“Us” and “Them”

By Niranjana Swami - 7.7 2017

The following is a partially edited transcription of a lecture on SB 10.58-8-10, given in Chowpatty. Radhanath Swami’s lecture is also included.

tam aha prema-vaiklavya-
ruddha-kanthasru-locana
smaranti tan bahunklesan
klesapayatma-darsanam

“So overcome by love that her throat choked up and her eyes filled with tears, Queen Kunti remembered the many troubles she and her sons had endured. Thus she addressed Lord Krisna, who appears before His devotees to drive away their distress.”

tadaiva kusalam no ‘bhut
sa-nathas te krta vayam
jnatin nah smarata krsna
bhrata me presitas tvaya

“[Queen Kunti said:] My dear Krisna, our welfare was assured only when You remembered us, Your relatives, and gave us Your protection by sending my brother to visit us.”

na te ‘sti sva-para-bhrantir
visvasya suhrd-atmanah
tathapi smaratam sasvat
klesan hamsi hrdi sthitah

“For You, the well-wishing friend and Supreme Soul of the universe, there is never any illusion of “us” and “them.” Yet even so, residing within the hearts of all, You eradicate the sufferings of those who remember You constantly.”

Purport by Srila Prabhupada

The intelligent Queen Kunti here points out that even though Lord Krsna is dealing with her affectionately as a relative, He is not compromising His position as the well-wishing Soul of the universe. In other words, the Lord doesn’t play favorites. As He says in the Bhagavad-gita (9.29), samo ‘ham sarva-bhutesu, “I am equal to everyone.” So while the Lord reciprocates with all souls, it is natural that those who love Him intensely receive His special attention, for they want Him and nothing else.

Purport by Niranjana Swami

Here, in these three verses, we are getting an opportunity to hear a wonderful expression of deep attachment within the heart of Queen Kunti. As we know from her prayers in the First Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam, when Krsna appeared before her, she was remembering many troubles she and her sons endured.

She prayed, “My dear Krsna, Your Lordship has protected us from a 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. And now You have saved us from the weapon of Asvatthama. (SB 1.8.24)

And in the next well-known verse she says:

vipadah santu tah sasvat
tatra tatra jagad-guro
bhavato darsanam yat syad
apunar bhava-darsanam (SB 1.8.25)

“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.”

When we reflect on this verse, we can become bewildered as to how such a prayer can be made. When comparing it to our own lives, are we prepared to ask for calamities as severe as those which were endured by Kunti and Pandavas? Are we prepared to take shelter under every circumstance as they always did being confident of the Lord’s constant protection?

The protection described here is, “We remembered you and understood that you were thinking of us.” Just that thought in itself, for Kunti, was a great solace to know that the Lord was thinking of her and her sons.

Therefore in the next verse she says, “Our welfare was assured only when You remembered us, Your relatives, and gave us Your protection by sending my brother to visit us.” She is referring here to Akrura. Here in this verse she is saying, “You are the well-wishing friend and the Supreme Soul of the universe and there is never any illusion of ‘us’ and ‘them.”

In other words, she is explaining that it appears that He is showing some partiality, because, “You are the well-wishing friend of everyone but even though You are residing in everyone’s heart and You are the well-wisher of all living beings, You are giving special attention to those who always remember You.” And she is feeling that.

Lord Krsna says:

samo ‘ham sarva-bhutesu
na me dvesyo ‘sti na priyah
ye bhajanti tu mam bhaktya
mayi te tesu capy aham (Bg 9.29) (15:43:42)

“I am not envious of anyone. I am equal to all, but whoever renders service to Me is a friend to Me and I am a friend to them.” Being situated in the heart of all living beings, the Lord is equal to everyone and reciprocates according to the mood of their worship.

In connection to this verse, Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura gives an analogy of a wish-fulfilling desire tree. He explains that a wish-fulfilling desire tree will give fruit according to the mood of those who take shelter of it. Whatever fruit one wishes from this tree, the wish-fulfilling desire tree reciprocates accordingly. It’s equally disposed to fulfill the desires of everyone who takes shelter of that tree. But obviously those who don’t take shelter of it don’t get any result.

In the same way the Supreme Personality of Godhead also differentiates between those who take shelter of Him and those who don’t take shelter of Him. He gives different results accordingly, just like the desire-tree.

However, Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura explains that the speciality of the Lord in comparison to wish-fulfilling desire tree is that the desire tree will not become subordinate to those who worship it, whereas the Supreme Lord will become subordinate to His devotees or to those who possess bhakti. Therefore, the qualities we may see in the Supreme Lord – that He sometimes displays – such as friendship, hatred or indifference, are simply due to the relationship with bhakti, because it’s bhakti that controls the Lord.

na sadhayati mam yogo
na sankhyam dharma uddhava
na svadhyayas tapas tyago
yatha bhaktir mamorjita (SB 11.14.20)

Krsna tells Uddhava, “Unalloyed devotional service rendered to Me by My devotee brings Me under the control of the devotee.” That’s His speciality. That’s the difference between the Lord and the desire tree. The desire tree will give certain results according to the mood of the worshipper. Those who don’t take shelter get a different result. The Lord does the same thing. He is impartial, He maintains His impartiality. But for the devotee, as herein explained, while the Lord reciprocates with all souls, it is natural that those who love Him intensely receive His special attention because they want Him and nothing else.

This is the unique characteristic of a devotee. When his heart is filled with bhakti, then the Lord feels bound to reciprocate. This is the well-known quality described as bhakta-vatsalya.

Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura also explains elsewhere that one should never think that this bhakta-vatsalya is mundane partiality. It appears like the Lord is playing favorites, but actually this quality is an ornament of the Lord. The word given is bhusana. It’s the one quality of the Supreme Lord which reconciles any apparent contradictions one may perceive His behavior. All contradictions can be reconciled by this one quality. Krsna will always be consistent in this regard. This reciprocal love which manifests because of the devotee’s exclusive dependence, is natural. How can the Lord not reciprocate? He is equal to everyone.

If you exclusively depend on the Lord, then naturally the Lord will think, “This devotee who is depending on Me exclusively, how can I neglect him? How can I not reciprocate? How can I not give him My attention? How can I not remember him? He is always remembering Me. How can I not remember him?” It’s natural. It’s reciprocal.

When the Lord thinks this way about His devotees by always remembering them, He displays this quality, this characteristic which is so much relished and appreciated by His devotees – how the Lord is so merciful, so kind – that He can never forget anyone who renders service to Him. He never forgets even the small amount of service.

This point was is made clear with Durvasa Muni, to whom the Lord appeared to be indifferent. You then may say, “If He is equal to everyone, then how can He be indifferent to Durvasa Muni?” Because bhakti was present within Ambarisa Maharaja. Due to Ambarisa Maharaja’s bhakti the Lord appeared to manifest indifference when Durvasa Muni appealed to the Lord and the Lord then responded with the well-known verse, “I am completely under the control of My devotee. I am never, not for a moment, independent from My devotee. What to speak of My devotee, even those who are devotees of My devotee are very dear to Me.”

What was Durvasa Muni asking? He was appealing, “Look! I’ve gone to Brahma, I’ve gone to Siva. I’ve been chased by Sudarsana cakra. They were incapable of helping. They could not give me any shelter. They told me it was beyond their ability to do anything. But I know it’s not beyond Your ability to do something. You are the person who invoked this cakra, so now I’ve come before You and I am taking shelter of You. Please protect me.”

Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura elaborates on this well-known conversation between Durvasa Muni and the Lord:

“I’ve come to You for shelter. Please think about my situation and manifest Your heart for someone who has come to You for shelter.”

But the Lord is indifferent.

“Sorry. I can’t do anything to help you.”

“What do you mean You can’t do anything to help me?”

The Lord then describes how the bhakti in the heart of Maharaja Ambarisa was controlling Him.

“The devotee is always in My heart and I am always in the heart of My devotee. The devotee doesn’t think of anyone but Me, and I never think of anyone but him.”

The Lord then further explains,

“Maharaja Ambarisa takes Me into the core of his heart and he serves Me so very nicely there. And because he serves Me so nicely within his heart, naturally I want to reciprocate. Therefore I ask My devotee, ‘Please let me give you something.’”

That’s natural. The Lord wants to give something in return. But when He tries to offer something to His devotee, His devotee says,

“I am not interested in that. I don’t want wealth. I don’t want fame. I don’t want power.”

The Lord says, “What can I offer you?”

“I don’t want anything. Just let me remember You.”

We see so many prayers in the Bhagavatam when the devotees, in the Lord’s presence, are asked,

“What can I give you?”

And the devotees say, “Please let me remember You. Please let me be counted as one of Your devotees. Wherever I may go, whatever birth I may take, please recognize me as Your devotee.”… as spoken by Lord Brahma.

