“Thus the inhabitants of Vrindavana do not care who is God, and who is not. They love Krishna, that’s all. Those who think of first analyzing Krishna to determine whether He is God are not first-class devotees. The first-class devotees are those who have spontaneous love for Krishna.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Teachings of Queen Kunti, Ch 14)
The darling child runs around Vrindavana, playing with His friends and delighting all the elders. Whether He is tending cows, stealing the supply of yogurt and butter from the neighbors, or showering a fruit vendor with heaps of jewelry and gold, the feelings of the residents remain the same. They are totally enamored by the joy of their life, the small child of Nanda Maharaja and Mother Yashoda who has a bodily hue similar to that of a tamala tree or dark raincloud, for whom they have a spontaneous and unalloyed loving attachment. The rain gives sustenance to the hard ground and allows food and other flowers to grow. In this way the rain is the sustainer of life, and to the residents of Vrindavana, the little child Krishna is the true essence of life, making their days filled with joy and worth living at every moment. Whether they know the true nature of the boy is not important, for they understand that the bliss they derive from His pastimes cannot be found in any other realm or through the association of any other person.
As upstanding citizens of the community wholly adherent to the orders of their varna, or caste, the citizens of Vrajabhumi are cowherds by trade, so they take special care to ensure that the cows are protected and happy. In this wonderful town no animal is ever killed unnecessarily, and due to the purity of thought enveloping everyone’s consciousness, even the accidental deaths of the insects caused by walking on the bare ground are mourned, for the kind-hearted citizens understand the essence of life and the fragile nature of everything in the world around them. The men and women of Vrindavana are the epitomes of virtue, and they staunchly abide by the traditions passed down to them, law codes, rituals and regulations that have as their origin the spoken word of the original form of Godhead, the supreme object of all religious practice.
Ever since the young Krishna arrived with His elder brother Balarama, who is equally as beautiful and enchanting, the Vedic rituals and worship of heavenly figures have become secondary in importance, as they are functions performed out of obligation more than anything else. The real source of pleasure is Krishna. But He is no ordinary child. One after another, demons seemingly incomparable in strength keep making their way into Vrindavana looking to kill Krishna. Yet the small child – whose features are beautiful and delicate in every way, who is so innocent that He carries around a flute, wears jewels around His wrists and ankles, and dons a peacock feather in His hair – is somehow managing to survive these deadly attacks, all the while seeing to it that the demons don’t survive and thus never kill again.
There was the female demon Putana, who though possessing a hideous form, came to Vrajabhumi in the guise of a nurse ready to administer poison to young Krishna. Despite her motive, the sweet Shyamasundara kindly accepted her breast and then proceeded to suck the very life breath out of her. When she fell to the ground after assuming her massive size and hideous form, the beloved child of Yashoda simply played on her lap as if her body were a playground. Then another demon came and took the form of a whirlwind, carrying baby Krishna high into the sky. Again, the beautiful son of Nanda Maharaja not only survived the attack, but also managed to take the life breath out of the demon. Countless more times similar miracles seem to be occurring, such as when the innocent cowherd boys, many of whom are senior to Krishna in age, were saved from a raging forest fire set by another killer in disguise sent from the neighboring town of Mathura.
In each and every case, no matter how intense the attack or how formidable the evil force, Krishna saves His friends and relatives, all the while remaining beautiful and not breaking a sweat. Even when Mother Yashoda reluctantly binds Him to a mortar as punishment for breaking a pot of yogurt, the young boy is able to break free, managing to knock down a pair of trees from which two beautiful celestial figures emerged. Witnessing so many miracles, the residents are beginning to realize that their Krishna is no ordinary figure. That He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the original form of the same Lord that most of us look to in times of trouble, they don’t realize, nor did they care to. At best, Nanda Maharaja and the elderly members of the community think that maybe Krishna is a demigod, one of the saints in heaven responsible for managing the different departments of the material creation.
It is the opinion of Lord Chaitanya, the very same Krishna appearing on earth some five hundred years ago in the guise of a brahmana, that the behavior of the residents of Vrindavana, those beautiful and pious individuals who had the direct association of the darling Krishna some five thousand years ago, represents first class devotion to God and the summit of religious practice. Ironically enough, though they are today considered the model for behavior, worshipable objects in their own right, the residents of Vrindavana didn’t even know that Krishna was God, nor were they really interested in testing out His divine capabilities. This mindset can be greatly appreciated and also learned from. The heart is meant to be enchanted, as pleasure is the objective of all activity, even those endeavors that aren’t enjoyed. School is certainly not enjoyable for the young students, but the ideal end-result is a pleasurable condition. The same holds true for going to work, for there is every hope that one day enough money will be saved to allow for retirement, a period of time when work is no longer required.
