Sunday, March 31, 2013

What Do Hare Krishnas Believe? Part 10: The Nature of God (9)

So what can we say about this wonderful Supreme Person? Endless things. Since He's eternal and has all power, the list of His wondrous deeds is never-ending. Plus, He has the ability to separate out endless portions of Himself, who have different percentages of His transcendental qualities. Just as a few quick examples: when He appeared as Nara-Narayana Rsis, His renunciation was exhibited, and His transcendental knowledge could be seen in the form of Kapiladeva. When He appeared as Mohini-murti, His beauty was displayed. Then sometimes He invests His superhuman power to do a particular thing within a jiva soul, and such personalities are known as saktyavesa avataras. (This is different from the mere attainment of yogic siddhis by a jiva soul; it's far more magnificent, glorious and special. Any type of avatara must be certified as authentic by the scriptural prediction of His or Her appearance and the recognition by pure, saintly souls of certain specific unmistakable symptoms of the personal presence of the Lord. In the correct system, there is no room for cheating charlatans or impostors, who can't help anyone, to set themselves up as avataras and get worshiped.) King Prthu, for example, was invested with the Lord's ability to rule; the Lord's literary abilities were invested in Srila Vyasadeva. Each of these incarnations – of the Lord Himself or of His power – has His or Her own special set of wondrous transcendental activities that go on forever and ever, which just multiplies the already mind-boggling abundance of subject matter. In Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.3.26, the ceaseless appearance of the Lord in multifarious glorious incarnations to the different species of life in all the numberless material universes is likened to the endless flow of waterfalls. How then can His appearances and activities even be counted, much less described?

Still, in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, a condensed list of some of the most important incarnations of the Lord and a brief summary of His activities in each of these appearances is given. Then finally, at the end, it is said: ete camsa-kala pumsah krsnas tu bhagavan svayam – “All these others are His portions and portions of portions, but Sri Krsna is Bhagavan Himself.” So although the Lord has unlimited avataras exhibiting various levels of His opulences, His original and all-inclusive form, endowed with cent percent of all existing opulences, is Sri Gopal Krsna – the transcendentally charming prince of cowherds. In that original form He is the Rasaraja, or the fountainhead and enjoyer of all loving relationship moods and flavors. The well-known one of His being the master and others being His servants is also present in Him like it is in all forms of the Lord (i.e. there are some souls whose eternal constitutional position is to serve their Lord Gopal Krsna with reverence), but in addition to that, Sri Krsna exhibits more intimate relationships such as close informal friendship (as if between equals) with His incalculably fortunate cowherd-boy companions, the sweet and tender child-parent relationship between Him and those devotees who have a strongly protective mood toward Him, and conjugal relationships with those who have an intense romantic attraction toward Him. ALL the forms of the Lord are included within Him. He's the most complete and irresistibly attractive form of God.

But He also likes to take other forms according to the special tastes that various devotees of His yearn to enjoy. Some of His devotees appreciate the flavor of His pastimes as Lord Ramacandra most of all; some long to behold Him as peaceful four-armed Narayana, adorable Vamanadeva, or thrillingly ferocious Nrsimhadeva. Just like an actor who is the same person no matter what costume he may appear in, in each one of these eternal forms (which each have their own particular sets of associates, pastimes, and purifying holy names based thereupon), He is still the same HARI. And in each one of these unlimited varieties of forms, Lord Hari presides over a designated eternal, self-effulgent Vaikuntha planet within the spiritual sky, populated with all those never-endingly blissful spirit souls who find it their natural propensity to serve Him in that particular form of His. Goloka Vrndavana (where Sri Gopal Krsna resides) and Navadvipa-dhama (the realm of Lord Caitanya) are His topmost holy abodes, followed by Mathura-dhama, Dvaraka-dhama, and Ayodhya-dhama. Beneath these, all the other brilliant Vaikuntha planets spread out limitlessly.

The narrations of the names, pastimes and qualities of all the forms of the Lord and His devoted servants, besides being very interesting, are so purifying that in a very short time of hearing offenselessly, we will begin to experience our natural state of intoxicatingly sweet attraction to Him, and corresponding fearlessness of this world. Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.31.9 (the famous tava kathamrtam verse from the songs of the gopis) was translated by Srila Prabhupada as follows in Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya 14.13:

“My Lord, the nectar of Your words and the descriptions of Your activities are the life and soul of those who are always aggrieved in this material world. These narrations are transmitted by exalted personalities, and they eradicate all sinful reactions. Whoever hears these narrations attains all good fortune. These narrations are broadcast all over the world and are filled with spiritual power. Those who spread the message of Godhead are certainly the most munificent welfare workers.”

All glory to the Supreme Lord and His associates for enacting all these nectarean pastimes! All glory to the bhurida janah, those most munificent welfare workers who broadcast the topics of Lord Hari and His devotees! And all glory to the punya-sravana-kirtanah, the hearing and chanting of that purifying subject matter!

Param vijayate sri-krsna-sankirtanam! 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

What Do Hare Krishnas Believe? Part 9: The Nature of God (8) and the Path of Bhakti

Just as fire cannot be separated from its heat and light, so Krsna and His energies are in a sense nondifferent. Still, His energies spread outward from Him and conduct the business of all the universes on His behalf. In this way, Krsna is simultaneously all-pervading and separate from Creation, as He says in Srimad Bhagavad-gita chapter 9, text 4.

