From Grudging to Gratitude 2 – See beyond the immediate cause of suffering
[Retreat at Krishna Avanti School, Leicester, UK]
From Grudging to Gratitude 2 – See beyond the immediate cause of suffering
Transcription by: Sadananda Krishna Prem Das
Chaitanya Charan Prabhu : We will quickly summarize what we discussed yesterday, before we move on. Yesterday, we were basically discussing about how resentment is an energy drainer. I discussed several metaphors for understanding this. The mind is meant to be like a door, but the mind becomes like a T.V screen, in which you get stuck in the past. We physically move on, but mentally we stay stuck at something which gets wrong, and that’s how we become paralysed.
When somebody has hurt us, or something has gone wrong, at that time we can either tolerate and change ourselves or change the other person or just walk away, but any of these we do with resentment it will be negative, but if we do it without resentment all of these can work out to be affirmative, and I discussed also about how, when somebody has hurt us, the main thing is not to get back but to get safe. When a snake has bitten us, we need to move away, that we at least protect ourselves from the poison getting inside our body, and today I discussed on the theme of understanding the cause of suffering.
In the Srimad Bhagavatam, in chapter 15 &16, there is a peculiar conversation. Peculiar in the sense that, the content if you think about it, it is very odd. There is this incident that there is a cow and a bull… Parikshit Maharaj is going around in his kingdom to see what condition of the citizens is, and there he sees that the cow and the bull there and there is a man dressed in black who is assaulting the bull, and the bull’s legs are broken. Three of its legs are already broken, and the bull is being brutally attacked and Parikshit Maharaj comes over there. He immediately brings into action, ‘I am this.’ Darkly dressed attacker shrinks back. This incident is always depicted as how the person in black is considered to be Kali, and how Parikshit Maharaj protected his citizens from the attack of Kali. That is true. Before that there is a conversation that happens, and that conversation is one level is peculiar and at other level it is deeply insightful. At first glance it is peculiar because Parikshit Maharaj asked the bull, ‘Oh venerable one, please tell me what is the cause of your suffering?’ This might seemed to be a ridiculous question. Actually it is easily visible that this man is beating the bull. If a person A is assaulting person B, and you are asking, ‘What is the cause of your suffering?’ …. ‘Don’t you have eyes? Can’t you see that he is hitting me? It is so obvious.’ But Parakshit Maharaj asked this question and he bull also gives an equally peculiar answer. He doesn’t say, ‘Can’t you see that he is beating me?’ Actually the cause of suffering is very difficult to ascertain. Some people say that it is just the nature of this material world. Some people say that it is because of past karma. Some people say that actually the suffering is just in the mind. Like this different people theorize about the cause of suffering, but ultimately what is the cause of suffering is unknown.
So, the bull doesn’t point to the aggressor. Then, Parikshit Maharaj replies. He says, ‘Kudos, very good, Your answer reveals the depth of your consciousness.’ Then he gives… at one level, a very scary statement. He says, ‘Those who blame their aggressors for their misery get the same destiny as the aggressors.’ One would say, ‘How is that possible?’ You know, a person comes up and abuses or beats up some other person, then the abuse points out, ‘They abused me. Is it that the abused will get the same destiny as the abuser?’ Then, what is going on in this conversation? Actually nothing in this conversation is literal. Literal in the sense that, everything has deeper import over there.
So, when Parikshit Maharaj said that, ‘actually the abused gets the same destiny as the abuser.’ What he essentially means is that, the abuser is working in material consciousness, thinking I am the doer, thinking that this person is powerless and I am going to teach them a lesson whatever it is, whatever be their selfish and nefarious agenda. They are acting in that level. Now the abused also responds at the same material level of consciousness, ‘This person is the cause of my suffering.’, then it is not that literally from the karmic point of view both will get the same reaction. No, if somebody is an abuser, by the law of karma, they will get the reaction for the abuse, but from the overall philosophical perspective, both of them are in the same material consciousness, and here it is generally in terms of material consciousness… both will stay in the material world, with material consciousness.
In the Isopanishad, there is a verse which says,
andhaṁ tamaḥ praviśanti
ye ‘vidyām upāsate
tato bhūya iva te tamo
ya u vidyāyām ratāḥ
(ISO, verse 9)
That into the darkness of ignorance they enter, who? Those who worship avidya. Worship of avidya means, those who act ignorantly. So, Prabhupada explains in the purport that those who perceive worldly pleasures, those who perceive the path of materialistic enjoyment, they enter into the darkness of material existence. Basically here it is non-specific. Andham… they enter into darkness, but the next verse says, ‘Into even greater darkness enter those who act in knowledge.’ How can… if ignorance leads to darkness, how can knowledge lead to darkness?
A similar verse in the Isopanishad later also says,
andhaṁ tamaḥ praviśanti
ye ‘sambhūtim upāsate
tato bhūya iva te tamo
ya u sambhūtyām ratāḥ
(ISO, Verse 12)
asambhūtim, means temporary or finite or limited. So, those who worship the temporary, they enter into darkness, and those who worship the non-temporary, they enter into deeper darkness. What is going on in these two verses? Actually we need to read the acharyas purport to understand… Here the Isopanishad differentiates that, there is knowledge, there is ignorance and there is so called knowledge. There is godlessness, and then there is materialistic religiosity. So, somebody who is in ignorance they are like they don’t have eyes. So, they will fall into a ditch, if there is ditch along the way, but somebody who has eyes. Sometimes people have cataract or something like that, they see everything 9.11, or where things are they don’t see it in that way. They think that they have eyes, but actually they are not able to see properly. Such people also fall into ditch. They fall into deeper ditch in the sense that they think that they know, but they actually don’t. So, at least a person who is blind, they may walk cautiously, they may use a walking stick or something to probe their way, but a person who feels that they have eyes they will walk recklessly. So, similarly people who think that they know, they are in greater ignorance, then those who know that they don’t know. Similarly, those who are chasing after pleasure, power… everybody is worshipping someone. If you go to some students hostels, they will have some pictures of some movie stars or some sports stars. Basically they may not do puja for them, but they are worshipped.
