Monthly Archives: March 2012

Is Krishna Gone?

— 22 —

When the king was thus worryfully pondering the evil omens he saw, the monkey-flag came back from the city of Yadus.

The flag atop Arjuna’s chariot bears the mark of a monkey.

23

He came to bow at the king’s feet in unprecedented dejection. His lotus-eyes made drops of water fall from his downward-bent face.

24

Seeing his brother’s troubled heart and paleness, the king began to question him then and there, in the middle of everyone; unable to get the words of Nārada out of his mind.

Nārada previously indicated that Kṛṣṇa’s associates would now be departing from the earth, following their master. After hearing this, the King saw so many inauspicious omens. Now, Arjuna returns after extreme delay from a visit to Kṛṣṇa with tears streaming down his pale face. In the face of all this horrific evidence, the king was unable to be patient and wait for a good time and place; he immediately began questioning Arjuna in great worry.

25

Yudhiṣṭhira said:

Are our relatives in Ānarta’s capitol city – the Madhu, Bhaja, Daśārha, Ārha, Sātvata, Andhaka and Vṛṣṇi clans – passing time happily?

Arjuna does not look up or answer.

26-27

Is our maternal grandfather Śūra and his wife Māriṣa passing time auspiciously?

How is my maternal uncle Vasudeva (for whom the drums of heaven resounded)? What about our maternal aunts, the seven sisters who are his wives? Personally headed by Devakī, are they living happily among their children and daughters-in-law?

Arjuna can give no reply. So Yudhiṣṭhira continues to become more specific in his inquiries.

28-29

Does king Āhuka still live with his children, among whom one was worthless?

What of Hṛdīka and his son?

What of Akrūra, Jayanta, Gada, Sāraṇa – are they living happily, headed by Śatrujit?

Does Rāma pass the time happily, being the All-Attractive protector of the saintly Sātvata dynasty?

Āhuka is Ugrasena, whose “son” was wicked Kaṁsa. Kaṁsa’s true father was a demon who violated Ugrasena’s wife. Thus there was no question of Āhuka being “happy.” Yudhiṣṭhira merely asks if he is still living. Hṛdīka was the grandfather of Kṛṣṇa’s father, Vasudeva. The list of persons headed by Śatrujit are very close associates of Kṛṣṇa who help significantly in administering and protecting the city. Rāma refers to Bālarāma, Kṛṣṇa’s elder brother.

30-31

Is Pradyumna living happily as the General of the Vṛṣṇi armies?

All-Attractive Aniruddha, profoundly dexterous, must be prospering!? So too must be all the great sons and grandsons of Kṛṣṇa like Suṣeṇa, Cārudeṣṇa, Sāmba, Jāmbavatī’s son, Ṛṣabha and so on…

Constantly receiving no answer, verbal or otherwise, from Arjuna, the king becomes ever more worried and escalates his questions closer and closer to the heart of the matter, dreading to ask directly about Kṛṣṇa. Here he asks about the foremost of Kṛṣṇa’s children.

32-33

And what of Kṛṣṇa’s constant companions: Śrutadeva, Uddhava and so on; and what of Sunanda and Nanda, the best among leaders of the Sātvata family???

Aren’t they all well, being sheltered by the strength of Rāma and Kṛṣṇa? Do they ever remember us kindly, their affectionate relatives?

Still, Arjuna neither raises his eyes nor answers. Tears only stream down his pale cheeks all the more profusely with each question.

34

Certainly All-Attractive Govinda, who is so affectionate to devotees and thinkers, must be enjoying the city’s assembly hall, surrounded by well-wishers!?

Finally Yudhiṣṭhira must place the question directly, with great fear and unwillingness to accept the possibility of an awful negative reply.

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How to Read Omens

1.14.1

Sūta said:

Jiṣṇu [Arjuna – “The Triumphant”] went to Dvārakā to see his relatives and find out what Kṛṣṇa (whose glories are purifying) was doing.

2

When he had not returned after a few months, the leader of the Kurus [Yudhiṣṭhira] observed many different omens of ill fortune.

3

A terrible fate was foretold in unseasonal weather, and by people adopting cruel ways marked by anger, greed, and deceit.

4

Cheating and duplicity polluted the behavior of protectors: fathers, mothers, well-wishers and brothers. Husbands and wives quarreled.

5

Many very bad omens indicated that the time had come for humanity to drift away. Seeing so many immoral and base deeds driven by greed and the like, the King spoke to his younger brother.

These are not so much “omens” in general, as they are omens specifically that Kali-Yuga had begun, the age in which the glory of humanity fades and drifts away. This in turn indicates that Kṛṣṇa was no longer on Earth.

