Lord Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma Meet the Inhabitants of Vṛndāvana
Once upon a time, while Lord Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma were living peacefully in Their great city of Dvārakā, there was the rare occasion of a full solar eclipse, such as takes place at the end of every kalpa, or day of Brahmā. At the end of every kalpa the sun is covered by a great cloud, and incessant rain covers the lower planetary systems up to Svargaloka. By astronomical calculation, people were informed about this great eclipse prior to its taking place, and therefore everyone, both men and women, decided to assemble at the holy place in Kurukṣetra known as Samanta-pañcaka.
The Samanta-pañcaka pilgrimage site is celebrated because Lord Paraśurāma performed great sacrifices there after killing all the kṣatriyas in the world twenty-one times. When Lord Paraśurāma killed all the kṣatriyas, their accumulated blood flowed like a stream. Lord Paraśurāma dug five big lakes at Samanta-pañcaka and filled them with this blood. Lord Paraśurāma is viṣṇu-tattva. As stated in the Īśopaniṣad, viṣṇu-tattva cannot be contaminated by any sinful activity. Yet although Lord Paraśurāma is fully powerful and uncontaminated, in order to exhibit ideal character He performed great sacrifices at Samanta-pañcaka to atone for His so-called sinful killing of the kṣatriyas. By His example, Lord Paraśurāma established that the killing art, although sometimes necessary, is not good. Lord Paraśurāma considered Himself culpable for the sinful killing of the kṣatriyas; therefore, how much more culpable are we for such abominable, unsanctioned acts! Thus, from time immemorial the killing of living entities is prohibited all over the world.
Taking advantage of the occasion of the solar eclipse, all important persons from all parts of Bhārata-varṣa visited the holy place of pilgrimage. Some of the important personalities are mentioned as follows. Among the elderly persons were Akrūra, Vasudeva and Ugrasena, and among the younger generation were Gada, Pradyumna, Sāmba and many other members of the Yadu dynasty who had come there with a view to atone for sinful activities accrued in the course of discharging their respective duties. Because almost all the members of the Yadu dynasty went to Kurukṣetra, some important personalities, like Aniruddha, the son of Pradyumna, and Kṛtavarmā, the commander in chief of the Yadu dynasty, along with Sucandra, Śuka and Sāraṇa, remained in Dvārakā to protect the city.
All the members of the Yadu dynasty were naturally very beautiful, yet on this occasion, when they appeared duly decorated with gold necklaces and flower garlands, dressed in valuable clothing and properly armed with their respective weapons, their natural beauty and personalities were a hundred times enhanced. The members of the Yadu dynasty came to Kurukṣetra in their gorgeously decorated chariots, which resembled the airplanes of the demigods and which were pulled by big horses that moved like the waves of the ocean. Some Yadus rode on sturdy, stalwart elephants that moved like the clouds in the sky. Their wives were carried on beautiful palanquins by beautiful men whose features resembled those of the Vidyādharas. The entire assembly looked as beautiful as an assembly of the demigods of heaven.
After arriving in Kurukṣetra, the members of the Yadu dynasty took their baths ceremoniously, with self-control, as enjoined in the śāstras, and they observed fasting for the whole period of the eclipse in order to nullify the reactions of their sinful activities. Since it is a Vedic custom to give in charity as much as possible during the hours of the eclipse, the members of the Yadu dynasty distributed many hundreds of cows in charity to the brāhmaṇas. All those cows were fully decorated with nice dress and ornaments. The special feature of these cows was that they had golden ankle bells and flower garlands on their necks.
After the eclipse, all the members of the Yadu dynasty again took their baths in the lakes created by Lord Paraśurāma. Then they sumptuously fed the brāhmaṇas with first-class cooked food, all prepared in butter. According to the Vedic system, there are two classes of food. One is called raw food, and the other is called cooked food. “Raw food” does not indicate raw vegetables and raw grains but food boiled in water, whereas cooked food is made in ghee. Capātīs, dāl, rice and ordinary vegetables are called raw foods, as are fruits and salads. But purīs, kachaurīs, samosās, sweet balls and so on are called cooked foods. All the brāhmaṇas invited on that occasion by the members of the Yadu dynasty were fed sumptuously with cooked food.
