Tag Archives: Dharma

Conversation Between The Dharma Bull & The Earth Goddess Cow

Sūta began to tell the story of Parīkṣit arresting Kali:

While surveying the Kuru Jungle, Parīkṣit heard undesirable news: Kali had spread through the kingdom. Seeing this as an excellent opportunity for a fight, he took up his weapons and set out on a beautiful chariot, flying a lion-flag and yoked to brilliantly black horses, along with soldiers, horsemen, elephanteers and charioteers.

As he traveled, he brought order and strength to his lands.[1] Everywhere he went he always heard bards singing about his great ancestors, because their fame was involved with the glories of Kṛṣṇa. These songs often involved him, too: especially how Krishna rescued him from the powerful weapon of Aśvatthāma. He heard songs about the great affection between his family and Krishna’s family, due to their mutual love for Krishna.

Extremely satisfied by these songs his eyes opened wide with delighted love. In a very magnanimous mood, he gave the bards a great deal of money, clothing and jewelry.

Hearing how the universally obeyed Viṣṇu became a driver, ally, assistant, friend, messenger, guard, follower, and respecter of the beloved Pāṇḍavas made the king choked up with devotion for Viṣṇu’s lotus-like feet .

He thus passed many days enrapt in thoughts of his ancestors. But soon something very astonishing happened, which is what you wanted to know about:

The god of morality had taken the form of a bull, and was walking the only leg he still. He came upon the goddess of the earth, who had taken the form of a cow and was darkened under the shadow of grief, with tears covering her cheeks like a mother who has lost her child.

Dharma asked her:

Good lady, are you alright? Why has the shadow of grief darkened the face of your soul? Are you ill, Mother? Are you remembering of a long-lost friend?

Do you lament for my broken legs? Do you weep because wicked people will soon eat you? Are you depressed over the drought that will soon strike you when sacrifices to the gods cease?

Do you cry for the unsheltered women and children of the earth, who will be left for monsters to devour? Or because priests will speak only words, while their fraudulent behavior abandons spirituality in search of political power? Or because the politicians will bewilder themselves with bickering, while civilization declines into a mob mindlessly and randomly eating, drinking, living, bathing, and having sex?

O Mother, Hari descended to lighten your heaven burden. Take heart; remember all the deeds he did to save you! Or has this situation changed? O Mother, please tell me what is at the very root of your tears. Has fate, more powerful than any power, dissolved your treasure and good fortune, which the gods themselves desired?

Dharaṇī[2] replied:

Dear Dharma, whose four legs spread happiness throughout the worlds, I will enlighten you about all that you have asked.

Truthfulness, cleanliness, compassion, calmness, detachment, satisfaction, sincerity, introspection, restraint, austerity, fairness, learning…

Knowledge, dispassion, power, chivalry, influence, strength, morality, independence, expertise, beauty, steadfastness, and certainly kindness…

Ingenuity, gentility, good manners, willpower, vigor, fortune, depth, dedication, faithfulness, fame, honor, modesty…

…The All-Attractive always has all these and many other great qualities. No one else can ever hope to possess such greatness. He is the flag of good qualities and the palace of beauty herself.

You ask why I lament? I have just been robbed of his company; and in his absence I suddenly find the ills of Kali entering the world.

I lament not only for myself. This is also a disaster for you, and for the highest immortals, the gods, the forefathers, the sages, the saintly… it is a disaster for everyone.

You know that there is a goddess named Śrī; and that everyone including the creator, Brahmā, always struggles to obtain her carefree glance. But she has given herself wholly to the All-Attractive. Abandoning her home in the forests of lotuses she dedicates herself to lovingly caring for his blessed feet.

The soles of those same feet recently decorated my body with their prints – marked with a flag, spur, thunderbolt and lotus. Ah, with these ornaments my beauty and opulence excelled paradise itself! But now… he has left me… I suppose I must have been too proud of my good fortune?

He manifested his delightful body in the Yadu family to easily and independently rescue me from the extreme burden of hundreds of demonic armies. He empowered you to be free from the misery of your broken legs. Oh, who can bear to be without that supreme man!? His glances, pleasant smile and sweet words dispel the composure and pride of proud sweethearts. My hairs stood up to celebrate the touch of his feet!!!

While Pṛthivī[3] and Dharma were discussing Krishna in this way, the Philosopher-King Parīkṣit arrived at the eastward Sarasvatī river.


