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True Independence Comes from Dependence on Krishna Part 2--False and Real Independence Taught by Ajamila

Karnamrita Das

(this blog is recorded on the full page: quick time player needed)
[Originally published on July 14th, 2012]After setting the mood with six verses and excerpts from Shrila Prabhupada’s purports in part one, in the next two blogs, I will do my best to unpack some of those ideas through appropriate stories from the Shrimad Bhagavatam. The foundational understanding to gain the most from this, or any Krishna centered talk or writing, is that our lasting identity is spiritual—we are eternal awareness, or a particle of consciousness imbued with the serving tendency. Presently, by identifying ourselves with the material body and mind and their attachments, we are forced to serve the needs of physical survival, and are also led to fulfill our desires for enjoyment and accomplishment. By conditioning, we think fulfilling our personal desires is freedom, yet our proclivity to be attracted to specific material tastes is relative to the type of body and mind we have—not to our spiritual selves, or who we truly are. We are the perceiver or animator of the body, but have a different nature than we are currently identifying with.

Being educated as to who we actually, spiritually, are, is essential for living our lives successfully. Successful living means to realize our soul and its relationship to God, or Krishna. Such learning has to be ongoing, and we are required to not only have a good theoretical understanding, but to have a process to realize the spiritual subject we study. Being armchair philosophers or having merely a surface sentiment, will not help us change our absorption or where we derive our sustenance. Spiritual or Krishna philosophy is only as good as it practiced. If we truly understand that presently we are falsely thinking ourselves independent, and that true freedom or independence is possible only by dependence on the Supreme Lord, then we need to practice doing this constantly, regardless of our material situation or occupational endeavors and family status. The holy name of God, or the maha-mantra, consisting of the names of Radha and Krishna, is the incarnation of God for this age, and is a user friendly way to change our conscious awareness or primary absorption from matter to spirit.
The power of the holy name of God, and His mercy toward even those who offer even incomplete devotional service (bhakti), is glorified through the narration of Ajamila in the Sixth Canto of Shrimad Bhagavatam. In his youth, Ajamila was a dutiful Brahmin, or a member of the priestly class, who lived his life in a Godly manner, centered on religious worship of God. However, due to the unconscious sinful (bad karmic) desires in his heart, or samskaras, when he saw a sensual couple openly embracing and kissing (a rare occurrence in that culture), his own desires for such pleasures were awakened although he was married. He gradually became deviated from his spiritual practices. From this we may note that desires have their timing, and some only become manifest later in life. This is why formal renunciation (sannyas) is generally recommended only after material and spiritual maturity, and why we may be confused by doubts, struggles, or laxity in our spiritual lives even after years of practice.

Ajamila, by giving up his spiritual practices to give his heart to a loose, voluptuous woman, lost all spiritual sense, and fell to the lowest standard of degradation. He maintained himself by theft and murder and couldn’t appreciate how his life span was diminishing. In spite of his corrupted situation, the kind Lord didn’t forget the service he had done in his younger life. Thus, after fathering nine children and being eighty years old, he had a tenth child, whom he named Narayana (a name for God). He was most attached to his infant son and was constantly chanting his name, Narayana, and thus he unconsciously also remembered the Lord, whom he has worshiped in his youth. While he was absorbed in thinking of his son and saying his name, his time of death came like a thief in the night to steal his most precious life, and his breathing stopped. As the process of death was occurring the fierce messengers of death, or the Yamadutta’s came to take his soul to the lord of death for appropriate punishment. While they were binding his soul with ropes, the messengers of God came with weapons drawn to stop the Yamaduttas. An ongoing conversation between these two sets of messengers, revealed to Ajamila and us, the purpose of life, and the power of even unconsciously chanting the holy name of God.
The messengers of God, or Vishnuduttas told the Yamaduttas: “Simply by once chanting the holy name of Narayana [God], this brahmana has become free from the reactions of sinful life. Indeed, he has been freed not only from the sins of this life, but from the sins of many, many thousands of other lives. He has already undergone true atonement for all his sinful actions. If one atones according to the directions of the shastras [Vedic scriptures], one does not actually become free from sinful reactions, but if one chants the holy name of the Lord, even a glimpse of such chanting can immediately free one from all sins. Chanting the glories of the Lord's holy name awakens all good fortune. Therefore there is no doubt that Ajamila, being completely free from all sinful reactions, should not be punished by Yamaraja [the lord of death].”

After releasing Ajamila from the clutches of the Yamaduttas, both the Vishnuduttas and Yamadutttas departed. Ajamila offered his respects to the Vishnuduttas, and having fully understood the import of the conversation he had witnessed, did not die, but was given the opportunity to dedicate the remaining years of his life to intense spiritual practice. His heart had changed by this experience, and from associating with the pure devotee Vishnuduttas. Just see the power of even a short time spent with pure souls and how merciful they are to help struggling devotees! Relative to our topic on false and real independence, we learn from this story of Ajamila, that a life with no spiritual practices, will end with future entanglement in birth and death, whereas even a small amount of service to God and chanting of his holy name, will save us from the worst situation. For success in spiritual life we are absolutely dependent on the mercy of God and his pure devotees.
In the next blog we will hear about Narada’s previous life and how he was dependent for success on the Lord, and how Draupadi was saved by the Lord when she fully surrendered to His protection.