By Swami Bodhasarananda

Shukadeva’s Advice

SHUKADEVA SAID: O King, you have asked the only question worth asking. Most people are drunk with thoughts of worldly pleasure, and never turn their minds towards God. For those who want to become free from the fear of death, constant remembrance of the Lord is the way. Though my mind was ever absorbed in the Absolute Reality, it became entranced, like other ascetics before me, with this Purana describing the Lord’s wonderful qualities that was taught to me by my father, Vyasa. O King, I shall now narrate all that I heard from him to you.

The Story of Khatvanga

Shukadeva said: Let me tell you about someone who set a great example for others. His name was King Khatvanga. As soon as he learned that his life was coming to an end, he sat in meditation and renounced all thought of the world. Khatvanga was a strong and powerful king. He had joined the devas in their battle against the demons, and with his help the demons were defeated. After the battle, the devas informed the king that he had less than an hour left of his life. Wanting to pass the last few moments of his life thinking only of God, he set aside all other concerns and fixed his mind on Sri Hari, the supreme Lord.

Shukadeva continued: O King, you have one week left to live. You must use this time preparing for death. Purify yourself, and repeat the holy mantra ‘Om’. This sacred mantra, called Pranava, is the very essence of Brahman. By controlling your vital forces and repeating Om, your mind will become steady. Fix your steadied mind on God and meditate on him; then you will attain Him. Shukadeva then explained to the king the methods of yoga, concentration, and meditation in detail. After that, Shuka said: Everything I have told you was revealed in ancient times by Lord Vasudeva to Brahma. When Brahma desired to begin the creation of the universe, he was wondering how to proceed when he heard a voice saying, ‘Tapa’. Brahma searched around him but could not find out who spoke to him, so he understood that the voice was that of the Lord Himself. Thus, he decided to follow the instruction and practise austerities. For a long time, Brahma engaged himself in meditation and self-control, and at last the Lord revealed Himself to him. The Lord said to him, “It is at my request that you have practised austerities. It is not through austerities that you have attained me. Rather, it is through my grace. Though I am eternal, ever-existing, still I practise tapas for the creation, preservation, and destruction of the universe. Tapas, austerity, is my very soul.” Shukadeva’s words entered the king’s heart, and he immediately surrendered his body, mind, and life to the Lord.