The Prayers of Queen Kunti
wish that all those calamities would happen again and again so that we
could see You again and again, for seeing You means that we will no longer
see repeated births and deaths." [SB 1.8.25]
My dear Krishna, Yashoda took up a rope to bind You when You committed an offense, and Your perturbed eyes overflooded with tears, which washed the mascara from Your eyes. And You were afraid, though fear personified is afraid of You. This sight is bewildering to me.
Some say that the Unborn is born for the glorification of pious kings, and others say that He is born to please King Yadu, one of Your dearest devotees. You appear in his family as sandalwood appears in the Malaya hills.
Others say that since both Vasudeva and Devaki prayed for You, You have taken Your birth as their son. Undoubtedly You are unborn, yet You take Your birth for their welfare and to kill those who are envious of the demigods.
Others say that the world, being overburdened like a boat at sea, is much aggrieved, and that Brahma, who is Your son, prayed for You, and so You have appeared to diminish the trouble.
And yet others say that You appeared to rejuvenate the devotional service of hearing, remembering, worshiping and so on in order that the conditioned souls suffering from material pangs might take advantage and gain liberation.
O Krishna, those who continuously hear, chant and repeat Your transcendental activities, or take pleasure in others' doing so, certainly see Your lotus feet, which alone can stop the repetition of birth and death.
As Kunti approached the Lord's chariot and began to address Him, her immediate purpose was to persuade Him to remain in Hastinapura and protect the Pandava govemment from reprisals:
O my Lord... are You leaving us today, though we are completely dependent on Your mercy and have no one else to protect us, now when all kings are at enmity with us? (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.8.37)
From this supplication we should not mistakenly conclude that Kunti's prayers were self-serving. Although her sufferings were far greater than those any ordinary person could endure, she does not beg relief. On the contrary, she prays to suffer even more, for she reasons that her suffering will increase her devotion to the Lord and bring her ultimate liberation:
My dear Krsna, Your Lordship has protected us from the poisoned cake, from a great fire, from cannibals, from the vicious assembly, from sufferings during our exile in the forest, and from the battle where great generals fought.... I wish that all those calamities would happen again and again so that we could see You again and again, for seeing You means that we will no longer see repeated births and deaths. (SB. 1.8.24-25)
Kunti's words -- the simple and illuminating outpourings of the soul of a great and saintly woman devotee -- reveal both the deepest transcendental emotions of the heart and the most profound philosophical and theological penetrations of the intellect. Her words are words of glorification impelled by a divine love steeped in wisdom: O Lord of Madhu, as the Ganges forever flows to the sea without hindrance, let my attraction be constantly drawn unto You without being diverted to anyone else. (SB. 1.8.42)
Kunti's spontaneous glorification of Lord Krsna and her description of the spiritual path are immortalized in the Mahabharata and the Bhagavata Purana (Srimad-Bhagavatam), and they have been recited, chanted, and sung by sages and philosophers for thousands of years.
As they appear in the First Canto of the Bhagavatam, Queen Kunti's celebrated prayers consist of only twenty-six couplets (verses 18 through 43 of the Eighth Chapter), yet they are considered a philosophical, theological, and literary masterpiece.
Therefore Kuntidevi says, vipadah santu: "Let there be calamities." Vipadah santu tah sasvat: "Let all those calamities happen again and again." Because she knows how to remember Krishna at times of danger, she is welcoming danger. "My dear Lord," she says, "I welcome dangers, because when dangers come I can remember You." When Prahlada Maharaja's father was putting him into dangerous predicaments, Prahlada was always thinking of Krishna. So if we are put into a dangerous position and that danger gives us an impetus to remember Krishna, that is welcome: "Oh, I am getting this opportunity to remember Krishna." Why is this welcome? It is welcome because seeing Krishna or remembering Krishna means advancing in spiritual life so that we will not have to suffer any more of these dangers. Tyaktva deham punar janma naiti mam eti so 'rjuna (Bg. 4.9). If one becomes advanced in Krishna consciousness, the result will be that after giving up the body (tyaktva deham) one will not have to take birth again in this material world (punar janma naiti). This is to be desired.
Generally, the distressed, the needy, the intelligent, and the inquisitive who have performed some pious activities worship or begin to worship the Lord. Others, who are thriving on misdeeds only, regardless of status, cannot approach the Supreme due to being misled by the illusory energy. Therefore, for a pious person, if there is some calamity there is no other alternative than to take shelter of the lotus feet of the Lord. Constantly remembering the lotus feet of the Lord means preparing for liberation from birth and death. Therefore, even though there are so-called calamities, they are welcome because they give us an opportunity to remember the Lord, which means liberation.
