SC 17: The Moment of Truth
Having heard the conversation between the Yamadūtas and the Viṣṇudūtas, Ajāmila became firmly fixed in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. He began to lament, "How unfortunate I was to engage in so many sinful activities!" This is the proper attitude for a Kṛṣṇa conscious devotee. Whatever he may have done in the past, no matter how sinful, when he comes in contact with devotees and hears transcendental topics in relation to the Supreme Personality of Godhead (
Ajāmila was now at the stage of devotional service in which one is freed from all material impediments and is completely satisfied (
Thus Ajāmila greatly repented, remembering all his sinful activities. He remembered that he had been trained by his father to be a first-class
It is a Vedic regulation that men of the higher classes—
Ajāmila thought, "Because I failed to be self-controlled, I was degraded to an abominable life and all my brahminical qualifications were nullified." This is the mentality of one who is becoming a pure devotee. When one is elevated to the platform of devotional service by the grace of the Lord and the spiritual master, one first regrets his past sinful activities. This helps one advance in spiritual life. The Viṣṇudūtas had given Ajāmila the chance to become a pure devotee, and the first duty of a devotee is to regret his past sinful activities in illicit sex, intoxication, meat-eating, and gambling. Not only should a devotee give up his past bad habits, but he must always regret his past sinful acts. This is the standard of pure devotion.
Debts to Pay
Ajāmila repented his negligence in performing his duty to his wife, father, and mother. It is the duty of grown-up children to render service to their aged parents. This practice should be reintroduced into present society. Otherwise, what is the use of family life? Proper family life means that the husband should be protective, the wife chaste, and the children grateful to their father and mother. Children should think, "My father and mother gave me so much service. When I was unable to walk, they carried me. When I was unable to eat, they fed me. They gave me an education. They gave me life." A bona fide son thinks of ways to render service to his father and mother. And just as a woman is expected to be faithful to her husband, so the husband should be grateful for her service and protect her. Because of his association with a prostitute, however, Ajāmila had abandoned all his duties. Regretting this, he now considered himself quite fallen.
According to the Vedic social system, as soon as one takes birth he becomes indebted to so many persons. We are indebted to the
We are also indebted to the demigods, for they manage the affairs of the universe, supplying it with every essential-sunshine from the sun-god, Sūrya; moonshine from the moon-god, Candra; air from Vāyu; and so on. Each element is controlled by a particular demigod.
We are also indebted to ordinary living entities from whom we take service. For example, we take milk from the cow. According to Vedic understanding, the cow is considered one of our mothers because we drink her milk, just as at birth we drink our mother's milk. The
Also, if someone accepts charity, he becomes indebted, and that debt has to be repaid, just as borrowed money must be repaid. Therefore devotees should not accept charity from anyone unless they intend to spend it in Kṛṣṇa's service. For a devotee to accept donations just to satisfy his belly is a great sin.
We may well ask, How can one hope to liquidate all his debts? The answer is: only by taking shelter of the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa, or Mukunda. The name Mukunda indicates one who liberates us from material contamination. We are indebted to the demigods, but we cannot take shelter of them. If we actually want shelter, we should take shelter of Kṛṣṇa, because He alone can free us from all debts. Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and if He excuses us, then all other departmental managers, such as the demigods, must also excuse us.
Ajāmila understood his position as a debtor, but since he had now taken shelter at the lotus feet of Mukunda, all his debts were cleared. Simply by taking shelter of Lord Nārāyaṇa, who is nondifferent from Mukunda, Ajāmila became free. Similarly, if we want to be free from all sinful reactions, we have no alternative but to surrender to Kṛṣṇa. As Kṛṣṇa recommends,
In the material world there is danger at every step. Even for those who are pure devotees there is the danger of falling down from the standard of purity. However, in the
tyaktvā sva-dharmaṁ caraṇāmbujaṁ harer
bhajann apakvo 'tha patet tato yadi
yatra kva vābhadram abhūd amuṣya kiṁ
ko vārtha āpto 'bhajatāṁ sva-dharmataḥ
On the other hand, one who perfectly executes his occupational duties but fails to worship Kṛṣṇa ultimately gains nothing. Strictly discharging one's occupational duties means living a life of piety. But suppose through these pious activities you are promoted to the heavenly kingdom. Kṛṣṇa explains in the
Unfortunately, even in India people are more inclined to perform pious activities, such as giving in charity, than to take up devotional service to Kṛṣṇa. They hope that by performing such
None of these demons, however, was saved from death by the benediction received from the demigods. Rather, ultimately they were all killed by the Supreme Lord. It is nature's law that everyone here must die. No one who takes birth in the material world can live eternally. The material world is called Martyaloka, meaning that every living entity here is subject to birth, death, old age, and disease. In illusion, people do not see this. They try to adjust their material condition so that they can live perpetually. Modern scientists also aspire to be immortal, in imitation of Hiraṇyakaśipu. This is all foolishness. One should not be afraid of dying, but one should be cautious and ask, "What sort of situation will I attain in my next life as a result of my activities?"
