Begging Forgiveness

This entire section of Bhāgavatam (Canto 4, Chapters 1 through 7) is really about Vaiṣṇava-aparādhā / Sādhu-ninda / offenses to spiritualists. Here is the latest section, (4.6.1~8). I will offer some comments afterwards.

So all the gods, priests and guests were smashed and defeated, their limbs covered in wounds from the spears, tridents, blades, clubs, bats, and hammers of Rudra and his followers. Trembling in fear, they fled to Self-born Brahmā, paid their respects, and told him what had happened. But Flower-Born Brahmā already surmised everything they would tell him. This is why he – and Nārāyaṇa, soul of all – did not attend Dakṣa’s ceremony.

After hearing their tale, Great Brahmā replied, “You have destroyed yourselves and put your very lives in jeopardy by insulting a powerful being. You dishonored the Lord of Existence, Śiva, by excluding him from his portion of the ceremony’s opulence – yet you still hope to live and prosper?

“If he is angry, the worlds and their masters cannot exist. You have robbed him of his beloved wife, and pained his heart with foul insults, yet he is famous for being merciful towards those who fall at his feet. Your only hope is to seek his merciful forgiveness. So quickly apologize with complete and utter sincerity. Then you might also beg him to restore the lives that were lost at the ceremony.

“You have no recourse but to beg forgiveness. Any other course of action would be disastrous, for no one can even comprehend the extent of his self-generated power and might – not I, not Yajña, and not any of you who exist in bodies, be you gods, or be you sages.”

Then Unborn Brahmā left his seat, followed by the Ancestral Pitṛ and the Progenitors, to personally lead the fearful gods to Kailāsa, the greatest mountain and beloved home of the powerful Prabhu who is an enemy of cities.

Cause of Insult:

Dakṣa insulted Śiva because he was proud and paid more attention to other people’s flaws than his own. He exploited external social formalities as an excuse to express his foul consciousness.

Śiva’s behavior is irreproachable, but is on a deep, internal spiritual level. Externally he may seem shocking, rude, crude, etc (not combing his hair, not dressing properly (or at all), not bathing, etc). Similarly spiritualists may seem low-class to ordinary estimations – not being wealthy, not being concerned with cultural opulences, not observing formalities, etc. And those those without deep realization often use these apparent external flaws as excuses to justify their hatred of true spiritualists.

We should be wise and know that the only cause of hatred is ignorance, especially when hatred is directed towards sādhus.

Effect of Insult:

Even the gods were ruined by their offense to a sādhu. No one can survive.

Sādhu’s Limit of Tolerance:

A sādhu will tolerate insults to an extreme extent. Śiva never retaliated against Dakṣa & Bhṛgu’s insults. It was only when his beloved wife Satī was insulted to the extent of suicide that he would no longer remain patient and control his anger. Then he unleashed his fury and wrecked the offenders.

Even when the sādhu tolerates, the insulter is still doomed. Dakṣa was already doomed from chapter 1 of canto 4, the very beginning of the tale. It is actually fortuitous for us if the sādhu expresses some anger, so that we might have an opportunity to be woken up out of our self-absorbed grandeur in which every single thing we say or do is “flawless” and “bona-fide” and “correct” and “siddhāntic.”

Remedy for Insult:

The only recourse for offending a powerful spiritualist is to erase that offense, by behaving in such a way as to remove the displeasure and disturbance caused to the spiritualist. This is done primarily by apologizing.

Apologies are not automatic vindication tickets dispensed from a vending machine via electronic mail, please. Not that we submit some formality of apology and when the desired response isn’t forthcoming we use it as further cause to insult the spiritual person, please.

Brahmā stipulated that apologies must be pariśuddha-cetasācompletely pure and utterly sincere. Apologies must express an accurate understanding of the wrong one has done. If you step on my foot and then apologize for your odor, you haven’t really apologized for the thing that bothered me. I was not bothered by your odor, I was bothered by the pain you caused to my foot. The apology has to show that you really understand what you did wrong.

If you are apologizing to someone and they are not forgiving, the most likely problem is that your apology is not pariśuddha-cetasā, it is not clear and accurate and sincere. A clear, accurate, sincere apology will not fail to elicit forgiveness from a spiritualist.

Spiritualist’s Anger:

You should know that the anger of a spiritualist is not an error. You deserve it, and it is good for you. This was the first thing Brahmā told the devas in the section narrated above.

You should know that the spiritualist does not need to forgive you, you need to apologize correctly. You need to erase the displeasure you caused.

If you blame the spiritualist for getting offended, or for not forgiving your sloppy or perfunctory “apology” you are twice doomed, and it is surprising if you will even be allowed to keep your current physical body for very long.

