TTS Mahabharata 2003 - 2.35 - The Pandavas Retire


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MBK: 2.35: The Pandavas Retire
Chapter 35 The Pandavas Retire
As the thirty-sixth year of Yudhisthira's rule approached, Arjuna visited Dwaraka. He
knew Krsna's departure was close at hand, and he wanted to see Him one last time. His
brothers were hoping that he might persuade Krsna to make a final visit to Hastinapura.
Maybe Krsna could even be convinced to counter Gandhari's curse and remain on earth. Surely
that was within His power.
Arjuna had been gone for a few months and Yudhisthira began to observe inauspicious
omens. The seasons appeared out of order, and men were abandoning their prescribed duties.
There were constant disputes arising between the citizens, and people were cheating each
other everywhere. Seeing that the people were overwhelmed by pride, anger and greed, Yudhisthira
spoke to Bhima.
"My dear brother, it is now some time since Arjuna left for Dwaraka. I see many portents
which indicate that a great calamity has occurred. Has the time for Krsna's departure arrived,
as the godly Rsi Narada indicated? What else could account for the many signs of irreligion
which we now see? All our good fortune and everything auspicious has come only from Krsna.
In His absence, everything will be lost."
Yudhisthira pointed out to Bhima the various omens he had witnessed: the jackals that howled
at the rising sun, the dogs that barked fearlessly at him, his horses that appeared to weep.
He could hear the shrieks of crows and owls at all times, and thunder constantly filled
the sky. The earth seemed to tremble and the wind blew violently, carrying clouds of dust.
Deities in the temple seemed to cry and perspire. It appeared as if they were about to leave.
Yudhisthira concluded, "I think that all these disturbances indicate a great loss to the
earth's good fortune. The world was fortunate to have been marked with the Lord's footprints.
These signs indicate that this will no longer be."
Even as Yudhisthira spoke, a messenger came to inform him that Arjuna had returned. Yudhisthira
had him enter at once and Arjuna was soon bowing at his feet and embracing him. Yudhisthira
saw that he was dejected. Tears flowed from his eyes and his face was pale. He could barely
look at his brother.
Feeling even more disquieted, Yudhisthira said, "My dear brother, please tell me whether
our friends and relatives in Dwaraka are all passing their days in happiness. Is my respectable
grandfather, Surasena, happy? Are my maternal uncle Vasudeva and his younger brothers doing
well? Are Ugrasena and his younger brother still living? How are Hridika and his son,
Krtavarma? Are Akrura, Jayanta, Gada, Sarana and Satrajit all happy? How is Balarama, the
Personality of Godhead and the protector of all devotees?"
Yudhisthira went on naming their friends in Dwaraka and asking after their welfare. The
Pandavas had often visited Dwaraka and spent happy days there. After listing the chief
residents of Krsna's city, Yudhisthira finally asked about Krsna. "Is Lord Krsna, the original
Supreme Person, who is always affectionate toward His devotees, enjoying the pious assembly
at Dwaraka surrounded by His friends? That all-powerful person, along with Balarama,
who is the primeval Lord Ananta, is staying in the ocean of the Yadu dynasty for the welfare,
protection and general progress of the entire universe. The members of the Yadu dynasty,
being protected by the Lord's arms, enjoy life like the residents of the eternal spiritual
world. Under Krsna's protection, they live without fear, surpassing even the gods in
their power and opulence."
Looking at Arjuna's downcast face, Yudhisthira asked if he was well. Although the Pandava
king suspected that Krsna and His family had departed, he continued to inquire from Arjuna,
hoping that there was some other reason for his brother's moroseness.
"My brother Arjuna, please tell me whether your health is all right. You appear to have
lost your luster. Is this due to others disrespecting and neglecting you because of your long stay
at Dwaraka? Has someone addressed you with unfriendly words or threatened you? Could
you not give charity to one who asked, or could you not keep your promise to someone?
Could you, a great protector of the people, not give protection to some helpless persons
when they approached you for shelter? Have you contacted a woman of questionable character,
or have you not properly treated a deserving woman? Have you been defeated on the way by
someone who is inferior or equal to you? Have you committed an unpardonable or abominable
mistake?" Yudhisthira paused, not wanting to express his greatest fear. Bhima and the
twins shed tears as they too guessed the truth. After a moment of silence, Yudhisthira concluded,
"Or, my dear brother, are you now feeling empty for all time because you have lost your
most intimate friend, Lord Krsna? O my brother Arjuna, I can think of no other reason for
your becoming so sorrowful."
