The great sage Nārāyaṇa began to speak. “My dear Nārada,” He said, “I shall tell you a story which took place long, long ago. There was a great meeting of the denizens of the heavenly planets, and almost all the important brahmacārīs, such as the four Kumāras—Sanandana, Sanaka, Sanātana and Sanat-kumāra—attended. Their discussion was on the subject matter of understanding the Absolute Truth, Brahman. You were not present at that meeting because you had gone to see My expansion Aniruddha, who lives on the island of Śvetadvīpa. In this meeting, all the great sages and brahmacārīs very elaborately discussed the point about which you have asked Me, and their discussion was very interesting. It was so delicate that even the Vedas were unable to answer the intricate questions raised.”
Nārāyaṇa Ṛṣi told Nāradajī that the same question Nāradajī had raised had been discussed in that meeting on Janaloka. This is the way of understanding through the paramparā, or disciplic succession. Mahārāja Parīkṣit questioned Śukadeva Gosvāmī, and Śukadeva Gosvāmī referred the matter to Nārada, who had in the same way questioned Nārāyaṇa Ṛṣi, who had put the matter to still higher authorities on the planet of Janaloka, where it was discussed among the great Kumāras—Sanātana, Sanaka, Sanandana and Sanat-kumāra. These four brahmacārīs, the Kumāras, are recognized scholars in the Vedas and other śāstras. Their unlimited volumes of knowledge, backed by austerities and penances, are exhibited by their sublime, ideal character. They are very amiable and gentle in behavior, and for them there is no distinction between friends, well-wishers and enemies. Being transcendentally situated, such personalities as the Kumāras are above all material considerations and are always neutral in respect to material dualities. In the discussions held among the four brothers, one of them, namely Sanandana, was selected to speak, and the other brothers became the audience to hear him.
Sanandana said, “After the dissolution of the whole cosmic manifestation, the entire energy and the whole creation in its nucleus form enter into the body of Garbhodakaśāyī Viṣṇu. The Lord at that time remains asleep for a long, long time, and when there is again necessity of creation, the Vedas personified assemble around the Lord and begin to glorify Him, describing His wonderful transcendental pastimes, exactly like servants of a king: when the king is asleep in the morning, the appointed reciters come around his bedroom and begin to sing of his chivalrous activities, and while hearing of his glorious activities, the king gradually awakens.
“The Vedic reciters, or the personified Vedas, sing thus: ‘O unconquerable Lord, You are the Supreme Personality. No one is equal to You or greater than You. No one can be more glorious in his activities. All glories unto You! All glories unto You! By Your own transcendental nature You fully possess all six opulences. As such, You are able to deliver all conditioned souls from the clutches of māyā. O Lord, we fervently pray that You kindly do so. All the living entities, being Your parts and parcels, are naturally joyful, eternal and full of knowledge, but due to their own faults they imitate You by trying to become the supreme enjoyer. Thus they disobey Your supremacy and become offenders. And because of their offenses, Your material energy has taken charge of them. Thus their transcendental qualities of joyfulness, bliss and wisdom have been covered by the clouds of the three material qualities. This cosmic manifestation, made of the three material qualities, is just like a prison house for the conditioned souls. The conditioned souls are struggling very hard to escape from material bondage, and according to their different conditions of life they have been given different types of engagement. But since all engagements are based on knowledge supplied by You, the conditioned souls can execute pious activities only when You mercifully inspire them to do so. Therefore, without taking shelter at Your lotus feet one cannot surpass the influence of material energy. Actually, we, as personified Vedic knowledge, are always engaged in Your service by helping the conditioned souls understand You.’ ”