The Deliverance of Śiśupāla
King Yudhiṣṭhira became very happy after hearing the details of the Jarāsandha episode, and he spoke as follows: “My dear Kṛṣṇa, O eternal form of bliss and knowledge, all the exalted directors of the affairs of this material world, including Lord Brahmā, Lord Śiva and King Indra, are always eager to receive and carry out orders from You, and whenever they are fortunate enough to receive such orders, they immediately take them and keep them on their heads. O Kṛṣṇa, You are unlimited, and although we sometimes think of ourselves as royal kings and rulers of the world and become puffed up over our paltry positions, we are very poor in heart. Actually, we are fit to be punished by You, but the wonder is that instead of punishing us You so kindly and mercifully accept our orders and carry them out properly. We are all very much surprised that Your Lordship can play the part of an ordinary human being, but we can understand that You are performing these activities just like a dramatic artist. Your real position is always exalted, exactly like that of the sun, which always remains at the same temperature during both the time of its rising and the time of its setting. Although we feel the difference in temperature between the rising and the setting sun, the temperature of the sun never changes. You are always transcendentally equipoised, neither pleased nor disturbed by any condition of material affairs. You are the Supreme Brahman, the Personality of Godhead, and for You there are no relativities. My dear Mādhava, You are never defeated by anyone. Material distinctions – ‘This is me,’ ‘This is you,’ ‘This is mine,’ ‘This is yours’ – are all conspicuous by dint of their absence in You. Such distinctions are visible in the lives of everyone, even the animals, but pure devotees are freed from these false distinctions. Since these distinctions are absent in Your devotees, they cannot possibly be present in You.”
After satisfying Kṛṣṇa in this way, King Yudhiṣṭhira arranged to perform the Rājasūya sacrifice. He invited all the qualified brāhmaṇas and sages to take part and appointed them to different positions as priests in charge of the sacrificial arena. He invited the most expert brāhmaṇas and sages, whose names are as follows: Kṛṣṇa-dvaipāyana Vyāsadeva, Bharadvāja, Sumantu, Gautama, Asita, Vasiṣṭha, Cyavana, Kaṇva, Maitreya, Kavaṣa, Trita, Viśvāmitra, Vāmadeva, Sumati, Jaimini, Kratu, Paila, Parāśara, Garga, Vaiśampāyana, Atharvā, Kaśyapa, Dhaumya, Paraśurāma, Śukrācārya, Āsuri, Vītihotra, Madhucchandā, Vīrasena and Akṛtavraṇa. Besides all these brāhmaṇas and sages, he invited such respectable old men as Droṇācārya, Bhīṣma (the grandfather of the Kurus), Kṛpācārya and Dhṛtarāṣṭra. He also invited all the sons of Dhṛtarāṣṭra, headed by Duryodhana, and also the great devotee Vidura. Kings from different parts of the world, along with their ministers and secretaries, were also invited to see the great sacrifice performed by King Yudhiṣṭhira, and the citizens, comprising learned brāhmaṇas, chivalrous kṣatriyas, well-to-do vaiśyas and faithful śūdras, all visited the ceremony.
The brāhmaṇa priests and sages in charge of the sacrificial ceremony constructed the sacrificial arena as usual with a plow of gold, and they initiated King Yudhiṣṭhira as the performer of the great sacrifice, in accordance with Vedic rituals. Long years earlier, when Varuṇa had performed a similar sacrifice, all the sacrificial utensils had been made of gold. Similarly, in the Rājasūya sacrifice of King Yudhiṣṭhira, all the utensils required for the sacrifice were golden.
