Demons in krishna-lila 1 – How the metaphorical points to the transcendental and how Putana represents false guru
[Talk at ISKCON, Seattle, USA]
Transcribed by: Sadananda Prabhu
Demons in krishna-lila 1 – How the metaphorical points to the transcendental and how Putana represents false guru
Today we will discuss on the theme of the different demons in the Krishna lila, and what they can teach us for dealing with the demoniac forces inside our own lives, and in the world around us. Let us begin with a verse from the Krishna Astotara Satanam which describes one of the demons that we will be discussing today.
Putana jivita hara….
What this means is that Lord Krsna stole away the life air of Putana, and also, he destroyed the cart and delivered the demon named Sakatusura. I will talk about this class in three parts: first I will talk about the part of how these demons are explained by Bhaktivinod Thakur, then I will talk about the pastimes of Putana, and then I will talk about how those lessons which Bhakti Vinod Thakur has drawn from it, apply in our life.
Bhaktivinod Thakur lived at time of great intellectual ferment in India. If you look at the history of India from a cultural or intellectual perspective, there was a traditional religion of India which encountered modernity, which was not just the Western culture, but was the Western way of thinking, and that intersection happened, and led to what was called as the “Bengali renaissance”. Just like there was the European renaissance, similarly there was a Bengali renaissance, and that led to the formation of what we call today as modern Hinduism. So, most of the ways of practicing Bhakti that are present today, resulted or emerged from the intersection and the representation of the traditional way of practicing religion, that was redefined in the start of the modern times in India. Normally whenever we think of a tradition – sometimes we think of tradition as something that was there in the past and that is continuing. Yes, that is true, but tradition is never static because tradition is also living, and living tradition means that the tradition has to intersect with all the forces that are present in its contemporary situation. For example, if we consider the language Sanskrit, it is a traditional language. At the same time if you look at the history of Sanskrit, the way it was spoken in the fifth century A.D was different from the way it was spoken in the tenth century A.D, or as it was spoken in the 15th century A.D, and now in the 20th century A.D whoever speaks it. Also, we know about the English language that, it was common about hundred years ago that people would use thee, thy and thou. Now if somebody starts talking using thee, thy or thou, people will ask them, “Which age are you from?” So, the language remains the same, but at the same time it changes. Similarly, with respect to tradition it remains the same, and yet it changes. How does it happen that the essence remains the same, but the way that essence interacts with the world changes? That implies that the message also has to be presented in an appropriate way. At the time of Bhaktivinod Thakur, with the idea of Wester rationality coming into India, India was invaded by many people in the past. Right from the tenth – eleventh century there had been Islamic invaders, and before that Alexander and so many other people were there, but till the time the British came to India, the Indians did not feel intellectually challenged by the invaders. The Islamic culture was politically more powerful than the Indians, but the Indians never felt intellectually challenged. But when the British came to India, they brought science and technology, and because of that it was not just science and technology which was the product of the way of thinking, which was rationality. From that rational point of perspective when people started examining religion, they started thinking, “O these stories which are there in our epics, in our Puranas and Itihasas; are there for real? Are they mythology? And if they are just myths told for kids, then why should I believe them, or why so many people are believing them?” It was in such an atmosphere that Bhaktivinod Thakur had to actually present Gaudia Vaisnivism. Bhaktivinod Thakur writes about himself that he was influenced at least at the external level by the Western schools of thoughts. He said before he was introduced to the intellectual aspect of Krishna bhakti, “For us, one book by a Western philosopher like Kant or Hume was more valuable than the whole library of Vedic literature.” That was the prevailing worldview, and Bhaktivinod Thakur was one among them. But then as he read Caitanya Caritamrita especially, and he saw Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s profound devotion and erudition, he felt that there was something very deep over there, and then as he appreciated the depths of Krishna Bhakti, he tried to present those depths in a contemporary way. So, he wrote many books. One of his books was “Krishna Samhita”.
