Birth of the Human Being, the Death of the Lord
My favorite book of Swami's
is the Bhagavata Vahini. It is a marvellous storybook. It is filled
with the play of the Lord, relating the wonderful happenings in the
life of Krishna. In this book, Swami has rewritten the Srimad Bhagavatam,
the great Indian scripture. He presents it somewhat differently from
In Swami's book, it starts out with the birth of
a child. That child is Parikshith, the only heir to the Pandava throne.
The Pandavas, as you know, of whom the most well-known was Arjuna,
represent the side of good, whereas their cousins, the Kauravas, represent
the side of evil. These two sides fought a war of total annihilation,
which is the Mahabharata, immortalized in the great Indian epic of
Swami said that the Mahabharata represents the inner
war being waged between the forces of good and evil inside our own
hearts. We cannot win this war on our own. We must turn towards the
Lord. Then he will come and take hold of the reins of our chariot,
just as he did for Arjuna in the Maha-bharata. That is our only hope
of winning this inner war.
In the story, at the end of the war, the Pandavas
were victorious, but the war exacted a terrible price. In a dastardly
deed on the last night of the war, one of the last surviving fighters
on the Kaurava side broke into the Pandava camp at night and killed
all the Pandava children while they were sleeping. The Pandavas were
devastated. Their only hope for continuing the royal succession was
the child that was growing in the womb of the widowed wife of Arjuna's
son. But the same warrior who killed the other children resolved to
destroy this last vestige of the Pandava line, by sending an arrow
into the womb of the helpless woman.
The royal foetus in the womb, saw that terrible
missile coming towards it, spitting sparks of fury and destruction.
But then he saw a beautiful blue boy with a lovely smile on his face,
whirling a discus and hurling it at the arrow. The lethal missile
broke into a thousand pieces. The babe in the womb was saved. Immediately
afterwards the beautiful blue boy disappeared.
After the child was born, all he could think of
was that lovely blue boy who had saved his life, and he sought for
him everywhere to see that beautiful face again. "Who was he?"
he asked himself. "Why did he come to save me?" In every
face he saw he wondered,"Is this him?" Because he was always
searching for something so intensely, they called him, Parikshith,
which means the one who seeks.
There also, close to the beginning of the book,
we find an account of the death of Krishna. The Lord had finished
his work on earth and left his body. So, the beginning of the book,
as Swami tells the story, has the birth of a human child and the departure
of the Lord. Then the whole book is filled with the wonderful stories
of the life of Krishna, mostly the wonderful play of the young Krishna.
These stories are related by a great sage to Parikshith, after Parikshith
had become the emperor of the realm. They are told under unusual circumstances.
The Lord had left the earth and the Kali Yuga, the age of materialism
and unrighteousness had begun. That dark age took hold of everyone,
including even King Parikshith.
One day the king was hunting in the forest and got
himself separated from his party. He was very thirsty and saw a little
hut nearby, in which a sage was sitting in meditation. Parikshith
did not realize that this was a sage immersed in trance; he thought
the man was just asleep. Parikshith tried to awaken him but he could
not bring the sage out of his trance. Parikshith was desperate for
some water but he could not find any and he could not get this sleeping
person to tell him where it was. So in frustration he left, but before
leaving, he picked up the dead skin of a snake and draped it around
the sage's neck as a parting gesture of disgust.
The sage's young son discovered his father sitting
with this snake skin on his shoulders. The lad became so furious seeing
this insult to his father, that he cursed the man who had perpetrated
this outrage to die seven days later from a snake-bite. When the father
came out of his trance and heard what the son had done, he said, "Son,
you shouldn't have done that. He didn't mean any harm. I cannot now
set aside your curse, but you made a great mistake. He is a good king
and he doesn't deserve this ignoble end. Go and tell him what happened.
Let him prepare himself and turn this curse into a blessing, by using
the chance to elevate himself spiritually."
And so, Parikshith finds out that he is under a
sentence of death, to die in seven days. But for him this news is
a tremendous relief. His burden of worldly life has now been taken
from him. He takes off his crown and his royal robes and goes down
to the banks of the Ganges to immerse himself in contemplation on
the Lord. Sages come and sit with him and then the great God-realized
saint, Suka, comes and tells the king the stories of the divine play
of the Lord. And that is what fills the Bhagavata, the inspiring stories
of the Lord related to a man who is under a sentence of death.