Srimad Bhagavatam – A Nectar of Devotion
“In days of yore, the Lord, born of Devaki, brought up in the house of Yasoda, killed the wicked Putana of illusive form and lifted the Govardhana hill, killed Kamsa and the sons of the Kuru race, and protected the sons of Kunti. Thus is recited the essence of the ancient Bhagavat Purana consisting of the nectarine stories of the deeds of Lord Krishna”.
The Puranas hold a unique place in the history of religious literature of the Hindus. They contain mine of knowledge and information on all philosophical and religious topics. Srutis or Vedas cannot be easily understood by the common people. So the all-merciful Vedavyasa composed the eighteen Puranas for the benefit of mankind and explained in an easy way the subtle truth and the deep problems of the Srutis. They are indeed an encyclopedia of Hindu religion and ethics.
Bhagavatam is a practical guide for human beings. It teaches that God-realization alone can give salvation for man, and shows the ways to attain God-consciousness. It teaches that God alone really exists and that God-realization is the be-all and end-all of life. It teaches humanity to realize God everywhere and always and in every situation of life.
Srimad-Bhagavatam is declared to be the essence of all Vedanta philosophy, because it is the natural commentary of the Vedanta sutras. One who has felt satisfaction from its Nectarian mellow will never be attracted to any other literature (SB 12.13.15).
Stories of Gems from Bhagavatam
Lord Krishna is the central figure of this unique book. It is an authoritative book on devotion. Bhagavata teaches devotion that is associated with Jnana (Bhaktiytikta-Jnana). It does not divorce knowledge from Bhakti. It teaches that Jnana is extremely helpful to its perfect attainment. In Bhagavata the treacle of Bhakti is mixed with the elixir of Jnana.
Bhagavatam Purana Opening Theme
When Asvatthama, the son of Acharya Drona, discharged the invincible missile known as Brahmastra to destroy the Pandavas, and let it off with such ferocity that he thought it would end the Pandavas’ progeny so that they would have no descendants and their family would finally be extinguished. He directed this Brahmastra to the womb of Uttara – the queen of Arjuna’s son Abhimanyu – thinking that her womb would be destroyed. But God’s power has no end. It is limitless, and it can act in the required manner at any moment of time. Sri Krishna, with his power of yoga, entered Uttara’s womb and withdrew this invincible Brahmastra into Himself.
The child in Uttara’s womb who Asvatthama attempted to destroy, was Parikshit, the only descendent of the Pandava brothers. Due to a tragic historical event that took place, which is told in the beginning of the Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana, Parikshit was to die by a snake bite. Frightened by this possibility, Parikshit wound up his reign of the kingdom and sat in prayopavesa on the bank of Ganga, wishing to end his life, which was to come upon him within seven days, according to the curse of the son of a great Rishi. It was at that time the great Suka Maharishi happened to pass that way.
When everybody paid obeisance, Suka asked them the reason why they were all gathered on the bank of River Ganga.
Parikshit put a question: “What is good for man, especially at this hour when my life is about to end?”.
Suka Maharshi Said: O King, you have asked the only question worth asking. Most people are drunk with thoughts of worldly pleasure, and never turn their minds towards God. For those who want to become free from the fear of death, constant remembrance of the Lord is the way. Though my mind was ever absorbed in the absolute reality, it became entranced, like other ascetics before me, with this Purana describing the Lord’s wonderful qualities that was taught to me by my father, Vyasa. O King, I shall now narrate all that I heard from him to you.
Vidura Meets Uddhava and Maitreya
SHUKA MAHARSHI WAS DELIGHTED to see King Parikshit’s eagerness. Though the king had only seven days to live, he showed no fear of death. Shukadeva then began to tell the story of the Kauravas and Pandavas
Dhritarashtra, the blind king, wanting to please his wicked sons, allowed them to torture and persecute the Pandavas, his nephews. He even allowed his sons to burn the Pandavas’ house down while they were in it. And he also allowed them to humiliate their noble wife Draupadi before the royal court. Finally, Duryodhana, Dhritarashtra’s eldest son, drove the Pandavas into exile in the forest, cheating them out of all their worldly possessions in a crooked game of dice.
Dhritarashtra had a brother named Vidura, who was wise and righteous. Vidura wanted to divert his brother from his evil ways and bring him to the right path, so he advised Dhritarashtra to disown his evil son Duryodhana. This made Shakuni and other friends of Duryodhana extremely angry. Duryodhana heaped abuse upon Vidura and drove him from the court.
Vidura no longer wanted to live in the city of Hastinapura, so he left the palace, dressed in humble clothes, and set out on a long pilgrimage. After many days he happened to meet Sri Krishna’s beloved friend, Uddhava. When Vidura asked him about Sri Krishna,
Uddhava, who had been devoted to the Lord since childhood, began to weep. He said, ‘Sri Krishna has ended his sport here on earth, and has left for his own abode.’ He then began to relate many stories of Krishna’s life—how he was born, how he killed the demon Kamsa, how he played with the gopis in Vrindavan, and so on. Then, after relating how Krishna gave his final teachings to him before leaving the world, Uddhava said: ‘The pain of separation from him is unbearable. Now I am going, at the Lord’s command, to Badrikashrama to spend my days in meditation on him.
Seeing Vidura’s grief at getting the news of Krishna’s passing away, Uddhava said: ‘Sri Krishna has asked the rishi Maitreya to instruct you. Please go to him.’ Vidura was overwhelmed, hearing that Krishna had thought of his welfare before his passing away, and he immediately left to meet Maitreya. Seeing Vidura, a great devotee of the Lord, Maitreya felt great joy. Maitreya told him about how God incarnates himself on earth as an avatara and about the creation of the universe. He explained that before creation, there is just absolute Consciousness existing, nothing else. This Consciousness is identical with God. Through the power of God’s maya, the universe manifests, making that one absolute Consciousness appear as many.
Vidura then asked Maitreya to tell him about the creation of the world and how it became populated.
Maitreya begun to tell incident; Svayambhuva Manu had a daughter known as, Devahuti. He gave her in marriage to the sage Kardama, who had been commanded by the Lord himself to break his long celibacy and take Devahuti as his wife. Thus, after many years of austerities by both of them, Kardama and Devahuti had a son, Kapila Muni, who became the expounder of the Samkhya philosophy. Knowing that their son was a partial manifestation of Vishnu, Kardama felt that he had fulfilled the purpose of their marriage. When Kapila came of age, Kardama decided to renounce the world and leave Devahuti in his care. After singing praises to his son and asking for his blessings, Kardama left to practice spiritual disciplines and austerities.
When his father departed, Kapila Muni lived with his mother at Lake Bindu. One day Devahuti said to him: ‘My son, my senses have completely bewildered me. Please dispel my attachment and delusion. You are the Lord himself, born in this world to destroy delusion.’ Kapila replied: ‘O Mother, the mind alone is the source of both bondage and liberation. The mind is attached to the three gunas: sattva, rajas, and tamas—the principles of light and balance, activity and attachment, and darkness and delusion. This attachment to the three gunas binds us. But if we can give up all sense of the ego—that is, of “I” and “mine”—then the mind will attain purity and can be fixed on the Supreme Spirit. Devotion to the Lord is the easiest way to do this.
