Q. Thank you very much for patiently and caringlyÂ answering my questions. Acharyas instruct that theÂ Lord used Arjuna as an instrument to speak the Bhagavad Gita for our benefit. Similarly was Srimad Bhagavatam spoken with the same intention? Then how do we understand the lives of devotees who married more then one wife/husband? How should we approach these informations and follow the ‘Mahajans’ in Kali Yuga?
A. The Bhagavad-gita and the Srimad-Bhagavatam are like torchbearers for the spiritually blind people of this age. It will certainly do us good to read and learn from these scriptures.
The Vedic culture, mentioned in these scriptures, is not utopian. For a man, marriage in this culture involves acceptance of responsibility of a wife. It means taking complete charge of a woman and living peacefully without debauchery. As long as a man is capable of accepting and maintaining more than one wife, he is allowed to do so. This naturally restricts illicit connections. The modern society, although restricting polygamy, gladly espouses sexual freedom. This blatant example of hypocrisy has led it to witness the horrors of increased promiscuity that are visible all around us today. According to Vedic culture, although polygamy is allowed, none of one’s wives should be ill-treated. In other words, one may take many wives only if he is able to satisfy all of them equally as an ideal householder; otherwise it is not allowed. The devotees mentioned in the Srimad Bhagavatam were certainly exemplary individuals and were undoubtedly capable of executing their duties to match the highest expectations. In the present age that we live in, such systems will be exploited by the masses interested only in unrestricted sex life. Therefore, in the absence of able and responsible men, polygamy may not be recommended in the present age.
As for Draupadi marrying five husbands, this incident is a not a regular phenomenon. The Mahabharata clearly explains the special and unusual circumstance in which this took place. Arjuna, after winning the hand of Draupadi in a competition (designed by Maharaja Drupada to ensure that only Arjuna marries Draupadi) took his new bride home to his humble hut where he stayed with his mother and brothers. On arriving, he called out joyfully for them to come and see his prize. Kunti, thinking that Arjuna had obtained something to eat on his begging rounds, did not come out, but said, “Whatever you have, you must share it equally with your brothers.” Thus, it was in a mood of respect to their mother, that Draupadi became the wife of not one but all five of the young Pandavas.
Both the devotees that you mention have displayed and proved beyond doubt their explicit and utter dependence on the mercy of the Lord. Draupadi proved her surrender by calling out to Krsna in the most trying situation, when the members of the Kuru assembly attempted to disrobe here. Maharaja Ambarisa proved his dependence on the Lord by not getting agitated in times of great difficulty (SB 9.4.47 www.vedabase.net/sb/9/4/47/en ). In fact, later, The Lord Himself clarified to Durvasa Muni that He was completely in control of His devotees like Maharaja Ambarisa (SB 9.4.63 www.vedabase.net/sb/9/4/63/en ). Ultimately, both Draupadi (SB 1.15.50 www.vedabase.net/sb/1/15/50/en ) and Maharaja Ambarisa (SB 9.5.26 www.vedabase.net/sb/9/5/26/en ) perfected their lives.
As you have mentioned correctly, “mahajano yena gatah sa panthah.” For achieving perfection, we should follow the path traversed by the past great exemplary teachers. If we lead our lives based on the principles of devotion to the Lord which the past mahajanas have based theirs on, success of our human form of life will surely wait for us with hands outstretched.