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Continued from the previous issue)

By Prof. G. Venkataraman


Dear Readers, for 40 previous issues – from October 2004 to February 2008 - we brought you a spiritual feast in the form of the "Gita for Children" in a serialized form. Prior to that, we had started our first series entitled "Shirdi Sai – Parthi Sai" which is continuing till date. The "Gita for Children" series was taken from the book " Krishna - Arjuna Dialogue" authored by Prof. Venkataraman. As we concluded the final segment of this book in February 2008 issue, from March 2008, we started a new series on "Avatars" or Divine Incarnations. The articles in this series are actually adaptations of talks delivered recently on Radio Sai by Prof. G. Venkataraman, and are based on the book "Message of the Lord" authored by him a few years earlier. We hope H2H readers will relish the spiritual insights this series offers.

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The Story of Krishna (continued)

Krishna Outwits Kamsa’s Demons

Sai Avatars
Baby Krishna

Loving Sai Ram and greetings from Prashanti Nilayam. As I told you last time, Kamsa, scared to death that the eighth-born of Devaki was still alive, began to try every possible means to kill all new born babies in his kingdom, using the help of demons. One of these agents was a female named Putana, and seeking young babies to kill, she wandered into Gokulam.

There, her attention was attracted by the sight of a steady stream of people, particularly women, going in and coming out of Nanda's house. Investigating the matter, she discovered that it was all due to the presence of a most charming baby in that house. Promptly Putana assumed the form of a beautiful young lady (she had the power to assume any form she desired), entered Nanda's house and requested Yasoda to give her baby Krishna so that she may fondle the child. Yasoda gladly agreed to do this and having some work to attend to, disappeared inside feeling that the baby was safe with the visitor.

What Putana had planned was to feed Krishna; not with milk but a deadly poison; but Krishna quietly sucked away the poison and Putana's life as well. When Putana fell dead she reverted to her natural grotesque form. Shortly after this, Yasoda returned and swooned to see the carcass of a huge demoness and her baby playing nonchalantly by its side. The entire village was mystified by the event, and especially the death of the demoness but none could associate Krishna with her destruction. When Yasoda regained her consciousness, she rushed to the altar to offer her grateful thanks to Narayana for saving her child.

Putana's death was a setback for Kamsa, but he was not ready to give up. A steady procession of demons were despatched to Gokulam as executioners, but as it happened, it was they who got executed. In every case, Krishna managed things so adroitly that the villagers, Yasoda in particular, were led to believe that it was an unseen Divine Hand that was protecting the baby!

Back in Mathura , Vasudeva, who knew the secret about the two boys growing up in Gokulam, constantly thought of them. Anxious that all religious rites meant for protecting children must be gone through in their case also, he summoned his family priest Garga and asked him to drop in at Nanda's house as if casually and perform all due ceremonies. Garga called on Nanda as instructed, whereupon Nanda requested the priest to formally name the two boys. This Garga readily did, naming the son of Rohini as Balarama and that of Yasoda as Krishna . He, then, said to Nanda: "In an earlier birth, this Krishna of yours was born as a son to your relative Vasudeva (in his earlier birth too). For that reason, your son will also be known as Vaasudeva, but right now I would advise you to keep quiet about this other name, lest Kamsa gets funny ideas!"

The Boyhood Pranks of Lord Krishna

If the baby marvels of Krishna were a source of wonder, His childhood Leelas became a source of delight to many and a "headache" to some. Stealing butter from the houses of the various Gopis or cowherd girls, of course in the company of other boys, became a daily ritual and there was no end to the complaints that Yasoda constantly received. (Fresh butter is known as Navaneetam; hence amongst His friends, Krishna was also known as Navaneeta Krishna.)

Krishna reveals to Yashoda the entire Universe in His Mouth

One day, when all the children were playing in the courtyard, Balarama ran excitedly to Yasoda and said, "Auntie, Krishna is eating mud by the handful". Perplexed, annoyed and worried, Yasoda rushed to Krishna , and asked Him whether He was eating mud as was being alleged. Krishna , His eyes wide and innocent, shook His head as if to deny. Not believing Him, Yasoda ordered Krishna to open His mouth so that she could check. Obediently Krishna opened His mouth and what did Yasoda see in it? The entire Universe, including herself and her darling Krishna ! Totally dazed, she muttered to herself: "Is this real or is it all a part of the Maya (illusion) of the Lord?"

Incidentally, I might mention that speaking at Prasanthi Nilayam a couple of days before the Birthday in 1994, Mr. P. V. Narasimha Rao, the then Prime Minister of India, described the remarkable changes in the village of Puttaparthi by quoting those very words of Yasoda!

