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Escape from Eternal Time

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Escape from Eternal Time

by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

Srila Prabhupada Chanting Hare Krishna in his garden at New Dwarka, Los Angeles Hare Krishna TempleDHATARASTRA was the eldest son of his father, and therefore according to law he was to be installed on the throne of Hastinapura. He was disqualified, however, from his rightful claim because he was blind from birth. Nevertheless he could not forget this bereavement, and his disappointment was somewhat compensated after the death of Pandu, his younger brother. His younger brother left behind him some minor children, and Dhrtarastra became their natural guardian. At heart, however, he wanted to become the factual king and hand over the kingdom to his own sons, headed by Duryodhana.

With all these imperial ambitions, Dhrtarastra contrived all sorts of intrigues in consultation with his brother-in-law Sakuni. By the will of the Lord, however, everything failed, but at the last stage, even after losing all his men and money in the Battle of Kuruksetra, Dhrtarastra still wanted to remain king, being the eldest uncle of Maharaja Yudhisthira. Yudhisthira, who emerged victorious after the Battle of Kuruksetra, maintained Dhrtarastra in royal honor as a matter of duty. Thus Dhrtarastra was happily passing his numbered days under the illusion of being a king as the royal uncle of King Yudhisthira.

Dhrtarastra at this point was aided by his youngest brother, the great saint and sage Vidura. Vidura came to the palace to speak to Dhrtarastra because he felt duty-bound to awaken him from his slumber of disease and old age. Consequently Vidura addressed Dhrtarastra as “King” although Dhrtarastra was not a king in fact. Actually everyone is a servant of eternal time, and therefore no one can be king in this material world. A king is a person who can order. However, even a king cannot order time and tide. Therefore one is only a false king in this material world, and Vidura particularly reminded Dhrtarastra of this false position and of the fearful happenings approaching him at this time. Vidura informed him that if he wanted to be saved from the fearful situation that was approaching him fast, he had best get out of his illusion immediately.

An insanely attached householder who is blind to the passing of eternal time thinks, “I am now happy. I have everything in order. My bank balance is quite enough. I can now give my children enough estate. I am now successful. The poor sannyasi beggars depend on God, but they come to beg from me. Therefore I am more than the Supreme God.”

The fact is, however, that our duration of life is measured, and no one is able to enhance it even by a second against that time ordained by the supreme will. A human being should cautiously spend his valuable time because even one second passed away cannot be replaced, not even in exchange for thousands of golden coins amassed by hard labor. Every second of human life is meant for making an ultimate solution to the problems of life, namely the repetition of birth and death and the continuation of the cycle of birth in 8,400,000 species of life.

The material body, which is subject to birth and death, disease and old age, is the cause of all sufferings for the living entity. Otherwise the living entity is eternal; he is never born, nor does he ever die. Foolish people forget the problem of repeated birth and death. They do not know how to solve the problems of life, but instead they become engrossed in temporary family affairs, not knowing that eternal time passes imperceptibly. Unaware that their measured life span diminishes with every second, they do not make any solution to the big problem, which is the repetition of birth, death, disease and old age. Such a mentality is called illusion.

There is no superior power that can check the cruel hands of death. According to Srimad-Bhagavatam:

pratikriya na yasyeha
kutascit karhicit prabho
sa esa bhagavan kalah
sarvesam nah samagatah

“This frightful situation cannot be remedied by any person in this material world. It is the Supreme Personality of Godhead as eternal time [kala] that has approached us all.”(Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.13.19) However acute the source of bodily sufferings may be, no one wants to die. Even in these days of so-called scientific advancement of knowledge, there is no remedial measure either for old age or for death. Old age is the notice of the arrival of death served by cruel time, and no one can refuse to accept either summon calls or the supreme judgment of eternal time.

Because Dhrtarastra might otherwise have asked Vidura to find some remedy for the imminent fearful situation, Vidura informed him that there is no remedial measure against death in this material world. Because there is nothing comparable to death in this material world, death is identical with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and this is stated by the Lord Himself in Bhagavad-gita: (Bg. 10.34): mrtyuh sarva-haras caham. “I am all-devouring death.”

Death cannot be checked by anyone. Hiranyakasipu, in an attempt to become immortal, underwent a severe penance that caused the whole universe to tremble. Brahma himself approached Hiranyakasipu to dissuade him from executing such severe penances, and Hiranyakasipu asked Brahma to award him the blessings of immortality. Brahma said, however, that he himself was subject to death, which governs even the topmost planet. How, then, could he award him the benediction of immortality? Therefore there is death even in the highest planet of this universe, and what to speak of other planets, which are far, far inferior in quality to Brahmaloka, the residence of Brahma.

