“May Lord Prishnigarbha protect Your intelligence, and the Supreme Personality of Godhead Your soul. While You are playing, may Govinda protect You, and while You are sleeping may Madhava protect You. May Lord Vaikuntha protect You while You are walking, and may Lord Narayana, the husband of the goddess of fortune, protect You while You are sitting. Similarly, may Lord Yajnabhuk, the fearful enemy of all evil planets, always protect You while You enjoy life.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.6.25-26)
पृश्निगर्भस्तु ते बुद्धिमात्मानं भगवान् पर: ।
क्रीडन्तं पातु गोविन्द: शयानं पातु माधव: ॥
व्रजन्तमव्याद्वैकुण्ठ आसीनं त्वां श्रिय: पति: ।
भुञ्जानं यज्ञभुक् पातु सर्वग्रहभयङ्कर: ॥
pṛśnigarbhas tu te buddhim
ātmānaṁ bhagavān paraḥ
krīḍantaṁ pātu govindaḥ
śayānaṁ pātu mādhavaḥ
vrajantam avyād vaikuṇṭha
āsīnaṁ tvāṁ śriyaḥ patiḥ
bhuñjānaṁ yajñabhuk pātu
On the occasion of Krishna Janmashtami, we celebrate the Divine appearance of the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His celebrated avatara of Shri Krishna. As explained in Bhagavad-gita, these periodic appearances have certain causes and also serve certain purposes. We get a glimpse into the nature of the Divine, in how He interacts with others, in the example that He sets, and in the ways to connect with Him.
यदा यदा हि धर्मस्य
ग्लानिर् भवति भारत
तदात्मानं सृजाम्य् अहम्
yadā yadā hi dharmasya
glānir bhavati bhārata
tadātmānaṁ sṛjāmy aham
“Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion – at that time I descend Myself.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.7)
Since these appearances do not occur at random, since there is intelligence to the timing, it follows that the people associating with the avatara are uniquely qualified. They also serve a purpose, and with those who are friendly and supportive, we gain valuable insight into the very life of transcendence that is every individual’s highest destination for the living experience.
During times of distress, who doesn’t look to the heavens? Who hasn’t prayed for some kind of personal assistance? Be it during a stressful examination, the perpetual waiting at the hospital for a procedure on a loved one, the trials and tribulations of family life, or dealing with potential loss, there is the underlying understanding that everything is not entirely under our control. We need help; if not from God, then at least someone. A third party.
One way to understand the demoniac mentality is to see this system of exchange exploited. If I know that someone can help me, and if I have evil plans, perhaps those same benefactors can assist in my progress. If I want to dominate the world, for instance, I can undergo austerity and penance with a goal of offering a prayer when face-to-face with the empowered being.
We have documented instances of such interactions from the history presented within Vedic literature. The Daitya leader named Hiranyakashipu asked for protection for himself. He thought of so many conditions and situations. He listed them off. He wanted to be safe from enemy attack in every case. Hiranyakashipu tried to construct immortality through individual parts, not realizing that even one percent vulnerability is enough to nullify the entire proposal.
As such an approach represents the demoniac mentality, we see the complete opposite behavior in the gopis of Vrindavana. They were an integral aspect of Krishna-lila in the early years. Though the avatara appeared on Janmashtami day in the prison cell in Mathura, the Supreme Lord chose to interact with others in the neighboring town of Vrindavana.
The gopis were the cowherd women, and Krishna was everything to them. He was the center of their attention. The attraction was natural; no one had to tell them. The residents were not practicing a new form of yoga. They were not looking for anything for themselves. They only gave and gave, without any expectation of reciprocation.
From the pastime involving the witch named Putana, we see the gopis showing intelligence similar to Hiranyakashipu. Though only villagers, though not formally trained in Vedanta philosophy, though not interested in dominating over others from the seat of power on the throne, they also thought of different conditions and situations requiring protection.
The difference was that they prayed to Vishnu directly. He is the Supreme Lord. It was Vishnu who appeared before them as Krishna. The gopis did not know this. The other difference is that they asked Vishnu to protect someone else. They wanted the Almighty to watch over the young Krishna, who seemed to always be at the center of turmoil. Demons were always attacking, and Krishna was somehow managing to survive.
But better to not take chances. Krishna might have special powers, but who knows when and where they would manifest? The gopis were not looking to take advantage of some visiting yogi. Rather, they asked Vishnu to protect Krishna while He was playing. The different manifestations of Vishnu should take an interest in different activities of Krishna, such as sleeping, enjoying, walking, and sitting.
Can we ever imagine doing the same? With all the difficulties we face in life, the tendency is to ask from God. With pure devotion, there is only giving. On the occasion of Janmashtami we remember and appreciate those who are forever dear to the darling child of mother Yashoda.
From their behavior clear,
That forever dear.
Those gopis praying,
True devotion displaying.
Asking Vishnu to protect,
In every condition to expect.
While sleeping or on playing ground,
Krishna to be safe and sound.