The Jnani (knower of the Truth) Kapilamuni further says; ‘When a person focuses all his sense-organs on the Lord through love, his impurities become burned up, just as fire burns up things that are put in it. This is true bhakti, or devotion. And though such devotees do not care for mukti (liberation), their devotion for the Lord leads them easily to that state which is beyond birth and death. Devotion alone takes one to the highest.’
Daksha Yagna & Sati Devi
Shuka Maharshi went on narrating the Bhagavatam to King Parikshit and the many sages gathered there;
Brahma’s son Daksha had many daughters. Among them Sati Devi is one, whom he gave in marriage to Mahadeva. This meant that the God of gods, Lord of the devas, Lord Shiva himself, was Daksha’s son-in-law. One day the devas were conducting a yajna, a religious ceremony, when Daksha paid them a visit. The devas received him with great courtesy, standing up to show him respect all, that is, except Mahadeva. Though he was Daksha’s son-in-law, Mahadeva remained seated, ignoring Daksha’s arrival.
Daksha was furious at this slight. He insulted Shiva using harsh words and then cursed him, saying, ‘From now on you will no longer receive a share of the offerings at the sacrifices!’ Mahadeva remained sitting peacefully, but his follower Nandi lost his temper and cursed Daksha in return.
After some time Daksha himself organised a great sacrifice. He invited the devas, rishis, sages, and many others. Only Shiva and his wife, Sati, were not invited. Sati Devi, known also by the name Dakshayani, requests Siva’s permission to attend her father’s sacrifice, the Brihaspati, and Siva shows how inadvisable it would be.
In spite of her Lord’s advice, Sati goes to Daksha’s sacrifice. Disregarded by her father and enraged at finding no offering made to Lord Shiva. Furious, she chastised her father before the whole assembly. ‘Alas!’ she said. “You are insulting one whose name, even uttered casually, frees a person from all sins. You are the essence of all inauspiciousness, yet you dare insult one who is the essence of all auspiciousness, who is the epitome of fame and greatness.’ Then she said: ‘I can no longer bear to live in this body that was born from you you who despise the noble Shiva. In order to save the three worlds, he even drank poison, and for that he is called Nilakantha”. I am ashamed of my relationship with you. For this reason I shall caste off this body right now.
Immediately Sati entered into a yogic state. Through the power of her concentrated mind, she set her body ablaze, while cries of grief rose all around.
Meanwhile Narada went and informed Shiva all that had happened. Furious, Shiva plucked a hair from his head and threw it on the ground. From that hair a frightful-looking warrior arose who was called Virabhadra. With great humility, he asked Shiva, ‘What shall I do for you?’ Shiva replied, ‘Go and destroy Daksha, along with his sacrifice.’ With a great roar, Virabhadra left, followed by Shiva’s retinue.
Virabhadra raced to the sacrificial ground, and with the help of Shiva’s companions, cut off Daksha’s head and offered it in the sacrificial fire. The devas were also attacked. Terrified, they ran to Brahma for protection. Brahma in his turn, accompanied by the devas, went to meet Shiva at Kailasha. In order to placate him, they sang a hymn in praise of him. Then Mahadeva, who is known to be easily pleased, was pacified. In reply to their hymn, he said that Daksha would live again, but with the head of a goat, and the devas and others who had been maimed would have their limbs restored. The devas then requested Shiva to come to the sacrificial grounds and bring Daksha back to life.
Through the benign glance of Shiva, Daksha’s life was restored. On regaining consciousness, the first thing Daksha saw with his goat head was Shiva standing before him. This time, however, his mind had been purified, and he extolled Shiva with a hymn. The sacrifice then resumed, and everything went well. Then, Lord Vishnu appeared there and said to all Devas that; One who knows that – “we three (Shiva, Vishnu & Brahma) are all one and pervade all beings attains eternal peace”. After this, Mahadeva got his share of the offerings. And Sati was reborn as the daughter of Himavan and his wife Menaka. She was named Uma, or Durga, and was again married to Shiva.
The Story of Dhruva
Svayambhu Manu was a son of Brahma. He and his wife Shatarupa had two sons, Uttanapada and Priyavrata.
When Uttanapada grew up, he became the king and had two queens, Suruchi and Suniti. Suruchi’s son was named Uttama, and Suniti’s was Dhruva. As King Uttanapada loved Suruchi more than Suniti, he would often take her son Uttama on his lap. One day when Uttanapada was sitting on the throne, Suniti’s son Dhruva came and wanted to sit on his father’s lap also. But Suruchi, his stepmother, forbade him. She said: ‘You are Suniti’s son. You have no right to sit on the king’s lap. To get this privilege you have to be born as my son. So pray to Lord Hari and practice spiritual disciplines and maybe it will happen in another life.’ Dhruva burst into tears and went crying to his mother, who also became afflicted with grief.
Dhruva mother taking him on her lap, she then consoled him and said: ‘My dear boy, don’t cry. And don’t bear ill-will towards your stepmother. One who makes others suffer will himself have to suffer. Can your stepmother, by speaking so harshly to you, ever get peace? But my dear son, she was right. The king does not care for me. Suruchi has rightly told you to worship Sri Hari with one-pointed devotion. There is no other way for you to get the favour of the king. Even Brahma attained his position the same way—by worshipping Hari’s lotus feet. The Rishis meditate on those same lotus feet. Pour out your heart to that lotus-eyed Sri Hari. He alone can take away your unhappiness.’
Dhruva had complete faith in his mother’s words. Wasting no time, he set out for the forest, leaving the kingdom far behind.
On the way to the forest Dhruva met Narada Maharshi, the rishi who is always near God’s sincere devotees. When Dhruva told him about his plan, Narada said: ‘My dear Dhruva, I see you are a mere child, and yet you are going to practice tapasya—intense spiritual disciplines? Tapasya is extremely difficult. And to realize God—that is even more difficult. Even great sages who have practiced intense austerities cannot always attain that. So, dear boy, surrender yourself to the Lord’s will and accept whatever he ordains. Then you will gradually acquire knowledge.’
But Dhruva was not consoled by Narada’s words. He replied: ‘My stepmother has insulted me terribly. My mind is very restless, and my heart finds no peace. In this state of mind, your words do not make any impression on my mind. O great rishi, you are a descendant of Lord Brahma himself. Please show me the way to realize God.
Narada was full of admiration for the child’s determination. He told him: ‘I was only testing you. You are right—worshipping and meditating on Sri Hari is the only way to realize him. Go to Madhuvana, on the bank of the Yamuna river. Sri Hari is always there. Call on him there with your whole heart and soul. With a concentrated mind, meditate on his four-armed form endowed with all the auspicious qualities. And repeat this mantra: “Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya”.
