By Praghosa Dasa
As part of a comment to the ‘Reforming the Reformer’ essay, Kesava Krsna prabhu wrote:
It is enlivening to see a topic put before us, to pass comment, or give our realizations – this is real freedom – Krishna katha. Perhaps this could be a regular feature on Danadavats, what do you think Praghosa prabhu?
So in an attempt to fulfill the above request I would be interested to hear the devotees thoughts on the following. In the 3rd Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam Lord Kapila gives some interesting instructions particularly in relation to the consciousness and thought processes of the fetus in the womb.
“My dear Lord, by Your causeless mercy I am awakened to consciousness, although I am only ten months old. For this causeless mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the friend of all fallen souls, there is no way to express my gratitude but to pray with folded hands” SB 3.31.18
In his purport to the above verse Srila Prabhupada writes:
“This prayer of the child in the womb may be questioned by some atheistic people. How can a child pray in such a nice way in the womb of his mother? Everything is possible by the grace of the Lord. The child is put into such a precarious condition externally, but internally he is the same, and the Lord is there. By the transcendental energy of the Lord, everything is possible” SB 3.31.18 Purport
So everything is possible by the mercy of the Lord, including a child praying in the womb. In the following purport Srila Prabhupada writes:
“The human form of life is supposed to be the highest, for it offers consciousness for getting out of the clutches of birth and death. The fortunate child in the womb of his mother realizes his superior position and is thereby distinguished from other bodies. Animals in bodies lower than that of the human being are conscious only as far as their bodily distress and happiness are concerned; they cannot think of more than their bodily necessities of life-eating, sleeping, mating and defending. But in the human form of life, by the grace of God, the consciousness is so developed that a man can evaluate his exceptional position and thus realize the self and the Supreme Lord” SB 3.31.19 Purport
So the possibility is clearly open for human fetuses to be both aware of their situation in the womb and also to act positively in regards to their plight by praying to the Supreme Lord, as Srila Prabhupada clearly states:
“The fortunate child in the womb”
Presumably not every child in the womb develops the consciousness to realize the precarious and vulnerable situation they are in, certainly some clearly do, those that Prabhupada refers to as ‘fortunate’. I do not know if there are any statistics as to how many new born babies remain Krsna conscious from the moment they are born but anecdotally the de-facto evidence would suggest they are extremely rare such as great souls like Maharaja Pariksit:
“So here, Pariksit Maharaja… This emancipation… Krsna consciousness means emancipation from this material attachment. So he became so much advanced… Because from his childhood, from his birth, from the womb of his mother, he was Krsna conscious” SBL 26th June 1972
Continuing on with the instructions of Lord Kapila the living entity in the womb prays:
“Therefore, my Lord, although I am living in a terrible condition, I do not wish to depart from my mother’s abdomen to fall again into the blind well of materialistic life. Your external energy, called deva-maya, at once captures the newly born child, and immediately false identification, which is the beginning of the cycle of continual birth and death, begins” SB 3.31.20
Later on in the chapter it explains precisely how the living entity forgets Krsna and is again captured by maya. This takes place when the living entity leaves the womb at the time of birth:
“Pushed downward all of a sudden by the wind, the child comes out with great trouble, head downward, breathless and deprived of memory due to severe agony” SB 3.31.23
Srila Prabhupada writes in the purport to this verse:
When the child comes out of the abdomen through the narrow passage, due to pressure there the breathing system completely stops, and due to agony the child loses his memory. Sometimes the trouble is so severe that the child comes out dead or almost dead. One can imagine what the pangs of birth are like. The child remains for ten months in that horrible condition within the abdomen, and at the end of ten months he is forcibly pushed out. SB 3.31.23 Purport
A little while ago some friends (a married couple, one a doctor and his wife who is a nurse), mentioned to me that more and more births are now carried out by caesarean section and that many times when a child is delivered this way they actually come out of the womb with something resembling a smile. For sure they said the vast majority of caesarean births were light years less stressful and painful for the child. They then asked the question “Given this reality does that mean many more children will now remember Krsna and how they were praying to Him in the womb?”
One answer might be that while the process of the child forgetting would not be as immediate with a caesarean birth as it would be with a regular birth, gradually over time, with all the fuss being heaped on the child and the child being told that it looks like this and that relative etc., it would again forget Krsna. Still after reading the above passages from the Bhagavatam such an answer appears a little lightweight. Also what about devotee children born by caesarean section, surely they couldn’t forget Krsna after being born as they would be surrounded by devotees, kirtan and other Krsna conscious paraphernalia?