In India it is very common to make people into Gods. So, there was a former bollywood star, Amitabh Bacchan. He has almost…there are 10 temples dedicated in different parts of India, and his temple is called as Kaliyug Ke Ram, he is the Ram of Kaliyuga. (laughter) So, it is easy to make someone into God just because that person has something special. So, the point I was making is, there is this idea where people make someone into God and they worship. Now they think that worshipping, but they are in ignorance. So, what the Bhagavatam is saying is, or the Isopanishad is saying is that, If a person is materialistic, is Godless, it is bad, but if a person is worshipping some imaginary conception of God that is worse.
So, similarly in this context, they will enter into greater darkness. What does it mean? Actually both will stay in the darkness of materialistic existence, but if at least one person knows that they are pretending to be religious, they are not imagining that they are religious. Then in that sense they are in greater darkness. So, similarly when it said over here, that the abuser and he abused get the same destination, it is not karmically that both of them are equally culpable. No, the abuser is definitely karmically far more culpable, but if the abused stays at the same level of consciousness, then they are also in materialistic consciousness. They are not seeing any deeper factor involved.
So, therefore Parikshit Maharaj congratulates, saying that you are wise person. So, what is wisdom? Now, wisdom can have many different definitions, but wisdom at general level means to see beyond the immediate, to see beyond what is immediately visible. So, whenever a person has knowledge, with that knowledge they can have experience and they can gain wisdom by that. So, say someone says to me, ‘Oh these pigments are discoloured.’ Somebody might say, ‘You have faint 12.49 on it.’, but if the doctor see that, he will say, ‘Oh you have anaemia.’ Now, what does it mean? Actually the same person is being seen, but ordinarily a lay person will see, ‘This is just some skin colour, some pigment colour’, but a doctor will say, ‘Oh, this is something deeper.’ That medical knowledge… what it has done is, that enables a person to see beyond the 13.12. In any field… if our car is not working… ‘Oh our car is not working.’ But if a car mechanic, they start running the car, and they hear the sound. They hear the sound, they immediately make out, ‘Oh you have a problem in your carburettor, you have a problem in the engine. So, even if they are hearing the same thing… we just see that the car is not working, but they go deeper and they understand that something more is the cause.
So, the immediate problem is that the car is not working, but why is the car not working? That he can probe deeper. So, Ok this person is hurting me, that’s true but is that the complete truth? That this person is hurting me is true. There is no denying that, but is that the complete truth? And is that the level of truth at which we as philosophical seekers are meant to act?
Now this means that what Parikshit Maharaj appreciates in the bull… now it is explained that the bull represents dharma, and the cow represents the earth. So, both of them are being persecuted by Kali, and when this bull is saying, ‘I don’t know what is the cause…’ So, Now both of them are not discussing at the level of the immediate cause, because the immediate cause is visible for both to see, and we will see that Parikshit Maharaj is not being insensitive. He is not being obtuse. Like sometimes, some people if something is right, in front of them they visibly pretend that they don’t see it. So, he is not being insensitive or obtuse. We will see that after this incident, Parikshit takes action against the bull. He takes action, and he says… he is about to kill him, and then Kali surrenders to him. So, the point is that Pariskhit Maharaj doesn’t neglect the immediate cause. The cause that is there… ok this is the abuser, I have give also to him punishment, but he is also seeing what is the level of consciousness of the bull, and through it the Bhagatam is revealing actually it’s deeper import. We see the same thing again and again in the Bhagavatam… that when Parikshit Maharaj is cursed… now it is such a disproportionate reaction to such a minor offence. He just put a dead snake on the neck of a great sage, Samik Rishi, and what happened is, actually speaking it was just a sarcastic gesture. When a guest comes you are meant to offer a garland, but you didn’t offer a garland, so I will offer you a garland, and there is no garland here, so I will offer you this dead snake as a garland. So, it was just a light gesture of sarcasm, but what happened? Sringi cursed him to die. It was so disproportionate. Imagine from today’s perspective, suppose somebody comes to our house and we are busy doing something, and we don’t notice that person, we don’t pay attention to that person, and because of that, say that person files a court case against, and the court case is capital punishment. ‘Hey what is this? Ridiculous. Because I didn’t welcome somebody you are going to kill me, what sense does it make.’
Now, Parikshit Maharaj had the power, he was the king, he had various kinds of power. As a king he could have retaliated against the sage and his son. We know Viswamitra before he was a King Kaushik, and he tried to …17.22… with Vasista. So, as a king he had the power to do that, or he was actually even spiritually powerful. That he could have countered the curse or he could have counter cursed, but Parikshit Maharaj didn’t do any of this. What did he say? He said that actually it is Lord Visnu who has come to me in the form of this curse, and he has come to help me become detached, and let me become detached. So, here we see again the point of… actually Parikshit sees beyond the immediate cause. Now Samik Rishi is upset with Sringi, and he tell, ‘how could he…’ Actually he quite strongly chastises Sringi. How could you have misused your power like this to curse a king who is not only innocent but is also virtuous, protecting dharma, but like water that has been drained away, the curse that has been uttered cannot be taken back.
