This the first of two blogs about the fourth Canto of Śrīmad Bhāgavata, primarily centered around the commentaries by Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartīpāda.
SB 4.4.3 tato viniḥsvasya sati vihāya tam sokena rosena ca dūyatā hṛdā pitror agāt straiṇa vimūḍha dhīr gṛhāt.. "Sati sighed deeply out of sorrow and anger and left her husband Śiva's home to join her father's party, her female mind bewildered..."
This verse does not say that women are less intelligent. Śrīdhara Swāmī and Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartīpāda comment on it- tyāge hetuḥ—straiṇyaṁ strī-svabhāvas tena mūḍhā dhīr yasyāṁ sā - 'Sati left Shiva because her intelligence was deluded by her female nature'. So the intelligence is there, it is just suspended by strong feminine emotions. Wherever śāstra speaks negatively of women it is meant to discourage aspirant spiritualists to regard them as objects of enjoyment. Some, however, even reject śāstra on the women issue as the Bhāgavat says [9.20.21] that women are mere leather bags for carrying the embryo. They claim it may be interpolated or mistranslated - that interpolation must have been done a long time ago then, because Śrīdhara Swāmī commented upon this verse some 1,000 years ago, saying exactly that: bhastrā carma-pātraṁ tadvan mātā ādhāra-mātram 'Bhastra means a leather container, in this way the mother is the mere vessel'. This is not demeaning to women at all, as it is just a simple biological fact. It does not contradict the conclusion of 4.4.3. The fact that King Dusyanta was also called upon to take his responsibility (bharasva, and māvamaṁsthāḥ śakuntalām) proves the Bhāgavat is not misogynyc.
Satī's apparel is said to be 'of royal ladies' and is just like Śrī Rādhikā's (ŚB 4.4.5): "A śārikā (Myna-bird), ball, mirror, ambuja (lotus, perhaps in the hand), a white umbrella, vyajana (fan) and srak (flower-garland)."
Śiva's complexion is said to be white, but in ŚB 4.6.36 it is described as aṅgena sandhyābhra rucā, "Red like an evening cloud".
SB 4.4.12. Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartīpāda writes a long ṭīkā here- ye tu phalgūṁs tucchān api guṇān bahulīkariṣṇavo bahulīkaraṇa-śīlāḥ kim uta phalgūn doṣāṁs tu naiva paśyanti yathā śītārtatvād eva madīya-vastram apaharann api śastra-pāṇitve’pi dayālutvād eva na hinasti tad ayaṁ dhanya ity evaṁ te mahattamāḥ - "The greatest saints are those who magnify the smallest virtues in men and do not see even the greatest faults in them. If someone mugs him, he will think: "Oh he is suffering from the cold, that is why he takes away my coat. Though he carries a gun he does not even fire it at me! See how kind he is!"
This reminds me of an anecdote from Sādhu Bābā's life. In December, 1983, someone stole Madangopal's ornaments from the temple in broad daylight, but Sādhu Bābā refused to report to the police, though his followers urged him to do so. Instead he said "His (the thief's) need is greater than mine." He trusted that Madangopāl would provide him with other ornaments for His service and would prevent any future theft too, as He said in Bhagavad Gītā (9.22) yoga-kṣemaṁ vahāmyaham 'I provide My devotee what He needs (new ornaments) and protect what He has (prevent further theft)."
Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartīpāda then describes the most unsaintly person -
tathaiva ye tucchān api doṣān bahulīkariṣṇavo guṇān naiva gṛhṇanti yathā virakto’yaṁ vanam apahāya yad gṛhastha-gṛheṣu vasati tat pracura-dhanaā corayitu-kāma ity evaṁ te asādhutamāḥ - "The most unsaintly person magnifies the faults in anyone he meets and does not see any virtues in others. Just like, "Just see this renunciant! He gives up the forest to live in the house of a householder, just to leach upon his great wealth!" etc. ye tu guṇābhāve’pi pareṣāṁ guṇān eva paśyanti yathā jagaty asmin ke’pi duṣṭā na santi sarva eva sādhava ity evaṁ te mahattamāḥ - "Whoever sees only good things in others, though they are actually bereft of virtues, like: 'In this world there is not a single bad person - everyone is a saint, this person is the mahattama."