One who has taken shelter of the lotus feet of the Lord, which are accepted as the most suitable boat for crossing the ocean of nescience, can achieve liberation as easily as one leaps over the holes made by the hooves of a calf. Such persons are meant to reside in the abode of the Lord, and they have nothing to do with a place where there is danger in every step.
This material world is certified by the Lord in the Bhagavad-gita as a dangerous place full of calamities. Less intelligent persons prepare plans to adjust to those calamities, without knowing that the nature of this place is to be full of calamities. They have no information of the abode of the Lord, which is full of bliss and without trace of calamity. The duty of the sane person, therefore, is to be undisturbed by worldly calamities, which are sure to happen in all circumstances. Suffering all sorts of unavoidable misfortunes, one should make progress in spiritual realization, because that is the mission of human life. The spirit soul is transcendental to all material calamities; therefore, the so-called calamities are called false. A man may see a tiger swallowing him in a dream, and he may cry for this calamity. Actually there is no tiger and there is no suffering; it is simply a case of dreams. In the same way, all calamities of life are said to be dreams. If someone is lucky enough to get in contact with the Lord by devotional service, it is all gain. Contact with the Lord by any one of the nine devotional services is always a forward step on the path going back to Godhead.
In this very interesting verse, it is described that vipadah--calamities or dangers--are very good if such dangers and calamities remind us of Krishna.
te 'nukampam susamiksamano
How does a devotee receive dangers? There must be dangers because this material world is full of dangers. But foolish people who do not know this try to avoid the dangers. Thus they struggle for existence. Everyone is trying to become happy and avoid danger. This is our material business. Everyone is trying for atyantikam sukham, ultimate happiness. A working man thinks, "Let me work very hard now and put money in the bank, so that when I get old I shall enjoy life without working." This is the inner intention of everyone. No one wants to work; as soon as one gets some money, he wants to retire from work and become happy. But that is not possible. One cannot become happy in that way.
Here Kuntidevi speaks of apunar bhava-darsanam. The prefix a means "not," and punar bhava means "repetition of birth and death." The real danger is the repetition of birth and death. That must be stopped.
The material world is full of dangers (padam padam yad vipadam). For example, if one is on the ocean one may have a very strong ship, but that ship can never be safe; because one is at sea, at any time there may be dangers. The Titanic was safe, but on its first voyage it sank, and many important men lost their lives. So danger there must be, because we are in a dangerous position. This material world itself is dangerous. Therefore, our business now should be to cross over this sea of danger as soon as possible. As long as we are at sea, we are in a dangerous position, however strong our ship may be. That's a fact. But we should not be disturbed by the sea waves; instead, we should just try to cross over the sea and get to the other side. That should be our business.
As long as we are in this material world, there must be calamities because this is the place of calamity. But even with calamities our business should be to develop our Krishna consciousness, so that after giving up this body we may go back home, back to Krishna.
On the Battlefield of Kuruksetra, Arjuna said to Krishna, "Whatever You are saying is all right. I am not this body. I am a soul, and this is also true of everyone else. So when the body is annihilated, the soul will continue to exist. But when I see that my son is dying or my grandfather is dying and that I am killing, how can I be solaced simply by knowing that they are not dying, but that only their bodies are changing? I am accustomed to thinking of them with affection in terms of the body, and so there must be grief and suffering."
Krishna did not deny what Arjuna said. "Yes," He replied. "That's a fact. Because you are in the bodily concept of life, there must be suffering. So you must tolerate it, that's all. There is no other remedy." As mentioned in Bhagavad-gita (2.14), Lord Krishna told Arjuna:
"O son of Kunti, the nonpermanent appearance of heat and cold, happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed."
In America it may sometimes be very chilly in the morning, and that may make taking one's morning bath a little difficult. But does that mean that those who are devotees will stop taking their prescribed morning bath? No. Even if it is chilly, they must take this regular bath. The duty must be done, even if there is a little suffering involved. That is called tapasya, or austerity. Tapasya means that we must proceed with our business of Krishna consciousness despite all the dangers and calamities of this world. This is called tapasya, or voluntary acceptance of the difficulties of life.
Sometimes those who have undertaken strict vows of tapasya will ignite a ring of fire all around themselves, and in the scorching heat of the sun in the hot summer they will sit down in the midst of that fire and meditate. Similarly, in the chilly cold of winter they will immerse themselves in water up to the neck and meditate. Such vows are prescribed in strict systems of tapasya. But Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu does not give us such a prescription. Instead, He gives us a very nice program: chant, dance, and take prasada, food offered first to Lord Krishna. But still we are unwilling. We are so fallen that we cannot accept even this tapasya. Although this kind of tapasya is very easy to perform and very pleasant (su-sukham kartum avyayam), still we are not agreeable. We may even prefer to rot in the street. Some people prefer to drink and have sex and live in the street. So what can be done?
