Tag Archives: Kuntī

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.

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Conclusion of Queen Kunti’s Prayers

1.8.37

We are your bosom friends.
We live for you and you alone.
We hold your lotus-like feet above all else.
Can it be that you want to leave us today, O Lord of self-determined action,
Leave us to all our political problems?

Kuntī profoundly asks Kṛṣṇa not to leave.

38

What will become of us Pāṇḍava and Yadu,
With our big name and opulence, but without your audience?
The same that becomes of a lovely body
Without a soul.

39

None of this will have any of the beauty it has now,
O Mace-Wielder.
It is attractive only because your lotus-like footprints
Decorate it with their own decorations.

“Mace-Wielder” (Gadādhara) is a name of Kṛṣṇa as a warrior and identifying him as Viṣṇu, who carries a mace (club) in one hand.

40

All our towns, lands, herbs, and vegetables,
Forests, hills, rivers, and lakes
Flourish now,
Nourished by your glance.

41

So cut the ropes that bind my heart so deeply
To all my things, and to this family of Pāṇḍava and Vṛṣṇi.
O Universal Form! O Universal Soul!
O Universal Master!

Since everything beautiful in her life derives its beauty from its connection to Kṛṣṇa, Kuntī wants to have no affection for any of it, if Kṛṣṇa leaves it. In other words she asks for full realization that Kṛṣṇa is the source of beauty and sweetness in everything beautiful and sweet.

42

On you and you alone, O Sweet Protector
Let my attention be ceaselessly allured.
Like the flooding Ganges
Flowing straight to the sea.

“Madhu-pati,” the Sweet Protector, has a romantic connotation since madhu implies “honey” and pati is the word for husband.

43

Śrī Kṛṣṇa, Friend of Kṛṣṇā, Bull among Bulls,
Tireless hero who destroys the royal dynasties that trouble the Earth.
Pleasure of our senses;
Your incarnations give refuge to cows, teachers, and gods.
Master of mystics; Guide of the World; All-Attractive…

…to you I give myself.

Kuntī brings her address to a close with this stunning spontaneous composition.

Śrī Kṛṣṇa: The “Śrī” in “Śrī Kṛṣṇa” means “beauty.” So it implies “Beautiful Kṛṣṇa.” Śrī further means the goddess of beauty, Lakṣmī . In the company of Kṛṣṇa Lakṣmī manifests her original and supreme form: Rādhā. So “Śrī Kṛṣṇa” further implies “Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa.”

Friend of Kṛṣṇā: This choice of words allows Kuntī to say “Kṛṣṇa” twice and better satisfy her thirst for that sound. Several people are called Kṛṣṇā, especially Arjuna, Draupadī and Kuntī herself. So it is both sonically satisfying and personally relevant.

Bull among Bulls: Vṛṣṇi-ṛṣabha is a sophisticated alliteration. One meaning is that Kṛṣṇa is the most powerful (ṛṣabha) of his dynasty, the Vṛṣṇi. Another meaning is that Kṛṣṇa is the bull (ṛṣa) among bulls (vṛṣa), which means that he is the best and most powerful of all the best and most powerful men.

Tireless hero of the Earth: The Earth is the wife of Kṛṣṇa’s boar incarnation. Kṛṣṇa is her hero because he saves her from the militarism and exploitive opportunism of self-serving leaders and politicians. How? Sometimes by incarnating to personally annihilate them, but usually by allowing them to annihilate each other as a result of the fate which he enforces in his form as supreme time.

Pleasure of our senses: Kuntī intimately addresses Kṛṣṇa as Govinda, the one who delights the eyes, ears, nose, skin, and mouth.

She concludes in a stunning manner with a refrain back to her opening motif, “I give myself to you.”

Queen Kuntī is extremely intimate with Kṛṣṇa and her appreciation is for the romantic side of Kṛṣṇa. This is clear from the messages she sends to Kṛṣṇa just slightly below the surface of all her words:

  • She compares Kṛṣṇa to an attractive actor.
  • She makes a point to identify herself as female.
  • She refers to Kṛṣṇa in the romantic setting of Vṛṇdāvana, by calling him the Son of Nanda.
  • She calls him the “delight of her senses.”
  • She appreciates his attractive body: naval, eyes and finally even his feet.
  • As is important in the art of romantic communication, she indicates that she is aware of Kṛṣṇa’s special feelings for her.
  • She calls him her “protector” which, in Sanskrit (pati), is the same word used for “husband.”
  • She illustrates her highly philosophical points with reference to intimate Kṛṣṇa in Vṛṇdāvana, as the Son of Yaśodā.
  • She describes kīrtana with adjectives like “embracing” and “enjoying” the hearing, singing, and reminiscing of Kṛṣṇa.
  • She says she wants to love no one else, be attracted to no one else.
  • She twice refers to Kṛṣṇa in relation to Rādhā.
  • In this mood she wishes to give herself to him.