Narada’s instructions sank deep into Dhruva’s mind. After paying respects to Narada, he left to Madhuvana. There he practiced such intense meditation and austerities that even the gods became frightened. After six months of terrible austerities, Sri Hari became pleased with the boy’s tapasya and decided to reveal himself to him.
Sri Hari suddenly, standing there before Dhruva, stood the bewitchingly beautiful Lord! Dhruva was overwhelmed with wonder and love. He threw himself at Sri Hari’s feet, surrendering his entire heart and soul to him. Now he wanted to sing the Lord’s praises, but as he was a mere boy, he didn’t know how. So Sri Hari touched the boy’s cheek with his divine conch, which represents the Vedas themselves, and, in a voice choked with emotion, Dhruva began to sing to the Lord.
Sri Hari was pleased and wanted to grant Dhruva a boon. He said: ‘My dear Dhruva, you will ascend your father’s throne and rule for a long time. At the end of your life, remembering me, you will go to a resplendent realm that has never been attained by anyone else. All the luminous bodies revolve around that realm, as it is the Dhruva polestar. That realm is eternal. You will never have to come back to this world from there. It will survive even the destruction of the universe.’ Saying this, the Lord returned to his own abode.
The Story of Puranjana
There was a descendent of Dhruva named Prachinabarhi, who thought the path to heaven lay in performing sacrifices. The sage Narada wanted to turn him away from this path and towards God, so he told him the following story of Puranjana.
Long ago there was a king named Puranjana, who had a friend whose name no one knew. Puranjana wanted to find a city he liked well enough to settle down in, so after much searching he found just the place at the foothills of the Himalayas. The city was magnificent. It had nine gates, stately palaces, beautiful gardens, and crystal lakes. It had everything he wanted, and he was very happy to have found such a wonderful place. As he wandered around in the garden he saw a bewitchingly beautiful young woman. She was attended by ten women, each of whom commanded eleven soldiers, as
also a serpent with five heads. Puranjana immediately fell in love with her and married her.
The couple spent their days in great happiness in the city of nine gates. Puranjana fulfilled every command of his wife. When she was sad, he was sad. When she was happy, he was happy. His mind always dwelt on her. This beautiful damsel was his all in all. In time, they had many sons and daughters.
No happiness lasts forever. While Puranjana was thus immersed in worldly pleasures and deluded by attachment. Chandavega, a gandharva king, attacked the city with 360 of his followers and their 360 wives. Gradually they began to destroy the city. After many years of fighting, Puranjana’s capable commander of the city became exhausted and grew weak. At that time a foreign king named Bhaya arrived, along with his troops, and also attacked the city. Puranjana was taken prisoner, led away, and then killed by the same animals he had previously killed in sacrifices and who had been reborn.
Due to Puranjana’s excessive attachment to women, he was soon reborn as a woman, the daughter of the king of Vidarbha. This woman was then married to Malayadhvaja, the king of the Pandya territory. Her past life as King Puranjana was completely forgotten.
In the course of many years Malayadhvaja and his wife had many children and grandchildren. Then the king decided to divide his kingdom among his sons and retire to Kulachala (Tirupati) and spend his time in worship of the Lord. His wife, the princess of Vidarbha, also renounced everything and left with her husband to serve him.
After practicing meditation and austerities, King Malayadhvaja passed away in a state of meditation. In those days, it was the custom for the queen to immolate herself on her husband’s funeral pyre. The wood was gathered and the pyre made ready. Just as the wife was about to get on the pyre, a brahmin came there and addressed the queen, saying: ‘Well, who are you? And who is this person you are grieving for? Do you not recognize me? I was your friend with whom you used to travel. Forgetting me, you went off in pursuit of sensual pleasures.’
After hearing this story of King Puranjana, King Prachinabarhi understood that it had a deep meaning, and he asked Narada to explain it to him. Narada said: ‘Puranjana is the jiva, the human being, and his great friend, the brahmin, is Ishvara, the Lord. The woman who controlled Puranjana is buddhi, the intellect. Puranjana’s city had nine gates, and so do our bodies: two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, a mouth, and two openings for answering the call of nature. With the help of the buddhi, the jiva enjoys sense objects. Prana, the vital energy with its five functions, is the five-headed snake. The 360 gandharvas and gandharvis are the days and nights of the year; Chandavega, the gandharva king, is Time, the destroyer of all; Bhaya (fear), the foreign king, is Death.
‘The human self and the supreme Self are great friends. The supreme Self dwells beyond the reach of our physical eyes, so we cannot see him. But when someone is in dire trouble, he comes running to guide that person. The human self runs here and there in search of enjoyment. He reaps the fruits of his past actions, becoming sometimes happy, sometimes miserable. ‘I and mine’ is the demon that binds him to the world and to his work. Thus one birth leads to another. And birth is nothing but a dream of sorrow. In a bad dream, we suffer terribly. But when the dream breaks and we wake up, we are freed from our suffering and we gain deliverance. If we can wake up from our sleep of delusion, then our misery will come to an end.
Sri Hari is the only rock on which man can build his home. The path of God is the best. God is the closest and the innermost friend of a person. He who knows this is truly learned.’
The story of Jada Bharata
Before Bharata was born as Jada Bharata, he was King Bharata, the eldest of the hundred sons of Rishabha Deva, who was himself an incarnation of the divine and a great king. After Rishabha Deva had ruled over his kingdom for many years, he made Bharata the king, and gave up the world to become a wandering holy man. Thus Bharata became King Bharata.
King Bharata was a wonderful ruler. He loved the people of the kingdom very much, and ruled over them with great affection. He performed many sacrifices and dedicated all the fruits of them to the Lord, Vasudeva. As a result, his heart became purified, and intense devotion to the Lord grew in him. After many years, it came time for him too, like his father, to renounce the kingdom and spend his last years in worship of and meditation on God. So he divided the kingdom among his five sons and went to live in a secluded ashrama called Pulaha Ashrama.
Pulaha Ashrama was a beautiful and holy place on the bank of the river Gandaki, with forests on all sides. Many holy men had the vision of God there. In that holy atmosphere, King Bharata began his austere life of worship and meditation. How much joy he felt! While worshipping the Lord, meditating on him, and praying for his vision, tears would flow from his eyes out of longing and joy. His mind became fully fixed on the Lord.
One day Bharata was repeating the sacred syllable Om on the banks of the Gandaki after his morning worship. A pregnant doe came to the river bank to drink. Suddenly, the terrible roar of a lion echoed through the ashrama. The doe was terror-stricken, and sprang to the opposite bank, trying to flee. But her fear and effort were too great: as she jumped, she gave birth to her young one. The little fawn, then fell into the flowing water of the river. Meanwhile, the mother doe died of shock. All this happened before the eyes of the royal sage. Bharata was filled with pity for the motherless fawn. He rescued it from the flowing waters and brought it to the ashrama.
