Saturday, September 22, 2012

Pleasing a Higher Authority

Krishna lifting 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

Never mind if there is a position of prominence, there is still tribute paid to some higher authority. Even when operating under the mistaken notion that you are the sole determining factor of your destiny, you will have to offer service to someone else in order to get what you want. From a famous incident a long time ago, we get a lesson on who the highest authority is and why pleasing Him is unlike any other type of tribute. The worship itself is the reward, and in this way it is a gift that can continuously arrive.

Let’s say that you’re running a business. You decide which product or service to produce and at what cost to sell it to the public. Nothing is guaranteed in this venture. Price point, marketing, location, capital costs, labor costs and so many other variables need to be balanced just right in order to turn a profit. There is no guarantee that the public will want your product or service, and just because you have a good first year of sales doesn’t mean that the next year will be the same.

Though you are the boss, are you in full control? Do you not have to bow down to anyone? Actually, the list of dependencies is quite large. First, there is the buying public. You must give in to their demands because they hold the commodity you are after: money. If they are not happy, you will go out of business. Then there are the employees. Though they work for you, they must be pleased with the salary you offer them as well as the working conditions. Otherwise they can jump ship to another job. Then, of course, there is the strong arm of government. This is the one entity you will likely have to offer tribute to the most. You pay taxes, sure, but you must also abide by their many rules and regulations. And since politics is a dirty game, you don’t want to get on anyone’s bad side. The government can make your life miserable overnight, so you have to bite your tongue in instances where you want to tell them what you really think.

The business is just one example of where tribute is offered in order to receive a reward. The practice exists in religious life as well. If you get a new home, you can hold a puja, or worship ceremony, in order to bring auspiciousness. In the Vedic tradition such pujas are quite common. You want to bring auspiciousness at the time of a new birth, a marriage, or the arrival of good fortune. Similar practices are followed in other traditions, and the sentiments are properly rooted. The business owner can see the different authority figures that are responsible for his success, but in the grander scheme the rulers aren’t so easily spotted. The religious traditions look to their scriptures to learn of who should be offered tribute, when, and for what purpose.

Some five thousand years ago the residents of a farm community were set to offer tribute to Lord Indra, the king of heaven. The Vedic tradition reveals to us the names of many demigods, divine figures who are in charge of various aspects of the material creation. The residents of Vrindavana were accustomed to worshiping Indra annually so that he would continue to provide enough rainfall to sustain their crops. With a healthy harvest, everyone could continue to survive without a problem. Even if one is skeptical of the belief in a figure in charge of the rain, at least there is no harm in the sentiment, in knowing that a higher being is responsible for things that we can’t explain. Scientists can study the sun, the moon and the rain, but they cannot create any of these things, let alone manage them.

The leader of this farm community was Nanda Maharaja, and one year his young son Krishna protested to the puja in honor of Indra. Krishna was able to convince Nanda and the rest of the townspeople to worship the neighboring Govardhana Hill instead. This hill was special to the cows, who were the livelihood of the community. The cows provided enough milk products for food and also a surplus to be sold for profit. Since Govardhana pleased the cows, it also pleased the residents. Though they were a little hesitant at first, the people decided to follow Krishna and take their offerings to the hill instead, starting the first annual Govardhana Puja.

Revisiting the business scenario, if the owner should take their money reserved for tax payments and use it to lower the prices of their products, what would happen? The customers sustain the business after all, so shouldn’t they deserve the highest tribute, which in this case would mean lower prices? Of course we know that the result of this shift would not be good. The government is the higher authority, as they yield more control. With the simple stroke of a pen they can shut down the business. If you neglect to pay them their taxes, they will exact revenge. In this way we see that the initial tribute isn’t necessarily offered out of the goodness of the business owner’s heart. There is a reciprocal benefit to paying taxes.

In the case of Nanda Maharaja, the higher authority neglected was in charge of the rain. Therefore he could make life very hellish for the people. This is in fact what he did as a response, instigating a torrential downpour on the citizens. Just think, Indra had been worshiped for so many consecutive years by people who weren’t very powerful. Now they skipped his sacrifice for just one year, and as a result he was ready to destroy them all.

Krishna lifting Govardhana HillBut the descriptions and accounts of this incident are famous today for a reason. They have been passed down to us to teach so many lessons, the foremost among them being that Krishna is the highest authority. This means that anyone who relies on Him is never a loser. He is the detail to the abstract conception of a God. He is the personality behind the impersonal energy known as Brahman. He is the source of the light of this universe, and He is the original beauty to the attractiveness we see.

