Once the world was overburdened by the unnecessary defense force of different kings, who were actually demons but were posing themselves as the royal order. At that time, the whole world became perturbed, and the predominating deity of this earth, known as Bhumi, went to see Lord Brahma to tell of her calamities due to the demoniac kings. Bhumi assumed the shape of a cow and presented herself before Lord Brahma with tears in her eyes. She was bereaved and was weeping just to invoke the lord's compassion. She related the calamitous position of the earth, and after hearing this, Lord Brahma became much aggrieved, and he at once started for the ocean of milk, where Lord Vishnu resides. Lord Brahma was accompanied by all the demigods headed by Lord Shiva, and Bhumi also followed. Arriving on the shore of the milk ocean, Lord Brahma began to pacify Lord Vishnu, who formerly saved the earthly planet by assuming the transcendental form of a boar [as Lord Varaha].
In the Vedic mantras, there is a particular type of prayer called Purusha-sukta. Generally, the demigods offer their obeisances unto Vishnu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, by chanting the Purusha-sukta. It is understood herein that the predominating deity of every planet can see the supreme lord of this universe, Brahma, whenever there is some disturbance on his planet. And Brahma can approach the Supreme Lord Vishnu, not by seeing Him directly but by standing on the shore of the ocean of milk. There is a planet within this universe called Svetadvipa, and on that planet there is an ocean of milk. It is understood from various Vedic scriptures that just as there is the ocean of salt water on this planet, there are various kinds of oceans on other planets. Somewhere there is an ocean of milk, somewhere there is an ocean of oil, and somewhere an ocean of liquor and many other types of oceans. Purusha-sukta is the standard prayer which the demigods recite to appease the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kshirodakashayi Vishnu. Because He is lying on the ocean of milk, He is called Kshirodakashayi Vishnu. He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, through whom all the incarnations within this universe appear.
After all the demigods offered the Purusha-sukta prayer to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, they apparently heard no response. Then Lord Brahma personally sat in meditation, and there was a message-transmission from Lord Vishnu to Brahma. Brahma then broadcast the message to the demigods. That is the system of receiving Vedic knowledge. The Vedic knowledge is received first by Brahma from the Supreme Personality of Godhead, through the medium of the heart. As stated in the beginning of Srimad-Bhagavatam, tene brahma hrida ya adi-kavaye: the transcendental knowledge of the Vedas was transmitted to Lord Brahma through the heart. Here also, in the same way, only Brahma could understand the message transmitted by Lord Vishnu, and he broadcast it to the demigods for their immediate action. The message was this: The Supreme Personality of Godhead would appear on the earth very soon, along with His supreme powerful potencies, and as long as He remained on the earth planet to execute His mission of annihilating the demons and establishing the devotees, the demigods should also remain there to assist Him. They should all immediately take birth in the family of the Yadu dynasty, wherein the Lord would also appear in due course of time. The Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself, Krishna, would personally appear as the son of Vasudeva. Before His appearance, all the demigods, along with their wives, should appear in different pious families in the world just to assist the Lord in executing His mission. The exact word used here is tat-priyartham, which means the demigods should appear on the earth in order to please the Lord. In other words, any living entity who lives only to satisfy the Lord is a demigod. The demigods were further informed that the plenary portion of Lord Krishna, Ananta, who is maintaining the universal planets by extending His millions of hoods, would also appear on earth before Lord Krishna's appearance. They were also informed that the external potency of Vishnu (Maya), with whom all the conditioned souls are enamored, would also appear by the order of the Supreme Lord, just to execute His purpose.
After instructing and pacifying all the demigods, as well as Bhumi, with sweet words, Lord Brahma, the father of all prajapatis, or progenitors of universal population, departed for his abode, the highest material planet, called Brahmaloka.
The leader of the Yadu dynasty, King Surasena, was ruling over the country known as Mathura, wherein lies the city of Mathura, as well as the district known as Surasena, which was named after him. On account of the rule of King Surasena, Mathura became the capital city of all the kings of the Yadus. Mathura was also made the capital of the kings of the Yadu dynasty because the Yadus were a very pious family and knew that Mathura is the place where Lord Sri Krishna lives eternally, just as He also lives in Dvaraka.
