“The gopis would say, ‘If You dance, my dear Krishna, then I shall give You half a sweetmeat.’ By saying these words or by clapping their hands, all the gopis encouraged Krishna in different ways. At such times, although He was the supremely powerful Personality of Godhead, He would smile and dance according to their desire, as if He were a wooden doll in their hands. Sometimes He would sing very loudly, at their bidding. In this way, Krishna came completely under the control of the gopis.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.11.7)
If the sweetest person you had ever seen was known to follow your command, to grant your wishes and delight your heart with His pastimes, wouldn’t you take advantage of the opportunity and find tremendous bliss and satisfaction whenever you wanted? This is exactly what a set of cowherd women did many thousands of years ago, as one small boy in particular had captured their hearts. With His every movement – His childish pranks, His muffled speech, and His delightful vision – He brought supreme happiness to everyone around Him. Since He was so kind, whatever was asked of Him in a sweet and loving mood He would do. What the commanders, the masters of this wonderful child, who was willingly acting like a puppet, didn’t know was that the person mesmerizing them was the Supreme Lord and that His willingness to follow orders given to Him in the mood of devotion extends to every single person.
What does this mean exactly? If you are an atheist, you deny the existence of a supreme person, a controlling authority. There can be different reasons for having this viewpoint. Perhaps there is jealousy, envy over the fact that someone can be so powerful and have control over things that are seemingly uncontrollable. The opinion could also be attributed to just ignorance. Maybe no one has taught the person denying the existence of God anything tangible about spirituality. Perhaps their only exposure to religion has come from dealings with evangelists who claim that anyone who doesn’t accept their way is going to hell. “Why not sign me up then and leave me alone? If you crazy people are going to condemn me without any logical basis, why should I ever listen to anything you have to say?”
Even if a verbal acceptance to the fact is absent, there is always a recognized higher power. To the person denying the existence of God, the higher authority is known as death. This force is acknowledged by every single person, for death is not a welcome event and yet it is something that no one can prevent. Despite the best efforts at prolonging life and even forgetting about the inevitable end of life through intoxication and willful ignorance, the dreaded end arrives all the same. Acting as the culminating blow of all-devouring time, kala, death comes and takes everything away from the individual. Every relationship we have, every plan we have made regarding the future, and all the knowledge we have painstakingly acquired gets wiped away in an instant.
This last fact is a little disconcerting. Knowledge is gathered not only through explicit study, but through difficult experiences as well. Think about the worst events of your life and how you felt when they were taking place. Though the events were traumatic and difficult to cope with, eventually some lesson was derived from them. Therefore the acquisition of knowledge involved some pain. Now, just imagine having to do that all over again! The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, reveal that the spirit soul is the essence of identity. A tiny spark, which is no larger in size than the tip of a hair divided into a thousand pieces, the spirit soul exists perpetually. Death cannot take away the soul and birth cannot create it. The soul has always been the soul; it has never lost its identity.
“Know that which pervades the entire body is indestructible. No one is able to destroy the imperishable soul.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.17)
Birth and death are the acceptance and rejection of temporary dwellings, sort of like moving in and out of an apartment. When the individual doesn’t know any better and thinks that the place they moved into is the only establishment they will ever occupy, the eventual moving out is dreaded. It is so feared that many steps are taken to try to forget it, the day when the lease will be up. Whether there is an acknowledgment or not, the final day will still come.
The wise person, he who sees through the self-realized vision acquired through study of a bona fide system of spirituality, understands that just as the dwelling was accepted at some point, so it must be renounced. Despite the moving in and out, the person occupying said establishment never ceases to be. Neither is there only one dwelling for a single person. Is there only one house for every person in a community? Is there only one place to live in the entire world? The soul is so tiny in size that it can live practically anywhere. Ants live in the ground, bats in caves, fish in water, birds in trees, and the human beings on land. What these species have in common is that their identities come from the localized soul, hence the entities are really the same in quality.
What is unique to the human species, however, is the ability to know and serve God. Just knowing about death indicates a step up in intelligence from the other species. When God is known only in His form of all-devouring time, nothing can really come from that knowledge. Perhaps one will futilely try to enjoy as much as possible before moving out day, but since the spirit soul transmigrates from one body type to another, the next moving in day will arrive all the same. These facts are revealed in the Bhagavad-gita, the Song of God sung by Lord Krishna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra some five thousand years ago. Should we be hesitant to accept words from a foreign scripture compiled so long ago, we can still see evidence of the temporary changes through our own experiences. The personal dwelling is completely different during childhood than it is during adulthood, yet the identity of the occupant doesn’t change. Why then should there be such attention given to the full changing of abodes that occurs at death?
A step up from knowing about death is understanding that there is intelligence behind the workings of nature. The human being innately understands that God exists and that His position is supreme. Show young children pictures of Krishna or a celebrated form of God and they somehow will adopt the reverence that goes into worshiping the Supreme Lord. This type of devotional interaction is known as shanta-rasa, or the transcendental mellow of neutrality. In this exchange of emotion, there is acknowledgement of God’s superior position, but since He is too awesome in scope, the devotee doesn’t go beyond admiration. One way to picture this is to think of visiting a temple and being sort of afraid of the deity that everyone looks at.
Shanta-rasa is considered devotion because there is an acknowledgement of a higher power, and there is respect shown to Him. Without respecting someone who is in a superior position, how can we ever gain their favor? Indeed, the Supreme Lord’s benevolence is available to everyone, but only the devotees know how to make the best use of the divine gifts granted to them. How does this work exactly? Let’s say that we have two people living in a home that has electricity. Since the utilities bill is paid for, there will be power coming through the various outlets in the house. The ignorant may mistakenly place their fingers, or worse, metal objects, into the sockets. This is obviously not the right way to use the electricity.
