“Being under the influence of illusion, I underestimated Rama and took Him to be a mere child. Thus I ran towards Vishvamitra's sacrificial altar. With that, Rama released an acute arrow capable of destroying His enemies. Upon hitting me, that arrow forcefully threw me away to an ocean one hundred yojanas [eight hundred miles] away.” (Maricha speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 38.19)
The Vedas tell us that Lord Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is the fountainhead of all other incarnations and expansions of God. The major religions of the world may have different names for God, but this doesn’t mean there is a different God for everybody. God is one and He is meant to be worshiped and adored by everyone. Even though He can take various forms, there is still only one God. Even Lord Krishna Himself has various forms, but the authorized statements of the Vedas tell us that His original form is that of a youth.
This may seem odd at first. God is great. Most everyone knows this. The Vedas even try to describe His greatness by referring to Him as Bhagavan, meaning one who has all fortunes. Bhagavan possesses the qualities of wisdom, renunciation, strength, wealth, fame, and beauty to the fullest degree and at the same time. We may know someone who is very powerful and beautiful, but it would be difficult for them to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are the richest person in the world. Beauty is also subjective, so claiming to be the most beautiful is also hard to prove. Even if a person does possess these opulences, since they are mortal they are destined to give up all these attributes at the time of death. God is eternal, meaning He always possesses wealth, beauty, fame, etc. He is the most famous because He has been around forever. In fact, the conceptions of time and space don’t exist in the spiritual world. They only exist in the material world as a way to represent the outer limits of the powers of the human brain.
Since God is so great, we have a tendency to imagine Him as being gigantic, an awe-inspiring figure. Some religions even depict God to be an old man. This seems like a logical conclusion for the Lord is the wisest person and has bestowed His wisdom upon us through written scripture. The Vedic scriptures are also referred to as the shastras, meaning law codes or that which governs. Coming up with laws and governing documents through consensus is one thing, but God created the scriptures all on His own. Real religion refers to that discipline which can teach us how to know, understand, and love God. We tend to associate wisdom and intelligence with learned academic scholars. These intellectuals are usually old and wear glasses. This also makes sense because we see that as we get older, we tend to become wiser due to our life experiences.
Yet the Vedas tell us that God does not appear old at all. He never takes birth, nor does He die, thus He doesn’t need to acquire any wisdom. His knowledge is eternal, for no one taught God how to do anything. Lord Krishna personally appeared on earth some five thousand years ago to enact various pastimes. His most celebrated activities are those He performed as a child in Vrindavana. When God comes to earth, He doesn’t accept a material body, but He still gives the impression that He is an ordinary human. This is for the benefit of His devotees. God wants us to love Him, but He will never force us to become devotees. Even after delivering the famous Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, Krishna still left the choice up to Arjuna as to what to do next.
“Thus I have explained to you the most confidential of all knowledge. Deliberate on this fully, and then do what you wish to do.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 18.63)
Appearing in the guise of a young child, Krishna performed wonderful activities such as stealing butter, killing various demons, playing with His young friends in the field, and even dancing with the young cowherd girls of Vrindavana known as the gopis.
To the outsider, these activities may seem strange for God. “If He is God, why is He dancing with girls? Why is He accepting the body of a child and drinking breast milk from Mother Yashoda? This person can’t be God.” This is the mystery of the Lord. Many people wonder why God doesn’t appear for them or why they can’t see God. Well the truth is that the Lord is right there in front us, but we need the proper set of eyes to see Him. Ordinary material eyes are not enough. We can see examples of this principle by studying the Lord’s various incarnations and advents on earth. Demons got see the Lord face-to-face, but they could not properly identify Him.
One such encounter took place between Lord Rama and the demon Maricha. During the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation, Krishna appeared on earth in human form as a kshatriya prince named Rama. As stated before, Lord Krishna can never assume a material body. In fact, He can never associate with material nature, which is a manifestation of His inferior energy. This is the difference between the living entities, jiva-tattva, and God, vishnu-tattva. We are similar to God in quality, but we are vastly inferior to Him in quantitative powers. Due to our qualities and desires, we have the ability to interact with material nature; something which is both temporary and miserable. God, on the other hand, is the source of both the spiritual and material energies. Therefore even when He appears on earth through His various incarnations, He never actually associates with maya. His body is always full of bliss and knowledge.
In His incarnation as Lord Rama, God played the role of a pious prince dedicated to dharma and the protection of the saintly class. The venerable Vishvamitra Muni had enlisted His services when Rama was just a mere boy of less than twelve years of age. At the time, the Rakshasa race was on full attack. Rakshasas are a species of demons committed to atheism and sinful life. They were harassing the great sages living in the forest. Maricha was one such powerful demon. One day, he came to attack Vishvamitra while the sage was performing a sacrifice. Lord Rama happened to be with Vishvamitra at the time, but Maricha discounted Him to be a mere child.
Herein lies a great lesson. Vishvamitra, a devotee and pure soul, knew that Rama was no ordinary man. When looking at Rama, he didn’t see a young boy or a helpless child. Vishvamitra knew that Rama could protect him, so that’s why he went to the king of Ayodhya and requested that Rama be his escort in the forest for a short period of time. Even though Lord Rama was God Himself, He didn’t openly declare this secret to everyone. He adhered to the principles of dharma by rendering great service to Vishvamitra. In return, the sage initiated Rama into the military arts, giving Him very powerful mantras to be used when fighting enemies. As soon as Maricha attacked, Rama defended the great sage by shooting Maricha and throwing him hundreds of miles away.
God is never to be taken lightly. Maricha didn’t have the eyes to see God standing right before him, and he paid dearly for this transgression. Not only is God’s original form that of a youth, but this is also how devotees prefer to see Him. Sometimes God reveals His true nature to the fortunate souls. During His time spent on earth in His incarnations, to prove to the devotees that He indeed was God Himself, the Lord displayed His virat-rupa, or universal form. Arjuna saw this massive form of Krishna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Similarly, the great Markandeya Rishi was once shown the universal form while inside the belly of Lord Narayana during the dissolution of the world. Lord Rama also once playfully swallowed the crow Kakabhushundi and showed him His universal form inside His mouth.
“After seeing this universal form, which I have never seen before, I am gladdened, but at the same time my mind is disturbed with fear. Therefore please bestow Your grace upon me and reveal again Your form as the Personality of Godhead, O Lord of lords, O abode of the universe.” (Arjuna speaking to Lord Krishna, Bg. 11.45)
It certainly is nice to get a glimpse into God’s greatness, but devotees nevertheless prefer to see the Lord in His original youthful form. It is this form that best depicts God’s true nature of kindness and compassion towards all. We are eternally indebted to the Lord for allowing us to see His beautiful, youthful body. One look at His smiling face can give enough transcendental pleasure to last a lifetime. It is imperative that devotees make a habit of viewing and offering obeissances to pictures of the Lord and His deities as often as possible. God gives us the rules and regulations of religion to guide us in our daily affairs, but more importantly, He wants us to derive joy and happiness through His association. It is up to us whether we want to see Him or not.