During one such sacrifice, nine spiritually charged men entered the sacrificial hall. As soon as he saw the saints, king Nimi got up and carrying some of the sacrificial fire, went forth to greet them. After the ceremonious welcome, he asked them to be seated comfortably. Seeing them conducive, the king, with folded hands, then asked them whether he could ask a few questions to satisfy his spiritual queries. On their approval, the king asked:The First Question:
"Respected Saints! Please tell me what constitutes the highest good for human beings? How to achieve it? Indeed to gain even a few moments of satsang with exalted yogis like you is a great treasure. Also, we have heard a great deal about the ‘Bhagavat Dharma’- ‘The Dharma which pleases God', kindly inform us of the nature of this dharma and how we can follow it?"
To the king’s query, the first yogi replied: "The constant worship of the lotus feet of Bhagawan Krishna constitutes the highest good for humans and is the surest and safest means of ensuring protection from all fears. As for Bhagavad Dharma, it is the dharma spoken by God directly from his own mouth. The purpose of this dharma is that even simple, ignorant people can easily attain self-realization. The path of this dharma is so easy that even if one runs on it with his eyes closed he will not fall into the wrong way; i.e., one need not wait for too much knowledge before setting off on this path."How to Constantly Be in Worship of God
"There are many popular stories about the birth and other lilas of God. One should listen to them. There are also prevalent many different names of God, each of which reminds us of His various qualities and lilas. One should leave all shame and constantly sing out these glorious names. The one who takes the pure vow of this devotion develops an ardent love for God, and the shoot of love sprouts forth from his heart. His heart melts with devotion. He understands that the five elements - akash, air, fire, water and earth, all are the body of God. Therefore, it is God Who is manifest in all forms. Realising this, whenever anything comes in front of him, whether it be living or non-living, he bows to them all with devotion, much as he does before God.
Like a person eating food finds himself gratified simultaneously in three ways with each morsel - satisfaction, nourishment and relief from hunger; similarly a bhakta, who has completely submitted himself to God, finds himself gratified simultaneously in three ways - love for God, realisation of God and vairagya (detatchment) towards everything other than God
Bhagavat Dharma: The Dharma Which Pleases God
"As for the Bhagavat Dharma, it merely means that whatever we do with our body, speech, mind, habit or ego, all such acts should be dedicated to God."How to Dedicate Our Actions to God
We are all constantly taught by spiritual texts to offer or dedicate all our actions to God. However, the question remains as to how to practically carry out this injunction. Put in most simple terms, the nature of this dedication is as follows: Firstly we have to accept that everything is happening under the inspiration of God. This is our dedication: We are doing what He is making us do. Do not the actions performed by a servant following the instructions of his owner belong to his owner? When a soldier under a king wins a victory in battle, is it not said to be a victory of the king rather than of the soldier? Therefore, if we know that we are working under the instructions of God, then whatever we do is that of God. Therefore, offering of karma to God consists of two parts - first to see that it is God seated inside us Who is inspiring us to perform a particular karma and secondly to see that whatever results as the fruit of that karma will be enjoyed by God only.
Therefore, if we see the inspiration of God behind every karma and that whatever ensues as its fruit should go to God, if we understand these two things, then that karma has been offered to God. Now we will not be bound by that karma.The Second Question:
The king, prompted by the first answer, now asked his second question: "Respected Yogi! Please describe to me the devotees of God who have attained the above mentioned qualities. What are the characteristics that distinguish them from ordinary people? How do they behave? How do they talk with others? What are their attributes which make them the beloved of God?The Three Types of Devotees
The next of the nine yogis replied: "God is situated in every being equally. Therefore, the one who sees his own self as existing in all beings, and all beings as existing in himself, such a person belongs to the superior category of devotees.
"One who has affection towards God, friendly feelings towards His devotees, compassion for the ignorant and indifference towards those who have resentment towards God, such a person is in the medium category of devotees.
"The person who, believing God to be only in His idol, but not elsewhere, and so worships His idol with faith, but does not serve devotees of God or other creatures, such a person is an ordinary devotee."Further Qualities of the Superior Bhakta
"Because his heart is so much absorbed in Bhagawan Vishnu, even though his sense objects receive their objects of enjoyment, the superior bhakta feels neither repulsion nor attraction towards any of these objects and looks upon the universe as the maya of Vishnu.
"This world constitutes of birth and death, hunger and thirst, fear and desire. These constantly torment and exhaust us. However, the superior devotee, who constantly keeps God in his remembrance, is neither deluded nor defeated by them.
