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Parikshit cursed by the son of a brahmana and the
appearance of Shukadeva Gosvami.
The sages at Naimisharanya said, “O Suta Gosvami, may you live for many years and have eternal fame, for you are speaking very nicely about the activities of Lord Krishna. This is just like nectar for mortal beings like us. We have just begun the performance of this sacrifice, without certainty of its results, due to the many imperfections in our actions. Although our bodies have become black from the smoke, we are factually pleased by the nectar of the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Govinda that you are distributing.”
“The value of a moment’s association with a devotee of the Lord cannot be compared even to the attainment of heavenly planets or liberation from matter, and so what to speak of worldly benedictions in the form of material prosperity, which are meant for those who are destined to die.”
Suta Gosvami said, “Although born in a mixed caste, we have been promoted in birthright simply by serving and following the great souls who are advanced in knowledge. Even by conversing with such great personalities, one can immediately cleanse himself of all disqualifications resulting from a lower birth.”
“O rishis, as birds fly in the sky as far as their capacity allows, so I shall try to describe the transcendental pastimes of the Lord as far as my realization permits.”
Once, while giving chase to deer in the forest, Maharaja Parikshit became very tired, hungry and thirsty, and so he suspended his hunting to search for water. While doing so, he came to the ashram of a well-known rishi named Shamika, who was a descendent in the line of Angira. After entering the rishi’s cottage, Maharaja Parikshit saw him sitting silently with his eyes closed. Actually, Shamika Rishi’s senses, breath, mind and intelligence were restrained from external perception due to being situated in trance (samadhi). When he saw the sage, who was dressed in deerskin and had long, matted hair, Maharaja Parikshit requested some water, for his mouth was extremely parched because of thirst.
Actually, pure devotees never become overly disturbed by bodily demands, such as hunger, thirst and fatigue. Therefore, it is understood that Maharaja Parikshit was put into this condition by the will of the Lord, just to create the auspicious situation whereby he would become detached from family life and hear Shrimad-Bhagavatam from Shukadeva Gosvami.
Shamika Rishi had not given Maharaja Parikshit any kind of formal welcome such as an offering of a seat, water or sweet words. Then, when the sage did not even reply to his request, Maharaja Parikshit immediately became very angry, due to feeling highly neglected and offended. Of course, Maharaja Parikshit did not think that the ascetic would give him a royal reception, but he expected to be offered at least a straw mat, words of welcome, and some water to drink. After all, because Maharaja Parikshit was the king, such a cold reception on the part of the rishi was certainly astonishing. Of course, it was equally astonishing that a pure devotee like Maharaja Parikshit would become angry at a great rishi. Thus, it must be assumed that such behavior was ordained by the Supreme Lord.
While leaving the cottage in a fit of rage, Maharaja Parikshit happened to see a dead snake lying near the door. After picking it up with the end of his bow, the king placed it as a garland around Shamika Rishi’s neck and then quickly departed for Hastinapura. It was certainly surprising that Maharaja Parikshit would think of childishly rewarding the rishi’s cold reception with a cold, dead snake. Indeed, while returning home, Maharaja Parikshit began to repent for his behavior. The king pondered again and again, “Was the rishi actually absorbed in a trance of meditation, or was he just pretending so that he could avoid receiving one of a lower caste?”
Shamika Rishi had a young son named Shringi, who was very powerful due to his brahma-tejas. While playing with other boys of the same age, the inexperienced Shringi heard about how his father had been insulted by the king.
Becoming enraged, the boy declared, “Just see how this ruler, who is like a crow that receives the remnants of one’s food, or a watchdog that guards the door, has turned against his master. On what grounds can a dog enter the cottage and claim to dine with the household on the same plate? After the departure of Lord Krishna these upstarts have already begun to flourish! Therefore, I shall personally take up the matter and punish the wrongdoer. Just witness my power!”
After saying this, Shringi, his eyes red with rage, touched water from the River Kaushika and then cursed Maharaja Parikshit: “On the seventh day from today, Takshaka will bite this most wretched descendent of his dynasty because he has broken the rules of etiquette by insulting my father.”
While seeking an opportunity to infiltrate society, the personality of Kali found it in this inexperienced, puffed-up brahmana boy. Thus, hatred of the lower orders by the brahmanas, due to the influence of Kali began with Shringi, and the first victim of brahminical injustice was Maharaja Parikshit.
