Akrūra also saw His Lordship surrounded by intimate associates like the four Kumāras—Sanaka, Sanātana, Sananda and Sanat-kumāra—and other associates like Sunanda and Nanda, as well as demigods like Brahmā and Lord Śiva. The nine great learned sages were there, and also devotees like Prahlāda and Nārada and the eight Vasus. All were engaged in offering prayers to the Lord with clean hearts and pure words. After seeing the transcendental Personality of Godhead, Akrūra immediately became overwhelmed with joy and great devotion, and all over his body there was transcendental shivering. Although for the moment he was bewildered, he retained his clear consciousness and bowed down his head before the Lord. With folded hands and faltering voice, he began to offer prayers to the Lord.
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All Vedic literature agrees that Kṛṣṇa is the source of Brahmā, Śiva and all other demigods. In the Atharva Veda (Gopāla-tāpanī Upaniṣad 1.24) it is said, yo brahmāṇaṁ vidadhāti pūrvaṁ yo vai vedāṁś ca gāpayati sma kṛṣṇaḥ: "It was Kṛṣṇa who in the beginning instructed Brahmā in Vedic knowledge and who disseminated Vedic knowledge in the past." Then again the Nārāyaṇa Upaniṣad (1) says, atha puruṣo ha vai nārāyaṇo 'kāmayata prajāḥ sṛjeyeti: "Then the Supreme Personality Nārāyaṇa desired to create living entities." The Upaniṣad continues, nārāyaṇād brahmā jāyate, nārāyaṇād prajāpatiḥ prajāyate, nārāyaṇād indro jāyate, nārāyaṇād aṣṭau vasavo jāyante, nārāyaṇād ekādaśa rudrā jāyante, nārāyaṇād dvādaśādityāḥ: "From Nārāyaṇa, Brahmā is born, and from Nārāyaṇa the patriarchs are also born. From Nārāyaṇa, Indra is born, from Nārāyaṇa the eight Vasus are born, from Nārāyaṇa the eleven Rudras are born, from Nārāyaṇa the twelve Ādityas are born." This Nārāyaṇa is an expansion of Kṛṣṇa.
Bhīṣmadeva, who was the best amongst the eight Vasus, received and welcomed all the great and powerful ṛṣis who were assembled there, for he knew perfectly all the religious principles according to time and place."
Expert religionists know perfectly well how to adjust religious principles in terms of time and place. All the great ācāryas or religious preachers or reformers of the world executed their mission by adjustment of religious principles in terms of time and place. There are different climates and situations in different parts of the world, and if one has to discharge his duties to preach the message of the Lord, he must be expert in adjusting things in terms of the time and place. Bhīṣmadeva was one of the twelve great authorities in preaching this cult of devotional service, and therefore he could receive and welcome all the powerful sages assembled there at his deathbed from all parts of the universe. He was certainly unable at that time to welcome and receive them physically because he was neither at his home nor in a normal healthy condition. But he was quite fit by the activities of his sound mind, and therefore he could utter sweet words with hearty expressions, and all of them were well received. One can perform one's duty by physical work, by mind and by words. And he knew well how to utilize them in the proper place, and therefore there was no difficulty for him to receive them, although physically unfit.
The stage attained by Bhīṣmadeva while quitting his material body is called nirvikalpa-samādhi because he merged his self into thinking of the Lord and his mind into remembering His different activities. He chanted the glories of the Lord, and by his sight he began to see the Lord personally present before him, and thus all his activities became concentrated upon the Lord without deviation. This is the highest stage of perfection, and it is possible for everyone to attain this stage by practice of devotional service. The devotional service of the Lord consists of nine principles of service activities, and they are (1) hearing, (2) chanting, (3) remembering, (4) serving the lotus feet, (5) worshiping, (6) praying, (7) executing the orders, (8) fraternizing, and (9) fully surrendering. Any one of them or all of them are equally competent to award the desired result, but they require to be practiced persistently under the guidance of an expert devotee of the Lord. The first item, hearing, is the most important item of all, and therefore hearing of the Bhagavad-gītā and, later on, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is essential for the serious candidate who wants to attain the stage of Bhīṣmadeva at the end. The unique situation at Bhīṣmadeva's time of death can be attained, even though Lord Kṛṣṇa may not be personally present. His words of the Bhagavad-gītā or those of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam are identical with the Lord. They are sound incarnations of the Lord, and one can fully utilize them to be entitled to attain the stage of Śrī Bhīṣmadeva, who was one of the eight Vasus. Every man or animal must die at a certain stage of life, but one who dies like Bhīṣmadeva attains perfection, and one who dies forced by the laws of nature dies like an animal. That is the difference between a man and an animal. The human form of life is especially meant for dying like Bhīṣmadeva.
