Offense Leads To Faithlessness
Now we will discuss aśraddhā, faithlessness, which is the second of the five primary effects of aparādha. After witnessing and hearing about the glories of bhakti, if one still maintains a lack of conviction about those glories due to harboring contrary ideas, this is known as aśraddhā, or absence of faith. An example of this is seen in the case of Duryodhana who did not accept Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa as God even after seeing Him manifest His universal form.
Therefore, the experience of Śrī Śaunaka and that of Prahlāda are not the experience of everyone. Śaunaka’s conviction is expressed in these words:
“If a person who has fallen into this fearful material existence helplessly chants the name of Bhagavān, which is feared by fear personified, he is immediately delivered by the power of the name.” (SB 1.1.14)
Śrī Prahlāda made the following statement about his own experience:
“It is not by my own power that the tusks of these elephants, which were as hard as the tip of a thunderbolt, got smashed. It is only the effect of continuous remembrance of Bhagavān Janārdana which destroys all great calamities.” (VP 1.17.44)
This type of experience, which is actually a concomitant effect of bhakti, becomes manifest only if pure devotees of Bhagavān desire it to demonstrate the glory of Bhagavān but they never desire it for their own protection or to show their own greatness. This is illustrated in Prahlāda’s statement, as quoted above.
Devotees like Śrī Parīkṣit, however, do not desire even that. This is indicated in these words of Parīkṣit Mahārāja:
“O brāhmaṇas, may you as well as Goddess Gaṅgā know me as a surrendered soul, having fixed my mind on Bhagavān. Let the treachery conjured by the brāhmaṇa consume me, or let the snake Takṣaka bite me. Just go on singing the glories of Bhagavān Viṣṇu.” (SB 1.19.15)
The meaning of this statement is clear.
Commentary (by Satyanaranaya Dasa)
Śrī Jīva gives the reason why some people cannot have faith in bhakti even after hearing its glories. It is because of some past offense. If the offense is very intense then one cannot have faith in it even after personally witnessing its power. Śrī Jīva gives the example of Duryodhana. When Kṛṣṇa went as a peace messenger to Hastinapur, he advised Dhṛtarāṣṭra, Duryodhana’s father, to return the Pāṇḍavas’ kingdom to them. But Dhṛtarāṣṭra did not pay heed to Kṛṣṇa’s advice and gave the excuse that he was helpless because of Duryodhana’s intransigence. Kṛṣṇa even advised him to just give five villages to the Pāṇḍavas. But Duryodhana did not agree to that either. Then Kṛṣṇa met Dhṛtarāṣṭra privately and advised him to capture Duryodhana and to put him in prison, as that alone could save the Kaurava dynasty from destruction. Otherwise both sides would be killed in the war because of Duryodhana’s adamancy.
Duryodhana was furious when he came to know about Kṛṣṇa’s advice to his father. He consulted with his brother Duḥśāsana and Karṇa and decided to capture Kṛṣṇa and imprison Him. As planned, the next day in the assembly hall, the three men surrounded Kṛṣṇa with ropes in their hands to bind Him. When Kṛṣṇa saw this, He first smiled and then started laughing. While laughing out loud He manifested His universal form. The whole universe became manifest in His body. Duryodhana and his accomplices fell on the ground. Kṛṣṇa left the entire assembly agape. Still, Duryodhana could not believe that Kṛṣṇa was God. He thought Kṛṣṇa was a magician who just played some trick on him. This was the effect of his offensive mentality. Later on, Arjuna also saw the universal form but he recognized Kṛṣṇa’s true nature and praised Him reverently as the Supreme God.
Bhakti has power similar to God as was seen in the case of Prahlāda who could not be harmed by anything. However, devotees prefer that bhakti does not manifest such powers to protect them. They are completely devoid of desire for anything except loving service to Bhagavān. Therefore, King Parīkṣit said, “Let the Takṣaka come and bite me. I am not worried.” He only wanted to hear about Bhagavān. He did not pray to Bhagavān to protect him from the snake.
Earlier it was said that bhakti protects one from all fears and has the ability to dispel all obstacles. If Parīkṣit wanted, he could have prayed for this. But such a desire is not part of pure bhakti. A devotee does not desire even the ecstasy of bhakti if that becomes an obstacle to service.
A Pure Devotee May Face Problems
Therefore, if one sees such obstacles occur in the life of contemporary devotees who manifest symptoms of great bhakti, one should not become faithless in regard to them or in regard to bhakti in general.
Sometimes these types of side effects of bhakti become manifest in particular devotees because of the specific nature of their worship of Bhagavān. This was seen in the case of Dhruva, as described by Śrī Maitreya:
“When prince Dhruva stood on one leg, the earth, pressured by the force of his big toe, became half sunk, just as a small boat when mounted by an elephant tips left and right with every step of the elephant.” (SB 4.8.79)
Such a result was seen in the case of Dhruva because he meditated on Bhagavān Viṣṇu as the Soul of everything. It should also be understood that Dhruva was inspired to undertake this type of worship because it was useful for the post he would assume in the future of being the sovereign of the pole star, the axis around which the entire universe in the form of the luminary rotates.
Commentary (by Satyanaranaya Dasa)
Many great devotees of Bhagavān have lived in Vrindavan, and many still reside there. It is seen that they also face many problems in their lives such as disease, ostracism from society, or legal troubles. Seeing this, however, one should not lose faith in them or in bhakti. Such devotees do not want such protection from bhakti. They also do not want to be known as great devotees. Therefore, one should also be extremely careful in making judgments about them. It is not easy to understand the behavior of great devotees.
(to be continued)
To be successful materially one needs to have faith in oneself. To be peaceful one must have faith in God. To be free of material conditioning one should have faith in shastra.
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