SB 4.16: Praise of King Pṛthu by the Professional Reciters
Here the word muni-coditāḥ indicates instructions received from great sages and saintly persons. Although Mahārāja Pṛthu was simply enthroned on the royal seat and was not at that time exhibiting his godly powers, the reciters like the sūta, the māgadha and the vandī understood that King Pṛthu was an incarnation of God. They could understand this by the instructions given by the great sages and learned brāhmaṇas. We have to understand the incarnations of God by the instructions of authorized persons. We cannot manufacture a God by our own concoctions. As stated by Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura, sādhu-śāstra-guru: one has to test all spiritual matters according to the instructions of saintly persons, scriptures and the spiritual master. The spiritual master is one who follows the instructions of his predecessors, namely the sādhus, or saintly persons. A bona fide spiritual master does not mention anything not mentioned in the authorized scriptures. Ordinary people have to follow the instructions of sādhu, śāstra and guru. Those statements made in the śāstras and those made by the bona fide sādhu or guru cannot differ from one another.
Reciters like the sūta and the māgadha were confidentially aware that King Pṛthu was an incarnation of the Personality of Godhead. Although the King denied such praise because he was not at that time exhibiting his godly qualities, the reciters did not stop praising him. Rather, they were very pleased with the King, who, although actually an incarnation of God, was so humble and delightful in his dealings with devotees. In this connection we may note that previously (4.15.21) it was mentioned that King Pṛthu was smiling and was in a pleasant mood while speaking to the reciters. Thus we have to learn from the Lord or His incarnation how to become gentle and humble. The King’s behavior was very pleasing to the reciters, and consequently the reciters continued their praise and even foretold the King’s future activities, as they had been instructed by the sādhus and sages.
yo deva-varyo ’vatatāra māyayā
venāṅga-jātasya ca pauruṣāṇi te
vācas-patīnām api babhramur dhiyaḥ
In this verse the word māyayā means “by your causeless mercy.” The Māyāvādī philosophers explain the word māyā as meaning “illusion” or “falseness.” However, there is another meaning of māyā — that is, “causeless mercy.” There are two kinds of māyā: yoga-māyā and mahā-māyā. Mahā-māyā is an expansion of yoga-māyā, and both these māyās are different expressions of the Lord’s internal potencies. As stated in Bhagavad-gītā, the Lord appears through His internal potencies (ātma-māyayā). We should therefore reject the Māyāvāda explanation that the Lord appears in a body given by the external potency, the material energy. The Lord and His incarnation are fully independent and can appear anywhere and everywhere by virtue of the internal potency. Although born out of the so-called dead body of King Vena, King Pṛthu was still an incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead by the Lord’s internal potency. The Lord can appear in any family. Sometimes He appears as a fish incarnation (matsya-avatāra) or a boar incarnation (varāha-avatāra). Thus the Lord is completely free and independent to appear anywhere and everywhere by His internal potency. It is stated that Ananta, an incarnation of the Lord who has unlimited mouths, cannot reach the end of His glorification of the Lord, although Ananta has been describing the Lord since time immemorial. So what to speak of demigods like Lord Brahmā, Lord Śiva and others? It is said that the Lord is śiva-viriñci-nutam — always worshiped by demigods like Lord Śiva and Lord Brahmā. If the demigods cannot find adequate language to express the glories of the Lord, then what to speak of others? Consequently reciters like the sūta and māgadha felt inadequate to speak about King Pṛthu.
