“The Lord immediately got up from His seat and invited Narada Muni to sit on His personal seat. The Lord again worshiped him with as much paraphernalia for reception as He had in the palace of Rukmini. After worshiping him properly, Lord Krishna acted as if He did not know what had happened in the palace of Rukmini.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 14)
Friend1: I heard something interesting recently from His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. He was talking about a hypothetical situation where someone was building a house.
Friend1: And so say that I go up to that person and ask them what they are doing.
Friend2: They will say they are building a house.
Friend1: As a follow-up, I ask what the purpose is.
Friend2: Umm, isn’t a house something to live in?
Friend1: Well, let me finish. This person responds that they are building the house for the purpose of burning it down.
Friend2: Say what?
Friend1: That is the hypothetical case.
Friend2: Why would they burn it down?
Friend1: Don’t worry about the justification. Take the situation and study it. A person is going through the trouble of building a house and once it is complete, they anticipate burning it down.
Friend2: That doesn’t make any sense. It is a total waste of time.
Friend1: There you have it. You have reached the conclusion on your own. The swami uses that comparison to explain material life.
Friend2: In what sense?
Friend1: We are all building a house for the purpose of burning it down.
Friend2: I see. That might be difficult for people to understand.
Friend1: Well, that’s where I was going to go next. Is everything a waste of time, then?
Friend2: In material life, surely. Well, it depends on your view of everything, actually. Our life isn’t a waste of time in the sense of progressing towards a higher birth, towards eventually finding transcendence.
Friend1: Through reincarnation.
Friend2: But if your focus is entirely on sense gratification, just know that the house you built will eventually burn down. There is no other destiny, like with the ripened fruit on the tree.
यथा फलानां पक्वानां नान्यत्र पतनाद्भयम्।
एवं नरस्य जातस्य नान्यत्र मरणाद्भयम्।।
yathā phalānāṃ pakvānāṃ nānyatra patanādbhayam।
evaṃ narasya jātasya nānyatra maraṇādbhayam।।
“As a ripe fruit has no other fear than to fall, so a man who is born has no other fear than death.” (Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 105.17)
Friend1: Alright, so take it to the spiritual realm, then. We have the underwater city of Dvaraka built for Shri Krishna.
Friend2: The city of gates.
Friend1: This served its purpose for a time. People lived there. A thriving kingdom, with Devaki’s son as the chief. Then, at the appropriate time, there was total destruction. The walls came down, there was infighting amongst the population, and Krishna eventually returned to the spiritual world.
Friend2: Right, so what’s your point?
Friend1: How is that not the same as building a house for the purpose of burning it down?
Friend2: If you view from the perspective of enjoying a kingdom, then sure. A wise person takes away the lesson that even someone like Shri Krishna can have His reputation tarnished, such as with the Syamantaka jewel affair. Even Bhagavan’s kingdom in this world succumbs to the forces of time.
Friend1: Right, and so what is the big deal if everyone else indulges in similar behavior, in constructing cities, buildings and houses?
Friend2: The key distinction is that Krishna’s lila is timeless. We are still discussing Dvaraka today. We have the geographic location on the map; a real place existing in the world.
Friend1: Okay, but this world is destined for destruction.
भूत-ग्रामः स एवायं
भूत्वा भूत्वा प्रलीयते
रात्र्य्-आगमे ऽवशः पार्थ
bhūta-grāmaḥ sa evāyaṁ
bhūtvā bhūtvā pralīyate
rātry-āgame ‘vaśaḥ pārtha
“Again and again the day comes, and this host of beings is active; and again the night falls, O Partha, and they are helplessly dissolved.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.19)
Friend2: We still read about Krishna living in the many palaces simultaneously. We learn about the hospitality he showed to Narada Muni, a revered brahmana guest. We have the stories of how Krishna led the ideal life as a family man. Everything within that space is eternal.
Friend1: Alright, so if a person builds a house and rises to prominence, will not their life’s story have relevance moving forward?
Friend2: Not necessarily in the impact of lifting people out of material life. That is why Krishna-katha is different. Through enough connection with the Supreme Lord through consciousness, we learn that even the houses we build can have eternal significance.
यत् करोषि यद् अश्नासि
यज् जुहोषि ददासि यत्
यत् तपस्यसि कौन्तेय
तत् कुरुष्व मद्-अर्पणम्
yat karoṣi yad aśnāsi
yaj juhoṣi dadāsi yat
yat tapasyasi kaunteya
tat kuruṣva mad-arpaṇam
“O son of Kunti, all that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that you may perform, should be done as an offering unto Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.27)
If everything we do is an offering to Rukmini’s husband, then we are never losers. Our devotion never perishes, and every act within that devotion is a component to our eventual success at finding liberation.
City of gates in the sea,
Dvaraka amazing to see.
Krishna presiding in that place,
But time eventually to erase.
The memory remaining still,
Meaning that eternally to fill.
With bliss the devotional way,
Benefit of work forever to stay.