Once upon a time, Vasudeva, the son of Surasena, just after marrying Devaki, was going home on his chariot with his newly wedded wife. The father of Devaki, known as Devaka, had contributed a sufficient dowry because he was very affectionate toward his daughter. He had contributed hundreds of chariots completely decorated with gold equipment. At that time, Kamsa, the son of Ugrasena, in order to please his sister, Devaki, had voluntarily taken the reins of the horses of Vasudeva's chariot and was driving. According to the custom of the Vedic civilization, when a girl is married, the brother takes the sister and brother-in-law to their home. Because the newly married girl may feel too much separation from her father's family, the brother goes with her until she reaches her father-in-law's house. The full dowry contributed by Devaka was as follows: 400 elephants fully decorated with golden garlands, 15,000 decorated horses, and 1,800 chariots. He also arranged for 200 beautiful girls to follow his daughter. The kshatriya system of marriage, still current in India, dictates that when a kshatriya is married, a few dozen of the bride's young girlfriends (in addition to the bride) go to the house of the king. The followers of the queen are called maidservants, but actually they act as friends of the queen. This practice is prevalent from time immemorial, traceable at least to the time before the advent of Lord Krishna 5,000 years ago. So Vasudeva brought home another 200 beautiful girls along with his wife Devaki.
While the bride and bridegroom were passing along on the chariot, there were different kinds of musical instruments playing to indicate the auspicious moment. There were conchshells, bugles, drums and kettledrums; combined together, they were vibrating a nice concert. The procession was passing very pleasingly, and Kamsa was driving the chariot, when suddenly there was a miraculous sound vibrated from the sky which especially announced to Kamsa: "Kamsa, you are such a fool! You are driving the chariot of your sister and your brother-in-law, but you do not know that the eighth child of this sister will kill you."
Kamsa was the son of Ugrasena, of the Bhoja dynasty. It is said that Kamsa was the most demoniac of all the Bhoja dynasty kings. Immediately after hearing the prophecy from the sky, he caught hold of Devaki's hair and was just about to kill her with his sword. Vasudeva was astonished at Kamsa's behavior, and in order to pacify the cruel, shameless brother-in-law, he began to speak as follows, with great reason and evidence. He said, "My dear brother-in-law Kamsa, you are the most famous king of the Bhoja dynasty, and people know that you are the greatest warrior and a valiant king. How is it that you are so infuriated that you are prepared to kill a woman who is your own sister at this auspicious time of her marriage? Why should you be so much afraid of death? Death is already born along with your birth. From the very day you took your birth, you began to die. Suppose you are twenty-five years old; that means you have already died twenty-five years. Every moment, every second, you are dying. Why then should you be so much afraid of death? Final death is inevitable. You may die either today or in a hundred years; you cannot avoid death. Why should you be so much afraid? Actually, death means annihilation of the present body. As soon as the present body stops functioning and mixes with the five elements of material nature, the living entity within the body accepts another body, according to his present action and reaction. It is just like when a man walks on the street: he puts forward his foot, and when he is confident that his foot is situated on sound ground, he lifts the other foot. In this way, one after another, the bodies change and the soul transmigrates. See how the plantworms change from one twig to another so carefully! Similarly, the living entity changes his body as soon as the higher authorities decide on his next body. As long as a living entity is conditioned within this material world, he must take material bodies one after another. His next particular body is offered by the laws of nature, according to the actions and reactions of this life.
"This body is exactly like one of the bodies which we always see in dreams. During our dream of sleep, we create so many bodies according to mental creation. We have seen gold, and we have also seen a mountain, so in a dream we can see a golden mountain by combining the two ideas. Sometimes in dreams we see that we have a body which is flying in the sky, and at that time we completely forget our present body. Similarly, these bodies are changing. When you have one body, you forget the past body. During a dream, we may make contact with so many new kinds of bodies, but when we are awake we forget them all. And actually these material bodies are the creations of our mental activities. But at the present moment we do not recollect our past bodies.
