Ajāmila Begins His Degraded Life
The Yamadūtas continued: “In the same way that the sun and moon are eclipsed by a low planet, the brāhmaṇa Ajāmila lost all his good sense. Thus he always thought of the prostitute, and within a short time he took her as a servant in his house and abandoned all the regulative principles of a brāhmaṇa.
”Ajāmila began spending whatever money he had inherited from his father to satisfy the prostitute with various material presentations so that she would remain pleased with him. He gave up all his brahminical activities to satisfy her. Because his intelligence was pierced by her lustful glance, Ajāmila engaged in sinful acts in her association. He even gave up the company of his extremely beautiful young wife, who came from a respectable brāhmaṇa family.
“This rascal Ajāmila, although born of a brāhmaṇa family, lost his intelligence because of the prostitute’s association, and thus he earned money somehow or other, regardless of whether properly or improperly, and used it to maintain her and her children. In this way he spent his long lifetime transgressing all the rules and regulations of the holy scripture, living extravagantly, and eating food prepared by a prostitute. Therefore he is full of sins. He is unclean and is addicted to forbidden activities.
”Ajāmila did not undergo atonement. Therefore because of his sinful life, we must take him into the presence of Yamarāja for punishment. There, according to the extent of his sinful acts, he will be punished and thus purified.” (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 6.1.63–68)
We must serve … but whom?
As mentioned before, Ajāmila was trained as a proper brāhmaṇa from birth, and thus he was properly situated in service to his spiritual master, elders like his father, and the Supreme Personality of Godhead. But due to his association with a prostitute, he gave up his brahminical engagements and became a servant of Lord Kṛṣṇa’s illusory energy, māyā.
There are two kinds of servants: māyā’s servants and Kṛṣṇa’s servants. Every living entity is originally a servant of Kṛṣṇa. Lord Caitanya Himself affirms this: jīvera ‘svarūpa’ haya-kṛṣṇera ‘nitya dāsa.’ “The constitutional position of the living entity is to be an eternal servant of Kṛṣṇa.” (Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 20.108) In this world, everyone is trying to be a master. Individually and collectively, everyone is trying to assert, “I am the lord of all I survey.” But this attitude is futile, because by nature everyone is a servant. Instead of becoming a servant of Kṛṣṇa, we have become the servant of our senses. In either case we are servants. Therefore, those who are really intelligent think, “If I have to work as a servant, why not be a servant of Kṛṣṇa?” Only the Kṛṣṇa conscious devotee is sane, because he accepts his natural position as a servant of Kṛṣṇa.
Worship of Lord Kṛṣṇa, or Viṣṇu, is the actual goal of Vedic civilization, but the so-called Vedāntists do not accept this. They divert their attention to the worship of demigods and advise that one may worship any of them. No! Even demons (asuras) sometimes worship demigods. Rāvaṇa was a great devotee of Lord Śiva, but he was an asura. Similarly, Hiraṇyakaśipu was a great devotee of Lord Brahmā, but he was also an asura. Anyone who is not a devotee of Lord Viṣṇu is an asura. That is the verdict of the Vedas. Ajāmila was a brāhmaṇa, which means that he was a servant of Nārāyaṇa. In other words, he was a Vaiṣṇava.
A Vaiṣṇava is one who recognizes that Lord Kṛṣṇa is the supreme proprietor and enjoyer, and that everyone else is His servant. Just as the master is the enjoyer of his entire establishment, so Kṛṣṇa is the enjoyer of everything and everyone in both the material and spiritual worlds. Actually, no one else is the enjoyer – no one else is in the position to enjoy. Kṛṣṇa is the only enjoyer.
When we forget our relationship with Kṛṣṇa as His eternal servitors, we become servants of our senses. Following the dictation of our senses, we enter into the darkest regions of illusion and are subjected to the punishment of Yamarāja. Sometimes our conscience forbids us, “Don’t do this,” but we surrender to our lust and greed, and thus we do it anyway. Kṛṣṇa is within our heart, also dictating “Don’t do it,” yet still we do it. This kind of service to our senses simply brings suffering. Since we must serve, why not serve Kṛṣṇa? Why should we serve our senses, which are never satisfied anyway? We should become servants of God; that is the perfection of life. Otherwise we shall be obliged to become servants of our senses and suffer.
One who becomes a servant of Kṛṣṇa becomes a gosvāmī, a master of his senses. The title “Gosvāmī” indicates one who refuses to follow the dictations of his senses. Instead he follows the dictation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, just as Rūpa Gosvāmī and Sanātana Gosvāmī did. “Gosvāmī” is not a caste title. Before becoming a gosvāmī, Rūpa Gosvāmī served the Mohammedan government as a minister and was consequently rejected by the Hindu brāhmaṇa society. But when he gave up the dictation of Nawab Hussain Shah to follow the dictation of Caitanya Mahāprabhu, the Lord made him a gosvāmī.