Now, we may not have the power to curse others. Now if people in Kali Yuga had the power to curse, everybody would be in big trouble. So, it is good that we don’t have the power to curse others, but even if we don’t have the power to curse others, actually our words are still like arrows. Once an arrow shoots from a bow, it can’t be taken back. So, like that words that are released are gone. As long as the words are inside us, they are in our control. As soon as the words come out of us, we have no control over it. So, the words have already been released, and Samik Rishi didn’t have the power to take them back. So, chastiser Shringi, but in the whole Bhagavatam… Shringi, the boy who curses Parikshit is not considered culpable in a major sense. Nobody starts making an aggression against him. He is held culpable, but it is over, that incident is over.
So, here we see two different approaches. Parikshit Maharaj attacks Kali and punishes him, but nobody attacks Shringi and punish me. So, in both cases… in these two cases, the specific response is different. … one thing change yourself. That’s what Parikshit Maharaj did. In the second case, actually Parikshit Maharaj didn’t change himself, he walked away. We see Shringi… Parikshit Maharaj when he was cursed, he just walked away from the kingdom. In the case of… when the bull was being attached, Parikshit Maharaj counter attacked, he changed the situation.
So, as I said there are different responses that are appropriate in different situations. But, the important thing is, both of them see beyond the 20.20. Now it is interesting that, there is a similar incident in the 9th chapter of the first canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam, that is the pastime of Bhisma… Pitama departing from the world, and there Bhisma Pitama, when the Pandavas come in front of him and he is lying on a arrow bed..
Aho kastam aho anayyam yat yunam dharmanandanah (S.B 1.9.12)
He says, ‘How unfortunate it is, how tragic it is. What a travesty of justice it is, that you who are so virtuous has to suffer so much, and then Bhisma analyses various causes of suffering, and he says, ‘Why did you have to suffer so much?’
Now again, they don’t even discuss the obvious. He gives… there are five, six verses which analyse the cause of suffering…. not one of the verses mentions that the Kauravas are the causes. It’s obvious. Who caused all the suffering? Kauravas caused the suffering, but Bhisma doesn’t even mention’s this, and the Pandavas didn’t say, ‘Bhisma pitama you forgot to mention the Kauravas.’ It is not like that. So, the whole Bhagavatam is actually taking the discussion beyond the immediate, beyond the surface. Now here we see that the Pandavas took action against the Kauravas. Pandavas fought against the Kauravas, they defeated the Kauravas, they killed the Kaurvas, and when the analysed the cause they didn’t blame the Kauravas at all. They are looking deeper, and he says… Bhisma Pitama analyses the causes. Viswanath Chakravarty Thakur in his commentary says that each verse refers to a different school of philosophy that is present at that time, and it is trying to ascribe the cause according to those schools of philosophy… and that is a technical subject which I will not go into over here, but he concludes ultimately, ‘I feel it is the plan of the Lord.’ And he, as he moves forward… as we will discuss what he says later, but basically he concludes that His plan cannot be understood, and he leaves it at that, but interestingly… later, the same Bhisma Pitama says that,
Tatha pe kanta bhuteshu
Pasya bhu pa ku kampitam
Yan me ta jata sakshad
Krishno darshanam agatha
So, he concludes is 23.22 analysis, and then he tells, ‘Actually, it is a plan of the Lord’ and he says, Krishna, He is the Lord, and then he says, ‘tatha py ekanta bhakteshu.’ Just see for his pure devotees, ekanta bhakta, those who are fixed in devotion to Him… pasya bhupa anukampitam. Pasya…just see, bhupa… bhu is the earth, pa is the.. anu is the palan karta, the protector, that means he is referring to Yudhisthir as the King… ‘O King, just see… anukampitam… just see his mercy on whom?… ekanta bhakteshu… on his pure devotees.’ Now, Bhisma Pitama is actually referring to himself here. Just see the Lord’s mercy on His pure devotee, O King, … Yan me ta jata sakshad
that when I was to leave this my body, sakshad, himself, personally… Krishno darshanam Agatha, Krishna has come to give His darshna to me. So, he is saying, ‘Just see O King, how merciful the Lord is to His unflinching devotees that He has Himself come to give darshan. So, there are several dramatic… several dramatic or questionable things in this verse. First of all, Bhisma Pitama is referring to himself as a pure devotee. Isn’t that a sign of pride? I am a pure devotee. Sure, if somebody comes in and says, ‘I am pure devotee. Offer dandavat pranam.’ (laughter) So, normally we see Bhakti Vinod Thakur and the great achayas, they never… I am a fallen soul. My dear Lord, I have no devotion. Prabhupada said, ‘My name if Bhaktivedanta, but I have no bhakti nor Ved.’ So, normally we expect this kind of humility from devotees. So why is it that Bhisma Pitama is saying, ‘Oh, I am your pure devotee, unflinching devotee.’, Prabhupada translates over there. So, the point is that, ‘Yes, Bhisma Pitama has humility, but at this particular point…sequence of verses in Bhagavatam, something el se is happening. What Bhisma pitama is illustrating …25.42-44… His teaching is that actually we can’t understand the plan of the Lord, but if we stick to the principle of serving Him, even when we don’t understand why something is happening, if we stick to His service, then eventually the Lord will deliver us. Eventually the Lord will protect us, the Lord will bless us, and when things go wrong, at that time it doesn’t make sense, ‘Why is it happening?’ So, if at that time…that is the time when there is a reason to give up bhakti. At least if you don’t give up bhakti, there is reason at least to flinch in bhakti. ‘Why should I be practicing bhakti? If this is what happens to those who devote themselves to Krishna, and Krishna doesn’t help. Why should I do this? So, the point here is that when there is difficulty, at that time… when there is difficulty, when we face difficulties in life, that is the time when we can flinch in our devotion. In Narad Bhakti Sutra, Bhisma Pitama also says elsewhere that actually when there is reason for breaking the relationship, and at that time the relationship is not broken, that is the sign of real life. So, when we are practicing bhakti, and terrible things happen in our life, that time… at one level, it is not actually… No, actually if God can’t protect me why should I serve Him? There is relationship… there is a reason to give up the bhakti, but we don’t give it up, that is the sign of serious devotion.
