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The atrocities of King Kansa
After the palace doors once again locked automatically, the watchmen awoke upon hearing the crying of the newborn child. They hurriedly approached King Kansa, who had been anxiously awaiting this news, and so he immediately got up from his bed, thinking, “Now the cruel death of my life is born!”
Being very upset, his hair scattered, Kansa quickly went to the prison. Seeing him approach, Devaki helplessly pleaded, “My dear brother, all good fortune to you. Please, it is not right for you to kill this baby girl. By the influence of destiny, you have already killed many babies, each of them as bright as fire. Just spare me this daughter. Being bereft of my children, I am very unfortunate. Because I am your younger sister, it is befitting that you give me this last child as a gift.”
Being the daughter of a kshatriya, Devaki knew very well how to act diplomatically. And yet, even though she cried very piteously while embracing her child, Kansa was so cruel that he rebuked her as he forcibly grabbed the baby from her hands.
While on his knees, Kansa held the baby by the legs and then attempted to dash her against the stone floor. The child, Yogamaya, the younger sister of Lord Vishnu, slipped out of Kansa’s hands and rose up into the sky, where she appeared as Goddess Durga, with eight arms. She was decorated with flower garlands, smeared with sandalwood paste, and dressed in excellent garments and ornaments made of valuable jewels. She held in her hands a bow, trident, arrows, shield, sword, conch shell, disc, and club.
While being praised by celestial beings who worshiped her with various articles, she said, “O Kansa, you fool, what is the use in killing me? The Supreme Personality of Godhead, who has been your enemy from the beginning, and who will certainly kill you, has already been born somewhere else. You should therefore not unnecessarily kill other children.”
After speaking to Kansa, the goddess Durga, Yogamaya appeared in different places on the earth and became celebrated by various names.
Kansa was astonished to see how the goddess Durga had appeared as his sister’s daughter. Certainly, Devaki could not be an ordinary human being. Kansa also wondered how the eighth child of Devaki was a girl.
Feeling very guilty, he immediately went and released Vasudeva and Devaki from their shackles and humbly spoke as follows: “O my sister! My brother-in-law! I am so sinful that I am just like a man-eater (Rakshasa) that eats his own child. I have killed so many of your sons. Being merciless and cruel, I have forsaken all my relatives and friends, and so I do not know what my destination will be.”
“Oh! Not only human beings, but sometimes, even providence lies. I am so sinful that I believed providence’s prophecy and then killed so many of my sister’s children.”
“O great souls, your children have suffered their own misfortune and so do not grieve for them. The real self is eternal and distinct from the temporary embodiment. One who does not understand this becomes too attached to the bodily conception of life and thus becomes overly affected by union and separation from family and friends.”
“My dear sister Devaki, everyone suffers and enjoys the results of his own work, under the control of providence. In the bodily conception of life one thinks, ‘I am being killed’ and ‘I have killed my enemies.’ Indeed, as long as one considers himself the be the killer of the killed, he continues to be responsible for material actions, and thus suffers the reactions.”
“My dear sister and brother-in-law, please be merciful to such a poor-hearted person as me, and excuse my atrocities”
Having said this, Kansa fell at Vasudeva and Devaki’s feet, his eyes full of tears of regret. Fully believing the words of goddess Durga, Kansa once again exhibited familial affection for Vasudeva and Devaki and immediately released them from their iron shackles.
Although Kansa is described as a demon, he had good knowledge of the distinction between spirit and matter, unlike modern-day politicians. By the grace of the Lord, he felt genuine regret for having persecuted great devotees like Vasudeva and Devaki.
Kansa felt that Devaki should excuse him, for by deeply analyzing the matter, it could be understood that he was not the real cause of the death of her sons. He was no doubt the immediate cause, but the remote cause was the babies’ own past deeds.
By the grace of the Lord, Kansa felt sincere regret and thus came to the transcendental stage of knowledge. Because of this, he felt that he was no longer responsible for the actions and reactions that continue on the bodily platform. Addressing Vasudeva and Devaki as similarly enlightened souls, Kansa begged them to forgive and forget, as such elevated persons do. The example is given that sometimes dirty foam and garbage may be floating on the surface of the Ganga, for that is the nature of water. But still, one who goes there to bathe does not mind this. Pushing aside such nasty things, one bathes in the Ganga and gains the benefit.
When Devaki saw that her brother was actually repentant, while explaining the nature of ordained events, she became relieved of her anger. Vasudeva also saw that Kansa need not be blamed, for behind all these incidents was a great plan devised by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. After all, Kansa had acted only because a prophecy had been announced from the sky. And, now that the Lord had already appeared and was in the safe custody of Yashoda, everything was happening according to plan. Thus, there was no need to maintain any ill feeling toward Kansa.
Taking advantage of the favorable situation, Vasudeva smilingly said, “O greatly fortunate one, it is only out of ignorance that one accepts the material body to be his self. What you have said is absolutely correct. One who is under the control of material nature can never act independently, for everything is done automatically by nature’s laws. Persons in ignorance always differentiate according to the bodily conception, and they are busy trying to counteract immediate causes because they have no knowledge of the Supreme Lord.”
Kansa felt very pleased to hear all this. With the permission of Vasudeva and Devaki he returned home with a relieved mind, for his guilt had subsided.
The next morning, Kansa summoned his ministers and informed them how Yogamaya had told him that the child who would kill him had already been born elsewhere. Maya keeps the conditioned souls sleeping in the darkness of ignorance. Thus, Yogamaya kept Kansa in darkness about the truth regarding Krishna’s birth.
After hearing this, the envious asuras said, “If this is so, then, starting from today, let us kill all the children born within the last ten days or so, in all the surrounding towns and villages. Even the demigods are afraid of you, so what can they do? Indeed, while fighting with you, many demigods fled, while others surrendered in fear. Being mindful of the rules for fighting, you spared their lives.”
“We need not fear Lord Vishnu, for He has hidden in the hearts of the yogis. Lord Shiva has gone to the forest, and Lord Brahma is always engaged in meditation and austerities. The other demigods, headed by Indra, have no prowess, and so there is nothing to be afraid of.”
“Of course, being our enemies, the demigods should not be neglected. Just as disease, fire and debt should be completely eradicated, lest they increase later on- or as the senses must be controlled from the start, since they may become impossible to control later on- so an enemy must never be neglected.”
“The foundation of all the demigods is Lord Vishnu, who lives wherever sacrifices are performed. Therefore, brahmanas, cows (who supply ghee for sacrifice) and sacrifices are the limbs of Lord Vishnu’s body.”
“O King, we are all your followers, and so we shall kill all of the brahmanas and cows, for this is the means for killing Lord Vishnu.”
After hearing this from his demoniac ministers, Kansa, who was of bad intelligence, being himself a demon, decided to persecute all saintly persons, considering this to be the way to achieve his good fortune. These demons, the followers of Kansa, could assume any form they desired. After giving them permission to go everywhere and persecute saintly devotees, Kansa entered his palace.