Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Jewel of Vrindavana

Lord Krishna“A living entity, by constitution, has the propensity to be attached to something. We see that if someone has no object of attachment, if he has no children, he transfers his attachment to cats and dogs. This indicates that the propensity for attachment cannot be stopped; rather, it must be utilized for the best purpose.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Teachings of Lord Kapila, Ch 10)

The jewel of Vrindavana, the tiny little bundle of joy who has captured the hearts of the residents of the replica of the eternal land in the spiritual sky, has just gotten up and is ready to perform His daily pastimes. Arising from His bed and blowing His celestial bugle, the darling of Vrajabhumi is ready to go out to the pasturing grounds and play with His young friends. Taking charge of the cows assigned to Him, the young child and His elder brother Balarama run out to the pristine fields to enjoy every hour of daylight. This day is similar to others, though the pastimes enjoyed by the Supreme Person and His dear associates are not ordinary by any means, nor do they ever become dull. The children have their lunches given to them by their parents, so when their leader, the charming bluish boy who always carries a flute in His hands and wears a peacock feather in His hair, decides on an appropriate place to stop and sit, everyone will take rest and enjoy the scenery and the company of the most loveable object the world has ever known.

Lord KrishnaEven though these daily pastimes occurred around five thousand years ago on this planet, they take place eternally in the universe. Just as the sun is always rising somewhere on the earth, the glorious lila of the Supreme Personality of Godhead - Lord Krishna, the universally worshipable figure, the Supreme Being ever worthy of being honored, remembered, adored, and attached to by all living beings, from every walk of life and every type of species - take place in some land or another at every second. Therefore if we are to be attached to any one person or thing, Krishna is it. He, as the most attractive, is capable of receiving our loving affection and always reciprocating to the highest degree. The mere fact that Krishna can be remembered at all times of the day and throughout our entire lifetime is proof enough of His undying nature and the supremacy in benefit that comes from remembrance of His names, forms, pastimes and qualities. Of all the ways to remain attached to the Supreme Lord, nothing is as effective or more capable of being invoked in as many unique situations as the chanting of the holy names found in the sacred maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

“In order to deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I advent Myself millennium after millennium.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.8)

Did Krishna only enjoy lunch with His friends every day? Is that all we are to remember? Actually, so many aspects to the Supreme Lord’s life in the holy land of Vrindavana can be remembered, celebrated, and studied on a regular basis. His appearance itself is a mystery and a sight to behold within the mind. Emerging from the womb of Mother Devaki, who was being held in the prison cell of her brother King Kamsa of Mathura, Krishna came to deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants. The pious in this instance were no ordinary souls. They were highly elevated yogis who had performed wonderful penances, austerities and devotional activities in past lives. Just as it would be silly to say that every single living entity’s duration of life is only one day, a measurement which itself is subjective and only speaks to direct perception and nothing else, it would be insane to think that every person only gets one life to live. After all, a lifetime is simply a unit of measure applicable to the occupant of the temporary dwelling known as the body. Just as the sun rises and sets every day, the living entity goes through birth and death cycles perpetually in different bodies.

Krishna's birthDepending on the work performed in a previous life, elevation to a higher species and more fortunate conditions can be secured for the upcoming life. Nothing can be considered a more beneficial situation than being in the direct presence of God, who is always with a form. It is not surprising to hear from others the advice that God should be remembered and worshiped, but the details on how that transfer of control over emotion and mental satisfaction should occur is not readily forthcoming. Being in the company of God and caring about His welfare at all times of the day is an ideal way to make good on the professions of faith and claims of religiosity. Mother Devaki and her husband Vasudeva, who is also known as Anakadundubhi, immediately developed an affection for their young child, their savior who even showed His grand Vishnu form to them while still in the prison. Lord Vishnu is the controller of the mode of goodness, which is a mode of nature that, when coupled with passion and ignorance, governs all material affairs and constitutes all material bodies. But Vishnu is non-different from God, so Krishna’s transformation into Vishnu acted as proof of His divine nature.

Despite seeing the Vishnu form, Krishna’s parents didn’t take Him to be grand or opulent. They were devoted to Him simply because of who He was: their son. Therefore they were always concerned for His safety. Krishna asked Vasudeva to transfer Him to Mathura to escape the punishing influences of Kamsa, who had been eagerly anticipating the birth of Devaki’s eighth child, whom it was prophesized would kill him. For the grossly foolish miscreants wholly attached to wine, women and power, death is an event to fear greatly, for the afterlife, if it is believed in at all, is hellish. Even if the demon doesn’t think there is life after death, they are afraid of what might happen once they lose everything. Therefore Kamsa could not go a second without thinking about Krishna and the fear of death that His birth would bring.

Krishna in VrindavanaBeing transferred to Vrindavana, Krishna lived under the care of His foster parents Nanda Maharaja and Mother Yashoda during His childhood. Life in Vrindavana was just splendid; every day brought new delights. Krishna was loved by everyone, including His other cowherd friends, both boys and girls. Vrindavana was a farm community, so the residents lived the simple life. Tend to the cows in the morning, take care of the household chores during the day, and all the while sing along to the songs composed by the pure devotees, who made sure to document the activities of the new member of their community. You see Krishna was no ordinary child, as all of His actions were causes for celebration and remembrance. Villain after villain was sent to Vrindavana by Kamsa to do away with Krishna, but the young child, though seemingly a helpless infant, was able to not only escape death, but also kill these wicked demons. Each and every time, the residents initially went into panic, fearing the young child’s fate, but afterwards they would delight at His amazing ability to simultaneously survive dreaded attacks and protect the people from evil influences.