Arjuna could not reply. His mouth was dry and his limbs trembled. He buried his face
in his hands and wept. At last he managed to check his tears and said, "O King, the
Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, who treated me like an intimate friend, has left
me alone. Thus my incomparable power, which astonished even the demigods, is gone. I have
just lost Him whose separation for a moment would render all the universes inauspicious
and void, like bodies without life. Only by His merciful strength was I able to vanquish
the lusty princes assembled at king Drupada's svayamvara."
Arjuna then described the many incidents where he had been able to achieve incredible feats
of prowess due to Krsna's grace. Recounting the numerous occasions when the Pandavas had
escaped from precarious and dangerous situations, Arjuna continued in a doleful voice. "The
military strength of the Kauravas was like an ocean in which there dwelt many fearsome
aquatics. It was insurmountable, but because of Krsna's friendship, I was able to cross
it. Great generals like Bhisma, Drona, Karna and others all directed their invincible weapons
against me. Yet by the Lord's grace they could hardly touch a hair on my head. Surely it
was only due to my lack of esteem for Him that I dared engage Him as my chariot driver,
for He is worshipped and offered services by the best of men who desire to attain salvation.
"O King, His joking and frank talks were pleasing and beautifully decorated with smiles. His
affectionate addresses unto me as 前 Partha, O friend, O son of the Kuru dynasty' and all
such intimacies I now remember, and thus I am overwhelmed. We used to sleep, sit and
loiter together. When we boasted about our chivalry, if He exaggerated, I would reproach
Him by saying, 閃y friend, You are very truthful.' Even in those hours when His value was minimized,
He would tolerate my utterings, excusing me exactly as a friend excuses his friend or
a father excuses his son."
Arjuna broke off, unable to continue. His brothers all sat stupefied, also saying nothing.
The unthinkable had finally happened and Krsna had left. They listened as Arjuna, regaining
his composure, went on to describe how, in Krsna's absence, he had been overpowered by
a group of cowherds when he was trying to protect Krsna's wives.
Arjuna looked at his two hands. "Where has my wondrous power gone? I have the same Gandiva,
the same arrows, the same chariot drawn by the same horses, and I use them as the same
Arjuna to whom all kings offer their respects. But in Krsna's absence, all of them have at
once become useless."
Yudhisthira embraced his distraught brother. He sat him on a throne and had servants fan
him. After Arjuna had sipped a little water, he told his brothers what had transpired in
Dwaraka. "O King, since you have asked me about our friends and relatives in that holy
city, I will inform you that all of them were afflicted by the Brahmins' curse. As a result,
they became intoxicated with wine and fought among themselves with sticks, not even recognizing
one another. Now they are all dead."
Arjuna related the details of the terrible event. He explained how years ago a number
of boys in Dwaraka had played a joke on some powerful rsis, headed by Narada, when the
sages were visiting the city. The boys had dressed up Krsna's son Samba as a woman and
placed an iron ball under his clothes, making him appear pregnant. They had then asked the
sages, "Will this lady give birth to a girl or a boy?" The rsis, angered by the boys'
insolence, answered, "This one will give birth to an iron ball which will destroy your dynasty.
Only Krsna and Balarama will survive."
When the Yadu king, Ugrasena, heard about the curse, he had the iron ball ground into
a powder and thrown into the ocean. Later, the Yadus observed fearful omens in Dwaraka.
They saw the embodied form of Time, black and terrible, moving about the city. The powerful
Yadu and Vrishni bowmen shot hundreds of thousands of arrows at him, but none could strike him.
Day by day, stronger and stronger winds blew, and the streets swarmed with rats and mice.
Earthen pots cracked with no visible cause, wells spewed out their water, and the bodies
of men trembled. All sorts of inauspicious creatures末crows, owls and jackals末filled
the air with their cries. Asses were born of cows and mules from elephants. Clean, well-cooked
food, when served, was covered with worms. The heavy tread of running men was constantly
heard, but no one could be observed running. The citizens committed sinful acts without
shame. They disregarded the Brahmins, forgot to worship the temple deities, and insulted
their elders and preceptors. Only Krsna and Balarama did not behave in these ways. When
They observed the fearful portents and heard how the citizens were having frightening dreams,
They called an assembly.
