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After Vasudeva adjusted things as they had been before he carried Kṛṣṇa to Gokula, and all the doors and gates became similarly closed, the gatekeepers awoke and heard the newborn child crying. Kaṁsa was waiting to hear the news of the child’s birth, and the gatekeepers immediately approached him and informed him that the child was born. At that time, Kaṁsa got up from his bed very quickly and exclaimed, “Now the cruel death of my life is born!” Kaṁsa became perplexed now that his death was approaching, and his hair scattered. Immediately he proceeded toward the place where the child was born.
Devakī, on seeing her brother approaching, prayed in a very meek attitude to Kaṁsa: “My dear brother, please do not kill this female child. I promise that this child will be the wife of your son; therefore don’t kill her. You are not to be killed by any female child. That was the prophecy. You are to be killed by a male child, so please do not kill her. My dear brother, you have killed so many of my children who were just born, shining like the sun. That is not your fault. You have been advised by demoniac friends to kill my children. But now I beg you to excuse this girl at least. Let her live as my daughter.”
Kaṁsa was so cruel that he did not listen to the pitiful prayers of his sister Devakī. He forcibly grabbed the newborn child to rebuke his sister and attempted to dash her on the stone mercilessly. This is a graphic example of a cruel demon who could sacrifice all relationships for the sake of personal gratification. But the child immediately slipped out of his hands, went up into the sky and appeared with eight arms as the younger sister of Viṣṇu. She was decorated with nice garments and flower garlands and ornaments; in her eight hands she held a bow, lance, arrows, sword, conchshell, disc, club and shield.
Seeing the appearance of the child (who was actually the goddess Durgā), all the demigods from different planets like Siddhaloka, Cāraṇaloka, Gandharvaloka, Apsaroloka, Kinnaraloka and Uragaloka presented her with various articles and began to offer their respective prayers. From above, the goddess addressed Kaṁsa: “You rascal, how can you kill me? The child who will kill you is already born before me somewhere within this world. Don’t be so cruel to your poor sister.” After this appearance, the goddess Durgā became known by various names in various parts of the world.
After hearing these words, Kaṁsa became very much overwhelmed with fear. Out of pity, he immediately released Vasudeva and Devakī from the bondage of their shackles and very politely began to address them. He said, “My dear sister and brother-in-law, I have acted just like a demon in killing my own nephews—your children—and thereby I have given up all consideration of our intimate relationship. I do not know what will be the result of these envious acts of mine. Probably I shall be sent to the hell where killers of brāhmaṇas go. I am surprised, however, that the celestial prophecy has not come true. It is not only in human society that false propaganda is found. Now it appears that even the celestial denizens speak lies. Because I believed in the words of the celestial denizens, I have committed so many sins by killing the children of my sister. My dear Vasudeva and Devakī, you are both very great souls. I have no instructions to give you, but still I request that you not be sorry for the death of your children. Every one of us is under the control of superior power, and that superior power does not allow us to remain together. We are bound to be separated from our friends and relatives in due course of time. But we must know for certain that even after the disappearance of the different material bodies, the soul remains intact eternally. For example, there are many pots made of earthly clay, and they are prepared and also broken. But in spite of this, the earth remains as it is perpetually. Similarly, the bodies of the soul under different conditions are made and destroyed, but the spirit soul remains eternally. So there is nothing to lament over. Everyone should understand that this material body is different from the spirit soul, and so long as one does not come to that understanding, he is sure to accept the processes of transmigration from one body to another.
“My dear sister Devakī, you are so gentle and kind. Please excuse me—don’t be aggrieved by the death of your children, which I have caused. Actually this was not done by me, because all these are predestined activities. One has to act according to the predestined plan, even unwillingly. People misunderstand that with the end of the body the self dies, or they think that one can kill another living entity. All these misconceptions oblige one to accept the conditions of material existence. In other words, as long as one is not firmly convinced of the eternality of the soul, one is subjected to the tribulation of being killer and killed. My dear sister Devakī and brother-in-law Vasudeva, kindly excuse the atrocities I have committed against you. I am very poor-hearted, and you are so great-hearted, so take compassion upon me and excuse me.”
While Kaṁsa was speaking to his brother-in-law and sister, tears flowed from his eyes, and he fell down at their feet. Believing the words of Durgā-devī, whom he had tried to kill, Kaṁsa immediately released his brother-in-law and sister. He personally unlocked the iron shackles and very sympathetically showed his friendship for his family members.
When Devakī saw her brother so repentant, she also became pacified and forgot all his atrocious activities against her children. Vasudeva also, forgetting all past incidents, spoke smilingly with his brother-in-law. Vasudeva told Kaṁsa, “My dear fortunate brother-in-law, what you are saying about the material body and the soul is correct. Every living entity is born ignorant, misunderstanding this material body to be his self. This conception of life is due to ignorance, and on the basis of this ignorance we create enmity or friendship. Lamentation, jubilation, fearfulness, envy, greed, illusion and madness are different features of our material concept of life. A person influenced like this engages in enmity only due to the material body. Being engaged in such activities, we forget our eternal relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead.”
