Bhagavān, Grace and Material Suffering – Part 6

Continuation from Paramātmā Sandarbha, Anuccheda 93.6


Furthermore, [the fact that Bhagavān does not personally act to sustain the universe] does not disprove that the avatāras are endowed with the intrinsic potency. The sole purpose of Bhagavān is to please His devotees through the absolute transcendence of His self-willed līlā, and so because whatever He does [in this regard] is without attachment or malice toward all others, He is devoid of bias. Rather, just as the tongue inflicted with jaundice develops an aversion for sugar, similarly even when non-devotees are subjected to the Lord’s chastisement it is simply for their welfare because it counteracts their wickedness.

Therefore, according to Śrī Śuka’s statement at the end of the Ninth Canto (SB 9.24.57-58), during the dissolution the jīva is merged [in Paramātmā] along with its limiting adjuncts (upādhis), and hence there is no possibility of engaging in meritorious action. Consequently [at the beginning of a new creation cycle], the Lord blesses the jīva by generating its adjunctive body so that it can perform pious acts. This is also confirmed by the commentary of Śrīdhara Svāmī.

Indeed, O king, other than the bestowal of mercy (māyā) upon those devotees who are as dear as His very own Self (ātmā), there is no cause for the appearance and actions of the Lord who is transcendental, the witness of all, and the Self of all beings. The activity of the Lord’s Māyā is meant for the birth, sustenance and dissolution of all souls while His grace is intended to grant them self-realization and cessation of the cycle of birth and death. (SB 9.24.57-58)

And the kings captured by Jarāsandha prayed to Kṛṣṇa:

You, O Lord of the universe, have descended on earth with Your plenary manifestation in order to protect the virtuous and chastise the wicked. Consequently, we [Your devotees] do not understand how anyone can transgress Your command or how people [protected by You] can suffer the results of their own karma. (SB 10.70.27)

Svāmī comments: “Even though You have descended to protect the virtuous, we are suffering. Why is that? Meanwhile, others like Jarāsandha are disobeying even Your own order. Moreover, even those people who are protected by You are suffering from their karma. All this we do not understand. The implication here is that neither scenario conforms to the norms of logic”.

According to this comment, although the Lord’s līlā is independent [i.e., self-willed], it is only Māyā, the performer of difficult tasks, which impels and arranges for the activities of the suras and the asuras. It is because of her that the specific actions of the jīvas, who are endeavoring separately according to their individual karma, occur, being synchronized with their corresponding auspicious and inauspicious omens. This is seen in the world also. But sometimes when Māyā is unable to follow the trajectory of the Lord’s līlā, then only the independent nature of the Supreme Controller becomes manifest, as in the case of the Lord’s order to Yama:

Following My order, O great king, bring My guru’s son, who was brought here due to his own karma. (SB10.45.45)

Because this [intervention of the Lord] is very rare, however, it does not lead to the defect of rejecting a desirable outcome and accepting an undesirable one in all circumstances.
Now, if some bear malice towards the devotees, then the Lord’s own hostility towards such people is not a defect because that is part of what it means to favor His devotees. Rather, because such hostility [towards those who oppose the Lord’s devotees] nourishes His affection for His devotee, it is a unique manifestation of bliss that is part of the hlādinī potency. Because of this hostility, the Lord awards such people oneness with Brahman, which is like a desert in relation to the all-exceeding nectar of bhakti-rasa, which at every step manifests varieties of condensed bliss. The attainment of oneness with Brahman is acutely opposed to the nectar of devotion to the Lord, and [is granted only because it] is the proper treatment for a person whose disease [of enmity to the devotees or God] cannot be cured by anything else.

The prowess of the Lord that arises because of this [hostility] keeps His svarūpa-śakti [in the form of bhakti] concealed [from those who are the object of His hostility], and thus [from the devotees’ point of view, brahma-kaivalya] is equivalent (tulyam) to the non-existence of an object after its destruction (dhvaṁsābhāva). This equivalence view is expressed in the following statement, “[All those devoted to Lord Nārāyaṇa] regard all circumstances as equal, whether it be promotion to heaven, liberation from material existence, or dwelling in hell.” (SB 6.17.28).

According to this principle, Bhagavān awards a very special distinct punishment [i.e., brahma-kaivalya] to them [those who have hatred for God or His devotees]; for others [devotees] it is, however, exceedingly intolerable, and even to those desiring sense pleasure, who have absolutely no interest in it. By such punishment, their complete material misery in the form of formidable heinous desires is also destroyed because the Lord’s nature is such that His actions culminate in everyone’s welfare.

Parameśvara gives such people even that which is aspired for by those who worship the Absolute with an exclusive sense of oneness and which is attainable only with great ardor. Sometimes He even sends them to a special heaven that is intensely sought by those who cherish sensual enjoyment. Such a destination is, however, indistinguishable from hell for those who know the Supreme Reality, and hence it is filthy like worms in stool. Therefore, the wives of the Kālīya snake said: “You regard Your enemy as well as Your sons as equal, and You chastise while anticipating only auspicious results [for the recipients of such punishment].” (SB 10.16.33)

The word suta, “sons”, here refers to the devas, who are maintained just like sons; and the word damam, “chastisement”, implies, “because even Your chastisement” [is intended for their benefit].

In those scriptural passages, however, where it is heard that even [wicked persons] such as Pūtanā attained the same destination as the most exalted devotees (uttama-bhaktas), it is perfectly clear that these incidents occur exclusively through the glory of imitating such devotees. This has been described in statements such as, “Even Pūtanā along with her family attained You merely by dressing in the guise of a mother.” (SB 10.14.35)

If, however, some devotees somehow offend other saintly devotees, then by that very offense they experience the misery of hatred towards devotees and Bhagavān for a long time like the intense scorching of an underwater volcano, which is diametrically opposed [to their prior devotional disposition]. Thereafter, if they should somehow come into contact with Bhagavān again, even if only in the guise of a devotee [like Pūtanā], all their defects arising from their offenses are destroyed and they along with their associates attain His abode. They do not attain oneness in Brahman (brahma-kaivalya) because the seed of bhakti is of an imperishable nature. Bhagavān’s anger towards them is like that of a mother towards her children. Therefore, everything is consistent.

And so, King Parīkṣit asked:

samaḥ priyaḥ suhṛd brahman
bhūtānāṁ bhagavān svayam
indrasyārthe kathaṁ daityān
avadhīd viṣamo yathā

Bhagavān Himself is equal to everyone, beloved to all, and the well-wishing friend of every living being, O Brāhmaṇa. So why did He kill the sons of Diti on behalf of Indra as if He were biased [in his favor]?  (SB 7.1.1)

Bhagavān, being Paramātmā, is equal (samaḥ) to all; He is the friend (suhṛt), or one who acts for the welfare of all; and [He is] the beloved (priyaḥ), meaning the object of everyone’s love. Since He is thus equally disposed to everyone, and the well-wisher and object of love for all, how could He slay the asuras as if biased against them? The question raised here about bias [viṣamatvam, i.e., the negation of samaḥ] is used in an indicative sense (upalakṣaṇa) [suggesting that the question could have been rephrased substituting the other qualities named in the first line of the verse]. For example, “[How could He slay the asuras] as if He were not their well-wishing friend (asuhṛdi) or as if not beloved to them (apriya)?”