All genuine gosvāmīs are also vairāgīs, renunciants. But if one is unable to be a real vairāgī, then he must become a gṛhastha (householder). It is not that one may pose himself as a brahmacārī or a sannyāsī and at the same time indulge in illicit sex secretly. That is abominable. If a genuine householder practices karma-yoga, giving the results of his activities to Kṛṣṇa, he will eventually attain the platform of perfect renunciation. He should not desire to enjoy the fruits of his activities but should instead work as a matter of duty, thinking “Kṛṣṇa wants this – Kṛṣṇa will be satisfied by my doing this – and therefore I must do it.” This is the right attitude for a devotee. Arjuna was unwilling to fight for his personal interest, but when he understood that Kṛṣṇa wanted him to fight, he took it as his duty: “It must be done. It does not matter whether I like it or not. Kṛṣṇa wants it, and therefore I must do it.” That is the attitude of a renounced devotee of the Lord.
In the Bhagavad-gītā (18.66) Lord Kṛṣṇa instructs His disciple Arjuna, “Just surrender unto Me, and I shall protect you from all sinful reactions.” And Arjuna accepts Kṛṣṇa’s instruction with the words kariṣye vacanaṁ tava: “I will do as You say.” (Bhagavad-gītā 18.73) If we follow Arjuna’s example, we will be in direct contact with Kṛṣṇa, and we will be able to surmount all difficulties in both our spiritual and material life. We hear the instructions of Kṛṣṇa via the unbroken chain of disciplic succession (guru-paramparā). Acceptance of these instructions is called śikṣā, or voluntarily following the instruction of the spiritual master. The independent nature of the living entity is that he does not want to follow the instructions of another living being, however pure. But when one voluntarily agrees to obey the orders of the spiritual master, one is following the orders of Kṛṣṇa, and thus one’s life becomes perfect.
In the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.17.27) Kṛṣṇa says,
ācāryaṁ māṁ vijānīyān
“One should know the ācārya as Myself and never disrespect him in any way. One should not envy him, thinking him an ordinary man, for he is the representative of all the demigods.” Thinking the spiritual master an ordinary person and envying him are causes of a devotee’s falling down. Devotional service requires training under the guidance of a spiritual master, and this guidance is received when one surrenders to the spiritual master, inquires from him, and renders service to him. But these are impossible for one who envies the spiritual master.
Ruined by a Prostitute … Saved by the Holy Name
Ajāmila was trained as a brāhmaṇa, but he lost his position as a brāhmaṇa by associating with a prostitute, so much so that he forgot all his brahminical activities. Nevertheless, at the end of his life, by chanting the four syllables of the holy name Nārāyaṇa, he was saved from the gravest danger of falling down. As Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā (2.40), svalpam apy asya dharmasya trāyate mahato bhayāt: “Even a little devotional service can save one from the greatest danger.” Devotional service, which begins with chanting the holy name of the Lord, is so powerful that even if a person falls down from the exalted position of a brāhmaṇa through sexual indulgence, he can be saved from all calamities if he somehow or other chants the holy name of the Lord. This is the extraordinary power of the Lord’s holy name. Therefore in the Bhagavad-gītā it is advised that one not forget the chanting of the holy name even for a moment: satataṁ kīrtayanto māṁ yatantaś ca dṛḍha-vratāḥ.
There are so many dangers in this material world that one may fall down from an exalted position at any time. Yet if one keeps himself always pure and steady by chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra, he will be safe without a doubt. Ajāmila did not do this, and therefore he lost all his brahminical qualities by the association of a prostitute. Especially mentioned here is the effect of eating food prepared by a prostitute. Food prepared by an unclean, sinful woman is extremely infectious. Ajāmila ate such food, and therefore he became sinful.
Also mentioned here is Ajāmila’s misuse of his inheritance. Customarily everyone is eligible to inherit his father’s property, and Ajāmila also inherited the money of his father. But what did he do with the money? Instead of engaging the money in the service of Kṛṣṇa, he engaged it in the service of a prostitute. Therefore he was condemned. How did this happen? He was victimized by the prostitute’s dangerous, lustful glance.
A chaste and faithful wife will give birth to good sons, who will then offer oblations to their forefathers and thus deliver them if by chance they have fallen into a hellish condition. The very word putra (“son”) means “one who can deliver his forefathers from hell.” Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu showed this by His example when He went to Gayā to offer oblations to His forefathers. Even today there is a Viṣṇu temple in Gayā where such oblations are offered at the lotus feet of Lord Viṣṇu. There have been cases where one’s father or mother took the body of a ghost at death, and after oblations were offered at the lotus feet of Lord Viṣṇu at Gayā, the father or mother was delivered. However, anyone who becomes a Vaiṣṇava offers oblations to Viṣṇu at every moment, and thus his forefathers are automatically delivered. If one son in the family becomes a Vaiṣṇava, he can deliver fourteen generations of ancestors and fourteen generations of yet unborn descendants. This is confirmed in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.
As sense control is the beginning of pious life, illicit sex is the beginning of sinful life. One should not engage in illicit sex, or sex for any reason except having a child with one’s wife. Marriage is meant for begetting children, and in that sense it is a religious institution. Lord Kṛṣṇa confirms this in the Bhagavad-gītā (7.11): dharmāviruddho bhūteṣu kāmo ’smi. “I am sex that does not contradict religious principles.” Caitanya Mahāprabhu had a devotee named Śivānanda Sena, who was a family man. Śivānanda used to come with all the devotees every year to see Lord Caitanya in Purī, and he came together with his wife and children. Once he came to see the Lord, and his wife offered her respects. At that time she was pregnant, so Caitanya Mahāprabhu advised Śivānanda, “This time when you get your child, you should give him the name Paramānanda dāsa.” Caitanya Mahāprabhu knew that pregnancy resulted from sex, but He did not condemn sex in this case, as it was conducted according to scriptural injunction.
On the other hand, there is the case of Junior Haridāsa. He was a sannyāsī, a renunciant, who was an intimate associate of the Lord. Once he merely desired sex and did not actually partake of it, and immediately Caitanya Mahāprabhu, in His Paramātmā feature, could understand this. The Lord then asked His other associates not to allow Junior Haridāsa to come before Him anymore. Sarvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya, Rāmānanda Rāya, and other intimate associates of Caitanya Mahāprabhu requested, “Junior Haridāsa is Your eternal servant. Somehow or other he has committed this offense, but kindly excuse him.” Still, Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu was firm in this respect and immediately replied, “If you like Junior Haridāsa so much, better you remain with him, and I will go away.” From that moment, nobody ventured again to request Caitanya Mahāprabhu to excuse Junior Haridāsa. When Junior Haridāsa became hopeless in his efforts to be excused by Caitanya Mahāprabhu, he went to Prayag and drowned himself in the confluence of the rivers Yamunā and Ganges. Although Lord Caitanya knew about this incident, after some time He inquired of His associates, “Where is Junior Haridāsa now?”
They replied, “Sir, You did not accept him, and so he has committed suicide.”
Lord Caitanya said, “Yes, very good. This is very good.”
Caitanya Mahāprabhu was sometimes harder than stone and sometimes softer than a flower. That is the behavior of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Śivānanda was a bona fide gṛhastha, obeying the rules and regulations of householder life, whereas Junior Haridāsa merely desired sex, but because he was in the renounced order of life he was condemned. A sannyāsī gives up his family and takes a vow to abstain from sex, but if he again takes to sex he commits a very great sin.
So, Ajāmila was victimized by illicit sex with a prostitute. There are many instances throughout the world in which even a purified person falls victim to attraction by a prostitute and spends all his money on her. Prostitute-hunting is so abominable that sex with a prostitute can ruin one’s character, destroy one’s exalted position, and plunder all one’s money. Therefore illicit sex is strictly prohibited. One should be satisfied with his married wife, for even a slight deviation will create havoc. A Kṛṣṇa conscious gṛhastha should always remember this. He should always be satisfied with one wife and be peaceful simply by chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra. Otherwise at any moment he may fall down from his good position, as exemplified by the case of Ajāmila.
Considering the abominable character of Ajāmila, the Yamadūtas were perplexed as to why the Viṣṇudūtas had forbidden them to take such a man to Yamarāja for punishment. Since Ajāmila had not undergone atonement for his sinful acts, the Yamadūtas thought he should be taken to Yamarāja to be purified. Punishment by Yamarāja is a process of purification for the most abominable sinful persons. Therefore the Yamadūtas requested the Viṣṇudūtas not to obstruct their taking Ajāmila to Yamarāja.
“In this age of quarrel and hypocrisy, the only means of deliverance is chanting the holy name of the Lord. There is no other way. There is no other way. There is no other way.” Chanting the holy name of the Lord is always superbly effective, but it is especially effective in this Age of Kali. Its practical effectiveness will now be explained by Śukadeva Gosvāmī through the history of Ajāmila, who was freed from the hands of Yamarāja, the universal judge, simply because of chanting the holy name of Nārāyaṇa.
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