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The son of a maidservant becomes the great sage, Narada,
by the association of pure devotees.
Narada Muni said, “During the previous day of Brahma, I was born as an insignificant son of a maidservant. Once, during the four months of the rainy season, some exalted Vaishnavas came to the brahmana’s school where my mother was living, and because she was engaged in attending to their needs, I also got the opportunity to render personal service unto them. Although impartial by nature, these great followers of Vedanta blessed me with their causeless mercy because, even though I was only a small boy, I was self-controlled, I did not speak more than required, and I was not naughty nor interested in childish play.”
“Once, with their permission, I took the remnants of their food, and as a result, all of my sins were immediately eradicated. Because of this, and due to serving such great souls, the life of devotional service to the Lord became very attractive to me. In their association, I heard the narrations of Lord Krishna’s transcendentally attractive pastimes, and by such regular and attentive listening, my taste for such topics increased at every step. When this transcendental taste became very strong, my attention became fully fixed upon hearing about the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As a result, the modes of passion and ignorance vanished from my heart, allowing me to realize that it was only due to ignorance that I had accepted the gross and subtle bodies as the self. I loved those pure devotees greatly, and with very gentle behavior, I strictly followed their instructions.”
“When those bhakti-vedantists were about to depart, they instructed me in the confidential knowledge that is expounded by the Supreme Lord Himself. Thus, I learned the art of using everything in the service of the Lord for the purpose of ultimately attaining His personal association in His supreme abode. After all, does not a thing that has caused a disease cure it if it is used therapeutically? While fully applying the process of devotional service, by Lord Krishna’s mercy, I gradually became endowed first with transcendental knowledge of the Lord, then mystic opulence, and ultimately His intimate loving service.”
“My dear Vyasa, I request you to elaborately describe the pastimes of the Supreme Lord, for that will deliver the fallen human society from the miseries of material existence.”
Shrila Vyasadeva inquired, “My dear spiritual master, what did you do after the departure of those great sages? How did you pass your life after being initiated by them, and how did you obtain this present body after having quit your old one in due course of time? Time annihilates everything. How is it that you can remember these events that happened during the previous day of Brahma?”
Narada Muni replied, “I was just five years old and the only son of my mother, and thus she tried to bind me with the rope of affection. She wanted to properly look after my maintenance, but because she was not independent, she could not really do anything for me.”
“One day, while going out in the evening to milk a cow, my mother was bitten on the leg by a serpent, and as a result, she died. I took this as the Lord’s special mercy, for I knew that He always desires the welfare of His devotees. Even though I had no experience of foreign lands, I immediately left home and started for the north. After passing through numerous cities, towns and villages; farms, forests, mountains and valleys; I entered a densely dark and fearful jungle that was the playground of snakes, owls and jackals. Since I had become very hungry, thirsty and fatigued, both bodily and mentally, when I arrived at a lake, I drank the water and bathed to refresh myself.”
“Thereafter, I sat down in the shade of a great banyan tree nearby and began meditating upon the Supreme Soul within, as I had learned from my spiritual masters. As soon as I concentrated my mind upon the lotus feet of the Lord, it became transformed due to transcendental love. As tears fell from my eyes, Lord Krishna appeared on the lotus of my heart, and upon seeing my beloved Lord, I became so overwhelmed with happiness that all of my bodily parts became independently, spiritually enlivened. Indeed, I became so absorbed in that ecstasy that I lost sight of both myself and the Lord.”
“The vision of the Lord’s form provides one with a deep satisfaction that is beyond description. Thus, when the Lord vanished from my sight, I jumped up with great agitation, for I felt the great shock that one experiences upon losing something highly desirable. I wanted to see the Lord again so badly, but despite my efforts to capture Him with my meditation, I could not do so. Because of this, I felt intense disappointment and gave way to depression and grief.”
