Of the many hundreds of poetic Sanskrit
King Kulaśekhara was part of the Śrī-sampradāya, the Vaiṣṇava school founded by Lord Viṣṇu's divine consort, Śrī. This school's most prominent representative, Rāmānuja Ācārya (eleventh century), built on the work of his predecessors Nātha Muni and Yāmuna Ācārya and established the systematic philosophy of Śrī Vaiṣṇavism. But these
The Ālvārs' Tamil poetry was collected in the
A traditional history of King Kulaśekhara states that once, as he slept in his palace quarters, he had a brilliant and distinct vision of Lord Kṛṣṇa. Upon awaking he fell into a devotional trance and failed to notice dawn breaking. The royal musicians and ministers came as usual to his door to wake him, but after waiting some time without hearing him respond, they reluctantly took the liberty of entering his room. The king came out of his trance and described his vision to them, and from that day on he no longer took much interest in ruling. He delegated most of his responsibilities to his ministers and dedicated himself to rendering devotional service to the Lord. After some years he abdicated the throne and went to Śrī Raṅgam, where he remained in the association of the Kṛṣṇa Deity of Raṅganātha and His many exalted devotees. At Śrī Raṅgam Kulaśekhara is said to have composed his two great works: the
As the other Ālvārs do in their mystic expressions, in his
Using a Sanskrit edition published by Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura in 1895, Śrīla Prabhupāda began translating the
In 1989, the Governing Body Commission of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness requested Satsvarūpa dāsa Goswami to complete the
Satsvarūpa Goswami accepted the assignment and enlisted the help of Gopīparāṇadhana dāsa, the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust's Sanskrit editor, to translate the remaining forty-seven verses. Then he carefully prepared the purports, often quoting from Śrīla Prabhupāda's
Editor's note: Citations from
A devotee of Godhead is he who glorifies the Personality of Godhead under the dictation of transcendental ecstasy. This ecstasy is a by-product of profound love for the Supreme, which is itself attained by the process of glorification. In this age of quarrel and fighting, the process of chanting and glorification recommended here by King Kulaśekhara is the only way to attain perfection.
Persons who are infected with the disease of material attachment and who suffer from the pangs of repeated birth and death cannot relish such recitation of the Lord's glories, just as a person suffering from jaundice cannot relish the taste of sugar candy. By nature sugar candy is as sweet as anything, but to a patient suffering from jaundice it tastes as bitter as anything. Still, sugar candy is the best medicine for jaundice. By regular treatment with doses of sugar candy, one can gradually get relief from the infection of jaundice, and when the patient is perfectly cured, the same sugar candy that tasted bitter to him regains its natural sweetness.
In the same way, glorification of the transcendental name, fame, attributes, pastimes, and entourage of the Personality of Godhead tastes bitter to those who are suffering from the infection of material consciousness, but it is very sweet to those who have recovered from this infection.
All mundane philosophers, religionists, and people in general, who are constantly suffering from the threefold miseries of material existence, can get freedom from all such troubles simply by chanting and glorifying the holy name, fame, and pastimes of the Supreme Lord. The Supreme Lord, the Absolute Truth, is all spirit, and therefore His name, fame, and pastimes are nondifferent from Him. All of them are identical. In other words, the holy name of the Lord is the Lord Himself, and this can be understood by realization. By chanting the holy names of the Lord, which are innumerable, one can actually associate with the Lord personally, and by such constant personal touch with the all-spiritual Lord, one will become spiritually self-realized. This process of self-realization is very suitable for the fallen souls of this age, when life is short and when people are slow in understanding the importance of spiritual realization, prone to be misled by false association and false spiritual masters, unfortunate in every respect, and continuously disturbed by innumerable material problems.
King Kulaśekhara, an ideal pure devotee of the Lord, shows us by his own realization how to offer prayers to the Lord. Since he is a
He first addresses the Lord as Śrī-vallabha, "He who is very dear to Lakṣmī." The Lord is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and His consort, Lakṣmī, is a manifestation of His internal potency. By expanding His internal potency, the Lord enjoys His spiritual paraphernalia. In the highest spiritual realization, therefore, the Lord is not impersonal or void, as empiric philosophers conceive Him to be. Although He is not of the material world, He is much more than simply a negation of material variegatedness. He is positively the supreme enjoyer of spiritual variegatedness, of which Lakṣmī, the internal potency, is the fountainhead.
King Kulaśekhara next addresses the Lord as Varada, "the bestower of benedictions," because it is He alone who can deliver to us the actual substance—spiritual bliss. When we detach ourselves from His association, we are always in the midst of want and scarcity, but as soon as we get in touch with Him, our gradual endowment with all bliss begins. The first installment of this bliss is the clearance of the layer of dust that has accumulated in our hearts due to millions of years of material association. As soon as the dust of materialism is brushed aside, the clear mirror of the heart reflects the presence of the Lord. And as soon as we see Him we are automatically freed from all kinds of aspirations and frustrations. In that liberated state, everything is blissful in relation with the Lord, and one has no desires to fulfill and nothing to lament over. Thus, following the benediction, full spiritual bliss comes upon us, ushering in full knowledge, full life, and full satisfaction with our whole existence.
King Kulaśekhara next addresses the Lord as Dayāpara, "He who is causelessly merciful," because there is no one but the Lord who can be a causelessly merciful friend to us. He is therefore also called Dīna-bandhu, "the friend of the needy." Unfortunately, at times of need we seek our friends in the mundane world, not knowing that one needy man cannot help another. No mundane man is full in every respect; even a man possessing the greatest riches is himself needy if he is devoid of a relationship with the Lord. Everything is zero without the Lord, who is the digit that transforms zero into ten, two zeros into one hundred, three zeros into one thousand, and so on. Thus a "zero man" cannot become happy without the association of the Lord, the supreme "1."
The supreme "1" always wants to make our zero efforts valuable by His association, just as a loving father always wants an unhappy son to be in a prosperous position. A rebellious son, however, stubbornly refuses the cooperation of the loving father and thus suffers all sorts of miseries. The Lord, therefore, sends His bona fide representatives to all parts of the material creation, and sometimes He even comes Himself to reclaim His fallen sons. For this purpose He also exhibits the actual life in the transcendental world, which is characterized by relationships with Him in servitorship, friendship, parenthood, and consorthood. All relationships in the material world are but perverted reflections of these original relationships. In the mundane world we experience only the shadow of the reality, which exists in the spiritual world.
The all-merciful Lord is always mindful of our difficulties in the mundane world, and He is more eager to get us to return home, back to Godhead, than we are eager to go. He is by nature merciful toward us, despite our rebellious attitude. Even in our rebellious condition we get all our necessities from Him, such as food, air, light, water, warmth, and coolness. Yet because we have detached ourselves from Him, we simply mismanage this paternal property. The leaders of society, despite all their materialistic plans, are misleaders, for they have no plan to revive our lost relationship with the Lord. His bona fide devotees, however, try their utmost to broadcast the message of our transcendental relationship with Him. In this way the devotees work to remind the fallen souls of their actual position and to bring them back home, back to Godhead. Such stainless servants of Godhead are very dear to Him. They receive such special favor from the Lord for their compassionate work that they can even go back to Godhead in this very lifetime and not be forced to take another birth.
The Lord is therefore next addressed as Bhakta-priya, meaning "He who is very dear to His devotees" or "He who is very affectionate to His devotees." In the
An example of such a pure devotee is Lord Jesus Christ, who agreed to be mercilessly crucified rather than give up preaching on behalf of God. He was never prepared to compromise on the issue of believing in God. Such a son of God cannot be other than dear to the Lord. Similarly, when Ṭhākura Haridāsa was told to give up chanting the holy name of God, he refused to do so, with the result that he was flogged in twenty-two marketplaces. And Prahlāda Mahārāja persisted in disagreeing with his father, the great atheist Hiraṇyakaśipu, and thus voluntarily accepted the cruelties his father inflicted upon him. These are some examples of renowned devotees of the Lord, and we should simply try to understand how dear such devotees are to Him.
The Lord has emphatically declared that no one can vanquish His devotee under any circumstances. A good example is Ambarīṣa Mahārāja. When the great mystic
Sometimes, even at the risk of having to cross many stumbling blocks, a devotee relinquishes all family connections and homely comforts for the Lord's service. Can the Lord forget all these sacrifices of His bona fide devotee? No, not even for a moment, for the relationship between the Lord and His devotee is reciprocal, as He clearly says in the
A devotee is never as eager to see the Lord as he is to render service to Him. Yet the Lord does appear before His devotee, for He is just like an affectionate father, who is more eager to see his son than the son is to see him. There is no contradiction in such a quantitative difference in affection. Such a disparity exists in the original reality—between the Lord and His devotees—and is reflected here not only in the relations between parents and children in human society but even in the animal kingdom. Parental affection is exhibited even among lower animals because originally such affection in its fullness exists in God, the original father of all species of living beings. When a man kills an animal, God, the affectionate father, is perturbed and is pained at heart. Thus the slaughterer of the animal is suitably punished by the material energy, just as a murderer is punished by the government through police action.
By the mercy of the Lord, a devotee develops all the good qualities of God, for a devotee can never remain in the darkness of ignorance. A father is always anxious to impart knowledge and experience to his son, but the son can choose whether to accept such instructions. A submissive devotee becomes automatically enlightened in all the intricacies of knowledge because the Lord, from within, dissipates his ignorance with the self-illumined lamp of wisdom. If the Lord Himself instructs the devotee, how can he remain foolish like the mundane wranglers?
A father is naturally inclined to act for the good of his son, and when the father chastises his son, that chastisement is also mixed with affection. Similarly, all the living entities who have lost their place in paradise due to disobedience to the Supreme Father are put into the hands of the material energy to undergo a prison life of the threefold miseries. Yet the Supreme Father does not forget His rebellious sons. He creates scriptures for them like the
For His devotees, the Lord personally descends to this world to give them relief and save them from the insane acts of miscreants. It is foolish to try to impose the limits of an ordinary living being upon the unlimited potency of Godhead and obstinately maintain that the Supreme Lord cannot descend. To mitigate His devotees' material pangs, He descends as He is, yet He is not infected by material qualities.
As soon as a person agrees to surrender unto the Lord, the Lord takes complete charge of him. Satisfied with the activities of such a devotee, He gives him instruction from within, and thus the devotee becomes pure and advances on the path back to Godhead. The Lord is expert at guiding such a pure devotee, who is not at all anxious for material superiority. A pure devotee does not wish to possess material wealth, nor does he want to have a great following, nor does he desire a beautiful wife, for by the mercy of the Lord he knows the insignificance of material happiness. What he very sincerely desires at heart is to continue in the loving service of the Lord, even at the risk of taking birth again.
When a neophyte devotee deviates from the path of pure devotion and wants to simultaneously enjoy sense gratification and discharge devotional service, the all-merciful Lord very tactfully corrects the bewildered devotee by exhibiting before him the real nature of this material world. In the material world all relationships are actually mercenary but are covered by an illusory curtain of so-called love and affection. The so-called wives and husbands, parents and children, and masters and servants are all concerned with reciprocal material profit. As soon as the shroud of illusion is removed, the dead body of material so-called love and affection is at once manifest to the naked eye.
The Lord expertly removes the shroud of illusion for the neophyte devotee by depriving him of his material assets, and thus the devotee finds himself alone in the midst of his so-called relatives. In this helpless condition he experiences the awkwardness of his so-called relationships with his so-called wife and children. When a man is financially ruined, no one loves him, not even his wife or children. Such a poverty-stricken devotee more perfectly fixes his faith in the Lord, and the Lord then delivers him from the fate of frustration.
The entire cosmic creation is the Lord's expert arrangement for the delusion of the living beings who try to be false enjoyers. The living being's constitutional position is to be a servant of the Lord, but in the transcendental relationship the servant and the Lord are in one sense identical, for the Lord also serves the servant. The typical example is Śrī Kṛṣṇa's becoming the charioteer of His eternal servant Arjuna. Illusioned mundaners cannot understand the transcendental and reciprocal relationship between the Lord and His devotees, and therefore they want to lord it over material nature or cynically merge with the Absolute. Thus a living being forgets his constitutional position and wants to become either a lord or a mendicant, but such illusions are arrangements of Māyā, the Lord's illusory potency. A false life either as a lord or a mendicant meets with frustration until the living being comes to his senses and surrenders to the Lord as His eternal servant. Then the Lord liberates him and saves him from repeated birth and death. Thus the Lord is also addressed here as Bhava-luṇṭhana-kovida, "He who is expert at plundering the status quo of repeated birth and death." A sensible man understands his position as the eternal servant of the Lord and molds his life accordingly.
