“While the ladies of the capital of Hastinapura were greeting Him and talking in this way, the Lord, smiling, accepted their good greetings, and casting the grace of His glance over them, He departed from the city.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.10.31)
Lord Krishna, the benefactor of the Pandavas, their best well-wisher who stayed with them through thick and thin and looked out for their interests, was on His way back to His home in Dvaraka. Though the Supreme Personality of Godhead appearing on earth in the guise of an ordinary living entity, Shri Krishna voluntarily accepted the roles of king, friend, chariot driver, lover, husband, son and many others. As He started back for the city of Dvaraka, the women in Hastinapura, the capital city for the Pandavas headed by their eldest brother Yudhishthira, started going over Krishna’s features and praising His various activities. The Lord, hearing these words from afar, acknowledged them with a smiling glance as He left.
That response wasn’t necessary, but towards Krishna there is never any wasted effort. We may praise someone that we adore without them knowing about it, but that affection won’t reach their ears, nor can it affect their behavior. At most, it will increase our attachment to them, but the acknowledgment from the beneficiary is lacking because of the defects in their abilities. Not that they are misers or ungrateful, but each spirit soul is limited in its capacity. Consciousness is the most powerful gift bestowed to the living creature, and since it is developed best in the human species, the lower animals are considered inferior.
Nevertheless, consciousness for the individual is localized. I have no idea what someone else is thinking unless they tell me. Still, I can’t follow their experiences or know the many thoughts that arrive in their mind at every second that form the foundation of philosophical debate. All of my senses are limited in what they can do. I can eat, but only when something is presented before me and it goes through the chain of digestion. I can see, but only what my eyes are able to make out in the circumstances of the time. If there is no lighting, I can’t see anything. I can touch, but only that which is in close proximity.
Similarly, I can only hear that which is in audible range. With the help of radio and cell phone technology, I can perhaps hear more, but these require external devices. With the Supreme Lord, His consciousness pervades the entire space. He is simultaneously conscious of every single living creature’s thoughts and desires, and He remembers the thoughts of the same beings from their previous lives. The concept of reincarnation seems like a mystical idea of the east which gives solace and comfort to those who don’t understand life and death, but it doesn’t have to be thought of only within the context of past and future lives. Rather, the time continuum always acts within the present body and yet our identity doesn’t change. Today, this very moment will soon become a past life and the time you wake up tomorrow can be considered a future life. Your memory will not be so great going forward, but the Supreme Consciousness will not forget anything.
It, therefore, shouldn’t surprise us that though Krishna was not in the immediate vicinity of the women of Hastinapura who were standing on the rooftops, He could still hear their kind words and acknowledge them. What’s even nicer is that the talking wasn’t intentionally directed at Krishna. The women were just talking amongst themselves about how sacred the various plots of land were that Krishna roamed. First there was Mathura, where He appeared from the womb of Mother Devaki. Then there was Vrindavana, where He played as a small child to the foster parents Nanda Maharaja and mother Yashoda.
The ladies talking also addressed some of the interactions Krishna had with females. They said that His company was so invigorating that the damsels of Vrajabhumi were known to faint just by thinking of it. Imagine that. It’s understandable if you’re in ecstasy when in the direct company of something attractive, but Krishna was so charming that just by thinking of Him these women would be overwhelmed by the blissful emotions.
Then there were the many wives that Krishna had. As atmarama, Krishna is completely self-satisfied. He does not require any external aid for His happiness. Yet the exalted souls cannot live without the Lord, and if they should so desire His company as their husband, why would Krishna not grant that request? In bhakti-yoga, the sincerity of the emotion is what matters most, not the external standing. This was proven when Krishna married the sixteen thousand princesses that were previously held captive by the king Bhaumasura.
After defeating the king, Krishna released the princesses. He could have sent them back to their homes, but then no one would have married them. Who would be there to protect them afterwards? Also, they desired to have Krishna, their rescuer, as their husband. Thus the Lord obliged and treated them wonderfully, buying them gifts regularly and making them feel like they were in control of the relationship. The person whom meditational yogis and mental speculators are trying to understand and see for but one second can be commanded by those who are surrendered to Him in thought, word and deed.
The women on the rooftops in Hastinapura were feeling the separation already, even though Krishna had not yet left. They understood His divine nature and how His company is the prime benefit to having an existence. The sweetheart son of Yashoda delighted at their talks and made sure that they knew He heard them. What else could one ask for? If someone you love knows that you love them and is pleased, that recognition is all you need to keep offering your love going forward. Impediments and struggles are part of life, but the vision of the smiling face of the darling of Vrindavana makes the difficulties worth it.
In bhakti, thinking about God is as good as being with Him. Therefore it wasn’t required that Krishna remain in Hastinapura indefinitely. The five Pandava brothers, cousins to Krishna, had led a life of hardship, with their own family attempting to kill them on various occasions. It was due to Krishna’s grace that the brothers survived and eventually triumphed. Arjuna especially was close with Krishna, for the Lord had acted as His chariot driver during the famous battle of Kurukshetra. Yet Krishna did not stay with the brothers forever. He had duties He wanted to tend to in Dvaraka, where His queens, sons and grandsons awaited His return.
Irrespective of His physical location, Krishna can remain in the mind through regular recitation of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. The same talking started by the women on the rooftops can take place in the congregation of assembled devotees. That association of saintly people is one of the greatest boons in life, for the features of the Supreme Personality can be discussed. Through discussion comes the painting of mental pictures, which can then be conjured up at any moment. “All glories to the assembled devotees” is a common refrain in temples dedicated to Krishna to acknowledge the benefit that comes from association with people who love Krishna.
Through the interaction with devotees proper knowledge can be acquired. Intelligence is only worth having if it can bring you to a better place. You can score high on an IQ test that measures your ability to change shapes and do math problems in a short amount of time, but if you’re still mired in a life devoted to sense gratification, your intelligence is going to waste. It’s sort of like working hard to earn so much money and then going home and burning all the cash. Real intelligence is intended for understanding the features of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and then becoming more and more convinced that service to Him is the only worthwhile engagement. The women in Hastinapura did not have degrees from prestigious universities, but since they were pure of heart and since their talks were borne of spontaneous affection for the hero of the Yadu dynasty, their intelligence was perfect and utilized properly.
If you currently offer your love to others, there is still no harm in worshiping Krishna. For instance, if your time is spent giving love to your children by protecting them, hearing about Krishna and praising His activities that took place as a child in Vrindavana will only make you a better parent. If you’re faithful to a life partner through a committed relationship, hearing of how Krishna was devoted to His queens in Dvaraka will only purify your heart and make you a more loving person. Krishna is the source of everything, so worship of Him brings benefits that spread to the various trees and branches that have sprung up from the root of existence. The women in Hastinapura were not renounced ascetics, but they didn’t need to be to find happiness. Keeping the Lord in the mind at all times, we can forge ahead in whatever position we find ourselves in.
One last glimpse of Him the ladies sought,
In process of His glories they talked.
Greatness of gopis no one could know,
Universal form to mother Yashoda shown.
Of Krishna’s greatness they were well aware,
So upon His departure at Him they did stare.
Most fortunate were Krishna’s wives,
His company gives pleasure to the eyes.
Krishna could hear the talking going on,
Responded with smile while moving along.