Homeward Bound

0041By Swami B. R. Sridhara

While Krishna and the cows were returning from the Vrindavana forest at the end of the day, a boy had just attained spiritual emancipation and entered Vrindavana as a cowherd boy. Seeing his long lost servant, Krishna embraced him and both of them fainted in ecstasy.

All of Krishna’s other cowherd friends were astounded, thinking, “What is this! Krishna has lost his senses by embracing this newcomer? How is it possible!” Then, as all of the cowherd boys looked on astonished, Balarama came to Krishna’s relief and somehow managed to rouse him.

Then Krishna addressed his friend with great affection: “Why did you stay away? Why have you been living away from home for so long? How was it possible for you? How could you bear my separation? You left me, and you have been passing lives after lives without me? Still, I know what trouble you took to return to me. You searched for me everywhere, and went to beg from house to house, and you were chastised by many, ridiculed by many, and you shed tears for me. I know all these things. I was with you. And now, after great trouble, you have again come back to me.” In this way, Krishna addressed his long lost servant and welcomed him.

When Krishna returned home, he took the newcomer by his side to take prasadam. In this way, a new recruit is earnestly welcomed by Krishna himself.

So the Lord’s search for his lost servants is a loving search; it is not ordinary, but from the heart. And his heart is not an ordinary heart. Who can estimate what type of search he is engaged in? Although he is full in all respects, still he feels pangs of separation for every one of us, however small we may be. In spite of his supreme position, he has room for us in a corner of his loving heart. This is the nature of the infinite. Such an absolute autocrat—absolute good—is Krishna.

This article originally appeared in the Loving Search for the Lost Servant.

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17 Responses to Homeward Bound

  1. “You left me, and you have been passing lives after lives without me?”

    This statement is taken by many to mean that we fell down from the spiritual world. How do we understand it?

    • To me, it seems clear and obvious that this statement is such a deep and wonderfully emotional statement. “You left me, and you have been passing lives after lives without me?” Wow – it is so HEARTFELT. It is Krishna breaking down and crying in a sense to his beloved. This is a completely saturated emotional statement.

      For someone to say that this statement supports any philosophy besides the fact that Krishna is completely fallen in love with all his parts and parcels is to be completely cold to Krishna’s expressed emotion, and is to take a wonderfully fluid emotional statement and attempt to make it apply to a rigid, linear and logical subject. It is to mix apples and oranges.

    • IMO it refers to the following very typical situation:

      When one initially learns about Krishna from His devotees here on earth, he develops some attraction for bhakti and starts devotional service, but then often turns away from that path to again pursue material desires becoming a Lost Servant. We see it happen all the time.

      Eventually (sometimes after many lives) one becomes perfected on the path of bhakti, returning to Goloka and being embraced by Krishna.

  2. It is interesting to note that Srila Sridhar Maharaj who several times clearly explained that the jiva did not fall from Goloka, is here using the same language “fall-vadi’s” sometimes point to for proof of their theory. Paraphrasing Krsna he says “You left me, and you have been passing lives after lives without me?” There is much of this language in our sastra and it is also used by our acaryas.

    Because it is clear that fall from Goloka is not Srila Sridhar Maharaj’s position, we can understand that the arguments utilizing language as proof (i.e. Back to Godhead) is not a strong one; people who use this language do not give the same meaning to the words.

  3. Obviously, Krishna is welcoming this devotee into his lila by giving him the good old fashioned sauce.
    (1)Krishna blasts him for staying away so long.
    (2)Krishna questions him how he could possibly have tolerated his separation for so long.
    (3)Krishna blasts him for leaving in the first place.

    But, Krishna is quick to let bygones be bygones and welcome this fallen devotee back to Paradise Vrindavan.

    Obviously, this person was at one time an eternal devotee of Krishna who opted to give up his immortality in the realm of bliss and knowledge to become a one-celled organism and begin an evolutionary journey of billions of years of birth and death in the horror house of illusion called Maya.

