A devotee happily invites miseries if they help in remembering the Lord.
Most people worship God with a material motive.As Lord Krishna explains in the Bhagavad-gita (7.16), such people can broadly be classified into four groups: the distressed, the needy, the inquisitive and those who are searching for knowledge of the Absolute. In most cases, such worshipers stop their worship as soon as their objective is fulfilled. They regard God as someone who can mitigate the miseries of their life and make everything happy and peaceful. Such people can be considered pious because they have chosen to approach God in their hour of difficulty and not someone mundane. Even Lord Krishna accepts them as pious (Bhagavad-gita 7.18).
Among all worshipers, Lord Krishna singles out the one who is in full knowledge as the best, for he always engages in Krishna’s pure devotional service with love. A person in full knowledge, knowing Krishna to be the cause of all causes, surrenders unto Him. His only purpose is to serve Krishna selflessly with love and devotion. Therefore, Krishna says of him, “I am very dear to him, and he is dear to Me.”
When a devotee has developed intense love for Krishna, he cannot live a second without seeing or serving the Supreme Lord. For such a devotee the pain of separation from Him is too unbearable.
Queen Kunti’s Exemplary Devotional Sentiments
One such devotee was Queen Kunti, the mother of the five Pandava brothers. The Mahabharata explains how Kunti underwent great sufferings throughout her life. Before getting married, she gave birth to Karna, her first son. However, being a maiden, she rejected him to save herself from social condemnation. Soon after getting married, her husband Pandu died, and Kunti raised her five children alone. Although entrusted under the care of King Dhrtarastra, Pandu’s elder brother, Duryodhana and the other sons of the King mistreated her five sons and even attempted to kill them by several means. When Duryodhana plotted to kill them in the house of shellac at Varanavata, Kunti and her five sons secretly escaped from the house and hid in the forest without being noticed by anyone. When Duryodhana arranged a gambling match to rob the Pandavas of all their wealth and possessions, the Pandavas being kshatriyas could not refuse. The match was rigged; the five brothers lost everything and were banished to the forest for a thirteen-year exile. During this period, Kunti stayed back in the palace and spent all these years without her dear sons. Finally, in the Battle of Kuruksetra, even though the Pandavas emerged victorious, Kunti bore the loss of many of her grandsons and other relatives and well-wishers.
Despite all these reversals in her life, Kunti maintained her faith and devotion to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna. In the midst of all these troubles, she continued to seek Krishna’s shelter. She never prayed to Krishna for a peaceful life or restoration of the kingdom to her sons. She never complained to Krishna as to why He was allowing her family to undergo such suffering even though He was personally present. In fact, after the battle, when her sons regained their lost kingdom, she prayed to Krishna for more calamities in her life. This is how she prayed:
vipadah santu tah sasvat
tatra tatra jagad-guro
bhavato darsanam yat syad
“I wish that all those calamities would happen again and again so that we could see You again and again, for seeing You means that we will no longer see repeated births and deaths.” (Bhag. 1.8.25)
Difficult Situations Stimulate More Love
Love in this world manifests in various ways between two individuals. Generally, the lover and the beloved like to spend all their time together without any hindrance. When some external calamity threatens to break that love, however, then this love intensifies greatly. That is the nature of love. When one of them goes through a difficult situation, the other sacrifices his or her comforts and goes to great extents to help the other person. Thus, difficulties and calamities in life deepen the love between two individuals. The bond between them strengthens, and their relationship becomes more sweet and dynamic.
The perfection of loving relationships lies in one’s original relationship with Krishna. In relation to Krishna, a devotee experiences similar kind of love dynamics. Although he would always like to serve Krishna directly, Krishna, in order to increase the devotee’s love for Him, puts him in a difficult situation. He generally does this by personally taking charge of the devotee’s karmic backlog and adjusting it in a way that will bring the devotee closer to Him. In exceptional cases, like in the case of pure liberated devotees, who have no karmic backlog accompanying them, Krishna deliberately puts them in the midst of great calamities so that by their exemplary faithful response in such situations, those less accomplished on the spiritual path can learn how to face adversities with dignity and integrity. When the devotee thus feels helpless, he completely surrenders to Krishna knowing well that the Lord will always protect him. When he experiences the Lord’s loving reciprocation in such situations, his love for Krishna increases many times. He realizes that all those difficulties were, in fact, great blessings because in all those situations the Lord was always with him, protecting him at every moment.