The Krishna consciousness movement is giving all facilities so that people may come here, chant, dance, live very peacefully, take krishna-prasada, and be happy, but people will not accept it. That is called misfortune. Caitanya Mahaprabhu, portraying the people of this age, therefore said, "I am so unfortunate that I have no attachment for chanting Hare Krishna." Lord Caitanya prayed (Siksastaka 2):
akari bahudha nija-sarva-saktis
Krishna, the transcendental holy name of God, has all potencies, Lord Caitanya said. Krishna has unlimited potencies, and similarly in the holy name of Krishna there are unlimited potencies. Krishna has thousands and thousands of names, of which the name Krishna is the chief, and there are no hard and fast rules for chanting. It is not that one must chant at a certain time. No. At any time one may chant. Furthermore, Krishna's name is identical with Krishna Himself. Therefore the holy name of Krishna is Krishna.
We should not think that Krishna is living in His abode, Goloka Vrndavana, and that His name is different from Him. In the material world, of course, in the material conception, a name is different from the fact it represents. But in the absolute world there are no such differences. The name is as potent as Krishna is. We have a tongue, and if we use this tongue to chant Hare Krishna, we shall immediately come directly in touch with Krishna, because the name Krishna and the person Krishna are not different. We may think that Krishna is far, far away, but in fact Krishna is within us. He is far away, but at the same time He is the nearest. But even if we think that Krishna is far, far away, His name is present. We can chant Hare Krishna, and Krishna will immediately become available. Krishna is available in this easy way, for which there are no hard and fast rules. We can chant at any time and immediately get Krishna. Just see the mercy of Krishna!
Therefore Caitanya Mahaprabhu says, etadrsi tava krpa bhagavan mamapi durdaivam idrsam ihajani nanuragah: "My dear Lord, You have given me such generous facilities by which to contact You, but I am so unfortunate that I have no attachment for these things. I have attachment for so many other things, but I have no attachment for chanting Hare Krishna. This is my misfortune." Krishna is so magnanimous that He is present before us by the transcendental vibration of His name, which has all the potencies of Krishna Himself, and if we remain in contact with that name we shall get all the benefits of Krishna's benedictions. But still we are not inclined to chant the Hare Krishna mantra. This is our misfortune.
A devotee, however, is never disturbed by dangers, reverses, or calamities. Rather, he welcomes them. Because he is a surrendered soul, he knows that both dangers and festivals are but different demonstrations of Krishna, who is absolute. In the sastra, the Vedic literature, it is said that religion and irreligion, which are complete opposites, are merely the front portion and the back portion of God. But is there any difference between God's front and God's back? God is absolute, and therefore a devotee, either in opulence or in danger, is undisturbed, knowing that both of these are Krishna.
Suppose I am very comfortable at the present moment. My body may be comfortable, but there will be death, and then another birth. After giving up my present body, if I get the body of a cat or a dog, what is the meaning of my comfortable position? Death is sure, and after death one must surely accept another body. We may not know what kind of body we shall get, but we can know from the sastra, the Vedic literature. The sastra says that according to our particular mentality, we will get a particular kind of body. Although I may be in a comfortable position, if I keep myself in the mentality of a dog, I shall get my next life as a dog. Therefore, what is the value of this comfortable position? I may be in a comfortable position for twenty years, thirty years, fifty years, or at the utmost one hundred years. Yet if, when I give up this body, my mentality causes me to become a cat, a dog, or a mouse, what is the benefit of this comfortable position? But people do not consider this. They think, especially in the present age, "I am now in a comfortable position. I have enough money and a good estate. I have ample comforts and enough food. When this body is finished, I am not going to take birth again, so as long as I am living, let me enjoy life." This is the modern philosophy of hedonism, but it does not correspond to the facts.
Kunti, however, is aware of birth and death, and she is anxious not to repeat this process. This is indicated by the words apunar bhava-darsanam. If one always sees Krishna, one is in Krishna consciousness, for Krishna consciousness means always thinking of Krishna. One's consciousness should be absorbed in Krishna thought. Therefore the spiritual master gives different varieties of engagements to devotees in Krishna consciousness. For example, under the direction of the spiritual master the devotees may sell books in Krishna consciousness. But if the devotees think that the energy invested in selling books should be diverted into selling jewelry, that is not a very good idea. Then they would become nothing more than jewelers. We should be very much careful not to be diverted from Krishna consciousness. Even if there is danger or suffering in Krishna consciousness, we should tolerate it. We should even welcome such danger, and we should pray in appreciation to Krishna.