Krishna would lift up the massive Govardhana Hill as mere child’s play and protect the citizens from Indra’s wrath. Their reliance on Krishna was not for a specific personal benefit; they followed His advice because they loved Him. What could the young child give them anyway? He was under Nanda’s protection, and yet He protected them when they surrendered to His desires. In the same way, know that through chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, all tribute slated for other authority figures is automatically accounted for, and if any trouble should arise, Krishna will save the day. In bhakti-yoga, the benefit is in the worship itself, as no reward beats the association of the all-attractive Supreme Lord.

In Closing:

So that government will stay out of my way,

Tribute in kindness and taxes I will pay.


The demands of the consumer I must hear,

Otherwise to competitors their money to steer.


In this way know that no one independent,

On higher authorities all are dependent.


When hill on His finger Krishna held,

Defeat for vengeful Indra it spelled.


When offering in love to the Lord is made,

Know that tribute to all others paid.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Radhashtami 2012

Shrimati Radharani“Shrimati Radharani received from Durvasa Muni the benediction that whatever She cooked would be sweeter than nectar. That is the special feature of Her cooking.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 6.116)

In bhakti-yoga there is no prerequisite of a specific ability or social status. This is in contrast to other kinds of yoga. Intelligence is required in jnana-yoga, renunciation and peace in meditational yoga, and the ability to perform a specific kind of work in karma-yoga. Yet in any social status, at any age, and in any circumstance one can be connected to the Supreme Lord in a mood of love. Love is the universal language, and so it is never bound to a specific condition. Divine love exists to the highest degree in Shrimati Radharani, and so the anniversary of her appearance day is celebrated with great pomp by Vaishnavas, to whom she is very dear.

Radharani’s good qualities are too many to count and their magnitude so high that measurements don’t exist to accurately describe them. She is God’s pleasure potency, known as the hladini-shakti. There is the original God and then there is His energy. We are also part of His energy, and being technically part of the marginal aspect we have a choice in masters. Just as the free woman has a choice in suitors, the living entity can choose in favor of either material nature or the divine energy. Material nature has an illusory effect, so whatever it reveals to influence the individual soul’s choice is not what it seems. On the other hand, the divine energy is the truth; it is real. The individual’s true calling is association with the divine energy.

As the embodiment of the devotional attitude, Radharani never chooses in favor of the material energy. Instead, she uses her abilities to please the Supreme Lord in His original standing as Shri Krishna, the beautiful youth with a blackish complexion. He holds a flute in His hands, wears a peacock feather in His hair, and sports an enchanting smile that never leaves His face. These attributes combine to make a vision that never changes, meaning that service to it as a means of worship can take place at any time.

In exercising her choice to give pleasure to Krishna, Radha engages with her beloved in amorous sports. There is a sportive tendency within the divine, and when acting on that tendency there is the ideal playing field that is Vrindavana-dhama. The pleasure groves of that sacred land is where Radha and Krishna play, where they derive tremendous enjoyment from each other’s company. The contact is so blissful that anticipation of it is considered more enjoyable than the actual meeting.

In Vrindavana, Radha offers service to Krishna in other ways as well. As a beautiful young woman, one of her skills is cooking. She was once blessed by the famous Durvasa Muni that whatever she would cook would taste like sweet nectar. Cooking is an art form, and some are naturally very talented in it. They know how to combine ingredients in such a way that tasty dishes result. They have the patience and the creativity to make preparations that everyone will enjoy.

Radha has this ability in full and she offers it as a sacrifice to her beloved. Krishna’s foster mother in Vrindavana, Yashoda, calls Radharani over to cook for her boy, for she knows that He enjoys her preparations the most. Yashoda is a coordinator in this way, taking the knowledge of Radharani’s culinary abilities and steering them in the right direction. Another one of Radharani’s qualities is shyness, so she is not always so willing to openly show her love for Krishna. To cook for Him is a subtle way to offer service, and rather than volunteer right away, she waits until Yashoda calls upon her. This way it doesn’t appear to others that she is openly desirous of pleasing Krishna, a subtlety which actually makes her love more endearing to Yashoda’s son.

In bhakti-yoga, one can use whatever abilities they have to please the Lord. Cooking can be done for Krishna’s pleasure by offering preparations first to the Vaishnava spiritual master, who then passes the offering up the chain of spiritual masters until it eventually reaches Krishna. Radha is the topmost servant, so if she sees sincerity in devotional service, she recommends the devotee to Krishna. And her favor is very easy to win, as she is tenderhearted by nature. Therefore followers of bhakti-yoga always pray for Radharani’s blessings, and with great pomp they celebrate occasions relating to her.