To get back to the story, the vision that Yasoda saw passed, and soon she was back to her role as a happy but tormented mother, while Krishna reverted to being the naughty but adorable son.

On another occasion, Krishna was particularly "difficult" and Yasoda became thoroughly exasperated. Wanting to keep Him under check, she tied a rope around His waist and anchored it to a heavy stone mortar. Feeling secure, Yasoda then went about her work. In the beginning, Krishna passed time watching the birds and the monkeys in the courtyard but getting bored, He began to crawl on all fours, dragging effortlessly behind Him the huge mortar intended by Yasoda to be an anchor. In the courtyard there were two tall trees growing close to each other.

Krishna releases the deites trapped in the trees

Krishna went right between them but the mortar got stuck. When Krishna pulled forward, the trees snapped and fell to the ground. Instantly, they both were transformed into two beings. Falling at Krishna 's feet they said: "O Lord, we are the sons of Kubera, the deity of wealth. We became trees on account of a curse, but by Your Grace, we have received redemption." So saying, they vanished. It all happened on account of the rope tied around His waist (of course, He had willed it be that way) and for this reason Krishna is sometimes referred to as Damodara.

Krishna Moves to Beautiful Brindavan

The inhabitants of Gokulam became concerned that mishaps to Krishna were occurring in a never-ending sequence. True, by God's Grace, no evil had befallen the young one but maybe there was something evil about the very place. Why not therefore move over to some other spot, like the beautiful Brindavan, nestling under the Govardhan Hill (Govardhanagiri) and close to the River Yamuna? And thus it was that Krishna and His Gopala (cowherd) friends soon found themselves frolicking in Brindavan and its neighbourhood.

By now, Krishna was a bit older and He used to join the other boys of the village in taking the cows out everyday for grazing. Kamsa, disturbed as ever that his mortal enemy was still out there somewhere, continued to send his agents on the prowl. One such demon by name Vatsa, disguised himself as a calf and mixed with the bunch of cows and calves taken out by the cowherd boys, waiting for an opportunity to attack Krishna.

But Krishna easily saw through the disguise and made short work of the demon. Another demon by name, Baka, met the same fate, and after Baka, came Agha, the brother of Putana and Baka. Agha assumed the form of a mountainous python and lay in wait for Krishna with his enormous mouth wide open. The Gopalas straying into the neighbourhood mistook the wide-open mouth to be a cavern and entered it in order to explore. The cows and the calves followed the boys but Krishna stayed outside, quietly watching the proceedings. Just as the python was about to close his mouth, Krishna too entered and allowed Himself to be trapped along with the others. When the jaw snapped shut, Krishna began to grow bigger and bigger. Agha tried his best to spit out Krishna but Krishna stayed put till the demon choked to death.

Krishna faces and defeats the awesome maw of the python demon, Agha

Most of the boys were about five years old (which was also roughly Krishna 's age at that time) when this incident took place. Young they might have been but amazed they certainly were by the constant display by Krishna of His extraordinary powers. However, through His shroud of Yogamaya (illusion), Krishna soon made them forget these remarkable incidents, after which Krishna was just like one them!

Brahma Tests Krishna

Meanwhile, Brahma, the Creator, was watching all these events from heaven. He did not know who Krishna really was, and decided to test the limit of Krishna ’s powers. Brahma then came down from heaven while Krishna was dozing under a tree, collected the boys, the cows and the calves and hid them in a cavern. When Krishna woke up, He found that He was all alone. Exercising His Yogic vision, He immediately understood Brahma's game, and smiling to Himself He decided to teach Brahma a lesson.

Accordingly, with a mere wave of His hand, He created an exact replica of all the missing boys, cows and calves; and with this duplicate party, He returned in the evening to the village. On reaching the village, the party dispersed as usual, the boys and the animals going to their respective homes. The villagers did not realise that the boys and animals were duplicates, but they did notice that they felt an unusual love towards them - not surprising, since these boys and animals were nothing but a direct projection of Krishna Himself! As a part of His Divine Leela (sport), the One had become many.

For almost a year, this replica of cows, calves and boys went accompanying Balarama and Krishna everyday to the grazing grounds, returning at sundown; no one suspected that anything was amiss. Meanwhile, Brahma watching from above became puzzled. He had carefully hidden the boys and the animals but here was Krishna taking them out everyday. How could that be? Suddenly it dawned on him that it was Krishna who had duplicated Himself into various forms, and that He was none other than the Supreme Cosmic Reality, now masquerading as a cowherd boy.

Ashamed and repentant, Brahma prostrated before Krishna and begged for forgiveness. The boys and animals originally concealed were duly set free, upon which Krishna made His projections disappear. As he withdrew, Brahma said to himself: "How lucky are these Gopalas to have the Lord constantly in their midst, to move with Him on equal terms, to play with Him, eat with Him and share various experiences with Him! But little do they know who their companion really is." The Lord continues to play the same trick for how easily do we forget who Swami really is!

