Beauty in Kṛṣṇa’s Presence
tvat-padair aṅkitā bhāti
O Gadādhara [Kṛṣṇa], our kingdom is now being marked by the impressions of Your feet, and therefore it appears beautiful. But when You leave, it will no longer be so.
There are certain particular marks on the feet of the Lord which distinguish the Lord from others. The marks of a flag, thunderbolt, and instrument to drive an elephant, and also an umbrella, lotus, disc, etc., are on the bottom of the Lord’s feet. These marks are impressed upon the soft dust of the land where the Lord traverses. The land of Hastināpura was thus marked while Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa was there with the Pāṇḍavas, and the kingdom of the Pāṇḍavas thus flourished by such auspicious signs. Kuntīdevī points out these distinguished features and is afraid of ill luck in the absence of the Lord.
In the cāṇakya-śloka, the instructions of the great moralist Cāṇakya Paṇḍita, there is this very nice verse:
nārīṇāṁ bhūṣaṇaṁ patiḥ
vidyā sarvasya bhūṣaṇam
Everything looks beautiful when one is intimately related with it. The sky, for example, becomes beautiful in relationship with the moon. The sky is always present, but on the full-moon night, when the moon and stars shine brilliantly, it looks very nice. Similarly, the state looks very well if there is a good government, with a good king or president. Then everyone is happy, and everything goes on well. Also, although girls are naturally beautiful, a girl looks especially beautiful when she has a husband. Vidyā sarvasya bhūṣaṇam: but if a person, however ugly, is a learned scholar, that is his beauty. Similarly, everything will look beautiful when Kṛṣṇa is present.
Therefore Kuntīdevī thinks, “As long as Kṛṣṇa is with us, everything in our kingdom and our capital, Hastināpura, is beautiful. But when Kṛṣṇa is absent our kingdom will not be beautiful.” She says, “Kṛṣṇa, You are now walking in our kingdom, and the impressions of Your footprints are making everything beautiful. There is sufficient water and fruit, and everything looks beautiful, but when You leave us it will not look beautiful.”
It is not that this applied only when Kṛṣṇa was present and Kuntī was speaking. Rather, the truth is always the same. Despite the advancement of our civilization, if we cannot bring Kṛṣṇa and Kṛṣṇa consciousness into the center of everything, our civilization will never become beautiful. Those who have joined the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement were beautiful before they joined, but now that they have become Kṛṣṇa conscious they look especially beautiful. Therefore the newspapers often describe the devotees as “bright-faced.” Their countrymen remark, “How joyful and beautiful these boys and girls have become.” At the present time in America, many of the younger generation are confused and hopeless, and therefore they appear morose and black-faced. Why? Because they are missing the point; they have no aim in life. But the devotees, the Kṛṣṇaites, look very beautiful because of the presence of Kṛṣṇa.
Therefore, what was a fact five thousand years ago, during the time of the Pāṇḍavas, is still a fact now. With Kṛṣṇa in the center, everything becomes beautiful, and Kṛṣṇa can become the center at any time. Kṛṣṇa is always present, and we simply have to invite Him, “My Lord, please come and be in the center.” That’s all. To give the same example I have given before, zero has no value, but if we bring the number one and place it by the side of zero, the zero becomes ten. So one need not stop whatever one is doing. We never say, “Stop everything material.” One simply has to add Kṛṣṇa.
Of course, we have to give up anything which is against Kṛṣṇa consciousness. It is not that because we do not stop material duties, we should not stop meat-eating. We must stop it, for this is contrary to advancement in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. One cannot commit sinful activities and at the same time advance in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. But Kṛṣṇa says, aham tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo mokṣayiṣyāmi: “Surrender unto Me, and I shall rescue you by giving you liberation from all kinds of sinful reactions.”
Every one of us, life after life, is knowingly or unknowingly committing sinful activities. I may knowingly kill an animal, and that is certainly sinful, but even if I do it unknowingly, it is also sinful. While walking on the street we unknowingly kill so many ants, and in the course of our other ordinary dealings – while cooking, while taking water, while using a mortar and pestle to crush spices – we kill so many living beings. Unless we remain Kṛṣṇa conscious, we are liable to be punished for all these unknowingly committed sinful acts.
If a child unknowingly touches fire, does it mean that the fire will excuse the child and not burn? No. Nature’s law is so strict, so stringent, that there is no question of an excuse. Even in ordinary law, ignorance is no excuse. If we go to court and say, “I did not know that this action was criminal,” this plea does not mean that we shall be excused. Similarly, ignorance is no excuse for transgressing nature’s laws. Therefore, if we actually want to be free from the reactions of sinful life, we must be Kṛṣṇa conscious, for then Kṛṣṇa will free us from all sinful reactions. It is therefore recommended, kīrtanīyaḥ sadā hariḥ – one should always chant Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare / Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare, so that Kṛṣṇa will save us.
