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Krsna lila: The Divine Forms and Pastimes

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—by Hayagriva das Adhikari

Lord Krsna’s pastimes, His appearance and disappearance, are continuous and eternal throughout the universe. As far as these pastimes are concerned, there is no stoppage. It is hard for the common man to understand how Krsna’s lilas (pastimes) can be eternal. To our conception He was present on earth 5,000 years ago, and now He is gone. We compare Him to ourselves. We remain on this planet for 100 years at the most and then, like a bubble, we pop and disappear. Although this is true for ourselves, we should not compare our condition to that of the Absolute Godhead. His Body is eternal, blissful and full of knowledge, whereas ours is mortal and full of misery and ignorance. Consequently we cannot understand how Krsna’s lilas are eternal.

When Krsna intends to reveal Himself on the earth or any other material planet, He first sends His parents and devotees. Then He manifests Himself in His different ages: as an infant, a young boy, and a youth. He is never old or middle-aged. Because His Body is acyuta, changeless, He looked like a young boy on the battlefield of Kuruksetra, although He was a grandfather.

Krsna and His immediate expansion, Balarama, sport in childhood pastimes.

Krsna and His immediate expansion, Balarama, sport in childhood pastimes.

The pastimes of Krsna are revealed beginning with the killing of Putana and extending through to His disappearance. There are innumerable universes, and in all of them these lilas are revealed. Lord Caitanya compares the progression of the lila with the progression of the sun across the sky. Just as the sun in 24 hours passes over all the continents of the earth, so Krsna’s lilas in the 14 manvantaras pass over the various universes. When the sun passes over a continent, it appears that this great orb has a rising and a setting. It comes and it goes. But in actuality the sun is constantly shining and is fixed. It is only from the perspective of the earth that it appears to rise and set. Similarly, to the human perspective the lilas of Krsna appear to come and go, but in actuality they are always being enacted. The lilas are always taking place somewhere in the universe, just as somewhere on earth the sun is always shining, although it is not always seen in any one place. So the orbit of Krsna’s lilas passes through various spheres and is manifest on the earth after certain millions of years.

Although Krsna sports in infinite lilas throughout the universe, He still sports eternally in Goloka Vrndavana in the spiritual sky. Goloka and Gokula are expansive, like the Body of the Lord, and through His will these regions are revealed all over the universe. Goloka is revealed in the eternal abode of His lila. Lord Caitanya says that just as a drama has three stages, the high, the middle, and the low, so Lord Krsna is revealed in three stages. This revelation is full in Dvaraka, fuller in Mathura, and fullest in Vrndavana. When He first descends, He is seen in Vrndavana, and the pastimes there, being the original, are the most important and sacred.

There are fourteen Manus in one day of Brahma, and as the orbit of Krsna’s lilas circulates, He is seen on the earth once during a day of Brahma. There are seventy one yugas or ages, and in the twenty-eighth kalpa, in the Dvapara yuga, Krsna appears. Thus He appeared on this earth 5,000 years ago. While He was here He remained 125 years, and while He was on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra He was 100 years old, yet His eternal Body appeared as that of a fresh youth’s. During every second of these 125 years, this sequence of pastimes was appearing in all other parts of the infinite universes. Although these lilas are always occuring with clock-like precision, Lord Krsna is always aloof from them. One would stand a better chance counting the dewdrops on the grass or the rays of the moon and stars than counting the virtues, powers and energies of Krsna’s lilas as they are revealed throughout the creation. Neither Lord Brahma with all his heads nor Lord Ananta with his thousand mouths can describe them. Lord Caitanya hints that perhaps even Lord Krsna cannot know them all, and therefore He is thirsty to taste them. Infinite orbs whirl incessantly in His bosom like so many particles of dust, all moved by time. And the holy scriptures only cry out, “Not here. Oh, He is not here.” And no one sees the end. Srimad-Bhagavatam testifies: “We do not know how the Lord celebrates, nor if we could travel throughout the whole creation could we know this, for He is celebrating as He pleases. His jubilations extend through infinite forms of energy.” (Bhagavatam, 10.14.2).

