A vision of the spiritual sky—the land where Krishna, the Supreme Lord, appeared to man 5,000 years ago to reveal His pastimes
Text by Jaya Govinda
The Bierla Temple on the outskirts of Vrindaban.
A type of home of which one will see many in Vrindaban. Through the archway is the door to the house. Just outside is a miniature temple containing the household’s private deity. In this way it becomes a simple matter to worship the deity, offer food to Him and chant before Him as part of the daily routine. Thus there are said to be 5,000 temples in Vrindaban.
Today there is a seeking for a particular type of surrounding, or “spiritual atmosphere” for meditation, especially among groups of people interested in meditation and the nature of existence. Even for those who are simply desiring relaxation, or repose in old age, there is a necessity for some kind of place with a meditative mood. Certainly, for clear uninterrupted thought, meditation, one must become freed from everyday anxieties and the nervous mechanical nature of today’s cities and industrial towns.
A view of the spot where Krishna subdued the many-headed watersnake, Kaliya. This snake with his poisonous breath was rendering unconscious all the cows and cowherds in the nearby fields. The vegetation become shrivelled, and all the neigh-boring fish were dying. One day, as the snake raised his many heads from the water, Krishna pounced on him from a nearby tree. Apparently just by dancing, Krishna crushed one by one the many heads, until at last the serpent was defeated.
Being a city-dweller from birth, I have found, as I’m sure many others have, that the forests with their varieties of flora and fauna rather set the stage for meditation. They are not the creations of man; they are superior in some way to man’s creations. They might represent to us, if we wish it, the grace and beauty existing in the movements of the cosmos.
To be sure, there is always some superior force present which makes the seasons change, the rains come, the planets revolve; and that force is more perceivable in natural surroundings, of which the forest is only one example. That superior force or life force gives animation to non-living material, and it is that force to which we are attracted when we seek a rural environment.
Yamuna River flowing past Vrindaban.
In our own experience we may find that when this superior living force leaves a person, the remaining material, the dead body, bears little attraction for us, although when the same body was occupied by the life force, that person might have been a close relation. This life force is sometimes called the “soul”; and the universe also has a soul, we may call it the Supersoul, which causes the phenomena of Nature to occur.
The presence of spirit-soul in mutable matter is recognizable by six symptoms: birth, growth, consumption, reproduction, old age and death. And there is also a seventh and more important symptom—consciousness. When we associate with that superior spiritual nature of things, or when we associate with others also seeking after that superior nature, we feel uplifted because we are approaching closer to this basic truth of existence—which is existing within both ourselves and the world around us as a controlling force.
Looking up at the tower of Madan Mohan Temple.
Srila Vyasadeva, compiler of the Vedas, author of the Puranas, Upanishads, Mahabharata, and ultimately of the Srimad Bhagwatam—who lived about 5,000 years ago—describes in all these writings how one may gradually come to the awareness and understanding of this superior nature by which the cosmic manifestation is functioning so perfectly. In his most mature stage, he composed 12 cantos or books, each larger then the preceding, to form an immense literature called Srimad Bhagwatam. In this he described the nature of a spiritual realm existing outside of this world of matter.
It would be very difficult for us to understand that spiritual realm when we have available to us only information of this temporary and mutable world. Therefore we must accept the information given us directly from the place where the spiritual energy predominates; a realm which, fortunately, lies outside the scope of our limited mundane sense perception. Srila Vyasadeva was a personality incarnated from that place specifically for the purpose of delivering such information. In the Srimad Bhagwatam, then, one may find in the later cantos a lucid description of a place called Goloka Vrindaban. This is the supreme abode of the Lord, Who is the Source of all cosmic manifestations.
A beautiful temple graces the skyline of Vrindaban.
The Supreme Lord is described as eternally youthful. He is not burdened by the maintenance of all the planets, but, by His omnipotence, He maintains them effortlessly and at the same time enjoys childlike sports as a cowherd boy, in eternal Vrindaban. He has many companions and lovers there, amid beautiful fields and surroundings described as “all-conscious.” In that spiritual world, of which the material sphere that we know is a perverted mirror-reflection, the nature of people, places and events is permanent or eternal, all-blissful and full of all knowledge. These are the qualities of the higher spiritual nature, of the spiritual living entities when they are out of contact with the inferior, mutable Nature of this world.
The spot known as Visram Ghat, the sacred area where Krishna came to rest after killing the demon King Kamsa. It is a square area, with four giant staircases leading down to a square pool in the middle. The walls from the pool are honeycombed with many staircases, passages and archways, with great old trees over hanging the world.
There is a verse in the scriptural text called Brahma Samhita which says of Vrindaban: “The houses are made of touchstone [a substance which turns iron to pure gold]. There are thousands of trees, called desire-trees, from which one may obtain anything whatever. The Lord is surrounded by hundreds of thousands of Lakshmis, Goddesses of Fortune, and the Lord is constantly attending the Surabhi Cows, which give an unlimited supply of nectar-like milk. I worship Govinda, the Primeval Lord, Who is the Cause of all causes.”