We should always keep Kṛṣṇa within our minds, for Kṛṣṇa is like the sun. This is the motto of our Back to Godhead magazine:
yāhāṅ kṛṣṇa, tāhāṅ nāhi māyāra adhikāra
(Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 22.31)
Kṛṣṇa is just like the brilliant sun, and māyā, ignorance, is just like darkness. When the sun is present, there cannot be darkness. So if we keep ourselves in Kṛṣṇa consciousness always, we cannot be influenced by the darkness of ignorance; rather, we shall always walk very freely in the bright sunshine of Kṛṣṇa. Kuntīdevī therefore prays that Kṛṣṇa continue to be present with her and the Pāṇḍavas.
In fact, however, Kṛṣṇa was not leaving the Pāṇḍavas, just as He never left Vṛndāvana. In the śāstra, the Vedic literature, it is said, vṛndāvanaṁ parityajya padam ekaṁ na gacchati: Kṛṣṇa never goes even one step from Vṛndāvana. He is so much attached to Vṛndāvana. How is it, then, that we see that Kṛṣṇa left Vṛndāvana and went to Mathurā and then far away to Hastināpura and did not return for many years? Actually, Kṛṣṇa did not leave, for all the inhabitants of Vṛndāvana, after Kṛṣṇa left, were always thinking of Him and crying. The only engagement of mother Yaśodā, Nanda Mahārāja, Rādhārāṇī, and all the gopīs, cows, calves, and cowherd boys was to think of Kṛṣṇa and cry, and in this way they felt Kṛṣṇa to be present, because Kṛṣṇa’s presence can be felt more strongly in separation from Him. That is Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s teaching: to love Kṛṣṇa in separation. Śūnyāyitaṁ jagat sarvaṁ govinda-viraheṇa me. Caitanya Mahāprabhu thought, “Everything is vacant without Govinda, without Kṛṣṇa.” Everything was vacant, but Kṛṣṇa consciousness was there.
When we see everything as nothing, but have only Kṛṣṇa consciousness, we shall have attained the highest perfection. Therefore the gopīs are so exalted. Having attained this perfection, they could not forget Kṛṣṇa even for a single moment. When Kṛṣṇa went to the forest with His cows and calves, the minds of the gopīs at home were disturbed. “Oh, Kṛṣṇa is walking barefoot,” they thought. “There are so many stones and nails on the path, and they must be pricking Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet, which are so soft that we think our breasts hard when Kṛṣṇa puts His lotus feet upon them.” Thus they would cry, absorbed in these thoughts. The gopīs were so anxious to see Kṛṣṇa back home in the evening that they would stand on the path, looking to see Kṛṣṇa returning with His calves and cows. This is Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Kṛṣṇa cannot be absent from a devotee when the devotee is intensely absorbed in Kṛṣṇa thought. Here Kuntīdevī is very much anxious, thinking that Kṛṣṇa will be absent, but the actual effect of Kṛṣṇa’s physical absence is that He becomes more intensely present within the mind of the devotee. Therefore Caitanya Mahāprabhu, by the example of His actual life, taught vipralambha-sevā, service of Kṛṣṇa in separation. Tears would come from His eyes like torrents of rain, for He would feel everything to be vacant for want of Kṛṣṇa.
There are two stages of meeting Kṛṣṇa. Being personally present with Kṛṣṇa, personally meeting Him, personally talking with Him, and personally embracing Him is called sambhoga, but there is another way to be with Kṛṣṇa – in separation from Him – and this is called vipralambha. A devotee can benefit from Kṛṣṇa’s association in both ways.