Uddhava is one of the eternal associates of the Lord, and a plenary portion of Uddhava was one of the eight Vasus in the days of yore. The eight Vasus and the demigods in the upper planetary system, who are responsible for the management of the universal affairs, performed a sacrifice in the days of yore, desiring to fulfill their respective ultimate goals in life. At that time an expansion of Uddhava, acting as one of the Vasus, desired to become an associate of the Lord. The Lord knew this because He is present in the heart of every living entity as Paramātmā, the Superconsciousness. In everyone's heart there is the representation of the Superconsciousness, who gives memory to the partial consciousness of every living entity. The living entity, as partial consciousness, forgets incidents of his past life, but the Superconsciousness reminds him how to act in terms of his past cultivation of knowledge.
It may be argued that the demigods are as important as Lord Viṣṇu because the names of the demigods are different names of Viṣṇu. This, however, is not a sound conclusion, for it is contradicted in the Vedic literatures. The Vedas declare:
candramā manaso jātaś cakṣoḥ sūryo ajāyata; śrotrādayaś ca prāṇaś ca mukhād agnir ajāyata; nārāyaṇād brahmā, nārāyaṇād rudro jāyate, nārāyaṇāt prajāpatiḥ jāyate, nārāyaṇād indro jāyate, nārāyaṇād aṣṭau vasavo jāyante, nārāyaṇād ekādaśa rudrā jāyante.
"The demigod of the moon, Candra, came from the mind of Nārāyaṇa, and the sun-god came from His eyes. The controlling deities of hearing and the life air came from Nārāyaṇa, and the controlling deity of fire was generated from His mouth. Prajāpati, Lord Brahmā, came from Nārāyaṇa, Indra came from Nārāyaṇa, and the eight Vasus, the eleven expansions of Lord Śiva and the twelve Ādityas also came from Nārāyaṇa."
I, Yamarāja; Indra, the King of heaven; Nirṛti; Varuṇa; Candra, the moon-god; Agni; Lord Śiva; Pavana; Lord Brahmā; Sūrya, the sun-god; Viśvāsu; the eight Vasus; the Sādhyas; the Maruts; the Rudras; the Siddhas; and Marīci and the other great ṛṣis engaged in maintaining the departmental affairs of the universe, as well as the best of the demigods headed by Bṛhaspati, and the great sages headed by Bhṛgu are all certainly freed from the influence of the two base material modes of nature, namely passion and ignorance. Nevertheless, although we are in the mode of goodness, we cannot understand the activities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. What, then, is to be said of others, who, under illusion, merely speculate to know God?"
The son of Saṅkalpā was known as Saṅkalpa, and from him lust was born. The sons of Vasu were known as the eight Vasus. Just hear their names from me: Droṇa, Prāṇa, Dhruva, Arka, Agni, Doṣa, Vāstu and Vibhāvasu. From Abhimati, the wife of the Vasu named Droṇa, were generated the sons named Harṣa, Śoka, Bhaya and so on."
The eight sons born of Sahadevā such as Pravara and Śruta, were exact incarnations of the eight Vasus in the heavenly planets. Vasudeva also begot eight highly qualified sons through the womb of Devakī. These included Kīrtimān, Suṣeṇa, Bhadrasena, Ṛju, Sammardana, Bhadra and Saṅkarṣaṇa, the controller and serpent incarnation. The eighth son was the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself—Kṛṣṇa. The highly fortunate Subhadrā, the one daughter, was your grandmother."
