Paundraka was a small time king who began to nurse the thoughts that he was the real Krishna and the Krishna of Dwarka was simply imitating him. He got so audacious, he demanded Krishna to give up His symbols of lotus, mace, conch and disc and ‘return’ them to Paundraka.
Paundraka sent a letter to Dwaraka and when the royal ministers, king Ugrasena and Lord Krishna heard the letter they instantly laughed; it was an unbelievable joke; how could he even imagine that he could declare himself to be equal to Krishna? Paundraka was incensed at the ridicule he received and a war ensued where he was easily destroyed by Krishna.
The story reveals how envy is natural in a conditioned soul. Having left his original home, the kingdom of god, where he happily serves the Supreme Lord, the rebellious soul now wanders in this material world and tries poorly to be the Lord and master of the varied situations he encounters here. Despite repeated attempts, the living entity remains frustrated in his endeavors to be the master and controller in this world. Only when we live in the consciousness of being a humble servant can we remain peaceful and contended.
For many who accept a spiritual path, in the beginning being humble and rendering service is natural and easy. However as they get older and live in the society of devotees, a dynamic churning of emotions happens in the heart and mind. As we learn the philosophy and visit the holy places and become adept in the various services within Krishna consciousness we could get distracted by the externals of the process. The way one speaks, sings or dresses the deities may become more important than the mood in which one renders these services. Then conflicts based on differences in the opinions of various devotees become so serious that one could potentially leave the association of devotees. Each warring member of different groups within a spiritual organization may think he or she is right; the archetypical Paundraka who thought he was the real Krishna. So a devotee may also think, “I am right, and I know what is best” or “Why no one agrees with me; I am sincere and these people are misdirected and political”. That’s when we may refuse to see things from other mature devotee’s perspective.
Thus an insignificant living entity who at one time depended on the goodwill of other devotees now has serious conflicts with the very same devotees.
Somewhere we land up becoming Paundraka when we demand respect, worship, facilities and honor- the possessions belonging to Krishna- for ourselves.
Sincere devotees- like the ministers of King Ugrasena- would only laugh at our arrogance. In fact they would pity us and wish we give up our proud claims and learn to cooperate with the will of the Lord.
Often when we are new we do not know how to sing kirtans, speak the philosophy or even wear devotee attire. Slowly we learn, slip and rise in our practices and soon become an expert. That’s when the subtle Paundraka type of consciousness gets us; we begin to subtly think, “Well this devotee did teach me the basics some years ago, but now I know all these things, so basically I have caught up with him” Little do we realize that there is more to Bhakti than expertise in doing various activities. Over the last few years even if we have made apparent advancement in Krishna consciousness, the senior with whom we are comparing ourselves has also undoubtedly progressed. Thus the distance between us remains eternally. Yet we foolishly assume we have now ‘caught’ up with others and are just as good if not better than them. This is just as Paundraka who thought he was better than the original Krishna.
The disease of envy is difficult to overcome by our own efforts. We need grace of the Lord and yet our sincere desire to be freed of this unwanted weed would alone initiate the remedial process. Our strong desires, coupled with the Lord’s grace would surely help us transcend our suffering conditions in this world.
Image Courtesy: Amar Chitra Katha