Because we are now in the material world, we do not see Kṛṣṇa directly. Nonetheless, we can see Him indirectly. For example, if one sees the Pacific Ocean one can remember Kṛṣṇa immediately, if one is advanced in spiritual life. This is called meditation. One may think, “The Pacific Ocean is such a vast mass of water, with many large waves, but although I am standing only a few yards from it, I am confident that I am safe, however powerful this ocean may be and however fearful its waves. I am sure that it will not go beyond its limits. How is this happening? By the order of Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa orders, ‘My dear Pacific Ocean, you may be very big and powerful, but you cannot come beyond this line.’ ” In this way one can immediately remember Kṛṣṇa, or God, who is so powerful that even the Pacific Ocean abides by His order. In this way one can think of Kṛṣṇa, and that is Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Similarly, when one sees the sunrise one can immediately remember Kṛṣṇa, for Kṛṣṇa says in Bhagavad-gītā (7.8), prabhāsmi śaśi-sūryayoḥ: “I am the shining of the sun and the moon.” If one has learned how to see Kṛṣṇa, one can see Him in the sunshine. Our scientists have not created the sun, and although they may juggle words, it is beyond their ability to know what the sun actually is. But the Vedānta-sūtra (1.1.3) says, śāstra-yonitvāt: one can know everything through the śāstra, the Vedic literature. For example, if one studies the Vedic literature one can know what the sun is, for the sun is described in the Brahma-saṁhitā (5.52):
rājā samasta-sura-mūrtir aśeṣa-tejāḥ
yasyājñayā bhramati sambhṛta-kāla-cakro
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
This verse describes the sun as the eye of all the planets, and if one meditates upon this one can understand that this is a fact, for at night, before the sun rises, one cannot see. The sun is also described as the eye of the Lord. The sun is one of His eyes, and the moon is the other. In the Upaniṣads, therefore, it is said that only when Kṛṣṇa sees can we see. The sun is also described as aśeṣa-tejāḥ, unlimitedly hot. And what is its function? Yasyājñayā bhramati sambhṛta-kāla-cakraḥ. The sun has its orbit. God has ordered the sun, “You just travel within this orbit, and not anywhere else.” The scientists say that if the sun were to move a little to one side the whole universe would be ablaze, and if it moved to the other side the whole universe would freeze. But by the order of the Supreme it does not move even one ten-thousandth of an inch from where it should be. It always rises exactly at the correct time. Why? There must be some discipline, some obedience, some order. The Brahma-saṁhitā therefore says, yasyājñayā bhramati sambhṛta-kāla-cakro govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi: “I worship that original person, by whose order the sun moves in its orbit. It is He who gives direction even to the sun, the ocean, and the moon. Everything takes place under His order.”
So where is the difficulty in understanding God? There is no difficulty. If one is actually sane, if one has a brain that is not made of stool, one can understand God at every step. The Lord says:
śabdaḥ khe pauruṣaṁ nṛṣu
“O son of Kuntī [Arjuna], I am the taste of water, the light of the sun and the moon, the syllable oṁ in the Vedic mantras; I am the sound in ether and ability in man.” (Bhagavad-gītā 7.8) Why then do people say, “I have not seen God”? Why don’t they see God as God directs them to see Him? Why do they manufacture their own way? One cannot see God by one’s own way. That is not possible. If one tries to do so, one will always remain blind. At the present moment so-called philosophers and scientists are trying to see God in their own way, but that is not possible. One has to see God by God’s way. Then one can see Him. If I want to see the President of the United States, can I see him in my own way? If not, then how can I expect to see God in my own way? Is it not rascaldom? I cannot see even an ordinary man in an important position in my own way; I have to make an appointment with his secretary and make the other appropriate arrangements. But although God is so much greater than ordinary men, rascals support the view that one can see God in one’s own way. “As many ways as you invent,” they say, “they are all bona fide.” This is rascaldom. The world is full of rascals and fools, and therefore God consciousness, Kṛṣṇa consciousness, has become a vague idea. Otherwise, if one wants to see God, if one wants Him to be always present, as Kuntīdevī is requesting that He be, one can keep God always within one’s heart.
We simply have to apply our mind and senses in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, as done by Mahārāja Ambarīṣa. Sa vai manaḥ kṛṣṇa-padāravindayor vacāṁsi vaikuṇṭha-guṇānuvarṇane (Bhāgavatam 9.4.18). First we must fix our minds on the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa, for the mind is the center of all sensory activities. If the mind were absent, in spite of having eyes we could not see, and in spite of having ears we could not hear. Therefore the mind is considered the eleventh sense. There are ten senses – five working senses and five knowledge-acquiring senses, and the center of the senses is the mind. The Bhagavad-gītā (3.42) says:
indriyebhyaḥ paraṁ manaḥ
manasas tu parā buddhir
yo buddheḥ paratas tu saḥ
In this verse Kṛṣṇa explains that although we consider the senses to be very prominent, beyond the senses is something superior – the mind – beyond the mind is the intelligence, and beyond the intelligence is the soul.
How can we appreciate the existence of the soul if we cannot understand even the psychological movements of the mind? Beyond the mind is the intelligence, and by speculation one can at the utmost approach the intellectual platform. But to understand the soul and God, one must go beyond the intellectual platform. It is possible to understand everything, but we must gain understanding through the right channel. Therefore the Vedic injunction is:
samit-pāṇiḥ śrotriyaṁ brahma-niṣṭham
“If one is actually serious about understanding supernatural, transcendental subject matters, one must approach a bona fide spiritual master.” (Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad 1.2.12)