Chapter 48: Dread and Ghastliness

Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: Nectar of Devotion

There is another instance of a dreadful situation with Kṛṣṇa as the object as follows. After being sufficiently chastised by child Kṛṣṇa in the Yamunā River, the Kāliya snake began to address the Lord, "O killer of the Mura demon, I have acquired many mystic powers by my austerity and penances, but before You I am nothing; I am most insignificant. Therefore, please be kind upon a poor soul like me, and don't be angry with me. I did not know Your actual position, and out of ignorance I have committed such horrible offenses. Please save me. I am a most unfortunate, foolish creature. Please be merciful to me." This is another instance of the ecstasy of dread in devotional service.

When the Keśī demon was causing disturbances in Vṛndāvana by assuming a large horse's body that was so big that he could jump over the trees, mother Yaśodā told her husband, Nanda Mahārāja, "Our child is very restless, so we had better keep Him locked up within the house. I have been very worried about the recent disturbances of the Keśī demon, who has been assuming the form of a giant horse." When it was learned that the demon was entering Gokula in an angry mood, mother Yaśodā became so anxious to protect her child that her face dried up and there were tears in her eyes. These are some of the signs of the ecstasy of dread in devotional service, caused by seeing and hearing something that is dangerous to Kṛṣṇa.

After the Pūtanā witch had been killed, some friends of mother Yaśodā inquired from her about the incident. Mother Yaśodā at once requested her friends, "Please stop! Please stop! Don't bring up the incident of Pūtanā. I become distressed just by remembering this incident. The Pūtanā witch came to devour my son, and she deceived me into letting her take the child on her lap. After that, she died and made a tumultuous sound with her gigantic body."

In the ecstasy of devotional service in dread, the unconstitutional symptoms are drying up of the mouth, exuberance, glancing behind oneself, concealing oneself, bewilderment, searching after the endangered lovable object and crying very loudly. Some other unconstitutional symptoms are illusion, forgetfulness and expectation of danger. In all such circumstances the ecstatic dread is the steady or constant factor. Such dread is caused either by offenses committed or by dreadful circumstances. Offenses may be committed in varieties of ways, and the dread is felt by the person who has committed the offense. When dread is caused by a fearful object, this fearful object is generally a person who is fearsome in his features, nature and influence. An example of an object which caused ecstatic dread is the Pūtanā witch. Dread may be caused by mischievous demoniac characters, such as King Kaḿsa, and it may be caused by great powerful demigods, such as Indra or Śańkara.

Demons like Kaḿsa feared Kṛṣṇa, but their feelings cannot be described as ecstatic dread in devotional service.


It is understood from authoritative sources that an attachment for Kṛṣṇa because of feelings of disgust sometimes presents a ghastly ecstasy in devotional service. The person experiencing such ecstatic love for Kṛṣṇa is almost always in the neutral stage of devotional service, or śānta-rasa. A description of ecstatic love caused by ghastliness is found in the following statement: "This person was formerly interested solely in the matter of lust and sense gratification, and he had perfected the greatest skill in exploiting women to fulfill his lusty desires. But now how wonderful it is that this same man is chanting the names of Kṛṣṇa with tears in his eyes, and as soon as he sees the face of a woman, he immediately becomes disgusted. From the indication of his face, I would think that now he hates sex life."

In this mellow of devotional service in ghastliness, the subecstatic symptoms are spitting upon the consideration of one's past life, contorting the face, covering the nose and washing the hands. There is also trembling of the body, forcible twisting of the body, and perspiration. Other symptoms which may be present are shame, exhaustion, madness, illusion, frustration, humility, self-pity, restlessness, eagerness and stunning of the body.

When a devotee, lamenting for his past abominable activities, shows special symptoms on his body, his feeling is called ecstasy in devotional service in ghastliness. This is caused by the awakening of his Kṛṣṇa consciousness.

In this connection there is the following statement: "How can a person take pleasure in the enjoyment of sex life in this body, which is a bag of skin and bones, filled with blood and covered by skin and flesh, and which produces mucus and evil smells?" This perception is possible only for one who is awakened to Kṛṣṇa consciousness and who has become fully cognizant of the abominable nature of this material body.

A fortunate child in the womb of his mother prayed to Kṛṣṇa as follows: "O enemy of Kaḿsa, I am suffering so much because of this material body. Now I am trapped within a mess of blood, urine and liquid stool, within the womb of my mother. Because I am living in such a condition, I am suffering great pangs. Therefore, O divine ocean of mercy, please be kind to me. I have no ability to engage in Your loving devotional service, but please save me!" There is a similar statement by a person fallen in a hellish condition of life. He addressed the Supreme Lord thus: "My dear Lord, Yamarāja has placed me in a situation which is full of filthy and obnoxious smells. There are so many insects and worms, surrounded by the stools left by different kinds of diseased persons. And after seeing this horrible scene, my eyes have become sore, and I am becoming nearly blind. I therefore pray, O my Lord, O deliverer from the hellish conditions of life. I have fallen into this hell, but I shall try to remember Your holy name always, and in this way I shall try to keep my body and soul together." This is another instance of ecstatic love for Kṛṣṇa in an abominable situation.

It is to be understood that any person who is constantly engaged in chanting the holy names of the Lord — Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare — has attained a transcendental affection for Kṛṣṇa, and as such, in any condition of life, he remains satisfied simply by remembering the Lord's name in full affection and ecstatic love.

In conclusion, it may be stated that ecstatic love for Kṛṣṇa in ghastliness appears during the development of dormant neutrality into developed affection.

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His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda, Founder Ācārya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness