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NITAAI-Veda.nyf > Compiled and Imp Scriptures > Shrimad Bhagavatam > Canto-5 > Bharata Maharaja. The forest of material enjoyment



 Bharata Maharaja.  The Forest of Material Enjoyment.



     Following the order of his father, Bharata ruled the earth, and while doing so, he treated the citizens with great affection. He married Panchajani, the daughter of Vishvarupa, and begot in her five sons- Sumati, Rashtrabhirta, Sudarshana, Avarana, and Dhumraketu. By the performance of sacrifices, Maharaja Bharata worshiped the Supreme Personality of Godhead, understanding that the offerings made to the demigods were in actuality being given to the various limbs of Lord Vishnu. While thus performing activities as instructed by his father, Maharaja Bharata’s devotional service to the lord increased day by day, and thus his heart became purified.

According to Destiny, Maharaja Bharata’s enjoyment of material opulence was fixed at ten million years. Thus, although he was still in the prime of life, when that period was about to end, he gave up his beautiful wife and royal opulence. After dividing his wealth among his sons, Bharata Maharaja retired alone to the Pulahashram at Hardwar. From the gardens he collected flowers, twigs and tulasi leaves, and he took water from the Gandaki River, where the shalagrama-shilas are found. Along with various fruit, roots and bulbs, Bharata Maharaja offered these things to the Supreme Personality of Godhead and thus remained satisfied, since he did not have the slightest desire for material enjoyment.

     By constantly engaging in devotional service, Maharaja Bharata’s love for Lord Krishna steadily increased, so that gradually his heart became melted in transcendental ecstasy. As a result of becoming elevated to the platform of spontaneous devotion to the Lord, the hair on Maharaja Bharata’s body stood up on end and tears flowed from his eyes so that his vision became impeded. Due to constantly meditating upon the reddish lotus feet of the Lord, Bharata Maharaja’s heart, which was like a lake, became filled with the water of ecstatic love. When his mind dove into that lake, he forgot all about the regulative service of the Lord.

     Bharata Maharaja looked very beautiful dressed in deerskin. Due to bathing three times daily, his curly hair was generally wet. Every morning at sunrise he worshiped Lord Narayana, Who resides within the sun, by chanting the hymns of the Rig Veda.

One day, after finishing his morning duties, Maharaja Bharata sat down on the riverbank and concentrated upon the chanting of his mantra. At this time, a thirsty female deer came there, and as she was drinking the water with great satisfaction, a lion suddenly roared very loudly nearby.

     The black doe was by nature always afraid of being killed, and thus her eyes continually moved about suspiciously. When she heard the lion’s tumultuous roar, she became very agitated and looked around here and there with frightened eyes. Even though she had not yet drank to her full satisfaction, the doe suddenly leaped across the stream out of fear. She was pregnant, and when she jumped, the baby fell from her womb, into the flowing water. Due to being separated from her flock, and very distressed because of the miscarriage, the doe fell down exhausted inside a cave and died.

     As he sat on the riverbank, Maharaja Bharata could see the small, motherless deer floating down the river, and so he felt great compassion. Like a sincere friend, he lifted the little deer out of the water and brought it back to his ashram.

     Maharaja Bharata began to raise the deer by feeding it grass and carefully protecting it from the attacks of other wild animals, and thus he gradually became very affectionate towards it. When it itched, Bharata petted the deer, since he always tried to keep it in a comfortable condition, and sometimes, out of love, he would kiss it. Due to being attached to raising the deer, Maharaja Bharata gradually forgot to worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Indeed, after just a few days, he gave up all the rules and regulations for spiritual advancement.

     Having forgotten everything about spiritual life, Maharaja Bharata thought, “Oh, by the force of destiny, this young deer has lost its relatives and taken shelter of me. Because it knows no one but me, I have become its father, mother, brother, and relatives. Since this deer has full faith in me, I should not be envious and think that taking care of it will impair my own welfare. How can I neglect one who has taken shelter of me? Even though the deer has disturbed my spiritual life, it is my duty to raise, protect and gratify it in all respects. To neglect a helpless person who has taken shelter of me would be a very great fault. Even if one is in the renounced order of life, he feels compassion for others’ sufferings. One should sacrifice his own interests, even though they may be very important, to protect one who has surrendered.”

     Due to great attachment, Maharaja Bharata lay down with the deer, bathed it, walked with it, and even ate with it, and thus his heart became completely bound with the rope of affection. Fearing the attacks of other animals, Bharata would always take the deer with him when he entered the forest to collect kusha grass, flowers, wood, leaves, fruit, roots, and water.

Because of its childish behavior, the deer appeared very attractive to Maharaja Bharata, and sometimes, out of affection, he would carry it upon his shoulders. His heart was so filled with love for the deer that sometimes he would keep it on his lap, or while sleeping, upon his chest. In this way, Maharaja Bharata always felt great pleasure in fondling the little animal.

     While worshiping the Lord, Bharata Maharaja would get up at intervals, although his activities were not finished, just to see where the deer was. After looking for it, when Bharata saw that the deer was comfortably situated, his mind and heart would feel relieved. Indeed, with satisfaction, he would bestow blessings upon it by saying, “May you be happy in all respects.”

