By Nikunja Vilasini Dasi
Nick Vujicic was born without arms and legs. “Why me?” he always asked until he discovered that God had chosen him for a purpose. Because of his disability, he was able to reach out to people and give them courage. Nick’s zest for life and faith in God’s will drove him to learn to swim, surf, travel the world, and do things that even able-bodied people fail to do. He touched people with his conviction that God loves us unconditionally and that whatever He does is for our highest good. He exemplified that faith in God should not depend on what He dishes out for us; rather we should see His higher plan at work. Sometimes adversities make us question God’s love and His presence in our lives. We become weak to face the storms in a positive spirit. But Nick took strength from God. The more he took shelter of Him, the more he could see God’s purpose unfold.
More than five thousand years ago Lord Krishna was present with His pure devotees who lived to enable His purpose. Krishna, together with His dear cousins the five Pandava brothers, watched Bhishma, their paternal grandfather, lying on a bed of arrows ready to leave the world. Although fatally wounded, he could choose the moment to leave. Even so, how was it that the wise and righteous Bhishma, who was a lion among men, an invincible warrior, and a dear most devotee of the Lord, could have met fate in this way? But Bhishma knew that it was not fate.
As Bhishma gazed at his grieving grandsons, his voice choked with tears, he said, “Oh, what terrible sufferings and injustices you good souls suffer for being the sons of religion personified. Ordinarily, you could not survive those tribulations but you were protected by the brahmans, God, and your virtuous conduct.” The import of Bhishma’s words was evident in the ghastly scene around them. Thousands of warrior bodies lay strewn in a bloodbath, some beheaded, others pierced with arrows, and many torn apart beneath broken chariots and bloody carcasses of horses and elephants. The wails of these warriors’ wives penetrated the battlefield like a cacophony of wild animals at night. Yudhisthira, the eldest Pandava, felt that witnessing this distress was worse than the atrocities that had been inflicted upon him and his brothers.
These atrocities, caused by his own cousins, the Kauravas, resulted in this horrendous war. They had usurped the Pandavas of their rightful inheritance, exiled them to the forest as beggars, tortured and disgraced their wife in public, endangered their mother, and plotted their murder. Still, before the war, Yudhisthira’s brother Arjuna could not bear to vanquish his cousins and elders, including Bhishma who had taken the side of the Kauravas. Krishna had reminded Arjuna about his duty, to rid the world of miscreants, and to fulfill the purpose of His descent. Now Yudhisthira stood in front of Bhishma, seeking his advice. What should he do now that he had won the war? All he felt was an inner defeat, a throbbing ache in his chest.
Bhishma was glad that the Pandavas had won. He was, after all, one of the twelve most saintly persons in the world. But how then had he chosen the wrong side?
Bhishma exclaimed, “Accept the inconceivable plan of the Lord and follow it. You are now the appointed administrative head, so take care of your helpless subjects. O King, no one can know the plan of the Lord. Even great philosophers are bewildered after exhaustive enquiry.”
But Bhishma had a deeper understanding. He knew that the Pandavas had not suffered from their past misdeeds like ordinary persons do. He understood that the Lord had put his devotees in temporary distress to establish the conquest of virtue. He realized that his choosing the side of the Kauravas was also the will of the Lord. The Lord wanted to show that even powerful persons like Bhishma could not win if on the wrong side.
Bhishma continued, “O King, that personality whom, out of ignorance only, you thought to be your maternal cousin, your very dear friend, well-wisher, counselor, messenger, benefactor, etc., is that very Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna.” (SB.1.9.20)
Bhishma turned his gaze to Lord Krishna, his eyes bright with tears. He understood that the Lord had chosen him to teach the world courage, faith, virtue, and sacrifice. His life too had been set with thorns. These tribulations had disentangled him from mundane affairs and attachments. Now Bhishma’s path was clear. Fixing his mind on Krishna’s beauty, glory, and wondrous qualities, he was ready to enter the spiritual kingdom.
“Sri Krishna is present in everyone’s heart,” Bhishma murmured, taking his last breaths, “He is equally kind to everyone. Whatever He does is free from material inebriety. Yet, He has graciously come before me while I am ending my life, for I am His unflinching servitor.”
Yudhisthira, his brothers, and the renowned sages and saints, who had assembled on the battlefield, continued to hear the godly advice of Grandfather Bhishma. When, at last, the sun sank into the horizon, Bhishma left the world meditating on Sri Krishna. The dawn of a new era emerged. Lord Krishna had chosen His devotees to fulfill His purpose.
Most of us are not like Bhishma, the Pandavas, or even Nick Vujicic, neither are we free from the reactions of our past misdeeds. But God has a purpose for us too. If we turn to Him, we will gain the strength to tolerate negative reactions of hardship and strife. Most of all, Lord Krishna’s loving hands will uncover our divine lustre as His spotless servants.
A poignant allegory illustrates this point. Once the marble floor complained to the marble deity on the altar, “How is it that people decorate and worship you with great reverence, yet they stamp upon me, not giving me any attention? After all, aren’t we made of the same material?”
The deity replied, “That’s true, but when our master had asked you whether you wanted to be sculpted and moulded into a deity, you refused. You thought only of the chisel hammering into you and the enduring pain. You didn’t think of our master’s expert skill, his way of carving something wonderful out of something plain. You didn’t trust his judgment or that he would make you more beautiful than you could ever imagine. That’s the difference between you and me.”