by Satsvarupa dasa Goswami
Dhruva Maharaja was born as a son of a great king. The king had two wives, and he begot children by each of them. One day, while Dhruva’s stepbrother was playing on the lap of the king, Dhruva also wanted to play on his father’s lap. We can picture the king, whose name was Uttanapada, seated on the throne in a leisurely moment, in an affectionate mood, with one of the boys on his lap. His boy Dhruva, who was five years old, climbed up on his father’s knee, but his father did not receive him with any particular attention or affection. Moreover, Dhruva’s stepmother came forward and chastised Dhruva. “My dear boy,” she said, speaking loudly so that everyone could hear, “you cannot sit on the lap of your father. Although you are his son, you are disqualified because you have not taken birth in my womb.” Dhruva’s stepmother was the favorite wife of the king, and since the king was more or less henpecked by her, he allowed her to speak out although she was inflicting pain on his little son. ”If you want to sit on your father’s lap,” she went on, humiliating the boy and exploiting her own position as the king’s favorite, “you must first worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead by penances and austerities, and then in your next life you can take birth from my womb. Then it may be possible.” Dhruva burst into tears and ran home, taking shelter of his mother, to whom he blurted out the whole story.
This history is from the Fourth Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, the ripened fruit of all Vedic scriptures, and we are presenting it just as it was narrated 5,000 years ago.
“My dear boy,” said Dhruva’s mother, “what can I do? Your father loves your stepmother as his favorite, and he does not even consider me. What the queen said was true. You must worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and then it might be possible for you to sit on the throne.” Dhruva was of the warrior class and therefore very fiery by nature. He wanted to get the kingdom which he deserved as the son of the king, and he would not settle for being reduced and insulted. “Who must I see?” he demanded. “What must I do to get the kingdom?” In a passionate mood, the boy was ready to do anything to get what he wanted, but because he was just a little boy, he had to ask his mother what steps to take. His mother answered him wisely: “You must worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead.”
Since both his mother and stepmother had mentioned God, the Supreme Person, as the controller of his fortune, Dhruva intelligently asked about Him: “Where is God?” His mother replied that she only knew that saintly persons went to the forest to find Him. Thus Dhruva immediately left his father’s city and went to the forest. A person may doubt that a five-year-old boy could enter the forest alone, but we shall see that we have no competency to judge a personality like Dhruva. His leaving home is only the beginning of his extraordinary exploits. As we will see, there is no one in history to compare with Dhruva for personal fortitude, especially in executing spiritual life.
In the forest, Dhruva inquired of all the beasts, “Are you God? Are you God?” He traversed the jungle searching in the only way he understood. He interrogated all the creatures of the forest. “Where is God?” he called out. Although he knew nothing about spiritual discipline, he inquired from tree to tree and beast to beast as to where God could be found. Because Dhruva had a great desire to find the Supreme Absolute, Narada Muni, the eternal spiritual master who travels in space to all planets in his mission to deliver love of Krsna, appeared before him. According to Vedic scripture, when one is sincerely searching for God, or Krsna, Krsna sends that person a bona fide spiritual master to give instructions how to reach Him. The Supreme Lord is in the hearts of all living entities, and He directed Narada Muni from within to go instruct Dhruva. Narada was surprised to see how courageous Dhruva was in his demand to see God. He approached him in the forest and said, “My dear child Dhruva, I know of your situation. But you should not take seriously the insult your father has given. You have come to the forest to find God, but this requires very difficult and austere yoga which is impossible for you to perform. My advice is that you go home, and when you grow up you can try to follow this difficult process.”
Dhruva could not accept Narada’s advice. “I have been insulted by my stepmother,” he said, “and I have come to find God to get the kingdom I deserve.” Narada had instructed Dhruva not to take the insult seriously, but the boy replied, “I understand that your instructions are very valuable and good, but not for me. I am very disturbed and not very spiritually inclined. I am concerned with my material desire. If you cannot help me get what I want, then don’t tell me to go home, but you go home yourself!” Dhruva felt that if the sage were going to give him instructions which ruled out material desire, he was unfit to hear them. Similarly, out of curiosity many people approach the Krsna consciousness philosophy, but when they hear that Krsna declares, “Give up all material attachments and just surrender to Me,” they feel it impossible because they are not able to renounce the material pleasures of life. The essential instruction of this history, however, will show that those who have material desires are not barred from worshiping the Supreme Personality of Godhead. On the contrary, they are encouraged, for by approaching the Lord, who can bestow the fulfillment of all their hearts’ desires, they will be purified and become eligible to receive the greatest of all rewards, love of God. Certainly, one is not discouraged from approaching Krsna just because his thinking is material. God is the supreme benefactor of everyone, and one who approaches the Lord must be considered pious because he has gone to God for that which he desires.
