King Puranjana's Infatuation for Puranjani
Excerpt from: The Essence of Shreemad Bhagavatam
Commentary by Paramahamsa Vishwananda
Canto 4, Chapter 25, Verse 9
atra te kathayiṣye ’mum
nibodha gadato mama
In this connection, I wish to tell an old history about the character of a king called Puranjana. Please listen with great attention.
Sage Sukadev tells to King Parikshit the story of Puranjana, a story that had been revealed to King Prachinabarhisat by Narada Muni Himself. He asks the king, ‘Please listen to this story with attention.’
There was once a king by the name of Puranjana and he had a friend by the name of Avigyat, which means ‘anonymous’. This friend of Puranjana was anonymous because His presence was unknown to everyone. He would go unnoticed. Only when one truly longed for Him, He made His presence felt. Puranjana and his friend were very dear to each other. They were very close friends, truly inseparable. Wherever they would go, whatever they would do, they would be always together.
As time went by, the king became restless, but his friend Avigyat remained calm and peaceful. The king wanted to find a special place where he could feel, ‘that’s my home’. So, both of them together went to look for a new home, searching all around the world. But the king couldn’t find a place that would suit him. Finally, he found a wonderful city with nine gateways, in the southern part of the Himalayas.
When the king found this city, he was very happy. He immediately said, ‘That’s my kingdom’. In this place, everything was heavenly beautiful. The garden, the trees, the bushes, the ponds, the pools, the birds, everything was wonderful. The houses were decorated with gold, silver, precious stones, and silk curtains. The city also had many attractive places, like a marketplace, a gambling place and so on. Puranjana was very happy upon seeing all those glorious things. He enjoyed everything very much, because that’s what he was looking for.
The air was filled with a romantic fragrance and meanwhile, as he was wandering in the beautiful garden, he saw a very beautiful woman. She was so beautiful that he could not take his eyes away from her. He started to wonder, ‘Is she real or not?’ She had a hundred female servants, who were also very pretty, and a bodyguard. The bodyguard protecting her was a very powerful five-headed snake.
Puranjana felt so attracted to that woman that he couldn’t resist. He stood there gazing at her beauty. While looking at all her attendants, he said to himself, ‘Oh my goodness. There is a five-headed snake keeping close watch on her, guarding her. But it doesn’t matter, she is my focus, she is my aim!’
Then, he approached her and started praising her, like a peacock running after the hen, fanning out his tail feathers. Puranjana laid out some beautiful flattering words like, ‘Oh how beautiful you are! Your hair looks like silk, and your eyes mesmerise me. Your teeth are so shining, and your lips so red! Maybe you are not a human being. I’ve been traveling everywhere, all around the world, but I have never seen such beauty as yours. ‘ He was becoming mad, just by looking at her. Of course, she seemed to be shy, but she knew how to play him.
At last, Puranjana requested, ‘I fell for your beauty and I am in love with you. I would love to marry you. Please, accept this request and marry me! My life without you is nothing. I can’t live without you.’
She saw that Puranjana was seeking only pleasure, so she said, ‘Fine, you love my outer beauty only. Good! I will give you so much pleasure that you will feel satisfied. Stay with me in this city called Bhogavati. Here we will bhog (feast) together, we will work together. We will live happily ever after.’
This beautiful woman was called Puranjani, and she lived with Puranjana in the city of nine gates called Bhogavati. Puranjana was very happy. He was always with her, night and day. Whatever she wished was his command. Whatever she asked him, he would do without thinking. So, Puranjana become the slave of Puranjani. Like a little dog, he was next to her.
When you love somebody, you are like that, right? You like to have that person always like a dog next to you, so that you can control that person. And if that person does not do what you ask, what happens? You start fighting.
Puranjani knew Puranjana would stay with her no matter what, so she would tease him, torture him, and torment him. But, the more he got tortured, the happier he became. Time went by and they had many children: 1100 sons and 110 daughters. So, Puranjana had fallen into that trap, fully.
