“I think that we should all go to the forest known as Vrindavana, where just now there are newly grown plants and herbs. It is very suitable for pasturing ground for our cows, and we and our families, the gopis with their children, can very peacefully live there. Near Vrindavana there is Govardhana Hill, which is very beautiful, and there is newly grown grass and fodder for the animals, so there will be no difficulty in living there.” (Upananda addressing a meeting of cowherd men, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 11)Download this episode (right click and save)
Spiritual tourism. This is where you take the propensity to travel, to break away from the daily grind, the repeating cycle of working and coming home, to advance the consciousness. Spiritual life is typically equated with paramartha, which is the interest for the afterlife. “Be good now so that it will pay dividends later.”
Tirthas certainly can fulfill that purpose. They are sacred places, known especially for the proliferation of saintly people, who take up residence there. But why these places? We know that cities often form around bodies of water, but what makes saints decide to settle in a single place?
There is association with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Many of the holiest places had direct contact with the lotus feet of God the person, who descends to earth from time to time. In the Bhagavad-gita He reveals one of the reasons.
This is the janma-bhumi of Krishna. It is the land of His birth. For God there is no birth or death. The same is true of individual spirit, which expands from the original and total spirit, the Supreme Lord.
“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.20)
The janma for Krishna, the original form of Godhead, is described as an appearance. He is constantly all around, but in the neophyte stage of consciousness we think He is only in the place of worship. He is everywhere through the expansion of the Supersoul, which witnesses everything but sits mostly in the background, not influencing decisions.
The janma for Krishna is when the feature of God the person appears before the eyes. Krishna emerged from the womb of Devaki, who was imprisoned at the time by her brother, the king of Mathura. The father Vasudeva immediately transferred the baby to the nearby town of Gokula.
Krishna would come back years later, when He was a little older, to do away with Kamsa and his reign of terror. The place of Mathura automatically brings consciousness of Devakinandana, the darling child who increased the joy of the mother Devaki. This consciousness is a reward superior to anything offered in the immediate term, svartha, or the afterlife, paramartha.
This is where Krishna spent the childhood years. As the adorable child of the foster mother, Yashoda, Krishna did endearing things like steal butter from the neighbors, dance to the tune of the elderly gopis, play with His friends in the fields, and be the life and soul of every living entity around.
Gokula is a replica of the topmost spiritual planet known as Goloka Vrindavana. The distinguishing characteristic is the presence of asuras, or bad guys. In the spiritual world there cannot be any envy of God. At the first hint the living entity falls to the material world. What follows is a dreamlike existence, with God accompanying the entire time but far away in terms of consciousness. The aim of living thus becomes returning to the original consciousness.
3. Govardhana Hill
Krishna deals with the bad guys sent to Gokula by Kamsa. A prior prophecy stated that Kamsa would die at the hands of the eighth child of his sister. That was the reason for her imprisonment. Since Krishna escaped immediately after birth, Kamsa tried to have Him killed through various associates, who each had amazing powers. But the Supreme Lord is the greatest mystic, and no one can outsmart Him.
The innocent members of the community in Gokula began to get concerned. Krishna survived the attacks, but He was still a small child. There was a meeting of cowherd men, and Nanda’s brother Upananda suggested that everyone shift to Vrindavana. One of the reasons he gave was the presence of Govardhana Hill.
This was yet another sacred place touched by Krishna’s lotus feet. It was very dear to the cows, as it provided ample space on which to roam and plenty of grass to eat. It would later serve as the world’s largest umbrella, needed to help save the residents after the king of heaven’s brief bout with envy.
In a very sad moment, Krishna and His brother Balarama left Vrindavana to go to Mathura. They dealt with Kamsa and freed the parents Vasudeva and Devaki. To fulfill a higher purpose, Krishna later on fled from battle against a king named Jarasandha. The king had attacked and lost seventeen times, but was still relentless. This is symbolic of the atheistic spirit. In a true display of insanity the same thing is attempted over and over, with the expectation of a different outcome. Life after life the conditioned soul tries to become God, to reach the topmost post in the universe. But in every case all-devouring time, kala, strikes that dream down.
Krishna set up a kingdom by the sea. Since it was a city of gates, it was known as Dvaraka. There He ruled as the king, eventually marrying 16,108 beautiful princesses. There was one palace for each queen, and in this way everyone was happy.
Tirtha a most sacred place,
Its ground lotus feet to grace.
Saints there tending to congregate,
For visitors bhakti to demonstrate.
Like Mathura place of Krishna’s janma,
And Gokula, defeated friends of Kamsa.
Govardhana dear to cows giving fuel.
And in Dvaraka as king to rule.