The first two parts of this series dealt with various causes of suffering in the world and brought forth justifications as to why God let men suffer when He could have taken away all their miseries. In this part, we shall explore the allegorical story of King Parikshit and his encounter with Kali(yuga) and the teachings of King Rishabha from the Srimad Bhagavatam, to understand the underlying reason of man’s suffering in Kali Yuga. We shall perceive through these stories why God created Kali and let it pollute human minds with evil and suffering.
The root cause of man’s suffering in Kali Yuga, as it emerges from the episodes of the two kings Parikshit and Rishabha is EGO: the pitfall of I and mine. It is important to note at this point that both Parikshit and Rishabha were born with the intervention of the Lord. Lord Krishna protected Parikshit when he was in his mother Uttara’s womb and Rishabha was the Lord Himself who had taken avatar to show to the world in Kali-yuga that a man can be a king and a grihastha and yet live like a sanyasi and attain salvation.
Parikshit was the king of Hastinapur and the grandson of Arjun. Following his legacy, Parikshit patronized dharma. One day a cow and a lame bull were in conversation when suddenly a man of low birth started beating the lame bull with a stick. Parikshit witnessed this heinous crime and prevented the grave injustice by drawing his arrow. With tearful eyes he asked the bull who had cut off his other three legs. The bull did not take the name of the sinner. Rather, he talked about the moral and spiritual degradation of man who is governed by nothing but EGO. Even the gods don’t have the power to influence men’s actions. Moreover, some men are atheists who believe that man is the master of his own fate.
It did not take long for the King to understand that the bull was Dharma himself and the cow was Mother Earth. The man who had attacked him was Kali, whom the bull did not name. The four legs of the bull represented Penance, Cleanliness, Compassion, and Truth. In Kali Yuga, only the last pillar of dharma, that is truth, remained while all the others had been destroyed. Later, Parikshit, the protector of dharma, got tricked by Kali who made his home in the king’s golden throne. He committed a sin led by ego and anger against sage Shamika who was in deep meditation. Once Parikshit took off his throne, he was overcome with repentance and deserted his kingdom to meditate upon the Lord. He met Shukadev muni, who assured Parikshit that if he meditated upon the Lord he would achieve salvation. Shukadev, son of the great sage Ved Vyas, narrated the Bhagwat Mahapuran to Parikshit for 7 days and helped him to meditate upon God and attain salvation.
King Rishabha, an avatar of the Lord Himself, delivered a discourse to his sons about the purpose of life. He gave them various lessons on detachment, equanimity, and devotion. He said that the root cause of attachment to worldly objects like home and land and family are Ahankara and Mamakara: ‘I’ and ‘mine’. Attachment follows from ego and the deluded sense of ownership. He cautions his children against such ego and teaches them that the only worthwhile pursuit is that of the knowledge of Brahman which can be acquired through surrender to the Lord. He emphasizes that in order to surrender, one must engage in listening (Shravanam), contemplation, (Mananam), and deep meditation (Nidhidhyaasanam) of the Lord.
According to Rishabha’s teachings, only bhakti can drive away Kali. However, Kali is needed so as to bring suffering upon man and divert his thoughts toward God. Kali is therefore God’s instrument for helping man become sanmukh. Liberation from the cycle of birth and death may be achieved only by turning our minds toward God.
To conclude, let us ponder upon Mother Kunti’s imploring speech to her beloved Lord, before He left for Dwarka:
“Please, Krishna, there is only one boon I want to ask of You and that is: there should be misfortune after misfortune visiting us. That, and only that, will make You, be with us all the time.”