These pastimes, including the event of Krishna’s birth, are well documented in the sacred texts of the Vedas, the ancient scriptural tradition of India. The Shrimad Bhagavatam, the crown jewel of Vedic literature, especially devotes much time to Krishna’s childhood and His wonderful pastimes enacted in Vrindavana and also those that took place later on in Mathura and Dvaraka, where the Lord would act as a king and protector of the townspeople. Though safely tucked away in the tenth canto of the Bhagavatam, Krishna’s life and pastimes have been wonderfully summarized and thoroughly explained by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in his book titled, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead. For those who are attached to Krishna in thought, word and deed, this book is arguably the most important and relishable work of the English language to ever be produced. One can read this summary study of the tenth canto of the Shrimad Bhagavatam over and over again and never fail to derive transcendental pleasure.

Krishna bookAttachment is found in each one of us. Those who are somewhat spiritually inclined but not fortunate enough to take to bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, initially follow one of two paths in their religious pursuits. One route is that of enjoyment and the other is renunciation. In fact, these two paths, which are referred to as bhoga and tyaga in Sanskrit, are adopted by every single person, irrespective of their penchant for spiritual activity or lack thereof. First there is the desire for enjoyment, which can involve eating, drinking, sex life, gambling, and many other engagements. Once an unpalatable condition is faced, there is an immediate desire for renunciation. We may frequent a restaurant for a few weeks, but after we get sick of the food, we’ll renounce the establishment and swear that we’ll never go there again. The same thing occurs with clothing, hobbies, and indulgences in basic foods and beverages.

“One who restrains the senses and organs of action, but whose mind dwells on sense objects, certainly deludes himself and is called a pretender.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 3.6)

When the pain of material life becomes too acute, there comes the desire for complete renunciation. “Let me just live in the forest and sit in meditation all day. This way no one will be able to bother me.” Indeed, Arjuna, the famous military warrior and cousin of Shri Krishna, was so mentally disturbed at the prospect of having to fight against and potentially kill his friends and relatives enlisted in the opposing army on the eve of a great war that he was seriously contemplating dropping his weapons and taking to the life of a mendicant. Luckily for Arjuna, Krishna was by his side to set him straight. The advice subsequently provided to Arjuna applies to all of us as well, and it can save us from the false notion that attachment can be completely abandoned.

Arjuna and KrishnaThe fact is that attachment will always be there, even in the state of renunciation. In Arjuna’s case, his desire for renouncing the battlefield was rooted in his attachment to the bodily welfare of those fighting for the opposing army. The first instruction taught to aspiring transcendentalists of the Vedic school is that we are not our bodies. The spirit soul is what counts, and the body can be thought of as a temporary covering, a set of clothes that eventually gets worn out. The inherent attachment is found within the soul, who like a magnetic particle is naturally attracted to the Supreme Spirit, which is an expansion of God that resides within the heart next to the individual soul. But when attachment is directed towards worldly objects, those things relating to the outer covering of the soul, the resulting enjoyment through association is short-lived. When all the juice is sucked out of the paltry enjoyment, the desire for the removal of misery, or tyaga, surfaces once again.

Even with renunciation, there will still be attachment. As an example, many adult age individuals who are not married or living with any children still have attachments to worldly objects. They want some outlet for the loving affection ingrained within them. Therefore if there are no kids and no spouse, the lonely individual will buy a cat or dog and dedicate all of their time to them. The penchant for service is always there. Therefore even in a life of renunciation where association with members of the opposite sex is absent, there is still some attachment. The soul needs to love, and when its primary target for affection misses the mark, the resulting pleasure is substandard.

Mother Yashoda with KrishnaBetter than taking to renunciation as a way of avoiding the bitter pill of anger, heartache, defeat, loss and overall sadness is finding a tangible object for attachment. The solution is actually quite clear. When one object finds another that it is most strongly attached to magnetically, it is very difficult to break the bond. In these instances the objects are so attached to one another that it is virtually impossible to separate the two entities. The Supreme Lord Krishna can be thought of as the largest object that is magnetically charged. As individual souls, we are all meant to be attached to Him in some way or another. The service mentality therefore can be purified only when it is directed at Krishna, who can accept any amount of affection from any amount of people simultaneously. What’s so wonderful about this attachment is that it automatically makes us love our fellow man, cats, dogs, and all forms of life even more. Attachment to Krishna, when maintained through steady practice in bhakti, brings about the vision of the paramahamsa, or the topmost transcendentalist who is likened to a supreme swan, who is capable of seeing everything and everyone as being part of Krishna. If Krishna is all-attractive, then naturally anyone who is associated with Him will also be brilliant.

Because of its link to Krishna, the land of Vrindavana is still celebrated to this day. Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the preacher incarnation of Godhead, has declared that just as Krishna is worshipable, so is His land. Similarly, the Krishna book authored by Shrila Prabhupada is also non-different from the Lord and thus an object of reverence, for on its hallowed pages are found wonderful descriptions of Krishna and His pastimes. Attachment to any personal aspect of the Lord -be it His names, forms, pastimes, land or words describing the same - can solve all of our problems. Though we don’t have the eyes to see Him now, through regular attachment in thought, word and deed facilitated through the processes of bhakti-yoga, we can realize that Krishna never leaves our side. He will forever remain present to accept our service and purify our attachment.