|NITAAI-Veda.nyf > Compiled and Imp Scriptures > Shrimad Bhagavatam > Canto-6 > Ajamila|
After hearing the description of the hellish planets, Maharaja Parikshit, being a compassionate Vaishnava, became very concerned about how the conditioned souls could attain liberation from material entanglement. Therefore, he inquired from Shukadeva Gosvami, “O most fortunate sage, please tell me how the human beings may be saved from having to enter the hellish conditions that you have described, and thus suffer so greatly.”
Shukadeva Gosvami replied, “My dear King, before the time of death arrives, if one does not counteract whatever impious acts he has performed with his body, mind, and words by means of proper atonement, he will certainly have to enter the hellish planets and undergo terrible suffering. Therefore, before death arrives, one should atone according to the prescriptions that are given in shastra. Just as an expert physician diagnoses a disease and then treats it according to its gravity, one should undergo atonement according to the severity of his sins.”
Shukadeva Gosvami could have immediately spoken to Maharaja Parikshit about the superior strength of devotional service, but to test the intelligence of his disciple, he first of all described the process of atonement according to karma-kanda. It is a fact that anyone who does not take to devotional service must follow this system of atonement if he wants to save himself from hellish life.
The intelligent king then said, “One may know that sinful activity is injurious due to having seen how a criminal is punished by the government and rebuked by people in general. Or, one may hear from shastra about the hellish conditions that await the performer of sinful acts. And yet, despite such knowledge, it is seen that even learned persons commit sinful activities again and again, as if by force, even after having undergone atonement. It appears that the process of sinning and then atoning is like the bathing of an elephant. An elephant cleanses himself very nicely with water, but then, after coming out of the river, it throws dust all over its body. Therefore, I consider this process of atonement to be useless.”
It is a fact that regardless of how many times he is punished, one who is attached to sense enjoyment will commit sinful acts again and again, being forced to do so by habit. By pointing this out, Maharaja Parikshit passed the test of his spiritual master and then waited to hear more on the subject.
Shukadeva Gosvami continued, “My dear King, because acts of atonement are fruitive by nature, they cannot free one from the tendency to continue to act fruitively. In other words, people who are in the mode of darkness may counteract the reaction of a particular sin by means of atonement, but because they have not been elevated from their ignorant condition, they will certainly continue to act sinfully. Even if an ignorant person superficially adopts a life of piety, he will remain prone to sinful acts because his material desires have not been uprooted. Therefore, real atonement is enlightenment in perfect knowledge.”
“If a diseased person eats pure food as prescribed by a physician, he gradually becomes cured. Similarly, if one follows the regulative principles of knowledge, he gradually progresses towards liberation from material contamination. For this purpose one must observe a life of celibacy without falling down, and observe various austerities by voluntarily giving up sense enjoyment. One must learn to control the mind and senses, give in charity, and be truthful, clean and nonviolent. In this way, one may become purified of all sins, just as dried leaves and creepers beneath a bamboo tree may be burned to ashes by fire.”
Since Maharaja Parikshit was a great devotee, this answer in terms of gyana-kanda also did not satisfy him. He knew that, just as the burned creepers may grow up again because the roots have remained in the ground, one may return to sinful life in spite of following the process of acquiring knowledge as outlined above, because the roots of desire have remained within his heart.
Shukadeva Gosvami could very well understand his disciple’s mind, and so without even waiting for Maharaja Parikshit’s rebuttal, he continued as follows: “Only the rare person who has become a pure, unalloyed devotee of the Lord can uproot the weeds of sinful life so that there is no possibility that they will once again revive. This is accomplished by the execution of devotional service, just as the sun completely dissipates fog by its powerful rays.”
“My dear King, if a sinful person engages in the service of a bona-fide devotee, and thus learns how to dedicate his life to the lotus feet of the Lord, he can become completely purified. Such perfection is not possible for one who undergoes the other methods that I had described, however, beginning with brahmacharya. Therefore, bhakti-yoga is the most auspicious path, and it is fearless because success is guaranteed.”
“Just as a pot that had contained liquor cannot be purified even if washed by the water of many rivers, nondevotees cannot become purified by the process of atonement, even if it is performed perfectly. On the other hand, even though they may not have perfectly realized Krishna, the devotees who have fully surrendered, even once, unto His lotus feet and thus have become attached to His name, form, qualities and pastimes are completely freed from all sinful reactions, for they have accepted the true means of atonement. Even in dreams, such surrendered souls never see Yamaraja or his order carriers, the Yamadutas. In this connection, learned saintly persons describe an ancient history, which I shall now narrate to you.”
