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The Story of Gokarna
Suta Gosvami continued, "O Saunaka, when the Supreme Lord, who is very dear to His devotees, saw transcendental bhakti manifest within their hearts, He left His abode and appeared in the assembly at Ananda. He wore a garland made of forest flowers, and His bodily hue was just like that of a monsoon cloud. He was dressed in dazzling yellow garments and wore a belt studded with gems. A crown decorated His head and His earrings moved to and fro. He stood in a beautiful threefold bending form that stole the hearts of everyone. The Kaustubha gem glittered on His chest and His bodily limbs were anointed with sandalwood pulp. His exquisite beautify defeated millions of Cupids. The transcendental Personality of Godhead, who held a flute, then entered the hearts of His devotees. His intimate associates, such as Uddhava, had come there incognito to hear the bhagavata-katha. As the Lord appeared, in all directions could be heard "All glories! All glories!" There was a wonderful flow of bhakti rasa, the sound of conches, and showers of flowers and coloured water. The entire assembly completely forgot themselves and their possessions and were fully absorbed in hearing the Shrimad Bhagavatam."
Seeing their deep absorption, Shri Narada said, "O sages, today I have seen the wonderful glory of Saptaha. Even foolish rogues and animals become purified by hearing it. I have no doubt, therefore, that in Kali-yuga, bhagavata-katha is the most powerful process for purifying the heart. O most merciful saintly persons, only to show kindness upon the suffering living entities in the material world have you revealed this wonderful process. Now please narrate histories regarding those who have become purified by performing Saptaha Yajna."1
The Kumaras said, "Those crooked people who always transgress the rules of the scriptures and engage in various types of sinful acts, burning in the fire of anger, and are always given to lust, will be purified by the Saptaha Yajna.
Those who are outside the varnasrama system, devoid of truth, and troubled by material desires, who always criticise their parents, who are envious, hypocritical and bent on giving misery to others, will be purified by the Saptaha Yajna.
Those who steal gold, drink liquor, kill brahmanas, and who have sex with the wife of their spiritual master, who are very cruel, merciless, treacherous, immoral, demonic, always prone to cheating and live off the wealth of brahmanas, will be purified by the Saptaha Yajna.
Those who are very obstinate and thus always engage in sinful activities with their body, mind and speech, who always live on the wealth of others, and whose hearts are very impure will get purified by the Saptaha Yajna.
O Narada, in this context, I will recite a history which simply by hearing one will become free from sin.
Once there was a beautiful settlement on the bank of the Tungabhadra. The people of that city were truthful, religious and dedicated to executing their prescribed duties. In that city lived a brahmana named Atma Deva, who was expert in studying the Vedas and performing karma-kanda activities. He was brilliant like the sun and although rich, he lived by begging. He had a beautiful wife named Dhundhuli, who came from a good family, but was very obstinate. By nature she was very cruel, talkative and took great pleasure in gossiping with others. although expert in household duties, she was miserly and quarrelsome.2 This brahmana and his wife lived together lovingly, owning ample wealth and objects for sense enjoyment. Though their house was very beautiful, they were not happy because they had no son.3 As old age crept up on Atma Deva, he engaged in various pious activities for getting a son. He distributed charity to the poor and donated cows, land, gold, cloth and so on. In this way he spent half of his wealth on religious activities. Still he could not get a child and thus he was filled with anxiety.
"One day, feeling very disheartened, he left home and went to the forest. As the sun reached its zenith he was thirsty and approached a pond. Owing to lack of progeny he was depressed, weak and tired,4 and after drinking he sat down to rest.5 By and by a sannyasi came there to drink. The brahmana approached him and fell at his feet breathing heavily. The sannyasi asked, "O brahmana, why are you crying so anxiously? Tell me what is your problem?"
The brahmana said, "O Maharaja, I am suffering from sins committed in my past life. Even my forefathers are in such anxiety that when I offer oblations of water, they accept, but remain full of worry. The demigods and brahmanas do not happily accept my offerings of food. I am so miserable for want of children that my life appears wasted. I have come here to give up my useless life, as I have no son. A house without children is like a forest, and wealth loses all value. Indeed a family without children is very inauspicious. O Maharaja, even the cows I acquire become barren! When I plant a tree, it yields no fruits or flowers. And when I bring fruit to my home, it spoils very quickly. I am most unfortunate because I have no son, therefore my life has no purpose."
Saying this, the brahmana began crying piteously and the saint's heart became filled with compassion.6 He was a perfected yogi and by seeing the lines on the brahmana's forehead, he could understand everything about his life.
The sannyasi said, "O brahmana, give up your attachment and desire for children, for Fate is very powerful. Take shelter of discrimination and give up attachment to this world. O brahmana, I can understand your fate and am certain that you will have no son for the next seven lives. Previously, King Sagara and King Anga had to suffer repeated miseries because of not having a son. Therefore, brahmana, give up all hope for success in family life. Happiness is only in the life of renunciation."
