Lessons From Previous Births

Lessons From Previous Births


Founder-Ācārya: His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda

The following lecture on the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 5th canto, 12th chapter, Conversation Between Mahārāja Rahūgaṇa and Jaḍa Bharata , Text 13, was given by His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami in Iskcon Śrīdhāma Māyāpura, India, on 25 January 2014.

 Bhajan / Chanting Of Jaya Rādhā Mādhava and Hare Krishna Mantra

Gaura Premānande ! Haribol !

Prema-dhvanī prayers

All glories to Śrī Guru and Śrī Gaurāṅga

All glories to Śrīla Prabhupāda.

namo  vishnu paḍaya krishna preṣṭhāya bhūtale
śrīmate bhaktivedanta swami iti nāmine

namaste sārasvate deve gaura vāṇī pracāriṇe
nirviśeṣa śūnyavādi pāścātya deśa tāriṇe

oṁ namo bhagavate vasudavaya
oṁ namo bhagavate vasudavaya
oṁ namo bhagavate vasudavaya

nārāyaṇaṁ namaskṛtya
naraṁ caiva narottamam
devīṁ sarasvatīṁ vyāsaṁ
tato jayam udīrayet

naṣṭa-prāyeṣv abhadreṣu
nityaṁ bhāgavata-sevayā
bhagavaty uttama-śloke
bhaktir bhavati naiṣṭhikī

Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 5.12.13

prastūyate grāmya-kathā-vighātaḥ
niṣevyamāṇo ’nudinaṁ mumukṣor
matiṁ satīṁ yacchati vāsudeve

Word for word:

yatra — in which place (in the presence of exalted devotees); uttama-śloka-guṇa-anuvādaḥ — discussion of the pastimes and glories of the Supreme Personality of Godhead; prastūyate — is presented; grāmya-kathā- vighātaḥ — due to which there is no chance of talking of worldly matters; niṣevyamāṇaḥ — being heard very seriously; anudinam — day after day; mumukṣoḥ — of persons who are very serious about getting out of material entanglement; matiṁ — meditation; satīm — pure and simple; yacchati — is turned; vāsudeve — unto the lotus feet of Lord Vāsudeva.


Who are the pure devotees mentioned here? In an assembly of pure devotees there is no question of discussing material subjects like politics and sociology. In an assembly of pure devotees, there is discussion only of the qualities, forms and pastimes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is praised and worshiped with full attention. In the association of pure devotees, by constantly hearing such topics respectfully, even a person who wants to merge into the existence of the Absolute Truth abandons this idea and gradually becomes attached to the service of Vāsudeva.

Devotees repeat the translation.

Purport by Śrīla Prabhupāda


The symptoms of pure devotees are described in this verse. The pure devotee is never interested in material topics. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has strictly prohibited His devotees to talk about worldly matters. Grāmya-vārtā nā kahibe: one should not indulge in talking unnecessarily about news of the material world. One should not waste time in this way. This is a very important feature in the life of a devotee. A devotee has no other ambition than to serve Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement was started to engage people twenty-four hours daily in the service of the Lord and in His glorification. The students in this institution engage in the cultivation of Kṛṣṇa consciousness from five in the morning to ten at night. They actually have no opportunity to waste their time unnecessarily by discussing politics, sociology and current events. These will go their own way. A devotee is concerned only with serving Kṛṣṇa positively and seriously.

His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami:

