Janmashtami Krishna-katha 2 – How Krishna freed the princesses from Naraka
[Talk at ISKCON, Detroit, USA]
Transcribed by: Sadananda Prabhu
Janmashtami Krishna-katha 2 – How Krishna freed the princesses from Naraka
I will speak about one very intriguing pastime of Krishna and what we can learn from it. In the fourth chapter of the Bhagavad-gita Krishna describes how he descends to this world, and it is only when we become attached to him, that we become free from attachment, fear and anger. Then we become absorbed in him, and ultimately, we can attain him. Krishna has three distinct phases to his pastimes: the pastimes in Vrindavan, in Mathura and in Dwaraka. When Krishna is in Dwaraka, at that time he is not just the protector of the earth, but actually, he acts as the protector of all the three worlds. The bhakti text describes that the whole universe is populated with life of different kinds, and even the higher beings pray to Krishna for protection. One day when Krishna is in the Yadu assembly, at that time, suddenly they feel as if a huge white cloud and a dark cloud have suddenly entered into the assembly. Everybody is surprised. If at all clouds come, they come in the sky, and if they come down, they come down from the sky. The clouds don’t enter laterally. As they looked carefully, they found that it was not a cloud. This large white object was actually the celestial elephant, Airabat, and the dark cloud upon it was Indra, and both of them had come to Krishna. Krishna’s assembly is “Sudharma” and this assembly is more glorious than the assembly of the devatas. At that time, Krishna offers his deference to Indra as he is God playing the role of a human being. It is described that there are three levels of the universe. The earth is in between, above us are the god’s, below are the demons. But God himself exists beyond in the spiritual world. If we consider the universe, there are fourteen levels. The way out of the building is through the seventh floor, not through the ground floor. Seven levels are above the earth, and seven are subterranean. If somebody wants to get out of the building, they have to come to the seventh level. Similarly, in this fourteen-level cosmic system, God descends at the seventh level, and when he descends in this level, his purpose is to elevate everyone everywhere. So, even those beings who are higher like the devatas are also respected by Krishna although he is the Deva-deva or the God of all God’s. But Krishna respects the cosmic hierarchy. When he is playing the role of a human being, he plays that role. But humans are meant to respect the gods. So, Krishna says, “O Indra, you have honored us by coming here. How can we serve you?” Indra is looking very pale, and he says, “When there is cause to be ashamed, at that time the shame should be immediately removed. When there is no cause for shame, even at that time if one is humble, then that is an ornament.” For example, if somebody is in a disheveled clothe or appearance, and is very untidy, but says, “I am so humble.” Then mostly people would say, “You are not humble, you are untidy. So, tidy yourselves.” So, when something is wrong, to call it humility is not right. So, Indra says, “I have come here to seek your help.” Krishna said, “What has happened?” Indra said, “There is great demon named Naraka, and he lives in a place called Pragjyotishpur, and from there he is terrorizing the whole universe. In fact, such are his atrocities that he came even to my kingdom, and not only did he come to the kingdom, he stole the jewels from the heavens. But his audacity was such that he even stole away the earrings of my mother, Aditi.” Now we may say, “There are so many treasures. Why is an earring valuable?” But the point is, his stealing the earrings is primarily indicative of the audacity that Naraka had; that he can steal from even the mother of the king of the god’s. Krishna on hearing this became very grave and almost angry. He said, “Such a person deserves to be punished. And Indra do not fear, I will go and deal with him.” At that time, Indra says, “O Krishna, this demon lives in a fortress that is almost impenetrable. Therefore, I will give you my brother Garuda. Please rise on the top of Garuda.” Actually, Indra and Garuda are cousins and not exactly brothers. At that time Krishna says, “How can I take the vehicle of Vishnu?” Now, Krishna is not saying that he is Vishnu. He is acting as if he is a normal manava or a human being. And Indra says, “Actually by higher arrangement you will manifest the power of Visnu.” At that time Krishna says, “This can never happen.” Indra says, “Please take Garuda, and this is what you will need to enter into the fortress.” Then at that time, Indra says, “Whatever you want, please defeat this Naraka, and I will give whatever you want. Please do this for me.” At that time