“My dear King Jarasandha, those who are heroes do not talk much. Rather, they show their prowess. Because you are talking much, it appears that you are assured of your death in this battle.” (Lord Krishna, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 49)
This humorous, yet insightful passage is from the Shrimad Bhagavatam, the crown-jewel of Vedic literature. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada performed a wonderful service for humanity by providing a summary study of the tenth canto of this wonderful work. In his book, titled Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, we find accounts of some of the Lord’s wonderful exploits on earth and dialogues from His dealings with enemies and well-wishers. The sportive exploits of the Supreme Absolute Truth are the most mysterious and yet pleasure giving aspects of the Supreme Lord. Those who believe that man is God or that the Supreme Truth is formless are bereft of this enjoyment. Nevertheless, for the devotees, not only are there wonderful stories to relish and remember, but wonderful teachings as well that come directly from the Lord through His transcendental activities.
What makes a hero? What does he look like? How does he behave? In this one incident with Jarasandha, Lord Krishna gives us a glimpse into the differences between the natures of enemies and chivalrous men. One who is in knowledge will certainly behave differently than one who is ignorant. One who is confident in their abilities and knowledgeable as to the source of their powers will certainly have a leg up on those who don’t. The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, tell us that God is one, though He may go by various names depending on time and circumstance. Of all the names of the Divine, Krishna is considered the best because it is all-encompassing. God is the most attractive person in the world, and He possesses the greatest opulences in all the universes. Since the word “Krishna” means all-attractive, this name references the divine qualities not found in any other entity.
The Supreme Lord is known as the energetic, while the sparks emanating from Him are known as the energy. Krishna can be thought of as a gigantic fire and the individual spirit souls as sparks emanating from that powerhouse of energy. Just as one cannot separate fire from its burning propensity, the individual spirit souls can never be separated from their Supreme Energetic Lord. Yet there can be a divergence in terms of consciousness. If the heat and light emanating from a fire somehow think that there is no source to their properties, there will certainly be ignorance. Though ignorance can arise, the reality of the situation doesn’t change. Regardless of whether heat and light are knowledgeable of their source, the fact remains that the original fire is more powerful than whatever emanates from it.
By the same token, the individual spirit souls, through their descent to the material world, may become forgetful of their relationship to Krishna, but the reality of the inherent link never changes. This truth is reinforced by the fact that the Supreme Lord directly expands Himself as the Supersoul and accompanies the conditioned individual soul in its travels through various bodies in the material existence. A particular lifetime, or the duration of existence for a particular body, is merely a unit of measure, an indication of a certain elapsed period of time. Just as our identity doesn’t change upon the dawning of each new day, the properties of the soul don’t change after death. Each birth can be thought of as simply a new demarcation of time, a resetting of the life clock if you will.
“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)
Those who become aware of this perpetual cycle of birth and death can take the necessary steps to stop it. One who realizes that they are inherently part and parcel of the Supreme Energetic can take steps to change their consciousness. The thoughts and desires that come to the forefront at the time of death determine the impending body of the dying individual. If the thoughts are focused on the Supreme Spirit, the soul is awarded a spiritual body in the afterlife. Any other consciousness will result in rebirth in a material body. We can think of the individual soul as being tossed around in a clothes-dryer. When the individual is completely dried up of material desires, they are let out of the drying machine. Death represents the time when the soul is checked to see whether it has become fully dry or not. Depending on the nature of the activities an individual engaged in during their lifetime, they can become fully damp again in the next life. Therefore, the wise take to bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, which guarantees a release from the spinning cycle of rebirth, a cycle which is anything but gentle.
How does one practice bhakti-yoga? The singular component of bhakti is the association of the Lord, a connection easily brought about through the transcendental sound vibrations of His holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. The ancillary components of bhakti involve the acquisition of knowledge and the taking to renunciation. Knowledge and renunciation, jnana and vairagya, aren’t requirements for liberation or the attainment of pure love for Krishna, but they can certainly help. Knowledge is acquired through reading scriptures like the Shrimad Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-gita, and renunciation is practiced by refraining from the four pillars of sinful life: meat eating, gambling, intoxication, and illicit sex.
“O son of Kunti [Arjuna], I am the taste of water, the light of the sun and the moon, the syllable om in the Vedic mantras; I am the sound in ether and ability in man.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 7.8)
For the conditioned soul, probably the most difficult concept to understand is that they are not their body. This seems a little strange on the surface. “If I am not my body then what am I?” Individuality comes from the soul and not from a body which is constantly changing. Those who are ignorant, the mudhas, are unaware of the presence of the soul. They take their own bodies and resulting abilities to be self-created. This thought process is silly due simply to the fact that every person is born completely ignorant and dependent on their family members. If we had to acquire our strength and knowledge, how powerful can we really be? Yet the miscreants, the lowest of mankind, are completely forgetful of these experiences. Not only do they boast of their own prowess, but they feel they can defeat others as well.