So, Jaḍa Bhārata who actually was a pure devotee, but pretending to be a jaḍa. Jaḍa means retarded, mentally mad. He was like one who did not have any intelligence, his behavior was like that. So, but actually he was a pure devotee of the lord; he was pretending to be like that because he learnt a very big lesson in his previous life. In the life before his previous birth, he was a King; he was the ruler of the entire earth planet. According to him, this planet became named as Bhārata Varṣa. Prior to that, this planet was known as Illavrta Varṣa. And after King Bhārata this place is named as, this island is named as Bhārata Varṣa. Although he was in such a exalted position and although he was the son of a very exalted personality, he was the son of an incarnation, the Śaktyāveśa Avatar of the Supreme Personality of Godhead: King Rshabhadeva, who is also another exemplary personality. He was also the ruler of the entire earth planet but at certain point he left his kingdom and he started to wander around this planet, as if he was a mad man. He was an avadhūta, a person who is perfectly situated in the spiritual platform, paramahaṁsa. Therefore he did not have any awareness of his surroundings. Since his consciousness was not in this material plane, his behavior was unpredictable. People did not understand why he was behaving like that because his consciousness was completely absorbed in the spiritual reality, in the service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He had 100 sons. Out of them King Bhārata was the eldest,so he became the successor to the throne; then 9 other sons became Nava Yogendras- Kavi, Havi, Antariksha, Pipalayan, Prabhodha, Karbhaja. Nine very, very exalted personalities who mastered- who became Yogendras, Who were the best of the Yogis. Such an exalted personality was King Bhārata, son of such an exalted personality, ruler of the entire earth planet and at certain point of time he left his kingdom and accepted vānaprastha. He went to the bank of a river. He made his small little hutment there and he became absorbed in serving the Supreme Personality of Godhead, mainly meditating upon the activities and pastimes, qualities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He achieved the state of bhava; he was experiencing transcendental emotions towards the Supreme Personality of Godhead due to his love for Him and due to his intense attachment to Him, but unfortunately one day while he was sitting on the bank of the river, meditating on the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he heard the roar of a tiger. And then he noticed that one deer, one mother deer, female deer, a doe was drinking water and hearing that roar of that lion, she became so afraid, that she tried to jump across the river and she was fully pregnant and due to that strain, she gave birth to her baby deer and she died. And the deer, that little deer-calf, fell in the river and was carried by the strong current of the river. So, Mahārāja Bhārata went and rescued that deer and he started to take care of that little dear. Out of his natural compassion, he was taking care of that new born deer baby, but due to that he developed his attachment to that deer. He started to constantly think about that deer and he forgot to think about the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

From such an exalted position of being completely absorbed in the thoughts of the Lord’s activities, he now started to think about the baby deer. When the deer would go to some place, he wouldn’t see the deer for some time and become very worried, what happened, what happened to the deer? Did some wild animal attack that deer, did some ferocious animal killed that deer? In this way, instead of thinking about the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he started to think about this deer and at the time of his death, he was thinking about the deer, he left his body thinking about the deer and as a result of that “ya ya vāpi smaran bhāva tyajaty ante kalevaram”, “ya ya vāpi smaran bhāva” the way one leaves his body thinking about whatever he thinks, accordingly he gets his next body. Because Mahārāja Bhārata left his body thinking about the deer he got the deer body in his next life but although he got the deer body; he was a jatismara, he remembered his past life. Although in the body of a deer but completely aware of his past life, he remembered everything; he saw the consequence of becoming attached to a deer. Therefore this time he didn’t want to make the same mistake. Although in the deer body, although a deer, he soon after his birth, he left his deer parents and he went to a place where the saintly people used to live. Those days the saintly people (Jaya Śrī Śrī Rādhā Mādhava – Śrīmān Mahāprabhu- Sakhi Vṛndā ki jaya)… the saintly people those who are absorbed in cultivating Kṛṣṇa consciousness used to go away from the crowded place and used to go to a solitary place, in the forest and they would create tapovan, a garden in the middle of the forest, for their spiritual activities, generally on the bank of a river.

So this deer started to associate with those saintly personalities in the forest. He would just lie there, sit there, listening to their discussions of Hari kathā, their discussions about the Supreme Personality of Godhead and in this way when the tenure of the deer body was over, he left his body, now this time he is born in a brahmanical family and he was a pure devotee. But although he was a pure devotee from his childhood, he did not want to display any brilliance or display his exalted qualities being afraid that he may become attached again to his family members. So he started to pretend as if he was mentally retarded and his father… When his father was alive, his father was taking care of him… He was very fond of his youngest son and his father tried his best to make him study scriptures and become active in brahminical activities “pathan pathan yajan yajan dan pratijñā”. The brahminical activities pathan pathan studying the scriptures and teach others the scriptures. Perform Deity worship and perform sacrifices. But Jaḍa Bharat pretended as if he couldn’t understand any of those things. It was his precaution to not get attached to the family life again, not to get attached to anything in this material nature. And after his father’s death, people started to take advantage of his stupidity so called. Like, even his brothers deprived him of his family heritage. They used to make him work hard and then they eventually drove him out of the house. And for the sake of getting some food, Jaḍa Bhārata used to work in the houses of others and they used to take advantage of his condition but Jaḍa Bhārata was totally unperturbed. He wanted that; he wanted people to think that he was a fool and he was retarded but physically he was strong.

