One day, when Yudhisthir Maharaj was in the jungle with his brothers and wife, Yamaraj wanted to examine Yudhisthir's strength of virtue. Taking the form of a white bird, Yamaraj stayed at a kunda, a fresh-water pond. The Pandava brothers were thirsty so one by one they went to that pond to collect drinking water. First of all, Bhimasen arrived there. When he arrived there the bird told him, "First you answer my questions then you may take the water, otherwise you will die." But Bhimasen did not care for the bird, he drank the water and died. Then Arjuna went, followed by Nakula, then Sahadeva, and each met the same fate.
Lastly Yudhisthir Maharaj went there and Yamaraj, in the form of the white bird, told him, "If you take water without answering my questions you will die like your brothers." Seeing his brothers dead before him Yudhisthir Maharaj considered that this was no ordinary bird and that it was telling the truth.
He therefore agreed, "Yes, I shall answer your questions before drinking the water. But my brothers are all very strong and they are great warriors, why are they dead?"
"It is by my power this has happened," replied the bird, who then proceeded to ask many questions, four of which are particularly famous.
kacha varta kimascharyam kah panthah kah sukhi
"What is the news? What is the wonder? What is the path? And who is happy?"
Yudhisthir Maharaj considered: "This bird is not an ordinary bird, and therefore these questions are not ordinary questions." In reply to, "What is the news?" he could have replied, "Yes, I am well...," instead he said,
"The months and seasons are like two ladles with which food is turned while being cooked; the sun is like the fire-wood for cooking with; mahamoha, illusion, is like the cooking pot; the jivas, souls, are like fish; and kala, time, is frying them. The jivas are being fried in the pot of illusion with the help of the sun, days, nights, months and seasons—the necessities for frying. The frying is being done by kala, which here also means Yamaraj. It is he who is frying us in this way in the mundane world. This is the news!"
To the question, "What is the miracle, the wonder?" Yudhisthir Maharaj answered,
ahanya-hani bhutani gachchhanti yamamandiram
"Always all mankind as well as all jivas in this world are passing away. Everyone's father passes away, their mother also, and even their juniors sometimes pass away first—but all are thinking that they will not themselves pass away. They are making houses for themselves, accumulating money, food, etc. They feel that they shall stay for such a long time, but it is only like a passing show. Everything, whether old or young, is passing away right before their eyes. It is gachchhatiti jagat—it is passing away day by day, but all feel they shall stay for a long time, maybe not for ever, but anyhow for 80 or 90 years. No one else has time, but they have time. That is the miracle. What wonder can be greater than this? I think this to be the greatest miracle."
Answering the third question, "What is the path, and how to go?" Yudhisthir Maharaj answered,
veda vibhinna munayo vibhinna
"We see there to be many kinds of Vedas and many kinds of rsis, so it is difficult to understand who we should follow. Each rsi's opinion is different, and also different sections of the Vedas give different explanations and direction. So who are we to follow?"
What is mentioned in the Rg Veda is not mentioned in the Sama Veda; what is in the Sama Veda is not mentioned in the same way in the Atharva Veda or Yajur Veda; and what is given in the Vedanta is not mentioned in the same way as in the other Scriptures; so which are we to follow? Also amongst the rsis there are many different opinions expressed Atri, Vasistha, Chyavana, Saradvan, Agastya, Vyasadeva, and many other rsis in this world each express different opinions. So who shall we follow? Yudhisthir Maharaj therefore continued, "It is not necessary to follow the Vedas, and it is not necessary to follow the rsis. Really, I notice that religious duty is unrecognised and remains hidden, and the only way for us to go is by following the perfect mahajan—the perfect servitor of the transcendental world. Whatever he does, we shall also do that, and we shall not follow the rsis or the Vedas. There are many rsis and Scriptures: some recommend jnana-yoga, some karma-yoga, bhakti-misra karma, jnana-misra karma, yoga-misra karma, etc. So it is no necessary to follow them, but we must follow whoever is the servitor of the transcendental world. This is the way to go to that transcendental world."
Then, in reply to, "Who is happy?" the last of the four principle questions, Yudhisthir Maharaj said:
divasasyastame bhage sakam pachati yo narah
"One who has no debt to others is happy. He may or may not have wealth, but anyhow he collects something to cook, prepares it, and offers that to the Lord. After sunset he takes those remnants and he lives with a clean conscience. He is happy."
Many kinds of debt are mentioned. We have debt to the demigods, debt to other people for supplying food, water, etc., and also debt to many kinds of jivas from whom we receive help. In these and many ways we are in debt, but one who has no debt to others, who is satisfied with what he has without relying on others, who maintains his own living space and simply earns something which he then offers to the Lord—he is a happy man.
This world is a passing show. To have any intention for ourselves is also one kind of debt, but whatever intention we may have for the service of Krishna will not incur any debt. Krishna Himself mentioned this:
yat karosi yad asnasi, yaj juhosi dadasi yat
"Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you sacrifice, and whatever austerity you may do, do every single thing for Me, then utilise the remnants. In this way no debt will come to you. Whatever you offer to Me will be transformed and will become transcendental."
When we walk along a path we may step on many blades of durbasa grass, but when that same kind of grass is offered to the Lord we take that upon our head. We cannot even think to crush it beneath our feet. Why? We cannot think such a thing because we know it has been offered to Krishna therefore it has assumed a transcendental position. So Krishna says, "If you can do everything for My satisfaction then you will have no debt, and furthermore you will be benefited even while in this mundane plane." This is the main principle to be followed for our living in this world. We cannot live without taking from others. Jivo jivasya jivanam—one must kill another in order to live. Each day we kill thousands upon thousands of living entities. Even in the air there are countless souls living, so just by our breathing fresh air we kill so many others in order to purify our blood. Without taking from others we cannot live, but the kind of living advised in the Scriptures is to live for the service of Krishna. That is our living light.
Bhakti Vinoda Thakur said,
manasa, deho, geho, yo kichhu mora
"I am surrendering with everything, and from this date You are the master of me and everything connected with me. Therefore whatever I shall do will go to Your account, not to mine."
sampade vipade, jivane-marane
["In good fortune or in bad, in life or in death, all my difficulties have disappeared by choosing Your lotus feet as my only shelter. Slay me or protect me as You wish, for You are the master of Your eternal servant."]
"As You like, You do." This type of surrender to Krishna gives us real happiness. If we can surrender to Krishna we shall be responsible for neither our karma nor anything else. This advice you will see in Srimad Bhagavad-gita: the whole of the Gita is meant for expressing this. Indeed, the purpose of all the Scriptures is to say this.
smartavyah satatam visnum vismartavyo na jatuchit
"We must not forget Krishna, and we must worship Krishna." To not forget Him is the restriction, and to always remember Him is the wealth. Sometimes we may think it is very difficult, and it is true, but there is no other way. Without this, what shall we do? Krishna consciousness is the only way to proceed—there is no other way.
bhumau skhalita-padanam, bhumir evavalambanam
When a baby tries to walk, he will fall down many times, but he takes the help of the earth to again stand, and this is our only hope. Whatever offence we may do, if we remain relying upon Him, He will save us from that offence. Therefore we must take shelter at the lotus feet of Krishna, and that is Krishna consciousness.
naham vipro na cha nara-patir napi vaisyo na sudro
"We are not kings, brahmanas, vaisyas, or sudras, and we are not grhasthas, vanaprasthas or sannyasis, these are not our identification. Our actual identification is that of gopi-bharttuh pada-kamalayor dasa-dasanudasah—only we are servitors of the servitors of the servitors." This is our only identification, and whoever will follow Krishna consciousness can follow I only in this way. If he will try to follow the Vedic culture, Hinduism, or any other path, he will not actually get Krishna consciousness. We must follow the Vaisnavas. Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and who worships Him is a Vaisnava. There is one way, one destination, one goal of life; and that is the main thing for us to understand in order to be successful. We can see this clearly especially in the conception and nature of our Srila Guru Maharaj, of Srila Swami Maharaj, and of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur. Actually they were very revolutionary. This type of revolution earlier happened in the time of Narottama Dasa Thakur and also, to some extent, in the time of Rupa Goswami and Sanatan Goswami.
Rupa and Sanatan did not actually break any existing conceptions, but they were the founders of our line. Bhakti Vinoda Thakur was also a little gentle in his approach: he did not want to make much disturbance in the conception of the Vedas. However, Narottama Thakur broke the rules of Vedic practice, and recently we have seen that such a revolution came with Srila Swami Maharaj and the conception of our Srila Guru Maharaj, and there are many clear examples. It is for our benefit that such a revolution has come and we are most fortunate to have received such a generous connection with Divinity.
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