Wherever there is eternal time, there is birth, disease, old age and death, and all of these are invincible. Indeed, there is no powerful living being within the universe who can overcome the influence of time. Many poets have written verses on the influence of time, and many devastations have taken place over the universe due to the influence of time. No one could check these devastations by any means. Even in our daily life so many things come and go, and we have no hand in them. We simply have to suffer or tolerate them. We are helpless to provide any remedy. This is the result of time. According to Srimad-Bhagavatam:

yena caivabhipanno ‘yam
pranaih priyatamair api
janah sadyo viyujyeta
kim utanyair dhanadibhih

“Whoever is under the influence of supreme kala [eternal time] must surrender his dear life, and what to speak of other things, such as wealth, honor, children, land and home.” (Bhag. 1.13.20)

Thus Vidura reminded Dhrtarastra of his precarious condition, influenced by cruel time, for by his past experience Dhrtarastra should have more intelligently seen what was going to happen to his own life. Vidura told him:

pitr-bhratr-suhrt-putra
hatas te vigatam vayam
atma ca jaraya grastah
para-geham upasase

“Your father, brother, well-wishers and sons are all dead and passed away. You yourself have expended the major portion of your life, your body is now overtaken by invalidity, and you are now living in the home of another person.” [Bhag. 1.13.21]

Dhrtarastra’s father, Vicitravirya, had died long ago, when Dhrtarastra and his younger brothers were all little children, and it was due to the care and kindness of Bhismadeva that they were properly brought up. Then again his brother Pandu died also. Then in the Battle of Kuruksetra his one hundred sons and grandsons all died, along with all other well-wishers like Bhismadeva, Dronacarya, Karna and many other kings and friends. Thus Dhrtarastra had lost all his men and money, and now he was living at the mercy of his nephew, Yudhisthira, whom he had put into various types of trouble.

Despite all these reverses, Dhrtarastra thought he would prolong his life more and more. Therefore Vidura wanted to point out to him that everyone has to protect himself by his action and the grace of the Lord. One has to execute his duty faithfully and depend for the results on the supreme authority. No friends, no children, no father, no brother, no state nor anyone else can protect a person not protected by the Supreme Lord. One should therefore seek the protection of the Supreme Lord, for the human form of life is meant for seeking that protection.

Vidura even went further in warning Dhrtarastra of his precarious condition,

andhah puraiva vadhiro
manda-prajnas ca sampratam
visirna-danto mandagnih
saragah kapham udvahan

“You have been blind from your very birth,” Vidura told him, “and recently you have become hard of hearing. Your memory is shortened, and your intelligence is disturbed. Your teeth are loose, your liver is defective, and you are coughing up mucus.” (Bhag. 1.13.22) The symptoms of old age were already developed in Dhrtarastra, and one by one Vidura pointed them out to him, concluding that they all served as a warning that death was approaching very quickly. Nonetheless Dhrtarastra was foolishly carefree about his future.

The signs pointed out by Vidura in the body of Dhrtarastra were signs of the material body’s dwindling before the last strokes of death. The body takes birth, develops, stays, creates other bodies, dwindles and then vanishes. Foolish men want to make a permanent settlement for the perishable body, and they think that their estate, children, society, country, etc., will give them protection. Because of such foolish ideas, they are overtaken by temporary engagements, and they altogether forget that they must give up this temporary body and take on a new one to arrange for another cycle of society, friendship and love, which will again ultimately perish. Forgetting their permanent identity, they become foolishly active in nonpermanent occupations, forgetting their prime duty altogether.

Saints and sages like Vidura approach such foolish men to awaken them to the real situation, but unfortunately such sadhus [holy men] and saints are taken as social parasites. Thus foolish men refuse to hear the words of these sadhus and saints, although they welcome showbottle sadhus and so-called saints who can satisfy their senses. Vidura was not a sadhu who satisfied the unfortunate sentiments of men like Dhrtarastra. He was correctly pointing out the real situation and informing him how he could save himself from the catastrophes of life. A sadhu should never flatter kings or rich men to live comfortably at their cost. A sadhu should speak to householders about the naked truth so that they may come to their senses regarding the precarious material existence.

