Akṣauhiṇī

aksauhini

Here is a word for your vaisnava vocabulary: Aksauhini (akṣauhiṇī).

The word akṣauhiṇī refers to a military phalanx consisting of 21,870 chariots and elephants, 109,350 infantry soldiers and 65,610 horses. An exact description is given in the Mahābhārata, Ādi parva, Second Chapter, as follows:

“One chariot, one elephant, five infantry soldiers and three horses are called a patti by those who are learned in the science. The wise also know that a senāmukha is three times what a patti is. Three senāmukhas are known as one gulma, three gulmas are called a gaṇa, and three gaṇas are called a vāhinī. Three vāhinīs have been referred to by the learned as a pṛtanā, three pṛtanās equal one camū, and three camūs equal one anīkinī. The wise refer to ten anīkinīs as one akṣauhiṇī. The chariots of an akṣauhiṇī have been calculated at 21,870 by those who know the science of such calculations, O best of the twice-born, and the number of elephants is the same. The number of infantry soldiers is 109,350, and the number of horses is 65,610. This is called an akṣauhiṇī.” (SB 9.15.30)

A solid phalanx of 21,870 chariots, 21,870 elephants, 109,650 infantry and 65,600 cavalry is called an akṣauhiṇī. (SB 1.8.48 purport)

What makes this word so noteworthy, is the fact that many akṣauhiṇīs were killed on the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra. Such was the enormity of the battle.

Following is a lecture by His Divine Grace describing the lamentation of King Yudhisthira. Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira, as the most pious king of the world, takes for himself the responsibility for killing such a huge number of living beings because the battle was fought to reinstate him on the throne.

Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam Lecture
By His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
SB 1.8.48
Los Angeles, May 10, 1973

Pradyumna: (leads chanting, etc.)

aho me paśyatājñānaṁ
hṛdi rūḍhaṁ durātmanaḥ
pārakyasyaiva dehasya
bahvyo me ‘kṣauhiṇīr hatāḥ
[SB 1.8.48]

“King Yudhiṣṭhira said: O my Lord, I am the most sinful man. Just see my heart, which is full of ignorance. This body, which is ultimately meant for others, has killed many, many phalanxes of men.”

Prabhupāda: So anyone explaining. You can explain.

Pradyumna: This King Yudhiṣṭhira is lamenting that the body, this material body, does not actually belong to us. We can even see relatively that the material body belongs, while we are inside this material body, it belongs to the family. We have debts to pay to so many living entities—to our forefathers, our family. It belongs to our country. Our country takes it and says, “You take your body and you fight in Vietnam,” or “You do this kind of work” or “You don’t do this.” It is subject to the religion we are born in. It is subject to so many rules and regulations beyond ourselves. This body, even while we are in it, does not belong to us, and before we came into this body, it was matter, belonging to someone else, and after we leave this body, as it says in the purport, “While there is life in the body it is meant for the service of others, and when it is dead it is meant to be eaten by dogs and jackals or maggots.” So after death the body is disposed of in different ways. Some people bury the body; in that case the worms take the body. Some people burn the body; in that case it is consumed by fire and becomes ashes.

Prabhupāda: This one word, pārakyasya is very important. If you work… Somebody is working very hard, nobody is interested to work very hard for others. That is not the material philosophy. Everyone wants his own satisfaction, means sense gratification. So those who are in the bodily concept of life, they are working for their bodily sense gratification. But if we consider philosophically, we’ll see that even this body does not belong to me. Therefore it is a very important word, pārakyasya. From the very beginning. The body was given by father and mother. So if anyone creates something, so that thing belongs to the creator. If the father and mother has created this body, then from the very beginning the body belongs to the father and mother. And actually, in the childhood, as the father and mother says, “Sit down here, eat this, don’t go there,” everything is controlled by the father and mother, and originally given by the father and mother. So how we can claim, “This is my body”? From the very beginning. Then somebody maintains you. Suppose you are working in office, in a factory. So actually that body belongs to him, the maintainer. Just like a dog. The master maintains it, and the dog’s body is meant for the service of that master. As soon as the master indicates, “You do this,” immediately he does it. A dog has no independence, practical. So in this way the body belongs to the master. In the beginning, body belongs to the father and mother. Then, if you grow up, then body belongs to your country. In this way, go up to the death point, and after death also, the body belongs to others.