The ceremonial functions performed by the members of the Yadu dynasty externally resembled the ritualistic ceremonies performed by the karmīs. When a karmī performs some ritualistic ceremony, his ambition is sense gratification – good position, good wife, good house, good children or good wealth – but the ambition of the members of the Yadu dynasty was different. Their ambition was to offer Kṛṣṇa perpetual devotion with faith. All the members of the Yadu dynasty were great devotees. As such, after many births of accumulated pious activities, they were given the chance to associate with Lord Kṛṣṇa. In going to take their baths in the place of pilgrimage at Kurukṣetra, in observing the regulative principles during the solar eclipse, or in feeding the brāhmaṇas – in all their activities – they simply thought of devotion to Kṛṣṇa. Their ideal worshipable Lord was Kṛṣṇa, and no one else.
After the brāhmaṇas are fed, it is the custom for the host, with their permission, to accept prasādam. Thus, with the permission of the brāhmaṇas, all the members of the Yadu dynasty took lunch. Then they selected resting places underneath big shady trees, and when they had taken sufficient rest, they prepared to receive visitors, among whom were relatives and friends, as well as many subordinate kings and rulers. There were the rulers of Matsya Province, Uśīnara Province, Kośala Province, Vidarbha Province, Kuru Province, Sṛñjaya Province, Kāmboja Province, Kekaya Province, Madras Province, Kuntī Province, Ānarta Province, Kerala Province and many other countries and provinces. Some of the rulers belonged to opposing parties, and some were friends. But above all, the visitors from Vṛndāvana were most prominent. The residents of Vṛndāvana, headed by Nanda Mahārāja, had been living in great anxiety because of separation from Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma. Taking advantage of the solar eclipse, they all came to see their life and soul, Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma.
The inhabitants of Vṛndāvana were well-wishers and intimate friends of the Yadu dynasty. This meeting of the two parties after long separation was a very touching incident. All the Yadus and the residents of Vṛndāvana felt such great pleasure in meeting and talking together that it was a unique scene. Meeting after long separation, they were all jubilant; their hearts throbbed, and their faces appeared like freshly bloomed lotus flowers. Drops of tears fell from their eyes, the hair on their bodies stood on end, and because of their extreme ecstasy, they were temporarily speechless. In other words, they dove into the ocean of happiness.
While the men were meeting in that way, the women also met one another in the same manner. They embraced one another in great friendship, smiling very mildly, and looked at one another with much affection. When they were embracing one another in their arms, the saffron and kuṅkuma spread on their breasts was exchanged from one person to another, and they all felt heavenly ecstasy. Due to such heart-to-heart embracing, torrents of tears glided down their cheeks. The juniors were offering obeisances to the elders, and the elders were offering their blessings to the juniors. They thus welcomed one another and asked after one another’s welfare. Ultimately, however, all their talk was only of Kṛṣṇa. All the neighbors and relatives were connected with Lord Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes in this world, and as such Kṛṣṇa was the center of all their activities. Whatever activities they performed – social, political, religious or conventional – were transcendental.
The real elevation of human life rests on knowledge and renunciation. As stated in the First Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, devotional service rendered to Kṛṣṇa automatically produces perfect knowledge and renunciation. The family members of the Yadu dynasty and the cowherds of Vṛndāvana had their minds fixed on Kṛṣṇa. That is the symptom of perfect knowledge. And because their minds were always engaged in Kṛṣṇa, they were automatically freed from all material activities. This stage of life is called yukta-vairāgya, as enunciated by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī. Knowledge and renunciation, therefore, do not mean dry speculation and renunciation of activities. Rather, one must start speaking and acting only in relationship with Kṛṣṇa.
