Cutting Off Ties of Affection
O Lord of the universe, soul of the universe, O personality of the form of the universe, please, therefore, sever my tie of affection for my kinsmen, the Pandavas and the Vrsnis.
A pure devotee of the Lord is ashamed to ask anything in self-interest from the Lord. But the householders are sometimes obliged to ask favors from the Lord, being bound by the tie of family affection. Srimati Kuntidevi was conscious of this fact, and therefore she prayed to the Lord to cut off the affectionate tie from her own kinsmen, the Pandavas and the Vrsnis. The Pandavas are her own sons, and the Vrsnis are the members of her paternal family. Krsna was equally related to both families. Both the families required the Lord’s help because both were dependent devotees of the Lord. Srimati Kuntidevi wished Sri Krsna to remain with her sons, the Pandavas, but by His doing so her paternal house would be bereft of the benefit. All these partialities troubled the mind of Kunti, and therefore she desired to cut off the affectionate tie.
A pure devotee cuts off the limited ties of affection for his family and widens his activities of devotional service for all forgotten souls. The typical example is the band of six Gosvamis, who followed the path of Lord Caitanya. All of them belonged to the most enlightened and cultured rich families of the higher castes, but for the benefit of the mass of population they left their comfortable homes and became mendicants. To cut off all family affection means to broaden the field of activities. Without doing this, no one can be qualified as a brahmana, a king, a public leader, or a devotee of the Lord. The Personality of Godhead, as an ideal king, showed this by example. Sri Ramacandra cut off the tie of affection for His beloved wife to manifest the qualities of an ideal king.
Such personalities as a brahmana, a devotee, a king, or a public leader must be very broad-minded in discharging their respective duties. Srimati Kuntidevi was conscious of this fact, and being weak she prayed to be free from such bondage of family affection. The Lord is addressed as the Lord of the universe, or the Lord of the universal mind, indicating His all-powerful ability to cut the hard knot of family affection. affinity toward a weak devotee, breaks the family affection by force of circumstances arranged by His all-powerful energy. By doing so He causes the devotee to become completely dependent on Him and thus clears the path for his going back to Godhead.
Kunti was the daughter of the Vrsni family and the wife and mother of the Pandava family. Generally a woman has affection for both her father’s family and husband’s family, and therefore Kunti prays to Krsna, “I am a woman, and women are generally attached to their families, so kindly cut off my attachment so that I may be thoroughly attached to You. Without You, both families are zero. I am falsely attached to these families, but my real purpose in life is to be attached to You.” This is bhakti.
Bhakti involves becoming free from the attachments of this material world and becoming attached instead to Krsna. One cannot become unattached, for one must be attached to something, but in order to become attached to Krsna or enter into the devotional service of the Lord, one has to become detached from material affection.
People ordinarily go to Krsna to maintain their attachment to this material world. “O God,” they pray, “give us our daily bread.” They have attachment to this material world, and to live in this material world they pray for supplies of material things so that they can maintain their status quo. This is called material attachment. Although in one sense, of course, it is good that people go to God to secure their material position, that is not actually desirable. Rather than worship God to increase one’s opulence in the material world, one should become free from material attachment. For bhakti-yoga, therefore, we should be detached.
Our suffering is due to our attachment. Because we are materially attached, we desire so many material things, and therefore Krsna gives us the opportunity to enjoy whatever material facilities we want. Of course, one must deserve these facilities. First deserve, then desire. Suppose I want to become king. I must have pious activities behind me so that I can become king.
Krsna can give us whatever we want, even mukti, liberation, but bhakti is a special consideration because when He gives someone bhakti He becomes purchased by the bhakta and becomes a tool in the hands of the bhakta, even though He is the supreme powerful. Radharani, the symbol of the topmost bhakti, is so powerful that She has purchased Krsna. Therefore Vaisnavas take shelter of the lotus feet of Radharani, for if She recommends, “Oh, here is a nice devotee,” Krsna must accept him.