[1]  The text notes the following regions that Parīkṣit visited: eastward to Bhadrāśva, westward to Ketumāla, southward into Bhārata, and northward into Uttarakuru and the wild mountainous regions beyond, like Kimpuruṣa.

[2] Dharaṇī refers to the earth as the thing that holds everything and everyone up.

[3] Pṛthivī refers to the Earth as the great expanse which spreads from horizon to horizon and splits the vast sky.

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Moral Principles

21

Sūta said:

O best among twice-born, when the Sovereign heard these words from Dharma he replied without doubt or hesitation.

22

The King said:

Your words are full of dharma. You understand dharma. You are Dharma in the form of a bull. One who criticizes the wrongdoings of others also becomes a wrongdoer.

By hearing the bull speak, and speak so eloquently and knowledgeably, Parīkṣit confirmed his initial suspicion that it was not an ordinary bull, but a god, Dharma – the god of religion / morality.

If one understands morality as deeply as the god of morality does, one becomes extremely averse to criticizing others. If we criticize someone, invariably our mind becomes enrapt in the qualities we criticize. Those qualities then seep into our own behavior. Parīkṣit himself will explain in the next verse that to criticize another person is to assume that the universe is flawed.

There are many different levels of dharma, morality. Parīkṣit previously pointed out that it is a moral duty to identify wrongdoers so they may be punished. Now, on a deeper level, he acknowledges that it is ignorant to consider anything a “wrong.” In practice, I suggest that we may point out the wrongdoings perpetrated on other people when there is something productive to be gained by so doing.

23

He thinks, “The minute movements of divine magic are beyond the boundaries of the mind or words of any living being.”

Parīkṣit explains why a very moral person does not criticize the wrongdoer. When a wrong is done, he thinks, “Who can say if this is truly ‘wrong’ since the minutia of fate is so far beyond my capacity to understand.”

24

Properly established, your legs are simplicity, purity, compassion and truthfulness. They are broken by the triplicate immoralities: arrogance, copulation, and intoxication.

Among the scriptural statements I have yet studied this is one of the closest to the somewhat famous “four regulative principles” of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. There they have a stature reminiscent of the 10 Commandments. I believe they were originally enunciated by Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī for his organization, the Gauḍiya Maṭh.

The common expression of the “Four Regs” is: (1) no meat eating, (2) no intoxication, (3) no illicit sex, and (4) no gambling. I would like to explain these rules more deeply and thoroughly than is common.

These four prohibitions are said to break the four legs of morality. So we should first understand the four legs of morality a little more clearly.

  1. 1.       Tapaḥ – This means to be simple, spartan, minimalist, austere, and self-sacrificing.
  2. 2.       Śaucaṁ – This means to be pure. Purity means to be emotionally, mentally, and physically clean, free from contamination.
  3. 3.       Dayā – This means to be kind, compassionate, merciful, forgiving, generous, etc.
  4. 4.       Satyaṁ – This means to be truthful. It also means to be “real” and not concerned with irrelevant and meaningless gossips and diversions.

In this verse and the next, Parīkṣit identifies four aspects of immorality which break the four legs of morality:

  1. 1.       Smaya – This means arrogance and conceit.
  2. 2.       Sanga – This means “coming together” and can have a social or physical context. In a social context it means gathering in a close and emotionally intimate group. In a physical context it means physical intimacy, sex.
  3. 3.       Madaiḥ – This means excitement, passion, lust, and the intoxication and insanity which tends to result.
  4. 4.       Anṛta – This means falsehood, lying, cheating and being out of touch with reality.

Smaya (arrogance) breaks the leg of dayā (compassion).  Compassion means to feel empathy for the needs and wants of others. When we are self-absorbed and self-important we overlook the needs and wants of other people. We will even kill them if it suits our whims, just as millions of people kill animals and destroy nature every day because it suits their tastes.

Not eating meat is one way to counteract arrogance because it forces us to value the lives of animals more than we value our own fancies. It is not the only way. And it should be clear that a vegetarian who remains arrogant, conceited, and insensitive to the human beings he or she lives with hardly makes much progress towards dayā (compassion). We should be compassionate in all ways, not just in our diet.

Sanga (copulation) breaks the leg of śaucaṁ (purity). It is not that sex is evil. In fact, all acts which unify express a godly principle, “aditi.” But intimacy, especially sexual intimacy, with anyone and everyone is immoral because it violates our ideological and emotional purity. It also threatens our physical purity and cleanliness and creates needless disease.