But what happens when everything is finished? What is the result of all our practices completing to fruition? Does activity stop? The same Lord Krishna describes in the Bhagavad-gita, His famous song sung on the battlefield of Kurukshetra to His dear cousin and disciple Arjuna, that generally four kinds of pious men approach Him. One who is inquisitive, one who wants to know the nature of the Truth, one who is looking for alleviation from distress, and one who is looking for wealth initially approach Krishna in a mood of devotion. But the residents of Vrindavana did not fall into any of these categories. They had no desire but to enjoy Krishna’s association. Moreover, they didn’t even care who the Lord was or what His capabilities were as far as granting benedictions, teaching them the highest truths of life, responding to their inquiries, and removing their distresses. If they ever did feel any pain, it was when Krishna was not directly in their association. But even the pain of separation from Krishna is one that “hurts so good”. The cowherd girls of Vrindavana, the gopis, were especially immersed in affectionate feelings for the Lord, and they used to worship Him almost exclusively through separation, wherein they would keep their thoughts and memories fixed on His transcendental form and activities throughout the day while performing household duties and tending to family business.
As Lord Chaitanya so nicely points out, the residents of Vrindavana are the purest of the pure, and of the pure residents, the gopis represent the pinnacle of spiritual enlightenment, for they swim in the ocean of nectarean bliss that is Krishna-bhakti. More than any other factor, consciousness is what determines our state of being, whether or not we are happy. Let’s say for instance that we enjoy watching movies and television shows. Since life involves much struggle and work simply to maintain the body, leisure time is greatly anticipated. The arduous worker wants to make the best use of their free time, so watching television and listening to music are considered relaxing exercises.
Since the universe of music and movies available for enjoying is seemingly endless, a nice way to amass a large collection is to convert all such media into digital format and store them on hardware. For this project, much time and effort is expended. A hardware device with a high storage capacity is required, such as a file server or portable hard drive. Then the drive itself must be accessible to a viewing or output source, such as a large screen television or a home theater system. After the infrastructure is set up, the most difficult part remains, that of filling up the library, actually acquiring all the music and movies and converting them into the proper digital format to be stored on the server.
We started with a simple desire to relax, and we ended up with an endless engagement, a project that pretty much has no state of completion, as the mind is tempted to acquire more and more media to add to the collection. Every item added is akin to another brick being erected in the fortress of protection. Yet by using a little intelligence, we see that the archiving and storing activity itself has a great effect on consciousness, keeping the passionate aspect of the internal spark of life alive, maintaining a steady working engagement even during time off from work. The real benefit to such activity is not the archiving or even the viewing, but the active engagement of consciousness. Indeed, when all is said and done, the time spent amassing the collection will surely far surpass the amount of time spent relaxing and enjoying the media that was so difficult to acquire and set up in the first place.
Since consciousness serves as the key determining factor in mental outlook and happiness, if it has something tangible to focus on, that one object or person that brings about the highest pleasure, the stream of pure thoughts will never end. Indeed, Maharishi Valmiki, the celebrated Vedic poet and eternal servant of Lord Rama, another form of Krishna, describes that for those who are focused on the lotus feet of Shri Rama through love and devotion, stories describing His pastimes are akin to endless waves of rivers flowing into a massive ocean. Since the rushing rivers represent transcendental subject matter, those topics describing the exploits of the Supreme Spirit and His closest associates, the ocean which is the mind can never overflow; the reservoir of pleasure resulting from hearing the nectar that is Krishna and those things directly relating to Him can never be completely filled.
When consciousness is purified through divine contact, all ancillary issues pertaining to spirituality and religion are forgotten. The concerns over whether the object in question is God, what the prescriptions for salvation are, and whether or not the target individual is progressing in their spiritual practices are removed. The residents of Vrindavana never thought about performing bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. They didn’t run self-assessments to see if they were progressing in the purification of their consciousness. They didn’t even care about God, for Krishna was everything to them. Understanding Krishna’s divine nature is meant for enhancing the level of appreciation felt by those who are not yet on the highest level of consciousness. Many great sages and saints marvel at the ability of the Supreme Absolute Truth to descend to earth and roam around in what appears to be the form of an ordinary human being. This appreciation further attaches them to Krishna and devotion to Him.
Does this mean that the intelligent shouldn’t analyze Krishna? Should we not describe Him as God? Since our consciousness has been fixed on so many things not personally related to Krishna for so long, any knowledge pertaining to His qualities, features, pastimes and desires is very helpful. The residents of Vrindavana can be worshiped, but there is no need to imitate their behavior without properly conditioning ourselves through steady spiritual practice. Just as Mother Yashoda would derive great pleasure by singing about the pastimes of her dear son throughout the day while working, if we simply chant, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, during our time on earth, even if we are at work or engaged in some activity that doesn’t seem to be religious, our consciousness will slowly and steadily be purified.
No one can truly understand God, but the more information that is learned about His beautiful form and nature, the greater the opportunity for ascending to the level of consciousness that remains forever fixed on the Supreme Shelter. Unlike the happiness that results from the ceasing of all activity through dry meditation, Krishna consciousness keeps the internal flame of divine love forever lit, carrying the pure individual from one sublime activity to another. Only when the object of affection is pure can the resulting conditions be considered superior. Whether or not one knows that Krishna is God, since all of the Lord’s activities and descriptions of His forms are purely transcendental, the benefit to the attached sincere soul is all the same.
Categories: krishna pastimes