With everyone present, Krsna said, "O leaders of the Yadu dynasty, please note these terrible
omens that have appeared in Dwaraka, just like flags of Death. We should not remain
here any longer. The women, children, and old men should leave the city and go to Sankhoddara.
We ourselves will go to the holy Prabhasa, where the river Sarasvati flows toward the
west. There we should bathe for purification, fast and fix our minds in meditation. Let
us then worship the gods and present them with rich offerings. Then we should worship
the Brahmins and offer them charity. In this way, we may be able to counteract what these
signs portend."
The assembly signaled their agreement and arrangements were made. The Yadava warriors
mounted their chariots and set out for Prabhasa, on the seacoast. The women traveled in their
midst. When the procession reached Sankhoddara, halfway between Dwaraka and Prabhasa, the
women remained while the men continued.
With a loud blast of conchshells and the blare of thousands of trumpets the Yadavas arrived
at Prabhasa. They took up their residence in palaces and mansions and performed sacrifices
to worship the gods. At the end of the second day, influenced by destiny, they drank large
quantities of maireya wine, which had been prepared for the sacrifices. Intoxicated,
they began to joke.
Satyaki then insulted Krtavarma, whom he had never forgiven for helping Asvatthama kill
the sleeping Pandava troops. In a mocking voice he said, "What ksatriya possessed of
prowess would kill men embraced by sleep? Were they not already dead? O son of Hridika,
your action cannot be tolerated."
Krtavarma's anger blazed. Pointing at Satyaki with his left hand as a way to disregard him,
he thundered, "Professing yourself a hero, how could you cruelly kill the armless Bhurisrava
even as he sat in meditation with his weapons cast aside?"
Krsna threw an angry glance at Krtavarma. Satyaki leapt to his feet. Pulling out his
sword he bellowed, "I swear by truth that I will send Krtavarma along the path taken
by Drstadyumna and Sikhandi. His life and fame have come to an end."
Satyaki ran at Krtavarma, whose reflexes had been dulled by the wine, and with a sweep
of his sword beheaded him. Krtavarma's friends then attacked Satyaki and assailed him with
iron cooking pots. Pradyumna came to his aid, and the two men stood back to back as a large
number of warriors closed on them. Although they put up a brave fight, they were soon
overwhelmed and slain.
When He saw His son Pradyumna killed, Krsna became angry. He took up a handful of reeds
that were growing nearby. The reeds had grown from the iron powder that had been cast into
the ocean on Ugrasena's order. They were like iron rods and Krsna wielded them like deadly
weapons. He quickly slew all the men who had killed His son.
Other Yadavas and Vrishnis took up their weapons and entered the fray. Soon a violent battle
was raging. When their weapons had been smashed, they too took up the reeds. Bewildered by
wine and influenced by Gandhari's and the rsis' curses, they killed one another without
compunction. Father killed son, son slew father, and brother killed brother. Like insects flying
into a fire, they destroyed one another. In less than an hour, millions of men were dead.
Only Krsna and Balarama survived, along with Daruka, who carried the news back to Dwaraka.
Arjuna paused in his narration. His mind was confounded as he recounted the story. He knew
that it had been Krsna's desire. The Lord had wanted His own family and followers to
leave the world. With the onset of the Kali age, they might create a greater disturbance
than the atheistic demons. After all, they were far more powerful than the demons. No
one could have checked them. Only if they slew one another could they be killed.
Taking a deep breath, Arjuna continued. He described how Krsna Himself had departed.
When all the Yadavas and other warriors died, Krsna had watched Balarama sit down in meditation
on the seashore. As Balarama became absorbed in trance, the many-hooded divine serpent
Ananta-sesha had come out of His mouth. Worshipped by Varuna and other gods, the serpent went
toward the ocean and vanished.
Seeing Balarama depart, Krsna entered a nearby forest. He sat beneath a pippala tree in meditation.
