Srila Narad Muni was so honest that he explained this to Srila Vyasadeva,
his disciple, in the Srimad Bhagavatam as follows.
"In the last millenium I was born as the son of a certain maidservant engaged in the service of Brahmanas who were following the principles of Vedanta. When they were living together during the four months of the rainy season ('Caturmasya'), I was engaged in their personal service. Although they were impartial by nature, those followers of the Vedanta blessed me with their causeless mercy. As far as I was concerned, I was self-controlled and had no attachment for sports, even though I was a boy. In addition, I was not naughty, and did not speak more than required. Only once, by their permission, I took the remnants of their food, and by doing so all my sins were at once eradicated. Thus being engaged, I became purified in heart, and at that time the very nature of the transcendentalist became attractive to me. O Srila Vyasadeva, in that association and by the mercy of those great Vedantists, I could hear them describe the activities of Lord Krsna. And thus listening attentively, my taste for hearing of the Personality of Godhead increased at every step. I was very much attached to those sages. I was gentle in behaviour, and all my sins were eradicated in their service. In my heart I had strong faith in them. I had subjugated the senses, and I was strictly following them with body and mind. As they were leaving, those 'Bhakti-Vedantas', who are very kind to the poor-hearted souls, instructed me in that most confidential subject which is instructed by the Personality of Godhead Himself. By that confidential knowledge, I could understand clearly the influence of the energy of Lord Sri Krsna, the creator, maintainer and annihilator of everything. By knowing that, one can return to Him and personally meet Him." (Srimad Bhagavatam 1:5:23-32.).
"Many years passed by as I lived on smple fruits, and leaves in the forest. Now my mind was always absorbed in deep contemplation of God. On one such occasion the Lord appeared before me and told me that you will you will not see me again in this life, and so I was upset. Then I heard the Lord's voice, 'I do not appear before persons who have desires for sense gratification or anger. As you have once seen Me, your devotion for Me is now made steadfast, become fixed by My grace. Always remember Me, and keep good association. In you next birth you will become one of My close attendants.' I felt somewhat relieved after hearing that divine voice. But I had changed. I felt a great sense of renunciation, the world now appeared pervaded by the Lord. My attachment even for this body was like that of a drop of water on a lotus leaf, there was no attachment. In fact I cast away that body at the time of the next deluge when all creatures were absorbed back into the body of the Mahavisnu. When the next creation came, begining with the Lord giving birth to the lotus born Brahma. Then he began to further create as the Lord directed from within. After some time Marichi, Atri and the other eight Prajeshwaras appeared, I was one of them. It was then that I became Narad due to the blessings of the Lord."
Once Narad was travelling when he came upon the sons of Daksa called the Haryshwas who had been sent by their father to that place in the Himalayas to perform austerities before going into household life to produce children to populate the world. Narada convinced them that this was not worthly of so much endeavour and that better was to remain celebate and become detached from the world which they did, much may I add to Daksa's dismay.
Daksa then sent forth another group of his sons for the same purpose, but this time preached to them for a long time so as to make the devout in their mission. But lo and behold Narad appeared on the scene and convinced them also to give it up. it was then in rage that Prajapati Daksa cursed Narada to never be able to stay in one place but to travel here and there like the vagabond that Daksa saw him to be.
There are many stories where Narada is involved in some way, and a number
which are his very own 'lilas' with the Lord we will try to mention a few
here, though there are many. Narada had his part to play in both the epics
the Ramayana as he spoke with Valmiki Muni telling him of a perfect king
Rama, thus Ramayana was spoken by Narada. And also Mahabharata, actually
it was Narad who popularised Mahabharata with the 'devas' telling it to
them as he travelled throughout the universe.
Narada Muni had a 'nephew' of the name Parvata Muni who once accompanied Narada to Maharaja Ambarish's kingdom of Ayodhya. Raja Ambarish had a very beautiful daughter who's hand was to be given in a 'swayamvara' ceremony. Truely she was the embodiment of all good qualities, and both Narada and Parvata Munis were attracted to her dazzling beauty. Unknown to the other each of them approached Ambarish with the desire to have her as his wife. Raja Ambarish was in a very difficult situation for he didn't want to upset either of the sages, but nor did he want to let down the princes who had assembled to try to win her. Ambarish Maharaja fair as ever said to everyone, "Let it be that whoever my daughter selects tommorrow they shall be her husband.
Both Narad and Parvata prayed individually to the Lord. Narada asked, "Oh my Lord at the 'swayamvara' tommorrow please let Parvata appear like a monkey before the princes." Parvata prayed, "Oh my Lord please let Narada be a bear before the princes tommorrow." Without the others knowledge the Lord granted each of them their wish. Ambarish Maharaj had told his daughter Srimati to chose one of the sages. The two sages looked at each other with great confidence and each gave a little laugh thinking how foolish the other looked. Srimati turned to her father with the garland still in her hand and said, "Father there are no sages here, only two men one with the face of a bear and the other with the face of a monkey. But there is one person here between them dressed in a shining yellow dhoti, garland of lotuses around his neck and a jewel encrusted crown with a peacock feather upon his head. Father he beckoned me to come, and stretched forward as if to receive the garland." She wanted to garland him but realised that if she did the sages would curse her father. In frustration she threw the garland at the two sages, but as the garland hurled towards them it lifted and directly fell on the neck of the handsome stranger between the two sages. In a flash both Srimati and the handsome stranger disappeared right before the assembly. Suddenly the sages realised what had happened, how they had forgotten their vows of brahmacari for the beautiful glances of a woman, and that this was non other than the Lord Himself come to bewilder them and simultaneously set things right.
But it was not that Narada was always seen playing the part as a fool. One can read in the Srimad Bhagavatam of the incident in which Maharaj Uttanapada having two wives each of which had a son. Dhruva was born of Suniti and Uttama to Suruchi the younger wife, who it appeared Maharaja Uttanapad was more fond of due to her beauty. Suruchi once chided Dhruva and taunted him saying that he was eligible for attaining to the throne as he was not born from her womb. The young Dhruva was devistated and took a vow that not only would he sit on the throne, but would have a kingdom better than his grandfather, Brahmaji.
Hardly five years old Dhruva decided to go to the forest and perform austerities to gain his boon from Lord Narayana, Who his mother said must reside in the forest, for that is where all the great sages go to find Him. Narada Muni heard from the devas that someone was causing havoc in the universe due to performance of austerities so Narad Muni happened to come by asked him what the situation was and then as a resolve to chant the 'mantra om namo bhagavate vasudevaya', which he did along with fasting. Due to Dhruva's severe penance the 'devas' approached the Lord and asked Him to do something. The Lord appeared and granted Dhruva his boon and was awarded the Pole star, which now is known as Dhruva loka.
Again mentioned in the Bhagavatam is the story of Chitraketu whose son was poisoned by envious co-wives. It was Narada's arrival on the scene that finally helped the king come to reality. By his mystic potency Narada Muni revived the dead child to life, but instead of responding to the affection of his attached father, the boy asked which father are you as I have had so many in my previous births? Narad then preached to the king and eventually made him into a devotee of the Lord.
Another example of Narada's wonderful pre-empting was in the case of the son of the king of the demons Hiranyakasipu, whose name was Prahlada. When the 'devas' heard that there was a child in the womb of Hiranyakasipu's wife Kayadu, the devas headed by Indra planned to kidnap her and kill the child. But to save the day, knowing that actually who was in the womb was a great devotee. Narada took Kayadu to his 'ashram' and looked after her there until Hiranyakasipu returned from his performance of austerities. During this time Narada used to preach to the child in the womb, and tell him of the glories of Lord Hari his fathers enemy. Needless to say when the child came out by the mercy of Narad instead of being the best of the demons in the true sense, truely he was the best of the demoniac race as he was a devotee of the Lord. This wonderful episode can be found in the 7th canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam.
It was Narad no less who conspired to speed up the killing of cruel king Kamsa. For Narad went to Kamsa and revealed the curse that the eigth son of Devaki would kill him. Kamsa in rage killed each son one after another. Without Narada's prompting the task may have taken considerably longer before Lord Sri Krsna appeared, had so many pastimes and finally killed Kamsa.
