Chapter Seven
Dangerous Encounters
visan mahagneh purusada-darsanad
asat-sabhaya vana-vasa-krcchratah
mrdhe mrdhe ’neka-maharathastrato
drauny-astratas casma hare ’bhiraksitah
My dear Krsna, Your Lordship has protected us from a poisoned cake, from a great fire, from cannibals, from the vicious assembly, from sufferings during our exile in the forest, and from the battle where great generals fought. And now You have saved us from the weapon of Asvatthama.
—Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.8.24
The list of dangerous encounters is submitted herein. Devaki was once put into difficulty by her envious brother, otherwise she was well. But Kuntidevi and her sons were put into one difficulty after another for years and years together. They were put into trouble by Duryodhana and his party due to the kingdom, and each and every time the sons of Kunti were saved by the Lord. Once Bhima was administered poison in a cake, once they were put into the house made of shellac and set afire, and once Draupadi was dragged out, and attempts were made to insult her by stripping her naked in the vicious assembly of the Kurus. The Lord saved Draupadi by supplying an immeasurable length of cloth, and Duryodhana’s party failed to see her naked. Similarly, when they were exiled in the forest, Bhima had to fight with the man-eater demon Hidimba Raksasa, but the Lord saved him. So it was not finished there. After all these tribulations, there was the great Battle of Kuruksetra, and Arjuna had to meet such great generals as Drona, Bhisma, and Karna, all powerful fighters. And at last, even when everything was done away with, there was the brahmastra released by the son of Dronacarya to kill the child within the womb of Uttara, and so the Lord saved the only surviving descendant of the Kurus, Maharaja Pariksit.
Here Kunti remembers all the dangers through which she passed before the Pandavas regained their kingdom. In Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna says, kaunteya pratijanihi na me bhaktah pranasyati: “My dear Arjuna, you may declare to the world that My devotee is never vanquished.” The Pandavas, the sons of Pandu, were great devotees of Lord Krsna, but because people in the material world are interested in material things, the Pandavas were put into many dangers. Their materialistic uncle Dhrtarastra was always planning to kill them and usurp the kingdom for his own sons. That was his policy from the very beginning.
Once Dhrtarastra constructed a house of lac, which was so inflammable that when touched with a match it would immediately burst into fire. Then he told his nephews and his sister-in-law, Kunti, “I’ve constructed a very nice house, and you should go live there for some time.” But Dhrtarastra’s brother Vidura informed them of Dhrtarastra’s policy: “He wants you to go to that house so that you may burn to ashes.” When Dhrtarastra’s son Duryodhana understood that Vidura had thus informed the Pandavas, he was very angry. Such is the nature of politics. Then, although the Pandavas knew, “Our uncle’s plan is to send us into that house and set it afire,” they agreed to go there. After all, Dhrtarastra was their guardian, and they did not want to be disobedient to the order of a superior. But they dug a tunnel under that house, and when the house was set on fire they escaped.
Another time, when the Pandavas were at home, Dhrtarastra gave them poison cakes, but they escaped from being poisoned. Then purusada-darsanat: they met a man-eating demon named Hidimba Raksasa, but Bhima fought with him and killed him.
On another occasion, the Pandavas were cheated in a game of chess in the royal assembly of the Kurus. Dhrtarastra, Bhismadeva, Dronacarya, and other elderly persons were present, and somehow or other Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas, was placed as a bet. “Now if you lose,” the Kurus told the Pandavas, “Draupadi will no longer be your wife.” So when the Pandavas lost the game, Karna and Duhsasana immediately captured her. “Now you no longer belong to your husbands,” they told her. “You are our property. We can deal with you as we like.”
Previously, Karna had been insulted during Draupadi’s svayamvara. In those days a very qualified princess would select her own husband in a ceremony called a svayamvara. In modern America, of course, any girl may select a husband as she likes, although for a common girl this is actually not very good. But even in those times an uncommon, highly qualified girl who knew how to select a good husband was given the chance to do so. Even this, however, was limited by very strict conditions. Draupadi’s father, for example, placed a fish on the ceiling, and he stipulated that in order to qualify to marry his daughter, a prince had to shoot an arrow and pierce the eye of the fish, without directly seeing the fish but seeing only its reflection in a pot of water on the floor. When these conditions were declared, many princes came to compete, for responding to a challenge is a principle for a ksatriya, a heroic leader.
In the assembly for Draupadi’s svayamvara, Karna was present. Draupadi’s real purpose was to accept Arjuna as her husband, but Karna was there, and she knew that if he competed, Arjuna would not be able to succeed. At that time it was not known that Karna was a ksatriya. He was born the son of Kunti before her marriage, but that was a secret. Karna had been maintained by a carpenter, and therefore he was known as a sudra, a member of the lowest occupational division of society. Draupadi took advantage of this by saying, “In this assembly, only ksatriyas may compete. I do not want any carpenter to come here and take part in the competition.” In this way, Karna was excluded.
