17. Extinguishing the Forest Fire

17 / Extinguishing the Forest Fire
King Parékñit, after hearing of the chastisement of Käliya, inquired from Çukadeva Gosvämé as to why Käliya left his beautiful land and why Garuòa was so antagonistic to him. Çukadeva Gosvämé informed the King that the island known as Nägälaya was inhabited by serpents and that Käliya was one of the chief serpents there. Being accustomed to eating snakes, Garuòa 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, Väsuki, appealed to Lord Brahmä for protection. Lord Brahmä made an arrangement by which Garuòa would not create a disturbance: on each half-moon day, the reptile community would offer a serpent to Garuòa. The serpent was to be kept underneath a tree as a sacrificial offering to Garuòa. Garuòa was satisfied with this offering, and therefore he did not disturb any other serpents.
But gradually, Käliya 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 Garuòa be offered this sacrifice?" He then ceased offering any sacrifice; instead, he himself ate the offering intended for Garuòa. When Garuòa, the great devotee-carrier of Viñëu, understood that Käliya was eating the offered sacrifices, he became very angry and quickly rushed to the island to kill the offensive serpent. Käliya tried to fight Garuòa and faced him with his many hoods and poisonous sharp teeth. Käliya attempted to bite him, and Garuòa, the son of Tärkñya, in great anger and with the great force deserving the carrier of Lord Viñëu, struck the body of Käliya with his effulgent golden wings. Käliya, who is also known as Kadrüsuta, son of Kadrü, immediately fled to the lake known as Käliyadaha, underneath the Yamunä River, which Garuòa could not approach.
Käliya took shelter within the water of the Yamunä for the following reason. Just as Garuòa went to the island of the Käliya snake, so he also used to go to the Yamunä 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 Garuòa not to come there and disturb the fish. Although Garuòa was not under anyone's order, being the carrier of Lord Viñëu, 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 Garuòa, and thinking of their protection, he cursed Garuòa in the following words: "Henceforward from this day, if Garuòa comes here to catch fish, then--I say this with all my strength--he will be immediately killed."
This curse was known only to Käliya. Käliya was, therefore, confident that Garuòa would not be able to come there, and so he thought it wise to take shelter of the lake within the Yamunä. But Käliya's taking shelter of Saubhari Muni was not successful; he was driven away from the Yamunä by Kåñëa, the master of Garuòa. It may be noted that Garuòa 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 Garuòa--who is stated in the Çrémad-Bhägavatam to be of the stature of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Bhagavän--was an offense on the part of Saubhari Muni. Although Garuòa did not try to retaliate, the Muni was not saved from his offensive act against a great Vaiñëava 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 Vaiñëavas.
When Kåñëa finally came out of Käliya's lake, He was seen by all His friends and relatives on the bank of the Yamunä. 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 Våndävana, cowherd boys and men, mother Yaçodä, Mahäräja Nanda and all the cows and calves, saw Kåñëa coming from the Yamunä, 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 Kåñëa to their chests, and thus they felt a great relief. Mother Yaçodä, Rohiëé, Mahäräja Nanda and the cowherd men became so happy that they embraced Kåñëa and thought they had achieved their ultimate goal of life.
Balaräma also embraced Kåñëa, but He was laughing because He had known what would happen to Kåñëa when everyone else was so overwhelmed with anxiety. All the trees on the bank of the Yamunä, all the cows, bulls and calves were full of pleasure because of Kåñëa's appearance there. The brähmaëa inhabitants of Våndävana, along with their wives, immediately came to congratulate Kåñëa and His family members. Brahmanas are considered to be the spiritual masters of society. They offered their blessings to Kåñëa and the family on account of Kåñëa's release. They also asked Mahäräja Nanda to give them some charity on that occasion. Being so pleased by Kåñëa's return, Mahäräja Nanda began to give many cows and much gold in charity to the brähmaëas. While Nanda Mahäräja was thus engaged, mother Yaçodä simply embraced Kåñëa and made Him sit on her lap while she shed tears continually.
Since it was almost night, and all the inhabitants of Våndävana, 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 Våndävana. As soon as they felt the warmth of the fire, they immediately took shelter of Kåñëa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, although He was playing just like their child. They began to say, "Our dear Kåñëa! O Supreme Personality of Godhead! Our dear Balaräma, 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 Kåñëa, saying that they could not take any shelter other than His lotus feet. Lord Kåñëa, being compassionate upon His own townspeople, immediately swallowed up the whole forest fire and saved them. This was not impossible for Kåñëa because He is unlimited. He has unlimited power to do anything He desires.
Thus ends the Bhaktivedanta purport of the Seventeenth Chapter of Kåñëa, "Extinguishing the Forest Fire."

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