The Lord is also addressed as Nātha, the real Lord. One can attain the perfection of life only by serving the real Lord. The entire material atmosphere is surcharged with the false lordship of the living beings. The illusioned beings are all struggling for false lordship, and thus no one wants to serve. Everyone wants to be the lord, even though such lordship is conditional and temporary. A hardworking man thinks himself the lord of his family and estate, but actually he is a servant of desire and the employee of anger. Such service of the senses is neither pensionable nor terminable, for desire and anger are masters who are never to be satisfied. The more one serves them, the more service they exact, and as such the false overlordship continues until the day of annihilation. As a result, the foolish living being is pushed into degraded life and fails to recognize the Lord as the beneficiary of all activities, the ruler of the universe, and the friend of all entities. One who knows the real Lord is called a
The Lord of the creative energy is called Ananta-śayana. The material energy is impregnated by the glance of this feature of the Lord and is then able to give birth to all organic and inorganic matter. Ananta-śayana sleeps on the bed of Śeṣa Nāga, who has a form like a serpent but is identical with the Lord. Because He sleeps on a serpent bed, the Lord is also known as Nāga-śayana. By His spiritual energy Śeṣa Nāga sustains all the planetary globes upon His invisible hoods. Śeṣa Nāga is popularly known as Saṅkarṣaṇa, or "that which keeps balance by the law of magnetism." In the scientific world this feature of the Lord is referred to as the law of gravitation, but factually this law, which keeps all the planets floating in space, is one of the energies of the Lord. All the universes are born with the exhalation of the Lord as He lies on Śeṣa Nāga, and all of them are annihilated with His inhalation. Due to these functions of creation, maintenance, and annihilation, the Lord is celebrated by the name Jagan-nivāsa, indicating that He is the supreme resort of all the universes.
There are hundreds of thousands of other names of Lord Viṣṇu, and each one of them is as powerful as the Lord Himself. One can constantly chant any name of the Lord and thereby constantly associate with Him. There are no hard and fast rules for chanting His names. At any time and any stage of life one can freely chant them, but we are so unfortunate that we are too misled even to adopt this simple process. This is the way of Māyā, the Lord's misleading energy. However, one can avoid her ways simply by always remembering the lotus feet of the Lord. King Kulaśekhara prays for this facility from Mukunda, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
The theme of this verse is that the Supreme Truth is the Supreme Person. That the Lord's bodily texture and color are described indicates that He is a person, for the impersonal Brahman cannot have a body that is as soft as anything or whose hue is visualized. The Personality of Godhead appeared as the son of Vasudeva and Devakī because for a very long time they performed severe austerities to have the Supreme Lord as their son. Satisfied by their penance and determination, the Lord agreed to become their son.
From the description of the Lord's birth in the
One may ask, Since the Supreme Lord is the original father of all living entities, how could a lady known as Devakī give birth to Him as her son? The answer is that Devakī no more gave birth to the Lord than the eastern horizon gives birth to the sun. The sun rises on the eastern horizon and sets below the western horizon, but actually the sun neither rises nor sets. The sun is always in its fixed position in the sky, but the earth is revolving, and due to the different positions of the revolving earth, the sun appears to be rising or setting. In the same way, the Lord always exists, but for His pastimes as a human being He seems to take birth like an ordinary child.
In His impersonal feature (Brahman) the Supreme Lord is everywhere, inside and outside: as the Supersoul (Paramātmā) He is inside everything, from the gigantic universal form down to the atoms and electrons; and as the Supreme Personality of Godhead (Bhagavān) He sustains everything with His energies. (We have already described this feature of the Lord in the purport to the previous verse, in connection with the name Jagan-nivāsa.) Therefore in each of His three features—Brahman, Paramātmā, and Bhagavān—the Lord is present everywhere in the material world. Yet He remains aloof, busy with His transcendental pastimes in His supreme abode.
Those with a poor fund of knowledge cannot accept the idea that the Lord appears in person on the face of the earth. Because they are not conversant with the intricacies of the Lord's transcendental position, whenever such people hear about the appearance of the Lord, they take Him to be either a superhuman being born with a material body or a historical personality worshiped as God under the influence of anthropomorphism or zoomorphism. But the Lord is not the plaything of such fools. He is what He is and does not agree to be a subject of their speculations, which perpetually lead them to conclude that His impersonal feature is supreme. The supreme feature of the Absolute Truth is personal—the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The impersonal Brahman is His effulgence, like the light diffused by a powerful fire. The fire burns in one place but diffuses its warmth and light all round, thus exhibiting its different energies. Similarly, by means of His variegated energies the Supreme Lord expands Himself in many ways.
Persons with a poor fund of knowledge are captivated by one part of His energy and therefore fail to penetrate into the original source of the energy. Whatever astounding energies we see manifest in this world, including atomic and nuclear energies, are all part and parcel of His material, or external, energy. Superior to this material energy, however, is the Lord's marginal energy, exhibited as the living being. Besides these energies, the Supreme Lord has another energy, which is known as the internal energy. The marginal energy can take shelter of either the internal energy or the external energy, but factually it belongs to the Lord's internal energy. The living beings are therefore infinitesimal samples of the Supreme Lord. Qualitatively the living being and the Supreme Lord are equal, but quantitatively they are different, for the Lord is unlimitedly potent whereas the living entities, being infinitesimal by nature, have limited potency.
Although the Lord is full with all energies and is thus self-sufficient, He enjoys transcendental pleasure by subordinating Himself to His unalloyed devotees. Some great devotees of the Lord cannot surpass the boundary of awe and veneration. But other devotees are in such an intense compact of love with the Lord that they forget His exalted position and regard themselves as His equals or even His superiors. These eternal associates of the Lord relate with Him in the higher statuses of friendship, parenthood, and consorthood. Devotees in a transcendental parental relationship with the Lord think of Him as their dependent child. They forget His exalted position and think that unless they properly feed Him He will fall victim to undernourishment and His health will deteriorate. Devotees in a conjugal relationship with the Lord rebuke Him to correct His behavior, and the Lord enjoys those rebukes more than the prayers of the
Vasudeva and Devakī are confidential devotees of the Lord in the mood of parental love. Even greater than them are Nanda and Yaśodā, His foster parents in Vṛndāvana. The Lord takes great pleasure in being addressed as Devakī-nandana ("the son of Devakī"), Nanda-nandana ("the son of Nanda"), Yaśodā-nandana ("the son of Yaśodā"), Daśarathī ("the son of King Daśaratha"), Janakī-nātha ("the husband of Janakī"), and so on. The pleasure one gives the Lord by addressing Him by such names is many, many times greater than the pleasure He enjoys when He is addressed as the Supreme Father, the Greatest of the Great, Parameśvara, or anything of that nature, which indicate volumes of awe and veneration. Therefore the names King Kulaśekhara uses to glorify the Lord in this verse indicate his intimate transcendental relationship with the Lord.
As explained above, all the names of the Lord are as powerful as the Lord Himself, but one can experience different transcendental mellows by chanting His different transcendental names. For example, the
Therefore King Kulaśekhara, knowing how pleased the Lord is to be addressed by a name indicating His transcendental relationships with His intimate devotees, and knowing also the potency of the name Kṛṣṇa, has chosen to glorify the Lord by addressing Him as Devakī-nandana and Kṛṣṇa. The king also addresses Him as Vṛṣṇi-vaṁśa-pradīpa ("the brilliant light in the Vṛṣṇi dynasty") because millions of generations of the Vṛṣṇi dynasty became sanctified by the Lord's appearance within it. The
The Lord's birth on the face of the earth is certainly very mysterious, and therefore it is difficult for ordinary men to believe in His birth. How can the all-powerful Lord take birth, seemingly like an ordinary man? The matter is explained in the
prakṛtiṁ svām adhiṣṭhāya sambhavāmy ātma-māyayā
"Although I am unborn and My transcendental body never deteriorates, and although I am the Lord of all living entities, by My transcendental potency I still appear in every millennium in My original transcendental form." From the
The Lord is the supreme controller of the material elements, and being endless and beginningless, He exists in all times—past, present, and future. And because He is absolute, He has nothing to do with vice and virtue. In other words, for Him "vices" and "virtues" are one and the same; otherwise the Lord would not be the Absolute Truth.
Since the Lord appears by His internal potency, His incarnations in different species of life are not the creation of the external potency, Māyā. Therefore those who think that the Supreme Lord appears in different forms by accepting a body made of material elements are wrong; their vision is imperfect because they do not understand how the Lord's internal potency works. The
In other words, the living being and the Supreme Lord appear in this material world under different circumstances. One can easily understand these different circumstances if one understands how the Lord's different potencies work. As explained before, the Lord has three kinds of potency, namely, internal, marginal, and external. We have wide experience of the external, or material, potency, but we generally fail to inquire about the actions and reactions of the other two potencies. A simple example will help us understand how the Lord's potencies work. Consider three identities: God, a man, and a doll. The doll consists of material energy, the man is a combination of material and spiritual energy, and God consists wholly of spiritual energy. The doll is all matter, internally and externally. Man is externally matter but internally spirit. And God is all spirit, both internally and externally. As the doll is all matter, so God is all spirit. But the man is half spirit and half matter.
Thus the body of God and the body of a living being are differently constituted. Because the Lord's body is pure spirit, it never deteriorates, and therefore He is called
The conclusion is that the Personality of Godhead appears in His original body, without any change, and this is made possible by His inconceivable potency. We should always remember that nothing is impossible for the omnipotent Lord. If He so desires, He can transform material energy into spiritual energy. Indeed, if he so desires He can bring the entire spiritual nature within the material nature, without the spiritual nature being affected by the material modes in any way.
The Lord's different potencies remain tightly under His control. In fact, the Lord actually has only one potency—namely, the internal potency—which He employs for different purposes. The situation is similar to how one uses electricity. The same electricity can be used for both heating and cooling. Such contradictory results are due to the expert handling of a technician. In the same way, by His supreme will the Lord employs His one internal potency to accomplish many different purposes. That is the information we get from the
The present verse of the
Such descriptions of the Lord's body are not imaginary; rather, they are the statements of those who have seen the Lord with their supernatural vision. This supernatural vision is bestowed upon devotees like Brahmā and upon those who follow the footsteps of pure devotees like him. But upstarts and unbelievers cannot have any access to this transcendental vision, for they lack the required submission to the will of the Lord.
The world in which we live is a miserable place. It is, so to speak, a prison house for the spirit soul. Just as a prisoner cannot move or enjoy life fully, so the living entities who have been conditioned by the laws of material nature cannot experience their actual ever-joyful nature. They cannot have any freedom, because they must suffer four principal miseries—birth, old age, disease, and death. The laws of material nature impose this punishment upon the living entities who have forgotten the Lord and who are busy making plans for lasting happiness in this desert of distress.
By the mercy of the Lord, the pure devotee knows all this very well. Indeed, his whole philosophy of life is based on this understanding. Advancement of knowledge means to understand the naked truth of this world and to not be deluded by the temporary beauty of this phantasmagoria.
The material nature is not at all beautiful, for it is an "imitation peacock." The real peacock is a different thing, and one must have the sense to understand this. Those who are mad after capturing and enjoying the imitation peacock, as well as those who have a pessimistic view of the imitation peacock but lack any positive information of the real peacock—both are illusioned by the modes of material nature. Those who are after the imitation peacock are the fruitive workers, and those who simply condemn the imitation peacock but are ignorant of the real peacock are the empiric philosophers. Disgusted with the mirage of happiness in the material desert, they seek to merge into voidness.
But a pure devotee does not belong to either of these two bewildered classes. Neither aspiring to enjoy the imitation peacock nor condemning it out of disgust, he seeks the real peacock. Thus he is unlike either the deluded fruitive worker or the baffled empiricist. He is above these servants of material nature because he prefers to serve the Lord, the master of material nature. He seeks the substance and does not wish to give it up. The substance is the lotus feet of Mukunda, and King Kulaśekhara, being a most intelligent devotee, prays to gain that substance and not the shadow.
A pure devotee of Lord Nārāyaṇa, or Mukunda, is not at all afraid of any circumstance that may befall him. Despite all difficulties, therefore, such a pure devotee asks nothing from the Lord on his own account. He is not at all afraid if by chance he has to visit the hellish worlds, nor is he eager to enter the kingdom of heaven. For him both these kingdoms are like castles in the air. He is not concerned with either of them, and this is very nicely expressed by King Kulaśekhara in Text 6.
A pure devotee of the Lord like King Kulaśekhara does not pray to God for material wealth, followers, a beautiful wife, or any such imitation peacocks, for he knows the real value of such things. And if by circumstance he is placed in a situation where he possesses such things, he does not try to artificially get out of it by condemnation.
Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī, a great associate of Lord Caitanya's, was a very rich man's son who had a beautiful wife and all other opulences. When he first met Lord Caitanya at Pāṇihāṭi, a village about forty miles from Calcutta, Raghunātha dāsa asked permission from the Lord to leave his material connections and accompany Him. The Lord refused to accept this proposal and instructed Raghunātha dāsa that it is useless to leave worldly connections out of sentimentality or artificial renunciation. One must have the real thing at heart. If one finds himself entangled in worldly connections, one should behave outwardly like a worldly man but remain inwardly faithful for spiritual realization. That will help one on the progressive march of life. Nobody can cross over the big ocean in a sudden jump. What was possible for Hanumān by the grace of Lord Rāma is not possible for an ordinary man. So to cross the ocean of illusion one should patiently cultivate devotion to the Lord, and in this way one can gradually reach the other side.
Although a pure devotee does not bother himself about what is going to happen next in his material situation, he is always alert not to forget his ultimate aim. King Kulaśekhara therefore prays that he may not forget the lotus feet of the Lord at any time.
