“The Syamantaka jewel was so powerful that it was daily producing a large quantity of gold. A quantity of gold is counted by a measurement called a bhara. According to Vedic formulas, one bhara is equal to sixteen pounds of gold; one mound equals eighty-two pounds. The jewel was producing about 170 pounds of gold every day.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 1)
Modern day life is tough enough. From the Bhagavad-gita we already know about the two principal defects. Everything around us is temporary. Nothing will last. Destruction is the guaranteed end.
“After attaining Me, the great souls, who are yogis in devotion, never return to this temporary world, which is full of miseries, because they have attained the highest perfection.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.15)
The temporary nature of things contributes to the miserable experience. There is misery everywhere, even in a place where on the surface the conditions are ideal. Husband and wife, two kids, a nice home, a steady job – still constant disagreements. The wife is not faithful; she does not listen to anything the husband says. The husband turns resentful, choosing not to spend significant time with the wife. The children suffer as a result, living in what is commonly referred to as a broken home.
There is the basic struggle for existence to consider. As nothing lasts forever, there is always fear of loss. One thought is that sufficient wealth will prevent this fear. That is to say if I get enough money, I won’t have to worry about anything.
One sign of true wealth is gold. Choose any period of time, in any part of the world, and gold has tremendous value. This is because others want it. Even if not attracted by the beauty, there is the inherent understanding that others will be desirous. If I have gold, at the very least I can sell it to make money; converted wealth.
From the historical accounts found in Vedic literature, we find that this mindset is indicative of illusion. Gold does not bring the elusive peace and contentment associated with its possession. In many cases just the opposite results; more sinful life and more surrounding dangers. Moreover, in the direct presence of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, gold’s inferior nature becomes obvious.
Here gold is in the name of the person, symbolizing what the evil character truly valued in life. Gold and a soft cushion. Sufficient quantity and quality of each should bring peace of mind. Yet as is often the case, the more a person travels in the direction of accumulation, the more unhappy they become. The overlooked factor is the senses. The more the senses are kept in control, the happier a person tends to be. With increased amounts of gold the mind gets dragged in several directions simultaneously, leading to added pressure.
Despite being a great and powerful king, Hiranyakashipu was so paranoid that of all things the devotion practiced by a five year old boy caused his downfall. This child happened to be the king’s son, named Prahlada. Not a foreign adversary with a similar interest in gold. Not lust for another woman. Not a desire to overtake another land. Bhakti-yoga, devotional service, from an innocent child became the Achilles heel.
The issue was that Hiranyakashipu knew the object of devotion. It was Vishnu, who was hated by the king. Prahlada’s devotion could not be tolerated, which led to lethal attacks from the father. Those heinous crimes, unsuccessful in their objectives, ultimately led to the appearance of Vishnu in the flesh, in the half-man/half-lion avatara. Hiranyakashipu and his gold were soundly defeated.
2. Ravana and Lanka
A person similar in mentality to Hiranyakashipu was Ravana, the ten-headed one. This time there was gold literally everywhere. Lanka was a city of splendor like no other, unrivaled in history. There was gold in the buildings and crystals in the floors and walls. This was real opulence; not some temporary facility for living in an otherwise crowded, congested and unclean city.
Yet all the gold in the world couldn’t protect Ravana and his home. The first significant damage came from Shri Hanuman. Using his tail initially set on fire by Ravana as a great insult, Hanuman hopped from place to place to increase the influence of the fire. He was an innocent messenger, after all, sent to meet Sita Devi, the wife of Bhagavan. She was illegally and unjustifiably taken from the side of Shri Rama by Ravana.
Rama Himself eventually came to the scene and defeated Ravana in the battle that should have occurred many months prior. The gold was not enough, and neither were the many beautiful queens in Lanka. Ravana’s uncontrolled kama, material sense desire, turned out to be his downfall. The city of gold was then passed down to his younger brother, Vibhishana, who happened to be a devotee of Rama.
3. The Syamantaka jewel
This story of illusion’s temporary victory took place within the very presence of Bhagavan. He was living in the city of Dvaraka as the leader. Shri Krishna in adulthood with respect to the timeline of His earthly pastimes, the Supreme Lord was happy with His thousands of queens, each beautiful, devoted and chaste.
A person by the name of Satrajit came upon a jewel that could produce a large quantity of gold on a daily basis. He considered himself to be more fortunate than Krishna, who is actually married to fortune personified, Lakshmi Devi. Satrajit thought the gold made him superior, but it in fact led to his murder.
There was a conspiracy to take the jewel from Satrajit, which led to a series of events implicating different people. The jewel became something of a hot potato, with quiet accusations against Krishna as being jealous and wanting it for Himself. The person who is more than the sun in splendor interested in a small object that produces gold, a material element?
Due to Krishna’s influence the situation was eventually resolved. Though nothing material touches Him, the historical event is symbolic of how a person can forget God even when He is living close by. Physical proximity is not the most important factor. The consciousness is what counts, and the devotee maintains the pure consciousness by always chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Over senses taking hold,
When found a little gold.
Like Hiranyakashipu chasing,
But envy of son erasing.
Ravana and his city filled,
In end lust-driven killed.
Syamantaka even when Krishna nearer,
Foolish accepting material dearer.
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