Then one day when Jaḍa Bhārata was engaged in guarding the field, to be plundered by wild animals especially boars and other such animals usually come and destroy the harvest. So, Jaḍa Bhārata was guarding the field and at that time a group of dacoits were preparing to worship Kali by sacrificing a human being. They caught hold of somebody but that person escaped. So, they were looking for, in the middle of night they were looking for somebody to be sacrificed to Kali and they got hold of and they found Jaḍa Bhārata in the middle of the field. So, they got hold of him and took him to offer to mother Kali goddess Kali. They bathed him, they decorated him with red hibiscus flowers, put tilak on his forehead and they were about to offer him to Kali. But Kali could not tolerate that, this kind of treatment of a pure devotee. She manifested herself from the… from her vigraha, from her mūrti form and picking up the chopper from their hand she started to kill these dacoits, those who were preparing to offer Jaḍa Bhārata.

So, this is the situation of the pure devotee. A pure devotee is always protected by the Lord and his devotees. Kali is a devotee; she is a vaiṣṇavī. She is the internal potency of the lord. So she could not tolerate such a treatment of a pure devotee. She manifested herself and took care of those dacoits who tried to kill or offer Jaḍa Bhārata to her. And then Jaḍa Bhārata came across this King Rahūgaṇa and this is also another accidental situation. Rahūgaṇa was being carried in a palanquin and one of the bearers of the palanquin became incapacitated. So, they were looking for palanquin carrier, palanquin carrier and they saw this strong, healthy person. So they got hold of him and said: come render some service to the King. Jaḍa Bhārata attitude was: he said “Fine”. So, he was carrying the palanquin. While carrying a palanquin, one thing has to be maintained that the steps fall in unison. They actually..like in the military they march, they either use the drum or they announce left- right, left- right. So, palanquin carriers also have to maintain that harmony of steps, but Jaḍa Bhārata’s steps were not coordinated. His steps were not in sync and as a result of that the palanquin started to shake. Actually Jaḍa Bhārata’s steps were not in sync because when Jaḍa Bhārata saw some ants, he wanted to avoid stepping on the ants in order to save them in order to protect them from dying and as a result of that it was going off beat, his steps. And as a result of that the harmony was lost, the palanquin started to shake and the King felt very, very uncomfortable. So, king started to chastise Jaḍa Bhārata. So, all this while Jaḍa Bhārata was silent. All this while, Jaḍa Bhārata didn’t display his exalted position but it seems that at this point Jaḍa Bhārata decided to bestow his mercy upon the king Rahūgaṇa and in order to bestow his mercy upon the king Rahūgaṇa, Jaḍa Bhārata started to chastise him. So, this way we can see the chastisement of a pure devotee also is his display of his blessings. And in the form of his chastisement Jaḍa Bhārata actually started to speak about the Absolute Truth, the ultimate spiritual wisdom and we can see how wonderfully Jaḍa Bhārata did that. He came to the point.

I will just read two previous verses these two verses are very important to understand the verse that we are discussing today. Today’s verse is 13. The translation of the verse 11 goes like “What, then, is the ultimate truth? The answer is that non-dual knowledge is the ultimate truth. It is devoid of the contamination of material qualities. It gives us liberation. It is the one without a second, all-pervading and beyond imagination. The first realization of that knowledge is Brahman. Then Paramātmā, the Supersoul, is realized by the yogīs who try to see Him without grievance. This is the second stage of realization. Finally, full realization of the same supreme knowledge is realized in the Supreme Person. All learned scholars describe the Supreme Person as Vāsudeva, the cause of Brahman, Paramātmā and others. So this is the ultimate knowledge which we also found in the second chapter, second canto of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam “vadanti tat tattva-vidas tattvaḿ yaj jñānam advayam brahmeti paramātmeti bhagavān iti śabdyate”- Brahman, Paramātmā and Bhagavān. The three aspects of the non dual Absolute Truth “yaj jñānam advayamadvayam means non dual. So this knowledge is non dual but at the same time, it is seen in three different ways. So it’s an apparent contradiction: non dual but three manifestations. And the understanding that Jaḍa Bhārata is giving here. Through knowledge, through jñāna, the realization comes as Brahman, the Brahman realization. The jñānīs see Him as Brahman. The Yogis when they achieve perfection, they see Him as paramātmā and the final perception of that Absolute Reality is perceived by the devotees in the form Bhagavān – brahmeti paramātmeti bhagavān iti śabdyate. These are the gradual development.