Now Bharata started to take care of the motherless fawn. He said to himself: ‘This poor fawn has no one to look after him. He has no one in this world but me. It is my duty to look after him.’ Day by day, Bharata’s love for the fawn grew more and more.
He would gather grass and other things for him to eat, protect him from dangerous animals, and take him on his lap and fondle him. If the fawn was out of his sight for a moment, he would wonder, ‘Oh where is my little deer?’ Bharata spent less and less time worshipping Sri Hari, and more and more time thinking of his deer and looking after it.
Soon Bharata forgot all about his meditation and worship. All his time was spent looking after the fawn, and thinking about it. When the fawn wandered off, Bharata would search everywhere for it, fearful that something might have happened to it. His whole thought, his whole life, was centered on that little deer.
At last the hour that must come to all came upon King Bharata: the hour of his death. He lay helpless, looking at his fawn sitting by his side, and with his whole mind fixed on the fawn, he left his body.
What happens to a person after death is determined by the thoughts that are in his mind at the time of death. King Bharata was thinking of his deer when he died, so he was soon reborn as a deer.
However, by virtue of his meditation and devotion, Bharata could remember his past life, even though he had a deer’s body. Now he was extremely remorseful. ‘Alas!’ he thought, ‘I was completely devoted and dedicated to God alone, meditating only on him, when somehow I became attached to a deer, so now I have been born as a deer.’ The deer-Bharata then left his deer-mother and went to the Gandaki river, near Pulaha Ashrama. There he lived alone, waiting for the day when he could leave his deer-body behind. At last, Bharata was able to give up his deer-body in the waters of the river.
Bharata was soon reborn to noble brahmin parents, who were wise and devoted to God. This time Bharata was determined not to be caught by the world. After his parents died, his brothers briefly tried to teach him, but in vain, so he was sent away to fend for himself. Many people abused him. He was made to work very hard in various jobs, and sometimes he even had to go without food. But he was unaffected by any hardship, since within he felt the bliss of the Self and was always meditating on Sri Hari.
One day King Rahugana was travelling by palanquin to the ashrama of Kapila. He saw Jada Bharata sitting under a tree and asked him to take the place of the sick bearer. Jada Bharata did not reply, so the bearers grabbed him, placed the palanquin’s pole on his shoulder, and continued on their way.
But Jada Bharata, though strong, moved very slowly and unevenly. He was carefully watching the ground beneath his feet so as not to step on any insects or worms crawling there. King Rahughana became annoyed at the uneven movement of the palanquin and asked the captain about it.
Then the king became angry and said: ‘You fool! You living corpse! I will turn you into your proper state of a corpse! I think you need a good beating.’ Then, finally, Jada Bharata opened his lips, and for the first time in his life spoke.
Jada Bharata said; ‘O King,’ he said, ‘whom do you call a fool? Whom do you say is tired? Whom do you call “you”? If you mean by “you” this body, it is made of the same materials as your body, and is unconscious. Being unconscious, it cannot feel pain or feel tired. But I am not this body; I am the Atman, the Self. You call me a living corpse. That is true of this body, and indeed, of all things which have a beginning and an end. Our relative positions as king and servant are temporary. Except for convention, there is no difference between you and me.
King Rahugana was himself a devotee of God. When he heard Jada Bharata’s words he was astonished, and he realized that he must be a great saint. He quickly got down from the palanquin, prostrated at the feet of the tranquil sage, and begged his forgiveness for insulting him. He said: ‘Revered Sir, I could not understand who you are. You must be a great sage. Hearing your words, I feel a strong desire for spiritual knowledge. Please be gracious to me. Feeling proud at being king, I lost my discrimination. I have insulted a great soul, a holy man, which is surely a great sin. Please save me from this sin. O wise one, please instruct me in the knowledge of the Atman.’
Jada Bharata then began instructing the king; ‘There is only one Truth, the Supreme Lord, and one goal, knowledge of Him. You cannot attain this knowledge without the holy company of saints and sages. O King, this world is like a dense forest where people, roaming about looking for happiness, lose their way. There are six terrible thieves in this forest—the five senses, and their evil leader, the confused intellect. They attack and rob travelers of their possessions. Wandering around, lost in this forest, they become entangled in the creepers of worldly attachments, and suffer from various sorrows and afflictions‘.
He cntd. to instruct; ‘O King, you too are in this jungle. What is the way out? Love all beings, practice detachment, offer all your work to the Lord, and with the sword of knowledge, sharpened by the worship of Sri Hari, cut your way out of the jungle of ignorance. Finally, you will gain the knowledge that you are the Atman and not the body, and will attain to Sri Hari.’
Story of Prahlada
A long time ago there were two powerful asura brothers named Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu. The Lord, in his incarnation as the boar, killed Hiranyaksha. Hiranyakashipu then vowed to take revenge for his brother’s death. He began to practice terrible austerities, such as no mortal had done before. Thus he was able to please Brahma, who appeared before him and offered him a boon. Hiranyakashipu prayed to Brahma: ‘May no deva, no asura, no man, and no beast be able to kill me, either on earth, or in the air, by day or by night, nor should any weapon be able to kill me.’ Brahma granted this boon, saying, ‘Let it be so.’
Hiranyakashipu had four sons, the youngest of whom was Prahlada. Prahlada was a very gentle, good-natured boy who never quarreled or fought with others. He thought of God night and day and served holy people like a servant. Sometimes he was so overwhelmed with the thought of the Lord that he wept tears of joy, and he would be like an automaton, totally unconscious of where he was or what he was doing.
Sometimes Prahlada loudly chanted the names of the Lord, and sometimes he danced about in great joy. Sometimes he was so absorbed in the Lord that he imitated the Lord’s actions. Again, sometimes he was so identified with the Lord that he could not speak at all and he remained still with his eyes half closed, absorbed in bliss.
Hiranyakashipu became worried, and instructed his guards to try to kill Prahlada in different ways. They threw Prahlada under the feet of a mad elephant to be trampled by it, but he survived. He was bitten by poisonous snakes, thrown from a mountain top, imprisoned, poisoned, starved, and even tortured with black magic, but nothing was of any avail. It was as though the boy had drunk divine nectar—death could not lay his hands on him. By Sri Hari’s grace, he survived all the tortures inflicted on him. The demon guards tried their utmost but could not kill Prahlada.
Prahlada went with Shanda and Amarka (Teachers), who continued to teach him. But when his teachers were busy elsewhere, Prahlada’s friends would gather around him. How many stories he would tell them—all about God.
He would say: ‘Dear friends, our human life is very precious, because it is only in this life that we can realize God. Again, this body is mortal. There is no knowing when it will die. So from a very young age we should begin spiritual practices. One life is a matter of a hundred years at most. Of that time, we spend half in sleep. Of the other half, twenty years are wasted in youth, and another twenty in the weakness of old age. Whatever time is left is frittered away in various household chores, maintaining a family, and trying to satisfy desires. Thus we bind ourselves. The silkworm spins its own cocoon and is then bound by it. That’s why, dear friends, I say the one thing we should do is completely surrender to the Lord, who is the refuge of all beings’.