Narada Muni, being a true spiritual master, is naturally kind and eager to see all souls go back to Godhead; therefore he mercifully agreed to accept Dhruva for instruction in how to find God. Dhruva told Narada Muni, “I want a kingdom not only greater than my father’s but greater even than that of Lord Brahma, the controller of the universe.” By the transcendental standards of Narada, the boy should not have taken the family insult seriously, but Narada reasoned, “Nevertheless, let him approach the Supreme Person, regardless of the reason.” Narada then told Dhruva how to absorb himself in devotional service to the all-powerful Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Dhruva’s mother had said that saintly persons go to the forest for self-realization. What does this actually mean? What are the actual facts behind the talk of “yoga,” “penance” and “austerity”? And when Dhruva Maharaja boldly declares to Narada that he wants to find God, what does it mean? Is God an ordinary person that we can talk to? Does Dhruva himself want to become God? In the end will we find out that there is no God or that God is impersonal or that everything is one? All such questions and doubts are cleared up by the explicit instructions which Narada Muni gave to his new disciple.
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
Narada asked Dhruva to perform the process of yoga known as the eightfold path, which begins with the practice of sitting postures and breath control for the purpose of subduing the mind. Control of the mind is necessary for meditation on the transcendental form of the Personality of Godhead. The yoga process is described in the scripture Bhagavad-gita, where it is clearly stated that the goal of yoga is to find Krsna. But Lord Krsna Himself, the supreme authority, also asserts therein that this process cannot be executed today because the difficult rules and regulations are not possible to follow in the present day and age. For today, the Vedic scriptures recommend that we chant the holy names of God (Hare Krsna, Hare Rama). Men in the present age have but a short life duration and very little genuine interest in spiritual life; furthermore, even if they are interested, people today are not able to practice rigid spiritual discipline because they are constantly disturbed by the distractions of the present civilization. Because of the disadvantages of this age, it is not possible to control the mind by this yoga process, and therefore Arjuna, the great disciple of Lord Krsna, rejected the mechanical eightfold yoga system as too difficult. This is discussed at length in Lord Krsna’s famous treatise on yoga, Bhagavad-gita (Chapter Six). One who wishes to inquire into the feasibility of yoga and the goal of yoga can consult that authoritative book. But whether long, long ago one practiced the mechanical yoga method or today one chants the holy name of God, the goal of yoga is the same—to meditate on the Supreme Lord and reach the point of performing active service in love of Krsna. The only difference in the different yoga methods is that the breathing and sitting exercises are preliminary to obtaining love of God, whereas chanting is immediate glorification of the beloved object, the Supreme Person, Krsna, the cause of all causes.
Narada Muni described the form of the Lord: “The Lord’s face is perpetually very beautiful and pleasing in attitude. To the devotee who sees Him He appears to be never displeased. Every limb of the Lord is always youthful; both His eyes and lips are pinkish like the rising sun, He is always prepared to give shelter to the surrendered soul, and one who is so fortunate as to look upon Him feels all satisfaction. He is the ocean of mercy. Wearing a garland of flowers, He is eternally manifest with four hands which hold the conchshell, wheel, club and lotus flower.” In addition to meditation on the eternal, blissful form of the Lord, Narada also instructed Dhruva to chant the sacred mantra, pray to the Lord, and worship the Deity form of the Lord. As we shall see, Dhruva met with immediate success by taking to this process because he followed authorized instructions of Narada, who was authorized by the Supreme Lord to teach a way which would bring the disciple to the right conclusion. One must act very seriously on the order of the spiritual master, and then there is no anxiety about reaching perfection.
The practice of yoga (yoga means “linking with the Supreme Personality of Godhead”) is actually a necessity for all living beings, whether one is a housewife, student, businessman or whatever. In this age we are not expected to go off and practice meditation in the jungle, yet we must find our eternal relationship with God. The primary business of the human being should be to accept a bona fide spiritual master and execute his instructions for attaining devotional service to God even while performing one’s regular activities. It is not enough to contentedly say, “I have my own religion.” One must engage all day long in acts of yoga or linking with Krsna if one hopes to fulfill the purpose of human life as distinct from the lives of lower animals like cats and dogs.
