domingo, 4 de julio de 2010

Reflections on disobedience, appeasement, duty & devotion - Premananda Dasa

Prince Duryodhana & Lord Balarama

Reflections on disobedience, appeasement, duty & devotion

[Based on Srimad Bhagavatam 10.68.1-26]

Premananda Dasa (Paul Swinford)

Lord Krishna’s son by Queen Jambavati, Samba, kidnapped Duryodhana’s daughter Lakshmana, from her svayam-vara. The Kauravas were outraged that the princess did not have the chance to choose her husband according to her own desire. In fact, Lakshmana did not like Samba. The Kuru elders chased Samba. The valiant Vrsni prince, however, was more than a match for any of the Kurus in single combat. Finally, six of the greatest Kuru warriors led by Bhisma, Karna and Duryodhana concentrated their forces upon Samba simultaneously. They destroyed his chariot and weapons. The Vrsni was arrested after great effort. Srila Prabhupada explains that Bhisma instructed the warriors, “Since this maiden has now been touched by Samba, she cannot take any other husband. He must become her husband. Nonetheless, you should arrest him and tie him up to make a statement about his impropriety and our own prowess. But in no case should he be killed.”

When King Ugrasena heard of Samba’s arrest, he called his generals to make plans to win Samba’s release by force. Lord Balarama, however, called for diplomacy. Balarama, whose very name refers to the fact that He takes pleasure in displaying His strength, was well aware of the catastrophe that would ensue if the leading political dynasties took to resolving their long-stewing enmity by force. Duryodhana was, after all, Balarama’s pet student in mace fighting. Using His status as guru to both sides in the conflict, He departed for Hastinapura with several brahmanas and Uddhava to negotiate a settlement (SB 10.68.14).

naicchat kurunam vrsninam
kalim kali-malapahah

The mood of Lord Balarama, while alternately fiery and cool, is particularly conducive to resolve the conflicts arising in the Age of Quarrel through peaceful means.

Uddhava went ahead as Balarama’s messenger to discern the mood of the Kauravas. When they heard of Balarama’s arrival, Dhrtasrastra and the other Kuru elders gathered gifts and happily proceeded outside the city gates to greet the Lord. Duryodhana did not see Balarama as did Bhisma. Duryodhana did see an aspect of Balrama as the Supreme Lord - suhrt-tamam. He saw Balarama as his dear friend. Krishna explains in Bhagavad-gita, suhrdam sarva-bhutanam. He is the well-wishing friend of all living beings. But Duryodhana did not understand Balarama’s divine majesty. He saw neither Krishna nor Balarama as bhoktaram yajna-tapasam, sarva-loka-mahesvaram – the enjoyer and beneficiary of all acts of sacrifice and the Lord and master of all great personalities and the cosmos.

The truth was that Duryodhana could be obsequious and impudent toward his superiors in turn depending upon how their guidance enhanced or jeopardized Duryodhana’s notion of his self-interest. He would not sacrifice his desires for the sake of duty. This is a characteristic of those opposed to spiritual values (Bg 16.7, 23):

pravrttim ca nivrttim ca
jana na vidur asurah
na saucam napi cacaro
na satyam tesu vidyate

yah sastra-vidhim utsrjya
vartate kama-karatah
na sa siddhim avapnoti
na sukham na param gatim

“The asuras do not know what is to be done and what is not to be done. Neither cleanliness nor proper behavior nor truth is found in them… He who discards scriptural injunctions and acts according to his own whims attains neither perfection, nor happiness, nor the supreme destination.”

Balarama knew this about Duryodhana. Still, He was quite kind to the Kaurava prince. In Vedic times, it was not unusual for a teacher to forge a deep bond with a special student. Indeed, Balarama later betrothed His sister Subhadra to Duryodhana. Krishna, however, would conspire with Arjuna to spoil this arrangement.

The parties exchanged pleasantries. Then Lord Balarama explained His mission. Though He was Duryodhana’s well-wisher, Balarama nonetheless spoke on behalf of King Ugrasena with gravity and patience. The Lord is bhakta vatsala; He relishes serving His pure devotees, and He is prepared to enforce their wishes, even if His own sentiments may conflict. Though Duryodhana was dear to Balarama, the Lord was prepared to use force against His student to carry out the desires of King Ugrasena and maintain the principles of dharma.