     Once, at sunset, when Bharata Maharaja was unable to see the deer in his ashram, his mind became very agitated, like a miser who had obtained some wealth and then lost it. In the deer’s absence, Bharata became filled with anxiety, and he lamented in separation as follows:  “Oh!, The poor deer, who had put his faith in me, is now helpless. Like a cunning hunter, my mind is very cruel and filled with cheating propensities. Although I have certainly proved faithless by neglecting the poor creature, will it return and once again place its faith in me? Shall I once again be able to see the deer wandering about in the garden, eating soft grass? Maybe he has been eaten by a wolf or a tiger!”

     Being greatly illusioned, as Bharata Maharaja remembered the deer’s playful activities, he spoke like a madman: “When will the deer, who is just like a prince, return here to pacify my wounded heart? I certainly have no pious assets, otherwise he would have returned by now. When I used to feign meditation with closed eyes, the deer would fearfully touch me with the points of his soft horns, while circling around me with affectionate anger. When I would place the sacrificial ingredients upon kusha grass, the deer would playfully touch them with its teeth to pollute them. I would chastise the deer by pushing it away, and so out of fear it would sit down quietly and stop its playful activities.”

     After speaking like this, Maharaja Bharata got up and went into the forest. When he happened to see the deer’s footprints, he began to praise them out of love: “O unfortunate Bharata, your austerities are very insignificant compared to those that were undergone by the earth. Due to the earth’s severe penance, the deer’s most beautiful and auspicious footprints are imprinted on her surface. Because of these footprints, this land has become a fit place for brahmanas to perform sacrifices as the means for attaining heaven.”

     While looking up, when Bharata saw the dark spots on the moon, which resembled a deer, he continued, “Knowing that it has strayed from home, has the moon become kind upon the poor deer and thus given it shelter from the attacks of wild animals? Due to separation from the deer, who is just like my own son, I am burning with fever, as if suffering in a forest fire. Upon seeing my distress, the moon appears to be splashing nectar upon me, just as a friend throws water upon his friend who has a high fever.”

     In this way, Maharaja Bharata became overwhelmed by uncontrollable desire, manifest in the form of a deer. It seems that as a result of his unseen past sinful activities, he fell down from his worship of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Otherwise, how could he have become attracted to an insignificant deer, after having given up his own family members, considering them to be stumbling blocks on the path of spiritual life? Although it may appear that Bharata Maharaja was affected by his past karma, as a great devotee, it was not actually possible. The conclusion is that he had purposely become over-addicted to the deer and thus had neglected his spiritual life.

     While Maharaja Bharata was searching for the lost deer, insurmountable death came before him, just as a venomous snake enters a mouse’s hole. While wandering about in the dark like a madman, Bharata fell from a high cliff. As he lay upon the ground, Bharata Maharaja saw the deer sitting by his side, exactly like a son lamenting his death. Thus it so happened that while quitting his body Maharaja Bharata was absorbed in thinking of the deer, and as a result, he acquired the body of a deer in his next life. In spite of this degraded birth, however, there was one advantage. As a result of the rigid devotional service that he had previously performed, Maharaja Bharata did not forget the incidents of his past life.

     Maharaja Bharata had purposely neglected his spiritual life, and so to immediately rectify this error, he was given the body of a deer for a short time, just so his desire for devotional service would be revived.

While in the deer’s body, Bharata could remember the activities of his past life, and thus he constantly repented as follows: “What great misfortune! I have fallen down from the path of self-realization! After giving up my wife, sons and home, I continuously practiced devotional service in a solitary place so that I became fully absorbed in Krishna consciousness. Still, due to my personal foolishness, my mind again became attached- this time to a deer.”

Although within the deer-body, Maharaja Bharata became completely detached from material life, as a result of his constant repentance. Leaving his mother at his birthplace (the Kalanjara Mountain) he returned to the ashram of Pulastya and Pulaha. While remaining there, Maharaja Bharata was very careful not to again become a victim of bad association. Without disclosing his past to anyone, he awaited his death by bathing in the holy river and maintaining himself by eating dry leaves.

Finally, Maharaja Bharata gave up his deer-body while loudly praying as follows: “The Supreme Personality of Godhead is the controller of the entire creation, and He is the Supreme Soul Who resides in every living entity. He is the personification of sacrifice and mystic yoga, and He is the most beautiful. I am leaving this body, offering obeisances unto Him, and hoping that I may perpetually engage in His transcendental loving service.”

     Next, Bharata was born as the son of a very pure brahmana- a descendent in the dynasty of Angira. This brahmana was endowed with all good qualifications, and he had thoroughly studied the Vedic literatures. He was always satisfied, tolerant, very gentle, and non-envious. As a self-realized devotee, he remained in trance by always engaging in the devotional service of the Lord. By his first wife, the brahmana begot nine equally qualified sons. By a second wife he begot twins, a brother and sister, and the male child was said to be the topmost devotee, Bharata Maharaja, who is hereafter referred to as Jada Bharata.

     By the mercy of the Lord, Jada Bharata could remember his past life, and so despite his brahminical birth, he was very afraid of falling down due to the association of his non-devotee relatives and neighbors. For this reason, Jada Bharata manifested himself before others as a madman- dull, blind and deaf- so that they would leave him alone. Within himself, Jada Bharata always thought of the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord and chanted His glories, while externally he acted differently, to save himself from bad association.

