“Just as the Ganga is the greatest of all rivers, Lord Achyuta the supreme among deities and Lord Shambhu [Shiva] the greatest of Vaishnavas, so Shrimad-Bhagavatam is the greatest of all Puranas.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 12.13.16)Download this episode (right click and save)
How to understand the greatness of someone whose glories know no limit? How to reach the full depth of the good qualities of the person who is married to the mother of the universe? How to understand someone who is full of contradictions, such as a strange external appearance and complete purity on the inside? His wife-to-be went through austerity to an unheard-of-level in order to qualify. She is devoted in thought, word and deed, and he the ideal husband.
A single verse from the Bhagavata Purana gives an idea into the stature of Lord Shiva, who is also known as Mahadeva. Such is the power of the Sanskrit language combined with the mind of a sage connected to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, great significance flows from a short sound vibration.
1. Like Ganga is the greatest of all rivers
Man cannot survive without water; a fact of life. This is one of the contributing factors to the population patterns of human beings since time immemorial. They tend to congregate around bodies of water. Bathing, drinking, travelling, cooling off from scorching heat - a single body of water can do so much.
Among rivers, Ganga is considered the greatest. The true identity is that of a devi, or goddess. She emanates from the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord, who is ultimately a person. Interestingly, Mahadeva plays a role in her arrival to the material world. She makes her way to martya-loka, the planet of mortality, through the top of Lord Shiva’s head.
2. Like Achyuta is the best of the devas
A managing authority living in the heavenly world, where enjoyments and duration of life are enhanced, is known as a deva. One of the English translations is “god,” and the correlation is to the mode of goodness, which is one of the three modes of nature.
There are many devas, as there are many departments in the material world to manage. This doesn’t mean that God doesn’t exist or that He is only a concept manifesting in the divided nature of the distribution of living beings.
He is singular, and one name for Him is Achyuta. This means that He never falls down; there is no defeat for God. He is not flawed like the conditioned living entities. Another name for Achyuta is Krishna, which means “all-attractive.” He is also Rama, the one who holds all transcendental pleasure.
3. Like Shrimad Bhagavatam is the best of all Puranas
There is the original Veda, which is the highest source of knowledge. Hymns glorifying God and His associates, no other works are necessary for reaching enlightenment. Indeed, the sound alone referencing the best of the devas is enough to bring purification. For this reason saints are known to have attachment to mantras containing those names, such as, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”
The Puranas are works describing history, sometimes even touching on the future. They present the same concepts of the Vedas, but through story and conversation form. There are different Puranas, each with a unique focus on a particular subject matter. It is said that the Bhagavata Purana is the best since it does not spend much time on dharma, artha, kama or moksha, which are the four fruits of life. Rather, the concentration is on bhakti, which is love and devotion to Achyuta.
It is in the glorification of that work, also known as the Shrimad Bhagavatam, that the true position of Lord Shiva is presented. He is declared to be the best of the Vaishnavas, or those who are devoted to Vishnu. This fact is so well-known that it is used to give an understanding of the greatness of the Bhagavatam.
Lord Shiva is not interested in material advancement, though the majority of people who approach him for benedictions are. He is married to the most beautiful woman, but he is not attached to enjoying the senses with her. He lives like a renounced yogi, with his mind always fixed on Rama. In that capacity he is the best representative for the Supreme Lord.
Like Bhagavata better than the rest,
Of histories about Bhagavan blessed.
Like Ganga of sacred rivers known,
Best example of devotion shown.
By Mahadeva, who with Parvarti linked,
Called upon poison from ocean to drink.
Though others for material rewards approaching,
Not affected, his bhakti not encroaching.