Some form of abstinence is therefore an important principle of morality. Total celibacy is an extreme application, but the same principle also positively operates whenever sexual intercourse is held within reasonable limits such as marriage or even in long-term relationships. Sexual restraint alone does not itself make us pure. We must also seek to be free from emotionally intimate relationships with unsavory persons.

Madaiḥ (the intoxication of lust) breaks the leg of tapaḥ (simplicity). Simplicity means to be content with whatever you have. It means to be free from the complications that arise by always desiring more, bigger and better. Simplicity and sobriety have something important in common, as a sober person doesn’t chase whims and desires here and there.

Literally drinking alcohol or taking other sorts of drugs is certainly an important part of madai (lustful intoxication), but it is not really the essence of it. To restore the leg of tapaḥ we must be “sober” in much more than merely a literal sense of the word. Surely a person who is literally sober has a head start, but it is not that intoxicants themselves are evil. A person who does not drink alcohol is not necessarily a simple, austere person. Nor is a person who occasionally and moderately drinks incapable of being minimalist, simple and austere. We must strive to be sober in all ways, so that we have more time and energy to dedicate to the service of others.

The fourth leg, satya (truthfulness) is broken by anṛta (deceit). Playing poker or gambling is not the essence of untruthfulness! Still, gambling is based on bluffing, cheating, tricking, or just risking what is comparatively real (money) on something comparatively unreal (dice). Thus to restore the principle of truthfulness we would do well to avoid such behavior, but a game of cards, or a bluff at stealing second base in a game of baseball does not make one a “sinner.” Simply put, we must not tell lies, must keep promises, fulfill responsibilities, disclose the truth plainly but with good manners and sensitivity, and not risk what is real for the sake of what is unreal.

The fourth leg (sat-ya) still has significant potency in the fourth age, the age of Kali. It endures even in adverse conditions because it is the principle, most durable, powerful leg of morality. This is why sat-sanga and sat-kathā are such essential aspects of religion and spirituality. These prevent us from sacrificing the truly real for the truly unreal: and that is actual morality.

What is truly unreal? Our ego.

What is truly real? The All-Attractive Divine Identity (“Śrī Krishna”). The Śrīmad Bhāgavatam describes Śrī Krishna as satyam-param: the paramount truth. Thus krsna-sanga (emotionally intimate association with Krishna, via those who are deeply absorbed in contemplation of Krishna) and krsna-kathā (discussion and broadcast of Krishna’s name, qualities, beauty and activities) can restore all the legs of morality fully and deliver happiness, satisfaction and enlightenment to anyone and everyone.

The four principles of morality are four “legs” that hold up the “bull” of dharma. What is the bull itself? What are the principles actually supporting? Divine Love for the All-Attractive. Without divine love, all behavior – moral or not – is pretentious and ugly. When one focuses on cultivating divine love through krsna-sanga and krsna-kathā the four principles of morality automatically become firm, strong and whole.

Hare Krishna.


Why Do We Suffer?

SB 1.17.17

Dharma said:

“Such words which remove the fear of those who suffer are very befitting of a Pāṇḍava. These good qualities made All-Attractive Krishna become submissive to you.

18-20

“We don’t really know what the real cause of our suffering is, O great man. There are many confusing opinions about it.

 “The competent who are free from doubt declare that the self is responsible for the self. Others think the responsibility lies with the gods. Someone else thinks it is a cause and effect of nature. And still others think this is beyond our mental and intellectual capability to understand. O philosopher-king, form your own opinion of which of these is best.

Parīkṣit asked Dharma, “Who broke your legs?”

Dharma replies, “There are many different opinions.”

Who is responsible for our suffering? Some say no one is responsible; it is merely a chance event – a random cause and effect of nature. Others say it is a result of divine, celestial powers toying with our destiny. Others are simply confused and say there is no way of knowing for sure.

But competent thinkers who are free from doubt declare simply, “You are responsible for yourself!”

Our own freewill creates our own destiny. Dharma says, “You are responsible for your own destiny, because the self-of-the-self holds you responsible.”

Who holds us responsible for our choices? The “self-of-the-self,” Godhead, the Supersoul does. God is good. So know it clearly and without doubt that nothing in your destiny is harmful, even if it is painful. As Parīkṣit said, that which is good should be rewarded and that which is otherwise should be punished to curb it down. A leader should follow this principle. The ultimate king and leader of all living beings, Godhead does. The self-of-the-self rewards what is selfless in our free choices, and punishes what is selfish, to curb it down.