Or His devotees may say, “Wherever I may take my birth please let me take birth in the association of Your devotees so that I can always remember You by hearing Your glories in their association.”

The devotee doesn’t ask for anything other than to serve Him in constant remembrance of Him.

Just like the well-known response Prahlada Maharaja gave when Lord Nrsimhadeva asked Prahlada, “Please let Me give you a benediction.” Prahlada said to the Lord, “I am not a merchant. Don’t forget I was born in a family of demons. Don’t tempt me like this. I am not engaged in Your service for something in return. Just be my master and let me be Your servant birth after birth and then I will be happy.”

That is a devotee. A devotee simply wants the opportunity to remember and serve the Lord.

Continuing with Visvanath Cakravarti Thakura’s explanation… Durvasa Muni was pleading,

“Please I am taking shelter of You. To whom else can I go for protection? Consider my situation and protect me. Please have a heart.”

The Lord responded, “No, sorry.”

“What do you mean?” asks Durvasa.

“My devotee is so dear to Me. I ask him again and again ‘Please let Me give you something’ but he does not want Me to give him anything. Because of his deep love for Me, he never wants anything else. So I had to give him something you’re asking from Me personally but I don’t have it available right now. You are asking Me to have a heart. Sorry. Not there. You are asking Me to think of you. Sorry, I don’t even have My mind, because My thoughts are always with My devotee. He is always thinking of Me and I am always thinking of him.

Although My devotee doesn’t want anything I still want to give him something. Therefore, I give him the most valuable treasure I have in My treasure house. What could I give him that he will consider of value? I gave him My heart. So now you’re asking for My heart, but I am telling you it’s not there.”

This perfect example shows how bhakti controls the Lord. The Lord’s apparent indifference towards Durvasa has nothing to do with Durvasa Muni. It’s connected with Maharaja Ambarisa’s bhakti.

Therefore, wherever the Lord also displays either friendship or hatred…

Just like the Lord told Duryodhana, “Because you are envious of the Pandavas, because you are their enemy, therefore you are My enemy.”

Duryodhana invited the Lord to his home but the Lord was not willing to accept his invitation. He said,

“No. You are the enemy of the Pandavas. They are fully dependent on Me.”

His apparent enmity toward Duryodhana was not directly with Duryodhana, but it was due to the presence of bhakti in the hearts of the Pandavas. He is controlled by their bhakti. Although He is equal to everyone, the speciality of the Lord’s quality which is different from the desire tree is that the Lord becomes subordinate to his devotee.

Therefore whatever may appear to be like friendship… Krsna says,

“Whoever renders service to Me is a friend to Me and I am a friend to them.”

As explained here, He is not compromising His position as the well-wishing soul of the universe. In other words, the Lord is not playing favorites. He is not absorbed in this mentality or as the verse itself says, “For you the well-wishing friend, the soul of the universe there is never illusion of ‘us’ and ‘them.’”

That mentality comes into the mind of a person who thinks, “Because you are my friend I am your friend. If you are not my friend, you have enmity towards me, then I am not your friend. My friend is on my side, so we are together.

But the Lord does not think “us” and “them” in relationship to Himself. There’s no enemy for the Lord. Nobody is successful in being an enemy of the Lord. Neither does the Lord deal with anyone as His enemy, because whatever the Lord does is always for the ultimate benefit even of one who is apparently His enemy.

When the Lord kills demons, they get liberation. Whatever the Lord does is always for the benefit of the recipient. He is not like a politician who needs to stay in his position because he is getting support from his friends and if you are not supporting him you are his enemies. The Lord doesn’t need votes to stay in his position as the Supreme Lord. He is the Lord and it doesn’t make any difference for Him if anyone votes for Him or not. He still is the Supreme Lord. That is His position.

The Lord explains in the Twelfth Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita that “…for those who are always meditating on Me, I become the swift deliverer of repeated birth and death.” He delivers them, frees them from all distresses.

There’s a verse in the Third Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam:

mad-asrayah katha mrstah
srnvanti kathayanti ca
tapanti vividhas tapa
naitan mad-gata-cetasah (SB 3.25.23)

Lord Kapiladeva says to Devahuti, “Engaged constantly in chanting and hearing about Me, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the sadhus do not suffer from material miseries because they are always filled with thoughts of My pastimes and activities.”

A devotee, in all circumstances naturally — spontaneously– remembers the Lord. We were just speaking from a verse from Bhagavatam in Mayapur the other day.