Radha and KrishnaRadha uses all of her qualities for Krishna’s pleasure, and so one can use any of their skills to remain connected to the divine. Some are skilled in writing and others in talking. Some are naturally people-friendly, while others work better in seclusion. Something as simple as attending a gathering of devotees celebrating Shri Krishna is a way to offer service, as we influence people more with our example than with our words.

On Radhashtami we celebrate the occasion when Krishna’s dearly beloved appeared on this earth to delight Him with her pastimes. She is not specifically qualified in Vedanta, nor does she sit quietly in meditation. Instead, she sacrifices all of her time, dedicates every ability and quality that she possesses, for the Supreme Lord’s pleasure. She sets the perfect example in this regard, and she shows that bhakti-yoga cannot be checked by any condition. Devotion offered to her is as good as worshiping Krishna, and so the truly wise saints chant the names of both the energetic and the energy found in the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

In Closing:

In favor of devotion she chooses,

All of her abilities she uses,

For Krishna’s pleasure to see,

So that happy both will be.


From Durvasa blessing in cooking she takes,

So nectarean food for Krishna she makes.


On this blessed Radhashtami day,

Name of Krishna’s beloved let me say.

Stopping Sacrifice

Krishna's lotus feet“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

Question: “Why would Krishna stop a religious sacrifice?”

To be religious is good, after all, especially in the eyes of those who are themselves religious. It is considered better to spend your time in worship of a higher being than in feverishly pursuing personal sense satisfaction, which carries the cost of an inflated ego. The burden of that cost becomes so great that pretty soon there are not enough material elements around to maintain the level of inflation, thereby leading to pain and suffering. As beneficial as religious life is, there are still different variations of it, and in some circumstances the highest object of worship comes to the scene to stop religious efforts. This was the case one time with Shri Krishna in Vrindavana.

The people in the farm community of Gokula were simple. Nanda Maharaja was the king, and he would pay tax to the ruler of the neighboring town of Mathura. There was still an ample supply of provisions left over. Grains and milk products sustained life, and since Vrindavana’s inhabitants had plenty of land to roam freely on, there was no boredom either. Cows felt protected, and so they produced heaps of milk. The grass fed the cows, and the rain fed the grass, which meant that the wise citizens understood that whoever was responsible for the rain had a vital hand in their sustenance.

The people were followers of the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India. The original Vedas sing the glories of the Supreme Lord. Everything is God, as every object and every person come from Him. Therefore, in addition to glorification of the Supreme Lord Himself, there are hymns dedicated to the various governing agents, living entities who are expansions from the original God. They are part of the definition that is God, but they are still separate from Him and also subordinate. The glorification of these figures is included to help the individual roaming through the material land understand just how little is in their control.

ā-brahma-bhuvanāl lokāḥ 

punar āvartino 'rjuna 

mām upetya tu kaunteya 

punar janma na vidyate

“From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.16)

Lord Indra is in charge of the rain. He is the king of the heavenly planets, where the duration of life is very long. The heavenly realm is still part of the perishable material creation, but it is considered a higher existence, a sort of VIP area that is the reward for pious deeds. In every religious tradition there is some concept of a heavenly afterlife, and in the Vedas we are provided more details as to what that life entails.

The people of Vrindavana worshiped Lord Indra annually through a puja, or formal ritualistic worship. One year Nanda Maharaja’s young son Krishna saw the preparations for this puja and decided to try to stop it. Krishna is the original Supreme Lord, who is worshiped best through a mood of love. The worship of the authorities in charge of important aspects like the rain is done in a sort of business transaction, the ole “I scratch your back so you’ll scratch mine.” In its purest form, worship of God does not carry any strings. There is only the desire to associate with Him, to enjoy His company. The blessed residents of Vrindavana had this benediction in the association of Krishna, so there was no need for explicit worship of Indra.

Krishna did not reveal His true identity to Nanda. Instead, through His insightful arguments combined with His charming innocence the father was won over. At Krishna’s direction, Nanda decided to instead hold a puja for the neighboring Govardhana Hill, which provided the grass for the cows to eat. Everyone else in the town followed Nanda’s lead, and all the preparations that were intended for Indra got shifted to this hill.

In the above referenced verse from Shrila Rupa Gosvami’s Kunja-vihary-astakam, Krishna is glorified for having stopped a famous sacrifice. This was no small feat, as the worship of Indra had been a staple in the community for as far back as anyone could remember. Think of cancelling Thanksgiving one year in favor of celebrating a new holiday. Something like that just isn’t done, but with Krishna’s influence anything is possible.

There were many purposes simultaneously served through the Lord’s intervention. Indra’s pride was curbed. Though he is in charge of the rain and the thunder, Indra is not autonomous. The material elements are created by Lord Brahma, who acts within the rules set by Krishna. Therefore Indra is more of a trustee; he is not the owner. It is easy for any person to get puffed up with pride when they are worshiped so often. Indra began to think that the people of Vrindavana depended on him, and that since they missed his puja one year they were ungrateful.

