The story of the Srimad Bhagavatam too begins with the Rishis along with Shaunaka asking Suta, the great story teller, “O Suta, you have studied and are well-versed in the Puranas. Tell us one thing that gives us the best thing that could ever be achieved in life.”
This question is not just for their own curiosity. They say that people in the age of Kali, the decadent period of time, are generally short-lived. Their intellect is dull and so very dull too, Shaunaka and other Rishis asserted. Not just that, they are not so endowed with blessings from nature as a result of not performing such great actions that invoke merit. “If we go to the texts too, they are full of so many activities that it gets really mind boggling,” the Rishis appeal.
They finally ask the Suta six questions. The first question is: what leads to Shreyas or the highest welfare for all? There are two types of well-being, one is Preyas or immediate gratification and the other is Shreyas or ultimate achievement of the goal. Preyas is like having a desire for chocolate, wanting to eat it, getting one, eating it and feeling satisfied about it for a short while. Shreyas on the other hand is like following a good diet, right exercise and sleep so that the person enjoys good health for a long period of time.
The second question by the Rishis is, “We have heard that the supreme being manifests in the world many times as Avatars. Why are Avatars taken? How are they taken? Keeping what reason in mind, does the Lord take so many manifestations?” What do the Avatars do when they come to this world? What are the stories of the Avatars? We especially want to know the stories of the Sri Krishna Avatar. When the Krishna Avatar was there on earth, Dharma—righteousness, goodness or the principle of existence—had an altar for surrender. When the Avatar period came to an end, whom did dharma go and surrender to? Or rather what is the refuge for dharma in these times when the Krishna Avatar is no more?
These Rishis who asked these questions were no ignorant people. They have studied thoroughly many times over the Vedas and the Puranas. Yet just like how the modern-day lover of film heroes and their exploits never tire of hearing the stories told again and again, these devotees of the Lord who were great people of knowledge too, spared no effort to sit down like little children and listen to the tales and exploits of the Lord.
Stories are great sources of energy and rejuvenation of the mind. Especially if they are stories on the exploits of the supreme being, they not only refresh, but also take the mind to sublime heights.
The author is Acharya, Chinmaya Mission, Tiruchi (www.sharanyachaitanya. blogspot.in)