Bhagavān, Grace and Material Suffering – Part 5

Continuation from Paramātmā  Sandarbha, Commentary on Anuccheda 93.5

by Satyanarayana Dasa

Another example of bhakti impelling a bhakta to act in an apparently mundane way is found in the Tenth Canto in the story of the twin Arjuna trees. In that narration, the sage Nārada curses the sons of Kubera who were enjoying water sports with young damsels while completely intoxicated and naked. Nārada cursed them to become trees. But it was a blessing in disguise, as he himself said:

Attaining the proximity of Kṛṣṇa after one hundred celestial years, you will return to your own heavenly abode and will have acquired devotion. (SB 10.10.22)

The two brothers’ attainment of devotion is clear from the prayers they recited to Kṛṣṇa after He uprooted their tree bodies, allowing them to regain their original forms as the sons of Kubera. So Nārada’s curse was, in fact, a blessing: “To bless them both Śrī Nārada pronounced a curse upon them, saying…” (tayor anugrahārthāya śāpaṁ dāsyann idaṁ jagau, SB 10.10.7).

Thus, the conclusion is that the compassion of Bhagavān or His devotee manifests as a result of their bhakti and not because of the material suffering of the person so blessed. If their compassion were to manifest at the mere sight of the material suffering of all the conditioned souls, then everybody would have been blessed by Bhagavān and no one would remain suffering in the universe.

It is possible that Bhagavān can know about the pain of a person indirectly through His devotee. A devotee in this world has had experience of material misery, and thus it is possible for him to empathize with a suffering person. If he then desires to bless such a person and prays to Bhagavān to be compassionate on him, then Bhagavān may bestow His blessings on that person. Thus, Śrī Jīva concludes that Bhagavān acts either to please His devotee or directly in response to bhakti, and not in relation to the work of creating, sustaining or destroying the universe.

Bhagavān is free from the defect of partiality because He is immune to material pleasure and pain. In spite of this, however, He holds His devotees as especially dear, and He loves and serves them exactly as they love and serve Him. In this respect His nature is said to be exactly like that of a wish-fulling tree (kalpa-taru svabhāva), or in other words, a tree from the heavenly realm (sura-druma) [see verses SB 8.23.8, and 10.38.22 respectively]. It is the nature of a wish-fulfilling tree to respond in perfect uniformity with the aspiration of the supplicant. It responds differently not out of bias but only because the requests of the aspirants are different. That is its impartiality. To impose the same reward on everyone irrespective of their desire would be biased.

So, that Bhagavān loves and serves His devotees specifically is only because they are the only one’s interested in such a relation with Him. For Bhagavān, not to respond in this manner to His devotees would violate the unbiased nature of a wish-fulfilling tree. Furthermore, to remain neutral in regard to all others is simply the appropriate response to their own neutrality in regard to Him. It is what they choose, and so He graciously responds accordingly. From this perspective too Bhagavān is to be understood as unbiased. Alternatively, Jīva Gosvāmī argues, even if we inevitably admit that Bhagavān is partial, because it is the nature of everyone without exception, it should not be considered a contradiction in Him because of His trans-rational opulence. His trans-rational power can accomplish acts that defy reason, and thus He remains free of any blemish, which in this case is simply our inability to comprehend His actions.

Before Kṛṣṇa appeared on earth, He ordered the devas to appear in the Yadu dynasty (SB 10.1.22). Later on, when He took birth, they assisted Him in His pastimes. If He requires the help of the devas who are material beings, then it may seem like a lack of independence or self-sufficiency on His part. In Kṛṣṇa Sandarbha (Anuccheda 43) it will be explained that these devas were partially empowered by the Lord’s potency, and thus He was never, in fact, dependent upon them.

Thus, the conclusion is that Bhagavān is complete in Himself. He acts only for the delight of His devotees, and the maintenance of the universe is but a concomitant effect of those pastimes with His devotees.