“When the cowherd men of Vrindavana, under instruction of Krishna, stopped offering sacrifice to the heavenly King, Indra, the whole tract of land known as Vraja was threatened with being washed away by constant heavy rains for seven days. Lord Krishna, out of His causeless mercy upon the inhabitants of Vraja, held up the hill known as Govardhana with one hand only, although He was only seven years old. He did this to protect the animals from the onslaught of water.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.7.32)
When there is birth, there must be death. This fact we know from our own experience. It is also confirmed by Shri Krishna in the famous Bhagavad-gita. All that we see living around us is that which has yet to die. What will come in the future will also die some time afterwards. Since there must be death, there must be a means to accomplish that end. Therefore we can conclude that this world is extremely dangerous. It is mrityu-loka, or the planet where everyone dies. To facilitate the impending death, there must be danger at every step. On the occasion of Govardhana Puja we remember how one person can protect against any danger.
“The devotees of the Lord are never in danger, but in the material world which is full of dangers at every step, the devotees are apparently placed into dangerous positions, and when they are saved by the Lord, the Lord is glorified.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.16.13-15 Purport)
There is danger just in getting up each morning, but consider all the risks taken for sense gratification. When I am not satisfied with a nine to five job that pays enough to put food on the table and keep a roof over my head, I look in other directions. I jump out of airplanes for sport. I have no reason to take such a risk other than to feel a heightened thrill. Yet there is every chance of something bad happening, and when it does one must ask why they took the risk in the first place.
If I am not satisfied travelling in a horse and buggy, I look for ways to improve upon transportation. The new inventions then require a fuel source. That source is the oil that comes from the ground. So many things in today’s world would not be possible were it not for this oil, which is also referred to as petroleum. The supermarket would not exist; for without trucks to deliver the many varieties of products on time, how would the store stay in business? Without the supermarket, how would the people of the town eat?
To secure oil is not easy. It is a dangerous procedure, carrying the risk of killing an entire town. Make the slightest mistake while drilling deep into the earth and you’ll release a gas that will kill you in under ten minutes. That same gas can then travel through the air and kill so many others. More machines and manpower are required as precautionary measures; they are ways to keep safe from this potential calamity.
The purpose to taking these risks is to increase sense gratification. Yet that happiness is fleeting. It does not stay for very long. If it did, then the model of the most popular smartphone would not change every year. If sense gratification could be kept in check, then restaurants would never change their menus. People would never get divorced, and there would be no such thing as drug addiction.
There is a higher happiness to be found. It is known as prema, or pure love. It also goes by the name of bhakti, which means devotion. This happiness is not nearly as risky to attain. There aren’t as many dangers involved. Surely there is danger at every step in a material existence, but for bhakti all that is required is hearing. Simply lend your ears to the sound of the holy names, like those found in the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Another way to find prema is to chant. Say those same holy names on a regular basis. Make a routine of it by using a set of japa beads, which are harmless. You can get bhakti also by offering service to a worshipable figure made of some material substance. You can offer prayers to find bhakti. These are not risky paths. The only thing lost is material desire, which has proven to be worthless in providing real satisfaction.
Bhakti is so wonderful that those who have it want to share it with others. They are not afraid to take extra risks in this area, provided they are necessary. They have the hand of God protecting them. That hand turns a potentially risky situation into the safest one. In Vrindavana several thousand years ago, there was no risk in taking shelter underneath a giant hill that was held up in the air by a tiny child. Normally this would be the riskiest situation, but the child in this instance was Shri Krishna Himself appearing on earth. He held up the hill to save the residents from a devastating flood instigated by the king of heaven, Indra.
Floods can appear at any time. They are part of the category of miseries known as adhidaivika, or those which come from the divine forces. Hurricanes, earthquakes and the like are natural disasters, acts of God. The Supreme Lord, who is beyond duality, can eliminate the risk from any material misery. His tiny pinky finger held up Govardhana Hill immediately after it was worshiped. This large umbrella He created is the strongest one ever seen in the world. That same safety comes to those who take shelter of Shri Krishna through bhakti-yoga. Therefore the occasion of Govardhana Puja is celebrated annually by those who rely on the protection of the Supreme Lord, who by Himself puts an end to the cycle of birth and death.
For more happiness you yearn,
But know that danger at every turn.
To extract oil from the ground,
Deadly gas too can be found.
Happiness thus there is not,
Until real love you have got.
In bhakti by Shri Krishna protected,
Who Govardhana into air projected.