     Jada Bharata’s father was very affectionate toward him.  Even though his son was not fit to enter the grihastha-ashram, the brahmana executed all of the purifacatory processes, up to the end of brahmacaraya. Although Jada Bharata was unwilling to accept any instruction, his father made the attempt to educate him, thinking it to be his duty. 

Jada Bharata always behaved like a fool in front of his father, just so the brahmana would finally abandon his attempts to train him in the Vedic principles.  Whenever his father tried to instruct him, Jada Bharata responded by acting just the opposite. For example, when his father told him to wash his hands after passing stool, Jada Bharata would wash his hands and then pass stool. His father tried to teach him to chant the Gayatri mantra, but after four months, when Jada Bharata had still not learned it, he gave up.

     Still, the brahmana was so attached to his son that he considered him to be his very life and soul. Thus, like everyone else, he was very attached to his family and home, and always hoped that Jada Bharata would someday grow up to be a learned scholar. While unsuccessfully attempting to teach Jada Bharata Vedic knowledge, cleanliness, the performance of fire sacrifices, and how to execute service to the spiritual master, the brahmana completely forgot that one day he would have to die.

     Death was not forgetful of him, however, and so at the proper time it came and took him away. The brahmana’s younger wife entrusted her two children to the care of her elder co-wife and then she ascended the funeral pyre, to follow her husband to his destination. After the death of Jada Bharata’s father, his nine stepbrothers gave up the attempt to educate him, for they considered him to be dull and brainless. These nine brothers, although highly educated in the fruitive activities that are described in the three Vedas- Rig, Sama and Yajur, were not at all enlightened about the devotional service of the Lord, and thus they could not appreciate Jada Bharata’s exalted position.

     Those who were no better than two-legged animals used to mistreat Jada Bharata because he behaved like a madman- deaf, dull and blind- but he never protested or tried to convince them otherwise. Whatever food Jada Bharata acquired by begging, as wages, or which came of its own accord- be it palatable, stale or tasteless- he would eat. Since he was already liberated from the bodily conception of life, Jada Bharata never ate anything simply for sense gratification. His body was very muscular, like a bull’s, and he didn’t care for winter or summer, wind or rain, and thus he never bothered to clothe himself. He simply lay down on the bare ground to rest, and because he never bathed, his body was very dirty so that his spiritual effulgence was covered. He wore just a dirty cloth for a loincloth, and his sacred thread had long since become black.

     Because Jada Bharata used to work for his food, his stepbrothers took advantage of this by making him labor hard in the agricultural fields. Actually, Jada Bharata did not know how to do his work properly, and so in exchange, his step-brothers used to give him broken rice, oil cakes, rice-chaff, worm-eaten grains, or the burned grains that were stuck to the bottom of the cooking pot. Still, Jada Bharata accepted whatever he was given as if it were nectar, and he did not bear any grudges.

     At this time, a dacoit leader from a shudra family, being desirous of obtaining a son, wanted to worship the goddess Bhadra Kali by offering a dull man in sacrifice. He captured one such man, who was no better than an animal, but that man escaped in the middle of the night. The dacoit leader ordered his men to search for the man-animal, and while wandering here and there, they came to a paddy field where Jada Bharata was sitting in an elevated place, guarding the crops from the attacks of wild deer and boar. As soon as they saw Jada Bharata, the dacoits considered him to be quite suitable for their purposes, and so their faces brightened with happiness. After binding him with ropes, they brought Jada Bharata to the temple of goddess Bhadra Kali. Although he was certainly strong enough to escape, Jada Bharata did not protest, for he simply depended upon the mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

     According to their concocted ritual, the dacoits first of all bathed Jada Bharata and then dressed him in new clothing. After decorating him with ornaments and garlands, and smearing Sandalwood paste all over his body, they fed him sumptuously.

Thereafter, the dacoits brought Jada Bharata before the deity of goddess Kali, while offering her incense, lamps, flowers, parched grain, newly sprouted twigs and fruit. While worshiping the deity, they sang songs and offered prayers, while playing upon drums and bugles. Finally, Jada Bharata was made to sit down before the deity, while the dacoit who acted as the chief priest picked up a very sharp and fearsome sword, after consecrating it with the mantras of Bhadra Kali. Then, so that he could offer Jada Bharata’s blood as a liquor for the goddess to drink, the dacoit-priest raised the sword slowly over his head.

     These dacoits had the audacity to try and kill the exalted and self-realized devotee of the Lord, Jada Bharata, who was the real friend of all living entities. The goddess Kali could not bear to see this, however. Suddenly, the deity’s body burst open and she personally emerged in a form that was blazing with an intolerable effulgence. Enraged at the offenses that the dacoits had committed, the infuriated goddess flashed her eyes and displayed her fierce, curved teeth. Indeed, by assuming this very fearsome feature, it appeared as if the goddess Kali was prepared to destroy the entire creation.

     Leaping down from the altar, Kali grabbed the sword that was to be used to kill Jada Bharata, and with it she cut off the dacoits’ heads. Then, along with her associates, who were all female witches and demons, the goddess began to drink the hot blood that flowed from their necks, as if it were some kind of liquor. Becoming mad with intoxication, goddess Kali and her followers sang very loudly and danced so wildly that it appeared as if they were about to annihilate the entire universe. While engaged in such revelry, the witches and demonesses played with the dacoits’ heads by tossing them about like balls.