In this meeting at Kurukṣetra, Kuntīdevī and Vasudeva, who were sister and brother, met after a long separation, along with their respective sons and daughters-in-law, children and other family members. By talking among themselves, they soon forgot all their past miseries. Kuntīdevī especially addressed her brother Vasudeva as follows: “My dear brother, I am very unfortunate because not one of my desires has ever been fulfilled; otherwise how could it happen that although I have such a saintly brother as you, perfect in all respects, you did not inquire from me as to how I was passing my days in a distressed condition of life?” It appears that Kuntīdevī was remembering the miserable days when she had been banished with her sons through the mischievous plans of Dhṛtarāṣṭra and Duryodhana. She continued, “My dear brother, I can understand that when providence goes against someone, even one’s nearest relatives forget him. In such a condition, even one’s father, one’s mother or one’s own children will forget him. Therefore, my dear brother, I do not accuse you.”
Vasudeva replied to his sister, “My dear sister, do not be sorry, and do not blame me in that way. We should always remember that we are all only toys in the hands of providence. Everyone is under the control of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is under His control only that all kinds of fruitive actions and their reactions take place. My dear sister, you know that we were very much harassed by King Kaṁsa, and by his persecutions we were scattered here and there. We were always full of anxieties. Only in the last few days have we returned to our own places, by the grace of God.”
After this conversation, Vasudeva and Ugrasena received the kings who came to see them, and they warmly welcomed them all. Seeing Lord Kṛṣṇa present on the spot, all the visitors felt transcendental pleasure and became very peaceful. Some of the prominent visitors were as follows: Bhīṣmadeva, Droṇācārya, Dhṛtarāṣṭra, Duryodhana, Gāndhārī along with her sons, King Yudhiṣṭhira along with his wife, and the Pāṇḍavas along with Kuntī, as well as Sañjaya, Vidura, Kṛpācārya, Kuntībhoja, Virāṭa, Bhīṣmaka, King Nagnajit, Purujit, Drupada, Śalya, Dhṛṣṭaketu, the king of Kāśī, Damaghoṣa, Viśālākṣa, the king of Mithilā, the king of Madras (formerly known as Madra), the king of Kekaya, Yudhāmanyu, Suśarmā, Bāhlika along with his sons, and many other rulers subordinate to King Yudhiṣṭhira.
When the visitors saw Lord Kṛṣṇa with His thousands of queens, they were fully satisfied at the sight of such beauty and transcendental opulence. All who were there personally visited Lord Balarāma and Kṛṣṇa, and being properly welcomed by Them, they began to glorify the members of the Yadu dynasty, especially Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma. Because Ugrasena was the king of the Bhojas, he was considered the chief Yadu, and therefore the visitors specifically addressed him: “Your Majesty Ugrasena, king of the Bhojas, factually the Yadus are the only persons within this world who are perfect in all respects. All glories unto you! All glories unto you! The specific condition of your perfection is that you always see Lord Kṛṣṇa, who is sought by many mystic yogīs undergoing severe austerities and penances for great numbers of years. All of you are in direct touch with Lord Kṛṣṇa at every moment.
“All the Vedic hymns glorify the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa. The Ganges water is considered sanctified because of its being the water used to wash the lotus feet of Lord Kṛṣṇa. The Vedic literatures are nothing but the injunctions of Lord Kṛṣṇa. The purpose of the study of all the Vedas is to know Kṛṣṇa; therefore, the words of Kṛṣṇa and the message of His pastimes are always purifying. By the influence of time and circumstances, all the opulences of this world were almost completely wiped out, but since Kṛṣṇa has appeared on this planet, all auspicious features have again appeared due to the touch of His lotus feet. Because of His presence, all our ambitions and desires are gradually being fulfilled. Your Majesty, king of the Bhojas, you are related with the Yadu dynasty by matrimonial relationship, and by blood relationship also. As a result, you are constantly associating with Lord Kṛṣṇa, and you have no difficulty in seeing Him or touching Him at any time. Lord Kṛṣṇa moves with you, talks with you, sits with you, rests with you and dines with you. The Yadus appear to be always engaged in worldly affairs, which are considered to be the royal road to hell, but due to the presence of Lord Kṛṣṇa, the original Personality of Godhead in the Viṣṇu category, who is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent, all of you are factually relieved from all material contamination and are situated in the transcendental position of liberation and Brahman existence.”