In two books he talks about what the demons in the Krishan lila represent, and how they can be understood. He talked about this in the Caitanya Siksamrita also. Caitanya Siksamrita and Jaiva Dharma are two books of Bhaktivinod Thakur which deal with systematic theology. That means that he takes the principles of Krishna Bhakti and explains them one by one, systematically building the points in a beautiful, logical as well as scriptural way. There a broadly, we could say three approaches with which we can look at the Krishna lila – mythological, historical and metaphorical. Mythological means, they are stories of the past or product of people’s imaginations. Myths are considered to be for children; historical is, “This is how it happened in the past, this is how it is.” Metaphorical is what people think that it is for intellectual people. Thereby the critics of the whole Bhakti tradition which is considered very metaphorical or sentimental would say, “These are all mythological stories. How can you Indians believe in this?” and if somebody claims that these are historical, there were so many fantastic elements in these stories, that how can they be historical, how can anyone lift a whole mountain? So, the only intelligible way of presenting these stories – at that time there were people who were defenders of the Indian tradition also. They felt that they had to explain it because they are not fool’s for cherishing these stories. They felt that the only respectable way of defending these stories was by the metaphorical way; that all of these represent something deeper. Now this metaphorical way appears intellectual; and yes, looking at the symbolical way of things can be intellectual, but there is a problem: because often when we talk about metaphorical, then it may mean that actually this may not be real. It simply represents something. Then everybody starts going deeper and try to understand what it represents. That was the school of thought that just looked at everything, and looked at what is behind it. And by that even when we look at Krishna, we think what is behind Krishna. That sort of thought came in.
I used to write in various spiritual columns of the newspapers in India. There is the “Times of India” newspaper where there is the speaking tree column. There, they used to ask me to write for Janmasthami because it is about Krishna’s appearance. In one such year the Chief Editor wrote a mail to me and said, “Can you write an article on Janmasthami on why Krishna is black? And don’t tell the usual story stuff. Tell us something deeper.” And then I started enquiring where this came from, because this is a very specific question. I enquired and found that there was one teacher who specialized in giving metaphorical explanations of things, and he said actually why would anyone depict Krishna in black color? He said, “Back represents darkness and ignorance. There is a deep reason for this. Because beyond the black form is the while light. So, we should go beyond the form to the light. The form indicates ignorance. So, blackness of the depiction indicates that you have to go beyond the depiction to light.” Most people would say, “I never thought like this. That was very clever.” However, if we see the scriptures, they never give any explanation of this kind, and interestingly, what the scripture say is, “Krishna is not just Shyam, he is Shyam Sundara. Shyama Sundara means that he is dark and he is beautiful.” So, I wrote an article about it, that people may have some cultural conception of what is attractive and what is not attractive. In certain cultural conceptions fair color might be considered more attractive, and the dark color might not be considered so attractive. But what the Acharyas always stress is that Krishna is transcendental, and transcendental means beyond any kind of cultural conceptions that might be there. That means that when the Bhakti tradition explains to us that Krishna is Shyam and Shyama Sundara, the significance of that is, that his form is transcendental, his beauty is transcendental, his beauty is sublime, and it is spiritual. And when the devotees behold the beautiful form of Krishna, they are not looking for something beyond Krishna. It is Krishna who is supremely attractive, and the transcendence of his attractiveness is depicted by his Shyama Sundara. Now when this kind of metaphorical explanations are to be given, we have to be careful what is the conclusion being done through this. At Bhakti Vinod Thakur’s time the idea of giving metaphorical explanations was very trendy. That’s what was considered clever. So, if somebody simply told a story, there were some people who would be attracted to it; they were those who would like to hear traditional stories. Even today there are some people who just like to hear the Bhagavad-katha which is good. That is also purifying. But some people who are more rational, more analytical and more intellectual, they want to know a little bit more, and what does it all mean? So, when Bhaktivinod Thakur gives the analysis of demons in Krishna lila, he say that there are three levels: mythical, historical and metaphorical. Certainly, we don’t consider this as mythological in the sense that they are imaginary. It is interesting – the word “Itihas”. I will talk about the historicity of the Krishna lila later. But he takes this three and he explains that, actually beyond this three is another level, and that is “the transcendental.” Transcendental