Krishna lifting Govardhana HillAnd how did Krishna curb Indra’s pride? He lifted the mighty Govardhana Hill after Indra, in a vengeful wrath, sent forth a torrential downpour on the town. A young boy held up a huge hill for seven days and bested a heavenly figure who was the leader of the celestials in their conflicts against the demons. To have your pride defeated by God is always a good thing, and on this occasion Indra’s appreciation of Krishna increased all the more.

Shrila Rupa Gosvami also notes that Krishna lifted the hill in mere sport. The Supreme Lord, through His impersonal energies, holds up the planets in outer space for a seemingly infinite amount of time, so holding a hill above His head for seven days is child’s play. More importantly, the incident showed that the true purpose to sacrifice, to all religion for that matter, is to please the Supreme Lord. That connection to the divine was directly available for the residents, who first followed Krishna’s recommendation to worship the hill and then stayed under His protection after Indra’s attack. In the modern age, the same connection is available to anyone who is fortunate enough to take advantage of the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

In Closing:

When affinity for religion you’ve got,

Why God your sacrifice would stop?


Worship not only to get food for meals,

Higher pleasure you should also feel.


When preparations for Indra-puja He did detect,

Advised towards Govardhana Hill worship redirect.


Residents first Govardhana Puja performed,

King of heaven thus felt scorned.


Indra Nanda’s son’s supreme position shown,

Since then as lifter of mountains Krishna known.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Dancing to the Rhythm

Krishna dancing with the gopis“All glories to Kunja-vihari, who is like a Chakora bird that drinks the beauty of the moonlike face of Shrimati Radharani, who steals away the calmness of all the gopis, and who is expert at dancing gracefully and following the meter known as charchari.” (Shrila Rupa Gosvami, Shri Kunja-vihary-astakam, 2)

cāruto jayati kuñja-vihārī

Shri Krishna dances with the gopis in the Vrindavana forest. The pristine setting is perfect for the exchange of transcendental emotions in purity, and since in the liberated state there are no inhibitions relating to fear over temporary ups and downs, the individual is free to act on their natural impulse, which is divine love. By praising Krishna’s dancing to the charchari rhythm, Shrila Rupa Gosvami simultaneously provides more information into the nature of bhakti-rasa, or the taste of devotion to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

What is the secret formula for curing society’s ills? Will success come through the redistribution of wealth? You know, just give everybody a certain amount of money, a “living wage”? That should make everyone happy, no? Actually, the starting point is already the same for every single person. The land is there for every person’s benefit after all. The elements of nature do not play favorites either. The sun doesn’t shine its rays only on one segment of the population. The rainfall is sporadic, but it is by no means exclusive to a certain section of the population. The sun, the rain and the earth combine to create food, which is then used to sustain life, so where is the question of scarcity or inequality?

The resultant distribution is apparently unequal because of the desires of the living entities. Some people will be pious and charitable, while others will be misers and completely selfish. Some people will eat a lot, while others will require very little. Some will desire a large building for a home, while others will be satisfied with a tiny room. The real source of any tension is the forgetfulness of the constitutional position, that of servant of God. In ignorance, the living entity thinks they are the primary enjoyer, and in this mindset they seek out that enjoyment. Yet if others follow the same mentality, there will surely be clashes, as who is to say how much one person should be allowed to enjoy?

In the constitutional position, the aim shifts towards pleasing the Supreme Lord. There is no fear over scarcity or competition in this regard, as just thinking about God is enough to please Him. The more pure that thinking is - that is the more you can remove desire for personal gain from your contemplation of the Supreme Absolute Truth - the more pleasure the object of attention will feel. This should only make sense. If your wife only loves you for your money, will you be pleased by her affection? If your children only look at you as their driver for soccer games and trips to and from school, is that love pure? When the affection is based entirely on their desire to associate with you, to enjoy your company, the pleasure you feel will increase.

With devotion to God, the added benefit is that the more the Supreme Lord is pleased the more the worshiper will feel pleasure as well. Therefore the only formula for universal peace is pure devotion, which is known as bhakti in Sanskrit. There are other routes for transcendental perfection, but only bhakti transcends all boundaries. Beauty, wealth, strength, fame and intelligence can help you in your pursuits, but in divine love they are not requirements. Just chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, without offenses can bring about the connection to the divine.