Krishna remembers that Satyabhama, who was one of his more demanding wives, wanted a Parijat tree. So, Krishna says, “This is the way that I can get the Parijat tree.” Then he gets Satybhama to sit with him on Garuda, and they start flying, and as they start flying, suddenly Krishna manifests four arms, and when Satyabhama sees this, she starts giggling. She thinks that it is like a fancy-dress competition that Krishna has manifested two arms. She touches the two arms to check if they were real. And then she starts laughing, finding that they are real, and she starts wondering what is going on. When she is observing this, Garuda is speeding through the sky. As Garuda charges through the sky, eventually they soon reach Pragjyotispur. This Pragjyotishpur is a kingdom which has been fortified in multiple ways. So, actually this whole pastime is understood at multiple levels. The Kingdom of Pragjyotisha can be said to represent the human body, and in that there are seven or eight layers of protective coverings. First, there is a huge mountainous wall; in fact, there is a mountain which is like a wall there. And along with the mountain there are sharp weapons which are blocking the path. So, the soul inside the body is trapped within multiple coverings; bhumir apo nalo bayu… The earth is the outermost layer. When we see the body, what we think of is the flesh which is earth, but along with the earth there are all these other elements inside the body also. As Krishna is observing this magnificent fort, he sees that beyond the earth there is huge moat which is filled with water, and not just water, but with all kinds of dangerous aquatics in the water. It is impregnable, and then beyond the water there is stormy wind that is blowing. Before that wind there is huge wall of fire, and beyond that there is storm that is blowing. In this way this fortress is impregnable. But as Krishna is flying with Garuda, he just transcends it all. The fortress rises high into the sky, but Garuda is higher still in the sky, and Garuda is so high that by effortless skill Krishna just goes above those walls. And as he goes above those walls, Krishna thinks that he doesn’t want to enter into this kingdom by Garuda’s skill alone, and that he wants to show his prowess also. And then he is fully equipped. He got his Kamodaki cloud, his sword, and his bow and arrow. He picks up his club and smashes it on the mountainous walls, and just by one blow the whole mountain crumbles, and as the mountain crumbles, just by the crumbling of the mountain and falling into the water, the water in the moat overflows. As the water overflows, the water flows into the fire, and because of the sudden upsurge of the water the fire gets extinguished. And as the fire and the water moves backwards, the wind that is blowing stormily is very forceful, but the water’s backward flow is even more forceful, and suddenly the wind becomes pacified. As the devatas watch from above – they had tried so many times to penetrate Naraka’s abode but had failed. And Krishna in one effortless attack devastated the whole fortress. And then in the innermost guard of that fortress is a formidable demon whose name is Mura, and he has been sleeping for a long time. When he hears the sound of devastation, suddenly he rises, and as he rises, he sees Krishna coming straight, and he suddenly picks up his trident and appears as if he is like Mahadeva with this trishul out to destroy the whole world. This Mura represents the mind. The body with its various elements is an obstacle for the realization of the soul, but the biggest obstacle for perceiving the soul is the mind. As Mura stands there as a formidable demon and sees Krishna charging towards him, he starts hurling weapons. With his bow he shoots arrows, spears and hurls tridents, and Krishna effortlessly counters it all. And then Mura opens his mouth, and from his mouth fire starts coming. Such is his anger, and Krishna shoots arrows, and his whole mouth becomes filled with fire. Mura is shocked. He gets thrown back, but he again starts attacking Krishna. And as he is attacking Krishna, Garuda is coming closer and closer. He also brings his huge mace and wants to hit Garuda. As he is trying to hit Garuda, suddenly Krishna is shooting arrows and Garuda is flapping his mighty wings. And by the double force of this, suddenly Mura finds that his weapons have just gone off, and Mura falls back in shock. And then as he is collecting his wits and is about to fight, Krishna shoots one decisive weapon and Mura’s head is chopped off. As Mura falls, he has a many of his sons and his associates who come charging towards Krishna to take revenge, but Krishna effortlessly cuts them all down, and finally Naraka who has been observing all this with increasing alarm and anger, charges out of the palace with all his great weapons. Naraka