Lord Krsna creates worlds both visible and invisible to the mundane senses. In the spiritual sky, which is invisible to us, there are infinite worlds with Deities, expansions of Krsna, presiding over each. This is doubtlessly very wonderful, but His pastimes in Vrndavana with the cowherd boys and girls are no less wonderful because in Lord Krsna’s supreme Abode, Krsna-loka, He similarly sports with an infinite number of gopas and gopis. In that Abode each cowherd boy has millions of cows, each of which yields limitless milk. In the same way Lord Krsna presides over millions and millions of Brahmas, who create under His Divine order infinite worlds.

In one instant Lord Krsna created both the visible and invisible worlds and created lords to preside over each of them. These lords preside over various planets as the cowherd boys preside over cows. All these creations proceed from Lord Krsna, and all of them find their being in Him. When Brahma once witnessed the breadth of the material creation, he was in awe and prayed, “Whoever says he knows the glory of Krsna let him talk; I know nothing of it. Wonderful is the work of Lord Krsna, but of His glory I know nothing. And whoever says he knows all about it actually knows nothing. Oh Lord, I know nothing of Your infinite glory.”

Although the ethereal forms of the three Purusas (the Karanodaka-sayi Visnu, the Garbhodaka-sayi Visnu and the Ksirodaka-sayi Visnu) are wonderful, the two-armed form of Krsna that dwells in Vrndavana is the purest and most sublime. In this form He reveals the sublime sweetness of His own Self, and it is in this form that He celebrates Himself in the great Rasa-lila, the dance with the exquisitely beautiful gopis. Below the Ultimate Planet of Vrndavana, floating in the rays emanating from His Body, are infinite spiritual planets where Lord Krsna dwells in four-armed forms known as Narayana. In these planets the six opulences of knowledge, wealth, fame, power, beauty, and renunciation are present. This is the middle holy presence of the Lord, and is comparable to Mathura. Below these heavenly Vaikuntha planets a river called Viraja flows which is a Divine river flowing from the sacred Goddess of the Vedas. This eternal river is full of glories and nectar. On its upper bank extend the Vaikuntha planets and on its lower bank lies the outer palace of the Lord, a region known as the Devi-dhama. Many created beings dwell here. The goddess Laksmi protects this region, and the goddess of illusion serves the Lord here as a maid. This region is visible to the material eye, whereas the region of the Vaikuntha planets, Paravyoman, and the region of Goloka are invisible. Being regions of cit energy, they are far above physical creations.

Although the pastimes of Lord Krsna in these spheres are infinite, the highest pastimes are those in which He jubilates in human form. There are pastimes in which He plays as a lion, a fish, a boar, a horse, a bird, and so on, but the human form is His very Self, and in this form He appears as a youthful cowherd boy, eternally in His kaisora age, an age corresponding to the adolescent age of sixteen. He carries a flute, which He plays from time to time, and dances masterfully. It is the mercy of the Lord that He reveals this form on earth, for this is the very same sublime Self which dwells eternally in Goloka. The Lord’s beauty is so overwhelming that He wonders at it Himself and desires to taste it. This beauty is so sublime that it glories in itself, for it contains all the components that we call beauty. Each of His Limbs has a halo of its own. He often stands with one leg bent before the other, and this makes His Body curve gracefully in three bends. His eyes send forth knowing, playful glances that pierce the soul like arrows. The Lord not only completely overpowers the minds of the gopas and gopis with His sacred beauty, but He charms even Cupid, the god of love himself. His love is transcendental and is far superior to all the powers of sexual desire. He jubilates in this transcendental love and so supersedes all mundane cupids.

It is with this very transcendental Self that He plays in the holy Vrndavana with His friends who are cowherd boys like Himself and who also have bodies full of eternality, bliss and knowledge. When describing the beauty of Krsna in these pastimes, Lord Caitanya in ecstasy sang the following verse: “On the ocean of My Lord’s eternal youth, the waves of beauty are forever rolling. As the mighty ocean contains whirlpools, so the ocean of Lord Krsna’s eternal youth contain whirlpools expressing deep and sudden emotions. There are also sweet whirlwinds on the ocean, and these are the sweet tunes flowing from the flute of the Lord. As the whirlwinds of nature sweep away autumnal leaves, so the whirlwinds of sweetness from the ocean of the Lord’s eternal youth sweep away the souls of the gopis of Vrndavana and draw them towards the Lord.”

