“He quickly becomes righteous and attains lasting peace. O son of Kunti, declare it boldly that My devotee never perishes.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.31)
Friend1: The devotee is protected.
Friend2: By whom?
Friend2: Is this your opinion or do you have authority to back it up?
Friend1: The Bhagavad-gita, the highest authority of all.
Friend2: Do you know what is interesting about that?
Friend1: I know exactly where you’re going with this.
Friend2: You do?
Friend1: The fact that Krishna asked Arjuna to declare it. The Supreme Lord knew it would be important coming from His devotee. Krishna can say stuff, but people don’t take Him as seriously.
Friend2: Very good. That is interesting to me, anyways. He declares so many other things. Why not take the credit for protecting the devotee?
Friend1: That’s a topic for another day. I’m glad you mentioned the protection thing. Obviously, that’s the foundation of the promise of bhakti-yoga. You’re connecting with God, uniting with Him in consciousness. It’s different from material life, which has the threefold miseries.
Friend2: Coming from the heavens, other living entities, and within.
Friend1: We know that Krishna protected Arjuna during the Bharata War. In the universal form, Arjuna saw the future, that the rival kings were destined to die. Arjuna was asked to simply be Krishna’s instrument.
Friend2: “Therefore get up and prepare to fight. After conquering your enemies you will enjoy a flourishing kingdom. They are already put to death by My arrangement, and you, O Savyasachin, can be but an instrument in the fight.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.33)
Friend1: Okay, so we know the outcome was successful. Arjuna was protected. But you know, there is another incident where there wasn’t protection.
Friend2: Which one?
Friend1: After Krishna returned to the spiritual world. Do you know what I’m referring to?
Friend2: When Arjuna had to protect the queens?
Friend1: Bingo. He failed against a single guy, I believe. Previously, he fought against the greatest warriors on earth. Why didn’t Krishna protect him? I thought the devotee never perishes?
Friend2: To clarify, it was multiple people against him. I must say, of all the questions you ask, this might be the best one. You make a valid point. It looks like a contradiction.
Friend1: What’s the explanation? That it was part of destiny? It was Krishna’s will that Arjuna fail and thus return to the spiritual world? Seems like a weak explanation.
Friend2: Obviously it’s part of destiny, controlled by the Supreme Lord. The queens were certainly liberated and could never be touched by someone else. They attained the spiritual world immediately. The explanation is that Krishna Himself was on the other side, ensuring that no etiquette was violated.
Friend1: Oh. Interesting.
Friend2: Yeah, you can consult the purport of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada for the Shrimad Bhagavatam verse 1.15.20. The incident also taught something very important. As powerful as we think we are, we are ultimately not the doer. Arjuna was amazing with the bow and arrow. We can’t even fathom how good he was. But when the sanction of Krishna was not there, the ability vanished.
Friend1: Okay, I get that. But why? If the devotee never perishes, why do their abilities diminish?
Friend2: Listen, just because the promise is there for protection doesn’t mean that there is no death. The spiritual master leaves for another place eventually. Prahlada Maharaja, though protected against the wicked father, eventually left this world. That means the bodily abilities don’t stay forever.
Friend1: What is protected, then? What is it that doesn’t perish?
Friend2: The devotion of the devotee. Arjuna went somewhere else, afterwards. He was not to remain in this world forever. Since he had to leave at some point, so did his great fighting ability. With a little advancement on the path of bhakti-yoga, you’ll come to see that Arjuna’s failure at protecting the queens in his custody was just as significant as his victory in the Bharata War. Both incidents show the importance of the link to Krishna, who is God.
Victory on the battlefield to see,
Protected by Krishna was he.
Through him the promise made,
Then why not his ability stayed?
Later Lord’s queens failed to protect,
Not a flaw in the verse to detect?
Significance through Lord’s association way,
Forever devotion of devotees to stay.