Dhrtarastra is a typical example of an attached old man in household life. Although he became a pauper in the true sense, he nonetheless wanted to live comfortably in the house of the Pandavas. Thus Vidura told him:

aho mahiyasi jantor
jivitasa yatha bhavan
bhimapavarjitam pindam
adatte grha-palavat

“Alas, how powerful are the hopes of a living being to continue his life. Verily, you are living just like a household dog and are eating remnants of food given by Bhima.” (Bhag. 1.13.23) Vidura especially mentioned Bhima because Bhima personally killed Dhrtarastra’s two prominent sons, Duryodhana and Duhsasana. These two sons were very dear to Dhrtarastra for their notorious and nefarious activities, and Bhima was particularly pointed out because he killed these two pet sons. Why was Dhrtarastra living at the house of the Pandavas? Because he wanted to continue his life comfortably, even at the risk of all humiliation. Vidura was therefore astonished at the powerful urge to continue life despite humiliation.

This sense of continuing one’s life indicates that a living being is eternally a living entity and does not want to change his bodily habitation. A foolish man does not know that a particular term of bodily existence is awarded to him as a term of imprisonment, and the human body is awarded after many, many births and deaths as a chance for self-realization to go back home, back to Godhead. Persons like Dhrtarastra try to make plans to live in the material body in a comfortable position with profit and interest, for they do not see things as they are.

Dhrtarastra was blind, and he continued to hope to live comfortably in the midst of all of life’s reverses. A sadhu like Vidura is meant to awaken such blind people and thus help them return to Godhead, where life is eternal. Upon returning to God, one does not want to return to this material world of miseries. We can hardly imagine how responsible a task is entrusted to a sadhu like Mahatma Vidura.

The system of varnasrama religion sets aside a part of one’s life completely for the purpose of self-realization and attainment of salvation in the human form of life. That is a routine division of life. But persons like Dhrtarastra, even at their weary ripened age, want to stay home, even in a degraded condition. Dhrtarastra was actually accepting charity from his enemies. Wanting to point this out and impress upon him that it was better to die like his sons than to accept such humiliating charity, Vidura told him:

agnir nisrsto dattas ca
garo daras ca dusitah
hrtam ksetram dhanam yesam
tad-dattair asubhih kiyat

“There is no need to live a degraded life and subsist on the charity of those whom you tried to kill by arson and poisoning. You also insulted one of their wives and usurped their kingdom and wealth.” (Bhag. 1.13.24)

Five thousand years ago there was one Dhrtarastra, but at the present moment there are many Dhrtarastras in every home. Politicians especially do not retire from political activities unless dragged by the cruel hand of death or killed by some opposing element. To stick to family life till the end of one’s human life is the grossest type of degradation, and there is an absolute need for Viduras to educate such Dhrtarastras, even at the present moment.

Vidura further informed Dhrtarastra: “Despite your unwillingness to die and your desire to live even at the cost of honor and prestige, your miserly [krpana] body will certainly dwindle and deteriorate like an old garment.” (Bhag. 1.13.25) The words krpanasya jijivisoh in this verse are significant. There are two classes of men. One is called a krpana, and the other is called a brahmana. The krpana, the miserly man, has no estimation of his material body, but the brahmana has a true estimation of himself and the material body. Having a wrong estimation of his material body, the krpana wants to enjoy sense gratification with his utmost strength, and even in old age he tries to become a young man by medical treatment or otherwise. Dhrtarastra is addressed herein as a krpana because without considering his material body he wants to live at any cost, and Vidura is trying to open his eyes to see that he cannot live more than his time and that he must prepare for death.

Since death is inevitable, why should one accept such a humiliating position? It is better to take the right path, even at the risk of death. Human life is meant for finishing all kinds of miseries that arise due to material existence, and life should be so regulated that one can achieve the desired goal. Because of his wrong conception of life, Dhrtarastra had already spoiled eighty percent of his energy, so it behooved him to utilize his remaining days for the ultimate good. Dhrtarastra’s life was miserly because he did not properly utilize the assets of the human form of life. By good luck such a miserly man meets a self-realized soul like Vidura, and by Vidura’s instructions he gets rid of the nescience of material existence.

