The story of Vishnudutas is a legendary one eulogized in “Srimad Bhagavatam“, the quintessence of Vedic literature. This is where we derive our inspiration in our mission.
Vishnudutas are messengers of Lord Vishnu, The Supreme Personality of Godhead. Their main service is to reclaim the souls from the clutches of Yamadutas who drag the soul to hell. However, Vishnudutas can exercise their jurisdiction only when someone chants the holy names of the Lord, such as “Hari”, “Vishnu”, “Rama”, “Krishna”, or any of the innumerable names of the Lord especially at the time of death.
There was a certain young brahmana by the name Ajamila, who was of good character well versed in the Vedic scriptures.
One day, at the request of his father, Ajamila went to the forest to collect fruit, flowers, and grasses. On the way home, he came upon a very lusty low-class man embracing and kissing a prostitute. When Ajamila saw this scene, lusty desires in his heart were awakened and he too desired to associate with the prostitute.
Ajamila began spending the money he had inherited from his father on various gifts to satisfy the prostitute. He even abandoned his beautiful young wife. Thus Ajamila spent his long life irresponsibly breaking all the rules and regulations of the holy scriptures. He was unclean and addicted to forbidden activities. Living extravagantly, he maintained his new family by harassing others, cheating, gambling, and theft.
Over long eighty-eight years of Ajamila’s life, he fathered ten sons by the prostitute. Somehow due to previous impressions, Ajamila had named his youngest son as “Narayana”. “Narayana” is the principal name of the Supreme Lord. His youngest son Narayana was naturally very dear and affectionate to Ajamila. The child’s broken language greatly endeared the old Ajamila.
Ajamila would call out his youngest son Narayana many times over in a day and thus unintentionally he was chanting the holy name of the Lord.
As the time of death approached the old bed-ridden Ajamila, he began to think of his dearest son Narayana.
At the moment of death, Ajamila saw three fearsome and ugly persons, the Yamadutas (the servants of Yamaraja, the lord of death), who had come to take Ajamila away to their master’s abode. When Ajamila saw them, he became extremely bewildered, and because of his attachment to his child, who was playing a short distance away, he loudly and tearfully called the child’s name: “Narayana!”
At that instant, within no time, immediately, the Vishnudutas, the servants of the Supreme Lord Visnu (Narayana), arrived at the spot!
As the Vishnudutas arrived, the Yamadutas were dragging the soul from the body of the dying Ajamila. With deep resounding voices, the messengers of Lord Visnu ordered them to stop. Although the servants of Yamaraja have jurisdiction over all sinful living beings such as Ajamila, the jurisdiction of messengers of Lord Vishnu starts when even the most sinful person chants the holy name, especially at the time of death.
When the Yamadutas were thus forbidden from carrying out their mission, they exclaimed, “Who are you, sirs, that you dare challenge the jurisdiction of Yamaraja? Whose servants are you, where have you come from, and why are you forbidding us to touch Ajamila? You may know that this man Ajamila did not undergo atonement for his sins. Because of his sinful life, we must take him to the court of Yamaraja for punishment. According to the extent of his sinful acts, he will be punished and thus purified.”
The Visnudutas replied, “Ajamila has already atoned not only for sins performed in one life but for those performed in millions of lives, for in a helpless condition he has chanted the holy name of Narayana. Although he was calling his son’s name, he nevertheless uttered the four syllables na-ra-ya-na. Simply by chanting the name of Narayana in this way, he sufficiently atoned for the sinful reactions of millions of lives.
“Chanting the holy name of the Lord is the best process of atonement for a thief, for a drunkard, for one who betrays a friend or relative, for one who kills a brahmana, for one who indulges in sex with the wife of his guru or another superior, for one who murders women, the king or his father, for one who slaughters cows and for all other sinful men. Simply by chanting the holy name of the Lord, such sinful persons can attract His attention.
