Janmashtami Krishna-katha 4 – How Krishna appears in Vrindavan
[Talk at ISKCON, Farmington Hills, USA]
Transcribed by: Sadananda Prabhu
Janmashtami Krishna-katha 4 – How Krishna appears in Vrindavan
Today I will speak on the event of the appearance of Krishna as well as the significance of that event. Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya – the Upanishads describe that we should go from darkness to light, from mortality to immortality and from death to deathlessness. Even the tiniest of livings beings want to strongly avoid any danger to their life; they want to avoid death and go towards life. This tendency which is there within all of us is actually fulfilled at the spiritual level. The word spirituality is nowadays very common. Sometimes people say, “I went to the mountain top and saw the scenery. It was very spiritual.” Or sometimes some people would say, “I saw this painting. It was a very spiritual painting.” Nowadays people use the word spiritual as referring to anything which makes them feel peaceful or makes them feel good. Even when people come to a temple, they want to feel good. So, people often equate anything that feels good with spiritual. However, spirituality is not just a state of mind. It is also a state of being. That means that there is another level of reality which is spiritual reality. In the Gita (8.20) Krishna says, in this world sometimes things are manifested and sometimes they are unmanifested. Sometimes we may have a big building and sometimes we may have a rubble or the debris of the building. But in both cases Krishna says that things are temporary over here. But beyond the manifested and the unmanifested nature of this world there is another world, and that world is eternal. In Gita (8.21) Krishna says, that which is unmanifested, that which is beyond verbal description, is the supreme abode, and that is where I reside. And Krishna says, from there I descend to this world. So, to become spiritual is not just to feel good, but it is to tune our consciousness to the spiritual level of reality. And Krishna is the supreme level of reality. So, when we become attracted and devoted to Krishna, then that tunes our consciousness to the spiritual level, and when Krishna descends to this world, his purpose is to inspire us to become elevated to that spiritual reality. Suppose, we are watching a movie – nowadays all movies are available to watch in our home, in our computer or on our devices. Still people prefer to go to a movie theatre to watch a movie. This is because when a movie is about to start in a movie theatre two things happen. First is that the lights go off, and then another light turns on. So, when a movie is to be enjoyed – even people want to enjoy undistracted illusion. If we are at home and we are watching a movie, some people maybe are doing something or some children are talking. But when we go to a movie theatre the illusion is completely undistracted; because when the lights go off, we cannot see much around us, and when in that darkness lights turn on the screen, then our consciousness gets riveted completely to what is being played on that screen. The person who is watching the movie is situated physically in the theatre, but the consciousness is projected in the movie theater, and then whatever is happening in the movie is experienced by them. Similarly, the soul is spiritual. It is like the spectator watching the movie. But the soul’s consciousness is projected into the material level of reality. For example, when we are too caught in a movie, we will not be able to notice somebody who is sitting right next to us because we are so caught in the movie. Sometimes a child may be watching a horror movie, and may get horrified and is trembling in horror. The mother may be next to the child, but the child may be so caught in the horror movie that he goes through a whole panorama of emotions. Similarly, we are souls, and Krishna is there right next to us, but our consciousness is caught in the world, and so we can’t perceive them. And then if the child is so caught in the horror movie, sometimes if the mother comes and touches the child, the child may think that the monster from there is coming and touching him. The child may scream, and although the mother is near, she can’t touch the child. What does the mother do? She takes the remote control and slowly changes the movie that is being displayed over there. And then on the screen there is a nice movie. The child likes it and start watching it. When the child starts watching more and more, then as he starts looking more and more, the mother comes close by and the child hugs the mother. Thus, the child comes out of the horror which was there when he was captivated by the movie. Similarly, for us, when we are caught in this world, at the material level we go through various