Other options:

There is no other way to overcome an offense. Brahmā tells the devas that no one (and he really, really means no one, he even includes Yajña which means the incarnation of Viṣṇu who became the first Indra)… no one can overcome the power of the displeasure of an ātma-tantra – a self-realized spiritualist. Just as no blessing can compare to the pleasure and satisfaction of a spiritualist, no curse can compare to their displeasure and dissatisfaction.

We have to take this seriously.

How to Practice Rāgānugā-Sādhana

Śrīla Rūpa Goswāmī explains how to practice Rāgānugā-sādhana, in three verses of Bhakti-Rasāmṛta-Sindhu (1.2.294-296):

kṛṣṇaṁ smaran janaṁ cāsya preṣṭhaṁ nija-samihitam
tat-tat-kathā-rataś cāsau kuryād vāsaṁ vraje sadā

“Remember Krishna with his beloved devotee whose love for Krishna exemplifies your own aspirations. Dwell there in Vṛndāvana by always discussing them and their love.”

sevā sādhaka-rūpeṇa siddha-rūpeṇa cātra hi
tad-bhāva-līpsunā kāryā vraja-lokānusārataḥ

“Emulate the essence of the Vṛndāvana-bhāva you adore, by executing the practical forms of devotional service with relevance to their prefect forms.”

śravaṇot-kīrtanādīni vaidha-bhakty uditāni tu
yāny angāni ca tany atra vijñeyāni manīṣibhiḥ

“The wise know that the practices of Vaidhi-bhakti previously described, especially those beginning with hearing and chanting, are the practical forms of devotional service to be executed.”

Here are important points I would like to clarify.

From the first verse:

(1) We need a clear aspiration for a specific relationship with Krishna before we can begin.

(2) Three things should always be remembered: Krishna in the form that we adore, the devotee whose love exemplifies what we aspire for, and the intimate relationship between Krishna and that devotee.

(3)  Smarana (rememberence of these three) is the essence of Rāgānugā, but this smarana is based on kīrtana (kathā)

(4) By doing kīrtan of these three things we become absorbed in memory of them and thus live in Vṛndāvana. To physically live in Vṛndāvana is also very important (one of the five most powerful spiritual practices) but its not what Śrī Rūpa is talking about here. Rāgānugā can be practiced outside Vṛndāvana-Mathurā. Mahāprabhu, for example, practiced it in Jagannātha Puri.

From the second verse:

(1) The first verse was what Śrī Bhaktivinoda would probably identify as śravaṇa-daśa. This second verse is what he would probably call varaṇa-daśā.

(2) We should engage in devotional service (seva).

(3) The devotional service has two forms, a practical form (sādhaka-rūpeṇa) and a perfect form (siddha-rūpeṇa). We have to engage in service in both ways. Not just externally (sādhaka-rūpa), and also not just internally (siddha-rūpa). 

(4) We do this be correlating the external activity to a perfect activity performed by the Vrajabāsī whose relationship with Krishna exemplifies what we aspire for. (the whole second line explains this).

From the third verse:

(1) If we ask the second verse, “You said to do devotional service (seva)… what devotional service should we do?” The answer is the third verse: the practices defined when discussing vaidhi-sādhana are the devotional service the rāgānugā-sādhaka should engage in. Especially those that are based mostly on hearing and chanting.

(2) If we ask, “Then how is it different from vaidhi-sādhana, the answer is in the first and second verses.

— Vraja Kishor dās

Kicking the God’s Asses & Killing Animals in Sacrifices

Dakṣa’s Demise

Rudra came before Bhṛgu and declared, “While you poured oblations into the fire, people warned you to dedicate some portion to Śiva. You merely smiled at this advice, and proudly stroked your beard…” Then he grabbed hold of Bhṛgu’s beard and tore it off.

When Rudra came furiously before him, Bhaga fell to the ground in fear. “While Dakṣa ridiculed and cursed me,” Rudra shouted, “you encouraged him with your eyes…” He lifted Bhaga’s head and gouged out his eyes.

Then he announced to Puṣa. “Like Bhaga, you also encouraged my accursed curser. You smiled at him, so…” With that, Rudra knocked out all of Puṣa’s teeth, just as Balarāma did to the King of Kaliṅga.

Rudra’s fury then fell upon Dakṣa, who he forced to the ground and sat on his chest. Rudra sliced Dakṣa’s neck with a cold, bright blade, but Three-Eyed could not decapitate him. He tried many different blades, axes, arrows, and so on – but the Destroyer could not even scratch Dakṣa’s skin. Very perplexed, the Lord of Creatures thought about it carefully. When that lord saw the altar where Dakṣa had been sacrificing creatures, he dragged Dakṣa upon it and successfully tore his head from his body, turning the sacrificer into the sacrificed.

