“You came here out of fear of Garuda, who wanted to eat you in the beautiful land by the ocean. Now, after seeing the marks where I have touched your head with My lotus feet, Garuda will not disturb you.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 16)Download this episode (right click and save)
It is inevitable that the famous personality will one day be asked to write a book. The work doesn’t have to be lengthy; a basic memoirs will suffice. They don’t even have to author it. A few question and answer sessions with an established writer will provide everything needed. Using the input, the writer will shape a more compelling narrative. When the book gets released, the press immediately searches for any interesting details, like any disparaging remarks about others. One or two sentences then make the headlines, though the issue of focus likely only makes up a small portion of the book.
The difficulty with compiling such memoirs is that people change. Outlooks and perspectives also differ greatly based on age. In high school, I may despise my mathematics teacher for being so hard on me. I don’t like how they keep picking on me, asking me to go up to the blackboard and solve problems. If I were to write my memoirs at that time, I would likely have very bad things to say about that teacher. As the years pass, however, I learn that to instruct in this way is often a good thing. I realize that the toughness helps me to become better at problem solving. Therefore my perspective changes. My memoirs later on would say something very nice about the exact same person.
Indeed, even if the person was bad all the time, it doesn’t mean that they are prohibited from redemption. The spirit soul is pure. It is neither good nor bad. It is not happy or sad. It is not dry or wet. It is always in a transcendental state of bliss and knowledge. This is difficult to see because of the covering the soul adopts when placed in the material world. From the pastimes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, we see that even with the worst kind of covering, a soul can still tie back to its original position of devotional service.
We have the instance of Shri Krishna dancing on the head of the snake named Kaliya. A snake body isn’t very auspicious. The snake is known for biting people without cause. It slithers around, barely detectable. To compare a human being to a snake is not to compliment them. In Vedic philosophy, birth in a snake body is a punishment for past sins. It may also be a step in the evolutionary chain upwards towards the auspicious human birth.
As bad as a snake is, it can still become liberated. It can still feel the soft lotus feet of the Supreme Lord. This was the case with Kaliya. He had poisoned the Yamuna river with his venom. The innocent cowherd boys of Vrindavana accidentally drank the contaminated water and were on the verge of death. Their hero once again came to the rescue. He revived them and then dove into the water to deal with the culprit.
A major struggle ensued, and the darling of Vrindavana, Shri Krishna, eventually emerged victorious. To show the ease of His victory, He danced on the head of Kaliya. The snake’s wives then petitioned Krishna for clemency. They wanted their husband to be pardoned, and in their prayers they mentioned how they had the good fortune to serve Krishna, despite having taken birth as snakes.
Just as a snake has the opportunity to taste the boon of devotional service, the many living entities, filling so many different occupations, all have the same chance. They may be bad today or bad in the future, but they still have the opportunity for worshiping the lotus feet of God. This method of devotional service is known as pada-sevanam. Kaliya felt the pada of Krishna directly, and in an indirect way He offered service. The footprints left by Krishna also saved him, as he then became immune from the attacks of Garuda, who is Krishna’s bird-carrier who feasts on snakes. Kaliya had gone to the Yamuna river to flee from the attacks of Garuda.
The reformed living entity similarly accepts the footprint of Krishna on their head, marked by the tilaka symbol. This allows them to remember the beloved Lord, and the sign also allows others to know that a Vaishnava is near, someone who is dear to everyone. In the Bhagavad-gita, Krishna says that such a soul who works in devotion and remains pure is dear to everyone and everyone is dear to them.
“One who works in devotion, who is a pure soul, and who controls his mind and senses, is dear to everyone, and everyone is dear to him. Though always working, such a man is never entangled.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.7)
Such a person works, but they are never entangled. Kaliya worked in the inauspicious form of a snake, and though his deeds were wicked, through his devotion he was not entangled. Similarly, the human being who takes up devotion can be part of any caste or gender and not have their work affect them. This is because they maintain devotion to Shri Krishna, which they practice through the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Teachers in youth hard on me,
That beneficial I can’t really see.
Bad things to say about them,
But later change perspective then.
With bhakti-yoga chance at any time,
Whether in body of snake or heavenly shine.
On Kaliya’s head Shri Krishna walked,
With lotus feet thus snake marked.
Having even body of the worst kind,
Possible for liberation to find.