“Even at the risk of death such a devotee is never bereft of the transcendental loving service of the Lord. A glorious example of this ecstatic love was exhibited by King Parikshit when he was at the point of death. Although he was bereft of his entire kingdom, which spread over all the world, and although he was accepting not even a drop of water in the seven days remaining to him, because he was engaged in hearing the transcendental pastimes of the Lord from Shukadeva Gosvami, he was not in the least distressed.” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 37)
Loss is an inevitable part of life, but who actually has an easy time dealing with it? Death and taxes – they are assured. As soon as there is birth, there must come an end to the life that started. That is simply the way things are. Nothing can be done to change how nature operates. And as long as there is a government of some kind, taxes will be levied.
“For one who has taken his birth, death is certain; and for one who is dead, birth is certain. Therefore, in the unavoidable discharge of your duty, you should not lament.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.27)
Attachment is what makes loss more difficult to cope with. Along the journey through life attachments form to people, places and things. Part of this is due to gratefulness. A wise person appreciates the help that others offer them. For an individual, the first people to whom attachments form naturally are the parents. They provided the vital support in the immediate aftermath of birth. The infant can barely do anything on their own. Milestones like turning over, sitting up, crawling and walking for the first time are moments of great joy. It is already known that through maturity every person will most likely be capable in these areas, but just seeing the first time is a moment of appreciation and pride for the parents.
The appreciation is for the Almighty. It is His amazing artistry and intelligence that goes into the formation of nature to begin with. Interestingly, attachment to Him is the one way to gain victory against the struggle of loss. That is to say if you are attached to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, you can go without things that were previously very important to you. Maharaja Parikshit is an ideal example in this regard.
1. His entire kingdom
His sovereignty included the entire world, which was known as Bharata-varsha. Today the name Bharata is synonymous with the space of land known as India, but previously the jurisdiction spread across the globe. The king not only ruled, but he protected. He had the greatest responsibility.
On the verge of death, Parikshit renounced the kingdom. He had a mere seven days to live. He did not want to go out enjoying the senses. That was already possible in the past, and surely again in the future through any kind of birth in the material world.
He chose to spend his entire time hearing about Bhagavan, which is a Sanskrit word that very nicely describes the Almighty. Since there is so much to Him, Parikshit could sit for seven days straight and continue to hear.
2. A drop of water
The topics were so pleasing to the ears that the king did not require even a drop of water. There was a complete fast, and it wasn’t torturous. Through continued hearing there was increased attachment. Interestingly, beginning from childhood Parikshit was known to be fond of God. It was in the womb of Uttara that Krishna Himself intervened to protect life. The well-wisher of the Pandava family counteracted the brahmashtra weapon headed straight to destroy the future of the dynasty, who was in the womb of the mother.
Parikshit was a special case, and so his story is highlighted in the Shrimad Bhagavatam. The question and answer session with Shukadeva Gosvami essentially forms the basis of the sacred text. The king went without his kingdom and water, and for every person a similar level of detachment is possible. At the minimum level, the most harmful sinful activities of meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex will be given up. To renounce such things individually and independently is not so easy. The individual thinks that they won’t be able to survive, that life will become too boring.
From Parikshit’s example we see that there is a higher taste to be experienced, one that loosens the knots of previous attachments. This transformation is one of the reasons parents are afraid of incorporating the Vedas into their child’s instruction. The oldest scriptural tradition of the world is so philosophically sound that it will question the way everyone else does things. Even a child can become renounced, and on the positive side they will be happier than ever before, enjoying the shelter of the words describing Bhagavan and His pastimes.
Through journey attachments to make,
But not possible to next life to take.
Parikshit ruling over world entire,
But now in seven days to expire.
The kingdom and even water casting aside,
Seat in presence of guru to reside.
Only of Shri Krishna and His lila to hear,
Neither attachments nor death to fear.
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