SB 8.2: The Elephant Gajendra’s Crisis
The Second, Third and Fourth chapters of this canto describe how the Lord, during the reign of the fourth Manu, gave protection to the king of the elephants. As described in this Second Chapter, when the King of the elephants, along with his female elephants, was enjoying in the water, a crocodile suddenly attacked him, and the elephant surrendered to the lotus feet of the Personality of Godhead for protection.
In the midst of the Ocean of Milk, there is a very high and beautiful mountain that has an altitude of ten thousand yojanas, or eighty thousand miles. This mountain is known as Trikūṭa. In a valley of Trikūṭa there is a nice garden named Ṛtumat, which was constructed by Varuṇa, and in that area there is a very nice lake. Once the chief of the elephants, along with female elephants, went to enjoy bathing in that lake, and they disturbed the inhabitants of the water. Because of this, the chief crocodile in that water, who was very powerful, immediately attacked the elephant’s leg. Thus there ensued a great fight between the elephant and the crocodile. This fight continued for one thousand years. Neither the elephant nor the crocodile died, but since they were in the water, the elephant gradually became weak whereas the power of the crocodile increased more and more. Thus the crocodile became more and more encouraged. Then the elephant, being helpless and seeing that there was no other way for his protection, sought shelter at the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
trikūṭa iti viśrutaḥ
tribhiḥ śṛṅgaiḥ payo-nidhim
diśaḥ khaṁ rocayann āste
karoti śyāmalāṁ bhūmiṁ
From Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam we understand that there are various oceans. Somewhere there is an ocean filled with milk, somewhere an ocean of liquor, an ocean of ghee, an ocean of oil, and an ocean of sweet water. Thus there are different varieties of oceans within this universe. The modern scientists, who have only limited experience, cannot defy these statements; they cannot give us full information about any planet, even the planet on which we live. From this verse, however, we can understand that if the valleys of some mountains are washed with milk, this produces emeralds. No one has the ability to imitate the activities of material nature as conducted by the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
kinnarair apsarobhiś ca
As ordinary men may play in the salty ocean, the inhabitants of the higher planetary systems go to the Ocean of Milk. They float in the Ocean of Milk and also enjoy various sports within the caves of Trikūṭa Mountain.
In the higher planetary systems, there are not only different types of human beings, but also animals like lions and elephants. There are trees, and the land is made of emeralds. Such is the creation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has sung in this regard, keśava! tuyā jagata vicitra: “My Lord Keśava, Your creation is colorful and full of varieties.” Geologists, botanists and other so-called scientists speculate about other planetary systems, but being unable to estimate the varieties on other planets, they falsely imagine that all planets but this one are vacant, uninhabited, and full of dust. Although they cannot even estimate the varieties existing throughout the universe, they are very proud of their knowledge, and they are accepted as learned by persons of a similar caliber. As described in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (2.3.19), śva-vid-varāhoṣṭra-kharaiḥ saṁstutaḥ puruṣaḥ paśuḥ: materialistic leaders are praised by dogs, hogs, camels and asses, and they themselves are also big animals. One should not be satisfied with the knowledge imparted by a big animal. Rather, one must take knowledge from a perfect person like Śukadeva Gosvāmī. Mahājano yena gataḥ sa panthāḥ: our duty is to follow the instructions of the mahājanas. There are twelve mahājanas, and Śukadeva Gosvāmī is one of them.
svayambhūr nāradaḥ śambhuḥ
kumāraḥ kapilo manuḥ
prahlādo janako bhīṣmo
balir vaiyāsakir vayam
Vaiyāsaki is Śukadeva Gosvāmī. Whatever he says we consider to be factual. That is perfect knowledge.