    Either that, or Krishna was doing what he does best which is clown around and make jokes.
    In fact was Krishna showing some levity in those words?

    Maybe Krishna was just being nice and trying to gloss over the fact that this person originally started out as a by-product of the absolute in the form of a photon of spiritual light?

    • Obviously, this person was at one time an eternal devotee of Krishna who opted to give up his immortality in the realm of bliss and knowledge to become a one-celled organism and begin an evolutionary journey of billions of years of birth and death in the horror house of illusion called Maya.

      This means jiva fell down according to you?

    • “Obviously, Krishna is welcoming this devotee into his lila by giving him the good old fashioned sauce.”

      Obviously you are confusing Goloka Vrindavan with ISKCON.. 🙂

      The idea of ‘Return to Paradise Lost’ really comes from semitic religions – it is not Vedic at all. The initial ‘fall’ from the Vedic (Upanishadic) perspective is not even a fall – it is just an ambient choice between two unknowns. The ISKCON idea of fall from Goloka is actually a betrayal of Krishna and exchanging a life of bliss for a life of uncertain quality. Who would have ever done such a thing?

      BRhad-AraNyaka UpaniSad (4.3.18):
      tad yathA mahA-matsya ubhe kule ‘nusaNcarati
      pUrvaN cAparaN caivam evAyaM puruSa etAv ubhAv antAv
      anu saNcarati svapnAntaN ca buddhANtaN ca

      “Just as a large fish in a river sometimes goes to the eastern bank and sometimes to the western bank, so the jIva, being situated in kAraNa-jala (the Causal Ocean that lies between the inert and conscious worlds), also gradually wanders to both banks, the place of dreaming and the place of wakefulness.”

      In the BRhad-AraNyaka UpaniSad (2.1.20) it is stated
      yathAgneH kSudrA visphuliNgA vyuccaranti
      evam evAsmad AtmanaH sarvANi bhUtAni vyuccaranti

      “Just as (yatha) from a fire (AgneH) tiny (kSudrA) sparks (visphuliNgA) emanate (vyuccaranti) like this (evam) certainly (eva) in the same way (asmad) from the Suprem Soul (Atman), emanate (vyuccaranti) all living entities – sarvANi bhUtAni”

      • Kula-pavana says:
        August 20, 2009 at 1:58 pm

        The idea of ‘Return to Paradise Lost’ really comes from semitic religions – it is not Vedic at all.

        I might have to make a little objection to this claim.
        The reference Srila Sridhar Maharaja made to the story above comes from the Brhat Bhagavatamritam which certainly was not compiled under any Abrahamic influence.

        There is at least one story in the Bhagavat that we can recall that promotes a similar theme of the fall of the soul and the giving up of Krishna’s company in exchange for the material existence.

        However, these are more than likely allegorical tales presented by Krishna to drive home the message than in fact the fall of the jiva was an exercise in free-will that obviously went terribly awry.

        The fall of the jiva was initiated by the unfit and unqualified exercise of free-will of an infant jiva.

        Through a subjective evolution of consciousness the infant jiva matures to a platform of knowledge and bliss that ultimately delivers him from illusion.(by the mercy of Guru and Krishna)

        • Brhat Bhagavatamritam in no way, shape, or form supports the idea of ‘fall from Goloka’. That idea is completely absent in the writings of the Goswamis.

          The poetic language used in the above referenced passage can be explained in several ways. The most obvious to me is a situation when one learns about Krishna from His devotees here on earth, develops some attraction for bhakti, but then turns away from that path to again pursue material desires. IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME. I have known hundreds of devotees who became Lost Servants, I bet you do too.

  4. Perhaps BVT draws support for his idea of jiva on tatastha choosing to decide to come to the material world.

  5. The fall of the jiva has been discussed to death. I don’t think it was Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s intention to give any attention to this topic when he spok the above article. Rather I think it is a very charming depiction of an already charming philosophical point: God’s searching for his lost servants.