Sometime thereafter, the king of Sindhu and Sauvira, named Rahugana, began a journey to Kapilashram. When he came to the banks of the River Ikshumati, it so happened that he required an additional palanquin carrier. While the other palanquin carriers were looking for someone, they happened to come upon Jada Bharata, and when they saw his strong, stout body, they considered him quite fit for the job of carrying heavy loads, like a cow or a donkey. Although the great soul, Jada Bharata, was certainly not meant for such work, these shudras did not hesitate to force him to engage in carrying King Rahugana’s palanquin.

     Jada Bharata had a fully developed sense of nonviolence, and so when he began to carry the king’s palanquin, he hesitated every few steps, just to see whether he was about to step on any ants. As a result, Jada Bharata did not keep pace with the other carriers, and this caused the palanquin to jolt, again and again, much to the king’s discomfort.

After being jolted a few times, King Rahugana warned the bearers, “Why are you carrying my palanquin so unevenly? You had better be more careful, and carry it properly from now on.”

     Upon hearing this, the palanquin bearers became very afraid of punishment, and so they replied, “O lord, we are not being negligent in the performance of our duties. It is this new man who cannot carry your palanquin very swiftly, and for this reason we are experiencing some difficulty.”

     The other palanquin carriers were shudras, who do not sympathize with other living entities, and thus they were not at all concerned about the ants that were walking on the path. When such shudras work along with a brahmana-Vaishnava like Jada Bharata, then an incompatible situation surely arises. King Rahugana could understand that due to one person’s fault his palanquin was being carried improperly and thus he became a little angry.

Due to being in the mode of passion, King Rahugana spoke as follows to Jada Bharata, whose brahman effulgence was not clearly visible, like a fire that is covered by ashes: “My dear brother, you appear to be very fatigued, for you have carried this palanquin a great distance without any assistance. I think that due to your old age and frail body, you have been greatly troubled by this work. Are not your fellow carriers cooperating with you?”

     Despite being criticized with sarcastic words, Jada Bharata was unaffected, unlike the passionate Rahugana. Because he knew fully well that he had nothing to do with the lump of matter that comprises the material body, Jada Bharata remained silent and continued to carry the palanquin as before.

When King Rahugana found that his palanquin was still being jolted as much as ever, he shouted at Jada Bharata, with a voice that was filled with rage, “You rascal! Don’t you know that I am your master? Since you are disregarding me by not carrying out my orders, I will punish you just as Yamaraja punishes sinful persons. I shall give the proper treatment so that you will come to your senses and do the correct thing.”

     Under the influence of the modes of passion and ignorance, Rahugana was in the bodily conception of life, and thus he thought of himself as a king. Although he considered himself to be very learned, King Rahugana did not understand the position of an advanced devotee like Jada Bharata, and thus he dared to chastise him with harsh words.

On the other hand, Jada Bharata simply smiled and replied to his abuser, “My dear King, whatever you have sarcastically said is certainly true. It is a fact that I have not labored hard, because the body is the carrier of the palanquin and not I, who am detached. You said that I am not stout and strong, and such words are certainly befitting someone who does not know the distinction between the body and the soul.”

     “The body may be fat or thin, but no learned man would say such a thing about the spirit soul. Therefore, you were unknowingly correct when you said that I am not very stout. If this journey related to me at all, I would certainly be experiencing some trouble. But, because it is only my body that is engaged in work, whereas I have nothing at all to do with it, there is no trouble at all for me.”

“Bodily and mental distresses, hunger, thirst, fear, desires for material happiness, old age, sleep, attachment for material possessions, anger, lamentation, and illusion are all transformations of the bodily coverings. Therefore, one who is absorbed in the bodily concept of life is certainly affected by these conditions. On the other hand, I am free from the bodily conception of life, and thus I have not become affected by carrying the palanquin or hearing your words of chastisement.”

     “My dear King, you think that you are the master, and because of this, you are trying to order me. But I must inform you that this attitude is incorrect because all such positions are temporary. Today you may be the king, and I, the servant- but tomorrow our positions may be reversed. Actually, everyone is being forced to act in accordance with the laws of material nature, and so I consider everyone to be a servant.”

     “My dear King, you have called me a rascal and a dull, crazy fellow. However, I beg to inform you that in spite of my living like a madman, I am actually a self-realized soul. What would you gain by punishing me? Even if you were correct and I am truly a madman, your punishment would have no effect, like the beating of a dead horse. When a madman is punished, his madness is not cured.”

     Out of humility, Jada Bharata never considered himself to be a great devotee. Like an ordinary man, he thought that by carrying the king’s palanquin he was destroying the reactions of his past misdeeds. Thus, without being at all agitated, Jada Bharata had properly replied to the king, and then prepared to continue carrying the palanquin as before. King Rahugana had great faith in discussions about the Absolute Truth, and by hearing Jada Bharata’s philosophical presentation, which slackened the knot of ahankara (false ego) within his heart, his material conception of being a king was destroyed.

     After quickly descending from his palanquin, King Rahugana fell flat onto the ground and touched his head to the lotus feet of Jada Bharata, so that he might become excused for having insulted a brahmana.

With great humility and repentance, he said, “O brahmana, you move within this world covered and unknown to others. Who are you? Are you a learned brahmana and saintly person, or are you one of those exalted, liberated souls, such as Dattatreya? Why have you come to this place- is it just to do good for us?”

“My dear sir, I am not at all afraid of Indra’s thunderbolt, the trident of Lord Shiva, or even the punishment of Yamaraja. But I am very afraid of having offended a brahmana.”