Karna regarded this as a great insult, and therefore when Draupadi was lost in the game, he was the first to come forward. He was Duryodhana’s great friend, and he said, “Now we want to see the naked beauty of Draupadi.” Present at that meeting were elderly persons like Dhrtarastra, Bhisma, and Dronacarya, but they did not protest. They did not say, “What is this? You are going to strip a lady naked in this assembly?” Because they did not protest, they are described as asat-sabhayah, an assembly of uncultured men. Only an uncultured man wants to see a woman naked, although nowadays that has become fashionable. According to the Vedic culture, a woman is not supposed to be naked before anyone except her husband. Therefore, because these men wanted to see Draupadi naked in that great assembly, they were all rascals. The word sat means “gentle,” and asat means “rude.” Therefore Kuntidevi prays to Lord Krsna, “You saved Draupadi in that assembly of rude men.” When the Kurus were taking away Draupadi’s sari to see her naked, Krsna supplied more and more cloth for the sari, and therefore they could not come to the end of it. Finally, with heaps of cloth stacked in the room, they became tired and realized she would never be naked. They could understand, “It is impossible.”
At first, Draupadi had tried to hold on to her sari. But what could she do? After all, she was a woman, and the Kurus were trying to strip her naked. So she cried and prayed to Krsna, “Save my honor,” but she also tried to save herself by holding on to her sari. Then she thought, “It is impossible to save my honor in this way,” and she let go and simply raised her arms and prayed, “Krsna, if You like You can save me.” Thus the Lord responded to her prayers.
Therefore, it is not very good to try to save oneself. Rather, one should simply depend on Krsna: “Krsna, if You save me, that is all right. Otherwise, kill me. You may do as You like.” As Bhaktivinoda Thakura says:
manasa, deha, geha—yo kichu mora
arpilun tuya pade, nanda-kisora
“My dear Lord, whatever I have in my possession I surrender unto You. And what do I have? I have this body and mind, I have a little home and my wife and children, but whatever I have, I surrender everything unto You.” This is full surrender.
A devotee of Krsna surrenders unto Krsna without reservation, and therefore he is called akincana. The word kincana refers to something one reserves for oneself, and akincana means that one does not keep anything for oneself. Of course, although actually one should surrender in this way, in the material world one should not artificially imitate those who are fully surrendered. According to the example set by Rupa Gosvami, whatever possessions one has, one should give fifty percent for Krsna and twenty-five percent for one’s relatives, who will also expect something, and one should keep twenty-five percent for personal emergencies. Before his retirement, Rupa Gosvami divided his money in this way, although later, when his brother Sanatana Gosvami, another great devotee, was arrested, Rupa Gosvami spent everything. This is full surrender. Similarly, Draupadi fully surrendered to Krsna without trying to save herself, and then unlimited yards of cloth were supplied, and the Kurus could not see her naked.
But then, in the next game of chess, the bet was that if the Pandavas lost the game they would go to the forest for twelve years. Thereafter they were to remain incognito for one year, and if detected they would have to live in the forest again for another twelve years. This game also the Pandavas lost, so for twelve years they lived in the forest and for one year incognito. It was while they were living incognito that Arjuna won Uttara.
These incidents are all recorded in the book known as the Mahabharata. The word maha means “great” or “greater,” and bharata refers to India. Thus the Mahabharata is the history of greater India. Sometimes people regard these accounts as stories or mythology, but that is nonsense. The Mahabharata and the Puranas are histories, although they are not chronological. If the history of such a vast period of time was recorded chronologically, how many pages would it have to be? Therefore, only the most important incidents are selected and described in the Mahabharata.
Kunti prays to Krsna by describing how He saved the Pandavas on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra. Mrdhe mrdhe ’neka-maharathastratah. On the Battlefield of Kuruksetra there were great, great fighters called maharathas. Just as military men in modern days are given titles like lieutenant, captain, commander, and commander-in-chief, formerly there were titles like eka-ratha, ati-ratha, and maha-ratha. The word ratha means “chariot.” So if a warrior could fight against one chariot, he was called eka-ratha, and if he could fight against thousands of chariots he was called maha-ratha. All the commanders on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra were maha-rathas. Many of them are mentioned in Bhagavad-gita. Bhisma, Karna, and Dronacarya were especially great commanders. They were such powerful fighters that although Arjuna was also a maha-ratha, before them he was nothing. But by the grace of Krsna he was able to kill Karna, Bhisma, Dronacarya, and the others and come out victorious. While speaking with Sukadeva Gosvami, Maharaja Pariksit also referred to this. “The Battlefield of Kuruksetra,” he said, “was just like an ocean, and the warriors were like many ferocious aquatic animals. But by the grace of Krsna, my grandfather Arjuna crossed over this ocean very easily.”
