Finding real shelter and security
in an insecure world.
I have gone bankrupt.” Prateek muttered.
“Why! What happened?” I exclaimed.
“Sensex hit an all-time low today. It might take a few years to recover. I had put all my money in the soaring markets. I don’t know what . . .” I could hear him sobbing.
“I am coming. Don’t worry.” I hung up.
I rushed to the train station. I was pondering over the questions Prateek would ask and how I should respond to them. While I was waiting for the train, suddenly a policeman crossed me shouting, “Go back! Get aside!” Following him were few men carrying three dead bodies covered with blood stains. It was a terrifying sight.
The False Security
I was aghast and puzzled by these successive incidents that I encountered. These incidents left me with a deep sense of insecurity and fear. I was disturbed but my spiritual connection saved me. I could recall how Vedic scriptures repeatedly warn us that the material world is a dangerous place. Padam padam yad vipadam: “There is danger at every step.” Incidents that I encountered prove that death is demonic, endless, abrupt, timeless, and heartless; it can appear anywhere, anytime, and to anyone. Every personal and every societal crisis is a testimony to the fact that spiritual awakening is the need of the hour. Without it, our entire modern civilization is bound to collapse.
The shock of these incidents sobered me. I’ve realized how insecure life in the material world is. At-risk political leaders in India, fearing their enemies, demand Z+ security for themselves and their immediate family members. But such high security often fails to protect them. All those who promise security and protection from dangerous elements chemical toothpastes, unclean soaps, cheating multinationals fail to live up to their promise. As I step into the street I saw a billboard touting, “Life Insurance Corporation of India secures every step of life.” Can Life Insurance Corporation protect me from death? Can they bring those who have died back to life?
Security in this world is an imaginary concept because the material world is in a constant state of flux. Nothing is permanent; everything is temporary. That means what was safe yesterday may be dangerous today. We, as spiritual beings, however, are part of the Supreme Spirit and are, like Him, eternal. It is our natural tendency to seek out the most secure situation in every condition, but when we misidentify with the changing, destructible, material world, we falsely think we too will die. That makes us feel highly insecure. Trying for permanent security in this temporary world is a hopeless idea.
Fortunately, in the Bhagavad-gita Krishna assures us that one who takes to Krishna consciousness, or devotional service, is given supreme protection. Na me bhaktah pranasyati: “My devotee never perishes.” (Gita 9.31)The Lord is ready to protect His devotee in all circumstances, and thus the devotee is always fearless. The Vedic scriptures are replete with examples of devotees who were protected by Krishna in one way or another. Studying the lives of such devotees will give us confidence that dedicating our lives to Krishna’s service will provide us with the highest security even in this dangerous, insecure world.
Here are some of the several ways in which Krishna has protected devotees in the past:
1. Vyasana-raksa: Krishna protects His devotees from distresses and calamities. The Ninth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam tells the story of Maharaja Ambarisa and sage Durvasa. Durvasa Muni, a powerful yogi, once arrived at Ambarisa Maharaja’s palace less than an hour before the saintly king was meant to break a year-long fast. As the rules of Vedic hospitality dictate, Ambarisa Maharaja ordered a reception for his guest, along with a sumptuous feast. As was the custom, before accepting his meal Durvasa went to the river to bathe. While there, he entered a yogic trance and remained in the water for some time. The proper time for King Ambarisa to break his fast was quickly approaching. Not wanting to offend Durvasa by accepting his own meal before feeding his guest, Ambarisa Maharaja, in consultation with the brahmanas, drank a palmful of water an act considered simultaneous not breaking a fast and breaking it.
When Durvasa learned of Ambarisa’s action he felt insulted. With his yogic powers he invoked a fiery demon to destroy the king. Ambarisa, however, remained undisturbed and simply meditated on the Lord, without even asking His protection. But the Lord is always eager to protect His devotees, and He immediately released His razor-sharp Sudarshana chakra and destroyed the demon. The chakra then chased Durvasa, the source of the attack on a devotee. Durvasa ran all over the universe and even to the spiritual world to seek protection. Only after falling at the feet of Ambarisa and begging his forgiveness did the chakra spare his life.
Srila Prabhupada writes, “This protection is offered to a devotee even from the very beginning of his devotional service. . . . If one simply begins devotional service, he is immediately protected by the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” (Bhagavatam 9.4.48, purport)
2. Ajnana-raksa: Krishna promises in the Bhagavad-gita (10.11) that He destroys with the shining lamp of knowledge the ignorance in a devotee’s heart. As the Paramatma seated in everyone’s heart, Krishna guides all devotees on the right path.
During the Battle of Kuruksetra, when Arjuna was confused about his duty, the Lord removed Arjuna’s ignorance by speaking the immortal wisdom of the Bhagavad-gita. Armed with this knowledge, Arjuna could fight his enemies and emerge victorious.
