We will now discuss the third effect of aparādha—namely, absorption in other objects that erode one’s faith in Bhagavān (bhagavan-niṣṭhā-cyāvaka-vastv-antarābhiniveśaḥ). This is demonstrated in this statement of Śrī Śuka:
“In this way, his heart was agitated by impossible fantasies [about the deer]. Because of his prārabdha-karma, which came to him in the form of a deer-cub, this ascetic yogī fell down from his practice of yoga and also from the worship of Bhagavān.” (SB 5.8.26)
In this verse the pronoun saḥ, “he,” refers to King Bharata. A point to consider here is that generally prārabdha-karma cannot be an obstacle to bhakti because it is weaker. Thus the prārabdha-karma spoken of here, should be understood as an outcome of some past offense, as in the case of King Indradyumna and others.
Commentary (by Satyanaranaya Dasa)
In this anuccheda, Śrī Jīva illustrates by an example how an offense can make one absorbed in objects other than Bhagavān and make the person give up the practice of bhakti. Bharata, the eldest son of Bhagavān Rṣabhadeva, was a great king and devotee. He renounced his kingdom as a young man and retired to the Himalayas to engage in bhakti. While living on the bank of the river Gaṇḍakī, he was absorbed in the worship of śālagrām and meditation on Bhagavān. One day when he went to the river to take a dip and saw a pregnant doe drinking water. At that very moment a lion came there and roared loudly. The doe became frightened and to save herself jumped over to the other side of the river. The river was not very wide in the mountain range. In the process she had a miscarriage. Her baby fell into the river. When the frustrated lion left, the king saved the baby and brought it to his āśrama. He took care of the baby and as it grew, the king became very much attached to it. The king who had earlier renounced his dear family was now totally absorbed in thoughts of the deer. He forgot his worship and meditation. We have only one mind after all and it cannot be attached to the world and to Bhagavān at the same time.
Although the text says that this happened because of some strong past karma, Śrī Jīva comments that karma has no power to overshadow bhakti. What happened to the king was the effect of some past offense. The offense overshadowed the bhakti and king became fully absorbed in the deer. An example of such an offense is found in the history of King Indradyumna. King Indradyumna offended sage Agastya and as a result he was born as an elephant. As an elephant he forgot about bhakti and became absorbed in material pleasures.
The implied message is that if one is losing interest in bhakti and becoming attracted to material objects, relations, power or position, then one must know for sure that it is an outcome of some past or present offense, or both.
Here one may raise a doubt. What did Bharata do wrong? Was it not proper of him to show compassion to a drowning baby deer? The act of saving and taking care of the baby deer was not wrong. But to become totally absorbed in it was a mistake. Bharata thought of himself as the savior and unique protector of the deer, forgetting that ultimate savior is Bhagavān and that he was just an instrument. Thus the defect was considering himself as merciful independent of Bhagavān.
Some people are of the opinion that Bhagavān personally intensifies the normal prārabdha-karma of such devotees just to increase their hankering to attain Him. The Bhāgavatam in fact describes the heightening of Bharata’s desire to attain Bhagavān in his next life when he received the body of a deer. Another example of this is seen in the past life of Śrī Nārada Muni when he was the young son of a maidservant. Although he had attained the state of rati, or love for Bhagavān, Bhagavān preserved a trace of material desire in him to magnify his efforts to attain Him. The Bhagavān thus provoked the boy by speaking the following words:
“My dear boy, in this life you are not fit to see Me again, because I cannot be seen by imperfect yogīs whose contamination of the heart is not completely extinguished.” (SB 1.6.22)
The meaning of this statement is clear.
Commentary (by Satyanaranaya Dasa)
Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī is not satisfied with the explanation given in the previous anuccheda. Bharata was situated on a very high platform of bhakti. Text 5.8.12 describes that he was even manifesting symptoms of love while engaged in bhakti. It is hard to believe that some past offense could overpower his bhakti. Moreover it was said earlier that as long as one has offenses one cannot manifest such symptoms. Therefore, Śrī Jīva says that it was Bhagavān’s will that Bharata became attached to deer. In other words, it was Bhagavān who attracted the mind of Bharata in the form of a deer. What else could attract his mind? He did it in order to increase Bharata’s hankering for Himself.
Bhagavān sometimes covers the knowledge of a devotee for this purpose. This happened to King Parīkṣit who put a dead snake on the shoulder of the meditating sage because the king felt ignored. When the king was then cursed to die in seven days, he gave up his kingdom and heard Śrīmad Bhāgavatam for seven days without eating and drinking anything. The same king who became angry at the meditating sage because he could not get water to drink was then able to go without it for seven days. Therefore, his thirst is described as unprecedented (abhūta-pūrva, 1.18.29) because it was manifested by Bhagavān’s will.
Śrī Jīva gives the example of Nārada in his previous birth. Nārada was a boy when he became a devotee by the blessings of the mahā-bhāgavatas who came to stay at the house of a brāhmaṇa where his mother was a maidservant. After his mother was killed by snakebite, Nārada left home and went to a forest in the north. There he meditated on Bhagavān as he had been taught. After some time he got a vision of Bhagavān, but soon the vision disappeared. Nārada became restless to see Bhagavān again. But he only heard the voice from the sky in the form of the verse cited here. Nārada had already attained rati and there was no impurity in his heart. Yet Bhagavān made him feel as though he was still subject to material desires and thus could not see Him. This made Nārada more intensely absorb himself in meditation. Kṛṣṇa Himself revealed this principle to the gopīs:
“O My friends, [sometimes] I do not reciprocate the love of even those devotees who love Me. I behave in this way so that they can fully become absorbed in My thoughts just like a person who loses a treasure after finding it becomes engrossed in the thoughts of the wealth and knows nothing else.” (SB 10.32.20)
Bhagavān applied this principle to King Bharata. This is confirmed by the absorption of King Bharata in his next birth as a deer as well as in his third birth as Jaḍa Bharata.
(to be continued)
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