Prahlada instruct friends, ‘It is not difficult to please the Lord, for he is our very own, the nearest of the near. Just a crumb of devotion pleases him. And when he is pleased, all things are possible.’
Prahlada’s friends begged him to tell them where he had gotten all this knowledge, which their teachers didn’t seem to have. Prahlada replied: ‘I learned all this spiritual wisdom from the Sage Narada while I was still in my mother’s womb. And the Lord Narayana himself taught it to Narada.’
Prahlada continued to teach his friends. He said: ‘Let me tell you about the path of devotion. To grow in devotion, we must revere our guru and serve him, and we must keep holy company, the company of other devotees of God. We must dedicate all we possess to the Lord, and worship and pray to him. We should have faith in the scriptures, and sing the Lord’s name and praises. We should meditate on his lotus feet, and behold and worship his sacred image. Keeping in mind that he dwells in all beings, we must love all, and we must serve him in others. Even though God is pleased by such disciplines as meditation, japa, and charity, he is most pleased when he sees ecstatic devotion for him. Everything else bereft of pure devotion is fruitless. To proceed on any path without pure love for the Lord is futile. The ultimate goal of all human beings is to have ecstatic love for Sri Hari, and to see him within one’s own heart and in the hearts of all.’
Prahlada said: ‘Father, it’s not only I whose source of strength is Vishnu. Your strength too, and the strength of every other strong person, emanates from him. From Brahma to everything that moves or doesn’t move, including the least blade of grass—all are under his control. He is the supreme Lord; he is Ishvara. He is the reservoir of strength, courage, and intelligence. Please give up your animosity towards Sri Vishnu.
Hiranyakashipu replied: ‘You scoundrel! It seems you are ready to give up your life; otherwise how would you dare try to teach me? Just now you mentioned another god besides me. Who is he? I have heard of him. They say he exists everywhere. If that be so, then does your god exist in that pillar over there?’ Prahlada replied, ‘Yes, he is there.’ Then the king said: ‘I’ll break that pillar right now. After that, I’m going to chop off your head with this sword. Now call out to your Sri Hari and see if he can save you.’
So it was that God descended in the form of Narasimha, the Man-lion. He then attacked Hiranyakashipu with tremendous fury. Of what avail was Hiranyakashipu’s great sword? Of what use his famous strength? As easily as Garuda can catch a snake, Narasimha Deva took hold of the demon king and threw him—not on the ground, nor in the air—but on his own thigh. Then he tore apart his body into bits and pieces with his long nails, as if it were a cloth doll. Hiranyakashipu was dead.
At the touch of the Lord’s hand, Prahlada’s heart became filled with profound bliss, and with tears streaming down his face, he sang a hymn to Narasimha. He prayed for the Lord’s grace not only for himself, but for all ignorant persons of the world. When Prahlada had finished hymn, Narasimha said: My dear child, I am very pleased with your devotion. Ask whatever boon you want of me.
Prahlada, whose sole desire was for the Lord, could not be tempted by any material enjoyment. With folded hands, he said: ‘If you want to grant me a boon, then grant that no desire for any boon shall arise in my mind. For only when a person becomes free from all desires does he become fit to attain you. And please grant me another boon, that my father be saved from the sin of hating you.’
Bhagavan Narasimha then said: ‘I am very much pleased with you. Your life shall be the standard for all my future devotees to emulate.’ After this, the Lord disappeared.
The Birth of Sri Krishna
Vasudeva was born in the royal family of the Yadus in Mathura. In time he married King Kamsa’s cousin Devaki. After the wedding, Kamsa himself drove the chariot of Devaki and Vasudeva, and was taking them back to Vasudeva’s home. Suddenly Kamsa heard a voice coming from the sky: ‘O Kamsa, you fool! You are taking Devaki in this chariot. But the eighth child of this very Devaki will kill you!’
At long last the time came for Devaki’s eighth child to be born. It was night. Devaki and Vasudeva were in Kamsa’s prison. At a supremely auspicious moment, Bhagavan Sri Krishna was born. But what did the anxious parents see? Sri Vishnu himself was standing before them, illuminating the dark prison with his radiance, and holding in his four hands a conch, mace, chakra, and lotus.
‘God has descended to earth as a human being, but he is a mere newborn babe. And when the terrible Kamsa learns that a child has been born, he will come to kill him!’—thinking thus, Vasudeva took the baby in his arms and decided to set out for Vraja. It was dead of night. Rain was falling in torrents. How was he to escape from the prison?
Through the power of Yogamaya, the prison guards were in deep sleep, and the locked gates opened of themselves. Behind Vasudeva, Ananta, the thousand-headed serpent, spread his hoods to protect the father and child from the rain.
Vasudeva reached the Yamuna, but it was flowing in torrents due to the heavy rain. How was he to cross it? Suddenly the waters of the Yamuna parted, and Vasudeva was able to pass through. He then came to Vraja, to Nanda’s village of cowherds, and entered the home of Nanda and Yashoda.
That same night Yogamaya had been born as the daughter of Nanda and Yashoda, but as Yashoda had been put into a deep sleep by Yogamaya, the mother did not know whether the baby born to her was a boy or a girl. Vasudeva found the girl lying by her sleeping mother. He gently laid the divine baby by Yashoda’s side, took the girl baby in his arms, and returned to the prison, there he placed the baby girl in Devaki’s arms. Such was the power of Yogamaya that no one found out about Vasudeva’s mission.
Yashoda sees the Universe in Krishna
Miracles seemed to follow the young Krishna wherever he went. The village folk of Vraja were amazed and could find no explanation. Mother Yashoda would sometimes worry about this, but soon, thinking again of Krishna, she would forget all about it. Her neighbors used to complain, saying: ‘Your Gopala is always up to some mischief. He lets the calf loose so it can drink its mother’s milk. He steals milk, curds, and butter, and shares them with his friends. He even gives them to the monkeys. Then he pulls our braids and our saris. If we complain, he laughs at us.’ Yashoda merely smiled. What could she say? She knew exactly what they were talking about.
One day, Balarama and the other cowherd boys came running to Yashoda, and said, ‘Krishna is eating mud!’ When asked about this, Krishna replied: ‘No, mother, I did not eat mud. For nothing they are complaining about me. You see for yourself who is correct. Here—I am opening my mouth.’
Krishna opened up his mouth, and there inside Yashoda saw the entire universe—the sky, clouds, moon, sun, and stars; the earth, trees, rivers and mountains; animals, men, women, and children; and even the land of Vraja and Yashoda herself too. Seeing all this in the mouth of her child, Yashoda was terrified and thought: ‘Am I dreaming? Or am I mad? Or is this the Lord’s maya?’
Such was the maya of Krishna that the next moment Mother Yashoda forgot all she had seen. She took the little child on her lap and held him as if nothing had happened.