To become a devotee of the Lord, one must be completely cleansed of all material attachment. This qualification is called vairagya. Upon becoming a student of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya wrote one hundred verses praising Him. Two of those verses are mentioned in the Caitanya-caritamrta, and one of them is this statement:
siksartham ekah purusah puranah
krpambudhir yas tam aham prapadye
“Let me take shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna, who has descended in the form of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu to teach us real knowledge, His devotional service, and detachment from whatever does not foster Krsna consciousness. He has descended because He is an ocean of transcendental mercy. Let me surrender unto His lotus feet.” (Cc. Madhya 6.254) Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya thus offered his prayer to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who had now assumed the form of Caitanya Mahaprabhu just to teach people how to develop knowledge, become detached, and become pure devotees of Krsna.
Although when Caitanya Mahaprabhu was only twenty-four or twenty-five years old He had a lovable, beautiful wife and a devoted, affectionate mother, He gave up everything and took sannyasa, the renounced order of life. When Caitanya Mahaprabhu was a grhastha, a householder, He was so much honored that merely by the direction of His finger He was able to enlist thousands of people to join Him in a civil disobedience movement. In Nadia, the city where He lived, His position was very respectable, and physically He was very beautiful. Yet He gave up His young, faithful, beautiful wife, His affectionate mother, His position, and everything else. This is called vairagya, renunciation.
If someone who has nothing to possess says, “I have renounced everything,” what is the meaning of his renunciation? But if one has something and then renounces it, his renunciation is meaningful. So Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s renunciation is unique. No one else could give up such a happy home, such honor, and such affection from mother, wife, friends, and students. Even Advaita Prabhu, although the age of Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s father, honored Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Yet still Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu gave up everything. Why? Just to teach us (apani acari, prabhu jivere sikhaya). He personally taught the whole world how one must detach oneself and become a devotee of Krsna. Therefore when Rupa Gosvami resigned his post as a government minister and met Caitanya Mahaprabhu at Prayaga, he fell flat before Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and offered obeisances with this prayer:
namne gaura-tvise namah
“You are most magnanimous,” he prayed, “for You are distributing love of Krsna.”
Love of Krsna is not an easy thing to obtain, because by this love one can purchase Krsna, but Caitanya Mahaprabhu distributed this love of Krsna to anyone and everyone, even to the two drunkards Jagai and Madhai. Narottama dasa Thakura has therefore sung:
“Caitanya Mahaprabhu is so magnanimous that He delivered all kinds of sinful men simply by allowing them to chant the Hare Krsna mantra. The evidence of this is Jagai and Madhai.” At that time, of course, there were two Jagais and Madhais, but at the present moment, by the grace of Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His process of teaching, so many Jagais and Madhais are being delivered. If Caitanya Mahaprabhu is pleased, He can give krsna-prema, love of Krsna, to anyone, regardless of that person’s qualification. If a person is giving charity, he can select anyone to take it.
Without the mercy of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, understanding Krsna is very, very difficult. Manusyanam sahasresu kascid yatati siddhaye (Bg. 7.3): out of many millions of people, hardly one tries to make his life spiritually successful. People simply work like animals, not knowing how to make a success of human life. One’s human life is successful when one understands Krsna; otherwise one remains an animal. Anyone who is not Krsna conscious, who does not know who Krsna is, is no better than an animal. But Caitanya Mahaprabhu gave this concession to the fallen souls of this age: “Simply chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra and you will be delivered.” This is Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s special concession (kirtanad eva krsnasya mukta-sangah param vrajet, Bhag. 12.3.51).
Now, Kunti was not an ordinary devotee. She had become one of the relatives of Krsna, and therefore Krsna had come to offer her respects. But still she said, “Krsna, I have become attached to two families, my father’s family and my husband’s family. Kindly help me become detached from these families.” Thus she illustrated that one must become detached from society, friendship, and love, all of which will otherwise entangle us.
As long as I think, “I belong to this family,” “I belong to this nation,” “I belong to this religion,” “I belong to this color,” and so on, there is no possibility of becoming Krsna conscious. As long as one thinks that one is American, Indian, or African, that one belongs to this family or that family, or that one is the father, mother, husband, or wife of this or that person, one is attached to material designations. I am spirit soul, and all these attachments belong to the body, but I am not this body. This is the essence of understanding. If I am not this body, then whose father or whose mother am I? The supreme father and mother is Krsna. We are simply playing the parts of father, mother, sister, or brother, as if on stage. Maya, the material nature, is causing us to dance, telling us, “You are a member of this family and a member of this nation.” Thus we are dancing like monkeys.