So, that is the point that Bhisma himself… you know had to do a very difficult thing. Somehow he took a virtuous vow. He thought that he is actually doing a very virtuous thing by declaring that I will always be by the side of the King of the Kuru dynasty. He renounced his claim for Kingship, and it was… first of all it’s a glorious act of sacrifice to give up his own rightful claim for Kingship. On top of that, in a further mood of service he said that, not only will I give up the Kingship, but I will protect the King whoever it is. And when he took that vow… actually it is a remarkably selfless vow. It’s like say, there are two brothers and one of them is meant to become…the father is a patriarch of a big group of companies, and the son has to become the successor, and then this son renounces the claim, but then if at all the person renounces the claim, usually there are succession battles, ‘I want the biggest piece of the claim, but suppose he renounces and says, ‘Ok you take this company, I will start my own company.’ Now, to stay in their own company as a subordinate to someone else who is actually younger than him, that is extremely difficult to do, and now Dhrirastra and Duryodhana eventually, they are not even subordinate in the same generation. Actually they are one or two generations younger to Bhisma, and to serve them…. Bhisma could have thought, ‘I took a vow out of dharmic duty, dharmic sacrifice, and how circumstances worked out, that… I had to fight for people who were so wretched, and I had to fight against people who were so virtuous. How terrible! And Bhisma was a devotee and Krishna was on the chariot, on which Krishna was driving the chariot which Arjuna was riding, and Arjuna was the person who had shot Bhisma, and eventually that was what fell Bhisma. Although Shikandhi was in front shooting arrows, Bhisma when he was about to fall, before that fighting, he said that Shikandhi’s arrows they are just like flowers hitting my body, they don’t hurt me at all. It’s not that the arrows have to hit the target. What also matters is with how much force the arrows hit the target. So, Arjuna, he not only had… he not only had precision in terms of hitting the target, but also he had power in terms of hurting. So, Shikandi was hitting but Shikandhi was not hurting. So, it was Arjuna’s arrows which fell Bhisma. So, Bhisma also had so many reasons, if you look at his life to flinch in his devotion, but did not do that. He was a unflinching devotee, and Bhisma is telling, ‘Yudhisthir, for you also it is very difficult.’ Now Yudhisthir was ajata shatru, he did not want to hurt anyone at all, and such a person who is so sensitive… they don’t want to hurt anyone at all… for such a person a war had to be fought, and then so many people were killed. The sensitive heart of Yudhisthir was shattered. He said, ‘It is my greed, because of which I had to fight like this. Because of which we fought like this. I am culpable for the death of all these soldiers. You know, I am responsible for all these widows, I am cause of all these orphans, I am sinful. So, Yudhisthir had such a soft heart. Now we see before the Kurukshetra war, the Pandavas did everything possible. Of course, by far the most powerful warrior at that time. So, even when Krishna was present, some accepted Him as God, some did not accept Him as God. But, even those who did not accept Him as God, knew that He was an extremely powerful warrior. So, Krishna Himself goes as a shanty duta, as a envoy or a message of peace, that itself is an extraordinary thing.
So, after He has Himself gone… I can just give a completely mundane, contemporary example. Say, there is a lot of tension between India and Pakistan right now, and say sometimes there are attempts to make peace, just like an Indian minister of defence goes and meets a Pakistani minister of defence. So, imagine that the Indian Prime Minister himself to Islamabad with a peace proposal. Now that is an extraordinary thing for the head of the state to go and petition peace. Usually that is done when that state is about to be defeated, and the only hope for them is, some kind of peaceful arrangement is made so that they will not be a so totally devastated, but the Pandavas were not like that. Arjuna had just before the Kurukshetra war defeated all the Kauravas single handedly in the Virat yudha. So, they were not less in power, and what did the Kauravas try to do? There is one way of saying no…where you say no to a request, and there is another way of saying no, where we no to the person. That means that if somebody says.. we invited them to come for a program, and they say, ‘I have to go here, I have to do this, so I can’t come for the program.’ So, that is saying no to the request. ‘Even my dead body will not come for the program.’ If somebody says like that, that is just not no to a request, that is no to a person, a no with a resounding verbal slap.
