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Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 4.9.29
mātuḥ sapatnyā vāg-bāṇair
hṛdi viddhas tu tān smaran
naicchan mukti-pater muktiḿ
tasmāt tāpam upeyivān
maitreyaḥ uvāca — the great sage Maitreya replied; mātuḥ — of his mother; sa-patnyāḥ — of the co-wife; vāk-bāṇaiḥ — by the arrows of harsh words; hṛdi — in the heart; viddhaḥ — pierced; tu — then; tān — all of them; smaran — remembering; na — not; aicchat — desired; mukti-pateḥ — from the Lord, whose lotus feet give liberation; muktim — salvation; tasmāt — therefore; tāpam — grief; upeyivān — he suffered.
Maitreya answered: Dhruva Mahārāja's heart, which was pierced by the arrows of the harsh words of his stepmother, was greatly aggrieved, and thus when he fixed upon his goal of life he did not forget her misbehavior. He did not demand actual liberation from this material world, but at the end of his devotional service, when the Supreme Personality of Godhead appeared before him, he was simply ashamed of the material demands he had in his mind.
This important verse has been discussed by many stalwart commentators. Why was Dhruva Mahārāja not very pleased, even after achieving the goal of life he desired? A pure devotee is always free from any kind of material desires. In the material world, one's material desires are all most demonic; one thinks of others as one's enemies, one thinks of revenge against one's enemies, one aspires to become the topmost leader or topmost person in this material world, and thus one competes with all others. This has been described in the Bhagavad-gītā, Sixteenth Chapter, as asuric. A pure devotee has no demand from the Lord. His only concern is to serve the Lord sincerely and seriously, and he is not at all concerned about what will happen in the future. In the Mukunda-mālā-stotra, King Kulaśekhara, author of the book, states in his prayer: "My dear Lord, I don't want any position of sense gratification within this material world. I simply want to engage in Your service perpetually." Similarly, Lord Caitanya, in His Śikṣāṣṭaka, also prayed, "My Lord, I do not want any amount of material wealth, I do not want any number of materialistic followers, nor do I want any attractive wife to enjoy. The only thing I want is that I may engage life after life in Your service." Lord Caitanya did not pray even for mukti, or liberation.
In this verse Maitreya replied to Vidura that Dhruva Mahārāja, influenced by a revengeful attitude towards his insulting stepmother, did not think of mukti, nor did he know what mukti was. Therefore he failed to aim for mukti as his goal in life. But a pure devotee also does not want liberation. He is a soul completely surrendered to the Supreme Lord, and he does not demand anything from the Lord. This position was realized by Dhruva Mahārāja when he saw the Supreme Personality of Godhead present personally before him because he was elevated to the vasudeva platform. The vasudeva platform refers to the stage at which material contamination is conspicuous by absence only, or in other words where there is no question of the material modes of nature — goodness, passion and ignorance — and one can therefore see the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Because on the vasudeva platform one can see God face to face, the Lord is also called Vāsudeva.
Dhruva Mahārāja's demand was for a position so exalted that it was never enjoyed even by Lord Brahmā, his great-grandfather. Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is so affectionate and kind towards His devotee, especially to a devotee like Dhruva Mahārāja, who went to render devotional service in the forest alone at the age of only five years, that although the motive might be impure, the Lord does not consider the motive; He is concerned with the service. But if a devotee has a particular motive, the Lord directly or indirectly knows it, and therefore He does not leave the devotee's material desires unfulfilled. These are some of the special favors by the Lord to a devotee.
Dhruva Mahārāja was offered Dhruvaloka, a planet that was never resided upon by any conditioned soul. Even Brahmā, although the topmost living creature within this universe, was not allowed to enter the Dhruvaloka. Whenever there is a crisis within this universe, the demigods go to see the Supreme Personality of Godhead Kṣīrodakaśāyī Viṣṇu, and they stand on the beach of the Milk Ocean. So the fulfillment of Dhruva Mahārāja's demand — a position more exalted than that of even his great-grandfather, Brahmā — was offered to him.
