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SB 8.4: Gajendra Returns to the Spiritual World
This Fourth Chapter describes the previous birth of Gajendra and the crocodile. It tells how the crocodile became a Gandharva and how Gajendra became an associate of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
There was a king on the Gandharva planet whose name was Hūhū. Once this King Hūhū was enjoying with women in the water, and while enjoying he pulled the leg of Devala Ṛṣi, who was also taking a bath in the water. Upon this, the sage became very angry and immediately cursed him to become a crocodile. King Hūhū was very sorry when cursed in that way, and he begged pardon from the sage, who in compassion gave him the benediction that he would be freed when Gajendra was delivered by the Personality of Godhead. Thus the crocodile was delivered when killed by Nārāyaṇa.
When Gajendra, by the mercy of the Lord, became one of the Lord’s associates in Vaikuṇṭha, he got four hands. This achievement is called sārūpya-mukti, or the liberation of receiving a spiritual body exactly like that of Nārāyaṇa. Gajendra, in his previous birth, had been a great devotee of Lord Viṣṇu. His name was Indradyumna, and he was the King of the Tāmila country. Following the Vedic principles, this King retired from family life and constructed a small cottage in the Malayācala Hills, where he always worshiped the Supreme Personality of Godhead in silence. Agastya Ṛṣi, along with many disciples, once approached King Indradyumna’s āśrama, but because the King was meditating on the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he could not receive Agastya Ṛṣi properly. Thus the ṛṣi became very angry and cursed the King to become a dull elephant. In accordance with this curse, the King was born as an elephant, and he forgot all about his previous activities in devotional service. Nonetheless, in his birth as an elephant, when he was dangerously attacked by the crocodile, he remembered his past life in devotional service and remembered a prayer he had learned in that life. Because of this prayer, he again received the mercy of the Lord. Thus he was immediately delivered, and he became one of the Lord’s four-handed associates.
Śukadeva Gosvāmī ends this chapter by describing the good fortune of the elephant. Śukadeva Gosvāmī says that by hearing the narration of Gajendra’s deliverance, one can also get the opportunity to be delivered. Śukadeva Gosvāmī vividly describes this, and thus the chapter ends.
śaṁsantaḥ karma tad dhareḥ
It is evident from this chapter that great sages like Devala Ṛṣi, Nārada Muni and Agastya Muni will sometimes curse someone. The curse of such a personality, however, is in fact a benediction. Both the crocodile, who had been a Gandharva in his previous life, and Gajendra, who had been a king named Indradyumna, were cursed, but both of them benefited. Indradyumna, in his birth as an elephant, attained salvation and became a personal associate of the Lord in Vaikuṇṭha, and the crocodile regained his status as a Gandharva. We find evidence in many places that the curse of a great saint or devotee is not a curse but a benediction.
gandharvā nanṛtur jaguḥ
ṛṣayaś cāraṇāḥ siddhās
The story of how the Gandharva had become a crocodile will be described later. The curse by which the Gandharva took this position was actually a blessing, not a curse. One should not be displeased when a saintly person curses someone, for his curse, indirectly, is a blessing. The Gandharva had the mentality of an inhabitant of the celestial planetary system, and for him to become an associate of the Supreme Lord would have taken millions of long years. However, because he was cursed by Devala Ṛṣi, he became a crocodile and in only one life was fortunate enough to see the Supreme Personality of Godhead face to face and be promoted to the spiritual world to become one of the Lord’s associates. Similarly, Gajendra was also delivered by the Supreme Personality of Godhead when he was freed from the curse of Agastya Muni.
parikramya praṇamya tam
lokasya paśyato lokaṁ
svam agān mukta-kilbiṣaḥ
prāpto bhagavato rūpaṁ
If one is favored by the Supreme Personality of Godhead by having his gross body touched by the Lord, his body turns into a spiritual body, and he can go back home, back to Godhead. Gajendra assumed a spiritual body when his body was touched by the Lord. Similarly, Dhruva Mahārāja assumed his spiritual body in this way. Arcanā-paddhati, daily worship of the Deity, provides an opportunity to touch the body of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and thus it enables one to be fortunate enough to get a spiritual body and go back to Godhead. Not only by touching the body of the Supreme Lord, but simply by hearing about His pastimes, chanting His glories, touching His feet and offering worship — in other words, by serving the Lord somehow or other — one is purified of material contamination. This is the result of touching the Supreme Lord. One who is a pure devotee (anyābhilāṣitā-śūnyam), who acts according to the śāstra and the words of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, certainly becomes purified. Like Gajendra, he assumes a spiritual body and returns home, back to Godhead.
indradyumna iti khyāto
gṛhīta-mauna-vrata īśvaraṁ harim
jaṭā-dharas tāpasa āpluto ’cyutaṁ
samarcayām āsa kulācalāśramaḥ
samāgamac chiṣya-gaṇaiḥ pariśritaḥ
taṁ vīkṣya tūṣṇīm akṛtārhaṇādikaṁ
rahasy upāsīnam ṛṣiś cukopa ha
ayaṁ durātmākṛta-buddhir adya
viprāvamantā viśatāṁ tamisraṁ
yathā gajaḥ stabdha-matiḥ sa eva
An elephant is very strong, it has a very big body, and it can work very hard and eat a large quantity of food, but its intelligence is not at all commensurate with its size and strength. Thus in spite of so much bodily strength, the elephant works as a menial servant for a human being. Agastya Muni thought it wise to curse the King to become an elephant because the powerful King did not receive Agastya Muni as one is obliged to receive a brāhmaṇa. Yet although Agastya Muni cursed Mahārāja Indradyumna to become an elephant, the curse was indirectly a benediction, for by undergoing one life as an elephant, Indradyumna Mahārāja ended the reactions for all the sins of his previous life. Immediately after the expiry of the elephant’s life, he was promoted to Vaikuṇṭhaloka to become a personal associate of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Nārāyaṇa, in a body exactly like that of the Lord. This is called sārūpya-mukti.
bhagavān nṛpa sānugaḥ
indradyumno ’pi rājarṣir
diṣṭaṁ tad upadhārayan
yad-gajatve ’py anusmṛtiḥ
This is the unique position of a devotee of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Although the King was cursed, he welcomed the curse because a devotee is always aware that nothing can happen without the desire of the Supreme Lord. Although the King was not at fault, Agastya Muni cursed him, and when this happened the King considered it to be due to his past misdeeds. Tat te ’nukampāṁ susamīkṣamāṇaḥ (Bhāg. 10.14.8). This is a practical example of how a devotee thinks. He regards any reverses in life as blessings of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Therefore, instead of being agitated by such reverses, he continues his activities of devotional service, and Kṛṣṇa takes care of him and enables him to be promoted to the spiritual world, back to Godhead. If a devotee has to suffer the reactions of his past misdeeds, the Supreme Lord arranges for him to be given only a token of these reactions, and very soon he is freed from all the reactions of material contamination. One should therefore adhere to devotional service, and the Lord Himself will very soon see to one’s promotion to the spiritual world. A devotee should not be disturbed by unfortunate circumstances, but must continue his regular program, depending on the Lord for everything. The word upadhārayan, “considering,” is very significant in this verse. This word indicates that a devotee knows what is what; he understands what is happening in material, conditional life.
tenāpi pārṣada-gatiṁ gamitena yuktaḥ
karmādbhutaṁ sva-bhavanaṁ garuḍāsano ’gāt
In this verse the word vimokṣya is significant. For a devotee, mokṣa or mukti — salvation — means getting the position of the Lord’s associate. The impersonalists are satisfied to get the liberation of merging in the Brahman effulgence, but for a devotee, mukti (liberation) means not to merge in the effulgence of the Lord, but to be directly promoted to the Vaikuṇṭha planets and to become an associate of the Lord. In this regard, there is a relevant verse in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.14.8):
tat te ’nukampāṁ susamīkṣamāṇo
bhuñjāna evātma-kṛtaṁ vipākam
hṛd-vāg-vapurbhir vidadhan namas te
jīveta yo mukti-pade sa dāya-bhāk
“One who seeks Your compassion and thus tolerates all kinds of adverse conditions due to the karma of his past deeds, who engages always in Your devotional service with his mind, words and body, and who always offers obeisances unto You, is certainly a bona fide candidate for liberation.” A devotee who tolerates everything in this material world and patiently executes his devotional service can become mukti-pade sa dāya-bhāk, a bona fide candidate for liberation. The word dāya-bhāk refers to a hereditary right to the Lord’s mercy. A devotee must simply engage in devotional service, not caring about material situations. Then he automatically becomes a rightful candidate for promotion to Vaikuṇṭhaloka. The devotee who renders unalloyed service to the Lord gets the right to be promoted to Vaikuṇṭhaloka, just as a son inherits the property of his father.
