Newsletter by Krishna Kshetra Swami, Issue #15 – July 11th, 2020
THE HIDDEN LORD, REVEALING HIMSELF
The appearance of the Lord… This day is more than auspicious. The word ‘appearance’, at least in English, can sometimes mean something that is less real. Krishna’s appearance is however more real than anything.
Let’s start with Krishna’s disappearance. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam, First Canto, we meet Krishna, but as He is just preparing to leave the world. Then we hear about devotees lamenting about it. After that another eight cantoes come, preparing for Krishna’s appearance. These eight cantoes narrate about the appearances of many avataras of the Lord.
Avatara means one who descends, crosses down. All avataras facilitate our “crossing up” from this world to the spiritual world. Srila Prabhupada always said: “Krishna is so kind,” and His kindness is demonstrated by His appearance in this world in so many forms—forms that suit any occasion, forms to prepare us for the major appearance, the “star of the show,” Krishna Himself.
There are wonderful forms. A tortoise, who comes for a very particular reason of scratching His itching back and who involves in this arrangement the whole universe. Varahadeva, who appears in a most wonderful way, from a nostril of Brahma… Nrisimhadeva, who appears after making an arrangement of the whole universe being terrorized. Or Vamana, this cute dwarf, charming little boy, who begs for just three steps of land and then expands Himself to cover the entire universe. Then Parashurama, who goes around with an axe, killing kshatriyas again and again. And then in the Ninth Canto appears Rama.
We are getting closer to Krishna. Rama is in some ways like Krishna and yet different from Him. Is Rama the same as Krishna? Yes, He has a human form, He is certainly human, as Krishna also certainly is. Again, this word “appearance”. Does it mean that Rama and Krishna are not really human? Or does it mean that they are more human than we are? Any resemblance of ourselves to them is just that. We are semblances, resemblances of Krishna or Rama.
And then Krishna appears. He rises like the sun. We say, the sun is rising, but we know that is not true. We know that the earth is just moving. The sun is always there. And in a similar way we know that the Lord is always there and He makes Himself visible to us. Sometimes He makes this appearance to bless the whole world.
The Lord’s appearance appears to be a sort of birth. What sort of birth is it? Like ours? There is this account, the birth-story, that is described in Canto Ten of Srimad-Bhagavatam. We all know this story about these very difficult circumstances of Vasudeva and Devaki. We know this painful story of six children born and murdered one after another by Kamsa, as we know the story of the transfer of the eighth child. The whole arrangement looked like a game of a trickster and Kamsa had to watch very carefully, but still he missed his target.
The Lord appears at a wonderful auspicious time. It turns out there is not one story of the appearance of Krishna, but two. It was already complicated and it gets even more complicated. Krishna says to Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gita: “If someone understands My janma and My karma, then for him there is no more birth.” We can tell the story of Krishna’s appearance as we read it in the Bhagavatam and hear it from the acaryas, but does it mean that we understand the truth about His appearance, His activities?
In the second story Krishna is the son of Nanda and Yasoda and not of Devaki and Vasudeva. It is said that Mother Yasoda gave birth to twins that same night, while she was not aware of it. What happened? We know that by a special arrangement Vasudeva brings Vāsudeva over the Yamuna to the house of Nanda Maharaja. Does he see the twins, a baby boy and baby girl? No. He only sees the baby girl. And mother Yasoda also does not see the baby boy. But Vāsudeva sees the baby boy and enters his—Krishna’s—body, which explains many things. It is possible now for Krishna, who does not disturb Himself with the nasty business of killing demons, to do all this. It will be Vāsudeva who will do it. Why so complicated? Because Krishna likes it this way! He likes to do things secretly. And much later, having apparently left Vrindavan He actually secretly never leaves…
The whole story of Krishna is one of appearing and disappearing, which is the cause of a great anxiety for devotees. Anxiety that He comes and that He seems to depart. Because when He comes, will we properly, sufficiently and adequately welcome Him? And when He goes what will we do? That was the problem of the residents of Vrindavan. And Rupa Goswami said: “Krishna did not leave.” Tell this to the gopis!…
Krishna eats from sacrifices… But this is not Krishna, this is Vishnu. Krishna appears in Vrindavan. No, He does not appear in Vrindavan. Krishna leaves Vrindavan. No, He does not leave Vrindavan… It is all very complicated, and why would we care, is it one way or another? Who is this Krishna actually?
When Krishna comes to rescue His father in the kingdom of Varuna, Nanda Maharaja is amazed by the reverential welcome Krishna receives there. He is treated like some kind of… god. He must be Bhagavan, Narayana… The rumor flies around Vrindavan: “We have Narayana amongst us!” But because Krishna is so sweet, everybody again forgets about it. Everybody is in illusion, including the cowherd boys. Krishna even shows them His own abode, He reveals Himself. That is the point I want to make. He is the hidden Lord, revealing Himself more and more.
There is some idea of God in all cultures. It is a kind of position, a sort of office, like the president of a country. Just like the positions of the demigods. For example, Indra is a position. We think of a position as a person. For this very reason we come to this world. Because we have an idea that we could take the position of God. And of course, Krishna agrees: “Okay, we will make you a little god.” Because one of His opulences is that He is completely renounced. And one thing He is especially renounced of is of the idea of being God. Because that position depersonalizes. He wants to remove Himself from that position. And that is why He appears in Vrindavan as Krishna. Another way to put it: Krishna is the most powerful who defeats all others, but He wants a different experience, something else. He wants to be defeated! He wants to be defeated by love.
After He reveals Himself and His abode to the gopas He goes to Mathura where the climactic moment of Krishna’s life is about to happen. He and Balarama have been invited. The stage is made, everybody is there. The brothers walk into the middle of the arena. Krishna is seen differently by everybody: as a thunderbolt and lightning by the wrestlers, as the best of all by ordinary people, as the most beautiful by the women, and so on. Krishna is seen as death by Kamsa and He reciprocates. “You see me as death? This can be arranged! It will not take long!” Kamsa doesn’t even notice what happens, Krishna has enough of Kamsa’s madness, so He smashes Kamsa’s head. Was that Krishna or Vasudeva? Does it matter? Not for devotees. We are simply glad that Kamsa is dead. Kamsa embodies the fear that keeps us away from pure devotion. Kamsa is fear. We are all in the grip of it. Krishna comes to destroy fear in our hearts so He can reside there peacefully.
—From the Janmastami lecture by Krishna Kshetra Swami in Warsaw, Poland, on August 15th, 2017.