It is said in the Srimad-Bhagavatam that the gopis chastise their creator Lord Brahma for giving them only two eyes, for two cannot satisfy them when the Lord Krsna is before them. They need more in order to better perceive His multiglorious Form. And it is written in the Srimad-Bhagavatam: “The two ears of the Lord are adorned with earrings made in the shape of crocodiles, the two cheeks of the Lord are bright and beautiful, the smile of the Lord is charming, and His dance is wonderfully attractive. Indeed, He is so charming that both men and women desire to gaze on His Form forever. Their eyes are never satisfied, and so they criticize their creator for giving them only two eyes, and they become angry at him for this defect.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam, 9/24/15) Similarly, the gopis said, “O, Lord, in the daytime You go away to feed the cows in the holy Vrndavana, and we do not see You then. How can we bear this separation? A moment of this time seems to us to endure for centuries, and when You return in the evening we look at You with wistful eyes and see Your face so bright and beautiful and Your hair so gorgeously adorned. It is painful for us to blink our eyes, and we regret that we have only two eyes. At that time we speak ill of the creator for not giving us more eyes. Indeed, we feel that his power is extremely limited.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam, 10.31.15)

The beauty of Lord Krsna in Goloka Vrndavana is ethereal and can only be compared to the most lustrous cosmic phenomena. In Caitanya-caritamrta Lord Caitanya sings of His beauty in this way: “O, the face of Lord Krsna is like the brightest full moon and like a king sitting in glory on his throne. And this throne is the body of Lord Krsna Himself. His face sits like a king of moons among so many moons. All His beautiful limbs are like moons, and the moon of His face seems to coutrol them all. His two cheeks are pretty, brighter than the brightest of jewels. And They also look like two moons. Another moon is the half moon on the forehead of the Lord with a point at its center. This point is so bright that it appears like yet another moon shining among the others. And the white nails of His hands are also like so many moons, and when the Lord blows His flute these little moons dance upon its holes, and it appears that the tune proceeds not from the flute but from these beautiful nails of the Lord. And the nails of His Feet are also like moons which seem to dance as the Lord walks, and the tinkling sounds proceeding from His ankle bracelets seem like so many songs sung by these moonlike nails. The ears of the Lord are adorned with two earrings resembling crocodiles. His two eyes are like two lotuses, and it seems that His regal moonlike face makes His ears and eyes dance in their places. The eyebrows of the Lord are like bows, His nose is like an arrow, and His ears are like the strings of the bow. With these weapons, His face, which is like the moon, pierces the hearts of the beautiful maidens of Vrndavana. Thus the King of Vrndavana jubilates, a King of moons, distributing rays and light from His face. And to some this moon gives sweet, soft smiles. And to others He gives nectar from his lips.”

As mentioned before, when Lord Krsna comes to earth, He does not leave this eternal Abode which is Vrndavana. When His lila was enacted on this earth 5,000 years ago, He brought Vrndavana with Him, and today Vrndavana is still present in India and is visited by pilgrims as a holy town. The Lord is not so limited that Vrndavana exists only in a certain part of the spiritual sky and no place else. No, Vrndavana is in the heart of the devotees and is manifested wherever Krsna and His devotees sport. Krsna’s fullest manifestation is Vrndavana, and when He is there He is at full freedom. Therefore there is no question of Vrndavana being bound by concepts of time or space. Lord Caitanya’s disciples often told Him, “Wherever You are, O Lord, there is Vrndavana.” Nor can material scientists understand the nature of such a place. They cannot even understand the material sky nor reach its limits. How then is it possible for them to pierce the outer universal covering and ascend into Para-vyoman, the self-effulgent sky? If they were to enter the Para-vyoman they would be amazed to see countless millions of expansions of Krsna there. Lord Krsna is the original Supreme Personality of Godhead, and as such He is like the original candle which lights so many millions of other candles which are His countless expansions. The candles all have the same quality, yet one candle is the original one. There is no question of void, the question of nothingness, for there are billions of great spiritual planets which are trillions of miles in area, and over each planet preside entities which are sac-cid-ananda in their essence. Everything there is Absolute and spiritual. There spiritual planets float in the effulgence emanating from Krsna’s Body which sports in the supreme planet of Vrndavana.