When Nanda Mahārāja and the other residents of Vṛndāvana had heard that Kṛṣṇa would be present in Kurukṣetra because of the solar eclipse and that all the members of the Yadu dynasty would also be there, they had immediately prepared to go there. King Nanda, accompanied by his cowherd men, had loaded all their necessary paraphernalia on bullock carts, and all of the Vṛndāvana residents had come to Kurukṣetra to see their beloved sons Lord Balarāma and Lord Kṛṣṇa. When the cowherd men of Vṛndāvana arrived in Kurukṣetra, all the members of the Yadu dynasty were most pleased. As soon as they saw the residents of Vṛndāvana, they stood up to welcome them and appeared to have regained their life. All the Yadus and Vṛndāvana residents had been very eager to meet, and when they actually came forward and met, they embraced one another to their hearts’ satisfaction and remained in embrace for a considerable time.
As soon as Vasudeva saw Nanda Mahārāja, Vasudeva jumped up and ran over to him and embraced him very affectionately. Vasudeva began to narrate his own past history – how he had been imprisoned by King Kaṁsa, how his babies had been killed, how immediately after Kṛṣṇa’s birth he had carried Kṛṣṇa to the place of Nanda Mahārāja, and how Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma had been raised by Nanda Mahārāja and his queen, Yaśodā, as their own children. Similarly, Lord Balarāma and Kṛṣṇa also embraced King Nanda and Mother Yaśodā, and then They offered Their respect unto their lotus feet by bowing down. Because of Their feeling affection for Nanda and Yaśodā, Lord Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma became choked up, and for a few seconds They could not speak. The most fortunate King Nanda and Mother Yaśodā placed their sons on their laps and began to embrace Them to their full satisfaction. Because of separation from Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma, King Nanda and Yaśodā had been merged in great distress for a very long time. Now, after meeting Them and embracing Them, all their sufferings were mitigated.
Then Kṛṣṇa’s mother, Devakī, and Balarāma’s mother, Rohiṇī, both embraced Mother Yaśodā. They said, “Dear Queen Yaśodā-devī, you and Nanda Mahārāja have been great friends to us, and when we remember you we are immediately overwhelmed by the thought of your friendly activities. We are so indebted to you that even if we were to return your benediction by giving you the opulence of the king of heaven, it would not be enough to repay you for your friendly behavior. We shall never forget your kindly behavior toward us. When Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma were born, before They even saw Their real father and mother, They were entrusted to your care, and you raised Them as your own children, fostering Them as birds take care of their offspring in the nest. You have nicely fed, nourished and loved Them and have performed many auspicious religious ceremonies for Their benefit.
“Actually They are not our sons; They belong to you. Nanda Mahārāja and you are the real father and mother of Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma. As long as They were under your care They had not even a pinch of difficulty. Under your protection, They were completely out of the way of all kinds of fear. This most affectionate care which you have taken for Them is completely befitting your elevated position. The most noble personalities do not discriminate between their own sons and the sons of others, and there cannot be any personalities more noble than Nanda Mahārāja and you.”