Dancing on Serpent Kaliya’s Head

Once while grazing the animals, some of the boys felt thirsty and went to a nearby lake to quench their thirst; Krishna did not go with them. Unfortunately, the waters of the lake were poisoned by a huge and deadly snake named Kaliya that lived in it. Therefore, the moment the boys drank the water, they fell dead. After a while, Krishna , finding that the boys who had gone for a drink had not returned, went in search of them along with His other companions and soon came across a pile of corpses by the lakeside. Instantly He knew what had happened and He angrily entered the lake.

The moment He did so, Kaliya attacked Him fiercely and seeing this, Krishna's surviving companions raised a mighty hue and cry. Their wail was so loud that it could be heard in the village, and the people there rushed to the lakeside. And the sight that greeted them was shocking beyond words, for there was their darling Krishna being overwhelmed by the deadly snake Kaliya.

Dancing over the hood of the snake, Kaliya, Krishna overwhelms and subdues him

It was of course a part of the drama, and Krishna merely wanted to give the impression that the snake was getting the better of Him. After appearing to struggle for a while, Krishna suddenly turned the tables and soon He was dancing over the spread hood of the subdued snake. (Swami has explained the symbolic meaning - the five-hooded snake represents the five senses. When the senses have no control, the effect is poisonous but when they surrender to the Lord, they become subdued.)

The Darling of the Gopis

Right from the moment of His birth, Krishna was a darling to the Gopis of the village, first as a charming baby and later as a naughty prankster who often stole butter. Much has been written about Krishna 's relationship with the Gopis, a good bit of it with a romantic slant (sometimes, sensuously overdone). Such literature might tend to give the impression that Krishna was something of a playboy. Nothing could be farther from the truth, and Swami has severely condemned all such erroneous portrayals.

As He points out, two things go against this romantic image; firstly, Krishna was barely about five or six years old then and it is therefore patently absurd to attribute romantic motives to His relationships with the Gopis. Secondly, and this is an even more important consideration, Krishna was the Lord descended on earth, and surely one would not expect the Master of the senses to go gallivanting around or acting like a Casanova! Would He, the Ultimate Guru who had come to teach the Gita, set such an example? Obvious though these points are, strangely they have not found expression prior to Swami's comments.

Curing Spiritual Blindness

Another time, once again while out grazing the cows, the boys felt hungry and on the advice of Krishna approached a group of Brahmins for food. The Brahmins who were in the midst of an important ritual would not brook the interference and chased the boys away. Hungry and angry, they returned to Krishna for a new solution to their problem. Krishna smiled and said, "Go again to the Ashram of the Brahmins, but this time you ask the wives of those performing the Yajnas (Yajna-patnis) for food". And when the Gopalas went to the women and asked them for food in Krishna 's name, what a difference it was! Instantly the Yajna-patnis collected all the special food made for the sacrificial offering and rushed to where Krishna was.

These women were not versed in the Vedas nor in the performance of Vedic rituals, but their hearts were full of love for Krishna . They knew who He was, and seeing Him they shed tears of joy - and Krishna obliged them with a glorious Darshan. Later, when the Brahmins heard about the Divine Darshan that their wives had received but which they missed, they repented their folly. The story has a moral which is that love for the Lord is more important than mere scholarship or adherence to rituals; the latter could, as it did in this case, lead to spiritual "blindness".

Teaching Indra a Lesson

Once, when He was about seven years old, Krishna saw everyone in Brindavan preparing for a big Yajna. Curious, He asked Nanda what the excitement was all about. Nanda replied that the village was getting ready to perform a Yajna to propitiate Indra, the King of the angels. Sounding innocent, Krishna asked, "Father, is it not true that the Kingship of the Heaven comes to one who himself performs a hundred sacrifices? So isn't there someone who confers this Kingship?"

When Nanda replied in the affirmative, Krishna then asked, "In that case Father, why don't we worship that Ultimate God, rather than a mere underling of His?" Deeply alarmed, Nanda said, "Sshhh Krishna, don't say such things loud! If Indra hears, then we would all be in trouble." But Krishna would not be quietened so easily, and He continued to insist that the Supreme One alone should be worshipped.

Only the Supreme One should be worshipped

Indra, who did not know who Krishna really was, (a faux pas committed earlier by Brahma), mistook Him for a spoilt brat, and decided to teach the villagers a fitting lesson for not training their children to respect the King of the Heaven. Summoning Varuna (the god of the waters), Indra ordered him to cause a deluge, and duly the rains came with unprecedented fury. Everyone was petrified, and Nanda reproached Krishna for having aroused the wrath of the gods.