Of course the absolute center of attention in the spiritual world is Govinda or Krishna. In that sublime realm walking is dancing, and speaking is sweet song. It is a realm meant for all living beings to dwell in. We ourselves cannot even conceive of the wonders of this universe of matter; and so it may be difficult for us to conceive of another, transcendental realm where there is no death.
Some of these “Samadhis”, where the remains of the great saint are kept, are built like tiny houses and are no more than 1 ft. high. The Samadhis are worshiped by bowing, placing garlands and circumambulation of the Samadhi grounds. No shoes are allowed in this sacred area; infact, the very ground is considered so holy that after doing their morning rounds, the devotees will take a pinch of earth and pop it in their mouths!
It is stated in The Bhagavad Gita that all living beings are meant to enjoy some relationship with the Lord directly, either as friend or lover, parent or son. But a small percentage of living beings have come to be trapped in this world that we now find ourselves in. We might assume, therefore, that the Supreme Lord is a cruel and punishing Personality, having placed us on this plane of death, and that He freely inflicts all manner of pains upon us. For example, a mother’s son having been harmed in an auto accident, the mother might ask: “O Lord, why have You so cruelly harmed this boy?” The mother is attentive to the idea of “innocent youth.” But actually the child’s life force—his real self—is existing unchanged in its superior form of spiritual energy, and only the temporary body has been affected, being of a mutable nature.
This passageway leads to a circular well, the opening of which is seen in the furthermost recesses of the photo. Lord Chaitanya has take bath in this place. It is a spot where the Gopis (Krishna’s most loving devotees) used to congregate, all crying in separation from Krishna.
The spiritual form is in a state of false identification and is governed, as a result, by impure or ignorant desires. Because of these impure desires he is forced to transmigrate from body to body, until such a time as he may desire to awaken to the higher platforms of spiritual consciousness. Therefore, he whom we are seeing as “young” is in reality a spiritual entity who has been allotted a certain body, like a shell covering his true self, and who has also been allotted certain circumstances, according to past deeds.
The garden where Krishna and His perfect devotees, the Gopis, displayed their loving pastimes.
One who makes inquiry into the spiritual cause for all this manifested world becomes acquainted with the spiritual life force within himself, and therefore he need not lament for himself, even though death is approaching. Those who seek after spiritual understanding can know for a fact that the Lord is most kind and merciful to have given them this human life with which to reach Him and understand Him. And it is only those who are not using their lives in this way who fail to understand the kindness of the Lord.
The Govindaji temple. This temple once stood many stories high, but the upper stories were demolished during Mostem rule.
The Lord can be known by direct experience, through the process of chanting the Holy Names: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. In the attainment of such knowledge one experiences the sweetest love and the fulfillment of life, a state of bliss that he could never have even hoped for in his fallen state.
The Lord might well leave the inhabitants of this world to suffer and rise up, going round and round on their own blind groping efforts. But His kindness is so great, and His desire to see the living beings out of this morass of birth, death, old age and disease is so strong, that He Personally descends from time to time into our view to lift the veil of illusion which renders invisible the spiritual reality, the eternal Truth of His own Personage and realm.
The deities of the Chaitanya Math Temple, on Janmasthmi (Krishna appearance) Day, 1968. On the left is the Chaitanya Mahaprabhu form of the Lord. He is placed beside Radha and Krishna because He is the embodiment of Them both, come to this world to deliver the fallen souls by propagating the chanting of the Holy Names of the Lord.
That spiritual realm, the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna and all His eternal associates, the enactment of His eternal pastimes—all this is sometimes made manifest in the material world. And the location for such a manifestation is described as entirely nondifferent from that location in the spiritual realm. Thus the Vrindaban which we find as a small village in north central India today, and pictured on these pages, is in reality the very Vrindaban of the spiritual sky, the supreme abode of the Lord. At this location the Lord reveals His eternal pastimes, although He has not left that original locality in the spiritual sky. This is done by the Lord’s omnipotence, and it is as though a dimensional window has opened, making the spiritual realm visible to beings of this mundane world.
New temple construction work at Krishna Janmasthan, His appearance or birth place. Many temple have stood at his location to mark the advent place of the Supreme Lord, but they were all completely destroyed during the period of Moslem rule in India. A gigantic mosque was built to prevent any further making of the spot by the devotees of Lord, but now a colossal task has been undertaken-to construct a building completely covering the mosque, with giant towers and many gates. The construction, partially completed, is visible in the photo as the white work outside of the steep wall of the mosque, which is marked by round, pointed demo.
When this manifestation takes place, Krishna creates a spiritual locality for those beings who are attracted by the higher spiritual nature. For those persons who are advanced in the matter of self realization, especially by the process of chanting the Holy Names, the Lord reveals His eternal pastimes at Vrindaban, and He may also reveal the nature of an individual’s eternal relationship to Himself. You might say that Vrindaban is a pleasure reserved only for devotees of the Lord, because they alone are able to relish the transcendental aspect of that most sacred place on Earth. And anyone may come to the devotional stage whereby he can understand Vrindaban simply by chanting the Holy Names of Krishna.