So, Duryodhana he said no to the Pandava’s request. He said, ‘What to speak of five villages, I will not give enough to pierce the tip of a needle.’ So, this is not just no to a request. This is no in the form of a resounding verbal slap on the Pandavas face. ‘Nothing will be given at all.’ This is a great insult, and on top of that what did he try to do? He tried to arrest Krishna. Imagine the Indian Prime Minister goes to Pakistan, and the Pakistani government arrests the Indian Prime Minister. It will create an international furore. That’s what he tried to do over there. So, the Pandavas went to such extremes to try to get peace. The war did not happen because of the Pandavas, the war happens of the Pandavas. They tried their best to avoid the war, but the Kauravas were totally bent on war. So, anyway despite it all, Yudhisthir was not at all to be blamed, but Yudhisthir was feeling that he was responsible, and he is thinking, ‘If I have caused all these women to become widows. I have all these children to become orphans, how can I 35.33… So, Yudhisthir Maharaj is being encouraged by Bhisma Pitama. He is telling that, ‘Ok, just as I didn’t flinch in my duty to be the Lord, you also don’t flinch in your duty to be the Lord, and just as the Lord rewarded His unflinching devotee, me by being in front of me when I am about to die, similarly if you become an unflinching devotee, the Lord will reward you too.
So, I have gone through a lot of 36.10 of thoughts over here. So, the main point I will come back to what I am trying to say. The point which I was making is that, there is…Bhisma says, we can’t reach the cause of suffering, but then he says that the cure for suffering is to be an unflinching devotee, and for that… we illustrate how unflinching devotion is rewarded. He gives his own example. So, a devotee doesn’t brag that I am a pure devotee, but if the devotee wants to glorify the principle of devotion, then sometimes to illustrate that principle of devotion, to illustrate the glory of the principle of devotion, the devotee may give one’s own example.
So, when Bhisma is saying that, ‘Just see how the Lord rewards an unflinching devotee.’ His point is not to brag that, ‘I am an unflinching devotee.’ His point is to encourage Yudhisthir to also become an unflinching devotee. That unflinching devotion will be extraordinarily rewarded by the Lord. That is the principle that Bhisma is teaching, and for teaching that principle that unflinching devotion will be extraordinarily rewarded, Bhisma gives his own example.
Now, for a person, for a devotee there is no greater reward imaginable than the presence of the Lord by one’s side at the time of death. At the time of death, if the Lord is there, then all our sufferings whatever they may be, they are going to end. Krishna’s presence in front of us means that we will be liberated.
In the Ramayana, there is story of Bali. Bali and Sugriva are brothers, but there is a terrible misunderstanding between them, and then Bali tries to assassinate Sugriva many times. When that doesn’t work out, finally Sugriva works together with Ram and Bali is killed. So, Bali is furious initially. How could you have killed me like this when I was fighting with someone else? There is whole elaborate discussion in the Ramayana in which Rama explains why he did why he did, and then finally he says to Bali, ‘If you still feel that what I did was wrong, I can give you back your lifeline.’ And Bali replies in an extraordinarily inspiring way. He says, ‘My dear Lord. Deaths many I have go, Lives many I have got, but a death like this in your presence… I never got that. Why should I trade that for another of the kind which I have already lived before.’ He recognized the value of death in the presence of the Lord.
Now, life and death are just part of life. Now, it is traumatic when it happens to us, but still so many people are being born and so many people are dying all over the world. This is a fact of life. We all have to die, but if we die in the presence of the Lord, then we die not back into the material existence, we die out of material existence. We attain Krishna. Therefore Bhisma is appreciating the extraordinary mercy that the Lord has given, and he is saying, ‘Oh Yudhisthira, if you become and unflinching devotee, you will also be similarly rewarded.’ So, Bhisma is not seeing Krishna as a cause of his suffering at all. He is seeing Krishna as the cure for his suffering. He is not saying, ‘Oh Krishna was there in the chariot of Arjuna. Arjuna shot the arrow. Krishna told Arjuna to shoot.’
Arjuna tells Krishna at one time, ‘How can I shoot an arrow against Bhisma?’ He says that, ‘When I was a small child, I would come after playing in the garden and I would sit on the lap of Bhisma and I will soil his clothes, and I will play with his beard, and I would say, father, father, and he would fondle my hair, and he says, Oh child, I am not your father, I am the father of your father.’ So, Arjuna is in tears, he is saying, ‘How can I shoot at Bhisma like this?’, Krishna says Arjuna, ‘Don’t be sentimental. It’s your duty. You have to do it.’ So, Bhisma could have said, ‘It was Krishna who goaded Arjuna to shoot me.’ He could have seen Krishna as the cause of his suffering, but he did not see it that way. He saw Krishna as the cure for his suffering.
Material world is itself a place of suffering. Sometimes there may pleasure, and then there will be suffering, but overall there is a lot of suffering in this world, and if we can get out of this material world, that is the ultimate cure for us. So, rather than seeing specifically and obsessing over the arrows that are causing this immediate bodily death, and the source of those arrows, the cause of those arrows, Bhisma sees that, here Krishna is there, he is here to give me His remembrance, and if I can remember Him, then I will be liberated. So, in this way, what we are seeing here is, Krishna is not the cause of suffering, Krishna is the cure for our suffering.