An example of such a miscreant was Jarasandha, the king of the Magadha province. Around five thousand years ago, the original Personality of Godhead, Shri Krishna, descended to earth to deal with the shady elements of society and also to give pleasure to His adherents, those sincerely desiring His loving association. In His youth, Krishna enacted many wonderful, peaceful pastimes in the holy land of Vrindavana. In His adulthood, however, He had to tend to administrative affairs related to ruling a kingdom. After killing the demoniac King of Mathura, Kamsa, Krishna and the citizens of the town were attacked by Jarasandha. In the above referenced statement, the Lord is addressing Jarasandha prior to a great fight.
Jarasandha assembled and brought with him an enormous military force to siege Mathura. Krishna and His elder brother, Lord Balarama, didn’t have nearly as many soldiers fighting for their side. Yet since Krishna is God, and Balarama is His direct plenary expansion, the two brothers could easily defeat Jarasandha. For his part, Jarasandha took to mocking and ridiculing Krishna prior to the fight. He boasted of his own prowess and made fun of Krishna for growing up in a cowherd community in Vrindavana. This is certainly foolish talk from someone who is blinded by the light of material energy. His vision was so clouded that he couldn’t even see the Supreme Personality of Godhead standing right in front of him.
Lord Krishna mentions very appropriately that such talk is employed by fools who are not sure of their prowess. The Lord mentions that true heroes don’t speak much, for they are confident of their abilities. Not only are heroes sure of their own fighting prowess, but they also know wherefrom their power comes. Prahlada Maharaja, the five-year old devotee of Lord Vishnu, had similar encounters with his demoniac father, Hiranyakashipu. Prahlada was very mild-mannered and soft-hearted, yet completely confident of his abilities to withstand any attacks from his father or his henchmen. Hiranyakashipu asked Prahlada where his power came from, and Prahlada responded that everyone’s power came from the Supreme Lord. As the Supersoul residing within the heart, it is the Lord who is ultimately responsible for generating the results of our actions. We may take to certain activities, but the results are out of our control. For instance, one person may work very hard in the gym to build their physique, but another person can surpass their strength level without ever having to lift weights. Each person is allotted their own fortunes in life based on past karma. Yet even still, the fruits of action cannot manifest without the hand of the divine energy, which is managed by Krishna.
“Prahlada Maharaja said: My dear King, the source of my strength, of which you are asking, is also the source of yours. Indeed, the original source of all kinds of strength is one. He is not only your strength or mine, but the only strength for everyone. Without Him, no one can get any strength. Whether moving or not moving, superior or inferior, everyone, including Lord Brahma, is controlled by the strength of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.8.7)
Not only were Krishna and Balarama two great heroes in their present forms on the battlefield, but so were their previous incarnations on earth, Lord Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana. Rama was known for being very quiet, peaceful, and chivalrous. Yet He was also the greatest bow-warrior of His time; no one could defeat Him in battle. Lord Krishna turned out to be one hundred percent accurate in His assessment of the situation, as Jarasandha would go on to be soundly defeated. Having other plans in mind, the Lord let the miscreant go after Balarama had captured him. Jarasandha, leaving the field of battle embarrassed, mounted similar attacks on Mathura an astonishing seventeen times. Yet he never managed to defeat Krishna.
This incident can teach us many valuable lessons. There are certainly a great number of miscreants in the world who boast of their paltry powers and abilities. Those who speak the most have the least confidence, and also the least knowledge pertaining to the source of all strength. Matter is dull and inanimate. It is incapable of transforming or acting without the hand of spirit. Spirit is known as purusha in Sanskrit, and the efforts of individual spirit are thus known as paurusham. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna states that He is the origin of paurusham, or the ability of man. Those who excessively boast of their powers are completely ignorant of the differences between matter and spirit. Jarasandha’s behavior reminds one of the theatrical antics of the heels in professional wrestling, the touchdown celebrations of professional football players, and the self-aggrandizement of blowhard politicians. The true heroes are strong and silent. Of all the heroes in the world, no one is more capable than Krishna. His faithful servants, those who act only in His interests, are similarly heroic. From Krishna’s teachings and the example He set while roaming this earth, we can learn how to decipher the contenders from the pretenders.
Categories: krishna pastimes