“See my dear son, whose eyes are white, who has a turban on His head, a wrapper on His body and leg bells which tinkle very sweetly on His feet. He is coming near, along with His surabhi calves, and just see how He is wandering upon the sacred land of Vrindavana!” (Mother Yashoda speaking to Nanda Maharaja, The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 43)
The magic in the written word is its ability to paint a picture within the mind, to give the consciousness something to contemplate, remember, reproduce, study and take shelter of in both peaceful and troublesome situations alike. If we are suddenly put into trouble, such as after being laid off from work or having to suffer a pay reduction, the mind can find comfort in one second by conjuring up an image, a mental travel to the “happy place”. There are many books and literary creations produced every year, with the primary effect being the images imprinted into the brain. Therefore the more sublime the subject matter, the greater the number of beautiful images will rest within the mind. When the consciousness has a steady supply of such imagery, a veritable encyclopedia of the most pleasant scenes, pictures and portraits, there is every chance of remaining peaceful, calm, confident, steady and virtuous. When this consciousness is in an active state at the time of death, the soul gets transported to a destination bearing the same qualities as the images so constantly relied upon for sustenance.
A literary work can tell a story and convey the ideas and thoughts of the author. The imagery created through the words presented gives an indication of what the primary thought processes of the author are. For instance, in an autobiography, if a famous celebrity were to devote many pages to their difficulties during childhood, wherein they had to suffer through poverty, witness domestic violence, endure inappropriate sexual advances made by elders and members of the opposite sex, or face humiliation and degradation of character from authority figures, this naturally means that their mind is focused on negative thoughts, or at least that’s what they remember from that period of time in their life.
When reading the autobiography, the interested reader is looking to find out more about the celebrity in question. But by hearing of disturbing incidents which paint negative mental pictures, the result is that the reader is left in a more distraught condition than that from which they started. At the beginning, there is anticipation and excitement in opening a new book. “I can’t wait to find out what made this celebrity successful, what they had to go through and how they persevered through times of trouble.” As with any other activity, the main objective in reading is to find peace and happiness, a situation that is more enjoyable than the starting point.
This is the general pattern, for we eat so that we will no longer feel hungry. We drink so that our thirst is slaked. We gather together with friends and family to defeat loneliness and boredom. We know from these experiences, however, that if the quality of the association is not pure, the result will be a negative condition. If we are thirsty and drink excessive amounts of alcohol, the combination of dehydration and inebriation follows. When the drunkenness wears off, a hangover and physical pain remain. If to satisfy our hunger we overindulge in fatty foods, our gift will be a stomach ache and an increase in weight.
Along the same lines, if to pacify our interest and curiosity we read books that paint negative imagery within the mind, we will be left in a worse off condition. This is one of the reasons why children are prohibited from watching movies for adults. In a R rated film, there is likely foul language used and scenes involving sex or gruesome violence. Should the child, who is mostly innocent in their thought processes, consume these images, they will be negatively affected. If we were to watch a horror movie just before going to bed, there is an increased chance of having bad dreams during the night. Who among us looks forward to being scared out of our minds while remaining in a deep slumber for the night? Who likes waking up in a cold sweat, feeling glad that the horrible images just conjured up were only part of a dream?
“O son of Kunti, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.14)
The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, are the most important texts of the spiritual variety because they directly address the issue of consciousness. The association through sound vibrations documented in the Vedic texts is meant to uplift the soul otherwise bewildered by temporary losses and gains. You can be working at the same job for ten years or more, have a happy family life, and expect nothing to go wrong, when all of a sudden everything is swept right from underneath you. The change that you hadn’t dealt with in years suddenly is forced upon you. Those who don’t know how to handle this, how to expect the unexpected, and how to deal with the constant changes in life will find misery through the sudden changes.
By immersion in Vedic literature, one learns more about the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who in His original form is known as Krishna because of His all-attractiveness. Right away we see that the Vedas aim to paint the most beautiful picture within the mind, that of the portrait of Shri Krishna, who is also known as Shyamasundara because of His unique beauty. Krishna has the complexion of a dark raincloud, and He always carries a flute in His hands and wears a peacock feather in His hair. The flower garland that adorns His neck smells wonderful and is meticulously crafted. The Kaustubha jewel resting on His neck has a brilliant luster, as its shine defeats that of the most beautiful gems found in the world. The earrings hanging from the Lord’s ears and the armlets wrapped around His wrists complete this most wonderful portrait.
To help us to accept this picture as being divine and representative of God, the Vedas provide detailed information about other topics as well, such as reincarnation, the differences between matter and spirit, the reason for the material creation’s existence, and how the soul can break out of the cycle of birth and death. Such information is supplementary to the highest realization of pure Krishna consciousness. To increase the supply of sweet imagery available to the mind, the Shrimad Bhagavatam, the crown jewel of Vedic literature, describes Krishna’s pastimes enacted on this planet some five thousand years ago.
If ever the taste from the lemons life has handed to us becomes too bitter, we can remember Krishna’s playful activities that took place in the farm community of Vrindavana. As a child, the Lord would gather together His friends and hatch up schemes to steal the supply of butter belonging to the neighbors. Butter is a commodity in a farm community dedicated to protecting cows. Krishna loves cows, as one of His names is Govinda, which means one who gives pleasure to the cows. The butter the cows kindly provide gives Krishna so much satisfaction that He loves to eat it directly. Normally, if in a restaurant the waiter drops off a basket of bread and butter at the table, no one eats the butter directly. If they did, they would get strange looks from their friends and other patrons in the restaurant.
