व्याध: कपोतो बहवो ह्यध्रुवेण ध्रुवं गता: ॥ २१ ॥
uñchavṛttiḥ śibir baliḥ
vyādhaḥ kapoto bahavo
hy adhruveṇa dhruvaṁ gatāḥ
hariścandraḥ rantidevaḥ — Hariścandra and Rantideva; uñcha-vṛttiḥ — Mudgala, who lived by gathering grains left behind in the fields after the harvest; śibiḥ baliḥ — Śibi and Bali; vyādhaḥ — the hunter; kapotaḥ — the pigeon; bahavaḥ — many; hi — indeed; adhruveṇa — by the temporary; dhruvam — to the permanent; gatāḥ — went.
Hariścandra, Rantideva, Uñchavṛtti Mudgala, Śibi, Bali, the legendary hunter and pigeon, and many others have attained the permanent by means of the impermanent.
Here Lord Kṛṣṇa and the two Pāṇḍavas are pointing out to Jarāsandha that one can use the temporary material body to achieve a permanent situation in life. Because Jarāsandha was a materialist, they appealed to his natural interest in the heavenly planets, where life lasts so long that it appears permanent to people on earth.
Śrīla Śrīdhara Svāmī briefly summarizes the history of the personalities mentioned in this verse: “To pay off his debts to Viśvāmītra, Hariścandra sold everything he had, including his wife and children. Yet even after attaining the status of a caṇḍāla, he did not become discouraged; thus he went to heaven, together with all the inhabitants of Ayodhyā. Rantideva, after going without even water for forty-eight days, somehow obtained some food and water, but then some beggars came and he gave it all away to them. In this way he attained Brahmaloka. Mudgala followed the practice of gathering grains left behind in the fields after the harvest. Yet still he was hospitable toward uninvited guests, even after his family had been suffering in poverty for six months. Thus he also went to Brahmaloka.
“To protect a pigeon who had taken shelter of him, King Śibi gave his own flesh to a hawk and attained heaven. Bali Mahārāja gave all his property to Lord Hari when the Lord disguised Himself as a dwarf brāhmaṇa (Vāmanadeva), and so Bali gained the Lord’s personal association. The pigeon and his mate gave their own flesh to a hunter as a show of hospitality, and thus they were taken to heaven in a celestial airplane. When the hunter understood their situation in the mode of goodness, he also became renounced, and thus he gave up hunting and went off to perform severe austerities. Because he was freed of all sins, after his body burned to death in a forest fire he was elevated to heaven. Thus many personalities have attained enduring life on higher planets by means of the temporary material body.”