emotions; sometimes happiness and sometimes distress. But it is most of the time distress and very less happiness. At that time Krishna descends to this world, and his pastimes which are existing in the spiritual level of reality become manifest to us at the material level. There are so many attractive things in the world, but when we see Krishna’s pastimes we get attracted by his pastimes and wonder who this person is. Thus, our curiosity becomes triggered, and as our curiosity becomes triggered, we slowly start becoming attracted to him. As we become attracted to him, we become free from this world never to come back here again, and then we attain Krishna’s eternal abode. In that sense, when Krishna descends to this world, he is giving us a glimpse of what life and love-eternal are like, and by that he attracts us. Krishna descended to this world several thousands of years ago in Mathura. That is the narrative that is given in the Srimad Bhagavatam. The Gaudia Vaisnava acharyas who have spread the Bhakti tradition in depth as well as in breadth explained Krishna’s pastimes much more in detail. In the Padma Purana there is a special verse that says that Krishna never leaves Vrindavan. So, one may ask, “If Krishna is already born outside of Vrindavana, then how can we say that he will never leave Vrindavan.” The Acharyas say that actually Krishna has multiple manifestation, and because Krishna is God, he can simultaneously appear in many places and can have multiple manifestations. So, traditionally it is known that Krishna appeared as the son of Devaki and Vasudeva. That is true, but Krishna didn’t only appear there. Jiva Goswami explained this in Gopala Campu, and then Viswanatha Charkarvarty Thakur explains in Saratha Darshani which is the commentary of the Srimad Bhagavatam that Krishna appears simultaneously in Mathura as well as in Vrindavana.
I will now tell the story of how Krishna appeared in Vrindavan. Vrindavan is a forested area as the name itself suggests. It is a place where the cowherd men and their community reside, and the leader among them is Nanda Maharaja. Among the five brothers, Nanda is the third among them, but he is the most virtuous. Therefore, his older brother Upananda says, actually I don’t deserve the throne, but Nanda deserves the throne. Then Nanda Maharaja leads the whole community with great expertise, and the whole Vrindavana flourished under him. Although the community is flourishing, his heart is distressed. His heart is distressed because he does not have a son. Though he tried to have children he didn’t get one. Once when he and Yasoda Mayi were discussing, at that time, Nanda Maharaja said, within me there is desire for a child, but there is also a doubt within me. When Yasoda Mayi asked what his desire was, Nanda Maharaja said, for long time I had a desire for a child who is just like Narayana, and these desires is becoming stronger every day. But we are performing so many sacrifices and rituals, but none of them can guarantee a son just like Narayana. And if there is no son like him, then I don’t want any other son. When Yasoda Mayi hears this, she said that she also felt the same way. But then Nanda Maharaja says, although this desire is impossible, but at the same time the desire is also irresistible, and from the last few days I have been getting a vision of a body with a bluish-black complexion playing the flute and wearing the peacock feather, and when I saw that, I felt that this is the child which we are meant to have. Then Yasoda mayi said, maybe we should do the Dwadasi vrata. Ekadasi and Dwadasi are the occasions for pleasing Lord Vishnu. If he is pleased with us, then he will bless us. Then for one full year they do this vrata diligently, and as they do this vrata, one day Yasoda Mayi suddenly feels as if some celestial presence entered into her body, and then she realizes that she had become pregnant. The whole of Vrindavana erupts in joy, and at this time Nanda Maharaja has already become a little old. At this age they didn’t really expect a child, but if they got the child, they would be very happy with that. He is not yet born but he is conceived, and as he starts growing slowly, at that time Vasudeva who is the friend and cousin of Nanda Maharaja sends his wife, Rohini over there, and Rohini is just pregnant also. However, at that time, after seven months, it appeared as if she had lost her baby, but then by mystical arrangement, Devaki who was pregnant, her child is transferred to the womb of Rohini, and her pregnancy goes on for a long time. In the meanwhile, Devaki also becomes pregnant. Although the difference between the conception of Krishna and Balarama is one year, but the difference in the delivery of both of them is just one week. So, first Devaki is pregnant, and then she apparently has a miscarriage, and