The Rasa Lila forms a particularly important portion of the Bhagavatam. It has been narrated in five chapters, and is therefore called rasapanchadhyaya. The subject of it is Krishna’s dance with the Gopis on the banks of the Yamuna.
It was autumn and the night of the full moon. The Yamuna and her banks, bathed in moonlight, were sublimely beautiful. Like a lotus in full bloom, the moon floated in the sky. The gopis were all in their homes, busy with their various duties. Some were milking their cows, some were baking bread, some were feeding their children. Suddenly they heard the bewitching strains of Krishna’s flute wafting through the breeze. Standing on the Yamuna’s bank, full of joy, Krishna had begun to play. The minds of the gopis at once became fixed on him. They dropped their work, whatever it was, and ran quickly to the Yamuna’s bank to see the beloved of their hearts.
There on the bank of the Yamuna, Krishna said to the gopis: ‘Why have you come here at this hour? Ferocious animals roam here after dark! It is not safe for you—go back home. Your families will wonder where you have gone.
Krishna’s harsh words stung the gopis’ hearts. They said: ‘We have left our families, left our wealth, in order to worship your feet. Do not abandon us. As God accepts all who seek only him, you must accept us. O lotus-eyed Lord, even Lakshmi herself longs for your golden feet, not to mention we cowherd women of Vraja. We have already been blessed by touching your feet. Can our duties to our husbands and children make us forget you? Never. We know for sure that just as Brahma is the protector of heaven, likewise you are the protector of Vraja. So, friend of the unfortunate, do touch our heads with your soft hands, for we are slaves of your lotus feet.’
Krishna then agreed, and he began to play with the gopis on the banks of the Yamuna. But after a while, pride began to creep into the hearts of the women. They began to think: ‘We are not ordinary people. We are surely the worthiest women in the world to receive so much attention from Krishna.’ When this egotism crept into their hearts, Krishna immediately disappeared. He wanted to purify them and make them worthy to receive his grace.
Words cannot describe the anguish of the gopis when Krishna disappeared. They began to search frantically, crying out, ‘O Krishna, where are you?’ They became almost insane with longing. They asked the flowers of the forest: ‘O Jasmine, O Mallika, have you seen where Krishna has gone? O Tulsi, Govinda is very fond of you. But where is he?’ They called out to all the trees: ‘O Vilva, O Kadamba, O all ye trees standing on the banks of the Yamuna for the good of others! Can you tell us which way Krishna went? Without Krishna, we are lost.’
Krishna had become so dear to the gopis that now, losing him, they were about to go crazy. Later their minds became so absorbed in the thought of Krishna that they even began to think that they themselves were Krishna. They started acting as if they were Krishna in various events in his lila, like the killing of Putana, the taming of Kaliya, playing the flute, and the lifting of Mount Govardhana.
Immersed in thoughts of Krishna, the gopis returned to the spot where they had first seen him, and they sat down on the bank of the river. They constantly talked about his various deeds, and they prayed to him: ‘Just remembering you gives us immense joy. Your words, like nectar to our ears, dispel the misery of the world. Blessed are they who hear of you, and blessed indeed are they who speak about you. They are the world’s great benefactors. O Master, O Lord, the very thought that you might hurt your feet on the rough ground and thorns of the forest is unbearable to us. But Oh! Where are you now? You are our life; you are our everything. Hearing the notes of your flute, we become hypnotized, leaving our husbands, children, all our relations, and everything, to come running to you. All you have to do is show yourself to us.’
After praying in this way, the gopis started crying inconsolably. And it was then that the yellow-robed flute player, Krishna, appeared before them. It was then, again, that they went mad with joy. And it was then that Madanamohana, Hari as the god of love, began once more to play with the gopis on the bank of the river Yamuna. The riverbank was carpeted with flowers. Honeybees, attracted by the flowers’ sweet scent, filled the air with their melodious hum. The moon graciously covered the river, the bank, the flowers, trees, gopis, and Krishna with its liquid silver light. Perhaps if the beauty of all the three worlds could merge for one night into one person, it would be as beautiful as Krishna was that night. Like the moon among stars, he was shining among the gopis.
Then Krishna began the rasa dance. Through his yogic power, he multiplied himself so that he danced between every two gopis. Each gopi saw that Krishna was holding her own hand and dancing next to her. All this time they had been meditating on Krishna and seeing him within. Now they saw him right beside them.
‘Krishna is within, and Krishna is without. He fills the whole universe. The gopis are dancing, Krishna is dancing, God is dancing! Krishna to the right, Krishna to the left, Krishna far away, and Krishna so close. None else but Krishna exists in the universe! Krishna, full of bliss, dwells in all beings as the taste of bliss in everyone at every moment. He is the very embodiment of bliss.’ This is how the gopis experienced Krishna on that sacred night of the rasa dance.
Krishna moves to Mathura
In course of time, Krishna got a call from Mathura and this was reminded his duty of killing Kamsa and give liberation to his parents. In these times, Kamsa had been so terrified of Krishna that he had thought of him all the time. Whether eating, drinking, speaking, walking, sleeping, or breathing—at all times he imagined that Krishna was standing in front of him. Thus thinking of the Lord, when his body was killed, he entered into Krishna—an end so difficult to obtain. Then Krishna and Balarama went to Kamsa’s dungeon to free their parents, Vasudeva and Devaki. Seeing their parents, they bowed before them, touching their feet with their heads.
Krishna sent Uddhava to Vrindavan
Yashoda and Nanda were anxious to see their sons, Krishna and Balarama, so Krishna sent Uddhava as a messenger to Vrindavan.
After arriving at night in Vrindavan, Uddhava was warmly welcomed by Nanda. ‘Does Krishna still remember us?’ Nanda asked. ‘And when does he plan to come back and see us? His memory haunts us. We think about him so much that we neglect our own work.’ Nanda and Uddhava went on and on talking about Krishna until the anguish of Nanda’s grief became too much for him to bear. Yashoda also, who was listening to them speak, could not control her tears. Seeing their love for Krishna, Uddhava said: ‘O great ones! You have attained to the highest form of devotion to that Being, the Supreme Narayana, who is the soul of all. What other end is there left for you to achieve? Surely Krishna will come soon to see you. Do not grieve.’
The next morning the women (gopis) of Vrindavan went to see Uddhava. The gopis said to him: ‘We understand that you attend on Krishna. We’re sure he has sent you to find out how his parents are keeping. He must have forgotten all about us. But then, why wouldn’t he? As soon as their needs are met, subjects leave the king behind, disciples leave the guru behind, the priest leaves the worshipper behind. The birds leave the tree when the fruit is gone. Guests leave a banquet when the feast is over. So it’s not surprising that Krishna would leave us.’ Though speaking in such strains, the gopis could not hold back their tears of love and anguish.