has a thousand arms. He has been mystically blessed in such a way that he can fight beyond the power of any being in this world. But now he is outraged, and he says, “How dare this mortal attack my kingdom like this? I will destroy him.” But as he keeps charging toward Krishna, Krishna keeps shooting one arrow after another, and Naraka finds all this formidable prowess being baffled. He gets wounded and just doesn’t know what to do. As his soldiers are attacking – now this is the kingdom of Naraka, and Krishna is alone over there. He is not only alone, but he is actually with Satyabhama. He has to protect Satyabhama, and also has to fight against everyone. Sometimes it is said that if one warrior is very powerful, we may call that warrior a one-man army. Here Krishna is like the ultimate one-man army. He has penetrated into the enemy camp, and through it all, all these weapons are coming, and Satybhama is behind Krishna. She is completely confident that nothing is going to happen to Krishna. She is having a ring side view of the match. If a boxing match is going on, if one has a seat which is closest to the ring you, he can watch from there with the maximum excitement. Similarly, Satyabhama is watching, and as she is watching in amazement, Krishna is effortlessly cutting down the opponents, and is effortlessly protecting her just like he protected all the vrajavais in the Govardhan lila, when he lifted the Govardhan, and not one of thlittle hair on their body was harmed. What to speak of that, not even any tree, branch or any leaf on Govardhana was also harmed. So, neither Krishna was harmed by his attack, nor Satyabhama was harmed by the attack. Everyone was protected. This fierce attack was happening, and one by one all the opponents were falling. Finally, as this Naraka came forward, he decided to use his almighty weapon. He had a weapon which he had got from Siva by his blessings, and he invoked the weapon, and was about to hurl that weapon. And as he was about to hurl that weapon, Krishna decided to end the fight. And he just shot arrows so fiercely that before Naraka could understand what had happened, he found that the weapon had knocked off his hand, and as he was watching, his head was knocked off, and he fell dead. When the devatas saw that Naraka had fallen, they became jubilant, and as they became jubilant, they all started cheering Krishna, and Krishna entered into the assembly. Now this Naraka has been long ago born as the son of Bhumi. His name was Bhaumasur, and he had been born of Bhumi or the earth goddess. But he represents how a child directly born of the earth can also become a burden for the earth. Generally, every child that is born to the parents cause some anxiety to their parents, but the children also become responsible and successful. Then they also bring joy to the parents. However, some children simply cause anxiety and misery, and such children are an unmitigated burden. Every relationship that we have, there is some pleasure in that relationship, and there is some pain in that relationship. That is how life is. In relationships, we act sometimes in ways that hurt others, and others hurt us. So, in every relationship there is give and take. We offer some contribution in the relationship, and we have some expectation from that relationship. But if in the relationship, our contribution is much, but there is nothing that is the contribution of the other person, but there is only more and more demand, then that relationship becomes very strained. Then we start feeling it like a burden. So, this Naraka had become a burden for mother earth, and actually this happened because he associated with another demon named Bana, and because of the association of Banasur, Naraka became Narakasur. And because he had been born of the earth, he had great prowess. However, because of bad association, that prowess became misdirected. Often in our life, we feel that we have some talent, wealth, contacts, looks or fluency in speaking. We feel that we lack many things, and none of us are endowed with everything. So, all of us are deficient in different ways, and this deficiency often causes a sense of dissatisfaction within us. However, more than what we lack, we are limited are limited much more by the disposition that we have. If there are great resources that are available with someone, but if the disposition or mentality of that person is evil or bad, then they can cause great havoc. The whole world is focusing on acquiring more and more possessions, and we are thinking that it will make us happy. Yes, possessions can contribute to happiness, but even more important than possessions, is our own disposition. If we work to improve our disposition, then whatever position we may have externally, even within them we can find content. So, devotion actually improves our disposition.