then the child is transferred to Rohini’s womb, and then Rohini has a very long pregnancy, and thus Balaram is born just a few days before Krishna. We know that Krishna is born in Mathura, but when Yasoda is pregnant, at that time she becomes jubilant with every passing day as her delivery day comes closer and closer. And by divine arrangement both Devaki and Yasoda deliver the child in the same night. Yasoda is so exhausted that she falls asleep. She knows that she has delivered a child, but because of exhaustion she is no longer aware who she has delivered. So, she delivers not one but two children, and this remains unknown to her. She delivers a boy who is Krishna, and a girl who is the goddess, Durga. That night Vasudeva takes Krishna from the jail and comes across through the Yamuna, and when he comes across through the Yamuna towards Vrindavan, Krishna falls from his hands into the Yamuna river. Seeing this Vasudeva becomes horrified because Krishna was just a small baby, and that night Yamuna was very fierce. But very soon he finds Krishna though he thought that he was drowned, and as soon as he finds Krishna, he picks him up. Then suddenly Yamuna becomes calm. And not only she becomes calm, it almost appears as if she is giving a way for Vasudeva to go. The Bhagavata describes, “Long ago when Ram wanted to go to Lanka to get Sita the ocean gave a way for Ram to go. Similarly, when Vasudeva was taking Krishna, at that time the river gave the way, and gave Vasudeva the way to go through peacefully. But there are many differences. Ram was going to get Sita, whereas Vasudeva was going to deliver Krishna and keep Krishna over there. Why? Because Kamsa had enmity towards Vasudeva’s and Devaki’s children, and he especially considered the eight child to be like his death; and therefore Vasudeva was taking Krishna to Vrindavana to protect him from Kamsa. Now, because it was completely pitch dark, Vasudeva went to the inner chambers in the dark. He saw that Yasoda was lying there. Then he put Krishna over there, and in the dark he saw there is some baby there. He picked her up and came back. In the dark he did not notice whether there were one or two children. Vasudeva was guided by Krishna from within. Krishna was in his arms as well in his heart. Krishna is the supreme, but he is also playing the role of baby. So, Vasudeva was externally lifting Krishna and carrying him, but internally Krishna as the indwelling Lord was guiding Vasudeva. Thus, Vasudeva delivered Krishna over there. He didn’t notice whether there are one or two children, but as soon as he put Krishna over there, these two manifestations of Krishna were there. One was the Krishna who had appeared over Mathura, and the other was the Krishna that was born to Yasoda in Vrindavan; and the two became one. Krishna can manifest in many forms when required, and he can manifest one form when needed. Here those two Krishna’s became one. This was not known to anyone. Vasudeva took this girl and he came back. As soon as he came back to the cell where he had been locked, the girl started crying, and as soon as she started crying the guards who had fallen asleep woke up, and they said, “What is this? Who is this?” immediately they ran and informed Kamsa. Kamsa immediately woke up and with disheveled hair he marched to the cell, and then as he observed, Devaki pitifully told him, “Don’t kill him. She will become your daughter in law. You have no fear from a girl.” Kamsa was so maddened by anger at that time that he heartlessly picked up the girl to smash her to the ground and kill her. Actually, Vasudeva was orchestrated by a higher plan. That is why he brought the girl child which belonged to his friend back to prison, even though he knew that if it falls in Kamsa’s hand, he will kill her. But now when Krishna had appeared, the protection of Krishna was what was paramount. Vasudeva himself was famous as a truthful person, and that’s why when Vasudeva had promised Kamsa that he will give him his sons, Kamsa believed him. But here, after Krishna was born Vasudeva took Krishna and went to Vrindavan. For the Lord’s sake everything can be sacrificed. Normally, it is by being truthful and virtuous that we can become godly and approach the Lord, but in special situations we may have to give up truthfulness to approach the Lord. Not that we become habitual liars, but truthfulness is not the supreme virtue; devotion is the supreme virtue. Whatever is required for the service of the Lord, he is ready to do that. So, Nanda Maharaj knew that the Lord was prompting him from within and he did that, and when he did that, at the same time the Lord also had a plan. So, Kamsa took this girl and he was about to smash, but suddenly the girl slipped from his hands and went up. There she manifested a magnificent effulgent form. She became the goddess