Balarama made it plain that the Kurus had unjustly imprisoned Samba. Balarama presented Himself as the humble servant and messenger of Ugrasena, thus modeling for Duryodhana by His own example the proper spirit of obedience. After all, if the teacher, Balarama, accepts the authority of Ugrasena, the student, Duryodhana, should also (SB 10.68.21):

ugrasenah ksiteseso
yad va ajnapayat prabhuh
tad avyagra-dhiyah srutva
kurudhvam avilambitam

“King Ugrasena is our master and the ruler of kings. With undivided attention you should hear what he has ordered you to do, and then you should do it at once.”

Duryodhana refuses to obey Lord Balarama

Neither Balarama’s status as martial guru nor His own moral judgment could sway Duryodhana. In the blink of an eye, the Kuru prince’s temper flared. He no longer saw Balarama as a personal friend, but as the friend of an enemy. This is an indication that the relationship between Balarama and Duryodhana was not so intimate. Though Balarama had shown favor to Duryodhana, He had not bestowed His mercy upon the Kuru crown prince because Duryodhana was intoxicated with his own greatness and, in his insecurity, harbored deep hatred toward anyone whose power or character eclipsed his own, including the Lord’s devotees.

As stated by Prahlada Maharaja (SB 7.5.12), when one achieves the mercy of the Supreme Lord, one rises above duality. One no longer sees the world in terms of friends and enemies.

sa yadanuvratah pumsam
pasu-buddhir vibhidyate
anya esa tathanyo 'ham
iti bheda-gatasati

“When the Supreme Personality of Godhead is pleased with the living entity because of his devotional service, one becomes a pandita and does not make distinctions between enemies, friends and himself. Intelligently, he then thinks, ‘every one of us is an eternal servant of God, and therefore we are not different from one another.’”

Duryodhana, however, was now seeing Balarama as an ally of his enemy, thus indicating that Duryodhana’s feelings of affection were largely utilitarian. Instead of humbly and obediently accepting the judgment of his teacher and friend, Duryodhana and his courtiers cursed the Yadhavas and Vrsnis (SB 10.68.24-28):

“Oh, how amazing this is! The force of time is indeed insurmountable: a lowly shoe now wants to climb on the head that bears the royal crown. It is because these Vrsnis are bound to us by marital ties that we have granted them equality, allowing them to share our beds, seats and meals. Indeed, it is we who have given them their royal thrones. Only because we looked the other way could they enjoy the pair of yak-tail fans and the conchshell, white umbrella, throne, and royal bed. No longer should the Yadus be allowed to use these royal symbols, which now cause trouble for those who gave them, like milk fed to poisonous snakes. Having prospered by our grace, these Yadavas have now lost all shame and are daring to command us! How would even Indra dare usurp anything that Bhisma, Drona, Arjuna or the other Kurus have not given him? It would be like a lamb claiming the lion’s kill.”

They left Lord Balarama outside the city. The Lord fumed at Duryodhana’s uncivilized behavior. The Kuru prince was not only inclined to improper deeds, but as a consequence, he was inclined toward improper speech, avacyani, another symptom of his bad character, dauhsilyam. Balarama could not tolerate the insults to Ugrasena and Krishna. Lord Balarama laughed in His fury (10.68.39, 31),

aho aisvarya-mattanam
mattanam iva maninam
asambaddha giro ruksah
kah sahetanusasita

nunam nana-madonnaddhah
santim necchanty asadhavah
tesam hi prasamo dandah
pasunam lagudo yatha

“Just see how these puffed-up Kurus are intoxicated with their so-called power, like ordinary drunken men! What actual ruler, with the power to command, would tolerate their foolish, nasty words? Clearly the many passions of these scoundrels have made them so proud that they do not want peace. Then let them be pacified by physical punishment, as animals are with a stick.”

Taking up His plow, Lord Balarama demonstrated His inconceivable strength. Just as Lord Krishna had lifted Govardhana Hill with the small finger of His left hand and held it aloft, now Lord Balarama pierced the earth with His plow. The city shook as if by an earthquake, as the Lord literally pulled the entire city of Hastinapura out of the earth and began dragging it toward the Ganges River, intending to submerge the Kuru capital.

