Srimad Bhagawatham, Mahatmyam, Chapter One Sloka 5: Ihaghore Kalouprapte..
Translation: Kali has set in and our lives are governed by the traits of asuras (demons). This leads lives to misery and calamities. How can lives be freed from the clutches of Kali?
Interpretation: On behalf of all the Munis assembled at Nimeshe in the Himalayas, Shaunaka has a series of questions for the learned Suthan who happened to come to the yagna being conducted. Shaunaka has the knack of asking the right questions and he represents the collective thought process of the Munis who, despite years of conducting yagnas, felt that they were missing something.
By the time the Munis had conducted the yagnas, Kali Yuga had set in. In Kali Yuga, negativity governs. This is what is referred to in this sloka as traits of asuras or demons. So, however good you try to be, the traits of asuras would crop up in you and in others.
Mark Suthan’s words here: “Kali has set in and our lives are governed by the traits of asuras (demons).” This is what is called nature. We are born with a set of genes inherited from our parents. This genetic make up governs our life. This is the nature part. You cannot change this. Sometimes this is referred to as fate. Gene is a four-letter word, so fate. We cannot change our genes; we cannot change our fate. But, note, we can MODIFY our fate.
This can be done through what is called nature – the environment into which we are born; and samsarga or the company we keep.
Srimad Bhagavatam is full of examples of how nature played a role in moulding characters. Prahalada was born to asura parents, but, he turned out to be great devotee of Lord Mahavishnu; Mahabali was an asura king, but he had traits which many devas did not; Hanuman belonged to the world of monkeys, but got supernatural powers through Samsarga – the company of Lord Ram.
On the other side, we have an example of how the grand and great-grandchildren of Lord Krishna, the Yadavas, became a bunch of irresponsible and irreverent gang who destroyed themselves.
We are all a bundle of multiple personalities. We have a good side and a bad side dwelling within us. In Kaliyuga, the negative side gains an upper hand. It manifests as anger, jealousy, hatred, animosity, use of foul language, disrespect etc. All this ignites negativity within us. Do not blame yourself for that, it is because of the environment in which we live – Kaliyuga. But that does not mean that you lavishly display your negativity and blame it on Kaliyuga.
When multiple personality becomes extreme, it leads to what is called Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) — a condition that is characterised by the presence of at least two clear personality/self states, called alters, which may have different reactions, emotions, and body functioning.
We all have seeds of DID, but luckily it does not manifest. When it does manifest, it becomes a disorder that needs treatment.
The challenge is how we can free ourselves from the clutches of Kali. You may ask why should we ever free ourselves? We are not to blame. We have no control over the genes we inherit. But, we have the handle to modify our destiny. That is nurture and that is left to us. Shaunaka says clearly that this negativity leads to misery and calamities.
Hence, the effort should be to suppress negative traits. Sutha gives the answer in the subsequent slokas.