“O Lord Damodara, just as the two sons of Kuvera – Manigriva and Nalakuvara – were delivered from the curse of Narada and made into great devotees by You in Your form as a baby tied with rope to a wooden grinding mortar, in the same way, please give to me Your own prema-bhakti. I only long for this and have no desire for any kind of liberation.” (Shri Damodarashtaka, 7)
kuverātmajau baddha-mūrtyaiva yadvat
tvayā mocitau bhakti-bhājau kṛtau ca
tathā prema-bhaktiḿ svakāḿ me prayaccha
na mokṣe graho me ‘sti dāmodareha
Though every individual is unique and therefore different in their behavior consisting of actions and reactions, there is a unifying desire. All are searching for lasting peace and happiness. You can get a lasting existence, but it won’t necessarily be peaceful. Find yourself in a war torn nation all your life and you won’t experience much peace. And just because there is peace doesn’t mean happiness will accompany it. Find yourself in a quiet place with nothing to do and you might go crazy. Two brothers once found the elusive combination, but in an odd way: they first got cursed at a time when they were enjoying materially.
How do we know that everyone is searching for this combination of peace and happiness? There is the time factor to add into the equation. Not only does everyone desire peace and happiness, they’ve wanted it since time immemorial. The young child emerging from the womb looks for it as well as the person retired with many children and grandchildren. The person without much in life struggles for basic necessities, while the person with seemingly everything looks for something to do with their time.
dehino ‘smin yathā dehekaumāraṁ yauvanaṁ jarātathā dehāntara-prāptirdhīras tatra na muhyati
“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.13)
Time has no influence on the individual’s existence; just their circumstances. At one moment the individual is a child and at another they are an adult. They have a different costume they wear, but they are still the same person. At the time of death, the circumstances change completely, with the cycle from birth to death renewing. Wherever the individual finds itself in the chain of change, it will look for the same thing.
It looks for peace in the mountain that takes some effort to hike. It looks for happiness in going out on the town and listening to live music. It seeks escape from the disturbing world through indulgence in intoxication. It looks for happiness in taking in new experiences from traveling to different places. Thus irrespective of one’s material situation, the same search continues.
Two brothers a very long time ago were enjoying material life to the fullest. Not surprisingly, that enjoyment included intoxication and association with women. Though they were sons to an important demigod of the Vedic tradition, one time they failed to show the proper etiquette when meeting a saintly person. As a result, they were cursed to take birth as trees.
Would you want to live as a tree? You have to tolerate every kind of weather. The gusting wind and the scorching heat mean the same thing for you. You can’t move anywhere. You can live for a long time, but you have no facility to do anything. You can’t change your circumstances; you have to wait for time to take care of that.
Fortunately for these brothers, through time they were destined to meet the Supreme Personality of Godhead. They weren’t just going to see Him; they were going to get liberated by Him. When the time came, they saw Him in Yashoda’s courtyard in Gokula. The Lord was in the form of a small child, known as Krishna because of His great attractiveness. In their interaction with Him, the brothers knew Him as Damodara, for He was tied to a mortar by His mother as punishment for breaking a pot of yogurt.
He used that mortar to knock down the two brothers who were trees. When they fell, their curse ended. They saw the Supreme Personality of Godhead and had tremendous love for Him. Immediately they started offering prayers, and Krishna was pleased. He granted them release from a curse that in fact turned out to be a blessing. Narada Muni’s curse allowed them to have devotion to Krishna, which they otherwise may never have found.
“If someone is able, by chance, to see a great saintly person like Narada face to face, who is always serene and merciful to everyone, then immediately that conditioned soul becomes liberated. This is exactly like being situated in the full light of the sun: there cannot be any visionary impediment. Therefore, O Nalakuvara and Manigriva, your lives have now become successful because you have developed ecstatic love for Me.” (Lord Krishna, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 10)
Satyavrata Muni prays to have the same kind of deliverance. He doesn’t simply want escape from the cycle of birth and death. He wants the eternal happiness that should accompany peace. He wants to have devotion to the same Damodara. By his prayer, he likens the travels through the various species as a curse, a punishment for having forgotten the eternal occupation of devotional service.
His attitude indicates that he already has that devotion, but in complete humility he thinks himself to be very low. Indeed, anyone who feels humble in the same way is a ripe candidate for getting the cherished blessing of devotion to God’s feet. That devotion brings happiness, peace, excitement, contentment, and something wonderful to do every single day. It is millions of times better than residence in a heavenly realm, where all the material comforts fail to bring the pleasure that the soul deserves to have.
Kuvera’s two sons seemed to get the worst curse through Narada Muni. They went from material enjoyment to isolation and restriction. They went from moving about freely to having to stand still for so many years. Yet that curse brought the blessing of a lifetime in the form of prema-bhakti. The saints of the Vedic tradition bring this blessing to one and all through their empowered chanting and distribution of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. These names address the same Damodara; they are not different from Him. These names rescue the person listening with attention, whether high or low, moving or nonmoving.
Peace with happiness desire to receive,
At the same time not easy to achieve.
With everything need something to do,
Without much left hankering are you.
Brothers having all when Narada to them went,
By his curse to birth as trees in Vrindavana sent.
By mortar between them Damodara setting,
Brothers liberation of Krishna-prema getting.
Satyavrata wishing for same love his own,
To come to him by his humbleness alone.