6

Yudhiṣṭhira said:

Jiṣṇu [Arjuna – “The Triumphant”] went to Dvārakā to see his relatives and find out what Kṛṣṇa (whose glories are purifying) was doing.

7

Bhīmasena, it is now seven months since he went. I have no information about why he has not returned.

8

Maybe it is what the Sage of Gods [Nārada] told us: The time has come for the All-Attractive to dissolve the manifestation of himself and his expansions?

9

By his kindness we got our wealth, power, wives and our very lives, and our kingdom and subjects; vanquishing our enemies.

10

O Lion of Men, look at the ill signs in the sky, on the earth, and in ourselves. These are signs of imminent danger, fear, and bewilderment.

11

My left thigh, eye, and arm quiver again and again. My heart palpitates fearsomely. These are signs of ill fortune.

Repeated twitching on the left side of the male body portends ill fortune. I have heard that for women it is the right side which is inauspicious. The opposite sides for each gender portend good fortune.

12

This she-jackal howls at the rising sun, with fire in her mouth. Brother, this dog barks and growls at me without fear!

When things happen out of order, or opposite of their normal behavior, it portends ill-fortune. By this general template, all sorts of events in the world can be interpreted. Wolves and the like are supposed to howl at the moon, not the sun. While so doing the rising sun appeared like flames coming from the jackal’s mouth – making it more pronounced as an ill omen. A dog should be submissive to powerful humans, but here a dog was fearlessly growling angrily and barking in the face of the powerful King.

13

Auspicious and less auspicious animals pass me with their left side. O Lion of Men, my horses weep when they see me.

This “passing” means to encircle. It is auspicious to be encircled in a clockwise motion. To be circled counterclockwise (which occurs when the encircling person keeps you on their left) is inauspicious.

14

There is a dead dove like a messenger of death. Owls and their rivals, the crows, shriek disturbingly as if they are trying to dissolve the entire world.

Auspicious (gentle) birds fell to ill, and inauspicious (harsh) birds prospered.

15

Thick fog and smoke encircles all directions. The earth and her hills tremble. Thunder and lightning comes without clouds.

These are more serious and rare omens.

16

The blasting wind cuts us. The dust raised creates darkness. Blood rains from the clouds making everything look like a disaster-area.

“Blood rain” arises when red dust mixes with the falling rain. It is a terrible and rare omen.

17

Look! The Sun has lost its glow. The planets war with one another in the sky. Ghosts possess people, who howl as if they were on fire!

The Sun loses its glow during an eclipse. The planets war with one another when they occupy the same location in the sky (currently we measure it as the same zodiac degree).

18

Streams, rivers and ponds are polluted, as are our minds. Oil will not catch fire. What fate is about to befall us!?

19

Calves do not suck the teat, and their mothers do not give milk. The bulls do not play in the fields. They simply stand with tears streaming down their face.

20

Deities seem to cry and perspire like they want to leave their temples. The beauty and happiness of these cities, villages, towns, gardens, hills, and cottages is ruined. What horrors will we see!?

21

I believe that these terrible upheavals are omens that the Earth, who bore the beautiful footprints of the All-Attractive, is now dispossessed and her fortune destroyed.

Yudhiṣṭhira now gives a dire interpretation of these severe omens: “The earth was blessed with the greatest fortune. She bore the beautiful footprints of the All-Attractive. All these horrible signs can only indicate that the earth has been cast into the deepest despair over the loss and destruction of her greatest treasure. Śrī Kṛṣṇa is no longer on Earth.”


Astanga Yoga: The Eight Steps Towards Divine Union

— 49-50 —

O Emperor, the All-Attractive being of all beings is he who is now among us in the form of fateful time. He deletes the existence of those who trouble the gods. He accomplishes his mission for the gods with time to spare. All of you can stay in this world for as long as the master.

Nārada makes several points in texts 49 and 50:

  • The All-Attractive Supreme Being is always among us in the form of fateful time.
  • Fate exists to squash the evil tendencies of living beings, through a system of punishment and reward.
  • Śrī Kṛṣṇa is this same All-Attractive Supreme Being.
  • He apparently incarnated to protect the gods and the godly by squashing evil beings.
  • While he remains on earth, so too do his eternal associates, like the Emperor, and his eternal paraphernalia, like his city Dvārakā.

Yudhiṣṭhira is not yet aware that Kṛṣṇa has already departed from the Earth, taking his city and most of his associates with him. Now it is time for the rest of his associates to depart as well. Nārada is hinting that this is why Vidura has come to take away Dhṛtarāṣṭra and Gāndhārī, and that soon King Yudhiṣṭhira and his brothers will also need to depart from the world in a similar manner.

