Published on October 1st, 2009 | by Harmonist staff6
A Page in the Book of Krishna Lila
In the third sloka of Srimad Bhagavatam the blessing is given to all of us, “pibata bhagavatam rasam alayam,” “drink from this, drink the fruit.” We usually don’t drink fruits but if we put them in the juicer everything that is not desirable, the peel and pit, is taken out and just the pure juice remains. This is what Srimad Bhagavatam is, the purest juice of the Absolute truth. It is “nigama-kalpa-taror galitam phalam,” the ripened fruit of the tree of the Vedic knowledge. We are told to drink it. If we pass out from drinking it we are told to get up and drink it again!
So we should study Srimad Bhagavatam. “Sadhu-sanga nama-kirtana bhagavata- sravana,” these three things: association with devotees, nama-kirtana, and hearing Srimad Bhagavatam, which means hearing the tenth canto. This is the opinion of Jiva Goswami in his commentary on Rupa Goswami’s verses of Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu where these limbs, or angas, of sadhana bhakti are mentioned. We should study all of Srimad Bhagavatam, but the tenth canto in particular is very, very potent.
We hear we have to be in accordance with sadhu, sastra, and guru. But there is a fourth thing also. What is that? “Guru-mukha-padma-vakhya, cittete koriya aikya.” Our heart, “cittete koriya aikya.” How these things strike our hearts, then we respond accordingly. That is why we go in that direction. It is not out of law but out of some feeling that has influenced us through guru, sadhu, and sastra.
So the heart is all important. We should know that each of us has a heart of our own for Krishna. We should know the tattva, the philosophy, very well—either by our own careful study, or, if we don’t have that type of aptitude, by serving those who exemplify the Bhagavata, the scripture, and that way we can learn the tattva. As a result, gradually we can come to have our own feeling for these things. Then so many wonderful things that have not yet come out will come to light and we will be the vehicle, the instrument, for that.
That is a development from taking what has been brought down from above and distributing it, which is widely considered to be the supreme service, distributing the books and teachings. From that, to actually bringing the books down by writing and publishing them and so forth, that is a natural progression. We should hope to all become such that we will have some thoughts of our own, having thought about all the things that have gone into our heads and hearts.
Each of us should have a life, a spiritual life. Hearing from sadhu and guru is meant to give us a life so we can stand on our own feet, fly our own plane, so to speak. Fly as high as we can in the sky of our spiritual life. So the tenth canto is also for reading and we can fly very high in the tenth canto. We should know the first nine cantos, we should know all of Srimad Bhagavatam. But hearing the tenth canto in particular, that will be very helpful for us. It is not that Jiva Goswami is saying that we should not read the other nine cantos and that we should just jump to the tenth canto. But we should come to it in due course and then at a certain point we will be preoccupied with that, with Krishna lila.
How should we be preoccupied with Krishna lila? Not that we will sit and artificially try to remember Krishna’s eightfold lila, to try to project ourselves within that in an artificial way when we don’t have the purity of heart to sit peacefully and even pay attention to nama smaranam, chanting japa. But rather, in a beginning way we can do this lila smaranam in conjunction with our chanting, by researching the lilas of Krishna as they are presented in Srimad Bhagavatam by the acaryas. We should know everything about that person we say is our ideal, our friend, our God, Krishna. When was he born? Where was he born? Who are his parents? As much as we can draw from Srimad Bhagavatam and the commentaries and supplementary literatures.
When we first read Srimad Bhagavatam’s tenth canto we may not even notice how when Krishna left Vrindavana and went to Mathura, he promised everyone he would come back. Not only did he promise, but Nanda Maharaja promised that Krishna would come back, too. But it appears that Krishna went to Mathura, then he went to Dwaraka, then he finished his pastimes in Dwaraka and made sure that everybody in Dwaraka went back to Godhead. By his own mystic, magical arrangement they became disturbed with one another and fought and destroyed one another and the lila ended. When we first read Srimad Bhagavatam we may be satisfied with that.
But what do we know about Krishna, what kind of devotion do we have for him, to be satisfied with that? The Goswamis have shown us another standard. They had to find from Srimad Bhagavatam how Krishna fulfilled his promise, how he returned. Even if he hadn’t, they reasoned he must have returned. How could he not? Nanda Maharaja promised. The only reason that Yasodamayi allowed Krishna to leave and go to Mathura, was because Nanda promised “I assure you, everyone, that Krishna will come back. I will bring him back.”
