These few verses occur in the discussion between Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma in the second chapter of Bhagawatham. Though there are seven verses, first two verses are introductory in nature and the last one is the concluding verse.
Sri Bhagawan Uvacha:
Jnanam parama guhyam yea yad vignana samanvitham,
Sarahasyam thadangam cha grahana gaditham maya., 1
Please hear from me that knowledge of mine,
Which is mystic and governed by reason,
And which is kept as a very secret,
And please understand it carefully.
Yavan aaham yada bhavo yad roopa guna karmaka,
Thadaiva Thathwa vignamasthu they madanugrahath., 2
Due to my mercy and blessing, you would understand,
That knowledge fully and completely,
Which explains my transcendental existence,
My moods, my philosophy, my form and my properties.
Aahameva samevagre nanyad yatsa thatparam,
Paschadaham yadethascha yo aavasishyeth so asyaham., 3
I only was there before creation,
And nothing else was there,
Afterwards again I only was there,
And in future, I only will be there.
Kruthe artha yath prathiyeth na prathiyeth cha aathmani,
Thad vidhya dathmano maayaam yadha aabhaso yadha thama., 4
Anything which is told as having any meaning,
If it does not have any relation to me,
Is knowledge of the soul that is an illusion,
And is without light and is very dark.
Yada mahaanthi bhoothani bhootheshcha vacheshvanu,
Pravishtanya pravishtani thada theshu na theshwaham., 5
Like the five great elements,
Which are present and not present,
In all elements of the world,
I exist, within everything that is created,
And also outside of those same things.
Ethavadeva jiggnasyam Thathwa jigna sunathmana,
Anvaya vyathirekhabhyam yathsyath sarvathra sarvadha., 6
There is great curiosity,
To know about the soul,
Its principle and existence,
Which ends with these words,
Which are everywhere and for always
Ethan matham samathishta paramena samadhina,
Bhavan kalpa vikalpeshu, na vimuhyathi karhichith., 7
He who searches for this supreme truth,
With his mind fully under control,
Will in all space and time,
Be set free in no time.
Ithi Srimad Bhagawathe maha purane aashta dasa sahasthrayam samhithayam vaisikhyam dwitheeya skande bhagawat brahma samvade chatu sloki bhagawatha sampoornam.
Thus ends the “Bhagawatham(story of the lord) told in four verses”, which occurs in the second section called “Discussion between Vishnu and Brahma”, in the great book Bhagawatham.
The name bhagavata can be applied to every account of the experiences of those who have realized Bhagvan . Bhagvan assumes many forms and enacts many activities. The name bhagavata is given to the descriptions of the experiences of those who have realised Him in those forms and of those who have been blessed by His grace and chosen as His instruments.
The great work known by that name is honored by all masters of theVedas. It is a panacea which cures physical, mental and spiritual illnesses. The Bhâgavatam is saturated with the sweetness of nectar, it shines with the splendor of Paramatman.
The principle of avatâra or the descent of Bhagvan on earth, the incarnation of the formless with form, for the uplift of beings – is the basic fact that makes the Bhâgavatam authentic. By bhagavata we also mean those with attachment to Bhagvan, those who seek the companionship of Bhagvan. For such, the book, Bhâgavatam, is most precious; it is the breath of their life. To be in the midst of suchbhagavatas is to foster one’s own devotion. Unless you have a taste for godward thoughts, you will not derive joy therefrom. To create that taste, the Bhâgavatam tells stories relating to incarnations to the earnest inquirer. Then, one developes the yearning to experience the thrill of Bhagvan through all the levels of consciousness. He who has this intense yearning, can be a true bhagavata.
People believe that incarnations of Bhagvan happen only for two reasons: the punishment of the wicked and the protection of the righteous. But these represent only one aspect of the task. The granting of peace and joy, of a sense of fulfilment to seekers who have striven long – this too is the task.
The avatâr, or form incarnate, is only the concretisation of the yearning of the seekers. It is the solidified sweetness of the devotion of godly aspirants. The formless assumes the form for the sake of these aspirants and seekers. They are the prime cause. The cow secretes milk for the sustenance of the calf. That is the chief beneficiary. But, as we see, others too benefit from that milk. So too, though the bhaktas are the prime cause and their joy and sustenance the prime purpose, other incidental benefits also accrue, such as the fostering of religious dutifulness (dharma), the suppression of evil and the overwhelming of the wicked.
There is no compulsive rule that incarnations should occur only on earth and in human form. Any place, any form, can be chosen by the fully-free. Whichever place, whatever form, promotes the purpose of fulfilling the yearning of the devotee, that place and that form are chosen by the will of God. Bhagvan is above and beyond the limits of time and space. He is beyond all characteristics and qualities; no list of such can describe Him fully. For Him, all beings are equal. The difference between man, beast, bird, worm, insect and even a god is but a difference of the ‘vessel’ (the upâdhi).
It is like the electric current that flows through various contrivances and expresses itself in many different activities. There is no distinction in the current, it is the same. To speak of it as different is to reveal one’s ignorance (a-jñâna). So too, the one single God activates every vessel or upâdhi and gives rise to manifold consequences. The wise see only the one uniform current; the ignorant feel that they are all distinct. God appreciates the consciousness of unity as the basic motive of acts. He does not appreciate the activity itself being one, without variety; it is suited to the various needs. The fruits of karma or activity appeal only to those who identify themselves with the body and not for the others, who know that they are the indestructible âtmâ.
Again, you must know that there is no end to the incarnations that God indulges in. He has come down on countless occasions. Sometimes He comes with a part of His glory, sometimes with a fuller equipment of splendor, sometimes for a particular task, sometimes to transform an entire era of time, an entire continent of space.
It is the story of the last of these, that the Bhâgavatam elaborates. The drama enacted by the avatâra and the bhaktas drawn towards Him, is the subject matter of the Bhâgavatam. Listening to it promotes the realisation of God. Many sages have testified to its efficacy and extolled the Bhâgavatam, which they helped preserve for posterity.
Generally speaking, man gets drawn to sense objects, for he is the victim of instincts. Instincts easily seek sense-objects. They come along with the body and are not derived by any training. The infant seeks milk from the mother’s breast; the new-born calf nestles at the udder. No training is needed for this. But, for the infant to walk and talk, some training is necessary. The reason is that they are not automatic; they are socially prompted, by example and by imitation of others.
Training is essential even for the proper pursuit of sense pleasure, for it is the wild untrained search for such pleasure that promotes anger, hatred, envy, malice, conceit. To train them along salutary lines and to hold them under control, certain good disciplines like mantra meditation (japa), practice of meditation (dhyâna), fasting (upavâsa), worship at dawn and dusk (sandhya-vandana) etc. are essential. But, however much their value may be praised and their practice recommended, people do not develop a taste for them. This is because the desire for sensory pleasure has struck deep roots in the human heart. When one is asked to do spiritually salutary acts, one has no inner prompting at all. Still one should not give up in despair. Until the taste sprouts, the disciplines have to be strictly followed. This taste is the result of training, no one has it from the very beginning. Constant practice will create the zest.
The infant does not know the taste of milk. By taking it daily, it develops an attachment for it which is so deep that when milk is to be given up and rice substituted, it starts to protest. But the mother does not despair; she persuades the child to take small quantities of cooked rice daily and by this process it starts liking rice and it gives up milk. Milk was once its natural food, so, natural that if no rice is available for a single day, it becomes miserable.
So too, though sense-pleasures are ‘natural’ at first by means of practice and training and listening to the commendation of the wise, slowly the greater and more lasting pleasure derivable from the glories of the Lord and their recapitulation is grasped. Thereafter, one cannot exist without that atmosphere even for a minute; one feels that there is nothing as sweet as the experience of listening to the splendor of the Lord. The company of the worldly who chatter about the senses and the sense-objects will no longer attract; the company which exults in praising the Lord will draw and hold.
This is the real hall-mark of the good. Sâdhakas and votaries of the Lord are to be judged by these, not by external apparel or appearances. If one mixes with men who revel in sensory talks and activities, then, he puts himself out of court. Spend your time in the company of the godly, engaged in godly affairs. Avoid getting mixed with the company of the ungodly. Do not see their activities or listen to their accounts. Only those who avoid them can be called bhagavatas, God’s own.
Reading and enjoying the stories of the glory of Krishna in some sacred spot or some temple or prayer-hall-shrine or hermitage of a saint or sage, or in the company of the virtuous and the good – that is a source of great inspiration and joy. It makes people forget everything else. Else, one can approach pious men and serving them, listen to their exposition of the glories of God. Taste for such wholesome literature is the result of accumulated merit and endeavor. It is that merit that rewards one with such company. Listening will be enough in the beginning; later, the stories will arouse interest in the nature and characteristics of God and the aspirant will seek and find for himself the path to realisation.
Listening to expositions by the wise is much better than reading oneself; or, one can be looking into the text while listening. It is preferable to listen in company, rather than alone; of course, it is excellent to listen with a number of earnest aspirants. If the person who expounds has had the thrill of genuine experience, then it is the supremest luck, for it yields best results. For, his face will blossom into joy, his eyes will shed tears of joy at the very contemplation of the glory of the Lord. Those who listen to him will catch that inspiration; they will experience the joy themselves. In the midst of a group that weeps, tears will spring out of the eyes of those who have come in. When an infant smiles, those around will also smile in unison. So too, the words of those who are saturated with devotion to God will saturate the hearts of those who listen. It is impossible to measure the profit that one can derive while in the company of the great.
Through that process of listening, a dirt-laden heart will be transformed into a clean illumined heart, shining with genuine light. To the foul odors of sense-pursuits, keenness to listen to the glories of God is a valuable disinfectant, besides being in itself so full of sweet fragrance. The listening will cleanse the heart through the prompting it gives for good work.
Such a cleansed heart is the most appropriate altar or tabernacle. In that fragrant bower, the Lord will establish Himself; at that very moment, another incident too will happen. The group of six vices – kâma: lust, krodha: anger, lobha: possessiveness, mada: pride, mâtsarya: envy and moha: delusion, (altogether called the anarthas) that had infested the place will quit without so much as a farewell.
When these vices quit, the wicked retinue of evil tendencies and vulgar attitudes which live on them, will break camp and disappear without leaving even their addresses! Then, man will shine in his native splendor of truth and love (satya and prema); he will endeavor without hindrance to realise himself; and finally, he will succeed in merging with the universal and eternal. He will liberate himself from the tangle of ignorance, or mâyâ. His mind will fade away; the long-hidden secret will be revealed to him; he will discover his mâdhava-tattva (godliness, god-principle or divinity).
Man’s nature is love (prema). He cannot survive a moment, when deprived of love. It is the very breath of his life. When the six vices (anarthas), to which he was attached so long, disappear, love is the only occupant of the heart; but love has to find an object, a loved one. It cannot be alone. So, it is directed to the dark-blue divine child, the charming cowherd boy, who is purity personified, who is the embodiment of service, sacrifice and self-lessness, who has taken residence in that cleansed altar. There is no scope now for any other attachment to grow. So, step by step, this Love for Mâdhava (name for Krishna as the blooming hero, the sweet Lord) becomes deeper, purer, more self-denying, until at last, there is no other need for thought and the individual is merged in the universal.
When Vâsudeva enters the heart of man, vasudeva has no longer a place therein. In other words, when the deva of vasu or wealth is seated in the heart, the divine Vâsudeva or Krishna cannot dwell therein. Any attempt to accommodate both in the heart is bound to fail. Darkness and light cannot exist at the same time and in the same place; they cannot continue together. Riches (dhanam) and God (daivam)cannot be joint ideals; when dhanam or riches is sought, daivam or God cannot also be achieved. If both are sought by man, what he will achieve will be neither dhanam nor daivam but dayyam (the devil).
It is creditable if man behaves as man; it is laudable if he behaves as the Mâdhava, he really is. But, to behave as a demon or as a beast is despicable indeed. For, man was long born a mineral and died a mineral; then, he promoted himself as a tree. He was long born a tree and died as a tree; but, in the process, he got promoted as an animal; but, he has now risen into the status of man. This rise from one scale to another has been acknowledged by science and spiritual experience. Now, alas, he is born as man and dies as man. It is a greater shame if he slides into the beast or a beastly ogre. Praise is his due, only if he rises to the divine status. That is real fulfilment of his destiny. Therefore, avoid contact with vices; develop attachment to virtues; transmute the heart into an altar for the Lord; destroy all the shoots and sprouts of desire; then, your Manasa-sarovaram (the lake of your inner consciousness) will be sublimated into a Ksheera-sagara, (the pure ocean of milk, where the Lord reclines on the serpent-couch). Your real self will, like the celestial Hamsa, revel in the placid waters of that lake, thus transformed. It will discover endless delight.
Who can mark the beginning of the continuous waves of the ocean? It is an impossible task. If anyone decided to do so, the wave with which he starts the calculation will be considered as the beginning, the wave with which he stops his calculation will be for him the last, the end. There is a beginning and an end for his count: there is no beginning or end for the process. No one can visualise either, in that boundless illimitable expanse. God’s glory is the shoreless ocean. When one starts describing it, it begins for him; when he finishes his description it is the end, so far as he is concerned. But, His glory is beyond space and time. Only little minds, limited minds, will argue that God’s glory has a beginning and an end. The stage on which He plays (His lîlâ) has no boundaries.
The story of the Lord’s adventures (lîlâs) is all nectar; it has no other component, no other taste, no other content. Every one can drink his fill, from any part of that ocean of nectar. The same sweetness exists everywhere, in every particle. There is nothing inferior to mar the sweetness.
The love of God and the love for God are both eternally sweet and pure, whatever the method of your accepting or attaining them. Such love is holy and inspiring. Sugar is sweet when eaten during day or during the night. For it is night or day for the person who eats, not for the sugar. Sugar behaves uniformly always.
The Birth of a Bhagavata
Mahârâja Parîkchit was the very self of Abhimanyu, who had attained the heavenly abode of heroes. When Parîkchit was an embryo, growing in the womb of Uttarâ, he saw the sharp arrow let off by As’vatthâmâ flying towards him, emitting sparks of fury and terror, bent on his destruction. But, at that very moment, he saw also, a person of brilliant charm armed with a terrific wheel, breaking that death-dealing arrow into a hundred pieces. The royal foetus was filled with wonder and gratitude. (See also S’rîmad Bhâgavatam Chapter 12: Birth of Emperor Parîkchit)
He pondered deep on the identity of his savior. “Who is He? He must also be dwelling in this womb, with me, because he could see the arrow at the very moment I saw it! But, he has such intrepidity and skill that he could destroy it before it reached me. Can he be a uterine brother? How could he get hold of that wheel? If he is endowed with a wheel, how did I miss having it? No, he is no mortal.” He argued thus for a long time within himself.
He could not forget that face, that form. He was a boy, with the splendor of a million suns. He was benign, blissful, blue like the clear sky. After saving him so dramatically and so mercifully, he had disappeared. He had the form always before him, for, he was seeking to see it again. Whomsoever he saw, he examined to find out whether that form corresponded with the form he had reverentially fixed in his mind.
Thus he grew in the womb, contemplating that form. That contemplation transformed him into a splendor-filled baby. When at the end of the period of gestation he was born into the world, the lying-in-room was lit by a strange light. The female attendants of Uttarâ were dazzled by the brilliance. Their wits were overcome by wonder.
Recovering herself, Subhadrâ the mother of Abhimanyu sent word to Yudhisthhira, the eldest of the Pândavas announcing the birth. The Pândava brothers were overwhelmed with joy, when they heard the glad tidings for which they were waiting anxiously. They ordered that bands play, and guns be fired, in honor of the event, for, a scion had been born for the royal family, a successor to the Pândava throne.
The people heard the peal of guns and sought the reason for the joy. They rushed towards Indraprastha in large masses of enthusiasm. Every corner of the kingdom gushed with joy at this event. Within minutes, the city was transformed into a heavenly garden, fit for Gods to give audience to men. Yudhisthhira distributed several varieties of sweets to all who came. He granted several cows as gifts to brahmins. He instructed the ladies of the court to give golden caskets full of saffron and kumkum to women. Brahmins were awarded silk clothes and precious gems. Citizens were transported with joy, for the dynasty had now secured an heir. Night and day, they reveled in hilarious exultation.
Next day, Yudhisthhira called the family priest, Kripâcârya and performed the rite of jatha-karma (first cleansing) to the infant. He satisfied the brahmins by gifts of various costly jewels. The scholars and priests blessed the child and returned home.
On the third day, Yudhisthhira called to his presence renowned astrologers as well as famous palmists and soothsayers, for, he was very eager to know whether the fair name of the kingdom and its culture would be safe in the hands of the prince who had come to carry the burden of the state. Yudhisthhira received them at the palace with traditional hospitality; they were given appropriate seats in the hall and they were offered scents and silks.
The king bowed before them and joining his palms in reverential adoration, he prostrated before them, and prayed, “0, wise men, who know the past, present and future, examine the horoscope of the infant that is born, calculate the positions of stars and constellations, and the planetary influences that will guide his life and tell me how the future will be shaped.” He noted the exact time of birth and placed the note on a golden plate, before them.
The pundits took that note and drew up the plan of planetary positions, and studied it with great care. They communicated to one another their increasing joy as they began to draw conclusions; they were in great joy themselves; they could not get words to express their amazement.
The doyen of the group, a great pundit, at last rose and addressed King Yudhisthhira thus. “Mahârâja! I have till this day examined well nine thousands of horoscopes and prepared concerned plans of the zodiacs and constellations. But, I must admit I have never yet come across a more auspicious grouping than is indicated in this horoscope. Here, all the signs of good augury have assembled in one moment, the moment of this prince’s birth. The moment indicates the state of Vishnu Himself! All the virtues will gather in this child. Why describe each glory separately? The great Manu has again come into your dynasty”.
Yudhisthhira was happy that the dynasty had such good fortune. He was indeed overpowered by joy. He folded his palms and bent low before the scholars who had given him such good news. “This family is lucky to claim such a gem as its scion, through the blessings of elders and of pundits like you as well as the blessings of the Lord, who is our guardian. You say that the boy will develop all virtues and will accumulate fame. But of what use is all that, if he has not acquired the quality of reverence towards pundits, sadhus and brahmins? Please look into the horoscope once again and tell me whether he will have that reverence.”
The leader of the group of astrologers replied: “You need entertain no doubt on that score. He will revere and serve the gods and the brahmins. He will perform many yajñas and yagas, prescribed in the ancient texts. He will earn the glory that your ancestor Bharatha won. He will celebrate even the As’vamedha. He will spread the fame of this line all over the world. He will win all things that gods or men covet. He will outdistance all those who have gone before him.” They extolled him thus in various ways to their hearts’ content. They stopped because they were nervous to recount all the excellences; they feared they might be charged with exaggeration and flattery if they continued to detail the conclusions they had drawn from the horoscope of the baby.
Yudhisthhira was not satisfied; he wanted to hear more from them of the excellences of the character of the prince. Pundits were encouraged by this yearning. They said, “0 King, you seem to be eager to know about some more aspects of the child’s fortune. We shall only be too glad to answer any specific question that you may feel inclined to put us.”
Noting their enthusiasm, Yudhisthhira came forward and asked them, “During the regime of this prince, will there be any great war? If war is inevitable, will he achieve victory? ‘No’, said the pundits, He will not be pestered by any foe. He knows no failure or defeat in any undertaking of his. This is absolutely true, an unshakable truth.”
Hearing this, Yudhisthhira and the brothers Bhîma, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva looked at each other and shared great joy.
Meanwhile, Yudhisthhira began to speak. He had said, “If that is so…”, but, before he could complete the sentence, he hung his head and was plunged in thought. The pundits noticed it; they said, “You seem to be anxious to know something more. You have only to ask, we shall readily answer all questions.” “Of course, I am happy at all the answers you have given. He will be virtuous, famous, triumphant over all, loving and kind, treating all equally; he will perform many yajñas and yagas; he will have no enemies; he will bring honor to the dynasty and restore its reputation. All this gives me great joy. But,… I would like to know also, how he will meet his end.” The brothers saw Yudhisthhira getting rather upset at the anxiety which agitated him over this problem. His voice had faltered a bit, when he put the question.
The pundits consoled him and said, “Why worry about that at this stage? The end has to come some day, some way. It is something that cannot be avoided. Something will cause it; some circumstance will bring it about. Birth involves the contingency of death. We are afraid the extreme joy of this incident has queered your line of thought a bit. We think this much is enough. We shall leave the rest, in the realm of doubt; let us not probe further. Let us leave it to God.”
But, Yudhisthhira could not somehow give up his desire to know how such a virtuous ideal prince would end his career on earth. He imagined it must be a truly wondrous finale to a glorious life. So, he wanted the astrologers to tell him about it.
The scholars set about the calculations again and took a pretty long time over it. Watching this, the King became excited; he hastened them and pressed for a quick answer. They gave the reply, “This prince will give up his kingdom as the result of a sage’s curse.” Yudhisthhira wondered how such a paragon of virtue can ever invoke upon himself the curse of a sage. He was shocked at the possibility.
Meanwhile, the pundits said, “Our calculations show that he will be bitten by a serpent.” Yudhisthhira lost heart at this news. All his joy evaporated in a moment. He became very sad and dispirited.
Ceremony of Name Giving
“Alas! Is he to suffer at last this tragic fate? Is this to be the reward for all the good in store for him? Can the consequence of years of good living suddenly turn into this calamitous end? It is laid down that those who die drowning, those who are killed by fall from trees, and those who die of snake-bite have a bad after-life. These are considered “inauspicious deaths”; those whose deaths are such, become ghosts and have to suffer so, it is said. Why should this child end up like that? O, the horror of it, o, the injustice of the whole thing!”, lamented Yudhisthhira, biting his lips to suppress his sorrow.
The brahmins hastened to console him. “Mahârâja!”, they interceded. “There is no reason to give way to grief. Such a great man will never meet with such a tragedy. No. In the horoscope of this child, studying the positions of the planets, we can clearly notice two happy conjunctions, which indicate vajra-yoga and bhakti-yoga, both powerful and propitious. Therefore, as soon as he learns of the curse, he will give up his kingdom as well as his wife and children and retire to the bank of the holy Bhagirathi river and surrender himself to the Lord. The great sage S’uka, son of Vyâsa, will arrive there and initiate him into âtmâ-jñâna (self-knowledge) through the recital of the glories of Lord Krishna and the singing of His praise. Thus, he will spend his last days on the sacred bank of the Ganga and breathe his last with the adoration of the Lord. How can such a man meet with any tragedy or calamity? He will not be born again, for, through bhakti-yoga, he will attain oneness with the Lord of All, Purushothama. Hearing these words, Yudhisthhira gave up grief and became happy. He said, “If so, this is no curse; it is a unique boon!”
The Name – Parîkchit
At this, every one rose. The brahmins were honored as befitted their learning and austerity. They were given gems and silken clothes and the king arranged to send them home. Yudhisthhira and his brothers moved into their palaces, but, they spent many hours talking about the happenings of the day and of the fears, luckily removed. They were filled with joy at the turn the predictions had taken.
The baby grew in the lying-in-room as the moon in the bright half of the month. Since it was born as heir to the great empire, after a succession of dire dangers, every one loved it and guarded it like the apple of the eye, as the very breath of their lives. Draupadî who was broken by the loss of her own children, (the Upapândavas), Subhadrâ who had suffered inconsolable loss in the death of Abhimanyu, and the Pândava brothers who dreaded that the terrific sorrow of As’vatthâmâ directed against the posthumous child of Abhimanyu, still in the womb of Uttarâ, might do the worst and destroy for ever the Pândava line – all were relieved, nay, were overjoyed when they saw the child. They were supremely happy; they spent the days doting over the little lovely baby, whom they brought from the zenana for the purpose, whenever they felt the urge to see it and hold it in their arms.
The child was very bright; it seemed to watch the lineaments of every one who fondled it or came before it. It stared into their faces long and longingly. All were surprised at this strange behavior. Every person who came to it, was subjected to this searching examination by the child who seemed determined to trace someone or something in the world into which it was born.
Some said, sadly, it is seeking its father Abhimanyu. Others said, “No, no, the child is searching for Lord Krishna”. Some others opined that it appeared to be trying to discover some divine brilliance. The fact remained that the child was examining all for some trait or sign which it knew already, to recognise some form it had in mind. “Parîkcha” was the word used by every one for the ‘quest’ in which the child was engaged and so, even before the formal naming ceremony, every one both in the palace and outside it, began referring to the child as the Parîkchit, ‘he who is engaged in Parîkcha!’ That name, Parîkchit, stayed! From the râja to the ryot, from the scholar to the boor, from the monarch to the man-in-the-street, every one addressed the child as Parîkchit or referred to him so. The fame of the child grew from day to day. It was on every one’s lips.
One auspicious day, Yudhisthhira had the court priest brought before him and he commissioned him to fix a good day for the ceremony of naming the child-prince. The priest called together his group of scholars and astrologers and after consulting the conjunctions of heavenly bodies, they discovered a day which all of them agreed was a good one for the event. They also settled at what hour the actual naming had to take place. Invitations to attend the ceremony were sent to the rulers of the land and to scholars and pundits as well as prominent citizens. The king sent his emissaries to invite sages, and personages full of spiritual wealth. Arjuna went to Lord Krishna and reverentially prayed that He should shower His grace on the child on the occasion; he succeeded in bringing Krishna along when he returned.
When Lord Krishna arrived, the sages, brahmins, râjas, subordinate rulers and citizens got ready to receive Him with respectful homage; the Pândava brothers attired magnificently, waited at the main gate of the palace to offer Him welcome. When the chariot of the Lord was sighted, drums sounded, trumpets pealed mighty welcome, and joyful ‘Jais’ rose from every throat. Yudhisthhira approached the chariot and embraced the Lord as soon as He alighted; he held Him by the hand and led Him into the palace, where a high throne was specially placed for Him. After the Lord was seated, all else occupied their seats according to their rank and status.
Sahadeva went to the inner apartments and the child was brought on a golden plate, resplendent as the sun and made more charming by magnificent jewels. The priests recited mantras, invoking the Gods to bless the child and confer on him health and happiness.
Sahadeva laid the child down in the centre of the Court Hall. Maids and chamberlains came in long lines towards the place where the prince was, holding in their hands plates of gold full of perfumes and flowers, silks and brocades. Behind specially fitted curtains, the queens Rukminî, Draupadî, Subhadrâ and Uttarâ were rejoicing at the happy scene, watching the gambols of the child. Sahadeva took the child and placed it on a bed of flowers in the mantap that was erected for the naming ceremony. But, the child rose on all fours and started crawling bravely on, in spite of the remonstrances of the maids. Apparently, it wanted to proceed somewhere!
The efforts of Sahadeva to stop its journey proved futile. Yudhisthhira, who was observing its movements with interest said with a smile, “Sahadeva! Do not stand in the way. Leave him alone. Let us see what he does.” And Sahadeva left his hold. He allowed the child to move wherever he liked but he took care to keep his eye always on him lest he fall or hurt himself. He followed him vigilantly at every step.
The child, who got freedom of movement, soon made a bee line towards the place where Lord Krishna was seated, as if He was a long acquaintance whom he was seeking to meet. The child grasped the Feet of Krishna and pleaded, by his looks, that he may be taken onto the lap and fondled! The Lord saw his yearning; He laughed aloud; then, He graciously bent low to lift the child onto His lap.
Sitting on His lap, the prince was staring at the Lord’s face without even a wink; he did not turn his head this way or that or pull at anything with his hands or make any sound. He just sat and stared. Everyone was amazed at this behavior, so unlike that of a child. Even Krishna shared in the feeling that pervaded the Hall.
Turning to Yudhisthhira, Krishna said, “I did not believe when I was told that this child stared at everyone who came before him and examined their lineaments. I thought it was a new explanation given by these priests, to the usual prank and play of children. Now, this is really a wonder. The fellow has started examining even Me! Well, I shall test his behavior a little Myself.”
Then, the Lord tried to distract the attention of the child from Himself by placing before him a variety of toys, and Himself hiding from view. He expected that the child will soon forget Him. But, his attention was not drawn towards any other object. He had fixed his eye inexorably on the Lord Himself, and it was seeking Him and no other. He was trying to move towards the place where he imagined Krishna was. When His attempts to transfer the attention of the child from Himself failed, Krishna declared, “This is no ordinary child. He has won through My tests. So, the name Parîkchit is the most appropriate one for him. He lives up to it already!”
At this, the pundits recited verses indicating their blessings on the child. The brahmins recited relevant passages from the Vedas. The music of trumpets rent the air. Women sang auspicious songs. The family preceptor dipped a nine-gemmed jewel in a golden cup of honey and wrote the name on the tongue of the child; in the rice grains spread on a gold plate, the name was written and the rice was then showered on the head of the child, in token of prosperity and happiness. The naming ceremony was thus celebrated in grand style. Men and women who attended were given presents as befitted their rank and they departed. Every one was talking appreciatively of the wonderful way in which the child sought out the lap of the Lord. Many praised the steady faith that the child had already attained.
Yudhisthhira who was puzzled at the unique behavior of the child approached Vyâsa, the great sage, to know from him the reason for the strange search and learn about the consequences of this attitude. Vyâsa said, “Yudhisthhira! When this child was in the womb, the deadly arrow that As’vatthâmâ aimed at it in order to destroy it was about to hit its target; Lord Krishna entered the foetal home and made it safe and saved it from destruction. This child therefore has been eager to know who had saved him from within the womb where he lay. He started examining every one to find out whether he had the same effluence that he saw, while a foetus in the womb. Today, he saw that Divine Form with all its splendor and so, he moved straight towards Him and prayed to be taken up and seated on the lap. This is the explanation for the strange behavior about which you are curious to know.”
Hearing these words of Vyâsa, Yudhisthhira shed tears of joy and thankfulness. Overjoyed at the limitless grace of the Lord, he paid Him reverential homage.
The Penitential Yajña
The Namakaranam Ceremony of the prince gave great delight to the subjects of the state as well as the inmates of the palace, and members of the royal household. But, Yudhisthhira, the eldest of the Pândava brothers felt that something more had to be done, he was not content with the joyous festival alone. He called for an assembly the same evening of all the elders, the scholars, the pundits, the subordinate rulers and leaders of the people. He prayed that Lord Krishna preside over the gathering and confer joy on all. The sages Vyâsa and Kripa also attended.
Coming to the assembly, Yudhisthhira stood before the gathering a few seconds in silence, before he fell at the feet of Lord Krishna and sage Vyâsa. He then turned towards the rulers, scholars and leaders and said, “I was able to defeat the foes through your help, cooperation and best wishes, as well as the blessing of the Lord who is present here and of the sages and saints who have installed Him in their hearts. We were able by means of that victory to win back the kingdom that we had lost. Again, through these blessings, the light of hope has gleamed in hearts, darkened by despair about the continuation of this dynasty. The Pândava line will be continued by the prince who was named today by the Lord as Parîkchit.
While all this delights me, I must announce before you that I am overwhelmed with sorrow at the contemplation of another side of the picture. I have committed countless sins, killing kith and kin. I feel I must do some expiation for this; or else, there will be no happiness for me or for my dynasty or for my people. Therefore, I wish to take this opportunity to seek your advice on this matter. There are among you many who have known the reality and attained Brahmajñâna; we have also the great sage Vyâsa here. I expect you to suggest some expiatory rite by which I can rid myself of this colossal quantity of sin that I have accumulated as a result of this war.”