Thereafter, when the boy returned home, he saw his father seated with a dead snake draped over his shoulders. Being very aggrieved at this sight, and because of his great mistake of cursing the king, Shringi began to cry out loud, to relieve his burning heart. When he heard his son crying, Shamika Rishi gradually opened his eyes and then saw the dead snake that hung around his shoulders.
After casting the snake aside, Shamika asked, “My dear son, why are you crying? Has anyone harmed you?”
In response, Shringi explained all that had happened. When Shamika Rishi heard about how the king had been cursed, he became highly mortified and exclaimed, “Oh! What a greatly sinful act has been performed by my son! He has given a heavy punishment for an insignificant offense!”
“My dear boy, because you are immature, you do not understand that the king is the foremost of human beings and the representative of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is only due to his protection that the citizens are able to live in peace and prosperity. When the world becomes bereft of a good king, rogues and thieves vanquish the unprotected subjects just as a lion easily kills scattered lambs. By destroying the monarchial regimes, we will become responsible for great social disruptions. Indeed, the whole system of varnashram will become neglected, reducing the general population to the level of dogs and monkeys.”
“The Emperor Parikshit is celebrated as a first-class devotee of the Lord. He is a saint among kings and so he never deserves to be cursed. My dear son, I can only pray to the Supreme Lord that He may pardon you for having cursed a sinless person.”
Shamika Rishi knew that- even though devotees are so forbearing that they never take revenge; even when cursed, cheated, defamed, neglected or disturbed; still, the Lord never excuses such offenders. In actuality, because this pastime was the Lord’s arrangement, neither Shamika, Shringi, nor Parikshit were held responsible, for they had all acted instrumentally.
Still, the rishi thought, “If the king were to counter-curse my son, then the boy might get relief from his sinful reaction. The saintly Parikshit will certainly not do so, however, and so the only hope is to appeal to the Lord on the grounds that the offense was committed by a foolish, innocent child.”
Meanwhile, as he returned home, Maharaja Parikshit became more and more distressed as he thought about his uncivilized behavior toward the faultless brahmana.
The king thought, “Due to my sinfulness, I must certainly expect some great difficulty to overcome me in the near future. Indeed, I hope that such a calamity comes immediately so that I can atone for my wretchedness and then never again commit such an offense. Since I am most uncivilized for having neglected brahminical culture- let my kingdom, power and opulence be burnt immediately in the fire of the brahmana’s wrath. In this way I will be taught to give up such an envious and inauspicious mentality.”
Because one’s personal conduct affects family members as well, Maharaja Parikshit wanted a disaster to quickly befall him, so that by personally suffering the reaction, future generations would not have to become affected.
As he was repenting like this, news of his immanent death due to Shringi’s curse reached Maharaja Parikshit. Shamika Rishi had sent a messenger to inform the king of the irrevocable curse so that he might properly prepare himself for going back home, back to Godhead.
Maharaja Parikshit could have gone to Shamika and begged for forgiveness. But, since the rishi’s message had been conveyed with so much regret, the king did not want to further embarrass him by his presence. Thus, instead of trying to counteract the curse, Maharaja Parikshit took it as a good opportunity to become indifferent toward all material things. With this in mind, he first of all handed over his kingdom to his son. Then, he sat down firmly on the banks of the Yamuna with the intention of giving up his life by fasting, while concentrating his mind upon the lotus feet of Lord Krishna.
News of this spread quickly throughout the universe, and on the plea of making a pilgrim’s journey, all of the great rishis came there along with their disciples, knowing that Shrimad-Bhagavatam would be spoken by Shukadeva Gosvami. Thus, Maharaja Parikshit soon became surrounded by Narada Muni, Shrila Vyasadeva, Bhrigu, Vasishtha, Parashara, Atri, Vishvamitra, Angira, Parashurama, Bharadvaja, Gautama, Chyavana, Sharadvan, Utathya, Maitreya, Aurva, as well as numerous other rishis and great kings. Maharaja Parikshit received everyone properly and then bowed his head in the hopes of being excused of all offenses before departing from this mortal world.
After all had been comfortably seated, Maharaja Parikshit stood before the assembled sages with folded hands and said, “The Supreme Lord, Who is the supreme controller, has kindly overtaken me in the form of a brahmana’s curse. The Lord has done this out of His causeless mercy, for I had become too attached to family life and royal opulence.”
“O brahmanas, please accept me as a completely surrendered soul, for I have already taken the lotus feet of the Lord into my heart. Let Takshaka bite me at once, if it be so ordained, for my only desire is that you continue speaking about the glories of the Supreme Lord, Vishnu.”
“I offer my obeisances unto all of you and I pray that if I have to be born again within this material world, my attachment for Lord Krishna will remain intact and I may have the association of devotees. I have come here to sit down and fast until death, and so I beg you to instruct me for my highest welfare.”
After saying this, Maharaja Parikshit sat down facing north, on the southern bank of the Ganga, upon a mat of kusha grass that had been placed with the roots turned toward the east. The demigods in heaven then expressed their satisfaction with the king’s determination by beating their drums and showering flowers.
The rishis that were assembled there also praised Maharaja Parikshit and said, “O King, it is not astonishing that you have renounced your royal position, in order to attain the eternal association of Lord Krishna. We shall remain here until you pass away from this mortal body, and thus attain to the supreme abode of the Lord.”
Desiring to hear about Lord Krishna, Maharaja Parikshit once again addressed the sages: “You have kindly assembled here from all over the universe and are naturally inclined to do good to others. Please tell me what is the unalloyed duty of everyone in all circumstances, and especially, of those who are just about to die.”
Maharaja Parikshit knew very well that devotional service to Lord Krishna is the eternal duty of everyone. Therefore, he questioned the sages just to get their unanimous confirmation of this, so that he could carry on with his Krishna-conscious duties without controversy. Just as doctors will differently diagnose the same patient, so it appears that the great sages also put forward various opinions. As the rishis were thus discussing amongst themselves, Shukadeva Gosvami appeared upon the scene, by the will of Lord Krishna.
Knowing that his son would leave home just after birth, Shrila Vyasadeva had carefully instructed Shrimad-Bhagavatam to him while he was still within the womb of his mother. Because Shukadeva Gosvami was free from all material desires, Shrila Vyasadeva chose him to become the recipient of this ripened fruit from the tree of Vedic knowledge, passing over all his other disciples.
When Shukadeva Gosvami left home for accepting the renounced order of life, without even having undergone the various reformatory processes, Shrila Vyasadeva followed him due to feelings of intense separation. Although Vyasadeva cried out with anxiety, “O my son!” only the trees echoed in response to the aggrieved father. Then, when Shukadeva Gosvami passed some beautiful young girls that were bathing, they did not even bother to cover themselves, although both they and Shukadeva were naked. But, when Vyasadeva passed by, the girls quickly covered themselves, even though the great sage was not naked.
When Vyasa inquired about this, the girls explained, “Your son looked upon us without making a distinction between male and female, for he is transcendental to mundane sexual relations. You, however, make such a distinction.”
In the Brahma-vaivarta Purana it is said that Shrila Vyasadeva kept the daughter of Jabali as his wife, and they once performed austerities together for many years. Thereafter, when Vyasadeva impregnated his wife, the child remained within his mother’s womb for twelve years. When Vyasadeva requested him to come out, the child said that he would do so only after becoming completely liberated from the influence of maya. Shrila Vyasadeva assured his son that this would be so, but the child did not have faith in his father’s words, since he was still attached to wife and children.
Vyasadeva then went to Dvaraka and informed Lord Krishna of his problem. Thereafter, at Vyasa’s request, Lord Krishna went to the rishi’s cottage and assured the child that he would never become influenced by maya. At this, Shukadeva came out from the womb and immediately left home to wander as a parivrajakacharya. When the aggrieved father followed his son, Shukadeva Gosvami created a duplicate self who later on became a householder, and his daughter, Kritvi, married King Nipa of the Bharata line.
Shukadeva Gosvami was only sixteen years old, and his beautiful body of blackish complexion, which was adorned with all auspicious physical features, resembled that of Lord Krishna. Due to this, as well as his attractive smiles, Shukadeva Gosvami was very pleasing to women. He had been traveling over the earth as a naked avadhuta, a person that is totally disinterested in all kinds of social conventions. Thus, he was surrounded by numerous women and children, who followed him out of curiosity. Upon the arrival of Shukadeva Gosvami, Maharaja Parikshit and all of the rishis, except Narada, Vyasa and a few others rose from their seats to show him respect.
After seeing this reception of the chief-guest, the wonder-struck women and children desisted from their frivolous activities, so that the atmosphere became calm and grave. The son of Vyasadeva then sat in the exalted seat that was offered to him, and thereafter, in the assembly of great rishis, he appeared just like the moon surrounded by innumerable stars.
After bowing down to offer his respects, Maharaja Parikshit stood up with folded hands and inquired from Shukadeva Gosvami with sweet words: “O brahmana, your presence has sanctified us. Simply by remembering you, one can become instantly purified, and so what to speak of seeing you, touching you, washing your holy feet, and offering you a seat. Your appearance here is certainly a manifestation of Lord Krishna’s mercy upon me.”
“You are the spiritual master of the great sages and devotees, and so I beg you to explain to us the path of perfection for all persons, and especially for those who are about to die. What should a man hear about, chant, remember and worship, and what should he refrain from doing?”
Shukadeva Gosvami replied, “My dear King, your question is glorious because it is very beneficial for all kinds of people. The answer to this question is the prime subject matter for hearing. Materially engrossed people have many subjects for hearing because they are blind to the knowledge of the Absolute Truth.”
“During the day, they work hard to earn money, and at night they pass their time in sleep and sexual indulgence. Although the truth is right before their eyes, such materially engrossed persons do not see their inevitable destruction. One who desires to become freed from all material miseries must hear about, glorify and remember the Supreme Personality of Godhead, for the highest perfection is to remember Lord Narayana at the end of life.”
“At the end of Dvapara-yuga I studied the great literature, Shrimad-Bhagavatam, from my father. Even though I was a perfectly liberated soul, I became attracted by the transcendental pastimes of the Lord, for further advancement. Because you are a sincere devotee of Lord Krishna, I will now recite Shrimad-Bhagavatam, for the chanting of the holy name and glories of the Lord is the doubtless and fearless means of spiritual success.”
“What is the use of a prolonged life that is devoid of Krishna consciousness? King Khatvanga freed himself from the bondage of material life in a moment by taking complete shelter of the Supreme Lord.”
“My dear King, you are more fortunate, because you have seven days to prepare yourself for death. At the end of life one must be bold enough to fearlessly cut off all attachment to the material body, and all desires that pertain to it.”
Shukadeva Gosvami proceeded to explain to Maharaja Parikshit how materialistic persons could begin their spiritual life by meditating upon the universal form of the Lord. After becoming more elevated, one can meditate upon the Paramatma feature of the Lord, Who is situated within the heart. Then, ultimately, when the personal feature of the Lord is thus realized, one can begin to act on the platform of pure devotional service.
After hearing from Shukadeva Gosvami, Maharaja Parikshit said, “O learned brahmana, your speeches are gradually destroying the darkness of my ignorance, for you are narrating the topics of the Supreme Lord. Now, I beg you to explain how the Lord engages His personal energies to create these material universes and then winds them up again in the sporting spirit of a player.”
Shukadeva Gosvami replied, “O King, when he had been questioned by his son, Narada, Lord Brahma explained this subject just in the way he had previously heard it, directly from the Supreme Lord. “
Narada inquired, “My dear father, first-born among the living beings, you know everything past, present and future, for the entire universe is within your grip, just like a walnut in your hand. Whatever we see in this material manifestation appears to have come into being by your self-sufficient energies. Yet we are made to wonder about the existence of someone more powerful than yourself, because of seeing your great austerities and discipline.”
Lord Brahma replied, “My dear boy Narada, I create this cosmic manifestation after the Lord’s creation by His personal effulgence, just as when the sun shines, then the moon, planets and twinkling stars also manifest their brightness. It is only due to ignorance of Lord Krishna that people consider me to be the supreme controller. It is only because of the inspiration of Lord Narayana that I am able to discover that which was already created by Him. In fact, I am also His creation.”
Lord Brahma proceeded to satisfy Narada’s curiosity by describing in detail the process of creation and the Lord’s expansion of His universal form. He concluded by saying: “O Narada, because I have caught hold of the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Hari, with great enthusiasm, whatever I say has never proved to be false. The progress of my mind has never been deterred, nor are my senses ever degraded by temporary attachment to matter.”
Maharaja Parikshit was very eager to hear the complete science of God and so he asked Shukadeva Gosvami many questions. Indeed, just to express his great eagerness for hearing, the King declared, “O learned brahmana, because of my drinking the nectar of the description of the infallible Personality of Godhead that is flowing from the ocean of your speeches, I do not feel any sort of exhaustion as a result of fasting.”
Shukadeva Gosvami was also very enlivened by Maharaja Parikshit’s inquiries and sincere desire to know the truth. He informed the king that the science of God was first spoken by the Lord Himself to Brahma, at the beginning of creation.