"The devotee who is not affected at all by superiority complex on account of his high birth, actions or caste, is the one who is the beloved of God. He who does not entertain the notion of ‘mine' and ‘another’s’ in respect of his property, or even his own body, sees God equally in everything, is not agitated by any happening or incident, he is the one who is loved by God."The Third Question:
The king asked: "You say that this world is a result of Vishnu maya. Please enlighten us on the nature of this maya, which deludes even the most powerful of creatures?"
The third yogi replied: "O King! The nature of Bhagawan’s maya is indescribable. It can only be gauged through its effects. Maya is the shakti through which God creates this world. (Why does He create the world?) So that the various beings can enjoy the different objects and also for the liberation of the embodied souls (jivas).The Fourth Question:
"Getting beyond Bhagawan’s maya is extremely difficult for those who have not controlled their minds. Please tell me how those ignorant people, who still identify themselves with their bodies, can go beyond Bhagawan’s maya easily? "
The fourth yogi said: "A worldly person is ever caught in the binds of man-woman relationship etc. Such a person works hard to obtain sukha and keep away dukha. The first step for the person who wants to go beyond Bhagawan’s maya is to think about how his efforts often lead to opposite fruits than that he had set out to obtain. He gets dukha instead of sukha and all his efforts, instead of reducing dukha, only increase it day by day.
"However, it is extremely difficult to cross over this maya on one’s own. For this, one should take refuge with a guru who has realised the essence of the Vedas. The adept should serve the guru sincerely, and learn from the latter the means of obtaining Bhagavat Dharma. He should keep faith in the Vedic scriptures, but never denigrate the scriptures of others. He should purify his mind by pranayama, his speech through silence and karma by non-attachment. In addition, he should listen to the delightful stories of God and cultivate the company of bhaktas and find joy in mutual discussion with them on the various qualities of God.
"Thus learning the ways of Bhagavat Dharma, the bhakta gains through them the ways of loving devotion towards Bhagawan Narayana and easily crosses over maya which is otherwise very difficult to transcend."The Fifth Question:
"Please propound to us the nature of the Supreme Soul Brahman, also known as Narayana (whom you just mentioned). Do the three terms (Supreme Soul (Paramatman), Brahman and Narayana), denote the same entity?"
The fifth yogi replied: "The Supreme Reality which is both the material and efficient cause of the creation, sustenance and dissolution of the world is known as Narayana. But He, being eternal and beginningless is Himself uncaused. As Brahman, He persists as a witness in the three states, namely waking, dreaming and deep sleep. As Paramatman, He animates the body, senses, breath and the mind. The three constitute one and the same reality. "However, the Supreme Reality can never be gauged directly. It will be illuminated only in the hearts purified by the performance of karma yoga."The Sixth Question:
"Dear Sir! Please describe to us the path of karma yoga, purified by which man quickly shakes off all karma and attains to the Supreme God"
The sixth yogi answered:
"There are three types of karma:
1). That enjoined by the Vedas (known as karma)
2). That prohibited by the Vedas (akarma)
3). Transgression of enjoined karma (vikarma)
"All these three types of karma can be known only through the Vedas and not decided by the limited human brain.
"The Vedas speak indirectly (paroksha). Actually, the Vedas enjoin us to do karma in order to liberate us from karma. Their purpose is not to tie us down to karma. Just like a child is tempted with a sweet in order to make him swallow a bitter medicine - the object being to restore the child’s health using the medicine and not the sweet thing he gets immediately after gulping down the medicine - so is way the Vedas operate.
"However the person who has still not controlled his senses, removed his avidya and become a jnani, if he gives up the performance of Vedic karma, he is actually indulging in vikarma and therefore moves from death to death.
"He who performs the karma prescribed in the Vedas, without attachment to their fruits and dedicates them to the Supreme Reality, such a person attains to the state in which karma or its fruits do not bind him. The promise of the fruits of karma are only meant to generate interest in the karma while the actual purpose is to liberate us from karma.
"For those who want their hearts to be purified fast, they should, in addition to the Vedic rites, perform bhakti towards Bhagawan Krishna. After being initiated by the guru, the adept should start worshipping God in whatever image of God he likes best.
"The method of such a worship is as follows: With a thoroughly clean state of the body, he should sit in front of the idol of God. He should perform internal cleansing through pranayama. He should armour himself by assigning the protection of various parts of his body to different deities (anga nyasa) and then perform puja with the various steps (upcharas).
"In this manner, whosoever worships the Supreme Reality is liberated from samsara before long."The Seventh Question:
The king than asked: "Can you describe to us the concept of avatara and enumerate to us the actions taken by Bhagawan when He takes avatara?
The seventh yogi answered: "Dear King! Bhagwan Vishnu is a treasury of infinite qualities. It is but childish to think that one can count the immeasurable qualities of the Supreme Soul. It may be possible for one to count all the dust particles on the earth, but none can count the qualities of God.
