“Maharaja Parikshit, just after receiving the news of his death within seven days, at once retired from family life and shifted himself to the sacred bank of the Yamuna River.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.19.6 Purport)
It looked like a selfish move, concerning only the self-interest, svartha, but just see the many people benefitted. Both svartha and paramartha are accounted for by following in the footsteps of that celebrated king of the world, Maharaja Parikshit.
1. The king
The decision of which we speak came at the tail-end of life. The king had made a terrible mistake. What he thought was a harmless joke turned into the greatest insult to a child, seeing his father humiliated by wearing a dead snake around the neck, placed there by Parikshit. The result was a curse on the king. The word of the brahmana carried weight, and so if a snake bite to end life foretold the future, it would likely occur.
Parikshit then made an interesting decision. Many options were available to him. Some people do receive the fortune of knowing precisely when they will die. Maybe not the exact moment, but a ballpark figure. A certain number of months or weeks. The king had seven days.
He chose to sit on the banks of the Yamuna river and hear Hari-katha. He would spend his final days completely conscious of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Shri Krishna. Shravana would have been sufficient; hearing and not necessarily interrupting. But the king was actively engaged. He asked questions, listened to the answers, and then reached his own conclusions. He came to agreement with shastra both from faith and the application of intelligence.
The obvious benefit was to the listener. They were guaranteed of the best consciousness at the time of death. Whatever state of being a person leaves this world with, that state they attain in the next existence without fail.
यं यं वापि स्मरन् भावं
त्यजत्य् अन्ते कलेवरम्
तं तम् एवैति कौन्तेय
yaṁ yaṁ vāpi smaran bhāvaṁ
tyajaty ante kalevaram
taṁ tam evaiti kaunteya
Having consciousness of God the person is the best state of being because it is tantamount deathlessness. It is full of bliss, without interruption. It carries sufficient knowledge to avoid the dangers borne of ignorance. No more spinning on the wheel of suffering. The merging together of the individual with a spiritual body, their svarupa.
2. The teacher
Parikshit heard from the most exalted teacher, Shukadeva Gosvami. Though he required no further spiritual merits, being a liberated soul, the son of Vyasa still benefitted from the king’s decision. A pure devotee is always eager to spread the glories of the Supreme Lord. They look forward to the opportunity to speak about His lila, the transcendental pastimes taking place in this world and others.
Shukadeva spoke the sacred Bhagavata Purana, also known as the Shrimad Bhagavatam. This narrative that also includes the highest philosophical instruction is considered the ripened fruit from the tree of Vedic literature. It is a spotless Purana, as there is no coverage of material advancement. The entire focus is on knowing God and serving Him.
Speaking on such a topic is actually the entire purpose of having a tongue and mouth. Goswami Tulsidas says that a person who does not use these gifts of nature in the right way has something like a snake-hole; they don’t take proper advantage.
रसना सँआपिनि बदन बिल जे न जपहिं हरिनाम |
तुलसी प्रेम न राम स्ॐ ताहि बिधाता बाम ||
rasanā sam̐āpini badana bila je na japahiṃ harināma |
tulasī prema na rāma soṃ tāhi bidhātā bāma ||
“The tongue is like a snake and the mouth like a snake hole for the person who does not chant the holy names of the Lord. Those who have no love for Shri Rama are understood to be bereft of the creator’s favor, says Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 40)
3. Any others assembled
If something so amazing is being discussed, naturally other like-minded people will gather. They are not active participants in that they are not directly questioning the teacher. The decision was the king’s and so the interaction didn’t really involve anyone else. Still, others are allowed to attend. The transcendental sound benefits anyone who can hear.
4. Yamuna Devi
The river is actually a goddess, who is closely associated with Shri Krishna, which is another name for Hari, the Supreme Lord. She is already so dear to Bhagavan, but Parikshit’s decision further glorifies her. She benefits by being associated with such an important event. Yamuna Devi is considered a tirtha, or place of pilgrimage. The primary benefit of taking trips to visit these places is having the association of saintly people. They tend to congregate towards important areas because of the conduciveness to spiritual practice.
5. Future generations of man
This was a precise moment in time. What are seven days in the course of the vast timeline of the world? The people of the time certainly benefitted, but what does Parikshit’s decision do for me today?
In fact, he taught the most important lesson. As every living thing is destined for death, the natural question is what should be accomplished by the time it arrives? How should a person look back on their life?
Maharaja Parikshit teaches how to die. In that precept through example he also reveals the way to live. Immersion in Hari-katha is the best way to spend the time that we have while in any type of body. Vitality is meant for serving the Supreme Lord. This is the dharma of the soul, a principle made clear by the celebrated descendant of the Pandu dynasty.
At death’s time transcendent,
That celebrated descendent.
At Yamuna’s banks seat taking,
Focus on Hari-katha unshaking.
Benefitting himself but others too,
Like anyone seated there who.
The river glorifying and also the speaker,
Path to transcendence for future seeker.
Categories: the five