means that there is another level of reality at which Krishna’s pastimes are happening. There is the material reality and there is the spirituality. Krishna’s pastimes happen in the transcendental level, and they take us to the transcendental level of reality. And how does he do that? Its like if somebody is to play a game, then we have to play that game better than them. So, he says, if you are looking for a metaphorical explanation, you are looking for something deeper; then I will take you deeper, and then deeper than deeper. What does deeper than deeper mean? Yes, all these demons represent something, but even more than that, actually what the demons represent – If that representation is understood and applied, then that will take us to a higher level of reality. So, there is deeper intellectual understanding; that is one thing, but there is a higher level of consciousness, which is another thing. This may seem a little abstract, but what this means is, that Bhakti Vinod Thakur says that each of these demons in Krishna lila represents an anartha in our heart. They represent a misgiving and a misconception of our heart, and this misdirection is destroyed when we hear the pastime of Krishna. By hearing the pastime this misconception can be attacked and destroyed, and when this misconception is destroyed, at that time, our heart rises towards the transcendental level. So, the metaphorical is not considered the deepest. Rather the metaphorical is considered the way to the transcendental, and it is the transcendental that is the highest. In that way what Bhaktivinod Thakur is doing is, he is telling the intellectual and rational people that all these people who are just hearing these stories are just sentimental, and we are superior to them. So, he pats them on the back. “Yes, you are superior, but there is something superior to this also, and actually that is the essence of Bhakti.” So, the essence of Bhakti is to learn to love Krishna, and loving Krishna requires purification of the heart. So, he says, “This is the story and this is what it represents. Now you can use your intelligence to understand what represents what, but after you understand that this demon represents this anartha in the heart, what after that? Actually, you will have to destroy that demon, and for destroying that demon you have to practice bhakti. And when you practice bhakti you will rise to the transcendental level. And thus, Bhakti Vinod Thakur actually expertly takes people from where they are, and raises them upwards.
When we are presenting Krishna bhakti, it is important that we meet people where they are. The whole mood of Vedic culture is, “From your place, at your pace, access the grace.” There is the divine mercy which is streaming down, but not everybody is ready to take the full doze of the grace. If you are not ready, it doesn’t mean that you are deprived. Form your place means, this is your understanding, you think you are superior, we accept that you are superior, but there is something deeper than that. Krishna says in Gita (3.27), when people have certain conceptions, don’t disturb their mind. Even if they are ignorant or attached, from where they are, engage them. This is the way how the wise person acts. And it interesting that Prabhupada in a translation says, don’t disturb the minds of less intelligent people. But in the Sanskrit if we see, there is no word “manava…” “na buddhi bedham” means don’t create holes in people’s intelligence, don’t pierce and don’t disrupt people’s intelligence. What does it mean? Actually speaking, for many people who are at a particular conception of life, their intelligence becomes centered around that conception. They may have formed that conception based on the mind – “Oh, l like this!” but once you like this, then you form a whole worldview and conception around it, and it disturbs the mind. When people have used their intelligence to come at a particular mental conception, then if we disrupt that conception, then we will not be able to digest it. So, from where they are, raise them upwards. This symbolic or metaphorical explanation of Krishna lila that is given by Bhakti Vinod Thakur is primarily for helping people who consider themselves to be intellectual; it is to help them rise from the intellectual to the transcendental. And to rise from the intellectual to the transcendental the process is, “practicing Krishna bhakti itself”. So, with this background, lets look at some of the pastimes and some of the explanations of Bhaktivinod Thakur and what the Krishna lila demons represent. If we see Krishna’s pastimes, he is born in Mathura, and then at night he is taken to Vrindavan. Actually, Vrindavan can refer to one forest as well as to the whole area also. Technically Krishna was taken to Gokul. And when he goes there who is the first demon who comes? It is Putana. When Putana comes along, at that time – the backstory is, Kamsa thinks that when the goddess tells him that his enemy Krishna is already born, he would say, “Where can he be? I have to find him, I have to kill him.” Therefore, what he does is, he decides to find and kill this child. So, he has this demoness Putana also known as Khecadi. In Khecadi, Kha is sky, chari is to move. The demons traditionally are called as nisachara. Ravana is called as “nisachara”; nisa is night, cara is to move. So, those who move in the night are the demons. She was a demon who would move in the sky. Now she moved