The story of the cursing of Nalakūvara and Maṇigrīva and their deliverance by Kṛṣṇa, under the all-blissful desire of the great sage Nārada, is here described.
The two great demigods Nalakūvara and Maṇigrīva were sons of the treasurer of the demigods, Kuvera, who was a great devotee of Lord Śiva. By the grace of Lord Śiva, Kuvera’s material opulences had no limit. As a rich man’s sons often become addicted to wine and women, so these two sons of Kuvera were also addicted to wine and sex. Once, these two demigods, desiring to enjoy, entered the garden of Lord Śiva in the province of Kailāsa, on the bank of the Mandākinī Ganges. There they drank much and engaged in hearing the sweet singing of the beautiful women who accompanied them in that garden of fragrant flowers. In an intoxicated condition, the two demigods entered the water of the Ganges, which was filled with lotus flowers, and there they began to enjoy the company of the young girls exactly as a male elephant enjoys female elephants within the water.
While they were thus enjoying themselves in the water, all of a sudden Nārada, the great sage, happened to pass that way. He could understand that the demigods Nalakūvara and Maṇigrīva were too much intoxicated and could not even see that he was passing. The young girls, however, were not so much intoxicated as the demigods, and they at once became ashamed at being naked before the great sage Nārada. They began to cover themselves with all haste. The two demigod sons of Kuvera were so much intoxicated that they could not appreciate the presence of the sage Nārada and therefore did not cover their bodies. On seeing the two demigods so degraded by intoxication, Nārada desired their welfare, and therefore he exhibited his causeless mercy upon them by cursing them.
Because the great sage was compassionate upon them, he wanted to finish their false enjoyment of intoxication and association with young girls and wanted them to see Lord Kṛṣṇa face to face. He conceived of cursing them as follows. He said that the attraction for material enjoyment is due to an increase of the mode of passion. A person in the material world, when favored by the material opulence of riches, generally becomes addicted to three things—intoxication, sex and gambling. Materially opulent men, being puffed up with the accumulation of wealth, also become so merciless that they indulge in killing animals by opening slaughterhouses. And they think that they themselves will never die. Such foolish persons, forgetting the laws of nature, become overly infatuated with the body. They forget that the material body, even though very much advanced in civilization, up to the position of the demigods, will finally turn into ashes or stool. And while one is living, whatever the external condition of the body may be, within there is only stool, urine and various kinds of worms. Thus being engaged in jealousy and violence to other bodies, materialists cannot understand the ultimate goal of life, and without knowing this goal of life, they generally glide down to a hellish condition in their next life. Such foolish persons commit all kinds of sinful activities on account of the temporary body, and they are even unable to consider whether the body actually belongs to them. Generally it is said that the body belongs to the persons who feed it. One might therefore consider whether the body belongs to one personally or to the master to whom one renders service. The master of slaves claims full right to the bodies of the slaves because the master feeds the slaves. It may also be questioned whether the body belongs to the father, who is the seed-giving master of the body, or to the mother, who develops the child’s body in her womb.
Foolish persons are engaged in committing all sorts of sins due to the misconception of identifying the material body with the self. But one should be intelligent enough to understand to whom the body belongs. A foolish person indulges in killing animals to maintain the body, but he does not consider whether the body belongs to him or to his father or mother or maternal grandfather. Sometimes a father gives his daughter in charity to a person with a view of getting back the daughter’s child as a son. The body may also belong to a stronger man who forces it to work for him. Sometimes a slave’s body is sold to a master, and from that day on the body belongs to the master. And at the end of life the body belongs to the fire, because the body is given to the fire and burned to ashes. Or the body is thrown into the street to be eaten by the dogs and vultures.
Before committing all kinds of sins to maintain the body, one should understand to whom the body belongs. Ultimately it is concluded that the body is a product of material nature, and at the end it merges into material nature; therefore, the conclusion should be that the body belongs to material nature. One should not wrongly think that the body belongs to him. To maintain a false possession, why should one indulge in killing? Why should one kill innocent animals to maintain the body?
