by Gauranga Darshan Das
“A capable, merciful and attentive person can
effectively protect surrendered people“
Gajendra, the king of elephants, went for a pleasure trip in the Ritumat Garden in the heavenly Trikuta mountain area. As he was happily sporting there in a lake with his wives and children, suddenly a crocodile caught his leg. He struggled with all his strength to release himself. Even the demigods were astonished to see this unusual fight. Being helpless, unable to save himself from danger, Gajendra was extremely afraid of being killed.
In such a predicament, Gajendra introspected that the other elephants, his friends, relatives and wives could not do anything to rescue him. So, he was inspired to seek shelter of the God. By God’s grace he remembered a prayer that he had memorized in his previous life. The following verse (Bhagavatam 8.3.17) is a part of that prayer glorifying the all-merciful Lord Krsna. The explanation is given below the verse.
muktaya bhuri-karunaya namo ‘layaya
svamsena sarva-tanu-bhrn-manasi pratita-
pratyag-drse bhagavate brhate namas te
Surrendered like me (madrk prapanna)
Why should one surrender to someone? Can’t one be independent? It’s within everyone’s experience that there are problems in this world. One tries to solve them by one’s own efforts, and to some extent, one becomes successful too. However, material solutions are temporary. Because the problems arise again and again. To permanently solve them, one needs help from superior powers. So, like Gajendra, one should surrender to God (madrk prapanna). This proposal, or rather this conclusion of all scriptures, doesn’t seem palatable to an average human engrossed in material pursuits. Many people do not even believe or realize that they are unnecessarily undergoing material difficulties! Such people may understand the following.
Entangled Animals (pasu-pasa)
Gajendra was an animal (pasu). Srila Prabhupada says that everyone who identifies oneself with the material body can be called as pasu. Just as Gajendra was caught by crocodile, every conditioned soul is entangled by the noose (pasa) of maya or the illusory energy of God. Maya constitutes three material modes that bind a bewildered soul in the cycle of repeated birth and death. Unlike an animal, a human being is provided with a higher intelligence to come out of it by seeking shelter of God.
Seeking Deliverance (vimoksanaya)
Surrendering to God, one seeks liberation from material bondage (vimoksanaya). To the degree we are eager for deliverance, to that degree He reciprocates mercifully. Of course, a pure devotee only wants to render unalloyed service to God, without expecting anything in return, including liberation. However, circumstantially, a devotee may ask some favor from the Lord for self-preservation, so that one may continue to serve Him without obstructions. So, one who desires deliverance from miseries or obstacles in life should fervently seek help from God. But why only God, why not someone else?
Only the Liberated can Liberate (muktaya)
One should seek help from a capable person. One who had fallen in a deep blind well can be pulled out only by one who is outside the well. One who is drowning in an ocean cannot be saved by another person who is also drowning. When none of his strong elephant associates were capable of saving Gajendra, he sought help from God. Only God can liberate an entangled person because God is never entangled, i.e., ever-liberated (muktaya). Most people in this world are entangled by maya to a smaller or greater degree. And those who are not are so only due to the mercy of God who reciprocated with their desire to get disentangled. Of course, the Lord’s eternal associates are also never entangled. Therefore, only the omnipotent God and His pure devotees have the capability to liberate a person bound by material miseries. But is ‘capability’ the only criterion?
Unlimitedly Merciful (bhuri-karunaya)
One who has million dollars certainly has the capacity to help a poor person who is in need of ten dollars. But unless that rich man has the willingness to help, he wouldn’t help the poor man. That basis of such willingness is one’s merciful attitude. God is not only supremely capable, but unlimitedly merciful too (bhuri-karunaya). This combination of God’s mercy and capacity makes our surrender fruitful and the most effective means to drive away all miseries. But are ‘capacity’ and ‘mercy’ sufficient?
Attentive to the Devotees (namo alayaya)
One may be capable and merciful, but unless one is ‘attentive’ to the needs or difficulties of others, one cannot help them. Being omnipotent and omniscient, God is always aware of our problems. His awareness is due to His attentive-ness. When we offer prayers, He attentively
listens to us. Being our well-wisher, He aims and endeavors to deliver us from material life, even before we pray. He is never lazy in regard to our deliverance. Someone might ask, “How can God be so attentive to our needs? He stays so far from us in His spiritual abode!”
Stays Right in the Heart (sva-amsena sarva tanu-bhrn manasi)
God is not only capable, merciful, attentive to protect us, but he is also very close to us. Although God eternally stays in His spiritual kingdom, He also expands Himself as the Supersoul or Paramatma (sva-amsena) in the hearts of all embodied beings (sarva tanu-bhrn manasi). Even if the living entity commits abominable actions and becomes an insect or worm in stool, the Lord doesn’t ignore him or her. He stays right within their hearts giving them knowledge, remembrance and forgetfulness.
Directly Observes (pratita pratyak-drse)
Staying within the hearts of all, the Lord directly and attentively observes the desires, needs and difficulties of everyone and mercifully solves the problems of those who surrender unto Him.
The unlimited Lord Krsna (bhagavate brhate namaste)
And that God (bhagavate) is none other than Lord Krsna who is unlimited and the greatest (brhate), and is the source of all incarnations. He is capable, merciful, attentive, observant, and closest well-wisher of all of us. So, Gajendra sought shelter of the Supreme Lord Krsna, the merciful deliverer of all.
Hearing the helpless appeal of Gajendra, the Lord hastily came on the back of His bird carrier Garuda, and killed the crocodile with His disc weapon and saved Gajendra. Lord Krsna is always ready to save us from any difficulty at any time. But are we ready enough to seek His protection like Gajendra? Gajendra was exclusively dependent on the Lord, having no other source of protection. Seeking inspiration from Gajendra, let us humbly express our dependence on Krsna. Everyone is caught by the crocodile of eternal time and may die at any moment. The best course, therefore, is to seek shelter of Krsna, and be saved from the struggle for existence. To reach this understanding is the ultimate goal of life.
Author: Gauranga Darshan Das is dean of the Bhaktivedanta Vidyapitha (www.vidyapitha.in) at ISKCON Govardhan Eco Village (GEV). He teaches scriptural courses at several places in India. He has written study guides including Bhagavata Subodhini, Caitanya Subodhini and Gita Subodhini, and compiled vital scriptural verses in the form of the Ratnamala and Tattvamala series. He runs a free monthly e-magzine called Bhagavata Pradipika.