During the Mahabharat war Narad appeared to counsel Yudhisthira Maharaj, to gain the 'darshan' of sage Markandeya who gave some instructive stories to the Pandavas. Narada also was there at the time of grandfather Bhisma's demise, giving his usual warranted advise.
Probably the most famous at least for it's examples is the cobbler and the 'brahmin'. Once Narada Muni was once asked by a 'brahmana', "Oh, are you going to meet the Lord? Will you please ask Him when I'm going to get my salvation?" "All right," Narada agreed. "I shall ask Him." As Narada proceeded, he met a cobbler who was sitting under a tree mending shoes, and the cobbler similarly asked Narada, "Oh, are you going to see God? Will you please enquire of Him how He is for me?" Narad then asked the poor cobbler, "Do you not want to know when your salvation will come?" When Narada went to the Vaikuntha planets, he fulfilled their requests and asked Narayana about the salvation of the brahmana and the cobbler. Narayana replied, "After leaving this body, the cobbler shall come here to Me." "What about the 'brahmana'?" Narada asked. "He will have to remain there for a number of births. I do not know when he is coming." Narada Muni was astonished, and he finally said, "I cannot understand the mystery of this." "That you will see," Narayana said. "But do not tell them it exactly like this tell the 'brahmana' he will come after one more life and the cobbler that he as many leaves as there are on a nearby tree and see their reactions." He continued, "When they ask you what I am doing in My abode, tell them that I am threading the eye of a needle with an elephant." When Narada Muni returned to earth and approached the 'brahmana', the 'brahmana' said, "Oh, you have sen the Lord? What was he doing?" "He was threading an elephant through the eye of a needle," Narada answered. "I don't believe such nonsense," the 'brahmana' replied. Narada could immediately understand that the man had no faith and that he was simply a reader of books. Narada then left and went on to the cobbler, who asked him, "Oh, you have seen the Lord? Tell me, what was he doing?" "He was threading an elephant through the eye of a needle," Narada replied. The cobbler began to weep. "Oh, my Lord is so wonderful, He can do anything." "Do you really believe that the Lord can push an elephant through the eye of a needle?" Narada asked. "Why not?" the cobbler said. "Of course I believe it." "How is that?" Narada asked. "You can see that I am sitting under this banyan tree......." the cobbler answered, ".....and you can see that so many fruits are falling daily, and in each seed there is a banyan tree like this one. If within a small seed there can be a big tree like this, it is difficult to accept that the Lord is pushing an elephant through the eye of a needle?" Narad then revealed what the Lord had said about their salvation. The 'brahmana' proud with his Vedic knowledge simply said that it's proposterous, "You are a fraud Narada you didn't go to see the Lord, Huh!......more births indead!" However the humle cobbler when presented with the news that he would only have to take as many births as there were leaves on the tree commented how kind the Lord was that he would take such a lowly person back so soon. With that the wind blew and all the leaves of the tree fell to the ground, and Narad escorted the humble cobbler to the Lord's abode. There are so many more but I think that by now you have got the drift.
Srila Narada, due to his perfect service attitude in the process of devotional service (hearing, chanting, remembering, etc) advised Srila Vyasadeva, the literary incarnation of Krsna, as to the best welfare for everyone.
dharmah projjhita-kaitavotra paramo nirmatsaranam satam
vedyam vastavam atra vastu sivadam tapa-trayonmulanam
"Completely rejecting all religions which are materially motivated, the Bhagavata Purana propounds the highest truths, which are understandable by those devotees who are pure in heart. The highest truth is reality, distinguished from illusion for the welfare of all. Such truth uproots the threefold miseries." (Srimad Bhagavatam 1:1:2.).
Therefore Srimad Bhagavatam, the explanation of Srila Vyasa's Vedanta Sutra by the same author, is meant for 'nirmatsaranam', (those who are completely aloof from jealousy.) Mayavadi philosophers are jealous of the existence of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, therefore Vedanta Sutra is not actually meant for them. They unnecessarily poke their noses in the Vedanta Sutra, but they have no ability to understand, for the author of Vedanta Sutra, Srila Vyasa, writes in his commentary that it is only meant for those who are pure at heart, paramo-nirmatsaranam. For example, Sri Krsna says to Arjuna in Bhagavad Gita, "Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me." and because Arjuna did that, he is the Lord's pure devotee. Therefore unless one purchases this key of Vedic wisdom which is laying in wait in the hearts of the pure devotees in the 'parampara', there is no hope of understanding Vedanta.
