Chapter 24: Cutting Off Ties of Affection

Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: Teachings of Queen Kuntī

A pure devotee of the Lord is ashamed to ask anything in self-interest from the Lord. But the householders are sometimes obliged to ask favors from the Lord, being bound by the tie of family affection. Śrīmatī Kuntīdevī was conscious of this fact, and therefore she prayed to the Lord to cut off the affectionate tie from her own kinsmen, the Pāṇḍavas and the Vṛṣṇis. The Pāṇḍavas are her own sons, and the Vṛṣṇis are the members of her paternal family. Kṛṣṇa was equally related to both families. Both the families required the Lord's help because both were dependent devotees of the Lord. Śrīmatī Kuntīdevī wished Śrī Kṛṣṇa to remain with her sons, the Pāṇḍavas, but by His doing so her paternal house would be bereft of the benefit. All these partialities troubled the mind of Kuntī, and therefore she desired to cut off the affectionate tie.

A pure devotee cuts off the limited ties of affection for his family and widens his activities of devotional service for all forgotten souls. The typical example is the band of six Gosvāmīs, who followed the path of Lord Caitanya. All of them belonged to the most enlightened and cultured rich families of the higher castes, but for the benefit of the mass of population they left their comfortable homes and became mendicants. To cut off all family affection means to broaden the field of activities. Without doing this, no one can be qualified as a brāhmaṇa, a king, a public leader, or a devotee of the Lord. The Personality of Godhead, as an ideal king, showed this by example. Śrī Rāmacandra cut off the tie of affection for His beloved wife to manifest the qualities of an ideal king.

Such personalities as a brāhmaṇa, a devotee, a king, or a public leader must be very broad-minded in discharging their respective duties. Śrīmatī Kuntīdevī was conscious of this fact, and being weak she prayed to be free from such bondage of family affection. The Lord is addressed as the Lord of the universe, or the Lord of the universal mind, indicating His all-powerful ability to cut the hard knot of family affection. affinity toward a weak devotee, breaks the family affection by force of circumstances arranged by His all-powerful energy. By doing so He causes the devotee to become completely dependent on Him and thus clears the path for his going back to Godhead.

Kuntī was the daughter of the Vṛṣṇi family and the wife and mother of the Pāṇḍava family. Generally a woman has affection for both her father's family and husband's family, and therefore Kuntī prays to Kṛṣṇa, "I am a woman, and women are generally attached to their families, so kindly cut off my attachment so that I may be thoroughly attached to You. Without You, both families are zero. I am falsely attached to these families, but my real purpose in life is to be attached to You." This is bhakti.

Bhakti involves becoming free from the attachments of this material world and becoming attached instead to Kṛṣṇa. One cannot become unattached, for one must be attached to something, but in order to become attached to Kṛṣṇa or enter into the devotional service of the Lord, one has to become detached from material affection.

People ordinarily go to Kṛṣṇa to maintain their attachment to this material world. "O God," they pray, "give us our daily bread." They have attachment to this material world, and to live in this material world they pray for supplies of material things so that they can maintain their status quo. This is called material attachment. Although in one sense, of course, it is good that people go to God to secure their material position, that is not actually desirable. Rather than worship God to increase one's opulence in the material world, one should become free from material attachment. For bhakti-yoga, therefore, we should be detached.

Our suffering is due to our attachment. Because we are materially attached, we desire so many material things, and therefore Kṛṣṇa gives us the opportunity to enjoy whatever material facilities we want. Of course, one must deserve these facilities. First deserve, then desire. Suppose I want to become king. I must have pious activities behind me so that I can become king.

Kṛṣṇa can give us whatever we want, even mukti, liberation, but bhakti is a special consideration because when He gives someone bhakti He becomes purchased by the bhakta and becomes a tool in the hands of the bhakta, even though He is the supreme powerful. Rādhārāṇī, the symbol of the topmost bhakti, is so powerful that She has purchased Kṛṣṇa. Therefore Vaiṣṇavas take shelter of the lotus feet of Rādhārāṇī, for if She recommends, "Oh, here is a nice devotee," Kṛṣṇa must accept him.