As He did so, the principal gods all approached Him invisibly. They all desired to see His
last pastime on earth. Not far from where Krsna sat there was a hunter. The man had
caught a large fish and found in its belly a lump of iron, the last remnant of the iron
ball thrown into the sea. With that lump he had fashioned an arrowhead. While hunting
with the arrow, he came across Krsna. By Krsna's own illusory energy, he mistook Krsna's foot
to be an animal, seeing it from a distance through the bushes. He released the arrow
and struck Krsna's foot, whereupon the Lord departed from the world, worshipped by the
gods with Brahma at their head.
Arjuna then told how Daruka had returned to Dwaraka. He had been told that he would find
Arjuna there and that he should ask him to take the women to Indraprastha. When Daruka
reached the city, he went to Krsna's father Vasudeva and told him the heartbreaking news.
Along with Devaki, Vasudeva fell to the ground in a faint. Tormented by separation from Krsna,
they both gave up their lives.
Arjuna, who had only recently arrived in Dwaraka, was himself overpowered by sorrow when he
heard what had happened, but he tried to follow Krsna's directions. He had first arranged
for Vasudeva and Devaki's funeral ceremonies, however. When the funeral pyre was ablaze,
Vasudeva's other wives entered the fire, rapt in thought of Krsna.
Arjuna then traveled to Prabhasa in order to perform the last rites for all the slain
warriors. Millions of men had died, and it took weeks for Arjuna to arrange for funeral
ceremonies for those who had no male members left in the family. The womenfolk were brought
from Sankhoddhara, and as the cremations took place many widows entered the fire embracing
their lords, thus attaining the same destinations reached by those men.
Finding Krsna and Balarama's bodies, Arjuna marveled at the sight. Their bodies still
shone with the same brilliant effulgence as They had in life. Arjuna could understand
that it was not possible for Them to die. Their apparent death was simply a display
of Krsna's illusory energy. Both Krsna and Balarama were manifestations of the original,
transcendent Supreme. Arjuna concluded that the material bodies They left behind were
simply meant to bewilder the faithless. The Lord was merciful even to those who desired
to be atheists. Stupefied by grief and moving like a wooden doll, Arjuna arranged for expert
priests to cremate the bodies of the two Lords. Rukmini and Krsna's other principal queens
ascended the funeral pyre and gave up their lives.
When all the funeral ceremonies were completed, Arjuna returned to Dwaraka. He arranged for
the remaining women and children, and the Brahmins, vaisyas, and sudras, to be taken
in chariots to Indraprastha. Krsna had told Daruka that the city would soon be inundated
by the sea, and Arjuna was concerned to get everyone out first. They made a sorry procession,
wailing and calling out Krsna's names as they left Dwaraka. Even while they were leaving
the city, the ocean began to flood the land. Looking behind them they saw waves crashing
into the great island fortress and swirling through its streets and houses.
The procession, bereft of heroes, proceeded by slow marches toward Indraprastha. After
some days, they reached the Panchajala province. Arjuna decided to camp there for a while.
The region was infested with robbers, and when they saw the thousands of richly adorned
ladies from Dwaraka, they decided to attack the camp. Coming together in a force, the
robbers, dressed as cowherds, rushed at the camp with loud cries. Armed with clubs and
bows, they fell upon the ladies and led them away, looting as they went.
Arjuna mounted his chariot and rode toward them, calling out, "O sinful wretches, stop
at once. Flee from here now if you have any love of life. Wait only a moment and I will
cut your bodies to pieces."
Urged by destiny, the robbers disregarded Arjuna and carried on with their plundering.
Arjuna raised his Gandiva but, to his amazement, he found himself barely able to string it.
His strength seemed to have disappeared. With great difficulty he drew back the bow and
fired his arrows, but they fell short of their targets. The Pandava then tried to invoke
the celestial weapons, but they would not appear. In frustration and anger he ran after
the robbers and struck them with his bow, but despite his efforts, he was unable to
prevent them from taking away many of the Yadu ladies.
Sighing with sorrow, Arjuna could understand that it was somehow the Lord's arrangement.
Now that Krsna had departed, his great power had vanished. In a state of complete dejection,
he resumed the march toward Indraprastha. When they arrived at the city, Arjuna installed
Vajra, the son of Krsna's son Aniruddha, as king. Still only a boy, the prince had not
gone to Prabhasa with the older ksatriyas. He was filled with grief for the death of
all his relatives, but counseled by learned Brahmins, he began to rule over the city.
