“When the black-eyed, beautiful Rukmini heard the settlement, she immediately became very morose. However, being a king’s daughter, she understood political diplomacy and decided that there was no use in simply being morose. Some steps should be taken immediately. After some deliberation, she decided to send a message to Krishna, and so that she might not be deceived, she selected a qualified brahmana as her messenger.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 51)
It’s quite understandable that we would pity our condition in this world from time to time. Sometimes things get so out of hand that we just can’t help wallowing in our misfortune. During these times, even the staunchest of atheists will have an inclination towards prayer and a higher power. “O God, why did you put me in this miserable condition? What can I do? It is out of my hands; I hate my life.” In these situations, or in any situation actually, pleading for help from the Supreme Divine Entity is always the way to go. Instead of sitting idly by and allowing our condition to own us, it is better to ask for aid from the only person capable of alleviating any situation. That person is Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
The root cause of our problems usually goes undetected, for that is the primary defect of the animal species. Animals perform many of the same functions as advanced human beings, except that they are limited in their intelligence gathering abilities. For example, an animal may see many of its brethren taken into the slaughterhouse right in front of it, yet when the time comes for the animal to be killed, it is completely unaware of what is going to happen. Animal life is meant for base enjoyment: eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. Human beings are advanced in that they have the potential to acquire the highest knowledge. Since this potential is difficult to realize to the fullest extent, man remains stuck on lower platforms of intelligence. What does this mean exactly? If we study the nature around us for years and years and gain an understanding about high concepts such as math, biology, chemistry, and physics, our intelligence will certainly be at a very high level. Yet this knowledge is still limiting in that it doesn’t help us go beyond the base animal activities. One living entity may be a pig while another is a PhD scholar, but the enjoyment derived from eating and sleeping is not really any different. The same principle applies to the thoughts and hopes of the individual human being. One person may live in squalor, while another is in a palatial building, but the effects of disappointment are essentially the same. Whether we lose out on a particular meal or a giant merger, the sense of worry and panic takes over equally.
The highest stage of knowledge is that which informs us of our constitutional position and the primary cause of our current condition. This cause will indeed explain the reason for all of our conditions, including the initial event of birth. Though there are various religious systems in existence today, none is more complete than that emanating from the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India. Though Vedanta, or the ultimate knowledge, can be quite complicated, the reason for our birth and the type of body we occupy can be explained simply by saying that we desired our current condition. God is one, and He has His own realm where He resides. The soul represents our identity, and it is unchanging. Any soul which desires God’s personal association is allowed to have it. By the same token, any individual who wants to live separately from God and imitate His activities of creating, maintaining, and destroying is also allowed to do so. Hence the souls that reside in the perceptible world all fall into the latter category. It shouldn’t surprise us that this sort of desire can only lead to misery; no one can perform activities in the same way that God can. Therefore, the solution to all of our problems is to change our desires from wanting to have our little problems fixed, to having our original negative condition, the cause for all our problems, remedied.
“Whether one is without desire, or is desirous of all fruitive results, or is after liberation, one should with all efforts try to worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead for complete perfection, culminating in Krishna consciousness.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.3.10)
Obviously these are high concepts, and those who are entangled in the acquisition of inferior knowledge will not have the time to understand the position of the soul and its most ideal home. Yet regardless of one’s condition, their state of mind, and their level of intelligence, it is always advisable to look to Krishna for answers. The Supreme Lord is so kind that He doesn’t expect everyone to realize the highest form of knowledge right away. This means that the individual’s desires will also likely remain polluted for a long time. Instead of an immediate remedy, the Lord allows any person, with any desire, to have solutions found through devotion to Him. In this way, one is allowed to make a gradual progression in intelligence, with Krishna steadily remaining an object of worship.
For those who are on the highest platform of knowledge – those wanting an immediate stop to their imitation of Krishna – are known as bhaktas, or devotees. A devotee simply wants Krishna’s association and nothing else. This association unfolds through interactions in one of several different transcendental mellows, or rasas. While transcendental scholars have carefully analyzed and prioritized these mellows, in the grand scheme of things, there is no difference between them. If one person wants to associate with Krishna eternally as a friend, and another wants to be His sincere servant, there is no difference in their desires. After all, both individuals want Krishna’s association, a condition which automatically brings liberation from the cycle of birth and death.
Yet for those who are not on the level of the devotees, the Lord still kindly lends a helping hand. These individuals generally fall into one of two classes: jnanis and karmis. The jnanis don’t necessarily believe in a personal God. The analogy given to explain the mindset of the impersonalist is to that of a giant ocean of water. The jnanis, those who take to studying the differences between spirit and matter as their primary occupation, believe that the Supreme Absolute Truth, God in a sense, is represented by a giant ocean. The living entities are then created when this ocean is divided up into separate containers of water. Therefore, the ultimate aim becomes the merging back into the ocean. When one is on the highest platform of knowledge, which can only be reached through devotion to Krishna, they see the folly in this mindset. Under the giant ocean model, the Supreme Absolute Truth would have to be flawed since He allows Himself to become divided and trapped in individual containers. If the Lord is flawed, He cannot be considered God. Additionally, the individual is taken as God under this model, which is silly in and of itself. If we are God, how did we become trapped in a miserable condition? If we are God, how are we not able to remember our previous lives?
There certainly does exist a giant reservoir of spiritual energy, with the individual souls being part and parcel of this effulgence. This impersonal energy is known as Brahman, and since we are tiny sparks emanating from Brahman, we too are blissful and full of knowledge. Yet Brahman is simply the outer energy emanating from the transcendental body of Krishna. If one remains stuck on argument, logic, and reasoning devised from strict interpretation of the words found in scripture, they will never be able to see past this glaring effulgence. There are other classes of transcendentalists who have similar conclusions, namely that of eliminating individuality and pain through the cessation of activity. Merging into Brahman, or its similar counterpart of nirvana, represents the loss of individuality. It is akin to spiritual suicide. Yet Krishna is so kind that He even grants these rewards to those who approach Him in earnest.
The karmis are those who want material opulence, i.e. enjoyment. They realize that life is difficult and full of misery, so they think that if they just adjust things in the right way, they can remove all the unwanted aspects of life and enjoy all the opulences in front of them. This is the mindset of the majority of individuals in this world, a thought process adopted immediately after the time of birth. This mindset is considered faulty because any final condition or destination which is devoid of Krishna’s association is bound to be a miserable one. Lord Krishna is not only God in the sense of control and power, but also in His abilities to provide pleasure. The dharma of the soul is loving association with its complementary spiritual entity: the Supreme Soul. This more powerful soul belongs to Krishna, thus making Him the ultimate reservoir of pleasure. Material opulence, in the form of wealth, beauty, fame, women, wine, etc., exhausts at some point, leaving the individual empty-handed and alone in the end. By exclusively pursuing material opulence, one is forced to repeat the cycle of work and enjoyment over and over again.
Yet even if we want to enjoy opulence, we are advised to approach Krishna in a humble way. He does not force anyone to change or purify their desires. Rather, He is satisfied just seeing that people think of Him and ask Him for help. The benefit to approaching Krishna over other entities is that not only will Krishna likely give us what we want, but He will purify our desires as a result. Dharma is our essential characteristic, something that never changes with time. Therefore through constant association with Krishna, we are guaranteed of eventually reawakening from our spiritual sleep and reconnecting with our long lost lover.
If we find ourselves in an unpalatable situation, which will occur many times throughout our lifetime, we should always look to Krishna instead of just lamenting our condition. If we take action by worshiping Krishna, the chances of our rescue are increased, whereas simple lamentation and self-pity will guarantee a perpetually miserable state. One great devotee, a divine figure and manifestation of the Goddess of Fortune, proved the validity of this theory during one especially troubling time in her life. Her prayers and subsequent rescue by Krishna show us that the Lord will always hear our sincere callings for His association.
The Vedic, or Hindu, system of marriage is quite unique. As mentioned before, the material world is not our natural home. Therefore the aim of any bona fide religious system is to put into place a set of guidelines and regulations which allow a person to gradually realize this fact. Since the allures of sense pleasures are strong, one requires training from the time of birth in matters of spirituality. Therefore in the Vedic tradition, every activity is meant to be regulated, especially sex. The marriage system is seen as the license for sex life, the only time in one’s life where sense demands are allowed to be acted upon, but still in a regulated manner. To that end, marriages are typically arranged by the parents when the children are relatively young. This way, a boy and girl can live peacefully and happily together, without having to worry about finding the right person who may or may not love them for a short period of time.