So, what I described through various examples in the Bhagavatam, I will try to analyse in terms of certain philosophical principles. So, everything that happens in this world… we can say there are three levels of causation. Say for example, if I get malaria. It is an infection. Say, a mosquito bite. So, if want to understand why one got Malaria. Say, oh a mosquito bit you or this particular microbe or bacteria entered into your body. That is what has caused the infection. That is true. Now, that is correct, but is it complete? Now, that Kali was beating the bull, is true. It is correct, but is it complete? That is the question. So, now in the same house where I am staying, there may be ten other people staying, and that mosquito, why did it bite me only? It could have bitten anyone else also. So, I got Malaria. The cause of it is the mosquito bite, that is correct. It is correct but it is not complete. We need to go backwards. Among all the people whom the mosquito could have bitten, the mosquito bit me. That is because of my own past karma. So, the past karma would always act through some agents only. So, we acknowledge the mosquito as the cause, but I also recognize that it is my past karma that is causing it. Now when I move beyond… the past karma means, I am myself responsible. Srila Prabhupada would say, ‘Don’t be angry at the instrument of your own karma.’ If I get Malaria, and I decide that, I will go on a campaign to annihilate the mosquito species from the w whole world. That is what the whole… in the Mahabharata it is described that Parikshit’s son Janmejay… what he does, he sees that his father has been killed by a snake and he performs a big yajna… and the yajna is such that. In the yajna when the mantras were chanted in it, all the snakes from all over the world, they were dragged into that fire, and they fell into the fire and started burning and dying. So, he wants to take a blanket vengeance against all snakes.
The sages come and tell him, ‘Stop. You don’t have do like this.’ So, if you look too much at the immediate cause… Immediate cause has to be acknowledged, but the immediate cause is not the complete cause. There is something more to it. That is our own karma. Now, beyond the karma… now the karma is basically a principle of action and reaction. Sometimes, some actions, they give immediate reactions, sometimes some actions have delayed reactions, and this we see even in our day to day life. Now, if I put my hand in fire, I get a scar immediately, but on a cold night I eat half a dozen ice cream, it may taste very good at that time, next morning I will have a terrible throat. That reaction may come after six hours. If somebody starts smoking at the age of 15, at the age of 35 they get lung cancer. The reaction may come after 20 years. So, even in this life we see actions provide reactions after different time durations. What the principle of Karma includes…extend this principle further and says that actions from previous life may produce reactions, and actions from this life may produce reaction later. So, beyond the immediate cause is the karma, which is the intermediate cause. It is not the ultimate cause.
When somebody is hurthing me, when somebody is just outrageously atrocious towards me, that person is causing it, but that person is not the only cause. The intermediate cause is his karma. So, beyond the intermediate cause is the ultimate cause. This ultimate cause… the concept has to be carefully understood. The ultimate cause is Krishna. sarva karana karanam, He is the cause of all causes, but this cause is actually different from the other causes. When we use the word Krishna as the cause of all causes, it has to be understood carefully. When we are suffering, it is not that Krishna wants us to suffer. Just like, an example is given in the Vedanta Sutra that when rains fall, some places nice crops may grow, other places weeds may grow. Now, the rain is the cause of the growth of all vegetations. Both the grains and the weeds, but if a father gets angry when the weeds have grown, and… ‘Why did the rain cause this.’ The rains are not responsible for the specific kind of growth that happens. That is based on what was sown over there. If grains are sown, crops will grow. If nothing are sown, weed will grow. So, similarly the rains they are a cause. Without the rains falling, no vegetation will grow, but the rains… so there is…there is a subtle difference. There are different terms, but I think more than the terms, let’s look at the concepts. Sometimes the term is used as a difference between the cause and reason. So, cause means that which actuates, that which makes things happen. Reason means, because of which something happens. So, rains are the cause of the weeds, or are the rains the reason of the weeds. Let’ not get into words, but understand the principle. There are basically terms and there are concepts. Concepts are inside the brain, and terms are like verbal handles for the concepts. So, it’s like you have a suitcase, and the handle is broken, you don’t know how to pick up the suitcase, to pick up the whole thing. What do you do? So, handle is very helpful for holding the suitcase. So, now once I was travelling in America, and some of my suitcase broke down. So, I was very busy. I had four, five programs in that place, and as I was leaving the devotees purchased a new suitcase and gave to me. When I came to the next place, and I wa in the …49.00, then I had forgotten what the suitcase had looked like, because they had just brought the suitcase just before I was leaving, and I had completely forgotten. So, all that I remembered was the handle, how it looked like? And then when I saw that handle, I pulled out the suitcase, and then I felt that it didn’t look like my suitcase. When I opened it, it was not my suitcase. I kept it back inside. Like that I had to do this with four suitcases. All that I remembered was the handle. I had forgotten everything else about the suitcase. Now, the handle is important than the suitcase, but the handle is not the suitcase.
So, the handles are like turns. Handles are like terms, and the suitcase the concept. So, sometimes the same term may be used for different concepts. So, we sometimes get too caught in the terms. Like in our English, the… the English language also keeps changing. Now, in the past the word wicked meant sinful, terrible, cruel, but now the wicked means very nice. We went to a wicket party. What do you mean by wicked party? Are the people wicked there? The word wicked completely changed its meanings. So, what has happened is like, the same handle has been taken and put in some other suitcase, and not just a different… a completely opposite suitcase.
So, what has happened is that, basically terms are like handles, and concepts are like the suitcase. So, concepts are inside us, and one of the problems that comes when we study Sanskrit text it that the terms can have different meanings. In the Bhagavat Gita itself the word aatma, it refers sometimes to the mind, it refers sometimes to the intelligence, sometimes refers to the soul, it sometimes refers to the super-soul, and sometimes it can also refer to the body. So, what it is referring to… we just cannot understand by looking at a dictionary. We also have to look at the context. When we look at the context, then only we can understand it. It’s not just Sanskrit, in all languages it is there. The same word can have different meanings. So, here why I am talking about this is that when we look at this principle. When I am using the word… cause and reason. Cause is something which… this is what made that happen. So, let’s not get into technicalities. Let’s look simply at the concept.
