Newsletter by Krishna Kshetra Swami, Issue #7 – November 12th, 2019
We call Diwali or Dipavali the festival of light. It is always a joyful event, people wish each other happy Diwali. It is a universal experience that we prefer light to darkness. Many people regard Diwali as a Hindu festival, but it is also a human festival, a celebration of being human and coming into the light. In recent decades Diwali has spread to so many parts of the world. So, we are lighting up the world with this Diwali festival.
There are many associations with Diwali and especially the one with Lord Rama, with His return to Ayodhya. It is also associated with Bali Maharaja and his surrender to the Lord. And it is also associated with Lakshmi Devi. It is a time when you see many people make a very thorough cleaning of their home, and the idea is to invite Alakshmi to leave. Alakshmi is the sister of Lakshmi, who is the opposite of Lakshmi. Lakshmi is the goddess of fortune, Alakshmi is the goddess of misfortune. And then people will invite Lakshmi to come in and they will welcome Lakshmi with the idea that she would be pleased to stay in the house. Well, devotees of Lord Krishna know that Lakshmi belongs to Krishna, or specifically Narayana. If you want to keep Lakshmi in the house you worship Narayana. The idea is: make the home a temple of Lord Narayana and then Lakshmi will be very happy to stay. To try to have Lakshmi minus Narayana is a big problem. And that is the problem which Ravana faced.
Gradually we get into the story of Rama, which is described in its classical form in the work called Ramayana written by sage Valmiki in very ancient times in the Sanskrit language, but also known in so many other works, in so many other languages. They say the story of Rama is, of all epic stories in the world, the most famous. It is still not so much known here, in the West; it is becoming known, but it is very well-known all over Asia. Why is it so popular? This is an interesting question. I think it is because we are inspired of course by Rama, the character of Rama. Rama is the hero of the story of the Ramayana. He is sometimes called Ramacandra. Candra means moon. Rama is sometimes translated as the source of all joy, the source of all pleasure.
Rama and Sita are married in a wonderful festival when They are quite young. Rama is a prince, He is most handsome, most qualified in all imaginable ways, and He is loved by all of the citizens of the country of Ayodhya. So much loved that everyone is absolutely happy when King Dasaratha makes an announcement that he is now going to retire and is going to hand over the reins of government to his eldest son Rama. Everyone is happy except Manthara, an obscure person, the maidservant of one of the wives of Dasaratha, Kaikeyi. She persuades Kaikeyi to take an action such that not Rama, but her son Bharata would be crowned king. How? Many years before Dasaratha had made a promise to Kaikeyi that he will fulfill her two wishes, whatever she may wish. This was because she had saved his life on the battlefield. She exhibited great bravery in this act. At that time she said: “I will save these two wishes for later.” And now, the time has come, Manthara had persuaded her to demand the two wishes. What were her two wishes? Rama should be exiled to the forest for fourteen years and her son Bharata should be enthroned as the king. So, Kaikeyi was persuaded to insist and she does it. Dasaratha is broken-hearted, but he obeys, because he had made a promise. Nowadays, promises do not generally count for very much, nowadays things run on contract. You want to get something done, you sign a contract, and contracts are legally binding. Promises… Ah, what is a promise? Yeah, I said that yesterday, that was yesterday. In Vedic culture a promise, one’s word, had extreme value, extreme weight. When Rama hears this order, he is surprisingly undisturbed at this news. Rama is giving us an example of how to not be disturbed in moments of disturbance. And with a cheerful heart Rama leaves for the forest and He does not blame Kaikeyi, He continues to respect her as His stepmother. Everyone else is cursing her, but Rama does not. “Yes, this is the order of my father and so, I must obey.” It is another principle that is appreciated in the traditional Vedic culture, the idea of obedience. Obedience to the orders of a superior and in particular father and mother.
Rama was not planning to take Sita to the forest. The forest is a dangerous place. But she insisted: “I cannot be anywhere without my husband,” and went with Him, and the great demon of Lanka took her away. An interesting point to consider here is the difference between Ravana’s understanding of who is Sita and Rama’s understanding. Rama considered Sita His responsibility. Sita had been entrusted to Him by Sita’s father Janaka and so He took her as His care to be protected. As circumstances happened He was not able to protect her and therefore He felt absolutely that it is His duty to rescue her, to find her and bring her back. Ravana on the other side, was considering Sita as Rama’s property. Ravana was envious, he wanted to have the property of Rama. He was always thinking in such impersonal terms of her, simply as property. Well, of course he never is able to possess the so-called “property” of Rama because Sita is entirely faithful to Rama. All the relatives and friends of Ravana try to persuade him that what he has done is not good. He has stolen Sita, and the only possible result of this can be his own destruction. This is another lesson: when everyone is trying to tell us something, give us good advice, maybe we should listen. It just might be that actually Krishna is trying to tell us something. Ravana was deaf, he had big earplugs in his ears, he could not listen, just could not accept. And he had to learn his lesson the hard way.
Rama had the help of His wonderful friend Hanuman. Hanuman is a vanara, sometimes he is referred to as a monkey. He was certainly a special creature, with very special powers and very special talents. One of his powers was expanding himself into a huge size and then shrinking himself to a tiny size. His talents included special expertise in language. In due course, it is Hanuman who finds Sita, giving Rama the knowledge where He needs to go. Eventually Rama is able to enter the kingdom of Ravana called Lanka with his army. He had the entire army of vanaras, also bears. Just imagine fighting vanaras and bears, all very angry, and there were millions of them. So, there is a fight and eventually Rama faces Ravana directly with His arrow, He shoots and He pierces the chest of Ravana, right in his heart, and Ravana falls. That is the end of Ravana and that is the beginning of the end of the story of Rama, the victory of Rama which will lead then to Rama’s return home after fourteen years in a great victory reception.