Duryodhana appeases the Lord
Dhrtarastra and Duryodhana now understood that Balarama meant business. They brought Samba and Lakshmana to Baladeva, and with folded hands begged the Lord’s forgiveness. They admitted their ignorance of His fundamental power, akhiladhara
prabhavam na vidama te
(“O Rama, Rama, foundation of everything! We know nothing of Your power. Please excuse our offense, for we are ignorant and misguided” – Srimad Bhagavatam 10.68.44) begging His protection. Balarama’s anger receded as quickly as Duryodhana’s had flared. Duryodhana sent Lakshmana and Samba with Lord Halayudha, Lord Balarama who wields the plow, back to Dwarka where the vivaha-samskara, marriage ceremony, was performed with great pomp.

This pastime illuminates some valuable lessons in the ways that people approach God and submit to His will. As Krishna explains in Bhagavad-gita (4.11), the soul possesses an eternal relationship with the Lord.

ye yatha mam prapadyante
tams tathaiva bhajamy aham
mama vartmanuvartante
manusyah partha sarvasah

“As all surrender unto Me, I reward them accordingly. Everyone follows My path in all respects, O son of Prtha.”

This verse is echoed in Srimad Bhagavatam (SB 1.13.42):

yatha gavo nasi protas
tantyam baddhas ca damabhih
vak-tantyam namabhir baddha
vahanti balim isituh

“As a cow, bound through the nose by a long rope, is conditioned, so also human beings are bound by different Vedic injunctions and are conditioned to obey the orders of the Supreme.”

All beings must abide by the dictates of the Supreme Lord. How those dictates affect us is a question of voluntary compliance, our obedience. The soul may disavow or acknowledge her relationship with God from moment to moment. Thus we can plot the soul’s relationship with the Lord on a continuum including stages ranging from denial to disobedience to appeasement to duty to devotion. An atheist, for example, denies that God exists, thus denying that any relationship exists. Disobedience may arise from ignorance of who God is (or who is qualified to represent God) to knowingly acting independently of the Lord’s will. Appeasement is done out of fear. One follows God’s will because the consequences are worse, or because one wants to acquire something in exchange for one’s piety: “If I obey God, I’ll be able to keep what I have, or get what I want.”

Another religious person may obey God out of a sense of duty without consideration for good or bad consequences. One obeys God because one’s constitutional position as a soul is to serve God, jivera ‘svarupa’ haya krsnera ‘nitya-dasa’ (Cc, Madhya 20.108). Such a person is not motivated by fear or greed. She accepts dharmam tu sakshad bhagavat-pranitam, religious principles are enacted by the Supreme Personality of Godhead (SB 6.3.19). She acts to satisfy the Lord and religious codes. The pure devotee is not motivated by fear, want or duty. Krishna explains in Bhagavad-gita (3.17) that the self-realized soul has transcended the need to worship God based on these motives:

yas tv atma-ratir eva syad
atma-trptas ca manavah
atmany eva ca santustas
tasya karyam na vidyate

“But for one who takes pleasure in the self, whose human life is one of self-realization, and who is satisfied in the self only, fully satiated—for him there is no duty.”

The pure devotee obeys the Lord out of love. A pure devotee will put herself in a position of deprivation or transgress all kinds of subsidiary duties or religious principles if it will please Krishna. She acts solely on the basis of her loving relationship with the Lord. Obedience to the laws of God in all prior stages of development is meant to purify the aspiring devotee to the point of reawakening the soul’s eternal identity as a particular servant, friend, guardian or lover (rasa). This is the fulfillment of the soul’s eternal relationship with the Lord. Rasa is the highest religious principle and it is the greatest obedience to God, even if sometimes it appears that the pure devotees appear to resist the Lord’s will. Sometimes, the gopis become angry with Krishna. The Lord relishes the heightened love of that resistance more than prayers of allegiance (Cc, Adi 4.26):

priya yadi mana kari' karaye bhartsana
veda-stuti haite hare sei mora mana

“If My beloved consort reproaches Me in a sulky mood, that steals My mind from the reverent hymns of the Vedas.