There was once a brahmana named Ajamila who lived in the city of Kanyakubja (modern Kanoja). In his youth, Ajamila was a reservoir of all good qualities, and was firmly established in executing the Vedic injunctions. Because of following the rules of perfect brahmacharya, he was very mild and gentle, and he kept his senses under control. He was expert in chanting the Vedic mantras, he was always truthful, and he would not indulge in speaking nonsensically. Ajamila was very respectful to his superiors and guests, and he acted in a benevolent way toward all living entities. He was always very well behaved, non-envious, and freed from all kinds of false prestige.
Once, on the order of his father, Ajamila went to the forest to collect some fruit, flowers and two kinds of grass called samit and kusha. While walking along the public road, Ajamila happened to come upon a very lusty shudra shamelessly embracing and kissing a prostitute. Because the couple was intoxicated, the shudra was smiling and singing, as if this were proper behavior, and the dress of the prostitute, whose eyes were rolling, had become loose.
Upon seeing this, the dormant lusty desires within Ajamila’s heart were awakened, and he fell under their control due to illusion. Ajamila tried very hard to suppress his lust and control his mind, by remembering the instructions of shastra regarding the association of women. Because the force of Cupid raged within his heart, however, he failed to do so. Thus, just as the sun and moon are eclipsed by a low planet, the brahmana’s good sense was taken away by lust.
Taking advantage of the situation, Ajamila always thought of the prostitute. Then, after the death of his father soon thereafter, he engaged her as a servant in his house. Having abandoned all regulative principles of a brahmana, Ajamila began spending whatever money he had inherited to satisfy the prostitute so that she would remain pleased with him. Because his intelligence had been pierced by her lustful glance, the victimized Ajamila gave up the company of his very beautiful young wife, who was from a respectable brahmana family, and engaged in sinful acts in the prostitute’s association.
After his inheritance became exhausted, Ajamila began to earn money by any means possible, so that he could maintain the prostitute and their children. Sometimes he would arrest someone and plunder him, and sometimes he got money by cheating others in gambling. In this way, after living a long life of extravagance, transgressing scriptural injunctions, and eating food prepared by a prostitute, Ajamila arrived at his 88th year.
Ajamila had ten sons, and in spite of his being an old man, his smallest child, who was named Narayana, was hardly more than a baby. The youngest child is naturally very dear to his parents, and so because of little Narayana’s broken language and awkward movements, Ajamila became very attached to him. While taking very special care of his son, Ajamila would regularly call out, “My dear Narayana, please come here and eat this food. Narayana, please come and drink this milk.” Thus, although Ajamila had completely forgotten Lord Narayana, the Supreme Personality of Godhead- due to agyata-sukriti he had named his youngest son Narayana. By constantly calling his son, Ajamila unknowingly became attached to the chanting of the holy name of the Lord, and as a result, he steadily became purified. Although he was referring to his small child, and not to the original Narayana, the holy name is so powerful that his chanting was being counted and recorded.
While absorbed in taking care of his little son, the foolish Ajamila could not understand that his allotted time had become exhausted. When the moment of death arrived, Ajamila saw three very hideous-looking persons with deformed features; fierce, twisted faces; and hair standing erect all over their bodies. With ropes in their hands, these Yamadutas had come to take Ajamila to the abode of Yamaraja.
Being extremely afraid, the bewildered Ajamila began loudly calling out for his small son, Narayana, who was playing nearby. Thus, although he was calling for his child, Ajamila somehow or other offenselessly chanted the holy name of the Lord at the time of death, in great anxiety, and with tears in his eyes.
In his youth, Ajamila had been accustomed to worship the Narayana-shila, and as a reward for this service, the Lord mercifully inspired him to name his youngest son, Narayana. Actually, when Ajamila named his son Narayana, all the reactions of his sinful life became neutralized. Then, as he continued to chant the name Narayana thousands of times while calling his son, he unconsciously advanced in Krishna consciousness. Then, at the time of death, when Ajamila concentrated his mind on the holy name of Narayana, he remembered the original Narayana, whom he had very faithfully worshiped in his youth.
