“Then the ten-necked one, who was hiding nearby, quickly assumed the form of a wandering mendicant and approached Vaidehi.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 46.2)
तदासाद्य दशग्रीवः क्षिप्रमन्तरमास्थितः।
अभिचक्राम वैदेहीं परिव्राजकरूपधृक्।।
tadāsādya daśagrīvaḥ kṣipramantaramāsthitaḥ।
abhicakrāma vaidehīṃ parivrājakarūpadhṛk।।
“I know you don’t like discussing politics, but a major issue in the news recently had me considering the spiritual equivalent. Actually, I’m not sure there is one, but here is the presentation. There is a heated controversy over what the government’s policy should be about admitting people from other countries, i.e. immigrants. More specifically, those that cross physically from a specific border. So many checks and security measures are already in place for those arriving by flight from around the world.
“One side says to not implement any added measures. Allow the people to enter. Why the same people insist on security measures for airport travelers and not those coming by foot at the land border is beyond me, but that seems to be the policy. It is called compassion. The people entering this way officially seek asylum. They claim that there is danger in their home country. Political disputes, poverty, persecution for beliefs – the new nation will give them the much needed protection.
“The other side says that more physical barriers are needed. That exact system is already in place in many areas of the border. This side wants to expand the existing protections to cover the entire border. They say that the asylum system has turned into an easy scam. People claim asylum on entry, receive a notice to appear in court some two years later and then never show up. It is a trick to gain entry into the country, bypassing the standard route. In addition, the majority of the asylum claims get denied since sufficient evidence is lacking.
“In essence, people can game the system. Those entering illegally could be drug dealers, human traffickers, murderers, rapists and the like. There is no way to know. That is why the border wall is necessary. Let everyone enter in a legal way, as if they were arriving from an international flight.
“I’m not asking you to choose sides, but I do find the concept of a fake asylum seeker interesting. Is there any carryover to spiritual life? Namely, can a person try to seek the shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and have ill intent at the foundation? Does Krishna discriminate? Is He able to pick out the pretenders? How can others properly decipher, as someone identified as a saint is known to be followed for their example?”
1. The old rival of Pratapabhanu
This story is described in the Ramacharitamanasa of Goswami Tulsidas. It is part of the background to explain the appearance in this world of the wicked character named Ravana. The Vedic science reveals what no blunt instruments, primitive or modern, can show: the presence of the soul. Known as atma in Sanskrit, it is interminable in its existence. As it is known to be present at the moment based on the visible, living being, so it existed in the past.
This means that the leader of Lanka infamous from the Ramayana poem had a history. Being an eternal spirit soul, he did not just randomly appear in the form of a Rakshasa. Since the universe goes through cycles of creation and destruction, the initial cause is not the same every time around.
One time there was a mistake committed by a king named Pratapabhanu. Getting lost in the forest while travelling, he mistakenly accepted the shelter of a person believed to be a holy man. Actually, this was one of Pratapabhanu’s old rivals. The king did not recognize him, but the rival sure knew what was going on.
In essence, Pratapabhanu granted asylum to someone who deserved to be viewed skeptically. The mistake led to Pratapabhanu doing something to offend brahmanas in his community. These spiritual leaders were so angered that they cursed him to appear as a man-eating ogre, Rakshasa, in his next birth.
Born as Ravana, he eventually rose to power through boons granted from higher authorities. At his peak, Ravana had ten heads, twenty arms, and control over a beautiful kingdom full of gold. His senses were not under control, however, and so he took to evil ways.
He heard of a beautiful woman residing in the forest of Dandaka. Ravana already had many qualified queens living with him, but he could not resist the urge. Though Sita Devi was married and living happily with her husband, Ravana felt compelled to interfere.
He created a ruse to lure the husband Rama away from the home. Ravana then assumed the form of a wandering mendicant, parivrajaka, to approach Sita Devi. She was kind to him at first because of the physical appearance. The fiend never deserved any kind of asylum, but the saintly people of this world are known to be kind-hearted, even to potential enemies.
This story is somewhat analogous to modern times, as the end result was a new city built with gates on every side. In fact, the city was named for this feature. Dvaraka is still visited today, as it is the site of the original ancient city described in books like the Mahabharata and Shrimad Bhagavatam.
In the previous incarnation the Supreme Lord appeared as Rama, the husband of Sita. Ravana’s offense against Rama’s wife led to the demise of the evil king. This time around Bhagavan appeared as Himself, as Shri Krishna, who eventually overthrew the wicked ruler of Mathura, Kamsa.
Jarasandha, who was the king of a neighboring province, then mounted an attack on the city. Krishna easily emerged victorious, and in the aftermath He set Jarasandha free. The hostile enemy received a kind of asylum, though he didn’t deserve it.
The embarrassment from the defeat did not last long. Jarasandha continued to attack, each time unsuccessful. Finally, on the eighteenth attempt Krishna and family decided to leave the area and set up a city in the sea. Dvaraka had gates all around so that Jarasandha and others could not enter illegally. Jarasandha’s demise was slated for a future time, at the hands of the Pandava warrior named Bhima.
Later in Krishna’s pastimes there was the great Bharata War. This involved the Kauravas and the Pandavas, and though Krishna was officially neutral, He was on the Pandava side through the guidance He offered to the leading warrior named Arjuna.
Towards the end of the hostilities, a character named Ashvatthama murdered the sons of Draupadi in cold blood. She was the shared wife of the Pandavas, and therefore punishment was set to arrive. Krishna even advised that the later captured Ashvatthama be given death as the appropriate punishment.
Despite the tragedy to her family, Draupadi insisted on forgiveness. She granted a kind of asylum to Ashvatthama, who didn’t deserve it. The same brutal murderer also sent an amazing weapon into the womb of Uttara, who was pregnant with the future of the Pandava dynasty at the time. Krishna entered the womb and saved the life of the child, who would go on to become king.
Everything worked out in the end, but from so many cases documented over the course of human history we see that not everyone is straightforward and honest. Things are not always as they appear on the surface.
The Supreme Lord does not ever mistakenly grant asylum. He is not obligated to give anything to anyone, in fact. A wicked person can approach Him for a boon, carrying ill intent, and Krishna does not have to agree, no matter how much He is worshiped. This is in stark contrast to the dealings with the demigods, who have many times provided protections to people who intended to cause harm throughout the world.
ये यथा मां प्रपद्यन्ते
तांस् तथैव भजाम्य् अहम्
मनुष्याः पार्थ सर्वशः
ye yathā māṁ prapadyante
tāṁs tathaiva bhajāmy aham
manuṣyāḥ pārtha sarvaśaḥ
“All of them – as they surrender unto Me – I reward accordingly. Everyone follows My path in all respects, O son of Pritha.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.11)
As a person surrenders unto God the person, they are rewarded accordingly. If they seek His shelter in earnest, they are fully protected. Their devotion will continue, into successive lifetimes, whereas the deceptive applicant will only stay in illusion, never properly recognizing God, though He be standing before them.
Debate that wall to need,
To prevent criminals to proceed.
For asylum seekers compassion shown,
But some to cheat system known.
From Vedic history many a time,
Where forgiveness leading to crime.
But Krishna never tricked by deceiver,
Appropriate reward for receiver.
Categories: the four