This verse indicates that because the living entity has associated with a certain quality of nature, nature is making him dance according to that quality, and thus one is thinking, “I am this” or “I am that.” This information provided in Bhagavad-gita is the basic principle of understanding, and it will give one freedom.
The most essential education is that which enables one to become free from the bodily concept of life, but unfortunately scientists, philosophers, politicians, and other so-called leaders are misleading people so that they become more attached to the body. It is the human life that offers the opportunity to become Krsna conscious, but these rascals are stopping that opportunity by alluring people to bodily designations, and therefore they are the greatest enemies of human civilization.
One attains a human body after evolving through 8,400,000 life-forms, from aquatics to plants, and then to trees, insects, birds, beasts, and so on. Now, people do not know what is the next step in evolution, but that is explained in Bhagavad-gita (9.25). Yanti deva-vrata devan. As the next step in evolution, one may, if one desires, go to a higher planetary system. Although every night people see so many planets and stars, they do not know what these higher planetary systems are. But from the sastra, the Vedic literature, we can understand that on these higher planetary systems, material comforts are available that are many, many times greater than those on this planet. On this planet we may live for at most one hundred years, but on the higher planetary systems one can live for a lifetime we cannot even calculate. For example, the lifetime of Brahma, who lives on the highest planet, is stated in Bhagavad-gita (8.17): sahasra-yuga-paryantam ahar yad brahmano viduh. We cannot calculate even twelve hours of Brahma with our mathematical figures, but even Brahma has to die. Even though one may have a long duration of life, no one can live permanently in this material world. Nonetheless, if one prepares oneself one may go to the higher planetary systems, or similarly one may go to the Pitrlokas. There one may meet one’s forefathers, if they have been eligible to go there. Similarly, if one desires, one may also remain here on earth. Or yanti mad-yajino ’pi mam: if one becomes a devotee of Krsna, one can go to Him.
One may go to hell, one may go to heaven, or one may go back home, back to Godhead, as one likes. Therefore an intelligent person should think, “If I have to prepare for my next life, why not prepare to go back home, back to Godhead?” One’s present body will be finished, and then one will have to accept another body. What kind of body one will accept is stated in Bhagavad-gita (14.18). Urdhvam gacchanti sattva-sthah: those who are in the mode of goodness, avoiding the four principles of sinful life, will live their next life on a higher planetary system. Even if one does not become a pure devotee of the Lord, if one follows the regulative principles for avoiding sinful life one will remain in goodness and get this opportunity. Human life is meant for this purpose. But if we waste our life just living like cats and dogs, eating, sleeping, mating, and defending, then we shall lose this opportunity.
Rascals, however, do not know this. They do not believe that there is a next life. In Russia a professor, Professor Kotovsky, told me, “Swamiji, after this body is finished, everything is finished.” He is a big professor, yet still he said that. Such men may pose as scientists and philosophers, but actually they have no knowledge, and they simply mislead others. This is our greatest source of grief, and therefore I have requested the members of the Krsna consciousness movement to challenge and defeat these rascals, who are misleading the entire human society. People should not think that the devotees of Krsna are mere sentimentalists. On the contrary, the devotees are the greatest philosophers and the greatest scientists.
Krsna has two engagements: paritranaya sadhunam vinasaya ca duskrtam [Bg. 4.8]—giving protection to the sadhus, the devotees, and killing the demons. Krsna gave protection to the Pandavas and Vrsnis because they were devotees, and He also killed demons like Kamsa, Aghasura, and Bakasura. Of the two engagements, His killing of the demons was His major occupation. If we examine how much time He devoted to killing and how much time He devoted to protecting, we shall find that He devoted more time to killing. Similarly, those who are Krsna conscious should also kill—not by weapons but by logic, by reasoning, and by education. If one is a demon, we can use logic and arguments to kill his demoniac propensities and turn him into a devotee, a saintly person. Especially in this present age, Kali-yuga, people are already poverty-stricken, and physical killing is too much for them. They should be killed by argument, reasoning, and scientific spiritual understanding.