For children, the standard of etiquette is more relaxed. What then to speak of the Supreme Lord during His childhood? Krishna’s stealing of butter belonging to the cowherd women of Vrindavana, the gopis, is so much celebrated today, as it earned the Lord the nickname “Makhan Chor”, or one who steals butter. The image of Krishna dipping His tiny hands into a pot of butter is so enlivening that one has a difficult time remaining angry or upset over their latest troubles when thinking of it.
In addition to stealing butter, Krishna would play with His young friends in the forest every day. When there was trouble or too much turmoil, Krishna would play on His magical flute and everyone would stop what they were doing. The residents loved Krishna purely and without motive. When music started coming out from the flute, rather than be jealous at Krishna’s unique playing ability, the friends and cows would relish the sound and insist on hearing more of it.
When Krishna wasn’t pleasing His friends through His childish antics and sports, He was protecting them from the demons infiltrating the town. The neighboring city of Mathura was ruled by a wicked king named Kamsa, who wanted Krishna dead. As God can never be killed, the demons that came to Vrindavana did not escape with their lives intact. How a young child could slay such powerful demons was a mystery to everyone, though the images of Krishna’s offering of protection never left anyone’s mind.
When Krishna grew older, He left Vrindavana, but His pastimes did not end. He continued to give protection to His friends, sometimes even in the strangest ways. During the greatest war the world has ever seen, Krishna played the role of a charioteer for the lead fighter of the Pandavas, Arjuna. Prior to the war’s commencement, Krishna offered protection to Arjuna in the form of sublime words of wisdom. This collection of teachings later became known as the Bhagavad-gita, or the Song of God. Though there are specific issues addressed and profundities revealed in this song, its main purpose is to paint within the mind the picture of Krishna instructing His friend during a time where the enemy of doubt had taken over the mind.
Descriptions of Krishna’s transcendental form and pastimes found in the Shrimad Bhagavatam represent just one small piece of Vedic literature. The entire breadth and scope of Vedic writings is replete with such wonderful imagery, as Krishna takes on many different forms. As Lord Rama, He is the handsome and pious warrior prince of Ayodhya whose activities and pastimes are documented in the famous Ramayana poem penned by Maharishi Valmiki. As Narasimhadeva, Krishna is the half-man/half-lion who came to protect His five-year old devotee Prahlada Maharaja from the attacks of his father, Hiranyakashipu.
While there is the original set of Vedic teachings and descriptions available for reference, the saints that have followed in the line of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, have added on to the already incomprehensible volume of Vedic literature. The purpose of this writing is to glorify Krishna by providing descriptions of His names, qualities, forms and pastimes. For those who are looking for peaceful mental images and ways to remember God in all His beauty, the most recommended practice is the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.
This might be strange to hear, but just chanting this mantra over and over again is sufficient for attaining pure Krishna consciousness. Study of Vedic literature is meant for those who need convincing of Krishna’s supreme status. Those who need help always remembering God and honoring Him within the mind are aided by reading, which creates mental pictures through words. Also, those who are interested in preaching about the glories of Krishna and devotional service to Him are provided the information they need through works like the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam.
Yet, by chanting Krishna’s names over and over again, the imagery is there just the same. This is one of those things that has to be tried out in order to be believed. In no other field of endeavor can we just recite a specific sound vibration and become enlightened. Yet bhakti is so powerful that simply through constantly hearing one or two words, the most beautiful picture is etched within the mind.
The penchant for reading is already there. If it weren’t, newspapers, online news sites and the latest bestsellers would never be opened or perused. The aim is to find entertainment, to keep the mind focused on something that will have an overall positive effect. Thanks to the authors of the original Vedic texts and those who humbly follow in the line of disciplic succession that aims to worship God for real, there is a storehouse of information available to every single person looking for happiness. The images painted through reading are so nice that the sincere soul will want to hear about Krishna constantly. The more we keep the sweet form of Muralidhara, the wielder of the flute, in our mind, the greater the chances for becoming Krishna consciousness by the time of death.
“And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 8.5)
As Krishna reveals in the Bhagavad-gita, whatever state of being one remembers at the time of death, that state they will attain without fail. This is akin to the concept of one’s life flashing before their very eyes just prior to exiting the body. Obviously those images accumulated through experience found in the greatest abundance within the mind will be at the forefront of the consciousness at the end of life. Therefore the more we can produce mental images of Krishna and His divine pastimes today, the greater the likelihood of remembering God at the time of death. When the picture of Krishna’s form stays within the consciousness of the living being, after death that same image comes to life in the form of the Lord’s personal association in the spiritual sky.
When life gets you down and lessens your pace,
Find wonderful images, go to happy place.
To find pleasure we read books authored by others,
Biographies, sports, news, whatever our druthers.
Aim is to find a better condition, advancement in thought,
For downturns come unexpectedly, with perils is life fraught.
The Vedic texts do exist to please everyone’s mind,
In it words that create image of God you will find.
Lord Krishna, Yashoda and Nanda’s young boy,
He of bluish complexion, trusted flute is His toy.
On some days in pot of butter is Krishna’s hand,
While on others He’s with cows grazing the land.
These and other wonderful images fill every page,
Of Shrimad Bhagavatam, given by Vyasa the sage.
During every day, with your tongue Krishna’s name produce,
Paint Lord’s image in mind, pains in life will this reduce.
Remember Krishna’s beautiful portrait especially at life’s end,
Image then comes alive, in Lord’s company eternity to spend.
Categories: devotional service