“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
“I know, I know; I’m supposed to become God conscious. That is the aim of the human birth. I can eat nicely in any species. The banana to the monkey tastes as good as pizza to the human being. The bare ground for the dog is as comfortable as the memory foam mattress for the adult human. I’m supposed to go beyond the sense pleasures; there is more to life than enjoying in the typical way. But I’m not ready for all of that right now. Let me earn some money first. Then I will take up devotional service.”
“Listen, I’m never going to become a guru like you. I won’t be able to abandon everything at once; I have too many attachments right now. I like enjoying with my friends. I like watching movies and being sedentary in front of the television. Sometimes I like to travel and discover new things. I’m not ready for bhakti-yoga just yet. Let me enjoy a little more first.”
“I need some stability in my life. I need to get married. I can’t run around on my own anymore. I feel lonely. Let me meet a nice person, settle down, and then I’ll take to chanting the holy names. I promise to get my children involved, too. Don’t worry. It’s just that now is not a good time.”
The sober human being is not bewildered by the constant changes that occur to the body. Like going from boyhood to youth to adulthood and then to old age, the individual similarly passes into another body at death. This means that we shouldn’t freak out so much over living and dying. And since things change all the time, there’s a higher purpose to this life than worrying over this situation and that.
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)
Spirituality is that higher purpose. It is in spirituality that we learn of our true identity. Without tapping into the comprehensive and enlightening Vedic philosophy, we wouldn’t even know about the changing body. One is very fortunate to even come across this information. Taking the next step towards making the most of the human life is another issue altogether. That is very difficult, and by only perceiving those who are already engaged in life’s true mission, not everything is revealed.
What do we mean by this? Consider the person who is already engaged in chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. They worship in the temple, speak on the philosophy of the science of self-realization, serve with enthusiasm, and avoid the four pillars of sinful life: meat eating, gambling, intoxication, and illicit sex.
Did they start out this way? Were they always so dedicated? From the result manifest before us we can’t really decipher their history. We don’t know what they were doing beforehand. In our foolishness, we think that they adopted this way of life without issue; that it came naturally to them. But in fact, they too likely held sentiments similar to those mentioned above. In the case of two brothers, the transformation took place in quite the atypical fashion: they were living as trees.
Prior to this, they had every enjoyment available. They were in the heavenly region, which features many beautiful women. These brothers enjoyed the pleasures of material life, which featured intoxication. They had not a care in the world. They seemingly had it all, but then through one slip up, they lost everything. By offending Narada Muni, they got cursed to take birth as trees.
Though they had no worries with respect to the availability of material amenities, they still didn’t take up devotional service. They weren’t missing anything, it seemed. All was well, but then everything got taken away from them. That is the way of material life, even when residing in the heavenly region. Just as the body of the individual constantly changes, so too do fortune and circumstances. This means that whatever road we think will successfully lead us to devotion may not be clear. That path may get blocked up. The plans can change suddenly. We think we’ll be peaceful living a certain way, but most likely we won’t.
It took living as trees for the brothers to receive the divine mercy. They got it when Shri Krishna dragged a mortar in between them. He was tied to that mortar by His mother, Yashoda, as punishment for having broken a pot of yogurt. Thus three people had a hand in liberating the two brothers. There was Narada Muni, a saintly character. He cursed them, though in fact he paved the way for their receiving the greatest blessing. There was Yashoda; she put Krishna in the right place.
Then, of course, there was Krishna Himself. By dragging the mortar in between the trees, He knocked them down. Upon falling, the brothers got released from the curse. More importantly, they developed prema-bhakti. They had love for Krishna, and they showed it by offering Him nice words of praise. They got to see His beautiful spiritual form of Damodara, which is not so easy to attain.
The path towards transcendence is not how we first plan it. The divine mercy can come at any time, and the worshipable Satyavrata Muni prays to have it in the same way that Nalakuvara and Manigriva got it. It’s odd if you think about it. Would you ever pray to take birth as a tree, left to stand naked in front of the world for so many years? Would you ask the man upstairs to take everything away from you? This is what happens sometimes on the path towards transcendence. Through the association of a saint, the divine mercy can come in unexpected ways. It can arrive right now, regardless of mindset, if one always remembers Damodara and how He fulfilled the prophecy of Narada Muni.
While standing as trees to them brought,
Divine mercy, not in the way that you thought.
Whether with you material miseries none,
Or having penny to your name not a one.
Advantage of bhakti right now take,
To your constitutional position awake.
Damodara and the mortar keep in mind,
And elusive jewel of bhakti-yoga find.