Next Nārada will tell Yudhiṣṭhira what is happening and what will happen in the near future, with his uncles and aunt.

51-52

Dhṛtarāṣṭra has gone with his brother and his wife Gāndhārī to the place where sages reside in the southern Himalayas; a place called “Sevenfold” because there the Ganges splits into seven branches, creating seven islands for the seven sages.

53

He bathes and invokes the sacred fires exactly according to rites. Eating only water, by now he will have attained self-pacification and abandoned all desires.

Dhṛtarāṣṭra practiced what we call aṣṭānga-yoga (“the eightfold path to divine union”). Of the eight steps on this path, the first two are yama and niyama (“prescriptions” and “prohibitions”). Dhṛtarāṣṭra’s bathing and invocation of fire according to the regulations is how he practiced yama. Abstaining from all food except water is how he practiced niyama.

The result of succeeding in yama and niyama is to become self-tamed.

Most people who are “into yoga” manage to skip or not even know that these two steps come before one can derive any significant benefit from sitting in various stretches and postures.

54

He will master the postures and the breathing. He will withdraw his six senses and absorb them in Hari; overcoming the impurities of nature’s passions, peace, and ignorance.

The third step of the eightfold path to divine union is āsana (“postures”). The fourth step is prāṇāyāma (“discipline of the breath”). The fifth step is pratyāhāra (“withdrawal of the senses”).

There are six senses. The obvious five are sight, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching. The mind performs the sixth sense: “contemplation.” All six senses must be withdrawn from normal activity before one can reach divine union.

The six senses cannot be kept inactive; their very nature is to act and sense. So immediately after the fifth step of withdrawing them from normal behavior, one must go to the sixth step and engage them in paranormal behavior. This sixth step is dhyāna (“meditation”). Dhṛtarāṣṭra will perform the sixth step by absorbing all his contemplation, vision, hearing, etc. upon Hari, the All-Attractive Godhead.

The seventh step occurs when meditation becomes deep, uninfluenced by the distractions of material energy. Material energy has three modes of operation: rajas agitates us to endeavor, sattva makes us seek peace and calm, tamas makes us want to relent and forget. These three forces constantly pull the six senses by the ropes of habit, dragging them back into mundane activity. In the fifth and sixth steps, the yogi must engage in a tug-of-war with these ropes, making all efforts to keep the six senses withdrawn and focused inward upon Hari. When the yogi gradually becomes very successful at sustaining meditation on Hari for extended periods of time, he or she takes the seventh step towards divine union: dhāraṇā (“steady meditation”).

55

Totally united to perfect self-knowledge, destroy the knower of the body by merging it into the pool of spiritual being, like the air within a pot merged into the sky.

Nārada now begins to define the eighth of the eight steps towards divine union, samādhi. The first characteristic is the absolute loss of the limited ego. The limited ego is kṣetra-jña, the identity linked to a self-centered field of activities. When progress towards divine union becomes complete, we will feel the limited ego dissolve. It is just like placing a jar of water into a pool and opening it, or breaking an empty pot under the open sky – the contents of the container become one with a much larger container. When self-knowledge is complete, the false else dissolves into the amorphous reservoir of false-ego from which it was borrowed once upon a long forgotten time.

56

When nature’s impurities are overcome and their after-effects subside, the causes of desire will cease. All acquisition is stilled, immovable, and fixed. There is no further obstacle. All deeds are completely given up.

Nārada here completes his description of samādhi, the final of eight steps towards divine union. There can be no more obstruction to one’s unity with the divine, because even the causes of the things which cause such obstacles have ceased to exist within us. Renunciation of ordinary activity is absolute. Acquisition of supra-ordinary activity in relation to the All-Attractive Hari is equally absolute.

57

O King, he will probably give up his body in five days from now. It will become ash.

Nārada estimates that it will take Dhṛtarāṣṭra only about five days to complete the eightfold yoga process and abandon his body in perfect samādhi. This unusual swiftness is probably due to his excellent association with his saintly brother and renounced wife, and the excellent spiritual atmosphere generated by the honest sages of the ashrams of “Sevenfold.”

Nārada says, “He does not need your help in any way. Not even for a funeral. His body will turn itself to ash.”

58

When that saintly wife sees her husband’s body engulfed in flames inside a shanty hut she will follow into it.

Yudhiṣṭhira would protest, “My uncle does not need me, but his wife will sorely need me when he dies!”

Nārada replies that she will also take care of herself completely and will reduce herself to ash without any need for Yudhiṣṭhira’s involvement.