Seeing this, Rudra’s warlocks, ghouls, and monsters exclaimed, “Sādhu! Sādhu! You’ve done a great deed!” But Dakṣa’s followers protested, “This is horrible!”

Furious Rudra ceremoniously offered that head into the southern fire, which then erupted into an inferno consuming the entire sacrificial arena. He left the place in ashes, returning with his minions to the invisible, hidden realm.

Note: Dakṣa was so powerful from all the sacrifices he had performed, not even Rudra could destroy him. I am wondering why he was able to do so on the sacrificial altar, but was unable to do so elsewhere with any weapon. In this section of verses there is a lot of subtle play on the word Paśu (animal), this seems to be the key to understanding Dakṣa’s weakness, which Rudra exploited.

In Vedic culture there is a split of opinion over whether sacrifices should involve the slaughter of animals or not. The ritualistic Brāhmaṇas tend to support the opinion that animal slaughter should be included, and most of the gods support them. But the sādhus and sages tend to support the opinion that animal slaughter should not be included in a Vedic sacrifice.

Dakṣa was undefeatable due to the power gained from executing so many sacrifices, but his weakness was that he had killed many, many animals to gain this power. Rudra is addressed here as Paśupati (“protector of animals”), and by putting Dakṣa himself on the altar of sacrifice – transforming the sacrifier into the sacrificed – he exposed Dakṣa’s weakness (specifically, that he would have to suffer as a result of gaining power by harming other creatures), and utilized that weakness to tear Dakṣa’s head from his body.

— Bhāgavatam 4.5.19 ~ 26 [End]

Vraja Kishor dās

That’s no Dust-Storm… It’s Disaster!

Rudra hurled himself towards Dakṣa’s sacrifice in the vanguard of an army of monsters, roaring with horrible eagerness for destruction and wielding a spear forged of death’s death. Even the anklets on his feet roared!

At the sacrifice, night approached far too early. “What is this darkness?” everyone worried. They discovered that a dust storm was approaching quickly from the north. “What is raising all this dust?” The brāhmaṇa couples began asking one another. “There is no wind. It cannot be raiders, because Prācīna-barhiḥ is still the powerful king, enforcing law and order. There are no herds of cows… Is this dust a sign that destruction is upon us?”

Prasūti and her daughters – who were terribly aggrieved by the loss of Satī – spoke out, pointing at their husband and father, Dakṣa, “This man’s wickedness is certainly the cause of the disaster that approaches! This so-called ‘forefather’ completely dishonored his own faultless child, Satī, while all his daughters bore witness!

“When the end comes,” Prasūti declared, “Śiva’s matted hair scatters, as the points of his spear pierce and scatter the protectors of the dimensions. He dances with weapons aloft in his hands, waving like flags, and his loud, mad laughter is thunder that cracks the dimensions. His anger is unbearable, impossible to even look at! The frowning of his eyebrows and bearing of his fangs destroys the sun, moon, planets and stars. How could anyone, even the Creator himself, expect any good fortune after angering him?

Everyone expressed agreement with Prasūti and her daughters, with eyes full of fear. Dakṣa himself, though very powerful, became afraid as thousands of terrible monsters approached from all sides, on the ground and from the sky. Rudra’s hosts fell upon the huge arena of sacrifice, with reddish scales and jaws of yellow fangs, like legendary crocodiles. Brandishing many cruel weapons they quickly surrounded everyone and destroyed the arena. They tore down the beams of the sacrificial hall, destroyed the women’s quarters, the guest’s quarters, the fire’s quarters, and the kitchen. They tore down the sacred boundary, shattered the offering pots, and extinguished the fires by pissing on the altars. They arrested the sages and threatened to turn their wives into widows.

The gods tried to flee, but were quickly arrested. Rudra’s Maṇimān arrested Bhṛgu, while Caṇḍeśa and Nandīśvara arrested Pūṣā and Bhaga.

They made all these gods and guests watch as they rounded up the priests and gleefully stoned them while they tried to flee, in vain.

— Śrī Bhāgavatam 4.5.6 ~ 18

Vraja Kishor dās

Shiva’s Fury Erupts

Nārada rushed to inform Śiva of Dakṣa’s contemptuous behavior, “Your wife has been destroyed, and the army of your associates has been scattered by Ṛbhus that sprang from the sacrificial fire.”