After hearing the holy name of their master from the mouth of the dying Ajamila, four Vishnudutas immediately arrived upon the scene. The Yamadutas were just about to snatch the soul from the core of the heart of Ajamila’s body, but with resounding voices, the Vishnudutas forbade them to do so.
The Yamadutas had never before been hindered in the execution of their duty, and thus with great surprise they responded, “Who are you that you dare to challenge the jurisdiction of Yamaraja? Whose servants are you, and where have you come from? Are you demigods, sub-demigods, or devotees of the Supreme Lord? Your eyes are just like lotus-petals, and your four long arms are adorned with bows, swords, clubs, conch shells, discs and lotus flowers. With your beautiful dress and ornaments, you appear very fresh and youthful, and your effulgence has dissipated the darkness of this place. Why are you obstructing us from the execution of our duty?”
Upon hearing the words of the Yamadutas, the Vishnudutas smiled and then replied with voices that were as deep as the sound of rumbling clouds: “If you are actually servants of Yamaraja, then you must explain to us the meaning of religious principles, as well as the symptoms of irreligion. Please tell us who is actually fit for punishment- all of the fruitive workers in this world, or only some of them?”
The Yamadutas said, “The Vedas emanate directly from the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Narayana, and thus that which is prescribed in them constitutes dharma, religious principles. On the other hand, anything that is opposed to the Vedic principles is to be considered as irreligion. Lord Narayana, as the all-pervading Paramatma (Supreme Soul), witnesses the activities of the living entities, as do the demigods, the sun, fire, air, moon, water, land, and the directions. Whoever these witnesses confirm to have deviated from their prescribed duties becomes a candidate for punishment. In proportion to the extent of one’s religious or irreligious acts in this life, he must enjoy or suffer the corresponding reactions in the next.”
“Since everyone in this world is a fruitive actor, working under the direction of the three modes of material nature, sinful acts are inevitable. For this reason, everyone in this world becomes punishable at some time or other. Just as springtime in the present indicates the nature of spring in the past as well as the future, so the symptoms of happiness, distress, or a mixture of the two that one exhibits gives evidence regarding the religious and irreligious acts of his past and future lives.”
“Our master, Yamaraja is as good as Lord Brahma, because while situated in his own abode, he can mentally observe the activities of all living entities and thus understand their past and future actions as well. In his youth, this Ajamila was a very good brahmana, but by the association of a prostitute he became extremely degraded and performed innumerable sinful acts. Because he never underwent the process of atonement for his sins, we must take him to Yamaraja so that he can be punished for his own purification.”
After hearing the statements of the Yamadutas, the Vishnudutas, who are always very expert in logic and argument, replied, “Oh, how painful it is that irreligion is being introduced into an assembly where religion should be maintained! Those who are in charge of maintaining religious principles are needlessly punishing a sinless person! A ruler should be so well qualified that he acts just like a father while instructing and protecting the citizens without partiality. If leaders become polluted, however, and thus exhibit partiality by punishing the innocent, where will the citizens be able to take shelter?”
“The innocent and unenlightened citizen is just like an ignorant animal that is sleeping in peace with its head upon the lap of its master. If a leader of society actually deserves to be the object of one’s faith, then how can he punish a foolish person who has fully surrendered in good confidence?”
“Ajamila has not only atoned for the sins that he performed in this lifetime, but for those he had performed in millions of previous births, for in a helpless condition he chanted the hole name of Lord Narayana. Even though his chanting was not pure, it was offenseless. As a result of this nama-abhasa chanting, Ajamila has become pure and eligible for liberation. Even previously, while taking care of his son, Ajamila repeatedly uttered the four syllables na-ra-ya-na and thus sufficiently atoned for the sinful reactions that he might have accumulated throughout millions of lives.”
“The chanting of the holy name of Lord Vishnu is the best process of atonement for one who kills a brahmana; murders women, a king, or his own father; who slaughters cows; has sex with the wife of his guru; and for all kinds of other sinful people. Simply by such chanting one can attract the attention of the Supreme Lord, who therefore considers, ‘Because this man has chanted My holy name, My duty is to give him protection’. Vedic ritualistic atonement is not as purifying as the chanting of the Lord’s holy name, which reminds one of His fame, qualities and pastimes, and it does not awaken devotional service unto the Lord.”