Nanda Maharaja, however, as we know, failed in his mission. He was bewildered by the sophisticated people of Mathura. King that he was, he was just a cowherd person. He went to Mathura and met Vasudeva and Devaki; they were very aristocratic. Although Nanda Maharaja was the half-brother of Vasudeva, still Nanda Maharaja was a cowherder and Vasudeva was a ksatriya. After the killing of Kamsa, Vasudeva and Devaki reasoned with Nanda Maharaja: “You should keep your son here so that he can get an education.” So Nanda Maharaja went back empty-handed, without Krishna. But nobody in Vrindavan blamed him for a moment. Although he had promised he would bring Krishna back, when he returned without him no one was angry because they could understand his grief was even greater than theirs, having promised and failed.
“How can it be that Krishna did not return?”—this kind of thinking is what I am talking about. We should develop in our spiritual practice and culture so that this kind of thinking comes to us naturally. It is a kind of a feeling-thinking—a feeling for Krishna and what Krishna lila is. So study Srimad Bhagavatam with this in mind, to get some feeling for Krishna lila. The Goswamis could not rest without finding in Srimad Bhagavatam how Krishna returned to Vrindavan.
So we should try to study these books in good company and hear from real devotees so that we get some feeling and can in time think on our own about all these things and reason spiritually with a pure heart. We move in spiritual circles with feeling. In time, our heart will come out. When we enter into the lila of Krishna it is like a new page in the book. Maybe it is there in a latent form, in a dormant form, but the page has not been written. Just like when one writes a book, one may think for a long time first and then begin to write and then the thoughts are embellished and developed. So the book of Krishna lila is already written and all the players are there, but still new pages are coming out every day.
Very nice article! It makes me want to read Srila Prabhupada’s “Krishna Book” yet one more time. This was the first book I ever read in Krishna consciousness and I never tire of it! Each reading becomes more and more relishable…
When I saw the title of this post I was just about to go away and knew I would not have an internet connection for a while so I printed it off to read later. In a way it has been fortunate because this has left me quite some time to reflect. Due to my innate laziness, though I started writing something, put it aside for months, but then came back to it. Even when I had finished writing something, I was reluctant to post it. It seemed inappropriate to post it. I thought everyone has moved on from this topic, which had only attracted one comment. Who would want to read my personal thoughts on what Srila Tripurari Maharaja has written and will they even be intelligible to anyone or am just going over in a clumsy way ideas that are so familiar to devotees in Srila Maharaja’s group that everyone has their own meditation to keep to themselves? So what is written below has been sitting in a file on my computer for two years (though I have tried to tidy up some sentences to make them more readable and added a small extra paragraph which I am not sure is an improvement). When I read it again a week or so ago I thought perhaps I was wrong, I should post it. Other older topics get picked up months later and if everyone self censors as I had done there will be no Harmonist and potentially no sadhu sanga.
I remembered hearing and/or reading this phrase, “a page in the book of Krishna lila”, early in 2008 and it seemed so full of hope and promise, and on more than one level. Having been through a difficult period for Gaudiya Vaisnavism, the years immediately following Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance, the emphasis on how things strike our hearts seems very important to me, just in terms of the survival of one’s faith and motivation to do service it now appears to be a necessity to me. Looking towards progress to higher levels of devotion it is encouraging to hear that there are guides to not only to the details of devotional service practice, with answers to the standard questions. There are also others prepared to ask questions that are more elusive as well and teach how a devotee might prepare him or herself to find the answers, and perhaps find more questions.
“How can it be that Krishna did not fulfil his promise to return?” seems to be one such intriguing question. Srila Tripurari Maharaja does not give an answer here other than to say that the love the Goswamis had for Radha and Krishna would not allow them to ignore the question. This indicates to me that answers must come from developing love rather than love coming from trying to know all the answers. It is perhaps a hallmark of our modern western culture that we want answers readily available to everything.
I find my mind is attracted to this question and despite my lack of either devotional eligibility or scholarship have spent quite a bit of time reflecting on it, coming up with some answers and more questions, though they might not be the right ones. Never the less I thought I might put some of my thoughts in a comment / post.
I do remember hearing many times that Krishna never leaves Vrindavan. If he never leaves where is the question of him returning? Did Dwarakadish Krishna send Udhava to Vrindavana rather than go himself because he knew that his original self was already there?
Krishna’s promise cannot be resolved only by the prince of Dwaraka going to Vrindavan because this is not who the residents of the Vraja are pining for, so how could he play more than a part in mitigating their suffering? Could it be that the real meaning of Krishna’s promise to the inhabitants of Vraja is that their intense feelings of separation will not last forever, rather than that the anguish of their separation will be resolved by his physical return or reappearance?