Kunti addresses Krsna as visvesa, the Lord of the universe (visva means “universe,” and isa means “lord” or “controller”). The universal affairs are going on so nicely, with the sun rising just on time, the seasons changing, and the seasonal fruits and flowers making their appearance. Thus there is no mismanagement. But how are these things going on so nicely if there is no controller? If we see any establishment going on very well, we immediately understand that the manager, director, or controller of the institution is expert. Similarly, if we see the universal affairs going on nicely, we must know that behind them is a good controller. And who is that controller? That controller is Krsna, as stated in Bhagavad-gita (mayadhyaksena prakrtih suyate sa-caracaram [Bg. 9.10]). Therefore Kunti addresses Him as visvesa, the controller of the universe. People are interested only in pictures of Krsna embracing Radharani that depict the dealings of Radha and Krsna to be like those of ordinary boys and girls. They don’t understand Krsna. Such obnoxious pictures should be avoided. Krsna is the supreme controller. Let there be a picture showing how Krsna is controlling the whole universe. That kind of picture is wanted, not these cheap pictures.
Unless the living force is present within the body, the body cannot move or work nicely, and similarly within the universe, the cosmic manifestation, Krsna is present as the living force—Ksirodakasayi Visnu, or Paramatma. Therefore Kunti addresses Krsna as visvatma, the soul of the universe. Rascals do not know how this world is moving and how this universe is acting, and therefore they should learn from Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Kuntidevi also addresses Krsna as visva-murti, the personality of the form of the universe. When Arjuna wanted to see Krsna’s universal form, Krsna immediately manifested it. This is another of Krsna’s opulences (vibhuti). The original form of the Lord, however, is Krsna with two hands, playing on the flute. Because Arjuna was a devotee and wanted to see the universal form, Krsna showed it to him, but that was not His actual form. A person may dress himself as a king, but his real, natural appearance is shown at home. Similarly, Krsna’s real form is seen at home in Vrndavana, and all other forms are expansions of His plenary portions. As stated in the Brahma-samhita, advaitam acyutam anadim ananta-rupam: [Bs 5.33] He can expand Himself in millions and millions of forms (ananta-rupam), but He is one (advaita), and He is infallible (acyuta). His real form, however, is the dvi-bhuja murali-dhara—the form with two hands holding a flute. Therefore Kuntidevi says, “You have Your universal form, but the form in which You are standing before me is Your real form.”
Kuntidevi prays, “Please sever my tie of affection for my kinsmen.” We are thinking, “This is my own, that is my own,” but this is moha, illusion (janasya moho ’yam aham mameti [SB 5.5.8]). How does this illusion come into existence? It begins with the natural attraction between man and woman. A male seeks a female, and a female seeks a male. This is true not only in human society, but also in bird society, beast society, and so on. This is the beginning of material attachment. When a man finds a woman and they unite, this attachment becomes even more firmly established (tayor mitho hrdaya-granthim ahuh). Now, after the attachment increases to some degree, the man and woman look for an apartment in which to live together, and then, of course, the man needs to earn money. When they are well settled, they must have children and also some friends to come and praise them: “Oh, you have such a nice apartment and such nice children.” In this way one’s attachment increases.
A student’s education, therefore, should begin with brahmacarya, which means freedom from sexual attachment. If he can, he should try to avoid all this nonsense. If not, he can marry and then after some time enter vanaprastha, retired life. At that time one thinks, “Now that I have enjoyed this attachment so much, let me leave home.” Then the man travels all over to various places of pilgrimage to become detached, and the wife goes with him as an assistant. After two or three months he again comes home to see that his children are doing nicely and then again goes away. This is the beginning of detachment. When the detachment is complete, the man tells his wife, “Now go live with your children, and I shall take sannyasa, the renounced order of life.” This is final detachment. The whole Vedic way of life is meant for detachment, and therefore Kunti prays, “Kindly help detach me from this family attraction.” This is Kuntidevi’s instruction.
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