blinking its eyes, one who quietly hears Shrimad-Bhagavatam while relishing the topics and staring unblinking at the speaker is called a fish listener.
Just as the cry of the wolf frightens the deer which is attracted by the sweet sound of a flute in the forest, the foolish listener whose loud noises create pain to the devotees engaged in hearing the sweet topics of Shrimad-Bhagavatam is called a wolf listener.
Just as the bhurunda bird that lives in the Himalayas tells others whatever instruction it has heard without practicing himself, one who teaches others but does not follow those instructions is called a bhurunda listener.
Just as the bull does not distinguish between eating sweet grapes or pungent oilcakes, the blind person who listens to everything but has no intelligence to discriminate between good and bad is called a bull listener.
Just as the camel rejects the sweet mango leaves and chews instead the bitter neem leaves, one who rejects the sweet narrations about the Lord and hears instead mundane topics is called a camel listener.
Apart from these two categories of listeners, there are many further sub classifications such as bumblebees and asses which one should understand by the symptoms of their normal behavior.
Speakers say the topmost listener is he who comes before the speaker, offers due obeisances, and is eager and expert in hearing the pastimes of Lord Hari, after rejecting all types of mundane topics. He humbly engages in hearing with folded hands like a disciple, he has full faith in the Lord, he is attached to asking questions, and he always contemplates the subject he has heard. He is a dear friend of the Lord's devotees.
The topmost speakers, who are respected by all sages, are those whose hearts are attached to the Lord without hankering for anything else. They are the well-wishers of all, they are merciful to the fallen, and they are expert in learning the truth by various arguments.
Now, O brahmanas, please hear the procedure for hearing Shrimad-Bhagavatam in the land of Bharata. Simply by hearing these rules one enjoys everlasting happiness.
There are four kinds of service to the Shrimad-Bhagavatam-sattvic, rajasic, tamasic, and nirguna.
Enthusiastic service which is joyfully performed in seven days, like a pompous sacrifice with various types of worshipable ingredients and hard labor, is called rajasic bhagavata-seva.
Service which is peacefully performed over a month or two, while relishing the topics and thus increasing one's ecstasy, is called sattvic bhagavata-seva.
Service which continues for one year, which is performed lazily yet faithfully, which gives happiness, and in which both rememberance and forgetfulness are present, is called tamasic bhagavata-seva.
Service in which there is no consideration of time factor but continues on with love and devotion, is called nirguna bhagavata-seva.
Please know for certain that Maharaja Parikshit and Shukadeva Gosvami performed nirguna bhagavata-seva. Although the hearing continued for only seven days, that was because Maharaja Parikshit's life continued for that duration only.
One should hear Shrimad-Bhagavatam in any place or in any way one desires-whether sattvic, rajasic, tamasic, or nirguna.
Shrimad-Bhagavatam is the only wealth of those who are completely devoid of material desires, and greedy to relish hearing and chanting the pastimes of Lord Krishna.
Shrimad-Bhagavatam is the medicine to cure the material disease of those who are indifferent to the miseries of material existence and desire liberation. Therefore everyone should carefully serve Shrimad-Bhagavatam.
The karmis, who are greedy for material enjoyment and advancement in material life, will attain everything they desire just by serving Shrimad-Bhagavatam in Kali-yuga.
In Kali-yuga it is extremely rare to attain perfection on the path of karma due to a lack of physical ability, wealth, and knowledge. Therefore those who wish auspiciousness should serve Shrimad-Bhagavatam in all respects.
The topics of Shrimad-Bhagavatam are able to give one wealth, children, wife, elephants, horses, fame, palatial residences, and a kingdom without rivals.
By serving the Shrimad-Bhagavatam one with material desires can enjoy all his desired results in this world and attain the abode of the Supreme Lord after giving up his body.
One should serve anyone absorbed in discussing the topics of Shrimad-Bhagavatam with one's body and wealth.
By serving those who are absorbed in Shrimad-Bhagavatam, one can attain the results of serving Shrimad-Bhagavatam.
There are two types of reciters and listeners of the Shrimad-Bhagavatam. Some desire Krishna and some desire material prosperity. Material prosperity refers to anything not related to Krishna. So if the reciter and listener are of the same category, then the happiness from serving Shrimad-Bhagavatam increases.
If the reciter and the listener are not of the same category, then there is a contradiction and no result is attained. Such a situation is called rasabhasa, or overlapping of mellows. But a person who desires Krishna-whether as a speaker or listener-will certainly attain his goal, even if delayed.
The speaker and listener who desire wealth will attain their desired goal if they act under rules and regulations. But those transcendental speakers and listeners who desire Krishna will undoubtedly attain their goal even if they do not follow the rules and regulations, because love of God is the only rule for such persons.
A person with material desires must rigidly follow all the rules through to completion. He should regularly take bath in the morning, and after performing his daily worship he should accept the caranamrta of Lord Hari.
Thereafter the speaker or listener should worship their spiritual master and Shrimad-Bhagavatam with proper ingredients. They should hear and chant Shrimad-Bhagavatam in a joyful mood.
One should take a vow of silence, and eat only milk or sweet rice. He should sleep on the ground, give up all anger and greed, and practice the vow of brahmacarya.
After finishing the recitation of Shrimad-Bhagavatam, one should constantly chant the holy name of the Lord, and on the last day he should remain awake at night and then feed the brahmanas and satisfy them with charity.
One should then worship his spiritual master after offering him cloth, ornaments, and cows. Anyone who renders service to the Shrimad-Bhagavatam according to these regulations will surely achieve the fulfillment of all his desires.
A person with material desires can obtain a beautiful wife, children, kingdom, or wealth if he so desires. But such desires are a mockery to the stature of Shrimad-Bhagavatam.
Shrimad-Bhagavatam is the ripened fruit of the desire tree of Vedic literature. It has been bestowed to the world in this age of Kali by Shri Shukadeva Gosvami and has become more nectarean by the touch of his lips. It is the direct means of attaining Lord Krishna, and it eternally bestows love of God.