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© 2004 - Hansadutta das

The Hammer For Smashing Illusion

Shankaracharya's famous "Bhaja Govinda"

By Hansadutta das

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Text 8

Who is your wife and who is your son? The cycle of birth and death is very strange indeed. Who are you? To whom do you belong? And where have you come from? Oh brother, just contemplate this truth.

Do You Really Know Who You Are?

In connection with this verse, there is a very instructive story in the Sixth Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam about a king named Chitraketu. King Chitraketu married millions of wives in hope of begetting a son, but because he was not destined to have any children, all his wives proved to be barren. Therefore the King was very unhappy. Generally, those in the royal order are very keen on leaving behind an heir to the throne. But King Chitraketu was unfortunate. He could not beget any children, and he was very unhappy. One day, whilst he was lamenting, the great sage Angira Muni happened to pass through the kingdom and paid the King a visit. Angira Muni saw that the King was very unhappy, and he inquired from him what the cause of his lamentation was. The King admitted, "I am not happy. Although I have everything desirable, I have no son. Please bless me that I may have a son."

Angira performed a sacrifice, and the prasadam (remnants of foodstuff from that sacrifice) was given to the King with the instruction to give it to his queen. Angira promised the King he would certainly have a son, but that his son would be the cause of great jubilation and, at the same time, great lamentation for the King. King Chitraketu, being so desirous of having a son, thought to himself, "Yes, a son will certainly bring me great happiness and jubilation. He may sometimes be mischievous and may bring me some lamentation, but it is better to have a mischievous son than to have no son at all."

Bitter Poison

In due course of time, one of his queens became pregnant and gave birth to a son. Naturally, the King was very happy, and he became attached to his son more and more every day. But the other queens were jealous of Queen Kritadyuti, who bore the son of King Chitraketu and thus became the object of the King's affection since all the other queens were without children. Out of envy, the other queens conspired and poisoned the child. When the King and the Queen found the child dead one morning, they were overwhelmed with grief and lamentation, and the King lost all composure.

How to Stop the Tears of Grief

It so happened that at that time Narada Muni and Angira Muni were passing through the kingdom. They visited the King and beheld his lamentation. When they understood what had happened, they began to instruct the King in the following way:

While King Chitraketu, overcome by lamentation, lay like a dead body at the side of the dead body of his son, the two great sages, Narada and Angira, instructed him about spiritual consciousness, as follows:
"O King, what relationship does the dead body for which you lament have with you? What relationship do you have with him? You may say that you are now related as father and son, but do you think this relationship existed before? Does it truly exist now? And will it continue to exist in the future?" (Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.15.2)
"O King, as small particles of sand sometimes come together and are sometimes separated due to the force of the waves, the living entities who have accepted material bodies sometimes come together and are sometimes separated by the force of time." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.15.3)
"When seeds are sown in the ground, they are sometimes grow into plants and sometimes not. Sometimes the ground is not fertile, and the sowing of seed is unproductive. Similarly, sometimes a prospective father, being impelled by the potency of the Supreme Lord, can beget a child but sometimes conception does not take place. Therefore, one should not lament over the artificial relationship of parenthood, which is ultimately controlled by the Supreme Lord." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.15.4)
"O King, both you and us--your advisers, wives and ministers--as well as everything moving and not moving throughout the entire cosmos at this time, are in a temporary situation. Before our birth this situation did not exist, and after our death it will no longer exist. Therefore, our situation is now temporary, although it is not false." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.15.5)
"From one seed another seed is generated, O King, so from one body (the body of the father), through another body (the body of the mother), a third body is generated (the body of a son). As the elements of the material body are eternal, the living entity who appears through these material elements is also eternal." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.15.7)
"Divisions of generalization and specification, such as nationality and individuality, are the imaginations of persons who are not advanced in knowledge." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.15.8)
Sri Shukadeva Goswami continued: Thus enlightened by the instructions of Narada and Angira, King Chitraketu became hopeful with knowledge. Wiping his shriveled face with his hand, the King began to speak. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.15.9)

The Permanent and the Transitory

These are the first instructions that Angira and Narada gave to the King:

As grains of sand are brought together and then separated by the waves of the ocean, similarly, material bodies are brought together and then again dispersed by the waves of time.

In another part of Srimad-Bhagavatam it is said that just as travelers at an inn meet for some time during their meal and when their meals are finished again go their separate ways, similarly, living entities are brought together by the force of karma in family relationships, communal relationships and national relationships and then are again separated by time. All the relationships in connection with this temporary material body are also temporary. Our permanent identity is in connection with Krishna. Every living entity is an eternal servant of God, but in the material condition we have rejected that eternal relationship. We are falsely trying to establish our own independent relationships of master and servant. This is called maya (illusion). Although it exists for some time, the body is ultimately temporary, and therefore it is known as maya (unreal).

