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Mahaprasthanika Parva


The Pandavas Return to the Spiritual World


While Arjuna had been away in Dvaraka, a few months had passed and still he did not return. Maharaja Yudhisthira then began to observe some inauspicious omens, which were very fearful. He saw that the direction of eternal time had changed, and this was disturbing. There were disruptions in the seasonal regularities. The people in general had become very greedy, angry and deceitful. And he saw that they were adopting foul means of livelihood. All ordinary transactions and dealings became polluted with cheating, even between friends. And in familial affairs, there was always misunderstanding between fathers, mothers and sons, between well-wishers, and between brothers. Even between husband and wife there was always strain and quarrel. In the course of time it came to pass that people in general became accustomed to greed, anger, pride, etc.

Maharaja Yudhisthira, observing all these omens, spoke to his younger brother, Bhima "I sent Arjuna to Dvaraka to meet his friends and to learn from Lord Krishna about His recent pastimes and activities. Since he departed, seven months have passed, yet he has not returned. I do not know factually how things are going there. Is He going to quit His earthly pastimes, as Devarshi Narada indicated? Has that time already arrived? From Lord Krishna only, all our kingly opulence, good wives, lives, progeny, control over our subjects, victory over our enemies, and future accommodations in the higher planets have become possible. All this is due to His causeless mercy upon us. Just see, O man with a tiger's strength, how many miseries due to celestial influences, earthly reactions and bodily pains--all very dangerous in themselves--are foreboding danger in the near future by deluding our intelligence. The left side of my body, my thighs arms and eyes are all quivering again and again. I am having heart palpitations due to fear. All this indicates undesirable happenings. Just see, O Bhima, how the she-jackal cries at the rising sun and vomits fire, and how the dog barks at me fearlessly. O Bhimasena, tiger amongst men, now useful animals like cows are passing me on my left side, and lower animals like the asses are circumambulating me. My horses appear to weep upon seeing me. Just see! This pigeon is like a messenger of death. The shrieks of the owls and their rival crows make my heart tremble. It appears that they want to make a void of the whole universe. Just see how the smoke encircles the sky. It appears that the earth and mountains are throbbing. Just hear the cloudless thunder and see the bolts from the blue. The wind blows violently, blasting dust everywhere and creating darkness. Clouds are raining everywhere with bloody disasters. The rays of the sun are declining, and the stars appear to be fighting amongst themselves. Confused living entities appear to be ablaze and weeping. Rivers, tributaries, ponds, reservoirs and the mind are all perturbed. Butter no longer ignites fire. What is this extraordinary time? What is going to happen?

The calves do not suck the teats of the cows, nor do the cows give milk. They are standing, crying, tears in their eyes, and the bulls take no pleasure in the pasturing grounds. The Deities seem to be crying in the temple, lamenting and perspiring. They seem about to leave. All the cities, villages, towns, gardens, mines and hermitages are now devoid of beauty and bereft of happiness. I do not know what sort of calamities are now awaiting us. I think that all these earthly disturbances indicate some greater loss to the good fortune of the world. The world was fortunate to have been marked with the footprints of the lotus feet of the Lord. These signs indicate that this will no longer be."

