What Might Have Been

Lord Krishna “Krishna had actually entered the cave to deliver King Muchukunda from his austerity, but He did not first appear before him. He arranged that first Kalayavana should come before him. That is the way of the activities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead; He does one thing in such a way that many other purposes are served. He wanted to deliver King Muchukunda, who was sleeping in the cave, and at the same time He wanted to kill Kalayavana, who had attacked Mathura City. By this action He served all purposes.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 50)

When things don’t go our way or if something important to us seems to have slipped away, it’s natural to ponder what might have been. “If only I had acted sooner, maybe the tragedy could have been avoided…If only I had played the game a different way, maybe I would have won.” This second-guessing especially comes to bear after separation from a loved one. Romantic relationships tend to be quite volatile, with the line between love and hate being razor thin. One small misstep and your beloved can go from adoring you to despising you. In these instances, it is natural to question what could have been done to avoid the unpleasant situation. Yet all the second-guessing in the world can never help to bring back time. Moreover, there is no way to accurately predict and understand the millions of cause and effect actions that take place every second. The supreme will of the Divine is responsible for every event that comes to bear. Knowing every person’s motives and desires before they are even acted upon, the Supreme Lord takes the necessary steps to put people into just the right positions so that events can play out exactly how they are supposed to.

Lord Krishna How are events supposed to play out? Doesn’t everything occur as a result of random collision and chance? The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, are unique not only because they provide in-depth detail about the Supreme Lord, whose original form and name is Krishna, but also because they focus on areas of the soul, its relationship to the Supreme, enjoyment, hatred, and the nature of activities. Life in the world we live in is governed by the laws of nature, which are managed through a system known as karma. At its foundation, karma is any activity which leads to the future development of the material body. The soul is all-knowing in its localized area; it can be thought of as a self-illuminating source of light. If we have a flashlight that never runs out of battery power, it can provide light wherever it shines at any time. In a similar manner, the soul residing deep within the depths of the body of the living entity is always full of knowledge. When the influence of the soul is not covered up, the spiritual spark shines the light of knowledge not only to the individual, but to any area of life the soul comes into contact with. This means that the soul is already in the know about different aspects of the material creation, along with the spirit’s constitutional position as eternal servitor of the Supreme Lord.

If the soul is all-knowing, why is there ignorance? This is where the influence of the material body comes into play. While the soul is self-illuminating in the areas of knowledge, enjoyment, and bliss, its powers are still limited when compared to those possessed by the Supreme Spirit, Purushottama, Lord Krishna. The relationship between the living entities and God is that of simultaneous oneness and difference. The oneness lies in the qualitative aspect of the soul. Krishna is all-knowing and all-powerful, and since the souls are fragmental sparks emanating from Krishna, they inherit these same qualities. At the same time, Krishna is the Supreme Purusha, or person/enjoyer, so in order for this definition to be valid, His transcendental qualities must exist at a larger scale than those of the living entities. Not only is this dichotomy exhibited through Krishna’s supremacy over all that be, but also through the individual spirit soul’s propensity to become illusioned by Krishna’s inferior energy, material nature.

Lord Krishna When the soul separates itself from the ultimate enjoyer, Krishna, it must assume a temporary body composed of various elements of nature. These elements are known as gunas, which can be translated to mean ropes. Gunas are binding in that they cloud the self-illuminating knowledge of the pure soul. When the soul is encaged in a body composed of gunas, the resulting life form is known as a living entity, or jiva. The jiva is technically considered part of Krishna’s marginal energy because the jiva has a choice as to the nature of activity it chooses to engage in. One path leads to the shedding of the knowledge-blocking gunas, while another leads to the further development of the material body, and thus the continued encagement of the purified soul.

The latter path is known as karma. Most of us take to this path by default. Therefore the material world is considered an ocean of nescience, a place where ignorance reigns supreme. This should make sense because only a person in ignorance would take to activities that lead to further bondage and a shielding of their true identity. Karma is an intricate system of cause-and-effect. Thus when translated into English, karma is known as fruitive activity. In Sanskrit, the results of karma are referred to as phalam, which means fruits. Fruits come about through the sowing of seeds, so all our worldly activities can be compared to the planting of seeds. With karma, the fruits that result from this planting aren’t always palatable. Karma results in both favorable and unfavorable results. On the highest level of thinking, all results of karma are considered unfavorable since they lead to the future development of the material body.

“Just as a tree starts to blossom during the proper season, so the doer of sinful deeds inevitably reaps the horrible fruit of their actions at the appropriate time.” (Lord Rama speaking to Khara, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 29.8)

Lakshmana and Rama battling a demon There is a tendency to personalize the issue of cause and effect. Even if we turn to the Supreme Divine Entity to deliver our cherished fruits, there is still the idea of an isolated relationship. We’re essentially only focusing on our own fruitive work, or causes and effects. The material world is considered a place of misery because each individual is taking part in their own activities. There are bound to be collisions not only in desires, but also in the results of work. Moreover, the laws of nature are very fair and strict. If we take to an activity that is considered sinful, the negative reaction must come to bear. Lord Rama, one of Krishna’s most important incarnations to have appeared on earth, describes the nature of sinful reactions very nicely. He says that just as the flowers blossom on the trees during the proper season, the fruits of sinful activities come to the performer at the right time. To match the nature of the original sinful act, the fruits that result are ghastly.

