Today’s topic “Mercy of Karkotaka”
Prostrations to Sri Krishna who resides in all hearts and who not only forgives all the mistakes committed by countless souls who are under his shelter, but also graces goodness. The words in today’s discourse title seem to be completely contradictory- Karkotaka and mercy. Due to destiny’s course, the king lost his wife, children, friends and is travelling without any goal. Destiny is taking him along. We never know what happens in future. We can just plan for it. Even if we don’t know, our charioteer- God knows. Nala is wandering in the forest. Even if he didn’t know where to go, destiny knows. Nala heard a cry in the meanwhile. He didn’t know of whom it was. “Oh Nala, the virtuous one, come and save me”, the cry called Nala. Nala didn’t know who it was, what matter it was, where it was; but still he answered “Whoever you are, wherever you may be. Nala is there with you. Don’t fear”. Then he moved towards the sound. There a voice was popping out from the middle of a forest fire. He entered into the fire without caring about his life. He found a huge snake shaking its hood. Nala was surprised why the snake didn’t move. He questioned “You could have crawled against the fire without being afraid. Why are you not doing so?” Nala described it as “Kankana of the forest wealth (personification) got afraid from the fire and fell down while running.”
The snake was Karkotaka. There are totally 8 leaders among snakes- Ananta, Vasuki, Padma, Mahapadma, Takshaka, Karkotaka, Kulika, Shankha. Karkotaka is the 6th one. He bowed his hood to Nala, but there were no body movements. When asked by Nala, he said in human language “I am the snake king, similar to you. We both share the same sorrow. Both of us are in difficulties. Your miserable condition is due to gambling, my present condition is due to Naarada’s curse that until you come I would be static here without movement. Now that you have come, I’m freed from the curse. I will get back my abilities and kingship. If you wouldn’t have come here, this would be my end. I was awaiting you since long time.” Ahalya who had been turned into a stone and Karkotaka who had become static, resemble each other. There are 2 naadi’s in our body called as Jnaanavaahini and Kriyaavaahini. While one is responsible for knowing, the other is for work. If there is any defect in Kriyaavaahini, then that person will have complete sense of what’s happening around but cannot respond to it. They can’t even beat the fly sitting on them but can clearly sense it. “I was surrounded by forest fire but couldn’t do anything. Save me and I shall then do a big favour for you.” Nala said “That is fine. But how will I lift your gigantic body?”. Snake said “I have the power to change to a form I need. I have the ashtasiddhis (8 siddhis). I cannot move, but I can compress my body.” Having said so, the snake turned into the size of the thumb. However great one may be, he will have to become small when he is in difficulties. Due to his ego if he doesn’t adjust to the situation, he will burn away. The snake takes the form as needed, Nala rescues him from fire. The snake asked Nala not to leave him then and told him that he would be doing good to Nala; he asked him what does he want. Nala was happy hearing that as he felt that at least one out of hundred problems will be solved. Karkotaka asked Nala to count from one to ten and he will do a big favour for him.
Now, Nala was moving forward counting the steps one by one. He was excited while he was counting, keeping Karkotaka in his hand. He was looking forward for something good to happen; until then what had happened were adversities. When Nala counted Dasha (ten), the snake bit him strongly. The snake bit with his poisonous venom. Nala didn’t die, nor did he live. It is unimaginable what happened then. He lost his enchanting form which he had preserved though he lost his kingdom, wife and children. He lost his human form; it is difficult to describe the form he was converted to. Kanakadasa describes “Large stomach, bent backbone, stiff nose, flat face, large hands and legs, lost hair, torn voice- the king became ugly.” Nala got a form looking at which people would laugh. It was a form which one would hesitate to touch or see. How many human-snakes aren’t there who bite the helping hand? Nala, who was walking in the forest, could have at least retained that form. Now he lost even that. This was a peak of destruction.
He had lost everything except his wife in gambling. Then he lost his dress due to the mystical birds. He left his wife too probably due to Kali’s influence. Now he even lost his original physique which he had from his birth. Now no one could identify him, not even his wife. He thought of Damayanti then “Would she accept me?” He lost all the hopes of future. He lost his relationship between the world permanently. Different commentators have given different opinions about how Nala felt.
According to Krishnananda, Nala felt sad looking at himself. He felt that why was he bitten unnecessarily.
Kanakadasa describes this situation as, what Nala held thinking that good will happen, became hot coal for him. All because of making relationship with a poisonous snake.
