Monday, March 30, 2015

Speaking Volumes

[Wives of the brahmanas feeding Krishna]“Being advanced by thinking of Krishna constantly, they were performing the greatest form of mystic meditation. All the wives then became very busily engaged in filling up different pots with nice foodstuff. Due to the performance of the sacrifice, the various food was all very palatable. After collecting a feast, they prepared to go to Krishna, their most lovable object, exactly in the way rivers flow to the sea.”  (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 23)

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There is the saying that something “speaks volumes.” The expression is used in instances where not a lot is said in comparison to the meaning that can be derived. For instance, if someone of impeccable authority enters a situation where there is a scandal involving someone important, what they say matters. If they confirm the allegations against the accused, their testimony is said to speak volumes. Sometimes silence says a lot as well, such as when someone fails to stand up for someone else.

In the world of illusion that is a material existence, there is the constant search for transcendence. What is that one thing that will bring a permanent end to sadness and despair? How does one solve the problem of death and all the heartache that it brings? God has been the answer since time immemorial, but defining Him has been difficult. What does He look like? What is He called? Is He even a He? The Vedas consist of so much literature for the precise reason that everything related to the Supreme Lord speaks volumes. Vedic literature is the evidence that turns the symbolic expression into a literal one.

The Bhagavad-gita

[Bhagavad-gita As It Is]There are God’s words themselves. He doesn’t need to speak a lot to say much. His direct instructions come to us courtesy of the Bhagavad-gita, which translates to “the song of God.” This isn’t merely a rundown of items of faith. This song systematically covers five important topics: the supreme controller, the living entity, time, karma and the material nature. The verses are short and to the point, but by the end you get to know the objective of life: surrender unto God, who is a person, and abandon all other kinds of philosophies and ways of life. Don’t be afraid in this surrender, because the Supreme Lord Himself will take responsibility for your protection.

Though the Bhagavad-gita is a relatively short book, discussion of it has created volumes of literature. His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada could lecture on any verse in this work at any time of the day. He could give a different discourse off of the same verse. The same goes for anyone appearing in the same line of disciplic succession, which has Krishna at the root. Thus we see that God’s words, even when brief, speak volumes.

Vrindavana

[Krishna dancing on Kaliya]The sacred land of Vrindavana speaks volumes. It is basically earth, with some trees and cows scattered around, so how can it talk? You can’t ask the land of Vrindavana anything, but by walking around you hear so much. In one place you find where the Supreme Lord took the calves every day for grazing. You get the sacred Yamuna River, which is so dear to God in His original form of Krishna. From the history of the Yamuna River, you get the incident of the subduing of the Kaliya snake. From hearing that pastime you learn that the marks of the footprint of Krishna keep one safe. Kaliya had those marks on his head, and it protected him from the acknowledged enemy of the snakes, Garuda.

Krishna’s finger

The pinky finger on the non-dominant hand of God speaks volumes as well. It was once used to hold up a massive hill, which then doubled as the world’s largest umbrella. The shelter was necessary since the king of heaven instigated a torrential downpour on Vrindavana, angry that the residents ignored worship of him just a single time. The universe and its planets go through cycles of creation and destruction, and when the time for destruction arrives, there is a specific cloud that pours devastating rain. Known as the samvartaka cloud, this was called upon by Indra to get his revenge on the innocent people.

[holding up Govardhana Hill]The pinky finger of Krishna held up Govardhana Hill for seven straight days. Mother Yashoda worried that her boy was getting tired from the effort, and so she asked Him to eat instead. Others thought that Krishna’s arm was tiring, so they put up sticks to help in supporting the hill. But it was Krishna the whole time who held it up, and He wasn’t tired in the least. The residents took a leap of faith in ignoring the Indra-yajna, and Krishna rewarded them with His close association in a seemingly perilous time.

Rama’s arm

The same Krishna appeared on earth once as a chivalrous prince named Rama. Rama’s acts speak so much that they fill up the many pages of the famous Ramayana, authored by Maharishi Valmiki. One work is not enough, and neither is one language. So we find also the Ramacharitamanasa of Goswami Tulsidas, describing the same Rama and His nectar-like actions. Then many Puranas, works of Vedic history, describe Rama’s life as well.

“Hearing the words of the vipra, my father brought the bow forward. Bending the bow in the twinkling of an eye and applying string to it, the mighty prince Rama, who was full of valor, quickly drew the bow at full length.” (Sita Devi speaking to Anasuya, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 118.47-48)

[Rama lifting the bow]Rama one time displayed strength that amazed everyone. He arrived at the svayamvara in Janakpur, where the husband for the daughter of King Janaka was being decided. Whoever could lift the bow in the middle of the arena would win instantly. All the princes of the world came, but none could even move the bow. Rama effortlessly lifted the bow. He then broke it while drawing a string to it. Rama’s arm is thus the most powerful one ever seen on earth, and praise of it can fill many volumes.

Bhakti-yoga

Devotional service is synonymous with God; it is non-different from Him. Strict adherence to religious principles is not the height of living. In Vrindavana during Krishna’s time many brahmanas were known to be expert at ritualistic sacrifices conducted for material purposes. Advancement in religiosity, economic development, sense gratification and ultimate liberation cover all the rewards in a material existence.

To show that devotional service, bhakti-yoga, is superior to even strict religiosity, Krishna once asked His friends to beg some food from these brahmanas, who were in the middle of a ritual. The priests refused the boys, even though they were told that Krishna was the one asking. The wives of the same priests immediately dropped everything and donated the best food for Krishna and His friends. The wives, who were considered less intelligent at understanding the esoteric truths of Vedanta, were situated in a position superior to their husbands.

[Krishna's lotus feet]Many similar incidents are there which describe the magic of bhakti-yoga. One devotional act, a single offering made with pure love, speaks volumes in terms of the glories of both the person making the offering and the beneficiary. Krishna doesn’t seek much. He doesn’t ask for great wealth or strenuous effort. The sentiment is what counts, and when it is there, the exchange is thrilling. It can never be described accurately enough, and so those incidents keep speaking volumes and volumes, filling the pages of the always expanding Vedic literature.

In Closing:

Govardhana with tiny pinky finger to lift,

From despair massive umbrella to uplift.

 

Just with powerful arm one,

Hand of beautiful Sita Devi won.

 

Wives of brahmanas in devotion living,

So without hesitation food to Krishna giving.

 

Acts of Supreme Lord volumes demanding,

Pages of Vedic literature thus always expanding.

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