The Fourth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam tells the story of Dhruva. Dhruva was a small boy who desired a kingdom greater than that of his great-grandfather, Lord Brahma. With this motive in his heart he worshiped Lord Vishnu and performed severe austerities unmatched in the history of the world. After six months Lord Vishnu appeared before him, but on seeing the Lord his materialistic ambitions dissolved. Dhruva then desired to be the Lord’s servant. But for His part the Lord offered Dhruva rulership over a spiritual planet in this universe.
Dhruva ruled the earth as its king for 36,000 years. During that time he displayed all godly qualities. Despite living in great opulence as earth’s ruler, Dhruva never became materialistic. The Lord protected him from falling into ignorance.
3. Truti-raksa: Krishna protects us even if we unknowingly commit mistakes while we perform devotional service. Mantratas tantratas chidram desa-kalarha-vastutah/ sarvam karoti nischidram anusankirtanam tava: “There may be discrepancies in pronouncing the mantras and observing the regulative principles, and, moreover, there may be discrepancies in regard to time, place, person, and paraphernalia. But when Your Lordship’s holy name is chanted, everything becomes faultless.” (Bhagavatam 8.23.16) Lord Caitanya also recommends, “In this age of quarrel and hypocrisy the only means of deliverance is chanting the holy name of the Lord. There is no other way. There is no other way. There is no other way.” (Brhan-naradiya Purana 38.126) Srila Prabhupada writes, “In this age of Kali, it is extremely difficult to perform Vedic ritualistic ceremonies or sacrifices perfectly. Hardly anyone can chant the Vedic mantras with perfect pronunciation or accumulate the paraphernalia for Vedic performances. Therefore the sacrifice recommended in this age is sankirtana, constant chanting of the holy name of the Lord.” This again proves how the Lord protects His devotees.
4. Satru-raksa: In the Battle of Kuruksetra the Kauravas were vastly superior to the Pandavas in military strength. But despite their smaller army, Krishna rescued Arjuna and his brothers from the insurmountable Kaurava army. Comparing the Kaurava army to a mighty river, Gita Dhyanam (6) beautifully describes how Lord Krishna expertly saved Arjuna: “With Bhisma and Drona as its banks, Jayadratha as the water in the river, Gandhara (Sakuni) as a dangerous blue rock, Salya as the shark, Krpa as the river’s current, Karna as its breakers, Ashvatthama and Vikarna as its killer whales, and Duryodhana as its whirlpools, the river of battle was indeed crossed by the Pandavas because they had Krishna as the boatman.”
5. Anartha-raksa: Krishna protects a practicing devotee from the six kinds of impurities (anarthas), namely, lust, anger, greed, envy, pride, and illusion. The Sixth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam tells the story of Ajamila, who was born in a highly cultured family, but because of bad association, fell from his spiritual practices. He brought a prostitute into his home and made his living by cheating and crime. He fathered ten children, the youngest of whom he named Narayana. Ajamila loved Narayana dearly.
When the inevitable moment of death arrived, Ajamila was afraid. The sinful acts he had committed during his life drew the ghastly Yamadutas, the servants of the lord of death, to take him to hell. Desperately seeking comfort, Ajamila called for his youngest and dearest son, Narayana. Because Narayana is also the name of Lord Vishnu, as soon as Ajamila chanted the boy’s name the Vishnudutas appeared and stopped the Yamadutas from pulling his soul from his body. They said, “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], jokingly, for musical entertainment, or even neglectfully.” Thus we see that although Ajamila was destined for severe punishment in hell, the Lord protected him even though he called out the holy name unknowingly and unintentionally.
6. Bhakti-raksa: In the midst of so many uncertainties of this world, a practicing devotee is fearful of one thing: whether he or she can attain spiritual perfection before the end of this life. Lord Krishna assures Arjuna in the Gita that such a devotee, in his next life, continues his spiritual life from where he left off. The story of King Bharata clearly points out this fact. Bharata, who was the emperor of the whole world, retired from his royal duties and went to the forest to pursue self-realization. Unfortunately, in the forest he got attached to a deer and, spending all his time in caring for the deer, neglected his spiritual life. Remaining absorbed in thoughts of the deer, he left his body and thus became a deer in his next life. By Krishna’s mercy, however, he remembered his previous life even as a deer. In this form he spent most of his time with saintly people who chanted and discussed the transcendental activities of the Lord. As a result in his next life, he attained a human body in a brahmana family. He was known as Jada Bharata and now he remembered his past two lives. In this life he practiced devotional service with great seriousness and sincerity and went back to Godhead.
For one who follows the path of Krishna consciousness, the path of full surrender to Krishna in devotional service, death is seen not as a moment of insecurity but as the greatest opportunity to meet one’s Lord. Sv-alpam apy asya dharmasya trayate mahato bhayat: “A little advancement on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear.” (Gita 2.40) Srila Prabhupada writes, “One who takes shelter of the Supreme Lord has nothing to fear, even in the midst of the greatest calamity.”
My friend Prateek will now need strength and knowledge to come out of this calamity that had hit him. My prayers and his surrender to Krishna can definitely provide him the cure for his insecurity. Security is not the absence of danger, but the presence of God, no matter what the danger.
Manish Goel is a freelance corporate trainer. He develops management seminars based on the principles of Vedic scriptures.