Śrīmad Devi Bhāgavatam | Book 1 Chapter 1
THE FIRST BOOK
On the questions by Śaunaka and others
1. I meditate on the beginningless Brahmāvidyā who is Sarvachaitanyarūpā, of the nature of all-consciousness; May She stimulate our buddhi to the realisation of That (or who stimulates our buddhi in different directions).
2. Śaunaka said:
“O highly fortunate Sūta! O noble Sūta! You are the best of persons; you are blessed inasmuch as you have thoroughly studied all the auspicious Purāṇas.
3. O sinless one! you have gone through all the eighteen Purāṇas composed by Kṛṣṇa Dvaipāyana; these are endowed with five excellent characteristics and full of esoteric meanings.
Note: The characteristics are to make the mantras reveal to one's own self, to realise, to transfer to others the Śakti, force thereof, to prove the various manifestations of the several effects thereof, etc.
4-5. O Sinless one! It is not that you have read them like a parrot, but you have thoroughly grasped the meaning of them all as you have learnt them from Vyāsa himself, the son of Satyavati.
Now it is our good merits that you have come at this divine holy excellent Viśvasan Kṣettra (place), free from any defects of the Kali age.
6-10. O Sūta! These Munis assembled here are desirous to hear the holy Purāṇa Samhitā that yields religious merits. So describe this to us with your mind concentrated.
O all-knowing Sūta! Live long and be free from the threefold sorrows of existence.
O highly fortunate one! Narrate to us the Purāṇa equivalent to the Vedas.
O Sūta! Those persons that do not hear the Purāṇas, are certainly deprived by the Creator, though they have apparently the organ of hearing, of the power of tasting the sweet essence of words; because, the organ of hearing is gratified then and then only when it hears the words of the wise men, just as the organ of taste is satisfied then and then only when it tastes the six kinds of rasas (flavour, taste) (sweet, sour, pungent, bitter, salty, and astringent). This is known to all.
The serpents that are void of the organ of hearing are enchanted by sweet music; then why should not those persons that have the organs of hearing and are averse to hear the Purāṇas, be thrown under the category of the deaf?
11-18. O Saumya! Hence all these Brahmins, being distressed with the fear of this Kali, have come here to this Naimisāraṇya, eager to hear attentively the Purāṇas, and are staying here with this one object.
Time must be spent away anyhow or other; those that are fools while away their times in sports and other evil practices and those that are learned pass away their times in meditating on the Śāstras;
but these Śāstras are too vast and very varied; they contain Jalpas (debates or wrangling discussions to win over the opposite party), Vadas (sound doctrines to arrive at just conclusions), and various Arthavādas (explanations and assertions, recommending Vidhis or precepts by stating the good arising from its proper observance and evils arising from its omission and also by adducing historical instances for its support; praises and eulogies) and filled with many argumentations.
And, amongst these Śāstras again, the Vedānta is the Sāttvic, the Mimāmsas are the Rājasic and the Nyāya Śāstras with Hetuvādas, are the Tāmasic; so the Śāstras are varied.
Similarly, the Purāṇas are of three kinds (1) Sāttvic, (2) Rājasic and (3) Tāmasic.
O Saumya! (one of gentle appearance) you have recited those Purāṇas endowed with five characteristics and full of many narratives;
of these, the fifth Purāṇa, equivalent to the Vedas and with all the good qualities, the Bhāgavata yields Dharma and Kama (religion and desires), gives liberation to those who desire for emancipation and is very wonderful; you mentioned this before but ordinarily; you did not dwell on this specially.
Now these Brāhmaṇas are eager to hear gladly this divine auspicious Bhāgavata, the best of the Purāṇas; so kindly describe this in detail.
19-25. O knower of Dharma! By your faith and devotion to your Guru, you have become Sāttvic and thus have thoroughly known the Purāṇa Samhitās spoken by Veda Vyāsa.
O Omniscient one! Therefore it is that we have heard many Purāṇas from your mouth; but we are not satisfied as the Devas are not satisfied with the drinking of the nectar.
O Sūta! Fie to the nectar even as the drinking of nectar is quite useless in giving Mukti. But hearing the Bhāgavata gives instantaneous Mukti from this Samsāra or round of birth and death.
O Sūta! We performed thousands and thousands of Yajñas for the drinking of the nectar (Amrita), but we never got the full peace. The reason being that Yajñas lead to heaven only; on the expiry of the period of punya (good merits, the heavenly life ceases and one is expelled, as it were from the Heavens. Thus incessant sojourns in this wheel of Samsāra, the constant rounds of births and deaths never end.
O Knower of every thing! Thus, without Jñāna (knowledge, wisdom) Mukti never comes to men, wandering in this wheel of Time (Kālachakra) composed of the three Guṇas.
So describe this holy Bhāgavata, always beloved of the Mumukṣas (those that desire Mukti), this secret work yielding liberation, holy and full of all sentiments (rasas).
Thus ends the first chapter of the first Skandha on the questioning about the Purāṇa by Saunaka and other Rishis in the Mahāpurāṇa Śrīmad Devī Bhāgavatam of 18,000 verses by Mahaṛṣi Veda Vyāsa.
Here ends the First Chapter of the First Skandha of Śrīmad Devī Bhāgavatam on the questions by Śaunaka and other Rishis.