Dhruva Maharaja undertook severe penances in order to realize God. During the first month of his yoga practice, he ate only fruit and berries every third day and that only to keep body and soul together. In this way his worship of the Supreme Personality of Godhead began. In the second month Dhruva Maharaja ate only once every six days, and he ate only dry grass and leaves. Thus he continued his worship. In the third month he simply drank water once every nine days, and he remained completely in trance, worshiping the Supreme Personality of Godhead who is adored by selected verses. He had no thought but God.
We must understand that in comparison with Dhruva Maharaja we are insignificant in terms of practicing spiritual life. We cannot do anything difficult like the saintly Dhruva in order to reach self-realization. But, by the mercy of Lord Caitanya, in this present age we have been given all concessions possible. The International Society for Krishna Consciousness founded by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is authorized to freely distribute this mercy. Srila Prabhupada is a pure devotee coming directly in line from Lord Caitanya, who is in the disciplic succession originating with Narada Muni, the very same spiritual master of Dhruva. Although we are not to imitate the process recommended long ago for Dhruva, we must not neglect the easy-to-execute practice of prescribed duties which is offered especially for persons in this age. If we fail to take up this easy and joyful practice, we will fail in the mission of life. It is the duty of all humanity to follow in the footsteps of Dhruva Maharaja as far as his determination to reach God is concerned. One obtains a human life only after evolving through thousands of species of lower animal life, and human life is also very quickly spent. If we do not develop God consciousness while in the human form, we will fall down again on the evolutionary scale, and we cannot expect to rise to human life again until passing many lifetimes in miserable lower forms of life. Most people are not serious about this fact of the transmigration of the eternal soul, for they think that they can be perfectly happy by leading a life of temporary bodily pleasure. This is madness. One is urged to study the Vedic scriptures and hear from a bona fide spiritual master to understand the real situation. A great spiritual master in this line from Narada Muni, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, writes, “Wake up! Wake up, human beings! How long will you remain asleep on the lap of illusion? You have been given the rare opportunity of the human form of life. Now use it to realize God.” The entire Vedic instruction is addressed to human beings to urge them to wake up and use the human form of life properly. One should use human life to develop love of God to the perfectional point, for thus at the time of death one can take a spiritual body and enter the eternal kingdom of God. For this reason only—to develop love of God—one is advised to practice austerity. God is the most pure, and we must become pure in order to enter His eternal abode. Austerity entails going through any difficulty in order to carry out the orders of the spiritual master for obtaining love of Krsna. Once one attains this love of Krsna he no longer cares for anything material. In fact, he doesn’t even desire liberation to the kingdom of God but simply prays to be able to perform loving service to the Lord in whatever species of life he may be put, whether in heaven or hell.
In the fourth month of his yoga practice, Dhruva mastered the breathing excercise, and he would inhale air only every twelfth day. In the fifth month, still controlling his breathing, he concentrated his mind fully on the Supreme Person and stood on one leg like a motionless column. In the next month, Dhruva Maharaja became completely absorbed in trance upon Lord Visnu, Krsna. He suspended his breathing, closed all the holes of his body, and identified so closely with Lord Visnu in consciousness that when he stopped breathing, the total universal breathing became choked up and all the big demigods of the universe felt suffocated. The technical explanation of this is given as follows. When a hundred people are sitting in an airplane, even though each person is an individual, each individual shares in the total force of the airplane, which runs at a speed of hundreds of miles an hour; so, when the unit energy is identified with the total energy in service, the unit energy becomes as powerful as the total energy. Thus when Dhruva suspended his breathing, the breathing of the entire universe was suspended. Moreover, he also assumed the total weight of the universe, and as a result, when he pressed down his toe he pressed down the whole earth, just as an elephant enters a boat on the water and tilts it. This is the difference between ordinary consciousness and Krsna consciousness—in ordinary consciousness a king’s son might be refused something by his father; but when the same person becomes a fully Krsna conscious personality, he can even tilt the earth with the pressure of his toe!