When Yudhisthhira posed this problem in great humility and with great contrition, Lord Krishna said, “Yudhisthhira, you are famous as Dharmaraja and you ought to know dharma. You know the intricacies of dharma and morality, of justice, of right and wrong conduct. Therefore, I am surprised that you are afflicted with grief over this war and this victory. Do you not know that a kshatriya incurs no sin when he kills a foe who has come to the battlefield armed with intention to kill? Whatever injury or pain or loss is inflicted on the battlefield during the fight with armed foes is free from sin. It is the dharma of a kshatriya to take up the sword and fight to the very end, without any thought of self, to save his country. You have only observed your dharma. How can karma (activity) along the lines of dharma be sinful? It is not proper to doubt this and give way to despair. Sin cannot touch you, surround you or bother you. Instead of exulting over the festival of the naming of the new-born prince, why should you dread imaginary calamities and seek remedies for non-existent sins? Be calm, be happy.”
Vyâsa too rose from his seat and addressed the King. “Sinful and blame-worthy acts are inevitable in battle. They should not be the cause for grief. The chief aim in battle should be the protection of dharma from its foes. If that is kept before the mind, the sin will not affect the fighters. A putrid wound has to be treated with the knife; it is not sinful to inflict the surgery. A doctor who knows the surgery, and knowing, does not save the man by doing it, incurs sin. So too knowing that the foe is the source of injustice, cruelty, terror and vice, if these boils are not treated by the surgeon, knowing the cure, because he is reluctant to use the knife (the surgeon being the kshatriya), he incurs sin by remaining quiet, not by using the sword. Dharmaraja, you are speaking under a delusion. I can understand others less wise being afflicted by these doubts, but, I wonder how you are worried over this fear of sin?
If however our words do not carry conviction, I can suggest another remedy too. That will remove all fear. Some rulers in the past have resorted to it, after the conclusion of wars, for the removal of the effects of sin. It is the rite of As’vamedha, the Horse Sacrifice. If you desire, you can also perform this rite, as an expiatory ceremony. There can be no obstacle for that. But, believe me, you are innocent of sin even without any expiation. Since your faith is shaky, I am suggesting this rite for your satisfaction”. After this statement, Vyâsa resumed his seat.
At this, all the elders, scholars and leaders rose as one man and applauded the valuable suggestion given by Vyâsa. They shouted, Jai Jai, in order to demonstrate their approval and appreciation. They exclaimed, “o! how auspicious, how significant” and they blessed Dharmaraja in the endeavor to free himself from the sinful consequences of war. But, Dharmaraja was still heavy with grief; he was not free from fear. His eyes were wet with tears.
He pleaded with the assembly, most piteously. “However much you assert my innocence, I am not convinced. Somehow, my mind does not accept your argument. Rulers who were engaged in wars might have cleansed themselves by means of the As’vamedha yaga. Those were ordinary wars; they were the usual type. But my case is something very extraordinary. My sins are three times more sinister, for, (1) I have killed kith and kin (2) I have killed holy elders like Bhîshma and Drona and (3) I have killed many crowned heads. Alas, my fate! How monstrous have been my actions?”
“No other ruler could have done so much of iniquity. Not one, but three As’vamedha Yagas have to be performed to cleanse this quantity. Then, only can I have peace. Then only can my dynasty be happy and secure. Then only can the administration of my kingdom be safe and meritorious. This must be kindly accepted by Vyâsa and other elders and sages.”
When Yudhisthhira spoke thus, tears dropped on his cheeks; his lips quivered with sorrow; his body was bent with remorse. Seeing this, the heart of every sage melted with pity. The subjects of the King were moved in sympathy. Vyâsa and even Vâsudeva were affected. Many pundits shed tears, without being aware of it. The assembly was struck dumb with astonishment. All knew in a flash how soft the heart of Dharmaraja was. The brothers too, Bhîma, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva were standing with folded palms, in reverential humility, awaiting the word that will assure relief, from the Lord who was in the Presidential Seat.
Then, the assembly, with one voice, approved the three As’vamedha Yagas, to relieve the distress of Dharmaraja. One sage gave expression to the opinion of the assembly. He said, “We shall not stand in the way of your desire. We accept it whole-heartedly. We shall celebrate the Yagas in the best sastric way, until the final rites. For, we seek peace of mind for you, more than anything else. We are prepared to do anything which will give you satisfaction.” This was acclaimed by every one in the gathering.
Hearing this, Dharmaraja said; “I am indeed blessed; I am blessed indeed. He gave his grateful thanks for the promised cooperation. He walked towards the place where Krishna and Vyâsa were seated and he fell at their feet. He held the feet of Krishna and pleaded, “0 Madhusûdana! (killer of Madhu) name of Krishna as the one who kills the demons) Didn’t you hear my prayer? Didn’t you witness my grief? I pray that you grant us your Divine presence at the coming Yaga, that you ensure me the fruit thereof and save me from this burden of sin.”
Krishna smiled and lifted him up from the ground before Him. He said, “Dharmaraja! I shall certainly answer your prayer. But, you have taken upon your shoulders a burden as heavy as a range of mountains. This Yaga is no small affair. Moreover, the performer is the celebrated King, Dharmaraja! That means, it has to be celebrated on a scale befitting your status. I know that you have no where-withal for this very expensive undertaking. Kings derive money only from their subjects. To spend on a Yaga, the money squeezed out of them is not desirable. Only well earned money can be used for such holy rites; else it will bring evil instead of good. Nor can your subordinate rulers come to your help, for they too have been miserably impoverished by the late war. It is clear they have nothing to spare. Aware of all this, how could you accept to celebrate three As’vamedhas in a row? I wonder how you found such audacity in spite of these adverse conditions. And, you have already announced it publicly in this great and distinguished gathering. You did not give Me even a hint about this costly idea. Then, we could have thought out some plan. Well, it is not too late. We shall take a decision after some more deliberation. It does not matter if some delay is caused.”
Dharmaraja listened to these words of the Lord and laughed a hearty laugh! “Lord, you are playing a drama with me, I know. I have never decided upon an act without deliberation. Nor have I ever worried about money or the wherewithal. When we have as our guardian, You with Your inexhaustible Grace, why should I worry about anything? When I have the Kalpatharu (wishfulfilling tree) in my garden, why should I worry, seeking roots and tubers? The all-powerful Lord, who has been guarding us all these terrible years as the eyelids guard the eye, will not give us up, at this juncture.
For You who can whiff huge mountains into dust, this little pebble is no problem at all. You are my Treasure, my treasury. You are the Very Breath. Whatever You may say, I will not hesitate. All my strength, all my wealth is You and You alone. I place all my burdens, including the burden of state and this new burden of the three Yagas on Your Feet. You can do anything you like. You may value my word and carry out my intention or You may discard it and cancel the Yagas. I have no concern. I am equally happy, whatever You do. It is Your Will, not mine.”
Of course, with the Lord who resides in the heart, no special pleading is needed. The Lord melted; He lifted Dharmaraja and helped him to stand. “No, I spoke in jest to test your faith and devotion. I wanted to demonstrate to these subjects of yours how strong is your faith in Me. You need have no worry on any score. Your wish will be fulfilled. If you follow My instructions, you can procure very easily the money needed for the celebration of the Yagas. You can get it without harassing the rulers and squeezing the subjects.”
On hearing this, Dharmaraja was delighted. He said, “Lord, we shall honor Your command.” Then Krishna said, “Listen. In bygone times, a ruler named Maruth performed a yaga, in a style that no one since then could approach. The hall where the yaga was celebrated along with every item connected with it were of gold. Gold bricks were given away, as gifts to the priests who officiated; golden images of cows were given instead of cows and plates of gold were distributed instead of lands! The brahmins were not able to carry them home and so, they took only as much as they could lift or carry. The rest they just cast away. Those pieces of gold are now available in large quantities, for your yagas. You can collect them.”
Dharmaraja did not agree; he had qualms about it. He said, “Lord, that is the property of those to whom it was given. How can I make use of it, without their permission?” Krishna replied, “They have cast it away, fully conscious of what they were doing and what they were discarding. They are not alive today. Their children know nothing about the existence of this treasure. It is now under the earth. Remember that all treasure inside the earth, which has no master or owner, belongs to the king of that realm. When the king wants to take possession of it, no one has the right to object. Bring that treasure soon and prepare for the celebration of the Yagas,” commanded Lord Krishna
Yajñas and the Penance of Elders
Dharmaraja (Yudhisthhira) accepted the advice of Vâsudeva, as well as the benedictions of Vyâsa. He sent his brothers, with the army, to bring the gold that had been thrown aside by the brahmins. They left after purifying themselves by partaking consecrated offerings. They discovered the quantities of gold that had been given as presents to the priests at the conclusion of the sacrifice by Emperor Maruth in the past. They had dropped the gold on the sides of the roads along which they returned home. The army collected these and conveyed them to the capital on camels, elephants, chariots and carts. It took them some days to reach Hastinapura with all that load. They unloaded the gold, amidst the acclamations of the people.
The citizens were amazed at the success of the expedition; they extolled the good fortune of the Pândavas. They welcomed into the city the princes and the gold shouting “Jay, Jay” until their throats were hoarse, jumping and dancing in joy. They pictured among themselves the grandeur and magnificence of the sacrifice, for which this gold was brought.
Preparations were started that very day for the construction of the ritual altar and the necessary adjuncts on the bank of the Ganga; the sacred area was many square miles in extent. The ground was levelled and cleaned. The dais was built; beautiful buildings arose on the vast area. Porches and verandas were added. Decorations like flags and festoons embellished the structures.
When the holy day neared, chieftains, brahmins, scholars and sages moved from all directions towards the sacred place, hastening each other in their enthusiasm to reach early. They took residence in the quarters allotted to them, according to their status and needs. They spent the night counting minutes, in joyful expectation of the extravagant but efficacious yajña that they could witness when the dawn brings in another day.
The morning came. The auspicious moment approached. The priests took up their positions and got ready to take the vows of initiation. They stood up facing Lord Krishna and the King and said, “0 King! we understand that you have resolved to perform not one but three As’vamedhas. Is that correct? If so, do you desire us to perform them, one after the other? Or, shall we repeat every formula and rite, thrice and have them all concurrently? If you make it known, we shall arrange the participants and performing priests accordingly.”
At this, Dharmaraja replied, “what can I say when you know best; I shall agree to whatever advice you offer; I seek only the consent of Vâsudeva for whatever course we adopt” and he turned towards Krishna with pleading eyes. Krishna left the decision to the brahmins. They discussed among themselves for a while and announced at last that the effect of “three As’vamedhas” can be secured by repeating each mantra thrice and presenting the brahmins presiding over the rituals thrice the usual fees. Vâsudeva indicated His approval of this suggestion, and taking his cue from this, Dharmaraja declared that he was agreeable. He desired that the yajña might be inaugurated.
The recitation of the mantras by the brahmins shook both earth and sky. The preliminary rites were gone through and the sacrificial horses proceeded on their planned round. They were caparisoned in great style and they carried on their foreheads the declaration challenging any one to take them into custody if he dared. When He, who is the recipient of all yajñas, (yajñaswarûpa) has taken the role of the presiding authority, no words can describe the fortune of the participants and the witnesses. It drew to a successful close with the Valedictory Oblation (purna-âhuthi).
The experts in sacrificial mantras, the sages and the brahmins were loaded with presents and fees. Enormous numbers of cows, large areas of land, and vast quantities of gold were gifted away by the King. The whole nation was filled with happiness. Every one was praising the yajña as indescribably superb. All who came were fed sumptuously at all hours. Sages and ascetics who saw all this lavishness extolled the yajña of Dharmaraja as grander even than the yajña performed by emperor Maruth in the past! They were delighted they got the chance to partake in this yajña. People once claimed that the yajña of Maruth was presided over by Indra, the Ruler of the Gods and they felt that it made it incomparably superior to any other sacrifice. But now, they congratulated Dharmaraja on securing the yajñaswarûpa (Vâsudeva) Himself to preside over the yajña, a piece of good fortune far superior to Maruth’s and far more difficult to secure.
At the end of the yajña, those who had come from far off places returned; others too turned home. The kings and chieftains took respectful leave of Dharmaraja and went back to their own principalities. The kinsmen of the King stayed for a few days more and left at their convenience to their places. (See also S’rîmad Bhâgavatam Chapter 11: Lord Krishna’s entrance into Dvârakâ)
However, Lord Krishna chose to spend some more time with the Pândavas; so, He stayed on in Hastinapura. The Pândavas were delighted at this signal act of grace; they made suitable arrangements for the residence of the Lord; they served Him every day, they filled their eyes with His beauty, they filled their hearts with His gracious words of instruction; they spent the days in supreme joy. After some time spent thus in the Pandava capital, Krishna returned to Dvârakâ, taking Arjuna with Him. The inhabitants of Dvârakâ were overjoyed when their Lord returned to His capital. They welcomed Him in enthusiastic reverence. They feasted on the darshan of the Lord and were immersed in ânanda.
The Penance of Elders
Meanwhile, news came to Hastinapura that Vidura his uncle was moving about on the environs of the city in the guise of a monk; it travelled from mouth to mouth and at last reached the ears of Dharmaraja, the King. The news was received with surprise and joy. He sent a few scouts to discover whether the news was authentic, and soon, they brought the welcome information that Vidura had actually come and was present. Dharmaraja could not contain himself with excitement.
“Ah! How happy you have made me!”, he exclaimed. “This holy moment has made the dried trunk of the tree of hope put forth leaves again. Oh, I can now see and serve Vidura who fostered us and guarded us and guided us, I who feared I might not get the chance at all.”
The heartening news was spread by courtiers among the queens and princesses and women of the royal household. Dharmaraja did not rest; he spoke about the great event to everyone around him; he sought out others to share with them the joy. He issued orders to the army that appropriate arrangements should be made to welcome into the capital the brother of his late father, sage Vidura, foremost among the votaries of the Lord. The citizens too were alerted and asked to prepare a grand reception.
They decorated the streets and mansions on each side of them; they erected arches and hung festoons and hoisted flags. They allotted galleries and seats on every road for children, women, and the aged, so that they might have a fine and clear view of the procession and of the great Sage. It was an inspiring sight to see many old men and women hobbling on with their sticks, eager to get a glimpse of Vidura, whom they extolled as the very embodiment of dharma, as the very god-father of the Pândavas. Some thought at first that the sighting of Vidura on the outskirts of the city must have been in someone’s dream, and not in actual fact. They had lived long enough to swallow the rumor without personal verification. For, they never could believe that Vidura would ever come back to Hastinâpura. They grouped themselves on vantage points and got ready for the great moment when they could rest their eyes on the saint. All along the route, every building was overflowing with humanity; the trees carried strings of adventurous youth, full of excitement and expectation, shouting in acclamation of the oncoming guest.
The King decked in ceremonial robes ascended the royal chariot and started out of the palace with his brothers to bring home the famous votary of the Lord.
Vidura appeared before them walking barefoot, slow and dignified, with matted hair and wearing the robes of a monk. The King and his brothers stepped down from their vehicles, bowed reverentially to the feet of Vidura and walked behind him, at a respectful distance. The citizens ran forward and fell at Vidura’s feet, in spite of the earnest entreaties of the guards that they should desist. The Pândavas could not express welcome in words; their joy was immeasurable. So, their eyes spoke it, with tears of gratitude. They clasped Vidura in their arms and prayed to him that he should get into the chariot so that the thick ranks of onlookers on all the roads might get darshan to their hearts’ content. Vidura was persuaded to agree. Seated in the royal chariot of the King, Vidura gave darshan to the people who had amassed en route. At last, the procession reached the palace. It was a sweet flood of song and joy that flowed along the roads of the city that day.
Some of the citizens were so overcome with joy that they were rooted to the spot. The arduous life of tapas that Vidura had undertaken had so transmuted his personality that he appeared a different person, a person glowing with divine aura, like Indra, the king of Gods. The people were describing their exultation in their own words to one another. Many shed tears remembering the trials and tribulations which Vidura had undergone and the peace that he had acquired. The queens and princesses too had darshan from inside the purdah and they were supremely happy.
Inside the palace, Vidura enquired about the welfare of every one of his kinsmen. Then Kuntî Devî, the queen-mother, came in and casting her endearing looks at him, said, “At last, we have been able to see you, 0 Vidura!”, she could not say more.
After some time she resumed, “How could you stay away so long, ignoring the very children whom you reared with so much love and myself and others who revere you so much. It is through your grace that my children are today rulers of this land. Where would they be today if you had not saved them on many a critical occasion? We were the target for many a disaster; but, the greatest one was your being away from us. That affected us most. Even the hope of seeing you again was extinguished in us. Now, our hearts have sprouted again. Aspirations scattered by despair have come together. Today, our joy has attained fullness. O, what a happy day!” Kuntî sat for a while wiping her tears.
Vidura held her hands, but, could not resist his own tears. He was recapitulating the varied events of the past, in the Pândava and Kaurava groups. He said, “Mother Kuntî Devî. Who can overcome the decrees of fate? What must happen, happens. The good and the evil that men do have to result in good and evil. How can man be called free, when he is bound by this law of cause and effect? (See also S’rîmad Bhâgavatam Chapter 6: The generating of the Universal Form)
He is a puppet in the hands of this law; it pulls the strings and he makes the movements. Our likes and dislikes are of no consequence. Everything is His will, His grace.” When Vidura was thus expounding the fundamental spiritual truths that govern human affairs, the brothers Dharmaraja, Bhîma, Nakula, and Sahadeva were sitting near, wrapped in close attention.
Kuntî raised her head at last and said, “Through your blessings, we won the war; but, we were powerless to save the lives of the sons of Draupadî and the son of Subhadrâ (sister of Krishna, married with Arjuna). Misfortune haunted us so strongly. Of course, as you said, no one can escape one’s destiny. Well, let the past be forgotten. It is meaningless to worry over what cannot be set right. I must say, my thirst has now been considerably relieved; I could meet you at last. Where were you all this time? Tell us.”
At this, Vidura replied that he had been on a pilgrimage to a number of holy places. The brothers listened with rapt attention to his story, prodding him with questions. Dharmaraja said often that he was awaiting the day when he too could go through all those holy experiences. He folded his palms in reverence whenever a holy shrine was mentioned and with closed eyes, he pictured to himself the sacred spot. Meanwhile, Bhîma interjected, “Did you proceed to Dvârakâ? Please tell us your experiences there.” Dharmaraja too added, “You must have met Lord Krishna there, isnt it? Tell us all what happened, in full detail.” Kuntî Devî too became eager to hear his description; for, she said, “Tell us, tell us. My son is there now; you must have met him too. How are they all? I hope the old (foster)parents, Nanda and Yas’odâ are well. And, Devakî and Vasudeva?” A shower of questions fell on Vidura, even before he started talking.
Vidura was not over-eager to answer. He talked as if he was anxious to avoid being drawn into the topic. For he had learnt from Uddhava while on the way to Dvârakâ that the Yadava clan had perished and Krishna had closed His human career. He had no desire to plunge the Pândavas into grief, when they were elated at meeting him after a long time. “Why should I who have given them so much joy be myself the cause for wiping off that joy,” he argued. “They are sure to know about it, from Arjuna who will be returning from Dvârakâ with the sorrowful news.” So, he swallowed the news that popped up quite often into his mouth; he satisfied himself and them, by describing the glory of Krishna. He said, “I did not like to visit kith and kin with these ascetic robes on, so, I did not meet any of the Yadava leaders or Nanda, Yas’odâ and others”, and kept quiet. He did not dilate further on Dvârakâ and his own pilgrimage.
“I came to you, because I heard that you have won the war and are peacefully engaged at last in ruling over the kingdom which was rightfully yours; I felt drawn towards these children whom I had fostered from a tender age. It was affection towards them that drew me here. Among my kith and kin, I was tempted to visit only you; I did not desire to meet any others”, he said and turned towards the vedantic teachings which he wanted to impart. When the conversation ended, Dharmaraja prayed that Vidura might take residence at the quarters specially arranged for him and himself accompanied him to the mansion.
There, he appointed certain persons to serve Vidura and requested him to take rest at that place. Vidura did not relish the idea of spending his time in that seat of luxury; but, he entered the mansion lest Dharmaraja (Yudhisthhira) be displeased. He lay on his bed, reviewing the past; He sighed when he realised that the stratagems which the blind Dhritarâshthra, his own brother, employed to destroy the Pândavas, the children of his other brother Pându, recoiled on him and caused the destruction of his own clan. He admired Dharmaraja for the magnanimity he was showing towards Dhritarâshthra, in spite of the fact that he had tortured the Pândavas in various ways. Dharmaraja was revering him with great faith and devotion and attending to his comforts. He felt the utmost disgust when he recapitulated the wickedness of Dhritarâshthra’s heart; he was ashamed that the old man was coolly wallowing in the luxury of the palace, instead of cultivating detachment from the flimsy pleasures of the senses and attempting to realise the goal of human life, namely, liberation, from the cycle of birth and death. He experienced an uncontrollable agony that his brother was wasting the few remaining years of life on earth.
His yogic vision told him that the Pândavas too will soon disappear; that the same Krishna who guarded them here will look after their best interest in the hereafter too. But, he surmised that the blind king will suffer more, after the departure of the Pândavas. He resolved to send that unfortunate brother out into pilgrimage and the ultimate realisation of his destiny. He did not want any delay to intervene. So, he slipped out in the darkness, without being noticed by any one, and walked straight into the residence of Dhritarâshthra.
The blind king and his queen, Gandhâri, were of course expecting Vidura to call upon them, for they had learnt that he had come to town. So, when Vidura stepped in, he embraced him and shed tears of joy. He could not contain himself. He listed one by one the calamities that overtook him and his children and lamented over fate. Vidura tried to console him with the profound teachings of the scriptures. But, he soon discovered that the petrified heart of the old man will not melt at the application of cold advice; he knew that his stupidity can be overcome only by hard blows. (See also S’rîmad Bhâgavatam Chapter 1: Questions by Vidura)
So, he changed the tune and resorted to blame and abuse. Hearing this Dhritarâshthra was alarmed. He expostulated, “Brother! We are burning in agony at the loss of our hundred sons; and, you prick the wound with the sharp needles of your angry abuse. Even before we taste the joy of meeting you after so long a time, why do you try to plunge us deeper into distress? Alas! Why should I blame you for hard-heartedness? I am laughed at by all, blamed by all. I have no right to find fault with you.” With head bent and resting on his palms, Dhritarâshthra sat in silence.
Vidura recognised this as the opportune moment for instilling the lesson of renunciation, which alone could save him from perdition. He knew that his purpose was beyond reproach, for, he wanted them to undertake pilgrimage to holy places and fill themselves with sanctity, and meet great and good men and recognise the Lord within and thus save themselves. So, he decided to use even stronger words with a view to transform him, and the queen. Though filled with pity at their forlorn condition, Vidura had in mind the dire days when they will need all the courage that jñâna alone can give them; so, he was determined to wound them into action. He said, “0 foolish King! Have you no shame? Do you still find joy in earthly pleasures? Of what avail is it if you wallow in the mire until you die? I thought you had enough of it and more. Time is a cobra that lies in wait to sting you to death. You dare hope that you can escape it and live for ever. No one, however great, has escaped the sting. You run after happiness in this temporary world and you seek to fulfil your desires in order to get some paltry satisfaction. You are wasting precious years. Make your life worthwhile. It is not yet too late to begin the effort. Give up this cage called home. Dismiss from your mind the paltry pleasures of this world. Remember the joy that awaits you, the world that is welcoming you, the end of this journey. Save yourself. Avoid the foolish fate of giving up this life in the agony of separation from kith and kin. Learn to die with the thought of the Lord uppermost in the mind at the moment of departure. It is far better to die in joy in the thick of the blackest forest than die in distress in the palace of this capital city. Go, go and do tapas. Get away from this place, this prison which you call home.”
Vidura the Counselor
Vidura continued his admonition of Dhritarâshthra: “You have reached this advanced age, but still, without any shame or hesitation, you are leading a dog’s life. You may not be ashamed of it, but, I am. Fie upon you! Your method of spending your days is worse than that of a crow.”
Dhritarâshthra could not hear more. He cried, “O! enough, enough. Please stop. You are torturing me to death. These are not the words that one brother should address another. Hearing you, I feel you are not Vidura, my brother. He would not have reprimanded me so cruelly. For, is Dharmaraja, with whom I now am, a stranger? Have I taken refuge with an alien? What is this that you are saying? Why these harsh words! Dharmaraja is fostering me with great love and care; how can you declare that I am leading a dog’s life or a crow’s? It is a sin, if you entertain such ideas. This is just my fate, and nothing else.” Dhritarâshthra bent his head and moaned.
Vidura laughed in derision. He said, “Have you not sense of shame, that you should talk thus? Dharmaraja might, out of his goodness, care for you more than his own father. He might look after you with a love greater than your own sons. This is but the reflection of his character. That is but the amplification of the significance of his name. But, should you not plan for your own future? One leg of yours is already in the grave and you are blindly filling your stomach in comfort and rolling in luxury. Reflect for a moment how you tortured Dharmaraja and his brothers, to fulfil the wicked intentions of your vile sons, how you devised strategems for their extinction. You put them in a wax house and to set fire to it, you attempted to poison them.
You insulted their Queen (Draupadî) in the most humiliating manner before a vast assembly. You and your abominable brood piled grief over grief on the sons of Pându, your own brother. Blind, senile, thick-skinned elephant, you sat on the throne, perpetually asking those beside you “What is happening now? What is happening now?” [see B.G. ch. 1] How can you stay in this place enjoying Dharmaraja’s hospitality, rolling over your mind the iniquities perpetrated by you, for his destruction? When you were devising their end, did they cease to be your cousins? Or, did the cousinship emerge now, when you came to them for stay? You tell me so proudly that they are treating you well, without a shred of shame!
Why speak so much? The disastrous game of dice took place at your initiative, isn’t it? Do you deny it? No, I was the witness of that game. I advised you against it then, did you take it to heart? What happened then to the love and sympathy which you are now freely pouring forth? Today, like a dog you are gulping the food the Pândavas are placing before you and leading this despicable life.”
Hearing these words of Vidura which pained him like hammer-strokes, Dhritarâshthra developed a distaste for his style of living. Vidura’s intention was to prod him into the life of a recluse and the life of sâdhana, so that he might realise his self before it was too late. At last, he felt that Vidura was speaking the truth and giving him a true picture of his low nature. He said, “brother! Yes; all that you have said is true, I admit. I have realised it now. But, what am I to do? I am blind and therefore, I cannot go into the forests for sâdhana, alone. I must have a companion. What shall I do? For fear that I may suffer without food, Gandhâri never leaves me even for a moment.”
Vidura saw that he had modified his attitude and had seen light. He emphasized his original advice. He said, “You have become blind due primarily to this attachment to the body. How long can you be burdened with it? It has to be dropped by the wayside same day, some place. Know that “you” are not this body, this package of nauseating things. To identify yourselves with the physical frame is the sign of extreme foolishness. The body is being besieged perpetually by death with his army of diseases. But, you are unaware of it; you do not care for the pro and the con; you snooze your fill and snore. This drama has an end, remember. The curtain has to come down. So hie towards some holy place without delay and meditate on God and save yourself. Let death come and carry away your body there; that is the most excellent end. Do not die like a dog or fox, somewhere, somehow. Arise and go, develop detachment. Give up this delusion, escape from this house.”
Thus was planted in the heart the seeds of renunciation. Dhritarâshthra pondered long, and broke into tears. His lips quivered. He moved his hands from side to side to contact Vidura. At last, he held his hands and said, “Vidura! What can I say to you who gave this most valuable advice, advice that is certain to promote my best interests? Though you are younger in age, your jñâna (religious, spiritual knowledge) makes you senior to all of us. You have full authority to speak as you like. Do not consider me as someone outside your circle. Hear me with patience. I shall certainly follow your advice.” He then began to describe his condition to his brother.
“Vidura”, he began, “How can I leave from here, without informing Dharmaraja who is looking after me, with more care than even a son? It won’t be proper to do so. Then, he might insist on coming along with us, his nature is such. You must save me from this dilemma. Take me to a place where I can engage myself in sâdhana (spiritual discipline).”
When he pleaded thus, Vidura replied, “Your words sound strange. You are not going into the forest to eat banquets, to witness carnivals, or to enjoy the beauty of the scenery. You are giving up everything with a full sense of detachment. You are taking up a life of austerity and spiritual discipline. And, in the same breath, you are talking of “taking leave” of kith and kin! This is odd. You resolve to lay down the body in the pursuit of the ideal, but, you are considering how to get the permission of men who are related to you through the body. These bonds cannot help sâdhana. They can never liberate you. Bundle them up and sink them deep. Move out of this place with just the clothes you wear. Do not waste a single moment of your life.”
Thus, Vidura advised him without mercy, he did not change the tune of his song, he emphasized the importance of immediate renunciation. Dhritarâshthra was on his bed, listening intently and ruminating on the next step. He said, “Vidura, what you say is quite true. I need not describe to you my special difficulties. This body is decrepit, these eyes are blind. I must have some one at least to guide my steps, isn’t it? Your sister-in-law (Gandhâri) has ‘blinded’ her eyes by a bandage, in order that she can share my handicap, and suffer similarly. How can we two blind persons move about in the forest? We have to be dependent on others all our lives.”
Vidura saw the tears rolling down the cheeks of the old man, he pitied his plight, but, he never revealed his pity. He said assuringly, “Well, I am prepared to take you to the forest. I am ready. What greater pleasure have I than releasing you from here, for this sacred purpose? Come, arise. Start.” Vidura stood up. Dhritarâshthra too rose from his bed and stood on the floor. Gandhâri too stood by his side, with a hand on his shoulder. She pleaded, “Lord, I am also coming with you, ready for anything.”
But, Dhritarâshthra said, “0, it is very hard to guard women in the jungle. The place is infested by wild beasts and life there is bound to be full of privations.” He spoke in this strain for a long time. But, she argued that she could not desert her lord, that she could stand the privations as much as he, that it was her duty to continue serving him until her death, that she was only following the tradition set up by the gems of Indian womanhood, that it is not dharma to prevent her from observing her dharma, that life in the zenana (place where women stay) without him would be unbearable for her, that she would welcome instead, life in the jungle with her lord. She fell at the feet of her lord and demanded permission to accompany him.
Dhritarâshthra was silent, he did not know what to say. It was Vidura who spoke. “This is not the time to discuss the niceties of dharma, how can this lady who never stayed away from you a single moment, suddenly leave your company and live apart? It is not proper. Let her also come, we shall take her. For those who march forward to do austerities, there should be no fear or delusion, no hunger or thirst, no grief or suffering. It is not tapas (asceticism) to complain of these or anticipate these. When the body itself is being disowned, what can privations do? Come, there is no justification for delay.” Vidura moved forward, leading Dhritarâshthra silently followed by Gandhâri who had her hand on his shoulder. The saintly votary of God, Vidura, took the pair unnoticed by the guards and the citizens through the side streets and out beyond the city limits. He hurried them on so that they may reach the forest before dawn. But, the Ganga had to be crossed in a boat and no boatman was there to take them across before sunrise. So, they had perforce to wait on the bank of that holy river. Vidura made them rest for a while in a bower and himself arranged for a boat to take them all to the other bank in the dark.
Dhritarâshthra and Gandhâri reached the forest, along with Vidura. Vidura searched for a site where they could practise austerities. He also advised them on the best means of seeking self-realisation. They spent the days in holy company and holy thoughts.
