Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Strongest Man

Krishna holding up Govardhana Hill“All glories to Kunja-vihari, who stopped His relatives from performing the famous sacrifice, who then took away Indra’s pride, and who in sport lifted Govardhana Hill to protect against the weapon of Indra.” (Shrila Rupa Gosvami, Shri Kunja-vihary-astakam, 3)

sarvataḥ prathita-kaulika-parva
dhvaḿsanena hṛta-vāsava-garvaḥ
goṣṭha-rakṣaṇa-kṛte giridhārī
līlayā jayati kuñja-vihārī

As strength is an opulence, to search for the strongest person in a respective field is quite natural. The title of “Strongest Man” carries prestige, as through strength one can protect others and even get what they want from weaker parties. The search for the strongest can continue all the way up until you reach one person, whose strength has never diminished and who never had to acquire it. Some five thousand years ago in Vrindavana He gave a glimpse of that strength while in the transcendental body of a small child.

We can take the Olympics as an example to see how strength is a desirable attribute. In the sport of swimming, the stronger competitors will have an easier time wading their way through the water. In an event like the freestyle race, the faster your arms can move, the more speed you will have. Your arms will be able to move faster if they can pull through the water with ease. The stronger you are in your arms, the easier time you will have pulling the water. Hence strength is a key component to victory. Strength is required in the legs as well, as the swimmer needs to kick the entire time throughout the race.

To the victor go the spoils, and in Olympic competition the sign of victory is the gold medal. The more gold medals you can rack up, the stronger you appear to be in the specific competition. The person with the most gold medals gets tagged as the greatest Olympian of all time. With that attribute, they garner much attention from the media, both sports and news. Interviews are conducted and research is done to see how they became so strong.

This reveals the inherent defect. Even if we found the strongest person in the world, it is to be understood that they had to acquire their strength, even if they were naturally gifted. Within the womb of their mother, they were not strong enough to hold their head up, so it was only through maturation, experience, and the help of others that they became the strongest. Moreover, what goes up must come down, so that strength will eventually diminish to the point that the body housing that strength will be discarded.

Stronger than the individual is the material nature, whose element of wind is so powerful that it can knock down gigantic buildings. The planets are very strong as well, and likely the strongest object we know of is the sun. Yet if you keep ascending the chain of strength, you eventually come to the original person. As He is unborn and undying, His strength has always existed, and it will continue to exist going forward.

As an indication of that strength, He lifted up a massive hill over His head one time without any effort. To lift a heavy object for a few seconds is certainly noteworthy, but this person held it up above His head for seven consecutive days using just His finger. That act had a context to it, and because of the divine nature of both the person involved and the events in question, it is still celebrated and remembered to this day.

Not surprisingly, the person we speak of is God. He is a person in the sense of how we define it. He is actually inconceivable, but since we learn of objects through reference points, He gives us names that help us to understand Him a little better. He is described as a person because we know what that is, though His personality is different from our conception of it. He gets happy and sad, but these emotions are transcendental in Him. They are not the same happiness and sadness that are opposed to one another. God’s happiness is just as good as His sadness, as neither one leads to degradation.

God is the strongest, and He showed that strength when He lifted Govardhana Hill as mere play. The leader of the heavenly realm, King Indra, was angry that the puja intended for his honor was skipped one year by the residents of Vrindavana. Indra is quite powerful himself. Even if you are skeptical of the statements of the Vedas that point to the existence of higher authorities in charge of the various material elements, there is no doubt that the rain and the weather in general are more powerful forces than us. At the very least there is an impersonal force that ensures that the rain arrives in a timely fashion, so honoring it is never a bad idea.

Residents of Vrindavana taking shelter under Govardhana HillThe residents of Vrindavana annually worshiped the person in charge of the rain, Indra, but one year they skipped it due to Krishna’s persuasion. Though only a child at the time, the young son of Nanda Maharaja convinced His father to skip the worship and instead honor Govardhana Hill. Indra’s pride would be curbed in the process, and the scriptures, which would pass on accounts of the event to future generations, would record yet another incident that proved who the strongest person is.

Indra retaliated for the transgression by causing a torrential flood to hit Vrindavana, and as the residents were in danger of being washed away, Krishna uprooted the just worshiped Govardhana Hill and held it above His head to act as an umbrella. The residents took shelter under Krishna’s hill, and pretty soon Indra realized he was defeated. The strongest person came to the rescue of His devotees, and thus they got to bask in that strength. Rather than just marvel in it, one can derive the sweetest benefit from the strength of the strongest person. The proof of both His existence and His strength is seen in the results that follow the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. It is upon the strength of the holy names that the saints like Shrila Rupa Gosvami rely, and they use those names to craft wonderful poetry that finds further ways to glorify and connect with Shri Krishna.

In Closing:

The strongest person to find,

To satisfy inquisitive mind.


In Olympics fastest racer is the best,

Strength proved by competition’s test.


But than Krishna none is more strong,

Proved in incident from time ago long.


Vrindavana worshiped Govardhana at His direction,

And then later underneath it took protection.


On to strength of Krishna’s name hold,

And in God’s existence be sold.