We create our destiny and the divine soul within enforces it.

Dharma’s answer to the question, “Who broke your legs?” is extremely interesting. “It is just destiny which has broken my legs,” he answers. “This evil man is not the true cause.”

Although the evil man is not the ultimate cause of Dharma’s pain, he is still instrumental in it. Therefore he is not absolved from punishment, and Parīkṣit is about to raise his sword to slay him! Any good leader must punish and curb down all those who are instrumental in causing harm to the harmless. This is more for the benefit of the offender than the offended, for it dissuades the lawless from behaving in a manner which creates their own dismal destiny.


The Love Affair Between Krishna and Mother Earth

SB 1.16.25

Dharaṇī said:

Dear Dharma, the four legs on which you stand spread happiness throughout the worlds. I will enlighten you about all that you have asked.

Dharaṇī refers to the earth as the thing that holds everything and everyone up.

The opulence and happiness we experience in life is equal to the amount of purity, simplicity, kindness and truthfulness we create. Previous ages have a higher standard of life because these four pillars of dharma are incrementally stronger during those ages.

26-30

Truthfulness, cleanliness, compassion, calmness, detachment, satisfaction, sincerity, introspection, restraint, austerity, fairness, learning…

Knowledge, dispassion, power, chivalry, influence, strength, principles, independence, expertise, beauty, steadfastness, and certainly kindness…

Ingenuity, gentility, good manners, willpower, vigor, strength, fortune, depth, dedication, faithfulness, fame, honor, modesty…

…The All-Attractive always has all these and many others great qualities. No one else can ever hope to possess such greatness. He is the flag of good qualities and the palace of beauty herself. I lament because I have just been robed of him; Now I see the ills of Kali in the world.

The world is full of so many serious problems, as Dharma summarized in his questions. But these problems only show themselves when Śrī Krishna is not seen. Therefore to most lamentable problem of all is to be without the company of Śrī Krishna.

31

I lament for myself, and for you too, and for the highest immortals, for the gods, for the forefathers, for the sages, for the saintly, and for people of all types and situations.

Mother Earth says here that without All-Attractive Krishna everything else that was once good becomes lamentable and pathetic. Morality is fruitless without the All-Attractive center. The higher and lower gods and ancestors are not worthy of worship nor have they any real power to bestow benedictions without the All-Attractive center. The sciences of sages become tangential, blurred and misled; the pursuit of saintliness is meaningless; the responsibilities of the stages of material and spiritual development (varnāśrama) are hollow without the All-Attractive center, Śrī Kṛṣṇa.

32

Everyone including even Brahmā spends many days struggling in hopes of obtaining her carefree glance. But she, Goddess Śrī, gives herself to the All-Attractive. Abandoning her home in the forests of lotuses she dedicates herself to lovingly caring for his blessed feet!

33

The soles of those beautiful feet decorated my body with their prints – marked with a flag, spur, thunderbolt and lotus – and so decorated my beauty excelled anything within the three worlds and granted me opulences seen nowhere else! Now he has left me… In the end I must have become too proud of my good fortune.

It seems to me that the earth possesses the highest parakīya-madhurya-rāsa relationship with Krishna. We who mistreat the earth – from careless litter to global pollution – seem to be committing a serious transgression towards such an elevated being. We should tend to the earth with affection, knowing the intimacy of her love for Krishna and the pain that she must now feel in separation from him.

34

He manifested his delightful body in the Yadu family to easily and independently rescue me from the extreme burden of hundreds of armies of demoniac. He empowered you to be free from the misery of your broken legs.

In the presence of Krishna, the earth became more beautiful, opulent and fertile than paradise. All things sought by the gods in heaven became easily available on earth. All faults disappeared. Even the broken legs of morality were restored and there was full abundance of purity, simplicity, kindness, and truthfulness.

Mother Earth reveals that when All-Attractive Krishna is present, everything blossoms even beyond its own fullest inherent potential, but in the absence of Śrī Krishna, everything withers – despite whatever potential might be weeping within it.

35

Oh, who can bear to be without that supreme man!? His glances, pleasant smile and sweet words dispel the composure and pride of proud sweethearts. My hairs stood up to celebrate the touch of his feet!!!

