(1) S'rî S'uka said: 'At the source of the celestial river [the Ganges] Vidura, the best among the Kurus who had come closer to the Infallible One, sat before Maitreya Muni whose knowledge was fathomless and with a perfect respect he from the satisfaction of his transcendence politely asked him questions. (2) Vidura said: 'For the sake of happiness everyone in this world engages in fruitive activities, but by those activities one never becomes happy or finds satisfaction, on the contrary, one rather becomes unhappy that way. Please, oh great one, kindly enlighten us on what would be the right course in which circumstances. (3) The great souls who are of sacrifice wander around for the sake of the Lord of the three worlds, because of their compassion for the common man who turned his face away from Lord Krishna and under the influence of the material world is always unhappy in neglect of his duties to God. (4) Therefore oh greatest among the saints, please instruct me on the path that is favorable for us serving the Supreme Lord perfectly who, residing in the heart of the living beings, awards the unalloyed devotee the knowledge of the basic principles [the Truth] with which one learns the classical wisdom [the Veda]. (5) What does the self-sufficient Supreme Lord and ruler of the three worlds all do when He despite of being desireless accepts it to be incarnate in order to arrange the maintenance of the created universe? (6) How can He who withdraws to lie down in the ether and be unconcerned at the basis of the universe as the One Lord of Unification, as the one and only original master then again have an existence in the form of the many different [avatâras]? (7) Why is it that, concerning the pastimes that He for the welfare of the twice-born, the cows and the devoted ones displays in the transcendental activities of His different incarnations, our minds never seem to have enough in spite of time and again hearing about the auspicious, nectarean characteristics of the Lord? (8) What are the different principles on the basis of which the Lord of all Lords generated the different rulers and their higher and lower worlds wherein, as known, all classes of beings are differently occupied? (9) And please describe to us, oh chief among the brahmins, how the creator of the universe Nârâyana, the self-sufficient Lord who for mankind is the way, put together all the different forms, engagements and dispersed cultures of the incarnated souls.
(10) Oh fortunate one, from the mouth of Vyâsadeva I repeatedly heard about the higher and lower [nature] of these occupations, but without the nectar of the talks about Krishna I am little satisfied about these matters and the happiness derived from them. (11) Who can get enough of the stories about Him whose feet are the places of pilgrimage and who in society is worshiped by the great devotees? When these stories enter someone's ears they, because of the love they bestow, cut asunder the ties of affection a person has with his family! (12) Your friend sage Krishna Dvaipâyana Vyâsa has described the transcendental qualities of the Supreme Lord in the Mahâbhârata. That book is only there to draw the attention of people who take pleasure in attending to worldly topics towards the stories of the Lord. (13) The weight of that belief gradually brings about indifference for other matters. The one who constantly remembers the Lord His feet has achieved the bliss that without delay vanquishes all miseries. (14) I pity all those ignorant poor people who, in decay with the divinity of Time, in the sinfulness of their pitiable state of ignorance have turned away from the stories about the Lord and waste the length of their lives with useless philosophical exercises, imaginary purposes and a diversity of rituals. (15) Therefore, oh Maitreya, you who as the friend of the distressed heartens the good fortune [of everyone], please describe for our welfare of all topics the essence: the talks about the Lord that alike the nectar of flowers constitute the glory of all pilgrimaging. (16) Please tell us everything pertaining to the transcendental, superhuman activities accomplished by the Lord in His with all potencies equiped embodiments for the sake of a perfect grip on the maintenance and creation of His universe.'
(17) S'rî S'uka said: 'Thus as requested the great sage, His lordship Maitreya, did Vidura for the ultimate welfare of all the honor of giving an exposition [on these matters]. (18) S'rî Maitreya said: 'My blessings, oh good one whose mind is constantly fixed upon the Lord beyond the senses. Your questioning me for the sake of all is proof of the goodness of your mercy to broadcast the glories of the soul in this world. (19) Oh Vidura, I am not surprised that you who accepted the Supreme Personality our Lord, without any deviation of thought have asked me these questions, for you were born from the semen of Vyâsa. (20) Because of a curse of the powerful sage Mândavya Muni you have, from the maidservant of the brother [Vicitravîrya] and the son of Satyavatî [Vyâsadeva], taken birth as the incarnation of Yamarâja, the controller of death [see family tree]. (21) Your goodness is recognized as one of the eternal associates of the Supreme Lord. Upon His return to His abode He ordered me to instruct you in spiritual knowledge. (22) Therefore I shall now give you a systematic description of the pastimes of the Supreme Lord in His control over the enormously extended outer illusion for the sake of the creation, maintenance and dissolution of the universe.
(23) Prior to the creation of the universe the Supreme Lord, the Self and master of the living beings, existed as one without a second. It was His wish [then] not to be manifested as [many] individual soul[s], with [each] a vision of his own and outer characteristics. (24) He at the time being nothing of that all, as a seer couldn't discern anything visible. Free to act to His wishes He, with His inner potency manifested but with His expansions and His material potency not manifested, felt as if He didn't exist. (25) That what He as the perfect seer sees is energy characterized by cause and effect. Oh fortunate one, this energy with which the Almighty has built this world is called mâyâ [illusory, bewildering]. (26) With the effect of Eternal Time [kâla] upon the three modes of this illusory energy, the Supreme being, He who essentially is spiritual, generated the virility [the valor, the manliness, the power] by [entering the universe as] the person [as the Purusha]. (27) From the unmanifested then by the interaction of time came about the Mahat-tattva [the complete of the Supreme, the cosmic intelligence]. This physical self that situated in the totality drives away darkness and ignorance is of an understanding nature and capable of creating complete [spiritual] universes. (28) The [sum total of manifestation] which thus constitutes a plenary expansion of guna, kâla and [jîv]-âtmâ, forms the range of sight of the Personality of Godhead. It is the reservoir, the reason for existence, the self, of the many differentiated life forms of this universe that urges on creative effort.
