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The Greatness of the Vaisnava

by Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja

Every part of a pure Vaisnava- his wrath, his abusing, everything in him- is pure, is good. It cannot but be. Whether his blessing or his curse, through him Krsna is giving something. Nalakuvera and Manigriva were cursed by Rsi Narada to become trees; but that misfortune was managed in such a way that they came to have their birth in Vrindavan, so that when their tree-form would be broken, uprooted by Krsna, they would get the chance to go to Goloka, for their eternal service.

So any connection with a Vaisnava is able to give such an ultimately beneficial result. But that does not mean that we shall deliberately go to offend him! It is not meant like that and we should not take it in that way. To do so will be inconsistent with the meaning; it will be suicidal.

The Lord Himself says, aham bhakta-parardhino asvatantra iva dvija, “I am dependent on My devotees.” This was told by Lord Narayana to Durvasa Muni, in the case of Ambarisa Maharaj. Through affection, the infinitesimal jiva-soul, though by constitution the Lord’s potency, and fully dependent on Him, can conquer or control his Possessor, his Lord.

We find that the law of affection is such. In India, in the family, the mother formally has nothing, she has no property, no right; but she commands reverence and respect, a high respect, and through this, she holds a superior position even to that of the father. The father holds the property; the mother holds no such property, no such right, formal right, but she has ‘social right’,and through it she holds the greatest respect of the children. There is a popular sloka which says that the father is considered ‘higher than the heaven’, and the mother, ‘higher than the land where we stand.’ And it is also said, and we see, that both the mother and the father help to raise the children, but in that the mother’s quota is far greater than that of the father, so her dignity, her superiority, is much greater than his. This is the custom in varnasrama-dharma: the mother has no legal possession, but she has social or moral possession.

When Durvasa Muni ran to Lord Narayana for His shelter, being chased by Sudarsana Cakra due to his offense against Ambarisa Maharaj, Lord Narayana told him,

aham bhakta-parardhino, hy asvatantra iva dvija
sadhubhir grasta-hrdayo, bhaktir bhakta-jana-priyah

(S.Bhag 9:4:63)

“I am dependent on My devotees. O you brahmin, I am not at all independent of them- I am dependent on them, as if I have no freedom of My own. Yes, freedom I have got; but through My devotees’ affection, I am reduced to such a position that it is as if I have none. In the case of My devotees I cannot but be partial; My independent thinking has no place there, so much indebted I think I am to them. Sadhubhir grasta-hrdayo: My whole heart has been ‘swallowed’ by them, those saints, devotees. They have swallowed Me, and I may not have any independent thinking, but only their interest, at heart. By their service, by their serving tendency, they have acquired such a position with Me.”

Such an admission, a wonderful thing! Durvasa Muni wanted impartial judgement from the Lord: “I am a brahmana, Ambarisa is a ksatriya; I am a sannyasi, he is a grhasta, in household life. So my prestige is above him. And You are ‘brahmanya-deva’, You are supposed to be the supporter of the brahmanas. So I have a claim to You, that You must make a fair judgement in this case.” Lord Brahma, and Mahadeva Siva, they had both frustrated Durvasa: “Go to Narayana, we can’t do anything in this matter, we can’t interfere.” Then Durvasa had to approach Narayana for shelter. And Narayana replied: aham bhakta parardhino, “I am helpless; I am dependent on My devotees!”

But Narayana also made a good argument to Durvasa: “Yes, you are a brahmana; but Ambarisa was also observing the Ekadasi-vrata, which is connected with Me. You observed that same vow, it is true, and you also knew, like him, that the parana, the time for breaking the fast, is a part of that vow. Then what wrong did Ambarisa do? What was his fault? Only in order to observe, to give respect to the vow, he did parana, in your absence. And you also did parana, on time; but, you are his guest, so he only took a drop of water to observe the indispensable part of the vow. He only took a drop of water, he did not feed himself without feeding you- and you were enraged with him? What he did, in his observance of the vow, he only did it for Me. And that disturbed you. And you say that you are more akin to Me than Ambarisa? The difference between you two arose where? In observance of My vow you both acted- and he was at fault? What reason is there? Who is nearer to Me, you or he?

You say that you are a brahmana, a sannyasi, that you are all these great things, and that you have the higher position. But when you went to burn him with that jatam, that fire-demon created from the hair you plucked from your head, Ambarisa did not step back, he did not run to save his life. But you- brahmana, sannyasi- when Sudarsana came to attack you, you were running through the whole universe to save your life. Then, who is sannyasi, you or he? When faced with the fire, he did not budge an inch to save his life. He stood, with the attitude: “If I have done anything wrong, let my life be finished.” But you ran everywhere- to Brahma, to Siva, finally you came here, in fear for your life. Then whose renunciation is superior, is better?” In this way Durvasa was given stricture; he was rebuked, chastised, by Lord Narayana.

Then Lord Narayana told Durvasa, “You will have to go back to Ambarisa. I cannot give any judgement against My devotee. He will give judgement in this case. Go to him, and see how generous he is.” What was Durvasa to do? He had to come before his opponent, for his judgement of the case. Arriving at the place of Ambarisa, he found him still standing in the same spot, mortified: “The brahmana is troubled on my account, and he is my guest. Some accident happened in such a way that Sudarsana chased him, and he is running all around, in every direction. But, he is my guest; without feeding him, how can I take food?” In this way Ambarisa was standing there in a mournful condition: “It is a bad luck for me, that when my guest is waiting I could not feed him, as is proper. How can I take food when my honoured guest is disturbed, and running this way and that? How can I?”

Just as he was thinking this, Durvasa appeared, chased by Sudarsana: “Maharaj, save me! There is no other saviour in this world for me, except you. I have come to you. Please, save me!”

Then Ambarisa began to pacify Sudarsana. He prayed: “If for a single day I have done any devoted activity for Narayana, O Sudarsana, you please pacify yourself. Be pacified. This brahmana is my honourable guest, and that you will disturb him in my presence- I cannot tolerate it. Please, stop.” So Sudarsana had to withdraw, and Durvasa was saved. And then Durvasa was fed, as the guest of Ambarisa. And, astonished by the magnanimity of Ambarisa, Durvasa announced:

aho ananta-dasanam, mahattvam drstam adya me
krtagaso ‘pi yad rajan, mangalani samihase

(S.Bhag. 9:5:14)

“O King, today I have experienced the greatness of the devotees of God, of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, because in spite of my offense against you, you have prayed for my protection.”

Durvasa was astounded to find the depth of generosity in the servitors of Ananta, Narayana. That great rsi began to speak aloud, to announce on all sides the magnanimity, the nobility of the servitors of Narayana: “How great they are! I did so much wrong towards him, and he saved my life from the reaction, the danger that came as reaction! I insulted him, and he is honouring me so much.”

So for one who has got nothing, who thinks that he is not an independent entity but that he is a slave, fully dependent on the Absolute, for him the Absolute has got, correspondingly, the proper recognition. Lord Narayana Himself sent Durvasa to Ambarisa, His devotee, to be judged. Brahma failed, Mahadeva failed, and Narayana Himself admitted: “I also failed; I could not do anything independent of you, My devotee. You are the judge.” The Lord makes the highest judge His devotee, His servant. We find it is like this.


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