As time passed by, the fortress of Puranjana’s kingdom was attacked by a very powerful gandharva king named Chandavega who had 360 warriors. The five-headed snake which was protecting the queen was getting too old, and another enemy, the daughter of death by the name of Jara, snuck into the fort and created chaos inside. Then, she grabbed Puranjana and started sucking the life force out of his body. At that time, his family deserted him. Nobody was there for him, so he found himself alone again.
Soon after, his old friend Avigyat was passing by. With Puranjana’s whole family gone, he was feeling lonely and miserable. On the other hand, when he saw his friend, he noticed that his friend had not aged and was joyful. So Puranjana asked his friend, ‘How come? Look at me, and look at you!’
The friend said, ‘My dear, I am always there, but you never even notice me.’ The king was confused, Then, his friend said, ‘In the beginning we were together. But then, you wanted riches, you wanted a city, you wanted a palace, you wanted a wife, you wanted children, you wanted wealth. Now, that everything has gone, you can see me again next to you.’ Like this, the king’s anonymous friend reminded him of his true nature.
The Deeper Meaning
After Sage Sukadev told this story, King Parikshit asked, ‘Please, will you tell me the deeper meaning of this story?’ Sage Sukadev answered, ‘Yes, I will reveal it to you.’
As I previously mentioned, this story of Puranjana was told by Narada. He revealed the symbolism of this story saying that the fort, the castle, the palace is the physical body. Puranjana symbolises the conditioned, embodied soul. The anonymous friend, Avigyat is God Himself. You dwell eternally with God. But when one incarnates on Earth, one gets entangled into the worldly illusion. The nine gates of the city are the nine holes of the body into which the soul is trapped. The wife of Puranjana is the mind, with all its hundreds of servants. The by-products of the mind, the desires which arise inside the mind, tempt all and drag all here. So, one becomes slave of temptation, one becomes slave of the mind. All the children of the mind are the by-products of temptation, desires and so on.
Chandavega, the chief of gandharvas, symbolises the passage of time. One goes through life thinking that one will stay always beautiful. One thinks that one will stay always strong, but time snatches everything. With time everything comes and with time everything goes. So Chandavega had his 360 soldiers, which represent the 360 days of the year (Hindu calendar).
Every day you are getting old. This is the truth. Every day, every second, you are approaching death. Nobody can escape that. You can do as much plastic surgery on your face as you want to look young. You can put ‘plastic’ in your body to look beautiful, but in reality you are still old. Besides, when you get old, you don’t have the same strength as when you were young.
As long as you have not attained the inner beauty, the outer beauty will fade and will fail you. And how many times have you been born, grown up and died? In how many bodies have you incarnated? With time, life passes by and you will die. The daughter of death, Jara, symbolises old age. Old age will come; you can colour your hair as much as you want, but it will catch up.
In ancient times, the natural incorruptibility of a dead body would prove the sanctity of that person. That’s why we can still venerate the incorruptible body of Saint Bernadette, the body of Sundar Dev in India, and the bodies of many other saints. But nowadays, if you dig back, you will find many incorruptible bodies from common people. They are not saints, but their body is preserved nicely. They are buried normally, but their body doesn’t go through decomposition, because it’s all made of ‘plastic’, like Botox and so on. So you stay always fresh.
One day if such a body is found incorruptible, people will say, ‘Wow, this is a very saintly person!’ No. This incorruptibility is due to cosmetic surgery. It doesn’t only make you look beautiful when you are alive, it makes you stay beautiful even under the ground! The worms come and when they see you, they run away saying, ‘It’s better not to venture there!’ Then, everything inside is eaten, but the outside stays plasticised. At last, when people discover that is a plasticised body, they will put it back again under the ground. Afterwards, they will throw some stones on top. Then the plastic surgery which had cost you thousands or millions of euros is finished!
Like it happened with Puranjana, when old age comes, illnesses also come to attack the body. Then, death comes and everybody leaves you. Who will accompany you in death? No one. But your true self, your atma, it is always there. God is always there. People will go with you until the cemetery. As soon as they finish putting your body under the ground, they leave saying, ‘Let’s go and have a coffee.”