     “It appears that you generally keep the influence of your great spiritual knowledge hidden. Why are you wandering about like a dullard?”

“O great saintly person, what you have spoken is certainly correct, but because persons like myself cannot easily grasp transcendental topics, kindly explain what you have said more clearly. I consider that you have descended onto this earth as the direct representative of Kapiladeva, for the benefit of all human society.”

“O spiritual master, please describe to me what is the most secure shelter in this world? I think that you are presenting yourself as a deaf and dumb person just to examine everyone to see who is actually a human being and who is not. Because I am very attached to worldly life, I have become blind to spiritual knowledge. Still, I am now present before you, begging for enlightenment, and so please tell me how I can advance on the spiritual path.”

     King Rahugana then expressed his doubts by saying,  “You have said that you did not become fatigued by laboring. And yet, even though the soul is undoubtedly distinct from the body, it appears to feel pleasure and pain, and become fatigued by bodily labor. If a pot of milk and rice is put onto the fire, the milk and rice will become hot after the pot becomes heated. In the same way, the material conditions that are experienced by the body are also seen to affect the mind and soul. For this reason, the soul cannot be completely detached from material conditions- that is my conjecture.  Although the phenomenal world is not factual, its influence certainly has a great effect upon the conditioned soul. For this reason, even though material activities are impermanent, they cannot be said to be untrue.”

     “You have said that the relationship between the master and servant is not factual, being temporary. However, when a person takes the position of a king, it is his duty to rule the citizens and punish those who are disobedient. By such punishment, the King teaches the citizens to obey the laws of the state and the Vedic injunctions. You have said that there is no use in punishing one who is mad or dull-headed. However, since one becomes purified of past sinful reactions by engaging in his occupational duties, even if one is engaged by force, he will benefit.”

     “O friend of the distressed, due to being falsely puffed-up because of possessing the body of a king, I have committed a great offense by insulting you. Therefore, I pray that you kindly glance upon me with your causeless mercy, so that I may become relieved from the resultant sinful reaction. Since you are free from the bodily conception of life, and view all persons equally, I know that there is no loss or gain for you due to my insult. On the other hand, since I have offended you, even though I may be as powerful as Lord Shiva, I shall certainly be vanquished without delay if you do not excuse me.”

     Jada Bharata had only given preliminary spiritual knowledge, which involves the negation of the material concept of life (neti, neti) by declaring it to be false. Therefore, in a sense, King Rahugana’s arguments represent the Vaishnava philosophy, which opposes such a Mayavada or impersonalist conception. Still, even though King Rahugana’s arguments were correct from the practical point of view, they arose from his attachment to the bodily conception of life. As long as one identifies with the body, he feels material pleasure and pain, just as the owner of an automobile feels distress when it is damaged. However, since such feelings are due to excessive attachment, they can be avoided when the attachment is withdrawn.

     Jada Bharata replied, “My dear King, although you are not very experienced, you are trying to speak like a great authority. One who possesses real knowledge never speaks as you have done, and for this reason you cannot be accepted as a genuinely learned man. Talks about the relationship between the master and servant and so forth are all within the scope of material activities. For persons who are interested in such subjects, and thus perform material sacrifices, spiritual advancement definitely does not become manifest. Just as a dream comes to be automatically known as false and immaterial, the material happiness that is enjoyed in this life or in the next is eventually understood to be insignificant. When one realizes this, the Vedas, although an excellent source for material guidance, become insufficient to give one direct knowledge of transcendence.” 

     “As long as one’s mind is contaminated by the three modes of material nature, it remains exactly like an independent, uncontrolled elephant. By utilizing the senses, the uncontrolled mind expands its jurisdiction of pious and impious activities, and thus becomes subjected to lust, anger and greed while fulfilling its desires for sense enjoyment. In this way, the mind carries the living entity to various grades of bodies among the demigods, humans and lower species.”

“Learned persons say that bodily appearance, bondage and liberation are all caused by the mind. When the mind is absorbed in sense gratification, it brings about conditional life and its concomitant sufferings. However, when the mind becomes unattached to material enjoyment, it is the cause of liberation. When a  flame burns the wick improperly, a lamp becomes blackened, and when it is burning properly, there is bright illumination. Similarly, when the mind is detached from material sense gratification, it brings about the original brightness of Krishna consciousness.”

     “When one is bereft of Krishna consciousness, the external energy creates many ideas about activities in the mind, and these have been accumulating since time immemorial. Sometimes these impressions become manifest during the waking state and sometimes while dreaming. A liberated person can understand very clearly how this is happening. The soul’s designation, the mind, is the cause of all tribulations within the material world. Because the mind is affected by disease, lamentation, illusion, attachment, greed and enmity, it creates bondage and a false sense of intimacy in conditional life.”

“O King, please try to conquer your mind by the weapon of devotional service unto the lotus feet of the spiritual master and the Supreme Personality of Godhead.”

     King Rahugana then said, “O most exalted personality, by your influence, all kinds of doubts about the contradictions in shastra have been removed, and thus I offer my respectful obeisances unto you.”

“O best of brahmanas, I am very contaminated, and my vision has been bitten by the serpent of pride. Although I am in a diseased condition of life, your nectar-like instructions are the proper medicine for alleviating my suffering. The only difficulty is that these mysterious explanations appear to be very difficult to understand and so I request you to repeat them in a more simplified manner.”

