Monday, March 29, 2010

The Pages Come Alive

Krishna and Balarama stealing butter “When Krishna and Balarama are caught stealing the yogurt and butter, They say, 'Why do you charge us with stealing? Do you think that butter and yogurt are in scarcity in our house?'” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 8)

For a person to be considered alive, a spirit soul must reside within their body. This soul enables one to perform activity or work. The gross material body is useless in the absence of the soul. When the spiritual spark is present, the body moves, walks, and talks. As long as a person is alive, they can give pleasure to friends and family through personal interactions. When death occurs, the soul leaves the body, thereby causing grief and heartache to loved ones. What people lament most about death is that their interactions with the deceased have come to end. They will never hear that person speak again nor will they be able to observe their activities. While this principle relating to death holds true for living entities, it is not so with God. Since Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, has an eternal body which full of bliss and knowledge, His activities never cease.

“Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion-at that time I descend Myself.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.7)

Krishna and His many forms Not only does the Lord appear on this earth from time to time, but He also shows His presence on others planets which are part of the innumerable universes in existence. His appearances as a human being are what most people pay attention to. When Krishna incarnates as Lord Rama, people pay close attention to His activities and pastimes. When He personally appears in His Krishna form, great scholars take note of His teachings and His childhood pastimes in Vrindavana. The Vedas tell us that the soul is eternal and that it repeatedly undergoes birth and death in the material world, meaning that our current life is not the first one we’ve had. As far as interacting with Krishna goes, we may or may not have been present on the earth during the time of the Lord’s various appearances. The jivatma is similar to God in quality, but inferior in quantity. This means that we are unable to remember the experiences from our previous lives, whereas God is able to. Not only does He remember all of our previous births, but He remembers every action ever performed by any living entity, past, present, or future. This is the greatness of God.

Whether we actually got to personally associate with Lord Rama or Lord Krishna in the past is irrelevant since we wouldn’t be able to remember anyway. As a result, people sometimes bemoan the fact that they are unable to have personal interaction with God. This frustration is understandable. The material world is essentially a place full of miseries. This is because everything here, including our current body, is temporary. If something is temporary, meaning it is ultimately destroyed, it must be considered fallible and also a source of misery. We may be living the happiest life in a material sense, with a great family, a nice house, and a high paying job, but these things are all temporary.

The relationships we form with friends, family, and spouses are all checked in a sense. This is evidenced by the frequency with which arguments and disagreements occur. It is customary for a husband and wife to argue vehemently with each other. In fact it is often said that people will only argue with the people they love. We love our friends and family so much that it pains us greatly to see them behaving improperly. This pain causes us to attempt to correct the actions of our loved ones, which then leads to arguments.

Lord Krishna eating butter Sense gratification in the material world has limits, and people that realize this eventually look to God. This is certainly a good thing, for the purpose of human life is to know, understand, and love God. When searching out God, one may be frustrated in the initial stages. This is because God doesn’t appear to be personally present before us. “I want to see You God, but I can’t. I’m suffering in this material world and I want out. I want to be with You. I hear that You’re so great, but why can’t I see You? Why can’t You just come and be with me?” It is quite natural to feel this way, for association with God represents the ultimate achievement in life.

When a person dies, we will never see them again. They are gone from our lives. However, if we think of them and remember the time we spent with them, then they are still alive in a sense. This holds true even more so with God. Just because the Lord is not personally present before us, it doesn’t mean that we can’t interact with Him. Having a life means being able to perform actions. If we read about the wonderful pastimes of the Lord found in the great Vedic texts, we are directly associating with Him, because simply by reading that Krishna did this and Krishna did that, He is essentially performing those actions in front of us. If the Lord were personally present before us and enacting His pastimes, it would really be no different than if we were to read about it. This is the magic of the scriptures. Krishna lives forever through the authoritative texts written by the great saints.

If we watch television shows, movies, or even sporting events, we love to talk about them later on with our friends. Our friends may ask us, “So what did you do last night?” We may reply with, “Oh, I saw Jordan hit a buzzer-beater to win the game.”, or “I saw a hilarious episode of Friends, the one where Chandler and Ross tried to quit the gym.”, or “I saw that new movie that’s out.” Through these activities, we directly associate with the various athletes and movie stars. In essence, these notable figures come to life by entertaining us.

Rama and Lakshmana battling Ravana In the same way, God can also come alive right before us on a daily basis. The Tenth Canto of the Shrimad Bhagavatam has detailed descriptions of Lord Krishna’s most famous pastimes. Lord Rama has an entire lengthy poem dedicated to His activities known as the Ramayana. By regularly reading these books, we can directly associate with God. If someone asks us if anything interesting happened over the weekend, we could respond with “Oh, Lord Rama killed Ravana. It was amazing; I was so happy.”, or “Lord Krishna lifted Govardhana Hill and protected all the inhabitants of Vrindavana.”, or “Lord Krishna kept impeding the path of Radharani as she went to sell yogurt in the market. Not only would He stop her from going, but He would eat all the cream off the top of the yogurt pots, thus jeopardizing any potential sales Radha would have made.”

In this way, God remains very much alive right in front of us. This pure and spontaneous mood of devotion is very much approved by Lord Chaitanya, Krishna’s most recent incarnation. During His time on earth, Lord Chaitanya once met a brahmana who was very distraught. The brahmana was fasting due to the fact that Mother Sita, Lord Rama’s wife, had been kidnapped by Ravana. He was waiting for her to come back so that he could eat. The actual events of the Ramayana had taken place thousands of years before, but this devotee of Lord Rama wanted to always remain in the moment. Lord Chaitanya appreciated this level of devotion very much.

Lord Krishna The Vedas are unlike any other religious discipline. Lord Krishna is loved and adored so much that His pastimes, and those of His incarnations, are found in many many books. We should all take advantage of these resources available to us. God is always alive; by regularly hearing about Him from the mouths of pure devotees, He can appear right in front of us. If we have a sincere desire to see the Lord and to serve Him, He will most certainly come to our rescue.