While Maharaja Yudhisthira was speaking to Bhima, Arjuna came back from the city of the Yadus. When he bowed at his feet, the King saw that his dejection was unprecedented. His head was down, and tears glided from his lotus eyes. Seeing Arjuna pale due to heartfelt anxieties, the King, remembering the indications of the sage Narada, questioned him in the following words, "My dear brother, please tell me whether our friends and relatives of the Madhu, Bhoja, Dasarha, Arha, Satvata, Andhaka, and Yadu families are passing their days in happiness. Is my respectable grandfather Surasena in a happy mood? And are my maternal uncle Vasudeva and his younger brothers all doing well? His seven wives headed by Devaki, are all sisters. Are they and their sons and daughters-in-law all happy? Are Ugrasena, whose son was the mischievous Kamsa, and his younger brother still living? Are Hridika and his son Kritavarman happy? Are Akrura, Jayanta, Gada, Sharana and Satrujit all happy? How is Balarama, the Personality of Godhead and the protector of devotees? How is Pradyumna, the great general of the Vrishni family? Is He happy? And is Aniruddha, the plenary expansion of the Personality of Godhead, faring well? Are all the chieftain sons of Lord Krishna, such as Susena, Carudeshna, Samba the son of Jambavati, and Rishabha, along with their sons, all doing well? Also, Shrutadeva, Uddhava and others, Nanda, Sunanda and other leaders of liberated souls who are constant companions of the Lord are protected by Lord Balarama and Krishna. Are they all doing well in their respective functions? Do they, who are all eternally bound in friendship with us, remember our welfare? Is Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who gives pleasure to the cows, the senses and the brahmanas, who is very affectionate towards His devotees, enjoying the pious assembly at Dvaraka Puri surrounded by friends? The original Personality of Godhead, the enjoyer, and Balarama, the primeval Lord Ananta, are staying in the ocean of the Yadu dynasty for the welfare, protection and general progress of the entire universe. And the members of the Yadu dynasty, being protected by the arms of the Lord, are enjoying life like the residents of the spiritual sky. Simply by administering comforts at the lotus feet of the Lord, which is the most important of all services, the queens at Dvaraka, headed by Satyabhama, induced the Lord to conquer the demigods. Thus the queens enjoy things which are prerogatives of the wives of the controller of thunderbolts. The great heroes of the Yadu dynasty, being protected by the strong arms of Lord Shri Krishna, always remain fearless in every respect. And therefore their feet traverse the Sudharma assembly house, which the best demigods deserved but which was taken away from them.

_"My dear brother," Yudhisthira continued, "please tell me whether your health is all right. You appear to have lost your bodily luster. Is this due to others disrespecting and neglecting you because of your long stay at Dvaraka? Has someone addressed you with unfriendly words or threatened you? Could you not give charity to one who asked, or could you not keep your promise to someone? You are always the protector of the deserving living beings, such as brahmanas, children, cows, women and the diseased. Could you not give them protection when they approached you for shelter? Have you contacted a woman of impeachable character, or have you not properly treated a deserving woman? Or have you been defeated on the way by someone who is inferior or equal to you? Have you not taken care of old men and boys who deserve to dine with you? Have you left them and taken your meals alone? Have you committed some unpardonable mistake which is considered to be abominable? Or is it that you are feeling empty for all time because you might have lost your most intimate friend, Lord Krishna? O my brother Arjuna, I can think of no other reason for your becoming so dejected."

Arjuna, the celebrated friend of Lord Krishna, was grief stricken because of his strong feeling of separation from Krishna. Due to grief, Arjuna's mouth and lotus-like heart had dried up. Therefore his body lost all luster. Now, remembering the Supreme Lord, he could hardly utter a word in reply. With great difficulty he checked the tears of grief that smeared his eyes. He was very distressed because Lord Krishna was out of his sight, and he increasingly felt affection for Him.

Remembering Lord Krishna and His well wishes, benefactions, intimate familial relations and His chariot driving, Arjuna, overwhelmed and breathing very heavily, began to speak, "O King! The Supreme Personality of Godhead Hari, who treated me exactly like an intimate friend has left me alone. Thus my astounding power, which astonished even the demigods, is no longer with me. I have just lost Him whose separation for a moment would render all the universes unfavorable and void, like bodies without life. Only by His merciful strength was I able to vanquish all the lusty princes assembled at the palace of King Drupada for the selecting Draupadi in marriage. With my bow and arrow I could pierce the fish target and thereby gain the hand of Draupadi. Because He was near to me, it was possible for me to conquer with great dexterity the powerful King of heaven, Indradeva, along with his demigod associates and thus enable the fire-god to devour the Khandava forest. And only by His grace was the demon named Maya saved from the blazing Khandava Forest, and thus we could build our assembly house of wonderful architectural workmanship, where all the princes assembled during the performance of Rajasuya sacrifice and paid you tributes.

