Can Kṛṣṇa Be Attained Through Enmity? (Part 2)

Two Types of Criticism

Sisupala beheaded
Sisupala beheaded

After explaining the nature of Kṛṣṇa, who is equal in honor and dishonor, Śrī Nārada explained that Śrī Kṛṣṇa does not see a difference between people who approach Him out of enmity, or without enmity, with fear, affection, or desire to enjoy Him (kāma):

tasmād vairānubandhena
nirvaireṇa bhayena vā
snehāt kāmena vā yuñjyāt
kathañcin nekṣate pṛthak

“Therefore, one should develop some type of relationship with Kṛṣṇa, be it out of enmity, fear, devotion, familial relation, or romantic affections. One should be so powerfully bound to Kṛṣṇa that he sees no difference between Kṛṣṇa and himself.” (SB 7.1.25)

While commenting on this verse, Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartī raises an objection: We can accept that the Lord is not troubled by dishonor or criticism, but what about the criticizer? Wouldn’t that person be implicated in bad karma by such blasphemy? In response, he explains that criticism is of two types – one that is favorable or pleasing and the other that is unfavorable. The first one arises out of intense love and it is not meant to harm or disturb the person. As an expression of such intense love, it may be uttered out of frustration in separation or some other seemingly undesirable act of one’s beloved. An example of this is the following verse from Bhrahmara Gītā (The Song of the Bee), said to be spoken by Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī Herself (SB 10.47.17):

“Although it is difficult even to give up talking about Kṛṣṇa, let’s try to give up our relationship with Him! Not only with Him but with any and all dark-complexioned people like him! They are probably as unrighteous as he is. As Lord Rama He killed the monkey king like a stealthy hunter killing an innocent dear. He accepted the gifts of Bali Mahārāja and then bound him up with ropes as if he were a crow. As Lakṣmaṇa he disfigured Surparnaka.”

Such criticism out of love can be made only by Śrīmatī Rādhā. This verse was spoken when Kṛṣṇa left Vṛndāvana for Mathurā and sent Uddhava back as a messenger. Seeing Uddhava, the gopīs remembered their pastimes with Kṛṣṇa. At that time, a bumble bee was flying around the feet of Śrīmatī Rādhā. In the madness of love, out of intense separation from Kṛṣṇa, Śrīmatī Rādhā spoke this verse. Such criticism obviously will not create any bad karma.

The second type of criticism, which is not an outcome of devotion, has further two divisions: One is the result of absorption in Bhagavān and the other is without absorption. Śiśupāla is an example of the first one. Although Śiśupāla’s criticism did create bad karma, the very cause of this criticism, i.e., absorption in Kṛṣṇa, immediately destroyed this bad karma and elevated Śiśupāla to the platform of devotion. It is with this intention that enmity has been prescribed in verse 7.1.25 mentioned above.

Although such absorption is beyond any prescription, it has been included as part of a prescription only because it gives the result similar to regulated devotion (vaidhī bhakti). Since such criticism does not bring any disturbance to Bhagavān, it possible that the bad karma of the critique gets nullified. The import of the verse is that, therefore, the mind of a person who has enmity toward the Lord in absorption is fixed on Him.

Relation with Kṛṣṇa in Love

The term nirvaireṇa (without enmity) denotes the process which is devoid of any enmity, in other words, bhakti-yoga. Alternatively, vaira means opponent and nirvairaṁ is the opposite of that, namely an ally. This means one who considers Kṛṣṇa as His or Her son. In verse 7.1.30 this is described by the word sambandha or relation. Thus, nirvaira means a devotee who has a specific relation with Kṛṣṇa.

For this reason, the word snehāt (from affection) should be taken as an adjective of kāma and not as a separate category. Thus, snehāt kāmena means kāma born out of love. If snehāt is taken as a separate category, it breaks the order of other words, which are in the third case, while snehāt is in the fifth.

It is understood that in verse 7.1.25 five types of people are mentioned: an enemy (vaira), a devotee without any specific relation (nirvaira), a devotee with a specific relation (bandha), one who has fear (bhaya), and one who has pure love (snehāt kāma).

All of these people do not see Bhagavān as separate (pṛtak) from themselves. They see Him according to their mood or relation. Just as in love one feels unity, there is also a type of unity that arises from absorption in fear and enmity, although it is unfavorable. Such persons realize this unfavorable unity by attaining sāyujya mukti.

