From our collection

Dinabandhu dasa
Vishnudutas Instruct Gopa Kumar, 2002,
oil on canvas, 50 x 70 cm

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A lecturer elaborating on topics of spiritual life

The Srimad-Bhagavatam (Bhagavata Purana), or simply the Bhagavatam, has often been called the Bible of the Vaishnavas. A vast and encyclopedic work, the Bhagavatam surveys a broad spectrum of knowledge, including history, psychology, politics, cosmology, metaphysics, and theology. The 19th-century American transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson once exalted the Bhagavatam as a book to be read "on one's knees".

The Bhagavatam asserts its unique nature at the very beginning of its pages: dharmah projjhita-kaitavo 'tra, "All religiosity covered by fruitive intentions is completely rejected herein." (1.1.2) The text defines "fruitive intentions" as kama (gross and subtle sense gratification), artha (economic development), dharma (ordinary religiosity), and includes moksha (liberation). Thus the Bhagavatam maintains that true religion, which centers on bhakti – devotion to Krishna – transcends mundane goals, noble as those goals may be. The Bhagavatam focuses exclusively on the ultimate goal of life: love of God.

Gita means "song", and bhagavad refers to "God, the possessor (vat) of all opulence (bhaga)." The Bhagavad-gita, therefore, is "The Song of the All-Opulent One"; it embodies the teachings of Lord Krishna.