Thus the pastimes of Krsna in Vrndavana are the most sublime. It is from Vrndavana that the songs of His flute issue and spread like lightening in all directions. This song is heard in all the planets of the Vaikunthas where it reacts with a terrific super-atomic force and penetrates into the ears of all inhabitants to enchant them.

The boys who are playing with Krsna and herding cows in Vrndavana are not ordinary living entities. They are highly developed sages who have acquired perfection by the accumulation of pious activities in past lives. For those who are under the spell of materialism, Krsna is an ordinary boy, but these cowherd boys in Vrndavana accept Him as their Master, and their Supreme Lovable Object. It is stated in Brahma-samhita that Krsna is very fond of playing with these boy friends who are unlimited in number. Each of these boys carries a cane for herding cows, some fruit and lotus flowers, and they are beautifully dressed. In Goloka Vrndavana everyone is just like Krsna, just as in the Vaikuntha planets everyone resembles the four-armed Narayana expansion. In these worlds of the Absolute, everyone is the same. Consequently, all the individual boys and girls who sport in Goloka Vrndavana enjoy Krsna’s spiritual bliss. Similarly, the gopis are not ordinary cowherd girls, but are great sages who transform themselves in order to enjoy conjugal love with Krsna. Lord Caitanya spoke of them in this way: “Oh what penances did the gopis perform to eternally enjoy the beauty of the Lord Krsna? They drink His beauty with their eyes and they fill their eyes, their limbs and their hearts with celestial visions of His beauty. O, blessed are they, for they enjoy that sublime beauty which is the sweetest in the creation and which has no equal. Even the Lord Narayana, Ruler of the heavenly planets of Para-vyoman, does not possess such beauty. The goddess of glory known as Sri Laksmi illustrates the truth of this, for she is dear to Lord Narayana and is the very flower among women created by the Lord, yet even she hankers after Sri Krsna’s beauty. All attributes and all species of sweetness are but shadows of His inner sweetness and inner attributes. The pure love of the gopis is like a glass that reflects this sweetness and these attributes. As the Lord sees these reflections, His sweetness increases and so does the love of the gopis. And both His sweetness and their love grow and grow as though competing with one another. And though both attain new brilliances, neither admits defeat in this wonderful competition.”

Lord Caitanya instructs that Lord Krsna primarily exists in three forms known as svayam-rupa, tadekatma-rupa, and avesa-rupa. In the svayam-rupa form, Lord Krsna appears as a cowherd boy in Vrndavana. There are two manifestations of this form: (1) prabhava and (2) vaibhava. The prabhava-prakasa is exhibited when, as in the Rasa-lila dance, He manifests 108 bodies, and when, as at the marriage ceremony at Dvaraka, He manifests Himself in 16,108 identical forms. Sri Sukadeva Gosvami said, “O King, it is a great wonder that Lord Krsna manifested Himself simultaneously in so many identical forms and married 16,108 queens at Dvaraka.” The vaibhava-prakasa refers to Lord Krsna’s assuming different roles, sentiments and shapes according to situation. Although these manifestations are identical in form, they have different names according to their shape, colors and weapons. For instance Sri Balarama is the vaibhava-prakasa of Sri Krsna manifested as His elder brother. Sri Balarama and Sri Krsna are identical in all respects except complexion. And sometimes Krsna exhibits Himself with two arms and sometimes with four arms (vrabhayavilasa) as the Son of Devaki; and in one form He assumes the sentiment of a cowherd boy and in another, as Vasudeva, He appears as a ksatriya (warrior). However, the greatest ecstasy is experienced in His original Form as a cowherd boy in the forest of Vrndavana. Rasa-lila there is greatest in respect to loveliness, sweetness, and power. And for this reason, Vasudeva hankers after the loveliness of Govinda, the cowherd boy. This original manifestation very much enchanted Vasudeva who expressed His desire to taste it while witnessing the Gandharva dance at Mathura. “Oh Uddhava, this dancer, by dancing in honor of the lovely forms of Gopala at Vrndavana, has so charmed Me that I am eager now to assume the sentiment of one of the gopis to taste the sweetness of My beauty.” (Lalita-madhava, 4/10)