     Jada Bharata replied, “All of us on the surface of this planet are living entities in different forms, some moving and some nonmoving. The different bodies and their capacities are simply transformations of earth that exist in name only, for after annihilation, they will again mingle with the earth. Some of these material combinations and permutations are called palanquin carriers whose bodies, consisting of feet, ankles, knees, thighs, chest and head are simply made of earth. Upon their shoulders is the wooden palanquin, and within is the so-called King of Sauvira. The body of the king is just another transformation of earth, but within that body you are falsely thinking that you are the king.”

     “Actually, the innocent persons who are carrying your palanquin without payment are suffering because of this injustice. And yet, although you have proved yourself to be very cruel and heartless by forcing them to carry your palanquin- due to false prestige, you think that you are protecting the citizens. The king should act as the representative of God and thus guide the citizens toward the spiritual path. However, when the king thinks that he can utilize the citizens for his sense gratification, just because he is the head of state, he becomes degraded.”

     “Behind all of the temporary manifestations of matter within this cosmic creation, there is the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Person, Whom all learned scholars describe as Vasudeva, the cause of Brahman and Paramatma.”

“My dear King Rahugana, unless one has the opportunity to smear his entire body with the dust of the lotus feet of a great devotee, he cannot realize the Absolute Truth.”

     “In a previous birth, I was known as Maharaja Bharata, and had attained spiritual perfection by becoming completely detached from material activities and rendering devotional service unto the Supreme Lord. However, due to my misfortune, I became very affectionate toward a small deer, and because of neglecting my spiritual duties, I had to accept the body of a deer in my next life. Still, due to having rendered sincere service unto the Lord, I can remember my past life and the cause of my falldown. It is for this reason that I remain aloof from materialistic association by wandering about unnoticed by others.”

       Jada Bharata became very compassionate upon King Rahugana, and to further enlighten him, he described the forest of material enjoyment. 

Jada Bharata said, “The conditioned soul wanders on the very difficult path of material existence, under the spell of the three modes of material nature. Being unable to conceive of anything beyond the three fruits of activities- auspicious, inauspicious and mixed- he works very hard, day and night, just like a merchant who enters the forest to acquire some articles that he can sell later on for a profit.”

     “Within the forest there are six very powerful plunderers who misguide the merchant and take away his wealth. Besides these dacoits, there are tigers, jackals and other ferocious animals that are ready to take a lamb away from its protector.”

“Within the forest, there are dense bowers of bushes and creepers, but when the conditioned soul takes shelter of them he becomes disturbed by the biting of flies and mosquitoes. Sometimes, he sees a gandharva-pura in the forest, and sometimes he is bewildered by seeing a fleeting fiend or ghost, which appears like a meteor streaking across the sky.”

     “While running here and there on the forest path in search of success, the merchant is sometimes blinded by a whirlwind and thus he cannot see where he is going or what he is doing. While wandering in the forest, he sometimes hears the harsh sounds of invisible crickets, or the screeching of owls, and thus his heart becomes pained. Sometimes, while overcome by a strong appetite, he approaches a tree that has no fruit or flowers; and sometimes, when he becomes very thirsty, he becomes illusioned by a mirage and runs after it. Sometimes he jumps into a shallow river and breaks his bones; and sometimes, being short of food, he tries to beg from persons who are not at all charitable. Sometimes, he suffers from the burning heat of a forest fire; and sometimes he becomes exceedingly morose after his wealth has been taken away by Rakshasas.”

“Sometimes he imagines a gandharva-pura wherein he hopes to reside happily along with his family and possessions, but such satisfaction lasts for only a moment. Sometimes the merchant wants to climb the hills and mountains, but due to having improper shoes, his feet are pricked by the small stones and thorns, and thus he becomes very aggrieved. Sometimes, due to setbacks, the merchant becomes very angry and takes it out on his family members. Sometimes he is swallowed by a python, sometimes he is crushed, or left lying unconscious on the forest path after being bitten by a poisonous snake. Having become blinded, he sometimes falls into a dark well while wandering about in the forest. Sometimes the merchant tries to take honey from the beehives that are found in the forest, but he ends up being attacked by the bees.”

     “Sometimes, finding himself unable to counteract the disturbances of freezing cold, scorching heat, strong wind or excessive rain, the merchant becomes very unhappy. Sometimes, due to extreme poverty, he does not even have a sufficient home in which to enjoy family life, and so he tries to beg money from others. When this proves unsuccessful, he borrows money, and when he cannot repay the loan, he steals. When he is caught stealing, he is beaten and insulted, and thus he sinks down into a very miserable condition. Due to monetary transactions, relationships invariably become very strained and end in enmity. Sometimes the merchant is cheated again and again in business and so he becomes highly embarrassed due to his financial difficulties.”

     “While on the forest path he one day becomes bereft of his dear father and mother, while at the same time he becomes attached to his newly born children. In this way he wanders on the path of material progress without knowing how to get out of the forest, even up to the moment of death. Sometimes the merchant takes shelter of creepers, and desires to hear the chirping of the birds within. Then, being afraid of roaring lions, he makes friends with cranes, herons and vultures. After being cheated by them, he may take to the association of devotees, but since he cannot follow their instructions, he once again returns to the company of monkeys, to derive satisfaction from sex and intoxication. While looking into the faces of the other sense-gratifiers, he becomes forgetful, and in this way approaches death.”