Meanwhile in Hastinâpura, as soon as the sun rose, Dharmaraja woke up, finished his ablutions and performed the ritual worship of the ‘household fire’. He gave away in charity the usual daily gifts to the needy. He then proceeded on foot towards the palace of Dhritarâshthra, his paternal uncle, as was his wont, for he never began his daily round of duties without taking on his head the dust of his feet. The king and queen were not found in their chambers. So, he waited for some little time expecting them to return thereto, searching for them all around, even while he was waiting anxiously for their return. He noticed however that the beds were not slept upon, the pillows did not bear marks of use, the pieces of furniture were undisturbed. He doubted for a moment that the rooms might have been reset by someone after use, but, no, some fear got hold of him that they must have left, so, he hurried towards the room of Vidura to discover that he too had fled, his bed was unused.
The attendants reported that the sage did not return to his room from the king and queen to whom he had gone. As soon as he heard this, Dharmaraja had a shock. He went back to the palace and searched every room with great care and his worst fears were confirmed. His hands and feet shivered in despair, his tongue became dry, words did not emerge from his mouth. He fell on the floor, as if life had ebbed out. Recovering, he blabbered indistinctly. He called on Vidura, more than once, and the officers around him became afraid of his future. Everyone rushed to the presence, asking, “what happened?” sensing some calamity. They stood in a circle, awaiting orders from the master.
Just then, Sañjaya came there, all of a sudden. Dharmaraja rose and caught hold of both his hands: “My parents have gone, alas, I found their chambers empty. Why did they behave like this? Have they disclosed anything to you, tell me. If I know where they have gone, I could fall at their feet and crave pardon for all my failings. Tell me quick, Sañjaya, where have they gone.” He too had no knowledge of their whereabouts. He only knew that Vidura must be at the bottom of the whole affair. He too shed tears, and holding Dharmaraja’s hands in his, he said in a voice that shook with tremor, “lord and master, believe me, I am speaking the truth. Of course, Dhritarâshthra used to consult me and ask for my suggestions even in small matters but, in this affair, he has acted without discussing with me or even informing me. I am struck with wonder at this act. Though I was near him, I did not in the least know about his journey. I cannot also guess why he should have done so. I never dreamt that he would deceive me thus. He showed me some respect and had some confidence in me. But he has played me false. I can only say that this is my bad luck” Sañjaya started weeping like a child.
Dharmaraja consoled him, saying that it was really the consequence of his own sins, and not Sañjaya’s. “The extent of our bad luck can be gauged from this. Our father left us even while we were children; this uncle brought us up from that tender age. We were revering him and tending him, as both father and uncle. I must have perpetrated some error out of ignorance, I am incapable of doing so, consciously. Both uncle and aunt were broiling in the agony of the loss of their hundred sons. I was eager to offer them some little peace and so myself and my four brothers were wholeheartedly serving them so that they might not remember the anguish of their terrible loss. We took care that no little point was missed while serving them. There was no dimunition of reverence or affection. Alas, that they should have left this place! What a tragedy, what a terrible blow”, lamented Dharmaraja.
“My uncle and aunt are both aged and weak, besides, they are blind. I cannot understand how they managed to leave this place. How they must be suffering now! Not even one attendant accompanied them. Of what benefit are these large numbers that I have? Groping along, they might have fallen into the Ganges, by now. O, how unlucky I am! I fostered them both like the apple of the eye and at last, I have allowed them to meet this tragic fate.” Dharmaraja was beating his breast and expressing his deep distress.
The brothers heard the lamentation and they flew fast to the side of the weeping Dharmaraja. Kuntî, the mother, also inquired anxiously the reason for the grief. She peeped into the chambers and not finding Gandhâri or her brother-in-law, she asked Sañjaya what had happened to them. Sañjaya could not reply, he could only shed tears. “Where have they gone, in their aged and helpless condition? Tell me,” she cried, but no one could answer. Meanwhile, Dharmaraja called the brothers to his side and made some gestures which they could not understand aright. Then, he mustered courage and rose from the ground. He managed to narrate to them the happenings since sunrise; he asked Bhîma to send forces in all directions to search for them and find them, for they would not have gone far, since they were blind and could not travel fast; they must be groping their way.
Bhîma, Nakula and Sahadeva obeyed their brother’s order and sent troops in all directions. They rummaged all the roads, lanes and by-lanes, peeped into wells, searched in all tanks and lakes, but, could find no trace of the blind couple. Believing that they must have fallen into the Ganges, they got experts to scour the banks and even dive into the waters to discover their fate. All their efforts were in vain. So, the Pândava brothers were sunk in grief that they could not save the king and queen from that horrid fate.
Meanwhile, Dhritarâshthra and Gandhâri were joyfully contemplating on God, seated in prescribed postures with their mind rigorously under control. When they were thus lost in divine contemplation, and immersed in that supreme joy, a huge forest fire swept along, consuming them too in its fierce onslaught. Vidura had a great desire to cast off his body at the holy centre of Prabhâsa-kshetra and so, he escaped the fire and, filled with joy at the immense good fortune of the couple, he continued his pilgrimage and reached the place which he had chosen as the scene of his exit. There, he cast off his body, which was composed of the five elements, and which therefore, was material and momentary.
The Ascent of Krishna
Dharmaraja who was reeling in agony at the departure of his uncle and aunt – Dhritharâshtra and Gandhâri – had another bout of unbearable pain which was like a needle-thrust underneath the nails. Wherever he turned, he began seeing bad omens in his kingdom. He noted in every act around him the taint of falsehood, cruelty and injustice. It met him at every step and confused his vision.
As a result, an inexplicable anguish possessed him, anew. His face became pale with apprehension. It was marked by constant agitation and anxiety. Seeing this and becoming agitated themselves, the brothers – Bhîma, Nakula and Sahadeva – approached their eldest and expressed their eagerness to delve into the reasons for his strange sadness. They stood before him with folded hands and inquired, “lord and master; Day by day we find your countenance rendered dimmer and dimmer; you seem sunk in unfathomable agony, sinking deeper and deeper with every passing hour. You have become too weak to stand firm. If any of us has caused you pain, please tell us, we shall guard ourselves against repetition, and we pray we may be pardoned. If all this is due to something else, you have only to tell us about it, we shall at the cost of our very lives set it right and restore your mind. When you have such heroes obedient as we are, to correct any one, however high and mighty, it is not proper for you to give vent to grief. Inform us the reason and command us what to do”, they prayed.
Dharmaraja replied: “What can I tell you, dear brothers? I see ominous things all around. From the homes of ordinary citizens to the hermitages of the saints and sages, wherever my eye falls, I see only inauspiciousness, ill fortune, and the negation of joy. I argued within myself that this was only the result of my warped imagination and I tried my best to muster up courage and confidence. I did not like to fall a prey to my fears. But, I could not succeed. Recollecting the scenes made my fear even more fearsome.
To aggravate the sadness, I saw also some scenes that are contrary to established morals and dharma. Not only did they come to my actual notice, the Courts of Justice in this kingdom have been receiving petitions and pleas regarding wrongs, injustices, iniquities and misdeeds, which make me grieve deeply.
I saw some situations which were even worse. Last evening, when I was returning after a tour in the kingdom, I saw a mother cow refusing to nurse and feed her new-born calf! This is quite strange and contrary to nature. I saw some women wantonly loitering in the bazaar. I hoped that they would rush into their homes when they saw me, but, no. It did not happen so. They had no reverence for authority; they went on as if I was not in the picture; they continued to talk without restraint to the menfolk. I saw all this with my own eyes. I simply proceeded further from that horrid place.
Very near the rajabhavan, when I was about to enter it, I perceived a brahmin selling milk and curds! I saw people emerging out of their houses and closing the doors behind them, I found them fixing some iron lump to them, so that they may not be opened! (The reference is, evidently, to locks, which were strange things in Dharmaraja’s kingdom for no one had any fear of thieves). My mind was very much concerned with all these tragic transformations.
I tried to forget this state of affairs and so started doing the evening rituals, the sacred rite of offering oblations to the consecrated fire and shall I tell you what happened? The fire could not be lit, however hard I tried! O, what a calamity it was! My fears that these events foreboded some great catastrophe is fed by other happenings too. They are confirming my premonitions every minute. I find myself too weak to overcome them. Perhaps the Kali era has begun or is about to begin, I believe.
For, how else are we to explain such facts as this: a wife has quarrelled with her husband and is arguing before the judge in court that she should be permitted to go to her parents, leaving him to himself. How am I to face such a plea in court that she should be permitted to dissolve the marriage and leave for her parents’ home, deserting her husband? A petition from such a wife was admitted yesterday in the court of justice! How am I to ignore such abominations?
Why go on recounting these occurrences? Yesterday, the horses in the royal stables started weeping, did you hear? They were shedding copious tears, the syces [horse tenders] reported. Sahadeva tried to investigate the causes of their deep sorrow, but, he could not discover why and he was struck with wonder and consternation. These are indications of wholesale destruction, not of any minor danger, or small evil”. Dharmaraja placed his chin on his upright arm and rested a while in deep thought.
Bhîma did not give way to despair. He laughed a scornful laugh and began: “The incidents and events you mention might have happened, I do not deny them. But, how can they bring disaster to us? Why should we give up all hope? All these abnormalities can be set right by administrative measures and their enforcement. It is really surprising that you are so worried about these small matters that can be corrected by us. Or, is it the imminent breaking out of another war, that you fear? Perhaps you are anxious to avoid the ravages that the revival of war might bring about. That contingency is impossible. For, all our foes have been exterminated, with their kith and kin. Only we five are left, and we have to seek for friends and foes only among ourselves. Rivalry will not break out among us, even in our dreams. Then, what agitates you? I cannot understand why you are afflicted. People will laugh at you when you take these little things to heart and lose peace of mind.” Bhîma said this and, changing his mighty mace from the right hand to the left, he laughed a laugh which was half a jeer.
For this Dharmaraja replied: “I have the same discrimination and intelligence that you have in these matters. Nor have I an iota of dread that enemies will overpower us. Have we not defeated the renowned warriors, Bhîshma, Drona and the rest who could singly and with but one arrow destroy the three worlds? What can any foe do to us? And, what can agitate us who were bearing even the direst calamities with fortitude. How can any difference arise between us now, who stood so firm in the days of distress?
Perhaps, you suspect that I am afraid of anything happening to me, personally. No, I shall never be agitated by anything that might happen to me, for, this body is a bubble upon the waters, it is a composite of the five elements waiting to be dissolved back into its components. The dissolution must happen some day, it is bound to fail, to fall, to fester, to be reduced to ash or mud. I do not pay heed to its fate.
My only worry is about one particular matter. I shall disclose it to you, without any attempt to conceal the seriousness. Listen. It is now more or less seven months since our brother Arjuna left for Dvârakâ. Yet, we have not heard anything about the welfare and wellbeing of the Lord of Dvârakâ, Krishna. He has not sent any messenger or message regarding, at least, his reaching Dvârakâ. Of course I am not worried in the least about Arjuna and his reaching or not reaching Dvârakâ. I know that no foe can stand up against him. Moreover, if anything untoward had happened to him, certainly, S’rî Krishna would have sent the information to us; of this there is no doubt. So, I am confident that there is no reason to be nervous about him.
Let me confess that it is about the Lord Himself that I am feeling worried; with every passing minute, anxiety is increasing. My heart is suffering unbearable agony. I am overwhelmed by the fear that He may leave this world, and resume His permanent abode. What greater reason can there be for sorrow? If this catastrophe has actually come about, I shall not continue to rule over this land, widowed by the disappearance of the Master. For us Pândavas, this Vâsudeva was all our five vital airs put together; when He departs, we are but corpses, devoid of vitality. If the Lord is upon the earth, such ominous signs dare not reveal themselves. Injustice and iniquity can have free play only when He is absent; I have no doubt about this. My conscience is clear about it; something tells me that this is the truth.”
When Dharmaraja asserted thus, the brothers fell into the depth of grief. They lost all trace of courage. Bhîma was the first who recovered sufficiently to speak! He mustered some courage, in spite of the wave of sadness that smothered him. He said, “For the reason that Arjuna has not returned or that we have not heard from him, you should not picture such a dire calamity and start imagining catastrophe. There must be some other reason for Arjun’s silence, or else, Krishna Himself might have neglected to inform us. Let us wait, seek further light, let us not yield to the fantasies that a nervous mind might weave. Let us not clothe them with the vesture of truth. I am encouraged to speak like this, for, one’s nervousness is often capable of shaping such fears”.
But Dharmaraja was in no mood to accept this. He replied: “Whatever you say, however skilfully you argue, I feel that my interpretation is correct. Or else, how can such an idea arise in my mind? My left shoulder is registering a shiver, see! This is a sign confirming my fear that this has actually happened. You know it is a bad omen, if the left shoulder shivers for men and the right for women. Now, this thing has taken place in my body, and it is a bad omen. Not merely the shoulder, my entire being – mind, body, intelligence – all are in a shiver. My eyes grow dim and I am fast losing vision. I see the world as an orphan, having been deprived of its Guardian and Lord. I have lost the faculty of hearing. My legs are shaking helplessly. My limbs have been petrified. They have no life in them.
What greater proof do you need to assert that the Lord has left? Believe me, dear brothers. Even if you do not, facts will not change. The earth is shaking under our feet. Do you not hear the eerie noises emanating from the agonished heart of the earth? Tanks and lakes are shaken into waves. The sky, air, fire, the waters and the earth are all moaning their fate, for they have lost their Master. How many more evidences do you need to get convinced? News came some days back of showers of blood that rained in some parts of our kingdom.
Hearing these words, streams of tears coursed down the cheeks of Nakula and Sahadeva, even as they stood before their brother. Their hearts were struck with pain; they could not stand, for their legs failed them.
The Krishna Mystery
Bhîmasena (Kuntî’s second son) managed to muster up some courage. He said, “Brother, grant me leave and I shall proceed to Dvârakâ in an instant and return quick bringing full information of all that has happened to remove your fear.” Even while Bhîma was praying on bended knees for permission, the sun set and the lamps started emitting feeble light, from every place.
Meanwhile, a guard from the main entrance rushed in, announcing that Arjuna (third son of Pându and Kuntî) had come and that he was approaching the royal apartment. Every one rose as if they had suddenly come to life, they hurried forward to meet Arjuna, thirsty for news from Dvârakâ. Arjuna came in, depressed and despondent, devoid of any sign of joy, without looking the brothers in the face, he rolled over the feet of Dharmaraja.
Dharmaraja noticed the signs which confirmed his fear and became eager to inquire further. He asked about the welfare of friends and kinsmen at Dvârakâ. Arjuna could not rise or turn his head. The brothers saw the feet of Dharmaraja streaming with the tears shed by him and were shocked into immobility. Dharmaraja lost all hold on his mind. He tried to lift Arjuna, shaking him by the shoulders, he shouted in agony into his ear, “Brother, what has happened – what has happened, what has happened to the Yadavas? Tell us about that. Our hearts are about to burst. Save us from terrible anguish.”
But, Arjuna did not reply. He could not rise or even spell out words. Dharmaraja however, continued raining questions on him, inquiring about the welfare of the Yadavas and others, mentioning them by name and asking about each one separately. Arjuna did not react even to this desperate fusillade. He showed no response. He did not raise his face and looked at his brothers.
“You need not tell us the rest, but, this you must tell us, what has Vâsudeva directed you to tell us, what is his message to us, tell us that”, Dharmaraja appealed. Arjuna could not bear it any longer. The grief that he had held back so long gushed out in full flood. “We have Vâsudeva (Krishna) no more. O, we are orphaned. We could not keep Him, we have no more luck”, he said and fell on his face, sobbing on the floor.
Sahadeva (the youngest Pândava, one of the two twin sons of Madri with Nakula) grasped the situation and its possibilities and he closed all doors that led into the Hall, he engaged himself in attempting to soothe the distress.
“Alas, that we lived to hear this, what a fate; o, destiny, how could you treat the world so cruelly?” the brothers lamented together. “Lord, why have you deserted the Pândavas thus? Why this breach of trust? We have survived to hear this news, this is the result of the accumulation of sin during many generations”, they asked and asserted. Each one was submerged in his own grief, in his own despair. The Hall was filled with gloomy silence.
It was Dharmaraja who braved it first. Wiping the tears that filled his eyes, he questioned Arjuna in pathetic tones. “Have you news of the condition of the parents, and of Nanda and Yas’odâ and of the other Yadavas? Tell us about them. They must be broken with the grief of separation from the Lord. When we too have been reduced to this helpless depth, what can we say of them? They must be sunk in unfathomable despair. How can they keep body and breath together? Why refer to individuals? The entire city of Dvârakâ must have sunk in the sea of inconsolable grief.”
Dharmaraja was sobbing with sorrow as he pictured to himself those scenes. Seeing him in this condition, Arjuna said, “Brother, the people of Dvârakâ are far more lucky than ourselves. We are the least fortunate. We are the only hardened beings that have withstood the shock of the news of the departure of Vâsudeva (Krishna) from this world. The rest left the world even before news came of His departure.”
At this Dharmaraja exclaimed, “Hari, Hari, o God, what is it you said now? What is this catastrophe? I do not understand anything ….. Did the sea rise and engulf Dvârakâ? Or, did any wild barbarian horde invade and overwhelm the city and slaughter the population? Arjuna, tell us what happened. Put an end to our frightful surmises, which raise up awful pictures.” Dharmaraja held the hand of Arjuna and turned his face up in an attempt to make him answer his queries.
Arjuna said, “No, no sea got furious and swallowed Dvârakâ, no ruler led his army against that city. Wickedness and vileness grew madly wild among the Yadavas themselves and excited their strife and hate to such an extent that they slaughtered each other with their own weapons.” Dharmaraja asked him, “Arjuna, there must be some overpowering force that urged the Yadava clan, young and old, to sacrifice themselves in this holocaust. No effect can happen without a cause, isn’t it” and, waited to listen to the details of what had actually led to the slaughter.
Arjuna paused a little to overcome the grief surging within him and then, he began his account of the events. The other three brothers drew near and heard the tragic tale. “I learnt that day that not even the tiniest event can happen unless willed by Vâsudeva. I got fully convinced of this. He is the Sutradhari, the holder of the strings that move the puppets and make them act their roles, but, He seats Himself among the spectators and pretends He is unaware of the plot or story or cast. The characters cannot deviate a dot from His directions, His will guides and determines every single movement and gesture. The varying emotions and events on the stage by which the drama unrolls itself affect the hearts of those who witness the play, but, they do not cause a ruffle in the heart of the Sutradhari (director of the play).
He decides what this person should say or that person should do and He prompts in them the appropriate words and deeds. And, the consequence of the karma performed and inherited by each individual from previous lives also adds its quota to this destiny. The Yadavas who are our own kith and kin were spiritual personages, full of devotion to God as you all know well. Perhaps, some day, some sage had cast a curse on them, or else some day some dire sin was committed by them…. For, how else can we explain this sudden upset in their history, this unexpected tragedy?
They performed a magnificent sacrifice (yajña) at Prabhâsa-kshetra (‘splendor’, place from where Krishna left this earth); for seven full days, the yajña was celebrated in unprecedented pomp and style. The Valedictory Offering in the Sacred Fire was poured in true vedic grandeur in the presence of Lord Krishna Himself; the participants and priests performed later the Ceremonial Bath in holy waters; the brahmins then received their share of the yajña offerings and distributed it to the Yadavas also. Everything went off, in an atmosphere of perfect calm, contentment, and joy.
Towards noon, brahmins were served with food. Afterwards, the Yadavas seated themselves in long lines to partake of the feast. During the feast, as ill-luck would have it, some of the Yadavas filled themselves with drink and lost self-control so much that they mistook their own kinsmen as their foes. They started quarrels which raged into fights of severe fierceness. It must have been in the plan of God, for however unruly and vile a man might be, he would not slaughter with his own hands his own children and parents. O, the horror of it! In the general melee that ensued, son killed father, father killed son, brother slew brother, son-in-law killed father-in-law, father-in-law killed son-in-law, in one insane orgy of blind hate, until there was no one left alive!” Arjuna could not speak further, he leant against the wall, he held his head, bursting with pain and grief, between his pressing palms. (See also S’rîmad Bhâgavatam Canto 11, Chapter 30: The Disappearance of the Yadu-dynasty)
Dharmaraja heard this account with anguish and amazement. He placed his hand on Arjuna’s back, and said, “What is this that you are saying, it is an unbelievable story! Since your tongue will never speak untruth, I am forced to put faith in its correctness, or else, how can we ever imagine such a sudden transformation of character and such a lightning massacre? I have never seen or heard anywhere else such intensity of mutual friendship as marked the Yadava clan. Besides they do not deviate in the least from the path marked out for them by Krishna. They will not deflect from it even on the most frantically furious occasions. That such people should, in the very presence of Krishna, regardless of all canons [norms] of good behavior, beat one another to death is strange indeed, such a turn of events comes only when the end of the world is near”.
“Well, Arjuna, could not Krishna stop the fight and advise them to desist? Did He attempt to bring about some compromise between the factions and send them back to their places? Krishna is the greatest adept in the arts of war and peace, is it not? That He did not try to stop this tragedy makes me wonder more, at this awful tale of destruction.”
Dharmaraja was lost in sorrow; he sat with his head resting on his clenched fist, the hand placed on the knee; his eyes were so full of tears that they rolled continuously down his cheeks. Arjuna tried to speak some words of consolation. “Maharaja, you are aware of the glory and the grace of Krishna, but yet, you ask questions and entertain doubts, whether He did this or that, what can I say in reply? The fate of the Yadavas is the same as the fate of our own clan. Weren’t we and Kaurava brothers? We had kinsmen who were well-wishers on both sides and we had this same S’yâmasundara (name of Krishna as the ‘beautiful dark one’) in our midst, but yet, we had to go through the Kurukshetra battle. Can we not see that this war would not have happened, had He willed it so? The forty lakhs [Hindi: lakh: one hundred thousand] of warriors who died on the field of battle would not have been lost then, isn’t it? Did we ever wish to rule over this land after slaughtering all these? Nothing can ever happen without His express command. No one can cross His will or act against His command.
This world is the stage on which each one acts the role He has allotted him, on which each one struts about for the time given by Him and each one has to obey His instructions without fail or falter. We may think in pride that we have done this or that by ourselves, but, the truth is, everything happens as He wills.”
When Arjuna concluded, Dharmaraja thought aloud. “Arjuna, many motives dragged us into the Mahâbhâratha war. We tried our best through diplomacy and peaceful means to regain our kingdom, our status and what was legitimately our due. We bore patiently many insults and discomfitures. We had to wander in the jungle as exiles. Through divine grace, we escaped many a plot laid to kill us. They tried arson and poison on us. They heaped public ignominy on our Queen. They broke our hearts by systematic ill-treatment.
Still, there are but three reasons for the final fight every where: wealth, dominion, and women. But, take the instance of the Yadavas. They had no such reason to fall out among themselves in mortal combat. It appears as if destiny was the only over-powering reason for this cataclysm.
The Yadavas were rolling in plenty. They had no lack of grain or gold. And their wives? They were models of virtue, faithful and devoted. They never deviated from the wishes or commands of their husbands. They could not bring insult or discomfiture to their lords from any quarter. How then could faction and internecine strife raise their heads so suddenly among them?”
Arjuna replied: “My dear brother! We see the outer circumstances, the processes which result in the final event and in our ignorance we judge that this set of causes produced these effects. We guess the nature of emotions and feelings from what we gauge from events. But circumstances, events, emotions and feelings are all simply ‘instruments’ in His hands, serving His will and His purpose. When the moment comes, He uses them for His plan, and brings about the fight He has willed. He is the embodiment of kâla or time. He comes as the Master of Time and, through some denouement of the plot, He finishes the drama. That which brought about birth brings about death too. He finds reason for both, in the same degree. Do we seek to know why there was a birth? Then, why seek to know why death occurs? It occurred, that is enough. Reason-finding is a superfluous occupation.
He causes beings to create beings and He causes beings to end beings. Bodies get born, bodies die, nothing more serious happens at birth or death. This has been taught us often by Vâsudeva. Why then should we doubt or deviate from the steady courage He has sought to give us?
You might say that it is not just, that He who caused us to be born should be the person who kills us. Between birth and death, man too has some capacity to earn punya and papa, merit and demerit and this has some influence on the course of events. Within these limits, the Lord plays the game of football with birth and death, and life.
Birth and death are two high cliffs between which the river of life flows. The force of atmic faith (âtmâ-s’akti) is the bridge that spans the chasm and for those who have developed that force and faith, floods are of no concern. With âtmâ-s’akti as their safe support, they can reach the other bank, braving all dangers. O King, all this is but a grand puppet-show by that Master-Director. The Yadavas today, like the Kauravas yesterday, had no individuality of their own, there is no use blaming either.
Can this material body, composed of the five elements, – earth, water, fire, air and ether – move or act without His prompting? No, it is His amusement, to cause one to be born through another and to cause one to die through another. Else, how can you explain the fact of the snake laying eggs and warming them to bring out the young and then, eat the very children thus born? Even among them, it eats up only those whose term is ended, so to say, not every one of the snakelings. The fish that live in the waters get caught in nets when their term ends; why, the small fish get eaten by the big ones and they in their turn get swallowed by even bigger ones. This is His law. The snake eats the frog, the peacock eats the snake, this is His game. Who can probe into the reasons for this? The truth is: ‘Every single event is the decision of this Balagopâla (another name for Krishna, ruler of cowherds).’
We cannot sense the mystery of His play. We have failed to understand it. There is no profit in worrying over that failure now. With that deluding human form, He moved with us, mixed with us, dined with us, behaved as if He was our kinsman and well-wisher, our friend and guide, and saved us from many a calamity that threatened to overwhelm us. He showered His divine mercy on us and solved for us the toughest problems that defied solution, in remarkably simple ways. During all this time that He was near and dear to us, we were carried away by pride that we had His grace; we did not try to fill ourselves with that supreme joy, to dive deep into the flood of His grace. We sought from Him mere external victory and temporal benefits; we ignored the vast treasure with which we could have tilled our hearts. We never contemplated on His real reality.
He guarded us as if we five were the five vital airs (pancha-prâna) for Him. He came forward to help us and lead us in every undertaking, however small, and He fulfilled it for us. Brother, what shall I say? We might be born many times over, but we can never get again such a friend and kinsman. I have received from Him love much more intense than that of a mother, a love which no mother can confer.
On many an occasion He bore the burdens of the Pândavas as His own and to relieve us of the bother. He used to plan measures within minutes and carry them on to final success. It is due to the gift of His grace that we Pândavas have survived in this world to this day.
Why repeat a thousand things separately? Every drop of blood coursing through these veins is but a drop from the shower of His grace. Every muscle is but a lump of His love, every bone and cartilage is but a piece of His mercy. Unable to understand this secret, we strutted about, boasting “I achieved this”, and “I accomplished that”. Now, it has become clear to us that without Him we are but bags of skin.
Of course, the fate of all men is the same. They forget that the All-ruling All-knowing Almighty plays with them as puppets; they assume that they are the actual doers and enjoyers; like me they are plunged in ignorance of the basic truth. When we who are far-famed heroes and warriors are in this sad plight, what can we say of ordinary folk who have no chance of awakening into this jñâna?
For this, the sad experience I had on my way is the “direct proof.” Thus said Arjuna and fell back, leaning against the chair that was behind him, for he could not bear the separation from his life-long support and guide, Krishna.
When the Lord left – the Pândavas’ Grief
Dharmaraja, who was lost in contemplation, recapitulating the advice, the help, the grace, the love, the sympathy, that they had earned from Lord Krishna, suddenly raised his head and asked, “Arjuna, what did you say? What calamity overtook you on the way? Tell us in full, dear brother”, slowly lifting the chin of Arjuna while asking so. Arjuna looked his brother in the face and said, “Brother, all my skill and attainments have departed with Lord Krishna. I am now without any powers, incapable of any achievement, weaker than the weakest, indeed lifeless.
Brother, listen. This most unlucky fellow did not have the chance to be with Lord Vâsudeva when He left for His abode, even though he was in Dvârakâ at that time. I had not earned enough merit to get that chance! I could not have the darshan of our Divine Father before He left. Later, the charioteer of the Lord, Dâruka, gave me the message He had given for me when He departed. In that message, He had written thus with His own Hand”.
Saying thus, he took out from the folds of his dress the letter which he considered more precious even than life, for it was from Krishna and written by His own hand. He gave it into the hands of Dharmaraja, who received it reverentially with alacrity and anxiety. He pressed it on his eyes, which were full of tears. He tried to decipher the writing through the curtain of tears, but with no success.
It began, “Arjuna, this is My command; carry it out without demur, to the full. Execute this task with courage and earnestness.” After this express injunction, Krishna had elaborated on the task in the following words: “I have accomplished the mission on which I had come. I shall no longer be in this world, with body. I am departing. Seven days from today, Dvârakâ will sink into the sea; the sea will swallow everything except the house I had occupied. Therefore, you have to take the queens and other women who survived, along with the children and babies and the old and decrepit to Indraprastha. I am leaving, placing all responsibility for the women and other Yadava survivors in your hands. Care for them as you care for your own life; arrange for them at Indraprastha and protect them from danger.” The postscript said, “Thus, writes Gopala on leaving for His home.”
Dharmaraja finished reading. He noticed that Bhîma, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva were shedding copious tears and squatting like rocks, oblivious to everything else. Arjuna said, “Brother, I had no desire to live for a moment more without the Lord in our midst and so I resolved to drown myself in the sea that was to swallow Dvârakâ; I decided to split my own head with this bow and die. But this command forced me to desist; the order from Him who ordains the universe tied me to this earth. I had no time to plan out any line of action, everything had to be done quick.”
“So, I got the last rites done for the dead, according to the Sastras; then in great anxiety lest the sea swallow Dvârakâ before the women, children and old people were evacuated, I hurried them to come out and started for Indraprastha, as commanded by Krishna. We left Dvârakâ with no mind to leave it. We managed to reach the borders of Panchanada (Punjab) with hearts heavy on account of the absence of Krishna, but I was urged forward by the need to obey the divine injunction, and to carry, according to that injunction, the burden of those people.”
“The sun was setting one day; we dared not cross at that late hour a flooded river that impeded our progress. I decided to encamp on the bank of that river for the night. We collected the jewels and valuables of all the women and kept them in a secure place; the queens alighted from the palanquins and the maids scattered themselves for rest. I approached the river for the evening rites, dragging myself along with the sadness of separation from Krishna. Meanwhile, pitch darkness pervaded the place and soon we heard wild barbarian war cries from the surrounding darkness. I peered into the night and found a horde of forest-dwelling nomads rushing upon us with sticks, spears and daggers. They laid hands on the jewels and valuables; they started dragging away the women and binding them hand and foot.”
“I shouted at them and threatened them with dire consequences. ‘Why do you fall like moths into fire’ I asked them. ‘Why be like fish that meet death craving for the angler’s worm’ I told them. ‘Do not meet death in this vain attempt to collect loot’, I warned them. ‘I imagine you do not know who I am. Have you not heard of the redoubtable bowman, Pându’s son Arjuna, who overwhelmed and defeated the three world-conquerors, Drona, Bhîshma and Karna? I shall now despatch the whole lot of you to the kingdom of death, with a twang of this bow, my incomparable Gandîva. Flee before you meet destruction, or else, feed with your lives this hungry bow’, I announced.”
“Nevertheless, they went about their nefarious task undismayed; their cruel attack did not abate; they fell upon our camp and dared attack even me. I held myself in readiness and fitted divine arrows to efface them all. But alas, a terrible thing happened; I cannot explain how or why! Of the sacred formulae which fill the missile with potency, I could not recall a single one! I forgot the processes of invocation and revocation. I was helpless.”