These forms of Krsna are manifested in different shapes, sentiments, dresses and abodes. There are two types: (1) vilasa and (2) svamsa. Vilasa can be divided into two forms: (1) prabhava and (2) vaibhava. The chief manifestations of prabhava-vilasa are Sri Vasudeva, Sankarsana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha. Sri Balarama assumes the sentiment of a cowherd boy and that of a ksatriya at Mathura and Dvaraka. This is called vilasa in respect to differences in complexion and dress. Lord Caitanya explains that Vasudeva, Sankarsana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha form the primary quartet of Krsna’s expansions. They are four-armed expansions. None are equal to them, and they are the source from which innumerable quartets are manifested. These four dwell eternally at Mathura and Dvaraka and form what is known as the prabhava-vilasa of Lord Krsna. From them 24 other forms have been manifested in the spiritual planets and are called the vaibhava-vilasa. They have different names according to the various weapons they hold. In the second quartet Lord Krsna dwells as Narayana in Para-vyoman. Other quartets are manifested from this one, and they rule their own planets in the vast spiritual sky. These quartets include forms of Vasudeva (Kesava, Narayana, and Madhava), the forms of Sankarsana (Govinda, Visnu, and Sri Madhusudana), the forms of Pradyumna (Trivikrama, Vamana, and Sridhara), and the forms of Aniruddha (Hrsikesa, Padmanabha and Damodara). Each of these twelve manifestations is assigned a month of the year, and each is recited by the devotee while adorning twelve parts of his body with the tilaka marks.

The principle quartet also has eight vilasa forms, the vilasa of Vasudeva (Adhoksaja and Purusottama), of Sankarsana (Upendra and Acyuta), of Pradyumna (Nrsimha and Janardana) and of Aniruddha (Hari and Krsna).

The above 24 forms (the principle quartet, their twelve corresponding forms and eight vilasa forms) are the chief forms of the prabhava-vilasa. They have different names according to the weapons they hold.

Vaibhava-vilasa refers to the different forms and dresses of these 24. All of these 24 dwell in Para-vyoman, the spiritual sky, and live in three forms in separate Vaikuntha planets in eight directions of the Para-vyoman. Although they dwell eternally in the spiritual sky, some of them have their abodes in this universe. Above the Vaikuntha planets of the Para-vyoman is the glory of Krsna Loka.

In this way these four-armed expansions manifest in the spiritual universe. In order to protect religion and grant bliss to the devotees by destroying all impieties, they also manifest in the material universe. Some of them are regarded as incarnations, namely Visnu, Trivikrama, Nrsimha and Vamana.

As for the svamsa shapes, there are those in the Sankarsana category and incarnations. The former include the Purusa Avataras (Karanodaka-sayi Visnu, Garbhodaka-sayi Visnu and Ksirodaka-sayi Visnu) and the latter, the incarnations, include the lila avataras.

The avesa forms are the greatest of the jivas and are the demigods mentioned in the Eleventh Chapter of Bhagavad-gita. Lord Janardana enters them by His jnana-sakti (knowledge potency). These include the four Kumara brothers, Narada Muni, Brahma, the serpent Anantadeva, Prthu, Parasurama, and countless others.

Hearing the pastimes of the Lord is the same as hearing the song from His flute. Even if one has fallen into the whirlpool of material existence, he will become attracted to the Supreme Lord of Vrndavana simply by hearing of His pastimes. By hearing of the activities of Krsna, studying the forms of Krsna, learning of the opulences of Krsna, and reading the words of Krsna in Bhagavad-gita, the soul can be directed to that glorious planet of Vrndavana where he can finally attain eternal transcendental association with Krsna. The first step of awakening is to hear the song of His flute which plays the glories of His pastimes.

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