आर्षभाणां च संवादं विदेहस्य महात्मन: ॥ १४ ॥
ārṣabhāṇāṁ ca saṁvādaṁ
atra api — in this very matter (of describing bhāgavata-dharma); udāharanti — is given as an example; imam — this; itihāsam — historical account; purātanam — ancient; ārṣabhāṇām — of the sons of Ṛṣabha; ca — and; saṁvādam — the conversation; videhasya — with Janaka, King of Videha; mahā-ātmanaḥ — who was a great broad-minded soul.
To explain the devotional service of the Lord, sages have related the ancient history of the conversation between the great soul King Videha and the sons of Ṛṣabha.
The words itihāsaṁ purātanam, meaning “ancient historical account,” are significant here. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is nigama-kalpa-taror galitaṁ phalam, the ripe fruit of the desire tree of Vedic knowledge. In the pages of the Bhāgavatam we find true historical narrations relating to the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the liberation of the conditioned souls. These historical accounts are not fiction or mythology, but describe the wonderful activities of the Lord and His devotees that took place in yugas previous to the advent of this puny age. Although mundane scholars have foolishly tried to depict the Bhāgavatam as a mythological work or a recent creation, the actual fact is that Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is a perfect transcendental literature describing not only the entire situation of this universe but also that which lies far beyond this universe, in both the material and spiritual skies. If one seriously studies the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam he becomes the most learned intellectual man. Caitanya Mahāprabhu desires that all pious persons become highly learned by hearing Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and then preach the glories of the Lord in a scientific way all over the world. It is essential that we hear these historical narrations, such as the conversation between the nava-yogendras and King Videha, with complete faith and submission. Then, as stated in verse 12 of this chapter, even if our former life is filled with abominable activities, simply by hearing Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam we shall be promoted to the same transcendental status as the Lord and His pure devotees. This is the extraordinary power of bhāgavata history, as contrasted with useless, mundane historical accounts, which ultimately serve no purpose. Although mundane historians justify their work on the plea that we have to learn from history, we can practically see that the world situation is now rapidly deteriorating into unbearable conflict and chaos while so-called historians stand helplessly by. But the bhāgavata historians who have faithfully heard Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam can give perfect and potent instructions for the restoration of a peaceful and blissful world. Therefore those who are inclined to enrich their intellectual life through the study of history should educate themselves in the historical narrations of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. This will bring them the perfection of intellectual and spiritual life.