Duryodhana imitates God in the presence of Balarama
In this meeting between Duryodhana and Lord Balarama, we see a prime example of the atheist’s disobedience toward God. Balarama gave the Kurus a direct order, “Bring Samba and Lakshmana!” Duryodhana essentially thumbed his nose at God. He was so conceited with his wealth, power, and political status that he thought the Vrsnis were dependent upon him for their stature. Indirectly, he thought himself to be a god.

nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman tam atma-stham ye 'nupasyanti dhiras tesam santih sasvati netaresam.

“Among all the eternal, conscious beings, there is one who supplies the needs of everyone else. The wise souls who worship Him in His abode attain everlasting peace. Others cannot.”

Duryodhana made the mistake of boasting before Lord Balarama whose expansion is Ananta-sesa, the Lord who effortlessly supports the entire cosmic manifestation on His head. The fact of the matter is that whatever Duryodhana had achieved was possible only by the sanction of Lord Balarama. And what the Lord giveth, the Lord can taketh away. So Balarama demonstrated just how tenuous Duryodhana’s power and prestige were by dragging Hastinapura to the Ganga. If one is not grateful to the Lord for her station in life and is not attentive to the Lord’s will, her endeavors will not bear fruit (Bg 3.31-32):

ye me matam idam nityam
anutisthanti manavah
sraddhavanto 'nasuyanto
mucyante te 'pi karmabhih

ye tv etad abhyasuyanto
nanutisthanti me matam
sarva-jnana-vimudhams tan
viddhi nastan acetasah

“Those persons who execute their duties according to My injunctions and who follow this teaching faithfully, without envy, become free from the bondage of fruitive actions. But those who, out of envy, disregard these teachings and do not follow them are to be considered bereft of all knowledge, befooled, and ruined in their endeavors for perfection.”

Duryodhana could not stomach the idea of giving his daughter to Samba. He felt the Kurus had propped up King Ugrasena. They had given him legitimacy through previous marriage ties and allowed the Yadus and Vrsnis to rule part of the Kaurava empire. He saw giving Lakshmana to Samba as an act of charity given to ungrateful, lower class people.

In His fury, Balarama told Duryodhana that giving Lakshmana to the Vrsnis was an act of sacrifice. Charity is given to those who are less fortunate. Sacrifice is offered to those who are greater. Both Ugrasena and Krishna were far superior to Duryodhana. He should have seen the marriage of his daughter to Krishna’s son to be a great blessing for him and his family. Due to his envy of others, however, his worldview was predicated upon seeing himself as the cynosure of society. Balarama clinically diagnosed Duryodhana’s condition as megalomania; the Kuru prince was so deluded by and obsessed with his own power, wealth and omnipotence that he could not bear to recognize Krishna’s supremacy. He saw as swine the superiors to whom he should have offered his pearl-like Lakshmana. Duryodhana would have preferred to give his daughter to a king whose alliance would have greatly strengthened his political influence. He saw the Vrsnis as inferior and, besides, the families were already related. Certainly, a voluntary alliance with Krishna would have expanded Duryodhana’s power, but asuras do not want to be aligned with the Lord. They are by nature inimical to God and His will.

It would take a display of divine power to bring Duryodhana to his senses. Thus, Balarama asserted His aisvarya, inconceivable potency, lifting and dragging Duryodana and his dearest possessions to the Ganga to dispose of them like trash. Balarama does not think much of our power and possessions when they are used to insult Krishna and His devotees. Duryodhana would have done well to take counsel from another asura, Bali Maharaja, in this regard (SB 8.22.9)

kim atmananena jahati yo 'ntatah
kim riktha-haraih svajanakhya-dasyubhih
kim jayaya samsrti-hetu-bhutaya
martyasya gehaih kim ihayuso vyayah

“What is the use of the material body, which automatically leaves its owner at the end of life? And what is the use of all one’s family members, who are actually plunderers taking away money that is useful for the service of the Lord in spiritual opulence? What is the use of a wife? She is only the source of increasing material conditions. And what is the use of family, home, country and community? Attachment for them merely wastes the valuable energy of one’s lifetime.”