Once he had ensured that everything was in order, Arjuna decided to return to Hastinapura
to see Yudhisthira. As he was about to leave, he heard that Vyasadeva was present in a hermitage
near the city and went to visit him. Falling at his feet, Arjuna shed tears, unable to
speak.
As Arjuna lay there almost devoid of life, Vyasadeva said, "O child, what is the cause
of this sorrow? Have you accidentally slain a Brahmin or been defeated in battle? Did
you know an untouchable woman or have you fallen in some other way from religious practices?
I do not think any of this possible. You should tell me what ails you, O son of Prtha, if
you feel able."
Regaining his composure, Arjuna knelt before the rsi. In agony he said, "O great sage,
He whose complexion resembled a dark cloud, whose eyes were like a pair of lotus petals,
has, together with the lordly Rama, left this world. At Prabhasa, through iron bolts created
by the Brahmins' curse, all the Vrishni heroes have been slain. Not a single one escaped.
Those mighty men killed one another in a fit of anger."
Arjuna broke down and wept as he thought of Krsna and His many friends. The slaughter
at Prabhasa reminded him of the awful night at Kuruksetra when Asvatthama had slain the
sleeping Pandavas. Arjuna had lost so many of his family members and friends at that
time, and now the remainder of his friends were gone. There was nothing left for which
to live.
"O Brahmin, just see the perverse course of time. Thinking of this tragedy I cannot find
peace of mind. Krsna's death is as incredible as the drying up of the ocean, the falling
down of heaven, or the splitting of Mount Himavat. Without Him I cannot maintain my
life. And there is yet another calamity which rends my heart."
Arjuna related how he had been unable to protect the Yadu ladies from the robbers. "Right before
my eyes, thousands of women were carried away by robbers from the Abhiras tribe. I could
do nothing. Alas, this is surely due to Krsna's absence. How can I drag on my useless existence
without Him? He who used to drive my chariot, that divine one gifted with splendor and unfading
power, that unlimited Govinda -- I will no longer see Him. I am filled with despair and
my head swims. I dare not live without the heroic Janardana. As soon as I heard He had
gone, my eyes dimmed and I could no longer see anything. O best of men, please tell me
what is best for me now, a wanderer with an empty heart, bereft of my kinsmen and friends."
Vyasadeva replied, "Do not grieve. Everything has been ordained by the Lord. Krsna allowed
it to happen, although He was capable of preventing it. Indeed, Govinda could alter the course
of the universe -- what then of a curse? He who sat upon your chariot and guided you through
every calamity was the all-powerful Supreme Himself. Having lightened the earth's burden,
He has now ended His human-like pastimes. Through you and your brothers He has achieved
the work of the gods. You are crowned with success, for you have pleased the immortal
and inconceivable Kesava. Surely now you should think of your own departure. When the hour
of adversity arrives, everything is lost. Thus one's prowess, understanding and vision
all disappear. This is due only to the influence of irresistible time. Do not lament, O hero.
The time has come when you Pandavas should attain the highest end. This is what I consider
most beneficial."
Consoled by Vyasadeva's words, Arjuna took his permission and left for Hastinapura.
* * *
When Arjuna finished his narration, his four brothers were stunned. They thought only of
Krsna. None could contemplate life without Him. Tears ran down their faces. Distraught,
Yudhisthira said, "O best of men, we should understand that time is cooking all creatures
in a cauldron. Even the invincible Vrishnis have been rooted out. Even Krsna has left.
Now we should act upon Vyasadeva's instructions. There is no point in remaining here. Indeed,
the dark age of Kali is already making its entrance. Just see how the citizens are becoming
sinful, driven by the influence of the age. We should depart, for the powerful Pariksit,
who is ever-protected by the Lord, is qualified to rule the earth."
Yudhisthira's brothers agreed. They knew it was time for them to retire. Pariksit could
replace them. Yudhisthira conferred with the Brahmins and decided upon a day when he would
leave for the forest. When the citizens heard of his determination, they cried out in sorrow
and tried to dissuade him, but Yudhisthira's mind would not be changed. On an auspicious
day, he installed Pariksit as king, and Krpa as his chief counselor.
The five brothers distributed wealth to the Brahmins, performed rituals in honor of Krsna,
and gave away heaps of gold and gems in His name. When all the ceremonies were complete,
Yudhisthira took off his royal garments and ornaments and dressed in tree bark. His brothers
followed his example. The five of them came out of the royal palace looking like five
ascetics. The people cried in grief and were reminded of the terrible day when the brothers
had been exiled. This time, they would not return.
