Questions About Varnasrama

October 28, 2013 |

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Question:

How do we understand the statements of Srila Prabhupada that defy common sense?
My question is not specific to what I could eat to make my body happy, but "how do we understand statements by pure devotees that defy common sense?" One might be able to explain away sentences such as in the purport of CC 2.4.169 Srila Prabhupada mentions that, "One should not eat fish or other non-vegetarian food during the month of Kartika. A non-vegetarian diet means fish and meat. Similarly, masura dhal and urad dhal are also considered non-vegetarian. These two dhals contain a great amount of protein, and food rich in protein is considered non-vegetarian," however if you have to give to an intelligent reader they defy common sense. So, then comes the question of hermeneutics. In our parampara, it is not just important to understand the scriptures, but the writings of acaryas such as Srila Prabhupada. I refuse to compromise myself saying that some parts of Srila Prabhupada's writings from which I can't extract sense from should be avoided.

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sarvārtha-sambhavodeho

janitaḥpoṣitoyataḥ

natayoryātinirveśaṁ

pitrormartyaḥśatāyuṣā

Translation: With one’s body one can acquire all goals of life, and it is one’s parents who give the body birth and sustenance. Therefore no mortal man can repay his debt to his parents, even if he serves them for a full lifetime of a hundred years. (S.B.10.45.5).

Questions:

1. Why does Krishna say here that one cannot repay his debt to his parents even if he serves them for a full lifetime of a hundred years when in S.B 11.5.4 Narada muni says to Vasudeva–“One who has taken shelter of Krishna’s lotus feet, is not indebted to demigods, great sages, ordinary living beings, relatives, friends, mankind or even one’s forefathers who have passed away.” So how are we to understand this statement and how should we take this comment in SB 10.45.5?

2. Is this comment applicable to only a Krishna conscious father and mother or a materialistic father & mother also?

 

ANSWER BY HH Bhakti Vikāsa Swami:

"All right. Karttik Kumar form Bangalore is quoting Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 10.45.5, spoken by Kṛṣṇa.

sarvārtha-sambhavo deho
janitaḥ poṣito yataḥ
na tayor yāti nirveśaṁ
pitror martyaḥ śatāyuṣā

Translation: With one’s body one can acquire all goals of life, and it is one’s parents who give the body birth and sustenance. Therefore no mortal man can repay his debt to his parents, even if he serves them for a full lifetime of a hundred years.

So there’s that verse which Śrīla Prabhupāda quotes three times, I believe, in Bhagavad-gītā As It Is. Because Arjuna’s whole proposition was not to go against the family.

devarṣi-bhūtāpta-nṛṇāṁ pitṝṇāṁ
na kiṅkaro nāyam ṛṇī ca rājan
sarvātmanā yaḥ śaraṇaṁ śaraṇyaṁ
gato mukundaṁ parihṛtya kartam

O King, one who has given up all material duties and has taken full shelter of the lotus feet of Mukunda, who offers shelter to all, is not indebted to the demigods, great sages, ordinary living beings, relatives, friends, mankind or even one's forefathers who have passed away. Since all such classes of living entities are part and parcel of the Supreme Lord, one who has surrendered to the Lord's service has no need to serve such persons separately. (SB 11.5.41.)

So this appears to be contradictory because Kṛṣṇa says you can’t repay your debt to your parents, even if you serve them for a full lifetime of a hundred years. But then Kṛṣṇa says: “If you take shelter of Me, then you are not indebted.”

Well, one statement is qualified by another. This is common – that (there is a) general truth, (and) there are exceptions. Sri Lankans are good people. OK, we can accept that as a general proposition. Well, this one is not good - some of them are not good. So it’s a general case, but it’s qualified.

Actually, one can repay the debts. One repays the debts to the parents by having children. That’s the understanding. So the children, they will offer pinda to the Pitris.

DEBT TO THE PARENTS
What is the debt to the parent? - That you were given a body by them. So you can’t exactly repay, but you create more bodies. So there is a way to repay, but the mood of this is that what you were given is so valuable that we feel we can’t repay. We shouldn’t think: “OK, I repaid them, and then leave them alone, forget them.” That’s the idea. Gratefulness should be there.

sarvārtha-sambhavo deho
Everything we want to do, that can be done through the body. If you don’t have a body, you can’t do anything. If you are a ghost, for instance. If you are born in a subhuman body, then one cannot achieve the goal of life. So therefore, the human form of life is very valuable. But, if we fully dedicate to Kṛṣṇa, then we become free from the ordinary method of repaying the debt to the parents because we actually benefit not only the parents but even previous generation and even forthcoming generations. Kṛṣṇa delivers them all.

So therefore, one is not a debtor if he takes full shelter of Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa takes care of all, the parents and everyone else. So the general case is that one cannot repay the debt to the parents. And of course, that’s very much part of Indian culture, especially in North India very well-known this story… What’s his name? Kumara Sampat, Sampat Kumar; what is it? Śravan Kumar. Very common picture to see him carrying, on his shoulder, the father and mother.

MATERIALISTIC PARENTS
So, question number two. In one sense it is more applicable to materialistic father and mother. Inasmuch as, by Kṛṣṇa consciousness you repay the debt. Of course, you shouldn’t think that: “Well, (it) doesn’t matter about my parents.” A child in Kṛṣṇa consciousness shouldn’t be neglectful of parents. But, (one) may also, if one is fully engaged in preaching Kṛṣṇa consciousness, then (he) may not marry and look after the parents in old age. But it should be seen that someone looks after them - some arrangement is made - something is done. In Kṛṣṇa consciousness we shouldn’t take it as an excuse to neglect our parents."

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