“Before my very eyes, the robber bands dragged away the queens, the maids and others. They were screaming in agony, calling on me by name ‘Arjuna, Arjuna, save us, rescue us; do you not hear us? Why are you deaf to our cries? Are you giving us over to these brigands? Had we known that this would be our fate we would have died in the sea like our dear city, Dvârakâ.’ I heard it all, in terrible agony; I saw it all. They were screaming and fleeing in all directions, women, children and the aged and the infirm. Like a lion whose teeth have been plucked out and whose claws have been sheared, I could not harm those ruffians. I could not string my bow. I attacked them with the arrows in my clasp. Very soon, even the stock of arrows was exhausted. My heart was burning with anger and shame. I became disgusted with my own pusillanimity. I felt as if I was dead. All my efforts were in vain. The greatly blessed ‘inexhaustible’ receptacle of arrows had failed me, after Vâsudeva had left.”
“My might and skill had gone with Krishna when He went from here. Or else, how did this misfortune occur of my being a helpless witness of this kidnapping of women and children entrusted to my care? I was tortured on one side by the separation from Krishna and on the other by the agony of not carrying out His orders. Like a strong wind that fans the fire, this calamity added fuel to the anguish of my heart. And the queens – those who were living in golden palaces in the height of luxury; When I contemplate their fate in the hands of those fierce savages, my heart is reduced to ashes. O Lord! O Krishna! Is it for this that you rescued us from danger in the past – to inflict on us this drastic punishment?”
When the Lord left
Arjuna wept aloud and beat his head against the wall in despair, so that the room was filled with grief; every one shivered in despair. The hardest rock would have melted in sympathy. From Bhîma’s eyes, streams of hot tears flowed. Dharmaraja was overpowered with fear when he saw him weeping so. He went near him and spoke lovingly and tenderly to him in order to console him. Bhîma came to himself after some time; he fell at Dharmaraja’s feet and said, “Brother, I do not like to live any more. Give me leave. I shall go into the forest and immolate myself with the name of Krishna on my lips and reach Home. This world, without Krishna, is hell to me”. He wiped the hot tears with the cloth in his hand.
Sahadeva who was silent so long approached Bhîma and said, “Calm yourself, do not get excited. Remember the reply Krishna gave Dhritharashtra that day in the open assembly when He proceeded thither to negotiate peace between us.”
The Kali Age dawns
Bhîmasena said, “When Krishna was questioned in the court of Dhritarâshthra by Duryodhana, Dussasana and others as to why He should intercede in the family disputes of the Kauravas and Pândavas and favor one section more than another, as if the Pândavas were nearer kin to Him than the Kauravas, what did the Lord reply? Remind yourselves of that reply now. Picture that scene before your eyes: pacing up and down, like a lion cub, He roared, “What did you say? Are the Kauravas as near to Me as the Pândavas? No, they can never be on the same level. Listen, I shall tell you of the kinship that binds Me to the Pândavas. For this body of Mine, Dharmaraja is as the head; Arjuna is as the shoulder and arms; Bhîma is as the trunk; Nakula and Sahadeva are as the two feet. For the body constituted like this, Krishna is the heart. The limbs act on the strength of the heart; without it, they are lifeless”.
What does that declaration mean to us? It means, we Pândavas will be lifeless since the Heart has gone out of action. We are to meet dissolution. The Lord who is Time Incarnate is striving to merge us into Himself. We have to be ready to answer His call. This is proof enough that the Kali Age has come. The day Krishna left this world, that day the doors of Dvâpara have been closed and the gates of Kali opened. Or else, can these evil forces and wicked minds roam about unchecked? Can this Arjuna who never forgets the ritual formulae for each divine arrow sent from his bow, even when the battle is raging most ferociously and fast; can he ever forget them in the direst crisis of the barbarian attack on that convoy of women and children? It is certainly the Time-spirit of the Kali Age that has caused this dire calamity.”
Nakula too joined at this stage. He said, “Brothers, the eastern sky reveals approaching dawn. Let us inform the queens and our revered mother of these developments; let us decide without delay the next step we have to take. The body will not be dissolved immediately the breath leaves, isn’t it? Of course, life has gone out of us the moment Krishna left; the limbs will be warm a little while. We too have to reach the presence of Krishna today or tomorrow. Let us not waste time in grief and anguish. Let us rather think of the path we have to tread next and prepare for that journey”. Every one agreed with this suggestion, so full of wise detachment.
There was some anxiety about how the news would affect Draupadî, Subhadrâ and the aged mother (Kuntî); but they ignored that anxiety and decided to communicate the news. For, when the Lord Himself has left, why should anyone be anxious about what might happen to anyone else? The brothers resolved that the eldest among them, Dharmaraja, should go to the mother; that was the proper course, they thought.
Joy consumes time more quickly, not so grief. When men are in joy, time passes fast; when they are in grief, it moves slow. Grief is heavy like a mountain range; it is as the final flood. Though the capital city of Dharmaraja was Indraprastha, the ancestral throne was still at Hastinâpura, because that place had lost its other glories when the Mahâbâratha battle carried away the princes of the Royal line and all senior scions. Therefore, Dharmaraja was spending some months at Indraprastha and the remaining part of the year at Hastinâpura. Unaware of this, Arjuna went to Indraprastha and finding that Dharmaraja was not there, he left those few women of Dvârakâ whom he could retrieve from the barbarian hordes there and reached Hastinâpura alone. There was with him one solitary Yadava, a grandson of Krishna, Vajra [see S.B. 10:90] by name; the only survivor among the male population of Dvârakâ. Poor Vajra had no mind to show his face to others; he was so ashamed of himself for having survived; he was so miserable at the death of all the rest that he hid himself in a dark room and sulked all the time, gloomy and alone.
The Queen Mother, Kuntî Devî, learnt from a maid that Arjuna had arrived within a short time after his arrival. She kept vigil the entire night, expecting that Arjuna would rush to her and tell her some news from Dvârakâ; she kept the lamps burning; she refused to go to sleep; she rose in joy that Arjuna had come, whenever the slightest noise of footsteps reached her ears, uttering the words “O son! I am glad you came, what is the news?” When no answer came, she called her maid by name to the room and interjected, “What is the meaning of this? You told me, didn’t you, that Arjuna arrived from Dvârakâ? Why has he not come to me yet? You must have been mistaken; you must have seen someone else arriving and taken him to be Arjuna. If he had come, surely, he would have been here immediately.” Thus Kuntî spent a sleepless night between expectation and disappointment.
Day dawned, every one was getting busy with his own assignment. Meanwhile, her mind had undergone many questionings. What was the reason for Arjuna not coming to her? Had he really returned? Was he kept away by some urgent political problem which had to be discussed among the brothers until the small hours of the night? Or is he so tired by travel that he resolved to see his mother early next day, instead of the same night? Or has some crisis developed in Dvârakâ for which Krishna directed him to consult Dharmaraja urgently and bring him his reaction and solution? Has he forgotten his duty to his mother in the confusion of these crises? Of course, he will come when the day has dawned, she finally told herself.
So, she rose even when darkness still enveloped the earth; she bathed and put on new clothes and got ready to receive her son. Just then, another doubt arose in her mind and agitated her. Every night, all her sons would invariably come to her presence, one behind the other and fall at her feet, craving permission to go to bed, seeking her blessings. But she wondered why not even one had turned up that night. This made her anxiety worse. She sent maids to the apartments of Draupadî and Subhadrâ and found that none of the brothers had even partaken of dinner! Kuntî sank deeper into anxiety.
When her mind was thus torn with travail, an old female attendant came in and informed her that Dharmaraja, accompanied by Arjuna, was on the way to her apartments. Kuntî was agitated by fear at what they might tell her, joy that she was meeting Arjuna after a long absence, and eagerness to hear the news of the Yadavas. It made an amalgam of expectancy. She was shivering because she was unable to contain this anxiety.
Dharmaraja came in and fell at her feet; he stood silent. Arjuna could not raise himself from her feet, for a long time. It was Kuntî who spoke to him, words of consolation. “Poor fellow, how did you manage to be away from me for such a long time?” She caressed him lovingly, but even before she spoke words of blessing or questioned about his health and welfare, she asked “Arjuna, I heard you arrived last night, is it true? Why did you not come to me during the night? How can a mother who knows that her son has returned from a long absence sleep in peace without seeing him? Well, I am glad you have come at least now, with the break of dawn. Tell me the news. Are your father-in-law, mother-in-law and grandfather quite well? My brother, Vasudeva, is very old now, how is he? Is he moving about? Or is he bed-ridden as I am? Is he being nursed as I am, dependent for everything on others?” She was holding the hands of Arjuna and her eyes were fixed on his face. Suddenly she asked, “What is this I see, my son? How did you grow so dark? Why have your eyes bloated and reddened like this?”
“I understand! Dvârakâ is far away and the long jungle journey has told upon you. The dust and the sun have affected you; the exhaustion of the road is written on your face. Let it go. Tell me what my Shyamasundara, my Krishna has asked you to tell me. When is He coming here? Or has He no desire to see me? Did he say anything? Of course, He is Vâsudeva, He can see all from wherever He is. When am I to see Him again? Will this ripe fruit be on the tree, until He comes?”
She asked questions many times and answered them herself many times. She provided no opening for either Arjuna or Dharmaraja to say what they wanted. From Arjuna’s eyes tears flowed without hindrance. Kuntî observed this strange phenomenon. She drew Arjuna closer to herself and had his head on her shoulder. “Son, Arjuna, what has happened, tell me. I have never seen tears in your eyes. Did Gopala find fault with you and send you away, because you are unfit to be with Him? Did any such terrible calamity happen to you?” She was overwhelmed with grief but she was trying her best to console her son.
Just then, Dharmaraja hid his own face with both hands and groaned amidst sobs, “Mother, you speak of our Vâsudeva still. It is ten days since He left us. He has gone to His own place. All the Yadavas have died”. Even as he was speaking thus, Kuntî opened her eyes wide, asking, “What, my Gopala… my Nandananda… the Treasure of my heart… heart… has He widowed the earth? O Krishna… Krishna…” and as if going to seek Him, that very moment, she passed away.
The Coronation of Parîkchit
Kuntî Devî took the road that Shyamasundar had taken. What was left was the lifeless body. Arjuna wept aloud, “Brother, what shall I say, we have lost our mother”. Dharmaraja who was standing by was shaken hard by the shock; he stepped towards the body and finding the face blanched, stood petrified.
The maids outside the door heard the words of Arjuna and they peeped into the room. Kuntî Devî’s body was lying on the floor; Arjuna had the head on his lap; he was intently looking at the face with tearful eyes. The maids of the palace transmitted the news from one to another, they entered and realised that the Dowager Queen had left them, without possibility of return. They wept aloud at the heart-breaking calamity.
Meanwhile, news reached the Queens in the inner apartments. Within seconds, the sad tidings spread all over Hastinâpura. The Queens were overcome with grief; they tottered in, beating their breasts in anguish. In an endless stream of sorrow, the denizens of the palace flowed into the apartment. Bhîma, Nakula, Sahadeva and the Ministers were overpowered with grief.
The air was filled with indescribable agony. Nobody could believe that Kuntî Devî, who, a few minutes ago, was so eagerly awaiting her son Arjuna, to hear the news from Dvârakâ, could have passed away so soon. Those who came and saw stood mute and motionless. The wailing of the maids, the groans of the Queens, and the grief of the sons melted the rockiest heart.
Dharmaraja consoled every one and instilled some courage. He told them not to give way to grief. He did not shed tears; he was moving about bravely, directing every one and infusing strength of mind. This made every one wonder at his self-control. The Ministers approached him and said, “O King, your unruffled nature fills us with admiration. You revered your mother and treated her as the very breath of your life. How is it that your heart has taken her death so callously?” Dharmaraja smiled at their question and their anxiety. “Ministers, I am filled with envy when I think of her death. She is indeed most fortunate. The world dropped from her life as soon as she heard the news of Krishna moving on to his Heavenly Home. She left immediately to that Home, for, she could not bear the pang of separation from Him.
We are most unfortunate. We were so near Him; we derived so much of ânanda from Him; we heard of His departure; but, yet, we are alive! Had we really the devotion that we claimed, we should have dropped the body like her when we heard of that loss. Fie on us! We are but burdens on the earth. All our years are a waste”.
When the citizens and others came to know, that Kuntî Devî had died as soon as she heard the news of Krishna’s departure from the world, they wept even louder for, the grief at losing Krishna was far greater than the grief at the loss of the Dowager Queen. Many behaved as if they had grown suddenly insane; many beat their heads on the walls of their houses; they felt miserable and forlorn.
It was as if petrol was poured on a fire. In the flock of unbearable anguish, born out of the double loss, Dharmaraja was the only calm soul. He consoled the queens; he spoke softly and assuringly to each; he told them that there was no meaning in lamenting the loss of the mother or the departure of the Lord. Each of them had their course according to a predetermined plan. “It only remains for us now to fulfil our destiny through appropriate steps,” he said.
Dharmaraja called Arjuna near him and said, “Arjuna! Dear brother! Let us not delay any further. The funeral rites of mother must begin immediately; we must have Parîkchit crowned Emperor; we must leave Hastinâpura this night itself; every moment appears an age to me”. Dharmaraja was filled with extreme detachment. But, Arjuna was filled with even more renunciation. He lifted the mother’s head from his lap and placed it on the floor. He ordered Nakula and Sahadeva to make preparation for the Coronation of Parîkchit. He gave instructions to others, Ministers, officers etc. on the arrangements that had to be made, in view of the decision of the King and the Princes. He was very busy, indeed. Bhîma busied himself with the arrangements for the funeral of the mother.
The Ministers, citizens, priests, gurus, were full of wonder, admiration and sadness at the strange developments and incidents in the palace. They were sunk in grief and despair, but, they had to keep it all to themselves. They were also affected by a strong wave of detachment. Struck with wonder, they exclaimed, “Ah, His paternal uncle and aunt left the palace all of a sudden; the news of Krishna’s departure fell like a thunderbolt on the head already distracted by this calamity; then quite soon, the mother passed away; ere the corpse is removed from where she fell, Dharmaraja is preparing for the coronation! And, the Emperor is planning to give up everything – power, riches, status, authority – and to move into the forest with all his brothers! Only these Pândavas can have such steady courage and renunciation. No one else is capable of this boldness.”
Within minutes, the funeral rites were gone through; the brahmins were called in; Dharmaraja decided to have the Coronation Ceremony in quite a simple style. The subordinate rulers and tributary kings were not to be invited; nor could invitation be given to citizens and kinsmen at Indraprastha.
Of course, a Coronation in the Bharatha Dynasty, seating a ruler on the sacred Lion-throne of that line, was usually a grand affair. The date will be fixed months ahead, the auspicious moment chosen with meticulous care; and, elaborate preparations on a magnificent scale will follow. But, now, in a matter of minutes, everything was got ready with whatever material was available and whoever was near at hand. Parîkchit was given a ceremonial bath, the crown jewels were put on him, and he was brought to the throne by the brahmins and the Ministers. He was placed on the throne and, while Dharmaraja was placing the diamond studded diadem on his head with his own hands, every one in the Hall wept in distress. The Imperial Authority that had to be assumed to the joyous acclamation of the people was imposed on the boy to the accompaniment of groans and sobs.
Parîkchit, the newly crowned Emperor was weeping; why, even Dharmaraja, the man who crowned him, could not stop his tears, in spite of his best efforts. The hearts of all the spectators were torn by agonising sorrow. Who can stem the force of destiny? Fate executes every act, at the time and place, and in the manner it has to be so executed. Man is nothing before it, he is helpless.
Parîkchit was a well-bred virtuous boy; he watched the sadness that pervaded every face; he noted the incidents and happenings in the Palace; he had sat on the throne, since he felt he should not transgress the command of his elders; but, suddenly, he fell at Dharmaraja’s feet and pleaded pathetically, “My Lord! Whatever your wish, I shall honor and obey, but, please do not desert me and leave me alone”. He did not give up his hold on the feet; he continued weeping and praying. All who saw the tragic scene wept; even the hardest could not but weep. It was terrible, fraught with dire distress.
The boy fell at the feet of his grandfather Arjuna and cried piteously. “Grandpa! How can you move out of here with peace in your hearts, after placing this heavy burden of empire on my head? I am a child who knows nothing; I am very foolish; I am ignorant; I have no qualifications; I am incompetent. It is not just, it is not proper for you to lay on my head this empire which has been in the care of a long line of heroes, statesmen, warriors and wise men and remove yourselves to the forest. Let some one else bear this responsibility; take me also with you to the forest”, he pleaded.
The Exit of the Pândavas
It was a pitiable sight. Parîkchit, the little boy with the crown on his head, plaintively approached his grandfather and others, and holding their feet fast, he prayed that he too might accompany them to the forests; he would gladly eat roots and fruits, engage himself in sacred ceremonials, and be happy. “Please entrust the kingdom to some virtuous minister and allow me to come with you, so that I might serve you and make my life worthwhile,” he appealed. Those around him in the hall were moved into tears by his agony at being left behind. Rocks would have melted in sympathy, had they listened to his anguish.
Dharmaraja managed heroically to suppress his emotions; he lifted the boy and placed him on his lap; he poured consolation and courage into his ear. “Dear child! Don’t become so weak-minded. You are a child born in the dynasty of Bhâratha; can a sheep be born in a dynasty of lions? Your father, mother and grandfathers are full of courage, bold champions of truth, who made their names famous in the world. So, it is not fit that you should weep thus. Hence-forward, these brahmins are your grandfathers, your parents. Take their advice and rule this land accordingly. Live up to the grandeur and glory of your name. Stop grieving over us”.
But, the boy was lovingly adamant, in spite of all the persuasive advice of the elders. He lamented, “Grandpa, I am too young to convince you with my pleading. I know it. But listen, I lost my father, even before I was born. You brought me up with the care and affection that my father would have showered upon me, had he lived. And now, when I love to sing and play and roam about with my companions, you hoist on my head this great empire. Can this be right, is it justice? Instead of leaving me alone steeped in sorrow, you could leave, after severing my head with your sword. Alas, what harm have I done to you that you should punish me thus? Could you not have scotched me in my mother’s womb, on the day my father died? Was my lifeless body resuscitated in order that you may inflict this assignment on me?” Parîkchit continued to condemn himself for his fate, in this strain, for long.
Arjuna could not stand it any longer. He covered the boy’s mouth with his palm; he caressed the child with sweet affection; he pressed his lips on his head. “Child, it is a disgrace to the kshatriya clan that you should behave like a coward. We too lost our father; we too grew up under the fostering care of ascetics and monks; at last, we were able to win the affection of our uncle and, after overcoming many a formidable handicap, we established our sovereignty over this kingdom. He who guarded us, guided us and directed our steps throughout will certainly be your guardian and guide. Don’t lose heart, follow the advice which these brahmins and Ministers will render, for some years. Later, you will be able to solve the problems of empire yourself”, he said.
Parîkchit could not be assuaged; He said, “Grandpa, are you now discarding the throne and the kingdom and placing them on my head? Well, be with me for some years more, teach me the art of government and the principles, and then, you can leave. I was happy and free, romping and roaming with no trace of care, for I was confident I had grandfathers to guard me, though I had lost my father. Now, if you too desert me, what will be my fate? You were the centre of all my hopes, the support on which I relied. And, you are plunging me suddenly into despair and deserting me.” He wept aloud, rending the hearts of all who saw and heard. He rolled on the ground, holding the feet of the elders.
Arjuna lifted him up with both hands and embraced him. He kept him on his shoulders and fondled him. He wiped the strings of pearly tears that rolled down his cheeks. He could not arrest his own tears while doing so. Turning to the brahmins standing around gazing at all this, Arjuna asked them why they were only silent witnesses, not attempting to console the boy.
They were really too full of grief themselves to think of assuaging Parîkchit. They said, “The sharp words this child is lisping are wounding us like arrows; his anguish is petrifying us. What can we tell him? How can we console him? What can instill courage into him now”, and they too were overcome with grief.
Kripâcârya, the teacher of the family, succeeded at last in suppressing his grief; he wiped off the tears from his own eyes with the ends of his garment; he spoke to Arjuna thus: “What do you want us to tell this boy? We do not feel like saying anything. We are struck dumb. You are this day renouncing the empire which you gained after a victory for which rivers of blood flowed, for which millions laid down their lives, for which you strove for years. You have not ruled over it for a thousand years, no, not even for a couple of centuries, or even for seventy years. Who can say what lies in the womb of time? Of course, the actions of the great will have some inner purpose. Pardon us, you are our overlords, you know best”. Kripâcârya stood with head bent, for he was heavy with grief.
Dharmaraja came forward a few steps and addressed the âcârya. “Every act of mine was according to the command of Krishna, as you know. I dedicated all my activity to Him. I played my role as He dictated. I did not desire or retain any individuality. All my duties and obligations have faded out with the departure of the Lord. Of what use is the survival of Dharmaraja alone, now? I cannot continue on this land even for a minute, since Kali has come to sway. It is your duty now to guard this boy, guide and train him so that he may be secure on the throne. Preserve the adherence to dharma; continue the dynastic traditions; maintain the honor and fair name of the line. Love him and foster him as your own son”. Thus saying, he placed the hands of Parîkchit in the hands of Kripâcârya. All those who were there, including Dharmaraja and the âcârya were in tears that moment.
In a few minutes, Vajra (Aniruddha’s son) was called in; he was informed that from that very day, the Emperor of Bhârath was Parîkchit. So, Vajra paid homage to him as befits the suzerain of the continent. The Ministers and the brahmins too honored him as their ruler with due ceremony. Afterwards, Dharmaraja held the hands of Parîkchit and placing on them the hand of Vajra, he announced, “This is Vajra, the Lord of the Yadavas; I now install him as the King of Mathurâ and of the S’ûrasena State” [S.B. 1.15:39]. He placed on Vajra’s head a diamond-studded golden crown. “Be brothers both of you, staunch allies in peace and war, inseparable in friendship”, he exhorted. He called Vajra aside and advised him to treat Parîkchit as his own paternal uncle; he advised Parîkchit to revere Vajra as he would revere Aniruddha himself; he told both of them that they ought to ensure the continuance of dharma unimpaired, and to consider the welfare of their subjects as the very breath of life.
Then, the Pândava brothers showered auspicious rice grains on the heads of both Vajra and Parîkchit. The brahmin priests recited appropriate mantras. Trumpets flared and drums were beaten. With tears in their eyes, Vajra and Parîkchit prostrated before Dharmaraja and the rest. The Pândava brothers could not look the two dear darlings in the face; they were so overcome with detachment. They just held them in one quick embrace and spoke just one word of loving farewell, before they filed out into the beyond, with nothing on, except the clothes they wore.
At this, the kith and kin, the citizens, the queens and others in the zenana, the courtiers and the maids, all raised pathetic wails. The citizens fell across the path of the ruler and tried to hold fast to his feet. They prayed piteously that he should stay. They appealed to them to take them also with them. Some brushed aside objections and ran along with the royal party. The Pândavas, however, never turned back; they never spoke a word. Their ears were closed to entreaties. Their minds were fixed on Krishna; for the rest, they moved straight on, like men blinded by a fanatic resolve, heeding none, observing none.
Draupadî, with her maids, came running behind them calling on her lords one by one separately by name. Parîkchit too pursued them along the streets, but, he was caught and carried away by the Ministers who tried to pacify him, though they were themselves greatly affected. But, the Pândavas walked unconcerned, neither asking those who followed, to stop nor permitting those who desired to join to come along. Hundreds of men and women had to stop when they were too tired and they mournfully returned to the capital. Others who were hardier kept on. The women of the zenana, unused to sun and winds, were exhausted quickly and they fell fainting on the road. Maids lamenting the terrible events brought relief to them; some ventured even into the forest, but, had to return fast, after encountering the horrors of the wilderness. When dust storms rose, many citizens placed the dust reverentially on their foreheads, taking it to be the dust of the feet of Dharmaraja. Thus, passing through bush and briar, the brothers soon got out of sight. What then could the people do? They returned to Hastinâpura heavy with unbearable grief.
The Pândavas stuck to the vow of Mahaprasthanam. That vow required that they should not eat or drink anything on the way, they should not rest, they must proceed straight on, in the northern direction, until they fall dead. This is the vow they observed, so grim and tight
The Reign of Emperor Parîkchit
The Pândavas were journeying along with their eyes fixed straight ahead, awaiting the moment when their bodies will collapse out of sheer exhaustion and death finishes their earthly career. Their hearts were filled with emotions centering around Krishna, His play and pranks, His grace and glory; they had no room for any other emotion or thought. Draupadî their queen, dragged herself along for a considerable distance, but, she became too weak to continue. Her lords did not turn back, even when she appealed; she realized, highly intelligent and devoted that she was, that they were engaged in a terrific uncompromising vow. She decided that the bond that tagged her to them so long had loosened and she had to meet her end. She fainted and fell; she breathed her last, with her mind fixed on Krishna.
The Pândavas, too, walked on in staunch discipline and met their separate ends, at the times and places in which each had to shed his body. The body became dust, but, the soul merged in Krishna. They attained immortality, losing themselves in the immortal essence of Krishna.
The reign of the Pândava from the throne of Imperial Bhârath, Parîkchit ruled his dominion adhering to the principles of justice and morality, lovingly fostering his subjects and guarding them from harm with parental care and affection. Whatever may be the task he set his hands upon, Parîkchit did not move one step, without calling to mind Krishna and his grandfathers and praying to them to crown him with success. He prayed to them morning and evening to direct him along the correct path of virtue. He felt as if he was the heart of his people and as if they were his body.
Throughout his empire, the very wind was reluctant to displace any article, for fear of being implicated in theft. There was not the slightest fear of thieves. Nor was there any trace of injustice immorality or illwill. The kingdom gained great fame thereby. At the slightest sign of any such evil, Parîkchit overcame it by means of terrific punishment and instituted preventive steps which decidedly scotched it. Since dharma was thus fostered with love and reverence, even Nature was kind. Rains came in time, crops grew high and rich, granaries were filled; people were contented, happy and unafraid.
When Parîkchit was on the throne, ruling over the empire with great care, the Ministers and the spiritual masters who were the guides of the dynasty conferred among themselves and resolved that they must approach the King with a proposal that he should enter the grihastha stage, by taking on a partner by marriage. They submitted their prayer likewise. When they found him agreeable, they asked his maternal uncle, Utthara of the Virata Royal Family, for the hand of his daughter. The brahmins who were sent to Virata returned with the happy news that he was happy over the proposal. The priests fixed an auspicious day and hour and the marriage of Parîkchit and Irâvatî, the daughter of Utthara was celebrated with pomp and splendor.
Queen Irâvatî was a great sadhvimani (gem among virtuous women). She was endowed with a tenacious love for truth; she was devoted to her husband. Whenever she heard that anyone in the empire was in distress, she was pained much, as if she herself had the calamity. She mixed with the women of the capital, and acquainted herself with their aspirations and achievements. She provided them with encouragement and consolation. She fostered the growth of virtue among them, by teaching and example; she established institutions to promote and protect good character. She allowed women of all grades to approach her, for she had no false pride. She treated every one with reverence; she was an angel of fortitude and charity. Every one praised her as Goddess Annapurna (the bestower of food) Herself in human form.
During the reign of this King and his Queen, men and women lived in peace and happily, untroubled by want. Parîkchit too arranged for the performance of many Vedic sacrifices and rituals, for the prosperity of mankind. He arranged the worship in temples and homes of God in His manifold Forms, with His manifold Names. By these and other means, faith in God and love of man were implanted in the hearts of his subjects. He promoted measures to ensure peace and harmony among the sages and saints who were living as recluses in forest hermitages; he guarded them in their silent retreats from man and beast. He exhorted them to probe into themselves and discover the laws of self-control. He supervised personally the steps taken to ensure their safety and security.
Thus, Parîkchit and Irâvatî ruled over their empire like Îs’vara and Pârvatî rule over the universe with parental love and care. Shortly, news that the queen was in the family-way spread among the women and was confirmed. The subjects prayed to God, at home and in public places of worship, that He should bless the Queen with a son who will be endowed with all virtues and strength of character, who will be a staunch and unflinching adherent of dharma, and who will live the full span of years. In those ages, subjects loved the king so intensely that they renounced their own joys to please him; the king too loved them and guarded them as the apple of his eye.
Parîkchit saw and heard the enthusiasm of the subjects at the auspicious prospect of the advent of a child to continue the dynasty. He shed tears of joy, when he realized how deeply his people were attached to him. He felt that the affection was the contribution of his grandfathers and the gift of Lord Krishna’s grace.
Parîkchit did not deviate from his resolve to serve the best interests of his people. He gave up his own likes and dislikes for this great task. He looked upon his subjects as his own children. The bond that brought the king and people together in such close and loving relationship was indeed of a high holy order. Therefore, his people used to say that they would prefer his kingdom to heaven itself.
Meanwhile, on an auspicious day, the son was born and the whole land was filled with inexpressible joy. Sages, scholars and statesmen sent blessings and good wishes to the King. They declared that new light had dawned on the state. Astrologers consulted their books and calculating fortunes of the child from then, they announced that he will enhance the glory of the dynesty, bring added reputation on his father’s name, and win the esteem and love of his people.
Parîkchit invited the family Preceptor to the palace and consulted also the brahmin priests, in order to fix a day for the Naming Ceremony of the child. Accordingly, during an elaborately arranged festival rite, the child was named Janamejaya. The brahmins who were present were given costly gifts, on the suggestion of Kripâcârya, the doyen among the brahmin advisers of the King. Cows with golden ornaments on horns and hoofs were given away in large numbers. All were fed sumptuously for days on end.
When Dharmaraja (Yudhisthhira) set out upon his final journey he had entrusted the little boy on the throne to Kripâcârya and as a true trustee Kripa was advising the boy-king and training him in statecraft. As he grew up, this dependence became more fruitful; the King seldom strayed from his advice; he sought it always and followed it with reverential faith. Hence, the sages and recluses of the kingdom prayed for his health and long life and extolled the people’s happiness and the ruler’s solicitude for their welfare.
Parîkchit was the overlord of the kings of the earth, for, he had the blessings of the great, the counsel of the wise and the grace of God. After his long campaign of conquest, he encamped on the bank of the Ganges and celebrated as a mark of his victory, three Horse Sacrifices (As’vamedha-yajña) with all the prescribed rituals. His fame spread not only over the length and breadth of India but even far beyond its borders. He was acclaimed by every tongue as the Great Jewel of the Bharatha Royal Family. There was no state that had not bent under his yoke; there was no ruler who set his command at naught. He had no need to march at the head of his army to subdue any people or ruler. All were only too willing to pay him homage. He was master of all lands and all peoples.
The spirit of wickedness and vice known as Kali had already come in, with the end of the Krishna Era, so, it was raising its poisonous hood, off and on. But, Parîkchit was vigilant. He adopted measures to counterfoil its stratagems and machinations. He sought to discover the footprints of his grandfathers throughout his realm, in the reforms they introduced and the institutions they established. He reminded his people whenever occasion arose, of their nobility and aspirations; he told them of Krishna, His grace and mercy. He shed tears of joy and gratitude whenever he related to them these stories. He was sincerely pining for the chance he had lost, to have the Pândavas and Krishna by his side (See also S.B. 1:16).