How should we pray? Tat te 'nukampam susamiksamanah: "My dear Lord, it is Your great mercy that I have been put into this dangerous position." That is the viewpoint of a devotee. He doesn't regard danger as danger. Rather, he thinks, "It is Krishna's mercy." What kind of mercy? Bhunjana evatma-krtam vipakam: "Because of my past activities, I was meant to suffer very much. But You are mitigating that suffering and giving me only a little." In other words, by the grace of Krishna a devotee may receive only token punishment.
In court an important man is sometimes found to be a culprit, and the judge may be able to fine him a hundred thousand dollars and know that the man can pay it. But he may tell the man, "You just give one cent." That is also punishment, but it is greatly minimized. Similarly, we have to suffer for our past deeds. That is a fact, and we cannot avoid it. But karmani nirdahati kintu ca bhakti-bhajam (Brahma-samhita 5.54): the sufferings of those who engage in devotional service in Krishna consciousness are minimized. For example, one may have been destined to be killed, but instead of being killed with a knife, he may instead get some little cut on his finger. In this way, for those who engage in devotional service, the reactions of past activities are minimized. Lord Krishna assures His devotees, aham tvam sarva-papebhyo moksayisyami: "I shall give you protection from the reactions of sinful life." So even if a devotee has a history of very grievous criminal activities behind him, instead of being killed he may only get a little cut on his finger. Why then should a devotee fear danger?
We should simply depend on Krishna consciousness, because if we live Krishna consciously under all circumstances, we shall not return to this material world (apunar bhava-darsanam). If we repeatedly think of Krishna, see Krishna, read of Krishna, work for Krishna, and somehow or other remain in Krishna consciousness, we benefit in such a way that we shall be saved from taking birth again in the material world. That is true benefit. But if we become a little comfortable because of other, materialistic engagements and we forget Krishna and have to take birth again, then what is our benefit? We should be very careful about this. We should act in such a way that our Krishna consciousness can under no circumstances be disturbed, even if there is heavy suffering. That is the instruction of Kuntidevi.
Before winning the Battle of Kuruksetra, all the Pandavas were put into many dangers, as already described in the previous verses. They were given poison, they were put into a house of lac that was later set afire, and sometimes they were even confronted with great man-eating demons. They lost their kingdom, they lost their wife, they lost their prestige, and they were exiled to the forest. But throughout all those dangers, Krishna was there. When the Kauravas were trying to strip Draupadi naked, Krishna was there supplying cloth to protect her honor. Krishna was always there.
Therefore, when the Pandavas went to see their grandfather, Bhismadeva, on his deathbed, Bhismadeva began to cry. "These boys, my grandsons, are all very pious," he said. "Maharaja Yudhisthira, the oldest of the brothers, is the most pious person. He is even called Dharmaraja, the king of religion. Bhima and Arjuna are both devotees, and they are such powerful heroes that they can kill thousands of men. Their wife, Draupadi, is directly the goddess of fortune, and it has been enjoined that wherever she is, there will be no scarcity of food. Thus they all form a wonderful combination, and moreover, Lord Krishna is always with them. But still they are suffering." Thus he began to cry, saying, "I do not know what is Krishna's arrangement, because such pious devotees are also suffering."
Therefore, we should not think, "Because I have become a devotee, there will be no danger or suffering." Prahlada Maharaja suffered greatly, and so did other devotees like the Pandavas and Haridasa Thakura. But we should not be disturbed by such sufferings. We must have firm faith, firm conviction, knowing, "Krishna is present, and He will give me protection." Don't try to take the benefit of any shelter other than Krishna. Always take to Krishna.
In Bhagavad-gita Lord Krishna says, kaunteya pratijanihi na me bhaktah pranasyati: "My dear Arjuna, you may declare to the world that My devotee is never vanquished." Now, one may ask, why did Krishna advise Arjuna to declare this? Why did He not declare it Himself? The answer is that if Krishna Himself made this declaration, it might be suspect, because Krishna sometimes violates His own promise. But the promise of a devotee will never be violated. This is Krishna's concern. "Oh, My devotee has declared this. I must see that his word is kept." This is Krishna's position because of His affection for His devotee. Therefore Lord Krishna said, "You declare it. If I declare it, people may not believe it, but if you declare it they will believe you because you are a devotee." Even though Krishna may break His own promise, He wants to see that the promises of His devotees are fulfilled.
Therefore, we must take to Krishna consciousness and adhere to this consciousness under all circumstances, even in the most dangerous position. We must keep our faith in Krishna's lotus feet, and then there will be no danger.
(His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada from Teachings of Queen Kunti)