Here in this verse the Lord is described as mukti-pati, which means "one under whose lotus feet there are all kinds of mukti." There are five kinds of mukti — sāyujya, sārūpya, sālokya, sāmīpya and sārṣṭi. Out of these five muktis, which can be achieved by any person engaged in devotional service to the Lord, the one which is known as sāyujya is generally demanded by Māyāvādī philosophers; they demand to become one with the impersonal Brahman effulgence of the Lord. In the opinion of many scholars, this sāyujya-mukti, although counted among the five kinds of mukti, is not actually mukti because from sāyujya-mukti one may again fall down to this material world. This information we have from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.2.32), wherein it is said, patanty adhaḥ, which means "they again fall down." The monist philosopher, after executing severe austerity, merges into the impersonal effulgence of the Lord, but the living entity always wants reciprocation in loving affairs. Therefore, although the monist philosopher is elevated to the status of being one with the effulgence of the Lord, because there is no facility for associating with the Lord and rendering service unto Him, he again falls into this material world, and his service propensity is satisfied by materialistic welfare activities like humanitarianism, altruism and philanthropy. There are many instances of such falldowns, even for great sannyāsīs in the Māyāvāda school.
Therefore Vaiṣṇava philosophers do not accept sāyujya-mukti to be within the category of mukti. According to them, mukti means transferal to the loving service of the Lord from one's position of serving māyā. Lord Caitanya also says in this connection that the constitutional position of a living entity is to render service to the Lord. That is real mukti. When one is situated in his original position, giving up artificial positions, he is called mukta, or liberated. In the Bhagavad-gītā this is confirmed: anyone who engages in rendering transcendental loving service to the Lord is considered to be mukta, or brahma-bhūta. It is said in Bhagavad-gītā that a devotee is considered to be on the brahma-bhūta platform when he has no material contamination. In the Padma Purāṇa this is also confirmed: mukti means engagement in the service of the Lord.
The great sage Maitreya explained that Dhruva Mahārāja did not desire in the beginning to engage in the service of the Lord, but he wanted an exalted position better than his great-grandfather's. This is more or less not service to the Lord but service to the senses. Even if one gets the position of Brahmā, the most exalted position in this material world, he is a conditioned soul. Śrīla Prabodhānanda Sarasvatī says that if one is elevated to real, pure devotional service, he considers even great demigods like Brahmā and Indra to be on an equal level with an insignificant insect. The reason is that an insignificant insect has a desire for sense gratification and even a great personality like Lord Brahmā also wants to dominate this material nature.
Sense gratification means domination over material nature. The whole competition between conditioned souls is based upon domination of this material nature. Modern scientists are proud of their knowledge because they are discovering new methods to dominate the laws of material nature. They think that this is the advancement of human civilization — the more they can dominate the material laws, the more advanced they think they are. Dhruva Mahārāja's propensity in the beginning was like that. He wanted to dominate this material world in a greater position than Lord Brahmā. Therefore elsewhere it is described that after the appearance of the Lord, when Dhruva Mahārāja thought and compared his determination to his final reward, he realized that he had wanted a few particles of broken glass but instead had received many diamonds. As soon as he saw the Supreme Personality of Godhead face to face, he immediately became conscious of the unimportance of his demand from the Lord to have an exalted position better than Lord Brahmā's.
When Dhruva Mahārāja became situated on the vasudeva platform due to seeing the Lord face to face, all his material contamination was cleared. Thus he became ashamed of what his demands were and what he had achieved. He was very much ashamed to think that although he had gone to Madhuvana, giving up the kingdom of his father, and he had gotten a spiritual master like Nārada Muni, he was still thinking of revenge against his stepmother and wanted to occupy an exalted post within this material world. These were the causes for his moroseness even alter he received all the desired benedictions from the Lord.
When Dhruva Mahārāja factually saw the Supreme Personality of Godhead, there was no question of a revengeful attitude towards his stepmother nor any aspiration to lord it over the material world, but the Supreme Personality is so kind that He knew that Dhruva Mahārāja wanted these. Speaking before Dhruva Mahārāja, He used the word vedāham because when Dhruva Mahārāja demanded material benefits, the Lord was present within his heart and so knew everything. The Lord always knows everything a man is thinking. This is confirmed in Bhagavad-gītā also: vedāhaḿ samatītāni.
The Lord fulfilled all Dhruva Mahārāja's desires. His revengeful attitude towards his stepmother and stepbrother was satisfied, his desire for a more exalted position than that of his great-grandfather was also fulfilled, and at the same time, his eternal position in Dhruvaloka was fixed. Although Dhruva Mahārāja's achievement of an eternal planet was not conceived of by him, Kṛṣṇa thought, "What will Dhruva do with an exalted position within this material world?" Therefore He gave Dhruva the opportunity to rule this material world for thirty-six thousand years with unchangeable senses and the chance to perform many great sacrifices and thus become the most reputed king within this material world. And, after finishing with all this material enjoyment, Dhruva would be promoted to the spiritual world, which includes the Dhruvaloka.
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His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda, Founder Ācārya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness