In the first canto of Srimad Bhagavatam, we find the scene after the battle of Kurukshetra, after the Pandavas were victorious – Yudhishtir Maharaj was coroneted as king and everything seems very peaceful. And then Queen Kunti is offering her prayers because Krishna is about to leave, and she is praying to let these calamities happen again and again.
When we read these stories we should read or hear not only with our ears and our minds attention, but with our hearts also. – Radhanath Swami
Radhanath Swami narrates the situations Kunti Maharani had to go through and her prayers to Lord Krishna
Sometimes we think we are in difficult situations but really what were Kunti’s calamities that she was talking about? We just heard how her own relatives, her own nephews were trying to kill her children, trying to literally burn them to death in the house of Lack. She was with them at the time, but somehow or other Vidura helped them and they escaped. Vidura was her brother-in-law in that sense.
Then we find that they were exiled, and she saw Draupadi being insulted. During the battlefield of Kurukshetra, her eldest son Karna, who she loved as much as her other children, she saw her eldest son and Arjuna, her another son, were worst enemies and who wanted to destroy each other, and then she saw one of her children kill her other child – Arjuna killed Karna. Now those who view over mothers what kind of distress would that have in your heart?
Abhimanyu was her grandchild and she saw him slaughtered by unfair means, and she witnessed the pain of Subhadra and Arjuna, the mother and father. She saw five of her other grandchildren, a child from each of her sons to Draupadi, they were slaughtered while they were sleeping by Ashvathama; killed! I am a Swami, I don’t know so much about direct experience of these things, but I see grandparents usually love children as much or more than the parents themselves. She saw her son die at the hands of another son. She saw six of her grandchildren die in a most ennoble way, not chivalrously. These are serious calamities!
They were not just things that happened to her, they were things that she was seeing happen to those who she loved most, and yet she is praying to Krishna, “Let those calamities happen again and again because in these situations, I remember you, I have nowhere else to turn except you, I have no other shelter. And by remembering you, I see you, and by seeing you I don’t have to experience birth or death anymore. So the calamities of the death of loved ones, the calamities of being cheated, the calamities of physical pains watching her five children and their wife living in the exile of the forest and being hunted.
And it was very difficult! If she could’ve been there with them, it would’ve been much easier, but she wasn’t allowed to go with them. She was at Vidura’s house in Hastinapur and she would just have to hear about these things. And she would hear the nasty terrible rumors being spread around Hastinapur by Duryodhana about her own children. This is the exalted status of Kunti. Now if she was just some sort of hard-hearted, detached, yogini, it wouldn’t have been the same type of prayer; but devotees have soft hearts. She was a mother, she was a grandmother, and she was a wife and husband died. Practically everything possible we could think that could happen to a person, happened to her and it’s not that she didn’t suffer.
But, in that suffering she was experiencing the eternal joy of remembering Krishna and the more desperate the suffering, the more desperately she took shelter of Krishna. That’s the meaning of this prayer. Srila Prabhupada said, “Whether we pray for calamities or not they will come. We really don’t have to pray like Kunti for calamities, it’s gonna come anyway. Everyone is going to die anyway. The setbacks of this world, the reversals, the unfairness of envious people, it is always going to come upon us.” The real prayer is, “Under all circumstances to always remember you, O Krishna.”
And her own daughter-in-law Draupadi. What is the most famous inspiring story of Draupadi? How many times do we hear in lectures about how happy she was when she got to marry Arjuna? or how happy she was when Bhīma would prepare nice feasts for her? Now, when she was being stripped naked by Dusshasena and there was no one who was protecting her, she felt utterly betrayed by everyone she trusted in this world, and in that state she understood only Krishna is my real friend who can save me. She helplessly lifted her arms and cried out “Hey Krishna! Hey Govinda!” In the intensity of her surrender saranagati, Krishna appeared before her. That is the glory of her life that this incident inspires people five millenniums later more than any other. Queen Kunti was watching all these things happening. His Holiness Niranjan Maharaj was speaking about the daydreams and the night dreams.
Radhanath Swami explains how a devotee understands and helps others to wake up from material dream
Srila Prabhupada would write to us, all of his devotees, and he would say, “I hope this meets with good health.” So what is this health? Of course spiritual health. But he was also talking about emotional health and physical health too. If it’s all a dream who cares? If the body is just a dream and the miseries were going through are just a dream then who cares. Why we try to liberate people? Because whatever suffering you are going through is just a dream anyway. The soul is eternal. The soul is full of bliss.