There are three stages, three different kinds of transformation of this body after death: stool, ashes and worms, uh, earth or dirt. According to the Vedic civilization, the body is burnt into ashes. So the body becomes ashes. And somebody throws the body to be eaten up by some animal. The Parsee community in India, they throw the body to be eaten by the vultures. That is their system. So after eating, the vultures, they pass stool; so body becomes stool. Is there any scientist to take the stool of vulture and make again a body? The body has turned to be stool, the body has turned to be ashes. Why not take little ashes and turn it to again body? Scientific method. Is it possible?

So this is called ajñānam. If you work for your own thing, there is some sense. But if you are working for others only, you have no claim, and day and night, hard work, then what is that intelligence? That is ass’s intelligence. Ass. Ass just like works very hard, not for himself. He works for the washerman, for carrying tons of cloth on his back and for a morsel of grass. So in the actual sense also, if you go to see a gentleman, busy gentleman, businessman, ask him that “We want to talk with you something about Kṛṣṇa consciousness.” “Oh, I have no time. I have no time, sir.” “Why?” “I am very busy.” “Why you are busy?” “For business.” “What is this business for?” “For maintaining my family.” So in this way, ultimately, he is thinking he is working for himself, but he is working for others.

So our intelligence is, if we have to work for others and sacrifice this body for others, why not for Kṛṣṇa? That is our philosophy. If I am whole time, whole duration of life, I am working for others… Others means, ultimately, my senses. The senses are others. Kāmādīnāṁ kati na katidhā pālitā durnideśāḥ. My senses dictating, “You stick to this woman and go to hell.” “Yes, I am ready. Yes.” Kāma, lust. So I am servant of the lust. Neither I am servant of the woman or servant of this man or that man. I am servant of my lust. And the lust is dictating that “You do this nonsense.” “Yes, I’ll do. Yes, I’ll do.” So in this way, we are actually servant of our senses and the dictation of the senses. This is our position. Kāmādīnāṁ kati na katidhā pālitā durnideśāḥ. Durnideśa means… Nirdeśa means direction, and durnideśa means bad direction. Just like people, they are doing so many sinful activities for maintaining this body. But at the ultimate analysis the body belongs to somebody else. So we are fool, that I am doing so much sinful activities for others. This is sense. But one… Everyone is under this ignorance. Although he is working for others, he is thinking “I am working for myself, for my interest.” Na te viduḥ svārtha-gatiṁ hi viṣṇum [SB 7.5.31]. These rascals, they do not know what is actually his self-interest. He is working for other’s interest, but he is thinking that “I am working for my interest.” This is ajñāna.

So therefore Yudhiṣṭhira Mahārāja says, aho me paśyata ajñānam: “Just see how much foolish I am. I am foolish, I am.” This body… I may be king, but this body, although I am king, if I do not discharge my duties nicely, president or king or very big man, immediately votes will be against me. So I am working for others. I have to keep… Just like recently in your country, the democratic party and… What is the other party? Republic party. So many things are going on, ajñāna. This is ajñāna. Philosophy means to see intelligently, darśana. The translation of philosophy means darśana.

Darśana means seeing. Philosophy means to see the actual fact. That is called philosophy. So if we philosophically take all these things, we are working for others out of ignorance, and I am thinking that “It is my interest. It is my self-interest…” Actually, you have to work for others. That is your business. And that other is Kṛṣṇa, not this material world. I have to work for others. Because I am servant originally. Jīvera svarūpa haya nitya-kṛṣṇa-dāsa [Cc. Madhya 20.108-109]. That is the constitutional position of every living entity, a servant. He cannot be master. If you don’t become servant of Kṛṣṇa, then you have to become a servant of māyā. You cannot be master of māyā. That is not possible. Master of māyā is Kṛṣṇa. Mama māyā. Daivī hy eṣā guṇamayī mama māyā [Bg. 7.14]. A master can control māyā, but we are not master. We are servant. How we can control māyā? It is impossible. But if you become servant of Kṛṣṇa, māyā will not touch you. That’s all. Mām eva ye prapadyante māyām etāṁ taranti te [Bg. 7.14]. You cannot control māyā. That is not possible, because you are servant. If you don’t become servant of Kṛṣṇa, you must become servant of māyā.
So we are falsely trying to enjoy māyā. Enjoy means master. That is not possible. Tribhir guṇamayair bhāvaiḥ. This is the influence of the three modes of material nature. We are falsely thinking that… The so-called scientific advancement, they are also trying to control over māyā, nature. That cannot be. It is not possible. But they will go on trying for it. The māyā, there is a nice example I have seen in somewhere, in India. There was a mirror and a bird, a sparrow, was coming. And as soon as he comes before the mirror, there is another sparrow on the other side. So he’ll strike the mirror, that “There is another bird.” And he would also strike. In this way he was struggling. That shadow sparrow was striking and he was trying. He was trying. He thought that “I shall defeat the other sparrow.” But that is not possible. That is not possible. I have seen it practically. This is foolishness. The bird is thinking that “There is another sparrow. Strike it.” And he is also striking. That perpetual striking is going on. That is called struggle for existence. He has no sense.