He knew that Kali had entered his kingdom and was endeavoring to fix its hold on the minds of men. When he became cognisant of its activities he investigated into the conditions favorable for its spread and with the active cooperation of his teachers and the elders, he enacted special laws to counteract the tendencies Kali aroused. When the elders advised him that such precautions need be taken only when wickedness emerges as crimes, Parîkchit did not support that opinion. He was for greater alertness. He wanted to give the lead to his people. “Yatha raja, thatha praja” (as the ruler, so the ruled) is the proverb, he said. He declared that Kali or wickedness can have sway only through the incompetence of the ruler, the loss of self-reliance among the people, the decline in the earning of grace. These three are the factors that promote the plans of Kali. Without them, man cannot fall a prey to his wiles. Aware of this, Parîkchit went round his kingdom and sought, day and night, to drive Kali out of his haunts. That is to say, he attempted to give no room to injustice, force, evil character, untruth and violence; his preventive plans were effective. He had so much quiet in his kingdom that he campaigned in the Bhadrasva, Kethumala, Uttarakuru and Kimpurusha regions
Reverence for Krishna
Whenever Mahârâja Parîkchit toured any region, the rulers and kings of that area welcomed him enthusiastically with appropriate honors, military and civil. They declared that they were ever ready to render him loyal service, whatever the nature of service that he required them to do. Parîkchit replied that he had no need of their services and that he expected from them only the promotion of the happiness and prosperity of the people entrusted to their care. He advised them to devote special attention to the protection of brahmins and women, guarding them against harm. He exhorted them to foster the worship of God throughout their dominions. Those were the only requests he made to those who were his tributary kings.
In some important regions of his empire, the people entertained him with folk-songs, depicting the fame and prowess of his ancestors; they sang of the excellences and exploits of the Pândava brothers. The songs extolled the mercy and grace which Lord Krishna showered on the Pândavas and the devotion and faith with which the Pândavas revered Lord Krishna at all times. They also enacted folk-plays, taking on the roles of Pândavas and Kauravas, with Krishna in their midst, unravelling the story that He had planned with these instruments.
When Parîkchit heard these songs and saw these plays, tears rolled down his cheeks, in spite of his efforts to control his emotions. The ministrels and story-tellers, the actors and stage-men – all discovered that their Emperor was fascinated by plays and songs having these themes only – so, they gave up other fields in their search for material and concentrated their attention on the dynastic history of Parîkchit and the overpowering grace with which Krishna saved it at every turn. The Emperor listened reverentially and sat through with great devotion; his gratefulness was shown in other ways too. He was supremely happy; he confirmed from his ministers and elders that the tales were completely true; at this, his faith and devotion multiplied and he sought these chances more often and enjoyed them even more. He treated the performers and musicians with intense affection and honored them with lavish prizes.
When news spread that Parîkchit delighted in hearing songs about his forefathers and Krishna, those, who had personal experience of these, gathered around him, wherever he went. They were themselves eager to see a ruler, who was so full of devotion. One day, while returning from Mathurâ, an old brahmin was among those who stood on the side of the road, to catch the imperial eye. The Mahârâja did not fail to notice him. He approached him and enquired lovingly about his welfare. The brahmin said, “Mahârâja, years ago, when your grandfather Dharmaraja (Yudhishthhira) performed the horse-sacrifice, in the divine presence of Krishna, I officiated as a ritvik, as the chief priest, to conduct the rites. On that occasion Krishna approached me and enquired lovingly about my welfare, with as much affection as you are now showing me. Your words bring those words to my memory”. The rest of the brahmin’s words were smothered by his sobs and tears. At this, Parîkchit exclaimed, “O, how fortunate you are! To be spoken to by the Lord in the Yajñasala!” He took off the cloth he had on his shoulders and placing it folded on the floor, he pleaded with the old man to sit upon it comfortably and tell him more about his experiences at the Yajñasala and other places with the Lord.
Saying feebly, “My heart is torn to pieces because it cannot endure the grief at the error I committed that day,” the old man wept. The Mahârâja enquired, “Master, what is the error? If it can be revealed to me, I would like to know”. He held both the hands of the old man, clasping them together and prayed to him to disclose it to him.
The brahmin replied: “That day, all of us, who were initiated into the holy order of priests for the yajña, put on the sacred clothes gifted to us and entered the sanctified enclosure. Then, Lord Krishna sitting on a golden plankseat, in front of a golden plate, poured water from a golden vessel on – no, I cannot tell further – I do not get words”. The old man wept and sobbed and could not proceed with this narrative.
This sudden stoppage of the story just when it had reached a critical point only heightened the curiosity of the Emperor. He prayed, “what happened, Master, tell me please”. The brahmin took courage to comply. “O King, what shall I say? We ritviks were asked to place our feet on that golden plate and the Lord washed the feet of each one of us; He dried the feet later, with the cloth on His shoulder; He sprinkled the water from our feet on His Head. Since I was the chief among them, He was consulting me about all the details of the rite. Lastly, on the day of the Valedictory Offering in the sacrificial fire, He granted us a vision of Himself, with Sankha (conchshell), Cakra (disk or Sudars’ana) and Gadâ (club, mace) [and lotus flower] in His divine hands, and that vision liberated us all from bondage for ever. Now, that Merciful Lord is away from us, I feel that seeing you is like tasting a few drops of refreshing water by a poor fellow, dying of thirst in the raging sun of the desert.
The brahmin concluded his account and holding the hands of Parîkchit, he placed on the king’s head a few grains of sanctified rice, which he had with him tied in a knot at the corner of his dhoti. Parîkchit acknowledged the blessing and exclaimed “Master, I am indeed fortunate. Though I could not see Lord Krishna in person, I have today the good luck of meeting the feet that He revered”, and, so saying, he fell at the old brahmin’s feet. He called the ministers to his side and instructed them to place the brahmin in a palanquin and take him to his home. He also gave him large quantities of valuable gifts and treasure.
Emperor Parîkchit journeyed in state over the entire Indian continent, acquainting himself with the administrative excellence of the rule of his grandfathers, with the unique relationship which they had established between themselves and Lord Krishna who had then come down on earth as Man, listening to the experiences of many a saint and scholar who lived in those halcyon days, and reflecting on those cheering memories, as he travelled along. Often he was overcome with remorse at the thought that he was not alive during those days when the grandparents were in such heavenly bliss.
Vyâsa’s Voice that Heals
While thus immersed in the joy of recollecting the annals of his forefathers and the glory of those bygone days with Krishna, Vyâsa, the great sage, appeared before him quite unexpectedly. He welcomed him with great honor and seated him on an elevated seat. The sage praised the rule of Parîkchit and said that he was reminded of the reign of the Pândavas. The young king listened reverentially to his talk. After some time, Vyâsa said, “Son, I must be going now”. But Parîkchit said, “It is like placing a dish of delicacies before a starving man and just when he is about to stretch his hand towards it, dragging it away from his grasp. Your accounts of the adventures of my grandfathers and of the splendor of S’rî Krishna are like the most precious gems spread out before me; but, you cause the most painful disappointment to me by refusing to let me have them. Your leaving me just now makes me feel desperately sorry”. [See also S’rîmad Bhâgavatam Chapter 4: The appearance of Nârada]
He pleaded with the sage to stay a little longer. “Tell me on what mission you have come. Be with me for some more time and assuage the hunger that is gnawing me. I missed the great good fortune that my grandparents had to spend their lives with the Lord Himself. I shall save myself from decline, at least by listening to their exploits and their devotion which drew upon them His grace. Seeing the King who prayed in great earnestness and humility, Vyâsa said, “Son do not feel that you are in any way inferior or less endowed with good fortune. I declare that no one else had such good fortune as you earned. For, you drew upon yourself the grace of the Lord, the moment you were born. The Lord, Vâsudeva, gave you the breath of life; He raised you in His arms and played with you, while you were yet a baby. You too stuck to Him so close that you scarce kept aloof. Your youngest grandfather, Sahadeva, had to pluck you by force from Krishna and hand you over to the women in the inner halls. You were named ceremonially by Vâsudeva Himself. What a memorable scene it was! You showed us that you were a wonderful child; you followed with your eyes the Lord wherever He moved, whichever side He turned. You were intent on “parîksha” (finding out) where He was, as no one else was in that hall that day. Krishna hid Himself very cleverly behind pillars and tried various means of diverting your attention away from Him; but, you proved too clever even for Him! Your eyes were searching for Him alone; they saw only Him and His splendid Form.
All of us who were then present were wonderstruck at your devotion and concentration. It appeared as if you were examining each face and trying to find out whether it was Krishna’s; your face fell when you saw it was not; it blossomed when your eyes saw Him and Him only. Scholars and simple folks, ryots and Rajas, realised that you were a remarkable child. That is the reason why, when your grandfather Dharmaraja prayed to Him to give you an appropriate name. He named you after your strange behavior, Parîkchit (he who examines, he who tries to find out).
When the Lord announced this name to Dharmaraja, in the hearing of that vast gathering of courtiers and scholars and sages, they all applauded, saying, “Very apt, excellent, fine”. Being so richly favored by fortune it is not meet that you should condemn yourself as unlucky. You were fondled by the Lord; He played with you and watched your gambols; He gave you your name. How few earn this fortune! Do not consider these just common gifts of grace”.
Tears of joy welled from the eyes of Parîkchit at these words. He had a question rising up from his throat, but, Vyâsa saw him swallowing it and so he patted him on the shoulder and encouraged him to ask it. “Son, it looks as if you desire to put some query to me. Ask without hesitation, do not quail”. Taking courage from this prompting, Parîkchit said, “Worthy master! Man cannot know the value of either joy or grief, unless he is aware of them. The joyful contacts of which you spoke now were awarded me when I was scarcely aware of the bliss inherent in them. Real joy can be tasted only when one is conscious of its value. If a child is given a billion-rupee diamond, it will only deal with it as a lump of glass. The happiness of being with the Lord, which you say I had in my childhood, is as ineffective as the joy experienced in past births. I did not know then what precious moments they were. Had I known it, were I capable of knowing it, I could have treasured that joy for ever. Now it is all mere inference. I have no ocular proof of the grace of the Lord which I received then; so, I depend now on auricular proof only. So, please tell me of the greatness and glory of Krishna; let my ears drink the nectar of those stories”.
Vyâsa was moved by his entreaty; he agreed. “Son, do you consider His lîlâs to be just one or two? How can I relate to you His lîlâs which are beyond one’s capacity to enumerate. So, ask about what He did in connection with some particular person, or during some particular incident or situation; I shall gladly tell you all the details”. Parîkchit was elated at this; he begged him with folded hands, “Master! Tell me how this great attachment between my grandparents and Lord Krishna was born.”
Vyâsa burst into laughter. “Son, your earnestness surprises me much. For, only such earnest individuals can get jñâna (knowledge); I am delighted that you have this deep yearning. So, I shall tell you what you have asked for. Listen!” Saying this, Vyâsa made himself comfortable in his seat; Parîkchit, too, got ready to hear, with a heart that was blossoming with joy and ears that widened in the ambition to learn.
“Son! King Drupada grew anxious to give his only daughter in marriage to a suitable groom but, could not succeed in securing one, in spite of the most diligent search. So, he announced a Svayamvara (festival for choice of bridegroom) and, kings of great might and majesty assembled in his capital, along with scholars endowed with charming personality, all eager to wed the princess whose beauty was unexcelled in the three worlds. They were all proud of their wealth and valor, for they felt they could win her by those attainments.
In that assembly hall, the king had fixed a contrivance on a pillar. It was a wheel revolving fast, a wheel that was reflected in a sheet of water, below the pillar on which it turned. The wheel had a ‘fish’ tied on it: the competitors for the hand of the princess were asked, one by one, to come forward and, drawing the bow looking at the reflection, shoot at the fish-target up above. Drupada announced his intention to give away his daughter in marriage to whomsoever hit the target, so prepared. The city was full of princes and kings who had arrived to try their hands at this unique festival of bowmanship.
News of this festival reached the ears of your grandparents who had then assumed the role of brahmins, to mislead the wily Kauravas. They felt at first that they should not come out in the open on that occasion; but, Arjuna, your grandfather, was able to persuade his brothers to attend the festival of valor, for, as he said, no kshatriya should stay away when bowmen compete for a worthy prize.
Thus it happened that the five brothers sat among the assembly, in the garb of brahmins, like a group of lions, casting a halo of heroism around; all eyes were drawn towards the place where they sat; people commented on their presence, many in admiration, some in derision; some praised them as champions, some laughed at them as prize fighters or cooks. The whispers aroused by them spread all round.
Lord Krishna had come for that festival. His eyes were fixed on Arjuna all the time; this was noticed by his brother, Balarâma, who spoke something to his brother. At last, the Svayamvara contest began; one by one, the candidates proceeded to the shadow seen in the water and aimed the arrow at the ‘fish’ rotating above. They failed and returned pale with humiliation. They walked back to their seats, heavy with disappointment and shame, and sat sunk in sorrow.
Krishna had no intention to rise and have a try at the target, for, He sat quiet in His own place. If He had that intention, He could have quite easily hit the ‘fish’ and win. But, who can gauge the depths of His mind?
Just then, Arjuna rose and proceeded towards the ‘contrivance’, casting a lightning flash of brilliance over the assembly by the heroic aura of his personality. Draupadî, the princess, lifted her head and watched him in admiration. Her mind merged in that flash of light. In an instant, Arjuna’s arrow split the ‘fish’, he won. The applause of the gathering rose to the skies. The princess came forward and wedded him, placing a garland of flowers around his neck and holding his hand.
When Arjuna emerged from the Hall holding the hand of the bride, the horde of defeated kings and princes yelled that the rules of the contest were broken, since a brahmin who had no right to compete in bowmanship was allowed to participate and declared the winner. They fell on your grandfather, in an angry clump. But, Bhîma pulled out a huge tree by its roots and whirled it at the crowd of foiled kings.
The Escape of Takshaka
Observing the fight between the disappointed groups of suitors and the Pândava brothers, Krishna and Balarâma were smiling within themselves in appreciation of the successful feat of Arjuna. Your grandfathers had no knowledge who they were; they had not seen them any time previously.
But when the Pândavas reached their residence, the humble home of a potter, with the newly-won bride, the daughter of Drupada, and when Dharmaraja, the eldest brother, was describing with great exultation the events of the day, Balarâma and Krishna, dressed in yellow silk and magnificent to behold, entered that lowly cottage. They fell at the feet of aged Kuntî, mother of your grandfathers. “Auntie! We are your nephews”, they said. “We are the children of Nanda and Yas’odâ”, and introduced themselves. Then, they touched the feet of Dharmaraja, prostrating themselves before him. Krishna approached Arjuna and drew him aside, with a sweet simple expression of affection. “I know you, but you do not know me, I am seeing you now for the very first time. I am the son of Vasudeva, my name is S’rî Krishna. I am younger than you are; still, when you achieved that victory in the Royal Palace, I recognised that you are one of the Pândava brothers and so, I understood that you had escaped from the palace of lac wherein you were when it was set on fire. From the moment my eyes fell on you at the gathering of suitors there, I somehow felt that you are Arjuna; I told my brother so. This is my brother, Balarâma. I was very happy that I recognised you and my brother too shared the joy. At last, I am able to meet you. The bride is the embodiment of virtue and intelligence.”
Speaking thus, Krishna called Arjuna to a distance and whispered in his ear, “Cousin! It is not advisable that you come out in the open so soon. Stay on in disguise, for short periods, in one place or other, for some more time”. Then, He took leave of His aunt and others and left, with His elder brother Balarâma.
From that day, the affection between Krishna and Arjuna grew more and more intense; it grew into a huge tree and yielded fruits rich with sweetness, which they shared. In that sweetness, their minds merged and became one. Mark! The first time your grandfather met Lord S’rî Krishna, He was at the Wedding Hall of Draupadî, the Kalyana Mantapa. The significance of this lies in the fact that they too were bound throughout the years in bonds of love and affection of unfailing friendship. To consummate that friendship, Krishna taught him the highest wisdom. “Did you note how chummy that consummate trickster was with your grandfather?” With that question, Vyâsa rose and collected his things, in an attempt to depart.
Observing this, Parîkchit pleaded piteously, wiping the tears of joy that filled his eyes, “Master! You have made the Lord stand clear before me, with your description of His lîlâ and His grace. Please tell me more of the many occasions on which the Lord showered His mercy on my grandfathers, how He moved close with them and rescued them from calamity; sleep is deserting my eyes and prompting me to listen to the stories of God. Make this night holy by relating to me the glory of the Lord. That alone can give me satisfaction. Let me spend the night in His thoughts…., your silence is causing me great agony.”
Vyâsa saw the steadfastness and devotion of Parîkchit and changed his decision. He said, “Son! Were the mighty miracles of Krishna one or two in number, I could have described them to you. If one had a billion tongues, and the whole of eternity before him, description of His majesty can never be exhausted. All the Gods bowed before Him with folded hands. Sometimes He would raise His bhaktas to the skies; very soon He will drag them down into the depths. He treated the world as a puppet show. He was always radiant with His smile. He never knew anxiety, disappointment or distress.
He behaved sometimes like a common man, sometimes as an innocent child, at other times as a near kinsman, or as an intimate friend, or as a masterful monarch. Sometimes He behaved as a playful cowherd boy. He had the capacity and cleverness to play all roles with unique distinction. He loved your grandfather, Arjuna, with special fervor. He used to take him with Him, whatever the occasion or place. Arjuna could move about freely even in the inner apartments of the residence of the Lord. The Lord used to play with your grandfather in the waters of the Yamunâ, diving at one place and rising at a distant spot to surprise him, calling on him to do likewise if he could, competing with him in various games, games which defy description and identification. All of a sudden, He would take Arjuna to a solitary place and converse with him there on some mysteries. He used often to discard the smooth silken bed and sleep with His head on Arjuna’s lap instead.
Your grandfather too, reciprocated that love to the full. Though sometimes they were found angry against each other, talking as if they were enraged, they made up very soon and resumed friendly conversation quickly. My dear son, it can be said that they were Nara and Nârâyana, like the body and the breath; there was no Arjuna without Krishna and no Krishna without Arjuna. There was no secret which your grandfather did not share with Krishna or which Krishna did not share with your grandfather. Which particular episode in their relationship am I to tell you now? Ask me any one which you would like to hear and I shall gladly relate it to you.”
The Escape of Takshaka
When Vyâsa yielded thus to his importunity, Parîkchit who was all attention replied in a voice stuttering with emotion, “Master! I do not see clearly the reason why my grandfather destroyed the Khândavavana (the Khândava Forest) by means of a conflagration. Tell me how Lord Krishna helped him in the exploit. Make me happy by relating to me this episode”. Parîkchit fell at the sage’s feet and prayed that this may be described to him. Vyâsa complimented him and said, “Right, you have made a request which does credit to you. I shall comply.”
He continued, “Once, when Krishna and Arjuna were resting happily on the sands of the Yamunâ, oblivious of the world and its tangles, an aged brahmin approached them and said, ‘Son! I am very hungry. Give me a little food to appease it. I cannot keep alive, unless you give me this’. At these words, they were suddenly made aware of a strange presence. Though outwardly he appeared natural, there was a divine effulgence around him which marked him out as someone apart. Meanwhile, Krishna came forward and accosted him. ‘Great brahmin! You do not appear merely human. You will not be satisfied with ordinary food, I can surmise. Ask me the food that you desire for; I shall certainly give you that’. Arjuna stood at a distance watching this conversation with amazement. For, he heard Krishna, who allayed the hunger of all beings in all the worlds, asking this lean hungry brahmin, what food will satisfy him! Krishna was enquiring so quietly and with so much consideration that Arjuna was filled with curiosity and surprise.”
The brahmin suddenly burst into laughter and said, “Lord! Do you not recognise me? There is nothing in this world – nay – in all the fourteen worlds that is beyond your ken. I am Prâna, one vital principle, in your creation. I am Agni the fire-principle. I regret to inform you that even I have fallen ill. To cure my indigestion I feel I must consume the arboreal juice of the Khândava forest. That forest must be burnt in flames. That alone can appease my hunger and restore my appetite.”
At this, Krishna asked him, “Well, consume it; why did you come to Me for this? This is indeed amazing; you have power to reduce the universe into ash! Why do you crave another’s help?” When Krishna asked him thus, pretending that he did not know, Agni answered, “Lord! You know everything. Does not the great serpent, Takshaka live in this Khândavavana, with his kith and kin, his attendants and associates? Indra, the god of rain is his close friend; so, he has undertaken the responsibility of guarding that forest against fire and other calamities. He has given his word of honor that he will save the forest and thus, save Takshaka. So, as soon as I start eating up the forest, Indra will send his minions and soak the place with rain. I will be scotched into inaction; I cannot eat any more. So, I am taking refuge in You.”
Krishna laughed at his fears. He said, “If so, we shall help you out. Tell us what we should do and we are ready.” Agni was delighted. He exclaimed, “I am indeed blessed; I am saved. You can, if you only decide to keep back the rain that Indra showers by covering the forest with a roof of arrows that will allow me to consume the Vana undisturbed.” Krishna assured him that his request will be fulfilled.
Your grandfather addressed Agni thus: “You can burn up the Vana, without hesitation. My arms have enough strength to oppose and overwhelm not one Indra but even ten millions of them. But, I have not got with me the arrows necessary for this operation and the chariot that can carry all that weight. If these are supplied, I shall carry out your task, with the gracious permission of Krishna.”
Agnideva, the God of Fire, was gladdened at this. He granted Arjuna the two boons: an inexhaustible arrow-sheath from which he could draw out a continuous supply of arrows and a chariot with the Maruthi flag. Besides, he created the Âgneya-âstra, the weapon of fire, and placing it in the hands of Krishna, took leave of them both.
Son, Parîkchit! Krishna, you must remember, accepted that weapon only to satisfy the God of Fire. He has no need of such weapons. There is no weapon more effective than His Will. It can, in the fraction of a second, transform the earth into sky and the sky into the earth. He acts the human role when He moves among people and so, men frame their own guesses without understanding the inner significance of His acts. That is but the consequence of the delusion that veils the vision of man.
After taking leave of Krishna in this manner, Agnideva started consuming the Khândava Forest. Just then, exactly as anticipated, Indra sent his attendants on the mission of saving the forest from destruction. Their efforts failed to rescue it. They returned to their master and reported their discomfiture. So, Indra himself with his stalwart followers rushed to the scene, to save the Khândavavana, and fell upon your grandfather, Arjuna [see also S.B. 1.15: 8].
Arjuna received him with a shower of arrows from his famous Gândîva bow. Indra, too, fought with all his might. Within minutes, the followers of Indra turned back, unable to withstand the rain of arrows which pelted them from all sides. Indra realised that the person who inflicted the defeat was his own son, Arjuna. He was overcome with shame at this. He regretted that he could not defeat his own progeny, and, returned sad and chastened.
Meanwhile, the God of Fire consumed the forest merrily and with hearty appetite, swallowing everything with his thousand red tongues and raising a huge conflagration. Only ash was left behind. Seeing this, the birds and beasts of the forest tried in vain to escape from the holocaust, but, they could not; they were caught by the flames and roasted alive. Krishna was going round the forest in His chariot to prevent any denizen from running out into the open for safety, especially the animals and the snakes. He discovered the snake Takshaka, a great friend of Indra, in the act of escaping from the fire. Krishna called Arjuna near Him to point this out to him; that gave Takshaka the chance to wriggle out and speed towards Kurukshetra.
But, Agni pursued the snake; He sought the help of the windgod to catch up with his fleeing speed. So, Takshaka sought refuge with Maya (Dânava) the architect of the Devas and the Dânavas; he and Maya were moving fast towards Kurukshetra. Krishna noticed this and He pursued them. Just then, Maya surrendered to Arjuna and sought his protection for himself and his protege, Takshaka. Arjuna granted his wish and so, Maya, out of a sense of gratefulness, fell at his feet and said, “0, son of Pându, I will never forget this kindness. Whatever is in my power, I shall gladly do for you. You have only to indicate your desire”.
Your grandfather reflected for a while and replied, “Maya! If you yearn to satisfy me, I demand but one thing: Build a Sabha (Assembly Hall) for my brother to hold court, the like of which is not to be found on earth. It must be so grand that no Deva or Dânava or Gandharva can ever hope to build such a one for himself. It must fill all who see it with amazement. I have no desire, other than this”. Krishna too added a suggestion. “In that hall of wonder, you must establish a throne of wonder for Dharmaraja to be seated; then only will the Hall be fully magnificent”.
Did you note, Parîkchit, how much Krishna loved your grandfather? Do you need any more convincing proof than this to know that He is ever mindful of the welfare of His devotees? The wicked Duryodhana was overcome with envy, at the sight of that amazing Hall. Duryodhana and Dushashana and their companions were puzzled and discomfited into humiliation, when they were led to believe that there was water where there was none and that there were doors, in places where there were no doors (see also S.B. 10.75)! They fell in so many places and knocked their heads against so many walls that they nurtured unquenchable hatred against the Pândavas. The Kauravas plotted incessantly to destroy the Pândavas; but, since the Pândavas had the grace of Krishna in a large measure, they were able to overcome them as if they were mere child’s play and to enjoy varied manifestations of His mercy. The Kauravas developed violent hatred against Krishna too, for they knew that the son of Yas’odâ was the bestower of fortune on the Pândavas. But, what can any one do to the very Lord of all Creation? To cultivate hatred against Him is a sign of their ignorance, that is all.
When Vyâsa was thus relating the story of Takshaka, Parîkchit was listening with rapt attention; when he finished, Parîkchit queried in wonder, “What was the reason which provoked the wicked Kaurava to ill-treat and insult my grandmother, Draupadî? How did grandfathers bear the insults they heaped on their spouse, how did it happen that they were mere onlookers, unable to retaliate or punish, in spite of their prowess and undoubted manliness, when their spouse was dishonored publicly, in the royal court? I find it beyond me to understand how these incidents came about. Tell me the real facts, and enlighten me. You can clear my doubts, I am sure”.
Parîkchit prayed with tearful eyes and with such humility that Vyâsa said, “Son! The Pândavas are staunch adherents of the moral law; they never deviated from the given word. They observed the rule that the defeated party has no right to challenge the victors; your grandfather and his younger brother recognised the moral superiority of Dharmaraja, their elder brother and suppressed themselves. Or else, they would have felled the foul Kauravas to wallow in their own blood and cast their corpses to be mangled by dogs and vultures.
In spite of this, however, your granduncle, Bhîma, was straining to fall upon those vicious men like a lion chained to a tree; he was laughing cynically at the weak attachment that Dharmaraja had towards dharma. But, what could he do? He was rendered harmless, by the will of his eldest brother. So, he had to behave like an ineffective person.
When Vyâsa said thus, Parîkchit asked him the reason why the grandfathers were so enslaved. Vyâsa smiled and replied, “Son! I shall tell you that also. Your granduncle, Dharmaraja celebrated in unprecedented grandeur the Râjasûya-yajña in the Assembly Hall that Maya built for him. The Kauravas were invited for the yajña and as I said, they were struck with amazement at the magnificence and wonder; they were also filled with envy and a spirit of vengeance, as if they were insulted by the affluence and power of the Pândavas. They held counsel with wicked elements and sought some means by which they could undermine their fortune. At last they struck on a plan.
That was the gambling contest through the royal game of dice. They behaved as if they were filled with filial love and as if they were motivated by the utmost affection. Their words were poisoned drops of honey, stabs steeped in butter. They persuaded their blind old father to send Dharmaraja a communication which ran thus: “Son! you are all brothers. Come and be together in one place and make merry over a game of dice”. On receipt of this invitation, your granduncle who had no inkling of the wiles that the Kauravas are capable of, who had a guileless mind himself, accepted it and played the games they proposed, unaware of the stratagems they had planned. He was then tempted to stake his brothers and finally, even his queen, Draupadî. He did not realise that the game was fun of foul movements and conspiratorial tricks. He never imagined that his cousins will land him in abject misery. So, under the rules of the gambling game, Draupadî became the property of the victors. They too, in order to wreak vengeance and cool their overwhelming passion of hatred, designed to dishonor the Queen of the Pândavas in fun sight of the entire Assembly of Courtiers. Foul brains can hatch only foul plans.
At these words, Parîkchit began shedding tears; he asked Vyâsa in a voice interrupted by sighs, “How did that blind Dhritarâshthra, himself an Emperor, suffer this degrading behavior towards another woman and a queen to happen? Of course, he had no eyes to see; but, he had certainly ears to hear. Had he plugged his ears so that her wailings could not reach his understanding? Or, had they too become blind? The s’âstras teach that no woman can be injured or insulted; she has to be given help and succor; and, these rulers who ought to be exemplars to their subjects in morality and justice have the audacity to break the s’âstras with impunity. How can such vicious persons be Emperors? Are they not the meanest of mortals? Only the worst sinners will contrive to insult and dishonor another’s wife, a helpless woman. I feel that this land has been torn into bits, only because such abominable persons were raised to power; at last these disasters brought about total destruction. God is not blind, is it not?”
Krishna’s Grace on Draupadî
Parikshith continued his wailing of protest. “Even ogres and barbarians respect their women-folk. Among them, if one woman is thus insulted, they avenge it as if the entire tribe is ill-treated. When such is the case, the elders of the clan, the emperor, their preceptors, sages and learned men, were all present there and watching in open assembly, this atrocious act; did the intelligence of those high placed witnesses suddenly disintegrate? Were their eyes suddenly blinded by some dire disease? Did they feed on grass that their taste became so beastly? Did they forget in their animality the honour of the race? And the elders! Their sense of discrimination deserted them and they must have looked pathetic caricatures of themselves.”
Vyasa interrupted this tirade against those elders who sat quiet during those awful moments; he said, “Son! Parikshith! Do not jump to conclusions and confusion. No one of the elders in that assembly was in favour of the wicked behaviour of Duryodhana, Dussasana and others; they warned them of the consequences of their iniquity; what could they do if those foul men perpetrate sin? When Dussasana was dragging Droupadi by the hair, right into the royal hall which was tilled with courtiers and others, the agony of Vidura, Bhishma, and Drona was beyond control. Words are inadequate instruments to describe it. Tears flowed in streams down their cheeks. They could not lift their faces and cast their eyes upon the abominable gang.
There was another reason, too. Sparks flew from the angry eyes of Droupadi when she was so tortured and, if they had fallen on any one in the Hall he would have been reduced to ashes! Luckily, she was looking only at your eldest grandfather, Dharmaraja; his fortitude and equanimity were imprinted on her mind; so, the assembled men were saved from destruction. Or else, Duryodhana, Dussasana and the rest of that foul brood would not have survived at all.
The face of Dharmaraja, so full of equanimity, had such transforming effect. Your grandfathers, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, and Sahadeva were watching that face, while their hearts were being torn by Droupadi’s struggles; but as they watched, their tempers cooled. Dharmaraja’s unruffled face saved every one from cataclysm that day; else, all would have been consumed in the fire of her anger, making the battle of Kurukshethra superfluous.
Nothing can happen unless God wills it so, isn’t it? How can any one over-ride the Will of Lord Krishna? She wailed that no one of her masters rose to save her, though she called upon them and reminded them of their prowess and valour. Just then, the thought of Krishna, the Saviour, flashed like lightning, and filled her drooping heart with courage. “0 Shyamsunder!” she cried out, “This is not an insult dealt to me. Nor is it an infamous injury dealt to the Pandavas. It is an insult, an injury, dealt on you. You are our all. We depend on you for everything. Is it then just that you should now tolerate this cruel injury being perpetrated on our honour? We have dedicated our hearts to you. Listen! I have dedicated myself to you. Perhaps, you are not content with what we have so far offered at your feet. Let your will prevail.” Thus, she surrendered, fully and unreservedly, to the Lord.
At this, the Guardian of the Forlorn, the Saviour of those who surrender, the Lord, took upon Himself the burden of rescuing her from distress; He moved in silent and unseen, and blessed her, unnoticed. And, wonder of wonders, the sari which the human ogres were attempting to remove in order to disgrace her was rendered endless; every one, including the tormentors, were stunned at the demonstration of Krishna’s Grace and Droupadi’s devotion.
Good men and wise realised that Sathya and Dharma can never come to harm. The tears of joy that rolled from their eyes gave proof of the exaltation they experienced. The wicked Dussasana fell down, exhausted and humiliated. Droupadi did not suffer the least dishonour. All the dishonour fell to the lot of the Kauravas, and the Pandavas were unaffected.
Can God permit the just and moral Pandavas to suffer humiliation? The harm that the Kauravas planned to inflict on the Pandavas recoiled on them only. This was the direct consequence of the Grace that Lord Krishna showered on your grandfathers and grandmother and of the devotion and faith they had reposed on Lord Krishna.
Intending to declare to the world the intense devotion of the Pandavas and its efficacy, and also to hold them up as examples for the Kali Age that was to come, the Lord contrived this thrilling drama; there is nothing more in this than that purpose of the Lord. You may be subjected to calumny, insult and dishonour; You may be plunged in poverty or pain; but, the person who has surrendered to the Will of God will welcome each of these gladly and bear it with equanimity. The Lord will never give up His children; those devoted to God have to be patient and calm, under the most poignant provocations. The fact is, the pious and the God-fearing are those who are visited by travails and troubles: in order to teach mankind these great truths, Krishna enacted this drama, with the Pandavas as the cast. Every incident in their lives is but a scene in His Play.
Sage Vyasa continued, “Listen, O King!” Droupadi was overwhelmed with amazement when she experienced the Grace of Krishna who granted the boon of unending folds of clothing to protect her honour; she shed profuse tears of gratitude and exclaimed in ecstasy, “Krishna! Krishna!”with such a rush of feeling and zeal that those present in the audience-hall were struck with fear. The shining splendour of her face made them suspect that she must be the veritable Goddess (Sakthi) who energises the Universe.
Meanwhile, Krishna manifested Himself in concrete Form before your grandmother, Droupadi and said, “Sister! Why are you troubled in mind? I have taken birth with the express purpose of destroying these evil men blinded by pride. I shall see that the glory and fame of the Pandavas are held high for the admiration of this world for generations to come. Console yourself”.
At this, she fell at the Lord’s Feet, washing it with her tears darkened by the collyrium in her eyes; the tresses of her long thick hair, unloosened by wicked hands, fell over His Feet and covered them. She rolled on the ground round the Feet.
Her furious contentment and her angry excitement steeped the assembly of courtiers and warriors in astonishment. Krishna raised her up and placing His hand upon her head, He blessed her. “Rise! Tie the hair into a knot. Await patiently the events that will happen in the days ahead. Go, join your companions in the inner apartments”, He implored her. Hearing these words, Droupadi started like a serpent that has raised its hood. Her eyes shone through the veil of hair that covered her face; her glances were like flashes of lightning among the clouds.
She stood in the centre of the assembly and turning on Krishna, she said in deliberate tones “Krishna! Cloth that gets torn can only be stitched; the rents cannot be mended otherwise. A virtuous bride can be given away only once. Curdled milk cannot be restored to its primal purity. The tusks of the elephant can never be withdrawn into the mouth, from out of which they came. Droupadi’s tresses have been loosened, by the foul hands of these evil men. They can never be knotted again, as formerly, to mark the happiness of a wife”. At this, every one sat silent with bent head, overcome with the shame of the insult to the queen.
But, Krishna broke the silence. “Then when do you dress your hair as of old? Sister! These loose tresses make you really frightening”. At this the heroic queen roared like a lioness, “Lord! pray listen! The filthy rascal who dared touch this hair, hold it in his foul hand and drag me into this Hall must have his head broken into bits and his corpse gnawed by foxes and dogs; his wife must be widowed; she must unloosen her tresses and wail in unquenchable grief; that day, I shall dress this hair into a knot; and not till then”. Hearing this imprecation, the elders in the Hall were alarmed at its terrible consequences. They covered their ears so as not to hear more; they pleaded, “Pardon” “Peace” “Quieten yourself”, for they knew how calamitous was the curse of a woman of virtue. The heart of Dhritharashtra, the old blind father of the wicked gang that insulted her, very nearly burst with fear; his sons tried to put on brave faces but, withim them, they were struck down by a tornado of panic. A wave of dread swept over the assembly, for, they knew that her words must come true, the wrong must be avenged by the punishment she has pronounced.
To reinforce this apprehension, Krishna too said, “O! Droupadi! May it happen as you have said. I shall destroy these wicked men who caused so much sorrow to your husbands. The words you spoke now must come true, for you have not tainted your tongue with falsehood, even in fun, since the moment of birth. Your voice is the voice of Truth; Truth will triumph, in spite of everything.”
This was the assurance given to your grandmother by the Lord; the Kauravas were destroyed and the righteousness of the Pandavas vindicated, before the world. Where Dharma is, there, the Lord is; where the Lord is, there, victory is; this holy axiom was taught to the world by the Lord through this tragedy.
Did you notice? How great were your grandfathers to derserve this continuous shower of Grace from Lord Krishna! Their adherence to Dharma, their unwavering allegiance to Truth, these won for them that Grace. Though one can perform costly and elaborate Yajnas and Yagas, if he but adheres to the path of Dharma and Truth, he can cross the ocean of change and grief, and reach the shore of liberation. Or else, when the terror-striking sage Durvasa went into the forest to ‘burn’ your grandfather into ashes, as planned by Duryodhana and his gang, how could they be rescued? Poor Durvasa had to learn that the Grace of God is more effective than the earnings of years of asceticism and denials. He who was sent to destroy, departed with deep admiration of his intended victims.
The Feeding of Durvasa
When Vyasa was thus proudly declaiming about the devotion of the Pandavas to the Lord, Parikshith raised his head in wonder; he asked, “What did you say? Did Durvasa suffer defeat at the hands of my grandfather? Ah, how fortunate I am, that I was born in the dynasty that has proved itself superior even to that great sage! Tell me, Master, how did it happen? Why did Durvasa go to them and what was the result?”
“Listen, O Maharaja,” Vyasa continued, “your grandfathers, exiled into the jungle were able to spend their days happily there, with their fame for hospitality unimpaired, through the Grace of Lord Krishna. They felt that the jungle was more filled with joy than Hasthinapura from where they were exiled. The hearts of the great will be so full of divine content and equanimity, that they will not be affected by the ups and owns of fortune. A fragrant flower will please one with its captivating scent, when it is held in the left hand or in the right; so too, whether in the sky or in the forest, village or city, on the heights or the valley, the great will be equally happy. They know no change, as your grandfathers demonstrated in their lives.
When the good are happy and living in peace, the bad cannot tolerate it; they develop intense headache. The bad have to contemplate the loss and hardships that the good undergo, in order to be happy! The loss suffered by the good is the gain of evil minds. The sweetness of the cuckoo is bitter to the ear of the crow; similarly, the unmolested happy life of the Pandavas gave misery and pain to the Kauravas in the capital.
But, what more could they do? They had heaped on them as much grief as they could; they had cast on them all the abuses they could. Finally, they drove them out of the kingdom itself. They sent them into the forests on empty stomachs.
Empty stomachs! Yes. That is what they imagined. But, the truth was different. For, their frames were saturated and filled with Lord Krishna. To fight against such God-filled bodies is only to engage in a hopeless fray. That is why the Kauravas took from them their material possessions and sent the bodies safe from the kingdom. After the game of dice, all properties and possessions were taken away. The Kauravas tried their worst to create dissensions among the brothers and spread heinous scandals, affecting one of the other. But, the brothers respected Truth and stuck to Truth and so, nothing could separate them. The fact that nothing could make a dent on the happiness of the Pandavas consumed the Kauravas like forest fire.
At the moment of despair, Durvasa who was the very incarnation of rage came into Hasthinapura, with ten thousand disciples, determined to spend the four-month retreat in the royal city. The Kauravas knew very well the ascetic powers of Durvasa, as well as his weaknesses and vagaries. So, they invited him to the palace and lavished their hospitality on him and his followers, during the four months of his stay. They planned to utilise that sage for their wicked stratagem and so, they showed extraordinary enthusiasm to provide for every want of his and of every one of his huge entourage. They ensured that Durvasa had no cause to be disappointed or dejected or discontented. For four months, they served him with fanatic zeal. When the sage flew into fits of rage, they hung their heads and with folded hands put up with all the fire poured on them. Thus, the holy visitor was mollified and won over.
One day, when Durvasa was resting after a delicious meal, Duryodhana approached his bed and sat reverentially on one side. The sage spoke to him thus: “O King, your service has pleased me much. Ask from me any boon, no matter how valuable or how hard I shall grant it.” Duryodhana was ready with the boon he wanted from Durvasa. He was glad the time had come for asking. He exhibited great humility when he prayed that it may be granted. “Master! That you are pleased by our service is itself as valuable as a million boons. That expression of appreciation is enough for me. What do I need in riches or fame? Even if I acquire sovereighty over the three worlds, I can find no joy in that authority. I am grieving that, when I could serve you for four months at a stretch, my brothers, the Pandavas were not with me here. Let them too save themselves by rendering this unique service; that is my desire. Please proceed to their resort also, with all your disciples and give them too this chance. My elder brother, Dharmaraja is such a staunch follower of Dharma that, in spite of our protests and prayers, he chose to go into the forest rather than break his word. I hear that even there he is rendering magnificent hospitality to millions of guests and visitors. He can serve you with more luxurous banquets and festive dinners there. If you have a mind to shower your pleasing Grace on me, I shall request you for just one favour, when you go to the Pandavas.” “Go, after Droupadi has eaten her meal!” With these words, Duryodhana fell at Durvasa’s feet, to propitiate him more. The sage understood the stratagem; he burst into laughter.
The Feeding of Durvasa
Durvasa, however, accepted the prayer of Duryodhana! He started towards the forest, saying “Right! I shall do so”. In this prayer, there was a deep sinister purpose. It was this: One morning at sunrise, when the Pandavas were worshipping the Sun, He took pity on their condition and out of His immeasurable Grace bestowed on them a Vessel, whose contents will remain undiminished, however much they are used up. It was called A-kshaya-pathra. Droupadi as the dutiful wife, used to take her food only after the five Brothers had taken theirs. Until she finishes her meal, the Vessel will be full of food, however many may partake of it. When she has finished and cleaned the vessel it can give no more. Thus once every day, the vessel was pouring plenty, until she has eaten her meal. Prior to that, she could feed thousands, even millions, from out of that Vessel. But, once she has taken her food out of it, it loses that power for the day. That is to say, there must be some part or particle of food in it so that it could be multiplied a millionfold and used. That was its peculiar glory. Duryodhana requested Durvasa to approach the Pandavas and demand hospitality, after Droupadi had taken her food for he had this special handicap in mind.
When the short-tempered Sage seeks food and the Pandavas are unable to satisfy him and his huge retinue, he was certain to invoke a terrible curse in the throes of hunger; that would destroy the brothers for ever. The knotty problem of living with them will be solved and the Kauravas can rule the entire realm in peace. That was the evil intent of Duryodhana. But, the Pandavas looked for support, not to something or someone outside them, but, to the Lord within them. What can the curse of a sage, however mighty, do to such? When the all-protecting Lord is on their side, how can the wiles of evil-minded men harm them? Their conspiracies will have to fail ignominiously. The wicked Kauravas did not realise that when they plan in one direction, the Lord plans in another.
Durvasa appeared before the Pandavas with his ten thousand disciples, just when Droupadi was resting, after her food and after cleaning the sacred Vessel, conversing with her lords. Dharmaraja saw the sage coming towards the leaf-thatched hut where they spent their days. He rose quickly, welcomed him enthusiastically, washed his feet, offered flowers in worship, and fell prostrate before him. He declared, “I have realised my highest ambition in life; this is indeed a day of supreme luck.” He shed tears of joy and stood with folded hands. His brothers and Droupadi stood by his side, after their prostrations, with heads bent in reverential homage.
Durvasa, who was visibly tired by the exhaustion of the long journey, spoke with evident exasperation, “We are going to the river for bath and noon rituals; have food ready for me and my ten thousand followers, when we return.” They moved, on fast, to the river, after this announcement.
When these words fell on his ears, Dharmaraja felt a shock; his heart very nearly stopped. He consulted Droupadi and discovered that the vessel had been cleaned nicely and kept aside. They all sank in sorrow, fearing what might happen to them. “Ten thousands to be fed! 0′ God! What has this day in store for us?”, they lamented, lost in grief. For Droupadi, the ideal housewife, the chance to entertain guests with food was a welcome gift, but, at this late hour, when so many had to be fed so soon, in the jungle where no provisions were available, she became desperate. “The guest who has landed on us is the celebrated Durvasa, whose attainments and capabilities are known all over the world. By a mere thought, he can turn those who anger him into ashes! Alas, what terrible calamity awaits my lords!”, she wondered and shivered in fear.
She could not decide on any plan to feed the horde that had descended on her. Who else could help her out than the Lord, the saviour of the good, Krishna. “0, Gopala! Save my lords; guard us from the destruction threatening us; show us some means of satisfying these ascetics and this sage.” She called upon Krishna, with tears streaming from her eyes, and with anguish gnawing at her heart. She pleaded yearningly with the Lord. Whatever may be in store for her, she did not mind; but, she prayed that her husbands be saved and her mangalyam “married status” retained intact. She wept aloud, in irrepressible grief. The Pandava brothers heard the wail; their agony was doubled; they too prayed to Krishna, their only refuge. “0, Nandanandana, you rescued us from calamity after calamity designed by the Kauravas. You guarded us as the eyelids guard the eye. Why have you plunged us in this awful distress today? Pardon our sins and faults; save us from this dire peril; help us to satisfy the sage and his huge retinue.”
The prayers of the Pandavas and the tears of Droupadi softened the heart of Krishna, at Mathura, and moved Him from there. Footfalls were heard; the Pandavas whose heads were bent with anxiety about Durvasa returning from the river, raised their eyes and saw Krishna entering their hut, scattering brightness with His smile, His yellow robe trailing along the ground. They exclaimed, “Krishna! Krishna!” and ran towards the Lord. Droupadi heard that voice and hurried out of the inner apartment; she surmised it must be some sign of the Grace of God that might be showered on them. But when she saw Krishna, she hastened to fall at His feet and wash them with her tears. “Save me, save my mangalyam, satisfy the sage and his followers. Krishna, the consummate Director of this Universe-drama, appeared unconcerned with their anxieties, but, immersed only in His own hunger! He said, “Droupadi! This is strange. I am hungry. First, appease My hunger and then, you can ask Me what you need. Give Me, immediately, some little food!” and put out His palm, as if He could not wait.
Droupadi said, “0 Lord! This is not the occasion for fun; this is testing time for us. Save us, do not laugh at our plight.” She wiped the flow of tears with the border of her sari. She prayed, both hands extended in supplication. Krishna lifted up her head with His hand, and said in soft assuring tones, “Child! Tears collect in the eyes of women at the slightest provocation. But, can My hunger be appeased by tears?” Krishna was in a sarcastic mood, evidently. Droupadi replied, “Gopala! You are the second supplicant at our door today. But, if we do not give you what you ask, you will not curse us and bring destruction on us. But, the other supplicant is waiting with ten thousand followers to appease his hunger by a dinner on all of us! We are all about to be reduced to ashes; where can we get even a single grain in this forest? How can I appease the hunger of so many people, at such short notice, in this desolate place.” She explained the reason for the gloom that had overtaken them.
Gopala laughed aloud. “Ten thousand guests have come, you say. But, I do not see a single one here! I can only laugh at your words. You are throwing away the child on your hip to fondle the children who are afar. First, give Me enough for My hunger; you can then think of satisfying people who are far away.” Krishna was adamant that He should be attended to, first; He acted the part of a hungry person so perfectly. Droupadi had to explain her predicament. “Lord, The Vessel had a variety of food; they were all served and finished; I took my food last. I have cleaned the sacred vessel gifted by the Sun and kept it aside. How can I get food from it now? How can I appease Your hunger? You are our only refuge. If You, who know everything, cause us suffering, what shall we say of others?” Droupadi wept again.
Gopala said, “Well, bring here the Vessel. Even if I get from it a particle of some eatable, I shall be content”. So, she went in and brought the vessel and placed it in the hands of Krishna. Gopala passed His fingers carefully inside the vessel, seeking some particle that might have escaped the scraping and washing. He found in the ‘neck’ of the vessel the fraction of a cooked leaf. So, He asked “Droupadi! You seem to have had a leafy dish for lunch today!”
Droupadi was surprised that Krishna was able to discover a fractional leaf in the vessel she had scrubbed clean. “This must be your miracle; whatever work I do, I do efficiently. I could not have scrubbed it so shabbily”, she laughed. When she approached Krishna to see the leaf Krishna showed it to her, saying. “Look! I got this from your vessel. This thing is enough to appease, not only My hunger, but the hunger of all beings in the Universe.” Then He put it on His tongue with the end of His finger and swallowing, exclaimed, “Ah! How nice! My hunger is gone!” [See also S’rîmad Bhâgavatam, C1:15-11]
At that very moment, Durvasa on the river bank and his ten thousand disciples felt their stomachs over-full with food. Their hunger too was gone; they experienced supreme happiness, free from the pangs of hunger they suffered a minute previously. They communicated their wonder to each other in gestures and then, in words. “Our stomachs are too full already, there is no space in them for even an additional grain of rice! Dharmaraja will be waiting for us there with a heavy banquet of extra-delicious dishes and he will insist on our doing full justice to his hospitality. But, where have we the space for the feast he has prepared? We are indeed in a terrible fix!”, they said. Someone then remembered the incident when their master, Durvasa cursed Ambarisha and suffered discomfiture at the hands of the very victim of his curse, through the intercession of Krishna.
They reported their condition and their surmise to Durvasa. The sage who became aware of the Grace that was won by Dharmaraja blessed him profusely; he left the place, with his disciples, by another route avoiding the residence of the Pandava brothers.
But, Krishna had commissioned Bhima to proceed to the river and bring the sage and his retinue quickly for lunch. When Bhima saw them getting away through another route, he walked quicker and the disciples, afraid of his intentions, ran into the jungle to save themselves! Bhima confronted Durvasa and told him, “Master! My elder brother ordered me to meet you and bring you, for, lunch is ready for all of you.” Durvasa pleaded inability. “Bhima! We can not eat even the fraction of a mouthful. We are full to the bursting point. We are not displeased at all with you. I bless you, that you may attain every happiness. I shall come to you when you are ruling the world as undisputed sovereigns and I shall then receive your hospitality. Those who sent me to you with sinful motives, they will meet with total destruction.” Wishing them the best of luck, Durvasa left, with all his followers.
Did you notice, Parikshith, the devotion and sense of surrender of your grandfathers had nothing to equal them; so, too, the Grace that Krishna showered upon them was unexcelled. When Vyasa was revealing these incidents to show Parikshith the speedy faith of the Pandavas and the Grace of Krishna, Parikshith listened intently, with awe and reverence, wonder and anxiety, alternatingly affecting his mind. When the dilemma of the Pandavas was described, Parikshith was agitated; when some impending calamity was described, he shed tears of sympathy, when success was described, he shed tears of joy.
They fought with Gods
Vyasa continued: “0 King, your grandfathers were ready to renounce everything to God, if the need arose; they were prepared also to fight with God, if the need arose, for they were only observing Kshatriya Dharma when they fought so. You must have heard the story of your grandfather fighting against Siva and winning from Him the Divine weapon of Pasupatha-asthra.” At this, the King suddenly raised his head and asked, “Master! What did you say? Did my grandfather wage battle against Siva? I have not heard about it so far. Tell me all about it; Satisfy my thirst to know about it”. Parikshith fell at Vyasa’s Feet; importuning him to narrate the story.
Vyasa cleared his throat. “Son! How many stories have I to narrate to you? The relationship between the Pandavas and the Gods need for its full elaboration not hours, not even months, but, years! Still, since you implore I shall tell as many as possible, within the time available. “Listen, 0 King! The Pandavas were living in the forest. One day, Dharmaraja was overcome with anxiety. He felt that the wicked cousins, the Kauravas, may not allow him to rest in peace even after the period of exile is over. It was very doubtful if they will give them their share of the empire. Dharmaraja was afraid that war was inevitable and that the great bowmen of the age, Bhishma, Drona, Karna and Aswathama will then range themselves on the side of the Kaurava hordes. He apprehended that the Pandavas may not be able to overcome such a galaxy of strength. He feared that the war might end in defeat and that the Pandavas might have to spend their years in the jungle itself. Seeing him in the depth of woe, Arjuna approached him and craved for his blessings and permission to go forth and win, by asceticism, weapons from the Gods to defeat the foe. Dharmaraja directed him to proceed, and please the Gods, and win through their Grace, weapons to win the war.
Arjuna went into the Gandhamadana area, which was inaccessible even to the most enterprising ascetic and did Thapas (ascetic practices), to propitiate Indra, the Sovereign of the Gods. Heaven was amazed at the rigors of that Thapas and his steady persistence. So, Indra appeared before him, saying, “Son! I am pleased by your Thapas. But, if your desire is to be fulfilled, first win the Grace of Siva; thereafter I shall take you to heaven and arm you with all weapons heaven can confer.”
In accordance with Indra’s advice, Arjuna sat meditating on Siva in order to win His Grace. Meanwhile, Siva resolved upon a drama of his own. I shall tell you what it was: “A huge wild boar, ferociously enraged, ran across the place where Arjuna was observing penace; he saw it, and, though during the penance one had to desist from injuring any living being, he hastily took up his bow and arrows, when the boar was about to fall upon him. Just at this moment, a Bhil [Hindi: Bh”l, hill people of west central India having a bow-and-arrow culture; a member of the Bhil people] of the forest, also armed with bow and arrows appeared before Arjuna with his wife! Arjuna was amazed that a woman was accompanying the Bhil in that thick forest where no person could safely move about. But, when he observed more closely, he found a huge retinue behind the Bhil, consisting of men and women of fierce appearance yelling and shouting in strange ways. Arjuna was perplexed and astonished.”
The person who first appeared, the huntsman with the fierce face and the red glowing eyes, spoke to Arjuna: “You, there! Who are you? Why have you come to this place? You shall not live, if you shoot an arrow against that boar, even by mistake, be warned. I have pursued it and made it run thither; what right have you to take up your bow and arrow against it?” These words that he spoke entered Arjuna’s heart like a sheaf [bundle] of arrows. He felt terribly hurt; for, a common huntsman had insulted him.
“The fellow does not know my name or fame; or else he would not have challenged me” he said to himself; he raised his bow and shot an arrow at the boar; that very moment, the Bhil too shot an arrow at it.
It rolled on the ground, dead. The huntsman was in the throes af anger; he showered abuses on Arjuna; “You, there. You do not know the rules of hunting. When I have set my eyes on it, pursued it and selected it as the prey for my arrows, how dare you aim your arrow at it? You are a greedy barbarian.” His eyes were casting sparks, so uncontrollable was his rage. Arjuna too was enraged. He shouted back, “Shut up, you scoundrel. Or else, I will despatch you to the Domain of Death. Save yourself by stopping your wagging tongue. Get back the way you came.”
The Bhil stood up to that threat; he did not quail. “Whoever you are, I am not afraid; you may have three hundred and thirty crores of gods on your side, but, I shall not yield. Take care; you are an interloper. Who gave you permission ta enter here? Who are you to order me out? This forest is ours; you are a thief who has sneaked in; and you have the audacity to ask us to get away!”, he replied.
At this, Arjuna guessed that he was no ordinary huntsman. He spoke in a calmer tone. “The forest is the property of all; you have come to hunt; I have come to do penance to please Siva. I shot that boar, only to save myself from its rage.” The huntsman, however, was not softened. “I don’t care whom you adore, whom you desire to please. Accept the wrong that you have done. Why did you shoot the animal I was stalking? Accept and apologise, make amends”, he insisted. Arjuna lost all patience. This fellow’s life, too, is to end like that of the boar, he told himself. He is not to be cured by soft words, he felt.
So, he selected a sharp arrow and placing it on the bow, shot it at him. It hit him; but, like a thorn on rock, it fell on the ground, bent by the impact! So, the astonished Arjuna had to shoot a crescent-headed arrow, which will sever his head. But, this was brushed aside by the huntsman, with his left hand like a blade of grass.
At last, Arjuna let go the unending shower of arrows from his ever-full shoulder-bag. This too had no effect; Arjuna became desperate like a man robbed of all his possessions and deprived of all means of resistance. He stood helpless and filled with rage. He was like a bird with clipped wings, a tiger whose teeth have been pulled out and claws cut, a ship without sails and rudder.
He made an effort to beat the huntsman with the bow itself; it broke into fragments at the impact. Startled at this, Arjuna decided to use his fists, for they were the only weapons left. Girding up his loins, he fell upon the Bhil, and wrestled furiously, for sheer victory. The huntsman welcomed this new move with a hearty laugh. They struggled to overpower each other with such terrific holds and blows that it appeared as if two mountains were in mortal conflict; the birds of the forest were so frightened at the unusual din that they flew in terror far up into the sky. The animal denizens of the jungle stood and stared sensing some great calamity that hovered over them. The earth shook, unable to bear the burden of the encounter.
Despite everything, the Bhil was evincing no trace of exhaustion; he was laughing in absolute unconcern; he was as active as when the fight first began. Arjuna, however, was bathed in perspiration; he was gasping for breath; his fist was jammed and bleeding! The Bhil was unhurt and not in the least affected! Besides, when the Bhil once caught Arjuna in a light hold, Arjuna vomitted blood! At this, the Bhil burst into a cruel laugh, and exulted before his consort with a meaning look, “Did you notice that?”
Arjuna reeled and was in great confusion. He lost his moorings. He whispered to himself, “Krishna! Why have you humiliated me thus? Ah, is this too a scene in your drama? Truly, this Bhil is no ordinary mortal. Perhaps, you yourself have come in this Form to trample on my pride. Alas! To be over-whelmed by a forest-dwelling huntsman! No, this is your stratagem, your play. This Bhil is no ordinary fellow. Save me, for, I believe this is, you yourself.” When he said this and turned to the couple in front of him, he saw there, not the Bhil and his wife but Siva and His consort, Gowri. They were blessing him with a captivating smile; their hand was raised, with the palm towards him in the Abhaya pose, assuring him that he had no reason to fear. Arjuna was overcome with delight.
He ran towards them, exclaiming, “0 Sankara! Mother Gowri!” and fell at their Feet. He prayed that They should pardon him for his rashness and ignorance. Gowri and Sankara, who are the embodiments of Grace, lifted him by the shoulders lovingly and stroked his head affectionately. “Son”, they said, “You have attained the fruition of your life; you did your duty as you were bound to do. That is not wrong at all. Now, take this; here is the sign of Our Grace” – and he got from the Hand of Siva Himself the Divine Pasupatha Asthra. (See also S’rîmad Bhâgavatam Canto 3, Chapter 14: The Impregnation of Diti in the Evening)
O, Maharaja! How can I extol the prowess of your grandfather who combatted with Siva, armed with the invincible Trident. The source of that courage and daring lay in the Grace that the Lord Krishna showered on him. Your grandfathers never thought of even the slightest activity, without His specific order. Indeed in the Mahabharatha battle, His Grace was bestowed unasked, every moment in ample measure. The depth of Love that prompted that Grace was known only to them; others cannot gauge it. When Vyasa was remembering this, he shed tears of joy at the good fortune of the Pandava Brothers. And, not he alone.
Guardian on the Battlefield
The person who listened, namely, Parikshith was even more overcome with admiration and thankfulness. He was shedding tears of joy; his lips quivered with emotion; his voice was broken by excitement. He could not contain himself. He exclaimed. “Ah, how fortunate I am, that I am born in this lineage! How brave, how devoted, how redoubtable were my forefathers! And, imagine my luck, that I am able to hear their glories from the lips of divine sages like you! Oh, I am indeed thrice-blessed. When I listen to the exploits of my grandfathers and the glories of Lord Krishna, I can never say I have heard enough. I long to hear more.
Pray tell me how the Lord saved and guarded my grandfathers in battle. It will be some source of contentment for my hunger, some quench for my thirst”
When the King prayed like this, Vyasa said “0, King! The Pandavas, as agreed upon, lived through the twelve years of exile in the forest and also completed one full year of ‘life in incognito.’ When at last, they revealed themselves (on the occasion of the Rape of Kine from the Virata domain by the wicked Kauravas) Duryodhana, the eldest of the cruel clan, that monster of guile, swore that the full year had not elapsed and that the Pandavas had broken their contract; so, he said, they were bound by the penal clause, a further twelve-year exile and a further one-year-of-incognito life! He was adamant in that conclusion.
The elders, Bhishma and others, asserted that the Pandavas had scrupulously fulfilled the terms of the contract; the Pandavas had not disclosed their place of stay during the entire year; they had stayed in exile for full twelve years. But, the Kauravas did not accept the patent truth. They prepared the path for their own downfall and destruction! They listened to none, they gave ear to no counsel. They swore that the battlefield alone can settle the issue.
What can any one do, in the face of that royal decree? So, both parties engaged themselves in preparing for war – the King endowed with sovereign sway, Duryodhana; and the claimants in exile, the Pandavas! But, Truth and Justice allied themselves with the exiles and so, a few kings who were motivated by moral principles joined them. The others, in very large numbers, sided the ruling monarch, and so, the Kauravas were able to command eleven akshauhinis while the Pandavas could collect just seven only (An akshauhini consists of 109350 footsoldiers, 65610 horses and horsemen, 21870 elephants and elephant warriors, and 21870 chariots and their human equipment).
Listen! The chariot of Arjuna had the Lord Krishna, the Gopivallabha, as its charioteer. Not only that, He became the charioteer of the destiny of the Pandavas. The Pandavas had, therefore, no weak spot in their armour; He was all the strength they needed. But, yet, in the grand drama of the Lord, the role of Arjuna took a sudden unexpected turn which astounded all.
When the Lord commanded Arjuna to examine, from the chariot which He kept stationary between the two armies ranged for battle, the enemy leaders whom he had to encounter, Arjuna allowed his eyes to spot out in a flash the heroes eager to meet him in contest; tears flowed immediately from his eyes! He crumbled with despondency and disinclination. It was a scene that filled spectators with shame.
But, note that your grandfather was not afflicted or affected with fear or cowardice. He saw before him Bhishma, the reverend grandparent who had loved to keep him on his lap and who caressed him as his own child; he saw his respected teacher, Drona, from whom he had learnt archery from A to Z; so, his heart lamented, “Alas! Has this too to be endured by me, this bloody warfare with these great elders, persons whom I ought really to worship with tender lovely flowers? How can I shoot arrows at them? Have I to wound the very feet which I must really place reverentially on my head, when I dutifully prostrate before them?” The sentiment that overpowered him was really this emotion of ‘adoration’. It was this that rendered him despondent, and not any other weakening emotion.
The feelings ‘ I ‘ and ‘ Mine ‘ grew so intense in him that he turned to Krishna and said, “Krishna, set the chariot back towards Hasthinapura, I wish to go away from all this”; Krishna laughed in derision, and commented with scarcely concealed scorn, “My dear brother-in-law, evidently you seem to be scared of fighting; well, I shall take you back to Hasthinapura, and bring instead, your consort, Droupadi; she has no fear. Come, we shall return. I did not realise you are such a coward; or else, I would not have accepted this position as charioteer for you. It is a gross error of judgment on my part.”
While Krishna was saying thus, and many other harsh statements besides, Arjuna retorted: “Do you think that I, who fought with God Siva and won the Pasupatha weapon from Him will quail before these common mortals? It is a sense of reverence and mercy that makes me desist from killing these kinsmen. It is not fear that holds me back.” Arjuna spoke for long, arguing on the lines of ‘ I ‘ and ‘ Mine ‘, but, Krishna did not appreciate his arguments. He explained to him the basic principles of all activity and morality and made him take up the arms he had laid down; He induced him to follow the dictates of the moral and social obligations of the Kshatriya caste to which he belonged.
When in the midst of battle, the Kaurava warriors all in one gang rained arrows simultaneously on Arjuna, Krishna saved him from the shower, as He had done earlier when He lifted the Govardhan Hill to save the villagers of Gokula and the cattle from the floods of hail rained on them by the angry God Indra. He drew all weapons on Himself and rescued Arjuna, seated behind him in the chariot, from the deadly onslaugh. Blood flowed from the wounds on His body, but, nevertheless, He held it against the shower of fiery arrows let loose by the enemy. His aim was that Arjuna must be preserved from harm. He intended also to reduce the might and pride of the wicked opponent, and heighten the glory and reputation of Arjuna. (See also S’rîmad Bhâgavatam Chapter 7: Brief Description of the Past and Coming Avatâras (verse 32)).
He held no weapon Himself; but, He brought about the annihilation of the enemies and proclaimed before the World the magnificence of the path of Dharma, which the Pandava brothers adhered to. Often during the battle, your grandfather was pained at the role that Krishna had taken on Himself. “Alas, that we are using You for this insignificant purpose; You whom we ought to instal in the Lotus of the Heart, we are seating You on the charioteer’s plank! We have reduced You to the status of a servant! We have devalued the Lord so meanly; alas, that we are reduced to such straits!” he used to lament within himself.
More distressing than all was another painful act that Arjuna had perforce to do, off and on. Whenever he had to do that act, poor Arjuna was overcome with unbearable remorse. Saying this, Vyasa held his head down, as if he wished to desist from mentioning it. This aroused the curiosity of Parikshith even more and he appealed, “Master! What exactly was that inevitable harm, he had to do, in spite of its sacrilege?”
At this, he said, “0 King, In the thick of battle, when the master has to give an indication to the man who acts as the charioteer which way to turn, he cannot hope to be heard, if he calls out, right or left. The din will be too loud and confusing. So, while totally immersed in the wild excitement of coming to grips with the enemy, he has to prod the charioteer’s brows with the right or left toe of his feet; he keeps the toes always in touch with the sides of the brow, for this purpose. His plank is on a deeper level. If the chariot is to be driven straight, both toes have to be pressed with equal force. That was the convention. Since such pressure had to be applied with heavily shod feet both sides of the brow of the Lord daily showed marks of scrape. Arjuna cursed himself for sheer shame; he hated the very idea of war and prayed that the wicked game ceased that very moment. He used to be terribly upset with agony, that he had to touch with his feet the Head that sages and saints adored.
The palms of Krishna, soft and tender like lotus petals, developed boils all over, since they had to hold the reins tight and since the steeds strained their hardest, when they were restrained or controlled. The Lord forsook food and sleep, performed services both high and low, and kept ready both horses and chariot in perfect trim. He also went on various other sundry errands, which were fundamental to victory. He bathed the horses in the river, attended to their wounds and applied balm to cure them, (why go on with the entire list?). He acted as a menial in the house-hold of your grandfathers! He never assumed the role of the Universal Sovereign that is His real nature and status. That was the measure of His affection for those devoted to Him,” said Vyasa, the Sage, to the King.
Parikshith heard from the sage, Vyasa, his description of the deep devotion and steady faith of the Pandavas; he was thrilled when he heard of the unbounded Grace of Lord Krishna, which was showered on them; the king was so immersed in joy that he scarce realized whether it was night or day! Suddenly, he was awakened by the sweet chirpings of birds and the loud crow of the cock. He heard the songs with which his subjects daily welcomed the Gods at dawn; the temple bells were ringing around the palace.
Vyasa too realized it was the beginning of another day. He said, “Son! I must be going now” and, taking the water-pot which he carried while journeying, he rose and blessed the king, who fell at his feet, in great sorrow. “Alas, that the dawn broke so soon! I have yet to grasp fully the grandeur and glory of my grandfathers! I have yet to fathom completely the depth of their devotion and sense of duty,” he lamented.
The Curse that was Accepted Gladly
He rotated in his mind the incidents he had heard and tasted their uniqueness. He was so filled with exaltation that he could not turn to the affairs of the kingdom. In fact, he avoided entangling himself in them and sought to be alone. He decided to go into the forest a-hunting, as an alternative. He instructed that arrangements be made for an expedition into the jungle.
Very soon, the men at the door brought the news that everything was ready, and the huntsmen and others had gathered in full strength. With a heavy heart, he dragged his body towards the chariot and placed himself in it. The attendants, with their equipments, moved on, both before the royal chariot and after, as was their wont. The king felt, for some reason or other, that so many need not accompany him; so, he asked some to return. When they advanced, a few herds were noticed moving about; that sight stirred the king to activity. He got down from the chariot, and with the bow kept in readiness, he stalked the animals with a few men following him. The herds scattered in fear, with the huntsmen in hot pursuit. The king had his aim fixed on one group of fleeing animals and he sped behind it, unaware that he was alone, cut off from his attendants who had gone on different trails.
He had trekked a long distance and could not bag any beast; a fierce thirst began tormenting him; he was exhausted beyond endurance. Frantically, he searched for water. Luckily, he espied a hermitage, a cottage thatched with grass. Highly expectant, he hurried towards it. There was no one in view! The place appeared empty. He called out very distressingly, as loudly as he could manage. With his feeble throat He shouted, “Thirst”, “Thirst”, plaintively. There was no reply from the cottage. When he entered he found therein, an ascetic engaged in meditation. He went near him and addressed him pathetically, “Sir”, “Sir”. But, he was so lost in the depths of meditation that there was no response at all.
At this, the king was overcome by resentment and a fierce gust of anger. Having come to a hermitage and seen the hermit, he was still helpless with hunger and thirst; this wounded his pride, for, he was the Ruler of the realm and the hermit had dared to dwell within himself, when he had come before him and called out for him. He became blind to the rules of propriety, for, he could hardly control his anger. His feet trod on some rope on the floor; he discovered it was a dead snake. That put a wicked idea into his head, quite by a twist of fate. He threw it round the neck of the hermit, sitting like a statue, heedless of other’s distress; and, then, he left the hermitage and walked away fast, to seek some other place to slake his thirst and get some food.
Some boys saw him emerge from the cottage; they entered the place to find out, why he had gone in and what had happened there, for he looked a stranger and he was gorgeously dressed. They saw round the neck of the sage Sameeka, a snake! They went closer and examined it, to discover that it was dead. They wondered who could have done this atrocity. They surmised it must be the handiwork of the man who had just left the hermitage. So, they ran out and informed the son of Sameeka, who has engaged in games with his comrades. He did not lend his ear to their story, for he thought that no one would insult his father so. He busied himself with the game; but, the boys repeated their tale and insisted on his verifying its veracity, seeing the plight of his father with his own eyes.
Sringi was amazed at their insistence and he got afraid that the incident might actually have happened! He ran into the cottage and found that the unbelievable had happened! He sought to find out the culprit who had perpetrated this atrocity against his revered father. He came to know that a person in royal robes had gone in and come out, and that there was no one else around, since morning. The boys concluded that it must be his handiwork. At this, he ran in the direction pointed by them to catch him; before long, he saw the person in regal clothing and his anger knew no bounds. He threw a handful of water at the king, slowly walking before him and pronounced the curse: “May he who threw the dead snake round the neck of my father be bitten by a snake on the seventh day and may he die that day of that poison”. The boys around him appealed to him not to, but, he threw the curse at the king, nevertheless. Then, he went back into the cottage and slummed on the floor, in a corner, with his head aflame with anger. (See also S’rîmad Bhâgavatam Canto 1, Chapter 18 (verses 24-46): Mahârâja Parikchit cursed by a Brahmana Boy).
“Alas, that my father had to suffer this ignominy, when I am alive and about; I could well have been dead. Of what use is a son alive, if he cannot prevent some one insulting his father?” He condemned himself thus and bewailed his fate, most pitiably. His companions sat around him and tried to pacify him; they abused the wrongdoer roundly; they tried to console the disconsolate boy.
Meanwhile, the sage Sameeka emerged from his inner bliss and entered the realm of consciousness. His eyes opened; he unwound the dead snake from his neck and placed it beside him. He saw the son weeping in a corner and beckoned to him to come near. He asked the reason for his grief and got from him the tale of the stranger and the dead snake. Sameeka smiled and said, “Poor fellow! He did it out of ignorance and you reveal your ignorance, weeping for it. I am not concerned with honor or dishonor. The knowledge of the Atma enables a man to keep himself on an even keel, neither rising when praised nor falling when blamed. Some boor must have played this silly prank; since you are yet boys, you are exaggerating it into a big crime; you are undergoing a mountain of grief over a mole-hill. Get up and go to the playground”, he said. He made his son sit on his lap and gently stroked his head, so that his grief might abate a little.
Sringi told his father, “This is no prank played by a boor. This is a terrible sacrilege committed by an ego-intoxicated fellow, in the garb of a king”. At this, Sameeka asked, What do you say? A person in the garb of a king? Did you see him? Did the king commit this stupid misdemeanor? This silly thing can never enter a king’s head”. The comrades of Sringi joined their voices and testified that they too saw the person responsible for this sacrilege. “Master! We saw the dead snake and we ran to where Sringi was and brought him here. Sringi got so angry that he took the water of the Ganga in his hand and threw it at that person who was walking very fast, pronouncing at the same time, with appropriate ritual formulae the curse: let the person who placed the dead snake die of snake-bite, the seventh day from today.”
Sameeka was shocked at this news; he was astonished at the behavior of his son. He pushed him out of his lap on to the floor. “What! Did you throw a curse like that? Alas, that the son of a sage should have behaved like this? What a calamitous curse for this trivial offence! Yours is a wrong which can never be atoned; You are a disgrace to the group of comrades around you, for you cannot bear with fortitude such a silly, insignificant prank! I am ashamed to say that such a boy is my son. You have no strength of mind to bear such little affronts. 0, what a pity! Alas, that your childishness should plunge all sages and ascetics into ill-fame; people will say they have not got even elementary patience and fortitude! Do not show me your face; to see it is a sacrilege. To punish people for wrongs done is the duty of the king; not, that of the recluse in the forest. The recluse who pronounces curses is no recluse at all.”
“Moved by the yearning to achieve the Vision and the Presence of the Guide and Guardian of all the Worlds, the recluse has given up all attachment; he has established himself in the forest; he lives on fruits and roots; he denounces all catering to the senses as detrimental to spiritual progress. That such horrid curses born of impatience and egoism should come on the tongue of a recluse is a sign of impending doom: it marks the dawn of the Iron Age of Untruth” Sameeka said.
“Alas! What a great sin you have added to your burden today”, he remarked; he described to his son and his comrades the heinousness of the act that Sringi had done.
The pointed words of the father inflicted great pain on the tender heart of Sringi, the son; they fell like sword thrusts or hammer strokes; the poor boy could bear them no longer; he fell on the floor and grasping the feet of his father, he wailed, “Father pardon me. I was overcome by anger that the king himself should behave so outrageously insolent, so irreverently, so inhumanly. I could not control my resentment at the insult hurled on you. It is not proper that a king should behave like this, in this most inappropriate manner, having come into a hermitage; isnt it?”
Seeing his plight, Sameeka, the ascetic, took the son beside him and said, “Son, the compulsion of the moment is inescapable. The dictates of reason are often brushed aside by man, due to that compulsion. The drag of destiny will destroy the reins of reason. The force of the moment faces man with all its power and he cannot but yield. This king is a staunch theist, a deep devotee. He has earned spiritual splendour. He is established in moral behaviour. He is the lord of all the regions; his fame has pervaded all the three worlds. He is served always by thousands of loyal men and minds. When he leaves his mansion and moves out, he is accompanied by many guards who await with folded hands and eyes fixed on him, his least command, so that they may win his favour by executing them to his satisfaction. As soon as he enters a kingdom, the ruler thereof accords him a glorious welcome, offers him magnificent hospitality and respectful homage. A person accustomed to this rich routine was naturally shocked when he did not receive any sign of welcome here; he was not even recognised and respected; the neglect was so serious that he did not get a cup of water to alleviate his thirst. He was torn by the pangs of hunger, and of humiliation, for, there was no response even though he called out many times. So, unable to bear the agony and the shock, he was led to commit this improper act. Of course, it is a fault but, just for this small misdemeanour, when you reacted so harshly, you brought irreparable damage to the entire community of ascetics and hermits. Alas! What a terrible calamity have you called down!”
The aged hermit closed his eyes and sat silent for a while, seeking some means by which the king can be saved from the curse. Finding none, and realising that God alone can set such things right, since He is all-powerful and all-knowing, he prayed with all his heart. “0, Refuge of all the Worlds! This immature little boy, with no knowledge of right and wrong, of what is one’s duty and what is not, prompted by ignorance, has committed this great blunder, harmful to the king. Pardon this boy or punish him; but, promote the welfare of the king.”
The hermit opened his eyes. He saw the ascetics and the young comrades of his son who stood around him. In sadness, he told them, “Did you notice the injury that my son has perpetrated? It is not right that we, hermits, should insult and injure the king who is the guardian and guide of humanity, isnt it?
Therefore, I request you all to pray God that the king should come to no harm and that only auspicious things be added unto him.” When the Rishi Sameeka directed them thus, an aged monk rose from the group; he was the very picture of peace and resignation; he said, “Great Soul! You are showering such profuse Grace on this king. The person who pronounced this curse is your own son; surely your spiritual attainments are much higher than your son’s and, you can achieve anything, through them. Why then are you so much concerned about the curse that this boy hurled at the king? You can make it ineffective, can’t you?” At this, the rest of the group, the elders and the young ones, exclaimed, “True, true; listen to our prayers and pardon this boy. Bring about the welfare of the king and save him from harm.”
The sage Sameeka smiled; he closed his eyes; he saw with his inner yogic vision the past and the future of the king, and examined whether his present was conditioned by his past or by his future. He found that Parikshith had to suffer the poison-bite of the cobra, Takshaka and that this was his destiny. He felt that trying to save him from this end will be going counter to the dictates of Divinity; he realised that the misbehaviour of the king and the angry reaction of his son were both the consequences of that compulsive urge. He concluded that only God, the artificer of all resolutions and achievements, can modify events and that, any effort on his part would amount to an exhibition of egoism.
He knew that egoism is the deadliest foe of hermits; but, yet he did not amass his undoubted strength against it and destroy it completely. He decided to render what little help he could to the unfortunate king of the realm. Opening his eyes, he looked on all four sides to select a clever disciple of his from among the gathering. At last, he called one student to him and said “You must proceed immediately to Hasthinapura and return; prepare yourself for the journey and come to me again.” The student replied, “I am ever ready to obey your command; what have I to do with preparations? I am ever prepared. I can start this very moment; tell me what I have to do there.” With these words, he fell at his feet and offered his obeisance. The sage rose from his seat and took the student into the inner apartment. He told him in detail all the points that he had to inform the king. Then, the student fell at the master’s feet and set out towards the capital.
Meanwhile, the king had reached his palace and after a short rest, he awoke into a realisation of the enormity of the wrong that he had done at the hermitage. “Alas, into what depths of foulness did my mind fall! It is indeed heinous sin that I, the emperor, should cast an insult on that ascetic.” He lamented within himself. “How am I to make amends for this crime? Shall I go to that hermitage and plead for pardon? Or, shall I offer my head to bear the punishment that is my due? What exactly is my duty, now?” He struggled with himself for an answer. Just then, he saw a guard who came up to the door and stood silent with folded arms. He asked him why he had come. The man said, “A student from a hermitage has come and is waiting for audience; he says, he has been sent by the sage Sameeka; he says his message is very urgent and important; he is in great hurry. I am awaiting royal orders.”
When these words fell on his ears, the bed of jasmine flowers on which he was reclining appeared to have been transformed into a bed of snakes with fiery tongues, hissing and writhing all around him. He called the guard to come near him and he pelted question after question at him about the young man who had come from the hermitage: how is he? does he appear sad or angry? or, is he brimful of joy and equanimity?
The guard replied, “0 King! The sage’s son who has come to have your audience is quite calm and peaceful. He is repeating the words, ‘Victory to the king’, ‘Victory to our Ruler.’ “I do not see any trace of anger or passion on his face.” This gave the king some comfort. He sought to find out what reply had been given to the questions asked by the young student. The guard said, “We told him, the King had been to the forest, he returned only just now, he is taking rest for a while; please wait for some time; as soon as he breaks his rest, we shall inform him”. The king inquired, “What did he say in reply to this?” The guard said, “Lord! The young man was most anxious to see you as quickly as possible. He said he had some urgent message to communicate; he said, his master would be awaiting his return and counting the minutes. He said that the sooner he sees you the better. He was repeating within himself all the time, ‘May it be well with the king’, ‘May safety and prosperity be on him’. We offered him a high seat and invited him to occupy it, but, he did not accept it. He preferred to stand at the door; he is counting minutes there.”
Tears of joy welled within the eyes of the king. Wiping them off, he hurried towards the entrance, without donning regal robes or insignia, without caring even to wear sandals or a robe over the chest. He fell prostrate at the feet of that son of a hermit; he held both his hands in his own and led him into the inner apartments, where he placed him on a high seat and himself sat on the floor beneath. He prayed that he might be told the reason for the journey.
The student said, “0 King! My master, Sage Sameeka sends you his special blessings. He has commissioned me to communicate to you some special matters,” and broke into tears. Seeing this, the king exclaimed, “Well, tell me soon; if anything has to be done by me, tell me soon; I am prepared to lay down my life in the discharge of my obligations. Or, is my kingdom in any danger? Have I to take any measure of relief? I am ready to sacrifice anything for saving it.
The student messenger replied, “0 King! No danger threatens the realm or the hermits. No fear can ever bother them. You are the very person whom dangers threaten, whom harm will overtake.” When he gave this subtle warning, the king declared exultingly, “I am indeed blessed. When my subjects and the hermits engaged in asceticism are safe, I do not in the least care what happens to me. I inhale and exhale so that I can ensure peace and prosperity for them both.” The king quietened after some time and asked the Disciple, “Now tell me what your Master wanted me to know.” He replied, “King! My master is very much concerned over a grievous wrong that has been committed, out of sheer ignorance. That is the prime reason tor his sending me to you.”
Hearing this, Parikshit was very much agitated. He asked, “What is the wrong, you speak about? Who did that wrong? Tell me, tell me all,” he pleaded.
“O, Emperor, our Preceptor has a son; though he is of tender years, the splendour of his spiritual attainment is overwhelming. He reveres his father as his God and has as his chief aim in life, his service and the upkeep of his renown. His name is Sringi. You came to that hermitage; propelled by some inscrutable impulse, you placed a dead snake round the neck of the father of this Sringi, who is also my Preceptor. A few children saw it and they ran towards Sringi, who was engaged in games with his comrades, to inform him. He did not believe it at first; he continued with his game. But, the children of the hermitage repeated the news often and insistently; they jeered at him for merrily playing on, when his father had been insulted so grossly. Even his playmates laughed at his callousness. So, he ran as fast as he could towards his cottage, and found that their report was true.
When he turned back, he saw you moving off from the place and, without any sense of discrimination about what is of lasting significance and what is of temporary interest, urged on by frantic passion and anger, that teenage fellow lost control over himself … pronounced a curse on you. This has caused unending pain to my Preceptor.” The Emperor interrupted him and asked, “0 son of a hermit, tell me what the curse is.” The youth replied, “Lord, I find it hard to tell you. My tongue refuses to utter it. But, yet, I have to communicate it since my preceptor has commissioned me to do so. The son of my Preceptor promptly took the waters of the holy Kowsiki river in his palm, and pronounced, “Seven days from this day, may the King be bitten by the snake, ‘Thakshaka’, a terrible curse, indeed.” The youth stopped, for his grief overpowered him and he broke into tears.
But, the Emperor only smiled. He said, “Young hermit, is this a curse? To be bitten by Thakshaka, and that seven days later? This is no curse, this is a signal gift of Grace! This is a Blessing from the lips of the son of the Preceptor. Immersed in the affairs of the empire, I had become slothful regarding the affairs of the spirit, and of God, which are the goals of life. As a result, the merciful Lord, Hari, moved the tongue of that Rishi’s son to articulate those words. He has allotted me an interval of seven days! What a great blessing is this! It must be Divine Will that I should spend every moment of these seven days in the contemplation of God. From this very second, I shall dedicate both Time and Thought, without intermission at the Feet of the Lord. Young friend, what more did your Preceptor command you to inform me? Tell me soon. My heart is yearning to hear it.”
The young messenger continued, “My Preceptor felt that this curse amounted to unpardonable treason for, you are well established in Dharma, and you are a great devotee of the Lord. So, he sought for long to discover some means by which the consequences of the curse could be avoided; however, he came to know through his yogic skill, that you are destined to give up your life as a result of snake-bite and destined also to reach the Seat of the Lord on death. He felt that this was an end, which was worthwhile; and that it was sinful to obstruct such a glorious consummation. So, he sends you through me his blessings that you may reach the Presence of God. I have now finished my mission. I can leave, as soon as you permit me.”
Parikshith prostrated before the young disciple and prayed that his reverential gratitude may be communicated to the great saint Sameeka and his son. At this, he left and reaching the hermitage, he informed the hermit all that transpired at the capital.
Death, Seven Days Ahead
Meanwhile, the emperor proceeded in great joy to the inner apartments and standing before the entrance of the zenana, he asked that his son, Janamejaya, be brought to him. Hearing the call the son wondered why he was summoned so suddenly and he ran towards the father. Parikshith got an old Brahmin into his room, and placing on the son’s head his own crown lying on the cot, he walked barefoot, with just the clothes he had on, at the moment, towards the Ganga, entrusting the new King to the old priest.
Within minutes, the news spread allover the place and all through the City; groups of men and women, brahmins and ministers hurried behind the king and remonstrated piteously; but, it was all in vain. They wept aloud; they fell at his feet; they rolled along the road across his path. The king did not notice anything; he vouchsafed no reply; he moved on, with the Name of the Lord in his mind and the Goal of Realisation in his thought. He was fast moving towards the bank of the Holy Ganga. Finding that the King had been left alone, and unattended to the River, the Royal Elephant, the Royal Horse, the Palanquin were taken in a line behind him, so that he may ascend any one of them as was his wont; but, the King did not pay any attention to the importunities. The populace were amazed to see their ruler discard food and drink; he was engaged without a moment’s break in the recitation of the Name of the Lord. Since no one knew the reason for this sudden resolution to renounce, all sorts of rumours got afloat based on the imaginative faculty of each individual.
But, some people investigated the antecedents of the event of renunciation and discovered that the disciple of a hermit had come with some important news, and following that cue, it was known that the king had only seven days more to live; the people gathered on the bank of the river and sat sunk in grief around the king, praying for his safety.
The tragic news spread so fast that it reached even the forest. The ascetics and Sadhakas, the sages and saints – they too trekked along to the bank of Ganga, with water pots in their hands. The whole place put on the appearance of a huge festival. The place resounded to the chanting of the Pranava, the recitation of Vedic hymns, and the singing in chorus of the glory of the Lord. Some groups were roundly scolding the son of Sameeka who was the cause of all the tragedy. Thus, in a short time, the bank was filled with human heads, so that not a grain of sand could be seen.
Meanwhile, an aged hermit who was filled with great pity and affection towards the Emperor approached him and, shedding tears of love, he spoke to him thus: “0 King! people say all kinds of things; there are many versions going round from mouth to mouth; I have come to you to find out the truth; I can walk only with great difficulty. I love you so much that I cannot bear to hear all that people say about you. What exactly did happen? What is the reason for this sudden act of sacrifice? What is the mystery behind the curse that the son of a hermit pronounced on such a highly evolved soul as you? Declare it! Satisfy our craving to know the truth. I cannot look on while the people are suffering like this; you were like a father to them. Now, you pay no heed to their pleadings. You have given up all attachments and come here. Speak to them at least a few words of solace. With you, sitting silent and hungry on the river bank, engaged in rigorous asceticism, the queens and ministers are like fish thrown out of water. Who was that young man, whose words caused this disastrous storm? Can he be genuinely the son of a hermit? Or, is that only a disguise? It is all a mystery to me.”
The King listened to these words, spoken with such affection and equanimity. He opened his eyes, and fell at the feet of the sage. “Master! Mahatma! What have I to hide from you? It cannot be hidden, even if I want to. I went into the forest a-hunting. Many wild animals were seen but they scattered at our approach. The small band of bow men that was with me was also scattered in the attempt to pursue the animals. I found myself alone on the track of game and I was far away from my retinue. I got no game; I was overcome with hunger and thirst; the scorching heat exhausted me; at last, I discovered a hermitage and entered it. I came to know later that it was the cottage of Rishi Sameeka. I called out repeatedly to discover whether there was anyone in. No answer came, nor did any one come out. I saw a hermit sitting in deep meditation, lost in his own Dhyan. While coming out from the cottage, I felt something soft under my foot. I lifted it with my fingers and found it was a dead serpent. As soon as my eyes fell on it, my intelligence was poisoned; a foul thought came into me; I placed it round the neck of that hermit engaged in Dhyan. This was somehow recognised by the son of that hermit; he could not bear the ignominy. He cursed, “May this snake round the neck of my father take the form of Thakshaka and end the life of the man who insulted my father thus, on the seventh day from today.”
“News was sent to me from the hermitage, of this curse and its consequence. I am conscious of the sin I have committed; I feel that a king capable of this sin has no place in the kingdom. So, I have given up everything, every attachment. I have decided to use these seven days, for the ceaseless contemplation of the Glory of God; it is great good fortune that this chance has been given to me. That is why I have come here.”
Thus, when the nobles, courtiers, princes, queens, ministers, hermits and others who were around him came to know the true facts they dropped from their minds the wild guesses they had made so far; they prayed aloud that the curse may lose its sharpness.
Some ascetics who heard the story of the curse from the lips of the King were so incensed at the ‘son of Sameeka’ that they declared he must be a fake, an unworthy child, for, no child born of a Rishi of the ‘stature of Sameeka’ will ever pronounce such a devastating curse, for such a trivial misdemeanor. He must be an ignorant fool or a madcap, they guessed. How can the curse emanating from the tongue of such a one take effect they asked? The King cannot come to harm, as a consequence of his curse, they affirmed. They tried to convince the King that he need have no fear on that account.
Many who felt similarly argued that the King had no reason to take the curse seriously, but, the King was unmoved. He replied to them with folded hands: “You are thinking and speaking on these lines, prompted by sympathy and kindness towards me. But, I know that the wrong I have committed is not light and inconsiderable. Is there a more terrible sin than casting insult on those deserving reverence? Besides, I am the King, responsible for their welfare and the maintenance of their honor. How can my act be dismissed as light and inconsiderable? Moreover, if you only consider it deeply, the curse pronounced by the boy is no curse at all. It is on the other hand, a great big boon.
For, I had fallen into the well of sin called empire; I had deluded myself into the belief that pleasure is the be-all and end-all of life; I was leading the life of a mere beast; I had forgotten God and my duty towards Him. God Himself has, by this means and through this instrument, directed me along the correct path. God has blessed me. This is a boon, not a punishment for past wrongs, as you imagine”.
When the King spoke thus, tears of joy and thankfulness flowed from his eyes; he was visibly moved by extreme sincerity and devotion. He was uttering what he felt in calm, unruffled contentment. The ascetics and the subjects around him were amazed at his equanimity. They knew his declaration was true.
The aged ascetic rose and standing before the wailing populace, he addressed the gathering thus, “O Best of King! Your words are rays of sunlight to the hearts of the ascetics; they are so appropriate to your lineage and upbringing; for, you are a Pandava born. The Pandavas never even once slipped into wrong or sin. They held fast always to the Feet of Hari, the Lord; they stuck to the commands of the Lord, unwaveringly. When the Lord returned to His Abode, they gave up the kingdom as a result of spontaneous renunciation; they left for the northern regions. You too are today following this holy path, since you belong to this great clan, which has inherited this way of life.”
At this, the King prayed to them, with palms folded in adoration: “O best among ascetics! I have just one doubt; please remove it from my mind. Make my days worthwhile.” “Tell me what it is,” responded the ascetic. The king asked that he be informed what the man for whom death is imminent can best do. At this, one sage rose and said that, so far as time permitted, one could perform yajnas or yagas, or one could engage himself in japa or thapa, acts of charity or pilgrimages, or fasts or ritual worship. Another declared that liberation can be acquired only through the acquisition of Jnana, “Jnaanaa devathu Kaivalyam;” a third spoke of the supreme importance of holy acts prescribed in the Vedas and Sastras, “Karmanyai vahi samsiddhi.” Some others argued that cultivating devotion to God is the best method of using the week, “Bhakthirvasah Purushah,” the Lord is won over by devotion alone. In this confusion of conflicting opinions, the king sought the true path and the ascetics were silenced by the persistence of the king to get a real answer to the problem he had posed.
Meanwhile, a youthful ascetic, with an extra-ordinarily bright face, and a personality of attractive splendor, moved through the gathering of aged sages, like a fast stream of light and reaching the presence of the king he seated himself on a height. The onlookers were amazed at this sudden appearance. Some among them were stricken with curiosity about his antecedents. To all outward appearance, he was a ‘munikumar’ that is to say, the son of an ascetic. But, his stance, his pose and poise, his personality – all affirmed that he was a Master. In years, he was quite tender. Yet, there was a divine halo, bathing him
Very soon, one wise old sage, identified him and approached him reverentially with folded palms. “Blessed indeed are all of us. This ray of Divine effulgence is no other than Sri Suka, the precious offspring of Vyasa-bhagavan.” Introducing the stranger thus to the gathering, the sage continued: “From the moment of birth, this person is free from all attachment. He is the master of all knowledge.” The king who heard this shed tears of gratitude and joy. He rose like a kite in the air, so light and full of joy, and fell prostrate at his feet. His palms were folded in prayer when he stood up; he was straight and silent as a pillar. He was immersed in bliss. He visualized the youth before him as Krishna Himself. The splendor of Suka was too brilliant for his eyes. His charm appeared to the king, equal to the God of Love. The black curly rings of hair moved like black serpent-hoods hovering over the white oval face. As stars amidst the dark clouds, his eyes shed cool luster and shone extra-ordinarily bright. A smile showered drops of joy from his lips.
The King neared Suka, with slow steps; his voice was broken and indistinct his throat was quivering with emotion. He said, “Master! I have no strength to describe the depth of your grace. Every act of yours is aimed at the welfare of the world. It is indeed my fortune that I had your Darsan today, so easily, for, I know it can be won only by protracted and persistent effort. 0, how fortunate am I! I must ascribe it to the merit earned by my grandparents”. The King was overcome with grateful joy at the presence of Suka; he stood with tears of joy streaming from his eyes.
With a smile hovering on his lips, Suka directed the King to sit by his side. He said: “0 King! You are no doubt straight and steadfast in moral conduct. You are ever intent on the service of the good and the godly. Your meritorious life has drawn this large gathering of sages around you, this day. Or else, these ascetics who are concerned with spiritual discipline would not have left their schedules to come here and pray that you may attain the realization of the Highest. This is no act of charity! You have earned this gift by many lives spent virtuously and well.”
The King was gazing with devoted admiration at the face of Suka, while he was speaking to him. Suddenly, he raised his head and addressed the young sage thus: “Lord! I have a doubt pestering me. Remove it and give peace to my heart. I was laying it before this assembly when you came. You can, I know, solve that doubt, in a trice. It must be child’s play for you.” Suka interrupted him and said, “Parikshith! The reason I came to you is to solve this doubt that is pestering you. You can ask me what you have in mind. I shall resolve your doubt and grant you satisfaction”. When the great Suka uttered these words, the sages who had gathered, exclaimed, “what great fortune!” “Blessed indeed!” and clapped their hands in joy so loud that the acclamation reached the sky.
The King spoke humbly and with evident anxiety, “Lord! What should a person facing death who is aware of the oncoming of the end, engage himself in? What should his mind dwell upon? After succumbing to death, he should not be born again. When that is his prayer, how should he spend the days at his disposal? This is the problem that is bothering me at present. What is my highest duty?” the King pleaded again and again for guidance.
Suka answered: “King! Withdraw your mind from worldly thoughts and fix it on Hari, the Lord who charms all hearts. I shall instruct you in the wisdom of the Divine, the Bhagavathathatwa. Listen to it with all your heart; there is no activity holier than that. There can be no greater spiritual exercise, or discipline or vow. The human body is a worthy boat; the story of Hari is the rudder; this world of change, this constant flow, this Sansar, is the sea. Hari is the boatman! Today, this sacred equipment is available for you.
The problem you have raised is not concerned with just one individual, the whole world is concerned with it, and its solution. It is the most vital of all problems that deserves inquiry. The Atma principle is the panacea for all beings. That is the ultimate Truth. No one can escape it. To establish oneself in that faith during the final days is the duty of living beings. It is on this basis that status in the next birth is determined. So, the question that you asked, the doubt that you raised, are matters of great moment for the welfare of the whole world. The answer is not for you alone. Listen.”
“Maharaja! The great Tree that Bhagavatha is, truly inspires reverential awe. It has, incorporated in it, every conceivable source of auspiciousness and joy. The Lord, Sri Narayana is the seed from which it has sprouted. The sprout is Brahman. The trunk of the Tree is Narada. Vyasa constitutes the branches. Its sweet fruit is the nectarine story of Krishna. Those earnest souls that yearn for that nectar, and pine plaintively, regardless of bodily comfort or the passage of the years, until they secure the fruit and imbibe its essence, such are real saints and yogis. (See also Srimad Bhagavatam Canto 1, Chapter 1: Questions by the Sages)
0, ye ascetics and sages! This day, I am relating to you that Bhagavatha Sastra, that enchanting story of Krishan; treasure it in your memory and save yourself from delusion and grief, You have listened to the recitals of all Sastras already. You have also mastered all Sadhanas. But, you have not known the greatest of them all. I shall now give you the sacred Name of Krishna and the Sweetness that is flowing from it. It is the sweetest name one can conceive; when it falls on the ear, the heart is filled with joy; when you recall the Name to memory, a stream of Love springs from the heart. The Bhagavatha inspires and promotes deep devotion to Lord Krishna.
The Universal Absolute, the Birthless Formless, Unmanifest, Infinite, too on limitations of Name and Form, and concretized Itself as Avathars (Incarnations) on many occasions and manifested countless instances of Divine Intercession and Grace. Through these, as well as the characteristics assumed and the ideas propagated, God saved mankind from downfall. Those who sing the story of this Glory, those who listen eagerly to the recital, those who imbibe and digest the lessons conveyed, these are the real devotees. They are the Bhagavathas, those who follow the path laid down in the Bhagavatha. Bhagavatha binds Bhaktha with Bhagavan; that is to say, the Story fills you with God, and transmutes you into Divinity.
God incarnates, not merely for the destruction of the wicked; that is just an excuse, one of the obvious reasons. Really speaking God incarnates for the sake of Bhakthas (faithful devotees). The cow has milk primarily as sustenance for its calf. But, it is used by man for maintaining his health and efficiency. So too, God incarnates, primarily for the sustenance of the faithful, the devoted, the virtuous and the good. But, even the faithless, and the bad, use the chance for their own purpose. Therefore, in the Bhagavatha, stories of such wicked persons intervene amidst the accounts of the Glory and Grace of God. This does not make the Bhagavatha any the less holy. When the sweet juice has been squeezed out of the sugarcane, the bagasse is discarded. When the sweetness of Divine Majesty has been tasted, the bagasse can well be thrown out. The cane has both bagasse and sugar; it cannot be sugar only. So too, devotees have to be amidst the faithless; they cannot be without the others.
God has no bondage to time and space. For Him, all beings are the same. He is the master of the living and the non-living. At the conclusion of every aeon the process of involution is completed in the Deluge; then, evolution starts again and as Brahma, He creates beings again. He enlightens every one with a spark of His own Glory and fosters every one of them on the path of fulfillment, as Vishnu. It is He again, who as Siva, concludes the process by the destruction of all. Thus, you can see that there is no limit to His Might, no end to His Potence. There can be no boundaries for His achievements. He incarnates in countless ways; He comes as an Incarnation of a Kala (fragment) of His, or an Amsa (part) of His; He comes as an Inner inspirer for some definite Purpose; He comes to close an epoch and inaugurate another (Yugavathar). The narrative of these Incarnations is the Bhagavatha. (See also Srimad Bhagavatam Canto 2, Chapter 6: The hymn of the original person confirmed)
The One Divine Principle works through three Forms, as Brahma, Vishnu and Siva, in order to manipulate and complete the process of becoming a being, called Srishti. The three are fundamentally of the same essence; there is no higher or lower; all three are equally Divine. Associated with Creation, He is Brahma; with Protection, He is Vishnu; with Dissolution, He is Siva. When He comes down assuming special form on special occasions for a specific purpose, He is known as Avathara. In fact, Manu and Prajapathi and other Persons are Divine Persons entrusted by Brahma with the mission of peopling the world. Everything happens in consonance with the Divine Will. So, we can assert that the saints, sages, ascetics and men both good and bad, are all Avatharas of the Vishnu Entity. Avatharas are as countless as living beings are, for, each is born as a consequence of Divine Will. But, the story of the Yugavathar alone is worth perusal for the Advent is to restore Dharma and moral life. The story of all the rest is but a story of distress and despair.
Brahma deputed Manu to proceed to the earth and to create living beings thereon; Devi, the Feminine Principle eluded him and took the Earth into the nether regions. Brahma then had to seek help from Vishnu (Hari) and He assumed the Form of a Boar and brought the Earth, from the nether regions, and placed it among the waters. (See also Srimad Bhagavatam Canto 3, Chapter 13: The Appearance of Lord Varaha)
Later, the Earth was so incensed at the atrocities of Emperor Venu, she kept all the seeds sown, within herself and did not allow them to sprout. So, all beings were afflicted with the agony of hunger. The earth became a medley of hills and valleys with nothing green on it. Then, the Lord assumed the Form of Prithu, who leveled the surface and added fertility to the soil and induced the growth of agriculture and promoted the welfare of mankind. He fostered the Earth like his own child and so, the Earth is called Prithivi. He is said to have built the first cities upon the earth.
That is to say, it was the Lord’s Will that it should be done so. It is that will which is being worked out. The Lord originated the Vedas, for the preservation of man, through the practice of morals and spiritual exercises. The Vedas contain Names that will liberate beings, and the rules and regulations that will guide. When the Asuras or the Evil-minded threatened to steel the Vedas, they hid themselves in the waters and the Lord assumed the form of a Fish to recover them. He saved the Seven Sages and Manu from the same waters. This is the reason why it is said that the Lord incarnated as a Fish.
0, ye ascetics! 0, King Parikshith! Doubts may arise in your minds when you hear the story of creation and the early history of man on earth. The processes of the Divine Will are mysterious wonders; they cannot be grasped by the faculties with which you measure earthly events. Often, they may strike you as devoid of any basis but, the Lord will never involve Himself in any deed without proper cause. That Will need not be explicable; it is its own prompter. Everything everywhere is due to His Will.
To initiate Creation, there must be some attraction that will act as the urge. So, Brahma had to become two, in body and activity. The One Body was transformed into two and therefore, where there was one Will formerly, two appeared, one which attracted and the other which was drawn towards creation, the feminine and the masculine. Since the one attracted in a hundred distinct ways it was called, Satharupa (hundred-facetted) and Beloved of Brahma (Brahmapriya). The other was named, Manu. These two gained renown in the first stage of creation. Satharupa and Manu were the first progenitors.
Satharupa and Manu together approached the Lord of Creation and inquired what they had to fulfill. Brahma replied with a smile, “Be mates of each other; beget and people the Earth.” Equipped with the authority derived from this command, they filled the earth with people, said the sage Suka, to the King.
At this the King interceded: “Master! I have learnt from my own experience that the origin of all grief in this world is Infatuation or Moha. I have no desire to hear about these matters; please relate to me how to overcome infatuation, delusion and attachment. In these last days, what exactly has man to do? Which Name has he to keep constantly in mind so that he can avoid for ever this round of birth and death? Tell me these things,” he asked.
Suka was very much delighted, at this query. He replied, “0 King! you are a spiritual soul. You serve sages with devotion. This large gathering of monks, ascetics and sages is proof of your meritorious acts. For, these do not usually congregate in any place.” The King interrupted him, with his protests. “No, no, my Lord! I am a great sinner; I have no trace of spiritual progress in me. If I had the least merit, if I had served sages devotedly, I would not have become the target for the curse of the Brahmin. The fortune that I now enjoy, namely, the company of these great sages and the chance of adoring your feet, is the consequence of the meritorious acts of my forefathers. I know fully well that my activities have not contributed anything to it. The grace that Syamasundara (Krishna) showered on my grandparents is the cause. Had it been otherwise, can persons like me who are sunk in the well of Samsar, immersed in the vain pursuit of sensory pleasure, who do not contemplate for a moment the True, the Eternal and the Pure – can we ever hope to see before us, in concrete form your presence, ever roaming in the silences of the forests, unknown to man? Really, this is an unattainable piece of good fortune. All this is due to the blessings of my grand-parents, and the Grace of Syamsundara (Krishna), not to anything else. You are full of affection for me and so, you attribute this to my own merit. I am only too aware of my failings.
Kindly continue to shower on me the same affection, and help me to decide what has to be given up by a person whose death is imminent, what has to be adopted and practiced by him. Advise me this and make my days worth while. You alone can solve this for me. Relate to me the Bhagavatha, as you said you would. You told me that it is the basis for progress and for liberation; it will destroy sins; it will result in prosperity. Let me quaff the sacred nectar of the Name of Krishna and refresh myself, in this feverish heat, he pleaded.
Suka smiled at the King and said, “The Bhagavatha is as worthy of reverence as the Vedas, as worthy of study and observance. At the end of the Dwapara age, on the Gandhamadana mountain, in the hermitage of my father Vyasa, I had listened to that sacred text. I shall repeat the same to you. Listen.” At this, the King inquired, with his palms held together in prayer, “0 Incomparable Sage! I have heard that you were an ascetic deep in detachment from the very moment of birth. Even without the traditional ceremonial rites which purify and clarify the intellect, (such as Jathakarma, Namakarana, and Upanayana) you had won the fullest awareness of the Reality, and hence, I have heard you were moving about in the consciousness of that Truth, away from men, in the forests. Hence, I am surprised that your heart was drawn towards this text, which, you say, is saturated with devotion. What caused your interest in this path? I pray that you describe the circumstances to me.”
Suka started explaining with a calm unruffled countenance. “Yes. I am beyond prescriptions and prohibitions. I am in unbroken mergence in the attributeless Nirguna Brahma. That is the truth about me. Nevertheless, I must declare, that there is an inexpressible sweetness in God that attracts you and captivates you by His Sportive Activities and Attributes. I must confess also that I have listened to the description of the beauty and the sweetness of God. My mind delighted in hearing and reading the Glories of God, manifesting His Divine attributes, through each of these. I could not remain at peace; I exulted like a mad man, thrilled by the bliss I derived from listening and reading. His sweet pranks and sports intoxicated me with infinite joy. This day I came hither, since I became aware that a chance has arisen to relate them to a group of eager listeners, persons who, in all respects, deserve to hear them, and understand their significance. Therefore, I shall relate that sacred Bhagavatha to you and through you, to the personages gathered here. You have the avidity and the attainment necessary to listen to it. You have resolved to achieve the Highest Goal of Man.
Those who listen to this narrative with earnest devotion, (not merely listen) and reflect upon its value and significance and act according to the Light it sheds on their minds, such will merge in the Bliss of which Vasudeva, the Lord, is the embodiment. Their hearts will be filled with the sweet nectar of the Personification of Captivating Charm (Madanamohana) and they will experience the Adwaithananda, the Bliss of being One and Only. The highest Sadhana is the recitation of the Name of God with full vigilance of thought, feeling and utterance (Manovaak-kaaya) and the loud singing of His Glory. No better Sadhana exists.
The Grace of God
O King, do not lose yourselves in anxiety that time is short. Not much time is needed to win the Grace of God. The rays of Grace from that Embodiment of Compassion can fall on you as quick as the wink of the eye. I shall enable you to listen during these seven days, the stories of many who experienced spiritual bliss, how Vasudeva blessed them with spiritual progress, how persons crossed the Ocean of Birth and Death through the hearing of such stories and the singing of the Glory of God that is manifest in them. We shall not waste a single moment. You are conscious that you have only seven more days of life. Therefore, give up all sense of ‘mine’ and ‘thine’, of the body in which you live and the home in which the body lives. Be aware only of the story of Madhava, The Lord of the Universe; drink the nectarine narratives of the Incarnations of the Lord. It is quite a common occurrence that stories are told and heard by gatherings of thousands. But, Jnana can be achieved only by placing complete faith in what is heard. That faith must result in a cleansed mind, a pure heart.
One further point, O King! There are countless exponents who go about discoursing on morals and spiritual matters on the basis of mere study; they do not have an iota of experience of what they preach. They have no faith in the authenticity of the various Manifestations of Divine Glory which they dilate upon. Such exhortation is as ineffective as offerings of ghee, made, not in flames but on a cold heap of ashes. It will not cure the mind of faults and failures.
In your case, there is no fear of such ineffectiveness, Your heart is immersed in the uninterrupted flood of Love for Shyamasundara (Krishna). Whoever listens to this narrative and imbibes the nectar of this story with a heart, bubbling over with Divine yearning, unshakeable faith in God, and constant joy can attain the realization of the Self. This is beyond the realm of doubt. 0 King! This occasion, this text and this listener are all quite appropriate and excellent.
Saying, “0, how fortunate you are!”, the sage Suka placed his hand on the head of the King in benediction; he caressed the thick curls of his hair. The King pleaded most humbly, “Master, You know too well that I have very little time before me.” Therefore, he continued with folded palms, “give me highest guidance, and I shall get myself established in it, all these seven days. Give me the holy formula so that I can repeat it in the short time I have, and keep it fresh in memory and save myself”.
The sage laughed. “Parikshit! Those who are intent on sensory pleasures spend their days in worry, in anxiety, in pain, grief and tears throughout a long period of life, they breed like birds and beasts; they eat good food and cast it away as urine and feaces. This is the purposeless life that most people lead. Can you call this, the process of living? Enormous numbers of living beings exist on the earth. Living is not enough; it has no value by itself, for itself. It is the motives, the feelings, the thoughts, the attitudes that prompt the day to day life that matters. If a person has divine qualities manifesting themselves as thoughts, feelings, etc., then he is alive. Instead, if a person defiles the holy encasement of his, (body) by utilizing it for unholy purposes that cater to momentary happiness, thereby ignoring the All-knowing, All-powerful Providence, it is to be condemned as a calculated denial of one’s humanity. Take the case of a person who has fixed his mind on the Lotus Feet of the Lord (Hari); it does not matter if he is short-lived. During that short period, he can make his life fruitful and auspicious. 0 King, to remove your doubt, I shall tell you the beautiful story of a Rajarshi. Listen.
In the Solar Dynasty, there was once a ruler who was mighty in prowess, heroic on the field, prolific in charity, upright in character, and just in his dealings. He was named Khatvanga. He had no equal, no one who could challenge him. Meanwhile, the wicked Daityas and Danavas mustered their forces and went to war against the Devas (gods); the gods were afraid of being overwhelmed; they realized their weakness and came down to earth and sought help from King Khatvanga. The king was also longing for the adventure of battle; so, he collected his bow and arrows and riding his chariot, he proceeded to the scene of war. There, he shook the hearts of the Daityas and Danavas by sheer terror of his valour. The enemy fled in panic, unable to withstand the terrific onslaught. Since it is immoral to subject a fleeing foe to hot pursuit, Khatvanga desisted from further clashes.
The gods (Devas) were happy that they could achieve victory through the timely help of Khatvanga. They praised his might and his sense of righteousness. “0 King, there is no one who can compare with you, in contemporary history. You granted us triumph in this deadly struggle against the forces of evil. We desire that you should accept from us in return any help that you need that we can render.” The King told them, “Ye gods! Yajnas and Yagas are performed by men to please you, isn’t it? This battle in which I had the privilege to participate is therefore a Yajna, so far as I am concerned. What else do I need from you than this Grace that you have showered on me? This is adequate boon.” Declaring thus, he fell at the feet of the gods.
Not satisfied with this reply, the gods compelled him to ask for something, some boon from them. Though he had no mind to ask anything, he was forced to frame some wish, since he felt he would not be left alone. At last, he said, “Ye gods! Reveal to me how many years more I shall live. Only then can I decide which boon I can ask from you.” Purandara (Indra), the monarch of the gods is all-knowing and so, without a moment’s delay, he replied, “0 King, your span of life is very nearly over. You can live only for one more Muhurtha (a period of a few minutes [about an hour, edit.]).” [Muhurta: see also Srimad Bhagavatam, Canto 3, chapter 11, verse 8] On hearing this, Khatvanga said, I have nothing to ask. I do not need anything. I feel that all the pleasures of this world and the next are trifles to be discarded. I shall not enter again the slush of sensory pleasure. Give me the boon of attaining the Sublime Presence of the Lord, from which there is no return, for which all life is dedicated.” Then, he sat with closed eyes repeating the Name of God and, at the end of the Muhurtha he achieved the Lotus Feet of Hari (God)! (See also Srimad Bhagavatam Canto 3, Chapter 11: Division of time expanding from the atom)
“Note how in a few moments, he cast off from the mind all attachment to objective pleasure! Khatvanga was thus able to reach the Feet of the Lord, where fear dare not approach. You have seven days, while he had a few minutes only. Therefore, you have no reason to be anxious. During these days, purify your inner consciousness by attentively listening to the best and holiest narrative of the manifestation of God.”
At this, Parikshith shed tears of joy, remembering the supreme benediction, won by the great devotee, Khatvanga. He exclaimed, Master! Instruct, me what I must do now; I do not get words to express my yearning. My heart is overflowing with bliss.” He sat in petrified silence.
Suka advised, “0 King, equip yourself with the sword of detachment. Cut into pieces the deluded affection for the body. Give up the ‘myness’ that makes you cling to your kith and kin. Be seated firmly on the bank of this sacred river.” Then, when Suka was about to begin his narrative, Parikshith appeared anxious to ask some question. Seeing this, Suka said, “You seem to be perplexed with something. Ask me what you wish to know and have that doubt removed from your mind.” Immediately, the King said, “Master! You are indeed an Ocean of Compassion. As a tasty meal to a starving person, your words bring cool comfort to my burning heart. Revered Preceptor, you had spoken to me a short while ago about the beginnings of Creation. I did not understand it clearly. Why did the Attributeless Parabrahmam (Formless-Immanence-Transcendence) assume Form and Attributes? Tell me about that.” The King sat with expectant face, all attention, and praying sincerely, eager to hear and learn.
The sage Suka adjusted himself in his seat and began: “The Supreme Sovereign Lord manifesting Himself as Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara, through the prompting of Primal Desire (Moha) is engaged in creating, fostering and destroying the worlds. In what is thus created, there is always the principle of Dualism. There is difference and disparity between one and another. If these differences and disparities are harmonized wisely, the world will have happiness and peace. If, on the other hand, living beings behave wrongly, the world will be sunk in anxiety, misery, and confusion. When these arise, the Lord assumes appropriate Forms and affords necessary protection and correction. He sets right the damaged world, removes the evil forces that caused the damage, and instructs mankind in the science of fostering the right and the good.
It is not possible to limit the freedom of God in assuming Forms. He adopts endless Forms, to manifest Himself in the World and saves it. His incarnation is in conformity with the need of the crisis at the time. When the Earth moaned under the injustice of Hiranyaksha, He had to appear as a Boar, taking Form and equipped with attributes, though, in essence, He is without Form and Attribute.The will of God is mysterious; it cannot be explained by categories or as consequences. It is above and beyond human reasoning and imagination. It can be comprehended only by those who have known Him, and not by those who have acquired scholarship or sharp intellect. The cause and the consequence are integrally related.
One day, when Brahma was resting for a while on His seat, there fell from His nose a boar as small as one’s thumb-tipBrahma who had assumed in sportive exuberance the Human form, knew the why and wherefore of everything; but, He pretended not to, and looked upon the tiny boar with astonishment. Meanwhile, it developed faster and faster into greater and greater size, like a frog, rat, and a cat, and into the proportions of a monstrous elephant in rut. Brahma was smiling within Himself at its antics. Very soon, the Boar grew so huge that it seemed to cover both earth and sky; it slid into the sea and emerged from it with Goddess Earth (who had hidden herself under the waters through humiliation) borne aloft safe and secure, on its tusks.
Meanwhile, a cry was heard from behind, “You wretched swine! Where are you fleeing to? Stop where you are.” The Boar paid no heed to that cry; He moved on, as if He had not heard it. Then, Hiranyaksha, the Evil-minded Ogre-chief confronted It like a terrible monster, and challenged It to overcome his might. A mortal combat ensued between the two. Witnessing the frightful thrusts and counter thrusts, Goddess Earth shivered in fear but, the Boar consoled Her saying, “0 Goddess, do not be frightened. I shall end this orge’s life immediately. I shall ensure safety and peace for you, in a moment.” Soon, the Boar became terrible to behold, the Goddess was greatly agitated about the encounter; the Boar fell upon Hiranyâksha with overwhelming might and the Goddess closed Her eyes in sheer terror, unable to bear the sight of the devastating Form of the Boar. The duel was fought with indescribable fury, but, in the end, Hiranyâksha was torn to pieces and cast upon the ground.
Thus, the Lord assumed various Forms according to the needs of the situation, the Forms best suited for the destruction of the wicked Danavas (the Race of Evil-minded Ogres), and for the protection of the good and godly, and the preservation of the Scriptures that reveal the Truth, the Vedas. In this manner, the Lord incarnated as the Fish, the Tortoise, the Man-lion, and the Short-statured (Matsya, Kurma, Narasimha, and Vamana).
Of all the Incarnations, the supremest and the most blissful is the Krishna-form. Still, you must realize that the chief purpose of all incarnations is the preservation of Dharma (Justice, Righteousness, Morality, Virtue).
He who instructs must gauge the qualifications of the learner to receive the lesson. It will be vain effort, to try to communicate the highest knowledge to a person belonging to the lowest level. For, he cannot comprehend it. So too, if the instructions that have to be given to the lower levels are given to those of the higher levels, they will derive no satisfaction from that teaching. To make this clear, I shall tell you about a discussion that ensued once between Brahma and Nârada. Listen, carefully.” Suka began to narrate the story of Nârada.
Brahma once addressed Nârada, “0 My Mind-projected Son! Creation is My task, the way, in which I fulfil My Mission, My Thapas. I will, and Creation happens. But, I lay down certain rules and modes for each species and, if they are properly adhered to, the Wheel will turn aright in Dharma. Instead, if the modes and rules are neglected and they toil for the satisfaction of their own wishes, along crooked and misleading paths, they will have to suffer various miseries.
Day and Night are willed by Me; The Rulers of Living Beings are parts of Me. The urge that people have to increase and multiply is the reflection of My Will. Sometimes, when the created world has to be sustained, I myself assume Name and Form and initiate Manvantharas (The Eras of Manu), and provide the Earth with appropriate Divine Personalities and Sages, who set examples to be followed and indicate the paths for progress.
I end also the unlimited increase of beings, when it happens. For this, I take on the Form of Rudra too. I create the bad, in order to high-light and promote the good; and in order to protect the good, I set certain limits, both to the good and the bad, for, they would otherwise, stray into wrong ways and inflict great harm.
I am immanent in every being. People forget Me, who is within and without them; I am the inner core of every being, but, they are not aware of this. So, they are tempted to believe the objective world to be real and true, and they pursue objective pleasures, and fall into grief and pain. On the other hand, if they concentrate all attention on Me alone, believing that the Lord has willed everything and everyone, I bless them and reveal to them the Truth that they are I and I am they. Thousands have been blessed thus. They are the seekers, the aspirants, the Mahatmas, the Sages, the Divinely Inspired, the Manifestations of the Divine, the Guides who show the Path. They have acquired the experience that Truth is Dharma.
I shall tell you about some of them, listen. Sagara, Ikshvaku, Prachinabarhi, Rubhu, Dhruva, Raghumaharaj, Yayathi, Mandhatha, Alarka, Sathadhanva, Dileepa, Khali, Bheeshma, Sibi, Pippalada, Saraswatha, Vibhishana, Hanuman, Muchukunda, Janaka, Satharupa, Prahlada, and many Rajarshis, Brahmarshis. Princes, Nobles – who can be grouped under one category, the Godly (Bhagavathas).They all yearn for the chance to listen to the glories of God. They have all been blessed, irrespective of cast, age, status, or gender; they have among them women, Brahmins, Sudras and Chandalas.
I am the Cause of all Causes. I am Eternal. I am Sath-Chith- Ananda (I am Existence, Knowledge, Bliss). I am Hari and Hara, too; for, I transform Myself into these Manifestations as occasion arises. Creation, the Universe, is but the projection of My Will; it has no basic reality. My son, I declared this truth to you, as a result of My deep love towards you. Others will not be able to grasp the mystery of this Creation. What I have just revealed to you is known as concise Bhagavatha.
Bhagavatha connotes three sections of knowledge: (1) The Glory and Majesty of the Incarnations of God, (2) The Names of those who are fully devoted to God and (3) The intimate relationship between God and the Godly. Where these three are found together, there we have the Bhagavatha. All that is visible is not beyond or outside God. Therefore, to put it succinctly, everything is Bhagavatha! Everything is worthy of being honoured so.
While Brahma was thus teaching Nârada, with great joy, Nârada interrogated Him, in amazement and anxious yearning, thus: “Lord! As directed by you, I am engaged without intermission in singing the glory of God and enabling the world to derive bliss therefrom. But, this insidious and powerful Maya (Delusion) may over-power me any moment, plunge me into wrong, and create obstacles in the path of my mission. Is there any measure by which I can escape this calamity? Kindly instruct me in that and show me this additional sign of your parental affection.”
Brahma laughed at this question. He replied, “Son! Your words seem childish. The clouds of Delusion (Maya) cannot darken the inner consciousness of those who revel in the glory and majesty of God, those who know and make known that God is the Master of Maya, the Wielder of the Operative Forces that both delude and destroy delusion, those who are engaged in good deeds executed with faith and devotion, and those who endeavour ever to maintain Truth and Righteousness. Therefore, move fearlessly all over the three worlds with the Veena [Indian string instrument] in your hands, singing in adoration of God. Listening to the recital and elaboration of the mystery of God and the Godly, the inhabitants of the Worlds will save themselves from the cycle of birth and death.
Karma (activity and deeds resulting therefrom) are binding, because they have consequences that must be suffered or enjoyed. But, deeds of service, are free from this handicap. Be ever fixed in the thought of God; there is no other means than this to turn the mind away from sensory pursuits and objective activities.”
Suka told the King, “0 Parikshith! Since this supreme wisdom cannot be communicated to all except those who have reached a high level of purity and understanding, Brahma taught only Nârada. And Nârada too, continued as advised, to sing and adore God through his songs the Lord who is immanent as well as transcendent. He did not ignore or discard the teaching that Brahma favoured him with. You too are qualified to receive this sacred lesson; that is the reason why, I, who am inaccessible, have spontaneously come direct to you, to describe to you the Bhagavatha. I am no ordinary minstrel. I never approach a person who has not earned the right to listen to me. Imagine the height that Nârada must have reached, to acquire the qualification needed for instruction in the attributes of the Attributeless God!”
The Bhagavatha Path
When Suka was thus gravely assessing him, Parikshith interceded, “Master! The Ancient Four-faced Sovereign Brahma directed Nârada to sing the Bhagavatha, you said. To whom did Nârada narrate the same? Who are those highly favoured personages? Tell me about them in detail.” Suka replied, “0 King, why do you yield to hurry? Be courageous and controlled. I shall relate to you everything in its own time. Be calm and collected.”
The King explained, “Master! Pardon me. I am not excited at all. I am only yearning to fix my mind at the last moment of my life on the charming smile that dances on the lips of Lord Krishna, to drink deep, at that moment, the nectar of the Lotus Feet of the Lord. I have no other desire. If I am unable to establish in my mind the captivating picture of the Lord at the moment of death, I will have to be born again as one of the 84,000 [8.400.000 according to the Srîmad Bhâgavatam, edit.] species of living beings, isn’t it? Since that calamity should not happen and since I must remember with my last breath, the Dispenser of Life-breath, make my life worthwhile by relating to me the Divine characteristics and the Divine activities of the Lord.”
Suka laughed at this. He said, “King! How can the mind be established at the Lotus Feet of the Lord, if the ears listen to the characteristics and activities of the Lord? What is your opinion on this point? Tell me.” Parikshith said, “Master! I believe that there is no distinction between God, His name and His Attributes; is that correct? When the story of the Lord is narrated and listened to, the Name of the Lord and the attributes enter the heart, through the ears and disperse the darkness of ignorance, isn’t it? When the lion enters the forest, the timid jackals flee with their tails between their legs, don’t they? The sincere listener will certainly fix his mind on what he heard through the ear. While listening rapturously to the ravishing attributes of the Lord with the captivating smile, the mind will be so attached to the sweetness derived thereby that it can no more be attracted by low and vulgar objects, isn’t it? The ear and the mind will both act in unison, then. That alone will yield Ananda.”
The King was thus enthusiastically extolling the benefits of listening intently to the activities and majesty of the Lord. Suka interrupted his exultation and said, “0 King! The mind has inconstancy as its very nature. How can it give up its nature and attach itself to the feet of the Lord? Is it not an impossible feat?” Suka was attempting to gauge the feelings that filled the mind of Parikshith. Parikshith smiled and replied, “Master! I shall answer, if you kindly permit me, and direct me to do so. The bee will hover around the flower, humming and droning, until it settles down to drink the nectar from it. Once it has entered the flower and tasted the nectar, it will hover, hum and drone no more. It will have no extraneous thought, to disturb its bliss. It will become so intoxicated with the bliss that it will not heed its own safety; for, when the petals close and the flower folds, it allows itself to be imprisoned inside it. Similarly, when once the mind settles on the Lotus Feet of that embodiment of Beauty and Goodness it can never more crave for anything except the Nectar of the Lotus Feet.”
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