This verse and purport explain why, although the Lord is present everywhere, still – in particular for those of us who have not yet regained our original purity of love for Him – the chance to encounter Him in person is a very rare and special thing indeed. He is both immanent and transcendent; but until we link ourselves up with Him in loving relationship again, we will not experience His immanence, only His transcendence. This is our own choice. Although our relationship with Him is fundamental to our very being and can never really be forsaken, if in our past or present lives we have developed the desire to forsake it, He does His best to facilitate our freedom of choice by allowing us to be covered with a thick layer of illusion so that we are unable to perceive Him anymore and will thus feel free to act as though He doesn't exist. If after ignoring Him in this way for many lifetimes, we begin to show some interest in reviving our relationship with Him, He is very glad; but it usually takes quite some time before the coverings of illusion are all washed away and we begin to actually perceive Him again. Once we do, the sweetness we experience knows no bounds. The analogy of a patient recovering from jaundice is given, because a traditional cure for the condition was to administer sugar, but to a jaundice patient this sugar would taste bitter. After taking it for some time, the patient would begin to be able to taste its sweetness, and eventually the full sweetness of the sugar could be perceived. Similarly, the process of uncovering our natural love for Krsna (and simultaneously, synonymously detaching our minds from selfish sense pleasures) takes faith, patience, and dedication. He wants to see how sincere and determined we really are. But if we prove ourselves, we can become liberated, fearless and intoxicated with joy even while still living within our material bodies.

Here are three verses from the Srimad-Bhagavatam with translations and purports by HH Hrdayananda dasa Gosvami (a prominent disciple of Srila Prabhupada) that are very interesting and relevant to this subject: SB 11.2.41, SB 11.2.42, SB 11.2.43.

At the end of the first paragraph in the first of these three purports, it is briefly mentioned that we should see the personal form of Krsna everywhere. That is the most advanced stage of seeing Krsna everywhere. Instead of simply viewing the world with the consciousness that everything is connected to Krsna and therefore being reminded of Him at all times, feeling safe, secure and happy, and feeling eager to engage everything in His service, all of which is quite wonderful enough, in the most advanced stage we actually see His personal form everywhere. But the stage of being able to constantly see Lord Krsna's personal form takes persistence to reach, as Sri Narada experienced in this story from the Bhagavatam.

Krsna is sva-rat, completely independent. Since He's self-sufficient, not in need of begging anything from us, we have no power over Him (at least not at present!) and therefore can't expect Him to make Himself visible to us whenever we want. Even if we call out to Him for a long time with what feels to us like love, He may see some faults in our love that we are not yet able to detect, and if those faults are hurtful enough to fall in the category of “offenses,” He will most likely not feel any obligation to show up. What to speak of if we don't even try to call out to Him with humility and love! That is why it's such a rare and amazing thing to have the chance to meet God. Prince Dhruva, a disciple of Narada who also performed austerities in the forest as a young boy – but with a material goal in mind – said when Lord Visnu decided to appear before him that he felt like he'd been searching for some broken glass and had found instead a priceless jewel.

Of course, if we are really sincere and serious about cleaning off our material coverings and letting the brightness of our original love for Krsna shine, and if we therefore find a spiritual master who can help and guide us in discovering and clearing out of our heart any nasty elements that may still be mixed with our love for Krsna, then sooner or later we'll get to the stage where our love is so beautiful, flawless, holy, perfect, powerful and pure that even the Independent, Self-Satisfied Supreme Person, Lord Sri Krsna, will find it irresistible. The personified form of this type of love is Srimati Radharani, the hladini-sakti or bliss potency of Krsna. One pastime described in this regard concerns a certain occasion when Krsna tried to hide from Srimati Radharani and Her cowherd-damsel (gopi) girlfriends by assuming the form of Lord Narayana, who has four arms. When the gopis found that form of Lord Narayana, they prayed to Him to please help them find Their own beloved form of the Lord – beautiful two-handed Krsna. But all Srimati Radharani had to do was come near, and in the presence of the overwhelming strength of Her love for Krsna, He found Himself unable to remain hidden any more. His extra two arms disappeared and there He was, revealed to all the gopis as Their Krsna. Srimati Radharani is also known as Madana-mohana-mohini because although Krsna is so gorgeous and attractive that He bewilders and enchants Cupid himself (Madana), what to speak of the rest of the living entities in existence – this all-attractive Krsna is Himself bewildered and enchanted by Srimati Radharani. By humbly and offenselessly praying to Her for help in clearing our hearts of filthy matter, becoming pleasing to Krsna, and obtaining the opportunity to be engaged in His service (and any sincere prayer is wonderful, but one extremely helpful way of praying like this is chanting the maha-mantra – Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare / Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, which is composed entirely of the names of Radha and Krsna) – She, who is most soft-hearted and compassionate, will quickly be pleased to bestow Her mercy upon us, and if we continue carefully upon this path of bhakti, we will get to the stage where Sri Krsna will be so eager to accept anything we offer Him because of the love that we and our offerings are drenched with that He will even eat our banana peels, or ultimately (in an extreme example) He might start grabbing offerings forcefully before we have even officially begun offering them to Him!! :)

(Another wonderful telling of the story of Suklambara Brahmacari can be found one-third of the way down this page.)

To be continued...