Because of the association of Banasur, Naraka became Narakasur, and although he had great abilities and lineage, but still he ended up becoming demoniac, and then he had to be killed by Krishna. Mother earth at that time came there. A mother always loves her child, but at the same time the mother cannot be blind to the faults of the child. So, she in her own way tried to make Naraka see sense, but Naraka was intoxicated by his power and he would not listen to anyone. At that time, she came before Krishna looking very ashamed, and she said, “Here are all the things that Naraka stole from the god’s. Here there is Aditi’s earrings, here are the jewels that he has taken from the heavens. Please take them and return them to their respective owners.” And then she pointed to a small boy who was with her, and she said, “This boy is the son of Naraka. However, because of the death of his father he is agonized and distressed, but actually the death of his father was a great release for him, because with association with his father who was demoniac, he would have become demoniac. But now that there was no more demoniac influence around him, and so, he would no longer be demoniac.” So, he told Krishna, “Please bless him so that he never follows in the footsteps of his father.” Normally, when we bless somebody we say, “become as your father is”, but here he says, bless him so that he doesn’t become like his father. Krishna blessed him and entered into the palace of Naraka. He is eager to see what else is there in the kingdom; magnificent jewels, lepez lazuli and all kinds of most luxurious opulence was there. And then he suddenly saw as he went deep into the forest, that there seemed to be many beautiful creepers with moons on top of them, but they looked like completely dried creepers. Right in front of his eyes, as he was observing, suddenly all these creepers started to blossom and bloom. They seem to come to life, and he was observing this beautify moon, suddenly a bright smile appeared on it, and he realized as he was observing, that all of them were beautiful princesses. They were princesses who were actually the eternal consorts of Krishna, but in this life when they had appeared, they had had to go through great tribulation. While they were princesses living in their father’s kingdom, they had been abducted by Narakasur, and Naraka, with his own power along with his greed and pride, also has lust. And he abducted all these princesses, and he had wanted to enjoy all of them. But Narada Muni knew that. The Hari Vamsha describes the meeting between Krishna and the princesses, and in the Kalika Samhita it is described what happened. Although these princesses had been in the abode of Narakasur, they were untouched and uncontaminated. How this happened? Narada Muni is like an omnipresent sage. Wherever he is required, he gets the inner insight and goes there. When Narada Muni came to know that the princesses who are the eternal consorts of Krishna hady been abducted by Narakasura, he came and told Naraka, right now you are a powerful demon, but if you follow these rites for the next few days, then your prowess will increase much more, and for following these rites you have to maintain a vow of celibacy. And he told him that if he could complete this, he will get such prowess that nobody will be able to defeat him. Now, there was his hunger for power, and there was a hunger for flesh. Both of these were there within him. He thought that nobody was going to challenge him anyway. So, he deferred enjoying those princesses and he started to do this sacrifice as Narada Muni told him. In between that time Krishna came there. When Krishna came there, at that time, all these princesses who had been longing for Krishna, in their hearts there was hope as well as hopelessness. There was hope that Krishna will somehow come, but hopelessness because they had already been abducted by this demon. They saw Krishna and they offered their hearts and their lives to Krishna. Krishna told them, O princess, your evil abductor is now dead. So, you can no go back to your homes. They said, Krishna, you are our delivered. You have delivered us from this demon. But still there is another problem that you need to deliver us from. Krishna said, what is that? They said, because this demon has abducted us, and has kept us in captivity, no one will accept us now. Krishna then said, what do you want me to do? they said, please accept us as your maid servants. Krishna looked into their hearts and saw their devotion, and he said, you will not become my maidservants, but my queens. And Krishna arranged for magnificent elephants with many assistants, chariots