59

But when Vidura sees this amazing sight he will leave that place, pushed by feelings of both delight and grief, and again wander on pilgrimage.

Yudhiṣṭhira would again protest, “Then certainly Vidura will need me?”

Nārada says that Vidura will be gone. He will be delighted that his brother and sister (in-law) succeeded in liberating themselves from the cycle of birth and death, but morose naturally at the loss of their company and the various misfortunates and mistakes associated with their life.

60

After saying all this, Nārada and Tumburu ascended to the heavens. By keeping Nārada’s words in his heart, Yudhiṣṭhira could let go of all worry and grief.

Image


Safety in a House of Horrors

1.13.44

Maybe you think life is eternal, maybe you think it is temporary. In either case it is foolish to lament over affection, or anything else.

They key Sanskrit word in this text is dhruva, “permanent, real, reliable, changeless.” If the world is dhruva than nothing can be lost forever, so there is no need to lament. If the world is not dhruva than nothing can be kept forever, so what is the point of lamenting?

45

You worry, thinking, “But how can those poor helpless people survive without me?” You feel this way because you are ignorant of who and what you really are. Give this up.

46

You are in a body created by five elements and controlled by habit, causality and fate. You are like a person bitten by a snake, who rushes to help others.

The body is made of things we have no control over: the five primordial elements earth, water, fire, air and ether. It is controlled by habituations (guṇa), the law of causality (karma), and its resultant fate (kāla). To be encased in a body that is we can barely control is a perilous danger, like being bitten by a snake.

If a person bit by a snake wants to help anyone else, the first thing he has to do is stop himself from dying in the next few moments. Similarly if we really want to help anyone, the first thing we have to do is gain control of our selves; which is truly accomplished by self-realization and liberation from the wheel of karma. A person tied to the wheel of karma cannot free anyone else.

47-48

The strong devour the weak. The four-legged devour the legless. Those with hands devour those without. Life lives at the expense of the living.

Nārada says, “You think, ‘Oh no, my Uncles and Aunt have left the safety of my palace!’ This is ignorant. In this world life devours itself to remain alive. Is this ‘safe’? Animals devour plants. Humans devour animals. The strong devour the week. Does this principle not operate within your palace, too? No place is ‘safe.’”

48

In this frightful situation, O Emperor, we must try to see the All-Attractive inside and outside of everything; the one soul of all souls. It is a bewilderment to look towards any other.

The soul is the source of life and safety. No one but the soul of all souls can truly protect our life and ensure our safety. Therefore, in this house of horrors, we must try to see that one All-Attractive soul inside and outside of everything – and look towards him for protection. Only a fool looks elsewhere.


Is God Toying With Us?

Painting of the heavenly musician Tumbara. &qu...

38

Just then godly Nārada arrived with Tumburu. Everyone stood up to offer respectful greetings to the scholar.

Tumburu is considered the best Gandharva, musicians of heaven. He accompanies Nārada to assist his kīrtana.

39-40

Yudhiṣṭhira said:

“O godly one, I don’t know where my uncles and austere aunt have gone, aggrieved over the death of their children.  Your ears can guide us beyond the insurmountable limits of our own limitations.”

Then, godly Nārada, the most spiritual scholar, began to speak.

The king tells the divine scholar, “Your ears can guide us beyond the insurmountable limits of our own limitations.” The Sanskrit here is karṇa-dhāra iva apāre pāra-darśakaḥ. The first compound, karṇa-dhāra, literally means “someone with ears.” It implies someone with excellent perception, to which everyone seems deaf and blind by comparison. The phrase is often used for pilots and helmsmen, the people who can see where they are going. (The thing that steers a vessel is called an “ear” in Sanskrit. A person who steers is the one who “has the ear.”)

A person with superior perception can show us (darśana) what is beyond (apāra) our own limited (pāra) perception. The metaphor is that a good pilot can take one across insurmountable distances and obstacles.

41

Nārada said:

By no means should you weep, King. Everything is controlled by the Master. Everyone and all their leaders pay tribute to him, seeking sanctuary. He brings living beings together, and also takes them apart.

42

A cow has a rope through its nose. For humans, the rope is made of his orders. Thus all pay him tribute and receive sanctuary.

43

Just like a playful child brings his toys together and separates them as he likes, so too are humans moved by the will of the Master.

