“In the yoga system, by the perfection called mahima-siddhi, one can expand himself as he desires. The demon Aghasura expanded himself up to eight miles and assumed the shape of a very fat serpent. Having attained this wonderful body, he stretched his mouth open just like a mountain cave. Desiring to swallow all the boys at once, including Krishna and Balarama, he sat on the path.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 12)Download this episode (right click and save)
The material world is a dangerous place. At every step there is the risk of life ending. The end to life is nothing more than the animating spark within departing for some other place. Like changing residences, moving from one apartment to another, death is the quitting of the body by the spirit soul, who travels to another body. This is the law of the spiritual science, something which does not bewilder the sober-minded person.
Three forces are at play to cause misery and ultimately death. There are the natural disasters, such as earthquakes, tornadoes and the like. There is disease from within, both mental and physical. Then there are other living entities, who act as aggressors for whatever reason. When following righteousness, defense of the innocent occurs through stopping the evil elements of society. On the other side are the demoniac, who can’t stand to let people live in peace, especially if that peace involves genuine worship of God.
The demoniac are there in every corner of the material world, even in a pristine place such as Vrindavana. Some five thousand years ago that sacred land was blessed with the greatest protector in the world as an inhabitant. As a result, despite the threefold miseries being present, those miseries had no effect on the innocent people. They all loved Krishna very much, and He directly saved them from danger many times.
This was a demon in the form of a bull. Bad characters were coming to Vrindavana regularly, as the king of the neighboring town of Mathura wanted Krishna dead. This mindset is not exclusive to ancient times. Those in stiff competition with the owner of all wealth would like nothing more than to remove their enemy. Their attempts range from vehemently protesting religious observance as a waste of time all the way to violently attacking those who are friends of God.
Arishtasura was not an ordinary bull. He was large and terrifying. The residents of the town became afraid just by seeing him. The cows ran away in fear. Shri Krishna, understanding what was going on, challenged the bull. Though Krishna was in the body of a youth, since He is God in the flesh He retains full potency at all times. He literally grabbed the bull by the horns several times in a struggle that was doomed to failure for the bull. Arishtasura eventually lost his life through Krishna’s defense, and the people were saved from danger.
Krishna lived with mother Yashoda and Nanda Maharaja. Cow protection was the family business. In fact, all of Vrindavana had some peaceful interaction with cows. At a young age, Krishna and His male cowherd friends would go out to the fields every day and have a good time. This type of animal-loving pays real benefits, as cows provide vital sustenance to a rural area. Indeed, even in cities there is great reliance on dairy products.
One day due to thirst the cowherd boys drank some water from the Yamuna river. They did not know that the water had become poisonous due to the presence of a great snake known as Kaliya. After the boys became unconscious, Krishna understood what was going on. Through His transcendental glance He restored their vitality. Then He climbed up the single tree around the area that was still alive. He jumped from that tree into the water to deal with Kaliya.
A great struggle ensued, and the well-wishers in Vrindavana began to worry. That sentiment changed when they saw Krishna dancing on the hoods of the serpent. Kaliya eventually gave up, and Krishna spared him due to the kind prayers of the wives of the serpent, the nagapatnis. Kaliya was told to leave the area, and peace was once again restored.
This is another demon arriving in Vrindavana to make a vain attempt at killing Krishna. He has an interesting name. The Sanskrit word agha means “sin.” Asura already implies a living entity who has the material qualities of being against God. Aghasura took the form of a giant serpent, whose mouth extended so high that it looked like the opening to a cave. This serpent emitted fumes that caused unconsciousness, just as the air of impiety, sin, clouds the pure consciousness of the living entity.
The cows in Vrindavana and Krishna’s friends one day saw this demon’s mouth that looked like a cave and decided to enter. They weren’t entirely sure it was a safe place to go, but with Krishna around the adventurous spirit is a little easier to indulge. They lost consciousness once inside of Aghasura.
Krishna then decided to enter the same place and get rid of the horrible fumes of sin. Aghasura had used the mahima-siddhi of yoga to expand his body to such a proportion. Krishna is the greatest mystic, the most expert at yoga. So He expanded Himself while within Aghasura as well. Krishna’s expansion was too much to take, and the demon lost his life.
4. The forest fire
One day the cows and the cowherd boys were tired and decided to take rest at a riverbank. Soon thereafter a great forest fire threatened to kill them. It looked like all hope was lost. Finally, in desperation they called out to Krishna to save them. He did just that by devouring the fire. He swallowed it in His mouth, as He is capable of reversing the effects of any of the material elements.
5. Govardhana Puja
When there is a material body, there is always some kind of impurity. The asuras are dominated by the bad qualities, while the suras are mostly in goodness. Nevertheless, even the suras can succumb to envy from time to time. Case in point the occasion of Govardhana Puja. Indra, the king of heaven, became angry that the residents skipped the annual worship in his honor in favor of a nearby hill named Govardhana. They made the switch after Krishna persuaded them.
Indra retaliated by sending a massive rainstorm to the area, causing devastating flooding. In essence, Indra became an attempted murderer, on a massive scale. Krishna again came to the rescue, this time by lifting Govardhana Hill and using it as an umbrella.
These are the ways of the material world, after all. No one is completely safe. No one is entirely good or bad. Your best friend can turn on you. For this reason the only true shelter is the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He preserves the exercise of devotion of His devotees, lifetime after lifetime.
Our affection most deserving,
Since devotional life preserving.
Shri Krishna, of friends the best,
Asuras many times His ability to test.
Arishtasura by the horns literally taken,
Forest fire swallowed, friends not forsaken.
To defeat Kaliya into Yamuna to wade,
For Aghasura a giant form inside made.