Bali Maharaja surrenders to Vamandeva
Indeed, Duryodhana and Bali Maharaja were faced with a similar dilemma, but they approached it very differently. Bali was also a king in an atheistic family. Unlike Duryodhana, however, no deva or human could contest his power. He was the king of the universe. The difference was that Bali was able to understand that he was subordinate to the Lord. Despite his birth in a family of asuras, he was saintly at heart. When Lord Krishna in the form of His expansion Vamanadeva came to Bali Maharaja to make a request for land, the king did not hesitate to fulfill it, even though Bali Maharaja’s guru, Sukracarya warned that the tiny Vamanadeva would steal away his entire kingdom and return it to the demigods. The king told his teacher:

yajanti yajnam kratubhir yam adrta
bhavanta amnaya-vidhana-kovidah
sa eva visnur varado 'stu va paro
dasyamy amusmai ksitim ipsitam mune

“O great sage, great saintly persons like you, being completely aware of the Vedic principles for performing ritualistic ceremonies and yajnas, worship Lord Visnu in all circumstances. Therefore, whether that same Lord Visnu has come here to give me all benedictions or to punish me as an enemy, I must carry out His order and give Him the requested tract of land without hesitation.”

Indeed, Bali had promised three steps of land to Vamanadeva, who, by expanding himself into His universal form, covered the entire universe in two steps. To fulfill his promise of the third step of land, Bali Maharaja requested that the Lord place His lotus foot upon Bali Maharaja’s head, padam trtiyam kuru sirsni me nijam. Bali Maharaja not only desired to sacrifice his possessions, he sacrificed himself to the will of the Lord.

Lord Balarama’s anger toward Duryodhana was not without the intention to rectify the Kuru prince. Bali Maharaja explains the Lord’s compassionate nature (SB 8.22.5):

tvam nunam asuranam nah
paroksah paramo guruh
yo no 'neka-madandhanam
vibhramsam caksur adisat

“Since Your Lordship is indirectly the greatest well-wisher of us asuras, You act for our best welfare by posing as if our enemy. Because asuras like us always aspire for a position of false prestige, by chastising us You give us the eyes by which to see the right path.”

Appeasement motivated by fear or desire
The display of Balarama’s power brought Duryodhana to his senses, but did not bring him to the point of devotion. Duryodhana understood that Lord Balarama possessed unprecedented might. As a politician and diplomat, he understood that to save his capital and himself from imminent destruction, he had to appease the more powerful Balarama. Consequently, he gave Balarama what the Lord wanted – Samba and Lakshmana – and pacified Him with appropriate praises. Duryodhana was motivated to obey Balarama only because the cost of not doing so far outweighed the benefits of disobeying. He gave his daughter so that he could preserve everything else he had. At first Duryodhana thought Balarama to be an ordinary man, so he paid no heed to the Lord’s request. When he understood that obedience was mandatory – or else – he obeyed.

Duryodhana could appear to be humble at the times that it suited him. He conscientiously served Durvasa Muni to get the sage’s blessing. Durvasa was very demanding, but Duryodhana tolerated the muni’s whimsical commands to create circumstances under which the exiled Pandavas would be exposed to the sage’s curse. Even Duryodhana’s rare displays of voluntary subordination were politically calculated.

King Rantideva, on the other hand, viewed himself as servant of even the meanest subjects in his kingdom. After performing a fast of grueling duration, the king was about to eat, when, in turn, he was approached by a brahmana, a hunter and his dogs, and finally an outcaste, each requesting food and water. Without hesitation, Rantideva joyfully offered whatever they requested, without any selfish consideration. Certainly there was no immediate gain in serving the hunter and candala. One would have thought the king would have been justified in explaining that he needed to eat for the good of the entire kingdom, ‘If I die, who will look after the welfare of the masses?’ But the king saw the Supersoul within the heart of each of his guests and he served the Lord by looking after the needs of the Lord’s friends in the form of the hunter, the dogs and the outcaste. He saw their requests for food as the instruction of the Lord, which he embraced with devotion. By his spiritual vision and bhakti for the Lord, Rantideva was unable to make a distinction among his guests (Bg 5.18):

brahmane gavi hastini
suni caiva sva-pake ca
panditah sama-darsinah

“The humble sages, by virtue of true knowledge, see with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste].”