In bhakti-yoga there is a transcendental taste, a sweetness if you will. That is why devotional service is often referred to as bhakti-rasa. The taste is easily brought into the home through simple chanting, which can be accompanied by music. In music you need a rhythm, and so if the entire arrangement is done nicely, the transcendental taste becomes all the more sweet. This also means that just by some time set aside for sincere devotion within the home, the proper consciousness can be fostered. And with a proper consciousness, the rest of the day is purified as well. This is sort of like the concept of someone being nicer to everyone else when something good has occurred in their life. Nothing can be better than chanting the holy names of God in a loving spirit, and since this exercise can be repeated daily, the kinder disposition can turn into a fixture rather than a rarity.

Bhakti-rasa is seen in its ideal form in the Vrindavana forest, which is located both in this material world and in the spiritual sky. The place on this earth is a replica of the spiritual land and it is also where Krishna and His friends danced many nights away during the Lord’s time on earth some five thousand years ago. The gopis were the cowherd women of Vrindavana, and they would have secret rendezvous with the all-attractive Krishna during the nighttime in the forest. Krishna would then dance with them, as they only wanted to be with Him. The gopis wanted nothing else in life. Normally it is considered bad to be lusty in this way, but in bhakti all emotions are pure due to the desire to connect with God.

Radha and Krishna dancingKrishna dances with the gopis to the charchari meter, and so the exercise is a thing of beauty for both the participants and those who are fortunate enough to hear about it. Music and dance are ways for the enlivened spirit soul to act freely. Sitting in the office all day and grinding through difficult physical labor are not the natural tendencies of spirit, and so through chanting and hearing about Krishna, gradually the inhibiting walls of the material creation come down. In the spiritual world all talking is singing and all movement is dancing, which is led by the experts: Krishna and the gopis.

In Closing:

The gopis never miss the chance,

With Shri Krishna to dance.


He brings treasure for the pleasure seeker,

Through dancing to the charchari meter.


To wise material life a waste,

Better is the transcendental taste.


Bhakti-rasa in Vrindavana most sweet,

Place where Krishna and the gopis meet.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Resolves to Steal

Gopis of Vrindavana“All glories to Kunja-vihari, who is like a Chakora bird that drinks the beauty of the moonlike face of Shrimati Radharani, who steals away the calmness of all the gopis, and who is expert at dancing gracefully and following the meter known as charchari.” (Shrila Rupa Gosvami, Shri Kunja-vihary-astakam, 2)

cāruto jayati kuñja-vihārī

Spiritual life at the highest levels is not devoid of activity. Rather, the free range of genuine ecstasy expands infinitely when one is able to practice their devotion that rests within. No one group of individuals better embodies the devotional spirit than the gopis of Vrindavana, and it is for this reason that Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the foremost champion of bhakti-yoga in the past thousand years, has proclaimed that the devotional service of the gopis of Vrindavana is second to none.

Who are the gopis? Who is Lord Chaitanya? The Supreme Absolute Truth is one way to describe the entity commonly referred to as God. He is the Truth because there is no duality in Him. The opposite of up is down and of down is up. One person who is up is automatically not down, which means that they are lacking something. A person who is hot is not cold, and so on. The Absolute Truth is that which is beyond duality. The most striking duality is birth and death, the coming and going of a living entity. The Supreme Absolute Truth transcends both birth and death; it exists beyond the realm of time and space.

nāhaṁ prakāśaḥ sarvasya 


mūḍho 'yaṁ nābhijānāti 

loko mām ajam avyayam

“I am never manifest to the foolish and unintelligent. For them I am covered by My eternal creative potency [yoga-maya]; and so the deluded world knows Me not, who am unborn and infallible.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.25)

These sorts of descriptions give an impersonal understanding to the Absolute Truth. To go behind the curtain, to remove the veil created by the limiting aspects of dry logic and reasoning, we must consult the authorized Vedic texts. The information describing the personal aspect to the Absolute Truth is considered confidential, as without the requisite training one will be tempted to compare the Supreme Lord to themselves. His sport is different than ours, though, and His qualities are all transcendental. His dancing is not the same as ours, and in the same light those who delight in His dancing are not ordinary either.

Why would the Supreme Lord want to dance? The question should be, “Why wouldn’t He want to dance?” Dance follows the removal of inhibitions; it is the way to express emotions through the individual body parts working as a collective unit. Song is the same way, as to sing aloud in happiness signals a release of the shackles of shyness. The Supreme Lord does everything for His own pleasure, and since He is the reservoir of sweetness, He is known as Krishna. This is the topmost name for God, and it is kindly provided by the Vedas, the oldest scriptural tradition in the world.

