“O Dhananjaya, all this work cannot bind Me. I am ever detached, seated as though neutral.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.9)Download this episode (right click and save)
Friend1: Let’s talk about curses.
Friend2: The Curse of the Bambino? That’s over. The Red Sox came back in dramatic fashion against the Yankees.
Friend2: The Curse of the Billy Goat? That ended, too. The Cubs finally won the World Series.
Friend1: Can you stop already? I’m talking about in Vedic literature.
Friend2: Oh, there’s lots of curses described in there. The two sons of Kuvera disrespecting Narada Muni and turning into trees. The king who failed to protect a person’s cow being born as a lizard in the next life.
Friend1: They are interesting, aren’t they? These are brahmanas offering the curses, right? Men of the priestly order.
Friend2: Asceticism is their wealth. In addition to helping clear the consciousness and bring detachment from material things, which are temporary and miserable, there is an accumulation of spiritual merit.
Friend1: Something like a power meter you see in a videogame?
Friend2: You could say that. The thing is, when they curse someone, they lose some of that merit immediately.
Friend1: Oh. I did not know that.
Friend2: Yeah, that was one of the external causes for God’s incarnation of Rama going to the forest with His weapons. The area was known as a tapo-vana, which means a forest conducive to tapasya, or austerity. The problem was that the brahmanas were getting harassed by night-rangers, nishacharas.
Friend1: Are those Rakshasas?
Friend2: Yes. Man-eaters. The lowest of the low. You can imagine how those battles looked.
Friend1: Brahmanas are thin and non-violent. The opposition was large and grim-visaged.
Friend2: Plus, they had no scruples. They would attack at night, so as to not be seen.
Friend1: Okay, so couldn’t the brahmanas have cursed them in return, as a means of self-defense?
Friend2: That’s what I was getting to. They told Rama that they were being eaten away in the forest. They didn’t use curses because they didn’t want their spiritual merits to go to waste. Rama, as the Supreme Lord, was compassionate on them. He came to the forest to drive away the night-rangers.
Friend1: Love the discussion thus far, but here is the question I’ve been holding back. Can God be cursed? I know that seems silly, as He is the origin of everything. He creates and destroys on the largest scale, so how could He be powerless against any opposing force?
Friend2: He has been cursed.
Friend2: At least two instances that I can recall offhand.
Friend1: Care to elaborate?
Friend2: One relates to Shri Rama. Again, it is another external cause for something that doesn’t need a cause. God doesn’t require any outside intervention to accomplish things. One time Narada Muni, the travelling saint, was feeling overly proud from having conquered kama, or lust. The Supreme Lord in His form of Vishnu, who is also known as Hari, wanted to bring Narada back to his senses.
Friend1: So He cursed Narada?
Friend2: Just hold on. Using His illusory potency, Vishnu created this amazing city that Narada happened to visit. There was a svayamvara going on.
Friend1: A self-choice ceremony to determine the husband for a princess.
Friend2: Yes. Narada found the girl to be so beautiful that he had to marry her. He prayed to Hari to help him. The Supreme Lord agreed, saying Narada would get a face just like Hari.
Friend1: How would that help Narada? Isn’t that rewarding his sense gratification?
Friend2: This is where the many meanings to the name Hari apply. Hari is a name for God meaning “one who takes away.” Other meanings are “lion” and “monkey.” So Narada got the face of a monkey, which guaranteed that the princess would choose someone else.
Friend1: Wow, that’s a pretty mean trick.
Friend2: That’s what Narada thought, too. Vishnu Himself came to the ceremony and was garlanded the victor. When Narada found out what happened he cursed Vishnu to appear on earth and be separated from His beloved. Hari would need the help of monkeys to win her back. Vishnu gladly accepted the curse, later on appearing as Shri Rama and requiring the help of Hanuman and the Vanaras to rescue Sita from the Rakshasas.
Friend1: That is a great story. You said there was a second time?
Friend2: When Shri Krishna descended to earth, there was the Bharata War. As you know millions of people died. The group that lost was the Kauravas, who were led by Duryodhana. His mother was Gandhari, and she had one hundred sons.
Friend1: And they all died?
Friend2: Yes. So in the great lamentation that followed the carnage, she cursed Krishna to leave the earth after a certain number of years. Part of her curse was that the Yadu dynasty, which lived in Dvaraka, would also meet destruction.
Friend1: Wow. So that ended up happening, right?
Friend2: Yes. Just as Shri Rama took the news of exile from the kingdom in stride, Shri Krishna did not mind hearing this curse. He was not affected in mind.
Friend1: Alright, so do those incidents prove that God can be cursed?
Friend2: They do not. Of course He can’t be cursed.
Friend1: What? Why are you confusing me?
Friend2: I decided to put forward the counterargument first.
Friend2: As mentioned before there are external causes to events in the Divine lila. This doesn’t mean that God is subject to karma, which is fruitive activity, cause and effect. He is always above karma. He references this very issue in the Bhagavad-gita. After describing the many amazing things He does with respect to the universe and its maintenance, He makes sure to say that none of that work affects Him. He does not get tired holding up the planets. He does not feel sad upon someone’s death, nor does He rejoice over birth. The many things that occur in a material existence escape His interest, as He has nothing to do but enjoy. That is the true nature of God, and when He accepts the harsh words of his devotees, that is part of His enjoyment as well.
So much work by Him already done,
But affected through reactions none.
Full potency in Him found,
By others words never bound.
But anger from devotees sometimes to accept,
Not even their curses to reject.
So Vishnu agreed as Shri Rama coming,
And Krishna end of Yadus upcoming.