A devotee, although he understands and she understands the nature of these good dreams and bad dreams, day dreams and night dreams, still it is the atma that devotee identifies with, and the devotee feels compassion. – Radhanath Swami
What does Prabhupada mean when he says “para dukha dukhi?” The devotee suffers when he sees other suffering and he is happy when he sees others happy. If all suffering is just a dream, why should we suffer when? We see somebody suffering a dream because it is the eternal soul, that part of Krishna that is loved so much by Krishna. If Krishna loves us, therefore devotee loves us. Identifying with this dream is what causes suffering, and devotees feel suffering when they see others suffer. But there is a difference because one ordinary materially oriented person suffers to see another suffer as he just tries to make a makeshift change the dream from suffering dream to more a happy dream, that’s all a material person can do. But, a devotee wants to wake, wake us up.
In Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was really suffering and he was speaking to Haridas Thakur. He said, “My heart is feeling such pain to see all the people sufferings in this world in forgetfulness of Krishna.”
Then Haridas Thakur said, “But you came here to wake them up from the dream of the suffering, from the bad and good sufferings. Because you have come to this world and you have personally chanted the Holy names.”
jīv jāgo, jīv jāgo, gauracānda bole
kota nidrā jāo māyā-piśācīra kole
The day dream is because we are sleeping in the lap of maya, of illusion. And yes, we feel for people who are dreaming in this way, good dream, bad dream. It is all bad because it is all distracting us from our true natural, wakeful state.
jivere swarup haya krsnera nitya das
We are all eternal servants of Krishna and love for Krishna is our true nature. But to actually understand this, mahajano yena gatah sa panthah, we must follow in the footsteps of great souls. And the great souls come to this world and pass through situations that are very similar to us, but they show us how to deal with them and that is Kunti! She didn’t select the sufferings. She didn’t place an order on the Internet, “Let my five grandchildren die and let Abhimanyu die and let my eldest son be killed by my younger son.” These were things that she was trying to avoid like anything because she is a mother and a grandmother. Whatever could pain her heart the most, it all happened. But she never felt, ‘Krishna why?’ She understood that Krishna is my only shelter and she understood that by taking shelter of Krishna, Krishna would give his highest mercy to all of her loved ones and to everyone.
Radhanath Swami elaborates on how Krishna cares for his devotees
Now, in today’s verse, which is from the 10th Canto, Kunti is in a very different situation because in the First Canto we read that the war is over, all the problems had already happened. Now Yudhishtir Maharaj is king and she is offering her prayers to Krishna. “This is the most difficult moment of my life now because you are leaving us. When the calamities were here, you were always together; you were always with us. But now that everything is all right, I may forget you,” that was her prayer. But in today’s verses, it is right in the middle of everything. While she is speaking to Krishna, Duryodhana is in the palace, Karna is in the palace, Shakuni, Dusshasena, and they were all there. What’s gonna happen next? They just tried to murder and burn alive the Pandavas, the Pandavas were hiding and coming back, and she knows the envy and the hatred of her nephews is worse than ever. Kunti, in her gracious divine motherly nature has simply given her heart to Krishna. His Holiness Niranjan Swami Maharaj has so eloquently told how Krishna gave his heart to Ambrisha Maharaj. So when Durvasa muni is saying to Lord Vishnu, “Please have a heart, protect me, I’m taking shelter of you.” So beautifully he explained, “I don’t have my heart, Ambrisha has my heart. You have to go to him.”
That is actually that principle of how devotee gives his or her full heart to Krishna, and Krishna reciprocates by giving his full heart to his devotee; that is the ultimate combination of all the knowledge of all the scriptures. That is truly the essence. – Radhanath Swami
Whatever rules, whatever regulations, whatever philosophical explanations may be there, this pastime of the Lord being subordinate to the devotee’s love, and the devotee being subordinate to Lord’s love, is the essence of all truths. That is what Srila Prabhupada came to give us. Who are we to understand the essence of all truths, but if we have a simple heart, with faith to receive it, and as Maharaj said, “If we actually take great happiness in hearing about the great devotees of the Lord, what is their love for the Lord and what is the Lord’s love for the devotees, just by developing that taste to appreciate another Vaishnava’s love, that opens the doors to our hearts to receive that love ourself.” It’s most important.
Duryodhana was living with the Pandavas. They loved Krishna, but he didn’t appreciate their love. He was envious of the blessings they were receiving. Srila Prabhupada explains that if we are just not envious, if we just have a simple heart, then we can appreciate the devotion of others, and then appreciate the blessings that Krishna is giving others, and appreciate how Krishna is conquered by the love of a devotee, and a devotee is conquered by the love of Krishna, and that mainly comes through hearing. Then we become qualified also.
Queen Kunti’s prayer –
vipadah santu tah sasvat
tatra tatra jagad-guro
“Let calamities come again and again so that I can remember you.” You will never be able to understand that prayer just to philosophy; it’s too much beyond philosophy.
We can understand that prayer when we see receive Krishna’s grace, and Krishna will give us that grace when we learn to love and appreciate those who he has given his heart to. This is really what it means to be the servant of the servant. – Radhanath Swami