King Nṛga said that the cows he had given in charity were not ordinary cows. Each one was very young and had given birth to only one calf. They were full of milk, very peaceful, and healthy. All the cows were purchased with money earned legally. Furthermore, their horns were gold-plated, their hooves were bedecked with silver plating, and they were covered with necklaces and with silken wrappers embroidered with pearls. He stated that these valuably decorated cows had not been given to any worthless persons but had been distributed to first-class brāhmaṇas, whom he had also decorated with nice garments and gold ornaments. The brāhmaṇas were well qualified, and since none of them were rich, their family members were always in want for the necessities of life. A real brāhmaṇa never hoards money for a luxurious life, like the kṣatriyas or the vaiśyas, but always keeps himself poverty-stricken, knowing that money diverts the mind to materialistic ways of life. To live in this way is the vow of a qualified brāhmaṇa, and all of these brāhmaṇas were well situated in that exalted vow. They were well learned in Vedic knowledge. They executed the required austerities and penances in their lives and were liberal, meeting the standard of qualified brāhmaṇas. They were equally friendly to everyone; above all, they were young and quite fit to act as qualified brāhmaṇas. Besides the cows, they were also given land, gold, houses, horses and elephants. Those who were not married were given wives, maidservants, grain, silver, utensils, garments, jewels, household furniture, chariots, etc. This charity was nicely performed as a sacrifice according to the Vedic rituals. The King also stated that not only had he bestowed gifts upon the brāhmaṇas, but he had performed other pious activities, such as digging wells, planting trees on the roadside and installing ponds along the highways.
The King continued: “In spite of all this, unfortunately one of the brāhmaṇas’ cows that I had given in charity chanced to enter amongst my other cows. Not knowing this, I again gave it in charity, to another brāhmaṇa. As the cow was being taken away by this brāhmaṇa, its former master claimed it as his own, stating, ‘This cow was formerly given to me, so how is it that you are taking it away?’ Thus there was arguing and fighting between the two brāhmaṇas, and they came before me and charged that I had taken back a cow I had previously given in charity.” To give something to someone and then to take it back is considered a great sin, especially in dealing with a brāhmaṇa. When both brāhmaṇas charged the King with the same complaint, he was simply puzzled as to how it had happened. Thereafter, with great humility, the King offered each of them 100,000 cows in exchange for the one cow that was causing the fight between them. He prayed to them that he was their servant and that there had been some mistake. Thus, in order to rectify it, he prayed that they be very kind upon him and accept his offer in exchange for the cow. The King fervently appealed to the brāhmaṇas not to cause his downfall into hell because of this mistake. A brāhmaṇa’s property is called brahma-sva, and according to Manu’s law it cannot be acquired even by the government. Both brāhmaṇas, however, insisted that the cow was theirs and could not be taken back under any condition; neither of them agreed to exchange it for the 100,000 cows. Thus disagreeing with the King’s proposal, the two brāhmaṇas left the place in anger, thinking that their lawful possession had been usurped.
After this incident, when the time came for the King to give up his body, he was taken before Yamarāja, the superintendent of death, who asked him whether he first wanted to enjoy the results of his pious activities or suffer the results of his impious activities. Seeing that the King had executed so many pious activities and charities, Yamarāja also hinted that he did not know the limit of the King’s future enjoyment. In other words, there would be practically no end to the King’s material happiness. But in spite of this hint, the King, bewildered, decided first to suffer the results of his impious activities and then to accept the results of his pious activities; therefore Yamarāja immediately turned him into a lizard.
King Nṛga had remained in the well as a big lizard for a very long time. He told Lord Kṛṣṇa, “In spite of being put into that degraded condition of life, I simply thought of You, my dear Lord, and my memory was never vanquished.” It appears from these statements of King Nṛga that persons who follow the principles of fruitive activities and derive some material benefits are not very intelligent. Being given the choice by the superintendent of death, Yamarāja, King Nṛga could have first accepted the results of his pious activities. Instead, he thought it better first to receive the effects of his impious activities and then enjoy the effects of his pious activities without disturbance. On the whole, he had not developed Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The Kṛṣṇa conscious person develops love of God, Kṛṣṇa, not love for pious or impious activities; therefore he is not subjected to the results of such action. As stated in the Brahma-saṁhitā, a devotee, by the grace of the Lord, is not subjected to the reactions of fruitive activities.