Lecture by His Holiness Devamrita Swami (download mp3), at the 2007 Gaura Purnima Festival, Sri Mayapur Candrodaya Mandir, Mayapur, India.
svayam dhanur dvari nidhaya mayam
gata-vyatho 'yad uru manayanah
sa ittham atyulbana-karna-banair
bhratuh puro marmasu tadito 'pi
TRANSLATION: Thus being pierced by arrows through his ears and afflicted to the core of his heart, Vidura placed his bow on the door and quit his brother's palace. He was not sorry, for he considered the acts of the external energy to be supreme.
PURPORT: A pure devotee of the Lord is never perturbed by an awkward position created by the external energy of the Lord. In Bhagavad-gita (3.27) it is stated:
gunaih karmani sarvasah
kartaham iti manyate
A conditioned soul is absorbed in material existence under the influence of different modes of external energy. Absorbed in the false ego, he thinks that he is doing everything by himself. The external energy of the Lord, the material nature, is fully under the control of the Supreme Lord, and the conditioned soul is fully under the grip of the external energy. Therefore, the conditioned soul is fully under the control of the law of the Lord. But, due to illusion only, he thinks himself independent in his activities. Duryodhana was acting under such influence of the external nature, by which he would be vanquished at the ultimate end. He could not accept the sound advice of Vidura, but on the contrary he insulted that great soul, who was the well-wisher of his whole family. Vidura could understand this because he was a pure devotee of the Lord. In spite of being very strongly insulted by Duryodhana's words, Vidura could see that Duryodhana, under the influence of maya, the external energy, was making progress on the path toward his own ruination. He therefore considered the acts of the external energy to be supreme, yet he also saw how the internal energy of the Lord helped him in that particular situation. A devotee is always in a renounced temperament because the worldly attractions can never satisfy him. Vidura was never attracted by the royal palace of his brother. He was always ready to leave the place and devote himself completely to the transcendental loving service of the Lord. Now he got the opportunity by the grace of Duryodhana, and instead of being sorry at the strong words of insult, he thanked him from within because it gave him the chance to live alone in a holy place and fully engage in the devotional service of the Lord. The word gata-vyathah (without being sorry) is significant here because Vidura was relieved from the tribulations which trouble every man entangled in material activities. He therefore thought that there was no need to defend his brother with his bow because his brother was meant for ruination. Thus he left the palace before Duryodhana could act. Maya the supreme energy of the Lord, acted here both internally and externally. [End of purport]
Devamrta Swami: An essential understanding of the material and spiritual reality is that there are two different types of illusion. There is the maha-maya and there is the yoga-maya. In this departure of Vidura from his brother's palace, you will see the different realities that are available to the living entity because of his choice how to relate to Krsna, how to become absorbed. "Shall I be under the shelter of the internal energy, or shall be under the shelter of the external energy?" You have under the same scene persons who are of the same family, but they are of different shelters. This point is being made from the very beginning of the chapter.
When you hear about this momentous incident of Vidura's sudden departure you have to balance or switch or see both together: the workings of the internal energy of the Lord and the workings of the external energy.
The chapter begins with this point, Vidura quitting the prosperous home of his family, tyaktva sva-grham. Why go away from a prosperous home? Why should he do that? Then, besides looking at the material prosperity, the opulence and the refined orderliness of a Vedic home, we have to understand the home of Vidura, being the home of the Pandavas, is so dear to the Lord. That is the next point. How can Vidura go away from a house that is particularly favoured by the Supreme Lord? Of course Vidura is related to both Dhrtarastra's side and the Pandavas' side. He had access to both homes. Seeing that he had that access, why would he go away from such a situation?
Let us look at the reality of the Pandavas' home. The Lord himself considered that that home is identical with me. The Lord would function as a minister in that home of the Pandavas. He showed partiality toward the Pandavas' house, yet he showed no such favourable partiality to the home of Duryodhana. Therefore, why would Vidura want to leave such a house or such an opportunity to be in a place, to visit a place that the Lord considered as dear to him as his own self?
Naturally, Pariksit Maharaja is eager to hear about all this. We must always identify that dynamic of eagerness in the Bhagavatam. And indeed, that eagerness in the audience of the Bhagavatam is what allows understanding.
This is a point that is very difficult for a mundane rationalist to understand. How it is that subjective factors such as eagerness and your pleasing the speaker of the Bhagavatam have to do with understanding? After all, you have your rational, cognitive faculties. You have your ability to partake of an academic education to exercise your brain to its limit. Some brains are smaller, some brains are bigger. Some intellects are fortunate, some intellects are unfortunate. Isn't that all that has to be taken into account? How can you handle this Bhagavatam approach in which subjective factors are all important in understanding the topmost science?
