By His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Arjun said to Yudhisthira Maharaj, “O Emperor, now I am separated from my friend and dear-most well-wisher, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and therefore my heart appears to be void of everything. In His absence I have been defeated by a number of infidel cowherd men while I was guarding the bodies of all the wives of Krishna.” [Srimad Bhagavatam 1.15.20]
After the departure of Krishna the 16108 wives of Krishna were being taken care of by Arjuna. But some cowherdsmen plundered all the queens, and Arjuna could not protect them.
So this is an instance wherein we may be very powerful so long Krishna keeps us powerful. We are not independently powerful. This is so even in the case of Arjuna. We are very much proud of our janmaiśvarya-śruta-śrīh [SB 1.8.26]. In the material world, everyone is very much proud of his birth (janma), riches (aiśvarya), education (śruta) and beauty (śrīh). These four things are obtained as a result of pious activities. Whereas the result of impious activities is that one gets the opposite, i.e. birth in not a very nice family or nation, no wealth but poverty, no education and no beauty. You American people have got nice assets. You are born of a very respectful nation-America, which is honored all over the world. So that’s a good opportunity for you, janma. Every American, in comparison to an Indian, is a rich man, because any ordinary man in America, earns at least four or five thousand dollars. And in India, even the high-court judge, he cannot earn so much. He may earn utmost four thousand. So you should be conscious that by the grace of Krishna, you have got all these things. There is no poverty or any scarcity but there is good chance of education, and you are wealthy, beautiful, everything. But if you do not become Krishna conscious, i.e. if you misuse these assets, then you again become a mouse: punar mūsikā bhava.
A mouse came to a saintly person: “Sir, I am very much troubled.” People generally go to saintly persons for some material profit. That is the nature, rather animalistic nature. Why should you go to a saintly person for some material benefit? No, you should go there to learn about the identity of God. That should be the real business. Anyway, saintly persons sometimes receive them, “So what do you want?” Just like Lord Śiva, whose devotees are all like that mouse, who wants something. “Sir, this cat troubles me very much.” “So what do you want?” “Let me become a cat.” “All right, you become a cat.” So he became a cat. Then after few days, he came back. “Sir, still I am in trouble.” “What is that?” “The dogs trouble me very much.” “So what do you want?” “Now I want to become a dog.” “All right, you become a dog.” There is nature’s arrangement that one is weak and one is strong. So after all, he wanted to become a tiger. So by the grace of the saintly person, he became a tiger. And when he became a tiger, he was staring at the saintly person as if he wanted to eat him. So the saintly person asked him, “Do you want to eat me?” “Yes.” “Oh, then you may again become a mouse. If by my grace and favor, you have become a tiger, so I will again condemn you to become a mouse.”
So you American people! You have become tigers now. But if you don’t feel obliged, then you are again going to be mouse. If the tiger feels obliged that “By the grace of the saintly person, I have come to the stage of becoming a tiger, I must be very much obliged to him”, then it is perfect. But instead of becoming obliged, if you want to eat, then again become a mouse. If the saintly person has got the power to make you a tiger from a mouse, then he can even convert you again from a tiger to a mouse. You must always remember this. So by the grace of God, Krishna, you have become powerful, rich, beautiful and educated but if you forget Krishna, then you are again going to become a mouse. Remember that. Nobody will care for you. Just like the Englishmen, who established the great and powerful British Empire, in fact most powerful in the world. Because they misused their power, they are not so powerful anymore. So you get power and opulence, by the grace of Lord Krishna. And if you misuse it, then you again become a mouse. That is happening. That is the nature’s law.
So Arjuna, by his personal behavior is showing that “Since I was a great fighter, I took charge of the sixteen thousand wives of Krishna to take them safely because Krishna passed away and so they must be given protection.” He was Krishna’s friend, but he could not do so. All the queens were plundered by cowherdsmen. Therefore he says that gopair asadbhih. Cowherdsmen are ordinary men and they are not very powerful. But Arjuna was a powerful ksatriya, but still he was defeated by them. Therefore he is regretting that asadbhih: “If I would have been defeated by another powerful person, that would have been glory, but I have been defeated by the cowherdsmen.” Just see. Asadbhih. They are not counted amongst gentlemen. Asadbhir abaleva.
Abalā is another name of the woman. Any young man, when he becomes sixteen years old, he can attack any woman. But a woman, even though she is sixteen years or eighteen years or twenty years, she becomes immediately victim. Even if the woman is higher in age, still, she cannot protect. Therefore woman requires protection. According to Vedic culture, woman has no independence, because they cannot keep their independence. It is not possible. A sixteen-year-old boy can go safely all over the world, but a sixteen-year girl cannot. That is not possible. By nature, they are weak. So they require protection. And until she reaches youthhood, she is protected by the father. As soon as she reaches youthhood, she is given to a young man, her husband, to give protection. And in old age, she is protected by the elderly sons. This is the Vedic culture. In the Western countries, the women are given freedom like man, but that is unnatural. Therefore these poor souls are being exploited by the other section. It is a great deficiency of the Western sociology.
But the Vedic culture is different from this. Woman is not given independence. The conclusion is that women are weak. They should be given protection. They should not be ill-treated. Just like a father gives protection to the children. It does not mean it is ill-treatment. There is no question of ill-treatment, but protection. Otherwise, since they are abaleva (weak), they can be victimized by any man because man is powerful.
But don’t be proud, “Because I am man, I don’t require protection.” Here it is said by Arjuna, purusottamena so ‘ham rahitah: “Now I have no protection.” Arjuna was such a great hero but still, he required protection. Purusa means enjoyer. The supreme enjoyer is Krishna. If He does not give protection, you cannot enjoy your life. That is not possible. Krishna is giving protection, but not as much as He wants to give you, because you decline to accept it. Because you decline to accept His protection, therefore He is giving protection to you as much as you want. And if you want full protection, then the condition is sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekam śaranam vraja: [Bg. 18.66] “Give up your own manufactured, concocted means of protection. You just surrender unto Me, and I will give you protection.” Protection from what? “Protection from sinful activities.” We are victimized by our sinful activities due to ignorance. We do not know what to do and what not to do. Out of ignorance we do something, and we become victimized by the laws of nature. But if you surrender to Krishna, He will give you protection. You will never be victimized because Krishna says, tesām satata-yuktānām bhajatām prīti-pūrvakam/ dadāmi buddhi-yogam tam yena mām upayānti te [Bg. 10.10] Krishna will guide you. Krishna is within yourself, and He can speak to you. You can hear Him also, provided you are fully surrendered.
[The above is an excerpt from a lecture delivered in Los Angeles on November 30, 1973]ALSO READ: A DEVOTEE OF KRISHNA REJECTS ALL FIVE TYPES OF LIBERATIONS LIFE ON OTHER PLANETS AS PER VEDAS THE REAL PURPOSE OF HUMAN LIFE BIRTH OF KRISHNA IS NOT ORDINARY WHAT IS OUR VALUE WITHOUT KRISHNA?