To forget one's relationship with the Lord and thus to remain overwhelmed by material hankerings is the most condemned mode of life. This is exactly the nature of animal life. When the living entity is born in a species of lower animals, he completely forgets his relationship with the Lord and therefore remains always busy in the matter of eating, sleeping, fearing, and mating. Modern civilization promotes such a life of forgetfulness, with an improved economic condition for eating and so on. Various agents of the external energy make explicit propaganda to try to root out the very seed of divine consciousness. But this is impossible to do, because although circumstances may choke up a living being's divine consciousness for the time being, it cannot be killed. In his original identity the living entity is indestructible, and so also are his original spiritual qualities. One can kill neither the spirit soul nor his spiritual qualities. To remember the Lord and desire to serve Him are the spiritual qualities of the spirit soul. One can curb down these spiritual qualities by artificial means, but they will be reflected in a perverted way on the mirror of material existence. The spiritual quality of serving the Lord out of transcendental affinity will be pervertedly reflected as love for wine, women, and wealth in different forms. The so-called love of material things—even love for one's country, community, religion, or family, which is accepted as a superior qualification for civilized human beings—is simply a perverted reflection of the love of Godhead dormant in every soul. The position of King Kulaśekhara is therefore the position of a liberated soul, because he does not want to allow his genuine love of God to become degraded into so-called love for material things.
We may use a crude example to illustrate the difference between a devotee's death and an ordinary man's death. In her mouth the cat captures both her offspring and her prey, the rat. Such capturings may appear the same, but there is a vast difference between them. While the rat is being carried in the cat's mouth, his sensation is poles apart from that of the cat's offspring. For the rat the capture is a painful death strike, while for the offspring it is a pleasurable caress.
Similarly, the death of an ordinary man is vastly different from a devotee's passing away from the active scene of material existence. The death of an ordinary man occurs against the background of his past good and evil deeds, which determine his next birth. But for a devotee the case is different. Even if the devotee has failed to perfect his devotional service, he is guaranteed to take birth in a good family—a family of learned and devoted
Unfortunately, in this iron age the members of well-to-do families generally misuse their wealth. Instead of improving their spiritual condition, they are misled by faulty association and fall victim to sensuality. To be saved from this faulty association, King Kulaśekhara prays fervently to the Lord that he may never forget His lotus feet in any future birth. A devotee who perfects his devotional service certainly goes back to Godhead without a doubt, so for him there is no question of birth or death. And, as mentioned above, a devotee who does not achieve complete perfection is guaranteed to take his birth in a learned and well-to-do family. But even if a devotee is not given the advantage of good parentage, if he can attain the benediction of always remembering the lotus feet of the Lord, that is greater than any number of material assets. Constant remembrance of the Lord's name, fame, qualities, and so on automatically nullifies the reactions of all vices and invokes the blessings of the Lord. This constant remembrance of the lotus feet of the Lord is possible only when one engages in His active service.
A pure devotee therefore never asks the Lord for wealth, followers, or even a beautiful wife. He simply prays for uninterrupted engagement in the Lord's service. That should be the motto of life for all prospective students in devotional service.
There are two classes of men: the atheists and the theists. The atheists have no faith in the Supreme Personality of Godhead, while the theists have various degrees of faith in Him.
The atheists are faithless on account of their many misdeeds in their present and past lives. They fall into four categories: (1) the gross materialists, (2) the immoral sinners, (3) the number-one fools, and (4) those who are bewildered by
The theists, on the other hand, have faith in the Lord and pray to Him with various motives. One attains such a theistic life not by chance but as a result of performing many pious acts in both the present life and the past life. Such pious men also belong to four categories: (1) the needy, (2) those who have fallen into difficulty, (3) those who are inquisitive about the transcendental science, and (4) the genuine philosophers. The philosophers and those who are inquisitive are better than those in categories (1) and (2). But a pure devotee is far above these four classes of pious men, for he is in the transcendental position.
The needy pious man prays to God for a better standard of life, and the pious man who has fallen into material difficulty prays in order to get rid of his trouble. But the inquisitive man and the philosopher do not pray to God for amelioration of mundane problems. They pray for the ability to know Him as He is, and they try to reach Him through science and logic. Such pious men are generally known as theosophists.
Needy pious men pray to God to improve their economic condition because all they know is sense gratification, while those in difficulty ask Him to free them from a hellish life of tribulations. Such ignorant people do not know the value of human life. This life is meant to prepare one to return to the absolute world, the kingdom of God.
A pure devotee is neither a needy man, a man fallen into difficulty, nor an empiric philosopher who tries to approach the Divinity on the strength his own imperfect knowledge. A pure devotee receives knowledge of the Divinity from the right source—the disciplic succession of realized souls who have followed strictly the disciplinary method of devotional service under the guidance of bona fide spiritual masters. It is not possible to know the transcendental nature of the Divinity by dint of one's imperfect sense perception, but the Divinity reveals Himself to a pure devotee in proportion to the transcendental service rendered unto Him.
King Kulaśekhara is a pure devotee, and as such he is not eager to improve himself by the standards of the empiric philosophers, distressed men, or fruitive workers of this world. Pious acts may lead a mundane creature toward the path of spiritual realization, but practical activity in the domain of devotional service to the Lord need not wait for the reactions of pious acts. A pure devotee does not think in terms of his personal gain or loss because he is fully surrendered to the Lord. He is concerned only with the service of the Lord and always engages in that service, and for this reason his heart is the Lord's home. The Lord being absolute, there is no difference between Him and His service. A pure devotee's heart is always filled with ideas about executing the Lord's service, which is bestowed upon the pure devotee through the transparent medium of the spiritual master.
The spiritual master in the authoritative line of disciplic succession is the "son of God," or in other words the Lord's bona fide representative. The proof that he is bona fide is his invincible faith in God, which protects him from the calamity of impersonalism. An impersonalist cannot be a bona fide spiritual master, for such a spiritual master's only purpose in life must be to render service to the Lord. He preaches the message of Godhead as the Lord's appointed agent and has nothing to do with sense gratification or the mundane wrangling of the impersonalists. No one can render devotional service to an impersonal entity because such service implies a reciprocal personal relationship between the servant and the master. In the impersonal school the so-called devotee is supposed to merge with the Lord and lose his separate existence.
Pure devotees like King Kulaśekhara are particularly careful to avoid a process that will end in their becoming one with the existence of the Lord, a state known as
As His separated expansions, the living beings are part and parcel of the Lord. The Lord expands Himself into plenary parts and separated parts to enjoy transcendental pastimes, and if a living being refuses to engage in these transcendental blissful pastimes, he is at liberty to merge into the Absolute. This is something like a son's committing suicide instead of living with his father according to the rules the father sets down. By committing suicide, the son thus sacrifices the happiness he could have enjoyed by engaging in a filial loving relationship with his father and enjoying his father's estate. A pure devotee persistently avoids such a criminal policy, and King Kulaśekhara is guiding us to avoid this pitfall.
The king also says that the reason he is praying to the Lord is not to be saved from the Kumbhīpāka hell. Laborers in gigantic iron and steel mills suffer tribulations similar to those in the Kumbhīpāka hell.
There are innumerable hellish engagements in the modern so-called civilization, and by the grace of the Lord's illusory energy people think these hellish engagements are a great fortune. Modern industrial factories fully equipped with up-to-date machines are so many Kumbhīpāka hells, and the organizers of these enterprises regard them as indispensable for the advancement of economic welfare. The mass of laborers exploited by the organizers directly experience the "welfare" conditions in these factories, but what the organizers do not know is that by the law of
Intelligent persons certainly want to be saved from such Kumbhīpāka hells, and they pray to God for this benediction. But a pure devotee does not pray in this way. A pure devotee of Nārāyaṇa looks equally upon the happiness enjoyed in heaven, the transcendental bliss of becoming one with the Lord, and the tribulations experienced in the Kumbhīpāka hell. He is not concerned with any of them because he is always engaged in the transcendental loving service of the Lord. By the grace of the Lord, even in the Kumbhīpāka hell a pure devotee can adjust the situation and turn it into Vaikuṇṭha.
Similarly, the pure devotee of the Lord does not live anywhere in this material world, although He appears to live among mundane creatures. Actually, the devotee lives in Vaikuṇṭha. In this way the Supreme Lord bestows upon His pure devotee the inconceivable power that allows him to stay aloof from all mundane circumstances and reside eternally in the spiritual world. The devotee does not want this power consciously or unconsciously, but the Lord is careful about His devotee, just as a mother is always careful about her little child, who is completely dependent on her care.
A pure devotee like King Kulaśekhara refuses to associate with beautiful soft-skinned women. There are different grades of women on different planets in the universe. Even on the earth there are different types of women who are enjoyed by different types of men. But on higher planets there are women many, many millions of times more beautiful than the women on this planet, and there are also many pleasure abodes where they can be enjoyed. The best of all of these is the Nandana Gardens on Svargaloka. In the Nandana Gardens—a "Garden of Eden"—those who are qualified can enjoy varieties of beautiful women called Apsarās. The demigods generally enjoy the company of the Apsarās in the same way that the great Mogul kings and
The inner tendency to enjoy is in the core of every living being's heart. But in the diseased state of material existence the living being misuses that tendency. The more he increases this diseased, conditioned state, the longer he extends his period of material existence. The
Such restraint automatically develops in the course of one's executing devotional service. Thus one who is already engaged in devotional service need not restrain his senses artificially. A pure devotee like King Kulaśekhara, therefore, neither desires sense enjoyment nor exerts himself to restrain his senses; rather, he tries only to engage himself in the transcendental loving service of the Lord, without any stop.
Human beings advance toward God consciousness when they go beyond the gross materialistic life of eating, sleeping, fearing, and mating and begin to develop moral and ethical principles. These principles develop further into religious consciousness, leading to an imaginary conception of God without any practical realization of the truth. These stages of God consciousness are called religiosity, which promises material prosperity of various degrees.
People who develop this conception of religiosity perform sacrifices, give in charity, and undergo different types of austerity and penance, all with a view toward being rewarded with material prosperity. The ultimate goal of such so-called religious people is sense gratification of various kinds. For sense gratification, material prosperity is necessary, and therefore they perform religious rituals with a view toward the resultant material name, fame, and gain.
But genuine religion is different. In Sanskrit such genuine religion is called
Genuine religion, however, does not culminate in either economic development, sense gratification, or salvation. The perfection of religion is to attain complete satisfaction of the spirit soul, and this is accomplished by rendering devotional service to the Lord, who is beyond the perception of the material senses. When the living being directs his eternal service attitude toward the eternal Supreme Being, such service can never be hampered by any sort of material hindrance. Such transcendental service is above even salvation, and therefore it certainly does not aim at any kind of material reward in the shape of name, fame, or gain.
One who engages in the transcendental loving service of the Supreme Being automatically attains detachment from material name, fame, and gain, which are aspired for only by those who do not understand that this name, fame, and gain are merely shadows of the real thing. Material name, fame, and gain are only perverted reflections of the substance—the name, fame, and opulences of the Lord. Therefore the pure devotee of Lord Vāsudeva, enlightened by the transcendental service attitude, has no attraction for such false things as religiosity, economic development, sense gratification, or salvation, the last snare of Māyā.
The purpose of performing real religion is to attain attachment for hearing and chanting the messages of the kingdom of God. Materialistic people are attached to ordinary newspapers on account of their lack of spiritual consciousness. Real religion develops this spiritual consciousness and also attachment for the messages of God, without which all labor in the performance of religious rites is only a waste of energy.
Therefore one should not practice religion with the aim of improving one's economic welfare, nor should one use one's wealth for sense gratification, nor should the frustration of one's plans for sense gratification lead one to aspire for salvation, or liberation from material conditions. Instead of indulging in sense gratification of different grades with the fruits of one's labor, one should work just to maintain the body and soul together, with the aim of inquiring into the ultimate aims and objects of life. In other words, one should inquire into the Absolute Truth.
The Absolute Truth is realized in three phases, namely, the impersonal Brahman, the localized Paramātmā, and the Supreme Personality of Godhead. A person who attains the highest stage of spiritual realization—realization of the Supreme Personality of Godhead—automatically prays as King Kulaśekhara does here.
Only one who renders devotional service to the Lord can attain this stage of indifference to the false and temporary assets of material nature. Such devotional service is not a mental concoction of depraved persons but is an actual process of God realization characterized by full cognizance and detachment and based on the Vedic literature. So-called devotional practices that have no reference to the rules and regulations set down in such books of Vedic literature as the
As stated before, a pure devotee of the Lord has nothing to do with mundane religiosity, economic development, sense gratification, or salvation, nor is he concerned whether his standard of material existence is the highest or the lowest. To him, heaven and hell are of equal value. He is not afraid of going to hell for the service of the Lord, nor is he glad to live in heaven without the service of the Lord. In any circumstance his consciousness is fixed on the Lord's lotus feet, whose beauty defies the most beautiful lotus flower of the mundane world.
The defiance is due to the transcendental position of the Lord's form, name, qualities, pastimes, and so on. The
everywhere without hindrance. The
Therefore any relationship the Lord has with His many devotees—whether fatherhood, sonhood, or any other—is not at all material. The Lord is pure spirit, and only when the living being is in his pure spiritual state can he have all sorts of relationships with Him. Philosophers with a poor fund of knowledge cannot conceive of these positive spiritual relationships between the Lord and the all-spiritual living beings, and thus they simply think in terms of negating material relationships. In this way such philosophers naturally adopt the concept of impersonalism.
By contrast, a pure devotee like King Kulaśekhara has complete knowledge of both matter and spirit. He does not say that everything material is false, yet he has nothing to do with anything material, from heaven down to hell. He fully understands the statement in the
As King Kulaśekhara thinks of the Lord and remembers His happiness, the king also becomes happy. Lord Kṛṣṇa is eternally happy, but the conditioned soul is mostly unhappy. When we live in forgetfulness of our spiritual nature, even our so-called bliss is illusion—it is unsatisfying, flickering pleasure (
Another Vaiṣṇava poet, Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura, has expressed the happiness of the Supreme in a song addressed to Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityānanda:
In this prayer King Kulaśekhara reveals himself to be at the stage of spontaneous love of God, in which the devotee goes beyond mere formal ceremonies and ritual recitations and thinks of Lord Hari always. This is the actual standard of happiness in devotional service. Such constant remembrance of the Lord is possible through constant chanting of His name. As Lord Caitanya recommends in His
King Kulaśekhara further hints at the unlimited happiness of Kṛṣṇa consciousness when he describes Lord Kṛṣṇa as the son of Nanda Gopa. Kṛṣṇa is the Lord of Vaikuṇṭha, and He expands Himself as the
Kṛṣṇa enjoyed playing as the son of Nanda. For example, Kṛṣṇa would sometimes delight His parents by carrying His father's wooden slippers on His head, just like an ordinary child. And Kṛṣṇa would also enjoy His magnificent pastimes in Dvārakā, where He lived in unequaled opulence in 16,108 palaces with an equal number of queens. Nārada once visited the Lord at Dvārakā and saw Him engaging in various pastimes in His many palaces. At that time Nārada became astounded and described Him as the source of all opulences.
There is no contradiction between Kṛṣṇa's charmingly sweet pastimes in the simple village of Vṛndāvana and His magnificently opulent pastimes in Dvārakā. All of the Lords pastimes are oceans of happiness. And the devotee who can always think of the Lord performing any of His multifarious pastimes dives into that ocean. Even in this world, one who always thinks of the Lord will forget all material miseries and enter the spiritual abode.
In this prayer King Kulaśekhara employs an elaborate metaphor comparing the Lord's all-attractive form to a rejuvenating lake. If a devotee dives into that lake and drinks its waters, all his exhaustion from material life will go away. We simply have to plunge into devotional service by hearing about Kṛṣṇa, chanting His glories, and
remembering Him. Why don't we all do it? It is illusion that makes us think there is no relief here, or that the lake is a mirage. Or, out of foolish attachment to material activities, we may think it's irresponsible to dive into the ocean of pleasure that is Kṛṣṇa consciousness. "Where is that lake?" we think. "I would gladly jump into it if I could find it. But it sounds like the legendary fountain of youth."
When we show the nondevotees the Lord's form and invite them to serve Him, they refuse. They think He's just an ordinary man or a mythical figure. But there
Elsewhere in the Vedic literature we hear of lakes such as Bindu-sarovara, where Devahūti was revived and made beautiful again after her long austerities. But the effect of immersing oneself in the lake of Lord Hari is not the restoration of youth, which will soon be exhausted again. It is eternal relief from
We may attain attraction to the Lord's form by worshiping the Deity in the temple and hearing descriptions of His form in the
From his own experience, King Kulaśekhara is speaking of how delightful it is to think of Kṛṣṇa. That thinking is his greatest pleasure in life. As a king he had access to many worldly pleasures, but they all counted as nothing compared to meditation on the Lord's lotus feet. This Kṛṣṇa meditation is available for all, and the Supreme Lord and His representatives want everyone to enjoy it. Thus Lord Kṛṣṇa says in the
The Vedic literature, prepared by Śrīla Vyāsadeva and filled with narrations of the Lord and His devotees, is meant to help us remember the Lord always. These books teach us how to divert our mind from ordinary thoughts, which are filled with business, entertainment, speculation, and the like, and fix it on the Supreme Lord in His personal feature. Otherwise, numerous worldly thoughts will absorb us: News of politics, for instance, is always bombarding us via TV, radio, and the print media. Also, our personal economic affairs are themselves fully absorbing. And to put up with anxieties, we can take part in diversions like videos, music, intoxication, and sex stimulation. Wasting time with mundane thoughts is nothing new, but today the pace, variety, and intensity of diversions grabbing for our attention seem to have increased.
Thus although meditation on God is as essential as ever, one may conclude that it is impossible nowadays. However, by the grace of Śrīla Prabhupāda and the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement he founded, we can absorb the mind in thoughts of the Lord even in this age. If one lives in a city with an ISKCON temple, one can directly visit the Deity of Lord Viṣṇu, as King Kulaśekhara did. Even on the way to work one may find time to stop and briefly see the Lord in the temple. If one lives far from a temple, one can still read Śrīla Prabhupāda's books, correspond with devotees, listen to devotional recordings, subscribe to regular Kṛṣṇa conscious publications, and, of course, chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa
Here King Kulaśekhara specifically mentions meditation upon the feet of the Lord. Such meditation implies humility and indicates that the meditator desires shelter under the Lord's protection. Indeed, the Lord's lotus feet symbolize that shelter. Elsewhere the Vedic literature describes the Lord's lotus feet as umbrellas shielding the devotees from material life. So a devotee is satisfied meditating on the Lord's feet, although he sometimes meditates on other parts of the Lord's body. We should remember, however, that although the lotus feet of the Lord symbolize the total shelter He extends toward His devotees, there is nothing "symbolic" about them: they are always to be thought of in a personal, literal sense.
ye 'nye 'ravindākṣa vimukta-māninas
tvayy asta-bhāvād aviśuddha-buddhayaḥ
patanty adho 'nādṛta yuṣmad-aṅghrayaḥ
"O lotus-eyed Lord, although nondevotees who accept severe austerities and penances to achieve the highest position may think themselves liberated, their intelligence is impure. They fall down from their position of imagined superiority because they have no regard for Your lotus feet." After quoting the verse, Prabhupāda said, " 'Feet' means 'person.' "
In conclusion, then, we should have firm faith that the Absolute Truth is the Supreme Person, Kṛṣṇa, that His body is all-blissful, and that His feet are worth meditating upon.
In a very positive mood, King Kulaśekhara reminds us that as long as we are under the protection of the supreme, all-powerful Lord, no harm can come to us, even that which our own sinful reactions would normally bring us. Lord Kṛṣṇa also orders Arjuna in the
Sinful life and its reactions are certainly serious matters, not to be easily dismissed. Yamarāja metes out hellish torments to all sinful living beings. But the process of
The devotees' claim to victory over birth and death is not an idle boast, but it requires full surrender to Lord Hari. The Lord offers this benediction to the unalloyed servant of His servant, and not to others. As long as one tries to protect oneself with wealth and worldly power, one will be an easy victim for powerful Māyā
In this prayer King Kulaśekhara mentions Yamarāja, the lord of death, as the cause of long-lasting torments. But such suffering is not for the Lord's devotees. Yamarāja himself once instructed his servants, the Yamadūtas, that those who chant the holy names of the Lord were not under Yama's jurisdiction. Yamarāja said, "Generally [the devotees] never commit sinful activities, but even if by mistake or because of bewilderment or illusion they sometimes commit sinful acts, they are protected from sinful reactions because they always chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa
Śrīla Prabhupāda said that when a devotee receives initiation from his spiritual master he is freed from his karmic reactions. Pains and pleasures that may appear like continuing karmic reactions are merely the residual effects of nondevotional activities, like the last revolutions of an electric fan after it's been unplugged. But everything depends on the sincere execution of devotional service. One who again regularly transgresses the laws of God, even after taking the vows of initiation, is once more subject to the merciless dealings of the material nature.
Materialists sometimes philosophize that dualities such as heat and cold provide an interesting variety or spice to life. In truth, however, although we may romanticize about life in this temporary world of duality, its main quality is misery. Prahlāda Mahārāja has described this world as a place where we meet up with things we don't want and are separated from what we love. We either hanker for what we lack, or we lament upon losing something valuable. Whenever we seem to run into smooth sailing on the sea of human affairs, we know, either consciously or at the back of our minds, that we are being pursued by Time, the ultimate destroyer.
Attempting to expand our happiness, we select a marriage partner and raise a family. We may sometimes see our family members as protectors against the ravages of fate, but they prove to be, in Śrīla Prabhupāda's immortal words, "fallible soldiers." Our search for security and happiness through family life merely increases our jeopardy and pain. As Nārada Muni said when King Citraketu's infant son died: "My dear king, now you are actually experiencing the misery of a person who has sons and daughters. O king,... a person's wife, his house, the opulence of his kingdom, and his various other opulences and objects of sense perception are all the same in that 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
When distress strikes it is natural to seek shelter, and at such times a pious soul turns to the Supreme Lord, our only protector. When Gajendra, the king of the elephants, was attacked in the water by a crocodile, he soon realized that none of his wives or fellow elephants could save him. "They cannot do anything," said Gajendra. "It is by the will of providence that I have been attacked by this crocodile, and therefore I shall seek the shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is always the shelter of everyone, even of great personalities" (
None of us wants calamities, yet when they come they may serve as an impetus to surrender to Lord Kṛṣṇa. Thus Queen Kuntī prayed,
vipadaḥ santu tāḥ śaśvat tatra tatra jagad-guro
bhavato darśanaṁ yat syād apunar bhava-darśanam
"I wish that all those calamities would happen again and again so that we could see You again and again, for seeing You means that we will no longer see repeated births and deaths" (
The devotee is not afraid of the miseries of material existence. He is confident that Kṛṣṇa will save him. Although the forces of destruction are more powerful that any mortal, the devotee is like a tiny bird protected by its parents. The Supreme Lord assures us, "Declare it boldly, O Arjuna, that my devotee never perishes" (Bg.
However, if one seeks the protection of the Lord through some means other than devotion, one will fail. Kṛṣṇa is not impressed by anything but devotion. For example, in the
Unless the Supreme Lord is pleased with our service, He will not reveal Himself (
Even though one is serving a spiritual master, one may doubt the efficacy of
etāṁ sa āsthāya parātma-niṣṭhām
adhyāsitāṁ pūrvatamair maharṣibhiḥ
"I shall cross over the insurmountable ocean of nescience by being firmly fixed in the service of the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa. This was approved by the previous
In this nightmare vision, all the dear and familiar things in life become fearful. And yet this is an accurate assessment of material reality. King Kulaśekhara's oceanic metaphors are not fanciful, but show us vividly what actually
There is a common saying that a drowning person suddenly sees his whole life pass before him. But we never hear what happens to the person after death. The atheist assumes that when we die it is all over and we rest in peace. But according to Vedic knowledge, there is life after death. "One who has taken birth is sure to die, and after death one is sure to take birth again" (Bg.
Therefore it is better for a person to see the fearfulness inherent in material life before it is too late to rectify his consciousness. When he begins to realize that there is great danger in the way he is leading his life, enjoying a false sense of security within his orbit of friends and relatives, then he must by all means try to change the situation by taking up devotional service to the Lord. If he is fortunate he can convince his friends and relatives to also change and lead a life dedicated to God consciousness. But if he cannot change them, then he should at least save himself. As Prahlāda Mahārāja told his demoniac father, Hiraṇyakaśipu:
tat sādhu manye 'sura-varya dehināṁ
sadā samudvigna-dhiyām asad-grahāt
"O best of the
It is not an easy thing to wake up from the complacency of ordinary life. Everyone knows that life is full of difficulties, but we tend to think that our family members and friends are our only solace. But as Kulaśekhara and other Vedic sages point out, in materialistic life our family members are like vicious beasts attacking us. To convey this unpalatable truth, Jaḍa Bharata related to King Rahūgaṇa an allegory about the forest of material enjoyment. In this context he said, "My dear king, family members in this material world go under the names of wives and children, but actually they behave like tigers and jackals."
Several times in the
Lord Kṛṣṇa is unlimited: no one is greater than or equal to Him. Therefore it is impossible to compare Him with anyone else, even if we wish to make a favorable comparison. He is unique. Everything depends on Him, and He is the only provider (
But to bring the reality of the Godhead more vividly to focus in our limited minds (which are always prone to making comparisons), King Kulaśekhara here gives us metaphors that stress the supreme greatness of the Lord. He compares the Supreme Lord to persons and things we might think are the very greatest. Those who reject the personal conception of God, such as pantheists, think that the earth itself is God. Some impersonalists think that the sky is the greatest manifestation, and so they consider it to be God. Demigod-worshipers consider Rudra or Brahmā the supreme person, or they think all gods are equal. Thus Kulaśekhara's metaphors serve to dismantle all these misconceptions.
This verse expresses King Kulaśekhara's mood of awe and reverence as he contemplates the Supreme Lord's magnificent power and opulence. Many pure
Because the Supreme Lord's potencies are unlimited, they are also inconceivable. For example, Kṛṣṇa creates all the species of life and yet He has no connection with them. The
Glorifying the Lord as King Kulaśekhara does in this prayer awakens in us the proper mood of appreciation for the Lord's greatness and also helps us understand our position as His insignificant servants.