“Upon seeing my sincere attempts in that lonely place, the Lord, while remaining invisible, spoke to me with a very grave voice, just to mitigate my sorrow. The Supreme Lord said, ‘O Narada, I regret to inform you that you will not be able to see Me again during this lifetime, because one who is not completely freed from all material contamination can hardly approach Me. As a special favor, I have shown Myself to you just to increase your desire to come to Me, for the more you hanker after My association, the more quickly you will become freed from all material desires. Rest assured that, by My mercy, neither your advancement in Krishna consciousness, nor your remembrance will ever be impeded, even at the time of creation or annihilation. Thus, you will attain My association in the spiritual world after giving up this deplorable material world.’ ”
Narada Muni continued, “After the Lord stopped speaking, I felt profound gratitude and so I bowed my head to offer my obeisances unto Him. Thereafter, I began wandering all over the earth, fully satisfied, humble and non-envious. While ignoring all kinds of social conventions, I continually chanted the holy name and glories of the Supreme Lord. Thus, while fully absorbed in thinking of Lord Krishna, in due course of time, after having become freed from all taints of material attachment, I met with death. Instantaneously, I received a transcendental form that was befitting an associate of the Lord, just as lightning and illumination occur simultaneously.”
“At the end of Brahma’s day, when Lord Narayana lay down in the water of devastation, I entered into the His breathing along with the Grandsire and the created elements. Lord Brahma rested within the body of Garbhodakashayi Vishnu during his nighttime, which lasted for one thousand cycles of the four yugas.”
“Thereafter, I appeared along with the other great rishis that were born as Lord Brahma’s sons, but unlike them, my appearance was completely spiritual. Since then, by the grace of Lord Vishnu, I have been traveling everywhere without restriction, both in the spiritual and material worlds, and while doing so, I constantly sing the glories of the Lord while accompanying myself on the vina that had been given to me by Lord Krishna. As soon as I begin to chant His glories, the Lord appears on the seat of my heart, as if called for.”
“My dear Vyasa, thus it has been directly experienced by me that the best means for the suffering conditioned souls to cross over the ocean of nescience is to situate themselves in the boat of constant chanting of the holy name and pastimes of the Supreme Lord. The restraint of the senses by the execution of yoga can give one temporary relief from material distress, but only by active service to the Supreme Lord can one attain real satisfaction of the soul.”
After saying this, Narada took his leave and while vibrating his vina, he departed through the sky to continue wandering at will. Shrila Vyasadeva then sat down on the western bank of the River Sarasvati, and after touching water for purification, he fixed his uncontaminated mind in meditation. In trance, Shrila Vyasadeva could see the Supreme Lord, and in the background, His external energy, which was under full control.
The illusion that is caused by the external energy can be dispelled by the process of bhakti-yoga, but since people in general are ignorant of this, Shrila Vyasadeva compiled the great work, Shrimad-Bhagavatam. Simply by hearing this wonderful Vedic literature, the feeling for loving devotional service unto Lord Krishna sprouts up at once in the heart to extinguish the fire of lamentation, illusion and fearfulness.
During the previous lifetime of Lord Brahma, Narada Muni had been born as a Gandharva named Upabarhana. Because of his extremely handsome face and body, Upabarhana was very highly respected by the other Gandharvas, and when he was decorated with nice flower garlands and Sandalwood paste, he was very pleasing to women. Because of this, Upabarhana was always bewildered by strong lusty desires, and since he was too attracted to women, he lived the life of a playboy.
Once, the demigods held a sankirtana festival for glorifying the Supreme Lord, and all of the Gandharvas and Apsaras were invited. Upabarhana went there, surrounded by numerous women, and in their company he foolishly began to sing songs that proclaimed the glories of the various demigods. Because of committing these two offenses- joining the sankirtana party in the company of lusty women, and considering ordinary songs to be equal to Krishna-kirtana, the Prajapatis cursed Upabarhana to immediately take birth as a shudra, devoid of all beauty. As a result, Upabarhana was forced to be born as the son of a common maidservant.