Krishna plays in the Vrindavana forest, and so one of His names is Kunja-vihari. Shrila Rupa Gosvami, a noted disciple of the aforementioned Lord Chaitanya, composed a set of prayers in honor of Krishna’s attraction to the Vrindavana forest. Vrindavana is both a physical area on this planet and a transcendental realm found in the spiritual sky, the highest heaven if you will. Krishna takes His attractive body, which has various ornaments like a peacock feather, necklace and flute, and brings it to the forest of Vrindavana in the moonlit nights to play with His friends, the gopis.

A gopi is a female cowherder. The Vrindavana farm community thrives off of cow protection. The cows are very dear to Krishna, and since He gives them pleasure He is known as Govinda. Since He is also the protector of the cows in Vrindavana, He is known as Gopala. The gopis, like everyone else of a sober disposition, try to remain calm. In fact, the ancient art of yoga aims to bring about calmness, starting from within. With inner peace you can get outer peace. Very difficult it is to stay boiling mad on the inside and remain calm on the outside.

Who is there to break the calmness of the gopis? Why Krishna, of course. Is this not a bad thing? Why would He purposefully try to steal away someone’s resolve? Actually, there are two sides to this behavior so nicely glorified by Shrila Rupa Gosvami. Krishna is the father to all the creation, so He is free to interact with anyone. As the Supersoul, He exists in a visibly unmanifest form within every creature. Yet for personal interaction, there is the visible manifestation, which arrives through either the incarnation or the original Personality Himself.

One would have to think that the individuals chosen as recipients of the personal interaction are very fortunate. They must be highly qualified as well. The gopis are very fortunate because Krishna chooses to play with them, enticing them with the sounds from His flute. He also understands that they love Him very much, that they don’t think of anyone else throughout the day. Therefore He knows that calmness is not good for them, for they are happier when they are consumed with anxious thoughts about Him.

Gopis of VrindavanaBy mentioning Krishna’s behavior in this regard, Shrila Rupa Gosvami pays the gopis a compliment as well. They are kind enough to lose their calmness from Krishna’s presence. There are millions of other creatures who have the Supersoul within them, but they aren’t necessarily swayed by the divine influence. This is because the material land is conducive to forgetfulness of Krishna, or God. Vrindavana is thus not a part of the material universe, though it is technically found within it. The forest where Krishna enjoys is an area where the divine influence is noticed and appreciated. The gopis travel there to play with their beloved, and they personally offer to Him their calmness that He is expert at stealing.

Bhakti-rasa, or the transcendental taste of divine love, is available to every single person, offered free of charge by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the preacher incarnation of Godhead, through the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. The leader of the gopis, Shrimati Radharani, and Shri Krishna are both represented in this sacred chant, and through reliance on it the calmness of the yogi is achieved, while the calmness with respect to ignoring Krishna is kindly removed, allowing for a personal interaction that delivers the sweetest taste in association.

In Closing:

No more objects of senses to dwell upon,

Keeps the yogi internally calm.


Chaitanya says yoga of gopis the highest,

At focusing the mind they are the best.


But Krishna their calmness to break,

With His charm their hearts to take.


For their benefit is this theft,

Because with God they are left.


Kind they are for giving their resolve,

Follow in their line for all problems to solve.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pleasing Krishna

Radha and Krishna“All glories to Kunja-vihari, who is like a Chakora bird that drinks the beauty of the moonlike face of Shrimati Radharani, who steals away the calmness of all the gopis, and who is expert at dancing gracefully and following the meter known as charchari.” (Shrila Rupa Gosvami, Shri Kunja-vihary-astakam, 2)

cāruto jayati kuñja-vihārī

An earnest turn towards spiritual life naturally gives rise to a desire to please the Supreme Lord. “What will make God happy? How do I serve Him? I’ve heard of devotional service, but what is it exactly?” The devotion itself is what pleases the Supreme Lord, and that devotion in its purest form, practiced at the highest levels, is seen in Shrimati Radharani. She is the perfected energy of the Supreme Lord, and in addition to pleasing the origin of matter and spirit with Her transcendental qualities, she is kind enough to grant others the benediction of devotion to her beloved. This feature makes her all the more endearing.

To serve God is the opposite of serving the senses. In the absence of the knowledge of the personal aspect of the Supreme Absolute Truth, the material creation and all that it has to offer are seen as vehicles for personal enjoyment. “God gave me this body and this land for me to enjoy. Man has dominion over the animals so it is okay for me to exercise that power. It is also okay for me to drink wine, gamble, and have intimate relations with the opposite sex simply for the purpose of pleasing my senses. I’m not harming anybody with this, so why should I unnecessarily punish myself with restriction?”

