In the previous article, we read about the dealings between Citraketu and Lord Śiva. Having been was cursed by Goddess Pārvatī, Citraketu becameVṛtrāsura, manifesting from the yajña performed by sage Tvaṣṭā. Tvaṣṭā had a son named Viśvarūpa who was killed by Indra
By Satyanaryana Dasa
In the previous article, we read about the dealings between Citraketu and Lord Śiva. Having been cursed by Goddess Pārvatī, Citraketu became Vṛtrāsura, manifesting from the yajña performed by sage Tvaṣṭā. Tvaṣṭā had a son named Viśvarūpa who was killed by Indra while he was functioning as Indra’s priest. To take revenge, Tvastha performed a yajña to create a being who would kill Indra. Vṛtrāsura was born from the sacrificial fire, as a result. However, the priests made a mistake in chanting the mantra, and thus Vṛtrāsura was to be killed by Indra.
Vṛtrāsura was ordered to go and kill Indra. He went with a host, and there was fierce battle between the asuras, headed by Vṛtrāsura and the devas, headed by Indra. Vṛtrāsura fought so hard that Indra’s life was in danger. Śrī Viṣṇu advised him to make a thunderbolt from the bones of sage Dadhīci.
Indra begged Dadhīci to give up his life to save his own life, and Dadhīci happily left his body by sitting in samādhi. Indra used his bones to fashion a thunderbolt, which he used to cut off both of Vṛtrāsura’s arms. Although he was on the battlefield facing his enemy, Vṛtrāsura turned inwards and prayed to Bhagavān. In fact, he was eager to die, for then he would attain the feet of Bhagavān. Just before dying, he recited beautiful prayers to Śrī Saṅkarṣaṇa which reveal his pure heart and describe pure devotion.
ahaṁ hare tavapādaika-mūla-
gṛṇītavāk karma karotukāyaḥ
“O Śrī Hari, please be gracious on me so that in my next life again, I get the opportunity to serve the servants who take exclusive shelter of your lotus feet. O Master of my life, may my mind always remember Your auspicious qualities, my words always recite them and my body always engage in your service.” (SB 6.11.24)
nanāka-pṛṣṭhaṁna ca pārameṣṭhyaṁ
“O Ocean of all good fortune, without Your service I do not desire residence in heaven or in Satyaloka, nor the kingdom of the whole earth, sovereignty over the lower planets, or the various yogic perfections. I do not want even liberation.” (SB 6.11.25)
“Just as baby birds who cannot yet fly eagerly wait for their mother to bring them food, as hungry calves anxiously hanker for the milk from the udder of their mother, and as a beloved wife earnestly waits for the return of her husband who has gone to a foreign land, O lotus-eyed Bhagavān, my mind intensely desires to see You.” (SB 6.11.26)
“O Bhagavān, I do not desire liberation and I do not mind if I have to take many births as an outcome of my karma, but I pray that in whichever species of life I am born, may I have friendship with Your devotees. O Master, let me not have any relation with people under the influence of Your māyā who are attached to their bodies, children, spouses and homes.” (SB 6.11.27)
Before reciting these prayers, Vṛtrāsura had asked Indra to kill him with his thunderbolt. He had also told Indra that Bhagavān gives opulence to those whom he does not want to truly bless. Since Viṣṇu had guided Indra to preserve his opulence by making a thunderbolt weapon, Vṛtrāsura indirectly indicated that Indra does not have the true blessings of Bhagavān Viṣṇu.
Unconcerned with death, ignoring Indra’s thunderbolt, Vṛtrāsura began praying to Bhagavān to give him association of His devotees – a benediction he considered to be the Bhagavān’s true grace. He did not desire anything material, not even Lord Brahmā’s supreme post, indeed not even freedom from the cycle of birth and death if that would not give him the opportunity to Bhagavān and His devotees. Feeling intense separation from Bhagavān, nothing else but service to Him could satisfy his heart.
Three Metaphors for the Mood of Devotion
In the third verse, Vṛtrāsura expresses these feelings of separation, using three metaphors. The first is that of newborn baby birds who are not yet able to fly and are completely dependent on their mother for protection and food. When the mother bird goes away in search of food, they sit in the nest eagerly awaiting her return. If even the leaves of their tree rustle in the breeze, they think their mother has returned and start chirping and open their little beaks. However, Vṛtrāsura was not happy with this example, because the baby birds really only wait for the food and not for their mother. Once the mother gives them food, they sit quietly and don’t care much about their mother anymore.
He therefore uses a second metaphor that describes a calf tied by a rope while his mother has gone out to the field for grazing. The calf very anxiously waits for the mother’s arrival. When the mother cows return from pasture, the calf is untied and immediately runs to his mother with raised tail. But again, the calf’s hankering is not exactly for his mother, it is mainly for her udder. Once it has drunk the milk, the calf’s eager longing for his mother disappears.
In his third metaphor, he describes a beloved wife burning in the heat of separation from her husband. She hankers to see her husband and make every effort to please him. This metaphor satisfied Vṛtrāsura and accurately expressed his mood of devotion in which he prayed to Bhagavān.
The Humility of a Vaiṣṇava
Devotion naturally manifests humility. Thus, Vṛtrāsura considers himself utterly unqualified to have the direct association of Bhagavān. Therefore in the last verse, he prays only for the association Bhagavān’s devotees in every birth. In humility, he accepts the view that he may not even be qualified to be born as a human being! As Vṛtrāsura, he has experienced the pain of associating with non-devotees, so he concludes by begging that even if he is not blessed with the association of devotees, he may be spared the company of materialistic people.
These prayers are a very important part of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam because they depict the mind of a pure devotee. They have been put in the center of Bhāgavatam, the Sixth Canto. Their importance is understood from the fact that the killing of Vṛtrāsura has been mentioned in other Puranas as one of the distinct features identifying Srimad Bhagavatam: “The Bhagavatam is known as the book that contains 18.000 verses divided into twelve Cantos, contains the instructions of brahma-vidyā taught by sage Dadhīci, describes the killing of Vṛtrāsura, and begins with Gayatri-mantra.” (Bhāvārtha-dīpikā 1.1.1)
It is very easy to give up things. What is difficult is to give up attachment to things. Attachment is in your head. Who is going to see that? Even you may not see your own attachments. People give up things. But they still remain attached to them, and they don’t even realize it.
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