It is described that Lord Rama comes in a flower airplane descending into the city of Ayodhya. Apparently, it was at night time, because the way was lit for His reception and this is the connection with the festival of Diwali, so many lights are there to light the way for Rama. You could ask why would Rama, being the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Supreme Lord, all powerful, all knowing, and also shining, need some little lamps to light His way? Well, He did not need but He accepted it as a devotional offering and that is the spirit in which the devotees make their offerings of lamps as we made this evening. In the Bhagavad-gita Krishna, who is the same as Rama, makes an interesting statement about light. He says: “Out of compassion for those who are striving, who are suffering in this world but striving to come to the light of spiritual knowledge, I destroy with the shining lamp of knowledge the darkness which is born of ignorance, which is in the heart. I am in the heart of all living beings but alas, I am covered, people do not see Me, they do not recognize Me. And therefore, everyone is living in darkness.”
So, spiritual life is about getting out of darkness and coming to the light of spiritual knowledge. Knowledge of ourselves, the I, which we so often refer to as the gross body—which is going to die one day. The I, the self, is not even my opinion, it is not my reputation, it is not any of these things. It is an eternal spirit spark which is eternally associated with the Supreme person, the Lord who is known as Rama, who is known as Krishna, who is also known by so many other names in the world and whose names we call out as our way of offering ourselves to Him.
Therefore, we chant these names and we go on chanting and we go on chanting, praying: “Krishna, Rama, Hari, Hara, please engage me in Your service. Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare/ Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.” So, in the Vedas it is said: tamasi ma jyotir gamaya. In the darkness, do not be there, go to the light!
So, this festival of Diwali is remembrance, this is what human life is for, it is for going to the light. Hare Krishna! Happy Diwali!
—From a lecture by Krishna Kshetra Swami in Radhadesh, Belgium in October 2016
Appearance of Govardhana Hill
In Goloka where Lord Kṛṣṇa is present with all His associates, where Lord Kṛṣṇa is together with Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, Rādhā expresses a particular wish to Kṛṣṇa. She says, “What I would like is that You create some very nice place where We can dance, where we can have pastimes together. This should be next to the forest of Vṛndāvana, next to the river Yamunā.” And Kṛṣṇa immediately sat to perform meditation. Kṛṣṇa is the original yogī, He is known as Yogeśvara. He closed His eyes and went into meditation and then out of meditation came a very special substance from His heart. The substance was neither water nor fire, possibly having some earth element. And suddenly it manifested as a mountain. And this is the mountain of prema that Kṛṣṇa is feeling for Rādhārāṇī. This prema is unlimited and this mountain which is the embodiment of His prema just kept expanding and expanding until all the residents of Goloka Vṛndāvana began protesting because there was no space for them. Kṛṣṇa saw that this is causing trouble for the Goloka Vṛndāvana residents, so He slapped the mountain and scolded it, “You, stop expanding, there must be a place for everyone! Don’t disturb!”
That is the pastime in Goloka Vṛndāvana, and how did Govardhana appear in this world?
This story begins with the place called Śālmalidvīpa. It’s to the west of Bhārata-varṣa. Bhārata-varṣa is where Vṛndāvana in this world is present. In Śālmalidvīpa there is a mountain known as Droṇa. Droṇa and his wife (also a mountain) gave birth to another mountain. That mountain is Govardhana. And that Govardhana mountain was so beautiful with waterfalls and caves, birds and wonderful aromas. Everything was there. So as Pulastya Muni was flying over Śālmalidvīpa, he noticed Govardhana Hill. He immediately stopped and said, “Such a hill! It’s perfect! I want this hill and I want it at my home which is Kāśī (Vārāṇasī)!” He approached the father of Govardhana, Droṇa, and asked for his permission to take him. These sages are known to have a short fuse. So Droṇa decided, “Well, I have to say yes, Govardhana, sorry you have to go!” Govardhana said to the sage, “Alright, I go with you but one condition—you put me down at one place, at that place I’m staying.” Govardhana made himself light and Pulastya lifted him. On the way to Kāśī he was flying over Vṛndāvana. And Govardhana looked down, “That’s where I belong! That’s where I’m meant to be because that’s where I’m going to get the lotus feet of the Lord playing on my back. I don’t want to go to Kāśī!” He made himself very heavy so that Pulastya had to set him down. The sage took a little break, took a bath in the Yamunā River and came back, “Alright, let’s go, Govardhana! Govardhana, our journey is not over!” But Govardhana replied, “Oh, yes, it is. You forgot what we agreed!” All this made Pulastya very angry and he pronounced a curse that He would daily sink into the ground, to the extent of one mustard seed a day. In this way Govardhana came to Vṛndāvana so that Lord Kṛṣṇa could perform His pastimes.
—From a lecture by Krishna Kshetra Swami in Hong Kong on November 11th, 2015
Goloka Dhama, Germany:
30-11-2019 till 1-12-2019
France: 2-12-2019 till 4-12-2019
5-12-2019 till 9-12-2019
Mayapur, India: … till 21-2-2020