Hearing this made Śiva’s rage erupt beyond all limits. He furiously clenched his lips between his teeth and his matted hair began became blazed like lightning and flame. Howling Rudra suddenly stood up, ripped out a clump of that hair, and laughed with dreadful bass as he threw it to the ground.

When it hit the ground it became a powerful person, whose body rose up and seemed to touch the stars. The black creature had three eyes, each blazing like a sun. Its hair was raging flame, and it wore necklaces of skulls. It had horrific fangs and a thousand arms holding myriads of raised weapons.

Clasping its hands, it asked the Powerful Lord of Monsters, “What am I supposed to do?”

Śiva declared, “You are Rudra, my expansion! You will lead all my warriors to destroy Dakṣa, and his sacrifice!”

Receiving this order from the enraged personification of anger, the huge creature respectfully circumambulated that great god of gods, knowing that he possessed unsurpassable dexterity and power, and was strong enough to destroy any opponent.

— Bhāgavata 4.5.1 ~ 5

Vraja Kishor dās

“Vedic” Marriage

Not to kill a significant portion of my astrological work, but to tell the truth: In everything I’ve read so far in Bhāgavatam (Cantos one through three) there was never once any mention of anyone consulting astrology to determine relationship compatibility, nor is there exact support for the idea that the parents select the marriage partner. The way it is told in Bhāgavatam it usually works that a woman selects a man who has similar interests, talents, focus, and character – and who is also naturally appealing to her. Then she presents the idea to her parents. I have only read one instance of the father disagreeing, and that was Dakṣa disagreeing with Satī, and as a result Brahmā had to order Dakṣa to allow the marriage to Shiva.

After the parents and daughter agree on the suitability of a man, the parents go to the man (often with the daughter directly involved) and make a proposal of marriage. If the man agrees, immediately or after some time, arrangements are set in stone, and things proceed.

Often the woman searches for some time. For example Devahūti was asking people about eligible men, she reviewed their suggestions without finding anyone compatible, until she asked Nārada for suggestions, and Nārada suggested Kardama.

So, I find no support for the idea that marriage should be based on (a) astrological calculations, or (b) arranged independently by parents. The Bhāgavatam portays a very rational, natural system.

Sati’s Suicide

She who annihilates her enemies then wrapped herself in a yellowish-saffron cloth, sanctified herself with water, and sat silently on the ground in the northern quarter of Dakṣa’s sacrifice. Closing her eyes, she set her sight completely on the paths of yoga: After establishing firm sitting posture, she equalized her inhalations and exhalations to concentrate her energy in her navel chakra. Then that faultless woman used the serpentine energy to gradually and carefully raise her energy upward into her heart, and into her throat. Finally, she fixed it firmly between her eyebrows.

He body was beloved to Śiva, everyone’s guru and the beloved of great saints, and had always sat on his lap – but out of disgust with her father, Dakṣa, she wanted to abandon it. So she impelled the friction of her airs to ignite a fire within her body. Thinking of the intoxicating sweetness of her husband’s lotus-like feet, all her anxiety and troubles disappeared. Then, in a lightning flash, the fire born from her meditation blazed forth.

Seeing this, the earth and sky roared with shock, “Oh no! Oh no!”

The people at the sacrifice pointed in disgust at Dakṣa and cried, “Alas! Satī, the beloved goddess of the supreme god, has ended her life because of the anger he provoked! Aho, what a heartless person he is! He is supposed to be Prajāpati, the father of all animate and inanimate life-forms, but what kind of father is he? Even an ordinary father cares for his own daughter, but this wretch could not show an ounce of concern for his glorious daughter Satī, the most respectful and respectable person! He claims to be a philosophical brāhmaṇa but he is obviously just a cruel and hardhearted man! Because of his disgusting hatred of Śiva, the Supreme Person, he did nothing to dissuade his own daughter as she prepared to commit suicide! The whole world will know him as the most worthless, infamous man!”

As soon as Śiva’s followers had seen Satī suddenly and miraculously cast off her life, they rushed forwards with raised their weapons to kill Dakṣa. Powerful Bhṛgu saw them surging forward and quickly poured oil into the southern sacrificial fire while incanting mantras from Yujur Veda which destroy anyone who tries to destroy a sacrifice. “Oṁ! Ahapataṁ rakṣa!” With this, thousands of powerful divinities arose from the fire: the Ṛbhu, who possess the indefatigable vigor of Soma as a result their self-disciplines. Shining with magical power, and wielding blazing weapons, they attacked Śiva’s hidden, invisible fiends and sent them in all directions.

Bhāgavatam 4.4.24 ~ end.

Vraja Kishor dās