The foremost “proud sweetheart” is Krishna’s beloved queen Satyabhāmā. Mother Earth, however, harbored some special pride because although Krishna sometimes had to leave the company of women like Satyabhāmā his feet would almost never leave the bosom of the earth. Perhaps she rationalizes that it is this pride which made Krishna less attracted to her, and capable of leaving her company?

36

While Pṛthivī and Dharma were discussing Krishna in this way, the Philosopher-King named Parīkṣit arrived at the eastward Sarasvatī river.

Pṛthivī refers to the Earth as the great expanse which spreads from horizon to horizon and splits the vast sky.

 


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.


Bhīṣma’s Instructions on Human Duty (Varṇāśrama-Dharma)

1.9.25

Sūta said:

Hearing all this from he who lay on a bed of arrows, Yudhiṣṭhira then asked him many questions about duty, and the sages also listened to the answers.

26

Humans all have unique individual character, and on that basis they are given specific responsibilities for material and spiritual development. Bhīṣma systematically described these, and how they involve both attachment and detachment.

27

He differentiated the duties pertaining to wealth, politics, and enlightenment; and explained that they sometimes overlap but are sometimes specific to certain subgroups like women, and devotees.

28

Understanding the truth of such things, he explained the four goals – morality, stability, pleasure, and enlightenment, along with the means to achieve them as illustrated in the histories.

Yudhiṣṭhira came to Bhīṣma mired in the quicksand of depression, unable to comprehend and digest the horrors he just partook in during the war. Bhīṣma told him that fate is beyond our comprehension, and we can simply trust that it is good, knowing that its master wishes us well. He said not to dwell on the past but to face the future. For Yudhiṣṭhira, the future means being the king and taking care of thousands of people. Therefore Yudhiṣṭhira began asking him many, many questions about how to properly execute his duties as a king.

Sūta summarized the elaborate questions and answers in three concise verses (26-28). Bhīṣma first explained that all duties are relative to a single key issue: your unique individual character. Everyone has unique duties and responsibilities based on their character, just as every patient does not receive exactly the same medicine and treatment from a hospital.

We have two basic frameworks of duty. Varṇa refers to career duties, material duties as a member of society. Āśrama refers to evolutionary duties, spiritual duties as an evolving spiritual being. We should pursue both duties simultaneously, balancing material attachment and spiritual detachment in a ratio befitting our unique individual character.

Bhīṣma specifically cited charity as the prime duty of business and industrial career types (vaiṣya-varṇa); politics as the main duty for administrative and governmental careers (kṣatriya-varṇa); and enlightenment as the primary duty mainly for educational and philosophical careers (brahmaṇa-varṇa). Bhīṣma also said that sometimes duties overlap with each other and with the borders of different careers and stages of evolution; while at other times are specific only to certain people. He specifically sites women and devotees as groups that have exceptional and specific duties not shared by other groups.

Bhīṣma then explained that there are four goals of human life: we search for pleasure (kāma), which leads us to desire stability (artha) as a solid foundation for happiness, which then leads us to desire order and morality (dharma) to insure the stability of our shared social foundations, and finally culminates in the desire for enlightenment (mokṣa) as we come to understand that ego-based pleasure is not truly pleasant.  All classes of people share these goals, but various categories have different primary focus. Commoners focus primarily on pleasure, businesspeople focus on economic stability, administrators focus on law and order, while the educational class primarily focuses on enlightenment.

Bhīṣma explained all this to the King, along with what history has shown to be the best means for attaining each goal, so that the King could guide all the different citizens in a manner appropriate to their individual natures.

29

While he was explaining human duties, the Sun began moving northward: the exact time desired by mystics who can chose the moment of their death.

Most contemporary Indian astrologers miscalculate the northern course (uttarāyaṇa) due to over-habituation towards sidereal references, and ignorance of the simple fact that the Sun’s movement in relation to earthly directions is an inherently tropical phenomenon. The Sun moves further and further south each day until the winter solstice, at which point it begins moving northward. This conversation between Bhīṣma and Yudhiṣṭhira culminated on the winter solstice, which is always in the vicinity of December 21st by our modern calendar.

30

Then, he who was expert in thousands of subjects withdrew his voice and removed his mind from all other embraces; fixing his wide-open eyes on the Original Person, Kṛṣṇa, who was right before him with four arms, in flowing yellow cloth.