“Because Ajamila very loudly and helplessly chanted the holy name of Lord Narayana, he has become freed from all reactions to sinful life. Therefore, O servants of Yamaraja, do not try to take him to your master for punishment in hellish conditions. One who chants the holy name of the Lord is immediately freed from the reactions of unlimited sins, even if he chants indirectly to indicate something else, or if he chants jokingly, for musical entertainment, or even neglectfully.”
“Although sinful acts may be neutralized by the performance of austerities and vows, and the giving of charity- such pious acts cannot uproot the material desires within one’s heart. By rendering service unto the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, however, one can become completely purified. Even if one does not know the efficacy of a certain medicine, it will act just the same. Similarly, even if one does not understand the value of chanting the holy name of the Lord, his chanting will nonetheless prove very effective.”
After saying this, the Vishnudutas released Ajamila from the ropes of the Yamadutas. Since they were highly disappointed at being baffled in their attempt to arrest Ajamila, the Yamadutas hastily departed for the court of Yamaraja, so that they could describe to him all that had taken place. After being released, Ajamila came to his senses and became freed from all fear. Being extremely grateful to the Vishnudutas for having saved him from the hands of the Yamadutas, Ajamila very respectfully offered his obeisances by bowing his head at their lotus feet. Then, when the Vishnudutas saw that Ajamila was about to say something, they immediately disappeared from the scene.
Since Ajamila was now freed from all sinful reactions, he was prepared to glorify the Lord. Just to increase the depth of Ajamila’s feelings by separation, the Vishnudutas thought it best to disappear from his presence. By hearing the discussion between the Vishnudutas and Yamadutas, Ajamila became fully enlightened about the relationship between the living entity and the Supreme Personality of Godhead, on the platform of pure devotional service.
While remembering his past activities, Ajamila greatly regretted his sinful life, and so he spoke as follows: “Oh! How degraded I had become due to being a servant of my senses! I fell down from my position as a duly qualified brahmana, and begot children in the womb of a prostitute. How condemned I am for having given up my chaste and beautiful wife to have sexual intercourse with a fallen prostitute who was accustomed to drinking wine!”
“My old father and mother had no one else to look after them, and because I neglected them, they had to live with great difficulty. How ungrateful I was to have left them in that condition! It is now clear that sinful persons like myself must be thrown into hellish conditions, to suffer extreme miseries.”
“Did I see a dream, or was it a reality? Where have the fearsome men with ropes in their hands gone? Where are the four very beautiful, liberated persons who saved me from being dragged to hell? It must be the result of my past devotional service that I was able to see the four exalted personalities who came to rescue me, and also chant the holy name of the Supreme Lord while dying. Otherwise, how would it have been possible?”
“I am a shameless cheater who has degraded his family tradition and killed his brahminical culture. Because I am like sin personified, what am I in comparison to the all-auspicious chanting of the holy name of Lord Narayana? Now that I have gotten this opportunity to come to my senses, I must completely control myself and engage in the devotional service of the Lord, so that I may not once again fall down into the darkness of ignorance which is material life.”
“Due to bodily identification, one becomes subjected to desires for sense gratification, and thus engages in various pious and impious acts. Now I shall disentangle myself from this material bondage, which has been caused by the Supreme Lord’s illusory energy in the form of a woman. Being most fallen, I became just like a dancing dog led around by the hand of a woman. Now I shall give up my lusty desires and get freed from this illusion by becoming a merciful, well-wishing friend to all living entities, and absorbing myself fully in Krishna consciousness. Now that I have become fixed in the Absolute Truth, I will henceforward no longer identify myself with the body, but instead fix my mind at the lotus feet of Krishna.”
Because of a moment’s association with the Vishnudutas, Ajamila became detached from all material attraction, and with great determination he immediately set out for Hardwar, which is located on the banks of the Ganga. There, he took shelter in a temple of Lord Vishnu and began executing the process of devotional service with fully controlled mind and senses. In this way, Ajamila became completely absorbed in meditation upon the transcendental form of the Lord, and when his mind and intelligence were thus fixed, he once again saw the same four Vishnudutas before him. After offering his obeisances unto them, Ajamila gave up his material body. In his original spiritual body, Ajamila boarded the Vishnuduta’s golden airplane and went directly back to the abode of Lord Vishnu, Vaikuntha, where he was very respectfully received and worshiped.