In life, you may have been a bad person for them. But when you die, people say, ‘Oh, he was a nice man’ or ‘She was a nice woman’. They will bring a big bouquet of flowers to put on your tomb. When you were alive, or when you were dying, nobody came to see you at the hospital. But on your tomb, they put flowers. People don’t appreciate others in life, but they appreciate them when they are dead. What’s the use of it? That’s hypocrisy.
You meet many people in life. But when you are dying, only the guru and God are there, nobody else. They are the only ones who can accompany you. Likewise, at that moment of Puranjana’s life, his dear friend which he hadn’t seen for many years appeared and reminded him of his true nature.
Are you your physical body? Are you this big drama which is happening in your life? Everything will disappear, it will go with time. You are not what your mind perceives you to be. You are God Consciousness, you are the soul. It is God Himself who has manifested inside your body. See clearly!
You are not here to attach yourself to this world. Because everything in Bhogavati has an end. Even this physical body has an end. Yesterday, you heard that Bhagavan Himself took Krishna’s physical body, and He Himself had to let go of the body. He could have kept it, but he didn’t.
Whether you want it or not, you will die. The quicker you accept that, the better it is. You will become more free from fear. The more you fight it, the more difficult it becomes, and the more it will torture you, like Jara. Then, you will have to let go of more pain.
When you see yourself dying on your bed, you can ask everybody to help you. But, what can they do? They can say, ‘Here, take this Paracetamol, it can relieve you of some pain.’ What more can they do? They can put the medicine in your mouth, or inject you with the medication to ease your pain. But at that moment of dying there is no husband, there is no wife, there are no children, there are no friends. Nobody will tell you, ‘I love you so much, please let me die for you!’
Jesus, Take Me Instead!
This reminds me of a comedy show. One lady in front of her husbands’ coffin was screaming and wailing, ‘Lord, Lord, Lord…Jesus, why have you taken my husband? Why didn’t you take me instead? Take me in his place, he is so young, take me, take me!’ At that moment, the door opened and Jesus appeared. He said, ‘My daughter, come with me! Let’s go, I have come to get you.’
She immediately stopped wailing and asked, ‘Who are you?’ He said, “You’ve been calling me, ‘Jesus, Jesus, why have you taken my husband? Take me!’ So, I have come here to take you now.’ Then, she said, ‘No, no, no, it was a mistake. Those were just mere words.’
Jesus insisted, ‘Well, now that I’m here, I have to take either him or you.’ She said, ‘Look, he’s already dead. I am still alive. Look, I am still young. When I said, “‘Take me, take me!” I didn’t really mean it.’
Jesus said to the man, ‘Get up my son!’ The man woke up. The wife was shocked. Then, Jesus said to her, 'Come, let’s go!’ and she said, ‘No, this is unfair!’
Jesus replied, ‘How can it be unfair?’ Jesus explained to the man, ‘Your wife has said she would rather die in your place.’ The husband was very touched and said, ‘Oh, my dear wife, how wonderful you are!’
Then wife said, ‘No, no, no, no, wait! I didn’t mean it!” Jesus asked her, “Are you sure you didn’t mean it?’
Meanwhile, the priest stepped forward and said, ‘How do we know you are Jesus?’ Jesus whispered something in his ears and the priest said, ‘Yes, He is Jesus!’
Jesus turned to the assembled people and asked them, ‘Was she not screaming and wailing, “Please, take me! Lord, Lord, Lord, take me, take me, take me!”? And now she doesn’t want to go.’ Well, this woman was very clever, so what did she do? She jumped on the husband, broke his neck to kill him again, and said to Jesus, ‘Here, take him!’
As you can see from this story, no one wants to die. You can say, ‘Yes, I want to take your suffering. God, please give me some of his suffering!’ But you don’t really mean it. It is just for the sake of praying.
The Man With Four Wives
There was a man who had four wives. He loved the fourth wife very much. Wherever he would go, he would take the fourth wife. He completely ignored the first wife. The second wife would get some attention from him, and he was happy with the third one. Wherever he would travel around, he would bring many gifts for the fourth wife. He would also bring gifts for the third one, and the second one, he would bring whatever she had asked for. However, he used to always forget the first wife.