Krishna merely smiled as if to say "Why fear when I am here!" and casually lifting the Govardhan Hill, as if it were a mere pebble, held it aloft over the drenched village as a gigantic umbrella. Thwarted in his designs, Indra realised that Krishna was no mere brat, but the Cosmic One in human form; deeply repentant, he fell at Krishna 's Feet seeking pardon.

Kamsa’s End Approaches

The time for Kamsa's extermination was fast approaching, and as if to set the wheels in motion, Sage Narada informed Kamsa that Devaki's eighth son was actually growing up in Brindavan in the house of Nanda and explained how the transfer of Krishna was stage-managed. Given this firm tip, Kamsa initiated fresh steps to trap Krishna ; this time, no effort would be spared but first, Krishna would have to be lured to Mathura . For this purpose, Kamsa organised a grand festival and sent his lieutenant Akrura to specially invite Nanda and his family.

As Akrura's chariot bearing Krishna and the others was about to leave Brindavan for Mathura , the Gopis who had gathered there realised that Krishna would not return and this was a stunning blow. They cried, wept, pleaded and used every trick known to detain Him, but the artful dodger made a neat getaway as there was a job waiting - Kamsa had to be killed, and his parents (Vasudeva and Devaki) had to be freed.

At eight years old, Krishna defeats the mad elephant, Kuvalayapida

As Krishna and Balarama arrived at the special stadium created for staging the sporting events, it was already packed to capacity. Just then, Kamsa arrived and took his seat amidst loud cheering by his henchmen. On a signal from him, the evil plan to do away with Krishna was set in motion. A mad elephant named Kuvalayapida was let loose upon Krishna , but the eight-year old made short work of it, stunning the entire gathering.

A rather bad start for Kamsa who, becoming furious, tried even more wicked methods of extermination; however, every one of them failed. Having slowly worked Kamsa up to the height of fury, Krishna finally tackled him direct and killed him.

Kamsa's every attempt to destroy Krishna fails - Krishna's does not

With Kamsa removed, the reign of terror that prevailed in Mathura was over. While the public rejoiced and danced in the streets, Krishna and Balarama rushed to release Vasudeva and Devaki from captivity; and at long last, the tormented parents were reunited with their Divine offspring. Although at birth Krishna had revealed His Divinity to Vasudeva and Devaki, He now made sure that they both came under the spell of His Maya so that they could enjoy Him as their son! Thus it was that Vasudeva, worrying about Krishna 's education, entered Him and Balarama into the Gurukula of Sage Sandipani, where the brothers excelled as model students.

The Lord Meets His ‘Family’

Completing the charade of receiving education, Krishna returned to His parents in Mathura where at long last He learnt all about His relatives. He discovered that His father had a sister named Kunti who had three sons named Yudhishtra, Bhima and Arjuna. Later, I shall give more details about Kunti and her sons, for that is important to our narrative.

To get on with my story, a chance for Krishna to meet Kunti soon arose on account of a total solar eclipse. On such occasions, the pious always gathered at a holy spot and took a cleansing bath on conclusion of the event. Krishna and Balarama went with their parents to a place called Samantapanchaka, close to Kurukshetra, later to become famous. Gathered at the holy spot were men and women, sages and kings, the rich and the poor, and the old and the young. Nanda and Yasoda were there too, and there was an emotional reunion between Krishna and His foster parents.

Meanwhile, Kunti spotted Vasudeva and bitterly complained to her brother for having ignored her so long whereupon Vasudava had to narrate the sad story of how most of his time was spent in prison. The sages who had come there were overjoyed about Krishna 's presence. They rushed to fall at His Lotus Feet, but with a mischievous wink He held them in check. Instead, like an ordinary boy, He prostrated before them and sought their blessings, much to the embarrassment of the holy ones.

Spotting the sages, Vasudeva approached and asked them about the best path to follow in order to achieve purification. With deep feeling, the sages said: "The constant and incessant worship of Narayana is the path to follow. Not only is it the best, but it is also the easiest." A delighted Vasudeva turned to Krishna and said, "Heard that? What a wonderful advice! You too must remember to follow that". Wearing a supremely obedient look, Krishna replied, "Yes, of course father, I shall always remember that constant worship of Narayana is the only path."

That’s all for now, meanwhile, please rejoice that we are so fortunate to have that very same Krishna amidst us right now. All of us must use every means we can command to make the best use of this incomparable opportunity not only to elevate ourselves spiritually, but also to experience true bliss by being one with the Lord in body mind and soul. Jai Sai Ram.

(To be Continued...)

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– Heart2Heart Team

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Vol 6 Issue 06 - JUNE 2008
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