"Your respectable younger brother, who possesses the strength of ten thousand elephants, killed, by His grace, Jarasandha, whose feet were worshiped by many kings. These Kings had been brought for sacrifice in Jarasandha's Mahabhairava sacrifice, but they were thus released. Later they paid tribute to Your Majesty. It was He only who loosened the hair of all the wives of the miscreants who dared open the cluster of your Queen's hair, which had been nicely dressed and sanctified for the great Rajasuya sacrificial ceremony. At that time she fell down at the feet of Lord Krishna with tears in her eyes. During our exile, Durvasa muni, who eats with his ten thousand disciples, intrigued with our enemies to put us in dangerous trouble. At that time He, Lord Krishna, simply by accepting the remnants of food, saved us. By His accepting food thus, the assembly of munis, while bathing in the river, felt sumptuously fed. And all the three worlds were also satisfied.

Arjuna continued, "It was by His influence only that in a fight I was able to astonish the great Lord Shiva and his wife, the daughter of mount Himalaya. Thus Lord Shiva became pleased with me and awarded me his own weapon. Other demigods also delivered their respective weapons to me, and in addition I was able to reach the heavenly planets in the present body and was allowed a half-elevated seat. When I stayed as a guest in the heavenly planets, all the heavenly demigods, including King Indradeva, took shelter of my arms, which were marked with the Gandiva bow, to kill the demon named Nivatakavacha. O King, descendant of Ajamidha, at the present moment I am bereft of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, by whose influence I was so powerful.

"The military strength of the Kauravas was like an ocean in which there dwelled many invincible existences, and thus it was insurmountable. But because of His friendship, I, seated on the chariot, was able to cross over it. And only by His grace was I able to regain the cows and also collect by force many helmets of the kings which were bedecked with jewels that were sources of all brilliance. It was He only who withdrew the duration of life from everyone and who, in the battlefield, withdrew the speculative power and strength of enthusiasm from the great military phalanx made by the Kauravas, headed by Bhishma, Karna, Drona, Salya, etc. Their arrangement were more than adequate, but He Lord Shri Krishna, while going forward, did all this. Great generals like Bhishma, Drona, Karna, Bhurishravas, Susharma, Salya, Jayadratha, and Bahlika all directed their invincible weapons against me. But by Lord Shri Krishna's grace they could not even touch a hair on my head. Similarly, Prahlada Maharaja, the supreme devotee of Lord Nrisimhadeva, was unaffected by the weapons the demons used against him. It was by His mercy only that my enemies neglected to kill me when I descended from my chariot to get water for my thirsty horses. And it was due to my lack of esteem for my Lord that I dared engage Him as my chariot driver, for He is worshiped and offered service by the best men to attain salvation.

"O King! His joking and frank talks were pleasing and beautifully decorated with smiles. His addresses unto me as 'O son of Pritha, O friend, O son of the Kuru Dynasty,' and all such heartiness are now remembered by me, and thus I am overwhelmed. Generally both of us used to live together and sleep, sit and loiter together. And at the time of advertising oneself for acts of chivalry, sometimes, if there were any irregularity, I use to reproach Him by saying, 'My friend, You are very truthful.' Even in those hours when His value was minimized, He, being the Supreme Soul, used to tolerate all those utterings of mine, excusing me exactly as a true friend excuses his true friend, or a father excuses his son.

"O Emperor," Arjuna continued, "now I am separated from my friend and dearmost well-wisher, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and therefore my heart appears to be void of everything. In His absence I have been defeated by a number of infidel cowherds men while I was guarding Lord Krishna's wives. I have the very same Gandiva bow, the same arrows, the same chariot drawn by the same horses, and I use them as the same Arjuna to whom all the kings offered their due respects. But Lord Krishna's absence, all of them, at a moment's notice, have become null and void. It is exactly like offering clarified butter on ashes, accumulating money with a magic wand or sowing seeds on barren land. O King, since you have asked me about our friends and relatives in the city of Dvaraka, I will inform you that all of them were cursed by the brahmanas, and as a result they all became intoxicated on rice wine and fought among themselves with sticks, not even recognizing one another. Now all but four or five of them are dead and gone. Factually this is all due to the supreme will of the Lord, the Personality of Godhead. Sometimes people kill one another, and at other times they protect one another. O King, as in the ocean the bigger and stronger aquatics swallow up the smaller and weaker ones, so also the Supreme Personality of Godhead, to lighten the burden of the earth, has engaged the stronger Yadu to kill the weaker, and the bigger Yadu to kill the smaller. Now I am attracted to those instructions imparted to me by the Personality of Godhead because they are impregnated with instructions for relieving the burning heart in all circumstances of time and space."

