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King Nabhi and his son, Lord Rishabhadeva.
With a desire to have sons, King Nabhi the emperor of Bharata-varsha, worshiped the Supreme Personality of Godhead, along with his wife, Merudevi by the performance of sacrifices. Of course, simply by properly executing a sacrifice, one will not necessarily receive the mercy of the Supreme Lord. But, when Maharaja Nabhi offered prayers with great devotion while superficially performing his sacrifice, the Supreme Lord, Who is very affectionate to His devotee appeared before him in a captivating four-armed form. When King Nabhi and his priests saw the effulgent Lord before them, they felt just like poor people who had suddenly attained great riches. With heads bent low in humility, the King and the brahmanas offered their obeisances unto the Lord.
After worshiping Him with all kinds of paraphernalia, the priests offered their prayers to Lord Vishnu as follows: “O most worshipable One, we are Your eternal servants. Although You are full in Yourself, please mercifully accept a little service from us.”
“My dear Lord, You are complete in all respects, and You become very satisfied when Your devotees glorify You with faltering voices while offering tulasi leaves, a little water, and newly-grown grass. We have been engaged in worshiping You with so much elaborate paraphernalia, but now we can understand that there is actually no necessity to perform such pompous rituals to please You. Factually, You do not need these sacrificial arrangements- they are merely for our own fruitive gain.”
“My dear Lord, You have appeared here just like a person soliciting worship, but in actuality, You have mercifully come here to serve our purpose. Out of ignorance, we have certainly not worshiped You properly, and yet just by allowing Yourself to be seen here, You have bestowed upon us the most valuable benediction.”
“Here is King Nabhi, whose ultimate goal in life is to have a son just like You. In this way, he is like a person who has approached a very rich man to beg for a handful of grain, and thus we are ashamed for having performed this sacrifice. By inviting You to come here for such an insignificant and materialistic purpose, we have certainly committed a great offense at Your lotus feet. Since You are very merciful, please excuse us for having disturbed You out of ignorance.”
The Lord was very pleased with the prayers of the sacrificial priests, who were all great devotees. He replied, “O great sages, who are very truthful, you have prayed that King Nabhi may have a son like Me, but this is very difficult because I am one without a second. I consider the brahmanas to be my very mouth, however, and so your words should not prove false. Since I cannot find anyone equal to Me, I shall personally expand as a plenary portion and thus appear in the womb of the King’s wife, Merudevi.”
After saying this, Lord Vishnu suddenly disappeared from King Nabhi’s sacrificial arena. In due course of time, the Lord appeared as the son of Nabhi and Merudevi, and from the very beginning, He manifested the symptoms of an incarnation, such as the marks of a flag, thunderbolt and lotus flower on the soles of His feet. Upon seeing these bodily symptoms, the King considered his son to be the best of all human beings and so he gave him the name Rishabha.
As Lord Rishabhadeva’s transcendental qualities developed day by day, the brahmanas, ministers and citizens in general became very eager to have Him appointed as the ruler of the earth. Indra became very envious of the Lord’s superior opulence, however, and as a result, he stopped pouring rain upon Bharatavarsha.
Knowing Indra’s mind, Rishabhadeva, the master of all mystic power, smiled slightly. Then, by employing His Yogamaya potency, He profusely poured water upon His kingdom, which was known as Ajanabha at that time. By the influence of that same Yogamaya, King Nabhi was always overwhelmed with parental feelings. Thus, in a voice that faltered due to great ecstasy, he would sometimes address Rishabhadeva, “My dear son, my darling.”
Because the Lord so kindly dealt with everyone just like an ordinary human being, King Nabhi was able to raise His transcendental son with great affection. When Maharaja Nabhi saw how Rishabhadeva had grown up and was greatly loved by all, he enthroned Him as the emperor of the world. Thereafter, the King and his wife, Merudevi retired to Badarikashram so that they could engage in the performance of austerities. With full concentration, Maharaja Nabhi worshiped the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and in due course of time he became elevated to the spiritual world.
After the departure of His parents, Rishabhadeva desired to set the perfect example so that He could teach others, and so He first of all accepted a life of brahmacharya by going to live at a guru-kula. After the completion of His education, He gave gifts of guru-dakshina to his spiritual masters, and then married Jayanti, who was given to him by the king of heaven, Indra. While carrying out householder life in an exemplary manner, Lord Rishabhadeva begot one hundred very powerful and qualified sons.
The eldest son, Bharata, was a very exalted devotee, and later on this planet received the name Bharata-varsha in his honor. Maharaja Bharata and nine other elder sons of Rishabhadeva were qualified as kshatriyas. Nine younger sons of Rishabhadeva, named Kavi, Havi, Antariksha, Prabhuddha, Pippalayana, Avirhotra, Drumila, Chamasa and Karabhajana were also very exalted devotees (maha-bhagavatas), who became authorized preachers of Shrimad-Bhagavatam.
The eighty-one remaining sons of Lord Rishabhadeva became qualified brahmanas who helped to initiate the path of karma-kanda.
In the course of time, the principles of varna-ashram had become neglected, and thus, even though He was the independent Supreme Lord, Rishabhadeva taught the ignorant public how to perform their duties. For this purpose, He maintained Himself as a kshatriya, and thus showed how people could remain in household life and at the same time achieve perfection in dharma, artha, kama, and ultimately moksha. While always keeping himself under the direction of the brahmanas, Lord Rishabhadeva performed various sacrifices one hundred times, and by doing so He satisfied Lord Vishnu in all respects.
Under Lord Rishabhadeva’s rule, the citizens were so satisfied that they did not desire anything more than what they already had. Indeed, being so absorbed in affection for their king, they were not at all inclined to ask Him for anything.