(29) The Mahat-tattva transforming into the material reality of ego consciousness manifests itself in terms of cause, effect and doer. Thus we have three kinds of ego that constitute a reflection in the mind of [the gunas of] the self, the material elements and sentience: [respectively] brilliance [sattva], ignorance [tamas] and variability [rajas]. (30) With the principle of variability of the ego [vaikârika] a transformation is brought about of the mind that in its emotionality calls for all the God-conscious ones who constitute the basis of the material knowledge concerning the phenomenal world. (31) With the brilliance [taijasâni] of one's sense spiritual knowledge about fruitive activities [karma] dominates. (32) In ignorance [tamas] one arrives at the realization of the subtle sense objects [of imagined sounds and images] of which the ether [their medium] constitutes the representation of the Supersoul. (33) Material energy is a partial mixture of time [the time of expanding and contracting]. The Supreme Lord glancing this over from the ether, thus being contacted created the transformation of that touch in the form of air. (34) The air, also transformed by the extremely powerful ether, gave rise to the form of light and [the bio-electricity] of sense perception by which the world is seen. (35) From the interaction of the air and its bio-electricity with the glance of the Lord [of the ether] there was by the mixture of time a transformation of the material energy that created the taste [for life] in water. (36) The electrified water thus created due to the transformation of the Supreme Spirit [of the ether] glancing over the earth, led to the creation of the quality of smell with the partly uniting of the external energy with eternal time.
(37) Oh gentle one, understand that from the ether onwards, all the material elements and the great number of their superior and inferior qualities, [owe their existence to] the finishing touch of the Supreme. (38) The gods ruling over all these material elements are all part and parcel of Lord Vishnu. Embodied in the time-bound energy as partial aspects they fail in their personal duties and express their honest feelings for the Lord. (39) The gods said: 'Our obeisances at Your lotus feet oh Lord, in distress we surrendered to them because they are the protecting umbrella that offers all the great sages shelter who vigorously fully put behind themselves all the great miseries of material life. (40) Oh Father, because of the fact that in this material world oh Lord, the individual souls are always embarrassed by the three miseries [born from oneself, others and nature] they are never happy, but attaining Your self oh Supreme Personality, they obtain the shelter of the shade of Your lotus feet and the knowledge. (41) At every step taking to the shelter of the place of pilgrimage of Your feet, the great sages, who on the wings of the Vedic hymns with a clear mind search for Your lotuslike face, find their shelter at the best of rivers [the Ganges] that liberates from the reactions to sin. (42) The meditation that with belief, simply hearing and devotion cleanses the heart with the strength of the knowledge of detachment, obliges those who found the peace to head for the sanctuary of Your lotus feet. (43) Let us all seek the shelter of the lotus feet of You who assumed the forms of the avatâras for the sake of the creation, maintenance and dissolution of the universe. Oh Lord, they constitute the refuge that awards the courage of the devotees with remembrance. (44) Because the people get entangled and are thus of the material body in the mind of 'I' and 'mine', they are immersed in an undesirable eagerness and see themselves far removed from You, even though You are present in their bodies. Let us therefore worship Your lotus feet, oh Lord. (45) They [Your feet] cannot be seen by those who, under the influence of the material world, by their sense perception became alienated from the internal vision oh Supreme One. But oh Greatness, for those who do have the [inner] vison there are the pastimes of Your divine activities. (46) Oh Lord, those who are seriously committed simply by drinking the nectar of the talks attain the full maturity of devotional service, the true meaning of renunciation, the intelligence in which one quickly achieves the spiritual sphere where foolishness and indolence have ended [Vaikunthha]. (47) For others of transcendental realization in the yoga in which one conquers the very powerful material world, You are also the one, pacifying Original Person whom they enter. But while it for them is a thing hard to accomplish that is not the case for the ones who serve You. (48) Oh Original Lord, we are therefore much obliged. Since we for the sake of the creation of the world one after the other were created and in the past were separated as a consequence of what we did according to the three modes of nature, we were caught in the network of our own pleasures and failed to stand united in Your service. (49) Oh Unborn One, direct us in making our offerings at the right time whereby we can share our meals and also all other living beings can have their sustenance so that we with our offerings of food can eat without disturbance. (50) Oh Lord, You are of us the gods, the God-conscious and our orders, the one unique original primal person. You oh Lord are, although You are unborn, for the material energy the cause of the gunas and the karma, alike the seed that is sown for begetting the species. (51) Oh Supreme Soul, tell us what we, who were all created from and for the totality of the cosmos, should do for You and specifically grant us the vision of Your personal plan. Please grant us the ability oh Lord, to work and act according to Your special mercy with us [the status-orientations and their transcendence].'