Even in the material world, there are many grades of living entities. The human beings on earth generally cover themselves with external fragrances to stop their bad bodily odors, but here we find that because of the bodily fragrance of the demigod damsels, the rivers, the lakes, the breeze and the entire atmosphere of Trikūṭa Mountain also become fragrant. Since the bodies of the damsels in the upper planetary systems are so beautiful, we can just imagine how beautifully formed are the bodies of the Vaikuṇṭha damsels or the damsels in Vṛndāvana, the gopīs.
udyānam ṛtuman nāma
mandāraiḥ pārijātaiś ca
āmrair āmrātakair api
kramukair nārikelaiś ca
tasmin saraḥ suvipulaṁ
śakuntaiś ca kala-svanaiḥ
cakrāhvaiḥ sārasair api
śobhitaṁ tīra-jaiś cānyair
nityartubhir alaṁ drumaiḥ
Judging from the exhaustive description of the lakes and rivers on Trikūṭa Mountain, on earth there is no comparison to their superexcellence. On other planets, however, there are many such wonders. For instance, we understand that there are two million different types of trees, and not all of them are exhibited on earth. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam presents the total knowledge of the affairs of the universe. It not only describes this universe, but also takes into account the spiritual world beyond the universe. No one can challenge the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam’s descriptions of the material and spiritual worlds. The attempts to go from the earth to the moon have failed, but the people of earth can understand what exists on other planets. There is no need of imagination; one may take actual knowledge from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and be satisfied.
kareṇubhir vāraṇa-yūtha-paś caran
viśāla-gulmaṁ prarujan vanaspatīn
vyāghrādayo vyāla-mṛgāḥ sakhaḍgāḥ
mahoragāś cāpi bhayād dravanti
sagaura-kṛṣṇāḥ sarabhāś camaryaḥ
anyatra kṣudrā hariṇāḥ śaśādayaś
caranty abhītā yad-anugraheṇa
All the animals were practically controlled by this elephant, yet although they could move without fear, because of respect they did not stand before him.
vṛto madacyut-karabhair anudrutaḥ
giriṁ garimṇā paritaḥ prakampayan
niṣevyamāṇo ’likulair madāśanaiḥ
jighran vidūrān mada-vihvalekṣaṇaḥ
vṛtaḥ sva-yūthena tṛṣārditena tat
sarovarābhyāsam athāgamad drutam
papau nikāmaṁ nija-puṣkaroddhṛtam
ātmānam adbhiḥ snapayan gata-klamaḥ
nipāyayan saṁsnapayan yathā gṛhī
ghṛṇī kareṇuḥ karabhāṁś ca durmado
nācaṣṭa kṛcchraṁ kṛpaṇo ’ja-māyayā
grāho balīyāṁś caraṇe ruṣāgrahīt
yadṛcchayaivaṁ vyasanaṁ gato gajo
yathā-balaṁ so ’tibalo vicakrame
vikṛṣyamāṇaṁ tarasā balīyasā
vicukruśur dīna-dhiyo ’pare gajāḥ
pārṣṇi-grahās tārayituṁ na cāśakan
vikarṣator antarato bahir mithaḥ
samāḥ sahasraṁ vyagaman mahī-pate
saprāṇayoś citram amaṁsatāmarāḥ
kālena dīrgheṇa mahān abhūd vyayaḥ
vikṛṣyamāṇasya jale ’vasīdato
viparyayo ’bhūt sakalaṁ jalaukasaḥ
In the fighting between the elephant and the crocodile, the difference was that although the elephant was extremely powerful, he was in a foreign place, in the water. During one thousand years of fighting, he could not get any food, and under the circumstances his bodily strength diminished, and because his bodily strength diminished, his mind also became weak and his senses less powerful. The crocodile, however, being an animal of the water, had no difficulties. He was getting food and was therefore getting mental strength and sensual encouragement. Thus while the elephant became reduced in strength, the crocodile became more and more powerful. Now, from this we may take the lesson that in our fight with māyā we should not be in a position in which our strength, enthusiasm and senses will be unable to fight vigorously. Our Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement has actually declared war against the illusory energy, in which all the living entities are rotting in a false understanding of civilization. The soldiers in this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement must always possess physical strength, enthusiasm and sensual power. To keep themselves fit, they must therefore place themselves in a normal condition of life. What constitutes a normal condition will not be the same for everyone, and therefore there are divisions of varṇāśrama — brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya, śūdra, brahmacarya, gṛhastha, vānaprastha and sannyāsa. Especially in this age, Kali-yuga, it is advised that no one take sannyāsa.