 In this respect Prabhupāda is giving an example, when we see a train coming at night from a distance, we simply see a light, then when it comes closer we see the train, but when the train comes and stands on the platform, then we see the people inside the compartments. So, three different perceptions from three different perspectives gives rise to these three different perceptions of Brahman, Paramātmā and Bhagavān.

In the verse 12 he is actually saying: My dear King Rahūgaṇa, unless one has the opportunity to smear his entire body with the dust of the lotus feet of great devotees, one cannot realize the Absolute Truth. One cannot realize the Absolute Truth simply by observing celibacy [brahmacarya], strictly following the rules and regulations of householder life, leaving home as a vānaprastha, accepting sannyāsa, or undergoing severe penances in winter by keeping oneself submerged in water or surrounding oneself in summer by fire and the scorching heat of the sun. There are many other processes to understand the Absolute Truth, but the Absolute Truth is only revealed to one who has attained the mercy of a great devotee.

So, there may be many processes for spiritual advancement but the ultimate achievement of spiritual perfection is possible only through devotional service “bhaktyā mām abhijānāti yāvān yaś cāsmi tattvata” Only through bhakti one can understand the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Other processes may elevate one ultimately to the platform of devotion and nothing beyond that. And this platform of devotion, devotional service is received only by the mercy of a pure devotee, only by the mercy of a great devotee. We have seen that. Śrīla Prabhupāda just one person, went out of India and created Kṛṣṇa consciousness all over the world, enabled people to receive Kṛṣṇa consciousness all over the world, just one person, one pure devotee’s influence. We can see. And Śrīla Prabhupāda created this wonderful opportunity, wonderful arrangement of Iskcon, where the association of pure devotees are so readily, so easily available. Prabhupāda actually created an institution, created a society for pure devotees. This Iskcon is actually an institution of pure devotees, the society of pure devotees. Once Prabhupāda mentioned that everyone in Iskcon is a pure devotee. Some devotees were quite surprised to hear that and they asked Prabhupāda: “Is everyone in Iskcon a pure devotee?” Prabhupāda said yes. Then they asked Prabhupāda! “Just a new bhakta who just joined the other day, is he also a pure devotee?” Prabhupāda said yes, it’s only a matter of green mango and ripe mango. The mango may be green today but if stays in the tree, then tomorrow it will become ripe.

So just stay in iskcon whoever you are you will become a pure devotee, just stay in Iskcon. This is the wonderful arrangement of Śrīla Prabhupāda. Because this institution is transmitting the influence of the pure devotee, Śrīla Prabhupāda. Through his books, through his divine arrangements of different temples, through the association of devotees who are sincerely following his instructions and this is how the atmosphere has been created. All we have to do is just stay in this movement of Iskcon, stay in this institution of Iskcon and practice the process diligently with all sincerity and in due course of time the result will be there. What will be the ultimate result? When will we achieve the ultimate result of our devotional service? Whatever we are doing, the ultimate result will be harvested. The ultimate result will be achieved at the time of death. If you can die in iskcon, the wonderful arrangement will be made. Devotees will surround us, chant the Holy Name and in this way Śrīla Prabhupāda’s mercy will be bestowed upon us and we will leave our body in such a wonderful way.

