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The deliverance of King Nriga.
Once, the princes of the Yadu dynasty- Samba, Pradyumna, Bhanu, Gada, and others went to a forest near Dvaraka to have a picnic. After playing for a long time, they became thirsty. While searching for water, the princes came upon a dried-up well, and when they looked inside, they were astonished to see a big, wonderful-looking lizard.
Feeling sorry for the lizard, which was trapped inside the well, the boys tried to lift it out. And yet, in spite of repeated attempts, they were unsuccessful, and so they hurried home and went to tell Lord Krishna about the unusual creature.
Krishna immediately went there with His sons, and simply by extending His left hand, He very easily lifted the lizard out of the well. Touched by the hand of the Supreme Lord, that creature gave up its lizard body and appeared as a beautiful demigod with golden complexion.
Although Krishna knew everything, just to inform people in general, He inquired, “Who are you, O greatly fortunate one? I think that you are one of the exalted demigods. What past activity brought you to this lowly condition? We are eager to hear about this, and so if you think that it is proper, please tell us.”
The celestial being bowed down to Lord Krishna, and then replied, “I am a king, known as Nriga, the son of Ikshvaku. Perhaps You heard my name mentioned when the list of charitable men was recited.”
“O Lord, You are the knower of everything. Nevertheless, on Your order I shall speak. Formerly, I gave in charity as many cows as there are grains of sand on the earth, stars in the heavens, or drops of rain in a shower. (The king is here emphasizing that he had given many cows in charity.) I gave young, brown cows, having only one calf. They all had full udders, and were well behaved, beautiful and had been acquired honestly. They all had gilded horns, silver-plated hooves, and were decorated with fine cloth and garlands.”
“I first honored the brahmanas who were the recipients of my charity, by giving them fine ornaments. These brahmanas were young and possessed of excellent characters and qualities, although poor. They were dedicated to truth, austere, vastly learned in the Vedas, and saintly in behavior. I not only gave them cows, but also land, gold, houses, horses, elephants, marriageable girls with maidservants, as well as household items.”
“Once, I gave a cow in charity to a certain elevated brahmana. Later on, that cow wandered off and re-entered the cows in my herd. Unaware of this, I proceeded to give that cow in charity to a different brahmana. At this time, the cow’s original owner came there and claimed, ‘This cow is mine!’ The second brahmana responded, ‘No. She is mine. Nriga gave her to me.’ ”
“While arguing in this way, the two brahmanas approached me. When they accused me of giving for a second time a cow that I had already given in charity, thus committing a greatly sinful act, I became bewildered.”
“Finding myself in such a terrible dilemma, I humbly entreated, ‘O brahmanas, please be merciful to me, for I am your servant, and had acted innocently, without knowing what I was doing. I will give each of you 100,000 of the best cows, in exchange for this one disputed cow, and thus rectify my mistake. Please accept my offer and thus save me from this difficult situation, or I shall surely fall down into hell.’ ”
“The second owner of the cow said, ‘I don’t want anything in exchange for this cow’ and the original owner said, ‘I will not accept even more than what you are offering.’ Both thought that the cow was theirs, and thus could not be taken back under any condition. While considering that their rightful position had been usurped, the two brahmanas angrily left my palace and returned home.”
“O Lord of lords, taking advantage of this, at the time when I gave up my body, the Yamadutas carried me to the abode of their master, Yamaraja.”
“Yamaraja then said, ‘My dear King, which would you like to experience first? Would you like to enjoy the results of your pious acts, or would you first like to suffer the results of your sins? I can see no limit to the charity that you had given, or the enjoyment in heaven that you will consequently receive.’ ”
“Being bewildered, I replied, ‘My lord, first of all let me suffer for my misdeeds.’ Yamaraja responded by saying, ‘Then fall!’ and at once, I was transformed into a lizard and remained within a well for a long time. But somehow, due to my charitable disposition toward the brahmanas, and my great desire to one day have Your audience, I continued to think of You, even in my degraded condition, and I could remember everything about my past life.” (Still, the acharyas explain that King Nriga was not an unalloyed devotee, for he was attached to the conception of himself as being a pious man, a great giver of charity. Krishna consciousness develops love for Krishna, and not love for pious activities. Pure devotees do not suffer the results of karma, whereas King Nriga did.)
“O almighty Lord, how is it that I am able to see You before me? Even great yogis who constantly meditate upon You within their hearts can rarely see You, so how can I, who have been blinded by the tribulations of material life? Only one who has finished his material entanglement should be able to see You.”
“O Krishna, please permit me to depart for the world of the demigods. Wherever I live, O master, may I always take shelter of Your lotus feet.”
Greatly appreciating the mercy that he had received from the Lord, Maharaja Nriga circumambulated Him and touched his helmet to His lotus feet. Then, with the Lord’s permission, King Nriga boarded the celestial airplane that had arrived for him and departed as all those present looked on.
Lord Krishna then spoke so as to instruct the Yadus in particular, and the royal class in general: “How disastrous is the attempt to enjoy a brahmana’s property, even by one who has become very powerful by the performance of austerity and yoga, and so what to speak of others? Poison kills only the person who ingests it, and a fire may be put out with water. But, the stealing of a brahmana’s property destroys three generations of one’s family, and has no antidote.”
“Kshatriyas easily become blinded by their opulence, and thus fail to see their downfall. Childishly hankering to enjoy a brahmana’s property, they are paving their way to hell. A person who steals a brahmana’s property will live as a worm in stool for sixty thousand years. One who simply desires to take a brahmana’s possessions reduces his duration of life, and after meeting with defeat, he will be born again as a snake.”
“My dear followers, never treat a brahmana harshly, even if he abuses you or physically attacks you. Just continue to smile and offer him respect. Just as I always offer respects to the brahmanas, all of you should do the same, for I will certainly punish anyone who does not follow My example. Just consider the example of King Nriga.”
Having thus instructed the residents of Dvaraka, Krishna returned to His palace.