“As one mistakenly considers a flower garland to be a snake or experiences happiness and distress in a dream, so, in the material world, by a lack of careful consideration, we differentiate between happiness and distress, considering one good and the other bad.” (6.17.30)

This verse comes just after the well-known verse spoken by Lord Siva.

Parvati was astonished. She couldn’t understand. “How is it that I just gave a curse to Citraketu Maharaja to take birth as a demon, Citraketu Maharaja understood fully what that curse meant – He would take birth as a demon – but he has no fear. He is ready fully accept that curse.”

Citraketu came down from his plane before Siva and Parvati and was completely equipoised.

“I’ll accept whatever your will is.”

Lord Siva explained that that is the nature of bhakti. That is a devotee.

narayana-parah sarve
na kutascana bibhyati
svargapavarga-narakesv
api tulyartha-darsinah (SB 6.17.28)

“Devotees solely engaged in the devotional service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Narayaṇa, never fear any condition of life. For them the heavenly planets, liberation and the hellish planets are all the same, for such devotees are interested only in the service of the Lord.”

A devotee doesn’t fear any condition of life, whether he is in heaven or hell, whether he is liberated. For him it’s all the same. Why? Because for a devotee whether he is in heaven, in hell or liberated, he is interested in one thing only – service. That is all. One of the most favorable ways to render service to the Lord is to constantly remember Him under all circumstances.

In the verses just after, Lord Siva begins to describe the nature of the duality of the material world. When speaking from that verse, we quoted Lord Caitanya:

dvaite’ bhadrabhadra-jnana, saba — ‘manodharma’
‘ei bhala, ei manda’, — ei saba ‘bhrama’ (CC Antya 4.176)

“In the material world to say ‘this is good’ and ‘this is bad’ is a mental speculation.” Therefore to say “this is good” and “this is bad” is all a mistake.

Under the influence of duality in this material world we tend to think “this is good” and “this is bad” in terms “this is pleasing, it makes me happy,” “this is bad – it causes my suffering.”

Prabhupada explains in that commentary that in the material world, there is duality consciousness. But there’s no such thing as good or bad. It’s all a mistake. It has nothing to do with the transcendental platform. Those who are in the transcendental consciousness see that even miseries of the material world as happiness, and material happiness as misery.

Then Prabhupada quotes the verse,

kaivalyam narakayate tri-dasa-pur akasa-puspayate
durdantendriya-kala-sarpa-patali protkhata-damstrayate
visvam purna-sukhayate vidhi-mahendradis ca kitayate
yat-karunya-kataksa-vaibhavavatam tam gauram eva stumah (Caitanya-candramrta 5)

“For a devotee who has received Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s merciful glance, kaivalya, merging into the existence of Brahman, appears hellish, the heavenly planets appear like phantasmagoria, the senses appear like serpents with broken teeth, the entire world becomes a replica of Vaikuntha, and the position of demigods headed by Lord Brahma and Lord Indra is considered equal to that of a tiny insect.”

Srila Prabhupada’s purport to the verse we spoke on in Mayapura was all about dreams, how in the material world there are bad dreams and good dreams. We think, “This is a bad dream” or, “This is a good dream,” but the happiness and distress we experience are only in relationship to dreams.

We gave an example from the Eleventh Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam that was given by the sage Kavi, one of the nine Yogendras, in his conversation with Maharaja Nimi. When Maharaja Nimi was asking about the nature of devotional service and how to become freed from fear, the sage Kavi explained that fear arises due to being absorbed in the material consciousness and bodily concept of life, thinking that one is a material body, and therefore by forgetting Krsna one forgets that he is the eternal servant of Krsna.

In the next verse he says,

“Although the duality of the material world does not ultimately exist, the conditioned soul experiences it as real under the influence of his own conditioned intelligence. This imaginary experience of a world separate from Krsna can be compared to the acts of dreaming and desiring. When the conditioned soul dreams at night of something desirable or horrible, or when he daydreams of what he would like to have or avoid, he creates a reality that has no existence beyond his own imagination.” (SB 11.2.38)

He uses this analogy in relationship to dreams. Everyone can relate to dreaming because most people have dreams. Prabhupada even uses an analogy to help us understand the importance of analogies. He says that if you want to see the moon moving in the sky at night, you can stare at the moon, but it’s very difficult to see how it is moving by this way. But if you look at the moon through the branches of a tree, because the branches are closer, you can see from this branch to that branch how the moon is moving. Similarly we need analogies, something closer to us, within our realm of experience, to help us understand something that may seem too theoretical.

