Avoiding a so-called religious television series
While we were in Ludhiana for some service, my godbrother Śrī Bhakti Sarvasva Niṣkiñcana Mahārāja and I stopped at the house of our householder godbrother Śrī Mahendra Kapūra. In those days, the Mahābhārata television series had swept the nation and seemed to have captivated the entire county. As we were settling in, Śrī Mahendra Kapūra requested me, “Come, Mahārāja. Please come to our hall to watch Mahābhārata for a bit.”
In order to somehow lead him away from the topic, I told him, “Prabhu, I have heard that watching television is bad for the eyes, and so I would prefer not to watch.”
He replied, “We’ve kept the television at a distance of at least twenty feet from the sitting area, so please don’t worry about it affecting your eyes.”
“Even still, I don’t want to watch television,” I said flatly.
He persisted. “Mahārāja, I am not asking you to watch just anything on television. This is Mahābhārata we’re talking about.
“I don’t want to watch even Mahābhārata,” I said.
Śrī Bhakti Sarvasva Niṣkiñcana Mahārāja then asked me, “What is the harm in watching Mahābhārata? It is a religious series, and it is praised both here and in other countries.”
“Oh, it’s a religious series, is it?” I responded. “Go ahead and watch if you’d like, but I know well that one should not hear about the Lord from a non-devotee:
avaiṣṇava-mukhodgīrṇaṁ pūtaṁ hari-kathāmṛtam śravaṇaṁ naiva kartavyaṁ sarpocchiṣṭaṁ yathā payaḥ
The nectarean topics of Śrī Hari are always purifying, but if they emanate from the mouth of a non-Vaiṣṇava, it is prohibited to hear them, for they become as poisonous as the milk touched by the lips of a serpent. *
“Now tell me: Who has created this series? Was it a Vaiṣṇava? What to speak of following, has its creator even understood the real teachings of Mahābhārata? Have the actors playing Yudhiṣṭḥira Mahārāja, Arjuna, Draupadī, Bhīṣma or any of the other personalities of Mahābhārata been able to grasp something of the actual lessons to be learned from the lives of the personalities they portray? If the actor playing Yudhiṣṭhira Mahārāja were to receive a greater sum of money to play Duryodhana, would he not accept it? Does he act for any reason other than money? Actually, he is a servant of money.
“Tell me this,” I continued. “Has watching the series Mahābhārata awoken a taste in its viewers for following the teachings of the scripture Mahābhārata? If not, then what will we gain by watching it? It is simply a waste of time, and we should always remember what Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has written about the value of our time:
cañcala-jīvana-srota pravāhiyā, kālera sāgare dhāya gelô ĵe divasa, nā āsibe āra, ebe kṛṣṇa ki upāya
This restless current of life flows, running into the ocean of time [death]. The days that have gone will not come again. Alas, Kṛṣṇa, what am I to do now? *
“You said that this series is praised in both this country and others, but what type of person follows the opinions of the foolish and blind? Certainly not the intelligent. Even if millions of blind people assemble together, can they show anyone the path? Never. But a person with only one eye can elevate millions of blind people by putting them to the proper path.”
Śrī Mahendra Kapūra said, “Mahārāja, you are speaking about obscure scriptural teachings. What relevance do they have here? Really, what will we lose by watching Mahābhārata for a bit? Just watch it with us for a short time.”
“Prabhu!” I firmly replied. “I am happy to stay at your house, but I have not come to give up Vaiṣṇava conduct. Rather, I have come to preach it. If you say even one more word about watching Mahābhārata, I will tie up my bedding and leave this place without concern that it is late at night. I have no problem staying at the train station overnight. I will catch a train to the Chandigarh maṭha in the morning.”
Śrī Mahendra Kapūra fell silent and left the room. Whether or not he watched Mahābhārata that night I do not know, but Śrī Niṣkiñcana Mahārāja, who was staying in my room, did not watch.
With all that had happened, I later discovered that although I had spoken harshly, Śrī Mahendra Kapūra developed even more faith in me than before. This is not astonishing, because intelligent people quickly yield when they are presented with siddhānta, whereas making foolish people understand requires laborious effort.