One statement can have different meanings in relation to different people. Therefore the verb yuñjyāt in this verse, which is in the potential case, implies an injunction of fixing the mind on Bhagavān through enmity, fear, etc. Such an injunction is not applicable in case of Śiśupāla whose enmity was natural (out of rāga). Can we, therefore, conclude that it is for other people? Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartī says that such an injunction is not possible because śāstra does not propagate enmity toward the Lord. In the definition of śaraṇāgati, it is said that one should perform only favorable actions and avoid anything displeasing to Kṛṣṇa. Moreover, even if enmity were prescribed for people other than Śiśupāla, it would not make their minds absorbed in Kṛṣṇa. Such a practice is certainly not appreciated by Kṛṣṇa Himself. In fact, He prohibits it:

tān ahaṁ dviṣataḥ krūrān
saṁsāreṣu narādhamān
kṣipāmy ajasram aśubhān
asurīṣv eva yoniṣu

“I perpetually hurl these vicious, cruel and impure people, who are the most degraded and lowest among men, into asuric species.” (Gīta 16.19)

Even Kṛṣṇa’s Enemies Are Blessed

One may argue that only natural enmity will cause bad karma, but not enmity described in the scriptures. If this is so, why did Śiśupāla attain liberation from all karma as a result of his natural enmity toward Kṛṣṇa? One may further argue that Śiśupāla is an exception to the rule. Then why are there no examples of saintly people who practiced enmity based on alleged scriptural injunctions. And on what basis should one cultivate unfavorable emotions towards Kṛṣṇa? Only a person who believes that Bhagavān will personally kill him can truly be absorbed in enmity and fear of Him; much like one who is in mortal danger from a tiger or snake will naturally be absorbed in fear and enmity towards them.
Therefore, this verse should be understood as follows: Bhagavān blesses even those who are inimical toward Him, so it is highly improper to have such a negative mood towards Him. One should absorb one’s mind in Him by any other way, avoiding enmity. In Pūrva Mīmāṁsā this method of conveying meaning is called parisaṅkhyaviddhi, where an injunction actually implies prohibition. Accepting this meaning, the prefix nir in nirvaira is to be taken in the sense of negation.

Thus, nirvaira means any other mood than vaira, or enmity, such as that of a friend, a relative, a son, etc. One should fix one’s mind on Kṛṣṇa in this way. The meaning of the term vairānubandhena is to be taken as an adverb, implying the absorption of the mind just as one is absorbed in an enemy. One who is bound (anubandha) to someone is absorbed in that. Taking this sense of vairānubandhena, the mood of indifference has been excluded. Snehāt kāmena means the conjugal desire born out of affection. This is to be read together with the word bhayena, with fear, which means the conjugal desire following in the mood of the damsels of Vraja who had a sense of fear because of giving up the path or morality. The word va (or) along with bhayena implies conjugal feelings devoid of fear. This refers to being a follower of people like Rukmiṇī who had a conjugal desire for Kṛṣṇa devoid of the fear of giving up the path of morality. In the scriptures there are statements about relationships with Kṛṣṇa as a paramour as well as a duly married husband. The first one is stated in Bṛhad-vāmana Purāṇa, “worship of Kṛṣṇa in the mood of a paramour is most intense and superior to any other mood.” The second is described in Kūrma Purāṇa. “The sons of Agnī, the great beings, were born as women and accepted the source of the universe, the unborn all-pervading Lord, as their husband.”

Importance of Emotional Absorption in Kṛṣṇa

The real import of this verse is not giving any specific type of prescription to fix the mind on Kṛṣṇa, but rather it implies that the essence and greatness of devotion lies in the mind being naturally absorbed in Kṛṣṇa. Otherwise, if the literal meaning of the verse were taken, the prescription of enmity or fear, which implies hatred, goes against the very purpose of scripture which is ultimately meant to propagate love. This implied meaning indeed in further conveyed by Śrī Nārada in the following verse:

“The intensity with which a mortal being becomes absorbed through enmity does not happen by prescribed devotion (vaidhī bhakti). This is my definite opinion.”(SB 7.1.26)

Certainly Śrī Nārada, who himself is a great devotee, is not prescribing enmity towards Bhagavān but is teaching the importance of emotional absorption in Kṛṣṇa. The best example is one which can be understood by the student. A common person has experience of enmity, but not of pure devotion. Enmity here also signifies hatred, fear, jealously, and related negative emotions which make one’s mind naturally absorbed in the object of this emotion. Imagine a person lying in his bed in a dark room, knowing that there is a snake in the same room. His mind will be completely immersed in fear of it.

Therefore, to teach how the mind should be absorbed in pure devotion, Nārada gives the example of absorption in thought toward an enmity, which happens naturally. Another example is that of a lusty young man whose mind is engrossed in thoughts of women. Nārada tells Yudhiṣṭhira that Śiśupāla’s tongue should have developed leprosy because of his verbal abuses, but then praises Śiśupāla even more than those engaged in bhakti yoga because of Śiśupāla’s intense absorption in Kṛṣṇa.

Thus, on the path of rāgānuga bhakti, even the mood of enmity toward Kṛṣṇa is praised because it results in absorption of Bhagavān – not to speak of devotees like Vāsudeva and Devakī who have the natural mood of paternal affection toward Kṛṣṇa. Then what more can be said about Nanda and Yaśodā whose absorption grows every moment.

So, can Kṛṣṇa be attained through hatred? An ordinary person cannot be absorbed in Him through hatred or criticism as Śiśupāla was. Therefore, such a person will not attain mukti, but rather glide down to lower species of life. The importance lies in absorption and not in the process or the means to attain it. It is also because of such absorption that rāgānuga bhakti is praised over vaidhī bhakti. Therefore devotion to Kṛṣṇa following the mood of the residents of Vraja is superior to any form of vaidhī bhakti.