If we have a dream, a very good dream. Has anyone had a good dream before? [Mostly everyone raises their hand]. Has anyone had a bad dream before? [Mostly everyone raises their hand once again]. Ok you can relate to this then.

When you have a good dream and you are enjoying it, because usually a good dream means that it’s enjoyable, then all of a sudden something happens and you wake up, you are sad,

“It was a dream. I thought it was so real. But it was a dream.”

So you feel very sad. But when you have a bad dream… for instance, you’re being eaten by a tiger.

For example, I have this experience a lot, because I fly a lot. While I’m on a plane, I may fall asleep and I start dreaming that the plane is falling very fast (laughter) and I wake up and I am happy (more laughter). “It was only a dream!”

Kavi explains that the happiness we feel in relationship to a bad dream and distress we feel in relationship to a good dream are not connected to reality, they are only connected to a dream. There is no connection to reality at all. So that’s the night dream.

Then there is the daydream. The daydream is no different than the night dream. In the daydream we dream of something we would like to have and we feel happy. “Yes, I feel good. I’d really like to have that.” But because it’s not connected to reality and because we are trying to enjoy something separate from Krsna, when we get the fulfillment of our so-called daydream, it generally does not quite fit the bill. It didn’t bring us all the happiness we expected especially when we lose it or we see the other problems we didn’t anticipate, that come with it.

That’s the daydream – things that we would like to have. Then there are things we would like to avoid. For instance, everybody tries to avoid death, disease, suffering.

Sometimes people even think that they are happy if they are not suffering.

“How are you, Prabhu?”

“Things aren’t that bad. I guess I must be happy.”

But there’s much more to happiness than not suffering. We think of happiness and distress in relationship to the daydream, but there’s really no difference between that and the happiness and distress in relationship to the night dream.

Prabhupada quoted in the commentary to that Sixth Canto verse, “visvam purna-sukhayate”… for a devotee, for one who gets that merciful glance of Lord Caitanya, the whole universe becomes ecstatic. The devotee can be happy even when he’s experiencing so-called distress.

After class one devotee came up to me and asked, “Maharaja, how can we be happy in distress?” I tried to explain to him about example we just gave about Queen Kunti and then I tried to explain the verse:

tat te ‘nukampam su-samiksamano
bhunjana evatma-krtam vipakam
hrd-vag-vapurbhir vidadhan namas te
jiveta yo mukti-pade sa daya-bhak (SB 10.14.8)

…how a devotee tolerates all the distresses of his life because it gives him the opportunity to remember the Lord. What is the spontaneous nature of a devotee? What is the test of a devotee? The test of a devotee is that in the face of adversity, a devotee does not ask the Lord to counteract his difficulty.

Similarly, Ambarisa Maharaja didn’t ask to counteract the difficulty he was put in. He just very naturally remembered the Lord. That’s what was most natural for him.

Prabhupada explains in one purport in the chapter about Maharaja Ambarisa that Maharaja Ambarisa simply did what was natural for him. He didn’t say to the Lord, “Protect me.” He just naturally remembered the Lord and felt completely protected. And because he was completely dependent on the Lord, the Lord felt compelled to arrange to protect him, even though Ambarisa Maharaja was not asking for it. The devotee feels sheltered, even in the face of adversity, by remembering the Lord.

mad-asrayah katha mrstah
srnvanti kathayanti ca
tapanti vividhas tapa
naitan mad-gata-cetasah (SB 3.25.23)

“Engaged constantly in chanting and hearing about Me, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the sadhus do not suffer from material miseries because they are always filled with thoughts of My pastimes and activities.”

In the next verse Lord Kapiladeva says:

ta ete sadhavah sadhvi
sarva-sanga-vivarjitah
sangas tesv atha te prarthyah
sanga-dosa-hara hi te (SB 3.25.24)

“O My mother, O virtuous lady, these are the qualities of great devotees who are free from all attachment. You must seek attachment to such holy men, for this counteracts the pernicious effects of material attachment.”

The devotee’s greatest fear, wherever he may be, is to forget the Lord. Therefore he always prays, “Let me remember You. Always keep me in the association of Your devotees. Let me always be hearing Your glories in the association of Your devotees.”

When Haridasa was asked for a benediction from the Lord, he said,

“I am going to ask You for something but forgive me for being so arrogant for asking for something very high. Please birth after birth let me have the remnants of the foodstuff of Your devotees. Just keep me somehow in the association of Your devotees.”

This is how a devotee finds his shelter – by always staying in the association of devotees.

