Thursday, April 04, 2013

Everything You Know About Your Family Is Wrong

This is the fourth in my series "Everything You Know Is Wrong" published in the Huffington Post on April 1st. (See the first three: body, mind, ego)

In celebration of Easter, here is another story of resurrection. This time, that of a son's untimely death who was brought back to life to teach his overly attached father a valuable lesson about the temporal nature of family life.

This material world is endlessly mutable. Our acquaintances, friends and even family are like straws in the ocean, which come together temporarily, and are then separated eternally by the waves of time. Why are we so attached to these temporary bodily relationships?

In Sankrit, the term for a miserly person is a kṛpaṇa. Kṛpaṇas waste their time in being overly affectionate for family, society, country, etc., in the material conception of life. One is often attached to family life, namely to wife, children and other members, on the basis of "skin disease." The kṛpaṇa thinks that he is able to protect his family members from death; or the kṛpaṇa thinks that his family or society can save him from the verge of death. Such family attachment can be found even in the lower animals, who take care of children also.

Many thousands of years ago, in the province of Śūrasena in India, there was a great king named Citraketu, who ruled the entire earth. Citraketu had many wives, but although he was capable of producing children, he did not receive a child from any of them. By chance, all the wives were barren. He was full of anxiety because he did not have a son.

Once upon a time, when the powerful sage named Ańgirā was traveling all over the universe without engagement, by his sweet will he came to the palace of King Citraketu. Citraketu immediately stood up from his throne and offered him worship. When the rsi was seated very comfortably, the King, restraining his mind and senses, sat on the ground at the side of the rsi's feet. The sage could tell something was troubling the King, and he inquired as to the reason. Citraketu replied, "I have no son." Thereafter, the great sage told the King, "O great King, now you will have a son who will be the cause of both jubilation and lamentation." The sage then left, without waiting for Citraketu's response.

Because the sage was a greatly powerful personality, he performed a sacrifice by offering oblations of sweet rice. The remnants of the food offered in the yajña were given to on of Citraketu's wives named Krtadyuti, who upon receiving semen from Citraketu, became pregnant after eating remnants of food from the yajña. In due course of time, a son was born to the King. When King Citraketu received a son, his affection for him increased day after day.

The other wives, seeing Krtadyuti's son, were very much agitated, as if by high fevers, with a desire to have sons. As King Citraketu fostered his son very carefully, his affection for Queen Krtadyuti increased, but gradually he lost affection for the other wives, who had no sons. The other queens were extremely unhappy due to their being sonless. Because of the King's negligence toward them, they condemned themselves in envy and lamented. Krtadyuti's co-wives always burned in envy, which became extremely strong. As their envy increased, they lost their intelligence. Being extremely hardhearted and unable to tolerate the King's neglect, they finally administered poison to the son.

When the maidservant approached the child, who was lying down, she saw that his eyes were turned upward. There were no signs of life, all his senses having stopped, and she could understand that the child was dead. Seeing this, she immediately cried, "Now I am doomed," and fell to the ground. In great agitation, the maidservant struck her breast with both hands and cried loudly in regretful words. Hearing her loud voice, the Queen immediately came, and when she approached her son, she saw that he was suddenly dead. In great lamentation, her hair and dress in disarray, the Queen fell to the ground unconscious. Hearing the loud crying, all the inhabitants of the palace came, both men and women. Being equally aggrieved, they also began to cry. The queens who had administered the poison also cried pretentiously, knowing full well their offense. Because of King Citraketu's great affection for his son, his lamentation grew like a blazing fire, and as he went to see the dead child, he kept slipping and falling on the ground. When the King, breathing heavily, regained consciousness, his eyes were tearful, and he could not speak. When the great sage Ańgirā understood that the King was almost dead in an ocean of lamentation, he went there with Nārada rsi.

Nārada and Ańgirā instructed him about spiritual consciousness as follows:

"O King, what relationship does the dead body for which you lament have with you, and what relationship do you have with him? You may say that you are now related as father and son, but do you think this relationship existed before? Does it truly exist now? Will it continue in the future? One should not lament over the artificial relationship of parenthood, which is ultimately controlled by the Supreme Lord. O King, both you and us -- your advisers, wives and ministers -- as well as everything moving and not moving throughout the entire cosmos at this time, are in a temporary situation. Before our birth this situation did not exist, and after our death it will exist no longer. As from one seed another seed is generated, O King, so from one body [the body of the father], through another body [the body of the mother], a third body is generated [the body of a son]. As the elements of the material body are eternal, the living entity who appears through these material elements is also eternal. Divisions of generalization and specification, such as nationality and individuality, are the imaginations of persons who are not advanced in knowledge."
Ańgirā said:

"My dear King, when you desired to have a son, I approached you. Indeed, I am the same Ańgirā Rsi who gave you this son. As for this rsi, he is the great sage Nārada, the direct son of Lord Brahmā. When I first came to your home, I could have given you the supreme transcendental knowledge, but when I saw that your mind was absorbed in material things, I gave you only a son, who caused you jubilation and lamentation. O King, owner of the state of Śūrasena, one's wife, his house, the opulence of his kingdom, and his various other opulences and objects of sense perception are all the same in that they are temporary. One's kingdom, military power, treasury, servants, ministers, friends and relatives are all causes of fear, illusion, lamentation and distress. They are like a pie in the sky, a nonexistent thing that one imagines to exist. These visible objects like wife, children and property, because they are impermanent, they are no better than illusions, dreams and mental concoctions. Therefore, O King Citraketu, carefully consider the position of the ātmā. In other words, try to understand who you are -- whether body, mind or soul. Consider where you have come from, where you are going after giving up this body, and why you are under the control of material lamentation. Try to understand your real position in this way, and then you will be able to give up your unnecessary attachment. You will also be able to give up the belief that this material world, or anything not directly in touch with service to Krishna, is eternal. Thus you will obtain peace."

By his mystic power the great sage Nārada brought the dead son into the vision of all the lamenting relatives and then spoke as follows. Śrī Nārada Muni said: "O living entity, all good fortune unto you. Just see your father and mother. All your friends and relatives are overwhelmed with grief because of your passing away."

By the mystic power of Nārada Muni, the living entity reentered his dead body for a short time and spoke in reply to Nārada Muni's request. He said:

"According to the results of my fruitive activities, I, the living being, transmigrate from one body to another, sometimes going to the species of the demigods, sometimes to the species of lower animals, sometimes among the vegetables, and sometimes to the human species. Therefore, in which birth were these my mother and father? No one is actually my mother and father. How can I accept these two people as my parents? In this material world, which advances like a river that carries away the living entity, all people become friends, relatives and enemies in due course of time. They also act neutrally, they mediate, they despise one another, and they act in many other relationships. The living entity, as a result of his fruitive activities, wanders throughout the entire universe, being injected into various bodies in different species of life by one kind of father after another. The living entity is eternal and imperishable because he actually has no beginning and no end. He never takes birth or dies. He is the basic principle of all types of bodies, yet he does not belong to the bodily category. The living being is so sublime that he is equal in quality to the Supreme Lord. Nonetheless, because he is extremely small, he is prone to be illusioned by the external energy, and thus he creates various bodies for himself according to his different desires."

When the conditioned soul [jīva] in the form of Mahārāja Citraketu's son had spoken in this way and then left, Citraketu and the other relatives of the dead son were all astonished. Thus they cut off the shackles of their affection, which was due to their relationship with him, and gave up their lamentation.

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