Pain Of Calamity Is Insignificant
Compared to the pain of separation from the Lord, a devotee considers the pain of calamity insignificant. If in calamities he can perceive the Lord’s loving embrace, the devotee will prefer to undergo all kinds of miserable situations. He understands that the Lord is his loving father who will never fail to protect him. He accepts all situations in life, gratefully considering them Krishna’s arrangement for his purification.
Kunti recalled the various miseries Duryodhana had inflicted upon her and her sons. When Draupadi was being disrobed in front of the Kuru assembly, Krishna miraculously saved her from humiliation by supplying her unlimited sari. During their exile in forest, when Durvasa Muni and his disciples came to their place upon Duryodhana’s request, Krishna, by His mystic potency, saved the Pandavas from the Muni’s wrath. In the Battle of Kuruksetra, Krishna became Arjuna’s charioteer and guided him in overcoming all the mighty Kuru warriors like Bhisma, Drona, Karna and Jayadratha. And when Ashvatthama released the brahmastra to kill the unborn child within Uttara’s womb, Krishna covered the womb by His personal energy and protected the child.
While remembering these events, Kunti realized that without Krishna’s presence, there was no way they could have overcome these dangers. When Krishna was leaving for Dvaraka after installing Maharaja Yudhisthira as the world emperor, Kunti submitted the above prayer before Him because she feared that now that they were comfortable in royal position, she might forget Krishna. Therefore, she prayed to Krishna for more sufferings, which means she will continue to remember Him and never forget Him.
Krishna’s Protection In Calamities
In the case of Kunti and the Pandavas, Krishna saved them in extraordinary ways, using His mystic powers. Every time their lives were in danger, Krishna protected them from death. Many such stories are described in scriptures where devotees have felt Krishna’s protection in times of crisis. Devotees in recent times, too, have perceived Krishna’s inconceivable protection in dangerous situations.
In most cases, however, Krishna’s protection may not come in the form of protection from death. A practicing devotee must firmly understand that the body is temporary and destined to perish. As spirit souls, we are separate from the body, so we should not always expect that Krishna would protect us from death. Real protection is protection of our consciousness our devotional faith and remembrance of Krishna. By Krishna’s mercy, a devotee gets a favorable environment and several opportunities to continue his devotional service in his next life.
The greatest fear of a devotee is forgetfulness of Krishna, which means continuing in the cycle of birth and death in ignorance. A devotee does not mind going to hell if he can serve Krishna there, but he will reject a life devoid of service to Krishna even if he is offered the greatest heavenly delights. As Lord Shiva advised Parvati in Srimad-Bhagavatam (6.17.28), narayana-parah sarve na kutascana bibhyati/ svargapavarga-narakesv api tulyartha-darsinah: “Devotees solely engaged in the devotional service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Narayana, never fear any condition of life. For them the heavenly planets, liberation and the hellish planets are all the same, for such devotees are interested only in the service of the Lord.”
An Extraordinary Prayer
Well, not everyone can pray like Kunti Devi one needs a lot of courage to pray in this way. From Kunti’s example, however, we can learn how to pray and know the required mood while praying to Krishna. Lord Caitanya also has shown us the standard of ideal prayer. He says, na dhanam na janam na sundarim kavitam va jagad-isa kamaye/ mama janmani janmanisvare bhavatad bhaktir ahaituki tvayi: “O Almighty Lord, I have no desire to accumulate wealth, nor to enjoy beautiful women. Nor do I want any number of followers. I only want Your causeless devotional service, birth after birth.”
Asking for material benefits, which are temporary and illusory, should be given up. Of course, one may sometimes pray for those material facilities that help in increasing one’s devotional service to the Lord, but even such prayers should be accompanied by and subservient to the prayers that intensify one’s devotional service, whatever be the circumstances one finds oneself in. Many people who claim to be religious generally pray for their “daily bread” of life’s material necessities. Ignorant of a higher objective in life, such people try to fulfill their utopian dreams in this illusory world. Kunti’s prayer, therefore, is far superior to prayers that ordinary conditioned souls offer to God asking for material rewards. Such a prayer transcends all selfish and ulterior desires that usually motivate the practice of religious faiths.
Mukundamala Dasa has a degree in engineering and serves full-time in ISKCON Mumbai. He is a part of the India BTG team and teaches Krishna consciousness to students.