Actually, upon only a cursory review, it is seen that the lack of regulation in these activities leads to perpetual misery instead of happiness. In addition, resources are limited, so there must be competition. I may try to enjoy without harming anyone else, but what if my enjoyment conflicts with someone else’s? The Olympic athletes vie for just one gold medal in a specific individual competition. Absent a rare case like a tie in time, you cannot share this top prize with others. There is only one winner. The winner of the gold medal enjoys and the losers feel the sting of defeat.

Another issue is the varying levels of satisfaction. One gold medal to someone who has never won anything means so much, but to someone who is accustomed to winning, losing one competition is the cause of great sorrow. They may even win a few gold medals in their time in the Olympics, but since they were expected to win more, they aren’t happy in the end. This same problem exists across all spectra. One person has sufficient food to eat and a comfortable home to live in, but when they see someone else who is wealthier, they get jealous, feeling defeated.

The Vedas reveal that the root cause of the misery is a false identification, which then causes the incorrect pursuit. I am a spirit soul, but I don’t own anything. The body is available for a temporary lease, as are the possessions gathered during the stay within the body. The aim of life is not to enjoy personally, but to rather satisfy the senses of the master of all senses, Hrishikesha, which is another name for God.

Devotional service brings the pleasure that everyone naturally seeks. We are meant to serve, but we falsely think we are meant to enjoy. The proper role of servant is seen in Shrimati Radharani, who has a moonlike face. The Chakora bird is known for only staring at the bright moon. It is so devoted to the moon that it won’t look anywhere else. This is the level of devotion that exists in Shri Krishna, who drinks up the spotless beauty of the fair-skinned Radharani, the beloved daughter of Vrishabhanu.

Radha and KrishnaIn his Shri Kunja-vihary-astakam, Shrila Rupa Gosvami pays obeisance to Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, by describing His various features. Krishna is compared to the Chakora due to His affection for Radharani. She only thinks of Krishna as well, and her service is in the mood of conjugal love. The playground for the couple’s pastimes is the Vrindavana forest, which is illuminated in the night by the full moon shining bright. Its soothing light allows Krishna to gaze upon His beloved’s face, and she knows just what facial expressions to make to increase His pleasure.

For the individual souls trying to break free of the “I” and “Mine” mentalities, the quickest way to please God is to chant His holy names. The maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, addresses both Radha and Krishna, as Hare refers to the energy of God. “O Shri Krishna and His energy, please allow me to continue in devotional service. Remove my impediments and personal misgivings born of ignorance,” is the purport to the prayer.

The names are so powerful that one needn’t be conscious of the purpose in the beginning. Shrimati Radharani shares her moonlike radiance with the devotees of her beloved, providing them future conditions auspicious for their devotional practices. The more that devotion is practiced, the more the pastimes of the divine couple are relished and the more the mind eagerly anticipates glorifying them. Shrila Rupa Gosvami kindly composed his Shri Kunja-vihary-astakam for the purpose of keeping that divine couple within his mind, adoring the play they enjoy in the forest of Vrindavana.

In Closing:

The night that follows the day,

Offers chance for lovers to play.


With her spotless beauty she does amaze,

Her beloved Krishna, at her moonlike face to gaze.


With His spiritual passions stirred,

Krishna like devoted Chakora bird.


Chant maha mantra and devotion receive,

With Radha’s blessings, highest state achieve.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Always in Bliss

Lord Krishna“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.

Lord KrishnaKrishna’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”.

In Closing:

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.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Beautiful Krishna

Lord Krishna“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

Herein Shrila Rupa Gosvami gives us a basic outline of the decorations placed on the transcendental body of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krishna. The saint’s collection of prayers is dedicated to Krishna as Kunja-vihari, or one who enjoys pastimes in the forest. The forest refers to Vrindavana, the place where Vrinda Devi, the goddess of devotion, has a strong presence. Through her arrangement, the divine lovers, Radha and Krishna, meet. And the pleasure they feel in each other’s company is indescribable.

Just as one would dress up on their way to an important evening out on the town, so the key players in the transcendental pastimes in Vrindavana’s forest prepare in a certain way. The difference is that the ornaments increase in stature when attached to the body of the Supreme Lord instead of the other way around. It should be noted that Krishna enjoys in a renounced area, where there are few distractions, where He can have a focused association with His dearmost devotees, the gopis. To the mundane observer, Krishna is like a young boy mingling with young girls, but in fact the innocence of the setting makes the exchanges completely pure. The love shared by the parties involved has no hints of lust.

nirmāna-mohā jita-saṅga-doṣā 

adhyātma-nityā vinivṛtta-kāmāḥ 

dvandvair vimuktāḥ sukha-duḥkha-saṁjñair 

gacchanty amūḍhāḥ padam avyayaṁ tat

“One who is free from illusion, false prestige, and false association, who understands the eternal, who is done with material lust and is freed from the duality of happiness and distress, and who knows how to surrender unto the Supreme Person, attains to that eternal kingdom.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.5)

To know for certain that mundane lust is absent in these dealings one must be familiar with the properties of the spirit soul, the essence of identity. Within every person is a vital force, and it remains intact throughout the changes to the outer covering. Lust is a perverted form of the divine love the soul is constitutionally set to act upon. What we consider to be love is an emotion based on the outward attraction and reciprocation. Should someone we supposedly care for scorn us, we can shift the previous affection to someone else. The same dwindling of affection can occur when the corresponding party’s features cease to be attractive due to the influence of time.