This is an ideal but it would not be possible to survive in this savage world if one were really practising such a totally saintly attitude. Great saints like Jesus and Haridās Thākur had themselves executed like lambs, but they also vocally criticised hypocrites, and a great saint like Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira had himself deprived of his kingdom a few times over by Duryodhana and was forbearing to the extreme, but finally, when Duryodhana refused to even give him five villages, he declared war on him. If one were really totally without criticism or defensive mechanism one would not survive long in this world. Of course Yudhiṣṭhira's war was one of right against wrong etc., but it does mean that a saint has some defensive instinct too.
4.8.34 mudaṁ labdhum icchet natvasūyām anukrośaṁ kṛpāṁ natvavajñāṁ maitrīṁ na tu sparddhaḥ. One should be glad at someone’s superiority, not envious, one should bestow mercy on the novice and not disregard him/her, and one should be friendly with an equal and not compete with him/her.
4.12.17-18 Dhruva adjusted to the yogi society he lived in but the result of his breathing exercises is described in verse 18:
bhaktiṁ harau bhagavati pravahann ajasram
ānanda-bāṣpa-kalayā muhur ardyamānaḥ
nātmānam asmarad asāv iti mukta-lingaḥ
'Endless streams of ecstatic tears poured from his eyes out of devotion for Lord Hari, his body was studded with goosebumps and his heart was molten. He forgot even himself and was thus liberated." The desire to attain prema was clearly in the heart therefore the result was accordingly - as a result of prāṇāyām he got prema. This reminds me that Sādhu Bābā, himself a great yogi, also told me that if prāṇāyām will be used favorably for bhakti, it will yield the proper result. Dhruva followed the yuga-dharma of his Satya-yuga. The Bhāgavat says (12.3.51) kṛte yad dhyāyato viṣṇuṁ - "the yuga-dharma of Satya Yuga is meditation on Viṣṇu." Although prāṇāyām will work in Kali-yuga too and harināma will work in Satya-yuga too, in Kali people are lazy and stupid - manda sumanda-matayo, so harināma is certainly the easiest way of enlightenment. Even so, in Kali-yuga people run around with their bead-bags, shouting their heads off during a practise called japa, which is supposed to mean 'muttering'. That is due to the crazy Kali-yuga mind - cañcalaṁ hi manaḥ kṛṣṇa pramāthi balavad dṛḍham - The mind is impetuous, crazy, powerful and firm. I am not telling anyone to start blocking their nostrils now, but it IS glorified and recommended as a pre-japa practise in Haribhakti Vilāsa, that should be noted. Dhruva's goal was clearly stated here as Bhagavān (bhaktiṁ harau bhagavati), not Param Atma - it was not yoga per se.
4.12.21 Dhruva forgot the sequence of worship, going straight to worshipping the Lord, skipping over the worship of His associates. He did not correct his mistake by worshipping the associates afterwards anyway. Sometimes it is not possible to correct a forgotten item of worship. It reminds me of Sādhu Bābā, who, when he was so merciful to give this wretch dīkṣā, gave me mantra right away and then remembered he had forgotten to give me harināma. In his case he did correct the mistake by giving me harināma afterwards anyway.
SB 4.12.50 Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartīpāda comments: "My salary for lecturing is that devotees hear my lecture on Kṛṣṇa kathā. The pāṭhak should of course not lecture with the deliberate aim to make profit and do it as a business. However, a Paṇḍit also has to pay the rent and fill his belly, so it is befitting that the audience comes forward with dakṣiṇā and gifts, like sweets, fruits etc., as signs of bhakti and appreciation for all the time he spent enlightening them and to provide his yoga-kṣema. Normally this happens after the last path of a series (of a week or a month) is given.- rikta pāṇir na paśyeta rājānāṁ bhiṣajaṁ guruṁ (Hari Bhakti Vilāsa 4/343 from Smṛti Mahārṇava) "One should not see kings, a doctor or a Guru with empty hands."