To become a devotee of the Lord, one must be completely cleansed of all material attachment. This qualification is called vairāgya. Upon becoming a student of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya wrote one hundred verses praising Him. Two of those verses are mentioned in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta, and one of them is this statement:

vairāgya-vidyā-nija-bhakti-yoga-

śikṣārtham ekaḥ puruṣaḥ purāṇaḥ

śrī-kṛṣṇa-caitanya-śarīra-dhārī

kṛpāmbudhir yas tam ahaḿ prapadye

"Let me take shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who has descended in the form of Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu to teach us real knowledge, His devotional service, and detachment from whatever does not foster Kṛṣṇa consciousness. He has descended because He is an ocean of transcendental mercy. Let me surrender unto His lotus feet." (Cc. Madhya 6.254) Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya thus offered his prayer to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who had now assumed the form of Caitanya Mahāprabhu just to teach people how to develop knowledge, become detached, and become pure devotees of Kṛṣṇa.

Although when Caitanya Mahāprabhu was only twenty-four or twenty-five years old He had a lovable, beautiful wife and a devoted, affectionate mother, He gave up everything and took sannyāsa, the renounced order of life. When Caitanya Mahāprabhu was a gṛhastha, a householder, He was so much honored that merely by the direction of His finger He was able to enlist thousands of people to join Him in a civil disobedience movement. In Nadia, the city where He lived, His position was very respectable, and physically He was very beautiful. Yet He gave up His young, faithful, beautiful wife, His affectionate mother, His position, and everything else. This is called vairāgya, renunciation.

If someone who has nothing to possess says, "I have renounced everything," what is the meaning of his renunciation? But if one has something and then renounces it, his renunciation is meaningful. So Caitanya Mahāprabhu's renunciation is unique. No one else could give up such a happy home, such honor, and such affection from mother, wife, friends, and students. Even Advaita Prabhu, although the age of Caitanya Mahāprabhu's father, honored Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Yet still Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu gave up everything. Why? Just to teach us (āpani ācari, prabhu jīvere śikhāya). He personally taught the whole world how one must detach oneself and become a devotee of Kṛṣṇa. Therefore when Rūpa Gosvāmī resigned his post as a government minister and met Caitanya Mahāprabhu at Prayāga, he fell flat before Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and offered obeisances with this prayer:

namo mahā-vadānyāya

kṛṣṇa-prema-pradāya te

kṛṣṇāya kṛṣṇa-caitanya-

nāmne gaura-tviṣe namaḥ

[Madhya 19.53]

"You are most magnanimous," he prayed, "for You are distributing love of Kṛṣṇa."

Love of Kṛṣṇa is not an easy thing to obtain, because by this love one can purchase Kṛṣṇa, but Caitanya Mahāprabhu distributed this love of Kṛṣṇa to anyone and everyone, even to the two drunkards Jagāi and Mādhāi. Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura has therefore sung:

dīna-hīna yata chila hari-nāme uddhārila,

'ra sākṣī jagāi-mādhāi

"Caitanya Mahāprabhu is so magnanimous that He delivered all kinds of sinful men simply by allowing them to chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra. The evidence of this is Jagāi and Mādhāi." At that time, of course, there were two Jagāis and Mādhāis, but at the present moment, by the grace of Caitanya Mahāprabhu and His process of teaching, so many Jagāis and Mādhāis are being delivered. If Caitanya Mahāprabhu is pleased, He can give kṛṣṇa-prema, love of Kṛṣṇa, to anyone, regardless of that person's qualification. If a person is giving charity, he can select anyone to take it.

Without the mercy of Caitanya Mahāprabhu, understanding Kṛṣṇa is very, very difficult. Manuṣyāṇāḿ sahasreṣu kaścid yatati siddhaye (Bg. 7.3): out of many millions of people, hardly one tries to make his life spiritually successful. People simply work like animals, not knowing how to make a success of human life. One's human life is successful when one understands Kṛṣṇa; otherwise one remains an animal. Anyone who is not Kṛṣṇa conscious, who does not know who Kṛṣṇa is, is no better than an animal. But Caitanya Mahāprabhu gave this concession to the fallen souls of this age: "Simply chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra and you will be delivered." This is Caitanya Mahāprabhu's special concession (kīrtanād eva kṛṣṇasya mukta-sańgaḥ paraḿ vrajet, Bhāg. 12.3.51).

Now, Kuntī was not an ordinary devotee. She had become one of the relatives of Kṛṣṇa, and therefore Kṛṣṇa had come to offer her respects. But still she said, "Kṛṣṇa, I have become attached to two families, my father's family and my husband's family. Kindly help me become detached from these families." Thus she illustrated that one must become detached from society, friendship, and love, all of which will otherwise entangle us.