with a tiger on which she was marching. She had six arms, had weapons in her arms and there were various gods who were offering their praises to her. She was Durga; and Kamsa himself used to worship Durga regularly. She said, you fool, why are you trying to kill me. The one who is going to kill you is already born. When Kamsa heard this, he was shocked. He heard the words, but the word did not register in him at the time. It was such a sudden and dazzling sight. He thought, if Devaki has given birth to Durga, that means that she must be very special. And what a mistake have I done by imprisoning and killing her children. Immediately his whole mood changed, and he folded his hands and said, O Vasudeva, O Devaki, actually I have been so cruel and heartless that I killed your children. Please forgive me. And then although he was speaking this, he rationalized and said, actually you are all learned and philosophical, you understand that the truth is not as it appears to be. Ultimately, we are puppets in the hands of destiny. I didn’t kill. It was destiny that killed your children. Now to say like this is to rationalize our misdeeds. If A comes and slaps B, and then B asks A, “Why did you slap me?” and if A says, “It is your destiny that slapped you.” Then B will say, “Ok, now your destiny will slap you.” And then B will slap back. So, even if by destiny those children were supposed to die, Kamsa didn’t have to kill them. They might have died by some other means. But Kamsa thought, I am being an instrument of destiny in killing them. Kamsa had a very selfish, heartless and cruel greed for power, and he wanted to maintain his life at all costs. So, it was for his selfish purpose that he killed the children, and thus he cannot blame destiny. But because Krishna had been born and was safe in Vrindavan, Vasudeva and Devaki were relieved. So, they decided to hold no grudges against Kamsa and were ready to forgive Kamsa when he asked for forgiveness. Sometimes we may feel that if somebody has hurt us terribly, how can we forgive them like that? Often forgiveness seems very difficult because we mistake forgiving and trusting to be the same thing. Forgiveness is for the past, trust is for the future. We can forgive people who have hurt us, but we can’t trust them. Forgiveness has to be given, but trust has to be earned. So, when Vasudeva and Devaki saw the changed demeanor of Kamsa, they forgave him; but they did not trust Kamsa. They did not tell Kamsa, “Actually our eight son is in Vrindavan.” That would have been foolish. So, we don’t have to hold what wrongs people have done in the past against them. We can give them a chance to reform, but the chance to reform means that they have to actually show by their actions; not just by their words. So, Vasudeva kept that secret from her so that Krishna would be safe, and Kamsa was at this point in a reconciliatory mode. He justified his action by saying, actually it is known that humans speak lies, but Kaliyuga has really arrived now. That is why even the Gods are speaking lies, because the akashvani has come saying that Devaki’s eight son will kill me. But the eight son of Devaki turned out to be a daughter. So, actually I was misled by the god’s. The acharyas describe that actually when the akashvani came, it is a gender-neutral akashvani where it said “ashtham garva” or the “eight pregnancy”. But Kamsa presumed that a son who would kill him. When a daughter was born, he said that even the god’s spoke lies. Normally when we see and hear something, the visual sense registers in us much more. So, when Kamsa saw this dazzling sight of the goddess Durga, he was very impressed by that, and then he released Devaki and Vasudeva, and went back home. But if Kamsa is characterized by anything, he is characterized by fickleness. He doesn’t stick to any decision. His good moods and bad moods were not within any amplitudes. When he was in a good mood, he would release Vasudeva and Devaki from prison, but when he was in a bad mood, he was out to kill them. Afterwards when he went back home and laid down, he started contemplating, and then he said, “The goddess has appeared from Devaki. She said that the one who is going to kill me is already born. But where is he born, how can I find him?” Kamsa had his associates, and those associates would fuel his demoniac nature even more. Then Kamsa decided to go on rampage. He decided to find all the children nearby and kill them. It is like one trying to blow up a whole house to kill one mosquito who has bit him; that is ridiculous. But Kamsa decided to slaughter all the children who had been born nearby. In the meanwhile, while all this happened in the night, the next morning Kamsa’s mood changed completely, and he said, “I am going to kill all the children who are born nearby.” The next morning when Yasoda got up, she saw this beautiful child in front of her who was like a bluish black lotus with eyes which were beautiful like the most exquisite flower, and it was so tender that she thought, was this child really born of me? Krishna is the giver of remembrance and forgetfulness. Yasoda just didn’t remember. She knew that she had a child but she had fallen asleep. When she woke up, she was so astounded to see this beautiful child that she couldn’t believe that this child was born of her. And as the child woke up and started crying, the other ladies also came in, and when they saw Krishna, they were astounded and thought, “Who is this, he is an immeasurable ocean of beauty/” and as the child started crying, then Rohini came there and picked up the child. And she held her to the bosom and pacified the child, and then she gave it to Yasoda. As Yasoda picked the child up and touched and saw the child, she was astounded. But when she picked up the child, she felt an ocean of love flooding into her heart, and she started to offer her breast milk. In the meanwhile, all the residents of Vrindavan been sad because their king and queen did not have a child. As the news started spreading that Yasoda has got her son now, everybody started celebrating. At that time Rohini acted like the in-charge. She called an old lady who was venerable and elderly, and she told her, please go and tell Nanda Maharaja, and she ran into the cow grazing area where the cows were taken care of. There Nanda Maharaja was there. In the Gopala Campu, Jiva Goswami describes that as she was running to carry this message, she was filled with ecstasy. Everyone in Vrindavana became jubilant. When Yasoda came to Nanda Maharaja, she wanted to speak, but words wouldn’t come out. But Nanda Maharaja saw her face, and saw the jubilation in her face, and he understood that something wonderful has happened. Then finally she spoke. The other cowherd men had also come over there. When they saw this lady come running, the cowherd men also came over there; and when she was looking at Nanda Maharaja she was thinking, how much joy Nanda Maharaja would feel that he has got a son now. So, she was joyful and thinking about Nanda Maharja’s joy, and she was becoming so joyful that no words would come out of her mouth. But she had a service to do. So, shehe had to speak. She finally turned away from Nanda Maharaja, and when she turned away from Nanda Maharaja to the other cowherds who were there, her ecstasy went down a little bit, and then she spoke. She said, our king has now got a son, and as soon as she spoke this, everybody over there became jubilant. And then Nanda Maharaja’s brother Upananda also came. And then Nanda Maharaja said, she has given such a wonderful news to me, whatever charity she wants, just give it to her. And the Nanda Maharaja ran back to the house, and there all the ladies of Vrindavana had come there; not just Nanda Maharajas brother and his family, but all the other ladies were also so delighted that they all came over there. And as Nanda Maharaja came in, Yasoda was with Krishna, and was still on her bed, and was exhausted. Rohini came and picked up the baby and brought him in front of Nanda Maharaja; Nanda Maharaja saw the baby. This was the baby that he had seen in his dreams; that same child had appeared. So, he started thinking, is this a child who is born, or is this my ecstasy who is born in the form of a child? The word Nanda is related with Ananda. His name was Nanda because he would give joy to everyone. But when Krishna was born, he gave joy to the one who gave joy to everyone. So, Krishna flooded his heart with joy, and then when he came and offered this child to Nanda Maharaja, Nanda Maharaja picked him up, and he smelled the hair and put him to his bosom, and became electrified with ecstasy. This was the fulfilment of all his dreams; that the child whom he had longed for so long had now appeared. And then the Vrajavasis decided to do a grand celebration to celebrate the birth of Krishna. That celebration happens the next day when Nanda Maharaja celebrates with great jubilation. Several days later Nanda Maharaja does the name giving celebration of Krishna through Garga Muni. That ceremony is done in secrecy, but there is no secrecy, but open celebration when Krishna’s birth is there. Why is that? Because at this point Nanda Maharaja and Yasoda Mayi don’t even suspect. They always think that Krishna is their child, and at this point Kamsa has not started his rampage or carnage of children. So, they are just happy that the child is born and that they are going to celebrate. But when Garga muni comes over there, at that time everybody knows that Garga Muni is the priest of the Yadu’s, and therefore if he is doing the name giving ceremony of the child, then maybe that child is actually the child of Vasudeva.
