Question: In SB 1.17.2, 12, 24 and 25 it is mentioned that the bull Dharma had only one of its four legs left in Kali Yuga [satyam], but in SB 12.3.20 it is said that all of its four legs are being diminished gradually and simultaneously, as the yugas progress. Visvanatha Cakravartipad also explains in his tikas on SB 1.17 that the diminution is taking place simultaneously and gradually. The latter option does seem more logical, but why is it first said in the 1st Canto that one leg after the other disappears entirely?
Answer: In 1.1712 and 1.17.24 the words used for Dharma’s legs are avrscat and bhagnah. Both mean broken and not cut off. The word avrscat comes from the root ovrscu which means ‘to pierce’. The word vrscik, scorpion, comes from the same root; and you know what a scorpion does – it pierces. The word bhagnah comes from the root bhaji which means to break. So what it signifies is that the legs were broken but not completely removed or cut. In this chapter, because dharma is depicted as a bull, the presentation is a little different than in the 12th Canto where things are stated directly. Dramatic presentations may take a little lee-way to present things to catch attention. Therefore Sri Visvanatha Cakravarty comments in line with the 12th Canto description.
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Those who have not developed a sense of detachment towards the material world – material possessions, material relations, material power and position – have not truly understood the material world. Therefore, they will continue in the cycle of birth and death until they learn it.