Devotees are always pleased to hear bona fide verses proclaiming the glories of the Lord's holy names. We like to be reminded and encouraged to always chant and hear the holy names with great attention and devotion.
As a pure devotee of Lord Kṛṣṇa, King Kulaśekhara naturally worships the holy names of the Lord. Here he compares them to a medicine for curing the disease of
In previous ages in India, a criminal would sometimes be strapped to a chair and immersed in water almost to the point of drowning. Upon being brought up, he felt great relief—only to be plunged under again by his torturers. Similarly, the times when we are pain-free and happy are like the few seconds of relief the prisoner feels when he is brought up from under water. The basic principle of material life is suffering.
Therefore we should be very eager to receive the medicine that will cure all our diseases. The word
At the beginning of the Tenth Canto of the
As with any bona fide medicine, one should take the nectarean potion of the holy name under the guidance of experts, in this case sages and the spiritual master. The Supreme Lord's names vary with His different pastimes and relationships with His pure devotees. He appeared as the son of Mother Yaśodā and also as the son of Mother Devakī, and therefore He is named Devakī-nandana and Yaśodā-nandana. One should receive the Lord's authorized names from the spiritual master in disciplic succession.
No matter how expert a swimmer one may be, one cannot survive for long in a vast sea like the Pacific Ocean. Similarly, no matter how expert a materialist one may be, whether a
King Kulaśekhara recommends the constant chanting of God's names as the way out of
The six Gosvāmīs of Vṛndāvana achieved the perfect state of attraction for the holy names, chanting and hearing almost twenty-four hours daily. Prabhupāda writes, "Of course, we should not imitate him [Rūpa Gosvāmī], but the devotees of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement must at least be very careful to complete their sixteen rounds, their minimum amount of prescribed chanting.
Continuous chanting of the holy name with great relish (
Whatever a person thinks of at the time of death determines his next life. This is another reason for chanting the holy names constantly. If we can chant at the difficult hour of death, we will guarantee our return home, back to Godhead, without a doubt.
By contrast, Kulaśekhara points out the great advantage of becoming the servant of the Supreme Lord. Lord Nārāyaṇa is the ruler of all the worlds (
akāmaḥ sarva-kāmo vā mokṣa-kāma udāra-dhīḥ
tīvreṇa bhakti-yogena yajeta puruṣaṁ param
"A person who has broader intelligence, whether he be full of all material desire, without any material desire, or desiring liberation, must by all means worship the supreme whole, the Personality of Godhead."
Service to Lord Nārāyaṇa culminates in our rejoining Him in the eternal Vaikuṇṭha planets. There the servants of the Lord share almost equally in His opulences. As Śrīla Prabhupāda used to say, "Become great by serving the great." But despite the overwhelming advantages of serving Lord Nārāyaṇa, we still misdirect our service in the pitiful way King Kulaśekhara describes here.
Sometimes a person adopts the impersonal conception of the Absolute Truth and thinks that by practicing austerities and cultivating knowledge he will eventually become equal with the Supreme in all respects: "I will give up serving and become the Self," he thinks. This resistance to
In this connection, Śrīla Prabhupāda tells the story of a man whose burning desire was to serve the greatest person. The man was born into a small village, where he became attracted to serving the village chief. He was very happy in this capacity and tried to please the chief in many ways. But one day a district governor visited the village, and the servant came to understand that his local chief was also a servant—of the governor. He then asked to be transferred to the service of the greater master. The governor accepted him into his service, and the man was again satisfied trying to please his new master. But then he saw that the governor was paying taxes and offering obeisances to the king. The man who wanted to serve the greatest managed to transfer himself into the king's direct service. Now he was completely satisfied, and the king treated him as a favorite servant. But one day the man saw that the king went off alone into the woods to worship and serve an ascetic. The king's servant later approached that
There are five major
bhavantam evānucaran nirantaraḥ
"By serving You constantly, one is freed from all material desires and is completely pacified. When shall I engage as Your permanent eternal servant and always feel joyful to have such a perfect master?" (Cc.
Another reason a foolish
jātānurāgo druta-citta uccaiḥ
unmāda-van nṛtyati loka-bāhyaḥ
"By chanting the holy name of the Lord, one comes to the stage of love of Godhead. Then the devotee is fixed in his vow as an eternal servant of the Lord, and he gradually becomes very much attached to a particular name and form of the Lord. As his heart melts with ecstatic love, he laughs very loudly or cries and shouts. Sometimes he sings and dances like a madman, for he is indifferent to public opinion."
Devotees in the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement may be shy at first, but they soon learn to forget their inhibitions while publicly chanting the holy names and dancing. They do this as a service to the Lord, for the welfare of all people, and they also find it ecstatic. In his
A devotee finds full satisfaction in reverently worshiping his Lord, appreciating His personal features. And while rapt in worshiping the Lord, a Vaiṣṇava does not worry much about his own sustenance. In modern cities, by contrast, earning one's livelihood has become an exaggerated endeavor that takes one's full energy, day and night, leaving no time left for God, except perhaps on Sunday, the day of rest.
The Vedic philosophy teaches that the top priority in life should be reawakening our relationship with the Lord. Therefore a sensible man should never allow himself to get so wrapped up in his material duties that they sap all his energy and kill his desire for serving Kṛṣṇa. Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, who was both a great Vaiṣṇava and a responsible magistrate in the Indian government, said that we should balance our material and spiritual needs, but that we should favor the latter. In other words, we should earn our livelihood in the spirit of simple living and high thinking.
An ideal service for a householder is Deity worship, either at home or in the temple. As one cleans the altar, cooks, or dresses the Deity, one should relish the nectar of meditating on the Lord's lotus feet, as King Kulaśekhara says in this prayer
One of the great blessings of Deity worship is that it provides us with a concrete image to meditate on. Thus Deity worship, in conjunction with descriptions of the Lord found in authorized
"His lotus feet are placed over the whorls of the lotuslike hearts of great mystics. On His chest is the Kaustubha jewel, engraved with a beautiful calf, and there are other jewels on His shoulders. His complete torso is garlanded with fresh flowers" (
"Kṛṣṇa's face is decorated with ornaments, such as earrings resembling sharks. His ears are beautiful, His cheeks are brilliant, and His smiling face is attractive to everyone. Whoever sees Lord Kṛṣṇa sees a festival. His face and body are fully satisfying for everyone to see, but the devotees are angry at the creator for the disturbance caused by the momentary blinking of their eyes" (
Devotional service to Lord Kṛṣṇa gradually spiritualizes and beautifies all one's senses. Ordinary people may not see how a Vaiṣṇava is being transformed, for only a devotee can appreciate the actual beauty of other devotees. Therefore Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī cautions us in his
Often, however, the transforming power of devotional service is dramatic. Śrīla Prabhupāda would sometimes recall how when he first met many of his future disciples, they were dirty, morose hippies. But as they took to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, Prabhupāda said, they became like bright-faced angels from Vaikuṇṭha.
In the course of the Lord's pastimes, the Lord will sometimes personally cause dramatic changes in His devotees' bodies. As Lord Kṛṣṇa entered Mathurā He met a young hunchback girl who anointed Him with sandalwood pulp that had been meant for King Kaṁsa, and in return for her service the Lord straightened her body and changed her into a beautiful girl. Similarly, Lord Caitanya instantly cured the leper Vāsudeva. The ultimate bodily transformation takes place when a devotee gains his
A devotee becomes beautiful by humbling himself in the dust as he offers obeisances to the Lord. By contrast, a proud person who is trying to impress the opposite sex with his or her so-called beauty will avoid bowing in the dust. But King Kulaśekhara recommends it as a kind of beauty treatment. True beauty means that which is pleasing to Lord Kṛṣṇa.
The devotees' eyes become beautiful by seeing the most beautiful form of Kṛṣṇa. A reflection of Kṛṣṇa's radiance shines in the eyes of devotional mystics. Those who saw His Divine Grace Śrīla Prabhupāda saw this radiance in his eyes.
The spotless intelligence referred to here is one that is cleansed of all doubts and filled with pure faith in the Lord. One who has attained such clear
Here the poet orders each of his senses to cooperate in serving the Lord. The spirit soul is higher than the senses, and so it is right that he should order them:
indriyāni parāṇy āhur indriyebyaḥ paraṁ manaḥ
manasas tu parā buddhir yo buddheḥ paratas tu saḥ
"The working senses are superior to dull matter; mind is higher than the senses; intelligence is still higher than the mind; and he [the soul] is even higher than the intelligence" (Bg.
Texts 19 and 20 of
Each of our senses may help or hinder us in devotional service. If we allow even one sense free rein, it can seriously distract our mind, just as a gust of wind can sweep away an unanchored sailboat on the ocean. The Supreme Personality of Godhead has senses, and so do we, and our perfection lies in serving Hṛṣīkeśa (the Lord of the senses) with all of our senses. We may engage our senses in the service of Kṛṣṇa or in the service of Māyā, illusion. The choice is vividly shown in the verses by Kulaśekhara and Śaunaka Ṛṣi.
For example, our sincere singing (
One can best serve the Lord's senses by serving His devotees. Śrīla Prabhupāda states, "Kṛṣṇa is the property of His pure, unconditioned devotees, and as such only the devotees can deliver Kṛṣṇa to another devotee; Kṛṣṇa is never obtainable directly" (
We should engage not only our senses but also our mind in the Lord's service. The mind, after all, provides the impetus for the actions of all the bodily limbs. So thinking of Kṛṣṇa is the basis of all devotional service. As the Lord instructs in the
Remembrance of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the goal of all spiritual practices. One moment's remembrance of Lord Kṛṣṇa is the greatest fortune, and a moment's forgetfulness of Him is the greatest loss. Therefore even the important religious duties mentioned in this verse become null and void if they do not lead to remembrance of Kṛṣṇa. Studying the scriptures, visiting temples, observing vows—none of these is unimportant or dispensable for devotees. King Kulaśekhara, therefore, condemns them only when they are improperly performed in the name of religion. For example, the studies and meditations of the impersonalists, who deride the personal, spiritual form of the Absolute Truth, are useless. Other useless acts would include austerities performed for political ends or demigod worship aimed at winning material boons. The renunciant may become very skinny, but he will not please the Lord, and therefore he himself will not be pleased at heart. So what is the use of his austerities? As stated in the
ārādhito yadi haris tapasā tataḥ kim
nārādhito yadi haris tapasā tataḥ kim
nāntar bahir yadi haris tapasā tataḥ kim
"If one is worshiping Lord Hari, what is the use of severe penances? And if one is not worshiping Lord Hari, what is the use of severe penances? If one can understand that Lord Hari is all-pervading, what is the use of severe penances? And if one cannot understand that Lord Hari is all-pervading, what is the use of severe penances?"
The successful devotee has learned to think of the Lord in every conceivable circumstance. Thinking of Kṛṣṇa is not something to be practiced only when we are removed from our daily occupation, as in solitary meditation. Rather, Lord Kṛṣṇa instructed Arjuna to "remember Me and fight." In other words, we are meant to carry out our daily duties and at the same time think of Kṛṣṇa. Lord Caitanya's injunction to always chant the names of Kṛṣṇa is the same instruction, given in such a way that we can happily and easily follow it. In the advanced stage, a devotee effortlessly remembers Kṛṣṇa out of spontaneous love. In the beginning and intermediate stages, one can also think of Kṛṣṇa day and night, by chanting the holy name and molding one's activities in His service, under the direction of a pure devotee of the Lord.
This is a bold challenge to Cupid, who can usually subdue everyone, including aspiring transcendentalists. As Lord Kapila says to His mother, "Just try to understand the mighty strength of My
A devotee can challenge Kāmadeva (Cupid) in such a feisty way because devotees constantly meditate on Lord Kṛṣṇa, who destroys Cupid's influence. Here King Kulaśekhara is giving fair warning to Kāmadeva to leave the king's mind or risk destruction for a second time. The reference here is to an incident in which Kāmadeva tried to shoot his arrows at Lord Śiva to arouse lust in him. Lord Śiva retaliated by burning Kāmadeva to ashes with his glance. Kāmadeva should have learned his lesson from that incident. If not, King Kulaśekhara warns that Lord Kṛṣṇa will have no trouble destroying Kāmadeva with His disc and freeing His devotee's mind of lust.
Kāmadeva is also called Madana, a name that means "one who attracts." But Lord Kṛṣṇa is known as Madana-mohana, "the bewilderer of Cupid." In other words, Kṛṣṇa is so transcendentally attractive that anyone who absorbs his mind in Him will not be troubled by sex desire. Furthermore, Lord Kṛṣṇa's consort, Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, is called Madana-mohana-mohinī because She alone can captivate even Kṛṣṇa.
In all the world's religions, ascetics have practiced renunciation, and Kāmadeva always tests them and gives them trouble. Often, despite one's best attempts at purification, one thinks of the opposite sex at the time of death. Then one has to come back in the cycle of birth and death, to be again attracted and again suffer the miseries of material life. Even the powerful mystic Viśvāmitra became a victim of the beauty of Menakā, united with her, and begot Śakuntalā.
yad-avadhi mama cetaḥ kṛṣṇa-pādāravinde
nava-nava-rasa-dhāmany udyataṁ rantum āsīt
bhavati mukha-vikāraḥ suṣṭhu niṣṭhīvanaṁ ca
"Since my mind has been engaged in the service of the lotus feet of Lord Kṛṣṇa and I have been enjoying ever-new transcendental pleasure in that service, whenever I think of sex with a woman my face at once turns from it, and I spit at the thought."
In previous verses King Kulaśekhara has instructed his own mind to be fixed at the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa, and now he instructs his readers to fix their minds on Him as well. He gives some of the Lord's innumerable names, which describe His qualities and pastimes. Devotees are attracted to serving a specific aspect of the Supreme Lord according to their specific
In this verse King Kulaśekhara instructs us to attain
Why does King Kulaśekhara deem as worthless all activities except fixing the mind on Kṛṣṇa? Because all other acts and thoughts are temporary and thus lead to unending entanglement in material misery. As Śrīla Prabhupāda writes in his
Like other Vaiṣṇavas' prayers, King Kulaśekhara's are characterized by single-minded intensity. A critic might say his attitude doesn't embody the "golden mean" praised in Greek wisdom. The critic might ask, "What's wrong with sometimes serving Kṛṣṇa and sometimes enjoying yourself in sense gratification? Why be so fanatical as to avoid even glancing at impious persons? And why focus exclusively on the Deity of Lord Viṣṇu?" These questions are not to be answered by reason alone. The devotee's exclusive intensity is dictated by love. It is unreasonable to ask someone in love to be interested in something other than his beloved.
bhaktyā tv ananyayā śakya aham evaṁ-vidho 'rjuna
jñātuṁ draṣṭuṁ ca tattvena praveṣṭuṁ ca parantapa
"My dear Arjuna, only by undivided devotional service can I be understood as I am, standing before you, and can thus be seen directly. Only in this way can you enter into the mysteries of My understanding" (
The stage of Kṛṣṇa consciousness King Kulaśekhara desires is not artificial but is the original state of the living being. He is therefore calling out to the Lord to invoke His mercy so that he can return to his original, undistracted, blissful state of
This verse is startling for its repetition of the word "servant" seven times. One can almost picture all the servants of the Lord whom Kulaśekhara wishes to serve. Direct servants of Lord Kṛṣṇa are Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī or Lord Balarāma and other
To consider oneself a servant of all the Vaiṣṇavas and to put their foot-dust on one's head is not demeaning; it is the best way to please the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Kṛṣṇa. Prahlāda Mahārāja told his father that unless one humbly serves the Vaiṣṇavas and "bathes" in the dust of their lotus feet, one can never attain devotional service to Kṛṣṇa.
King Kulaśekhara says that if the Lord grants this prayer it will be the display of His most cherished mercy. But why does he ask to be
ye me bhakta-janāḥ pārtha na me bhaktāś ca te janāḥ
mad bhaktānāṁ ca ye bhaktās te me bhaktatamāḥ matāḥ
"My dear Pārtha, those who say they are My devotees are not My devotees, but those who claim to be devotees of My devotees are actually My devotees."
The pure devotee's chief aim is to please his worshipable Lord, and a wise Vaiṣṇava knows what will please Him best—becoming the servant, many times removed, of the Lord's bona fide servants. It is because the servants of God are so dear to the Lord that one can please Him best by pleasing them. Śrīla Prabhupāda compared the process to an ordinary person's attempt to please a very great man. Normally an ordinary man cannot even approach the great man, but if by good fortune he is able to please the great man's pet dog, then he can quickly achieve the favor of the celebrated person.
Another reason a devotee wishes to serve through other devotees is that he is naturally humble. He wants to take that place below, rather than push himself forward. He wants to serve all the devotees, or even worship the place where they have walked. The genuine devotee does not rashly presume that he is a member of the inner circle of the Lord's most dear ones. Lord Caitanya has advised us that if we really wish to chant the holy name constantly, we should consider ourselves "lower that the straw in the street, devoid of all sense of false prestige, and ready to offer all respects to others." We should serve not only recognized devotees but all living entities, by giving them Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
At first our tongues may be unwilling to chant the Lord's names. Describing the neophyte chanter, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura states, "Some bear only the burden; others appreciate the true worth of things." Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī also recognizes the plight of the beginner and encourages him to pursue his chanting even though it seems dry and unpleasant: "The holy name, character, pastimes, and activities of Kṛṣṇa are all transcendentally sweet like sugar candy. Although the tongue of one afflicted by the jaundice of
We may also take heart in the example of Nāmācārya Haridāsa Ṭhākura. Although born in a Muslim family, he received the mercy of the holy name and began to chant Hare Kṛṣṇa constantly. In this way he achieved the highest perfection of love of Godhead. Indeed, he was such an exalted devotee that Lord Caitanya Himself praised him "as if speaking with five mouths." We cannot imitate Haridāsa Ṭhākura, but it is encouraging to know that although one may be lowborn, one can overcome all obstacles by the mercy of the holy name. Moreover, Haridāsa Ṭhākura always remained very humble and wanted to remain aware of his material disqualifications. He therefore did not want to associate too intimately with Lord Caitanya, and he did not attempt to enter the temple at Jagannātha Purī. Cultivating humility in the mood of Haridāsa Ṭhākura is an absolute requirement for one who wishes to taste the nectar of the holy name and to chant constantly.
The honey within the holy name is remembrance of Kṛṣṇa. That is why chanting the name brings ecstasy. As Śrīla Prabhupāda writes, "The more one chants the names of Kṛṣṇa, the more one becomes attached. Thus service by
jayati jayati nāmānanda-rūpaṁ murārer
paramam amṛtam ekaṁ jīvanaṁ bhūṣaṇaṁ me
"All glories, all glories to the all-blissful holy name of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, which causes the devotee to give up all conventional religious duties, meditation, and worship. When somehow or other uttered even once by a living entity, the holy name awards him liberation. The holy name of Kṛṣṇa is the highest nectar. It is my very life and my only treasure" (
One may wonder, Is this an exaggeration or perhaps an expression of wishful thinking? The answer is no, this verse describes the practical experience of King Kulaśekhara, a pure devotee. Moreover, such absorption in various services to the Lord is possible not only for King Kulaśekhara but for all sincere devotees. Such twenty-four-hour engagement in the Lord's service is rarely possible at once, but we can take encouragement from Lord Kṛṣṇa's words in the
King Kulaśekhara first states,
The preacher of Kṛṣṇa consciousness should offer mental obeisances to the recipients of his message. Lord Caitanya advised His followers,
King Kulaśekhara says that he recites the name of Nārāyaṇa at every moment. Śrīla Prabhupāda advised his followers to do the same: "In our Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement we are teaching our followers to chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa
To chant all the time one has to follow Lord Caitanya's advice—to think oneself lower than the straw in the street and offer all respects to others. In this way one combines reciting the Lord's names and offering obeisances. A person who does not offer respects to God and all God's creatures, who is proud of his material acquisitions, cannot call upon the Lord sincerely. Even if he does occasionally chant the Lord's name, he does so with complacency. A devotee who realizes his actual situation of dependence on Kṛṣṇa calls on the name of the Lord the way a child calls upon his mother. And as stated in previous verses, such a chanter tastes unprecedented nectar in the holy name.
King Kulaśekhara also reflects on the infallible truth of Nārāyaṇa. The conclusion (
And so King Kulaśekhara has offered four activities that should consume all our time without distraction: offering obeisances to the Lord, worshiping Him, chanting His holy names, and thinking of the conclusive truths concerning Him. These practices are included in the ninefold process of devotional service Prahlāda Mahārāja describes in the Seventh Canto of the
The Supreme Personality of Godhead manifests innumerable inconceivable qualities, and to remember and glorify these qualities His devotees address Him by innumerable names. The names themselves are fully invested with the power of the Lord. As Lord Caitanya states in His
Śrī Yāmunācārya, who appeared in the same
na māṁ duṣkṛtino mūḍhāḥ prapadyante narādhamāḥ
māyayāpahṛta-jñānā āsuraṁ bhāvam āśritāḥ
"Those miscreants who are grossly foolish, who are the lowest among mankind, whose knowledge is stolen by illusion, and who partake of the atheistic nature of demons do not surrender to Me."
As His Divine Grace Śrīla Prabhupāda traveled worldwide spreading the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, he noted that most people could not understand the simplest rudiments of transcendental knowledge. The first lesson of spiritual knowledge is that the self is not the body but rather the soul, and that therefore the soul is the truly important thing. But in Western countries, even among the scholarly elite, people do not understand the nature of the soul, and therefore they fail to understand the real mission of human life-understanding God. One who cannot understand the soul cannot understand God, for the soul is a minute particle of God, and failing to understand the particle, one fails to understand the whole. Instead of even trying to understand the spirit soul, most people ignore it or, even worse, deny its existence entirely. And godless scientists encourage the people in their ignorance by propounding the theory that life arises from matter. Śrīla Prabhupāda decried this atheistic theory and exposed the fact that it could not be proved. Thus he said that civilized countries, especially in the West, were living in a fool's paradise.
King Kulaśekhara notes that we ignore God and His many names and activities at our peril. This peril is not only individual but collective. Materialists try to live in a technological paradise, but the paradise is lost when war breaks out or other calamities strike. Although Śrīla Prabhupāda noted that fools become angry when called fools, he never hesitated to boldly criticize the foolish materialists in his books and lectures. But he didn't simply criticize: he offered the teachings and the example that can bring relief to the whole world. He taught the members of his International Society for Krishna Consciousness to live in a way that leaves ample time for spiritual advancement. The Society is meant to be an example for the whole world, a community whose members have reduced their problems and are simply interested living a God-centered life.
Though the four kinds of unsurrendered persons Kṛṣṇa mentions in the
In this verse King Kulaśekhara gives us glimpses of Lord Kṛṣṇa in some of His various
Without a jewel, a ring-setting looks empty, and so without Kṛṣṇa, Garuḍa would have no extraordinary importance, although he is a large and powerful bird. Without Kṛṣṇa, the
When a soul misuses his free will, he tries to become the center of existence and thinks he can do without Kṛṣṇa. This mistake is illustrated in the story of Satrājit, who once possessed a wondrous jewel called Syamantaka, which he wore in a locket around his neck. When Satrājit entered Dvārakā, Kṛṣṇa asked him to deliver the jewel to the king, Ugrasena. But instead Satrājit installed the jewel in a temple, worshiped it, and gained 170 pounds of gold daily. Because of his claim that the jewel did not belong to Kṛṣṇa, King Satrājit and his family suffered in many ways. The king found peace only when he realized that the Syamantaka should be given to the supreme jewel, Lord Kṛṣṇa. And so he gave both the jewel and his daughter, Satyabhāmā, to the Lord.
hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa hare hare
hare rāma hare rāma rāma rāma hare hare
iti ṣoḍaśakaṁ nāmnāṁ kali-kalmaṣa-nāśanam
nātaḥ parataropāyaḥ sarva-vedeṣu dṛśyate
"Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. These sixteen names composed of thirty-two syllables are the only means of counteracting the evil effects of the Kali-yuga. After searching through all the Vedic literature, one cannot find a method of religion for this age so sublime as the chanting of the Hare Kṛṣṇa
King Kulaśekhara declares that the
āpannaḥ saṁsṛtiṁ ghorāṁ yan-nāma vivaśo gṛṇan
tataḥ sadyo vimucyeta yad bibheti svayaṁ bhayam
"Living beings who are entangled in the complicated meshes of birth and death can be freed immediately by even unconsciously chanting the holy name of Kṛṣṇa, which is feared by fear personified" (
Next Kulaśekhara says that the
paritas tvāṁ hari-nāma saṁśrayāmi
"O Hari-nāma! The tips of the toes of Your lotus feet are constantly being worshiped by the glowing radiance emanating from the string of gems known as the
King Kulaśekhara glorifies the
King Kulaśekhara also praises the
My colleague Gopīparāṇadhana Prabhu notes, "
Aside from jewels,
The presence of
The process of
By the grace of the Supreme Lord, a pure devotee possesses this
Of all the verses of the
Later in the Eighth Chapter Lord Kṛṣṇa says that the exact moment of death is crucial: "Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body,... that state he will attain without fail" (
The practical difficulty, brought up in Kulaśekhara's verse, is that although it is crucial to remember Kṛṣṇa at the time of death, that time also produces the greatest disruption of one's physical and mental functions. Śrīla Prabhupāda explained that death occurs when the body becomes so painful that the soul finds it unbearable to live in the body any longer. Therefore the paradox: At the time when we should be the most meditative, fixing our mind on Kṛṣṇa and preparing to transfer ourselves to the spiritual world, we are also faced with the greatest possible distraction in the form of agonizing pain. Thus here King Kulaśekhara prays to die now, in good health, so he will be able to absorb his mind in thoughts of Kṛṣṇa's lotus feet.