But Vyaasa says, Nala was without deformities. He stood with a smile. The snake had got its original majestic form. But Nala was immovable. Now the question is why did Karkotaka asked Nala to count. Answer is how can Karkotaka bite Nala without his permission? So, this tactic. Dasha has two meanings in Sankrit. One is number ten and another is bite. So, when Nala said it, the snake bit him. It is as though he was bit because he had asked for. This shows how great soul Nala was; without his permission nothing could be done to him. Nala stared at the snake with a look which meant ‘Is this the way you thank me for my help?’. “How many poisonous snakes aren’t there which bite the helping hand? How many human-snakes aren’t there?!”
You may have heard the story of the saint and the scorpion. A saint tried to lift the scorpion which was dying in the water and let it out. It bit him every time he tried to do so. But still he continued doing it. Someone standing there asked him, why does he want to save it even though it’s biting him continuously. The saint then said that biting is its nature. It’s not giving up its nature even in a dying situation. Then why should he give up his nature. There are both types of people in the world; one who take nectar and give poison and one who give nectar even for those giving poison.
Karkotaka consoles Nala and says “What appears to be bad, need not be bad always. What I did to you is not bad, it is good. Today it may seem to be ugly. But tomorrow it will be equivalent to Amrita(nectar). Won’t the bitter medicine be helpful after consumed? I didn’t bite Nala; I bit Kali. Kali wanted to marry Damayanti, but was not possible. He waited for 12 years. One day he entered in you due to a small mistake you committed. What happened later was due to that. Kali provoked Pushkara to play gambling with you. He made you lose everything by getting inside the dice and pawns. He planned to take Damayanti but you didn’t sell her. He snatched your cloth by coming in the form of birds. So, my aim is Kali now. It is time for punishment of Kali because of whom you suffered so much. This is the punishment offered to Kali for his reason-less enmity. Let your physique be like this for now. Now what you need is Aksha vidya. Obtain that, as this is the only way to get back your kingdom. You cannot obtain that in your original form, but can obtain in this form. After obtaining, you just remember me and wear the cloth which I will give you. This will get back your original form. You are innocent. My intension is to trouble Kali who troubled you so much.”
There was no much difference in the timing; the time at which Damayanti cursed Kali was almost the same time at which Karkotaka blessed Nala. Such was the synchronisation between them. Nala saved the serpent, while Damayanti was saved from the serpent by destiny. There Damayanti cursed Kali, here Karkotaka bit Nala. It was not possible for Kali to come out of Nala; he had to suffer in the venom of Karkotaka until he is inside Nala. He should boil daily in it. Karkotaka said “From now the punishment is not for you, but for Kali inside you. You will get more blessings too. Now on you won’t have danger from animals having teeth, enemy trouble won’t bother you, you will become a great jnaani(highly knowledgeable). No poison will ever affect you. You will not lose any more in war. This is a repay for your help. ”
“I will tell you what to do next. From here go to Ayodhya and stay there as Bahuka being the charioteer of the king Rutuparna. You are expert in Ashvahrudaya vidya and he is fond of horses and has great knowledge in Aksha vidya. There will come the situation where you get the opportunity to exchange your knowledge. Be in expectation of that. Being his servant, stay as the fire hidden in ash. The king of Ayodhya will be your friend. Forget sadness and all your kingdom, treasury, wife, sons will be yours”, he said and gave his clothes telling that it’s very important.
We will not know how favour comes in our life. Gambling seemed good but the problems that were created by it were many. But the Karkotaka poison which seemed to be bad was used as the medicine. So, we should not be in grief saying bad happened even after doing good. We should trust God and believe that God is seeing everything and will do whatever is best for me. We should not expect favour in return. We don’t understand God’s plans. There is no doubt in them bringing good. The help we do always helps us. Many times, we cannot complete work being ourselves; we have to do it by being someone else. We should be a servant even if you are a great king. A queen should be ready to become a Sairandhri. The one who can adjust with the situation can only be successful, otherwise failure is confirmed. Giraffe survived which adjusted to the changing nature but the dinosaur’s which could not go with the nature found its doom. Nala and Damayanti were ready to serve even if they were king and queen, so they were benefited. Nala had turned ugly that the people would hesitate to see him. But this made him gain his previous prosperity. It is very difficult to be as a servant to another king when he himself is a king. More difficult was the thought about Damayanti who was left alone by him. He mourned for being apart from her. What happened next? What did he do next? What happened to Damayanti? Importantly what happened to Kali? Let us learn it in a few days.
Picture courtesy: Internet
TattvaBhaagavatam a special discourse by Sri Sri RaghaveshwaraBharathi Mahaswamiji: full Video :