The brahmana said, "O Swamiji, what is the value of such discrimination? There is simply no spice in sannyasa life. Somehow or another give me a son, otherwise, I will plunge into lamentation and give up my life. One who does not experience the happiness of wife and children lives in a desert. Happiness exists only when the house is filled with wife, sons, and grandsons.7
Seeing Atma Deva's great attachment, the saint said, "O brahmana, King Citraketu had to suffer excessively because he wanted to undo his fate.8 Providence is very powerful, hence none of your endeavours will be successful. For this reason you will not get the happiness of a son, but I see that you are very obstinate, and since you have approached me desiring a son, what can I say in these circumstances?"
Understanding the brahmana's determination the saint offered him a fruit and said, "Your wife will surely get pregnant and bear you a son upon her eating this fruit. She should follow a vow of truthfulness, cleanliness, mercy, and charity and eat only one meal a day for one year. By doing so, she will have a son who will be pious and righteous."
After saying this the sannyasi disappeared and the brahmana joyfully returned to his house. He gave the fruit to his wife and left for another place. His wife, whose nature was crooked, began crying and spoke to her associate: "My dear friend, I am in great anxiety! My husband has brought a fruit which has the potency to give me a son. If I eat it, I will become pregnant,, my womb will grow, and not being able to eat properly I will become weak and unable to perform my household duties. If by ill fortune dacoits attack, I will not be able to run in my pregnant condition. And if during the time of delivery, the child gets stuck in the birth canal, I will lose my life. Or if he remains in my womb for an extended period, like Sukadeva how much will I have to suffer. I am very tender by nature, how will I be able to tolerate all this? During the pregnancy I will be weak, then my sister-in-law is sure to come and pilfer all my wealth. Moreover, I will have to follow so many rules and regulations which will create difficulty. Child-bearing is very painful, and upbringing more painful still.9 I think only barren women and widows live happily."
Thinking in this way she did not eat the fruit. Yet when her husband asked her, she deceitfully said, "Yes, I have eaten it."10
One day her sister visited and Dhundhuli confided the whole story to her, revealing her distress. Dhundhuli said, "O dead sister, owing to anxiety, day by day I am becoming weaker. Please tell me what I should do?"
Her sister replied: "I am now pregnant so when I deliver this child, I will secretly give him to you. Meanwhile you pose yourself as pregnant and offer some wealth to my husband, thus he will not mind giving his child to you. Somehow or another we will arrange for everyone to think that I suffered a miscarriage after six months. Later I will arrange to nourish the baby at your house.11 Now, to test this fruit, let us give it to this cow."
Dhundhuli fed the fruit to a cow and in due course her sister gave birth to a son. The child's father quietly delivered it to Dhundhuli who informed Atma Deva that she had delivered a son. hearing this Atma Deva became very jubilant. he performed the birth ceremony along with various other auspicious activities, gave charity to the brahmanas, and arranged musicians to celebrate the birth of his son.
Dhundhuli said to her husband, "There is no milk in my breast and I think it is not possible to feed cow's milk to the child yet. What shall I do? My sister's child was still-born so if you call her, she can breast-feed my son."
Atma Deva took her suggestion, and Dhundhuli named the boy Dhundhukari. After three more months the cow that ate the fruit also delivered a beautiful human child. He was peaceful and divine looking and his face was very brilliant. Seeing this, the brahmana became very ecstatic.12 He performed all the appropriate ceremonies for this new baby. Hearing this, all the people were astonished and all came to see the baby born of the cow. They started talking among themselves, "Just see how fortunate Atma Deva has become. Even his cow has borne him a son!"
By the will of the Divine no one could understand the secret behind the intrigue. Atma Deva named the cow's son Gokarna because his ears resembled those of a cow. In time both boys grew up. Gokarna was intelligent and scholarly, while Dhundhukari was a rogue. He would not perform any brahmanical duties or follow the rules of cleanliness. he used no discrimination when eating and was irate. He would accumulate useless articles and would even eat food touched by a dead body. He was expert in stealing and envious of others. Sometimes he would quietly go and set fire to another's house, or he would abduct a baby and throw it in a well. He took pleasure in violent activities and always carried weapons. He happily troubled blind and handicapped people and kept special friendships with candalas. He also kept a pack of dogs and would often go hunting. He was attached to prostitutes and thus he wasted all his father's wealth. One day he severely beat his parents, took all the pots and utensils in the house and sold them. In this way, all of Atma Deva's property was lost. he began lamenting, "Alas! alas! I was better off when my wife was barren! Oh! to have a rascal son is worse than having no son at all. Where shall I go? What shall I do? Who will help me in this unfavourable situation? O misery! I am being tormented by my own son and I'm prepared to give up my life!13
While he lamented in this way, Gokarna arrived and began instructing him:14 "O father, this world is full of delusion and misery, and is useless. You should deliberate upon who is the real owner of sons and wealth. Those who are attached to material things burn day and night like a ghee lamp. Neither Lord Indra nor the emperor of the whole universe can find happiness. Only those who are renounced and live in a solitary place have peace. Therefore give up this ignorance, thinking that this is your wife, this is your son, and so on. Owing to such delusion one goes to hell. This body will one day be lost, therefore, go and live in the forest."
