“To the Supreme Lord, whose form embodies eternity, knowledge, and bliss, whose earrings swing to and fro, who shines beautifully in Gokula, who quickly ran from the grinding mortar in fear of mother Yashoda, and who was caught from behind by her, who ran faster than He – to that Supreme Lord, Shri Damodara, I offer my humble obeisances.” (Shri Damodarashtaka, 1)
lasat-kuṇḍalaḿ gokule bhrājamanam
parāmṛṣṭam atyantato drutya gopyā
Maha-tejah in Sanskrit means “highly-resplendent.” Think of an object that glistens. Think of something that gives off light. It is amazing what one small bulb can do. Nighttime baseball is possible through lights that are not significant in number. A few of them put together in the right places and you have enough light to be able to see a baseball coming at you at 100 mph, with different spins.
If you could take the most resplendent object in the world, put it in a place where it would shine everywhere, you get some idea of the light capable of being emitted by the Supreme Lord. The first thought that comes to mind is the sun. It shines throughout the universe. We see it right now in the western hemisphere, and in the eastern hemisphere there are some remnants of it. The sun is the same in both places. The sun is so powerful that it gives life to the plants. It provides heat and it evaporates the puddles left over from the previous day’s rain.
God is more resplendent than the sun. He is the light of the sun, actually. Without Him there would be no universe. That universe would be in darkness were it not for His providing the life to the great luminous object that is the sun. The light of the moon is also due to Him.
raso ‘ham apsu kaunteyaprabhāsmi śaśi-sūryayoḥpraṇavaḥ sarva-vedeṣuśabdaḥ khe pauruṣaṁ nṛṣu
“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, Bhagavad-gita, 7.8)
The sun is not approachable; we cannot get too close to it. This gives an indication of how strong its light is. Is it the same way with the origin of all light? If His splendor is greater than the sun’s, does it not mean that we must stay far away from Him? Since He is completely spiritual in nature, the light He gives off is different. The closer one gets to Him, the more they are able to see past the splendor that amazes those in the material world.
na tad bhāsayate sūryona śaśāṅko na pāvakaḥyad gatvā na nivartantetad dhāma paramaṁ mama
“That abode of Mine is not illumined by the sun or moon, nor by electricity. One who reaches it never returns to this material world.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 15.6)
In the spiritual land there is no need for electricity. The splendor from God creates the necessary light, and He shines wherever He goes. That shine is not a blinding one. Instead it is very soothing, and it increases the happiness in the heart. To see how this works, we can look to the descriptions of the transcendental body of the Supreme Lord provided in the Damodarashtaka.
The phrase of note is “gokule bhrajamanam.” Krishna shines beautifully in the land of Gokula. This Gokula is actually a spiritual land found within our material world. How can you have the spiritual within the material? Is that not a contradiction? Inside of this body that is always changing and destined to die is a vital force that never ceases to be. Within matter is spirit. Without spirit, matter cannot do anything.
If individual fragments of spirit can appear within a world full of matter, then why can’t the Supreme Spirit as well? When He appears in His original form of Shri Krishna, He spends His childhood years in the sacred land of Gokula. There He shines beautifully, not needing anything extra on His body. Wherever He goes He provides this light. Even when He is running away from the punishment coming from His mother, He shines very beautifully.
This light is soothing. It is warm and inviting. It carries forth through words as well. The description from the Damodarashtaka brings that same light to the person who hears attentively. Krishna shines in Gokula because that’s where the people who love Him the most live. Gokula is the replica area of the spiritual land known as Goloka. Goloka is the origin of the universe, the land that remains the same, not affected by the influence of time. There the self-effulgent Krishna keeps everyone in the light of transcendental bliss.
In Gokula He breaks a pot of yogurt in order to draw the ire of His affectionate mother. Yashoda chases Him with determination, and Krishna reveals where He is through His natural effulgence. That same effulgence is in the works that describe Him and in the very name used to address Him. The name Damodara references His being tied to a mortar by Yashoda as punishment. The name Krishna says that He is all-attractive, that His maha-tejah feature allows Him to shine forth wherever there is pure devotion.
The name “Krishna” is prominent in the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Chanting this mantra creates a small version of Gokula within the immediately surrounding area. From the name itself, Krishna shines beautifully, meaning that within the heart of the devotee there is tremendous light as well, dissipating the darkness of ignorance.
In Krishna’s home for light no need,
From Him comes everything indeed.
Even in this wretched heart of mine,
Supreme Lord in glory can shine.
When love for Him there is,
Like in Gokula, that home of His.
Yashoda chasing Him and to mortar binding,
Beautiful Damodara in mother’s courtyard shining.