Narada Muni said to King Pracinabarhisat,

“In the place where My pure devotees congregate always discussing the pastimes of the Lord if one gets the chance to hear the river of nectar which flows like the waves of the river, if one gets caught up in that flow of the nectar coming from the devotees, then one will forget about all the necessities of live, such as hunger and thirst and one will become free from all kinds of illusion, lamentation and fear.”

It is like getting caught up in a tsunami. You cannot do anything, you are caught. When you get caught up in these waves of the devotees who are always discussing the glories of the Lord, it is the best opportunity to remember the Lord. Not only does one feel sheltered by remembering the Lord, but as Queen Kunti is praying here, “The Lord is so kindly remembering me. He is remembering me because I developed the urge to hear His messages.”

srnvatam sva-kathah krsnah
punya-sravana-kirtanah
hrdy antah stho hy abhadrani
vidhunoti suhrt satam (SB 1.2.17)

The Lord is sitting within the heart of every living being. He remembers that devotee who develops the urge to hear His messages, which are in themselves virtuous when properly heard and chanted. What does He do? Not only does He remember His devotee, but He acts within the heart to remove all the obstacles within the heart of that devotee in order to make that devotee’s heart pure and clean. The devotee feels,

“The Lord is so kind. He remembers me.”

Just by developing the urge to hear about Him constantly, the Lord acts within the heart.

Queen Kunti is praying this way also. She says,

“Our welfare is assured only when You remember us and gave us Your protection.”

These three verses here help us to understand this unique characteristic of Lord’s pure devotees. Although sometimes we have a tendency to think,

“This is the Lord’s pure devotee but what does this have to do with me? There are always these pure devotees we hear about in Srimad Bhagavatam, but what does that have to do with us?”

It has a lot to do with us. Although Srimad Bhagavatam may not be speaking about us, for anyone who develops the faith and desire to hear about these pure devotees, Krsna accepts that desire to hear as service to Him. Simply by cultivating the desire to hear about these devotees, Krsna accepts that as service to Him.

Lord Krsna says in the Eleventh Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam,

“Having awaken the faith in hearing the narration of My glories, being disgusted with sense gratification, knowing that all sense gratification leads to suffering but still not able to give it up, My devotee continues to worship Me with faith and remains happy, because My devotee knows that even though sense gratification leads to suffering and he cannot give it up, because he has awakened faith in hearing the pastimes of the Lord, he sincerely repents any sense gratification he commits.” (SB 11.20.27-28)

The devotee has faith in the Lord’s kindness. The devotee thinks, “If I simply go on hearing, Krsna will act from within the heart and He’ll remove all obstacles and impediments from within my heart. I’m convinced He will help me by my constant endeavor to hear about Him.”

tesam satata-yuktanam
bhajatam priti-purvakam
dadami buddhi-yogam tam
yena mam upayanti te (Bg 10.10)

The Lord will remove all obstacles from within. That’s how He acts within the heart of a devotee. Within the heart of non-devotee – it’s a different story. He doesn’t have to be so directly involved. He is simply there as a witness and giving sanction. There is no lila. He is like a desire-tree, simply allowing them. “You do not take shelter of Me? OK. Material nature will take care of everything for you. But My devotee who always remembers Me, who always endeavors,”

tesam evanukampartham
aham ajnana-jam tamah
nasayamy atma-bhava-stho
jnana-dipena bhasvata (Bg 10.11)

“Just out of compassion for them I will destroy with a shining lamp of knowledge the darkness of ignorance. I will help them to come to Me.”

The Lord gives special attention to those who take shelter in these transcendental narrations. This is, of course, the benefit of hearing about such great devotees as Queen Kunti and hearing her realization about the nature of the Lord’s reciprocal love to those who exclusively love Him.

Maybe I should end here. You were going to speak (to Radhanatha Maharaja), and I need to hear. And I do not need to hear anything about me.

Radhanatha Swami: I would like to express deep gratitude to HH Niranjana Swami Maharaja for this eloquent, purely devotional tsunami of hari-katha.

Maharaja was speaking of Queen Kunti’s prayers. In the First Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam we find the scene after the battle of Kuruksetra, after the Pandavas were victorious. Yudhisthira Maharaja was coronated as king and everything seems very peaceful. Queen Kunti is offering her prayers, because Krsna is about to leave, and she is praying, “Let these calamities happen again and again.”

