The four topics in the Bhāgavata’s catuḥśloki

In Anuccheda 96 of the Bhagavat Sandarbha, Śrī Jīva Goswami analyzes seven verses spoken by Bhagavān to Brahmā. Four of these seven verses constitute the famous catuḥśloki or four seed-verses of the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam. The word ‘seed’ here means that these verses constitute the essence of the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam. Commentators have analyzed these verses minutely, given their importance to the overall interpretation of the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam.

The four topics in the seed verses

In the first of the seven verses, Bhagavān begins by outlining the four topics of the catuḥśloki.

śrī-bhagavān uvāca
jñānaṁ parama-guhyaṁ me yad vijñāna-samanvitam
sarahasyaṁ tad-aṅgaṁ ca gṛhāṇa gaditaṁ mayā (SB 2.9.30)

Śrī Jīva Goswami explains the meaning of each word in this verse one after the other, which is reproduced below.

  1. parama-guhyaṁ jñānaṁ = most confidential knowledge:

मे मम भगवतो ज्ञानं शब्दद्वारा याथार्थ्यनिर्धारणं मया गदितं सद्गृहाण इत्यन्यो न जानातीति भावः। यतः परमगुह्यं ब्रह्मज्ञानादपि रहस्यतमम्। Accept this knowledge, ascertained in accordance with reality through words, as spoken by Me. The sense is that “No one else knows this”, because this knowledge is supremely confidential, and more secret than brahma-jñāna.

2. vijñāna-samanvitam = inclusive of realization:

तच् च विज्ञानेन तदनुभवेनापि युक्तं गृहाण। Accept this knowledge, which includes its realization.

3. sarahasyaṁ = along with its secret meaning, prema

न चैतावदेव किं च सरहस्यं तत्रापि रहस्यं यत् किमप्यस्ति तेनापि सहितम्। तच् च प्रेमभक्तिरूपमित्यग्रे व्यञ्जयिष्यते। Not only that, but receive this knowledge along with its secret meaning, rahasya, which is embedded therein. This secret meaning is prema bhakti as will be revealed later on.

4. tad-aṅgaṁ ca = and its component part, sādhanā bhakti

तथा च तदङगं च गृहाण। तच् च सति त्वपराधाख्यविघ्ने न झटिति विज्ञानरहस्ये प्रकटयेत्। तस्मात् तस्य ज्ञानस्य सहायं च गृहाणेत्यर्थः।तच् च श्रवणादिभक्तिरूपमित्यग्रे व्यञ्जयिष्यते। And accept also its component part. This knowledge will not quickly disclose the vijñāna and rahasya if obstructed by offenses. Therefore, [to weed out offenses], accept also the component part which acts as a support for that knowledge. This support refers to [sādhanā] bhakti comprising of hearing and so on.

Thus, the verse can be translated as follows:

Receive from Me this most confidential knowledge regarding me (jñāna), which includes its realization (vijñāna), its mystery (rahasya, prema) and its component part (aṅga, sādhanā-bhakti), as I enunciate it to you. (SB 2.9.30)

Bhagavān’s blessing repudiates the Brahma-vādi interpretation of the catuḥśloki.

In the very next verse, Bhagavān blesses Brahmā that he may realize the four topics of the catuḥśloki. Indeed such a blessing was essential or critical for Brahmā to assimilate the catuḥśloki. The verse is as follows:

yāvān ahaṁ yathā-bhāvo yad-rūpa-guṇa-karmakaḥ
tathaiva tattva-vijñānam astu te mad-anugrahāt

By My grace, may true realization dawn in you, of Me in My utter completion, as I am in My existence, complete with form, attributes and action. (SB 2.9.31)

This verse clearly states that the catuḥśloki is a blessing to confer direct realization (tattva-vijñānam) of Bhagavān’s forms (rūpa), His attributes (guṇas) and His action (karma). In addition to this explicit blessing for direct realization of Bhagavān, the verse is a blessing for the rahasya, prema, because realization of Bhagavān’s internal nature naturally leads to prema.

Given that Bhagavān’s forms, His actions and His attributes were revealed to Brahmā, the purpose of the catuḥśloki is clearly not to establish Brahman as the absolute reality. Brahman is devoid of form, activities, and attributes i.e. it has no rūpa, guṇa or karma. And the verse includes the rūpa, guṇa and karma of Bhagavān in tattva-vijñāna, direct realization of the absolute reality or tattva. This makes any Brahma-vādi interpretation of the catuḥśloki very problematic, and therefore inconsistent with the depiction of absolute reality in the entire Bhāgavatam.

In future articles, we will examine the catuḥśloki in more detail.


The four topics of the catuḥśloki are: 1) knowledge of Bhagavān, 2) direct realization of Him, 3) prema, and 4) sādhanā bhakti.

Categories: Bhagavān, bhāva, sādhanā

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