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Dhundhukari gets a ghostly body and is delivered by Gokarna
Suta Gosvami said, "O Saunaka, one day, after Atma Deva went to the forest, Dhundhukari beat his mother severely, demanded her wealth and threatened to burn her. Being overly troubled and afraid of her son, one night Dhundhuli stole out of the house, threw herself into a well and drowned. The saintly Gokarna, who was not troubled by happiness or distress and did not consider anyone his friend or enemy, left to go on pilgrimage.
Dhundhukari remained living in their house with five prostitutes and constantly worried how to accumulate wealth for sense gratification.1 Owing to this he lost all his intelligence and thus engaged in cruel and heinous activities.2
One day the prostitutes requested that he give them various ornaments. Dhundhukari completely blinded by lust and forgetful of death, left to fulfil their desire by hook or crook. In his attempt to please them, he stole some wealth and used it to buy beautiful clothes and ornaments. After receiving the stolen goods, one night the prostitutes began to consider, "Dhundhukari is always plundering others and in time will surely get caught by the king, who will confiscate his wealth and hang him. We might as well kill him ourselves, take his wealth and move to a distant place." Thinking in this way, one night while Dhundhukari was sleeping, they tied him with ropes, put a noose around his neck and tried to strangle him. he would not die easily and this worried the prostitutes.3 They then brought burning wood, shoved it into his mouth. The wood burned him to death and they buries his dead body. Indeed women are very courageous and it is difficult to understand their mind. No one could understand what happened to Dhundhukari. When asked, the prostitutes said he had gone far away to collect some wealth and would return after a year.
An intelligent person should never believe an unchaste woman. Any foolish man who puts his faith in such women will suffer like Dhundhukari. The voice of an unchaste woman appears as sweet as nectar to a lusty man. Actually her heart is as sharp as a razor. Unchaste women have no love for anyone - they only value wealth. The prostitutes, who had experienced many lovers, thus took all Dhundhukari's wealth and disappeared.
Owing to his misdeeds Dhundhukari attained a ghost body,4 and remaining within a whirlwind wandered here and there suffering from hunger and thirst, and lamenting his misfortune. He could find no shelter anywhere. After some time the news of Dhundukari's death reached Gokarna, so he went to Gaya to perform sraddha, considering his brother destitute. Later, while travelling to the holy places, Gokarna reached his home town and hiding from everyone, went to his former house to pass the night. Dhundhukari's ghost observed Gokarna return so he assumed very fierce forms and appeared before him. sometimes he took the form of a dreadful sheep, then an elephant, or a buffalo, or like Indra sometimes like fire.5 Finally he appeared as a human being. Seeing this, Gokarna realised that a ghost must be making this display. With courage and patience he spoke, "Who are you? Why are you exhibiting all these fearsome forms? How did you fall into this condition? Tell me clearly are you a ghost, goblin, or a demon?"
Suta Gosvami said, "When Gokarna questioned him, the ghost started crying loudly. He did not have the power to speak, so he gestured with his hands. Gokarna sprinkled some water on the ghost. This relieved him of enough sinful reactions that he was able to speak. "I am your brother Dhundhukari," the ghost said. "Because of my misdeeds I have fallen from my respectable birth as a brahmana. Owing to complete ignorance I killed many people. It is not possible to count my sins. I was addicted to five prostitutes who finally killed me, and as a result I am suffering the reactions for my ill activities and have thus gotten this ghost body. Somehow, by the will of the Lord, I am now surviving only on air. My dear brother, you are an ocean of mercy. Please somehow deliver me from this ghostly form."
Gokarna replied, "Dear brother, I am very surprised. I duly performed oblations for you in Gaya and it is a wonder that you still have not been relieved from this ghostly form. If you cannot be delivered by performing sacrifice in Gaya, then I do not know what to do. Tell me what is the solution?"
The ghost said, "I cannot be relieved of this condition even by the performance of hundreds of sraddhas at Gaya. You must think of some more powerful practice."
Gokarna, astonished to hear this, said, "If you cannot be delivered by hundreds of sraddhas in Gaya, then your liberation is practically impossible. anyway, do not fear. Stay here and I will think of some procedure to deliver you."