From Lord Rama’s teachings, we see that not all reactions to activities come to bear right away; hence the analogy to fruits when discussing karma. We may plant a seed on any given day, but the resulting flower or fruit doesn’t come about until much later on. Depending on the specific seed, the resulting fruit may take weeks, months, or even years to manifest. In the same manner, each living entity is performing so many activities each and every day which have reactions that must come to bear at some point in the future. Since every effect has an initial cause, the aggregate total of causes and effects for the billions of living entities in existence is too much for even the most powerful computer to handle. In this regard, excessive lamentation over loss is unnecessary because there is no way for any ordinary entity to accurately decipher or predict the nature of fruitive activity. “Everything happens for a reason”, as the saying goes, and only one person understands all the happenings and all the reasons. That person is Krishna.

Balarama and Krishna in Vrindavana An example always helps to understand these concepts more clearly. Who better to look to than Krishna Himself? The Lord was kind enough to make a personal appearance on this earth some five thousand years ago. Having spent over one hundred years on the planet, the Lord took part in so many activities that devotees still talk about them to this day, deriving great pleasure from hearing anything related to Krishna. After growing up in the farm community of Vrindavana, Krishna went to Mathura to live as a king, as was His prescribed duty. For the Supreme Energetic, Krishna, there are never any required activities, but in order to set a good example for future generations, the Lord kindly adhered to the occupational duties of His specific varna, or societal division. Krishna appeared as the son of Vasudeva, who was a kshatriya, or military leader. Therefore Krishna was groomed to follow in His father’s footsteps. Vasudeva was part of the Yadu dynasty, so there was an added emphasis towards upholding the family heritage of dedication to chivalry and the protection of the innocent.

Lord Krishna took over control of the town of Mathura by killing its evil king, Kamsa, who also happened to be Krishna’s uncle. Kamsa’s father, Ugrasena, was the titular head of the kingdom after his son’s death, but for all intents and purposes, Krishna was the acting leader, the person providing protection from attack. Shortly after Kamsa’s death, one of his dear friends, a king named Jarasandha, came to attack Mathura. He was quite angry at Krishna and His elder brother Balarama for having killed Kamsa, so he brought with him his entire army of countless soldiers. Krishna and Balarama, being the Supreme Divine Entities Vishnu and Ananta Shesha Naga of the spiritual realm, easily defeated Jarasandha and his army. The Lord didn’t kill Jarasandha, however, as it was his destiny to die at a later time at the hands of a different fighter.

Krishna as the king of Dvaraka Jarasandha, though embarrassed at his defeat at the hands of Krishna and Balarama, was resilient. He kept on attacking Mathura, and time after time he would be defeated. One time, he decided to attack Mathura from one side, while another king named Kalayavana simultaneously attacked from the other. Krishna, not wanting to put the inhabitants of His kingdom into any difficulty, had a city built in the sea. Since this city was guarded by gates all around, it became known as Dvaraka. After transferring all the inhabitants of Mathura to the new city in the sea, Krishna came out to challenge Kalayavana. Though Kalayavana was immediately enamored by Krishna, seeing His Vishnu-form, he still nevertheless was ready to attack Him. Krishna then kindly walked away, appearing to flee the scene. Kalayavana raced after Him, but no matter how fast he ran, he was unable to catch Krishna. The Supreme Lord can never be captured in thought, word, or deed by any person who is not a devotee. The Lord finally entered a cave, with Kalayavana following soon after.

Lord Vishnu Thinking that Krishna was hiding from him, Kalayavana was ready to mount an attack inside the cave. But as mentioned before, there is a reason behind every effect. Lord Krishna is the cause of all causes, sarva karana karanam, so He knew exactly what He was doing. At the time, a great king was lying asleep on the floor inside the cave. King Muchukunda had many years prior helped the demigods in their battles against the demons. The demigods, or devas, are celestial beings residing in the heavenly planets. They are god-like, but not on a level equal to the original form of Godhead, Krishna or Vishnu. They are able to offer any material benediction up to the point of liberation from the cycle of birth and death. Liberation, or the end to the future development of the material body, can only be achieved when the individual soul’s original constitutional position is realized. This means that only when the lamp of transcendental knowledge burns throughout the body, when the all-knowing soul takes complete control of the senses, can the individual residing within the body be guaranteed of never having to suffer through birth and death again. This purified condition can only be achieved by one whose consciousness is always fixed at the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord.

Since they were pleased with his service, the demigods asked King Muchukunda to take a boon. The king was fatigued from all the fighting, so he asked to be allowed to take rest for a very long time. Additionally, he asked that if anyone should wake him up prematurely, such a person would be burned to death simply by the king’s glance. After the demigods agreed to his requests, the king took rest in a cave. This was the very same cave that Krishna entered into, luring Kalayavana in with Him. When Kalayavana entered the cave, he saw a man sleeping on the floor, and thinking it was Krishna, he kicked him. Having awoken prematurely, King Muchukunda gave Kalayavana a fiery glance which burned him to ashes immediately. After Kalayavana’s death, Krishna appeared in front of King Muchukunda in His Vishnu form. After offering kind prayers to Krishna, the king asked to be able to always be engaged in the Lord’s service. Krishna, well pleased with the kind words of praise, granted the king’s request and assured him that he would always be able to think of the Lord regardless of the situation. In this way, the king was granted liberation through kind association with God at the same time that Kalayavana was killed.

Kalayavana being burned by Muchukunda Only Krishna knows how the intricate system of cause and effect works. It is better for us to stick to our occupational duties and leave the details to the Lord to sort out. The highest occupational duty is the rekindling of one’s dormant Krishna consciousness. This is the only way to achieve true liberation, an end to the doubt, second-guessing, and suffering caused by the results of karmic activity. The path to a purified consciousness can be found through the persistent chanting of “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

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