Divine love, on the other hand, is meant to continue uninterrupted and without motivation. The cowherd women in Vrindavana love Krishna despite the reception they receive from Him. They are completely surrendered. And who wouldn’t enjoy the company of such devoted souls? Krishna is God Himself, so He must be the supreme enjoyer. To enjoy, there must be corresponding parties, and so the question remains: who will be eligible to participate in that enjoyment?

Every living entity, as spirit soul, is longing for divine love, but the gopis are considered the topmost candidates because they are Krishna’s direct energy expansions. They are His pleasure potency, and so they never sway from the devotional attitude. If they are not physically in the forest of Vrindavana during the moonlit night, their minds stay there regardless. They think of Krishna, and so they stay with Him.

Rupa Gosvami tells us that Krishna’s complexion is charming and like the indranila-mani, which is the sapphire. This wonderful description reveals what Krishna’s color is. We have never seen someone with a bodily complexion that is blue, but the Vedas nevertheless report on fact. Knowing that others will not be able to properly relate the specific color on a human body, the comparison is made to the sapphire. The sapphire is quite beautiful as well, so we can understand that Krishna’s entire body is exquisite just based on the color alone. No need to look at the other features, just focus your mind on that transcendental form and its unique color.

Lord KrishnaKrishna wears blooming nipa flowers on His ears. It’s interesting to note that these decorations are not very expensive, and they appear through nature’s arrangement. This means that industry and technological advancement aren’t required for higher living. Nature provides all elements of beautification, and in a forest one can find what they need to look appealing. These flowers were placed on Krishna by His dear mother, Yashoda, the queen of Gokula. Seeing Krishna is one thing, but getting to serve Him takes the devotee to a higher platform of service. Mother Yashoda got the wonderful benediction of daily dressing up her beloved son, who would then show off the wonderful decorations to all the creatures of the forest.

On His wide chest Krishna wears a garland of gunja, which is like wearing a necklace of small conch shells. Though the bone of an animal is considered impure in the Vedas, the conch shell is considered sacred, as it is held in one of the four hands of Lord Vishnu. Vishnu and Krishna are practically identical. They are both the same original God; it’s just that the transcendental features are slightly different to appeal to the varying tastes of the living entities. The conch shell is also blown prior to important religious rituals. Thus for Krishna to wear a necklace of small conch shells shows that He had auspicious signs always around Him.

Of course more important than the decorations was the enjoyment. Just thinking of Krishna walking through Vrindavana puts the mind in a peaceful state. We enjoy walking in the park, visiting natural wonders, and touring through forest areas as a way to break free from the daily grind. Imagine then what the pristine setting of Vrindavana can do for your consciousness. Picture that sweetheart son of Yashoda, the life and soul of Radharani, happily playing about in His favorite area in the world. He always lives in Vrindavana, even though it appears that He sometimes leaves it.

kṛṣṇo 'nyo yadu-sambhūto 

yaḥ pūrṇaḥ so 'sty ataḥ paraḥ 

vṛndāvanaṁ parityajya 

sa kvacin naiva gacchati

“The Krishna known as Yadukumara is Vasudeva Krishna. He is different from the Krishna who is the son of Nanda Maharaja. Yadukumara Krishna manifests His pastimes in the cities of Mathura and Dvaraka, but Krishna the son of Nanda Maharaja never at any time leaves Vrindavana.”  (Lord Chaitanya, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 1.67)

Know that the Krishna conscious soul ascends to Goloka Vrindavana at the time of death, where they get to enter the eternal pastimes of Kunja-vihari. To bring that consciousness about today, always chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, and keep the beautiful portrait of the enjoyer of pastimes in the forest within your mind.

In Closing:

Because devotees there He knows,

To the forest of Vrindavana He goes.


Beautiful ornaments on His body are set,

So that enhanced stature they’ll get.


Body the color blue like gem sapphire,

Gazing at such beauty eyes never to tire.


Blooming nipa flowers on ears are found,

Garland of conch shells His neck go around.


From Vrindavana Kunja-vihari never leaves,

Through devotion go there too, this you believe.