“The two demigod-sons of Kuvera were so intoxicated that they could not appreciate the presence of the sage Narada and therefore did not cover their bodies. On seeing the two demigods so degraded by intoxication, Narada desired their welfare, and therefore he exhibited his causeless mercy upon them by cursing them.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality Of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 10)
It is the ugly, extreme, and most visible form of the reality of karma. Karma is fruitive activity – work that produces a result guaranteed to manifest at some point in the future. Those who go against religious principles immediately think of the worst:
“Will I be born as an ant in the next life? Will I get punished for all the wrong I have done? Is it straight to the hellish region in the next birth, a predicament from which I will never be able to escape?”
In truth the results are there for both good and bad, just as placing your hand into fire will cause pain and drinking water when thirsty will provide satisfaction.
The curse, as described often in Vedic literature, is the immediate proof of the reality of negative consequences to impious behavior. The origin of those curses is usually people who have acquired enough pious credits to gain the ability to pronounce them. Brahmanas, members of the priestly order by occupation, can curse others. It is a way to protect themselves, as the priests are usually nonviolent. It is also a way to protect others, to bring them down from a false ego that has swelled to a malignant level.
The brahmanas are an ocean of compassion, and from several examples we find that their curses actually turn out to be blessings. Good people make mistakes, after all. There is a negative reaction, but the result doesn’t have to remain forever. No one is better at wiping the slate clean than the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
He was first a Gandharva, which is a kind of celestial being. The Vedas provide detailed information about different kinds of living. Life is not exclusively found in the earthly region. There is a hellish realm below and a heavenly one above. The residents of heaven are pious souls. As a reward they get enhanced ability and increased enjoyment.
Residence there is not permanent, however. It is still a place within the material world, so there is vulnerability to doing something that causes an exit. This is what happened to Kabandha. He one time got a boon from Lord Brahma that made him practically invincible. Brahma is the creator, and when pleased he can offer any benediction a person can think of, up to the point of immortality.
Kabandha did not leave well enough alone. He attacked the king of heaven, Indra, who responded in battle by making it so that Kabandha no longer had a head; it was driven into his torso. Kabandha then got his Rakshasa form and roamed the forests in a specific area on earth. He bothered a sage once, who then added on to the curse. Kabandha would stay in that form forever. After the Rakshasa begged for clemency, the sage said that everything would be fixed through a meeting with Shri Rama.
That is indeed what would occur. Rama is an incarnation of God. He is the famous avatara described in sacred texts like the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Rama has lila, or pastimes, that are sequenced together to make a most compelling story.
Within that story Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana one time were roaming the forest looking for Rama’s missing wife Sita. They encountered Kabandha, who tried to kill and eat the brothers. The pair figured out that the Rakshasa’s strength was his arms. They lopped off those arms and thus escaped defeat.
Kabandha then told Rama the whole story, asking the brothers to perform his funeral rites. After that Kabandha regained his Gandharva form and provided some valuable information. He directed Rama to Mount Rishyamukha, where the Vanara named Sugriva was living. It was recommended that an alliance between Sugriva and Rama would be helpful. In this way the curse applied to the Gandharva turned out to be a blessing, as he was able to both meet the Supreme Lord and be of valuable assistance to Him.
2. Nalakuvara and Manigriva
Two brothers, sons to the treasurer of the demigods, Nalakuvara and Manigriva were one time intoxicated and enjoying with females. When the sage Narada came by, the brothers were too drunk to realize they needed to offer him respect. The sage then cursed them to take birth as trees, for then they would get to remain naked for a very long time. Since Narada is compassion personified, after considering what was best for the two sons of the respected Kuvera he stipulated that the curse would end through a meeting with the Supreme Lord in His form of Krishna.
That is exactly what happened. Years later the same Rama incarnated on earth as Krishna, the all-attractive one. In the house of mother Yashoda, God was in a childhood form. He earned the name Damodara after being bound to a mortar by the loving mother. This was punishment for breaking a pot of yogurt in anger over being neglected for only a few seconds.
God retains His full potencies in every situation. Even though bound to a mortar, young Krishna was able to move. He pulled the mortar with Him as He went through two trees. The force of the mortar and ropes then brought those trees down. From them emerged the two brothers who were cursed by Narada. They proceeded to glorify Krishna in a wonderful way, after which they returned to their previous home.
3. King Nriga
Another tale from the lila of Shri Krishna, we find a former king transformed into a lizard. This wasn’t exactly a curse, but the reaction was due to impious behavior all the same. Part of the duties of kings from an ancient time was to give away wealth in charity. The recipients were brahmanas, and often the wealth they accepted was cows.
One time King Nriga accidentally gave away a cow that belonged to another brahmana. The brahmana who received the cow and the one who lost it became involved in a dispute. King Nriga tried to solve the situation by giving away more cows, but neither side could be satisfied.
At the time of death that mistake remained on the king’s list of impious deeds. The god of justice asked the king what he would like first: to suffer for his sins or enjoy his pious credits. King Nriga decided to suffer first, and so he was reborn as a giant lizard.
During Krishna’s pastimes one time young boys found the lizard stuck in a well. They couldn’t get it out, so they called on Krishna. The Supreme Lord came and helped the lizard get out. After that the lizard transformed into a beautiful demigod. Inquiring as to what happened, King Nriga related the entire story. The curse-like reaction received from the previous mistake actually turned into a wonderful blessing, as the king had the fortune of direct contact with Shri Krishna.
4. Kamadeva and Lord Shiva
As the creation goes through cycles of manifestation and dissolution, the exact sequence of events are not always the same. Moreover, the same events take place in other realms, as well. Therefore the story of Kamadeva and Lord Shiva has some variations, though the main events are generally the same.
Kamadeva is the god of love. Kama is lust or material desire. It is the very foundation on which life in the material world continues. If every person were free of kama then they would have no reason to continue in the cycle of birth and death.
Kamadeva is something like Cupid, except he works as a demigod, who is a deputy of the Supreme Lord. Kamadeva helps to fulfill the desire to forget God and enjoy separate from Him. Kamadeva accomplishes his task with the help of the spring season and arranging it so that conditions are ideal for men and women to be attracted to one another.
He one time tried to instill amorous passion in Lord Shiva, who was deep in trance at the time. Shiva is Mahadeva, or the great god. He is not an ordinary deva, or demigod. At the time he was meditating on his deity of choice, Shri Rama.
The demigods enlisted the help of Kamadeva because they needed someone to defeat a powerful demon. It was said that only the offspring of Shiva could take down this bad character. But how would such an offspring arrive if Shiva refused to marry again? His first wife Sati had voluntarily entered fire after her father insulted Shiva at a yajna [sacrifice].
Agreeing to help, Kamadeva decided to shoot an arrow at Shiva. Mahadeva’s trance was broken, and he was so angry that his third eye opened up. Looking around he spotted Kamadeva and immediately burned him to death using that eye. Kamadeva’s consort, Rati, was heartbroken. Though the demigods work would now be accomplished, through the marriage of Shiva and Parvati, what would happen to Kamadeva?
Shiva consoled Rati by telling her that her husband would take birth as Pradyumna, the grandson of Krishna. Rati would incarnate on earth at the same time and become his wife. In this way the curse turned into a blessing, as there was active participation in Krishna lila.
Rebirth a reality to be,
Evident with curse to see.
From angry brahmana coming,
Example of Rakshasa next becoming.
For Kabandha a blessing great,
Serving Rama through death’s state.
Liberated as trees brothers two,
King Nriga seeing Krishna too.
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