A devotee is never afraid of death. He simply prays to Kṛṣṇa, "I may die and take birth again repeatedly, as You like. But I only ask that, in whatever condition I may live, by Your mercy I will never forget You." A devotee is not afraid, but he is cautious not to fall down. At the same time, he knows that whatever percentage of devotional service he renders is to his permanent credit. The story of Ajāmila is the perfect illustration of that point. We should follow the rules and regulations very strictly, but even if we fall down, there is no loss. That is the statement of Nārada Muni quoted above. Even if one takes to Kṛṣṇa consciousness on the basis of sentiment and executes devotional service for only some time and again returns to material life, whatever service he has rendered is recorded, and one day he will be saved, just as Ajāmila was saved.
After the Viṣṇudūtas disappeared, Ajāmila at first wondered whether he had been dreaming that they had come to release him from the binding ropes of the Yamadūtas. When Ajāmila was on his deathbed, practically in a coma, he actually saw the Yamadūtas and Viṣṇudūtas, but it seemed to him that he was just dreaming. When he saw that he was in fact released from the fearsome agents of Yamarāja, he wanted to see the Viṣṇudūtas again. They had appeared very splendid. Their bodily features were just like those of Lord Viṣṇu, and they were decorated like Him and carried the four symbols of His potency: the conchshell, lotus, club, and disc. Their bodies shone with a very beautiful luster, and their dress was of golden silk. Therefore Ajāmila inquired, "Where are those beautiful personalities who released me from the bondage of the Yamadūtas?"
Ajāmila thought, "My whole life was full of sinful activities, so how could I be worthy of seeing such great personalities?" He concluded, "Perhaps in my previous life I did something good, and as a result I have been allowed to see the Viṣṇudūtas." In fact, early in life Ajāmila had been a faithful servant of Lord Nārāyaṇa, and as a result he was able to see the Viṣṇudūtas. It was the good association Ajāmila had been blessed with in his early days that saved him. As stated in the
'sādhu-saṅga', 'sādhu-saṅga'-sarva-śāstre kaya
lava-mātra sādhu-saṅge sarva-siddhi haya
"The verdict of all revealed scriptures is that by even a moment's association with a pure devotee, one can attain all success." In the beginning of his life Ajāmila was certainly very pure, and he associated with devotees and
In our Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement we therefore change a devotee's name to one that reminds him of Viṣṇu. If at the time of death the devotee can remember his own name, such as Kṛṣṇa dāsa or Govinda dāsa, he can be saved from the greatest danger. Therefore the change of names at the time of initiation is essential. The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is so meticulous that it gives one a good opportunity to remember Kṛṣṇa somehow or other.
Remembrance of Kṛṣṇa at the time of death is generally possible only for persons who have established an intimate relationship with Kṛṣṇa throughout a lifetime of devotional service. When Ajāmila was a young boy he was trained by his father to be completely faithful to the Lord, and until the age of twenty he served Lord Nārāyaṇa very nicely. Although Ajāmila had fallen down from the standard of devotional service to Lord Nārāyaṇa and forgotten his relationship with Him, Nārāyaṇa did not forget, and in Ajāmila's hour of need He reciprocated His devotee's love. Thus Ajāmila was given the presence of mind to remember Nārāyaṇa at the time of death.
Kṛṣṇa is very appreciative of even a small amount of devotional service. He confirms this in the
pratyavāyo na vidyate
svalpam apy asya dharmasya
trāyate mahato bhayāt
"In this endeavor there is no loss or diminution, and a little advancement on this path protects one from the most fearful type of danger." If a person practices even a small amount of devotional service, it can save him from the greatest danger. So why not take to Kṛṣṇa consciousness? Engage in devotional service always, twenty-four hours a day. Then there is no question of danger. One who has become Kṛṣṇa conscious is fearless. He knows he is under the protection of Kṛṣṇa.