“Because of constant rain sent by the demigod Indra, the River Yamuna was filled with deep water, foaming about with fiercely whirling waves. But as the great Indian Ocean had formerly given way to Lord Ramachandra by allowing Him to construct a bridge, the River Yamuna gave way to Vasudeva and allowed him to cross.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.3.50)Download this episode (right click and save)
Married life is not easy. Both husband and wife inherit new responsibilities. The husband has to protect. In traditional Vedic culture, the father gives away the bride, essentially handing over responsibility for her future welfare to the new husband.
Protection of the wife is a serious matter, and so is care of any children that are born to the family. In this respect we can look to the example of Vasudeva, a man from an ancient time period. From the stories told in the Shrimad Bhagavatam we get an understanding of how and why he was chosen to be the birth father to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Shri Krishna.
1. Saved Devaki’s life with persuasive words
Both in jest and in seriousness it can be said that, like most men, Vasudeva’s troubles really started at the time of marriage. Joined in holy matrimony to Devaki, the couple were on their way home. As per tradition, they were accompanied by Devaki’s brother, Kamsa. He happened to be the king of Mathura. It was something like getting a police escort to take you home. Or maybe something like a presidential motorcade rolling through town.
En route a voice from the sky gave a warning to Kamsa. His sister’s eighth child would be his end. This occurrence is not random; there was a cause. Because Kamsa was so sinful, his death was destined at the hands of God Himself. As Shri Krishna explains in the Bhagavad-gita, His janma, or birth, is different. It is divyam, or transcendental.
“One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.9)
Being of the asura mentality, Kamsa was extremely unsettled by this news. He decided it was best to kill his sister right then and there. This is where Vasudeva stepped in. He offered persuasive words to the brother to spare the life of the new wife. Vasudeva agreed to hand over every child born to Devaki; this way there was no reason for Kamsa to worry.
2. Keeping his word
Vasudeva was from a kshatriya family. This is the division of society that provides protection. They are like kings/administrators. Important especially at that time was honesty. If a king could not maintain his word, then he wasn’t worthy of the post. Vasudeva followed through on the promise and handed over the first child to Kamsa. It could not have been easy for the father, but the word meant everything.
The king was compassionate at the time, and so he didn’t do anything. Later, at the urging of Narada Muni, Kamsa reversed course and decided to imprison Vasudeva and Devaki. There was no taking chance; as the children were born, Kamsa immediately took the infants and threw them against a stone slab. It was really no different than today’s abortion procedures, except the killing took place out in the open, for everyone to see.
3. Carrying Krishna across the Yamuna
The transcendental birth of Krishna took place in a jail cell. That’s where Kamsa kept Vasudeva and Devaki. This was to supposedly avoid any chance of Devaki’s eighth child surviving. But the Supreme Lord only needs one percent vulnerability to take full advantage.
Krishna appeared from Devaki’s womb at midnight, while everyone on guard was asleep. To give the visual proof of His divine nature, Krishna displayed His four-handed form of Narayana to the parents. Vasudeva and Devaki then offered obeisances.
The name Krishna means “all-attractive.” The new child’s adorable vision made what happened next all the more noteworthy. Krishna asked to be transferred to the neighboring town of Gokula. This was to be done in secret, so that Kamsa would not find out.
The heroic Vasudeva rose to the challenge. One can imagine that this wasn’t the preferred option. The parents would much rather keep their darling child with them. Vasudeva escaped from the prison in the dark of night. Then he had to cross the Yamuna river, while a storm was raging. In a moment now famously depicted in paintings and pictures, Vasudeva held the basket carrying Krishna above his head as he waded through the water. Krishna was protected from the rain by Ananta Shesha Naga, who magically appeared to act as an umbrella.
In devotional service, bhakti, there are surely sacrifices to make. The ways of God are always a mystery, as no one can truly understand the person who is beyond comprehension. The reward for following through on the desires of the Supreme is continued devotion, which is the perfection of living.
Sacrifices for higher cause giving,
In bhakti the perfection of living.
Like with Vasudeva the father,
Dealt with wife’s demoniac brother.
First against killing sister to save,
And then the first child to king gave.
Krishna most attractive son to him came,
Father carried through Yamuna in rain.