kalau pañca vivarjayet
From this we can understand that in this age the sannyāsa-āśrama is forbidden because people are not strong. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu showed us an example in taking sannyāsa at the age of twenty-four years, but even Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya advised Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu to be extremely careful because He had taken sannyāsa at an early age. For preaching we give young boys sannyāsa, but actually it is being experienced that they are not fit for sannyāsa. There is no harm, however, if one thinks that he is unfit for sannyāsa; if he is very much agitated sexually, he should go to the āśrama where sex is allowed, namely the gṛhastha-āśrama. That one has been found to be very weak in one place does not mean that he should stop fighting the crocodile of māyā. One should take shelter of the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa, as we shall see Gajendra do, and at the same time one can be a gṛhastha if he is satisfied with sexual indulgence. There is no need to give up the fight. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu therefore recommended, sthāne sthitāḥ śruti-gatāṁ tanu-vān-manobhiḥ. One may stay in whichever āśrama is suitable for him; it is not essential that one take sannyāsa. If one is sexually agitated, he can enter the gṛhastha-āśrama. But one must continue fighting. For one who is not in a transcendental position, to take sannyāsa artificially is not a very great credit. If sannyāsa is not suitable, one may enter the gṛhastha-āśrama and fight māyā with great strength. But one should not give up the fighting and go away.
prāṇasya dehī vivaśo yadṛcchayā
apārayann ātma-vimokṣaṇe ciraṁ
dadhyāv imāṁ buddhim athābhyapadyata
Everyone in the material world is engaged in a struggle for existence. Everyone tries to save himself from danger, but when one is unable to save himself, if he is pious, he then takes shelter of the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This is confirmed in Bhagavad-gītā (7.16):
catur-vidhā bhajante māṁ
janāḥ sukṛtino ’rjuna
ārto jijñāsur arthārthī
jñānī ca bharatarṣabha
Four kinds of pious men — namely, one who is in danger, one who is in need of money, one who is searching for knowledge and one who is inquisitive — begin to take shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead in order to be saved or to advance. The King of the elephants, in his condition of danger, decided to seek shelter of the lotus feet of the Lord. After considerable thought, he intelligently arrived at this correct decision. Such a decision is not reached by a sinful man. Therefore in Bhagavad-gītā it is said that those who are pious (sukṛtī) can decide that in a dangerous or awkward condition one should seek shelter of the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa.