The implication here is that God is “playing with us.” This begs a very wrong connotation, because God is fundamentally unique and different than every other living being. “Playing with something” implies using a thing for one’s own enjoyment. A child does not play with toys to make the toys happy. This is because there is no intrinsic unity of being between himself and the toy. Even in an abstract philosophical sense, the bond of existential unity between a child and a toy is created by the Supersoul, it is not inherent in the subjects and objects themselves. At a more practical, subjective level we obviously know that a child comes from his mother’s womb while a toy comes from somewhere else, probably a factory in China. This disunity of origin does not exist between Godhead and the souls, both of which have their root-of-being  in Godhead.  So God’s play is different from child’s play. God does “play with us” but does not “toy with us.” A toy has no unity with the child that plays with it. But the soul does have unity with Godhead. Thus what serves the child may not always serve the toy, but what serves God always does serve the soul as well. The “play” of Godhead is therefore free from the taint of selfishness. His play benefits everyone.

We have very small, localized vision. Therefore it is not always obvious to us how the movements of God’s drama, which often appear cruel and painful, can somehow be sweet and divine. That is why we sorely need people like Nārada; people whose “ears” extend beyond our range of hearing; people who can show us the sweetness of divine will even in the midst of our tears and confusion.


A wretched person always remembers the injustices done by others. A saintly person always remembers their favors.

29

Thus his younger brother, Vidura, helped the king’s mind awake to a vision of wisdom. He steadfastly cut through the ropes of selfish love and set out on the path of liberation that his brother showed him.

The ropes which bind the soul to a humiliating condition are wound from fibers of sveṣu-sneha: love for oneself and one’s own. We cannot seek enlightenment and maintain selfishness at the same time.

30

Subala’s daughter saw her husband leaving. Being very saintly and dedicated to him she followed him towards the Himalayas. They accepted the rod of renunciation with pleasure, like a great warrior accepts a beating.

Subala’s daughter is more commonly named Gāndhārī. Sūta describes her as sādhvī : a saint. This is due to her serious renunciation of personal pleasures, as expressed in her self-imposed blindness. She was therefore already quite fit and ready to renounce the world for the sake of enlightenment. Sūta also describes her as pati-vratā: dedicated to her husband. So, on both counts she very happily and willingly followed him into complete renunciation. She is like a royal warrior. A warrior accepts beatings because it is part of being a warrior. Similarly we must embrace renunciation because it is part of the reality of life. We must not flee from death like cowards. We must march out and greet it head on, with dignity, when our time is due. Vidura and Gāndhārī have just displayed excellent examples of this principle. Dhṛtarāṣṭra also serves as an example, by the good fortune of his association with those exalted souls.

31

The one who makes no enemies [King Yudhiṣṭhira] finished his morning prayers and rituals. He bowed to the learned and gave them grains, cows, land and gold. Then he entered the palace to respect his elders but he could not find his uncles and Subala’s Daughter.

Vidura went to Dhṛtarāṣṭra and convinced him to renounce the world in the very solitary depths of the night. The next morning King Yudhiṣṭhira woke up and went about business as usual.

What is “business as usual” for such an exalted king? First he did morning prayer and ritual. The ritual was huta-agni: lighting a sacred fire. The prayer was maitra: a special him to Mitra, a form of the sun-god who protects promises, alliances, and pacts. Sūta addresses the King as ajāta-śatru: a person who does not create enemies. Prayer to the god of alliances and friendships is important for establishing this mentality. Completing his prayer and ritual, the King then went out to bow down before learned people and insure their well-being by giving them whatever food, money or other resources they needed. Next, he entered his palace. Upon entering the palace he would first do guru-vandana: offering respect to his teachers, guides and elders. But this morning he could not do guru-vandana, because he couldn’t find his aunt Gāndhārī and uncles, Vidura and Dhṛtarāṣṭra.

32-33

Full of anxiety, he asked Sañjaya, who was sitting nearby, “Where is our blind and old uncle? Where is my aunt, so sad over the death of her children? Where is my uncle, who has always protected me? Have I been so insensitive to him and his wife, who lost their entire family? Have my injustices so disturbed them that they’ve thrown themselves into the Ganges in misery?

34

“When our father Pāṇḍu fell and we were still little children, our uncles protected us from danger and disaster. Where have they gone?”

A wretched person always remembers the injustices done by others. A saintly person always remembers their favors.

35-36

Sūta said:

At first Sañjaya could not reply because he was too confused by lamentation and affection, distressed by his loss at not being able to find his lord. Brushing away his tears with his hands, he calmed his own mind and, carefully remembering the feet of his master, began to reply.

37

Sañjaya said:

“Oh beloved son, I don’t know what your uncles and Gāndhārī have decided. Those great souls have left me in the dark, O mighty armed.”


Facing Death with Integrity

1.13.12-13

To answer the moral King’s questions, Vidura fully described all his experiences, one after another, leaving out the destruction of the Yadu dynasty. “Disturbing, painful things find us on their own, I need not tell him.” Compassionate Vidura could not bear to see their grief.

14

With the intention of benefiting his elder brother and bringing happiness to all, he stayed with them for some time, and was well treated with all amenities like a god.

15

While Yama was cursed to spend one hundred years in the body of a śūdra, Aryamā administered his duties of appropriately punishing the sinful.

Possibly this verse was directed by Sūta towards a question from the audience of sages, “Since Vidura is the incarnation of Yama, why was there no disturbance in the process of death, as there usually is whenever Yama leaves his post?”

16

Vidura saw that Yudhiṣṭhira’s kingdom was regained, there was a grandson to carry on the dynasty, and all the brothers were taking good care of the citizens, enjoying life with paramount opulence.

17

Those who are attached to these sorts of enjoyment become intoxicated and lost in them. Unseen, time’s supremely powerful doom creeps up on them.

Vidura thought of his brother, Dhṛtarāṣṭra, in this way.

18

Recognizing this, Vidura went to Dhṛtarāṣṭra and said, “King! Get out right now! Look! What you fear most is on the threshold!

Shocked, Dhṛtarāṣṭra asks, “What is it!?! What horrible doom approaches!?”

19

“There is no escape for anyone at any time! O Powerful One, it is the doom of the all-powerful that comes to all of us.

20

“It will overtake you and steal from your clinging grasp the thing you most adore: your very life! What else!? What of your wealth and so on!?

21

“Your father, brother, protectors and sons are all dead. Your own life is spent, and you are in the grip of old age. Yet you live on in someone else’s home?

22

“From the beginning you were blind. Now your hearing and memory are crippled, too. Your teeth rattle and your stomach limps. Cacophonously you cough up phlegm.

23

“Aho! How people desperately cling to their hopes for life!!! Like a groveling dog you now eat the scraps left to you by Bhīma.

24

“You set fire to their home, gave them poison, and degraded their wife! You stole their lands and wealth! …Now you must live on their charity?

Will we sink to any humiliation to cling to the rotting, decrepit old body? Our will we proudly and bravely cast it off when it is worn out?

25

“Your body clings to life like a pitiful miser; yet still dwindles against your will, like old clothing.

26

“If you really want what is good for you, free yourself entirely from all these bonds. Go someplace unknown and cast off your body. Such a man is called wise.

27

“The best person is he who becomes detached from this world and gives up his possessions and life with his very self wholeheartedly fixed upon Hari. It doesn’t matter if it is due to his own inspiration or the inspiration given by someone else.

28

“Therefore go northward. Tell no one where. Very soon the time is coming when humanity will diminish.”

Even if the old man could live on, all he would see is the decrepitude of Kali-Yuga, which was on the verge of beginning.


What is Really a Holy Place?

1.13.1

Sūta said:

Vidura, while doing spiritual pilgrimage, learned about the soul from Maitreya and thus became extremely wise before returning to Hastināpura.

Sūta has just finished answering Śaunaka’s question about how Parīkṣit was born. Now he must answer the question about his deeds and death. To set the stage for this answer, he begins with a backstory related to Vidura.

Vidura is an uncle of the Pāṇḍava’s whose father was Vyāsa (on behalf of the King) but whose mother was a serving maid (it’s obviously a long and very interesting story). Nonetheless he was greatly respected by everyone in the family due to his humility and deep wisdom. The very name Vidura means “wise.” Vidura is not an ordinary person but a temporary incarnation of Yama, the god of death. Vidura tried passionately to stop his brother Dhṛtarāṣṭra from making the terrible Mahābhārata war happen. At a certain point, his brother got very annoyed with the constant good advice and insulted him in such a way that Vidura took the opportunity to leave the city and go on a spiritual pilgrimage.

The purpose of pilgrimage is not sightseeing. A holy place is not a location, but the worthy souls who exist at those locations. Vidura therefore sought out Maitreya, a greatly learned sage, and asked him all sorts of deep questions about the soul.

2

Vidura questioned Maitreya until he attained singular devotion for Govinda. Then he stopped.

Vidura felt that the ultimate goal of self-knowledge and self-realization is to fall singularly in divine love with the source of all bliss and pleasure, the All-Attractive Kṛṣṇa, “Govinda.” Therefore when he attained this state, there was no further need of inquiry from the sage.

3-4

His relatives – the son of Dharma with his younger brothers, Dhṛtarāṣṭra, Yuyutsu [Sātyaki], and Sūta [Sañjaya],  Śāradvataḥ [Kṛpā], Pṛthā [Kunti], Gāndhārī, Draupadī, Subhadrā, Uttarā, Kṛpī and all the Pāṇḍava wives, relatives, children and women – saw him arriving.

5

The all went out to greet him, delighted as if life had suddenly returned to their bodies. They greeted him with embraces and respects, as appropriate.

6

Emotional tears of love were shed from the distress of separation from one another. The king arranged a very respectful seat and welcoming ceremony.

7

After feeding him and relaxing, seated pleasantly on a comfortable seat, the King began to speak very gently and humbly. Everyone listened.

8

Yudhiṣṭhira said:

Do you remember how you raised us under your protective wing, saving us and our mother from so many disasters like poisons and fires?

9

Tell us about your pilgrimage. How did you do it? Where in the world did you go? What were the most worthy places you visited?

10

Devotees of the All-Attractive, like you, are themselves “holy places.” They make holy places holy because the Mace-Wielder resides within them.

This is quite an important and frequently quoted text. The only transcendental entity is the All-Attractive Godhead. Everything else is mundane (prakṛti). A person becomes transcendental when divine love brilliantly reveals the All-Attractive in their hearts. A place becomes transcendental due to the presence and influence of such persons. Thus transcendence moves like an electric current from Godhead through the lightning rod of the saintly into the earth itself: creating a holy place. Wherever a true saint resides is a sacred place. Even after a saint departs a place, the residual effect of their influence does not immediately dissipate.

11

Uncle, have you seen or heard news about our protectors and friends who always are enrapt in Kṛṣṇa? Are the Yadus and their city prospering?

This is a very heavy question, as we will see. It is the real question on the King’s mind since he cannot remove his thoughts from his beloved Kṛṣṇa.

 


A Mountain of Gold Hidden in the Himalayas

1.12.32

The king wanted to perform a horse sacrifice to diminish the effects of fighting with his family, but he realized that the treasury consisted of nothing but taxes and fines.

We’ve already heard about King Yudhiṣṭhira’s horse sacrifices, so it would be good to clarify the story line at this point. We are currently in the twelfth chapter of the first division of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam. In the seventh chapter, Sūta began to answer the questions he was asked about Parīkṣit, the person to whom Śrīmad Bhāgavatam was originally spoken. The main thing he communicates about Parīkṣit is that Viṣṇu personally rescued him from the radiation of a deadly weapon, while he was still in his mother’s womb. Chapter seven and most of chapter eight are the backstory explaining why this weapon was cast, even after the war itself was finished (it’s the same war described in detail in Mahābhārata). Sūta describes the actual rescue at the end of chapter eight. But in telling this story in which the main subject of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, Kṛṣṇa, plays a central role Sūta became excited and eager. So he continued narrating the tale even after his original purpose for bringing it up had been fulfilled. This goes on through chapters nine, ten, and eleven; wherein Sūta describes Bhīṣma’s deep relationship to Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa’s journey home to Dvārakā, and the welcome he received there.

At the beginning of chapter twelve, Śaunaka takes advantage of a natural pause in the story to remind Sūta of his original intention: to answer their questions about Parīkṣit. Sūta returns to the story line in this chapter, and reconnects his new narrative to the old by referencing topics previously mentioned. That is why we again hear about the horse sacrifices of King Yudhiṣṭhira.

33

Seeing this desire, his brothers approached the Infallible who told them how to find and procure an abundance of wealth from the north.

Long ago, Śiva gave a literal mountain of gold to an ancient king, Marutta. Eventually the path to the mountain was lost and the treasure within became inaccessible. But Infallible Kṛṣṇa told the Pāṇḍavas exactly how to find it and get an abundance of wealth for the sacrifice.

34

With it, the son of Dharma procured enough ingredients to perform the sacrifice three times, being fearful. Hari was pleased.

Fearful of the ill fate created by the war between family members, Yudhiṣṭhira performed the purificatory sacrifice not once, but three times.

35

The All-Attractive attended the sacrifice performed by twice-born for the king. Out of affection for his beloved devotees, he lived with them for a few months.

Regarding the term “twice-born:” The first birth is determined by fate. The second is determined by freewill. Only evolved persons utilize their freewill to take a symbolic second birth to establish an identity dedicated to higher pursuits. Such persons are qualified to perform mystical ceremonies.

36

Then, O spiritualists, the king allowed Kṛṣṇa to leave for Dvārakā, surrounded by Arjuna and his other friends and relatives.


The Astrology of Emperor Pariksit

12

When the planets became favorable for all good fortune, they produced the heir of the dynasty – as powerful as Pāṇdu.

13

Out of affection, the king had the most learned scholars, headed by Dhaumya & Kṛpa, read the auspicious astrological nativity of this newborn.

Learned souls know how to foretell the future in various ways, chiefly by astrology. What we are about the hear is a collection of learned astrologers headed by Dhaumya and Kṛpa informing the king of the future of his newborn grand-nephew.

14

Knowing what should be done on the birth of a child, the King gave gifts of the highest quality gold, cows, land, villages, elephants and horses. He sumptuously fed the intellectuals.

Intellectuals are most important in society, but they do not earn much money. Thus it is a very important social custom to feed them and give them gifts on every occasion.

15-17

Very satisfied, those intellectuals spoke:

“This spotless child will certainly be the foremost in the family of Puru. Unstoppable destiny intended to destroy him, but the all-powerful and all-pervading Viṣṇu, rescued him – because of his affection for you. Thus the boy will be famous throughout the world by the name Viṣṇu Rāta (Viṣṇu-Rescued). Undoubtedly he is a great soul, extremely blessed, the pinnacle of divine love.”

The intellectuals described Parīkṣit as mahān, mahā-bhāga, and mahā-bhāgavata – a great soul, greatly blessed, and the greatest devotee.

18

The blessed King asked:

Oh best of truthful souls, will this boy have glory and fame following the footsteps of his forbearers: great souls famous as pious philosopher-kings?

19-26

The intellectuals replied:

O Pārtha,
In maintaining the citizens he will be exactly like Ikṣvaku, Manu’s son.
In truthfulness and obedience to teachers he will be exactly like Rāma, Dāśaratha’s son.
In giving charity and giving shelter he will be like Śibi of Uśīnara.
In expanding the renown of his kin by performing sacrifices he will be like Duṣyanta’s son.
In bowmanship he will equal the Arjunas.

He will be unstoppable as an inferno, insurmountable as an ocean.
He will be powerful as a lion, unwavering as the Himalaya,
He will be forbearing as the earth, as patient as parents.
In being merciful and generous he will be like grandparents.

In giving shelter to all living beings he will be like Śiva
and the god who is the shelter of the goddess of fortune [Viṣṇu].
In having all glorious spiritual qualities he will be like Kṛṣṇa,
to whom he is devoted.
In altruism he will be like Rantideva.
In following rules he will be like Yayāti.
In patience he will be like Bali.
In saintly devotion he will be like Prahlāda.

He will conduct many horse sacrifices.
He will be a follower of the experienced.
He will father many philosopher-kings.
For the sake of world peace
he will curb the insubordinate and extinguish the cantankerous.

Ikṣvaku, the son of the personality from whom the Human race descends, was the first king to prohibit meat eating.

Śibi was so charitable and protective that he wanted to give away to others his own right to enter heaven, and was ready to give his own life to protect a bird.

Duṣyanta’s son is Bhārata, after whom the great Mahābhārata is named.

The other Arjuna besides the Pāṇḍava is Kārttavīrya-Arjuna: a powerful thousand-armed warrior who was the impetus for Parśurāma killing 21 generations of warriors.

Rantideva is famous as the most magnanimous king who was virtually obsessed with giving everything he had to others.

Yayāti, like Rantideva is a famous and very ancient king. He performed thousands of different Vedic sacrifices.

Bali is an exemplar of patience because he kept his cool resolve to fulfill his promise to Viṣṇu, even when his guru was warning him not to. His grandfather was the famous Prahlāda, son of Hiraṇyakaśipu.

As far as horse sacrifices, even a cursory study of Vedic culture will show that they did not conceive of animal rights with the same sensitivities as we have today. This is not to insinuate that they had any less concern for the well-being of all living entities, just that they implemented this concern in a different manner than would make sense to a modern activist.

27-28

His own death will come from the dragon Takṣa, as a result of a curse from the child of a twice-born. When he hears of this he will cast off all attachments, take full shelter in Hari, and inquire about the true goal of the soul from the learned son of Vyāsa. He will then leave his body beside the Ganges and go directly to the abode of fearlessness.

Most of the astrological reading given by the intellectuals, in texts 19-26, pertained to the newborn king’s character, but here they make an extremely concrete prediction regarding the boy’s death. They did not hesitate to pronounce the nature of the newborn’s death. Perhaps because the family was so elevated and did not consider death an unnatural and awful thing, like most of us do.

29

Thus those learned experts of natal astrology advised the king. Wondrously paid, they returned to their own homes.

30

The boy would become famous as “The Examiner” (Parīkṣit) because he examined everyone he saw, in search of that person he saw before, whom he constantly contemplated.

The “person he saw before” refers to the person he saw before his birth, Viṣṇu.

31

The prince grew quickly and luxuriantly like the waxing moon day after day, under the care of his many parents.