(courtesy of Dandavats.com)
By Visakha Dasi
In each of its twelve cantos, Srimad-Bhagavatam, the “flawless ripened fruit of all Vedic scriptures,” tells of miracles and mysticism, of the esoteric and extraterrestrial. We hear a cow, bull, elephant, monkey, and bird speaking deep philosophy. We learn of the four-headed creator who sits atop a lotus flower, of a magnificent aerial mansion, and of a five-year-old who pushes down half the earth with his toe and makes demigods suffocate. We learn of people giving birth to tens of thousands of children, of people with a thousand heads or arms, of an ocean of milk that is churned by demigods and demons using a snake for a rope. We are also given detailed information about this extraordinary universe we live in. For example, from the Fifth Canto (16.16–17):
“On the lower slopes of Mandara Mountain is a mango tree named Devacuta. It is 1,100 yojanas [8,800 feet] high. Mangoes as big as mountain peaks and as sweet as nectar fall from the top of this tree for the enjoyment of the denizens of heaven. When all those solid fruits fall from such a height, they break, and the sweet, fragrant juice within them flows out and becomes increasingly more fragrant as it mixes with other scents. That juice cascades from the mountain in waterfalls and becomes a river called Arunoda, which flows pleasantly through the eastern side of Ilavrta.”
What is a pragmatic, logical, scientific mind to do with such information? Shall we see the whole body of work as mythology? Or glean its essential spiritual truths and leave aside the fantastic aspects as entertainment used to convey those truths? Or shall we suspend our disbelief and accept all the texts of Bhagavatam as they are?
None of these options are in the spirit of the Srimad-Bhagavatam itself—that is, the spirit of unalloyed submission and devotion to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krishna. This spirit is not the suspension of disbelief but the suspension of pride, for without pridelessness the Srimad-Bhagavatam, as well as all the Vedas, will remain a great mystery. In other words, readers who enter the spirit of the Srimad-Bhagavatam do not suspect any aspect of its message; rather, they question their own qualification and ability to receive that message purely.