Sacrifice, penance and charity
As aspiring devotees of the Lord, we should make a conscious endeavor to assess our current place and make progress on the continuum of appeasement, duty and devotion to the Lord. Why are we attracted to Krishna consciousness? Why did we come in the first place? Has our motivation changed over time? How do we feel about the sacrifices we are asked to make in our spiritual practices? What results do we seek? Do we sometimes serve out of fear of losing something we have? Do we sometimes serve to get something we want? If this is the case, then we can understand that our spiritual life is motivated at least in part by the desire to appease the Lord. In other words, we practice Krishna consciousness for what we can get out of it. This is natural in the early stages of spiritual life. Indeed, Krishna explains in the Gita (7.16) that people initially approach Him out their own needs and desires:

catur-vidha bhajante mam
janah sukrtino 'rjuna
arto jijnasur artharthi
jnani ca bharatarsabha

“O best among the Bharatas, four kinds of pious men begin to render devotional service unto Me—the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of the Absolute.”

The path of Krishna consciousness, however, is meant to wean us from self-centered motivations through acts of sacrifice, penance and charity (Bg 18.5):

na tyajyam karyam eva tat
yajno danam tapas caiva
pavanani manisinam

“Acts of sacrifice, charity and penance are not to be given up; they must be performed. Indeed, sacrifice, charity and penance purify even the great souls.”

Sacrifice is meant for the pleasure of the Lord and other superior personalities, such as the spiritual master and the devotees of the Lord. Penance is the path of introspection and self-purification. Charity is meant for those who are less fortunate. Thus a devotee is always encouraged to serve others, and serve herself by keeping her fingers on the pulse of her own heart through austerity. Without the practice of serving others, the effect of performing austerities may inflate one’s ego. Some yogis become proud of their ability to perform austerities and fancy themselves to be renunciants. This defeats the whole purpose and indicates that they are still caught in the waves of self-fascination. Such penance is all about what I can do, rather than who I am. Consequently, Rupa Gosvami in his Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu does not list renunciation among the sixty-four practices of devotional service. Srila Prabhupada explains in Nectar of Devotion (Chapter 14),

Some scholars recommend that knowledge and renunciation are important factors for elevating oneself to devotional service. But actually that is not a fact. Actually, the cultivation of knowledge or renunciation, which are favorable for achieving a footing in Krishna consciousness, may be accepted in the beginning, but ultimately they may also come to be rejected, for devotional service is dependent on nothing other than the sentiment or desire for such service. It requires nothing more than sincerity.

It is the opinion of expert devotees that mental speculation and the artificial austerities of yoga practice may be favorable for becoming liberated from material contamination, but they will also make one’s heart harder and harder. They will not help at all in the progress of devotional service. These processes are therefore not favorable for entering into the transcendental loving service of the Lord.

If one performs austerity without sacrifice and charity – the very means by which one becomes less self-centered – one cannot develop a soft and humble heart. If a person performs sacrifice and charity, and only superficially goes through the motions of penance, it is to be understood that one has not taken the need for self-purification to heart. If one does not consciously confront selfishness, the scope of her sacrifice and charity will shrink, becoming increasingly self-serving. She will sacrifice for her own immediate physical and social well-being (including family) and become greedy in the name of charity beginning at home!

One who serves the Lord on the basis of duty has managed to subordinate her own desires. Instead she acts on the desires of her spiritual superiors and on the instructions of the scripture. Such a devotee understands that purification of the heart is paramount at this stage of her life (Bg 17.11).

aphalakanksibhir yajno
vidhi-disto ya ijyate
yastavyam eveti manah
samadhaya sa sattvikah

“Of sacrifices, the sacrifice performed according to the directions of scripture, as a matter of duty, by those who desire no reward, is of the nature of goodness.”