See, is the rain responsible for grew over there. Primarily you cannot say, the rain is responsible. Nobody can blame the rain. If weed is growing on a patch of land, we say, person A has sold to person B and says that this is very fertile land, and he finds that there are only weeds growing over there. The person complains, why weeds are growing, I thought grains should grow over there, nothing has grown. The person B cannot sow the grains. So, actually the rains are in one sense a factor. They are involved in the causal change by which the weeds grow, but they are not what is primary… Similarly Krishna is a factor in what happens. Without Krishna’s sanction nothing will happen. Sometimes it is said that not even a blade of grass moves without Krishna’s will. Actually it is more appropriate to say, not one blade of grass moved without Krishna’s sanction, without Krishna’s will. It is not necessarily Krishna who wants bad things to happen. Bad things happen because of the chain of karmic reactions in this world, but Krishna is a part of it in the sense that Krishna sanctions it.
In Kunti Maharani’s prayers, she says,
Manye twam kalam ishanam anadi nidhanam bibhum
Samam charantam sarvatra bhutunam yanmithah kalih.
So, in 1.8.28, he says that, My dear Lord I consider You to be time, that you are beginning-less, you are end-less, you are the supreme, you are equal to all, if there are conflicts in this world it is simply because of the interaction of people in general, it is a part of a heart-crunching conflict where our own grandsons are being slaughtered, but she is not blaming Krishna. She is saying, the conflicts my dear Lord, you are equal to all. If there are conflicts in this world, the conflicts are because of the interaction with people. Kauravas and the Pandavas interacted and that caused conflict.
So, just as the rains cannot be held responsible specifically. So, Krishna cannot be responsible for the sufferings the sufferings that come in our life. It is true that without Krishna’s sanction, nothing will happen, but just because Krishna is sanctioning it, does not mean that Krishna is causing it. That Krishna is allowing it to happen, but what is the cause, it is our own karma that is the cause. So, another way to understand this is that, say the person A goes and robs a bank, then there is a police person B who goes and catches him, and there is the judge C who sentences the person to jail. Now, after that person C is sentenced, he catches the person again and puts A in jail. Now, in the event of A has gone into jail, how did A go to jail. We could see there are three levels of causation. You could say B put A in jail, we could say C put A in jail, you could say A put A in jail. Now which is true. All three are in different levels. Physically it was B who opened the door and pushed A into the jail. From the point of legally it was C who signed the order, and that’s how A went to the jail, but if you see it from the point of view of causality, it was A only who robbed the bank because of which A went to jail. So, all the three are there, A, B and C. All three are causes, but ultimately it is A who is responsible. So, in the Bhagavat Gita, this whole study of the nature of causation… what is the cause of things. Why do things happens? That philosophy is called as etiology. So in the sixth chapter of the Bhagavat Gita, discusses etiology, and there Krishna says,
nādatte kasyacit pāpaṁ
na caiva sukṛtaṁ vibhuḥ
tena muhyanti jantavaḥ
He says, the supreme Lord is not responsible. The supreme Lord is not the cause. He doesn’t accept the pious or the sinful reactions. He is not the result of it, He is not the cause of it, and what is the cause, by ignorance knowledge of the living entity is covered, and it is by such delusion the living entity acts 57.30, which Krishna is not responsible.
Going back to the earlier analysis, I got malaria. So, the mosquito is the cause, my karma is he cause, Krishna is the cause. All three are there. So, now in the Bhagavat Gita it explains that anything that happens, there are these three factors. Ultimately, there are three truths to reality. This are sometimes referred to by the 56.00-58.00, in Sanskrit there are jiv, jagat and jagdish. Jiva is the soul, jagat is the material universe, and Jagdish is the supreme Lord. Jagdish is the controller of the world. So, we get Jagat, Jiva and Jagdish. Now, whatever happens in this world, all three are involved. So, when I get suffering, when say I get Malaria, so Jagat is involved, the world is involved in the sense that the entity from that world Malaria… a mosquito came in between. Jagat is involved over there. Jiva is involved over there, Jiva is the soul. So, I did some past karma because of which I got the reaction, and Jagdish… Krishna is involved over there, that is because Krishna sanctioned it.
How is Krishna exactly involved? Krishna is like the judge. Udasin udasin… He is situate detached.
na ca māṁ tāni karmāṇi
asaktaṁ teṣu karmasu
In the 9th chapter, 9th verse, Krishna says that, all these karma is happening, I am detached, I don’t take sides, I am neither partial to one person, nor am I envious to anyone else.
samo ‘ham sarva-bhutesu
na me dvesyo ‘sti na priyah
I am equal to all, and this implies that Krishna is actually disinterested. He is not uninterested. Now, again these are terms and handles.. disinterested and uninterested. Most of you probably know about cricket. Now the word disinterested means that one who doesn’t take sides, one who had no vested interest in something, one who is impartial. Uninterested means one who doesn’t care for anything.
Now, in a cricket match there is an umpire. The umpire needs to be disinterested, not uninterested. If the umpire is uninterested… the bowler is bowling and the umpire goes to sleep, Howzaat…. umpire says, what is that … the umpire was sleeping. The umpire has to be interested. So, the umpire has to be alert, he has to be aware, but the umpire should not take sides. So, whatever is the action… Ok if the player is LBW, he can be given out. So, the umpire has to be disinterested, not uninterested.