At the time of death, Ajamila helplessly and very loudly chanted the holy name of the Lord. That chanting alone has already freed him from the reactions of all sinful life. Therefore, O servants of Yamaraja, do not try to take him to your master for punishment. One who chants the holy name is immediately freed from the reactions of unlimited sins, even if he chants indirectly to indicate something else, jokingly, for musical entertainment, or even neglectfully. This is accepted by all the learned scholars of the scriptures. If one chants the holy name of Hari and then dies because of an accidental misfortune, one is immediately absolved from having to enter hellish life, even though he is sinful.
“Although one may neutralize the reactions of sinful life through austerity, charity, vows, and other such methods, these pious activities cannot uproot the material desires in one’s heart. However, if one serves the Personality of Godhead, he is immediately freed from all such contaminations. If a person unaware of the effective potency of a certain medicine takes that medicine, it will act even without his knowledge because the medicine’s potency does not depend on the patient’s understanding. Similarly, even though one does not know the value of chanting the holy name of the Lord, if one chants knowingly or unknowingly, the chanting will be very effective.”
The Visnudutas released the brahmana Ajamila from the bondage of the Yamadutas and thus saved him from the hellish condition. Ajamila, now free from fear, came to his senses and immediately offered respects to the Visnudutas by bowing his head at their feet. He was extremely pleased by their presence, for they had saved him from the Yamadutas. When the Visnudutas saw that Ajamila was attempting to say something, they suddenly disappeared.
Having heard the discourse between the Yamadutas and the Visnudutas, Ajamila could now understand the transcendental religious principles concerning the relationship between the living being and the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Furthermore, since Ajamila had heard their glorification of God, he was now a perfectly pure devotee and could thus remember all his past sinful activities, which he greatly regretted having performed.
I am such a sinful person,” he said. “But now since I have this opportunity, I must completely control my mind, life, and senses and always engage in devotional service so that I may not again fall into the deep darkness and ignorance of material life. Because I identified myself with my body, I was subjected to desires for sense gratification and thus performed many pious and impious acts. That was my material bondage. But now I shall disentangle myself from that bondage. Being a most fallen soul, I was victimized by illusions and was like a dancing dog led around by a woman’s hand. Now I shall give up these lusty desires and free myself from these illusions. I shall become a merciful, well-wishing friend to all living entities and always absorb myself in Krsna consciousness.”
Because of a moment’s association with devotees of the Supreme Lord, Ajamila was able to detach himself with determination from the material conception of life. Freed from all material attraction, he immediately started for the city of Haridwar on the banks of River Ganga. In Haridwar, Ajamila stayed at a Visnu temple, where he executed bhakti-yoga, the process of devotional service. He controlled his senses and fully applied his mind in the service of the Lord. When his intelligence and mind were fixed on the form of the Lord, Ajamila once again saw before him the four celestial messengers of Visnu. Recognizing them as the ones he had seen previously, he offered his respects by bowing down before them.
The Visnudutas had gone away for some time to allow Ajamila to become firmly fixed in meditation on the Lord. Now that his devotion had matured, they returned to take him back to the spiritual world. Upon seeing the Visnudutas, Ajamila gave up his material body and regained his original spiritual body, which was just suitable for an associate of the Lord. This is the result of perfection in Krsna consciousness: after giving up the material body, one is immediately transferred to the spiritual world in one’s original spiritual body to become an associate of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Accompanied by the Visnudutas, Ajamila then boarded a golden airplane that took him through the airways, directly to the abode of the Supreme Lord Visnu, the husband of the goddess of fortune. Although he had been destined to be carried away to hell by the Yamadutas, Ajamila was saved by the Visnudutas and was able to go back home, back to Godhead, because he chanted the holy name of the Lord at the time of his death. Therefore if a person faithfully and inoffensively chants the holy name of the Lord, who can doubt that he will return to Godhead?
Nevertheless, such a person receives all the benefits of chanting the holy name. While the body is fit, therefore, we should chant the holy name of the Lord loudly and distinctly. If one does so, it is quite possible that even at the time of death he will be able to properly chant the holy name of the Lord with love and faith and return home, back to Godhead, without a doubt.
The mission of Vishnudutas is thus evident in this legend.