Dhanurdhara Swami February 8th, 2001
“The demigods place many obstacles on the path of those who worship You to transcend the temporary abodes of the demigods and reach Your Supreme abode. Those who offer the demigods their assigned shares in the sacrificial performances encounter no such obstacles. But because You are the direct protector of Your devotee, he is able to step over the head of whatever obstacles the demigods place before him.? (Bhag. 11.4.10)
I read this interesting verse this morning in the Bhakti-sandarbha. The demigods are envious that the devotees will transcend their abode and thus put obstacles in their way. Jiva Gosvami, in his explanation to this text, reiterates that the troubles sent to a devotee do not remain obstacles on his path, but become steppingstones on a stairway toward God. In other words, the troubles sent a devotee, although externally appearing as obstacles, are meant to strengthen him by giving exactly the realizations required to move forward in spiritual life.
The image of Dhruva Maharaja comes to mind. He faced death personified at the end of his life, but instead of death subduing him, he stepped on the head of death to enter his celestial airplane back to Godhead. This verse from the Bhagavatam helps us understand the sense that a devotee becomes free from karma. It does not necessarily mean that when one becomes a devotee the reactions of his past do not come to him. That can happen. It means that the real fruit of karma, distress, does not come to him, as a devotee by dint of transcendental knowledge, reacts to all circumstances in a positive way to impel him further on his life’s mission. He thus transcends the distress of his past sins, his karma, by rising above the duality of happiness and distress.