By glorifying the Lord with exalted verses, one becomes purified. Although we are unable to offer prayers to the Lord in an adequate fashion, our duty is to make the attempt in order to purify ourselves. It is not that we should stop our glorification because demigods like Lord Brahmā and Lord Śiva cannot adequately glorify the Lord. Rather, as stated by Prahlāda Mahārāja, everyone should glorify the Lord according to his own ability. If we are serious and sincere devotees, the Lord will give us the intelligence to offer prayers properly.
yathopadeśaṁ munibhiḥ pracoditāḥ
ślāghyāni karmāṇi vayaṁ vitanmahi
However expert one may be, he can never describe the glories of the Lord adequately. Nonetheless, those engaged in glorifying the activities of the Lord should try to do so as far as possible. Such an attempt will please the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Lord Caitanya has advised all His followers to go everywhere and preach the message of Lord Kṛṣṇa. Since this message is essentially Bhagavad-gītā, the preacher’s duty is to study Bhagavad-gītā as it is understood by disciplic succession and explained by great sages and learned devotees. One should speak to the general populace in accordance with one’s predecessors — sādhu, guru and śāstras. This simple process is the easiest method by which one can glorify the Lord. Devotional service, however, is the real method, for by devotional service one can satisfy the Supreme Personality of Godhead with just a few words. Without devotional service, volumes of books cannot satisfy the Lord. Even though preachers of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement may be unable to describe the glories of the Lord, they can nonetheless go everywhere and request people to chant Hare Kṛṣṇa.
lokaṁ dharme ’nuvartayan
goptā ca dharma-setūnāṁ
The duty of the king or the head of the government is described very nicely in this verse. It is the duty of the governmental head to see that people strictly follow a religious life. A king should also be strict in chastising the atheists. In other words, an atheistic or godless government should never be supported by a king or governmental chief. That is the test of good government. In the name of secular government, the king or governmental head remains neutral and allows people to engage in all sorts of irreligious activities. In such a state people cannot be happy, despite all economic development. However, in this Age of Kali there are no pious kings. Instead, rogues and thieves are elected to head the government. But how can the people be happy without religion and God consciousness? The rogues exact taxes from the citizens for their own sense enjoyment, and in the future the people will be so much harassed that according to Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam they will flee from their homes and country and take shelter in the forest. However, in Kali-yuga, democratic government can be captured by Kṛṣṇa conscious people. If this can be done, the general populace can be made very happy.
bibharty ekas tanau tanūḥ
kāle kāle yathā-bhāgaṁ
lokayor ubhayor hitam
The demigods in charge of the various departmental activities that maintain this world are but assistants to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. When an incarnation of Godhead descends to this planet, demigods like the sun-god, the moon-god or the King of heaven, Indra, all join Him. Consequently the incarnation of Godhead is able to act for the departmental demigods to keep the planetary systems in order. The protection of the earthly planet is dependent on proper rainfall, and as stated in Bhagavad-gītā and other scriptures, sacrifices are performed to please those demigods who are in charge of rainfall:
annād bhavanti bhūtāni
yajñād bhavati parjanyo
“All living bodies subsist on food grains, which are produced from rains. Rains are produced by performance of yajña [sacrifice], and yajña is born of prescribed duties.” (Bg. 3.14)
Thus the proper execution of yajña, sacrifice, is required. As indicated herein, King Pṛthu alone would induce all the citizens to engage in such sacrificial activities so that there would not be scarcity or distress. In Kali-yuga, however, in the so-called secular state, the executive branch of government is in the charge of so-called kings and presidents who are all fools and rascals, ignorant of the intricacies of nature’s causes and ignorant of the principles of sacrifice. Such rascals simply make various plans, which always fail, and the people subsequently suffer disturbances. To counteract this situation, the śāstras advise:
harer nāma harer nāma
harer nāmaiva kevalam
kalau nāsty eva nāsty eva
nāsty eva gatir anyathā
Thus in order to counteract this unfortunate situation in government, the general populace is advised to chant the mahā-mantra: Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare.
kāle cāyaṁ vimuñcati
samaḥ sarveṣu bhūteṣu
pratapan sūryavad vibhuḥ
The process of tax exaction is very nicely explained in this verse. Tax exaction is not meant for the sense gratification of the so-called administrative heads. Tax revenues should be distributed to the citizens in times of need, during emergencies such as famine or flood. Tax revenues should never be distributed amongst governmental servants in the form of high salaries and various other allowances. In Kali-yuga, however, the position of the citizens is very horrible because taxes are exacted in so many forms and are spent for the personal comforts of the administrators.
The example of the sun in this verse is very appropriate. The sun is many millions of miles away from the earth, and although the sun does not actually touch the earth, it manages to distribute land all over the planet by exacting water from the oceans and seas, and it also manages to make that land fertile by distributing water during the rainy season. As an ideal king, King Pṛthu would execute all this business in the village and state as expertly as the sun.
upary ākramatām api
bhūtānāṁ karuṇaḥ śaśvad
King Pṛthu is herein compared to the earthly planet as far as his tolerance is concerned. Although the earth is always trampled upon by men and animals, it still gives food to them by producing grains, fruits and vegetables. As an ideal king, Mahārāja Pṛthu is compared to the earthly planet, for even though some citizens might violate the rules and regulations of the state, he would still be tolerant and maintain them with fruits and grains. In other words, it is the duty of the king to look after the comforts of the citizens, even at the cost of his own personal convenience. This is not the case, however, in Kali-yuga, for in Kali-yuga the kings and heads of state enjoy life at the cost of taxes exacted from the citizens. Such unfair taxation makes the people dishonest, and the people try to hide their income in so many ways. Eventually the state will not be able to collect taxes and consequently will not be able to meet its huge military and administrative expenses. Everything will collapse, and there will be chaos and disturbance all over the state.
kṛcchra-prāṇāḥ prajā hy eṣa
King Pṛthu is very appropriately compared to the sun and the demigod Indra. King Indra of the heavenly planets is in charge of distributing water over the earth and other planetary systems. It is indicated that King Pṛthu would arrange for the distribution of rainfall personally if Indra failed to discharge his duty properly. Sometimes the King of heaven, Indra, would become angry at the inhabitants of the earth if they did not offer sacrifices to appease him. King Pṛthu, however, being an incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, did not depend on the mercy of the heavenly King. It is foretold herein that if there would be a scarcity of rain, King Pṛthu would manage to counteract the deficiency by virtue of his godly powers. Such powers were also exhibited by Lord Kṛṣṇa when He was present in Vṛndāvana. Indeed, when Indra poured incessant water on Vṛndāvana for seven days, the inhabitants were protected by Kṛṣṇa, who raised Govardhana Hill over their heads as a great umbrella. Thus Lord Kṛṣṇa is also known as Govardhana-dhārī.
pṛthuḥ pracetā iva saṁvṛtātmā
There is a predominating deity for all the material elements, and Varuṇa, or Pracetā, is the predominating deity of the seas and the oceans. From outward appearances the seas and oceans are devoid of life, but a person acquainted with the sea knows that within the water exist many varieties of life. The king of that underwater kingdom is Varuṇa. Just as no one can understand what is going on beneath the sea, no one could understand what policy King Pṛthu was following to make everything successful. Indeed, King Pṛthu’s path of diplomacy was very grave. His success was made possible because he was a reservoir of unlimited glorified qualities.
The word upagupta-vittaḥ is very significant in this verse. It indicates that no one would know the extent of the riches King Pṛthu would confidentially keep. The idea is that not only the king but everyone should keep his hard-earned money confidentially and secretly so that in due course of time the money can be spent for good, practical purposes. In Kali-yuga, however, the king or government has no well-protected treasury, and the only means of circulation is currency notes made of paper. Thus in times of distress the government artificially inflates the currency by simply printing papers, and this artificially raises the price of commodities, and the general condition of the citizens becomes very precarious. Thus keeping one’s money very secretly is an old practice, for we find this practice present even during the reign of Mahārāja Pṛthu. Just as the king has the right to keep his treasury confidential and secret, the people should also keep their individual earnings a secret. There is no fault in such dealings. The main point is that everyone should be trained in the system of varṇāśrama-dharma so that the money is spent only for good causes and nothing else.
āsanno ’pi vidūravat
Araṇi wood is a kind of fuel used to ignite fire by friction. At the time of performing sacrifices, one can ignite a fire from araṇi wood. Although born of his dead father, King Pṛthu would still remain just like fire. Just as fire is not easily approached, King Pṛthu would be unapproachable by his enemies, even though they would appear to be very near him.
paśyan karmāṇi cāraṇaiḥ
vāyur ātmeva dehinām
sutam ātma-dviṣām api
daṇḍayaty ātmajam api
daṇḍyaṁ dharma-pathe sthitaḥ
These are the characteristics of an impartial ruler. It is the duty of a ruler to punish the criminal and give protection to the innocent. King Pṛthu was so neutral that if his own son were punishable, he would not hesitate to punish him. On the other hand, if the son of his enemy were innocent, he would not engage in some intrigue in order to punish him.
vartate bhagavān arko
yāvat tapati go-gaṇaiḥ
Although the Arctic region is not visible to ordinary persons, the sun shines there without impediment. Just as no one can check the sunshine from spreading all over the universe, no one could check the influence and reign of King Pṛthu, which would remain undisturbed as long as he lived. The conclusion is that the sunshine and the sun-god cannot be separated, nor could King Pṛthu and his ruling strength be separated. His rule over everyone would continue without disturbance. Thus the King could not be separated from his ruling power.
athāmum āhū rājānaṁ
The word vṛddha-sevakaḥ is very significant. Vṛddha means “old men.” There are two kinds of old men: one is old by age, and another is old by knowledge. This Sanskrit word indicates that one can be older by the advancement of knowledge. King Pṛthu was very respectful to the brāhmaṇas, and he protected them. He also protected persons advanced in age. Whatever the King would decide to do, no one would be able to stop. That is called dṛḍha-saṅkalpa, or dṛḍha-vrata.
patnyām ardha ivātmanaḥ
prajāsu pitṛvat snigdhaḥ
A learned man treats all women except his wife as his mother, looks on others’ property as garbage in the street, and treats others as he would treat his own self. These are the symptoms of a learned person as described by Cāṇakya Paṇḍita. This should be the standard for education. Education does not mean having academic degrees only. One should execute what he has learned in his personal life. These learned characteristics were verily manifest in the life of King Pṛthu. Although he was the king, he treated himself as a servant of the Lord’s devotees. According to Vedic etiquette, if a devotee came to a king’s palace, the king would immediately offer his own seat to him. The word brahma-vādinām is very significant. Brahma-vādī refers to the devotees of the Lord. Brahman, Paramātmā and Bhagavān are different terms for the Supreme Brahman, and the Supreme Brahman is Lord Kṛṣṇa. This is accepted in Bhagavad-gītā (10.12) by Arjuna (paraṁ brahma paraṁ dhāma). Thus the word brahma-vādinām refers to the devotees of the Lord. The state should always serve the devotees of the Lord, and the ideal state should conduct itself according to the instructions of the devotee. Because King Pṛthu followed this principle, he is highly praised.
The word dehinām refers to those who are embodied. The living entities are embodied in different forms, which number 8,400,000 species. All of these were treated by the King in the same way he would treat himself. In this age, however, so-called kings and presidents do not treat all other living entities as their own self. Most of them are meat-eaters, and even though they may not be meat-eaters and may pose themselves to be very religious and pious, they still allow cow slaughter within their state. Such sinful heads of state cannot actually be popular at any time. Another significant word in this verse is mukta-saṅga-prasaṅgaḥ, which indicates that the King was always associating with liberated persons.
kūṭa-stha ātmā kalayāvatīrṇaḥ
yasminn avidyā-racitaṁ nirarthakaṁ
paśyanti nānātvam api pratītam
The reciters of these prayers are describing the transcendental qualities of Pṛthu Mahārāja. These qualities are summarized in the words sākṣād bhagavān. This indicates that Mahārāja Pṛthu is directly the Supreme Personality of Godhead and therefore possesses unlimited good qualities. Being an incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Mahārāja Pṛthu could not be equaled in his excellent qualities. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is fully equipped with six kinds of opulences, and King Pṛthu was also empowered in such a way that he could display these six opulences of the Supreme Personality of Godhead in full.