Happiness and Distress--Two Sides of the Same Coin

After Narada and Angira instructed the King, the King was still feeling unhappy. He wanted to see his son just one more time and he requested the sages, "Please allow me to associate with my son just once more." The sages, because of their perfection in mystic power, were able to recall the dead son, or the departed soul of King Chitraketu's son. That is explained as follows:

"My dear King, now you are actually experiencing the misery of a person who has sons and daughters. O King, owner of the state of Surasena, one's wife, house, the opulence of his kingdom and his various other opulences and objects of sense perception are all the same inasmuch as they are temporary. One's kingdom, military power, treasury, servants, ministers, friends and relatives are all causes of fear, illusion, lamentation and distress. They are like a gandharva-nagara, a non-existent palace that one imagines to exist in the forest. Because they are impermanent, they are no better than illusions, dreams and mental concoctions." ( Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.15.21-23)

The two sages instructed King Chitraketu that in fact all kinds of material possessions--sons, daughter, kingdom, treasury, horses, friends, relatives--are always sources of misery, lamentation, illusion, fear and distress, because all these objects, although externally very attractive, have no permanent existence in time and space.

Attachment--the Cause of All Sufferings

The basic principle of material existence is attachment. Attachment is the cause of all our distress and suffering because all attachments must eventually be broken due to the fact that every material object is by nature temporary, however attractive it may be. We have seen in the past five thousand years empires have come and gone, just as daisies come up in the spring in the fields and again vanish when the season passes away.

We are always advised by Vedic literature to become detached from material attractions. The most attractive feature of material life is sex. Everyone is after sex enjoyment. Young boys are attached to young girls, and young girls are attracted by young boys. But youth fades away into old age, old age brings disease, and disease is the forewarning of death. Death, of course, means the dissolution of our material situation. However powerful, popular, or wealthy one may be, he must ultimately be overcome by death.

The two sages went on to say:

"These visible objects like wife, children and property are life's dreams and mental concoctions. Actually, what we see has no permanent existence. It is sometimes seen and sometimes not. Only because of our past actions do we create such mental concoction, and because of these concoctions we perform further activities." ( Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.15.24)

Testimony of the Living Dead

When the sages called the child back into the dead body, the living entity re-entered his dead body for a short time and spoke in reply to Narada Muni's request. The living entity said:

"According to the results of my fruitive activities, I, the living being, transmigrate from one body to another, sometimes going to the species of lower animals, sometimes going to the species of lower animals, sometimes among the vegetables, and sometimes to the human species. Therefore, in which birth were these two my mother and father? No one is actually my mother and father. How can I accept these two people as my parents?" (Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.16.4 )

The King and Queen were in illusion, thinking that their son was their property, just as all conditioned souls think of their children as their particular property--my son, my daughter, my wife, my husband. Everyone thinks in terms of proprietorship. But here, we hear the son of King Chitraketu exclaim,

"In every birth I have had a father and mother. Sometimes I was born in the animal kingdom, sometimes I was born in the demigod's society, sometimes in the vegetable kingdom. In which birth were these two people my parents?"

Then he goes on to say:

"In fact, I have no parents. I am actually an eternal part and parcel of the Supreme living entity, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna."

Then the living entity spoke further:

"In this material world, which advances life a river that carries away the living entity, all people become friends, relatives and enemies in due course of time. They also act neutrally, they mediate, they despise one another, and they act in many other relationships. Nonetheless, despite these various transactions, no one is permanently related." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.16.5)
"Just as gold and other commodities are continually transferred from one place to another in due course of purchase and sale, so the living entity, as a result of his fruitive activities, wanders throughout the entire universe being injected into various wombs in different species of life by one kind of father after another." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.16.6)

"Who is My Father? Who is My Mother?"

In the Third Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.31.1) it is said:

karmana daiva netrena
jantur dehopapattaye
According to one's work, and under the supervision of superior authority, the living entity is put into the womb of a mother in a particle of male semina.

Although we are conceived by the combination of mother and father, or male and female, the living entity, in fact, is not the son or daughter of anyone. The living entity is by nature spiritual. The mother and father are just incidental. They create a favorable condition in which the soul takes shelter and then expands to develop a particular kind of body according to his past pious or impious actions. In this particular life we have a mother and father. But before this life we also had a mother and father, and when this life is finished, we shall have another mother and father. As living spirit soul, we are actually part and parcel of Krishna. The mother and father are just temporary. Mother and father are also subject to the miseries of birth, death, old age and disease. Although the mother and father act as the guardians of the children, they cannot really give any relief to the children from the problems of material existence--birth, old age, disease and death. Therefore, in the human life there are books of knowledge (shastras) which are for helping the conditioned soul to get out of the cycle of birth and death. The value of human life is that one we revive our original consciousness and relationship with God and be released from the illusory existence in relationship to this body.