Ignoring the citizens' cries, Yudhisthira walked toward the northern gate, his four
brothers close behind. Draupadi, seeing her husbands' resolve, hurried along behind them.
She had never been separated from her husbands, even when they entered the forest, and she
would have died of unbearable grief had she been left behind. After bidding her last,
tearful farewells to Subhadra and the other Pandava ladies, who were all given to the
constant practice of asceticism and prayer, she set her mind upon renunciation. Like her
husbands, her mind was filled with joy as she left the city for the final great journey
to the north.
Accepting simple food and water only once a day, the brothers and Draupadi walked steadily
toward the Himalayas. They spoke with no one and remained absorbed in thoughts of Krsna.
After many days traveling, they reached a great lake at the foot of the mountains. As
they approached the lake, they saw ahead of them Agni's brilliant form. The deity addressed
them in a booming voice. "O foremost of Kuru's race, listen to my words. I am the god of
fire whom Arjuna pleased at Khandava. At that time I gave him the Gandiva. He should now
return it. Let him cast it, along with the two inexhaustible quivers, into these waters
and Varuna will take it back."
Arjuna bowed to Agni and took his bow and quivers from his shoulder. He had not been
able to leave them behind, but now, on Agni's order, he threw them into the water. Agni
then disappeared and the brothers continued their journey, seeing in the distance the
cloud-covered peak of Mount Himavat. Eventually passing that great mountain, they crossed
over a desert and came at last to Mount Meru where lay the abode of the gods. As they made
their way through the hilly region, they were joined by a dog, who stayed with them day
and night. Soon they reached the foothills of Gandhamadana Mountain, where they had spent
much of their exile. They bowed down and offered prayers to the sacred mountain, then began
their ascent.
The brothers had been walking for months, and their bodies were emaciated. Weakened
and weary, they climbed with difficulty. Suddenly, as they were ascending a steep mountain pass,
Draupadi fell to the ground and gave up her life. Bhima, who was walking immediately behind
Yudhisthira, said, "O crusher of enemies, although she never committed any sinful deeds,
the delicate princess has fallen to the earth. Tell me why she has been obliged to drop down
here." Without stopping or looking back, Yudhisthira replied, "Although married to all five of
us, Pancali was always partial to Arjuna. This is why she has fallen."
After they climbed a little farther, Sahadeva fell and died. Bhima again asked Yudhisthira
why his virtuous brother had fallen. Yudhisthira replied, "Gifted with knowledge, he always
considered himself without compare in wisdom. For this reason he has fallen."
Leaving Sahadeva where he lay, the four brothers continued upwards, still followed by the dog.
Soon Nakula, overpowered by sorrow upon seeing Draupadi and Sahadeva die, himself fell. Once
more Bhima asked Yudhisthira to explain. "Our righteous brother was the most intelligent
of men. However, he felt himself matchless in bodily beauty, and thus he has fallen."
Arjuna was the next to fall, grief-stricken to see his brothers and Draupadi die. In sorrow
Bhima asked Yudhisthira why the ever-truthful Arjuna had fallen. "Just before the war, Arjuna
had promised to kill all the Kauravas in a single day. For failing to keep this promise,
made out of pride, he has been obliged to fall to the earth."
The remaining two brothers and the dog continued their ascent. Before reaching the summit,
Bhima fell. As he was lying on the ground, about to give up his life, he asked Yudhisthira
what had been his fault. Yudhisthira replied, "O Vrkodara, you were a great eater and you
did not consider others while eating. Thus have you fallen."
Fixing his mind in yogic meditation, Yudhisthira went on alone. As he approached the summit
he heard a great sound fill the sky. He looked up and saw Indra's chariot descending toward
him. "Climb onto my car, O Bharata, and I will take you to heaven."
Yudhisthira bowed to the god. "I have no desire for heaven, O Sakra, nor can I leave my brothers
and chaste wife Draupadi behind. They have all fallen on this mountain."
Indra assured him that he would soon see his wife and brothers in their self-same bodies,
but Yudhisthira was still unwilling to leave. "See here this dog," he said, pointing to
the animal that was ever at his heels. "It has taken shelter of me and cannot be abandoned.