The words sarvasya pra-bhavaḥ indicate that Kṛṣṇa is the creator of everyone, including Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Śiva. And because these three principal deities of the material world are created by the Lord, the Lord is the creator of all that exists in the material and spiritual worlds. In the Atharva Veda (Gopāla-tāpanī Upaniṣad 1.24) it is similarly said, "He who existed before the creation of Brahmā and who enlightened Brahmā with Vedic knowledge is Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa." Similarly, the Nārāyaṇa Upaniṣad (1) states, "Then the Supreme Person, Nārāyaṇa, desired to create all living beings. Thus from Nārāyaṇa, Brahmā was born. Nārāyaṇa created all the Prajāpatis. Nārāyaṇa created Indra. Nārāyaṇa created the eight Vasus. Nārāyaṇa created the eleven Rudras. Nārāyaṇa created the twelve Ādityas." Since Nārāyaṇa is a plenary manifestation of Lord Kṛṣṇa, Nārāyaṇa and Kṛṣṇa are one and the same.
Bali Mardana: I was reading yesterday about the talks between Uddhava and Maitreya and Kṛṣṇa, and it described that previously Uddhava was one of the eight Vasus who desired to associate with the Lord.
Bali Mardana: What is exactly the position of the Vasus?
Prabhupāda: Vasus, they are demigods. Before appearance of Kṛṣṇa, some of the exalted demigods were ordered to come and arrange for His arrival. So Uddhava arrived, and many others arrived. They were coming from heavenly planets.
Bali Mardana: Bhīṣmadeva was also one of the Vasus previously.
Prabhupāda: Yes. Aṣṭa-vasu.
Prabhupāda: Here is the one from whom everything emanates. So why don't you worship Him? Is there any purport?
Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: Yes. "Purport. A learned scholar who has studied the Vedas perfectly and has information from authorities like Lord Caitanya and who knows how to apply these teachings can understand that Kṛṣṇa is the origin of everything in both the material and spiritual worlds. And because he knows this perfectly, he becomes firmly fixed in the devotional service of the Supreme Lord. He can never be deviated by any amount of nonsensical commentaries or by fools. All Vedic literature agrees that Kṛṣṇa is the source of Brahmā, Śiva and all other demigods. In the Atharva Veda it is said, yo brahmāṇaṁ vidadhāti pūrvaṁ yo vai vedāṁś ca gāpayati sma kṛṣṇaḥ. 'It was Kṛṣṇa who in the beginning instructed Brahmā in Vedic knowledge and who disseminated Vedic knowledge in the past.' Then again it is said, atha puruṣo ha vai nārāyaṇo 'kāmayata prajāḥ sṛjeyety upakramya. 'Then the Supreme Personality Nārāyaṇa desired to create living entities.' Again it is said, nārāyaṇād brahmā jāyate, nārāyaṇād prajāpatiḥ prajāyate, nārāyaṇād indro jāyate, nārāyaṇād aṣṭau vasavo jāyante, nārāyaṇād ekādaśa rudrā jāyante, nārāyaṇād dvādaśādityāḥ. 'From Nārāyaṇa, Brahmā is born, and from Nārāyaṇa, the patriarchs are also born. From Nārāyaṇa, Indra is born, from Nārāyaṇa the eight Vasus are born, from Nārāyaṇa the eleven Rudras are born, from Nārāyaṇa the twelve Ādityas are born.' It is said in the same Vedas, brahmaṇyo devakī-putraḥ: 'The son of Devakī, Kṛṣṇa, is the Supreme Personality.' Then it is said, eko vai nārāyaṇa āsīn na brahmā na īśāno nāpo nāgni-samau... (break) ...dyāv-āpṛthivī na nakṣatrāṇi na sūryaḥ sa ekākī na ramate tasya dhyānāntaḥ sthasya yatra chāndogaiḥ kriyamāṇāṣṭakādi-saṁjñakā stuti-stomaḥ stomam ucyate. 'In the beginning of the creation there was only the Supreme Personality Nārāyaṇa. There was no Brahmā, no Śiva, no fire, no moon, no stars in the sky, no sun. There was only Kṛṣṇa, who creates all and enjoys all.'