You are One Without a Second

Then the son of King Chitraketu spoke as follows:

"A few living entities are born in the human species and others are born as animals. Although both are living entities, their relationships are impermanent. An animal may remain in the custody of a human being for some time, and then the same animal may be transferred to the possession of another human being. As soon as the animal goes away, the former proprietor no longer has a sense of ownership. As long as the animal is in his possession, he certainly has an affinity for it, but as soon as the animal is sold the affinity is lost. ( Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.16.7)
"Even though one living entity becomes connected with another because of a relationship based on bodies that are perishable, the living entity is eternal. Actually, it is the body that is born or lost--not the living entity. One should not accept that the living entity takes birth or dies. The living entity actually has no relationship with so-called fathers and mothers. As long as he appears as the son of a certain father and mother as a result of his past fruitive actions, he has a connection with the body given by that father and mother. Thus he falsely accepts himself as their son and acts affectionately. After he dies, however, the relationship is finished. Under these circumstances, one should not be falsely involved with jubilation and lamentation. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.16.8)
"The living entity is eternal and imperishable because he actually has no beginning and no end. He never takes birth or dies. He never takes birth or dies. He is the basic principle of all types of bodies, yet he does not belong to the bodily category. The living entity is so sublime that he is equal in quality to the Supreme Lord. Nonetheless, because he is extremely small he is prone to be illusioned by the external energy, and thus creates various bodies for himself according to his different desires." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.16.9)

Spirits in the Material World

We are just witnessing the transformation of different modes of nature, of which this material body--composed of earth, water, fire, air, ether, and so on--is just a fragment, as a drop of water is just a fragment or part of the great ocean. Similarly, this material body is just a fragment of the entire body of this material universe. The universe is like a great machine, each part interacting with every other part. The living entity, however, is not a product or creation of the universal machine but is a spiritual spark within the material world.

As long as we identify with this material atmosphere, which is a foreign place for the eternal, spiritual soul, we shall feel the sufferings of birth, death, old age and disease. As long as a sleeping man identifies with his dreams, he experiences pleasure and pain in terms of the dreaming situation. Actually, there is no pleasure or pain in dreams; it is only a kind of hallucination. Therefore, when the sleeping man is awakened, all his sufferings come to an end. Similarly, when the conditioned soul is enlightened with perfect knowledge of Krishna consciousness by the spiritual master and the shastra, all his material miseries immediately come to an end.

Hear Spiritual Sound--Dispel Foggy Consciousness

We cannot counteract material misery by material activity because the cause of our misery is acceptance of the material atmosphere as all-in-all, whereas in fact it is just a kind of shadow.

Hearing transcendental knowledge from the bona fide source is the only way our illusion can actually be dissolved. When there is morning fog, we cannot see clearly, but with the rising of the sun, the fog is automatically dissipated. Similarly, as long as we remain devoid of transcendental knowledge we shall be in the fog of material existence, but just by hearing the message of Krishna consciousness this foggy consciousness is dissolved.

Krishna consciousness has nothing to do with our intellectual or mental power. It has only to do with our willingness to hear transcendental sound vibration. That is the significance of this movement: it is organized for broadcasting transcendental sound vibration. Even though we may not intellectually comprehend, it nevertheless acts, just as medicine acts although we may not know the medicinal composition. We may not understand what this philosophy is, what the temple is, what this Krishna consciousness is movement is, but if we somehow or other come in touch with it, it will act in its own way because it is not something mundane. It is something transcendental.

The Turtle Principle: How to Withdraw the Consciousness

For everyone in material life, his wife, children, friends, countrymen, money, property and prestige are very important considerations. But if we hear from Srimad-Bhagavatam and other Vedic literatures, we can get relief from the anxiety which accompanies our attachment to material things. It is not exactly that we have to give up our wife, children and money, but we have to know the real nature of these things. We have to know that they are, after all, temporary objects of this world. As long as we have to move in the temporary world, we should do the needful, but we should simultaneously understand that we have to give them up sooner or later. Our time should be spent in understanding our eternal nature so that at the time of death we can withdraw our attachment and consciousness, as a turtle withdraws its limbs during a time of danger. When we can withdraw our consciousness, attachment and our intelligence from temporary objects, then we shall be situated in our eternal constitutional position as servants of Krishna. Hare Krishna.

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