31

All impurity washed away by that contemplation. Simply by looking on Kṛṣṇa, the weariness of his battle-wounds ceased and fled. He arrested all the activities of the roaming senses and prayed to the Delighter of People as he cast off the thing which was born.

Bhīṣma was the master of thousands of subjects. Besides being a warrior he was a philosopher and sage, and a mystic as well. He had the ability to choose the moment of his death. So he waited for Kṛṣṇa’s presence before dying – although his body was completely destroyed by battle wounds and it was very tiring and painful to remain alive. Kṛṣṇa came to him just before the winter solstice, and when that moment arrived Bhīṣma ceased all other responsibilities and completely withdrew his consciousness from everything in the world, focusing it upon Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the true delight of people (Janārdana) who stood before him in exactly the form adored by Bhīṣma.

Ayyavali depiction of Vishnu.

Image via Wikipedia


Inescapable Fate & God’s Plan

1.9.12

Alas how you suffered! Alas how unfair! O children of morality, you wouldn’t have survived such trials were you not protected by the learned, by righteousness, and by the infallible.

13-17

When the great warrior Pāṇḍu died he left my daughter Pṛthā with children. Raising you she suffered again, terribly.

All the difficult things that happened to her and to you are fate, I conclude. Everyone in all the worlds, and even the protectors of those worlds, is in the grip of fate like a cloud bank is in the grip of the wind.

How else could such disaster befall a king who is the son of Dharma, alongside the mace wielding Wolf-Belly, and the mystic-bow wielding Kṛṣṇā with his dear protector Kṛṣṇa?

None can ever understand his plan. Confusion persists even if experts investigate it exhaustively. Therefore just take everything that happened as the hex of destiny.

Now you are the chief of the Bharata dynasty. So, Lord, you must protect the helpless citizens.

The Pāṇḍavas suffered quite unfairly and so did their mother, who first of all lost her husband at a very young age, and second of all had to watch them grow up into such an unfair environment. Bhīṣma says that Pṛthā (Kuntī) is his “daughter.” Bhīṣma never married, but in loving Indian families relations terms are extended beyond their literal definitions. Kuntī was the daughter in law of Bhīṣma’s brother. Out of affection he considers her his own daughter.

King Yudhiṣṭhira could not rise above the emotional distress that culminated in the horrible war which forced him to take the lives of so many friends, teachers, and family members, including his beloved grandfather Bhīṣma who now lay broken on the battlefield. Yudhiṣṭhira approached him for advice and Bhīṣma said, “You cannot make logical sense out of everything that happened. Everything happens as a result of fate, and we cannot figure out the logic of fate with our human intellect.”

We use freewill, and our accountability for what we do therewith generates what we experience as “fate.” The universe attempts to improve the character of her children by rewarding our good deeds and punishing our bad. So, in theory, fate is a simple concept. But in practice it quickly becomes complex, especially because often good things seem fated to bad people, and visa versa. The simple reason for this is that fate spans many lifetimes. Those who are good in this lifetime have not always been so, and visa versa. Full comprehension of fate would require full comprehension of our entire timeline of reincarnation, which is beyond the boundary of human investigation. Thus although it is a simple principle, it is impossible to fully comprehend it.

The Pāṇḍavas are a very special example of how confusing fate can become, for not only were they extremely good and moral in this lifetime, we also have very little reason or evidence to believe that they were ever otherwise in any previous incarnation. Why then should calamities befall them? Bhīṣma answers by pointing at Kṛṣṇa and saying, “it is his inscrutable plan.”

Bhīṣma specifically refers to Kṛṣṇa as Arjuna’s beloved friend and protector. The implication here is profound: there is nothing truly ill in the incomprehensible plans of destiny, because the master of destiny is our beloved protector.

In actual fact, neither the Pāṇḍavas nor their mother Kuntī suffered at any time. Kuntī herself just finished telling Kṛṣṇa that she enjoyed every calamity they encountered and wishes they would never cease to befall them – because they place her into Kṛṣṇa’s company. Apparently ill things sometimes happen to truly saintly people, but they are unscathed and their experience only serves to instruct and uplift the world.

Bhīṣma concludes the topic by telling Yudhiṣṭhira, “You must stop trying to figure out why everything happened the way it did. Take your head out of the past and focus on the future. Now you are the head of our royal family and you have important obligations to the citizens that you must focus on.”

