by Sanatana Goswami Das
Prthu Maharaja while addressing the four Kumaras and surrendering his everything at their lotus feet says in one of most significant and beautiful verses of the Srimad-Bhagavatam:
yair idrsi bhagavato gatir atma-vada
ekantato nigamibhih pratipadita nah
tusyantv adabhra-karunah sva-krtena nityam
ko nama tat pratikaroti vinoda-patram
“Prthu Maharaja continued: How can such persons, who have rendered unlimited service by explaining the path of self-realization in relation to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and whose explanations are given for our enlightenment with complete conviction and Vedic evidence, be repaid except by folded palms containing water for their satisfaction? Such great personalities can be satisfied only by their own activities, which are distributed amongst human society out of their unlimited mercy.” [SB 4.22.47]
Srila Prabhupada provides an explanation in the purport: “The word vinoda-patram can be divided into two words, vina and uda-patram, or can be understood as one word, vinoda-patram, which means “joker.” A joker’s activities simply arouse laughter, and a person who tries to repay the spiritual master or teacher of the transcendental message of Krsna becomes a laughingstock just like a joker because it is not possible to repay such a debt.”
“Knowledge of Krsna is such a great gift that it is impossible to repay the benefactor. Therefore Prthu Maharaja requested the Kumaras to be satisfied by their own benevolent activities in delivering souls from the clutches of maya. The King saw that there was no other way to satisfy them for their exalted activities.”
The last line of this verse is a rhetorical question that is being asked rather to make a statement. Considering the literal connotation of this statement yields one meaning which is to make us aware that these great personalities cannot be repaid even with the best of our capacities. This is because the gift that they have given us is too immense for us to comprehend. One can only begin imagining getting a key to a realm that is totally of a different nature altogether. This path of self-realization paved by these greatly advanced personalities is such that one can be reunited in one’s lost relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead since time immemorial. What else can be a greater gift for a conditioned soul lost in the quagmire of this material world, struggling with the three modes of nature moment-to-moment, till the end of their lives, revolving endlessly in the whirlpool of birth and death?
But the obvious meaning of this rhetorical question is to urge us to drop out of our own comfort zones and deliver the best of our physical, mental and intellectual faculties for the welfare of others by sharing the transcendental knowledge.
To explain this concept further, we can draw a parallel from the well-known story of the little bird whose eggs were stolen by the ocean. Drowning in an ocean of despair, the bird threatened to empty the ocean if it wouldn’t return her eggs. Sure enough, as it had to be, the bird happened to become a vinoda-patram or a laughing stock in front of the mammoth endless ocean that lay before her. But the bird being persistent in her efforts and fixed in her duty (which was to protect her yet to be born children from this unanticipated ordeal) refused to relinquish her efforts despite the discouragement from the ocean. It was then that the unrivalled king of the birds and the personal carrier of Lord Vishnu, Garuda, appeared on the scene, in order to show compassion to his tiny sister. Who would dare to relegate or not heed Garuda’s order in the three worlds? In moments, the bird had her eggs back.
We are not much differently situated. The bird represents the struggling sadhaka and Garuda represents the great souls who can deliver us from the greatest of the calamities. This verse is presented in this way in order to drive it home that if it is not possible to repay these personalities then how much efforts should be invested in order to make this impossible attempt.
But the irony is that these great souls are not expectant of such investments and returns, as if in a business transaction. In fact, this is what makes them great: to offer everything selflessly and indiscriminately without any expectations. Just as Srila Prabhupada said that it would please him the most if each and every devotee accepts wholeheartedly what he has given them and shares it with others.
Considering this idea from an unorthodox point of view, it is better to appear like a joker or be a laughing stock in front of these advanced personalities than to be a laughing stock in front of the selfishly oriented miserly people of this world. Anyone fallen into this world is already stamped as a laughing stock because of the glorious place, i.e., the spiritual world resplendent with all its opulence, that he has given up due to his trivial desires for enjoyment.
Therefore, serving such great souls, especially Srila Prabhupada, our spiritual masters and other dedicated devotees of the Lord, with all our hearts and souls, becomes the only recourse for a sincere sadhaka willing to be situated in the eternal realm of the abode of the Lord, wherein every word is a song, every walk is a dance and every talk is a laughter!!
The above article is an answer to the Open Book Exam , by
Sanatana Goswami Das , to the question: “If great souls are satisfied by their own acts and if trying to repay them makes one a joker, what inspires you to serve devotees?”