Vasudeva took the opportunity of Kaṁsa’s benevolence and informed him that his atheistic activities were also due to this misconception of life—namely taking the material body to be the self. When Vasudeva talked with Kaṁsa in such an illuminating way, Kaṁsa became very much pleased, and his guilt for killing his nephews subsided. With the permission of his sister Devakī and brother-in-law Vasudeva, he returned to his home with a relieved mind.
But the next day Kaṁsa called all his counselors together and narrated to them all the incidents that had happened the night before. All the counselors of Kaṁsa were demons and eternal enemies of the demigods, so they became depressed upon hearing their master speak of the night’s events. And although they were not very much experienced or learned, they began to give instructions to Kaṁsa as follows: “Dear sir, let us now make arrangements to kill all children who were born within the last ten days in all towns, counties, villages and pasturing grounds. Let us execute this plan indiscriminately. We think that the demigods cannot do anything against us if we perform these atrocities. They are always afraid of fighting with us, and even if they wish to check our activities, they will not dare to do so. Because of your immeasurable strength, they fear your bow. Indeed, we have practical experience that whenever you stood to fight with them and began to shower your arrows on them, they immediately fled in all directions just to save their lives. Many of the demigods were unable to fight with you, and they immediately surrendered themselves unto you by loosening their turbans and the tufts of hair on their heads. With folded hands they begged you to spare them and said, ‘My lord, we are all afraid of your strength. Please release us from this dangerous fight.’ We have also seen many times that you would never kill such surrendered fighters when they were all fearful, their bows, arrows and chariots broken, forgetful of their military activities and unable to fight with you. So actually we have nothing to fear from these demigods. They are very proud of being great fighters in peacetime outside the war field, but actually they cannot show any talent or military power on the war field. Although Lord Viṣṇu, Lord Śiva and Lord Brahmā are always ready to help the demigods, headed by Indra, we have no reason to be afraid of them. As far as Lord Viṣṇu is concerned, He has already hidden Himself within the hearts of all living entities, and He cannot come out. As far as Lord Śiva is concerned, he has renounced all activities; he has already entered into the forest. And Lord Brahmā is always engaged in different types of austerities and meditation. And what to speak of Indra—he is a straw in comparison to your strength. Therefore we have nothing to fear from any of these demigods. But we must not neglect them, for the demigods are our determined enemies. We must be careful to protect ourselves. To root them out from their very existence, we should just engage ourselves in your service and be always ready for your command.”
The demons continued to say, “If there is some disease in the body which is neglected, it worsens and becomes incurable. Similarly, when one is not careful about restraining the senses and lets them loose, it is then very difficult to control them. Therefore, we must now be very careful of the demigods before they get too strong to be subdued. The foundation of the strength of the demigods is Lord Viṣṇu, because the ultimate goal of all religious principles is to satisfy Him. The Vedic injunctions, the brāhmaṇas, the cows, austerities, sacrifices, performances of charity and distribution of wealth are all for the satisfaction of Lord Viṣṇu. So let us immediately begin by killing all the brāhmaṇas who are in charge of the Vedic knowledge, along with the great sages who are in charge of sacrificial ritualistic performances. Let us kill all the cows, which are the source of butter, which is so necessary for performing sacrifices. Please give us your permission to kill all these creatures.
“Actually the limbs of the transcendental body of Lord Viṣṇu are the brāhmaṇas, the cows, Vedic knowledge, austerity, truthfulness, sense and mind control, faithfulness, charity, tolerance and performance of sacrifices. Lord Viṣṇu is situated in everyone’s heart and is the leader of all demigods, including Lord Śiva and Lord Brahmā. Therefore we think that to persecute the great sages and brāhmaṇas is to kill Lord Viṣṇu.”
Thus being advised by his demoniac ministers, Kaṁsa, who was from the very beginning the greatest rascal, decided to persecute the brāhmaṇas and Vaiṣṇavas, being entrapped by the shackles of all-devouring, eternal time. He ordered the demons to harass all kinds of saintly persons, and then he entered his house. The adherents of Kaṁsa were all influenced by the mode of passion as well as illusioned by the mode of ignorance, and their only business was to create enmity with saintly persons. Such activities can only reduce one’s duration of life. The demons accelerated the process and invited their deaths as soon as possible. The result of persecuting saintly persons is not only untimely death. The act is so offensive that the perpetrator also gradually loses his beauty, his fame and his religious principles, and thus his promotion to higher planets is checked. Driven by various kinds of mental concoctions, the demons diminish all kinds of auspiciousness. An offense at the lotus feet of the devotees and brāhmaṇas is a greater offense than that committed at the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. A civilization that commits such sinful activities generally loses all faith in the Supreme Lord, and such a godless civilization becomes the source of all calamities in human society.
Thus ends the Bhaktivedanta purport of the Fourth Chapter of Kṛṣṇa, "Kaṁsa Begins His Persecutions."