“Some were excited, but the bow was immovable, like the word of a saint. Looking at the bow, their strength and intelligence were forcefully stolen, like with King Nahusha.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 11.2)
एक करहिं दाप न चाप सज्जन बचन जिमि टारें टरै |
नृप नहुष ज्य्ॐ सब कें बिलोकत बुद्धि बल बरबस हरै ||
eka karahiṃ dāpa na cāpa sajjana bacana jimi ṭāreṃ ṭarai |
nṛpa nahuṣa jyoṃ saba keṃ bilokata buddhi bala barabasa harai ||
“There is the saying about being stuck between a rock and a hard place. I have heard it many times, understood the general meaning based on the context in which it was used, but never gave much consideration to the actual terms.
“You have two options. One is to associate with a rock. Since it is cold and difficult to move, you might not prefer that option. The other choice is the hard place. Basically, not much different from the rock. These are the only two options, by the way. You are essentially stuck; no preferred way to move forward.
“I often feel that way about life. We are stuck between choices that are not optimal. Go this way and something bad will happen. Choose the other direction and it will be the same outcome. It is almost like we are powerless in this world. No matter how much we try, unless higher forces cooperate, we don’t stand a chance.”
The story of the bow-contest in the kingdom of Videha highlights a similar issue. King Janaka made the rules. It was his contest, as it was to determine the suitable husband for his beloved daughter, Sita Devi. A heavy bow with its origins in Lord Shiva had been passed down through the family. The lifter of the bow would win the contest.
To say that this bow was heavy is an understatement. To say that the participants in the contest were attempting something equivalent to moving a mountain would also not do justice to the weight of the object in question. This bow was really heavy, and Janaka knew that only the suitable husband for his daughter would be able to lift it. This was the bride-price that he had established.
Goswami Tulsidas makes a wonderful comparison in describing the failure of the many kings assembled that day. He says that the bow was as immovable as the word of a brahmana, who is a qualified saintly person. The kings were like Nahusha, and it was as if the bow stole their strength.
तावत् त्रिणाकं नहुषः शशास
नीतस् तिरश्चां गतिम् इन्द्र-पत्न्या
tāvat triṇākaṁ nahuṣaḥ śaśāsa
nītas tiraścāṁ gatim indra-patnyā
“As long as King Indra lived in the water, wrapped in the stem of the lotus, Nahusha was equipped with the ability to rule the heavenly kingdom, due to his knowledge, austerity and mystic power. Nahusha, however, blinded and maddened by power and opulence, made undesirable proposals to Indra’s wife with a desire to enjoy her. Thus Nahusha was cursed by a brahmana and later became a snake.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 6.13.16)
It is said that Nahusha was the king of heaven for a time, full of strength. Because he made a sinful proposal to Indra’s wife, he was cursed by a brahmana. He subsequently lost everything.
The sinful proposal here was to try to marry Janaka’s daughter, who was an incarnation of the goddess of fortune. Lakshmi Devi can only live intimately with her husband for eternity, the Supreme Lord. She serves Him in all righteousness, dharma, and this duty happens to align with her preference, borne of love.
I can be the strongest person in the world, but if I choose the unrighteous path, I could lose everything. Due to the curse of a brahmana, that descent could take place instantly. One second I have control over the entire world, and the next I am penniless and lacking strength.
The genuine brahmana class aligns with the interests of the Supreme Lord, and so their words in favor of dharma and service to the Almighty are just as immovable. If they fervently recommend chanting the holy names in the age of Kali, based on the strength of their recommendation I can be sure that such a connection will bring me complete success in life: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Word of brahmana taking,
For successful life making.
That chanting to do for me,
The best destination to see.
Where Supreme Lord in sound,
True transcendence found.
Such that difficulty no more,
Aligned with dharma for sure.