     “By this process, the living entity becomes just like a monkey that jumps from branch to branch, while being kicked by his wife just like a he-ass. Sometimes he falls into a mountain cave and becomes very afraid of the elephant that is living within. While stranded there, he is just like a monkey grasping at the branches of a tree, and even if he somehow gets out of that precarious condition, he resumes the same household life of sex enjoyment, for that is the way of material attachment. Thus, under the spell of the Lord’s illusory energy, one continues loitering in the forest of material existence without ever discovering his real self-interest, even up to the point of death.”

     Jada Bharata concluded by saying, “My dear King Rahugana, you are also a victim of the external energy, because you are situated on the path of material enjoyment. I now advise you to give up your royal position and attachment for the objects of the senses, by employing the sword of knowledge, sharpened by the devotional service to the Lord. In this way, you will be able to cut the hard knot of illusion and cross over to the other side of the ocean of nescience.”

     King Rahugana replied, “It is not at all astonishing that simply by being covered with the dust of your lotus feet one immediately attains the platform of pure devotional service to the Lord. By having your association for just this brief moment, I have become freed from all doubts, false prestige, and lack of discrimination, which are the roots of material entanglement. (The arguments offered by pure devotees are so convincing that even a dull-headed disciple becomes immediately enlightened with spiritual knowledge.) Therefore, I offer my most humble obeisances unto you.”

     There had certainly been some waves of dissatisfaction in the mind of Jada Bharata due to being insulted by Maharaja Rahugana. Still, as a great Vaishnava, Jada Bharata was very kindhearted, so that while remaining calm, he instructed the king about his constitutional position. After King Rahugana had begged pardon for his offenses, Jada Bharata forgave him and completely forgot about the insults and thereafter, he continued wandering over the earth, as before.

Maharaja Parikshit then said, “My dear Shukadeva Gosvami, you have very nicely described the position of the conditioned soul, comparing him to a merchant in the forest. Although intelligent men can easily understand these instructions, the purport is not so easily comprehended by common persons. Therefore, I request Your Holiness to give the direct meaning of this allegory.”

     Shukadeva Gosvami replied, “A mercantile man, who is always interested in making money, sometimes goes to the forest to acquire some cheap commodities that he can sell in the city at a good price. In the same way, a conditioned soul, being greedy for personal profit, enters the material world, which is created by the external energy of Lord Vishnu, and then gradually becomes so degraded that he cannot find his way out. While thus living independently and bewildered, he receives various types of bodies, one after the other, and thus suffers and enjoys to various degrees.”

“The money that the merchant acquires should be used for advancement in Krishna consciousness, but his uncontrolled mind and senses plunder it for the purpose of unnecessary seeing, smelling, tasting, touching and hearing. Family members may be called wife and children, but they are actually like tigers, jackals and foxes who enter the merchant’s heart and then plunder his wealth so that they can gratify their own senses.”

     “Every year the farmer plows the field, uprooting all kinds of weeds. Still, because the seeds remain, the weeds will once again sprout, along with the crops. Similarly, unless the seed of desire to enjoy family life, which is the field of fruitive activity, is burned, it will grow again and again. Even though camphor may be removed from a pot, the aroma nonetheless remains.” (Unless one’s desires are completely transferred to the service of the Lord, the desire for family life will continue. Sometimes, in ISKCON, a person may take sannyasa out of sentiment, but because his desires are not yet completely burned, he again will take to family life at the risk of losing his prestige and good name.)

     “Taking shelter of a bower within the forest represents household life; and the flies, mosquitoes and other entities that trouble one, are the envious people one inevitably has to deal with, even within his inner circle. The chirping of crickets and shrieks of owls also represent the backbiting of envious people. Due to ignorance, the conditioned soul lustily absorbs himself in fruitive activities, and thus takes the material world to be permanent, although it is temporary like a gandharva-nagara (city in the sky).

In this gandharva-pura one sometimes eats, drinks and has sex, and thus runs after the objects of the senses just as a deer chases a mirage in the desert. One whose mind is overcome by the mode of passion desires illicit sex, gambling, meat eating and intoxication. As a result, he becomes very attracted by the color of gold (yellow stool, or a fleeting fiend), for it enables him to afford such indulgences. He madly runs after this gold, just as a man who is suffering from cold in the forest sometimes runs after a phosphorescent light coming from a marsh, considering it to be fire.”

     “Sometimes, being blinded by the dust of a whirlwind (the wife, whose beauty he is attracted to, due to lust), one disobeys the rules governing sex. Thus he enjoys illicitly, not knowing that he is being witnessed by the demigods and therefore awaits future punishment. When one becomes devoid of opulence, he may approach wealthy materialistic men, and such living dead men are compared to impious trees and poisonous wells.”

“Sometimes, after being repeatedly baffled in his activities, the conditioned soul appreciates the futility of sense enjoyment within the material world. However, due to a strong bodily conception, he soon forgets his higher realizations and once again runs after material happiness, just as an animal runs after a mirage in the desert. Sometimes, in an attempt to mitigate the burning distress of material life (which is like a forest fire), one takes shelter of atheists in the guise of sadhus and svamis, and receives some cheap blessings. In their association, he loses all intelligence, and this is compared to jumping into a shallow river. Being unable to mitigate his suffering due to the heat, and winding up with a broken skull as well, the conditioned soul simply increases his miseries.”

