The Brahmana and the Cobbler


Lecture on BG 9.2-5 — New York, November 23, 1966:

Prabhupāda: So for a devotee these informations of Kṛṣṇa, oh, become so… “My Kṛṣṇa is so God. Oh, my God is so powerful.” And, I think, sometimes I recited one story. This is for very instructive, that Nārada Muni, he used to visit Nārāyaṇa every day. So when he was passing on the road, so one very learned brāhmaṇa and taking thrice bath and everything very nicely, he asked Nārada Muni, “Oh, you are going to Lord. Will you inquire when I shall get my salvation?” “All right. I shall ask.” And then another cobbler, he was under the tree, sewing the shoes, old shoes. He also saw Nārada Muni. He also inquired, “Will you kindly inquire from God when my salvation is…?” Now, when he inquired Kṛṣṇa, Nārāyaṇa… Nārada Muni goes generally to Nārāyaṇa, in another planet. So “Yes, two, one brāhmaṇa and one cobbler, they inquired like this. So may I know what is their destination?” So Nārāyaṇa said, “Well, yes, the cobbler, this after giving up this body, he’s coming here at Vaikuṇṭha.” “And what about that brāhmaṇa?” “Oh, he has to remain there still so many births, or I do not know when he’s coming.” So Nārada Muni was astonished, that “I saw that he’s very nice brāhmaṇa, and he’s a cobbler. Why is that?” So he inquired that “I could not, cannot understand the mystery. Why You say that cobbler is coming this, after this body, and why not this brāhmaṇa?” “Oh, that will, you’ll understand. If they inquire that ‘What Kṛṣṇa, or Nārāyaṇa, was doing in the, in His abode,’ so just explain that He was taking one elephant from the holes of a,” I mean to say, what is called…?

Devotee (1): The eye of a needle. Eye…

Prabhupāda: Eh? No, no…

Devotee (1): The eye of a needle.

Devotee (2): Needle.

Prabhupāda: Needle. Yes. “Through the hole of a needle, He’s pulling an elephant this side and this side.” “All right.” So when he again approached the brāhmaṇa, the brāhmaṇa said, “Oh, you have seen Lord?” “Yes.” “So what was the Lord doing?” “He was doing this: through the point of a needle He was pushing one elephant this way and that way.” “Oh, therefore I have no faith in your… I, I, I have got all respect for your garb, but we don’t believe all this nonsense.” Then Nārada could understand, “Oh, this man has no faith. He simply reads book. That’s all.” And when he went to the cobbler, he also asked, “Oh, you have seen? What Nārāyaṇa was doing?” He also said that “He was doing like this…” Oh, he began to cry, “Oh, my Lord is wonderful. He can do anything.” So Nārada inquired, “So do you believe that Lord can push one elephant through the holes of a needle?” “Oh, why not? I must believe.” “Then what is your reason?” “Oh, my reason? I am sitting under this banyan tree, and so many fruits are falling daily, and in each fruit there are thousands of seeds, and each seed there is a tree. If in a small seed there can be big tree like that, is it very impossible to accept that Kṛṣṇa is putting one elephant through the, I mean, the holes of a needle? He has kept such a nice tree in the seed.” So this is called belief. So unbelievers and believer means the believers, they are not blind believers. They have reason. If by Kṛṣṇa’s process, by God’s process, or nature’s process, such a big tree can be put within the small seed, is it very impossible for Kṛṣṇa to keep all these planets floating in His energy? So we have to believe. We have no other explanation. But we have to understand in this way. Our reasoning, our argument, our logic should go in this way.

So those who are devotee… Just like the cobbler. He may be a cobbler. They believe everything. And those who are not devotee, they’ll say, “Oh, these are all bluffs. It is all bluff.” But they are not bluff. It is simply meant for the devotees. They can understand. The nondevotees, they cannot understand. Yes.