We're going to hear that Sukadeva Goswami is pleased, "pritatma", by Pariksit Maharaja. Therefore, he is going to deliver the goods, so to speak. Sukadeva Goswami is "subahu-vit, he is completely expert at everything. Srila Prabhupada once commented how does a devotee become expert in everything? Because he knows Krsna, who is the source of everything. And in the process of serving Krsna, the devotee develops so many abilities. Because of Pariksit Maharaja having pleased Sukadeva Goswami, and because of Pariksit Maharaja's eagerness, this Bhagavatam history is being presented.
Amidst the glories of the Pandavas' residence, which the Lord identified as his own, in fact, in the purport Srila Prabhupada mentions that the home of the Pandavas' was as good as Vrndavana. This is a general statement of the Supreme Absolute Truth. Of course we know that if you penetrate into the varieties of the spiritual world then Vrndavana is special. Nevertheless the general point is made that Vidura is in one reality; Dhrtarastra, Duryodhana is in one reality even though they're in the same scene. This kind of vision is impossible for a materialist. That is why Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita:
yesam tv anta gatam-papam jananam punya-karmanam
Only those who have made a complete stop to sinful activity and who have some kind of fund of pious activities can take to devotional service and stick to it. It is not that by some kind of material qualification you can approach the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
This taboo is difficult for mundaners to understand. They are thinking, "What does my attitude have to do with what I can understand? You are just throwing in our path religious taboos which confuse people and block the natural development of human progress through the great application of our intellect. As soon as you say there is a Supreme Lord, as soon as you say there is a spiritual reality, the spiritual energy, you have stopped all human inquiry because there is no way that with the human intelligence the spiritual reality can be verified. Therefore as soon as you talk about the spiritual reality, you have stopped human progress." This all makes sense, yes? [chuckles]
Now those who are bhaktas, devotees of the Lord, are intrigued by Krsna's energies. You cannot be a personalist without accepting the potencies of the Lord. Because the Supreme Personality of Godhead has potencies, therefore he is a person. Please think about that. You are a limited person; you have various energies, you have various abilities. Similarly the Supreme Lord has unlimited potencies. The devotee tries to understand the various potencies of the Lord, how they are acting and in that way the devotee verifies the personal existence of the Lord. He connects the potencies to the person.
In this way the devotee is not confused by the actions of the external energy, the actions of the internal energy. All the energies are harmonized in their source, in Krsna, and because the devotee is doing devotional service, he can see those energies and their interplay. Otherwise, existence is very bewildering.
Just take this situation that Vidura is in. The verse today describes, he is pierced by arrows through his ears. Please visualize that, this very vivid language of the Bhagavatam. You just try to see someone shooting arrows into your ears. Naturally you are afflicted to the core of your heart. So Vidura concluded, "Duryodhana is speaking like this; there is no point in me sticking around." He quit the palace and he was not sorry. He understood, "This is all the workings of the external energy for Duryodhana, but for me, I see a silver lining in the cloud. I see a chance to get away from palace intrigues and travel exclusively depending on the Supreme Lord."
Now you may say, but you just spoke out the Pandava scene was so fortunate, the Lord considered their house his own. Why would Vidura leave that area where he had access to the Pandavas' house? Why is he talking about palace intrigues? Why, you're going to find out in the future, Vidura considers himself impious and unfortunate because he is related to Duryodhana and Dhrtarastra. He feels by their bad association he has lost the qualification to associate with Krsna. Therefore when he leaves the palace and goes on pilgrimage, he will not seek out Krsna directly because he considers himself unfortunate and impious.
Once again we have the interplay of the material and spiritual energies, interplay according to where you are situated, how you are seeing the reality of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. A devotee is skillful. This is the highest technology, to see these energies of the Lord acting. Otherwise you can say, "Vidura, he has gone through a horrible situation. He is spoken to in such horrible words. He has to suddenly leave. What is the good of this?" Without superior vision, we cannot understand anything.
Even in material life, so called good luck, so called bad luck, who can say? The material energy is difficult to understand without a spiritual person giving you insight and the spiritual energy is also even more difficult to understand without your doing devotional service and a spiritual person giving you insight.
I will give you an example from my own family history about how something that materially looked very bad turned out to have limited material good. It is an amusing story, but it shows you how the potencies of the Lord act in various ways. In this case, it's certainly the external energy of the Lord.