Bhīṣma now spontaneously turns his words to a new topic, most dear to his heart. Speaking indirectly to Kṛṣṇa who is listening besides Arjuna, he raises his hand towards the All-Attractive and says:

18

He is certainly, directly the All-Attractive Original Personality, Narayana. His charms intoxicate everyone as he moves confidentially among us Vrsni.

“Moving confidentially among us” means two things: (1) he is hidden from the perception of ordinary egoists, who see him as just another human being; (2) his activities with us are the most confidential and intimate side of his Godhead. These facets of confidentiality are accomplished by “intoxicating charms” (mohayan māyayā) which functions in two corresponding ways: (1) It allows egoistic souls to disconnect themselves from the All-Attractive; (2) It allows pure souls to connect themselves to the All-Attractive to a depth not warranted by their infinitesimal constitution.

It may be helpful to use distinguishing terminology for the two functions of Kṛṣṇa’s illusion: illusion which distances souls from him is called mahā-māyā. Illusion which deeply connects souls to him is called yoga-māyā. The use of the English term “illusion” is also problematic, so let us note that the illusions generated by the Supreme Reality are realities unto themselves.

19

O King, Śiva knows the most confidential secrets of his all-attractive nature, as does the gods’ sage Nārada, and godly Kapila.

These are three particularly noteworthy pure souls who are drawn closer to Kṛṣṇa by his intoxicating charms, and therefore know him very intimately.

20

You know him as your cousin, beloved friend, and supreme protector; who councils you, is your messenger, and out of kindness became your charioteer.

Yudhiṣṭhira and the Pāṇḍavas like Arjuna are even more exalted than Kapila, Nārada or Śiva. Their confidentiality with the All-Attractive is so great that it overshadows the officiousness and hierarchy inherent in the power of Godhead and endears the Original Person to become his beloved friend and servant.

Seen through the intoxication of illusion, however, it appears merely that Kṛṣṇa is a common mailman and chauffer for a prince, and nothing more. This is the veiw of intoxicated fools. It is not Bhīṣma’s view, as he explains:

21

He is certainly the soul of all, the neutral observer, the non-dual and the non-ego. His deeds are products of a consciousness never affected by attachment or aversion.

Bhīṣma states plainly that the person seated beside them, Kṛṣṇa, is directly and fully the Supreme Godhead. All of us are plagued by hunger in the core of our hearts. All of our actions are an attempt to fill this emotional hunger. The Supreme Being has no such hunger. Quite the opposite, the heart of the All-Attractive overflows with bliss. The actions of a common man attempt to fill a void within, the actions of the All-Attractive flow from an infinite fountainhead of bliss to fill the void without.

22

But King, see how sympathetic he is towards his single-minded devotee: as my life is ending Krsna has come directly before me!

The All-Attractive is impartial, but is not impersonal. If you direct affection towards him, he does not neglect it. In fact, because we are inherently infinitesimal and he is inherently infinite, his reciprocation for our affection is monumentally amplified in comparison to what we can offer.

23

Mind enrapt in divine love; Words glorifying his name; Giving up their body in this state, a yogi is released from all the reactions of selfishness.

Bhīṣma feels that Kṛṣṇa has given him a huge, undeserved favor. Kṛṣṇa has come personally before Bhīṣma as he is giving up his body. Thus it will be extremely easy for Bhīṣma to do what great yogis undergo extreme efforts to attain: to wrap their thoughts and words around him and thus be freed from the cycle of birth and death.

“Glorifying his name” is nāma-kīrtana. “Reactions of selfishness” is kāma-karmabhih.

24

The god of gods awaits,
While I leave this body.
The satisfied smile,
Sunrise eyes,
And lotus face
Of the Four-Armed
Pave the path of my concentration.


The King Regrets War

 

1.8.44

Sūta said:

Hearing this spontaneous poetry exalting his unlimited glories, the Carefree pleasantly smiled a smile as captivating as his illusory energy.

Kṛṣṇa is also named “Carefree” – Vaikuṇṭha.

45

After all these prayers, Kuntī and all the ladies invited him into Gaja Sāhvya Palace. There, the King lovingly stopped him.

Kṛṣṇa was going to leave for his own city. Then there was an emergency and Kṛṣṇa saved everyone from a destructive blast. Immediately after this, Kuntī saw her golden opportunity and approached Kṛṣṇa asking him not to leave. After her prayers, Kṛṣṇa accepted her invitation to return within the Palace. There, King Yuddhiṣṭhira lovingly stopped Kṛṣṇa to talk.

