“A man only learns in two ways; one by reading and the other by association of smarter people”– Will Rogers (American humorist- 1879-1935)
After mercilessly killing six sons of Devaki and Vasudev, Kamsa was eagerly awaiting the birth of the couple’s eighth son. Years before a divine voice in the sky had foretold that Deaki’s eighth son would kill Kamsa. Now any moment the messenger would come with the news.
Kamsa jumped out of his bed with a start; the crying of the new born provoked him to draw his sword and rush to the site where his apparent death was lying helplessly in the arms of his mother. Devaki pleaded with her brother, “There is a mistake my dear brother, the divine voice had predicted you would be killed by a boy, but I have given birth to a daughter. Please spare this innocent girl and I promise she would be your daughter-in-law. I beg this gift from you” Ignoring her frantic pleas, Kamsa forcibly grabbed the tender baby by the legs and attempted to dash her to the ground. Just then the child slipped from his hands and ascended to the sky and appeared as an eight armed divine woman, dressed in splendid ornaments, garlands, and weapons. She laughed and then angrily addressed Kamsa, “You fool, you think you can kill me. I am the younger sister of Lord Vishnu and know your death has appeared elsewhere and shall aptly reward you for your heinous acts”. Saying this goddess Durga, the celestial being disappeared and Kamsa was immediately gripped by fear.
He fell at the feet of Vasudev and Devaki and begged sincere forgiveness for his past cruelty and promised to reform. He freed them from the prison shackles and cried genuine tears of regret. Both of them forgave him and assured that their relationship would now begin afresh.
However the next morning as Kamsa recounted the past night’s activities to his ministers, they disapproved his compunction. Suggesting serious acts against the demigods who have surely acted against Kamsa, the wicked ministers asked permission to kill all children born in the last fortnight across the various towns, cities and villages surrounding Kamsa’s capital Mathura. They reasoned that he was a powerful and unconquerable warrior and the demigods were afraid to face him. Hence they have now resorted to coward measures of coming in disguise and attempting to foil his plans to conquer all directions. He needs to act immediately. The sermon proved effective; Kamsa instantly reverted to his wicked ways and launched genocide of innocent children.
A few hours before he had reformed but now again he was back to his wicked ways.
That’s how association can influence us. There is a constant struggle of two voices within; one that goads us to lead a life of virtue and integrity. Another, usually louder demands selfish pursuits. The voice that prevails is the one that gets majority support. Our association is the support to our voices within; if we seek friendship with devotees of God who want to serve others and lead a life of gratitude, we’d be happy serving others. On the other hand if we are surrounded by Kamsa’s ministers like associates who revel in negativity and self-destruction, we’d follow them.
Kamsa had reformed; we too are not hopeless. If such a cruel selfish seeker could feel pity for his sister and also feel shame and remorse, there is hope in the inherent goodness of all humans. Yet it’s possible that the emotions churned in the heart are short lived. We have short memories and in this fast age as we are bombarded by various distractions, it’s easy to forget our pure aspirations and succumb to our base instincts.
Let’s choose our minsters. We have a choice. Before they influence us let’s decide who would run our lives. The association we seek through our spiritual programs, the friends we hang around with and the media that we expose our consciousness to determines how we would behave in a provocative situation. Now is the time for serious self-examination. As Franz Kafka, one of the most influential authors of the early twentieth century noted, “Association with human beings lures one into self-observation”.
Kamsa made the wrong choice of ministers and suffered; let’s learn from his mistakes and immediately reshuffle ourcabinet!