Nectar of Devotion Lectures

The Nectar of Devotion — Vrndavana, November 13, 1972:

There is a story, it is very instructive story, that Nārada Muni was passing to go to Vaikuṇṭha, and on the way one very learned scholar, brāhmaṇa, met him, and he inquired from Narada Muni where he was going. Nārada Muni said that “I am going to see Nārāyaṇa, my Lord.” So the brāhmaṇa asked him, “Oh, you are going to meet Nārāyaṇa. Will you kindly inquire for me when my…, when I shall be liberated.” Nārada Muni said, “Yes, I shall inquire.” Similarly, on the way, he met one cobbler. He also inquired Nārada Muni where he was going, and he said, will you kindly inquire from Lord Nārāyaṇa when he would be liberated? So when Nārada Muni met Nārāyaṇa, so he inquired—because he’s saintly person; he promised—that “Such and such brāhmaṇa inquired like this, and the, and a cobbler also inquired like this.” So Nārāyaṇa said, “The, this cobbler will be liberated in this life, and that brāhmaṇa will take some time, some many births.”

So Nārada Muni became astonished that he, he was a learned scholar and brāhmaṇa, and he would take so much time, and the cobbler would be liberated in this life. “Oh, what is the reason, Sir?” So Nārāyaṇa gave him one needle, and He requested him that “When they inquire what Nārāyaṇa was doing, you can say that Nārāyaṇa was pulling one elephant through the hole of the needle, this side and that side,” in this way. So when he came back, the brāhmaṇa said, “Sir, you are… I offer my respectful obeisances unto you and Nārāyaṇa. We cannot believe this, that through the needle or through the hole of a needle, a elephant is being passed, this side and that side.” And when it was informed to the cobbler, he began to cry. He said, “Oh, my Nārāyaṇa is so powerful that He can do everything.” He believed immediately that “Yes, for Nārāyaṇa it is possible to pull the elephant through the hole of the needle, this side and that.” So Nārada Muni inquired, “How do you believe this? The other person, the brāhmaṇa, he’s learned person. He did not believe. How do you believe it? What is your conviction?” He said, “Sir, I believe in this way, because I am sitting under this tree. This is a banyan tree. And so many,” what is called, “figs are falling down. And each fig there are thousands of small seeds, and in each seed there is a banyan tree. So if Nārāyaṇa can keep thousands of banyan trees within this fig fruit, how it is not possible for Him to pull an elephant through the hole of a needle?”

So this is called faith. The faith is not blind. There is proof. He, the cobbler was not blindly believing that Nārāyaṇa was pulling an elephant through the hole of an needle, but he sees practically the potency, the power of the Lord, bījo ‘haṁ sarva-bhūtānām (Bg 7.10), how He keeps all the potencies of the banyan tree within the seed. So otherwise there is no meaning, “all-powerful.” He can do whatever He likes. Inconceivable. Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī therefore explains that unless we believe (in the) inconceivable potency of the Lord, then we cannot understand that activities… Parāsya śaktir vividhaiva śrūyate, svābhāvikī-jñāna-bala-kriyā ca (Cc. Madhya 13.65, purport). We cannot judge how things are happening, but we have to believe. Therefore Vedic knowledge is so important. We cannot make research. We cannot judge. Simply if we take the Vedic truths…







1976 Conversations and Morning Walks

Morning Walk Conversation — June 20, 1976, Toronto:

Prabhupāda: Svarūpa Dāmodara challenged one scientist in California that “If I give you the chemicals, can you manufacture life?” He said, “That I cannot say.” What you have spoken all this nonsense? Mattaḥ kore heṭ. And when there is challenge, mattaḥ kore heṭ. Otherwise, baro baro bagara, baro baro phet, big, big monkey, big, big belly. And when the real question is there, mattaḥ kore het. Ceylon jumping, melancholy. Hanumān jumped over the ocean, so other monkeys, they also become very proud: “I am…, Hanumān is our leader, we can…,” “Can you jump over Ceylon?” Mattaḥ het. (break) …speak all these things, Indian villagers, they will immediately believe. One cobbler…. I think I narrated this story. Nārada Muni was going to Vaikuṇṭha. Did I say that?

Hari-śauri: I think this story’s in Rāja-vidyā, that small book. The one about the brāhmaṇa and the cobbler?

Prabhupāda: (laughs) Yes. Cobbler immediately believed when he was informed by Nārada Muni that “I saw God is pulling one elephant through the hole of a needle, this side and again this side.” The brāhmaṇa did not believe it. And as soon as the cobbler, he was also devotee, oh, he began to pray, “Oh, my Lord can do anything.” Nārada Muni, “You believed it?” “Yes, why not?” “How do you believe it?” “I am daily seeing. I am underneath the tree, and so many figs are dropping, and each fig has got thousands of seeds, and in each seed there is another tree. Why should I not believe it?” He did not believe it blindly. With reason, and he gave immediately reason: “When I see this fig tree, big fig tree, and there are millions of figs dropping, and in each fig there are millions of seeds, and each seed there is…. Why shall I not believe it?” God, nothing is impossible by God, everything.

Satsvarūpa: The brāhmaṇa was supposed to be learned in the Vedas.

Prabhupāda: Ah, yes. And he said, “These are all…,” what is called? Mythology. Why mythology? Why do you think God like you? God is all-powerful; He can do anything. That is real faith. That means you have no faith. “If God can do which tallies with my activities, then I shall believe.” What you are? Nonsense. This is their general argument. How we can believe this? And why not believe this? You are seeing so many wonderful things. I gave this example to another man, that there is a coconut tree. Now find out where is the pipe and pumping so that the water is pushed. Show me. You have no idea that such a high height, how water is going there. And full of water. How the water is transferred there? Show me the pipe and pump. You have got the idea, that with pipe and pump we can raise the water. Where is that pipe and pump? Show me. Every day, every moment, we are seeing so many wonderful things. How you are thinking….

Garden Conversation — June 27, 1976, New Vrindaban:

Prabhupāda: So one learned brāhmaṇa, he said, “All right sir, namaskār your Kṛṣṇa. I cannot believe all these things.” And the cobbler, he began to cry, “Ah, Kṛṣṇa is so great, He can do anything.” So he, Nārada Muni asked, he saw the learned brāhmaṇa refused to accept, and this cobbler is so absorbed that he’s crying, “Ah, Kṛṣṇa can do anything.” So he asked him, “Do you believe this?” “Yes, why not?” “So how do you believe it?” “Now I’m sitting under this banyan tree, and so many banyan fruits are falling down, and I can see there are hundreds and thousands of seeds within the fig, and each seed contains a banyan tree. So why can I not believe? If within this seed a big banyan tree can be kept, what is the difficulty for Kṛṣṇa to pull the elephant through the hole of a needle?” He has got reason. He is not blindly believing. How the scientist who does not believe in God, he can explain that within the small seed there is a big banyan tree? Let them do that. By chemical composition make little seed. As I told, make little egg. They cannot do anything. Still they are so proud.




Room Conversations — February 20, 1977, Mayapura:

Prabhupāda: Guru-kṛṣṇa-prasāde pāya bhakti-latā-bīja (CC Madhya 19.151). It is Kṛṣṇa’s wonderful mercy that one can get guru. Guru-kṛṣṇa-prasāde pāya. Don’t forget for a moment, that Kṛṣṇa is insignificant. He’s always the most wonderful. He can do anything, whatever He likes. They have no such belief. They have no such idea. They are different. “We believe in this.” Not believe. This is a fact! You believe or not believe, who cares for you? Fact is fact. So arrange. We shall go. (break) “…Kṛṣṇa is wonderful,” that makes one perfect. You know that story? The cobbler and Nārada Muni? Hm? The cobbler believed, “Yes, Kṛṣṇa is wonderful.” And Nārada Muni immediately certified, “Yes, your salvation, this life guaranteed.” The cobbler has his conviction, “Yes, Kṛṣṇa is wonderful. Kṛṣṇa can do anything. Kṛṣṇa can draw an elephant through the hole of a needle. Why not? It’s possible.” That faith made him perfect. If Kṛṣṇa is not wonderful, is it possible for me to do all these things? What I am?



Discussion about Bhu-mandala — July 5, 1977, Vrndavana:

Prabhupāda: Tasyaite kathitā hy arthāḥ prakāśante. The author is revealed to him. Yasya deve parā bhaktir yathā deve (ŚU 6.23). Otherwise not. So do it as far as possible to your capacity. But things are inconceivable. You cannot adjust within the limitation of your understanding. That is not…

Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: That’s… We’re trying to impose some preconceived idea onto this. As soon as that happens, this knowledge is blocked. Because the whole attitude shouldn’t be like that. One should come out of service and devotion, not with some mental, materialistic speculations.