For those raised in a culture in which practically every action is meant to bear some self-interested result, the motivation explained in this verse may seem so foreign as to be alienating. Srila Prabhupada explains in his purport,

The general tendency is to offer sacrifice with some purpose in mind, but here it is stated that sacrifice should be performed without any such desire. It should be done as a matter of duty. Take, for example, the performance of rituals in temples or in churches. Generally they are performed with the purpose of material benefit, but that is not in the mode of goodness. One should go to a temple or church as a matter of duty, offer respect to the Supreme Personality of Godhead and offer flowers and eatables. Everyone thinks that there is no use in going to the temple just to worship God. But worship for economic benefit is not recommended in the scriptural injunctions. One should go simply to offer respect to the Deity. That will place one in the mode of goodness. It is the duty of every civilized man to obey the injunctions of the scriptures and offer respect to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

The mood of duty, however, arises when one recognizes the Lord’s omnipotence, one’s relationship as His servant, and the insignificance of one’s own illusory material desires.

A perfected devotee, whose heart is fully purified, acts upon the original motive of the heart – love of Godhead. Duties, required to purify the heart, are therefore no longer necessary. While in this material world, the pure devotee, in obedience to the Lord’s instruction (Bg 3.20-21) may perform duties for the sake of setting the proper example of detached work for others.

karmanaiva hi samsiddhim
asthita janakadayah
loka-sangraham evapi
sampasyan kartum arhasi

yad yad acarati sresthas
tat tad evetaro janah
sa yat pramanam kurute
lokas tad anuvartate

“Kings such as Janaka attained perfection solely by performance of prescribed duties. Therefore, just for the sake of educating the people in general, you should perform your work. Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.”

In such a devotee’s own internal meditation, however, she is cultivating her eternal loving relationship with the Lord. Sometimes, though, some pure devotees will transgress their duties for Krishna’s sake. When Krishna called the gopis to the rasa dance by playing His flute, the cowherd maidens immediately abandoned their household chores, forsaking their children, husbands, parents and other family members. Their transgression of duty was also in obedience to the Lord’s desires. Krishna tells Arjuna in Bhagavad-gita (18.66) that all duties are subordinate to the Lord’s direct order:

sarva-dharman parityajya
mam ekam saranam vraja
aham tvam sarva-papebhyo
moksayisyami ma sucah

“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.”


yad-bhayad vati vato 'yam
suryas tapati yad-bhayat
yad-bhayad varsate devo
bha-gano bhati yad-bhayat

“Out of fear of the Supreme Personality of Godhead the wind blows, out of fear of Him the sun shines, out of fear of Him the rain pours forth showers, and out of fear of Him the host of heavenly bodies shed their luster.” (SB 3.29.40)

The entire cosmic order operates according to the will of the Lord. The realm of matter is held especially for those who, to varying degrees, deny their subordination and love for the Lord. How material nature deals with each individual depends upon the degree to which we acknowledge our connection with the Lord. Denial, disobedience, appeasement out of fear or desire, duty, and love are all possibilities. Duryodhana denied Balarama’s transcendental position and disobeyed Him as a teacher. Though angry, Balarama did not cease being Duryodhana’s well-wisher. He displayed His immeasurable power to force Duryodhana to reflect on his foolish behavior. Duryodhana, in fear of losing everything he had, obeyed the Lord’s order to appease Him. So the Kuru prince made advancement from denial to appeasement.

While it is only natural to approach the Lord out of fear, desire, curiosity or other needs, the process of devotional service by which the Lord takes us under His wing is meant to purify us of all self-centered motivations. Therefore, an aspiring devotee is given duties to perform and is instructed to perform such duties free from the desire to gain a particular circumstantial outcome. The outcome is actually existential, the purification of the heart. When the heart is purified, the devotee can serve the Lord out of genuine love. Aspiring to devotional service, a devotee should remember the importance of pleasing superiors, helping those less fortunate and endeavoring to cleanse the heart by self-discipline. By dedicating one’s activities for the benefit of the Lord and others, and conscientiously rooting out the remnants of selfish desires, a devotee gains the grace of saintly persons and the Supreme Lord.

[ Premananda dasa, a disciple of HH Niranjana Swami joined ISKCON in 1992. He has served in a number of capacities, including Congregational Director and Co-President of an ISKCON center. He has written extensively on the principles of Gaudiya missiology, Vaishnava prayer, and the avataras.]

Please send us your feedback to

© 2003-2007 Quintessence. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

No hay comentarios:

Correo Vaishnava

Mi foto
Correo Devocional

Archivo del blog