“After consulting with his demonic ministers, Kamsa instructed a witch named Putana, who knew the black art of killing small children by ghastly sinful methods, to kill all kinds of children in the cities, villages and pasturing grounds. Such witches can play their black art only where there is no chanting or hearing of the holy name of Krishna.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 6)
Relaxing one afternoon with a good friend, you decide to flip through an old photo album. Your friend looks quite different in these pictures from a previous age. They don’t appear to be happy. A constant frown on the face. Strange clothes; almost aggressive in a sense. Before you can ask, they feel the need to explain:
“That was a dark time in my life. I was hanging out with the wrong crowd. Friends and family tried to warn me, but I couldn’t see clearly. Only after that period ran its course did I realize how destructive the association was. I never want to go back there.”
This reasoning is understandable. As staunch as we may be in our philosophy on how to live life, the pressure from peers can be fended off for only so long. Eventually, one side is going to win. Either you will be able to influence others or they will persuade you over to their side.
A long time ago the ruler of Mathura had a choice. He went through much trouble due to paranoia from a prophecy, and he couldn’t see that the extraordinary effort to prevent destiny wasn’t getting him anywhere. If anything, it was only making him more uneasy and less content. He could have changed the outlook by choosing different association.
That leader’s name was Kamsa, and on the occasion of his sister’s marriage he had the opportunity to associate with someone so saintly that the Supreme Lord Himself would appear in the family. Kamsa followed tradition and escorted his sister, Devaki, to the home of her new family after the marriage to Vasudeva took place.
Devaki’s husband could have been a good influence on Kamsa. He showed his intelligence by dissuading the paranoid ruler from killing his own sister during the trip. A voice from the sky suddenly appeared on the scene and warned Kamsa that Devaki’s eighth child would be his end. Kamsa was ready to kill her right on the spot, but Vasudeva intervened and calmed the escalated tensions.
2. Nanda Maharaja
Kamsa chose not to remain friendly with Vasudeva and his wife. The king of Mathura imprisoned them both and proceeded to kill every child that was born to them. The Divine will cannot be denied, however. What is set to happen must occur, and so the eighth child eventually took birth. This was Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but to Kamsa it was the angel of death.
Remaining true to his saintly character, Vasudeva followed the advice from his Divine son and transported Krishna in the middle of the night to the neighboring town of Gokula. He entrusted baby Krishna to Nanda and his wife, Yashoda.
Kamsa could have associated with either of them. They were kind at heart and ready to share their blissful life with others. Indeed, everyone in the community would come to enjoy the direct association with Shri Krishna, who played in that town as a darling child.
And not to forget, Kamsa could have befriended his own nephew. After all, what harm could come of taking care of and offering service to someone so special? The past transgressions would have been forgotten. Forgiven in an instant, in the way that Krishna would later recommend to the bow-warrior named Arjuna.
माम् एकं शरणं व्रज
अहं त्वां सर्व-पापेभ्यो
मोक्षयिष्यामि मा शुचः
mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo
mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ
“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.66)
Alas, Kamsa’s story is full of interaction with asuras. These were members of a specific race during that time, but the underlying qualities are what lead to the actual determination. Asura means “against the suras,” who are aligned with God and godly principles.
Perfectly symbolizing the mentality, each of these friends of Kamsa was ready to head to Gokula and take out baby Krishna. They had their own special abilities. One was a crafty witch who could change her shape at will. Another was a powerful whirlwind. This other asura was actually a large snake whose shape could be mistaken for a cave.
Kamsa did not fare well with that association. The asuras failed in their attempts. They would not return to their friend alive. Kamsa’s anxiety would continue to grow until the inevitable took place. The time in between could have been spent in the bliss of sharanagati, such as with Parikshit Maharaja who later heard of the story from Shukadeva Gosvami.
A simple shift in association can make all the difference in the world. It is said that a moment’s contact with a saintly person, a representative of Shri Krishna, cannot be compared to any other benediction. Even when that association ends in the physical sense, the benefits continue to accrue, going past the present lifetime even.
With asura friends a host,
For Kamsa in important post.
Deciding on sinful way,
But dangerous with Destiny to play.
Better off if saints befriended,
Benevolence to him extended.
So that with auspiciousness to depart,
But sadly doomed from the start.
Categories: the three