My father told me this story. This is back in the 40's near the end of World War II. He had just finished high school and he decided he was going to be an army pilot because in those days the Air Force was part of the army. So he took a test and he came out number one in New York City. Being a young guy, 18 years old, it was going to be an exciting life flying in planes, combat, "I'll develop valuable skills and when the war is over I'll be a pilot for a commercial airline."
He had all these big dreams. The army gathered all the top scorers on the test for pilot and they brought them to one place. They took every one of the pilot candidates aside onto a bus and sent them off to the pilot training school. My father was sitting there. "What's going on? I'm ready for action, I'm ready to fight for the country, the glory of being a pilot. . . ." And so he went and asked the commanding officer, "When am I being deployed? When's my bus coming?" They looked at him and said, [clears throat several times] "Err, we don't have any more room in the army right now for pilots of your colour. [laughs] But we do have many opportunities to be a cook." [laughter]
My father was eighteen years old, he was quite feisty. Naturally he was very angry, "What do you mean? I was told I was number one in the whole city on the test!"
Again the commanders looked at him, "You don't understand, we just don't have any need for pilots of your background." So my father asked to speak to the number one army person. He went and in and said, "You know, I think I'd rather go fight for the Germans." [laughter] Naturally the American army officers were horrified, "How could you say such a thing?"
"Yes, I would rather fight for Hitler." This was like maha-aparadha to say such a thing. [laughter] They asked why. He said at least the Nazis are honest.
So he was sent to be a cook, and the others of the right material designation were sent to pilot school. One year later, after the war ended, my father found out all those pilot candidates were suddenly pressed into the infantry because the Battle of the Bulge had broken out, the Germans had made a counteroffensive. They never made it to pilot school. They had to go to the infantry and 98% of them never came back from the war.
So good luck, bad luck, these are the workings of the external energy. How can we try to understand the spiritual energy with our tiny brains when even the way the material energy works is bewildering. Generally when there are upsetting or confusing material events materialists say this is the proof there is no God. Even my father said he had that attitude: "Why did God let this happen to me? My parents raised me as a God-fearing Christian. Just see, I was number one in the whole city and I was discriminated against." So he used that as a reason not to accept the existence of God.
What you find today is that in the so-called wealthy nations of the world-- of course that list is changing due to the ascendancy of China and India-- but in these traditional wealthy nations, there is a big upsurge this last year of propaganda that religion is ruining the world. The reason given is "Look at the situation in the Middle East. You have people who fanatically pursue religion to such an extent that they crash planes into buildings, there are suicide bombers. Now it's time for every thinking person to wake up and see that religious faith is the greatest factor for disturbance individually and socially in this world."
So much propaganda has been released this past year making this point. There are top selling books are making this point: religious faith is a hazard. And if you find yourself to have some kind of religious sentiment, the media is now offering you a plausible alternative: "You want to be religious? Just accept that God is a mystery, no one can know him. Therefore, everyone is just looking at this mystery in different ways. So they should all just agree that God is a mystery and leave it at that. It is not so much important what your scriptures say. What is important is acceptance of the mystery. What is important is the meaning that acceptance of the mystery gives to your life and the sense of community and love you get by sharing in the mystery. This is the best it can get for all you religious believers. But beyond that, how can you push religion to any deeper goal? It's not possible and by your doing that you are disturbing the whole peace of and economic development of the world."
This is what is going on. We should be aware. We can make an environmental scan and this is what is happening right now. Just like Vidura is giving advice before he was thrown out of the palace. He gave advice based on what was around him and what was going on within his own camp. He said, "Around you don't you see there is Bhima breathing heavily like a snake, so angry, ready to take action to get revenge? There is Yudhisthira, he has no enemy, yet he's been mistreated in such a way. Then, who is the deva of the Pandavas and their friends and family? It is Krsna himself. Who can defeat Krsna? So we scan the environment, what do we see, Dhrtarastra? We see a very inauspicious situation for you to continue on this path. Now let's do an organizational scan of what is happening within your own house. You are maintaining offence personified, you are maintaining this Duryodhana. He is going to destroy everything. Looking within your own organization, your own camp, you've got to toss him out before it is too late."
But of course we know Dhrtarastra is blinded by his unlawful desires. He was treating his son like he was infallible even though his son is envious of Krsna. "What's the big deal," a person today might say, "Just because Duryodhana is envious of Krsna why does this whole war of Kuruksetra have to be just because Krsna is partial to one camp and not the other?"