As long as I think, "I belong to this family," "I belong to this nation," "I belong to this religion," "I belong to this color," and so on, there is no possibility of becoming Kṛṣṇa conscious. As long as one thinks that one is American, Indian, or African, that one belongs to this family or that family, or that one is the father, mother, husband, or wife of this or that person, one is attached to material designations. I am spirit soul, and all these attachments belong to the body, but I am not this body. This is the essence of understanding. If I am not this body, then whose father or whose mother am I? The supreme father and mother is Kṛṣṇa. We are simply playing the parts of father, mother, sister, or brother, as if on stage. Māyā, the material nature, is causing us to dance, telling us, "You are a member of this family and a member of this nation." Thus we are dancing like monkeys.

In the Bhagavad-gītā (3.27) it is said:

prakṛteḥ kriyamāṇāni

guṇaiḥ karmāṇi sarvaśaḥ

ahańkāra-vimūḍhātmā

kartāham iti manyate

This verse indicates that because the living entity has associated with a certain quality of nature, nature is making him dance according to that quality, and thus one is thinking, "I am this" or "I am that." This information provided in Bhagavad-gītā is the basic principle of understanding, and it will give one freedom.

The most essential education is that which enables one to become free from the bodily concept of life, but unfortunately scientists, philosophers, politicians, and other so-called leaders are misleading people so that they become more attached to the body. It is the human life that offers the opportunity to become Kṛṣṇa conscious, but these rascals are stopping that opportunity by alluring people to bodily designations, and therefore they are the greatest enemies of human civilization.

One attains a human body after evolving through 8,400,000 life-forms, from aquatics to plants, and then to trees, insects, birds, beasts, and so on. Now, people do not know what is the next step in evolution, but that is explained in Bhagavad-gītā (9.25). Yānti deva-vratā devān. As the next step in evolution, one may, if one desires, go to a higher planetary system. Although every night people see so many planets and stars, they do not know what these higher planetary systems are. But from the śāstra, the Vedic literature, we can understand that on these higher planetary systems, material comforts are available that are many, many times greater than those on this planet. On this planet we may live for at most one hundred years, but on the higher planetary systems one can live for a lifetime we cannot even calculate. For example, the lifetime of Brahmā, who lives on the highest planet, is stated in Bhagavad-gītā (8.17): sahasra-yuga-paryantam ahar yad brahmaṇo viduḥ. We cannot calculate even twelve hours of Brahmā with our mathematical figures, but even Brahmā has to die. Even though one may have a long duration of life, no one can live permanently in this material world. Nonetheless, if one prepares oneself one may go to the higher planetary systems, or similarly one may go to the Pitṛlokas. There one may meet one's forefathers, if they have been eligible to go there. Similarly, if one desires, one may also remain here on earth. Or yānti mad-yājino 'pi mām: if one becomes a devotee of Kṛṣṇa, one can go to Him.

One may go to hell, one may go to heaven, or one may go back home, back to Godhead, as one likes. Therefore an intelligent person should think, "If I have to prepare for my next life, why not prepare to go back home, back to Godhead?" One's present body will be finished, and then one will have to accept another body. What kind of body one will accept is stated in Bhagavad-gītā (14.18). Ūrdhvaḿ gacchanti sattva-sthāḥ: those who are in the mode of goodness, avoiding the four principles of sinful life, will live their next life on a higher planetary system. Even if one does not become a pure devotee of the Lord, if one follows the regulative principles for avoiding sinful life one will remain in goodness and get this opportunity. Human life is meant for this purpose. But if we waste our life just living like cats and dogs, eating, sleeping, mating, and defending, then we shall lose this opportunity.

Rascals, however, do not know this. They do not believe that there is a next life. In Russia a professor, Professor Kotovsky, told me, "Swāmījī, after this body is finished, everything is finished." He is a big professor, yet still he said that. Such men may pose as scientists and philosophers, but actually they have no knowledge, and they simply mislead others. This is our greatest source of grief, and therefore I have requested the members of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement to challenge and defeat these rascals, who are misleading the entire human society. People should not think that the devotees of Kṛṣṇa are mere sentimentalists. On the contrary, the devotees are the greatest philosophers and the greatest scientists.

Kṛṣṇa has two engagements: paritrāṇāya sādhūnāḿ vināśāya ca duṣkṛtām [Bg. 4.8] — giving protection to the sādhus, the devotees, and killing the demons. Kṛṣṇa gave protection to the Pāṇḍavas and Vṛṣṇis because they were devotees, and He also killed demons like Kaḿsa, Aghāsura, and Bakāsura. Of the two engagements, His killing of the demons was His major occupation. If we examine how much time He devoted to killing and how much time He devoted to protecting, we shall find that He devoted more time to killing. Similarly, those who are Kṛṣṇa conscious should also kill — not by weapons but by logic, by reasoning, and by education. If one is a demon, we can use logic and arguments to kill his demoniac propensities and turn him into a devotee, a saintly person. Especially in this present age, Kali-yuga, people are already poverty-stricken, and physical killing is too much for them. They should be killed by argument, reasoning, and scientific spiritual understanding.