Once, while touring the world, along with His one hundred sons, Lord Rishabhadeva reached Brahmavarta, where a great meeting of brahmanas was being held. After hearing the discourses of the learned sages, Lord Rishabhadeva took the opportunity to instruct His sons within the hearing of all those assembled there, including innumerable ordinary citizens.
Desiring to educate His sons so that they could rule the world perfectly in the future, Lord Rishabhadeva addressed them as follows: “My dear boys, one who has achieved the rare human form of life should not work hard, day and night simply for sense gratification, which is available even for the stool-eaters, the dogs and the hogs. One should accept a life of austerity, so that he can elevate himself to the platform of pure devotional service to the Lord, and thus experience unending happiness.”
“One can attain liberation from material bondage only by rendering service to advanced devotees. For others, who are not interested in liberation, the path to hell is easily traversed by associating with people who are fond of women and sexual pleasure. When a person considers sense gratification to be the principal aim of his existence, he becomes mad after materialistic life, and thus engages in all kinds of sinful activities. He does not know that he has received his present miserable material body due to his past misdeeds. He cannot understand how it is not good for him to continue the activities of sense gratification that will perpetually keep him in material bondage. Even though one may be very learned, he is to be considered mad if he does not understand that endeavors for sense gratification are a useless waste of time.”
“The attraction between male and female is the basic principle of material existence, and on the basis of this misconception, the hearts of the man and woman become bound together. When this union expands its influence, one becomes increasingly attached to his body, home, property, children, wealth and the rest, thus deepening the illusion of thinking in terms of ‘I’ and ‘mine’. Truthfully, as long as one does not inquire about self-realization, he is defeated in the mission of human life.”
“My dear sons, you should accept an elevated paramahamsa as your spiritual master as the means of surrendering unto Me, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Under his direction, you should perform all kinds of austerities while executing devotional service unto the Supreme Lord. By the practice of bhakti-yoga, you will become elevated to the highest stage of transcendental knowledge, and thus understand that to receive the mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the actual aim of life. One who cannot deliver his dependents from the path of repeated birth and death should never become a spiritual master, a father or mother, a husband, or a worshipable demigod.”
“My dear boys, who are all born from My heart, you should accept your eldest brother, Bharata, and engage in his service, for that will automatically include service to Me.”
Thereafter, Lord Rishabhadeva installed Bharata as the emperor of the world, and although He remained at home, He lived like a madman, naked and with dishevelled hair. Then, after some time, Lord Rishabhadeva left Brahmavarta so that He could wander over the earth as an avadhuta, appearing to be blind, deaf and dumb. In other words, Lord Rishabhadeva did not care for any social conventions, and thus he appeared like a dull stone, a ghost or a madman.
Wherever He travelled, through towns and villages, the countryside, hills and forests, through military camps and to the homes of cowherd men and hotels for tourists, all kinds of bad people surrounded Him. Sometimes they threw stones at Him, and sometimes they hurled stool or dirt. He was constantly being threatened, beaten, urinated upon, spat on , and sometimes people passed foul air in front of Him.
Although people called Him bad names and gave Him trouble in so many ways, Lord Rishabhadeva did not care, for He understood that the material body is meant for such an end. Due to being situated in His own spiritual glory, freed from the bodily concept of life, and aware that matter and spirit are separate, Lord Rishabhadeva did not care for these insults. Without becoming angry with anyone, he simply walked through the world alone.
Lord Rishabhadeva’s bodily limbs were very beautifully and delicately formed, and His mouth was always decorated with a gentle and endearing smile. Because of his reddish eyes, which were like lotus-petals, and other beautiful facial features, Lord Rishabhadeva was so attractive that even the hearts of married women became captivated by His appearance. And yet, since His long, curly brown hair was matted, and His body was dirty and unkempt, it appeared as if He were being haunted by a ghost.
Finally, upon seeing how antagonistic the public acted toward Him, Lord Rishabhadeva adopted the behavior of a python, and thus He simply lay down in one place. After passing stool and urine, He would roll in it so that others would not come and disturb Him. And yet, although Lord Rishabhadeva remained in that condition, no bad small emanated from Him, but instead, His stool and urine filled the countryside for eighty miles around with a pleasant fragrance.
Being a partial expansion of the Lord, Rishabhadeva awakened all of the transcendental ecstatic symptoms, and as a by-product, the mystic powers, such as being able to travel in space at the speed of mind, to appear and disappear, to enter the bodies of others, and to see things far, far away. He did not exercise these powers, however, for even an advanced spiritualist does not trust his mind, just as, after capturing some animals, a hunter does not trust them, knowing that they might run away. Just as an unchaste woman is easily swayed by paramours, so that even her husband may be killed by them, if the yogi does not control his mind, it may give facilities to enemies such as lust, anger and greed, that will doubtlessly kill his spiritual life.
Lord Rishabhadeva’s body was completely spiritual, but due to the influence of Yogamaya, He considered it to be material, and for this reason he acted like an ordinary person who strives for self-realization. While wandering over the earth, He passed through the province of Karnata in South India and entered a dense forest near Kutakachala. With stones in His mouth, He wandered about like a madman, and at this time, a great forest fire was ignited, due to the friction of bamboo. Being fanned by the wind, the fire burnt the entire forest, and the body of Lord Rishabhadeva, to ashes.
The king of Konka, Venka and Kutaka, named Arhat, heard of Lord Rishabhadeva’s activities, and by imitating them he introduced a new system of religion. Taking advantage of the Kali-yuga, the bewildered king gave up the Vedic principles and began the Jain religion, which is opposed to them.