That question actually involves is the Absolute Truth personal or impersonal? If you are just going to have religion and theology about the "mystery", just recognize the mystery and your life will have meaning, you'll never be able to understand the so-called partiality and impartiality of the Supreme Lord. Once you accept the Supreme Absolute Truth is personal, that means the Lord favours his own--but everyone has the chance to be his own. He makes that point clear in Bhagavad-gita. Because there is no understanding of God and no understanding of the Lord's energies, therefore materialistic persons, immediately, when there is a great catastrophe, they say "Just see, where was God?"
One quite famous spokesperson of neo-atheism, he says, "Look at New Orleans. A whole city wiped out, a million people homeless, so many people killed. Why didn't God warn them?"
A poll has shown that 80% of the survivors of New Orleans say the catastrophe increased their faith in God. The atheistic preachers say this is a symptom of madness in the nation. "Who warned them that the storm was coming? It was science. Did God come and say 'Hurricane Katrina is coming'? No. And why did God let elderly people drown, babies drown? Just the fact that one baby drowned shows that there is no God."
Yet, they claim, the madness of religion goes so deep, that even after being wiped out, losing all their possessions, people say their faith in God has increased and they refuse to look at all those who lost their lives. "Where is God for the ones who lost their lives?" That is their so-called challenge. They say because they cannot understand there is an external energy and an internal energy.
But bewilderment is a fact of life both in the material world, and even in the topmost region in Goloka Vrndavana. This bewilderment caused by the different energies of the Lord reminds me of what happened when Nanda Maharaja came back from the kingdom of Varuna. He had seen Varuna worshiping his son, glorifying his son. Nanda Maharaja had also seen the wondrous opulence of Varuna's kingdom. When Krsna came out of the water back onto land, Nanda Maharaja began talking with the Brijabasis, the cowherd men, telling them what happened: "Varunadeva was glorifying my son, worshiping my son. I've seen such opulence!"
Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakur says that actually Nanda Maharaja, because he is under the influence of yogamaya, he is considering himself an ordinary person. He was thinking, "I have seen opulence such as I have never seen before. I have seen majesty that is superior to Vrndavana." He's feeling that way while thinking "Why was Varuna glorifying my son in that way?" In other words, Nanda Maharaja never took leave of thinking Krsna is his son.
But by the influence of the lila-sakti, the cowherd men, the gopas, began to speculate, "Maybe Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead! Nanda Maharaja, you told us before that Garga Rsi said you have a son who would be like Narayana. It could be that your son is Narayana! It just could be and if that is so he should give us a benediction because after all in this village we're all related. So since Krsna's your son and we're all friends, and we're related in a village relationship, a family relationship, we're all tight with you, your Krsna should give us a benediction."
They made a list of what they wanted. [laughter] One said, "I want mukti!" [laughs] Another said, "I want Vaikuntha, I want to see what it's like to be a resident of Vaikuntha."
Krsna is watching all this and he's thinking very deeply. First of all Krsna is always eager to reveal the glories of the spiritual world. That eagerness is for all his parts and parcels. But especially, of course, it's for his pure devotees, and certainly it's for his most beloved devotees in Vrndavana. Krsna is thinking deeply, "They, by their very position in Vrndavana, are far beyond mukti, they are far beyond Vaikuntha. They know this inherently by their very position, but still I see they want some direct experience of mukti, impersonal Brahman. They want some direct experience of Vaikuntha. All right, I should fulfill their desires in such a way that they will taste the supreme sweetness of Vrndavana Dham and they'll know there is nothing sweeter than that." Krsna is thinking to himself and speaks a very interesting verse which points out the interplay, the dual existence of the material and spiritual energies:
jano vai loka etasminn avidya-kama-karmabhih
People wander around in life through various superior and inferior stations. They have no knowledge, they are driven by kama and therefore they perform so many activities.
This is Krsna speaking beautiful perfect double talk. He's referring to the conditioned souls and his own Brijabasis. What is the nature of material nature? Queen Kunti also spoke a similar verse:
bhave 'smin klisyamananam avidya-kama-karmabhih
Prabhupada said those two words "bhave 'smin" and then "kama-karmabhih", those two lines contain the whole history of human existence. Within this material world what's going on, just a struggle, and what powers that struggle? Kama, nescience, ignorance, lusty desire, therefore there are so many activities. Once on a morning walk when Srila Prabhupada was repeatedly quoting this verse and elaborating on it, His Holiness Sripad Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Swami turned to Srila Prabhupada and said, "You know, Srila Prabhupada, it's quite obvious that scientific advancement simply means increasing bodily demands." A very powerful point for those who have a mistaken understanding of what is progress. Krsna is saying, "People are wandering through various stations in life. They don't know their destination."