This is very significant. We may have many enemies who may be very powerful fighters, but if we remain under the protection of Krsna, no one can do us any harm. Rakhe krsna mare ke mare krsna rakhe ke. “He whom Krsna protects, no one can kill, but if Krsna wants to kill someone, no one can give him protection.” For example, suppose a very rich man is suffering from disease. He may have a first-class physician, medicine, and hospital available for him, but still he may die. This means that Krsna desired, “This man must die.” Therefore, the so-called protective methods we have devised will be useless if Krsna does not desire us to live. The demon Ravana was very powerful, but when Krsna in the form of Lord Ramacandra desired to kill him, no one could protect him. Ravana was a great devotee of Lord Siva and was praying to Lord Siva, “Please come save me from this danger.” But Lord Siva did not come. Then Parvati, Lord Siva’s wife, asked Lord Siva, “What is this? He is such a great devotee and has served you so much, and now he is in danger and is asking your help. Why are you not going to help him?” Then Lord Siva replied, “My dear Parvati, what shall I do? I cannot give him protection. It is not possible. Why shall I go?” Therefore, if God wants to kill someone, no one can give him protection, and if God wants to protect someone, no one can kill him. Rakhe krsna mare ke mare krsna rakhe ke.
Thus Kunti is remembering how Krsna saved her and her sons one time after another. This is smaranam, thinking of Krsna. “ Krsna, You are so kind to us that You saved us from many great dangers. Without You there was no hope.”
Then the last danger was drauny-astra, the weapon of Asvatthama, the son of Drona. Asvatthama performed a most abominable act by killing the five sons of the Pandavas. Of course, in the Battle of Kuruksetra both sides belonged to the same family, and practically everyone was killed, but the five sons of the Pandavas survived. So Asvatthama thought, “If I kill these five sons of the Pandavas and present their heads to Duryodhana, he will be very much pleased.” Therefore, when the five sons were sleeping, he severed their heads, which he then presented to Duryodhana. At that time, Duryodhana was incapacitated. His spine was broken, and he could not move. Asvatthama said, “I have brought the five heads of the Pandavas, my dear Duryodhana.” At first, Duryodhana was very glad, but he knew how to test the heads to see whether they were in fact the heads of the Pandavas. When he pressed the heads, the heads collapsed, and Duryodhana said, “Oh, these are not the heads of the Pandavas. They must be the heads of their sons.” When Asvatthama admitted that this was so, Duryodhana fainted, and when he revived he said, “You have killed all our hopes. I had hoped that in our family at least these five sons would survive, but now you have killed them.” Thus in lamentation he died.
Subsequently, Arjuna arrested Asvatthama and was going to kill him. In fact, Krsna ordered, “Kill him. He is not a brahmana; he is less than a sudra.” But then Draupadi said, “I am suffering because of the death of my sons, and this rascal is the son of our guru-maharaja, Dronacarya, who has done so much for us. If Asvatthama dies, then Dronacarya’s wife, our mother guru, will be very much unhappy. So release him and let him go away.” Thus Arjuna freed Asvatthama. But then Asvatthama, having been insulted, retaliated by unleashing a brahmastra. The brahmastra is something like a nuclear weapon. It can go to the enemy, wherever he is, and kill him. Asvatthama knew, “The last descendant of the Kuru family is Pariksit, the son of Abhimanyu. He is in the womb of Uttara, so let me kill him also, and then the entire dynasty will be finished.”
When that weapon was unleashed, Pariksit Maharaja’s mother, Uttara, felt that she was going to have a miscarriage, and therefore she approached Krsna, saying, “Please save me.” Krsna, by His mystic power, therefore entered the womb of Uttara and saved the child. After the Battle of Kuruksetra, Pariksit Maharaja, who was still in the womb of his mother, was the last remaining descendant of the Pandavas, and in mature time, when he was born, only his grandfathers were still alive. Pariksit Maharaja was the son of Abhimanyu, who was the son of Arjuna and Subhadra, Krsna’s sister. When Abhimanyu was sixteen years old, he went to fight, and seven great commanders joined forces to kill him. Subhadra had only one grandchild, Pariksit Maharaja. As soon as he grew up, the entire estate of the Pandavas was entrusted to him, and all the Pandavas left home and went to the Himalayas. This history is described in the Mahabharata. Many great misfortunes befell the Pandavas, but in all circumstances they simply depended on Krsna, who always saved them. Queen Kunti’s response to these misfortunes is recorded in the next verse.

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