If Kamsa comes to know he will try to attack this child. Later on, all the concealing of Krishna’s glories starts. At that time, it is a small ceremony and the celebration is not so much. But here, when Nanda Maharaja is celebrating the birth of Krishna, the celebration is unlimited. The celebration goes on and on, and everybody in Vrindavan is flooded with ecstasy on the birth of Krishna. Krishna is already present in the hearts of the Vrajavasis and in the heart of Nanda Maharaja and Yasoda, but when he appears as a child before them, their joy knows no bounds. That momentous event when Krishna appeared in Vrindavan and flooded the hearts of the Vrajavasis – that is the event that happened thousands of years ago on this earth, and that event is not just a historical event. The Lord’s pastimes are not just history. They are eternity manifesting through history. Krishna is eternal, and his pastimes go on eternally, but sometimes through the medium of history they become manifested through us. And Krishna’s appearance is not just a one-time event that happens thousands of years ago in history. Krishna’s appearance is an event that is meant to happen in our own hearts. Just as Nanda Maharaja and Yasoda begged for Krishna’s presence, just as they performed a vrata to beseech Krishna’s presence in their own lives, similarly, on janmasthami when we perform a vrata, we are also begging to Krishna so that he appears in our heart. The Lord who appeared thousands of years ago in this world – the purpose of his appearance in this world is ultimately to appear in our hearts, and when he appears in our heart, just as he flooded Vrindavana with ecstasy, he can also fill our hearts with ecstasy. He can give us the supreme joy and enrichment by which whatever else happens in our life, it all becomes not so important, but Krishna and love for Krishna becomes supremely important for us. That is the supreme blessing of Janmasthami when Krishna appears in our heart, conquers it and rules it, and our heart becomes his kingdom, and our heart becomes Vrindavan. When our heart becomes Vrindavana and we become attracted to him, then we are eventually transported to him. When our love for Krishna becomes greater than our love for the various things in this world, then Krishna takes us out of this world to his eternal abode, and that is life’s supreme perfection; and Krishna is constantly working for this perfection.
I will conclude with one prayer which Kulasekhar Maharaja offers. He says, O Lord, I want to chant your holy names constantly every day. And it gives a list of many different names. He is the Lord who is the Lord of the goddess of fortune, and it is not that he wants all the fortune for himself. He is expert in giving blessings, and he is divinely and transcendentally merciful, and he gives blessings to everyone, but to his devotees he gives special blessings because he loves his devotees, and the devotees love him. And what is the blessing that he gives to his devotees? That means that Krishna frees us from whatever it is that traps us in this world. In that he is supremely expert. He is expert in freeing the devotees from the miseries of the material existence. Krishna is always with us, and he always wants us to become elevated and liberated. Krishna’s love for us doesn’t depend on who we are. We may be advanced devotees, we may be new devotees, or we may not even be devotees. But Krishna is there in the heart of everyone. Krishna loves everyone. Krishna’s love for us doesn’t depend on who we are. It depends on who he is. He is the all loving lord of everyone, and he loves us eternally. So, by hearing the pastimes of Krishna we can awaken faith in our heart. Not just faith in the existence of God; that is required, but for devotees it is very preliminary. The faith that we want is the faith in Krishna’s benevolence, that Krishna loves and cares for us, and that Krishna wants the best for us. Even when bad things are happening in our life, Krishna has a plan by which he will bring out good for us. So, that is the faith we can get by hearing these spiritual pastimes where different devotees of the caliber of Vasudeva and Devaki have to suffer the loss of so many children; devotees of the caliber of Nanda Maharaja and Yasoda have to live in the distress of not having a child for so long. But eventually, they are supremely enriched. So, if you can get this faith that Krishna loves us and he will do the best for us, then that faith will become our supreme strength, and that faith will enable us weather whatever storms life may send our way, and that faith with take us to life’s supreme perfection.
End of transcription.