[April 23, 2023 is Paraśurāma Jayantī in Vṛndāvana, India. Following in an article from 'Visuddha Caitanya-vani', by Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja about the tithi.]
Today is Paraśurāma Jayantī, the appearance day of Śrī Paraśurāma-deva. There are three Rāmas: Paraśurāma, Dāśarathi Rāma (Śrī Rāmacandra), and Rādhikā-ramaṇa Rāma, or Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who
is the Rāma referred to in the Hare Kṛṣṇa maha-mantra. For us, ‘Hare Rāma’ means ‘Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa.’
FOLLOWING THE ORDER OF ŚRĪ GURU WITHOUT CONSIDERATION
Paraśurāma’s father’s name was Jamadagni Ṛṣi, and his mother’s name was Reṇukā. In Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, it has been written that Jamadagni Ṛṣi once ordered his sons, who were also his disciples, to decapitate their mother, Reṇukā. Not understanding how it would be possible for them to cut off the head of their own mother, the three eldest sons refused to follow their father’s instruction, but Paraśurāma, his fourth and youngest son, immediately obeyed and cut off her head. Jamadagni Ṛṣi then instructed him to cut off the heads of his three older brothers, and Paraśurāma again complied unhesitatingly.
Being satisfied with his son’s obedience and desiring to grant him a benediction, Jamadagni Ṛṣi said, “Whatever you ask for, I will make it so.”
Paraśurāma replied, “If you truly want to grant me a benediction, then please make my mother and three brothers appear just as they were before I decapitated them. I also want them to forget what was done to them.” Jamadagni Ṛṣi granted his son’s wish, and the family appeared just as it did before.
Regarding this pastime, Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā, 10.145, 146) quotes Raghu-vaṁśa (14.46), “ājñā gurūṇāṁ hy avicāraṇīyā—one should follow the order of his guru without consideration,” and also Rāmāyaṇa (Ayodhyā-kāṇḍa 22.9), “nirvicāraṁ guror ājñā mayā kāryā mahātmanaḥ—we must follow the order of guru, an extraordinary personality, without any consideration.”
Whatever order may come from śrī guru must be executed at all costs. However, this principle is applicable only to a qualified guru capable of completely fulfilling any and all desires of his disciple. Jamadagni Ṛṣi was not only Paraśurāma’s father, but also his guru, and he was able to heed his son’s request in full. Thus there was absolutely no fault in Paraśuṛama’s action of killing his mother and brothers. Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā (2.19) states:
ya enaṁ vetti hantāraṁ
yaś cainaṁ manyate hatam
ubhau tau na vijānīto
nāyaṁ hanti na hanyate
One who thinks of the soul to be the killer or the killed is ignorant, for the soul is neither the slayer nor the slain.
THE BASIC REQUIREMENT FOR A GURU-DISCIPLE RELATIONSHIP
If someone realizes that his guru is unqualified to fulfill his desire of obtaining the longed-for service of his īṣtadeva, then there is no need to fully follow that guru’s orders at all times. In such a case, there can be some consideration as to whether or not an instruction should be carried out. It is mentioned in the śāstras that the guru and disciple should examine each other prior to accepting a guru-disciple relationship.
Śrīla Vṛndāvan dāsa Ṭhākura Mahāśaya has mentioned in his Caitanya-bhāgavata (Ādi-khaṇḍa 2.68) that if by some great misfortune a person accepts an unqualified guru and does not give up that “guru” after realizing he is unqualified, or if a “guru” accepts a disciple in the hopes of receiving material benefit, then “śiṣyā (or śrotāra) sahite yama-pāse ḍubi’ mare—such a guru (or speaker) suffers in the clutches of Yamarāja with his disciples (or listeners).”
When Sugrīva was asked by Lakṣmaṇa to take shelter at the lotus feet of Bhagavān Śrī Rāmacandra, who is Himself the Supreme Lord, he replied, “I will never except Rāma’s shelter unless and until I thoroughly examine Him and He proves worthy of my surrender.” He then told Śrī Rāmacandra, “Taking only one arrow, I want You to shoot it with Your bow, and in that one shot pierce seven tāla trees. I will only accept You as the Supreme Lord if you can accomplish this.” It was only after Śrī Rāmacandra heeded his request that Sugrīva surrendered at the Lord’s lotus feet, and not before.