Thus being deeply absorbed in thinking of the instructions of the Lord, which were imparted in the great intimacy of friendship, and in thinking of His lotus feet, Arjuna's mind became pacified and free from all material contamination. Arjuna's constant remembrance of the lotus feet of Lord Shri Krishna rapidly increased his devotion, and as a result all the trash in his thoughts subsided. Because of the Lord's pastimes and activities and because of His absence, it appeared that Arjuna forgot the instructions left by the Personality of Godhead. But factually this was not the case, and again he became the lord of his senses. Because of his possessing spiritual assets, the doubts of duality were completely cut off. Thus he was freed from the three modes of material nature and placed in transcendence. There was no longer any chance of his becoming entangled in birth and death, for he was freed from material form.

When the Personality of Godhead, Lord Krishna, left this earth planet in His selfsame form, from that very day Kali, who had already partially appeared, became fully manifest to create inauspicious conditions for those who are endowed with a poor fund of knowledge. Maharaja Yudhisthira was intelligent enough to understand the influence of the age of Kali, characterized by increasing avarice, falsehood, cheating and violence throughout the capital, state, home and among individuals. So he wisely prepared himself to leave home, and he dressed himself accordingly. In the capital of Hastinapura, he enthroned his grandson, Parikshit, who was trained and equally qualified, as the emperor and master of all land bordered by the seas. Then he posted Vajra, the son of Aniruddha, at Mathura as the King of Surasena. Afterwards Maharaja Yudhisthira performed a Prajapatya sacrifice and placed in himself the fire for quitting household life.

Maharaja Yudhisthira at once relinquished all his garments, belt and ornaments of the royal order and became completely disinterested and unattached to everything. Maharaja Yudhisthira dressed himself in torn clothing, gave up eating all solid foods, voluntarily became dumb and let his hair hang loose. All this combined to make him look like an urchin or madman with no occupation. He did not depend on his brothers for anything. And, just like a deaf man, he heard nothing. He then started for the north, treading the path accepted by his forefathers and great men, to devote himself completely to the thought of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. And he lived in that way wherever he went.

The younger brothers of Maharaja Yudhisthira observed that the age of Kali had already arrived throughout the world and that the citizens of the kingdom were already affected by irreligious practice. Therefore they decided to follow in the footsteps of their elder brother. They all had performed all the principles of religion and as a result rightly decided that the lotus feet of the Lord Shri Krishna are the supreme goal of all. Therefore they meditated upon His lotus feet without interruption. Draupadi also saw that her husbands, without caring for her, were leaving home. She knew well about Lord Vasudeva, Krishna, the Personality of Godhead. Thus she followed her husbands wherever they went.

The citizens tried to persuade the Pandavas to return, but they were intent on following the path taken by the Supreme Lord. It so happened that a dog joined the party making the number at seven. Yudhisthira walked in front followed by Bhima. Then came Arjuna, the twins, Draupadi and the dog walked next to Yudhisthira. The Pandavas traveled through various provinces until they came to the ocean. Arjuna had brought with him his bow and two inexhaustible quivers of arrows. As they were walking, suddenly the deity of fire, Agni, appeared before them. He blocked their path and would not allow them to proceed further. He then addressed the Pandavas, "O mighty armed heroes, I am the fire god Agni. It was I who caused the destruction of the Khandava forest with the help of the Lord Krishna and Arjuna. At that time I gave to Arjuna the Gandiva bow and two inexhaustible quivers. Now, O Yudhisthira, Arjuna has no more need of these weapons. The Gandiva was given to Partha by Varuna. Please give that foremost bow back to the deity of the water."

