“Regarding their wrestling, one friend once asked Krishna, ‘My dear friend, O killer of the Agha demon, You are very proudly wandering among Your friends trying to exhibit Your arms as very strong. Is it that You are envious of me? I know that You cannot defeat me in wrestling, and I also know that You were sitting idly for a long time because You were hopeless of defeating me.’” (The Nectar Of Devotion, Ch 42)
Bhagavan. Ishvara. Paramatma. Even Brahman. These are different Sanskrit words for the Absolute provided by the Vedas. The sound is not ordinary. It has tremendous potency. It is non-different from the person it represents. For any other person the same is lacking.
The journey through life can be summed up as a series of question and answer sessions. First the child asks the parents what is this and what is that. Then there are questions in school. Even during old age there might be extensive travel to different places, where more questions are asked.
“Now hear, O son of Pritha [Arjuna], how by practicing yoga in full consciousness of Me, with mind attached to Me, you can know Me in full, free from doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.1)
Bhagavan as Shri Krishna, the all-attractive, original Personality of Godhead, in the Bhagavad-gita describes how He can be known in truth. This is the most important question to ask. Who is God? The answer sheds light into a host of other issues. Knowing Krishna, or God, means knowing the identity of the individual, where they can potentially travel to, what happens with the onset of time, and what brings the greatest enjoyment.
Knowing God is important, but in the spiritual land of Vrindavana it is interesting to see that despite Krishna’s direct association the conscious awareness of His divine nature is absent.
1. The cowherd boys
There are different forms of Godhead. The Supreme has a transcendental body, sach-chid-ananda. The vigraha is not limited to a single manifestation. The different forms are known as expansions or incarnations, and they perform different functions. The incarnations sometimes appear on earth and are described as saguna. This means “with qualities,” and for God it refers to visual manifestations where the transcendental features are presented in a way that they can be understood to a limited degree. This is contrary to the nirguna form, which is practically impossible to understand since it can’t be seen or accurately described to others.
The spiritual world has many planets, and the topmost is Krishnaloka. There God resides in His all-attractive form of Krishna. The distinction with this form is that God has nothing to do. Just exactly how carefree is He? He spends the days with His friends. They enjoy in the beautiful forests of Vrindavana. The literal meaning of that word is a place where the tulasi plant is prominent. Tulasi is a great devotee, so those who enjoy in that area always taste the sweetness of devotion, bhakti-rasa.
As the cowherd boys are friends, they look at Krishna as an equal. Sometimes they wrestle with Him. Krishna sometimes loses, which means He has to carry His friends on His back. The group eats lunch together, goes home, and then repeats the sequence the next day. There is no awe and reverence. The cowherd boys are not looking for God, who is right beside them.
2. Mother Yashoda
Krishna never ages beyond a certain point; externally speaking. He is nava-yauvanam, looking like a person who has just become a teenager. Time works at His direction, after all. Old age is a misery contained within a material existence. God is completely spiritual, so old age does not affect Him.
In the pastimes in Vrindavana, which take place on this planet and others, there are parents to God. They play the role completely, thinking that Krishna is dependent on them. Mother Yashoda feeds Krishna, dresses Him, and always worries about His welfare. She sometimes sees the universal form inside His mouth, but after a few moments forgets the amazing aspect to her son. If she were totally in awe and reverence, she would not have impetus to provide motherly affection.
3. The animals
Spiritual life is especially targeted to the human species, for they have the potential in intelligence necessary for understanding God to a level sufficient for escaping the cycle of birth and death. The animals lack this potential, so they usually have to wait for the evolution in reincarnation to continue before achieving liberation.
Thus it is not expected that the animals in Vrindavana would take up renunciation or study Vedic literature. They still love Krishna, though. They may not be aware that He is God, but they know He is something special. The cows produce milk just by seeing Him. The parrots are always talking about His pastimes with the gopis, especially Shrimati Radharani.
4. The gopis
There are elderly gopis, like mother Yashoda and her friends. These are cowherd women, as Vrindavana is a rural community. Cow protection is everything. There are younger gopis, as well, and they love Krishna in an amorous way. While this may break the rules of dharma in ordinary situations, with pure love for God there is no such thing as sin. Bhakti is actually the true embodiment of righteousness.
The gopis love Krishna so much that they will chastise Him like anything. They will poke fun at Him, call Him names, and pretend not to care about what He has to say. When He praises them for their strong devotion, they are not interested in hearing. They would rather meet with Him and enjoy His personal association.
Though these exalted residents of Vrindavana are consciously aware of Krishna’s divine nature, they are not ignorant. The effect comes from yogamaya, which is the auspicious illusory energy meant to increase the devotion of the devotees. Mahamaya is first defeated through renunciation, knowledge, and more importantly devotion practiced under the guidance of a spiritual master. Progress can proceed all the way to the point of residence in Vrindavana, where the direct awareness of God and His potencies is cast aside in favor of the bliss of surrender in pure love.
To sacred land of Vrindavana going,
Beloved Krishna as God not knowing.
To boys a friend in wrestling to dare,
To parents beloved son requiring care.
For gopis their life breath sustaining,
Strange for highest platform attaining.
Work of yogamaya for joy to increase,
First know, then awareness release.
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