It shouldn’t surprise us that those who are not very intelligent, those lacking information about the ultimate conclusion of life, will find this sort of marriage system horrifying. Movies produced in India very often focus on the theme of arranged marriages, with the typical plotline involving a girl who is in love with another man but who is then forced to marry someone else by her parents. It must be said that in the classic Vedic system, this rarely occurs because men and women aren’t allowed to freely intermingle. In the modern age, the forced marriage has become a problem due to the fact that men and women meet up and spend much time together before marriage arrangements are made by parents.
Yet even in the ancient Vedic system, there were instances where the bride-to-be had already sold her heart to another man. This was the case with Rukmini Devi, an exalted princess and daughter of King Bhishmaka. Rukmini was all set to be married to a king named Shishupala, a shady character whom Rukmini had no liking for. The larger problem was the fact that Rukmini had her heart set on marrying Lord Krishna. Around five thousand years ago, the Lord personally descended to earth to enact wonderful pastimes. In His adult years, He lived as the king of a city named Dvaraka. As the Supreme Lord, Krishna was highly effulgent and resplendent, so news of His uncommon and brave activities spread throughout the world. Though Rukmini had never met Krishna, she had heard of His exploits and His devotion to the pious. Simply from hearing of Krishna’s name, form, attributes, and pastimes, she made up her mind to have Him as her husband. Krishna, unlike other non-different forms of the Lord, doesn’t lock Himself down to any codes of conduct, religion, or piety. Krishna is the original and complete Personality of Godhead, so He is actually the object of all systems of piety and virtue. Therefore Krishna can accept an unlimited number of wives, consorts, and associates.
Rukmini’s desire to have Krishna as a husband was certainly indicative of her great intelligence and devotion to the Lord. Yet there was still a problem. Her marriage was already arranged with Shishupala, and time was running out. There was nothing she could do to change the situation because her father, as a hospitable king, had already invited guests and made arrangements for the ceremony. He couldn’t go back on his word now. Instead of resigning herself to defeat, Rukmini took action. She wrote a letter to Krishna, which contained her heartfelt plea to have Him as a husband, and she gave it to a trusted brahmana. The princely order is in charge of giving protection and running government, but the brahmanas are really the brains behind the operation. A brahmana is a priest who understands the spiritual equality shared amongst all individual life forms. Moreover, the deva, or god, for the brahmanas is Krishna, who is thus known as brahmanya-devaya. Rukmini entrusted her letter to the brahmana, who subsequently went to Krishna and delivered it to Him in secret.
Not surprisingly, Krishna wholeheartedly accepted Rukmini’s desire for marriage. Rukmini was so intelligent that she not only proposed marriage, but she also outlined a plot which Krishna could follow to facilitate the new plan. During those times, kshatriyas, or those in the royal order, often married women through a kidnapping fashion, something known as the Rakshasa style of marriage. Rukmini proposed that Krishna come and take her while she and her family would be visiting the temple of Goddess Durga on the day of the wedding to Shishupala. No one would suspect any chicanery during this holy time just prior to the marriage, so it would be ideal for Krishna to perform the kidnapping then. This is precisely what would happen, as Krishna would swoop in just like Garuda, the faithful servant and bird-carrier of Lord Vishnu, and snatch Rukmini away from the onlookers, which included Shishupala and other rival kings. Krishna would fend off the attacks that followed and eventually return home safely to Dvaraka with Rukmini. The two would then be married formally and live happily ever after.
The incident of Rukmini’s marriage shows us that it is better to pray to Krishna, regardless of our desire, than to sit back and wax poetic. The Supreme Lord may or may not grant our desires for an immediate end to our distressful conditions, but if we remain fixed in consciousness on His lotus feet, He will most certainly grant us His association. This is the greatest boon of all, something which represents the most favorable condition. In this way, the world is advised to unite under one God, the Lord for everyone, Shri Krishna. Rukmini’s intelligent and heartfelt message was delivered through a trusted brahmana, but this certainly isn’t the only way to communicate with Krishna. In this age, we can unite under one God and one mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. The Lord listens attentively to this sacred chant, and He takes it as a sign that one of His fellow sons and daughters needs help; help which will arrive shortly thereafter.