kutaḥ kariṇyaḥ prabhavanti mocitum
grāheṇa pāśena vidhātur āvṛto
’py ahaṁ ca taṁ yāmi paraṁ parāyaṇam
This material world is described as padaṁ padaṁ yad vipadām, which means that at every step there is danger. A fool wrongly thinks that he is happy in this material world, but in fact he is not, for one who thinks that way is only illusioned. At every step, at every moment, there is danger. In modern civilization one thinks that if he has a nice home and a nice car his life is perfect. In the Western countries, especially in America, it is very nice to possess a good car, but as soon as one is on the road, there is danger because at any moment an accident may take place and one will be killed. The record actually shows that so many people die in such accidents. Therefore if we actually think that this material world is a very happy place, this is our ignorance. Real knowledge is that this material world is full of danger. We may struggle for existence as far as our intelligence allows and may try to take care of ourselves, but unless the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, ultimately saves us from danger, our attempts will be useless. Therefore Prahlāda Mahārāja says:
bālasya neha śaraṇaṁ pitarau nṛsiṁha
nārtasya cāgadam udanvati majjato nauḥ
taptasya tat-pratividhir ya ihāñjaseṣṭas
tāvad vibho tanu-bhṛtāṁ tvad-upekṣitānām
We may invent so many ways to be happy or to counteract the dangers of this material world, but unless our attempts are sanctioned by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, they will never make us happy. Those who try to be happy without taking shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead are mūḍhas, rascals. Na māṁ duṣkṛtino mūḍhāḥ prapadyante narādhamāḥ. Those who are the lowest of men refuse to take to Kṛṣṇa consciousness because they think that they will be able to protect themselves without Kṛṣṇa’s care. This is their mistake. The decision of the King of the elephants, Gajendra, was correct. In such a dangerous position, he sought shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
pracaṇḍa-vegād abhidhāvato bhṛśam
bhītaṁ prapannaṁ paripāti yad-bhayān
mṛtyuḥ pradhāvaty araṇaṁ tam īmahi
One who is intelligent understands that there is a great and supreme authority above everything. That great authority appears in different incarnations to save the innocent from disturbances. As confirmed in Bhagavad-gītā, paritrāṇāya sādhūnāṁ vināśāya ca duṣkṛtām: the Lord appears in His various incarnations for two purposes — to annihilate the duṣkṛtī, the sinful, and to protect His devotees. The King of the elephants decided to surrender unto Him. This is intelligent. One must know that great Supreme Personality of Godhead and surrender unto Him. The Lord comes personally to instruct us how to be happy, and only fools and rascals do not see by intelligence this supreme authority, the Supreme Person. In the śruti-mantra it is said:
bhīṣāsmād vātaḥ pavate
bhīṣāsmād agniś candraś ca
mṛtyur dhāvati pañcamaḥ
(Taittirīya Upaniṣad 2.8)
It is out of fear of the Supreme Personality of Godhead that the wind is blowing, that the sun is distributing heat and light, and that death is chasing everyone. Thus there is a supreme controller, as confirmed in Bhagavad-gītā (9.10): mayādhyakṣeṇa prakṛtiḥ sūyate sacarācaram. This material manifestation is working so well because of the supreme controller. Any intelligent person, therefore, can understand that there is a supreme controller. Furthermore, the supreme controller Himself appears as Lord Kṛṣṇa, as Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu and as Lord Rāmacandra to give us instructions and to show us by example how to surrender unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Yet those who are duṣkṛtī, the lowest of men, do not surrender (na māṁ duṣkṛtino mūḍhāḥ prapadyante narādhamāḥ).
In Bhagavad-gītā the Lord clearly says, mṛtyuḥ sarva-haraś cāham: “I am all-devouring death.” Thus mṛtyu, or death, is the representative who takes everything away from the living entity who has accepted a material body. No one can say, “I do not fear death.” This is a false proposition. Everyone fears death. However, one who seeks shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead can be saved from death. One may argue, “Does the devotee not die?” The answer is that a devotee certainly must give up his body, for the body is material. The difference is, however, that for one who surrenders to Kṛṣṇa fully and who is protected by Kṛṣṇa, the present body is his last; he will not again receive a material body to be subjected to death. This is assured in Bhagavad-gītā (4.9). Tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma naiti mām eti so ’rjuna: a devotee, after giving up his body, does not accept a material body, but returns home, back to Godhead. We are always in danger because at any moment death can take place. It is not that only Gajendra, the King of the elephants, was afraid of death. Everyone should fear death because everyone is caught by the crocodile of eternal time and may die at any moment. The best course, therefore, is to seek shelter of Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and be saved from the struggle for existence in this material world, in which one repeatedly takes birth and dies. To reach this understanding is the ultimate goal of life.
Thus end the Bhaktivedanta purports of the Eighth Canto, Second Chapter, of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, entitled “The Elephant Gajendra’s Crisis.”