The person in knowledge, however, will plug their appliances and electronic devices into the sockets to get electrical power. This is what the power is there for in the first place. This method also won’t cause any personal injury, as the electricity will safely travel through the wires. The electricity is present for both persons, the ignorant and the knowledgeable, but only the person who knows how to use the electricity will gain a benefit from it.
Similarly, only the devotee, he who acknowledges the existence of God, can make the most out of their human form of body, a species that has the highest potential for intelligence. Beyond shanta-rasa are other transcendental mellows that shed some of the veneration, thus allowing for more intimate interactions with God. The gopis of Vrindavana exhibited behavior towards the Supreme Lord that went well beyond basic respect. They were so attached to Krishna that they commanded Him, and He did as they asked.
How can a person command God to do anything? Think of a child who tells their father or mother to do something. Obviously the parents don’t have to listen, as the child is the dependent and the parent the guardian. But if the child is loved and adored and the requests offered in a mood of love, the parents will voluntarily submit to the child’s wishes. The living entities populating the many universes are all God’s children, but only those who are devoted to the Lord can have the benefit of being able to ask Him to do something and Him following suit.
The most fortunate individuals in the world are those who are blessed with the Supreme Lord’s personal presence. What is the difference between a personal presence and an impersonal one? The impersonal doesn’t allow for devotional interaction. God and His energies are not different; therefore the Lord is actually everywhere. He is resting within our hearts as the Paramatma, and also within the grass, the atom, the trees, the sky, etc. He is everywhere; we just don’t have the proper eyes to see Him. When His influence is recognized, there is an impersonal understanding of God, that the Supreme Lord has energies that He can command.
With personal interaction, the Personality of Godhead and His spiritual forms and attributes are recognized. More than just being familiar with these features, the devotees remember them and derive tremendous satisfaction from glorifying them. Therefore it is not surprising that the next step up from impersonal worship and devotion in neutrality would be to personally interact with the supreme person being worshiped. The Vedas say that God’s original and most blissful form is that of Shyamasundara, the beautiful youth with a blackish complexion. Since He is all-attractive, He is also known as Krishna.
Shri Krishna descended to this earth some five thousand years ago and acted like an ordinary child in the town of Vrindavana. Since He roamed the earth in a spiritual form, sometimes it is said that the Supreme Lord took on the form of a child to delight the residents of the sacred land of Vrajabhumi. These statements don’t mean that God accepts a material form, but rather that He takes on spiritual manifestations to give delight and pleasure to His adherents. If He retained a gigantic form, one that was awe-inspiring, how could anyone ever get past the stage of shanta-rasa?
What exactly is the benefit to shedding one’s veneration for God? Shouldn’t we have respect for the most powerful person? Actually, when following a transcendental mellow the more that veneration is renounced, the greater the pleasure there is for Krishna. Imagine being a celebrity and having everyone adore you all the time. Obviously it would be nice to be praised in this way, but then you also wouldn’t have any friends. A friend is someone who looks at you as an equal, a peer. This relationship is nice because you can have real conversations and people can take note of your interests without being afraid of you. The parent is also intimately related, as they take care of you, not paying any attention to your celebrity status. The life partner is even more intimately related, as they love you romantically and cherish your association. For the famous person, these relationships are relished far more than the interactions with fans who simply heap praise.
For the Supreme Lord, the interactions He has with devotees like the residents of Vrindavana give Him the most pleasure. Vrindavana was a farm community heavily dependent on cows, so even the women worked. They managed the household affairs, helped in the production of milk products, and also took care of the children. The glories of the gopis can never be fully enumerated. They were independent women; except they voluntarily chose in favor of devotion to Krishna. This starting point enabled them to have the knowledge necessary to complete life’s other tasks to perfection.
The gopis were varied in age. The elderly gopis were friends of Mother Yashoda, Krishna’s foster mother. These women especially loved interacting with young Krishna, who was their very life and soul. Though He was Yashoda’s son, they treated Him as their own, delighting in every chance to meet and talk with Him. The gopis would encourage Krishna to dance by rewarding Him with various sweets. They would also coax Him into singing very loudly. Krishna is so wonderful that even His childish speech delights the heart. If there were prohibitive veneration for God in His most blissful form, if the gopis knew that Krishna was the very same Vishnu they were accustomed to worshiping, how could anyone have ever commanded Him like this?
Shri Krishna followed the commands of the gopis because they were devotees. Those inimical to both God and the saintly class are never given such a benediction. The ignorant can at best hope to misuse to different degrees the energies Krishna kindly distributes everywhere, while the devotees can rise in stature to the point that the Lord Himself will follow their orders. Seeing both options, the proper path to take in life is quite obvious. Follow bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, and become fully endeared to the master of all senses, Hrishikesha. His blissful form is there to be enjoyed, to be the sweet nectar for the eyes. The sounds of His names found in the sacred maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, are meant to please the ears. Invigorate your senses by indulging them in Krishna consciousness; immerse the mind in the holy lake of the Supreme Lord’s acts. With the bhakti formula your life will be successful and you will always be in God’s favor.
Seeing Him gopis never miss the chance,
To make their beloved young Krishna dance.
With reward of sweetmeats Him do they entice,
To taste delights dancing for them is the price.
They encouraged Yashoda’s son with their clapping,
Smiling sweetly Krishna obliged by dancing.
No one knew the true nature of Yashoda’s son,
That He created this world and every other one.
His position as God they did not know of,
So all they could give to Him was their love.
From devotion only can one Krishna please,
Bhakta’s desires God delivers with ease.
Hear of gopis making young Krishna sing,
And felicity to your heart right away bring.
Misuse God’s energies or to Krishna become dear,
Reward of Lord’s company makes right choice rather clear.
Categories: krishna pastimes