Attachment – The Supreme Trap

Uddhavagītā is a section of the eleventh canto of the Śrīmadbhāgavata. The section that describes Bhāgavatadharma or the code of conduct recommended for the sincere seeker. The section unravels as a dialogue exchanged between Uddhava and Kṛṣṇa, towards the end of the avatāra. The earthly mission that the Lord had intended to accomplish during His sojourn at earth was at an end. The celestials who had descended upon earth in order to serve the Lord too needed to return to their celestial duties. The līlā of annihilation of the Yadu clan was therefore conceived of, employing the curse of the sages as a ruse. Troubled by the turmoil of strife, Uddhava resorted to the presence of the Lord, seeking counsel. The dialogue that ensued between them spans twenty-three chapters of the eleventh canto of the Bhāgavata (7th-29th chapters).

In the avadhūta-upākhyāna, the Lord relates an anecdote to reiterate His admonishment that man must check attachments that spring from the delusion of multiplicity. Said He to Uddhava, “Wise one, I have decided to relinquish earth for my permanent abode. With my exit, the earth will be consumed by the vagaries of the Kali Yuga that stands glaring us in the face. Stay not much longer, Uddhava, for the effects of Kali will gradually change people into self-serving wretches. Relinquish notions of I and mine, and roam about the earth, your focus on perceiving my subtle presence.” Uddhava responded, “Lord, such is the potency of Thy māya, man stands powerless against it. Notions of I and mine assail him to never loosen their grip on him. Battered by the vagaries of the mind, I seek refuge in Thee, ineffective against the onslaught.”

The compassionate Lord provides Uddhava with an anecdote that enlightened him of the adverse effects of attachment. He relates to Uddhava, an encounter between the king Yadu and an avadhūta. Said Kṛṣṇa, “Yadu once chanced upon an exceedingly handsome and blissful avadhūta and became wonderstruck. He posed, ‘Where does your wisdom spring from, revered one? You engage in the world and are yet untouched by desire and unfazed by misery. You have no goal in mind and yet engage in action.’ Responded the avadhūta, ‘King, I have been blessed with countless Gurus who have illumined my path and have ignited the flame of wisdom in me. Listen as I enlist the illustrious Gurus. I have twenty-four Gurus including the earth, wind, sky, water, fire, moon, a pigeon, a serpent, the ocean, a moth, the honeybee, an elephant, and so on. The earth taught me to hold on to my identity, even in the face of hostility. Irrespective of how people treat her, dig a trough into her, she remains true to her nature. I learned one of the most important lessons from the pigeon; the lesson of detachment –

नातिस्नेहः प्रसङ्गो वा कर्तव्यः क्वापि केनचित्।
कुर्वन् विन्देत सन्तापं कपोत इव दीनधीः॥

nātisnehaḥ prasaṅgo vā kartavyaḥ kvāpi kenacit|
kurvan vindeta santāpaṁ kapota iva dīnadhīḥ||

Blind love or attachment must never be indulged in, lest one falls prey to misery, as is evident from (the anecdote of) the unwise pigeon.

– [Śrīmadbhāgavata, 11.7.52]

There was once a pigeon that lived in the forest along with his lovely wife. Engrossed in each other, the birds roamed about the forest joyously. The husband provided the wife with every whim and fancy, intoxicated with her. In due course, the wife produced handsome fledglings that filled the parents with immense delight. They rejoiced at the developing plumes of the fledglings, their immature caws and coos, and were besides themselves with pride. Once, when the parents were away foraging, a hunter who was passing by chanced upon the nest and trapped the fledglings in a net.The parents returned to find their precious little ones cawing piteously. Distraught at the plight of the fledglings, the mother flew right into the trap and was enmeshed in the net. The husband lamented, ‘Alas, my handsome children are trapped and my faithful wife too has followed my children to her death. Of what purpose if life to me now? How do I bear to live in this wretched nest bereft of my family? I too shall offer myself up to the cruel end the hunter had intended for my children. I shall at least be by their side when death claims me!’ Rambling thus, the pigeon who was unable to sunder his mortal attachment flew into the net to be claimed by the hunter.

Continued the avadhūta, ‘king, such are folks who enjoy a mortal frame but do not endeavor to rise above the drag of attachment, an endeavor to attain liberation.’

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