SB 4.17.20 praharanti na vai strīṣu kṛtāghasvapi - 'Do not beat women, even if they have done wrong'. Even though Bhūmi Devī spoke this in personal self-defence, the ācāryas did not comment on this that one can nevertheless beat women. Śrī Jīva comments: jantavaḥ sādhāraṇa-jantu-tulyā mūḍhā api manuṣyā 'This is an edict for all, also common men and fools." Of course, Pṛthu did chastise Bhūmi devi, but not because she was a woman. He says in verse 26: pumān yoṣid uta klība ātma-sambhāvano’dhamaḥ bhūteṣu niranukrośo nṛpāṇāṁ tad-vadho’vadhaḥ - "To kill the proud and demoniac, whether they be man, woman or eunuch, is not killing at all." The emphasis is here on the vile and cruel, not on singling out a certain gender for systematic abuse, just because of the gender. See my blog of January 14, 2008.
SB 4.18.3-5 To benefit all human society, not only in this life but in the next, the great seers and sages have prescribed various methods conducive to the prosperity of the people in general. One who follows the principles and instructions enjoined by the great sages of the past can utilize these instructions for practical purposes. Such a person can very easily enjoy life and pleasures. A foolish person who manufactures his own ways and means through mental speculation and does not recognize the authority of the sages who lay down unimpeachable directions is simply unsuccessful again and again in his attempts. Śrīdhara Swāmī comments on verse 5: avidvān vidvān apīti vā 'That fool may be uneducated or even educated' since speculation is not the monopoly of the ignorant. intellectuals do it too.
SB 4.19.12 This verse is sometimes quoted by those who oppose Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas wearing saffron cloth, but, though I do agree we should not wear saffron, honestly speaking this verse does not appear in such a context at all. Besides, Indra is described in verse 14 as wearing dreadlocks (jaṭilaṁ) and being covered with ashes (bhasmācchannaṁ). It does say in verses 24-25, though that:
tad-gṛhīta-visṛṣṭeṣu pākhaṇḍeṣu matir nṛṇām dharma ity upadharmeṣu nagna-rakta-paṭādiṣu prāyeṇa sajjate bhrāntyā peśaleṣu ca vāgmiṣu
"(Foolish, unfortunate) people are attracted to heretics due to them being naked (nagnā jaināḥ, Viśvanātha says, the naked saints are Jains) , raktapaṭā, being dressed in red (bauddhāḥ or Buddhists according to Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartīpāda) or being eloquent sweet talkers (peśaleṣu ca vāgmiṣu)."
This confirms how people are fooled by the so-called sadhus' external features rather than what comes out of their mouths or how sincere they are. Especially orange clothes seem to make a person instantly worshipable as a pure devotee, regardless of the person's actual quality.
SB 4.20.14 This is the famous verse which says that the king will get 1/6 of the pious merit of his subjects if he protects them. But otherwise (anyathā) the subjects take away (all) his good karma if he fails to protect them (arakṣitā) but does levy taxes on them (kara-hāro). He must then eat (bhuṅkte) their sins (agham). So it does not say that the king is 100% responsible for the activities of his subjects, rather it is a warning against corruption by politicians, who have the duty to provide services in exchange for the taxes they receive from their subjects. If the politician promises mountains of gold to the voters but ends up stealing mountains of their tax money either by stashing them on his own Swiss bank-accounts or by misappropriating the money by funding immoral activities, he will be liable. No population is entirely controllable so it is unrealistic to expect the rulers of huge nations like China and India with more than a billion citizens each to be liable for each action taken by its billion people - the individual soul is personally responsible but the rulers must surely teach and uphold the morality of the local religion.