Arjuna's brothers then urged him to give back the bow to the demigod Varuna. Hearing the appeals of his brothers, Arjuna cast the bow and the two quivers into the ocean. The demigod of fire then disappeared. The Pandavas continued on their journey and headed toward the Himalayan mountains. They crossed those mountains and also the great desert. They then came upon mount Meru. As they were proceeding up the mountain, Draupadi fell to the earth. Bhima then inquired from Yudhisthira, "O brother, this princess never performed any sinful act. Tell us the reason why Draupadi has fallen on the Earth."

"O best of men," Yudhisthira replied, "though we were all equal to her, she had greater partiality for Dhananjaya. Today, she obtains the fruit of that affection."

Having said this, that foremost one of the Bharata race proceeded on. His mind was in rapt meditation on the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As they were proceeding, Sahadeva fell to the ground. Bhima then inquired from Yudhisthira, "He, who with great humility used to serve us all, has now fallen to the ground. What is the cause of this?"

"He never thought anyone his equal in wisdom," Yudhisthira replied, "It is for this fault that he has fallen."

Having said this much, the Pandavas continued on their journey leaving Sahadeva there. Upon seeing Draupadi fallen as well as Sahadeva, Nakula suddenly fell to the ground. Bhima then inquired, "O Bharata, for what reason has our younger brother fallen?"

"O Vrikodara," Yudhisthira replied, "Nakula was righteous and the foremost of all persons endowed with intelligence. However, he thought no one was his equal in beauty. Indeed, he thought himself superior to all in this respect. It is for this reason that he has fallen."

After saying this much, Yudhisthira continued on his journey. As they were walking suddenly Arjuna fell to the ground. When that invincible hero had fallen, Bhima inquired of Yudhisthira, "I do not recollect any untruth uttered by this great person. Indeed, not even in jest did he ever speak a lie. Why, then, has he fallen to the Earth?"

"Arjuna said that he would consume all foes in a single day," Yudhisthira replied. "Proud of his heroism, he did not, however, accomplish what he had promised. For this reason he has fallen down. This Phalguna has disregarded all wielders of bows. One desirous of prosperity should never indulge in such sentiments."

Having said this much, the King proceeded on. Suddenly Bhima fell to the ground. He called to Yudhisthira, "O King, I have now fallen to the earth. What sin have I committed that this is happening to me?"

"You ate too much and you have always boasted of your strength," Yudhisthira replied. "You never considered the desires of others while eating. It is for this reason that you have fallen." Saying this much the King proceeded on without looking back. His only companion was the dog.

As the King was walking suddenly Indra, the King of heaven, appeared in the sky. He descended to the earth and asked Yudhisthira to ascend the chariot. Remembering how his brothers had fallen, Yudhisthira said, "My brothers have all fallen to the earth. They must go with me to visit your planet. Without them, I do not wish to go to heaven. The delicate princess Draupadi deserving of every comfort should also come with us."

"You shall see your brothers in heaven." Indra replied, "They have already reached there in their self same bodies. Please ascend this chariot, and I will take you to Amaravati."

"This dog, O lord of heaven, is exceedingly devoted to me," Yudhisthira said. "He should come with me. My heart is full of compassion for him. I do not desire to enjoy the prosperity of heaven if I have to leave those who are devoted behind."

"There is no place in heaven for dogs." Indra replied, "Besides, if this dog does accompany you, you will lose all your pious credits. O Yudhisthira, do abandon this dog and ascend this chariot."

"It has been said that one incurs sin when he abandons one who is devoted to him." Yudhisthira said. "It is equal to the sin of slaying a brahmana. Therefore, I shall not abandon this dog to enjoy the heavenly region. My vow is that I will never refuse a person that is terrified, nor one that is devoted to me, nor one that seeks my protection. I shall never give up one who approaches me in this way."