Present by the invitation of King Yudhiṣṭhira to participate in the great sacrifice were all the exalted demigods, including Lord Brahmā, Lord Śiva and Indra, the king of heaven, accompanied by their associates, as well as the predominating deities of the higher planetary systems, including Gandharvaloka, Siddhaloka, Janaloka, Tapoloka, Nāgaloka, Yakṣaloka, Rākṣasaloka, Pakṣiloka and Cāraṇaloka, as well as famous kings and their queens. All the respectable sages, kings and demigods who assembled there agreed unanimously that King Yudhiṣṭhira was quite competent to take the responsibility of performing the Rājasūya sacrifice; no one was in disagreement on this fact. Everyone thoroughly knew the position of King Yudhiṣṭhira; because he was a great devotee of Lord Kṛṣṇa, no accomplishment was extraordinary for him. The learned brāhmaṇas and priests saw to it that the sacrifice by Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira was performed in exactly the same way as it had been in bygone ages by the demigod Varuṇa. According to the Vedic system, whenever there is an arrangement for sacrifice, the members participating are offered the juice of the soma plant, which is a kind of life-giving beverage. On the day for extracting the soma juice, King Yudhiṣṭhira very respectfully received the special priest who had been engaged to detect any mistake in the formalities of the sacrificial procedure. The idea is that the Vedic mantras must be enunciated perfectly and chanted with the proper accent; if the priests who are engaged in this business commit any mistake, the checker, or referee priest, immediately corrects the procedure, and thus the ritualistic performances are perfectly executed. Unless perfectly executed, a sacrifice cannot yield the desired result. In this Age of Kali there is no such learned brāhmaṇa or priest available; therefore, all such sacrifices are forbidden. The only sacrifice recommended in the śāstras is the chanting of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra.
Another important procedure is that the most exalted personality in the assembly of such a sacrificial ceremony is first offered worship. After all arrangements were made for Yudhiṣṭhira’s sacrifice, the next consideration was who should be worshiped first in the ceremony. This particular ceremony is called Agra-pūjā. Agra means “first,” and pūjā means “worship.” This Agra-pūjā is similar to the election of a president. In the sacrificial assembly, all the members were very exalted. Some proposed to elect one person as the perfect candidate for accepting Agra-pūjā, and others proposed someone else.
When the matter remained undecided, Sahadeva began to speak in favor of Lord Kṛṣṇa. He said, “Lord Kṛṣṇa, the best amongst the members of the Yadu dynasty and the protector of His devotees, is the most exalted personality in this assembly. Therefore I think that He should without any objection be offered the honor of being worshiped first. Although demigods such as Lord Brahmā, Lord Śiva, Indra and many other exalted personalities are present in this assembly, no one can be equal to or greater than Kṛṣṇa in terms of time, space, riches, strength, reputation, wisdom, renunciation or any other consideration. Anything considered an opulence is fully present in Kṛṣṇa. As an individual soul is the basic principle of the growth of his material body, Kṛṣṇa is the Supersoul of this cosmic manifestation. All Vedic ritualistic ceremonies, such as the performance of sacrifices, the offering of oblations into the fire, the chanting of the Vedic hymns and the practice of mystic yoga, are meant for realizing Kṛṣṇa. Whether one follows the path of fruitive activities or the path of philosophical speculation, the ultimate destination is Kṛṣṇa; all bona fide methods of self-realization are meant for understanding Kṛṣṇa. Ladies and gentlemen, it is superfluous to speak about Kṛṣṇa, because every one of you exalted personalities knows the Supreme Brahman, Lord Kṛṣṇa, for whom there are no material differences between body and soul, between energy and the energetic, or between one part of the body and another. Since everyone is part and parcel of Kṛṣṇa, there is no qualitative difference between Kṛṣṇa and all living entities. Everything is an emanation of Kṛṣṇa’s energies, material and spiritual. Kṛṣṇa’s energies are like the heat and light of fire; there is no difference between the qualities of heat and light and the fire itself.
“Also, Kṛṣṇa can do anything He likes with any part of His body. We can execute a particular action with the help of a particular part of our body, but He can do anything and everything with any part of His body. And because His transcendental body is full of knowledge and bliss in eternity, He doesn’t undergo the six kinds of material changes – birth, existence, growth, production, dwindling and vanishing. Unforced by any external energy, He is the supreme cause of the creation, maintenance and dissolution of everything that be. By the grace of Kṛṣṇa only, everyone is engaged in the practice of religion, the development of economic conditions, the satisfaction of the senses and, ultimately, the achievement of liberation from material bondage. These four principles of progressive life can be executed by the mercy of Kṛṣṇa only. He should therefore be offered the first worship in this great sacrifice, and no one should disagree. Just as by watering the root of a tree one automatically waters the branches, twigs, leaves and flowers, or as by supplying food to the stomach one automatically nourishes all parts of the body, so by offering the first worship to Kṛṣṇa we shall satisfy everyone present in this meeting, including the great demigods. If anyone is charitably disposed, it will be very good for him to give charity only to Kṛṣṇa, who is the Supersoul of everyone, regardless of his particular body or individual personality. Kṛṣṇa is present as the Supersoul in every living being, and if we can satisfy Him, then every living being will automatically be satisfied.”
Sahadeva was fortunate to know of the glories of Kṛṣṇa, and after describing them in brief, he stopped speaking. After this speech, all the members present in that great sacrificial assembly applauded, confirming his words continuously by saying, “Everything you have said is completely perfect. Everything you have said is completely perfect.” King Yudhiṣṭhira, after hearing the confirmation by all present, especially by the brāhmaṇas and learned sages, worshiped Lord Kṛṣṇa according to the regulative principles of the Vedic injunctions. First of all, King Yudhiṣṭhira, along with his brothers, wives, children, other relatives and ministers, washed the lotus feet of Lord Kṛṣṇa and sprinkled the water on their heads. After this, he offered Lord Kṛṣṇa various kinds of yellow silken garments and presented heaps of jewelry and ornaments before Him for His use.
King Yudhiṣṭhira felt such ecstasy by honoring Kṛṣṇa, his only lovable object, that tears glided down from his eyes, and although he wanted to see Lord Kṛṣṇa, he could not see Him very well. When Lord Kṛṣṇa was thus worshiped by King Yudhiṣṭhira, all the members present in the assembly stood up with folded hands and began to chant, “Jaya! Jaya! Namaḥ! Namaḥ!” All joined together to offer their respectful obeisances to Kṛṣṇa, and there were showers of flowers from the sky.
In that meeting, King Śiśupāla was also present. He was an avowed enemy of Kṛṣṇa for many reasons, especially because of Kṛṣṇa’s having stolen Rukmiṇī from his intended marriage ceremony. Therefore, he could not tolerate such honoring of Kṛṣṇa and glorification of His qualities. Instead of being happy to hear the glories of the Lord, he became very angry. When everyone offered respect to Kṛṣṇa by standing up, Śiśupāla remained in his seat, but as he became angrier at Kṛṣṇa’s being honored, he stood up suddenly, raised his hand and spoke very strongly and fearlessly against Lord Kṛṣṇa in such a way that Lord Kṛṣṇa could hear him distinctly.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I can appreciate now the statement of the Vedas that, after all, time is the predominating factor. In spite of all endeavors to the contrary, the time element executes its own plan without opposition. For example, one may try his best to live, but when the time for death comes, no one can check it. I see here that although many stalwart personalities are present in this assembly, the influence of time is so strong that they have been misled by the statement of a boy who has foolishly spoken about Kṛṣṇa. Many learned sages and elderly persons are present, but still they have accepted the statement of a foolish boy. This means that by the influence of time even the intelligence of such honored persons as those present in this meeting can be misdirected. I fully agree with the respectable persons present here that they are competent to select the personality who can be worshiped first, but I cannot agree with the statement of a boy like Sahadeva, who has spoken so highly about Kṛṣṇa and has recommended that Kṛṣṇa is fit to accept the first worship in the sacrifice. I can see that in this meeting there are many personalities who have undergone great austerities, who are highly learned, and who have performed many penances. By their knowledge and direction, they can deliver many persons who are suffering from the pangs of material existence. There are great ṛṣis here whose knowledge has no bounds, as well as many self-realized persons and brāhmaṇas also, and therefore I think that any one of them could have been selected for the first worship because they are worshipable even by the great demigods, kings and emperors. I cannot understand how you have selected this cowherd boy, Kṛṣṇa, and have left aside all these great personalities. I think Kṛṣṇa to be no better than a crow – how can He be fit to accept the first worship in this great sacrifice?
“We cannot even ascertain which caste this Kṛṣṇa belongs to or what His actual occupational duty is.” Actually, Kṛṣṇa does not belong to any caste, nor does He have to perform any occupational duty. It is stated in the Vedas that the Supreme Lord has nothing to do as His prescribed duty. Whatever has to be done on His behalf is executed by His different energies.
Śiśupāla continued, “Kṛṣṇa does not belong to a high family. He is so independent that no one knows His principles of religious life. Indeed, it appears that He is outside the jurisdiction of all religious principles. He always acts independently, not caring for the Vedic injunctions and regulative principles. Therefore He is devoid of all good qualities.” Śiśupāla indirectly praised Kṛṣṇa by saying that He is not within the jurisdiction of Vedic injunctions. This is true because He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That He has “no good qualities” (guṇaiḥ hīnaḥ) means that Kṛṣṇa has no material qualities, and because He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, He acts independently, not caring for conventions in social or religious principles.
Śiśupāla continued, “Under these circumstances, how can He be fit to accept the first worship in the sacrifice? Kṛṣṇa is so foolish that He has left Mathurā, which is inhabited by highly elevated persons following the Vedic culture, and has taken shelter in the ocean, where there is not even talk of the Vedas. Instead of living openly, He has constructed a fort within the water and is living in a place where there is no discussion of Vedic knowledge. And whenever He comes out of the fort, He simply harasses the citizens like a dacoit, thief or rogue.”
Śiśupāla went crazy because of Kṛṣṇa’s being elected the supreme, first-worshiped person in that meeting, and he spoke so irresponsibly that it appeared he had lost all his good fortune. Being overcast with misfortune, Śiśupāla continued to insult Kṛṣṇa, and Lord Kṛṣṇa patiently heard him without protest. Just as a lion does not care when a flock of jackals howl, Lord Kṛṣṇa remained silent and unprovoked. Kṛṣṇa did not reply to even a single accusation made by Śiśupāla, but all the members present in the meeting, except for a few who agreed with Śiśupāla, were very much agitated because it is the duty of any respectable person not to tolerate blasphemy against God or His devotee. Some of them, who thought that they could not properly take action against Śiśupāla, left the assembly in protest, covering their ears with their hands in order not to hear further accusations. Thus they left the meeting, condemning the action of Śiśupāla. It is the Vedic injunction that whenever there is blasphemy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one must immediately leave. If he does not do so, he becomes bereft of his pious activities and is degraded to a lower condition of life.
All the kings present, belonging to the Kuru dynasty, Matsya dynasty, Kekaya dynasty and Sṛñjaya dynasty, were very angry and immediately took up their swords and shields to kill Śiśupāla, who was so foolish that he was not even slightly agitated, although all the kings present were ready to kill him. Śiśupāla did not care to think of the pros and cons of his foolish talking, and instead of stopping when he saw that all the kings were ready to kill him, he stood to fight with them and took up his sword and shield. When Lord Kṛṣṇa saw that they were going to fight in the arena of the auspicious Rājasūya-yajña, He personally pacified them. Out of His causeless mercy He Himself decided to kill Śiśupāla. When Śiśupāla was abusing the kings who were about to attack him, Lord Kṛṣṇa took up His disc, as sharp as the blade of a razor, and immediately separated Śiśupāla’s head from his body.
When Śiśupāla was thus killed, a great roar and howl went up from the crowd. Taking advantage of that disturbance, the few kings who were supporters of Śiśupāla quickly left the assembly out of fear for their lives. Then the fortunate Śiśupāla’s spirit soul immediately merged into the body of Lord Kṛṣṇa in the presence of all, exactly as a burning meteor falls to the surface of the globe. The merging of Śiśupāla’s soul into the transcendental body of Kṛṣṇa reminds us of the story of Jaya and Vijaya, who fell to the material world from the Vaikuṇṭha planets upon being cursed by the four Kumāras. For their return to the Vaikuṇṭha world, it was arranged that both Jaya and Vijaya, for three consecutive births, would act as deadly enemies of the Lord, and that at the end of these lives they would return to the Vaikuṇṭha world and serve the Lord as His associates.
Although Śiśupāla acted as the enemy of Kṛṣṇa, he was not for a single moment out of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. He was always absorbed in thought of Kṛṣṇa, and thus he first got the salvation of sāyujya-mukti, merging into the existence of the Supreme, and was finally reinstated in his original position of personal service. The Bhagavad-gītā corroborates the fact that one who is absorbed in the thought of the Supreme Lord at the time of death immediately enters the kingdom of God after quitting his material body.
After the salvation of Śiśupāla, King Yudhiṣṭhira rewarded all the members present in the sacrificial assembly. He generously remunerated the priests and learned sages for their engagement in the execution of the sacrifice, and after performing all this routine work, he took his bath. This bath at the end of the sacrifice is also technical. It is called the avabhṛtha bath.
Lord Kṛṣṇa thus enabled the performance of the Rājasūya-yajña arranged by King Yudhiṣṭhira to be successfully completed, and, being requested by His cousins and relatives, He remained in Hastināpura for a few months more. Although King Yudhiṣṭhira and his brothers were unwilling to have Lord Kṛṣṇa leave Hastināpura, Kṛṣṇa arranged to take permission from the king to return to Dvārakā, and thus He returned home along with His queens and ministers.
The story of the fall of Jaya and Vijaya from the Vaikuṇṭha planets to the material world is described in the Seventh Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. The killing of Śiśupāla has a direct link with that narration of Jaya and Vijaya, but the most important instruction we get from this incident is that the Supreme Personality of Godhead, being absolute, can give salvation to everyone, whether one acts as His enemy or as His friend. It is therefore a misconception that the Lord acts with someone in relationship of friend and with someone else in the relationship of enemy. His being an enemy or friend is always on the absolute platform. There is no material distinction.
After King Yudhiṣṭhira took his bath at the conclusion of the sacrifice and stood in the midst of all the learned sages and brāhmaṇas, he seemed exactly like the king of heaven and thus looked very beautiful. King Yudhiṣṭhira generously rewarded all the demigods who participated in the yajña, and, being greatly satisfied, all of them left, praising the king’s activities and glorifying Lord Kṛṣṇa.
When Śukadeva Gosvāmī narrated these incidents of Kṛṣṇa’s killing Śiśupāla and described the successful execution of the Rājasūya-yajña by Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira, he also pointed out that after the successful termination of the yajña only one person was unhappy. He was Duryodhana. Duryodhana by nature was very envious because of his sinful life, and he appeared in the dynasty of the Kurus like a chronic disease personified to destroy the whole family.
Śukadeva Gosvāmī assured Mahārāja Parīkṣit that the pastimes of Lord Kṛṣṇa – the killing of Śiśupāla and Jarāsandha and the releasing of the imprisoned kings – are all transcendental vibrations and that anyone who hears these narrations from authorized persons will immediately be freed from all the reactions of the sinful activities of his life.
Thus ends the Bhaktivedanta purport of the seventy-fourth chapter of Kṛṣṇa, “The Deliverance of Śiśupāla.”