across, and even among demons there a specialist’s – there are different people who do different kinds of jobs. So, for killing children they had this class of demoness called Khecadi, and what Putana would do is – she would have a malicious way of killing children, and when she came to Vrindavan from Gokul, at that time she had some sense that things could get dangerous over here. So, she decided to mask her selves. Actually, all of Putana is centered on masking her real identity. So, she comes as a beautiful woman, and her beauty is to be understood in two different ways; for her beauty is simply a tool to deceive and to make others to do her bidding. So, when she appears though the forest in Vrindavan, she is so attractive that all the Vrajavasis are astounded to see her beauty. The Ananda Vrindavana Campu by Kavi Karnapur describes the pastimes of Krishna in Vrindavana elaborated further with correlations from different scriptures, as well as his own artistic as well as his devotional revelations. There he describes, how when the Vrajavasis see Putana, they start seeing that she has assumed such a beautiful form that even the beauty of the apasaras of heaven is no match to her beauty. All the beauty of the apasaras like Urvasi and Rambha is just nothing in comparison to this, and they are so astounded and attracted to see her beauty that they just let her go. In Vrindavan everything happens as per the arrangement of yoga maya. Essentially, yoga maya means, everybody acts in a way that is for the furthering of Krishna lila. Whatever is the essential pastime that is meant to happen – everybody is orchestrated in such a way that the essential pastime will happen. The Vrajavasis are attracted fully to Krishna’s beauty because they are pure devotees. They are not attracted in any way to the mundane beauty, but in this particular pastime, for fulfilling Krishna’s purpose, it appears as if they are attracted. So, they just get so attracted that they lower all their defenses because of that. Just like we have the Mohini Murti pastime in the eight cantos of the Bhagavatam. When the demons were fighting, they also gave up their bellicosity or their aggressiveness on seeing he Mohini Murti. Seeing the beauty of Mohini Murti made them lower their guards. So, in general, when we look at the world and the people, we first look at their externals, and later on we may look at their internals. When we look at somebody looking very well-dressed and very cultured looking, we are impressed, but if somebody comes in with maybe one eye closed, with a big beard or with disheveled clothes, we think, “Is this person some kind of lawbreaker?” If somebody comes in a very elegant dress, we think, “He looks like a very respectable person.” So, usually the way we treat people begins with their externals, and that is just natural. By her externals Mohini Murti gets everyone to lower her guards. Firstly, all the vrajavasi males lower their guards because her beauty is so attractive.
In Gokul, Nanda Maharaja’s house is right in the center of Vrindavan. So, she comes straight through and nobody stops her. And when she comes to the house of Nanda Maharaja, at that time both the mothers: Rohini and Yasoda are there. So, in the childhood Krishna and Balaram were always together. So, the two mothers were together. At that time both the mothers were there at home, and yet when she comes in, she looks so sweet and attractive that they just watch her. Normally if a mother is there and she has a baby at home, she would not let any strange woman come and pick up her baby, but for Yasoda and Rohini, they feel that she is like a goddess of fortune, and they think, “It will be fortunate for us if our child is blessed by her.” So, they see her in terms of her in terms of her maternal beauty – “She is so sweet, she is so loving.” And just in front of them she comes straight to Krishna and picks him up. Now she knew that she has Bahurupini or she had the ability of change her form or assuming different forms, and she knew the power of the beauty of the form that she had assumed. So, she is not very surprised when even the woman let her go. But when she sees Krishna, at that time she feels some apprehension that something is wrong there. She thinks that the child looked very scary. Though Krishna was such small baby, but she was scared. She was demoness and she had her own track record; she has been killing so many children. She says, “I am not to be chickened out. I am going to go here.” She feels that fear but she pushes that fear down, and she comes to Krishna. As Krishna sees her, he closes his eyes. When he closes his eyes, she picks Krishna, and in front of everyone she starts feeding Krishna and offering her breast milk to him. As she is offering her breast milk to Krishna, at that time Krishna without opening his eyes started drinking the milk. And as he is drinking the milk, at that time he started pressing with his mouth more and more. Initially, she has planned in such a way that she smeared terrible poison on her breast, and her plan was that as soon as the poison touched Krishna’s mouth, he will die, and once he dies, then she will just escape from there, and her mission will be accomplished. Normally, there are different kinds of poison. Some poisons are fast-acting, and there are some poisons which are slow-acting. The poison which she had got was very fast-acting. As soon as the poison enters the body – the idea is, the baby