Upon hearing these words, the dog transformed into Yamaraja, the deity of justice and spoke to Yudhisthira the sweet words, "O King, your birth is divine, and you possess the good qualities of Pandu. You have compassion for all creatures, and you are a good example for others. Formerly, O son, I examined you by the lake in Dvaitavana when your brothers had fallen to the ground. On that occasion you asked that Nakula be revived instead of Bhima and Arjuna. On this occasion you have chosen the devoted dog instead of the chariot of the demigods. There is no equal to you in heaven, O King."

After speaking these praises, Yamaraja caused his son to ascend the celestial chariot of Indra. Accompanied by Yamaraja, Indra, the Maruts and the twin Asvins, King Yudhisthira ascended to the heavenly region. Upon reaching the heavenly planets, Yudhisthira could not see his brothers. He told the King of Heaven that he did not want to stay there without his brothers and the beautiful Draupadi. Yudhisthira was then taken to the hellish planets. He was taken down a road that was enveloped in darkness and walked by men of sinful deeds. It was polluted with the stench of flesh and blood, and it abounded with gadflies, stinging bees and gnats. Rotting corpses lay here and there. Covered with bones and hair, it was terrible to behold. It was infested by crows and other birds and vultures, all having beaks of iron. Human corpses were scattered all over it. Some of the corpses were smeared with fat and blood, and some had their limbs severed. Yudhisthira beheld a river of boiling water, and trees had leaves as sharp as razor blades. The son of Kunti beheld all the tortures given to sinful men. He then understood that he had been taken to the hellish regions. Yudhisthira then asked the celestial messengers, "How long shall we follow this path, and why have I been taken to the regions where the sinful are punished?" After asking this question, all the illusions of hell disappeared and Yudhisthira saw the demigods headed by Indra standing before him. Indra then answered the inquiry of Yudhisthira, "During the great battle of Kurukshetra, you were ordered to tell a lie by Lord Krishna. When asked to inform Drona that his son was dead, you hesitated being attached to mundane morality. Because you hesitated to act on that order, you have seen the hellish regions. You have therefore seen Hell by an act of deception. You may now attain the divine regions where the most pious persons live."

Yudhisthira was then taken to the abode of Indra, and there he saw his brothers in their full splendor. He then saw that his own body was dressed in divine clothes and ornaments. As he looked up he saw Draupadi effulgent as the goddess of fortune. Indra then spoke to Yudhisthira, "O son of Dharma, this is Shree herself. It was for your sake that she took birth as the daughter of King Drupada, and it was for your pleasure she was asked to take birth by great Lord Shiva." Yudhisthira and his brothers then beheld many of the great warriors who had died on the field of Kurukshetra. He saw many of them in the forms of demigods. After greeting them and inquiring of their welfare, the Pandavas spent some time in the heavenly region.

The sons of Pandu and the goddess of fortune Draupadi were all eternal associates of the Lord. They, therefore, desired the association of the Lord of Goloka, Lord Shri Krishna. Thus by pure consciousness due to constant devotional remembrance, they attained the spiritual sky, which is ruled over by the Supreme Narayana, Lord Krishna. This is attained only by those who meditate upon the one Supreme Lord without deviation. This abode of the Lord Shri Krishna, known as Goloka Vrindavana, cannot be attained by persons who are absorbed in the material conception of life. But the Pandavas, being completely washed of all material contamination, attained that abode in their very same bodies. Thus they were transferred to the eternal spiritual sky and the eternal association of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krishna.

The subject of the departure of the sons of Pandu for the ultimate goal of life, back to Godhead, is fully auspicious and is perfectly pure. Therefore anyone who hears this narration with devotional faith certainly gains the devotional service of the Lord, the highest perfection of life.


Thus Ends the Mahaprasthanika Parva, The Pandavas Return to the Spiritual World.


Thus Ends the Summary Study of the Mahabharata


This summary study of the great epic Mahabharata has been completed in New Vrindavana community on the full moon day in the month of Jyaistha (May-June). This is the 499th year of our Lord Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. This corresponds to June 3, 1985 of the Christian calendar.