O great god, I will only accompany you if you allow it to also come."
Indra replied that there was no place in heaven for dogs. He told Yudhisthira that there would
be no sin in leaving it behind, but the Pandava would not agree. "It is my vow that I will
never abandon one who is terrified, who seeks my shelter, who is devoted, who is afflicted
or weak, or who begs for life. I cannot leave this creature here."
Despite Indra's entreaties, Yudhisthira would not leave the dog. Suddenly, before Yudhisthira's
eyes, the animal transformed into the god of justice, Dharmaraja. Seeing his father,
Yudhisthira fell to the ground in obeisance. Dharmaraja raised him up and said, "O king
of kings, there are none on earth who can display such virtue. Formerly, I examined
you at the Dwaitavana, and again today I have found you to be the greatest exponent of morality.
What to speak of the earth, there is no one in heaven who equals you. Unending regions
of celestial bliss await you, O King. Quickly, mount Indra's car."
Yudhisthira ascended Indra's chariot. As it rose swiftly into the sky, he was surrounded
by celestial beings who praised both himself and Indra. He also saw the godly sage Narada
floating in space by his own divine power. The rsi said, "This royal sage Yudhisthira
has transcended the achievements of all other kings in heaven. Covering the worlds with
his fame and splendor, he has attained the highest region in his human body. Who else
has ever been known to achieve such a feat?"
The chariot entered the heavenly planets and, as it descended into a shining mansion, Yudhisthira
saw Duryodhana seated on a golden throne. He turned to Narada in surprise and the rsi
said, "This king has reached heaven by virtue of his ksatriya practices. He fought fearlessly
and gave up his body in battle. Thus he has been promoted to this abode, where he will
remain for some time."
Yudhisthira asked where his brothers had gone. He had no wish to remain in heaven, being
not attracted to celestial pleasures. Even on earth he had given up his material attachments
and desires for sensual enjoyment, preferring instead the transcendental service of the
Supreme Lord, Krsna. That service had given him a sublime pleasure thousands of times
superior to material happiness. Yudhisthira looked with disdain at the heavenly opulences
Duryodhana was enjoying. His only desire was to remain in Krsna's association along with
his brothers and Draupadi. Like himself, they too were devoted to the loving service of
Krsna, and he longed to be with them again. Duryodhana could keep heaven, Yudhisthira
thought. Without Krsna and His servants, it would be no different than hell.
Indra commanded the celestials to take Yudhisthira to his brothers and Draupadi. They led the
Pandava on a path away from heaven. As they proceeded, they were suddenly enveloped by
darkness. Through the gloom, Yudhisthira could see wastelands covered with rotting corpses.
The air was filled with a fetid smell, and flies, wasps, and gnats flew about. A blazing
fire bounded the region. Yudhisthira saw crows and vultures with iron beaks, and evil spirits
with needle-like mouths. He saw a river of boiling water full of screaming people, and
another of feces and mucus. Trees with razor-sharp leaves lined the path, which was becoming
hot as Yudhisthira traveled upon it. Looking around he saw men being tortured.
Astonished by what he was seeing, Yudhisthira asked the guides, "What place is this? Why
have you brought me to hell? I wish to see my brothers and Draupadi."
The messengers replied, "We have brought you here at Indra's command, O Bharata, according
to your own desire. If you wish to return, we will leave."
Yudhisthira asked to be returned to Indra, and they turned to head back. Just as he did
so, he heard voices all around him. "O King, do not leave us! By your presence we are feeling
our suffering relieved. Cool breezes blow and our minds are made peaceful by seeing
you."
Yudhisthira called out, "Who are you and why do you stay here?"
"I am Bhima!" "I am Arjuna!" "I am Nakula!" "I am Sahadeva!" the voices called back. Yudhisthira
heard Draupadi's name, as well as that of Drstadyumna and other virtuous kings and princes
who had followed him on earth. Shocked, he said to his guides, "What perverse destiny
is this, that these virtuous men are in hell? I do not believe my senses. Surely this is
a hallucination. Am I asleep or awake? Have I become insane or am I simply dreaming? O
celestials, hearing the voices of my brothers and friends, I cannot leave this place. Indeed,
they have asked me to stay and give them comfort. Therefore, go back to your own abode and leave
me here."
