What does enjoying a delicious meal and reading holy scripture have in common? Both give pleasure to the senses and make one feel nourished and satisfied! Reading and studying the Srimad Bhagavatam in the association of devotees is a wonderful experience!
After my arrival here in Zurich, some devotees mentioned that I look a bit skinny, but actually I gained some weight, at least on the spiritual level. During my stay in Vrindavana I did not go anywhere. I did not participate in any parikramas and hardly visited any temples besides the Krishna Balaram Mandir. My daily routine consisted of part of the morning program at the temple, reading the section of the day's study, reciting and memorizing verses. I then spent most of the day at the Vrindavana Institute for Higher Education where I was studying the Bhagavatam. Coming back to my room in the evening was generally followed by doing homework and writing essays. In this way, my lifestyle was very much limited to the purpose of learning. However, I did not feel that I missed out on anything. Just by reading and hearing from Bhagavatam I felt strongly connected to the Lord and Sri Vrindavana Dhama. And the wonderful thing with such study of holy scriptures is that the more we do it, the more taste we get. The deeper we enter into the Bhagavatam, the more we want to hear about it. Srila Prabhupada calls it an “appetite for reading and understanding”:
„Bhagavad-gita can be read or heard many times, but because it gives great pleasure, the more one reads Bhagavad-gita the more he gets the appetite to read and understand it, and each time he gets new enlightenment. That is the nature of the transcendental message. Similarly, we find that transcendental happiness in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. The more we hear and chant the glories of the Lord, the more we become happy.“ 1
That's the wonderful nature of transcendental literature, it is ever fresh and always enlivening, and each time we read, even though it might be the same text, we find new realizations and inspirations. Over the years we gain new insights and mature as a person and therefore, according to the level of consciousness we have attained, we will be able to understand the same text in a new light. If this is not the case then something is wrong. We’re probably not properly performing the process of sravanam kirtanam, hearing and chanting. The test is that one should actually feel how he is making advancement through the process of hearing:
“Devotional hearing of the messages of the Lord is not like hearing ordinary topics; therefore the action will be felt by the sincere hearer by experience of the gradual disappearance of ignorance. (..) When a hungry man is given food to eat, he feels satiation of hunger and the pleasure of dining simultaneously. Thus he does not have to ask whether he has actually been fed or not. The crucial test of hearing Srimad-Bhagavatam is that one should get positive enlightenment by such an act.” 2
If you just had a big feast, no one will need to tell you that you are satisfied, because you can feel it yourself. Just as a good meal is not only satisfying the tongue and belly but also gives nourishment to the whole body, similarly tasting the Bhagavatam results in spiritual nourishment.
My personal menu right now consists of the fourth canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam. As a starter, the striking narration of how Daksa curses Lord Shiva is offered, followed by the description of Dhruva Maharaja`s adventurous search for the Supreme Lord. As the main course, the story of the glorious King Prithu will be served and the feast will be concluded with a dessert of the allegory of Puranjana and the activities of the Pracetas. I can`t wait for it. How blessed we are to be gifted with such transcendental `food for the soul`! What`s on your menu?
1 - Srimad Bhagavatam Purport 2.25.2
2 - Srimad Bhagavatam Purport 2.4.5