Kuntī addresses Kṛṣṇa as viśveśa, the Lord of the universe (viśva means "universe," and īśa means "lord" or "controller"). The universal affairs are going on so nicely, with the sun rising just on time, the seasons changing, and the seasonal fruits and flowers making their appearance. Thus there is no mismanagement. But how are these things going on so nicely if there is no controller? If we see any establishment going on very well, we immediately understand that the manager, director, or controller of the institution is expert. Similarly, if we see the universal affairs going on nicely, we must know that behind them is a good controller. And who is that controller? That controller is Kṛṣṇa, as stated in Bhagavad-gītā (mayādhyakṣeṇa prakṛtiḥ sūyate sa-carācaram [Bg. 9.10]). Therefore Kuntī addresses Him as viśveśa, the controller of the universe. People are interested only in pictures of Kṛṣṇa embracing Rādhārāṇī that depict the dealings of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa to be like those of ordinary boys and girls. They don't understand Kṛṣṇa. Such obnoxious pictures should be avoided. Kṛṣṇa is the supreme controller. Let there be a picture showing how Kṛṣṇa is controlling the whole universe. That kind of picture is wanted, not these cheap pictures.

Unless the living force is present within the body, the body cannot move or work nicely, and similarly within the universe, the cosmic manifestation, Kṛṣṇa is present as the living force — Kṣīrodakaśāyī Viṣṇu, or Paramātmā. Therefore Kuntī addresses Kṛṣṇa as viśvātmā, the soul of the universe. Rascals do not know how this world is moving and how this universe is acting, and therefore they should learn from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.

Kuntīdevī also addresses Kṛṣṇa as viśva-mūrti, the personality of the form of the universe. When Arjuna wanted to see Kṛṣṇa's universal form, Kṛṣṇa immediately manifested it. This is another of Kṛṣṇa's opulences (vibhūti). The original form of the Lord, however, is Kṛṣṇa with two hands, playing on the flute. Because Arjuna was a devotee and wanted to see the universal form, Kṛṣṇa showed it to him, but that was not His actual form. A person may dress himself as a king, but his real, natural appearance is shown at home. Similarly, Kṛṣṇa's real form is seen at home in Vṛndāvana, and all other forms are expansions of His plenary portions. As stated in the Brahma-saḿhitā, advaitam acyutam anādim ananta-rūpam: [Bs 5.33] He can expand Himself in millions and millions of forms (ananta-rūpam), but He is one (advaita), and He is infallible (acyuta). His real form, however, is the dvi-bhuja muralī-dhara — the form with two hands holding a flute. Therefore Kuntīdevī says, "You have Your universal form, but the form in which You are standing before me is Your real form."

Kuntīdevī prays, "Please sever my tie of affection for my kinsmen." We are thinking, "This is my own, that is my own," but this is moha, illusion (janasya moho 'yam ahaḿ mameti [SB 5.5.8]). How does this illusion come into existence? It begins with the natural attraction between man and woman. A male seeks a female, and a female seeks a male. This is true not only in human society, but also in bird society, beast society, and so on. This is the beginning of material attachment. When a man finds a woman and they unite, this attachment becomes even more firmly established (tayor mitho hṛdaya-granthim āhuḥ). Now, after the attachment increases to some degree, the man and woman look for an apartment in which to live together, and then, of course, the man needs to earn money. When they are well settled, they must have children and also some friends to come and praise them: "Oh, you have such a nice apartment and such nice children." In this way one's attachment increases.

A student's education, therefore, should begin with brahmacarya, which means freedom from sexual attachment. If he can, he should try to avoid all this nonsense. If not, he can marry and then after some time enter vānaprastha, retired life. At that time one thinks, "Now that I have enjoyed this attachment so much, let me leave home." Then the man travels all over to various places of pilgrimage to become detached, and the wife goes with him as an assistant. After two or three months he again comes home to see that his children are doing nicely and then again goes away. This is the beginning of detachment. When the detachment is complete, the man tells his wife, "Now go live with your children, and I shall take sannyāsa, the renounced order of life." This is final detachment. The whole Vedic way of life is meant for detachment, and therefore Kuntī prays, "Kindly help detach me from this family attraction." This is Kuntīdevī's instruction.

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His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda, Founder Ācārya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness