Category Archives: 1.13b Narada’s Guidence to Yudhisthira

An Example of Asthanga Yoga in Bhagavata Purana

Nārada Advises Yudhiṣṭhira

Meanwhile, the noble King had finished his morning prayers and rituals – paying respects to the learned and giving them food, resources and money. He returned to the palace to respect his elders but could not find his uncles and aunt.

Worried, he went to Sañjaya and asked,

“Where is our blind and old uncle? Where is my aunt, so sad over the death of her children? Where is my Uncle Vidura, who has always protected me? Have I been so insensitive to their losses that they’ve thrown themselves into the Ganges in misery?

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

Sañjaya couldn’t answer right away, but he brushed away his own tears, calmed his own mind and, carefully remembering the feet of his master, began to reply.

Sañjaya said:

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

Just then godly Nārada arrived with Tumburu.[1] Everyone stood up to offer respectful greetings to the scholar.

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:

By no means should you weep, King. You are not the real King, God is. Everything is controlled by him. Everyone and all their leaders pay tribute to him, seeking sanctuary. He brings living beings together, and also takes them apart. His orders are the reigns through the nose of the bull that is humanity. Everyone pays him tribute and receives sanctuary.

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.[2]

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.[3]

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.

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.

You worry that your aunt and uncles may have gone somewhere dangerous. Is anyplace safe in this world? Here the strong devour the weak. The four-legged devour the legless. Those with hands devour those without. Here, life lives at the expense of the living.

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.

O Emperor, the All-Attractive being of beings is always among us in the form of fateful time. He deletes the existence of those who trouble the gods. He accomplishes this mission with time to spare. You will stay in this world for as long as he does.[4]

You want to know where your aunt and uncles are? They have gone to the southern Himalayas, to place where sages reside, a place called “Sevenfold” because there the Ganges splits into seven branches, creating seven islands for the seven sages.

Your Uncle Dhṛtarāṣṭra is practicing aṣṭānga-yoga there. He performs the first step by bathing and invoking the sacred fires exactly according to rites. He performs the second step by eating only water. By now he will have attained self-pacification and abandoned all desires.

He will master the third and fourth steps: postures and breathing. He will take the fifth step: withdrawing his six senses from the external world and absorbing them in Hari. Thus he will attain the sixth step: liberation of the mind from the distractions of passion, peace, and ignorance.[5]

As the seventh step he will reach unity with perfect self-knowledge. He will 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.

Finally, at the eighth step 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.

O King, this will probably take him another five days to achieve. So in five days his body will become ash.

When his saintly wife sees her husband’s body engulfed in flames inside a hut she will also enter the flame..

But when Vidura sees this amazing sight he will leave that place, pushed by feelings of delight and grief, and again wander on pilgrimage.[6]

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.


[1] Tumburu is considered the best Gandharva (celestial musician). He accompanies Nārada to assist his kīrtana.

[2] We have very small, localized vision. Therefore it is not always obvious to us how God’s “play,” which often appears cruel and painful, can somehow serve a loving purpose. Similarly a child does not easily understand the punishment of his loving and careful mother.

[3] If life is eternal nothing can be lost. If life is temporary nothing can be saved. In either case there should be no cause for shock.

[4] This is a very slight hint that Krishna has already departed, and thus his retinue, which includes Vidura, are now also departing from the world.

[5] 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.

[6] He is delighted that his brother was so successful, but naturally sad at the experience of losing his relationship.


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.