by Gauranga Darshan Das
King of earth is greater than King of heaven!?
King Prthu is an empowered incarnation of the Supreme Lord. He is an exemplary ruler who took care of his citizens just like a loving father. Once he initiated the performance of 100 horse sacrifices at Brahmavarta. He completed 99 sacrifices and commenced the 100th one.
Indra, the king of heaven, holds the record of performing 100 sacrifices and therefore He is called sata-kratu. He became insecure and tried to impede Prthu’s 100th sacrifice by stealing the sacrificial horse in the false dress of a mendicant.
Vijitasava, Prthu’s son, retrieved the horse but didn’t kill Indra seeing him as a religious man. Indra stole the horse again and Vijitasva brought it back. As Indra repeatedly tried to seize the horse, Prthu became angry and prepared to kill Indra himself. But his priests stopped him saying that they would chant mantras to cast Indra into fire.
Lord Brahma then appeared on the scene and told Prthu to stop the sacrifice so that Indra gives up his nefarious activities. Being obedient to Brahma, Prthu stopped his 100th sacrifice. Then Lord Visnu came along with Indra asking Prthu to forgive Indra. Indra felt guilty for his misdeed and Prthu excused him wholeheartedly. Later Prthu offered his heartfelt prayers to Lord Visnu, who became so pleased with him to offer wonderful benedictions.
Who is greater? King of heaven, Indra, who maintained his record of 100 sacrifices or King of earth, Prthu, who stopped at 99? The flowing analysis will make it clear.
Flexibility is greater than Rigidity
A flexible person is able to adopt himself according to the time, place and circumstances giving importance to a higher principle. But a rigid person cannot compromise on his stance or ambition even if it causes great damage. Being too rigid and strict even about authorized protocols or policies also may sometimes be unpleasant, then what to speak of being rigid about one’s selfish and destructive purposes? That’s the difference between Prithu and Indra in this episode.
Brahma had not told Prthu to stop his second or tenth or even fiftieth sacrifice; it was already his 100th sacrifice. Still Prthu was flexible and malleable enough to understand the higher purpose of Brahma to stop the irreligious systems being introduced by Indra. Thus without argument or negotiation, Prthu gave up his plan to do 100 sacrifices
Compromising with a concernful heart for a higher purpose is not a defeat. Accepting such a defeat is victory. But being rigid for one’s selfish purposes is actually a defeat.
Submissiveness is greater than Stubbornness
Although Indra was repeatedly failing in his attempts to steal the horse, he stubbornly tried to obstruct the sacrifice of Prthu. He knew that what he was doing was wrong and he was even failing to do so, still he was stubborn. Such determination to do a destructive task is born out of envy. In this world, when one is so bent upon committing a wrong deed, he becomes so stubborn that he is obsessed and overwhelmed with his desire paying no heed to the negative consequences.
Such stubborn people cannot be convinced by logic and reason or even authority at times. If a stubborn person is asked to compromise he will become more stubborn. On the other hand, submissive subordinates spontaneously follow the instructions of superiors, even at the cost of making a compromise on their own plans.
So, to end the competition between Indra and Prthu, Lord Brahma thought that instead of allowing Indra to further introduce such irreligious systems, it would be better to stop Prthu’s sacrifice.
King Prthu did not argue with Brahma that there was no mistake on his part, which was a fact. It was actually the mistake of Indra. Still Prthu didn’t question Brahma why he was being stopped instead of Indra. Prthu submissively followed Brahma’s instruction.
A submissive subordinate will be bestowed with the necessary intelligence and information to comprehend things from a broader perspective. A stubborn subordinate who blocks his ears to any good advice will be deprived of a better understanding of life.
Responsibility is greater than Attachment (Detachment is greater than Irresponsibility)
Attachment to one’s desires shouldn’t make one irresponsible. And detachment from desires doesn’t mean one gives up one’s responsibility. In other words, responsibility shouldn’t lead to undue attachment and detachment doesn’t mean irresponsibility. The narrations of great rajarsis in the Bhagavatam teach us how to live with responsibility and detachment.
Great devotee kings like Prthu, Yudhistira, Pariksit and Prahlada ruled the earth very responsibly. And when an able successor is ready, despite their great influence, followers, accomplishments and unexcelled facilities, they are detached enough to leave behind all of them for a higher purpose.
King Indra, in order to seize Prthu’s sacrificial horse, adopted several forms of sannyasa, which were nothing but various symbols of atheistic philosophy and sinful activities. These forms were appreciated and adopted by sinful men and ignorant people accept them as religious, and spoil their life by following them. By disrupting Prthu’s sacrifice, Indra could maintain his record of being a sata-kratu. But his act reflects his irresponsible behavior towards the people in general. He was so attached to his position of being the performer of 100 sacrifices and didn’t want anyone else to be so.
King Prthu was detached enough to stop his 100th sacrifice, because that would mean stopping the false systems of religion that would misguide the human society. Prthu’s sacrifice is ultimately intended for the welfare of people, and if his stopping the sacrifice would cause better welfare, they why wouldn’t he do so? He took it as his responsibility.
What is good and what is bad is sometimes so dynamic depending on the time, place and situation. Whether an activity is good or bad often depends on the outcome it brings. A delicious, nutritious and well-prepared food item may be very nectarean to the tongue and nourishing to the body, but if the person who is eating has a particular disease that same food could act as a poison for him. One needs to be mature enough to understand the dynamics of good and bad and be detached and flexible to change his course of action for better results.