As far as the gopīs of Vṛndāvana were concerned, from the very beginning of their lives they did not know anything beyond Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma were their life and soul. The gopīs were so attached to Kṛṣṇa that they could not tolerate not seeing Him even momentarily when their eyelids blinked and impeded their vision. They condemned Brahmā, the creator of the body, because he foolishly made eyelids which blinked and checked their seeing Kṛṣṇa. Because they had been separated from Kṛṣṇa for so many years, the gopīs, having come along with Nanda Mahārāja and Mother Yaśodā, felt intense ecstasy upon seeing Kṛṣṇa. No one can even imagine how eager the gopīs were to see Kṛṣṇa again. As soon as Kṛṣṇa became visible to them, they took Him inside their hearts through their eyes and embraced Him to their full satisfaction. Even though they were embracing Kṛṣṇa only mentally, they became so ecstatic and overwhelmed with joy that for the time being they completely forgot themselves. The ecstatic trance they achieved simply by mentally embracing Kṛṣṇa is impossible to achieve even for great yogīs constantly engaged in meditation on the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Kṛṣṇa could understand that the gopīs were rapt in ecstasy by embracing Him in their minds, and therefore, since He is present in everyone’s heart, He reciprocated the embracing from within.
Kṛṣṇa was sitting with Mother Yaśodā and His other mothers, Devakī and Rohiṇī, but when the mothers engaged in talking, He took the opportunity and went to a secluded place to meet the gopīs. As soon as He approached the gopīs, the Lord smiled, and after embracing them and inquiring about their welfare, He began to encourage them, saying, “My dear friends, you know that Lord Balarāma and I left Vṛndāvana just to please Our relatives and family members. Thus We were long engaged in fighting with Our enemies and were obliged to forget you, who were so much attached to Me in love and affection. I can understand that I have been ungrateful to you, but still I know that you are faithful to Me. May I inquire if you have been thinking of Us, although We had to leave you behind? My dear gopīs, do you now dislike remembering Me, considering Me to have been ungrateful to you? Do you take My misbehavior with you very seriously?
“After all, you should know that it was not My intention to leave you; our separation was ordained by Providence, who after all is the supreme controller and does as He desires. He causes the intermingling of different persons, and again disperses them as He desires. Sometimes we see that a strong wind will mingle together clouds, atomic particles of dust or broken pieces of cotton, and after the strong wind subsides, all the clouds, particles of dust and pieces of cotton are again separated, scattered in different places. Similarly, the Supreme Lord is the creator of everything. The objects we see are different manifestations of His energy. By His supreme will we are sometimes united and sometimes separated. We can therefore conclude that ultimately we are absolutely dependent on His will.
“Fortunately, you have developed loving affection for Me, which is the only way to achieve the transcendental position of association with Me. Any living entity who develops such unalloyed devotional affection for Me certainly at the end goes back home, back to Godhead. In other words, unalloyed devotional service and affection for Me are the cause of supreme liberation.
“My dear gopī friends, you may know from Me that it is My energies only which are acting everywhere. Take, for example, an earthen pot. It is nothing but a combination of earth, water, air, fire and sky. It is always of the same physical composition, whether in its beginning, during its existence or after its annihilation. When it is created, the earthen pot is made of earth, water, fire, air and sky, while it remains it is the same in composition, and when it is broken and annihilated its different ingredients are conserved in different parts of the material energy. Similarly, at the creation of this cosmic manifestation, during its maintenance and after its dissolution, everything is but a different manifestation of My energy. And because the energy is not separate from Me, it is to be concluded that I am existing in everything.
“In the same way, the body of a living being is nothing but a composition of the five elements, and the living entity embodied in the material condition is also part and parcel of Me. The living entity is imprisoned in the material condition on account of his false conception of himself as the supreme enjoyer. This false ego of the living entity is the cause of his imprisonment in material existence. As the Supreme Absolute Truth, I am transcendental to the living entity, as well as to his material embodiment. The two energies, material and spiritual, both act under My supreme control. My dear gopīs, I request that instead of being afflicted, you try to accept everything with a philosophical attitude. Then you will understand that you are always with Me and that there is no cause of lamentation in our being separated from one another.”
This important instruction by Lord Kṛṣṇa to the gopīs can be utilized by all devotees engaged in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The whole philosophy is considered on the basis of inconceivable, simultaneous oneness and difference. In the Bhagavad-gītā the Lord says that He is present everywhere in His impersonal feature. Everything exists in Him, but still He is not personally present everywhere. The cosmic manifestation is nothing but a display of Kṛṣṇa’s energy, and because the energy is not different from the energetic, nothing is different from Kṛṣṇa. When this absolute consciousness, Kṛṣṇa consciousness, is absent, we are separated from Kṛṣṇa; but, fortunately, if this Kṛṣṇa consciousness is present, then we are not separated from Kṛṣṇa. The process of devotional service is the revival of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, and if the devotee is fortunate enough to understand that the material energy is not separate from Kṛṣṇa, then he can utilize the material energy and its products in the service of the Lord. But in the absence of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, the forgetful living entity, although part and parcel of Kṛṣṇa, falsely puts himself in the position of enjoyer of the material world and, being thus implicated in material entanglement, is forced by the material energy to continue his material existence. This is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā. Although a living entity is forced to act by the material energy, he falsely thinks that he is the all in all and the supreme enjoyer.
If the devotee knows perfectly that the arcā-vigraha, or Deity form of Lord Kṛṣṇa in the temple, is exactly the same sac-cid-ānanda-vigraha as Kṛṣṇa Himself, then his service to the temple Deity becomes direct service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Similarly, the temple itself, the temple paraphernalia and the food offered to the Deity are also not separate from Kṛṣṇa. One has to follow the rules and regulations prescribed by the ācāryas, and thus, under superior guidance, Kṛṣṇa-realization is fully possible, even in this material existence.
The gopīs, having been instructed by Kṛṣṇa in this philosophy of simultaneous oneness and difference, remained always in Kṛṣṇa consciousness and thus became liberated from all material contamination. The consciousness of the living entity who falsely presents himself as the enjoyer of the material world is called jīva-kośa, which means imprisonment by the false ego. Not only the gopīs but anyone who follows these instructions of Kṛṣṇa is immediately freed from the jīva-kośa imprisonment. A person in full Kṛṣṇa consciousness is always liberated from false egoism; he utilizes everything for Kṛṣṇa’s service and is not at any time separated from Kṛṣṇa.
The gopīs therefore prayed to Kṛṣṇa, “Dear Kṛṣṇa, from Your navel emanated the original lotus flower, which is the birthsite of Brahmā, the creator. No one can estimate Your glories or Your opulence, which therefore remain always a mystery even to the highest thoughtful men, the masters of all yogic power. However, the conditioned soul fallen in the dark well of this material existence can very easily take shelter of Your lotus feet. Thus his deliverance is guaranteed.”
The gopīs continued, “Dear Kṛṣṇa, we are always busy in our family affairs. We therefore request that You remain within our hearts as the rising sun. That will be Your greatest benediction.” The gopīs are always liberated souls because they are fully in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. They only pretended to be entangled in household affairs in Vṛndāvana. Because of their separation from Kṛṣṇa, He might have asked them to return with Him to His capital city, Dvārakā. But the inhabitants of Vṛndāvana, the gopīs, were not interested in the idea of going with Kṛṣṇa to Dvārakā. They wanted to remain busy in Vṛndāvana and thus feel the presence of Kṛṣṇa in every step of their lives. They immediately invited Kṛṣṇa to come back to Vṛndāvana. This transcendental emotional existence of the gopīs is the basic principle of Lord Caitanya’s teaching. The Ratha-yātrā festival observed by Lord Caitanya is the emotional process of taking Kṛṣṇa back to Vṛndāvana. Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī refused to go with Kṛṣṇa to Dvārakā to enjoy His company in the atmosphere of royal opulence, for She wanted to enjoy His company in the original Vṛndāvana atmosphere. Lord Kṛṣṇa, being profoundly attached to the gopīs, never goes away from Vṛndāvana, and the gopīs and other residents of Vṛndāvana remain fully satisfied in Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Thus ends the Bhaktivedanta purport of the eighty-second chapter of Kṛṣṇa, “Lord Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma Meet the Inhabitants of Vṛndāvana.”