and soldiers in a majestic assembly to take all these princesses to Dwaraka. So, all of us are actually souls who are trapped inside the body. The body and the mind are what trapped the soul, and this body and the mind keeps distracting the soul in various directions. Just as these princesses were trapped inside the fortress where there were these five layers of walls, then there was the Mura demon, and ultimately there was the Naraka demon. Like that the soul is trapped in the body with the mind, and ultimately Naraka is the false ego. The false ego wants to enjoy for itself that which is ultimately meant for God, and this false ego delights in pride and arrogance, but is ultimately frustrated. So, Krishna breaks through all this and rescues the pure soul. Because the soul is inside this fortress of the body which is like a prison, the soul appears to be contaminated. However, the soul is never contaminated. It is the mind and the body around the soul that gets contaminated. Even now, no matter how conditioned anyone maybe, they are all still pure souls. Everyone of us at our core is pure. Around the pure core is a lot of contamination, and it is because of that contamination that we have lower desires; we are sometimes selfish and sometimes short tempered, we are sometime petty, we are sometimes greedy. All these negativities come because the soul is covered. It is like we have yellow light over here. If that yellow light is covered with a red film, the light coming out of it will be red. The light itself is a soothing yellow, but when it is covered by a yellow film, the light coming out of it will be like a jarring red. So, right now we may feel that we have so many impurities, contaminations and limitations, but this are not belonging to us. They are around us and it won’t attack us. And just as Krishna came and rescued all the princesses, similarly, when Krishna descends to this world – the world is also like a fortress which is also covered by the same layers of earth, water, fire and ether, mind, intelligence and ego. The universe has all these coverings. Krishna descends into this universe, and his purpose is to free us from the illusion and bondage, so that we can get united with him just as these princesses are united with Krishna. Krishna comes to this world to have our heart become attracted to him. Krishna says, if you can understand these wonderful pastimes and this wonderful appearance, then that can capture our heart with such love and devotion that we just become attracted to him, and then nothing else matters. Our attraction towards Krishna is like the force that will pull us out of this world. Our devotion for him is what pulls him in to this world, and our attraction for him is what pulls us out of this world. Krishna descends even if we don’t have devotion. Still he descends out of his compassion. But we need to have some devotion and some attraction for him if we want him to take us out of this world. Krishna is present in our hearts, but he can’t change our heart unless we want to change. So, Krishna is actually already inside this fortress, but we don’t perceive his presence, and that is why when we come to the temple and chant the holy names of Krishna. At that time we are invoking Krishna’s presence through our eyes and ears into our hearts and consciousness. And when Krishna enters, he doesn’t destroy the body or the earth, water, fire, air or ether. Rather he destroys the contaminations within them. This body can be used for pure spiritual purposes, and thus we all can by Krishna’s mercy attain him. So, Krishna’s mercy manifests by his descent to this world. The divine descent is meant to inspire the human ascent. The divine descent means that Krishna descents from the spiritual world to the material world. That is meant to inspire the human ascent – the rising of the human consciousness from the material to the spiritual level. Whether this consciousness rises to the spiritual level – that is where our longing for life and love eternal can be perfectly fulfilled. So, Krishna’s descent is not just a remote historical event that happened thousands of years ago in a distant land. Krishna’s descent is an eternal event that is meant to happen in our hearts, and on the day when Krishna appears, there is a special mercy and opportunity that is available to invoke his presence, and to attract his mercy by which he can inflame our hearts with devotion, and thus attract us to him beyond this world, to a life of freedom and eternal joy. Such is the wonderful grace of Krishna which is manifested in this pastime.
Thank you very much.
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