The ghost left and Gokarna passed the night in deep thought but did not discover a solution. The next morning many people including scholars, savants, knowers of the Vedas, and yogis came to see him and he explained the incident which had occurred the previous night. They all consulted their particular scriptures but could not suggest a suitable means to deliver Dhundhukari. They finally decided to follow whatever Surya-narayana, the sun-god would order. By the power of his accumulated penance, Gokarna checked the movements of the sun-god and prayed, "O Lord, you are the witness of the whole universe, I offer my obeisances unto you. Please be merciful and tell me the process to deliver Dhundhukari."
The sun-god replied, "Only one thing can be done to deliver him - recitation of Shrimad Bhagavatam for one week."
The assembly heard this statement of the sun-god and agreed that this simple process should be executed. Thus the news spread that Gokarna would perform the Saptaha Yajna. From the nearby villages many people came who were lame, blind, aged and less intelligent, all had the desire to become free from their sins. Such a crowd assembled that even the demigods were surprised.6 Gokarna took his seat on the vyasasana and began reciting the pastimes of Lord Krishna as described in the Bhagavatam. At that time the ghost also came and searched for a place to sit. Because he had an airy body he could not sit outside, so he entered a bamboo rod which had seven knots and thus began hearing Shrimad Bhagavatam.
After Gokarna appointed one Vaishnava brahmana as the chief of the assembly, in a clear sweet voice he started reciting Shrimad Bhagavatam from the first canto. That evening during a pause in the katha, a wonderful incident occurred. The people in the assemble noticed that one of the knots in the bamboo cracked and burst. In this way, at the end of each day, a knot would burst and on the seventh day, when the recitation was complete, all the knots were cracked. Dhundhukari was delivered from his ghostly form.7 He attained a divine body, which was blackish like rain clouds. He was clad in yellow garments, a Tulasi garland around his neck, a crown adorning his head and beautiful earrings dangling from his ears.
He immediately offered obeisances to Gokarna and said, "My dear brother, by your mercy I have been released from the ghostly body. This ceremony of Saptaha is so glorious that it can destroy ghostly forms and elevate one to the abode of Lord Krishna. When a person starts hearing the Saptaha, sins tremble in fear anticipating that the bhagavatam-katha will burn them to ashes. In the same way that fire burns a twig or a tree so, this Saptaha burns all big or small sins, performed with the body, mind and speech. Scholars in the assembly of demigods have said that the lives of those Indians who do not hear Shrimad Bhagavatam are an utter waste. What is the value of making this temporary body stout and strong? If one does not hear Shrimad Bhagavatam, then there is no gain from this so-called beautiful body? This body is supported by bones, which are like pillars and tied together with the ropes of nerves and veins. It is covered with skin and is filled with flesh and every part reeks being nothing more than a pot of stool and urine. In old age it is the cause of lamentation and misery. Indeed it is a residence of ailments and to maintain it is a great burden. It is continuously troubled by desires that can never be satisfied. Every pore is full of defects and it can be destroyed within a moment. When buried, it is eaten by worms; if thrown out, it is eaten by vultures and transformed into stool; and if burned, it turns to ashes. Indeed these are the only destinations of this body. who is that sane person who will not utilise this temporary body to gain permanent benefit? Food which is cooked in the morning is putrid by evening, so how can this body be considered eternal, since it is nourished by elements that decompose?
In this material world people can very quickly attain the lotus feet of the Lord by hearing Bhagavata Saptaha. This is the only means to get rid of the defects of human birth. Those people who do not hear bhagavata-katha are just like bubbles in water, or like mosquitoes, who take birth only to die uselessly. If this bhagavata-katha can burst the knots of bamboo, then why can it not burst those in the heart? By hearing Shrimad Bhagavatam, one's doubts are removed, the karma is slackened and one becomes relieved of the knots in the heart. Bhagavata-katha is like a tirtha that cleanses one from all impurities. Scholars say that when the Bhagavatam becomes fixed in the heart, one's liberation is definite."
When Dhundhukari was speaking in this way, the sky became effulgent and a Vaikuntha airplane appeared carrying associates of the Lord.8 In front of the whole assembly, Dhundhukari boarded the airplane.