The demigods, the powerful administrators of the universe, turned to Lord Visnu in fear, reporting that all breathing in the universe had been stopped. The Supreme Lord assured them that they need not worry. “These calamities are due to the severe austerities and full determination of the son of King Uttanapada,” He said, “who is fully absorbed in thoughts of Me and who has obstructed the universal breathing process. You can return to your respective homes safely; I shall stop this boy from his severe acts of austerity.” Lord Visnu is ultimately independent of the austerities practiced by His devotees, but because Dhruva so much desired to see Him, Lord Visnu went to speak with him.
As Dhruva engaged in his meditation, the form of the Lord in his heart in which he was fully absorbed all of a sudden disappeared, just like electric lightning. Being perturbed, Dhruva broke his meditation, opened his eyes, and saw before him the Supreme Personality of Godhead—the very form on which he was meditating. When the vision in his heart disappeared, he thought that he had lost Him; but now he saw Lord Visnu standing before him, and Dhruva fell flat before the Lord.
Dhruva wanted to offer prayers and profound respects, but because he was a small boy he could not adjust himself properly, nor could he even speak. The Lord, however, being situated within everyone’s heart, could understand Dhruva’s emotions, and out of His mercy He touched His conchshell to Dhruva’s head. The artists in the Krsna consciousness movement have painted a picture of this moment which is like a window opening wide to the spiritual sky. The Lord appeared in a four-armed form, His effulgent, brilliantly ornamented body full of eternity, bliss and knowledge. He is seen touching the forehead of Dhruva as they stand in the transcendental light of the forest. Dhruva is a small boy wearing only a loincloth and submissively standing before the Lord with folded hands. That same picture is exactly described in literary form in the scripture Srimad-Bhagavatam.
As a plucky young warrior child, Dhruva was looking for land in revenge for being pushed off the lap of his father. His cause was originally childish because he was asking God to become his order supplier. But the Supreme Lord is so kind that if one approaches Him even for land, he eventually gets the greatest opportunity—the chance to become a lover of God. Upon being touched by the Lord’s conchshell, Dhruva could finally pray, and he expressed his transcendental sentiments, which are cherished by all devotees. Since he could only speak when given the intelligence directly by the touch of the Lord’s conchshell, it can be understood that what he said was dictated by the Lord from within. This is transcendental inspiration. To glorify or offer prayers to the Supreme, one needs the Lord’s mercy. One cannot write or speak to glorify God unless one is endowed with His causeless mercy. Such glorification of God as the prayers of Dhruva or the Hare Krsna mantra does not consist of ordinary vibrations, although the ordinary letter combinations may be used, for these sounds can cleanse the heart of one who hears them submissively. Dhruva prayed, “My dear Lord, You are all-powerful, and by entering within me You have enlivened all my sleeping senses. Foolish persons such as me worship You for the sense gratification of the body, which is merely a bag of skin. Although You are a desire tree and cause liberation from birth and death, I am praying for things which are available even in a hellish condition.”
Dhruva prayed in a repentant spirit, for he was sorry that he had sought the Lord for such insignificant things as land and power. One who does not know what to ask of the Lord is considered to be bereft of all knowledge, and such was Dhruva’s original disposition. Dhruva Maharaja prayed, “Please, Lord, bless me with the association of great devotees who engage in Your transcendental loving service. I am becoming mad to hear about Your transcendental qualities and pastimes, which are eternally existent.”
It is significant that after overcoming his material desires Dhruva prayed in this way. We can understand from this that the topmost asset is the association of devotees. Such association is essential. In this connection, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada writes: “Anyone who is trying to be aloof from the Krsna Consciousness Society and yet engage in Krsna consciousness is living in a great hallucination, for it is not possible.”
Dhruva’s demands before seeing the Lord were materialistic, but upon seeing the Lord he offered his prayers in the mood of pure devotional service. On hearing such sentiments from His pure devotee, the Supreme Personality of Godhead answered, “My dear Dhruva, I know your desires and your ambitions, and I shall fulfill them all.” Actually, Dhruva was very much afraid that his material desires would hamper him in attaining love of God, but the Lord assured him that he would not deviate from love of God and that his desires would also be fulfilled. “I shall award you the glowing planet known as the Pole Star,” the Lord said, “which will continue to exist even after the dissolution of the universe at the end of the millennium. No one has ever ruled over this planet, which is surrounded by all the solar systems, planets and stars.” The demands that Dhruva made in the beginning were childish, yet as a father fulfills the demands of his child, the Lord offered this unique imperishable planet to Dhruva. In asking material things from the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Dhruva compares himself to a person who wins the favor of a very rich man and is offered whatever he would like but foolishly asks for only a few grains of rice. Dhruva most beautifully expresses his position when he says, “I came into this forest just looking for pieces of broken glass, but instead I have found a great jewel in You, my dear Lord, and now I am completely satisfied and don’t want anything.” Dhruva finally desired simply to be a servant of Krsna, but for His part the Lord wished Dhruva to take a spiritual planet within this universe and be its ruler.