Even before Akrura arrives at Nanda Maharaja’s palace with the intention to take Krishna back to Mathura the movement and momentum of the mood of Krishna’s family, friends and lovers is in the direction of separation, vipralambha. This may be due to various incidents and rumours, threats from outside such as the demons who keep coming, even time itself, and it is given power by the strength of their attraction to him. Perhaps mostly by the force of their attraction. A huge ocean going ship cannot be turned around on the space occupied by a small coin. Even if its engines are thrown into reverse its forward inertia will keep it moving in its original direction for a very long way. Is it possible that by the time Krishna left on Akrura’s chariot it was already too late to prevent Krishna’s loved ones entering into the full intensity of separation? May we consider that it is not in the nature of Krishna’s power to avoid such feelings?
Supposing Krishna upon seeing the gopis lay down in front of Akrura’s chariot realised he could not leave all those who loved him so dearly and instead, with his brother Balaram, walked back to his parent’s home and Akrura went on to Mathura without them. Everyone in the Vraja saw Krishna and Balaram leave with Akrura but who would see them when they arrived back at Yasoda’s and Nanda’s home, late at night after a long walk, and how would they see them? How would Nanda, Yasoda, Radha and all the other residents of the Vraja have experienced his reappearance? What would Krishna’s own experience and feelings be and how might they be different from those of Balaram in the same situation?
Very strange questions these, and perhaps rather too many of them. I am sure that if I had asked anything like this as a young devotee I would have been told not to think so much and just chant Hare Krishna. That was the answer I got to quite a few questions and it wasn’t really a bad answer either. Still, if I have understood him correctly, Srila Tripurari Maharaja is telling us there may be some advantage to asking unusual questions, guided by the understanding that Krishna truly loves and cares for his devotees and that their love for him is the very foundation of their lives and something he cannot live without. This understanding led the founders of our Gaudiya sampradaya to a very unusual (at least for this world) understanding of the Devine and transcendence and find within the scriptures things that no one had found before.
How can it be though that as devotees, when we mature and perfect our love, eschewing all impure and selfish motivations, we will find ourselves on a new page, our own page, within Krishna lila? The lila of Krishna has been elaborately described from the time he wakes up in the morning to when he wakes up the next morning. Where will we all fit, not just in terms of the space we might occupy, but within the dramatis personae. Even with a cast of millions the number of meaningful and significant parts is usually quite limited. What scope will there be for our own individuality, our own contribution? Then there is the question of the coherence and integrity of narrative in Krishna’s drama. You can’t take a book, a novel or play, and keep adding new pages throughout the text, and by different authors at that. The whole thing would quickly become disjointed, confused and unreadable.
The answer must be that Krishna lila is not like a novel or play, the limited by-product of a conditioned soul’s mind, but is a living expanding world of experience constantly being refreshed and responding to the needs of its inhabitants and new immigrants to its shores. The spiritual world, which we are told is ever expanding, is after all not a physical stretch of land like the continents of North America or Australia. The spiritual world is the lila and the very ground that Krishna and his associates walk on is expanded from the body of Lord Balaram. Similarly the lila can be considered as the outward expression of Krishna’s relationships with each of his devotees and not as a story or performance for the entertainment or enlightenment of any third party.
Krishna’s pastimes are said to be unlimited so there should be no difficulty accommodating the service desires of new devotees. He manifested a whole new lila avatar for his devotee Prahlada, though this is unusual. In another place Srila Tripurari Maharaja has stated that the recorded pastimes of Krishna are but an outline and the majority of his lilas are written only in the hearts of his devotees. So although the “new page” may end up in a book in this world, as part of the revealed scriptures to inspire others on the path of devotion, the majority will not. But that does not diminish their value or make them any less real. Another way I have been thinking about this is that if a thousand devotees reaching perfection are all meditating on a single part of Krishna lila Krishna may incorporate into his world a thousand new variations to that lila, each subtly different, to honour the individual devotional sentiments of each devotee. Is this then how the spiritual world is ever expanding, by a continuous flow of previously conditioned souls reaching perfection in their Krishna Consciousness and finding their own place in their Lord’s play? That is the conclusion I am coming to, at least in part.
Thinking along these lines, I remembered the story of the little spider in Rama lila, kicking grains of sand into the ocean to help build the bridge to Lanka. Could lilas such as this have started out with a devotee perfecting his devotional meditation in this world? I imagined a devotee of Sita Rama meditating on this section of his Lord’s pastimes, watching within his mind as the Lord’s monkey soldiers hurled huge boulders into the water to form the floating bridge and feeling a need to call out. “I must do something to help this great effort, to reunite Rama with his beloved Sita, to reunite Sita with her beloved Rama. I am very insignificant and horrible like a tiny insect or spider. I would fit in the corner of a toenail of one of your devotees and have only the strength to move a few grains of sand. Though I would risk being trodden on and squashed my greater concern is that by getting under the feet of your devoted monkey soldiers, with their large strong bodies and enormous hearts, I might only hinder them as they engaged in your very valuable transcendental service. But I cannot remain at peace. I have a great need. I must contribute something!” I then thought of Lord Rama hearing his devotee’s appeal and thinking “That is so beautiful. Your contribution is valuable to me. So much so that as a devotee you will be with me always and I will incorporate your thoughts into my revealed lila so that everyone may be inspired and benefit from them.” Could this lila have started out something like this? I have no idea. It is something that came into my mind. It seemed beautiful to me and also plausible and relevant, and I wanted to write it down.