Narottama dasa Thakura, a great Krishna conscious devotee and spiritual master, has sung:

hari-kari viphale janama gonainu
manusya-janama paiya,
radha-Krishna na bhajiya
janiya suniyda visa khainu

“My Lord, I have simply wasted my life. Having obtained the human body, I have neglected to worship Your Lordship, and therefore willingly I have drunk poison.” In other words, the human body is especially meant for cultivating knowledge of devotional service to the Lord, without which life is full of anxieties and miserable conditions. Therefore one who has spoiled his life without such cultural activities is advised to leave home without the knowledge of friends or relatives and, being thus freed from all obligations to family, society, country, etc., give up the body at some unknown destination so -that others may not know where and how he has met his death.

Thus Vidura advised Dhrtarastra:

gata-svartham imam deham
virakto mukta-bandhanah
avijnata-gatir jahyat
sa vai dhira udahrtah

“He is called undisturbed [dhira] who goes to an unknown, remote place and, freed from all obligations, quits his material body when it has become useless.” (Bhag. 1.13.26) A dhira is one who is not disturbed, even when there is sufficient provocation. Generally, one cannot give up a comfortable life due to his affectionate relation with wife and children. Self-realization is obstructed by such undue affection for family, and if anyone is at all able to forget such a relation, he is called undisturbed, or dhira.

This, however, is the path of renunciation based on a frustrated life, but stabilization of such renunciation is possible only by association with bona fide saints and self-realized souls who can engage one in the loving devotional service of the Lord. Sincere surrender unto the lotus feet of the Lord is possible by awakening the transcendental sense of service, and this is made possible by the association of pure devotees of the Lord. Dhrtarastra was lucky enough to have a brother like Vidura whose very association was a source of liberation for his frustrated life. Vidura further told Dhrtarastra:

yah svakat parato veha
jata-nirveda atmavan
hrdi krtva harim gehat
pravrajet sa narottamah

“He is certainly a first-class man who a-wakens and understands, either by himself or from others, the falsity and misery of this material world and thus leaves home and depends fully on the Personality of Godhead residing in his heart.” (Bhag. 1.13.27) Real perfection on the path of liberation is obtained when one is practiced to depend fully on the Supreme Personality of. Godhead, who lives in everyone’s heart. One way live in the darkest jungle alone, but a steadfast devotee knows very well that he is never alone. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is within him, and He can protect His sincere devotee in any awkward circumstance. One should therefore practice devotional service at home, hearing chanting of the Lord’s holy name, quality, form, pastimes and entourage in the association of pure devotees, and this practice will help one awaken God consciousness in proportion to one’s sincerity.

Vidura’s words to Maharaja Dhrtarastra did not go in vain. We are informed by Srimad-Bhagavatam:

evam raja vidurenanujena
prajna-caksur bodhita ajamidhah
chittva svesu sneha-pasan dradhimno
niscakrama bhratr-sandarsitadhva

“Thus Maharaja Dhrtarastra, the scion of the family of Ajamidha, firmly convinced by introspective knowledge, broke at once the strong network of familial affection by his resolute determination. Thus he immediately left home to set out on the path of liberation, as directed by his younger brother Vidura.” (Bhag. 1.13.29)

Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the great preacher of the principles of Srimad-Bhagavatam, has stressed the importance of association with sadhus, or pure devotees of the Lord. He said that even by a moment’s association with a pure devotee, one can achieve all perfection. Vidura’s association with Dhrtarastra serves as an example of this truth. Maharaja Dhrtarastra was tightly bound in a network of material affinities related to politics, economy and family attachment, and he did everything in his power to achieve so-called success in his planned projects, but he was frustrated from the beginning to the end so far as his material activities were concerned. And yet, despite his life of failure, he achieved the greatest of all success in self-realization by the forceful instructions of a pure devotee of the Lord, who is the typical emblem of a sadhu. The scriptures enjoin, therefore, that one should associate with sadhus only, rejecting all other kinds of association, and by so doing one will have ample opportunity to hear the sadhus, who can cut to pieces the bonds of illusory affection in the material world.

It is a fact that the material world is a great illusion because everything appears to be a tangible reality but at the next moment everything is evaporated like the dashing foam of the sea or a cloud in the sky. A cloud in the sky undoubtedly appears to be a reality because it rains and due to rain so many temporary green things appear, but in the ultimate issue, everything disappears, namely the cloud, rain and green vegetation, all in due course. But the sky remains, and the varieties of luminaries in the sky also remain forever. Similarly the Absolute Truth, which is compared to the sky, remains eternally, and the temporary cloudlike illusion comes and goes away. Foolish living beings are attracted by the temporary cloud, but intelligent men are more concerned with the eternal sky with all its variegatedness.

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