One day he started reflecting about his life. He had realised that he was getting old. He started thinking, ‘Soon I will die, who will come with me? I will die alone and miserable.’
When you get married you say, ‘Till death do us part’. You and your partner are not born together, but throughout life you go together. Then, death comes and you are alone. So he started thinking, ‘I will die. I will be alone. It would be nice if somebody could come with me. I have four beautiful wives. At least, for sure the youngest one will come with me. She loves me so much.’
So he asked his dearest fourth wife, ‘My sweetheart, you know how much I love you?’ The fourth wife said, ‘Yes, I know you love me very much.’ Then, she asked batting her eyelashes, ‘And do you know how much I love you?’ These words melted his heart. He knew that she would stand by him. So he said, ‘My dear wife, you know I’m getting old, I love you so much, and soon I will die. Would you come with me? Would you die with me?’ Upon hearing that, the wife became furious, ‘How dare you ask me such a thing? If you die, it’s not my business. I’ll take another partner.’ These harsh words broke his heart.
Next, he asked his third wife, ‘Would you die with me?’ The wife said, ‘No my dear, I can’t die with you. But as I have handled all your business in life, I can still carry on handling things for you. I can’t do more than that. Sorry, but you will die alone.’
He went to his second wife and said, ‘I always bring nice things for you, would you die with me?’ She said, ‘No. When you die, I will come with you only till the cemetery. Then after that, I will carry on with my life.’
Suddenly, from behind, he heard the first wife say, ‘I’ll come with you!’ He looked at his first wife and realised how skinny she was. Even Gandhi couldn’t hide behind her. Nevertheless, she was joyful. At that moment he realised, ‘Throughout life I have not looked after you. I have given more importance to the other three wives. Now, look at you how skinny you are, how frail you look. And you want to come with me?!’ The wife replied joyfully, ‘Yes, I will die with you, I will come with you.’ Then the husband said, ‘I wish I had more time, so that I could look after you properly.’ Death will not let you know when it’s coming. Death may be seated behind the door holding his scythe and all of a sudden jump in front of you, ‘Hey I’m here!’
What the Four Wives Represent
Now, what do the four wives represent? First, what does the fourth wife represent? The fourth wife is the body. You do everything for the body. You dress the body nicely, you put lots of makeup on the body. You give the best to the body, but when death comes, everything is gone.
The third wife represents all the wealth and all the material things that you accumulate in life. You work throughout life, but when you die, everything that you have worked for goes to somebody else. Then, somebody else will enjoy it for you and will profit from all the wealth that you have accumulated in life.
The second wife represents the relationships, the friends, husband, wife, children, daughters and so on. They can accompany you only till the cemetery, right? Once you are in the ground, they are going for coffee. In your name they are drinking a coffee, while your body has just been buried. After death, people don’t even address your body by your name anymore. You are the corpse, the body of somebody.
The first wife is the consciousness, the atma, God. The consciousness is always there, the atma is inside the body, but how much people concentrate on God? People forget that they have an atma. They forget that they are the atma. They give more importance to everything else. But when death comes, God is the only one that will be there for you. Normally, people don’t go through life focusing on the Divine.
The Wise Ones
Nevertheless, the wise ones give more importance to the knowledge of the Self, and to the Realisation of the Self. They don’t wait until death comes to realise that. Because when death comes, you will say, ‘Oh my goodness, I have missed it again. Now, I have to take another birth! Again, the cycle of birth and death.’
God has sent you here to realise Him. So in each life, He gives you the opportunity. But if one gets fooled, like Puranjana and runs after Puranjani, one will be trapped. That’s why it’s said that one is here to ‘bhog’. Bhog means ‘pleasure’, ‘delight’. That’s why this city is called Bhogavati, which represents life, samsara. But, you came in this life to work off your karma. Not to create more karma, but to finish the karma.
The Essence of Shreemad Bhagavatam
If you enjoyed this story and found value in Paramahamsa Vishwananda's insightful commentary, check out The Essence of Shreemad Bhagavatam. The book is a treasure to be read again and again, filled with divine wisdom and heart-warming stories of the Lord and the loving relationship He has with His devotees.