To comfort them, Uddhava said: ‘You have devoted yourselves solely to Krishna, who is the Lord himself. We bow to all of you. You see, it’s not easy to acquire devotion to the Lord. The sages undertake a lot of penance, meditation, and japa, but they still don’t get this kind of devotion. You all are so fortunate that you have acquired such deep devotion to Krishna. Moreover, you have surrendered your minds completely to him. It is good fortune earned over many lifetimes to be able to leave everything behind and worship the greatest of all beings, Sri Krishna. I have brought a message from your beloved one.
Uddhava said Please listen, here’s what the Lord said to tell you: “You can never be separated from Me, since I permeate the entire universe, including your minds and bodies. I dwell within all as the Self. I create, sustain, and also dissolve everything within myself and out of myself by the power of maya. I know I am everything to you. I am your all in all. And yet, I am staying so far away from you. This has a reason. When you don’t get to see me with your eyes, you will devote your entire mind to me. You will forever meditate on me. Through meditation you all will be united with me”.
The gopis, however, could not be consoled. Though knowing in their minds that what Krishna had said was true, yet his words could not relieve the anguish of their hearts. In order to comfort the gopis, Uddhava lived in Vrindavan for a few months. The gopis’ devotion opened his eyes and revealed to him what ahetuki bhakti really is—that is, perfectly selfless and unfathomable devotion. Uddhava thought: ‘We are the companions of Sri Krishna, and we try to attain such love for him, but we don’t succeed. But look at these forest-dwelling women, who love Krishna. Krishna fulfilled for them the highest purpose of life through his divine dance—Rasa Lila. I shall consider myself extremely fortunate if I am born even as a blade of grass in blessed Vrindavan where I shall be covered with the dust of the feet of these women. I repeatedly bow at their feet.’
Rukmini Marries Krishna
Bhishmaka, the king of Vidarbha, had a beautiful daughter by the name of Rukmini. Rukmini had five brothers, of whom the eldest was named Rukmi. Hearing about the beauty and virtuous qualities of Krishna through many citizens, Rukmini loved & attracted to him. Rukmini set her heart on marrying Krishna, and her relatives agreed all except Rukmi. Rukmi had other plans. He wanted his sister to marry his friend Shishupala, the king of the Chedis.
Rukmini heard about her brother’s plan and sent a letter to Krishna through a trusted brahmin. She wrote: ‘O Enchanter of the World, I have heard so much about your beauty and virtues, and have completely surrendered my soul to you. O Lord, let not this jackal— this king of the Chedis—snatch away that which is rightfully due to a lion. Tomorrow is the wedding day. You must defeat Shishupala and Jarasandha, and marry me. It is our custom that the bride goes to the temple of Ambika as part of the rites prior to the wedding. When I go there, you must forcibly carry me away in your chariot. If you don’t accept me, know for sure that I will kill myself. Even if I have to wait for a hundred lifetimes, I will have you as my husband. This is my resolve.’ When Krishna received this letter, he was determined to rescue Rukmini and marry her.
Constantly remembering the lotus feet of Krishna, Rukmini performed all the religious functions at the temple of Ambika, accompanied by her friends and attendants. Armed soldiers stood on every side, closely guarding the princess. The assembled kings were enchanted at the beauty of the bride. Amongst them was Krishna. When she saw him, the bride was happy and reassured. As Rukmini was about to leave the temple, Krishna made his move. He sped through the assemblage of kings towards Rukmini, seized her, put her in his chariot, and rode off at lightning speed.
The Story of Sudama
Sudama was a brahmin and had been a friend of Krishna at the ashram of the sage Sandipani. Many years had gone by since they had been together, and both had gotten married. Sudama was a very gentle person. He was well versed in the Vedas and had control over his senses, but he was so poor that he could scarcely obtain two meals a day. The clothes of his pious wife were in tatters. Very often the couple went without food, or were half fed.
One day Sudama’s wife could not serve any food to him, so with great sorrow she told him: ‘I have heard that, Sri Krishna, is your friend. Why don’t you go to him? When he comes to know of your great financial distress, I am sure he will give you a lot of wealth so we can have food every day.’
After being reminded of this several times by his wife, Sudama thought: ‘By following my wife’s advice, if nothing else, at least I will see Krishna again. That will be good enough for me.’ Addressing his wife, he said: ‘I will be seeing my friend after a long time. Please give me something so that I can take a gift to him.’ His wife begged from the neighbors and finally collected a few handfuls of flattened rice. After putting it in a torn cloth, she tied it up and gave it to Sudama.
Krishna was living in a huge palace in Dwaraka. A great number of soldiers guarded the palace, but somehow Sudama, in torn clothes, managed to enter. There he found Krishna sitting on a couch with Rukmini beside him. As soon as Krishna saw his old friend, he got up and warmly embraced him. Then he made him sit on the couch and asked him about his well-being. While he was talking, Krishna proceeded to worship the brahmin while Rukmini fanned him. Everybody was astonished to see that an ill-clad brahmin was receiving such respect from the royal couple.
The two friends started reminiscing about their student days. All the while, Sudama had been trying hard to hide that pouch of flattened rice. Nevertheless, Krishna snatched a handful of the flattened rice, put it in his mouth, and exclaimed: ‘O dear friend, no food on the earth can taste better than this’.
The night passed, and the sun rose. It was time to go back home. The brahmin could not ask for anything from Krishna. It was more than worth the visit that he was simply able to see his old friend. Musing over his pleasant memories, he left for his home. But when he reached his house he could not find it. There in its place was a large well-built mansion. There was a beautiful garden and well-dressed men and women all around. How was this possible? How could the hut of a poor man be transformed into such a beautiful palace?
Hearing that her husband had returned, his wife came running to meet him. But how beautiful she looked! He was amazed to see she looked almost like goddess Lakshmi herself. At the sight of her husband, Sudama’s wife burst into tears of joy. The brahmin also was quite astonished.
Then suddenly he realized that all this had been made possible through the mercy of Krishna. He thought: ‘I did not ask for anything. Even then he has given me all this. I only hope I will be worthy of his friendship and can continue to serve him. He is the receptacle of all virtues. He is the ocean of compassion. I only pray that I may enjoy his company birth after birth.’
Sri Krishna final message to Uddhava
Uddhava was an ardent devotee and attendant of Krishna. As soon as he heard that Krishna was leaving, he came running and prayed with folded hands: ‘O Lord! O Almighty One! You are capable of nullifying the curse of the sages, and yet you have not exercised that power of yours. I understand from this that you are arranging to leave this earth after eradicating the Yadu dynasty. How can I live without you?’
Krishna replied: ‘O Uddhava! You have spoken the truth. The holy purpose for which I descended on this earth, as prayed for by Brahma, has been served. The people of the Yadu dynasty are fighting one another and are thus bringing about their own ruin. Know that on the seventh day from today the ocean will completely swallow up Dwaraka. Therefore, you must not stay here. Renounce your attachment for your relatives and friends and surrender yourself completely to me. You must wander over the earth, seeing me in everyone.’
