“One servant of Krishna named Patri once addressed Him like this: ‘My dear Lord, You protected the cowherd boys from the hunger of the Aghasura demon, and You protected them from the poisonous effects of the Kaliya snake. And You also saved them from the fierce forest fire. But I am suffering from Your separation, which is more severe than the hunger of Aghasura, the poison of Lake Kaliya, and the burning of the forest fire. So why should You not protect me from the pangs of separation?’” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 42)
The threefold miseries of life, as enumerated by Vedic literature, come from the heavens, the body and mind, and other living entities. No one is able to escape for every time and circumstance, since accepting a material body means dealing with the accompanying distresses. The soul is actually not affected; it is like the lotus flower floating on the surface of the pond.
Nevertheless, the individual inside the body feels distress, though the duration is fixed. That is to say this world is known to be temporary and miserable, and the misery experienced is not permanent.
“After attaining Me, the great souls, who are yogis in devotion, never return to this temporary world, which is full of miseries, because they have attained the highest perfection.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.15)
Those connected to the Divine through what is known as yoga get extra protection. Better than putting on flame-retardant clothing or taking shelter in a cave, there is the guiding hand of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The historical incidents described in the Puranas also have symbolic significance in this area.
1. The hunger of a demon
Known as Aghasura, he emitted fumes of papa, or sin. He was an asura by nature, meaning he was against God and godly principles. He was in Vrindavana with a purpose, though it wasn’t revealed to any of the residents. He was acting clandestinely, with the mission given to him by Kamsa, the king of Mathura.
The purpose was to kill Krishna, the child who had escaped from the king’s clutches. That boy is actually the Supreme Lord, appearing on earth in a manifest form for a variety of reasons. The cowherd boys were innocent bystanders, unfortunately caught in the middle of this feud born of Kamsa’s fears.
They were in danger of succumbing to the hunger of Aghasura, who sneakily took the form of an elongated cave, though his true form was that of a snake. Krishna protected His friends by permanently removing the sinful fumes emitted by that bad character.
2. The poisonous effects of a snake
Another time there was poison infecting the sacred Yamuna river. The negative aura was so strong that many of the cowherd boys passed out on the banks of the river. Krishna again came to the rescue. He fearlessly jumped into the water and did battle with the cause, a poisonous snake known as Kaliya. Subduing the bad character, dancing on its hoods, Krishna both removed the danger and blessed the offender by leaving imprints of His lotus feet on the head.
3. A fire of doom
Fires are known to emerge in forests seemingly out of nowhere. There is always a cause, but in these situations it may not be deciphered until after significant damage has been done. There was something similar in Vrindavana, where Krishna’s friends were surrounded by a sudden spark of flames.
They could not jump high into the air and away from the danger. They could not run through the fire and cross to a safer space. There was not a fire hydrant around to douse the flames. The only hope was Krishna, who had saved them several times before.
The Supreme Lord is the origin of all the material elements. Everything emanates from Him. The wise who know this engage in His service without motivation and without interruption.
“I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who know this perfectly engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.8)
As He is also the controller of the elements, it is not surprising that Krishna was able to devour the entire forest fire. Straight into His mouth, not causing any damage. Another crisis averted.
For the living entity the greatest danger is rebirth, wherein exposure to the miseries of life is again guaranteed. The shelter of the lotus feet of the darling child of mother Yashoda prevents such a calamity.
Looking like fire of doom,
To burn them all soon.
Poison from Kaliya the snake,
But His friends never to forsake.
Fumes of death from innocuous cave,
But once again Krishna to save.
From greatest dangers to free,
Steadfast protector is He.
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