Four Instances Of Symbolism From Krishna-Lila

[virata-rupa]“All the sons of Dhritarashtra along with their allied kings, and Bhishma, Drona and Karna, and all our soldiers are rushing into Your mouths, their heads smashed by Your fearful teeth. I see that some are being crushed between Your teeth as well.” (Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.26-27)

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अमी च त्वां धृतराष्ट्रस्य पुत्राः
सर्वे सहैवावनि-पाल-सङ्घैः
भीष्मो द्रोणः सूत-पुत्रस् तथासौ
सहास्मदीयैर् अपि योध-मुख्यैः
वक्त्राणि ते त्वरमाणा विशन्ति
दंष्ट्रा-करालानि भयानकानि
केचिद् विलग्ना दशनान्तरेषु
सन्दृश्यन्ते चूर्णितैर् उत्तमाङ्गैः

amī ca tvāṁ dhṛtarāṣṭrasya putrāḥ
sarve sahaivāvani-pāla-saṅghaiḥ
bhīṣmo droṇaḥ sūta-putras tathāsau
sahāsmadīyair api yodha-mukhyaiḥ
vaktrāṇi te tvaramāṇā viśanti
daṁṣṭrā-karālāni bhayānakāni
kecid vilagnā daśanāntareṣu
sandṛśyante cūrṇitair uttamāṅgaiḥ

Effortless. Easy. Lack of constant attention. Almost accidental, but specifically timed. The exhaling breath the cause of the emergence. The inhaling breath responsible for destruction. Repeating again and again, almost to the cadence of the ticking of the clock hanging on the wall.

These are reflections on the image of Lord Vishnu lying down to rest. He creates the universes and destroys them without the slightest exhaustion. This most amazing work is carried out almost involuntarily.

This is one explanation of the process of creation. Provided by the Vedas, the information descends through a chain of responsible teachers. They may add their personal realizations along the way, but they do not distort the truth.

यद् यद् विभूतिमत् सत्त्वं
श्रीमद् ऊर्जितम् एव वा
तत् तद् एवावगच्छ त्वं
मम तेजो-ऽंश-सम्भवम्

yad yad vibhūtimat sattvaṁ
śrīmad ūrjitam eva vā
tat tad evāvagaccha tvaṁ
mama tejo-‘ṁśa-sambhavam

“Know that all beautiful, glorious, and mighty creations spring from but a spark of My splendor.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.41)

In fact, creation represents but a spark of Vishnu’s splendor. Bhagavan is the fully opulent one. He is more than what we can conceive of as the “God” figure. Since He has the greatest artistic mind, there is tremendous symbolism to the events He carries out within the view of interested spectators.

1. The entire universe in His mouth

Periodically, the Vishnu responsible for creation descends to the mortal realm in His personal form. One instance is as Shri Krishna, the jewel of the Vrindavana farm community. The people have an inkling towards equivalence with Divinity, but they are never entirely sure.

One time mother Yashoda looks into Krishna’s mouth. He is a small child who has just been accused of eating dirt. Maintaining a watchful eye, careful not to neglect even the slightest detail, Yashoda asks to gaze into her son’s mouth.

She immediately notices the entire creation. Full of variety. Time and space without limit. How could everything fit into such a tiny space?

The symbolism to the truth is striking. God is beyond the bounds of the material energy. In the smallest visible manifestation He retains full potency. He is both greater than the greatest and smaller than the smallest.

2. Govardhana Hill resting on His pinky finger

It was amazing enough that Krishna could lift a massive hill. This was in response to an emergency situation. There was a torrential downpour that threatened to wipe the townspeople away. Their animals and their sources of food would be gone in a matter of moments if something weren’t done.

Krishna decided to lift the just worshiped Govardhana Hill. This was the first such event, soon to become an annual tradition. Krishna is the founder; it was at His insistence that the father Nanda directed the people to make their offerings in a formal way.

The rain did not let up after the hill was lifted. Therefore, Krishna continued to hold it up over His head. The people came underneath for safety; the world’s largest umbrella. That hill rested on the pinky finger of Krishna’s left hand. It stayed that way for several days.

[Krishna holding hill]The location is not accidental. The Supreme Lord does not sweat upon lifting heavy objects. For Him, a massive hill can rest on the weakest finger of the typically non-dominant hand. Just imagine what can be held with both hands in an adult-type body.

3. Withstanding the fumes of Aghasura

As people are always challenging the concept of God and worship of Him, the attitude visibly manifested in the form of wicked characters visiting Vrindavana during Krishna’s time. The demon Aghasura was appropriately named.

He was against saintly people, sura. He was full of sin, agha. He emitted these fumes that caused Krishna’s friends to become unconscious. They were lured to the demon’s area through deception. Aghasura displayed the form of a large cave, even though he was actually a serpent. The intention was to devour Krishna and put an end to God’s presence for good.

When Krishna approached, the fumes had no effect. Just as darkness dissipates at the arrival of a bright light, so agha has no influence on the person who is above the dualities of piety and sin. Krishna saved His friends and eliminated Aghasura from the area.

4. Warriors running into Krishna’s mouth

The Bhagavad-gita is a philosophical work. The highest wisdom presented directly by God to an attentive disciple. Though not typically falling within the category, that conversation is also part of Krishna’s lila.

There is tremendous symbolism not only to the setting, time and participants of the discussion, but also with the various visions displayed during the discourse. One of those images was of many mouths. The fighters for both sides, who had assembled to commence a great war, were devoured by Krishna.

This was indeed symbolic, since it represented what would occur through the impact of time. Arjuna could retreat if he wanted, but the outcome would remain the same. If he continued on and fought, he would receive the credit for an event that was already destined to take place.

[virata-rupa]A person who appreciates irony, nuance, subtlety, contrast and dynamic flow to storytelling gets sufficient content from Vedic literature, whose ultimate purpose is to glorify the Divine. His is the greatest story, and it can be heard over and over.

In Closing:

Not symbolic alone,
By factual events shown.

But much beauty found,
On storytelling ground.

Like hill on pinky finger resting,
Demons ready His limits testing.

Krishna always potency retaining,
Whole universe creating and sustaining.

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