becomes weak and it lets go, and falls down dead. But in the case of Krishna, as he sucks her breast, the grip becomes stronger and stronger. At that time, she became concerned. She feels a little pain, but thinks, “This is child, what can he do?” and then she feels even more pain. Then she says, “muncha, muncha, let me go, let me go.” She gets alarmed, “what is this?” And, though she is huge and much older than Krishna, and Krishna is such a small baby, she pushes Krishna away, but Krishna has such a tight grip that is not ale to push him away. At this time Krishna is so small that he has not even developed any teeth. Actually, Krishna squeezes her just by his gums, there is no teeth over there, but he squeezes so tightly that she just can’t escape, and she gets so scared and alarmed that she is just screaming, and she has to run away from there. Now when she runs away, at that time Krishna could easily have squeezed her life air out there itself, but he decides not to do that because he knows that she is a huge demoness and that if she falls in Vrindavana, she can cause havoc over there. So, although he is squeezing her life-air out of her, he does not do it in one moment. He lets her run, and right from the center of Gokula she runs all the way out, and after she goes out of Vrindavan, then Krishna squeezes her so much that her life air comes out. When her life air comes out, the soul goes out of her body and she falls down with a huge crash; she is dead. And all along the Vrajavasis are shocked. Mother Yasoda and Rohini are seeing what has happened, that this woman came and picked up her baby, and suddenly she is running away. They are running after her, but she is running so fast that she is just running for her life. And when they saw this huge form fallen down, and they see baby Krishna lying on her flailing his hands and legs like a harmless baby, they are astounded to see this huge demoness Putana fallen dead.
The story goes on further, but at this point let’s look at what Bhakti Vinod Thakur says. He says, “Putana represents false hopes.” Teachers are meant to show us the right path, but teachers who take us along the wrong path are misleaders, and that is what they represent. Now how does he draw this inference? The point is that, in traditional culture the idea was that the mother offers her breast milk to the child, and if there is another woman also who can offer her breast milk to the child, the child will become stronger by that. So, that’s why Yasoda and Rohini allowed Putana in this beautiful form to offer her breast milk to Krishna. Now a mother or a nurse is meant to offer milk which nourishes the baby. That very intimate and affectionate activity which is meant to provide life to the baby was being misused by Putana to kill the baby. That means that the external remains the same. There is mother or a nurse and there is a baby, and normally the interaction between the nurse and the baby is that, the nurse is meant to nurse the baby. But instead of that the external is the same, but the internal is not just absent, but is the opposite. So, this same dynamic is what happens when there are misleading teachers. If there is a nurse who offers milk, there is somebody who offers nothing, and there is a nurse who offers poison. So, to be in ignorance is to be bad, to be ignorance and to claim to be knowledge is worse, and to be in ignorance and to claim to be in knowledge and to call knowledge to be ignorance, that is even worse. We could say that there could be ignorance, ignorance square and ignorance cube. Like that, there is somebody who teaches right, there is somebody who doesn’t teach anything, and there is somebody who teaches wrong. Like that, what Putana does is, she takes this intimate and affectionate activity – one of the activities that bonds two human beings in one of the closest bonds of affection and love, and she distorts and perverts it for its entirely opposite purpose. Similarly, when there are self-interested people who become spiritual teachers, and in fact they use the respect and the reverence which people have for spiritual teachers, then they abuse and exploit people. That means that they are using this very reverential and sacred relationship between the seeker and seer, and between the teacher and the master, and they are completely distorting and perverting it. So, just as the mother gives life to the child through her milk, similarly, the spiritual master is meant to give life to the soul by giving spiritual wisdom, but when people don’t do that, and when some self-interested person rather than giving proper spiritual knowledge teach nonsense, that’s like a nurse giving nothing. But if somebody considers themselves to be spiritualist, but they actually give something which will destroy people’s faith, that is very unfortunate. So, the whole pastime centers on how everyone is taken in by the appearance. The vrajavasis – the males and the females, are all taken in by the appearance, but Krishna is not taken in by the appearance. Actually, at one level we could say that it is the elders who are meant to be scrutinizing and discerning. In many countries there are rules that you cannot have any advertisements for children below a particular age, because kids do not have any discerning ability, and so, without any discerning ability, whatever they see they will believe. “This toy is so good. I want this toy.” So, they feel that the small children don’t have