THE ORIGIN OF THE NAME PARAŚURĀMA
There was once a powerful king of the Haihayas named Kārtavīrārjuna, who had received a thousand arms by worshipping Śrī Dattātreya. His power was such that he was able to stop the flow of the river Narmadā, and he once arrested the mighty ten-headed Rāvaṇa. Once, Kārtavīrārjuna was traveling with his army during a time of drought and famine. Just as a severe storm broke, Kārtavīryārjuna and his army came upon the āśrama of Jamadagni Ṛṣi and requested him to provide them with shelter. Upon meeting these uninvited guests, Jamadagni Ṛṣi felt it his duty to properly host them by seeing to their every need, including those of the elephants and horses that were included in the army’s ranks.
Kārtavīyārjuna was astonished by Jamadagni Ṛṣi’s ability to render considerable service during a time of famine and drought. He could not understand how it was possible for him to provide comfortable accommodations for such a large party, considering the dire situation. He therefore asked Jamadagni Ṛṣi, “How is it that you are able to make all these arrangements in such a wonderful way?”
Jamadagni Ṛṣi replied, “This is the mercy of my mother.”
Confused, Kārtavīyārjuna asked, “How so? Where is your mother?”
“By ‘mother’ I mean ‘mother cow,’ ” Jamadagni Ṛṣi responded. “I have a kāma-dhenu (wishfulfilling cow) in my āśrama, and because of her I have been able to properly welcome you and your army. It would not have been possible without her.”
Hearing this, Kārtavīyārjuna said, “Please consider the proper utilization of a kāma-dhenu. You live in this āsrama with limited necessities, whereas I have millions of subjects in my kingdom. It would be proper for you to give this kāma-dhenu to me, as the needs of my kingdom are greater than yours.”
Hearing Kārtavīyārjuna’s proposal, Jamadagni Ṛṣi was unable to decide what to do. Puzzled, he approached his kāma-dhenu and prayed, “O mother! Until now you have been very merciful to me. But now this Kārtavīyārjuna is asking me to hand you over to him. Perhaps his fortune is that you wish to bless him at this time. I only wish to serve you and fulfill your desires. Therefore, whatever your wish may be—whether you desire to be with him or to remain here with me—let it be so.” Despite Jamadagni Ṛṣi’s pleas, Kārtavīyārjuna forcefully took the kāma-dhenu back to his palace.
When Paraśurāma came to learn about this event, he became extremely angry. He considered that though it is the duty of kṣatriyas to respect, serve and give protection to sādhus without asking anything from them, Kārtavīyārjuna has forcibly taken the kāma-dhenu from his father, Jamadagni Ṛṣi. Due to the degradation of the kṣatriyas, he vowed then and there to kill their entire caste. He was previously known only by the name Rāma, but upon making this vow, he took up the paraśu weapon (a sickle-like chopper), and was thenceforth known as Paraśurāma. In observance of his vow, he killed the entire kṣatriya caste twenty-one times.
EVERY ACT OF THE LORD IS LIKE THAT OF A LOVING FATHER
All the śāstras state that Paraśurāma is a śaktyāveśa-avatāra (empowered incarnation of Bhagavān), but still it is quite astonishing to hear about this pastime. If he were truly a śaktyāveśa-avatāra, why would he kill an entire caste even once, let alone twenty-one times? What is the reason and mystery behind His activities?
It is the duty of a loving father to bring his son under control when he witnesses that son engaging in immoral activities. For the sake of correcting such behavior, a father may be seen to chastise his son with heavy words or even slap him. But the motivation behind these actions is only love. Similarly, in enacting this pastime, Paraśurāma is playing the role of a loving father, who upon seeing the degraded mentality of His kṣatriya sons, wanted to rectify their behavior.