How can you live life without understanding where you are going? How many of you flew here with no knowledge of your destination, you just got on a plane and you happened to come to Mayapur? Yet we are living in a world where people are performing so many activities and they don't know their future destination. This is a great tragedy and this wrenches the heart of a Vaisnava. How can you live without knowing what your destination is?
I heard Srila Prabhupada speaking a very interesting psychological point that a great mistake is to equate changes of the body with betterment. When you are little you think when I am older, things will be better, when I become I teenager I'll be free. When you are a teenager, you think when I am in my twenties, I'll be free. Then you have to work so hard and you think when I'm in my fifties or sixties I'll retire. Then things will be better. Then what happens when you retire? Your body is racked by so much pain, old age is there, what do you think? Then you think if I could just die, that will be better. [laughter]
Throughout all the bodily phases, there is the conditioned psychology of thinking the next change of the body will be better Like Queen Kunti says, "bhave 'smin klisyamananam", there's always going to be a struggle. Progress is only when you stop the change of body.
Krsna is speaking about that illusion for materialists, but he's also talking about the yogamaya illusion of his own Brijabasis. "They are here with me in Vrndavana. They are not aware of the unsurpassable nature of their position. All right, I'll show them."
First Krsna momentarily separated the cowherd men from Vrndavana and merged them into Brahman. Generally, in Brahman, you've lost your identity, how do you get out? Krsna by his own personal power put them into Brahman and then pulled them out. Next he took them to Vaikuntha. He showed them Vaikuntha and again by his personal power he then pulled them out of Vaikuntha and then he showed them Maha Vaikuntha, Goloka Vrndavana. The cowherd men were overjoyed upon seeing Goloka Vrndavana. What gave them pleasure ? "Look, Krsna is showing us Goloka Vrndavana, the topmost planet of the spiritual world! It looks just like our home! [laughter] It looks so familiar! Wow, just think about that!"
Then Krsna also showed them some things just to create some flavour for the pastime. He showed himself in Maha Vaikuntha surrounded by the personified Vedas offering prayers. So what did the cowherd men think about that? Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakur says the cowherd men went, "Who are these strange effulgent beings? That is Krsna but he is not approaching us like our friend, he's not coming towards us, embracing us. In fact, he doesn't even seen hungry and thirsty. How can Mother Yasoda live without feeding him?"
And then again Krsna employed his yogamaya and brought them back to Bhauma Vrndavana. In this way the Lord clearly established Brahman is dependent upon him, Vaikuntha is dependent upon him, but Krsna becomes dependent on the premis. He becomes dependent on those who have pure love for him.
In this way Krsna shows you there is illusion in the spiritual world. There is illusion in the material world. Your job is not to become all-knowing, your job is simply to become dependent on Krsna. This is what Vidura will realize as he's wandering through the holy places of pilgrimage. He is going to conclude that this dependency on Krsna is greater freedom than so-called freedom within the material energy. Thus we can clearly see how the Lord's energies interact, how his different devotees respond to those energies, we can see the sorrowful plight of those suffering under the material nature.
Now such organized atheistic propaganda is going on: "Or if you can't handle that, then religion is just embracing the ultimate mystery. Just be satisfied with that. Then there will finally be peace in the world, there'll be no more religious warfare, there'll be no more strife caused by so much sectarianism. In this way, economic development and sense gratification can proceed smoothly."
That is the whole point: bhave 'smin klisyamananam avidya-kama-karmabhih. How can we have peace to enjoy our senses? There will never be any peace. Vidura understood that "My brother is condemned. He is facing ruination because of his activities. There is no point in me sticking around."
As devotees of the Lord in the line of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, we must have this realization. There is no point in our thinking progress comes from material activities. We quit that understanding and we are endeavouring to live in this world in such a way that our spiritual realization is maximized. We don't want religious belief. We want actual experience of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and his spiritual energies. Through Lord Caitanya, that experience is made available. We don't have to say, "Oh, it is just a mystery that is giving my life meaning. It's just all about communal love while we're experiencing the great mystery." We don't have to say all that. Through disciplic succession, because of the pleasing activities of devotional service, the devotee of Lord Krsna, worshipping Krsna through Caitanya Mahaprabhu, actually gets experience of the spiritual reality and can understand how all the different energies of the Lord operate.
We'll stop here. Thank you very much. Hare Krsna.