This certainly begs the question: is the relationship between Kuntī and Kṛṣṇa romantic (mādhurya-rasa)? The answer may not be clearly understood before we realize that the ideal cherished in one’s heart need not be forceful enough to fully manifest in ones deeds. What I feel is certain is that lovely and devoted Kuntī cherishes romantic affection for Kṛṣṇa above all else. She particularly adores the concept of Kṛṣṇa as her true husband. She even holds the highest reverence for Kṛṣṇa’s supremely intimate romance with Śrī Rādhā.

If these cherished ideals were forceful enough to grant her a place among his queens or Gopīs is unknown to me. But in her current shape as Kuntī it remains a heartfelt ideal, the deepest motive and most treasured emotion. We should realize that all self-realized souls cherish the intimate romantic love of Kṛṣṇa and his queens, Kṛṣṇa and the Gopīs, and Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa above all else – regardless of the capacity or level of intimacy to which their personal nature permits them to access Kṛṣṇa.

I also wonder how much the sentiment of the storytellers influences the choice of words and the subtleties. I think that Kuntī holds these sentiments as the secret treasure of her heart, and the storytellers may make it more apparent due to their own deep sympathy for such feelings.

Kuntīs prayers teach us so many important things.

  • Kṛṣṇa is a Transcendent Person, which means that his delimiting features such as name and form are unlimited.
    • Illusion prevents us from accepting that this is possible.
    • Illusion is the product of not wanting Kṛṣṇa to be the Absolutely All-Attractive
    • Illusion is truly destroyed, therefore, only be becoming absolutely all-attracted to Kṛṣṇa, as Kuntī is.
  • There is no such thing as good and bad luck.
    • Good luck can separate one from the true fortune of attraction to the All-Attractive.
    • Bad luck can increase that fortune.
  • Kṛṣṇa refuses to become the property of anyone who holds on to any other property. He fully gives himself, however, to those who are uninterested in power and enjoyment, are self-satisfied, gentle and pure.
  • Kṛṣṇa is absolutely impartial.
    • Destiny is the absolutely impartial form of Kṛṣṇa
    • Receiving or not receiving affection from Kṛṣṇa is our decision.
  • The most significant reason Kṛṣṇa appears in our world is to provide us an opportunity to remember him and thus realize our full-potential as roles in the play of divine love.
  • Everything is beautiful and attractive only in so far as we are aware of its connection to all-beautiful, all-attractive Kṛṣṇa.
    • Therefore let us become attracted to him first and foremost, then everything will become beautiful.

Considering the sublimity of Kuntīs emotion and the profundity of her philosophical points, it is easy to see why Sūta chose her words as the first monologue he enunciated to the sages in pursuit of retelling Śuka’s Śrīmad Bhāgavatam.


Prayers of Queen Kunti, Part II

Kuntī previously expressed so much gratitude to Kṛṣṇa for taking special care of her through so many calamities. Kṛṣṇa might say, “First you say I am the Original Godhead and then you say I took so much care of you, but this is a contradiction because Godhead does not show partiality to anyone!” Fearing this objection, Kuntī speaks these words:

1.8.28-29

I know you as the master of time itself,
Infinite, without beginning or end.
You distribute yourself equally in all circumstances.
Friendship or enmity is something living beings create.

Who can understand the behavior of the All-Attractive?
People confuse you to be like them.
How could anyone be your object of favor or disfavor?
Impartiality exists only in the human mind.

Kuntī says, “You are infinite time.” Time is the force which allows events to transpire. All good and bad things therefore happen as a result of time. Time is therefore synonymous with the concept of fate, destiny, karma.