The celestials accompanying Yudhisthira disappeared, leaving him to his thoughts. He could not
understand why his brothers were in hell. As he stood in amazement, he suddenly saw
Indra and the other principal gods approaching him. By their bodily radiance the whole region
was lit up. All the gruesome sights of hell disappeared and were replaced by heavenly
landscapes. Yudhisthira saw that he was standing in beautiful gardens of celestial flowers
and blossoming trees. A cool, gentle breeze was blowing, carrying exquisite fragrances.
Indra addressed Yudhisthira, "O best of men, be peaceful. Neither you nor your brothers
are in hell. Only by an act of deception have you all been shown that region. Every king
and indeed every being living in the world of men will see hell, for none can perform
only good deeds. Those whose piety is great will receive the fruits of their sins first
and then will enjoy great happiness for a long time. Only a slight stain of sin touched
you, O King, when you lied to kill Drona. For this you have seen hell, as have your
brothers and friends. Now you may enjoy unending happiness."
Indra told Yudhisthira that by performing the Rajasuya he had earned a place in heaven
equal to that of Hariscandra, the celebrated king of ancient times who now shared the same
opulence as Indra himself. Placing Yudhisthira on his chariot, Indra took him to his assembly
hall. There Yudhisthira saw his brothers, exactly as he had known them, shining with
splendor and surrounded by celestials末the Maruts, Vasus, Ashvins and Rudras. Draupadi
was also there, appearing like the goddess Laksmi herself.
Yudhisthira was shown how all of the warriors who had died at Kuruksetra had attained the
heavens. Karna was residing in happiness with his father, Surya. Even the Kauravas had achieved
auspicious lives for their performance of religious duties.
Leading the Pandava to a beautiful river of clear, gentle waters, Indra said, "Here flows
the Ganga, known in heaven as the Mandakini. Bathe in her waters, O King, and you will
acquire a shining celestial form."
Yudhisthira entered the water and emerged with a resplendent god-like form. All his
grief and anxiety vanished. As he came out of the waters he was honored and worshipped
by the Siddhas and Caranas. He then saw Krsna seated in Indra's palace manifesting a four-armed
form of astonishing beauty and splendor. Arjuna was worshipping Him. When Krsna saw Yudhisthira,
He smiled and lifted a hand to bless him.
Seeing Narada nearby, Yudhisthira approached him and asked him how long he and his brothers
would dwell in heaven. The sage replied that by their meritorious acts the Pandavas had
earned an almost endless stay. "But you brothers are eternal associates of the all-powerful
Lord Krsna. Thus wherever He goes for His pastimes, you will also go. Indeed, for the
good of all beings, Krsna is forever appearing in some world to display His human-like activities.
Just as you cannot be without Him, so He also desires to always be with you. Thus your stay
in these regions will not be for long. It has only been to show you the destinations
of those whom you knew on earth. Pure souls like you reside eternally with the Lord. Only
by His illusory potency does it sometimes seem otherwise. Like a magician He creates
the material universe, enters it for some time, then winds it up."
Narada concluded that the Lord's only business was to bring all suffering souls back to their
eternal positions as His loving servants. He only seemed to become involved in the affairs
of the world, but in truth He was always aloof. Under illusion, men become bewildered and
indulge in material pleasure, imagining themselves independent enjoyers. In reality, they were
parts of the Supreme, dependent upon Him for everything. Actual happiness could only be
found when one once again gave up His desires to be independent of God. God Himself, however,
was obviously never influenced by His own illusion. His appearance in the world was
to free people from their misconceptions and bring them back to Him.
"Those who are too attached to matter cannot understand this knowledge. They must remain
in mortal spheres, sometimes coming to heaven and sometimes descending to hell. As long
as one does not awaken his original, pure consciousness, realizing his eternal spiritual
nature, he is bound in the cycle of birth and death. You Pandavas are fixed in service
to Krsna and are liberated. In bringing you to the material world, the Lord simply used
you as His instruments. This is understood only by those who are free from illusion."
Yudhisthira felt joy. He gazed at Krsna. Surely nothing in heaven could compare with seeing
Him. What then of assisting Him in a capacity as servant, friend, and even relative? Absorbed
in transcendental happiness, Yudhisthira could not take his gaze from Krsna. What worlds
awaited him now? It did not matter. As long as Krsna was present, he was ready to go anywhere.
END