17. Extinguishing the Forest Fire

17 / Extinguishing the Forest Fire
King Pariksit, after hearing of the chastisement of Kaliya, inquired from Sukadeva Gosvami as to why Kaliya left his beautiful land and why Garuda was so antagonistic to him. Sukadeva Gosvami informed the King that the island known as Nagalaya was inhabited by serpents and that Kaliya was one of the chief serpents there. Being accustomed to eating snakes, Garuda used to come to this island and kill many serpents at his will. Some of them he actually ate, but some were unnecessarily killed. The reptile society became so disturbed that their leader, Vasuki, appealed to Lord Brahma for protection. Lord Brahma made an arrangement by which Garuda would not create a disturbance: on each half-moon day, the reptile community would offer a serpent to Garuda. The serpent was to be kept underneath a tree as a sacrificial offering to Garuda. Garuda was satisfied with this offering, and therefore he did not disturb any other serpents.
But gradually, Kaliya took advantage of this situation. He was unnecessarily puffed up by the volume of his accumulated poison, as well as by his material power, and he thought, "Why should Garuda be offered this sacrifice?" He then ceased offering any sacrifice; instead, he himself ate the offering intended for Garuda. When Garuda, the great devotee-carrier of Visnu, understood that Kaliya was eating the offered sacrifices, he became very angry and quickly rushed to the island to kill the offensive serpent. Kaliya tried to fight Garuda and faced him with his many hoods and poisonous sharp teeth. Kaliya attempted to bite him, and Garuda, the son of Tarksya, in great anger and with the great force deserving the carrier of Lord Visnu, struck the body of Kaliya with his effulgent golden wings. Kaliya, who is also known as Kadrusuta, son of Kadru, immediately fled to the lake known as Kaliyadaha, underneath the Yamuna River, which Garuda could not approach.
Kaliya took shelter within the water of the Yamuna for the following reason. Just as Garuda went to the island of the Kaliya snake, so he also used to go to the Yamuna to catch fish to eat. There was, however, a great yogi known as Saubhari Muni, who used to meditate within the water there and who was sympathetic with the fish. He asked Garuda not to come there and disturb the fish. Although Garuda was not under anyone's order, being the carrier of Lord Visnu, he did not disobey the order of the great yogi. Instead of staying and eating many fish, he carried off one big fish, who was their leader. Saubhari Muni was sorry that one of the leaders of the fish was taken away by Garuda, and thinking of their protection, he cursed Garuda in the following words: "Henceforward from this day, if Garuda comes here to catch fish, then--I say this with all my strength--he will be immediately killed."
This curse was known only to Kaliya. Kaliya was, therefore, confident that Garuda would not be able to come there, and so he thought it wise to take shelter of the lake within the Yamuna. But Kaliya's taking shelter of Saubhari Muni was not successful; he was driven away from the Yamuna by Krsna, the master of Garuda. It may be noted that Garuda is directly related to the Supreme Personality of Godhead and is so powerful that he is never subjected to anyone's order or curse. Actually the cursing of Garuda--who is stated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam to be of the stature of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Bhagavan--was an offense on the part of Saubhari Muni. Although Garuda did not try to retaliate, the Muni was not saved from his offensive act against a great Vaisnava personality. Due to this offense, Saubhari fell down from his yogic position and afterwards became a householder, a sense enjoyer in the material world. The falldown of Saubhari Muni, who was supposed to be absorbed in spiritual bliss by meditation, is an instruction to the offender of Vaisnavas.
When Krsna finally came out of Kaliya's lake, He was seen by all His friends and relatives on the bank of the Yamuna. He appeared before them nicely decorated, smeared all over with candana pulp, bedecked with valuable jewels and stones, and almost completely covered with gold. The inhabitants of Vrndavana, cowherd boys and men, mother Yasoda, Maharaja Nanda and all the cows and calves, saw Krsna coming from the Yamuna, and it was as though they had recovered their very life. When a person regains his life, naturally he becomes absorbed in pleasure and joyfulness. They each in turn pressed Krsna to their chests, and thus they felt a great relief. Mother Yasoda, Rohini, Maharaja Nanda and the cowherd men became so happy that they embraced Krsna and thought they had achieved their ultimate goal of life.
Balarama also embraced Krsna, but He was laughing because He had known what would happen to Krsna when everyone else was so overwhelmed with anxiety. All the trees on the bank of the Yamuna, all the cows, bulls and calves were full of pleasure because of Krsna's appearance there. The brahmana inhabitants of Vrndavana, along with their wives, immediately came to congratulate Krsna and His family members. Brahmanas are considered to be the spiritual masters of society. They offered their blessings to Krsna and the family on account of Krsna's release. They also asked Maharaja Nanda to give them some charity on that occasion. Being so pleased by Krsna's return, Maharaja Nanda began to give many cows and much gold in charity to the brahmanas. While Nanda Maharaja was thus engaged, mother Yasoda simply embraced Krsna and made Him sit on her lap while she shed tears continually.
Since it was almost night, and all the inhabitants of Vrndavana, including the cows and calves, were very tired, they decided to take their rest on the river bank. In the middle of the night, while they were taking rest, there was suddenly a great forest fire, and it quickly appeared that the fire would soon devour all the inhabitants of Vrndavana. As soon as they felt the warmth of the fire, they immediately took shelter of Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, although He was playing just like their child. They began to say, "Our dear Krsna! O Supreme Personality of Godhead! Our dear Balarama, the reservoir of all strength! Please try to save us from this all devouring and devastating fire. We have no other shelter than You. This devastating fire will swallow us all!" Thus they prayed to Krsna, saying that they could not take any shelter other than His lotus feet. Lord Krsna, being compassionate upon His own townspeople, immediately swallowed up the whole forest fire and saved them. This was not impossible for Krsna because He is unlimited. He has unlimited power to do anything He desires.
Thus ends the Bhaktivedanta purport of the Seventeenth Chapter of Krsna, "Extinguishing the Forest Fire."

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