“Many saintly persons and sages like Narada Muni and others used to visit the palace of King Bhishmaka. Naturally Rukmini had a chance to talk with them, and in this way she obtained information about Krishna. She was informed about the six opulences of Krishna, and simply by hearing about Him, she desired to surrender herself to His lotus feet and become His wife.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 51)
It’s a question that’s been asked since the beginning of time. “Does God exist?” To those who answer in the affirmative, the follow up typically is, “Can you show me?” The visual will provide the evidence. I know I am in Paris if I see the Eiffel Tower. I know I am in New York City by seeing the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. People are open to believing in God, but they’d like some evidence to feel more secure in their belief.
From studying Vedic literature, we learn that God is actually all around. The presence of life is proof in itself of the Divine’s existence. You cannot have life without the original giver of life. Nothing moves without His sanction. The blades of grass feel the blowing of the wind through His energy. The massive tree emerges from the tiny seed through a miracle arranged by the Supreme Lord.
His existence can be proven through any of the five senses, but more important than getting visual evidence of His existence is following the proper path in life. Vedic literature describes many instances of people meeting God face to face. Some of those people were good and some were bad, and their disposition determined how they acted afterwards.
Based on birth, you would have to put Vibhishana in the “bad” category. He was born in the Rakshasa species, which is like an ogre. They are known for eating human flesh. They lived in a civilized society, but they were mostly in the mode of ignorance.
Vibhishana was an exception, however. He had the divine qualities from birth. He met the Supreme Lord in His incarnation of Rama. The meeting wasn’t under ideal circumstances. Vibhishana renounced his brother Ravana, who had taken Rama’s wife in secret. Vibhishana tried his best to talk sense into Ravana, but the tyrant ruling over Lanka would not listen to anyone.
Vibhishana met Rama face to face. He had great love and devotion for the Lord. Life did not end there. It wasn’t like making it to the finish line in a race. Meeting Rama was the continuation and further strengthening of Vibhishana’s dedicated service to the Lord. He helped Rama defeat Ravana and regain Sita. As a reward, Rama made him the new king of Lanka, and Vibhishana has stayed with his devotion ever since.
2. Prahlada Maharaja
This time a five-year old boy saw the Supreme Lord. The form appearing before him wasn’t the handsome prince of Ayodhya. Neither was it the all-attractive Krishna nor the opulently adorned Vishnu. Prahlada saw God in the form of a half-man/half-lion. Known as Narasimha, this unique manifestation of the Divine came to protect Prahlada from the attacks of his wicked father, Hiranyakashipu.
Prahlada did not command God to appear, nor did he explicitly ask for physical help. It was Hiranyakashipu who taunted his son, asking him to prove that God was everywhere, as the boy had claimed. Narasimhadeva affirmed Prahlada’s sound words by appearing from a pillar. After Hiranyakashipu was killed, Prahlada offered nice prayers to the Lord. Narasimhadeva told Prahlada to ask for anything in the world, but Prahlada had no personal desires. He wanted only to continue in devotion, which he did.
Likely the most famous deity of the Vedic tradition, Hanuman is known for his devotion to Rama. Hanuman met God face to face in the situation of an investigator. Hanuman took the false form of a brahmana and asked Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana what they were doing in the Kishkindha forest. Rama was so pleased with Hanuman’s presentation that He immediately accepted him as trustworthy. Hanuman, too, immediately held affection for Rama.
The meeting wasn’t the end. Hanuman helped Rama by arranging a meeting with the monkey-leader Sugriva. Hanuman then led the search party tasked with finding Sita. He succeeded in that mission, but still didn’t rest after that. There is no such thing as retirement in devotional service. There is always work, since the work is what leads to pleasure. There is no reason to stop, as pure bhakti is without motivation. Hanuman continues his devotion to this day. When asked for a boon by Rama at the Lord’s coronation, Hanuman wished to remain on earth for as long as Rama’s glories continued to be sung.
4. Rukmini Devi
Rukmini is an expansion of the goddess of fortune, Shri Lakshmi. Lakshmi is always with the Supreme Lord; hence she is known as the eternal consort. Nevertheless, the earthly pastimes between Rukmini and Krishna are instructive. She was the daughter of King Bhishmaka, who had arranged for her to be married to Shishupala. Rukmini did not like this at all, as her heart was set on marrying Krishna.
She had never met the Supreme Lord in His all-attractive manifestation that appeared on earth and resided in Dvaraka as the king, but from just hearing about Him she gave her heart to Him. She had a letter sent to Krishna detailing a plan in which He could kidnap her on the day of her marriage to Shishupala. The Supreme Lord is won over by devotion, and so He agreed to the plan. He married Rukmini in the style known as Rakshasa. He battled against valiant fighters to win her hand, and Rukmini in turn was very pleased. She saw God personally on a most auspicious occasion, and things did not end there. She continued in service as the most chaste and dedicated wife.
Arjuna was Krishna’s cousin and dear friend during the period of time described in the main narrative of the Mahabharata. This means that Arjuna saw God all the time, but due to the influence of yogamaya he wasn’t constantly aware of Krishna’s divine nature. Therefore He would sometimes refer to Krishna by different names, speaking informally with Him.
Arjuna had a conversation one time with Krishna that famously became known as the Bhagavad-gita. In one part of that essential work of Vedic philosophy, Krishna reveals the universal form to Arjuna. This is the equivalent of seeing God. It is the visual proof insisted upon by the less intelligent. Arjuna did not require this vision, but he asked Krishna to show it for the benefit of future generations.
ihaika-sthaṁ jagat kṛtsnaṁ
mama dehe guḍākeśa
yac cānyad draṣṭum icchasi
“Whatever you wish to see can be seen all at once in this body. This universal form can show you all that you now desire, as well as whatever you may desire in the future. Everything is here completely.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.7)
Arjuna saw Krishna directly, in many different ways. He saw the universal form, then the four-handed form of Vishnu, and then again the two-handed form of Krishna. In the beginning Arjuna was in doubt as to how to proceed in an impending war. He saw evidence of God, and that didn’t mean his work was done. Arjuna continued forward, urged on by Krishna. He dedicated his work to the Supreme Lord. This is the true benefit to seeing God. Seeing God is a great thing, but what you do after is more important. Bhakti-yoga, practiced purely, is the true boon of associating with the Divine. Superior to being God-fearing is always having love for God the person.
Wanting desperately to see God soon,
But devotion thereafter true boon.
Vibhishana after brother renounced,
Continued with royal devotion pronounced.
Rukmini won over first by hearing,
Then Krishna for her path clearing.
Arjuna saw Lord in so many ways,
In whatever work in devotion stays.
Categories: the five