“Upon hearing their prayer, Krishna could also understand that Indra, being bereft of his sacrificial honor, was pouring down rain that was accompanied by heavy pieces of ice and strong winds, although all this was out of season. Krishna understood that this was a deliberate exhibition of anger by Indra.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 25)
Worship of the Supreme Lord in the mood of bhakti, or divine love, is not like any other kind of interaction. There are benefits for both parties involved, and there is no expectation of reciprocation. The activity falls into a unique category of spirituality, where the temporary conditions fixed in duality are nonexistent. All other varieties of worship can be abandoned in favor of pure, unmotivated and uninterrupted love for God. Aside from the security blanket of unending nectar in the form of the Supreme Lord’s association, there is also insulation from the obstruction of outside forces, which include those managed by the higher authorities. Govardhana Puja reminds us of this security, and it also serves to glorify the protector Himself, Shri Krishna.
The miseries of life are threefold. There are those rooted in the body and mind. I know that I shouldn’t be sad that my cheating wife has left me, but I can’t help it. I can’t help but feel inferior, that I’m not good enough. I also know that I shouldn’t worry about the outcome to the test I just took, because what can worrying really do? I already took the test, so I either passed or failed. What I think now doesn’t matter, yet I can’t stop thinking about it. Add diseases to the body and you get the full scope of the miseries the Vedas describe as adhyatmika.
Then there are the adhibautika miseries, those caused by other living entities. Not everyone is nice. Some people are kind and gentle, while others don’t mind committing the worst crimes to get what they want. Sometimes they are so mired in a life of ignorance that they don’t understand that what they’re doing is bad. Such miscreants are a great source of trouble in society.
The adhidaivika miseries are those that we seemingly can’t explain. Who causes earthquakes? What about the heat wave that sweeps across the country? And don’t forget the torrential downpours which lead to massive flooding. According to the Vedic tradition, the divine figures residing in the heavenly realm are in charge of these forces, and so to keep the resultant miseries at bay one is advised to perform sacrifice. A long time ago, however, the annual sacrifice in honor of the king of heaven, who is in charge of the rain, was skipped. Only for one moment was the sacrifice neglected, and the superior party instantly turned from a friend to an enemy.
Such occurrences are common outside the realm of spirituality as well. We pay homage to the utilities company so that they will provide us electricity. We pay the cable bill so that we’ll get the channels we want on our television set. The people we deal with may even be very friendly to us, acting as if our company is enjoyable to them. When we sit down in a restaurant and order food the waiter or waitress may try to act as if we’re not there as a customer. The car dealership salesman can also try to act as our friend.
But what if we were to say that we couldn’t pay?
“Oh, don’t mind me. I’m just sitting here. I’m actually very hungry. Can you bring me some food? I’ll have this and that off the menu. And, by the way, I don’t have any money with me. I can’t afford the prices for these items.”
Would the cordial relationship continue? Would not the restaurant owner tell us to leave? Would not the car salesman immediately turn away? In many instances our dealings with divine figures follow the same line, and though we think we are acting in a pious way, we are more or less conducting a business transaction. The desire to earn a profit is there in both parties. The seller wants to make some money on the sale and the buyer doesn’t want to spend more than they think the product is worth. The seller a long time back got so angry when a group of innocent people voluntarily decided to take their business elsewhere. They had no need to worry, as their director was the Supreme Lord Himself, the owner of this and every other creation in existence.
In Vrindavana Lord Indra was worshiped annually by the residents. They would gather items for sacrifice and then have a formal worship ceremony, where a priest would consecrate the area and carefully offer each item for Indra’s enjoyment. In return Indra would provide the rain necessary to sustain the farm community. One year, Nanda’s son decided that the neighboring Govardhana Hill should be worshiped instead of Indra. Nanda was the leader of the community, and his son the jewel of it. Though only a young boy, His attractiveness captivated the hearts and minds of all the residents. Through clever logic and a charming smile, Krishna was able to convince Nanda to shift the preparations towards Govardhana Hill instead.
Spiritual life relates to the spirit soul, which is the essence of identity. This soul is not tied to a material form, nor to any governing commission. In real connection to the Divine, there is no requirement that one follow this behavior or that, or belong to this institution or that. To teach this lesson to Vrindavana’s population and to future generations, Krishna purposefully stoked Indra’s wrath. The residents didn’t have to worship Indra, even if it was standard tradition. Worship of the demigods is a legitimate practice that is mentioned by Krishna Himself in the Bhagavad-gita.
“All living bodies subsist on food grains, which are produced from rain. Rains are produced by performance of yajna [sacrifice], and yajna is born of prescribed duties.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.14)
Though a recommended practice for one trying to elevate to a higher consciousness, demigod worship is in essence a business transaction, which means that there is a temporary result, a kind of profit, that comes to both parties. However, the ultimate system of spirituality can never be dependent on a ritual involving personal profit. As soon as the residents changed their mind and worshiped something else, Indra became angry. This means that he wasn’t really in it for the benefit of the devotees. He wanted his share, his moment in the spotlight. Once that was gone, envy took over, and instead of leaving the citizens alone, he decided to try to harm them.
Indra instigated a terrible rainstorm upon Vrindavana. Krishna knew that it was Indra’s work because the heavy pieces of ice and strong wind were not in season. This was an adhidaivika misery, but since Krishna is the Supreme Lord, it would have no effect on Him or His devotees. The Lord decided to hold up the just worshiped Govardhana Hill using His pinky finger. He held it above His head for seven consecutive days, giving the innocent residents shelter from Indra’s wrath.
If the car salesman runs after you with a hammer when you say that you won’t buy a car from him, was it worth going to him in the first place? Would you recommend him to others? Worship of Krishna at the highest level is known as bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. It is a voluntary effort, and the only pain that results from neglecting it is the missed opportunity to associate with the reservoir of sweetness, Shri Krishna. The association is the reward in bhakti, and for this reason the truly wise souls abandon all varieties of motivated religious behavior in favor of surrender to God, which they carry out daily by chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. And as a way to further honor Shri Krishna, the protector of the surrendered souls, they also perform the Govardhana Puja each year on the day after Diwali.
Indra, in a playful pastime involved,
In which Krishna deadly problem solved.
Offerings to king of heaven annually went,
In return vital rain to Vrindavana was sent.
One year the residents worship skipped,
Switch of rage in Indra then flipped.
Devotion to Krishna they all had,
So able to survive Indra’s rage mad.
With Govardhana held up in the air,
Krishna removed flooding’s scare.
All other varieties of religion forget,
And on loving Krishna keep your heart set.