  6. This sristi lila is another of his beautiful pastimes wherein Krsna gives a chance for the soul to voluntarily choose to love him.He searches and makes repeated calls to the soul to come to him. A beautiful pastime. This choice is not there for nitya-siddhas.

    As there is apparently a lot of suffering for the individual soul involved in this pastime, a soul may get resentful of the lord’s lila and instead lose faith in the Lord. Hence, perhaps modern acaryas have put the blame entirely on the jiva. Anyway according to advaya jnana tattva there is no other and there is no-one to blame anyway.

  7. How can you read this and not tear up, such love, such longing, it left me closer to the love of the Godhead than I have been in a while, thinking of this reunion. I was filled with love and everything was right. Then I read the comments and was plunged into the mundane material existence with arguments about falling souls and so forth, and then it hit me. Once you are truly engaged in loving service, then nothing else matters. I’m not talking specifically about anyone here, but how often would it be easier to just love than it would be to build up walls in our families, with our friends, in our communities and among nations? True surrender is not always having to be right and just being compassionate and graceful.

  8. I imagine that this question can be answered by the acintya bhedabheda conception of the Gaudiyas which always ackowledges the inconcievable monism and dualism of the Absolute.

    If jiva-sakti is separated from the Absolute for play and related as such to the divine through reverence to paramatma, an anga of the Absolute, then you can hear Krishna’s statement as, “you were once one with me (monist), then left (expanded/dualism) and I could not play with you in my eternal form. Now we can play again for you are bound to me again fully by this equalizing love (sakhya).”

    is this possible?

    • That’s a fascinating and intriquing reply, Gopa…I love it!

    • I think that to say that from the abheda perspective the nitya baddha jiva is always with Krishna in the form of the Paramatma, and that its turning toward maya represents the bheda perspective, is problematic in the least in that the bhedabheda of the Goswamis is such that the jiva is simultaneously one and different (and thus acintya), not sometimes one and sometimes different, as in the dvaitadvaita of Nimbarka. When you then say that the union in love that constitutes lila represents the abheda perspective, this is again troublesome in that bhava generally represents difference despite the equality at the heart of sakhya.

      The whole idea of turning away from God is consistantly represented by the purva acaryas through the 11th canto verse bhayam dvitiyabhinivesatah syad isad apetasya viparyayo ‘smritih . . . “Fear arises because of absorption in another—maya-sakti. Such turning away from God causes bewilderment and forgetfulness of him.”

      So there is a turning away of sorts from the Paramatma as the one manifests as many and the many are absorbed by the maya-sakti in misidentification. And by the Grace of God there is an eventual turning toward God that constitutes bhakti. And such bhakti brings greater acquaintance—intimacy—with our maker.

  9. Thanks Gurumaharaja, I was just giving tattva a shot…it’s not my strength, in the least.

    Actually, this question of “the fall” has always rubbed me the wrong way. So I have been sitting here trying to understand why? The question seems so concrete and linear and within Vaisnavism I find abstraction and metaphor far more useful (with the exception of lila whose charm is the play itself more than the abstract meaning of the play). For example, Is the sun closer than the moon? Yes, In terms of its felt distance and perceived distance, but not its actual distance. However, in terms of religious folklore i love this kind of question of ‘the fall’ and its exploration. So why the agitation?

    I have found that every question has multiple levels of meaning. One of the most subjectively pertinent levels of questioning is the emotional level of query. I think what I am coming up with is that people interested in this question are asking something emotional and as such I find it far more palatable. As emotional questions one might hear, “Does Krishna know me? Does he miss me? Was he ever disappointed in me for ‘falling’? Was it a mistake to leave home to explore on my own? Is he still longing for my return? Will he be glad to see me again if I return?

    These questions are not far fetched as we hear them all the time in relation to children separated from parents or adolescents/young adults separating from their families to attempt having a life of their own. It is very conceivable that the jiva be curious about the response of the Absolute father and mother to our departure. At least it makes far more sense to me as a preoccupation than the concrete and linear question of ‘the fall’. Emotional realities are far more likely to fuel preoccupations than curiosity about philosophical folklore.

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