“All glories to Kunja-vihari, who has the charming complexion of an Indranila-mani (sapphire), whose ears are decorated with blooming nipa flowers, whose wide chest is decorated with a beautiful garland of gunja.” (Shrila Rupa Gosvami, Shri Kunja-vihary-astakam, 1)
kṛṣṇalābhir akṛśorasi hārī
sundaro jayati kuñja-vihārī
The Supreme Lord is not an old man or a vengeful figure who inflicts His wrath upon those who ignore His dictates. He also does not create others who can vie with Him for supremacy. As the Almighty and the only person who encompasses everything, surely He can take on any of these roles if He so chooses, but He is primarily engaged in pleasurable activities. If you could do anything right now and be guaranteed of success, what would you do? This is the question that God answers through His actions on a daily basis, and His favorite field of activity is the Vrindavana forest.
Why Vrindavana and not somewhere else? If you’re God, shouldn’t you like to play everywhere? If you choose one area, are you not excluding others? Aren’t you thereby making distinctions within your own creation?
As the all-pervading witness known as the Supersoul, God does reside within every sphere of space. This means that His presence is felt in both the desert and the spring. He is in the air and on land. He lives in the cave and also out in the open field. In fact, wherever the individual living entities travel, the Supersoul comes along for the ride.
sarvasya cāhaṁ hṛdi sanniviṣṭo
mattaḥ smṛtir jñānam apohanaṁ ca
vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyo
vedānta-kṛd veda-vid eva cāham
“I am seated in everyone's heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas am I to be known; indeed I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.15)
At the same time, however, the origin of matter and spirit has an original home, which He remains in simultaneously. Though He dwells within us right now as the Supersoul, He also stays in Vrindavana, where He fearlessly plays with youthful exuberance and innocence. In youth there is enthusiasm over the simplest things. Perhaps you like to read small books that your parents give to you. The books can be short stories describing different animals and shapes. The stories are very basic, but you don’t know any better. You want the adults to read you the stories over and over again. If one story finishes, you move on to another one.
Once all the books are read, you might look for other playful sports to take part in. “Play this game with me, Uncle. It’s easy. I’ll throw you the ball and then you throw it back to me. Or, how about we play with these blocks. I’ll build something and you can help me. When we’re done, we can try to build something else. Okay, so let’s go back to reading those books from before.”
It is not out of the ordinary for the enthusiastic child to follow such a pattern of behavior. The source of the enjoyment is the association and not necessarily the activity. Just having someone there with you is all that matters. The child is so sweet that they don’t care about being turned down. They just say what they are thinking without any concern for rejection. This behavior is very endearing and it actually ensures a high success rate when asking for association.
The child is ignorant and also less jaded in their ways, but the same exuberance should exist within all of us. In the Supreme Lord it is there at the highest levels, and His preferred field of play is the forest of Vrindavana, where the goddess of devotion has a strong presence. This particular personality who plays in the forests is known as Krishna, and He is considered the original form of Godhead. The word “Godhead” indicates that there are multiple manifestations of the entity we refer to as God, but the original is the one who is most complete in His features.
The word “Krishna” says that the original form of Godhead is all-attractive. He is also of a dark complexion. In the above quoted verse from the Shri Kunja-vihary-astakam of Shrila Rupa Gosvami, Krishna’s bodily complexion is compared to the indranila-mani, or the sapphire. This beautiful gem has an amazing color, and for a human being to have this complexion is quite unique. Krishna looks like an ordinary human being, but He is like a valuable sapphire to the eyes. His features point to a divine presence, one no ordinary human being could have.
Krishna’s enjoyment in Vrindavana is enhanced by the flowers hanging from His ears and the garland of gunja around His neck. He is ready to go about enjoying with the creatures of the forest and the cowherd women of the town, who also have a youthful exuberance in their desire to play with Krishna. Though most of these women, known as gopis, are married, they throw caution to the wind in favor of enjoying with their beloved lord of their life breath. On the outside this goes against moral principles, but then again the principles of dharma exist so that one can eventually have a spontaneous devotion to the same Krishna.
The association is what counts between Krishna and the gopis. Krishna enjoys because He knows the gopis only want to be with Him. The gopis enjoy because Krishna is the most beautiful, and every aspect of His personal self is attractive. His wide chest is nicely decorated, and His natural complexion is intoxicating to the eyes. The sounds He plays from His flute are mesmerizing, and the chance to associate with Him in a quiet setting is like no other boon.
The relationship between the individual and God is very personal, and every person’s birthright is to enjoy Krishna’s association. Wherever Krishna is loved and adored is Vrindavana, so if in your heart you have an untainted desire to derive joy from Krishna’s company, know that He will gladly take up residence there and roam its sacred land. That desire begins as a seed given by the devotee of Krishna, and then it gradually grows through the regular chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.
With a complexion sapphire blue,
And flowers from His ears two,
Krishna to Vrindavana forest goes,
Where gopis to be found He knows.
Mind this image dwell upon,
So fears eventually to be gone,
Your heart to this beauty sell,
So that in it He’ll always dwell.