When a devotee gets liberation, he becomes free from material contamination and engages as a servant of the Lord. This is explained in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (2.10.6): muktir hitvānyathā rūpaṁ svarūpena vyavasthitiḥ. The word svarūpa refers to sārūpya-mukti — going back home, back to Godhead, and remaining the Lord’s eternal associate, having regained a spiritual body exactly resembling that of the Lord, with four hands, holding the śaṅkha, cakra, gadā and padma. The difference between the mukti of the impersonalist and that of the devotee is that the devotee is immediately appointed an eternal servant of the Lord, whereas the impersonalist, although merging in the effulgence of the brahmajyoti, is still insecure and therefore generally falls again to this material world. Āruhya kṛcchreṇa paraṁ padaṁ tataḥ patanty adho ’nādṛta-yuṣmad-aṅghrayaḥ (Bhāg. 10.2.32). Although the impersonalist rises to the Brahman effulgence and enters into that effulgence, he has no engagement in the service of the Lord, and therefore he is again attracted to materialistic philanthropic activities. Thus he comes down to open hospitals and educational institutions, feed poor men and perform similar materialistic activities, which the impersonalist thinks are more precious than serving the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Anādṛta-yuṣmad-aṅghrayaḥ. The impersonalists do not think that the service of the Lord is more valuable than serving the poor man or starting a school or hospital. Although they say brahma satyaṁ jagan mithyā — “Brahman is real, and the material world is false” — they are nonetheless very eager to serve the false material world and neglect the service of the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
svargyaṁ yaśasyaṁ kali-kalmaṣāpahaṁ
duḥsvapna-nāśaṁ kuru-varya śṛṇvatām
śucayaḥ prātar utthāya
Every verse in the Vedic literature, especially in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and Bhagavad-gītā, is a Vedic mantra. Here the words yathānukīrtayanti are used to recommend that this literature be presented as it is. Unscrupulous persons, however, deviate from the actual narration and interpret the text in their own way with grammatical jugglery. Such deviations are to be avoided. This is a Vedic injunction supported by Śukadeva Gosvāmī, one of the mahājanas, or authorities. He says, yathānukīrtayanti: one should recite the mantra as it is, without deviation, for then one will be eligible to rise to the platform of all good fortune. Śukadeva Gosvāmī especially recommends that those who are brāhmaṇas (śucayaḥ) recite all these mantras after rising from bed in the morning.
Because of sinful activities, at night we have bad dreams, which are very troublesome. Indeed, Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira was obliged to see hell because of a slight deviation from devotional service to the Lord. Therefore, duḥsvapna — bad dreams — occur because of sinful activities. A devotee sometimes accepts a sinful person as his disciple, and to counteract the sinful reactions he accepts from the disciple, he has to see a bad dream. Nonetheless, the spiritual master is so kind that in spite of having bad dreams due to the sinful disciple, he accepts this troublesome business for the deliverance of the victims of Kali-yuga. After initiation, therefore, a disciple should be extremely careful not to commit again any sinful act that might cause difficulties for himself and the spiritual master. Before the Deity, before the fire, before the spiritual master and before the Vaiṣṇavas, the honest disciple promises to refrain from all sinful activity. Therefore he must not again commit sinful acts and thus create a troublesome situation.
brahmaṇo me śivasya ca
kṣīrodaṁ me priyaṁ dhāma
śveta-dvīpaṁ ca bhāsvaram
gadāṁ kaumodakīṁ mama
śriyaṁ devīṁ mad-āśrayām
brahmāṇaṁ nāradam ṛṣiṁ
bhavaṁ prahrādam eva ca
avatāraiḥ kṛtāni me
sūryaṁ somaṁ hutāśanam
go-viprān dharmam avyayam
dhruvaṁ brahma-ṛṣīn sapta
puṇya-ślokāṁś ca mānavān
smaranti mama rūpāṇi
mucyante te ’ṁhaso ’khilāt
teṣāṁ prāṇātyaye cāhaṁ
dadāmi vipulāṁ gatim
Thus end the Bhaktivedanta purports of the Eighth Canto, Fourth Chapter, of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, entitled “Gajendra Returns to the Spiritual World.”