This verse is similar to Text 20, wherein the poet instructs his mind, his tongue, his head, and other parts of his body to serve the Lord with full, reverent devotion. Here King Kulaśekhara also offers us some succinct reasons
The Supreme Absolute Truth is complete along with His personal energies, who serve and worship Him. Just as a king is complete only when he interacts with his loving subjects, so the Para-brahman is complete along with his worshipers. And the devotees are fully satisfied only when rendering devotional service to the Lord. Throughout his prayers, King Kulaśekhara advocates the relationship of the eternal servant with his eternal Lord. He never suggests that the living entities can become one in all respects with the Supreme, or that both the servants and the Lord will ultimately lose their identity in impersonal Brahman. The impersonal theory of the Absolute is an interpretive one, and does not come directly from the Vedic scriptures. The
aparimitā dhruvās tanu-bhṛto yadi sarva-gatās
tarhi na śāsyateti niyamo dhruva netarathā
samam anujānatāṁ yad amataṁ mata-duṣṭatayā
"O supreme eternal! If the embodied living entities were eternal and all-pervading like You, then they would not be under Your control. But if the living entities are accepted as minute energies of Your Lordship, then they are at once subject to Your supreme control. Therefore real liberation entails surrender by the living entities to Your control, and that surrender will make them happy. In that constitutional position only can they be controllers. Therefore, men with limited knowledge who advocate the monistic theory that God and the living entities are equal in all respects are actually misleading themselves and others."
Worship of the Supreme Lord is auspicious and purifying. It clears all dirt from our heart, including the illusion that we are the prime mover in our world and the center of enjoyment. To worship someone or something greater than ourselves is natural, but we often mistake a great person or demigod as the proper object of worship. In the
King Kulaśekhara's prayer calls to mind similar prayers in the
In this prayer King Kulaśekhara speaks of the
This verse is, therefore, a call to one's free will. It is a prayer to one's own self to not misuse one's God-given faculties but to engage them in the Lord's service and worship. Because Kṛṣṇa is supremely independent and we are part and parcel of Him, we have minute free will, and so the all-important decision is in our own hands. As Prabhupāda would say, "Man is the architect of his own fortune." Hearing the prayers of King Kulaśekhara inspires us to use our free will properly.
Hearing authorized descriptions of the Supreme Lord from the Vedic literature should produce ecstasy. This is the symptom of genuine Kṛṣṇa consciousness
The process of
tad aśma-sāraṁ hṛdayaṁ batedaṁ
yad gṛhyamāṇair hari-nāma-dheyaiḥ
netre jalaṁ gātra-ruheṣu harṣaḥ
"Certainly that heart is steel-framed which, in spite of one's chanting the holy name of the Lord with concentration, does not change and feel ecstasy, at which time tears fill the eyes and the hairs stand on end" (
This does not negate, however, the importance of ecstasy. In His
One who is fortunate enough to get the association of a pure devotee of the Lord can rectify all these bad habits. Otherwise, one will remain steel-hearted and unfit to advance in devotional service. Śrīla Prabhupāda writes, "A complete progressive march on the return path home, back to Godhead, will depend on the instruction of the revealed scriptures directed by realized devotees." By serving the pure devotee one will automatically experience the progressive and ecstatic stages of
The answer is that King Kulaśekhara is simply giving us a realistic picture of the alternatives faced by the living being in the clutches of the material energy. We need a sober view of Māyā's powers if we hope to extricate ourselves. As the
vidyāṁ cāvidyāṁ ca yas tad vedobhayaṁ saha
avidyayā mṛtyuṁ tīrtvā vidyayāmṛtam aśnute
"Only one who can learn the process of nescience and that of transcendental knowledge side by side can transcend the influence of repeated birth and death and enjoy the full blessings of immortality." The right choice for human beings is
How to use all of one's faculties in Kṛṣṇa's service was exemplified by Mahārāja Ambarīṣa, who engaged his mind in meditating on the Lord's lotus feet, his words in glorifying the Lord's transcendental qualities, his hands in cleaning the Lord's temple, his ears in hearing the Lord's pastimes, his eyes in seeing the Lord's transcendental forms, his body in touching the bodies of the Lord's devotees, his sense of smell in smelling the flowers offered to the Deity, his tongue in tasting the
If despite warnings we follow the wanton dictates of our senses, those senses will lead us into the ditch of deep illusion, just as an unreined horse might drag a chariot into a ditch. If this happens—if we fall deep into sinful life—then our only recourse is to call sincerely upon the Supreme Lord to extricate us. King Kulaśekhara's metaphor is not imaginary, for in India a person will sometimes accidentally fall into a dry, overgrown well known as an
Similarly, we cannot extricate ourselves from the deep well of material life unless we grab the rope of mercy lowered by Kṛṣṇa or His representative. As Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī prays in his
manasija-phaṇi-juṣṭe labdha-pāto 'smi duṣṭe
timira-gahana-rūpe hanta saṁsāra-kūpe
upanaya mama haste bhakti-rajjuṁ namas te
"Alas, I have fallen into the deep, dark, filthy well of
In a similar mood, Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī says the following in the fifth verse of his
kuru tvaṁ phut-kārān avati sa yathā tvaṁ mana itaḥ
"The highwaymen of lust and his accomplices—greed, etc.—have waylaid me and bound my neck with the horrible ropes of sinful activities. O mind, please scream out for help, crying 'O Kṛṣṇa! O killer of Baka, I am on the verge of death!' If you do this, then Kṛṣṇa will certainly save me."
To be aware of danger is itself a blessing. If we see the disaster of death and rebirth approaching, we will naturally call out to Kṛṣṇa for help. But if we remain in ignorance we will foolishly continue trying to enjoy sense pleasure, not recognizing that sense gratification implicates us in repeated birth and death. However, once we begin sincerely calling on Kṛṣṇa, in full awareness that we are in mortal danger and that He is our only protector, we are already saved.
Youth is often blind and deaf to the warnings of oncoming old age and death. A passionate young person may think that such admonitions are for old-timers who do not know how to enjoy. Many so-called philosophers encourage this hedonistic attitude, which is precisely the attitude King Kulaśekhara is condemning in this verse. The hedonists advise, "Enjoy as much as you can while you're young, because you only live once." Not only is this advice morally unsound, but its premise is untrue: according to Vedic wisdom, our present life is only one in a series of innumerable lives we've experienced and will experience in innumerable bodies. Thus hedonism is a prescription for disaster, for the karmic reactions to a misspent youth will cause us to suffer in this lifetime and the next. In his poem
King Kulaśekhara berates the foolish old person whose only response to his failing health is to seek some medicine. No medicine in the material world can prevent old age and disease, though modern allopathic medicine may temporarily cover the symptoms. The only medicine that can actually bring relief is the Kṛṣṇa elixir—Kṛṣṇa consciousness. It is sheer folly to turn solely to doctors in old age instead of to Kṛṣṇa.
One can see enlightenment among the elderly at pilgrimage sites in India, especially in Vṛndāvana. There one sees many old people visiting temples with intense devotion early in the morning. Hundreds of old people walk the circumambulation (
This verse reminds us of the verse in the
ahany ahani bhūtāni
kim āścaryam ataḥ param
"Day after day countless living entities in this world go to the kingdom of death. Still, those who remain aspire for a permanent situation here. What could be more amazing than this?"
Both King Kulaśekhara and Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira use the word
One might argue that chanting the holy names is not
In 1970, when devotees of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement were publicly chanting
Śrīla Prabhupāda quoted other verses from the
If speculative discussion on transcendental subjects is less valuable than chanting the holy names, then mundane talks are absolutely worthless. Unfortunately, most people are unaware that the goal of human life is liberation from birth and death. So they find nothing wrong in chattering away from morning till night on topics totally irrelevant to their liberation. The
Ordinary people may condemn the Lord's devotees as ignorant fools, but the truly learned never do so. As Prahlāda Mahārāja states, "One who has dedicated his life to Kṛṣṇa through the nine methods of
Even the sage Nārada was condemned for his devotional activities: Dakṣa cursed him because he taught renunciation to Dakṣa's sons. Nārada remained tolerant, however, and continued traveling and preaching. The aim of Nārada and the devotees who follow his example is not to disrupt people's lives, but if their work is misunderstood, they must not abandon their duty but must continue their mission on behalf of the Lord. Śrīla Prabhupāda writes, "Because Nārada Muni and the members of his disciplic succession disrupt friendships and family life, they are sometimes accused of being
The sentiment King Kulaśekhara expresses here is echoed by Mādhavendra Purī in one of his verses: "Let the sharp moralist accuse me of being illusioned; I do not mind. Experts in Vedic activities may slander me as being misled, friends and relatives may call me frustrated, my brothers may call me a fool, the wealthy mammonites may point me out as mad, and the learned philosophers may assert that I am much too proud. Still my mind does not budge an inch from the determination to serve the lotus feet of Govinda, though I am unable to do so."
Even those who sincerely endeavor for self-improvement know that it is very hard to quell cherished ambitions. Sometimes these ambitions are so grandiose that we keep them secret, yet we cherish them within. An obscure, untalented man thinks he may one day become the dictator of the world. An unpublished poet dreams he will become the next Shakespeare. And so on. The materialists are always being encouraged to fan the fires of their ambition; even children are encouraged by their parents to "get ahead."
But pure devotees of the Lord are well aware that all worldly ambitions are useless. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, to instruct us, criticizes his own mind and asks, "Why are you after fame? Don't you know it is as worthless as the dung of a boar?" Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī uses an equally graphic metaphor to criticize
In contrast to a devotee, an impersonalist finds it impossible to cleanse his heart completely of materialistic ambition. Even after he subdues some of the grosser ambitions, he still maintains the impossible wish to "become God." Śrīla Prabhupāda called this desire to become one in all respects with the Absolute Truth "the last snare of Māyā." And the demigods, in their prayers to Kṛṣṇa while He was still in the womb of Devakī, have given the last word on the impersonalists' so-called liberation of merging with the Absolute Truth:
ye 'nye 'ravindākṣa vimukta-māninas
tvayy asta-bhāvād aviśuddha-buddhayaḥ
"O lotus-eyed Lord, although nondevotees who accept severe austerities and penances to achieve the highest position may think themselves liberated, their intelligence is impure. They fall down from their position of imagined superiority because they have no regard for Your lotus feet" (
King Kulaśekhara advises us how to rid ourselves of all material ambitions: We should chant the holy names of God—Mukunda, Nṛsiṁha, and Janārdana. These are all names of Kṛṣṇa, and as such they are contained within the
The history of Dhruva Mahārāja illustrates the purifying power of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Dhruva sought out the Supreme Lord as a way to obtain a material kingdom. But after he had performed severe austerities and came face to face with Lord Viṣṇu, he declared,
Love of God is dormant within everyone, and to realize that love is to fulfill the purest ambition. The Vaiṣṇava
King Kulaśekhara addresses this verse to those who are renounced and also intelligent—two qualities essential for becoming fully Kṛṣṇa conscious.
As for renunciation, it is the basis of advancement on the path of
Intelligence is also required to perform devotional service, especially to take up the chanting of the holy names. As Karabhājana Muni says to King Nimi in the
kṛṣṇa-varṇaṁ tviṣākṛṣṇaṁ sāṅgopāṅgāstra-pārṣadam
yajñair saṅkīrtana-prāyair yajanta hi su-medhasaḥ
"In the Age of Kali, intelligent persons perform congregational chanting of the holy names of God to worship the incarnation of Godhead who constantly sings the names of Kṛṣṇa. Although His complexion is not blackish, He is Kṛṣṇa Himself. He is accompanied by His associates, servants, weapons, and confidential companions."
Intelligence is not gauged by IQ examinations but by the ability to distinguish the permanent from the temporary, the true from the false, the good from the bad—and to act on that understanding. One can acquire such genuine intelligence only by hearing from a bona fide spiritual master and the authorized Vaiṣṇava scriptures. Then one will have the good sense to sacrifice immediate, temporary sense pleasures (
In the previous two verses King Kulaśekhara has expressed himself emphatically, raising his arms and chanting as loudly as he can. He has learned the most precious secret of existence and does not wish to hide it. That which is of such inestimable value—the
Especially in the present age, most people do not have sufficient good
King Kulaśekhara again expresses his lack of concern about suffering ill repute due to his intense devotion to Lord Kṛṣṇa. If devotional service resulted in such criticism hundreds of years ago in India, then how much more calumny must devotees undergo in modern countries that have no heritage of worshiping at the lotus feet of Śrī Kṛṣṇa! Therefore King Kulaśekhara gives us a realistic warning—and assurance not to be afraid of criticism.
When Lord Kṛṣṇa enjoyed His pastimes in Vṛndāvana five thousand years ago, the
A devotee knows that he is pleasing Lord Kṛṣṇa when he pleases the representative of Kṛṣṇa, and also when he feels spiritual satisfaction (
King Kulaśekhara tells us why he can endure criticism without much pain: He is feeling an abundance of love of Godhead, accompanied by varieties of ecstatic emotions, and he considers this to be so wonderful and honorable that he can easily tolerate the petty insults of nondevotees. This kind of indifference is the effect of advancement in chanting the holy names, as explained in the following verse from
jātānurāgo druta-citta uccaiḥ
unmāda-van nṛtyati loka-bāhyaḥ
"By chanting the holy name of the Supreme Lord, one comes to the stage of love of Godhead. Then the devotee is fixed in his vow as an eternal servant of the Lord, and he gradually becomes very much attached to a particular name and form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As his heart melts with ecstatic love, he laughs very loudly or cries or shouts. Sometimes he sings and dances like a madman, for he is indifferent to public opinion."