Hearing the words of Gokarna, Atma Deva decided to go to the forest. He asked, "My dear son, please explain what I should do in the forest. I am very foolish and very much attached to karma-kanda activities. Now I have lost everything and am bound in this well of household life. You are very merciful - please deliver me."
Gokarna said, "O father, this body is nothing but a combination of bones, fat, blood, and flesh. Therefore, do not consider that you are this body and that this wife and children are yours. Day and night meditate on the ephemeral nature of this material world and thus do not become attached to anything. Become renounced and perform devotional service unto the Personality of Godhead. Devotion is the greatest religion, therefore take shelter of it, and give up all other material religious principles. Render service to saintly people and give up all thoughts of sense gratification and greed for wealth. Do not meditate on the defects of others, fully engage in the service of the Lord, and always drink the nectar of His holy pastimes."
Influenced by the preaching of his son, Atma Deva left home and though he was sixty years old went to the forest with great determination. Day and night he remained engaged in the service of the Lord.15 He regularly recited the tenth canto of Shrimad Bhagavatam until finally he attained the lotus feet of Lord Shri Krishna.
Comments on Chapter Four
1. After explaining a particular philosophical conclusion, (siddhanta), it is customary to corroborate it with an example. This strengthens the faith of the audience.
2. While this is a true story, it has a philosophical interpretation. Atma Deva (lit. divine soul) is the living entity. Tungabhadra (very auspicious) signifies the material body. In Bhagavad-gita (5.13) the material body is compared to a city of nine gates which hosts the living entity. This city is very auspicious, because it gives facility to understand the scriptures and thus attain the lotus feet of the Lord. Although it is temporary, it can award permanent benefits, adhruva-marthadam (S.B. 7.6.1).
Karma-kanda activities signify all endeavours for sense gratification. Some people work hard to enjoy in this life, and others to enjoy in the next. A person is rich because he can elevate himself to spiritual life. but one is called krpana or miserly, if he uses his intelligence and energy for sense pleasure, which is available even to dogs and hogs.
Dhundhuli (lit. unclear) represents the intelligence which should work under the guidance of the soul. However, if she henpecks her husband, the living entity, he becomes like her slave. Contaminated intelligence takes pleasure in material thoughts which are compared to gossiping. Hatred and envy are compared to cruelty and quarrelling. Material intelligence is expertly used in material affairs (household duties).
3. Happiness does not depend on wealth. Everyone remains dissatisfied despite his high or low material standards.
4. A materialistic person is always full of stress and anxiety running after sense pleasure, like a deer running after the water in a mirage.
5. Drinking water and relaxing represents temporarily stopping material pursuits. This is compared to shifting a heavy load from one shoulder to the other, it gives only a momentary feeling of relief.
6. The sannyasi signifies the spiritual master.
7. Generally a materialistic person approaches a guru to satisfy his own material desires. The intelligence develops discrimination only through holy association, but when the intelligence is overly attached to sense pleasure, one cannot understand the value of detachment or transcendental knowledge. Such people consider devotional life extremely miserable.
8. Unless one takes to spiritual life he must suffer or enjoy the fruits of his past karma.
9. The general tendency of the human being is to enjoy the fruits of labour without undergoing any endeavour. This is compared to a woman desiring to bear a son without labour pains.
10. Material intelligence always cheats the living entity.
11. The sister signifies the mind. The mind and intelligence conspire against the conditioned soul.
12. A materialistic person feels elated with material success, but it does not last very long.
13. In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krishna explains that happiness in the mode of passion is like a nectar in the beginning and poison at the end; it always ends in misery.
14. Gokarna was born from the fruit given by the sannyasi, thus the association of a saint never goes in vain. Even if one approaches a devotee or Krishna with vested interest, he will benefit spiritually in due course of time.
15. Practice with determination and enthusiasm is the key to success.
yasyam vai sruyamanayam
bhaktir utpadyate pumsah
Simply by giving aural reception to this Vedic literature, the feeling for loving devotional service to Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, sprouts up at once to extinguish the fire of lamentation, illusion and fearfulness.
Shrimad Bhagavatam 1.7.7