When we read these stories, we should read or hear not only with our ears and our mind’s attention but with our heart also. Sometimes we think we are in a difficult situation, but really what were Kunti’s calamities she was talking about? We just heard how her own relatives, her own nephews were trying to kill her children in the house of lac to literally burn them to death. She was with them at that time. Somehow or other Vidura helped them and they escaped. Vidura was her brother-in-law. And then we find they were exiled. She saw Draupadi being insulted. During the battlefield of Kuruksetra she saw her eldest son, Karna, whom she loved as much as her other children, and her other son Arjuna to be the worst enemies who wanted to destroy each other. And then she saw one of her children kill her other child – Arjuna killed Karna.

Those of you who are mothers what kind of distress would that have in your heart? Abhumanyu was her grandchild. She saw him slaughtered by unfair means. She witnessed the pain of Subhadra and Arjuna, the mother and father. She saw five of her other grandchildren, a child from each of her sons to Draupadi, slaughtered while they were sleeping by Asvatthama, killed.

I am a Swami, I don’t know so much about the direct experience of these things but I see grandparents usually love children as much or more than the parents themselves. She saw her son die at the hands of another son. She saw six of her grandchildren die in most ignoble way, not chivalrously. These are serious calamities. They weren’t just things that happened to her. They were things that she was seeing happen to those whom she loved most. And yet she is praying to Krsna, “Let those calamities happen again and again, because in these situations I remember You. I have no one else to turn except You. I have no other shelter, and in seeing You and remembering You, I see You, and seeing You I don’t have to experience birth and death anymore.”

The calamities of death, the calamities of being cheated, the calamities of physical pains watching her five children and their wife living in the exile in the forest and being hunted – it was very difficult. If she could have been there with them, it would have been much easier. But she wasn’t allowed to go with them. She was at Vidura’s house in Hastinapura. And she would have to hear about these things. She would hear nasty, terrible rumors being spread around Hastinapura by Duryodhana about her own children.

This is the exalted status of Kunti. If she was some sort of hard-hearted, detached yogini, it wouldn’t have been the same type of prayer. But devotees have soft hearts. She was a mother. She was a grandmother. She was a wife and her husband died. Practically everything possible we could think that could happen to a person happened to her. And it’s not that she didn’t suffer but in that suffering she was experiencing the eternal joy of remembering Krsna. The more desperate the suffering, the more desperately she took shelter of Krsna. And that is the meaning of this prayer.

Srila Prabhupada said whether we would pray for calamities or not, they will come. Really we don’t have to pray like Kunti for calamities, they will come anyway. Everyone is going to die anyway. The setbacks of this world, the reversals, unfairness of envious people – it is all going to come upon us. The real prayer is in all circumstances to remember You, Krsna.

Her own daughter-in-law, Draupadi… What is the most famous, inspiring story of Draupadi? How many times do we hear in lectures about how happy she was when she was to marry Arjuna or how happy she was when Bhima prepared a nice feast for her? But when she was being stripped naked by Duhsasana and there was no one who was protecting her, she felt utterly betrayed by everyone she trusted in this world. In that stage she understood, “Only Krsna is my real fried who can save me.” And she helplessly lifted her arms and cried out, “Hey, Krsna! Hey, Govinda!” In the intensity of her surrender, saranagati, Krsna appeared before her. That is the glory of her life, that instant that inspires people five millenniums later more than any other. Kunti was watching all these things happen.

His Holiness Niranjana Maharaja was speaking about the daydreams and the night dreams. Srila Prabhupada would write to us, all of his devotees, “I hope this meets you in good health.” What’s this health? Of course, spiritual health, but he was also talking about emotional health and physical health, too. If it is all a dream, who cares? The bodies are just a dream and miseries we are going through are just a dream… Who cares? Why even try to liberate people, because whatever suffering we are going through is just a dream anyway?

The soul is eternal. The soul is full of bliss. Because a devotee, although he or she understands the nature of these good dreams and bad dreams, daydreams and night dreams, still it’s the atma that is identifying with it. The devotee feels compassion. What does Prabhupada mean when he says para-dukha-dukhi, a devotee suffers when he sees others suffering and he is happy when he sees others happy? If all the suffering is just a dream, why should we suffer when we see others suffering a dream?

It’s because the eternal soul, a part of Krsna, is loved so much by Krsna. If Krsna loves us, therefore a devotee loves us. Identifying with this dream is what causes us suffering. Devotees feel suffering when they see others suffering. But there is a difference, because when an ordinary materially-oriented person suffers to see another suffer, we just try to make a make-shift change of the dream, from a suffering dream to a more happy dream. That’s all a material person can do. But a devotee wants to wake us up.

In Sri Caitanya Caritamrita Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was speaking to Haridasa Thakura and He was really suffering. He said, “My heart is feeling such pain to see all the people suffering in this material world in forgetfulness of Krsna.” Haridasa Thakura said, “But You came here to wake them up from the dream of the suffering, from the bad and good suffering, because You have come to this world and You have personally chanted the holy name.”

jiva jago, jiv jago, gauracanda bole
kota nidra jao maya-pisacira kole

We daydream because we are sleeping on the lap of maya, of illusion. And yes, we feel for people who are dreaming in this way. Good dream, bad dream – it is all bad, because it’s all distracting us from our true natural wakeful state. jivera ‘svarupa’ haya-krsnera ‘nitya-dasa.

We are all eternal servants of Krsna and love for Krsna is our true nature. But actually to understand this, mahajano yena gatah sa panthah, we must follow in the footsteps of great souls. And the great souls come to this world and pass through situations that are very similar to us but they show us how to do it. And that is Kunti.

She didn’t select the sufferings. She didn’t place an order on the internet, “Let my five grandchildren die. Let Abhimanyu die. Let my elder son be killed by my younger son.” These were things she was trying to avoid like anything because she’s a mother and a grandmother. Whatever could pain her heart the most, it all happened. But she never felt, “Krsna, why?” She understood that Krsna is her only shelter and she understood that by taking shelter of Krsna, Krsna would give his highest mercy to all of her loved ones and to everyone.

In today’s verses, which is from the Tenth Canto, Kunti is in a very different situation, because in the First Canto we read “The war is over.” All the problems have already happened. Now Yudhisthira Maharaja is king. And she is offering her prayers to Krsna, “This is the most difficult moment of my life now, because You are leaving us. When the calamities were here we were always together. You were always with us, but now when everything is all right, I may forget You.” That was her prayer.

But it today’s verses it’s right in the middle of everything. While she is speaking to Krsna, Duryodhana is in the palace, Karna is in the palace, Sakuni, Duhsasana – they are all there. What is going to happen next? They just tried to murder and burn alive the Pandavas. The Pandavas were hiding, they were coming back and she knows the envy and the hatred of her nephews is worse than ever. But Kunti in her gracious, divine, motherly nature has simply given her heart to Krsna.

His Holiness Niranjana Swami Maharaja has so eloquently told how Krsna gave His heart to Ambarisa Maharaja. So when Durvasa Muni said, “Please have a heart. Protect me. I am taking shelter of You.” So beautifully he explained, “I don’t have My heart. Ambarisa has My heart. You have to go to him.” That is actually – that principle of how a devotee gives his or her heart fully to Krsna and Krsna reciprocates by giving His heart to His devotee – that is the ultimate culmination of all knowledge, of all the scriptures. That is truly the essence. Whatever rules, regulations or philosophical explanations may be there, this pastime of the Lord being subordinate to the devotee’s love and a devotee being subordinate to the Lord’s love is the essence of all truths.

That is what Srila Prabhupada came to give us. Who are we to understand the essence of all truths? But if we have a simple heart with faith to receive it and, as Maharaja said, if we actually take great happiness in hearing about the great devotees of the Lord – what is their love for the Lord and what is the Lord’s love for the devotees – just by developing that taste to appreciate another Vaisnava’s love, that is actually how the doors to our hearts open to receive that love ourselves. It’s most important.

Duryodhana was living with the Pandavas. They loved Krsna but he didn’t appreciate their love. He was envious of the blessings they were receiving.

Srila Prabhupada explains that if we are not envious, if we have a simple heart, and we can appreciate the devotion of others and appreciate the blessings that Krsna is giving others, and appreciate how Krsna is conquered by the love of the devotee, and how a devotee is conquered by the love of Krsna, and that mainly comes through hearing. Then we become qualified also. Queen Kunti’s prayer:

vipadah santu tah sasvat
tatra tatra jagad-guro
bhavato darsanam yat syad
apunar bhava-darsanam (SB 1.8.25)

“Let calamities come again and again so that I can remember You.”, you will never be able to understand that prayer just through philosophy. It’s too much beyond philosophy. We can only understand that prayer when we receive Krsna’s grace. And Krsna will give us that grace when we learn to love and appreciate those to whom He has given His heart. This is really what it means to be the servant of the servant.

Thank you His Holiness Niranjana Swami Maharaja. And I want to say one thing to you. You may be a little proud by how you clapped for him, but in Ukraine they clap at least a million times louder.