In the enchanting kingdom of Vaikuntha, Jay and Vijay, two celestial doormen guarded the grand and glittering seventh gate. Armed with maces, the tall and mighty brothers wore jewels and shining helmets. They were dedicated to their duty of announcing all guests, for these were the innermost doors leading to the personal quarters of Narayan, the Lord of the realm.
Vaikuntha, the middle region of the spiritual world, is wondrous: luscious wishing trees grow everywhere; flowers of every colour bloom and fragrance the atmosphere in devotional pleasure while birds and animals sing and chirp in love with Lord Narayan. The residents live in sparkling homes studded with jewels and priceless ornaments. They move about in emerald carriers in the sky as they go about their daily business of blissful service to the Lord. There is no sun to rise or set across the horizon but the atmosphere is filled with a shimmering radiance that emanates from Lord Narayan.
One day four boys approached the doors guarded by Jay and Vijay. Innocent and tender-looking, they seem not more than five years old.
“We wish to see Lord Narayan,” they echoed in sweet voices and stepped forward to open the last gate. They had walked through the first six gold and diamond-studded doors without bother. They expected the same here and did not wait for any reply from the guards. Jay and Vijay, irritated by the audacity of the children, refused them admittance by blocking the path with their staffs.
This proved a very rash and unwise decision. Shocked, the boys stepped back, ablaze with indignation and upset.
“You have stopped us from fulfilling our devotional wish to see and serve our dear Lord,” one of them said. “You cannot be true residents of this heavenly kingdom where there is perfect harmony and goodwill. We are so displeased by your behaviour that we curse you to fall from the spiritual realm into the horrible material world where you will be far away from Lord Narayan.”
Jay and Vijay were flabbergasted. Horrified to be cast away from their beloved Lord, they quickly realised their mistake. They had insulted the most ancient and wise beings in the universe. The four boy-sages were Sanaka, Sanatana, Sanandana and Sanat-kumara – the first sons of Brahmadev*. Known as the Four Kumaras**, they were exalted devotees of Lord Narayan. After creating the material universe, their father had requested them to fill the world with children but being so deeply attached to Lord Narayan they had refused and instead chosen to wander the universe, worshipping the Lord.
In a moment of thoughtlessness, Jay and Vijay had acted foolishly and mistreated devotees of the Lord. Conscious that they had made a grave mistake, they bowed their heads in humble submission.
At this moment, the doors opened from inside and the majestic Lord Narayan stepped onto the threshold. He looked breathtaking: tall, broad, handsome, of a soft blue hue, dressed in rich garments and glittering jewellery. He smiled with affection when he saw the Kumaras and bowed. They bowed back in awe and rapture.
In a warm and loving way, Lord Narayan said, “Dear Kumaras, you are right to have punished my doormen who unnecessarily disrespected you. I am their master, so their offence is also my offence against you. I ask you to forgive me and allow them to return quickly to me after their exile.”
Instantly, the Kumaras realised that they should not have become so angry and hasty to curse the Lord’s beloved devotees. But Lord Narayan pacified them in this too, “All has happened with my approval. Jay and Vijay, you will enter the dark world and become my enemies. Do not fear, you will remember me constantly, though in an angry and adversarial way. After I have defeated you, you will return to me again.”
The brothers, still stunned at their new predicament, were loath to become enemies of the Lord but bowed their heads in humble and loving acceptance.
* Brahmadev is the creator of the universe, who acts under the direction of the Supreme Lord Vishnu.
**In Sanskrit, Kumar means young and unmarried.
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