So, similarly Krishna is udasina vadasin, He is disinterested. He does not take sides. These are the actions, you will get reactions. He does not take sides. Now, Krishna is not just passive. Krishna orchestrates karma also. He does it for everyone, and he does it especially for his devotees, but Krishna is not the cause. When an umpire gives somebody out, it is not because the bowler has bowled well, or because the batsman has batted properly. They go out. The umpires raising hand is the cause of the batsman having to leave, but that is not the cause. It is the batsman who played the bad shot or the bowler who bowled the very good ball. That’s why the batsman got out. So, we could see that the umpire sanctions. The umpire sanctions, but the umpire is not the cause of the batsman getting out. Similarly, Krishna is not the cause of our suffering. It is not that Krishna is somewhere up there, and He gets some special delight in the devotee’s suffering or anyone’s suffering. Not at all like that. It is our own karma which causes the suffering, and Krishna sanctions it. Krishna is involved in it, but we discussed that Bhisma pitama also said that Krishna is the cure of our suffering. Now that is an elaborate philosophical discussion which we will have depending on how you prefer it.
That we will discuss after the break, and then in the afternoon session we will have question and answers.
So, we discussed today on the theme of understanding the cause of suffering. I started by the incident of Parikshit and bull and the cow, beaten by Kali. So, when Parikshit says that, the abused and the abuser gets the same destinations, he is not talking about the literal karmic consequences. He is talking about the essential level of consciousness. If the abuser is only looking at the immediate level of reality, I am going to hurt this person, and they abused also looks at the same level of reality, Oh this person is hurting me, then nobody is seeing philosophically, nobody’s consciousness is very deep.
Isopanishad says have materialistic consciousness, whether they are relatively pious or they are relatively impious it doesn’t matter so much, all are going to be in the darkness of this material world, in the darkness of the ignorance of the material world. Similarly, here the Bhagavatam urges us to look beyond immediate causes. Now, how to deal with immediate causes, that will vary from situations to situations.
Parikshit maharaj.. Pariskar… was about to punish Kali, but when Shringi curses Parikshit at that time nobody punishes Kali. So, rather than seeing Shringi as the cause of his suffering… which was a very disproportionate punishment. If you don’t welcome someone, and there is capital punishment for you, then it is disproportionate, but Parikshit simply sees that as an opportunity to become devoted to the Lord.
So, and we also discussed about Bhisma pitama, he discussed the Pandava’s cause of suffering, he doesn’t even mention Kauravas, although it is obvious, they fought against the Kauravas, they killed the Kauravas. Again, both Bhisma and Yudhisthir are deeply philosophical people and both know the immediate cause, both are discussing beyond the immediate cause. So, wisdom means to look beyond the immediate cause.
Somebody may say discoloured pigment, a doctor with deeper medical vision can see… I just hear a car which is making noise, but the mechanic understands that the carburettor has gone wrong. So, looking beyond the immediate problems, immediate cause of the problem, that is …(inaudible 1.5.28) Now, in the Bhagavatam, Bhisma Pitama says that it is… he doesn’t focus on the fact that Krishna was the person who instigated the shooting of arrows against him. He doesn’t Krishna as the cause of his suffering, although he says that ultimately everything is by the plan of the Lord, and he focuses on how Krishna is rewarding unflinching devotion, and in that sense he sees that Krishna is the cure of his suffering to help him at the time of death, and then he says that, ‘Just see how he rewards the unflinching devotees, his point is not to brag an unflinching devotee, his point is to demonstrate how devotion that stays unflinching will be gloriously rewarded, and he is encouraging Yudhisthir to also become unflinchingly devoted.
So, in the Kurukshetra war, Yudhisthir felt responsible, ‘I was the cause of so much devastation.’, but we see that he was not at all devastated. Pandavas went out of their way… Krishna Himself went as santi duta. If the Prime Minister of India goes to seek peace, and Duryodhana arrogantly not only rejected the offer but the person. What happened was not because of the pandavas, it happened in spite of the Pandavas, and even Yudhisthir felt responsible and he felt, ..1.06.56-58, and he was telling Yuddishir that, ‘do your duty to the Lord, even when it is difficult, then you will see how gloriously the Lord will reward you, and for that he is giving his own example.
Then we discussed about… what do we understand about the cause of suffering in terms of concept. So, if I get Malaria the immediate cause is the mosquito, the intermediate cause is the karma, and the ultimate cause is Krishna. So, I discussed about how Krishna, He is like the rain. He is the cause of the growth of all the vegetations, but that doesn’t mean that the rains are responsible.
So, we could say something is a cause or a factor, but that is not what is responsible. Just like there are terms and concepts. Concepts are like the suitcase, terms are like the handles for the concept. Sometimes we start fighting over terms, but need to move beyond to the concept of suitcase. So, the concept is that whatever happens Krishna has a role in it, Krishna is not the cause of it. It’s not that Krishna who wants us to suffer, and I discussed about how a thief who has robbed, is put in jail, A is a thief, B is a police, C is the judge. So, C sentences, B executes the sentence, and A goes into jail. So, all three are causes. So, C is Krishna, B is like material nature… jiva, jagat and jagdish. So, we are the souls.
Now, the judge… Krishna is like the judge or he is like an umpire. He is disinterested, but He is not uninterested. Whatever happens in this world, it is the reaction of our karma, and Krishna allows it to happen, but Krishna is not the cause of it, and when we understand that Krishna is not the cause then we can avoid resentment, and when we understand that Krishna is the cure, we wholeheartedly take shelter of Him.
So, in our next session we will discuss how to understand that He is the cure.
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