Srimad-Bhagavatam > 2.9>Answers by Citing the Lord's Version
Nārada very much pleased his father and desired to know all about the energies of Viṣṇu, the master of all energies, for Nārada was the greatest of all sages and greatest of all devotees, O King.(42)
The great sage Nārada also inquired in detail from his father, Brahmā, the great-grandfather of all the universe, after seeing him well satisfied. (43)
Thereupon the supplementary Vedic literature, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, which was described by the Personality of Godhead and which contains ten characteristics, was told with satisfaction by the father [Brahmā] to his son Nārada. (44)
Lord Brahmā, being the creator of all living beings in the universe, is originally the father of several well-known sons, like Dakṣa, the catuḥ-sanas, and Nārada. In three departments of human knowledge disseminated by the Vedas, namely fruitive work (karma-kāṇḍa), transcendental knowledge (jñāna-kāṇḍa), and devotional service (upāsanā-kāṇḍa), Devarṣi Nārada inherited from his father Brahmā devotional service, whereas Dakṣa inherited from his father fruitive work, and Sanaka, Sanātana, etc., inherited from their father information about jñāna-kāṇḍa, or transcendental knowledge. But out of them all, Nārada is described here as the most beloved son of Brahmā because of good behavior, obedience, meekness and readiness to render service unto the father. And Nārada is famous as the greatest of all sages because of his being the greatest of all devotees. Nārada is the spiritual master of many famous devotees of the Lord. He is the spiritual master of Prahlāda, Dhruva and Vyāsa, down to the forest animal hunter Kirāta. His only business is to turn everyone to the transcendental loving service of the Lord. Therefore all these features of Nārada make him the dearmost son of his father, and all this is due to Nārada's being a first-class devotee of the Lord. The devotees are always anxious to know more and more about the Supreme Lord, the master of all energies. As confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā (10.9):
kathayantaś ca māṁ nityaṁ
tuṣyanti ca ramanti ca
The Supreme Lord is unlimited, and His energies are also unlimited. No one can know them completely. Brahmājī, being the greatest living entity within this universe and being directly instructed by the Lord, must know more than anyone within this universe, although such knowledge may not be complete. Thus it is the duty of everyone to ask about the unlimited Lord from the spiritual master in the disciplic succession of Brahmā, which descends from Nārada to Vyāsa, from Vyāsa to Śukadeva and so on.
The process of understanding spiritual or transcendental knowledge from the realized person is not exactly like asking an ordinary question from the schoolmaster. The schoolmasters in the modern days are paid agents for giving some information, but the spiritual master is not a paid agent. Nor can he impart instruction without being authorized. In the Bhagavad-gītā (4.34), the process of understanding transcendental knowledge is directed as follows:
tad viddhi praṇipātena
upadekṣyanti te jñānaṁ
Arjuna was advised to receive transcendental knowledge from the realized person by surrender, questions and service. Receiving transcendental knowledge is not like exchanging dollars; such knowledge has to be received by service to the spiritual master. As Brahmājī received the knowledge directly from the Lord by satisfying Him fully, similarly one has to receive the transcendental knowledge from the spiritual master by satisfying him. The spiritual master's satisfaction is the means of assimilating transcendental knowledge. One cannot understand transcendental knowledge simply by becoming a grammarian. The Vedas declare (Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad 6.23):
yasya deve parā bhaktir
yathā deve tathā gurau
tasyaite kathitā hy arthāḥ
"Only unto one who has unflinching devotion to the Lord and to the spiritual master does transcendental knowledge become automatically revealed." Such relationship between the disciple and the spiritual master is eternal. One who is now the disciple is the next spiritual master. And one cannot be a bona fide and authorized spiritual master unless one has been strictly obedient to his spiritual master. Brahmājī, as a disciple of the Supreme Lord, received the real knowledge and imparted it to his dear disciple Nārada, and similarly Nārada, as spiritual master, handed over this knowledge to Vyāsa and so on. Therefore the so-called formal spiritual master and disciple are not facsimiles of Brahmā and Nārada or Nārada and Vyāsa. The relationship between Brahmā and Nārada is reality, while the so-called formality is the relation between the cheater and cheated. It is clearly mentioned herewith that Nārada is not only well behaved, meek and obedient, but also self-controlled. One who is not self-controlled, specifically in sex life, can become neither a disciple nor a spiritual master. One must have disciplinary training in controlling speaking, anger, the tongue, the mind, the belly and the genitals. One who has controlled the particular senses mentioned above is called a gosvāmī. Without becoming a gosvāmī one can become neither a disciple nor a spiritual master. The so-called spiritual master without sense control is certainly the cheater, and the disciple of such a so-called spiritual master is the cheated.
One should not think of Brahmājī as a dead great-grandfather, as we have experience on this planet. He is the oldest great-grandfather, and he is still living, and Nārada is also living. The age of the inhabitants of the Brahmaloka planet is mentioned in the Bhagavad-gītā. The inhabitants of this small planet earth can hardly calculate even the duration of one day of Brahmā.
Although the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam was spoken in four verses, it had ten characteristics, which will be explained in the next chapter. In the four verses it is first said that the Lord existed before the creation, and thus the beginning of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam includes the Vedānta aphorism janmādy asya [SB 1.1.1]. Janmādy asya is the beginning, yet the four verses in which it is said that the Lord is the root of everything that be, beginning from the creation up to the supreme abode of the Lord, naturally explain the ten characteristics. One should not misunderstand by wrong interpretations that the Lord spoke only four verses and that therefore all the rest of the 17,994 verses are useless. The ten characteristics, as will be explained in the next chapter, require so many verses just to explain them properly. Brahmājī had also advised Nārada previously that he should expand the idea he had heard from Brahmājī. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu instructed this to Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī in a nutshell, but the disciple Rūpa Gosvāmī expanded this very elaborately, and the same subject was further expanded by Jīva Gosvāmī and even further by Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura. We are just trying to follow in the footsteps of all these authorities. So Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is not like ordinary fiction or mundane literature. It is unlimited in strength, and however one may expand it according to one's own ability, Bhāgavatam still cannot be finished by such expansion. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, being the sound representation of the Lord, is simultaneously explained in four verses and in four billion verses all the same, inasmuch as the Lord is smaller than the atom and bigger than the unlimited sky. Such is the potency of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.