Dependence on God is greater than Insecurity
Indra felt insecure when Prthu was doing 100 sacrifices and thus about to defeat his record. He couldn’t accept the glory of Prthu but tried to deceitfully subdue his power. But when Prthu was stopped from doing 100th sacrifice, he took it as the will of the Supreme Lord and happily accepted the situation. Apparently Prthu’s score was 99 and Indra’s score was 100, but Prthu’s dependence and faith on the Supreme Lord and his obedience to Brahma are much greater than Indra’s score of 100.
Srila Prabhupada writes, “As far as Maharaja Prthu was concerned, he was a great devotee of the Supreme Personality of Godhead; therefore it was not necessary for him to perform the prescribed Vedic ritualistic ceremonies. Such ceremonies are known as karma, and there is no need for a devotee in the transcendental position to execute them.” (4.19.32 P)
Even Lord Brahma told King Prthu:
masmin maharaja krthah sma cintam nisamayasmad-vaca adrtatma yad dhyayato daiva-hatam nu kartum mano 'tirustam visate tamo 'ndham
“My dear King, do not be agitated and anxious because your sacrifices have not been properly executed due to providential impediments. Kindly take my words with great respect. We should always remember that if something happens by providential arrangement, we should not be very sorry. The more we try to rectify such reversals, the more we enter into the darkest region of materialistic thought.” (4.19.34)
Forgiveness is greater than Envy
Any sacrifice is meant for satisfying the Supreme Lord Visnu, whose mercy is the source of all prosperity and power. By his devotion and meticulous performance of sacrifices, King Prthu pleased Lord Visnu and got His favor. The nature of this material world, however, is that even if one does a good deed with a pure intention, as a service to the Supreme Lord and the humanity, still there are some envious people who cannot tolerate it.
Envy is self-envy. One’s envy that is intended to destroy others ultimately destroys oneself too. Envy manifests in an immature mind when one sees other’s success. That inactive feeling, if not eliminated in the beginning itself, turns into an active action causing damage to oneself and others.
When two people desire the same thing, and only one person gets it, the one who doesn’t get it often becomes envious. That is due to the scarcity in this world and more accurately the scarcity mentality of the people here. But in the spiritual world where there is enough for everyone, there is no scarcity and no reason to be envious. Further, everyone there is satisfied with what one has and one is. One can bring such atmosphere in this world as well by cultivating such satisfaction, and genuinely appreciating others for what they have and what they are.
Although, Indra was envious of Prthu and stole his horse repeatedly, when Indra became repentant of his mistake and fell at the feet of Prthu, Prthu forgave him without any grudges. Prthu immediately embraced Indra and excused him wholeheartedly. Both of them forgot all the past incidents. Although they both were angry with each other earlier, but since they were devotees of Lord Visnu, they again became cooperative. When people are not Vaisnavas, they fight perpetually among one another.
It is often said that envy is indirect glorification of others. So, why not glorify them directly? Indra finally came to this consciousness by the mature intervention of Lord Brahma and the malleable attitude of Prthu.
Broad vision is greater than Quick solution
Purpose of administration and the role of the administrators is the welfare of the society. When there is conflict between two leaders, their superior cannot always think of who is right and who is wrong and accept one and reject one! He should see what best serves the welfare of the society at large and how to positively motivate both the parties involved.
A mature leader tries resolves conflicts without rejecting anyone. Eliminating someone may be easy but accommodating needs a good heart and expertise. Lord Brahma, having a broad vision, could foresee the consequences of Indra’s stubborn creation of heretics. He didn’t just want to finish the job of stopping the dispute somehow. He took a direction that brought out the best of both parties.
Brahma’s way of dealing with this situation announced the glorious qualities of King Prthu for all the generations to come, and brought a positive transformation in Indra’s character too. Brahma asked Prthu to stop instead of asking Indra. Finally, Indra became ashamed, realized his mistake and apologized to Prthu. Lord Visnu personally brought Indra to Prthu so that Prthu may excuse him. Indra later resumed his role as the ruler of heaven and continued to contribute in the cosmic management.
Character is greater than Accomplishment
All the aspects of Prthu’s character that were described above are much greater than Indra’s accomplishment of 100 sacrifices. The extra one sacrifice of Indra cannot compare to the unparalleled mercy of Lord Visnu and the blessings of Brahma that Prthu received.
Prthu’s flexibility in conflict, submissiveness to superiors, detachment from ambition, responsibility towards people, forgiveness towards a wrongdoer, dependence on Krsna’s will, ready acceptance of good advice, willingness to compromise, the blessings he received from Brahma, the mercy he received from Lord Visnu and the pure devotion he had in his heart – all put together is millions of times greater than a 100 sacrifices.
Thus although Prthu did only 99 sacrifices, it is much greater than 100! Because his stopping the 100th sacrifice pleased Lord Visnu and Brahma and brought transformation in Indra, which is a greater sacrificial result. One’s glory is not actually dependent on one’s accomplishments but on the quality of one’s consciousness and character.
Therefore 99 is greater than 100! Hence proved!
Gauranga Darshan Das, a disciple of His Holiness Radhanath Swami, is dean of the Bhaktivedanta Vidyapitha (www.vidyapitha.in) at ISKCON Govardhan Eco Village (GEV), outside Mumbai. He has written study guides, including Bhagavata Subodhini, Caitanya Subodhini and Gita Subodhini, and teaches scriptural courses at several places in India. He also oversees the deity worship at GEV.