     “Sometimes the merchant’s hard-earned wealth, which is as dear to him as his very life, becomes plundered in the name of income tax, by kings that are no better than Rakshasas, and thus he becomes very morose. Sometimes, when one cannot arrange for his maintenance properly, in spite of exploiting others, he will take away the wealth of his own father or son, even if it is very insignificant. Sometimes one imagines that his father or grandfather has come back in the form of his son or grandson, and thus he feels happiness like that which is sometimes experienced in a dream (in other words, such happiness is only a mental concoction).”

     “Sometimes the merchant in the forest wants to climb the hills and mountains. These are compared to the many extensive and troublesome duties and obligations that are found in household life, such as getting one’s sons and daughters educated and then married. The thorns and stones that prick the householder’s feet are the hardships that he undergoes while fulfilling such obligations, as well as the dissatisfaction that his family members express, in spite of one’s relentless service to them. Sometimes a person who is very attached to his family is unable to maintain them properly, and so out of frustration he chastises his wife and children unnecessarily. Because his mind has become very disturbed due to his failure, he tries to satisfy himself by venting his anger upon his poor dependents.”

     “My dear King, sleep is just like a python. Those who wander in the forest of material life are always devoured by the python of sleep. Becoming like dead bodies thrown into a distant forest, the conditioned souls cannot understand what is going on in life. Sometimes one falls from his prestigious position due to the tricks of enemies. This is compared to being bitten by serpents and other creatures. Due to great anxiety, such a person cannot sleep properly at night, and because of becoming morose, he gradually loses all intelligence. In such a state he becomes like a blind man who has fallen into a dark well due to ignorance.”

     “Sometimes the conditioned soul searches after a degraded woman in order to have a little insignificant sexual enjoyment. This is compared to trying to take honey from a beehive, and as a result, he is often chastised and insulted by the woman’s relatives. Sometimes, by spending a lot of money, one acquires another woman for extra sense enjoyment, but then she is taken away by other paramours. Having become a victim of the association of women, one resorts to begging, borrowing or stealing to get the required money, and by committing abominable acts, he brings about suffering for himself in this life and the next.”

“Because no one can live in this material world very honestly, relationships invariably become strained due to monetary transactions. On a large scale, when nations establish economic relations, the same exploitation takes place, so that enmity is created and war breaks out.”

     “Sometimes the conditioned soul is attracted by illusion personified (his wife or girl friend), and thus becomes eager to be embraced by a woman’s creeper-like arms. The chirping of the birds within the creepers represents the sweet voice of one’s wife, which he is very eager to hear. Through sex, the mother and father beget children, and when they grow up, these children beget offspring by means of the same process. Thus, generation after generation, people continue the same stereotyped way of family life, while experiencing difficulties due to the exchange of sex and money, without ever caring for liberation.”

“There are big political and social leaders who believe that the land is theirs, and thus they fight with one another and lay down their lives in battle. However, due to being unable to conquer their nearest enemies, the uncontrolled mind and senses, such heroes can never take to the spiritual path for self-realization.”

“Sometimes, fearing immanent death, which is compared to the roaring of a lion in the forest, the conditioned soul wants to worship someone who can save him. But, because he does not care for the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he instead takes shelter of some man-made god, who is compared to a crane, buzzard, heron, crow or vulture. Sometimes, after being cheated by such bogus gurus and incarnations, one tries to come into the association of genuine devotees who teach him how to worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead according to the authority of shastra. However, due to misfortune, such a rascal cannot stick to the principles laid down by the spiritual master, and thus he once again returns to the company of monkey-like shudras who are very expert in making arrangements for sex indulgence.”

     “Sex is very prominent among the monkeys, and so such persons can well be termed as descendents of monkeys. Just as a monkey jumps from one tree to another, the conditioned soul jumps from one body to another. As a monkey is captured by a hunter, the conditioned soul is captivated by momentary sex pleasure and thus becomes imprisoned in household life. Due to overindulgence in sex, one falls victim to incurable diseases, which is just like falling into a mountain cave, and at that time, he becomes very afraid of death, which is compared to an elephant at the back of the cave.”

     “Although people in the forest of material enjoyment are by nature inimical towards each other, to fulfill their desires they sometimes get married. However, since the material world is full of miseries, one can never become happy by traversing the forest path.”

“Those who are self-realized take shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead to get out of this dangerous and miserable material existence, for they know that there is no other means of doing so. In the past there were many great saintly kings who were very expert in performing fruitive sacrifices and conquering kingdoms. Yet, in spite of their power, they could not attain the loving service of the Supreme Lord, because of being unable to conquer the false consciousness of  ‘I am this body, and this is my property’. Thus, they simply created rivalry with other kings, fought with them, and then died without having accomplished life’s real mission.”

     “My dear King Parikshit, the path that was indicated by Jada Bharata is like the path followed by Garuda, and ordinary kings are just like flies. Just as flies cannot follow the path of Garuda, these great kings and leaders could not follow the process of devotional service, even in their imagination. On the other hand, Maharaja Bharata was so exalted that he gave up his beautiful wife, nice children, and enormous empire, while in the prime of life. Although these things are very difficult to renounce, because he was very fond of serving the Supreme Lord, Maharaja Bharata gave them up just as one renounces stool after evacuating.”