"Avatara is like a staircase, a flight of steps. God descends the stairs so that we can realise the Supreme Reality Brahman. While we ascend these stairs, i.e. when we investigate into the details of avatara, we begin our journey to Brahman realization"The Eighth Question:
"You have narrated to us the importance of bhakti. Can you tell us what is the fate of persons who do not worship Bhagawan Hari but rather cultivate material desires in their hearts?"
The eighth yogi replied: "The four varnas (castes) and the four ashramas, all have originated from the body of God. The one falling in varnashrama, if he neglects God, such a person falls down from his varnashrama status. Such people, being conceited fools, think of themselves as being very learned, and hence do not seek the guidance of elders regarding the correct performance of karma. Due to the dominance of rajoguna, such people are ruthless in their designs, lustful and revengeful like serpents. Such people laugh at the devotees of Bhagawan Vishnu.
"These people do not worship their elders but adore women instead. They live in houses which have been created by the cravings for conjugal pleasure. Their greatest pleasure is the intimate company of women. They perform yajnas without the proper distribution of dakshina.When they meet each other, such people boast of their achievements - women, children, property etc.
"They do not care to listen what the actual purport of the Vedas is, but interpret the Vedas suitably as sanctioning their desires (for women, wine etc.).
"Actually, we know that it is the natural tendency of creatures to indulge in intercourse and enjoy non vegetarian food and drink. Therefore, there is no need for the Vedas to enjoin us to these things for which we already have a tendency. The Vedas provide a check over this by allowing intercourse only with one’s married wife, eating meat only at the end of a sacrifice, and drinking wine in the Sautramani sacrifice ( and never otherwise). The real intention of the Vedic injunctions in these matters is to make a person abstain from them.
"The only fruit of wealth is dharma; because dharma leads to spiritual knowledge leading to supreme peace (moksha). But how unfortunate it is that people use their wealth for selfish household gains or fulfilment of physical desires and fail to see that their body is subject to the control of death, which cannot be avoided at any cost.
"Actually, if we go even to the subtler essence, we find that even in the Sautramani sacrifice, only the smelling of wine is laid down and no drinking of liquor is permitted. An animal is to be offered to the deities by touching (alabhan) it in sacrifices, but no killing for meat eating is allowed. Similarly, intercourse with one’s wife is to be indulged only for the purpose of procreation; marriage is not a licence for carnal indulgence. But people do not understand this pure course of their dharma.
"They are attached to their mortal body and its relatives. However, they resent the Supreme God who resides in these very bodies. Such people never find peace and their desire for karma is never satiated. Time (Kala) forever thwarts them for achieving their objectives. Consequently, the heat of suffering in their hearts is never quenched.
"Persons who look away from Bhagawan Krishna, even though they collect, with great efforts, a house, progeny, money etc, have to give them all up unwillingly and thus they fall down into dark depths of despair."The Ninth and Final Question:
"We have heard that God takes on different forms in different yugas. Hence, He is worshipped differently in each of the yugas. Please explain to us the different methods by which God is worshipped during the various yugas.
The ninth yogi replied: "O King! In Satyuga, people worship God through meditation (dhyana). In Tretayuga, they worship God through the three Vedas (Rigveda, Yajurveda and Samaveda). In Dvapara yuga, He is worshipped using the Vedic and Tantric rites.
"In Kailyuga however, the means of worshipping God is through the chanting aloud (sankirtan) of the divine names of the dark skinned God (Krishna)."
With this summing up ended the discourse of the nine yogis which delighted king Nimi. He came forward with his family priests and duly worshipped the nine yogis. The king then started practicing the Bhagavata Dharma as propounded by the yogis and over time, attained to the highest state of moksha.
The story of the nine yogis occurs in detail in the Shrimad Bhagavatam, canto 11, chapters 2-5.
References & Further Reading:
- G. P. Bhatt & J. L. Shastri (tr). The Bhagavata Purana (5 Volumes): Delhi, 2002
- Dongre, Ji. Bhagavat Rahasya: Delhi
- Saraswati, Swami Akhandananda (tr). Bhagwatamrit: The Elixir of the Bhagawat: Mumbai, 2005.
- Saraswati, Swami Akhandananda. Bhagavata Darshan (Collection of Discourses in Two Volumes): Mumbai, 2003.
- Saraswati, Swami Akhandananda (tr). Shrimad Bhagavata Purana (2 Volumes): Gorakhpur, 2004.
- Saraswati, Swami Akhandananda. Mukti Skandha Detailed Discourses on The Eleventh Canto of The Bhagavat Purana (Set of 2 Volumes): Vrindavan, 2011.