Gokarna posed a question, "O dear associates of the Lord, in this assembly there are many pure heart people and all of them heard the Bhagavata Saptaha. Why is it that this airplane has come exclusively for Dhundhukari? Why are the others not getting the same result?"
The servants of the Lord spoke, "O Gokarna, the difference lies in the quality of their hearing. Although it is true that everyone heard the katha, everyone did not meditate on it equally. For this reason the results of performing bhajana or devotional service are different.9 The ghost fasted for seven days and heard Bhagavatam with a completely fixed and attentive mind. That knowledge which is not stable is useless. In the same way, if one does not hear attentively or if one harbours doubts or lets his mind wander here and there, then he will not get the benefit of chanting his mantra. Land devoid of Vaishnavas, Sraddha offered to unqualified persons, charity given to ill behaved brahmanas who do not know the Vedas, are all useless. Faith in the words of the spiritual master, humility, control of the mind's defects and attentive hearing of bhagavata-katha all grant the full result. If one hears the Bhagavatam attentively he certainly attains Vaikuntha. O Gokarna, as far as you are concerned, the Lord Himself will come to take you to Goloka." Thereafter the associates of the Lord, performing hari-kirtana ascended to the Vaikuntha.
In the month of Sravana Gokarna again performed the Saptaha Yajna of Shrimad Bhagavatam and those people listened to it.
O Narada, please listen what happened at the end of that Saptaha. The Lord appeared in a plane filled with devotees. From all quarters could be heard, "All glories! All glories!" and people were paying obeisances. The Lord blew His conch shell named Pancajanya and embraced Gokarna. In a moment He granted everyone who listened to the Shrimad Bhagavatam a body just like His own. They all acquired a blackish body and wore yellow garments, helmets and earrings. By the mercy of Gokarna all the living entities in that village, including dogs and even the dog-eaters, ascended in that airship. They were carried to the place where only devotees go--the abode of the Lord.
In this way, Lord Krishna being very pleased by His katha took Gokarna with Him to Goloka Dhama, which is most dear to the cowherd people. In the past Lord Ramacandra took all the residents of Ayodhya to His abode, Saketa.10 In the same way, Lord Krishna took everyone to Goloka Dhama, which is not attained even by great yogis,, the Sun God, Moon God, or even perfected beings, but is attained only by hearing Shrimad Bhagavatam. O Narada, what can we say about the wonderful result which one attains by hearing Bhagavata-Saptaha? Even those who have heard a fraction of the history of Gokarna do not take birth again. That destination which can not be attained by those who live on air, water or dry leaves, executing extended penance or the practice of yoga, is easily attained simply by hearing Bhagavata-Saptaha. The great sage Sandilya, who is always absorbed in transcendental bliss, engages in reciting this pious history at Citrakuta.11 This story is so purifying that anyone who hears it even once becomes free from all sin. If it is recited during the Sraddha ceremony, the forefathers are very pleased. Anyone who recites Shrimad Bhagavatam daily attains liberation.
Comments on Chapter Five
1. Dhundhukari represents the materialistic man. The five prostitutes indicate the five senses which always demand their respective objects and cause the living entity to work hard for their satisfaction.
2. When a person is attached to sense gratification he is almost crazy and loses all sense of morality.
3. Demoniac people do not die easily. They suffer immense pain even in their sojourn to Yamaloka.
4. A sinful person is like a ghost while living and becomes a ghost after death.
5. Human beings have an unstable mind in a stable body, but ghosts have an unstable mind in an unstable body.
6. The demigods were surprised, because they had not seen such gatherings even in big sacrifices that were considered highly religious.
7. The bamboo with seven knots represents the material body comprised of five gross material elements and the mind and false ego, all of which cover and bind the living entity. it can also represent the material body which is seven vitasti in height. A vitasti is the distance between tip of the little finger and the tip of the thumb on an outstretched hand. Every normal person's body is the length of seven vitasti of his own had. The even knots can also refer to ignorance, lust, anger, greed, delusion, pride and envy.
8. This narration should not be considered as a fable or exaggerated. Even in modern times such effects of hearing Shrimad Bhagavatam have been witnessed.
9. Consciousness is the most important factor in devotional service.
10. This story is narrated in the Valmiki Ramayana.
11. This is sadhu pramana.