“When Krishna killed Arishtasura, some of the gopis said, ‘My dear friends, just see how Krishna has killed Arishtasura! Although he was stronger than a mountain, Krishna plucked him up just like a piece of cotton and threw him away without any difficulty!’ There is another passage wherein it is said: ‘O my dear devotees of Lord Krishna, may the left hand of Lord Krishna, which has lifted Govardhana Hill like a ball, save you from all dangers.’” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 21)
The Sanskrit word Bhagavan refers to someone who possesses fortunes, or bhaga. This word appropriately affixes to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Almighty, God, Ishvara, or whatever the otherwise preferred form of address. If there is a supreme being, He must hold all fortunes. He must have them to the highest degree and simultaneously.
The venerable Parashara Muni enumerates six kinds of fortunes belonging to Bhagavan, and one of them is strength. Another word to describe this attribute is baliyan. This refers to extraordinary strength, even beyond what we are accustomed to seeing. Take the strongest person in the world as the reference point, and then understand that Bhagavan is stronger than them. There is no limit to this opulence in Him, and a few incidents from Krishna-lila provide evidence.
1. Picking up Arishtasura
God as a bullfighter? Not quite. In the modern day form, with bullfighting the animal charges at a man, who then deftly moves out of the way. That in itself is quite a skill. To step in the ring requires bravery. There is great risk involved.
Imagine the situation in Vrindavana, then. A giant bull appeared in the community; a place which was otherwise peaceful. This bull was so big that when it stomped on the ground, the earth shook. The cows and calves were deathly afraid.
This was no ordinary bull. It was an asura, or bad character, with special abilities. Named Arishtasura, it was one among many villains to come to Vrindavana with the hope of killing Krishna, the prophesized death-agent for the king of Mathura.
Since Krishna is Bhagavan, He cannot be killed. Though in the form of a boy at the time, there was still full strength. Krishna stepped up and challenged the giant bull. The Supreme Lord stood as the bull charged, but instead of moving out of the way at the last second, He grabbed the bull by the horns and threw him.
Arishtasura was not deterred. He got up and charged again. This time Krishna caught him and threw him to the ground, kicking him afterwards. That was enough for the bull to give up his body, in the most auspicious way.
2. Picking up Govardhana Hill
You have unusual strength. That is established. No argument here. But what is the strength going to do for you against a torrential downpour? Has anyone yet defeated the weather? There is a reason earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes and the like are referred to as “acts of God.” The best hope is to survive by escaping the path.
Once again in Vrindavana, this attack came from the heavens, instigated by an angry and envious king of heaven. Indra sent the cloud that is typically reserved for the dissolution of the world. There was so much rain and sleet that it looked like there was no hope.
In response, the baliyan Krishna lifted up the just worshiped Govardhana Hill. This is a massive piece of land, both in weight and circumference. In competition weightlifters succeed by raising heavy objects for a few seconds. Bhagavan is much more powerful, so He held Govardhana Hill aloft for seven straight days, making it the world’s largest and most beautiful umbrella.
Bhagavan uses His strength for the protection of the devotees. He has no reason to show off, as there is no insecurity in Him. He is not threatened by anyone’s strength, for every ability is borrowed from the Supreme Lord anyway. For those devoted to Him, Krishna enhances their strength, such as seen with the ability of some to chant the holy names lifetime after lifetime: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Inundating with tremendous rain to fill,
Krishna solved through lifting sacred hill.
Held aloft on pinky a tremendous sight,
Heaviest object treated like feather light.
Arishtasura a bull charging fast,
Against Yashoda’s child not to last.
Unusual strength, but for devotees to use,
Passed on for those who bhakti choose.
Categories: the two