"The nature of the mind is flickering. Sometimes it accepts something, and immediately it rejects the same thing. Accepting and rejecting is the process of the mind in contact with the five objects of sense gratification: form, taste, smell, sound and touch. In its speculative way, the mind comes in touch with the objects of sense gratification, and when the living entity desires a particular type of body, he gets it. Therefore, the body is an offering by the laws of material nature. The living entity accepts a body and comes out again into the material world to enjoy or suffer according to the construction of the body. Unless we have a particular type of body, we cannot enjoy or suffer according to our mental proclivities inherited from the previous life. The particular type of body is actually offered to us according to our mental condition at the time of death.
"The luminous planets like the sun, moon or stars reflect themselves in different types of reservoirs, like water, oil or ghee. The reflection moves according to the movement of the reservoir. The reflection of the moon is on the water, and the moving water makes the moon also appear to be moving, but actually the moon is not moving. Similarly, by mental concoction the living entity attains different kinds of bodies, although actually he has no connection with such bodies. But on account of illusion, being enchanted by the influence of maya, the living entity thinks that he belongs to a particular type of body. That is the way of conditioned life. Suppose a living entity is now in a human form of body. He thinks that he belongs to the human community, or a particular country or particular place. He identifies himself in that way and unnecessarily prepares for another body, which is not required by him. Such desires and mental concoctions are the cause of different types of body. The covering influence of material nature is so strong that the living entity is satisfied in whatever body he gets, and he identifies with that body with great pleasure. Therefore, I beg to request you not to be overwhelmed by the dictation of your mind and body."
Vasudeva thus requested Kamsa not to be envious of his newly married sister. One should not be envious of anyone, because envy is the cause of fear both in this world and in the next, when one is before Yamaraja (the lord of punishment after death). Vasudeva appealed to Kamsa on behalf of Devaki, stating that she was his younger sister. He also appealed at an auspicious moment, at the time of marriage. A younger sister or brother is supposed to be protected as one's child. "The position is overall so delicate," Vasudeva reasoned, "that if you kill her, it will go against your high reputation."
In this way Vasudeva tried to pacify Kamsa by good instruction as well as by philosophical discrimination, but Kamsa was not to be pacified because his association was demoniac. Because of his demoniac associations, he was a demon, although born in a very high royal family. A demon never cares for any good instruction. He is just like a determined thief: one can give him moral instruction, but it will not be effective. Similarly, those who are demoniac or atheistic by nature can hardly assimilate any good instruction, however authorized it may be. That is the difference between demigod and demon. Those who can accept good instruction and try to live their lives in that way are called demigods, and those who are unable to take such good instruction are called demons. Failing in his attempt to pacify Kamsa, Vasudeva wondered how he would protect his wife, Devaki. When there is imminent danger, an intelligent person should try to avoid the dangerous position as far as possible. But if, in spite of endeavoring by all intelligence, one fails to avoid the dangerous position, there is no fault on his part. One should try his best to execute his duties, but if the attempt fails, he is not at fault.
Vasudeva thought of his wife as follows: "For the present let me save the life of Devaki; then later on, if there are children, I shall see how to save them." He further thought, "If in the future I get a child who can kill Kamsa--just as Kamsa is thinking--then both Devaki and the child will be saved because the law of Providence is inconceivable. But now, some way or other, let me save the life of Devaki."
There is no certainty how a living entity contacts a certain type of body, just as there is no certainty how a blazing fire comes in contact with a certain type of wood in the forest. When there is a forest fire, it is experienced that the blazing fire sometimes leaps over one tree and catches another by the influence of the wind. Similarly, a living entity may be very careful in the matter of executing his duties, but it is still very difficult for him to know what type of body he is going to get in the next life. Maharaja Bharata was very faithfully executing the duties of self-realization, but by chance he developed temporary affection for a deer, and in his next life he had to accept the body of a deer.
Vasudeva, after deliberating on how to save his wife, began to speak to Kamsa with great respect, although Kamsa was the most sinful man. Sometimes it happens that a most virtuous person like Vasudeva has to flatter a person like Kamsa, a most vicious person. That is the way of all diplomatic transactions. Although Vasudeva was deeply aggrieved, he smiled outwardly. He addressed the shameless Kamsa in that way because he was so atrocious. Vasudeva said to Kamsa, "My dear brother-in-law, please consider that you have no danger from your sister. You are awaiting some danger because you have heard a prophetic voice in the sky. But the danger is to come from the sons of your sister, who are not present now. And who knows? There may or may not be sons in the future. Considering all this, you are safe for the present. Nor is there cause of fear from your sister. If there are any sons born of her, I promise that I shall present all of them to you for necessary action."