discerning ability and therefore adds cannot be directed towards them. Of course, whether adults have discerning ability or not is also open to question. People get carried away by the adds also, even adults get carried away. But the point is that, normally adults are expected to have more discerning ability than small children, but here all the adults were received but a new born infant was not deceived. This infant remained undeceived and actually exposed the deception to everyone. That is Krishna’s transcendental expertise. Similarly, for us, when we approach Krishna and stay devoted to Krishna, then Krishna guides us from within. Many people say that, “Ok, if I am practicing a spiritual path, how do I know if the path I am following is right or wrong? Whether the teacher I am following is right or wrong?” Some people say. “There are so many false teachers, how do you know who is the true teacher? So, better don’t get into this business, stay away.” That’s like saying, “I am sick, but there are so many people who claim to be doctors who are actually quacks. So, I won’t go to them. I don’t know how to find a real doctor. So, I will not go to anyone.” But the result will be that we will simply stay sick. Just as Krishna helped expose Putana to everyone but he was not deceived, similarly, when we are approaching the spiritual path, we have to understand that we are not just putting faith in this person or that person, but we are putting faith in Krishna. Putting faith in Krishna means, even if some people are so new that they are not having an understanding of Krishna, still there is some higher reality that is guiding our lives. Right now, when we are living, we are not living by our own efforts, but our very existence depends on something beyond our existence. We are breathing in, drinking water, we have the right temperature, we have heat, light etc. There are hundreds of other factors which have to work right for us to exist. So, there is something beyond us which is also arranging the factors for our existence, and that something – whatever name we give to it, that is actually what we are putting our faith in. However, in today’s world, the word God in the mainstream culture has become very uncool. There are popular movies like the star war series, and they will talk about the force, and they will say, “Listen to the force.” Now if instead of that, they say “Listen to God”, all the theatre would have become empty. (laughter) The idea of the force, that there is something beyond which is higher, will empower us and which will guide us, is there in almost all literatures. A prominent atheist who rejects God believes in evolution, and he says how evolution works, and says, “If you can’t understand that, that is not evolutions problem, that is your problem. Evolution is far smarter than what you are.” This is exactly the same call for faith. If we can’t understand some philosophy we say, “We are small, Krishna is great, if we can’t understand it is not Krishna’s problem, it is our problem.” Basically, they simply replace God with something else. So, the point I am making here is that if we just observe life a little bit around us, we will see that there is something beyond us which maintains our existence. It certainly plays a significant role in maintaining our existence. So, when we approach spiritual path, we are not just putting faith in a particular teacher. If we think of spiritual journey as a horizontal journey – I am here and this is one teacher, this is another teacher, among this how do I chose? Imagine we came to a place where there are hundreds of cross roads, we may get tired just looking at those crossroads, and wonder which one to choose. Like that this world may give us so many options, but how do we choose anything? So, if we are looking at the spiritual journey simply as a horizontal journey in which we have to chose from so many paths, then we will get confused, but if we understand that spiritual journey is not a horizontal, but a vertical journey – that means that there is higher intelligence that is guiding my life. So, with whatever little intelligence that I have, I use that and make a choice. Once I make this choice, I move forwards. If my choice is wrong or right, that will be revealed to me. So, rather than asking whether the guru is bonafide, we ask, “Am I a bonafide?” Am I bonafide means, “What do I really want in my life?” Do I want a guru who shows me the way, or do I want a guru who sanctions my way? Sanctions my way means, “If you want a guru who pats on our back, then it is very good, continue it.” If we feel that’s what we want, that’s what we get. If we genuinely are seeking spiritual knowledge, then we will be guided. Just as Krishna remained undeceived, similarly, we will also by Krishna’s grace, even if we are deluded, we will become free from delusion by Putana’s appearance. So, our faith is ultimately not just in a just in a particular teacher, but it is in Krishna, and because Krishna tells to put faith in teacher. And because he says, surrender to the great souls and learn from them, therefore, when we are going to a teacher, we are not just putting faith in that teacher, but we are putting faith in Krishna who has created this system of teachers, and that way by Krishna’s grace we can become not only free from illusion, but we will be protected from the false guru’s, and we can come to the true guru, and we will come to those who will take us to Krishna.
