Teachings of Queen Kunti Soft
The tragic and heroic figure of Queen Kuntī emerges from an explosive era in the history of ancient India. As related in the Mahābhārata, India’s grand epic poem of 110,000 couplets, Kuntī was the wife of King Pāṇḍu and the mother of five illustrious sons known as the Pāṇḍavas. As such, she was one of the central figures in a complex political drama that culminated fifty centuries ago in the Kurukṣetra War, a devastating war of ascendancy that changed the course of world events...
Kuntī was Lord Kṛṣṇa’s aunt (He had incarnated as the son of her brother Vasudeva), yet despite this conventional tie with the Lord, she fully understood His exalted and divine identity. She knew full well that He had descended from His abode in the spiritual world to rid the earth of demoniac military powers and reestablish righteousness. Just before the great war, Kṛṣṇa had revealed all this to her son Arjuna in words immortalized in the Bhagavad-gītā (4.7–8):
Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion – at that time I incarnate Myself. In order to deliver the pious and annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I advent Myself millennium after millennium.
Kṛṣṇa had accomplished His purpose of “annihilating the miscreants” by orchestrating the destruction of the unholy Kauravas. Then He installed Yudhiṣṭhira on the throne to establish the Pāṇḍava reign, and He consoled the slain warriors’ relatives. The scene of the Lord’s imminent departure provides the setting for Queen Kuntī’s exalted prayers.
As Kuntī approached the Lord’s chariot and began to address Him, her immediate purpose was to persuade Him to remain in Hastināpura and protect the Pāṇḍava government from reprisals:
O my Lord … are You leaving us today, though we are completely dependent on Your mercy and have no one else to protect us, now when all kings are at enmity with us? (Bhāgavatam 1.8.37)
From this supplication we should not mistakenly conclude that Kuntī’s prayers were self-serving. Although her sufferings were far greater than those any ordinary person could endure, she does not beg relief. On the contrary, she prays to suffer even more, for she reasons that her suffering will increase her devotion to the Lord and bring her ultimate liberation:
My dear Kṛṣṇa, Your Lordship has protected us from the poisoned cake, from a great fire, from cannibals, from the vicious assembly, from sufferings during our exile in the forest, and from the battle where great generals fought.…I wish that all those calamities would happen again and again so that we could see You again and again, for seeing You means that we will no longer see repeated births and deaths. (Bhāgavatam 1.8.24–25)
Kuntī’s words – the simple and illuminating outpourings of the soul of a great and saintly woman devotee – reveal both the deepest transcendental emotions of the heart and the most profound philosophical and theological penetrations of the intellect. Her words are words of glorification impelled by a divine love steeped in wisdom:
O Lord of Madhu, as the Ganges forever flows to the sea without hindrance, let my attraction be constantly drawn unto You without being diverted to anyone else. (Bhāgavatam 1.8.42)
Kuntī’s spontaneous glorification of Lord Kṛṣṇa and her description of the spiritual path are immortalized in the Mahābhārata and the Bhāgavata Purāṇa (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam), and they have been recited, chanted, and sung by sages and philosophers for thousands of years.
As they appear in the First Canto of the Bhāgavatam, Queen Kuntī’s celebrated prayers consist of only twenty-six couplets (verses 18 through 43 of the eighth chapter), yet they are considered a philosophical, theological, and literary masterpiece. The present book (Teachings of Queen Kuntī) includes those inspired verses and an illuminating commentary by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda, founder-ācārya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) and renowned Vedic scholar and spiritual leader. In addition to this commentary (originally written in 1962), Teachings of Queen Kuntī contains further explanations that Śrīla Prabhupāda gave in a series of lectures delivered in the spring of 1973 at ISKCON’s centers in New York and Los Angeles. At that time he analyzed the verses in significantly greater detail and shed even more light upon them. This book offers the reader a deeper look into what it means to live immersed in a spiritual life and opens a window into the thoughts and experiences of both Queen Kuntī and Śrīla Prabhupāda, two elevated practitioners of the yoga of devotional mysticism.