Prabhupāda: Did you know that story, the Nārada was going to Vaikuṇṭha? Nārada came back and replied to a cobblerCobbler asked him what Nārāyaṇa is doing. “He has taken one elephant and He’s drawing through the hole of a needle like this and again taking.” The learned brāhmaṇa, he began to laugh. “These are all stories.” And the cobbler began to cry, “Oh, Nārāyaṇa, Kṛṣṇa, can…” Nārada inquired, “How do you believe that elephant is being drawn through the hole of needle?” “No, why not? I’m daily seeing by sitting under this banyan tree, and within a fruit there are thousands of seeds. And each seed contains the big tree.” Can the scientists make such small seed contain a big banyan tree? So it is acintya. That’s a fact. (break) …thing is inconceivable. And these rascals want to bring them as conceivable. He’s conditioned, and he’s trying to bring inconceivable thing to his conception. Useless, futile attempt. How the scientist will answer? We take a fruit. There are hundreds of seeds, and each seed contains a big tree. How you can explain? Is it not inconceivable?

Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: Yes.

Prabhupāda: So what is the use of arguing?

Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: It’s better to take the fruit and offer it to Kṛṣṇa.

Prabhupāda: That’s right.

Bhakti-prema: (indistinct conversation with Tamāla Kṛṣṇa)

Prabhupāda: We take it as accepted, mahā-muni kṛte. Dharmaḥ projjhita-kaitavo ‘tra paramo nirmatsarāṇāṁ satām (SB 1.1.2).





—   —   —   —

Once on a sunny day near the Ganges, a Brahmin priest, who had just finished his oblations, came across Narada, the messenger of the Gods. After bowing deeply in respect, the Brahmin took the liberty of asking the divine sage for a favor:

Brahmin priest: “Could you be so kind as to ask the supreme Lord, Narayan, when I’m going to be liberated from this world and joined with him in holy bliss? I know it will be soon because of my station, and all, but I would just like to know, all the same.”

#Narada: “No problem, my sir. I’ll ask when I see him.”

Further along down the river, a lowly cobbler, fixing shoes by the wayside, also stopped Narada, as he was passing through, and chanced to approach the great emissary:

Cobbler: “Could I appeal to your kindness by asking you to speak to the great God on my behalf?”

Narada: “I’d be happy to.”

Cobbler: “You see, I’m growing more weary each year, and I’d just like to know how many more lifetimes I am doomed to suffer in this material world?”

Narada: “I’ll be sure to pass on your message.”

And Narada continued on, passing seamlessly through to the spiritual world. When he saw the great Lord Narayan, he bowed to his feet, as is the custom in approaching great spiritual masters. The Lord then asked if there was anything he could do for Narada, who proceeded to put forth the concerns of both the priest and the cobbler.

As Lord Narayan can see through the barriers of time, and into eternity, he thus knows all. With a brief pause, he informed Narada of the destiny of his supplicants:

Lord Narayan: “The cobbler will come to me at the end of this present lifetime. But the Brahmin will live through at least 100 more lifetimes.”

Seeing the confused look on Narada’s face, the Lord only smiled and gave these instructions:

Lord Narayan: “Next time you see the cobbler and the priest, they will ask you what I was doing when you saw me. Tell them I was threading an elephant through the eye of a needle. When you see their reactions to this, you will then understand everything.”

So, Narada went on his way. The first man he saw was the Brahmin, who was shocked and insulted by the news:

Brahmin priest: “A hundred rebirths in this hell! I don’t believe it! You probably didn’t even see the Lord! Tell me, what he doing when you saw him?”

Narada: “Threading an elephant through the eye of a needle.”

Brahmin Priest: “Threading an elephant through the eye of a needle? That’s totally absurd! You must be lying about everything!”

So, Narada excused himself and pressed on until he found the cobbler. He gave him the news that he would soon be liberated and would be joining the realm of the Lord at the end of this lifetime, at which point the peasant exclaimed in joy:

Cobbler: “Oh, what blessed and glorious news! But, alas, tell me my good sir, what was the Lord doing when you saw him?”

Narada: “He was threading an elephant through the eye of a needle.”

Cobbler: “Lovely. Absolutely lovely.”

Narada: “You mean, you believe that?”

Cobbler: “Why, sure! You see that huge old oak tree up the hill? It grew from a tiny acorn. So, if the Lord can squeeze a gigantic oak tree into a little seed like that, He can just as easily thread an elephant through the eye of a needle.”

And with that, Narada understood the difference between the priest and the cobbler, as well as why the priest was not yet ready for liberation.

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