When a man is infatuated with the false prestige of opulence, he does not care for any moral instruction but indulges in wine, women and animal-killing. In such circumstances, a poverty-stricken man is often better situated because a poor man thinks of himself in relation to other bodies. A poor man often does not wish to inflict injuries upon other bodies because he can understand more readily that when he himself is injured he feels pain. Therefore, the great sage Nārada considered that because the demigods Nalakūvara and Maṇigrīva were so infatuated by false prestige, they should be put into a condition of life devoid of opulence.
A person who has a pinprick in his body does not wish others to be pricked by pins; a considerate man in the life of poverty does not wish others to be also put into that condition. Generally it is seen that one who has risen from a poverty-stricken life and becomes wealthy creates some charitable institution at the end of his life so that other poverty-stricken men might be benefited. In short, a compassionate poor man may consider others’ pains and pleasures with empathy. A poor man is seldom puffed up with false pride, and he may be freed from all kinds of infatuation. He may remain satisfied by whatever he gets for his maintenance by the grace of the Lord.
To remain in the poverty-stricken condition is a kind of austerity. According to Vedic culture, therefore, the brāhmaṇas, as a matter of routine, keep themselves in a poverty-stricken condition to save themselves from the false prestige of material opulence. False prestige due to advancement of material prosperity is a great impediment for spiritual emancipation. A poverty-stricken man cannot become unnaturally fat by eating more and more. And on account of not being able to eat more than he requires, his senses are not very turbulent. When the senses are not very turbulent, he cannot become violent.
Another advantage of poverty is that a saintly person can easily enter a poor man’s house, and thus the poor man can take advantage of the saintly person’s association. A very opulent man does not allow anyone to enter his house; therefore, the saintly person cannot enter. According to the Vedic system, a saintly person takes the position of a mendicant so that on the plea of begging something from the householder, he can enter any house. The householder, who has usually forgotten everything about spiritual advancement because he is busy maintaining family affairs, can be benefited by the association of a saintly person. There is a great chance for the poor man to become liberated through association with a saint. Of what use are persons who are puffed up with material opulence and prestige if they are bereft of the association of saintly persons and devotees of the Supreme Personality of Godhead?
The great sage Nārada thereafter thought that it was his duty to put those demigods into a condition where they could not be falsely proud of their material opulence and prestige. Nārada was compassionate and wanted to save them from their fallen life. They were in the mode of darkness, and being therefore unable to control their senses, they were addicted to sex life. It was the duty of a saintly person like Nārada to save them from their abominable condition. In animal life, the animal has no sense to understand that he is naked. But Kuvera was the treasurer of the demigods, a very responsible man, and Nalakūvara and Maṇigrīva were two of his sons. And yet they became so animalistic and irresponsible that they could not understand, due to intoxication, that they were naked. To cover the lower part of the body is a principle of human civilization, and when men or women forget this principle, they become no better than animals. Nārada therefore thought that the best punishment for them was to make them immovable living entities, or trees. Trees are, by nature’s laws, immovable. Although trees are covered by the mode of ignorance, they cannot do harm. The great sage Nārada thought it fitting that, although the brothers would be punished to become trees, by his mercy they would continue to keep their memory and be able to know why they were being punished. After changing the body, a living entity generally forgets his previous life, but in special cases, by the grace of the Lord, as with Nalakūvara and Maṇigrīva, one can remember.
Sage Nārada therefore contemplated that the two demigods should remain for one hundred years, in the time of the demigods, in the form of trees, and after that they would be fortunate enough to see the Supreme Personality of Godhead face to face, by His causeless mercy. And thus they would be again promoted to the life of the demigods and become great devotees of the Lord.
After this, the great sage Nārada returned to his abode, known as Nārāyaṇāśrama, and the two demigods turned into trees, known as twin arjuna trees. The two demigods were favored by the causeless mercy of Nārada and given a chance to grow in Nanda’s courtyard and see Lord Kṛṣṇa face to face.