Meanwhile, the Yamadutas came before their master in Samyamani-puri, and said, “O lord, how many controllers are there in this material world? If there are many administrators of justice who disagree about punishment and reward, their contradictory decisions will neutralize each other, so that no one will be punished or rewarded. Or, if they do not neutralize one another, then everyone will have to be both punished and rewarded. Of course, due to the vast number of fruitive workers, there may be many judges, but there must be one central authority over all of them.”
“We were under the impression that you were the supreme judge and that your jurisdiction extends everywhere. Now, however, we saw that four wonderful and perfect persons superceded your order. As we were bringing the sinful Ajamila here, they forcibly cut our ropes. As soon as Ajamila chanted the name, Narayana, these four beautiful personalities arrived there and assured him of fearlessness.”
“Your lordship, if you think that we are able to understand, we wish to know about these wonderful personalities.”
The frustrated Yamadutas had become somewhat angry at having been impeded by the Vishnudutas, and so they more or less questioned Yamaraja as to whether there was any use in serving such an impotent master. The Yamadutas were very puzzled because the Vishnudutas had excused someone whom Yamaraja had wanted to punish. In the universal court, how could there be two different verdicts in the same case? Being very aggrieved because of their defeat, the Yamadutas felt that unless Yamaraja could punish the Vishundutas, their only recourse was to commit suicide.
As for Yamaraja, he was very pleased just to hear his servants vibrate the holy name, Narayana, thus enabling him to remember the lotus feet of the Lord.
To eradicate the doubts of his order carriers, Yamaraja replied, “My dear servants, although you have accepted me as supreme- factually, I am not. Above me, and all the other demigods is the supreme controller, Lord Narayana. As the different limbs of the body cannot see the eyes that direct them, the living entities cannot see the Supreme Lord, even though He is situated as the Paramatma in everyone’s heart.”
“The Supreme Personality of Godhead is fully independent and self-sufficient, and His order carriers, the Vishnudutas, who possess similar bodily features, are on the same platform. The Vishnudutas are worshiped even by the demigods, and they always wander within this world with full independence, to protect the devotees of the Lord from the hands of enemies, natural disturbances, and even from my jurisdiction.”
“Real religious principles are established by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. These transcendental principles, called bhagavata-dharma, or surrender unto the Supreme Lord, are known to Lord Brahma, Narada, Lord Shiva, the four Kumaras, Lord Kapila, Svayambhuva Manu, Prahlada Maharaja, Janaka Maharaja, Bhishma, Bali Maharaja, Shukadeva Gosvami and myself. Although these religious principles are very confidential, and thus difficult for ordinary persons to understand, if by chance, one is fortunate to do so, he is immediately liberated and thus returns home, back to Godhead. Devotional service, beginning with the chanting of the holy name of the Lord, is the supreme religious principle for all human society.”
“My dear servants, just see how glorious is the chanting of the holy name of the Lord. The greatly sinful Ajamila chanted for the purpose of calling his son, and yet by that chanting he remembered Lord Narayana and thus was saved from the ropes of death. Even if one chants the holy name of the Lord with improper pronunciation, he will get relief from material bondage, if he chants without offenses. Persons who chant the holy name of the Lord and render devotional service are not within my jurisdiction. Generally, they never commit sinful acts, but even if they do so by mistake, or due to being illusioned, they are protected from sinful reactions by their chanting.”
“My dear servants, from now on you should not even go near the devotees of the Lord, for they are always protected by the club of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. For this reason, Lord Brahma, I myself, and even the time factor, are not competent to chastise them. Instead, bring to me for punishment only those persons who are averse to drinking the honey of the Lord’s lotus feet, who do not associate with devotees, and who are attached to family life and material enjoyment as all in all. Bring those persons whose tongues do not chant the holy name of the Lord, whose hearts do not even once remember the lotus feet of Krishna, and whose heads have never bowed down before the Lord. Please bring me all such fools and rascals.”
Due to the action of his servants, Yamaraja felt himself to be an offender, and so he begged pardon from the Lord as follows: “O my Lord, my servants have certainly committed a great offense by attempting to arrest a Vaishnava. Therefore, please forgive us, for out of ignorance we failed to recognize Ajamila as one of your dear servants.”
After hearing from their master about the extraordinary glories of the Lord and His holy name, the Yamadutas were struck with wonder. Ever since that time, as soon as they see a devotee, they become very afraid and so do not even dare to look at him.
Shukadeva Gosvami then said, “When the great sage Agastya, the son of Kumbha, was residing in the Malaya Hills, I approached him, and he explained this confidential history to me.”