Meanwhile, King Uttanapada heard from Narada that his son was alive and that he had become a perfected being and was coming back home, but he doubted that it was true. He considered himself most wretched for having forced his small boy to leave for the forest, and he didn’t think that it was possible for him to obtain the good fortune of seeing his son again. He thought that his son had been eaten by foxes in the woods or had lain down in the jungle and been killed. But because he was told the wonderful news by Narada, he took faith, and he prepared a great procession with chariots bedecked with golden filigree to meet his son. Upon their meeting among the citizens and family members, Dhruva’s father ran to embrace his son and saw to his wonder that he was not the same, for he had been completely sanctified by Krsna consciousness. After offering obeisances to his father, Dhruva Maharaja next threw himself at the feet of his stepmother, who raised him in her arms saying, “Long may you live!” Shortly later, King Uttanapada enthroned Dhruva Maharaja as the emperor of the planet, and he himself left for the forest for his own spiritual realization.
Dhruva ruled the earth as its king for 36,000 years and displayed all godly qualities. He was especially dear to the devotees and kind to the poor and innocent, and he protected religious principles. As promised by the Lord, his senses never became old, and after 36,000 years he handed over charge of the earth to his son, left his kingdom, wife, children and comfortable palace life and again went to the forest to perform the process of meditation on the form of the Lord that he had practiced in his childhood. As he meditated upon Krsna in a trance of devotional service, symptoms of ecstasy became manifest in his body, and as tears flowed from his eyes, his heart melted, and there was shivering all over his body. In that devotional trance he completely forgot his bodily existence and became liberated from material bondage.
As soon as the symptoms of liberation were manifest, Dhruva Maharaja saw a very beautiful airplane coming down from the sky, as if the brilliant full moon were coming down, illuminating all directions. Dhruva saw in the airplane two associates of Lord Visnu who possessed the same bodily features as Visnu, with four hands and a blackish bodily luster. The two associates of Visnu told Dhruva, “This unique airplane has been sent by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Because of your unalloyed devotional service in Krsna consciousness, you are quite ready to board this plane.” After hearing the words of the associates of the Lord, Dhruva Maharaja offered his respectful obeisances to the sages in the forest and to the associates of Lord Visnu and prepared to board the plane. In the meantime, his body became completely spiritualized and was now as brilliant and illuminating as molten gold.
As Dhruva Maharaja prepared to board the plane, he saw death personified approaching him. However, unafraid, he took the arrival of death as an opportunity to put his feet on death’s head and thus step into the plane. At that time, drums and kettledrums sounded from the sky, voices began to sing, and the demigods showered flowers upon Dhruva Maharaja.
The plane was just about to start, with Dhruva inside, when Dhruva thought to himself, “How can I go alone to the spiritual world and leave behind my poor mother?” However, the associates of Visnu understood his mind, and they assured him that his mother was also simultaneously going to Vaikuntha in another plane. Thus it is understood that the greatest asset in a family is a child who is a devotee and can liberate even his family members.
As Dhruva was passing through space, he saw all the planets of the solar system, and he also saw all the demigods in their airplanes showering flowers upon him like rain. Dhruva Maharaja surpassed all the planetary systems and ultimately attained the Pole Star, which is an eternal spiritual planet where he now resides eternally.
The rapid sanctification by which Dhruva became a great spiritual personality in only six months was possible by the mercy of Dhruva’s spiritual master and by the boy’s determination to follow his guru’s instructions. Hearing of the incidents of his life is valuable for all humanity. As expressed by Dhruva at the height of his awareness, “Association with devotees is the most valuable asset.” The best way to begin spiritual life is to chant the Hare Krsna mantra, associate with devotees and hear topics about Krsna, such as this history of Dhruva Maharaja, who was Krsna’s devotee. The Vedic literature is full of philosophy and stories, and the more one hears, the more he will feel transcendental pleasure and grow determined to reach Krsna.