Although child Kṛṣṇa was bound up to the wooden mortar, He began to proceed toward the twin trees in order to fulfill the prophecy of His great devotee Nārada. Lord Kṛṣṇa knew that Nārada was His great devotee and that the trees standing before Him as twin arjuna trees were actually the sons of Kuvera. “I must now fulfill the words of My great devotee Nārada,” He thought. Then He proceeded through the passage between the two trees. Although He was able to pass through the passage, the large wooden mortar stuck horizontally between the trees. Taking advantage of this, with great strength Lord Kṛṣṇa began to pull the rope, which was tied to the mortar. As soon as He pulled, the two trees, with all their branches and limbs, fell down immediately with a great sound. Out of the broken, fallen trees came two great personalities, shining like blazing fire. All sides became illuminated and beautiful by their presence. The two purified personalities immediately came before child Kṛṣṇa and bowed down to offer their respects and prayers in the following words.
“Dear Lord Kṛṣṇa, You are the original Personality of Godhead, master of all mystic powers. Learned brāhmaṇas know very well that this cosmic manifestation is an expansion of Your potencies, which are sometimes manifest and sometimes unmanifest. You are the original provider of the life, body and senses of all living entities. You are the eternal God, Lord Viṣṇu, who is all-pervading, the imperishable controller of everything, and You are eternal time. You are the original source of the cosmic manifestation, which is acting under the spell of the three modes of material nature—goodness, passion and ignorance. You are living as the Supersoul in all the multiforms of living entities, and You know very well what is going on within their bodies and minds. Therefore You are the supreme director of all activities of all living entities. But although You are in the midst of everything which is under the spell of the material modes of nature, You are not affected by such contaminated qualities. No one under the jurisdiction of the material modes can understand Your transcendental qualities, which existed before the creation; therefore You are called the Supreme Transcendence. Let us offer our respectful obeisances unto the lotus feet of You, Lord Vāsudeva, the Supreme Brahman, who are always glorified by Your personal internal potencies.
“In this material world You make Yourself known only by Your different incarnations. Although You assume different types of bodies, these bodies are not part of the material creation. They are always full of the transcendental potencies of unlimited opulence, strength, beauty, fame, wisdom and renunciation. In the material existence there is a difference between the body and the owner of the body, but because You appear in Your original spiritual body, there is no such difference for You. When You appear, Your uncommon activities indicate that You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Such uncommon activities are not possible for anyone in material existence. You, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, cause the birth and death as well as the liberation of the living entities, and You are full with all Your plenary expansions. You can bestow on everyone all kinds of benedictions. O Lord! O source of all auspiciousness and goodness, we offer our respectful obeisances unto You. You are the all-pervading Supreme Personality of Godhead, the supreme source of peace and the supreme personality in the dynasty of King Yadu. O Lord, our father, known as Kuvera, the demigod, is Your servant. Similarly, the great sage Nārada is also Your servitor, and only by their grace have we been able to see You personally. We therefore pray that we may always be engaged in Your transcendental loving service by speaking only about Your glories and hearing about Your transcendental activities. May our hands and other limbs be engaged in Your service and our minds always be concentrated at Your lotus feet and our heads always bowed down before the all-pervading universal form of Your Lordship.”
When the demigods Nalakūvara and Maṇigrīva finished their prayers, the child, Lord Kṛṣṇa, the master and proprietor of Gokula, bound to the wooden grinding mortar by the ropes of Yaśodā, smiled and said, “It was already known to Me that My great devotee Nārada Muni had shown his causeless mercy by saving you from the abominable condition of pride due to possessing extraordinary beauty and opulence in a family of demigods. He has saved you from gliding down into the lowest condition of hellish life. All these facts are already known to Me. You are very fortunate because not only were you cursed by him, but you had the great opportunity to see him. If someone is able, by chance, to see face to face a great saintly person like Nārada, who is always serene and merciful to everyone, then immediately that conditioned soul becomes liberated. This is exactly like being situated in the full light of the sun: there cannot be any visionary impediment. Therefore, O Nalakūvara and Maṇigrīva, your lives have now become successful because you have developed ecstatic love for Me. This is your last birth within material existence. Now you can go back to your father’s residence in the heavenly planets, and by remaining in the attitude of devotional service, you will be liberated in this very life.”
After this, the demigods circumambulated the Lord many times and bowed down before Him again and again, and thus they left. The Lord remained bound up with ropes to the grinding mortar.
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