A complaint could be made that this is all imagination and speculation, and speculation is bad – right? It comes under gambling in the four regulative principles, things for devotees to avoid. But imagination is also part of being human. It has been argued that it is the characteristic that really separates us from the animals. That being the case it must be engaged and cannot be continually be suppressed. Although there is a warning that devotees should not try to imagine (make up) pastimes or try to artificially insert themselves into the revealed pastimes there must also be leeway for some mentally creative engagement and openness as well.
It might also be appropriate to say here that the word imagination comes from the word image. It does in one sense mean to think things through creatively with the aid of pictures. Our western culture has a deep religious prejudice against images derived from the Judeo Christian influences and if God has a form in these traditions it is something secret, restricted, even suspect and dangerous. In vaisnava traditions though eternity, knowledge and bliss have their place of residence in the form (image) of the Lord, which is non-different from his name. Contemplation on mere abstract ideas, however seemingly lofty, will not take us to the goal of loving service.
There are a few other things I had thought of writing down here but lost the thread that had tied them in and made them seem relevant to the original topic.
Finally, contemplation of spiritual topics should lead the mind naturally to a desire for service in action and/or prayer. My opportunities and capacity for active service do not seem to me to be very great at the moment but I did think of a payer that might be suitable for this topic, taking some inspiration from Srila Tripurari Swami. It has been said that Lord Caitanya flooded the whole world with waters from the ocean of Krishna Prema. I would like to offer my payers to all the lifeguards and volunteer lifesavers concerned with the safety and welfare of those venturing on our beaches and along our waterways, all the gurus, acaryas and rasik saints, those who have gone before and left their instructions and personal examples laying the foundations for our faith and practice, those who are present now, manifestly preaching and guiding others but also including those who have yet to show themselves, and those who will come in the future to guide and inspire generations of devotees not yet born. They have come, and will come, to deliver the stricken souls and offer opportunities to enrol in a “learn to swim program” that the souls may learn to dive and sport and play and feel at home in those waters and not fear them and try to run away for fear of drowning. I pray that if I am ever fortunate enough to gain admittance to such a training school my instructors will not dismiss me for being a slow learner, for poor attendance or for misconduct or any other reason. I also pray that if I am successful in completing the course I may use my new skills in a way that is a credit to my teachers and of benefit to others as well as my own self.
Thank you for sharing your notes, Adrian!
It was nice that Adrian wrote his long commentary/realization bringing back this article posted almost two and a half years ago. To me it is a very important posting since it brings to light the necessity of learning as much as we can about Krsna. My husband and I read the SB in the mornings. Right now we are on canto 10, chapter 52. The quality of the translation, the wonderful purports and witty and clever presentation of the ideas is delectable. The purports draw heavily from the works of Jiva Goswami, Visvanatha Chakravati Thakura, Sridar Swami and others, illuminating the meaning and glorifying the Lord’s lilas. Right here, in our own SB book, the work of HDG Srila Prabhupada that was completed by two of his dear disciples, is a rare treasure and a bottomless mine of sweet delights. I invite, no, I urge all to dive into these chapters to discover those rare pages, as Swami Tripurari has expressed, that are yet to be written. After all, he has used the form “should” in his posting. Why not follow his decisive suggestion? Hare Krsna!
Thank you for taking the effort to write all this down and now also share it. The length of your post might scare readers off though.
I am a fan of prayers and liked your last paragraph a lot.
The answer is that he did fulfill it. And the Goswamis’ have cited the Bhagavatam itself in support of their conviction and then further supported their loving, rasika sensibilities with extensive citations from Padma Purana.
The Goswamis refer us to SB 1.11.9, where the inhabitants in Dvaraka speak of Krsna’s absence from them in foreign lands like Mathura: yarhy ambujaksa pasasara bho bhavan kurun madhun. In this verse the word madhun refers to Mathura-Vrindavana. This occurred after the killing of Dantavakra. Again, the entire lila of his glorious return to Vrindavan is related in the Padma Purana.
Thank you Adrian for churning this topic.