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.
Somehow or other, as a result of his pious activities, King Nṛga had aspired to see the Lord. He continued: “My dear Lord, I had a great desire that someday I might be able to see You personally. I think that this great desire to see You, combined with my tendency to perform ritualistic and charitable activities, has enabled me to retain the memory of who I was in my former life, even though I became a lizard. [Such a person who remembers his past life is called jāti-smara. In modern times also there are instances of small children recalling many details of their past lives.] My dear Lord, You are the Supersoul seated in everyone’s heart. There are many great mystic yogīs who have the eyes to see You through the Vedas and Upaniṣads. To achieve the elevated position of realizing that they are equal in quality with You, they always meditate on You within their hearts. But although such exalted saintly persons may see You constantly within their hearts, they still cannot see You face to face. Therefore I am very much surprised that I am able to see You personally. I know that I was engaged in so many activities, especially as a king. Although I was in the midst of luxury and opulence and was subject to so much of the happiness and misery of material existence, I am so fortunate to be seeing You personally. As far as I know, when one becomes liberated from material existence, he can see You in this way.”
When King Nṛga elected to receive the results of his impious activities, he was given the body of a lizard because of the mistake in his pious activities; thus he could not be directly converted to a higher status of life like a great demigod. However, along with his pious activities, he thought of Kṛṣṇa, so he was quickly released from the body of a lizard and given the body of a demigod. By worshiping the Supreme Lord, those who desire material opulences are given the bodies of powerful demigods. Sometimes these demigods can see the Supreme Personality of Godhead face to face, but they are still not yet eligible to enter into the spiritual kingdom, the Vaikuṇṭha planets. However, if the demigods continue to be devotees of the Lord, the next chance they get they will enter into the Vaikuṇṭha planets.