Uddhava saluted the Lord and said: ‘O Greatest of the great! You are advising me about renunciation, yet you know how difficult it is for common people like me to achieve it. We are full of ego. This feeling of “I and mine” keeps us completely submerged in a sea of ignorance and identified with the body. Please instruct me in the way to fulfil your command.’
Krishna said: ‘A person himself brings about his own liberation. The soul of a human being is its own guru. Even lower creatures are somewhat capable of looking after their own welfare. A human being, who is endowed with intelligence and discriminative power, can surely be his own teacher. For, by observation and inference, he is able to understand what contributes to his ultimate good. Human beings alone can attain me. I cannot be seen or felt with the sense organs. I am beyond all logic, and yet people are constantly searching for me, who can neither be seen nor known. But one who finally realizes me is immersed in eternal bliss.’
Uddhava: ‘O Krishna, I think the path of yoga that you have spoken of is very difficult. Please tell me in a simple way a path to attain liberation for an ordinary person like me.’
Krishna: ‘O Uddhava! I will now tell you the way of devotion that can save a person from the jaws of death. Please listen to me.
‘As you do your duties, always remember me and surrender yourself to me. Keep the company of the holy and be guided by their behavior. You should observe the holy days with celebrations to honor me. When your mind is purified through such observances, you will see me in every being. One who views the holy and the wicked, the sun and a spark of fire, and the good and the bad, all as manifestations of me—that person is truly illumined. To perceive me in all beings is the best way to reach me.’
Krishna: ‘O Uddhava, to surrender all one’s actions at the feet of God is the surest way to attain liberation.
Krishna: ‘I have narrated to you the essence of the teachings of the scriptures regarding Brahman. By hearing these teachings, all your doubts will be removed and you will attain liberation. To one who gives these teachings to my devotees, I give myself out of love. But it will be of no avail to preach this knowledge to the proud and the atheists. Uddhava, have you been able to fully comprehend this supreme teaching on Brahman? Are you now free from grief and delusion?’
Uddhava placed his head on the lotus feet of Krishna and said: ‘O Immortal One, O primordial Lord! Today my delusion has vanished by your endless mercy upon me. You have bound me with your affection, expressed through your maya, and it is you again who have severed this bondage by the sword of knowledge. O greatest of yogis, I bow down to you. I have taken refuge with you. May my mind be fixed on your lotus feet. May my devotion to you be constant and unwavering.’
Yadu dynasty & Krishna leaving earth
Soon the Yadavas lost all sense of right and wrong, and started fighting one another with bows, arrows, and clubs. The shore of the ocean at Prabhas became a veritable battlefield. Krishna tried his best to stop them, but the Yadavas were in no mood to listen to wise counsel. On the contrary, they even came to strike at Krishna and Balarama. Thus it happened that the curse of the sages on the Yadavas came to fruition. Just as a wild fire burns up an entire forest, so did the arrogance of the Yadavas bring about the destruction of the Yadu dynasty.
Balarama then sat down at the seashore and went into deep meditation. Fixing his mind on the Supreme Soul (Paramatman), he gave up his body. At the passing away of Balarama, Krishna sat silently under an ahswattha tree and assumed his four-armed form. The whole area was illumined by the effulgence from His body. His complexion was dark like the new clouds of a monsoon sky. His chest bore the Srivatsa mark, and a yellow cloth covered his body. His left foot, looking like a red lotus, rested on his right thigh.
As ordained by the Lord, Jara, the hunter who had received the remaining piece of the accursed iron club, now entered the woods. Seeing Krishna’s red feet, he mistook him for a deer and shot an arrow at him. The hunter then came running to look for the deer, but instead he found Krishna sitting there in his four-armed form. Overwhelmed with grief, Jara laid his head on the lotus feet of Krishna and loudly lamented. He prayed: ‘O Lord, without knowing what I was doing I have committed this heinous sin. I beg you to forgive me. Please pardon this sinful man.’
Krishna then assured him: ‘O hunter, do not be afraid. What has happened was due to my will. You are not to be blamed for this. You have only fulfilled my wish. Therefore you will now ascend to devaloka, which people attain only after doing good and virtuous work throughout their life.’ Jara, the hunter, then circumambulated Krishna three times, entered a celestial chariot that had come for him, and ascended to heaven.
Now Daruka, the charioteer of Krishna, who had been looking for his master, arrived and found him sitting under the peepul tree in his four-armed form. With tears flowing from his eyes, Daruka said: ‘I have been searching for you. Without you, everything seems like darkness.’ Just then Krishna’s celestial chariot descended, and Krishna said: ‘Go now to Dwaraka and inform all our relatives there about the destruction of the Yadus. Tell them that Balarama has left his body through yoga, and that I also have left. Again, tell all of our remaining relatives there that they should leave the city immediately. It will soon be submerged in the ocean. Everyone should go to Indraprastha and remain under the protection of Arjuna. O Daruka, do not grieve. Know that all this is my maya.’ Filled with sorrow, Daruka circumambulated Krishna three times, bowed down at his feet, and then left for Dwaraka.
Now the devas came to witness the passing away of Krishna. Seeing that Brahma and other devas had all assembled before him, Krishna sat with his eyes closed and went into deep samadhi. By the power of yoga, he burnt up his body and returned to his own Supreme State
Shukadeva said to King Parikshit: ‘After the passing away of Krishna, Dwaraka was completely submerged under the water of the sea. Arjuna, who was stricken with grief over the loss of Krishna and the others, then brought the remaining members of the Yadu dynasty, comprising children, the elderly, and women, to Indraprastha. Vajra, the son of Aniruddha, was crowned as king of the remaining Yadus, and he ascended the throne.
‘Hearing from Arjuna about the passing away of Krishna and Balarama, your grandparents (Yudhishthira and his brothers) all left for their final journey after installing you on their throne. Whoever recites or contemplates this beautiful story of the birth and passing away of the Lord, or narrates it to others will attain supreme devotion to the Lord.’
Salutations to Lord Krishna, the Supreme Lord, who is the Indweller of our hearts, who is Existence Absolute, Knowledge Absolute, Bliss Absolute, who is the Soul of this universe, who bestows Immortality on His devotees, who is the source for everything and who took a human form for the benefit of the gods and His devotees, to destroy wickedness and to establish righteousness.
Sri Swami Madhusudana Saraswati, a Yogi of highest realization says about Bhagavatam: “I know not anything higher than the lotus-eyed Krishna with hands adorned with the flute, looking like a heavy-laden cloud with His face shining like the full moon. Let the Yogis, with their mind-controlled by the practice of meditation, visualize that Nirguna, action less, indescribable and supreme Jyoti, if they want; but for us, that blue-shining figure that moves here and there on the banks of the Kaalindi fiver, ever comes before our eyes”
— Om Tat Sat —
The bee travels from one flower to another, seeking honey, but when it approaches the celestial tree called the paarijaata, it certainly does not leave the tree, because it finds complete contentment there. Similarly, when we have approached you and have taken shelter of you, what further benediction may we ask of you!