Recently I witnessed the wonderful disappearance of one of our Godbrothers, who was actually from Nabadvip. He was actually from the other side of the Ganges- Shyamlal Prabhu. He was a young boy, ran away from home and joined Iskcon in Kolkata. He didn’t join in Māyāpura because his family members would have come and probably took him away. So, he went to Kolkata, joined as a young boy. He was one of the first Bengali boys actually to join our movement and he, all throughout his life he served so nicely. His service was to make life members, cultivate wealthy people and collect donations from them. He collected; I think he is one of the biggest collectors of Iskcon. He collected millions of dollars all over the world. Śrīla Prabhupāda sent him to South Africa, I am sorry to East Africa with Brahmānanda Prabhu. He was a sannyāsī at that time. Then he went to West Africa, then he went to London, then he went to South Africa after getting married to a South African devotee girl and he settled down in South Africa and there also he served very, very nicely. His business was to cultivate people and encourage them to serve the temple by giving large donations and although he collected millions of dollars he did not have any money saved for himself. Although he was a householder; he didn’t have any bank account. But the wonderful thing is the people he cultivated they actually took care of him. And Prabhupāda, when he was a young boy in Kolkata, Prabhupāda assured him: “Don’t worry I will take care of you”. And he remembered that throughout his life, During his last days he used to always say Prabhupāda told me that he will take care of him. Anyway about a year and a half ago, he was detected having a brain tumor, brain cancer and it’s a terrible disease actually, extremely painful. But the amazing thing is Shyamlal Prabhu did not feel any pain. In a way it seemed that he lost his memory; he became like a child; he didn’t remember anything. Only thing he remembered is Kṛṣṇa, Prabhupāda, Caitanya Mahāprabhu and the vaiṣṇavas. He would always say “tā̃dera caraa-sebi-bhakta-sane bās” the perfection of life is to stay in the association of devotees serving their lotus feet. He used to repeat verses like that and often he used to say that “Prabhupāda said that he would take care of me, Prabhupāda will take care of me”. In a way he lost his memory but he was always absorbed in thinking of Kṛṣṇa, Prabhupāda. All the time he would just speak Kṛṣṇa and Prabhupāda. And for last six weeks he was in a comma and the amazing thing is although his tumour was growing, the last time I mean the last stage, the doctors were telling me that his tumor actually took over all of his brain, he didn’t have any brain left and brain tumor can be so painful, that they literally bang their heads against the wall to get rid of the pain as if trying to get rid of the pain. But Shyamlal prabhu amazingly, miraculously did not experience any pain at all and last six weeks he was in a coma but the doctors also said that when one is in the coma, all his senses become inactive. But that was not the case with him. He would sometimes open his eyes and look around; sometimes he would even repeat like Prabhupāda sing, Prabhupāda’s bhajan was going on “bhāja hure mana śrī nanda nandana “and he would repeat ‘śrī nanda nandana’śrī nanda nandana’ and finally when he left his body, this is the most amazing thing when he left his body he chanted Hare Kṛṣṇa and left his body. This was so audible even the nurse could hear that, who was attending. Anyway it was an amazing experience to see how devotees meet their end and when one meets his end in this way, one can well imagine where he went.

So then time and time again we are seeing how wonderfully the devotees are leaving their bodies and this is the proof of the authenticity of this movement. Sometimes I give a seminar on “The Art Of Dying” because Kṛṣṇa consciousness is actually the art of dying it’s not an art of living. Everybody knows how to live even an animal knows how to live but what one needs is to master the art of dying and that is the goal of life. So we have to have implicit faith that, process that Śrīla Prabhupāda gave is perfect. Now it’s up to us how sincerely we are going to practice and the proper practice of this process will undoubtedly give us the ultimate perfection.

Thank you all very much. All glories to Śrīla Prabhupāda! Gaura Premānande [Devotees clapping].

Hare Kṛṣṇa. Jaya Śrīla Prabhupāda. I already went 15 minutes over. I took the liberty but therefore, I won’t invite any questions today. I will be here some other time also. We can have time for questions and answers. Thank you all very much. All glories to Śrīla Prabhupāda. Gaur Premānande Hari Hari bol.

End of lecture. Lecture duration 58:02


Transcription : Anonymous Helper
Editing : Rāmānanda Rāya Dāsa
Video-reference : http://www.mayapur.com/2012/lectures-archives/