So, so long we are nonsense, we have to go, struggle for existence. Struggle for existence in this life. Suppose I am struggling, I am thinking, “If I could have possessed the strength of an elephant or a tiger, I would have been successful.” Then next life he gets the body of lion, tiger, or elephant. Nature will give. Ye yathā māṁ prapadyante tāṁs tathaiva bhajāmy aham [Bg. 4.11]. Kṛṣṇa is very kind. Whatever you want, He will give you, up to mukti. The Māyāvādī philosophers… Mukti means to merge into the existence of Brahman. Kṛṣṇa will give you very easily. But He is very strict to give you bhakti. That is His special… Because to the bhaktas, Kṛṣṇa, although the Supreme, He becomes within the grip of the bhaktas. Vedeṣu durlabham adurlabham ātma-bhaktau [Bs. 5.33]. Adurlabha. For bhakta He becomes, He becomes controlled by the bhakta. The topmost bhakta is Rādhārāṇī.

So although Kṛṣṇa is the īśvaraḥ paramaḥ, the supreme controller, He is controlled by Rādhārāṇī, because She is bhakta. Nobody can excel Her devotion, Her service. In sixty-four ways… These are described in the Bhakti-rasa…, Nectar of Devotion, how Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī excels in Her devotional service, everyone, everyone. There are stages, different. Just like the Pāṇḍavas, they are also bhaktas. But the gopīs excel them. And the gopīs are also bhaktas, but Rādhārāṇī excels all of them. So there are stages of bhaktas. Therefore Kṛṣṇa is very cautious to endow one with this devotional service. He can give mukti very easily. Mukti, to achieve mukti, liberation, that is not very difficult job. But if one becomes a bhakta, devotee, mukti will stand before him with folded hands. Muktiḥ mukulitāñjali sevate asmān.

For a devotee, mukti is not very important. Kaivalyaṁ narakāyate. Prabodhānanda Sarasvatī says that mukti, kaivalyam, one with the supreme, kaivalyam, kevalam, narakāyate: “What is this? It is as good as the hell.” That is the opinion of the bhakta. They don’t want mukti. Caitanya Mahāprabhu said, mama janmani janmanīśvare bhavatād bhaktir ahaitukī tvayi. Na dhanaṁ na janaṁ na sundarīṁ kavitāṁ vā jagadīśa kāmaye [Cc. Antya 20.29, Śikṣāṣṭaka 4]. Caitanya Mahāprabhu said that “I don’t want any material wealth,” dhanam. Na janam. “I don’t want to be leader of hundreds and thousand of people, president or this or that. No.” These are material desires. But Caitanya Mahāprabhu is nullifying everything: “No, I don’t want this.” Na dhanaṁ na janaṁ na sundarīṁ kavitām. “I don’t want any beautiful wife also.” These are material desires. Everyone wants. But Caitanya Mahāprabhu rejects. Then you want mukti? Because after all, mukti… Dharma artha kāma mokṣa [SB 4.8.41, Cc. Ādi 1.90]. Mokṣa means mukti. People are addicted to these four principles. So ultimately, You want mukti? “No. That is also not.” Why? Mama janmani janmani. Janma, if one takes birth again, then there is no mukti. Mukti means no more taking birth in this material world. But Caitanya Mahāprabhu says, “I don’t want this, don’t want this, don’t want this.” And janmani janmani means “I don’t want mukti also.” Janmani… If one is mukta, he is liberated, he cannot take birth again. So He says, mama janmani janmani: “Let there be birth after birth, birth after birth. It doesn’t matter.” Then what You want actually? No. Mama janmani janmanīśvare bhavatād bhaktir ahaitukī tvayi: [Cc. Antya 20.29, Śikṣāṣṭaka 4] “Simply I want to serve You. That’s all. It doesn’t matter. What shall I do with mukti? I may go to hell; it doesn’t matter. But I want to serve You there also.”

