“When she was lost in a gambling game, she was forcibly dragged into the assembly hall, and an attempt was made by Duhshasana to see her naked beauty, even though there were elderly persons like Bhishma and Drona present. She was a great devotee of Lord Krishna, and by her praying, the Lord Himself became an unlimited garment to save her from the insult.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.13.3-4 Purport)Download this episode (right click and save)
Being handicapped means that you’re missing something that is typically found in others. It may be something of great importance, necessary to function normally in everyday life. There are marvelous people who get notoriety for continuing on despite their handicap. For instance, a drummer from a rock band loses an arm in a car accident. Obviously an arm is quite important to play the drums, but this person learns how to function with just one. Wounded warriors returning from the battlefield adjust to their new way of life, refusing to quit or become depressed.
In devotional service, nothing is required for success except consciousness. A person can be extremely handicapped and still succeed. There are instances in the past of amazing devotees who succeeded while missing something important. They triumphed even in the face of great opposition, where the aggressors had the advantage but still failed.
1. Prahlada - physical strength
This matchup features a five year old boy against a powerful king, who also happens to be the father of the boy. The issue is devotion to Vishnu, which is one name for the Almighty. Vishnu refers to God as a person and His feature of all-pervasiveness. There is not an inch of space from which Vishnu is absent. He is everywhere, and he witnesses everything.
As a five year old child with no friends or family to support him, what chance did Prahlada have? He was up against palace guards ordered to strike him with weapons. Heavy elephants were ready to trample on him. Gravity was an enemy too, as Prahlada was thrown off a cliff.
Yet the boy survived. His devotion continued; it thrived in fact. There was consciousness the whole time. No one could take that away from Prahlada. Even at the time of death the devotees are guaranteed to continue on; their devotion never perishes.
“He quickly becomes righteous and attains lasting peace. O son of Kunti, declare it boldly that My devotee never perishes.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.31)
2. The Pandavas - a kingdom
The five Pandava brothers were great fighters. Each had their particular skill. Arjuna was Savyasachin, or an expert shooter with the bow and arrow. Yudhishthira was dharma personified; he always followed the right course of action. Bhima was extremely strong, instilling fear in others.
There was just one problem. They had no kingdom. The Kauravas illegally took that from them. A kingdom is pretty important if you want to exert influence. The Pandavas were not interested in fame, power, or authority, but it was their duty to administer to the needs of the pious. They were in the class of men authorized to provide protection to the innocent.
Even without a kingdom they were able to succeed. Again, it was their devotion. Krishna was there to protect them. He is the same Vishnu, God in the flesh. He does not assume a form of material elements when appearing in this world. When He disappears, it is not death. The Supreme Lord always remains spiritual, without distinction between spirit and body.
Krishna protected the Pandavas from many calamities created by the rival Kauravas, who tried to use their kingdom and influence as a way to root out any opposition. In the end, Krishna was there on the chariot with Arjuna, providing guidance and assuring victory that would put the rule of the world back in the proper hands.
3. Draupadi - a protector
Draupadi was the shared wife of the five Pandava brothers. It was a special arrangement, and due to her qualities she was still considered the most chaste lady. It was that chastity that enticed members of the wicked Pandavas to see her naked.
In an incident that showed the dangers of gambling, Yudhishthira lost his good sense and ended up getting cheated in a game of dice. Per one of the lost wagers, Draupadi became the property of the Kauravas. They decided to drag her out into a large assembly and remove her clothes. In the time period in question, this is the greatest form of humiliation for a woman.
Respecting the outcome of the game, the brothers did not protest. They sat on the sidelines as this was going on. Draupadi literally had no one there to support her. Bhishma and Drona were on the Kaurava side. They did nothing as well, though they were respected by both parties. Once again, the power of devotion prevailed. Draupadi’s consciousness of Krishna brought the mercy of the Lord in the form of a never-ending garment. No matter how much they pulled, Draupadi’s dress would not come off.
4. Vibhishana - good association
A stranger in a strange land. A good person living amidst the vilest of creatures. This was Vibhishana’s precarious situation. He lived in Lanka, which at the time was ruled by Rakshasas. These are a species of man-eating ogres. Vibhishana was of that species as well, but since birth he was pious. He was a devotee of Rama, who is the same Krishna appearing in a different millennium with a different purpose.
Making matters worse, Vibhishana’s brother Ravana was of a very poor character. Vibhishana tried to talk sense into his brother, correcting the ship that was drifting away towards danger. Yet Ravana would not listen, and so Vibhishana felt compelled to abandon Lanka and the family. He went to the side of Rama, who was ready to march into Lanka to rescue His wife Sita, who had been taken away unfairly by Ravana.
Good association is key for success in devotional service. This makes sense, as if you want to succeed in something, you need the help of others who have succeeded. Vibhishana had no such help, but since his heart was in the right place, the Supreme Lord guided him from within. There was success despite not having a friend in the world.
5. The gopis of Vrindavana - self-control
As Krishna declares in the Bhagavad-gita, kama is the all-devouring enemy of this world. It is the reason people continue to act in the wrong way, despite trying so hard to be good. Think of the drug addict. Think of the repeat offender, who has been to prison multiple times. Think of gaining all the weight back after going on a diet.
“The Blessed Lord said: It is lust only, Arjuna, which is born of contact with the material modes of passion and later transformed into wrath, and which is the all-devouring, sinful enemy of this world.” (Bhagavad-gita, 3.37)
Translated into English, kama is “lust.” Lust is the primary reason for continued rebirth. You choose one or the other: God or kama. This makes the situation of the gopis very interesting. They were simple village girls living in the rural community of Vrindavana. Many of them were already married. Yet they lusted after Krishna, who was a resident of the town in His youth. Krishna is the original form of God because He is all-attractive. He is always in madhurya, or enjoying in sweetness. Krishna has nothing to do.
Since right and wrong, pious and impious, don’t affect Him, Krishna can behave in any way He chooses. He decided to satisfy the lust of the gopis by meeting them in the middle of the night in the forest. The brightest full moon of the year removed the obstacle of darkness, and so the lovers were free to enjoy.
Despite lacking self-control, the gopis were successful in devotion. In fact, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has declared them to be the topmost devotees. They are the example for everyone. The reason is that their kama was actually bhakti. If you have a strong desire to be with the Supreme Lord, to serve Him, to surrender everything to Him, then you have succeeded in living. You will get the most pleasure as a result, and sin will never touch you.
At basic tasks difficult to attack,
When inhibited by handicap.
In history of bhakti-yoga also seen,
Like Prahlada with father vile and mean.
Kauravas exploiting the upper hand,
Since Arjuna and brothers having no land.
Draupadi with protector not a one,
Still in each case victory was won.