Kamsa knew the value of Vasudeva's word of honor, and he was convinced by his argument. For the time being, he desisted from the heinous killing of his sister. Thus Vasudeva was pleased and praised the decision of Kamsa. In this way, he returned to his home.
Each year thereafter, in due course of time, Devaki gave birth to a child. Thus she gave birth to eight male children, as well as one daughter. When the first son was born, Vasudeva kept his word of honor and immediately brought the child before Kamsa. It is said that Vasudeva was very much elevated and famous for his word of honor, and he wanted to maintain this fame. Although it was very painful for Vasudeva to hand over the newly born child, Kamsa was very glad to receive him. But he became a little compassionate with the behavior of Vasudeva. This event is very exemplary. For a great soul like Vasudeva, there is nothing considered to be painful in the course of discharging one's duty. A learned person like Vasudeva carries out his duties without hesitation. On the other hand, a demon like Kamsa never hesitates in committing any abominable action. It is said, therefore, that a saintly person can tolerate all kinds of miserable conditions of life, a learned man can discharge his duties without awaiting favorable circumstances, a heinous person like Kamsa can act in any sinful way, and a devotee can sacrifice everything to satisfy the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Kamsa became satisfied by the action of Vasudeva. He was surprised to see Vasudeva keeping his promise, and being compassionate upon him and pleased, he began to speak as follows: "My dear Vasudeva, you need not present this child to me. I am not in danger from this child. I have heard that the eighth child born of you and Devaki will kill me. Why should I accept this child unnecessarily? You can take him back."
When Vasudeva was returning home with his firstborn child, although he was pleased by the behavior of Kamsa, he could not believe in him because he knew that Kamsa was uncontrolled. An atheistic person cannot be firm in his word of honor. One who cannot control the senses cannot be steady in his determination. The great politician Chanakya Pandita said, "Never put your trust in a diplomat or in a woman." Those who are addicted to unrestricted sense gratification can never be truthful, nor can they be trusted with any faith.
At that time the great sage Narada came to Kamsa. He was informed of Kamsa's becoming compassionate to Vasudeva and returning his firstborn child. Narada was very anxious to accelerate the descent of Lord Krishna as soon as possible. He therefore informed Kamsa that in Vrindavana personalities like Nanda Maharaja and all the other cowherd men and their wives, and on the other side Vasudeva, his father Surasena and all his relatives born in the family of Vrishni of the Yadu dynasty, along with all their friends and well-wishers, were actually demigods. Narada warned Kamsa to be careful of them, since Kamsa and his friends and advisors were all demons. Demons are always afraid of demigods. After being thus informed by Narada about the appearance of the demigods in different families, Kamsa at once became very much alarmed. He understood that since the demigods had already appeared, Lord Vishnu must be coming soon. He at once arrested both his brother-in-law Vasudeva and Devaki and put them behind prison bars.
Within the prison, shackled in iron chains, Vasudeva and Devaki gave birth to a male child year after year, and Kamsa, thinking each of the babies to be the incarnation of Vishnu, killed them one after another. He was particularly afraid of the eighth child, but after the visit of Narada, he came to the conclusion that any child might be Krishna. Therefore it was better to kill all the babies who took birth from Devaki and Vasudeva.
This action of Kamsa is not very difficult to understand. There are many instances in the history of the world of persons in the royal order who have killed father, brother or a whole family and friends for the satisfaction of their ambitions. There is nothing astonishing about this, for members of the demoniac, greedy royal order can kill anyone for their nefarious ambitions.
Kamsa was made aware of his previous birth by the grace of Narada. He learned that in his previous birth he was a demon of the name Kalanemi and that he was killed by Vishnu. Having taken his birth in the Bhoja family, he decided to become the deadly enemy of the Yadu dynasty; Krishna was going to take birth in that family, and Kamsa was very much afraid that he would be killed by Krishna, just as he had been killed in his last birth.
He first of all imprisoned his father, Ugrasena, because he was the chief king among the Yadu, Bhoja and Andhaka dynasties, and he also occupied the kingdom of Surasena, Vasudeva's father. He declared himself the king of all such places.