Srila Prabhupada was such a guru, and he brought millions and millions of people to Krishna’s lotus feet, and it is by his mercy that we also have an opportunity to take shelter of Krishna. So, Krishna through this pastime represents how we can be saved, by showing how he protected himself, and how he protected the Vrajavasis although Putana was so deceptive. The world has many deceptions, but Krishna can protect us from all such deceptions.
I will summarize:
I spoke today about demons in Krishna lila. The major part of the class was about what Bhaktivinod Thakur says that these demons represent something. What is exactly going on over there? Bhaktivinod Thakur was born at the time of renaissance of India when Western rational thoughts made traditional Indian thoughts appear intellectually juvenile to any forward-looking Indian. At that time there were three approaches to looking at the pastimes of Krishna: mythological, historical and metaphorical. Mythological meant considering the pastimes as just an imagination or tales for children. Historical meant that the incidents happened long ago, and metaphorical meant that all these pastimes have some deeper meaning. The intellectual people thought that metaphorical is the approach to go. Yes, metaphorical can appeal to intellectuals, but sometimes by that we might just reduce everything to symbols. So, instead of appreciating Krishna’s Shyama-Sundara form, we try to screw out some meaning – like “What does a dark color represent or black form represent?” and people come up with their own ideas. What Bhaktivinod Thakur did was, he patted the people who wanted it for the metaphorical explanations, but then he said that there is an even more intelligent state also.
We talked about how the principle of the Vedic culture is, “From your place, at your pace, access the grace.” So, Bhaktivinod Thakur says, Yes, the demons represent something. That means that we have to use our intelligence to understand what the demons represent. But then the Krishna lila is not just to be seen metaphorically, but it ultimately needs to be experienced transcendentally, and to rise to the transcendental level we have to practice bhakti. So, the demons represent something, but what they represent is what is meant to happen in our heart. These demons represent anarthas which have to be cleaned from our heart, and that cleaning of the anarthas will happen by the practice of Krishna Bhakti.
Then I talked about the pastime of Krishna, in which Putana came and used her appearance to deceive everyone. Although she had an ugly heart, but by her beauty she lowered the guards of the men and the women. In Vrindavan everybody acts by Maya’s arrangement for furthering Krishna’s pastime. So, the vrajasis seem to be deluded but they were simply acting by Krishna’s will, and finally when Putana took Krishna in her lap and offered her milk to Krishna, Krishna squeezed out her life, and through that he exposed her true colors, and then he allowed her to run out so that no damage is caused in Vrindavan. What does Krishna’s killing Putana represent? Mothers feeding a child is the most intimate act of affection. To put poison there is a horrendous distortion. Similarly, Putana, if she represents false guru, that means that, though the relationship between the guru and the disciple is one of the most intimate and great reverence, but if instead of giving the milk of spiritual wisdom, when the guru gives the poison of further material illusion, then that is a guru who is messing in it. But just as Krishna exposed Putana, similarly, if we take shelter of Krishna, then who is right teacher and who is not will be revealed to us. If we see the spiritual journey as a horizontal journey and one among many paths to choose, then we will be bewildered and paralyzed. But the spiritual journey is a vertical journey, and our very existence depends on something beyond our existence; that higher being who is sustaining our existence will guide our spiritual journey. So, we put our faith with our God-given intelligence in a spiritual path, and if that is right, Krishna will reveal that to us, and if it is not, then Krishna will reveal that also. So, rather than asking whether our guru is genuine, we ask whether I am genuine. Do I want a guru who will show me the way, or do I want a guru who will sanction my way? If we are genuine, then Krishna will surely guide us towards a genuine guru who will ultimately take us to him.
Thank you very much.
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