So for a devotee there is no such distinction: “Here is hell” or “Here is heaven,” “Here is Vṛndāvana” or “Here is Los Angeles,” “Here is…” No. Because Kṛṣṇa is everywhere. Wherever He gets the opportunity of serving Kṛṣṇa, that he wants. That’s all. Nothing more. Mama janmani janmanīśvare [Cc. Antya 20.29, Śikṣāṣṭaka 4]. Janmani janmani, it doesn’t matter. What kind of janma will be… Of course, from the śāstras we can understand that śucīnāṁ śrīmatāṁ gehe yoga-bhraṣṭo ‘bhijāyate [Bg. 6.41]. To take birth by a devotee is different little than another’s. Because one who has dedicated to Kṛṣṇa, He is under Kṛṣṇa’s control, direct. Ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo mokṣayiṣyāmi [Bg. 18.66]. So that bhakti means he is sinless, spotless. So therefore there is no possibility of his taking birth in lower animal group. That is not. He will get birth; that is assured—śucīnāṁ śrīmatāṁ gehe—either in a very rich family or in a pure brāhmaṇa’s family. Because he will get another chance of developing his devotional service in a pure brāhmaṇa family or pure Vaiṣṇava family. Vaiṣṇava is greater than a brāhmaṇa. That is a great opportunity. Because the father, mother, they are engaged in devotional service. Just like these children who were born amongst our devotees, they are not ordinary children. Because from the very beginning they are getting chance of devotional service: dancing, chanting, seeing the Deity, offering a flower, offering obeisances to the spiritual master. These things will not go in vain. Don’t think. Every account is kept. Every account. Therefore the Deity worship is recommended—why? If somebody comes, consciously or unconsciously, and offers obeisances, he gets immediately credit certi…, credit note, yes. Immediately. In this way, when the credit notes are so much, oh, it is a big amount. It is a big amount. Then he can purchase Kṛṣṇa. This is bhakti. Even… Svalpam apy asya dharmasya trāyate mahato bhayāt. Even little of it can save you from the greatest danger. Bhakti is so nice. Svalpam api. Just like Ajāmila. Ajāmila, he was the greatest sinful person. But at the time of death, he uttered “Nārāyaṇa,” and he was protected by Kṛṣṇa. Immediately Nārāyaṇa’s soldiers came and protected him from the Yamarāja’s soldiers. Ajāmila uddhāra.

So Yudhiṣṭhira Mahārāja is very advanced devotee. He says that paśyata ajñānam: “Just see my ignorance. I have killed so many soldiers simply for this body.” Paśyata ajñānaṁ me hṛdi rūḍhaṁ durātmanaḥ: “And this ignorance is deeply rooted in my heart.” People are… Every step, they are being baffled; still, they will do the same thing. Punaḥ punaś carvita-carvaṇānām [SB 7.5.30]. No sense is coming. No sense is coming. Durātmanaḥ. Not mahātmanaḥ. Mahātmanaḥ means he is no more interested in this kind of business. That is called mahātmanaḥ. Those who are repeatedly engaged in this kind of business, they are called durātmanaḥ. Only for the body’s sake working very hard. So if you analyze, the whole world is doing that. Durātmanaḥ.

Pārakyasyaiva dehasya bahvyo me akṣauhiṇīḥ. Now the akṣauhiṇī is mentioned here. One, what is the exact word, one group of soldiers?

Devotees: Phalanx.

Prabhupāda: Phalanx, another name?

Devotees: Regiment?

Prabhupāda: Regiment or something like…, composing. Just like in your country you have got. The Seventh Fleet or something like that was sent to India. They have got a group, so many ships, so many soldiers, so many… But formerly there was no ship, no aeroplane. They used to fight with horses, soldiers, elephants. So the estimation is there. You read the estimation.

Pradyumna: “A solid phalanx of 21,870 chariots, 21,870 elephants, 109,650 infantry and 65,000 cavalry is called an akṣauhiṇī. And many akṣauhiṇīs were killed on the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra.”

Prabhupāda: So that’s all right. Let us have kīrtana. (end)

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