Destiny is completely impartial. It plays no favorites and gives no dispensations. It merely enforces the appropriate result of your freewill. If a soccer player commits a foul, the referee calls a penalty. Is it the referees fault or the players? If the same player scores a goal, the referee awards a point. Is this favoritism? No, it is impartiality. The good and bad one experiences from an impartial being are ones own creation. God is not to fame or fault for the pleasures and pains of the world. It is we alone who create our fortunes.

The love and protection Kṛṣṇa gave Kuntī and her family is equally available to everyone at anytime. It is up to us to choose friendship or enmity with the All-Attractive.

30

It is completely confusing
That the unborn, deedless soul of the universe
Takes birth and performs deeds
Among animals, humans, sages, and aquatics.

For example:

31

When you were naughty, the cowherd woman grasped for a rope.
Then, mascara ran in the tears flowing from your frightened eyes.
Your face looked down and fear filled you up.
This confuses me, since even the god of fear fears you!

Now  Kuntī will try to unravel the confusing mystery of why and how the unborn and deedless is born and has deeds:

32-36

Someone says the unborn is born
To glorify the Subject of Pure Poetry,
As a dear friend to the Yadu dynasty,
Like sandalwood in the Malaya hills.

Someone else says he was born
To answer the prayers of Vasudeva and Devakī.
You are that unborn who protected them
By destroying those who hate the godly.

Another person says
The world was like a sinking boat at sea with too much weight,
And Brahmā prayed for your birth
On behalf of her distress.

“This world is full of the distress
Of ignorant desires and pursuits.
So he has enabled us to hear about, remember, and worship him”
– say many others.

Embracing constant hearing & singing;
Enjoying the consequent remembrance of your deeds;
Such a person soon sees your lotus-like feet,
And the flow of material destiny runs dry.

Kuntī cites different opinions which attempt to explain why the unborn and deedless is born and does deeds.

The first opinion she cites is that the unborn is born to create subject matter for pure poetry to be used in divine glorification (kīrtan).

She uses a metaphor of sandalwood in the Malayan hills. Sandal trees could potentially grow anywhere, but for whatever reason they wound up growing in a certain hilly region and thus that region is very famous and prosperous. Similarly the All-Attractive could take birth and perform deeds anywhere, but for whatever reason he does so among the Yadu dynasty (Kuntī’s royal family) who are therefore very famous and prosperous.

The next opinion she cites is that the unborn is born to protect the world from those who hate the godly. Foremost was to protect Devakī and Vasudeva from the wicked Kaṁsa.

The third opinion is similar: that the unborn is born because the armies of greedy kings made the earth distressed like a boat at sea with too much weight, so Kṛṣṇa appeared to destroy hundreds of thousands of warriors and kings.

The fourth opinion she sites is similar to the first: The unborn is born because the world is full of intense suffering, the ultimate cause of which is forgetfulness of our essential unifying link with the Supreme Blissful All-Attractive. So Kṛṣṇa takes birth to give us something truly uplifting to sing about and hear about, which allows us to remember our link to him and thus destroy the root of our suffering.

Finally, she gives her own opinion in support of the first and fourth opinions she cited. She says that the unborn and deedless is born and has deeds just to facilitate true love and enjoyment and thus save the forlorn soul from asphyxiation in a river of meaningless existence.

The primary reason that the Absolute exists in tangible personal form is to give us something perfect to love. Therefore the primary reason you and I exist in a tangible form is to love something perfect. Singing and hearing songs about the All-Attractive are the most effective way to fall into this divine love, and also the most powerful and pure way to enjoy, embrace and express it.

The divine exists for kīrtana, therefore so do we.

A modern painting of Kunti addressing Krsna before he could leave.


Prayers of Queen Kunti, Part I

1.8.17

Saved along with her children from the blast of the ultimate weapon, devoted Pṛthā went before Kṛṣṇa, who was still ready to depart, and said this:

18-19

Kuntī said:

I give myself to you, the Original Person,
Master of energies and their source,
The undelimited existence,
Inside and outside of everything.

The fool’s eye,
Covered by a curtain of illusion,
Cannot see your limitless transcendental delimitations;
As an actor in costume goes unrecognized.

Do not think that the intimate associates of Kṛṣṇa are unaware of his majestic divinity! They are more aware of Kṛṣṇa than anyone else, because nothing reveals a person in more depth and clarity than a deep loving relationship with him. The do not always focus upon the power and majesty of Godhead because their relationship with Kṛṣṇa is more than that. But this does not mean that they lack any understanding of the true position of Kṛṣṇa.

Kuntī, mother of the Pāṇḍavas, immediately addresses Kṛṣṇa as the “Original Person.” The Sanskrit she uses, puruṣaṁ ādyam, directly connotes Kṛṣṇa as the original Viṣṇu.

She calls Kṛṣṇa “master of energies and their source” – īśvaraṁ prakṛteḥ param. This means that Kṛṣṇa is the controller of this world of energy, as well as the spiritual source from which the energy originates. Following this to its conclusion, Kuntī addresses Kṛṣṇa as the lover of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, who is the original spiritual source of all Kṛṣṇa’s energy (param-prakṛti).

She describes Kṛṣṇa as “undelimited existence inside and outside of everything.” She says that only a fool looks at Kṛṣṇa and thinks, “he sort of looks and acts like a human being, so… how can he be God?” Kṛṣṇa’s so called “delimitations” (name, color, shape, etc) are that very infinite undefinable spiritual substance itself. An eye befooled by the curtains of illusion cannot, or will not, see this. Illusion is the mechanism by which we experience something impossible. What is impossible is that an infinitesimal being such as you or I can be All-Attractive. When the true All-Attractive is placed before such eyes illusion closes a curtain over the truth, lest our hallucination of centrality become extinct.

Thus pitiful fools such as we overlook Kṛṣṇa every day, everywhere.

20

The greatest souls,
The scholars, the liberated,
Can see you by the means of devotion.
Can a simple woman also see?

Kuntī previously expressed that the eye covered by illusion cannot see the All-Attractive. Now she explains the cure to this blindness. The cure is to change what we want; instead of wanting to be All-Attractive we must want to be All-Attracted. Instead of wanting people to be devoted to us, we must become devoted to them and ultimately to Godhead. This is the “means of devotion” which allows great souls, scholars, and liberated people to see the Infinite Being in a concrete and tangible personal form.

Kuntī then humbly expresses, “I am no scholar or sage or spiritualist, yet I too can see you! How can a simple woman have this topmost divine realization? By the process of devotion.” The process of devotion is open to everyone, scholar and simpleton alike. In fact in some ways it is simpler for a simple person to embrace it.

Kuntī then gives two beautiful verses expressing her loving devotional sentiments.

21-22

I give myself, I give myself to Krsna,
Son of Vasudeva, Darling child of Devakī,
Cowherd Nanda’s dear boy;
Delight of our senses.

I give myself to you whose naval is like a lotus,
Who wears a necklace of lotuses,
Whose eyes are like lotuses,
Whose feet are like lotuses

23

Oh master of our senses,
As you freed your mother Devaki from her long imprisonment by treacherous Kamsa;
So you protected my sons and I, O Powerful,
From danger after danger:

Kuntī expresses her appreciation to Kṛṣṇa for treating her as lovingly and carefully as he did his own mother.

24-27

From poison, inferno, and the attacks of man-eaters,
From the vile assembly and the sufferings of exile,
From the midst of the weapons of countless warriors,
And from the weapon of Droṇa’s son, you kept us completely safe.

Let there be such dangers forever!
For, O Guide of the Universe, each and every one
Granted us your wonderful company;
Freeing us from the company of repeated birth and death.

Status, power, erudition, and beauty
Only increase the human hallucination
Completely Inhibiting us from sincerely turning to you
Who are within reach of those who have nothing else.

I give myself to you, the wealth of the wealthless
Who are unimpressed by the qualities of material things.
I submit myself unto you,
Lord of the Self-satisfied, gentle and pure.

When she enumerated all the dangers Kṛṣṇa protected her from his eyes asked of her, “Is that the goal of devotion then, to receive something in return?”

She passionately replied, “No! I want more dangers!”

Why?

Because in these times of danger she and her family always turned to Kṛṣṇa, found themselves in his company, and freed from the greatest danger: constant death in the cycle of reincarnation. It is implied here that devotional awareness of Kṛṣṇa delivers one from the cycle of reincarnation (saṁsāra) as a mere side effect.

She explains that people in illusion want more status, power, erudition and attractiveness – but these things only inflate our hallucinations. Such fantasies inhibit us from embracing the reality of our abject dependence on Godhead. Thus people who gain “good things” are at risk of losing their sincere connection to the best thing, the All-Attractive.

The All-Attractive is always within the embrace of those who hold on to no possession except him.