The word kūṭa-stha, meaning “without change,” is also very significant. There are two kinds of living entities — nitya-mukta and nitya-baddha. A nitya-mukta never forgets his position as the eternal servant of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. One who does not forget this position and knows that he is part and parcel of the Supreme Lord is nitya-mukta. Such a nitya-mukta living entity represents the Supersoul as His expansion. As stated in the Vedas, nityo nityānām. Thus the nitya-mukta living entity knows that he is an expansion of the supreme nitya, or the eternal Supreme Personality of Godhead. Being in such a position, he sees the material world with a different vision. The living entity who is nitya-baddha, or eternally conditioned, sees the material varieties as being actually different from one another. In this connection we should remember that the embodiment of the conditioned soul is considered to be like a dress. One may dress in different ways, but a really learned man does not take dresses into consideration. As stated in Bhagavad-gītā (5.18):
brāhmaṇe gavi hastini
śuni caiva śvapāke ca
“The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brāhmaṇa, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste].” Thus a learned man does not look upon the dresses that externally cover the living entity, but sees the pure soul within the varieties of dress and knows very well that the varieties of dress are the creation of nescience (avidyā-racitam). Being a śaktyāveśa-avatāra, empowered by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Pṛthu Mahārāja did not change his spiritual position, and consequently there was no possibility of his viewing the material world as reality.
āsthāya jaitraṁ ratham ātta-cāpaḥ
paryasyate dakṣiṇato yathārkaḥ
In this verse the word yathārkaḥ indicates that the sun is not fixed but is rotating in its orbit, which is set by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This is confirmed in the Brahma-saṁhitā and also in other parts of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. In the Fifth Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam it is stated that the sun rotates in its own orbit at the rate of sixteen thousand miles per second. Similarly, Brahma-saṁhitā states, yasyājñayā bhramati sambhṛta-kāla-cakraḥ: the sun rotates in its own orbit according to the order of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The conclusion is that the sun is not fixed in one place. As far as Pṛthu Mahārāja is concerned, it is indicated that his ruling power would extend all over the world. The Himālaya Mountains, from which the sunrise is first seen, are called udayācala or udayādri. It is herein indicated that Pṛthu Mahārāja’s reign over the world would cover even the Himālaya Mountains and extend to the borders of all oceans and seas. In other words, his reign would cover the entire planet.
Another significant word in this verse is naradeva. As described in previous verses, the qualified king — be he King Pṛthu or any other king who rules over the state as an ideal king — should be understood to be God in human form. According to Vedic culture, the king is honored as the Supreme Personality of Godhead because he represents Nārāyaṇa, who also gives protection to the citizens. He is therefore nātha, or the proprietor. Even Sanātana Gosvāmī gave respect to the Nawab Hussain Shah as naradeva, although the Nawab was Muhammadan. A king or governmental head must therefore be so competent to rule over the state that the citizens will worship him as God in human form. That is the perfectional stage for the head of any government or state.
baliṁ hariṣyanti saloka-pālāḥ
maṁsyanta eṣāṁ striya ādi-rājaṁ
cakrāyudhaṁ tad-yaśa uddharantyaḥ
As far as reputation is concerned, King Pṛthu is already known as the incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The word ādi-rājam means “the original king.” The original king is Nārāyaṇa, or Lord Viṣṇu. People do not know that the original king, or Nārāyaṇa, is actually the protector of all living entities. As confirmed in the Vedas, eko bahūnāṁ yo vidadhāti kāmān (Kaṭha Upaniṣad 2.2.13): the Supreme Personality of Godhead is maintaining all living entities. The king, or naradeva, is His representative. As such, the king’s duty is to personally supervise the distribution of wealth for the maintenance of all living entities. If he does so, he will be as reputable as Nārāyaṇa. As mentioned in this verse (tad-yaśaḥ), Pṛthu Mahārāja was actually carrying with him the reputation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead because he was actually reigning over the world in that capacity.