Gopīparāṇadhana Prabhu notes, "This verse uses each of the eight grammatical cases of the word Kṛṣṇa, one after another." By this Kṛṣṇa-ized Sanskrit composition, the poet reveals various ways to approach Lord Kṛṣṇa's name and pastimes.
This verse is reminiscent of how Lord Caitanya (then known as Nimāi Paṇḍita) taught Sanskrit grammar when He was a sixteen-year-old schoolmaster. He opened His own
Here King Kulaśekhara addresses Lord Kṛṣṇa as the spiritual master of the three worlds, the killer of enemies, and the creator and maintainer of the universe. Although the Supreme Lord appoints intermediaries to represent Him as
Although one should not expect the Lord to come running to protect us or teach us, as if
King Kulaśekhara's prayers are all addressed to the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His various expansions and incarnations. Sometimes he addresses Lord Nārāyaṇa or Lord Rāma, but very frequently he specifies Lord Kṛṣṇa as his object of special attraction. According to the
ete cāṁśa-kalāḥ puṁsaḥ kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam
indrāri-vyākulaṁ lokaṁ mṛḍayanti yuge yuge
"All [these] incarnations are either plenary portions or portions of the plenary portions of the Lord, but Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the original Personality of Godhead Himself. In every age He protects the world through His different features when the world is disturbed by the enemies of Indra" (
In his famous "Govinda Prayers" in the
In Text 43 King Kulaśekhara directly used the name Kṛṣṇa nine times, while in the present verse he calls on Kṛṣṇa by names that refer to His pastimes. The names in this verse are all as good as the name Kṛṣṇa, since they all arise from
In this verse we also see a combination of personal devotion and objective appreciation of the Lord. One often finds this in the Vaiṣṇava poetry of the Ālvārs of South India, of whom Kulaśekhara is one. Within a few lines the
King Kulaśekhara addresses Lord Kṛṣṇa as the spiritual master of the three worlds, and he calls upon the Lord to protect him. One may question, "Since Lord Viṣṇu is already protecting all living beings, why should a devotee ask for personal protection?" But the
Śrīla Prabhupāda explains, "The Lord, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is already in charge of the maintenance of this creation by virtue of His plenary expansion Kṣīrodakśāyī Viṣṇu, but this maintenance is not direct. However, when the Lord says that He takes charge of His pure devotee, He actually takes direct charge" (
Even an ordinary man may have a daughter and a son; a famous man will have so many people praising him (or he may hire press agents to do so); and a powerful political leader will have less powerful political figures as his official servants. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is also a person, and therefore He also has family members, as well as servants, friends, and praisers. Since the Absolute Truth is the source of everything (
People doubt that God can have a father, mother, wife, or special friend. Some say that these relationships compromise the impartiality and unchangeability of the Supreme. But the Lord's transcendental relationships with His eternal associates do not compromise Him in any way. Rather, they add to His ever-increasing glory. Lord Kṛṣṇa does not actually need any of His friends, wives, and so on, but He allows them to associate with Him intimately because He is always pleased to reciprocate with loving devotees.
That the Lord's associates are not ordinary is proved by the fact that they often undergo extreme austerities or great sacrifices to become His friends or parents. For example, Vasudeva and Devakī, who took the role of Kṛṣṇa's father and mother, executed many lifetimes of austerity in preparation. Soon after His birth, Kṛṣṇa described to them what they had undergone in a previous life to receive the benediction of having Him as their son:
In His spiritual kingdom the Supreme Lord eternally enjoys loving relationships with His personal associates, but He is also present in all nooks and crannies of the material universes and in everyone's heart. In this way His influence is spread throughout all existence, both spiritual and material. Thus King Kulaśekhara says, "This entire universe is a display of Your magic power." Lord Kṛṣṇa is not a minor magician. He is Yogeśvara, the controller of all mystic potencies. In the
"For all these reasons," declares King Kulaśekhara, "I have no interest in anyone but You."
King Kulaśekhara mentions the
By the grace of Lord Caitanya, even the people of the earth planet, although unqualified in many ways, can also approach Lord Kṛṣṇa in devotional service. Indeed, Lord Caitanya is so magnanimous that He has given the residents of earth a great advantage over the demigods. That advantage is
At one time the whole world was known as Bhārata-varṣa, but now only India is known by that name. India is cited as the best place to achieve self-realization because it was in India that many
King Kulaśekhara reminds us of the proper functions of the various parts of the body. The head, for instance, is the center of all the senses, so we try to give it pleasure in many ways, but usually not by the humble act recommended here—bowing down before the Supreme Lord. Of course, bowing is not merely a mechanical act: the head should bow down accompanied by sincere feelings of devotion in the heart. Prostrating the body was an important part of the daily
This verse brings to mind the story of Ajāmila from the
"At the time of his death this Ajāmila helplessly and very loudly chanted the holy name of the Lord, Nārāyaṇa. That chanting alone has already freed him from the reactions of all sinful life. Therefore, O servants of Yamarāja, do not try to take him to your master for punishment in hellish conditions."
Ajāmila had chanted indirectly, calling out the name of his son, but because he uttered the holy name Nārāyaṇa he was saved from hell. He then went on to perfect his Kṛṣṇa consciousness and return home, back to Godhead. His "accidental" chanting of the holy name, therefore, awakened his original desire to serve the Lord. If even an extremely sinful person like Ajāmila could be saved by chanting the name Nārāyaṇa indirectly, then no one else should fail to achieve his utmost desires by chanting the blessed name Nārāyaṇa.
King Kulaśekhara speaks on behalf of all those who forget to chant the holy names. These verses are meant for all of us who are missing the opportunity of achieving perfection through chanting. If we do not call on the Supreme Lord, then we will have to face all kinds of miseries. Kulaśekhara mentions the pain of living in the womb. Lord Kapila provides graphic details of that ordeal in His teachings to His mother, Devahūti:
People refuse to recognize these facts, and that is one reason they do not take shelter of the holy name. Even if they are reminded of the pains they suffered in the past, they claim that it doesn't matter now because they are free from the pain. But a person who disregards natural and scriptural law guarantees that he will suffer the same torments he claims to have forgotten. Śrīla Prabhupāda writes, "One who does not take heed of these indications of suffering in human existence is said to be undoubtedly committing suicide" (
Vaiṣṇava poetry is filled with Vedic truths and can bring the utmost benefit, as well as pleasure to the ear and heart. In this single
King Kulaśekhara has previously spoken of perfections we can attain by using our mind and senses in the service of the Supreme Lord. Now he specifies that the ultimate perfection is
All Vaiṣṇavas are rightly situated, but even among devotees there are progressive states. In
For the most part, the third-class devotee (known as
One advances through the stages of perfection by applying oneself under the direction of the
One does not advance in devotional service as one does in the material world, by climbing up a social ladder or by working hard for economic development or by military strength. Rather, one has to give up all material "strengths" and designations and become as humble as a blade of grass. The basis of devotional service is chanting of the holy name, and according to Lord Caitanya one cannot chant constantly unless one offers all respects to others without expecting respect for oneself. Instead of trying to push oneself ahead while maintaining the contaminations of lust, anger, and greed in the heart, one has to become pure and realize oneself as the servant of God, His devotees, and all living beings.
The perfect stage of devotion is described in Text 25 of the
King Kulaśekhara also gives us the vision of constant meditation on Lord Viṣṇu. This can be attained by engaging oneself twenty-four hours a day in various services within the framework of the ninefold practices of
A complacent religionist may think a devotee need not call out for personal attention. "Lord Kṛṣṇa already knows everything, so there's no need for individual supplication." But according to the
A devotee does not wish to bother the Lord with any demands or petitions, yet calling for mercy does not contradict the selfless mood of service. A good example is Gajendra, who asked the Lord to release him from the jaws of a crocodile. Śrīla Prabhupāda writes,
Queen Kuntī made a similar special request in her prayers:
atha viśveśa viśvātman viśva-mūrte svakeṣu me
sneha-pāśam imaṁ chindhi dṛḍhaṁ pāṇḍuṣu vṛṣṇiṣu
"O Lord of the universe, soul of the universe, O personality of the form of the universe, please, therefore, sever my tie of affection for my kinsmen, the Pāṇḍavas and the Vṛṣṇis" (
Also, there are many moving songs by Vaiṣṇavas of the recent age in which they call out to the Lord for individual help on the path of devotional service. For example, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura sings in
Deeply considering his disqualifications and asking for special help, the devotee requests his savior to be compassionate. The devotee's recognition of his complete dependence on the Supreme Lord is a prerequisite for his purification. He knows that if Lord Hari does not respond, he has no one else to turn to.
King Kulaśekhara teaches us how to turn to Lord Kṛṣṇa at all times, whether in meditation while absorbed in His all-attractive name, form, and pastimes, or in desperation while sinking in the ocean of material life.
This is a picturesque view of Kṣīrodakaśāyī Viṣṇu, the expansion of Lord Kṛṣṇa who inhabits the spiritual planet Śvetadvīpa. In the
King Kulaśekhara describes Lord Viṣṇu as the killer of Madhu. Although in the form of Kṣīrodakaśāyī Viṣṇu the Lord did not kill Madhu, there is no contradiction in addressing the Supreme Lord by any of His pastime names. As Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja points out in his
The Kṣīrodakaśāyī form of Lord Viṣṇu is very rarely seen, even by advanced devotees. Sometimes when there is a crisis in universal management, Lord Brahmā goes to Śvetadvīpa to consult with Kṣīrodakaśāyī Viṣṇu. Brahmā sits on the bank of the milk ocean and chants the
The shower of spray from the milk ocean speckling the Lord's form mocks the impersonal conception of the Absolute Truth. The source of all incarnations is not an impersonal effulgence but the transcendental Lord Himself, the Supreme Person. King Kulaśekhara does not manufacture images but strictly follows the Vedic descriptions of the Lord of Śvetadvīpa.
King Kulaśekhara's declaration that the holy name drives away sins brings to mind a similar statement spoken by Nāmācārya Haridāsa Ṭhākura. First he quoted a verse that makes use of the analogy of the rising sun:
aṁhaḥ saṁharad akhilaṁ
sakṛd udayād eva sakala-lokasya
"As the rising sun immediately dissipates all the world's darkness, which is deep like an ocean, so the holy name of Lord Hari, if chanted once without offenses, dissipates all the reactions of a living being's sinful life. All glories to that holy name of the Lord, which is auspicious for the entire world" (Cc.
Next Haridāsa Ṭhākura explained the verse as follows: As the first glimpse of sunlight dissipates one's fear of thieves and ghosts, so with the first hint of offenseless chanting of the Lord's names, reactions of sinful life immediately disappear. If a devotee can continue to chant without offenses, he goes on to awaken ecstatic love for Kṛṣṇa.
Then Haridāsa Ṭhākura stated, "Liberation is the insignificant result derived from a glimpse of the awakening of offenseless chanting of the holy name." When Haridāsa made this claim, a ritualistic
Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura elaborately describes the stages of chanting the holy name in his
King Kulaśekhara says that one who has attained love of Kṛṣṇa has all other benedictions easily within his grip, including
bhaktis tvayi sthiratarā bhagavan yadi syād
daivena naḥ phalati divya-kiśora-mūrtiḥ
"My dear Lord, if I am engaged in firm devotional service unto You, then I can very easily perceive Your transcendental youthful form. And as far as liberation is concerned, she stands at my door with folded hands, waiting to serve me, and all material conveniences of religiosity, economic development, and sense gratification stand with her."
A pure devotee easily attains wealth and liberation, but he is not interested in them. As Śrīla Prabodhānanda Sarasvatī writes in his
Like a bee at the lotus feet of Lord Kṛṣṇa, King Kulaśekhara has made honey in the form of his exquisite poetry, which overflows with nectarean descriptions of the Supreme Lord. He has also cried out to the Lord for deliverance from the ocean of material suffering. By using a wide repertoire of metaphors, and by speaking from the depth of sincere Vaiṣṇava feelings, he has made his readers indebted to him. Now they may also become bees and drink the honey of the
Among the twenty-six qualities of a devotee, one is that he is a
The honey-sweet nectarean
madhuraṁ madhuraṁ vapur asya vibhor
madhuraṁ madhuraṁ vadanaṁ madhuram
"This transcendental body of Kṛṣṇa is very sweet, and His face is even sweeter. But His soft smile, which has the fragrance of honey, is sweeter still."
Following the śāstric tradition, King Kulaśekhara ends his poem with an auspicious benediction for his readers. We find many such benedictions in the
The Vaiṣṇava poet's blessing upon the reader is not merely a literary form. The
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda chose these potent verses for rendering as
adyaiva me viśatu mānasa-rāja-haṁsaḥ
"O Lord Kṛṣṇa, at this moment let the royal swan of my mind enter the tangled stems of the lotus of Your feet. How will it be possible for me to remember You at the time of death, when my throat will be choked up with mucus, bile, and air?"