"Regarding the disciplic succession from Arjuna, disciplic succession
does not always mean that one has to be initiated officially. Disciplic
succession means to accept the disciplic conclusion. Arjuna was a disciple
of Krsna, and Brahma was also a disciple of Krsna. Thus there is no disagreement
between the conclusions of Brahma and Arjuna. Srila Vyasadeva is in the
disciplic succession of Brahma. The teachings to Arjuna were recorded by
Srila Vyasadeva verbatim. So according to the axiomatic truth, things equal
to one another are equal to each other. We are not exactly directly from
Srila Vyasadeva, but our 'Gurudeva' is a representative of Srila Vyasadeva.
Because Srila Vyasadeva and Arjuna are of the same status, being students
of Krsna, therefore we are in the disciplic succession of Arjuna. Things
equal to the same thing are equal to one another." (Srila Prabhupada's
letter excerpt to Dinesh 31st October 1969.).
In another letter to Kirtanananda dasa he says, "...... it is just like I have got my disciples, so in the future these many disciples may have many branches of disciplic succession. So in one line of disciples we may not see another name coming from a different line. But this does not means that the person whose name does not appear was not in the disciplic succession. Narada was the spiritual master of Srila Vyasadeva, and Arjuna was Srila Vyasadeva's disciple, not as initiated disciple, but there was some blood relation between them. So there is connection in this way, and it is not possible to list all such relationships in a short description. Another point is that disciple succession does not mean one has to be directly a disciple of a particular person. The conclusions which we have tried to explain in our Bhagavad Gita As It Is, is the same as the conclusions of Arjuna. Arjuna accepted Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and we also accept the same truth under the disciplic succession of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. ..... Another example is that a tree has many branches, and you will find one leaf here and another leaf there. But if you take this leaf and the other leaf and you press them both, you will see that the taste is the same. The taste is the conclusion, and from the taste you can understand that both leaves are from the same tree."(A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad, letter excerpt 25th January 1969.). Furthermore in his insightive wisdom Srila Prabhupad enlightens us still more: "So we have got this message from Krsna, from Caitanya Mahaprabhu, from the six Gosvamis, later on, Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Bhaktisiddhanta Thakura. And we are trying our bit also to distribute this knowledge. Now, tenth, eleventh, twelfth. My guru-maharaja is tenth from Caitanya Mahaprabhu, I am eleventh, you are the twelfth." (A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad. 18th May, 1972. Arrival lecture. Los Angeles.)
This is I feel a very clear and easy to understand explanation of how the 'Guru Parampara' is structured. The mood, or message or as Srila Prabhupada says the taste is the conclusion. So we can see Lord Krsna spoke Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna for the benefit of mankind, for externally it appeared that the disciplic succession was again lost. We, the Gaudiya Vaisnava line therefore also recognise and included Narada Muni and Krsna Dwaipayana Veda Vyasa in the 'guru parampara' coming down from Prajapati Brahma (Caturmukha), for the very important parts that they play.
Srila Vyasadeva is the original compiler of the Vedanta Sutra or Brahma Sutra which gives guidance for all non-envious persons as to the nature of the soul, the nature of Brahman, who is Param-brahman, and again how to re-establish that relationship. Srila Vyasadeva's opening lines in Vedanta Sutra reads:
janmady asya yato 'nvayad itaratas carthesv asbhijnah sva rat
"I meditate upon Him (Lord Sri Krsna), the transcendental reality, who is the primeval cause of all causes, from Who all manifested universes arise, in Whom they dwell and by Whom they are destroyed. I meditate upon that eternally effulgent Lord Who is directly and indirectly conscious of all manifestations and yet is fully independent."(Srimad Bhagavatam 1:1:1.)
In this way the personal philosophy of Brahma Sutra or Vedanta Sutra
has been handed down. "Nothing is apart from the substance, but at the
same time the energies are different from the substance. This conception
is not contradictory. The Srimad Bhagavatam explicitly promulgates this
simultaneously, which begins with the 'janmady asya' sutra."