46

Sages like Vyāsa had explained to the king that all events, however bewildering, are ordained by the will of the Controller, Kṛṣṇa; and tried to give examples from history to console him. But his grief and distress could not be appeased.

47

The King, Dharma’s Son, carried away by the bewilderment of a commoner’s conception of affection, troubled by having killed his protectors, spoke:

48

“Alas! Look at my stupidity! Look how evil is rooted in my heart! This body should be used to help others, but I have used it to kill them; many, many armies of them!

49

“Boys, teachers, protectors, friends, fathers, brothers, and gurus I have killed. I shall not escape hell for millions upon millions of years.

50

“Morality dictates that there is no sin for a king who kills enemies responsibly to protect the citizens, but I don’t think this applies to me.

The common man searches the law and scripture for loopholes to excuse his miserable selfishness, but the true son of Dharma searches the same to expose, not hide, the evils within.

51-52

“I have killed the relatives of many women, and they must all hate me. I don’t think there is anything I can do to make these worldly people forgive me. You can’t use mud to clean muddy water; or wine to purify it of alcohol. The sacrifice of an animal cannot cleanse me of the sin of murder.”

A low grade spiritualist dismisses the worldly as unimportant. But the great Yuddhiṣṭhira sees their desires and needs as important.

The five Pandavas with king Yudhisthira in the...

Image via Wikipedia


Punishment of Superiors

1.7.40

Sūta said:

Although Pārtha had his morals coaxed and put to the test by Kṛṣṇa, he did not desire to kill the son of his guru – even though that man had terribly murdered his children.

41

When he reached his camp with Govinda, his charioteer, he placed the man into the custody of his beloved wife, who was crying over the murder of her sons.

42

When Kṛṣṇā saw him dragged in, tied up like an animal speechless and humiliated for his horrific deeds, her own beautifully soft and compassionate nature swelled up, and she felt respectful towards the son of their guru.

Kṛṣṇā is a name for Draupadī, Arjuna’s wife, given due to her deep connection to Kṛṣṇa.

43-48

Unable to bear his being bound like that, she said:

“Untie this brahmana. Untie the son of your guru; by whose compassion you learned the deepest secrets of marital arts, including how to release and control mystical weapons. Droṇa lives on in the form of his son, and in his second half, his wife Kṛpī, who keeps living only for her son. You are very moral and blessed. Don’t cause suffering for your respected and always revered family. I constantly cry in pain because my children are dead. Don’t make his mother Gautamī, to whom your guru was so dear, become like me. If kings anger their teachers by not being submissive, their family is soon incinerated and everyone connected to them comes to misery.”

49-50

Sūta said:

The king, Dharma’s Son, supported the queen’s words as glorious, egalitarian, pure, merciful, just, and moral. Nakula and Sahadeva, Yuyudhāna, Dhanañjaya, the All-Attractive son of Devakī, and all the royal ladies agreed.

Dharma’s Son is King Yuddhiṣṭhira, Arjuna’s oldest brother. Nakula and Sahadeva are twin brothers of Arjuna. Yuyudhāna is Arjuna’s best friend and classmate. Dhanañjaya is another name of Arjuna.

51

Then, in anger, Bhīma said, “It is said that he should be killed for his own good! Without reason or need he uselessly killed sleeping children!”

Bhīma is another brother of Arjuna.

52

Having heard Bhīma, Draupadī, and the rest, the Four Armed looked upon the face of his friend with a smile and spoke.

Kṛṣṇa looked affectionately upon Arjuna and spoke.

53-54

The Beautiful All-Attractive said:

Someone related to our teacher must not be killed, but an aggressor must be killed. Both are true. You must abide by both and also must not break the promise you made to your beloved wife. You must pacify dear Bhīmasena, Pāñcālī, and myself as well.

Pāñcālī is another name for Draupadī, Arjuna’s wife.

55

Sūta said:

Arjuna then suddenly understood Hari’s heart, and so with his sword cut the jewel and hair from the head of the twice-born.

The “twice-born” refers to a brahmana. In this case it refers to the murder, Aśvatthāmā.

56

Bereft of power and influence due to having killed children, and being deprived of his jewel, he was released and exiled from their camp.

57

Cutting hair, taking wealth, and putting to exile are fit punishments for those related to Brahmins. Killing or other methods are not to be used.

58

Overwhelmed with misery, all the Pāṇḍavas accompianied Kṛṣṇā to do what they must for the sake of those who had died.