prajāpatir vṛtti-karaḥ prajānām
yo līlayādrīn sva-śarāsa-koṭyā
bhindan samāṁ gām akarod yathendraḥ
yadācarat kṣmām aviṣahyam ājau
tadā nililyur diśi diśy asanto
lāṅgūlam udyamya yathā mṛgendraḥ
It is very appropriate to compare a powerful king like Pṛthu to a lion. In India, kṣatriya kings are still called siṅgh, which means “lion.” Unless rogues, thieves and other demoniac people in a state are afraid of the executive head, who rules the kingdom with a strong hand, there cannot be peace or prosperity in the state. Thus it is most regrettable when a woman becomes the executive head instead of a lionlike king. In such a situation the people are considered very unfortunate.
sarasvatī prādurabhāvi yatra
ahārṣīd yasya hayaṁ purandaraḥ
śata-kratuś carame vartamāne
sanat-kumāraṁ bhagavantam ekam
ārādhya bhaktyālabhatāmalaṁ taj
jñānaṁ yato brahma paraṁ vidanti
The word vidanti refers to one who knows something or enjoys something. When a person is properly instructed by a spiritual master and understands transcendental bliss, he enjoys life. As stated in Bhagavad-gītā (18.54), brahma-bhūtaḥ prasannātmā na śocati na kāṅkṣati: when one attains to the Brahman platform, he neither hankers nor laments, and he actually partakes of transcendental, blissful enjoyment. Although King Pṛthu was an incarnation of Viṣṇu, he nonetheless taught the people in his kingdom to take instructions from a spiritual master who represents the disciplic succession. Thus one can become fortunate and enjoy a blissful life even within this material world. In this verse the verb vidanti is sometimes taken to mean “understanding.” Thus when a person understands Brahman, or the supreme source of everything, he enjoys a blissful life.
śroṣyaty ātmāśritā gāthāḥ
To artificially advertise oneself and thus enjoy a so-called reputation is a kind of conceit. Pṛthu Mahārāja was famous amongst the people because of his chivalrous activities. He did not have to advertise himself artificially. One’s factual reputation cannot be covered.
mahānubhāvo bhavitā patir bhuvaḥ
At the time of Mahārāja Pṛthu, the world was ruled by one emperor, although there were many subordinate states. Just as there are many united states in various parts of the world, in olden days the entire world was ruled through many states, but there was a supreme emperor who ruled over all subsidiary states. As soon as there were some discrepancies in the maintenance of the varṇāśrama system, the emperor would immediately take charge of the small states.
The word utpāṭita-loka-śalyaḥ indicates that Mahārāja Pṛthu completely uprooted all the miseries of his citizens. The word śalya means “piercing thorns.” There are many kinds of miserable thorns that pierce the citizens of a state, but all competent rulers, even up to the reign of Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira, uprooted all the miserable conditions of the citizens. It is stated that during the reign of Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira there did not even exist severe cold or scorching heat, nor did the citizens suffer from any kind of mental anxiety. This is the standard of good government. Such a peaceful and prosperous government, devoid of anxiety, was established by Pṛthu Mahārāja. Thus the inhabitants of both saintly and demoniac planets were all engaged in glorifying the activities of Mahārāja Pṛthu. Persons or nations anxious to spread their influence all over the world should consider this point. If one is able to eradicate completely the threefold miseries of the citizens, he should aspire to rule the world. One should not aspire to rule for any political or diplomatic consideration.
Thus end the Bhaktivedanta purports of the Fourth Canto, Sixteenth Chapter, of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, entitled “Praise of King Pṛthu by the Professional Reciters.”