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The Prayers of Akrura

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—by Satsvarupa das Adhikari
(ISKCON—Boston)

Akrura, a devotee of Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, achieved perfection by his notable prayers. In his book Easy Journey to Other Planets, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada describes nine processes of realizing God. It is said that perfection of human life and entrance into the spiritual kingdom are guaranteed by execution of any or all of the nine items of devotional activity, and it is recommended that we execute these processes, following in the footsteps of great devotees. A partial list of the nine great devotees who achieved success simply by perfecting one process reads as follows: Maharaja Pariksit achieved perfection by hearing the Srimad-Bhagavatam from Sukadeva Gosvami. Sukadeva Gosvami achieved perfection by reciting the Srimad-Bhagavatam to Maharaja Pariksit. Akrura, the charioteer of Krsna, achieved perfection by praying to the Lord.” The Tenth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, the transcendental literature containing the most full descriptions of Sri Krsna, includes Akrura’s long prayer, composed spontaneously in the presence of the Supreme Personality of Godhead when Akrura was carrying Krsna and Balarama by chariot from Vrndavana to Mathura. The circumstances under which he prayed are very wonderful because they involve the pastimes of Lord Krsna.

Lord Krsna was raised incognito as a cowherd boy in Vrndavana in order to prevent His being killed by His uncle, Kamsa, who had heard an omen that the child had come into the world to kill him. When Krsna was sixteen, the sage Narada went before Kamsa and revealed to him Krsna’s real identity and whereabouts. In fear of his life, the demon Kamsa then arranged for the killing of Krsna and His elder brother Balarama. Kamsa was the ruler of Mathura Province, and he at once arranged for a gala wrestling match and ritualistic sacrifice to be performed in the heart of the city. Kamsa called for Akrura and asked him to go to Vrndavana to invite Krsna and His father, Nanda Maharaja, and the cowherd men to join in the festivities at Mathura. Kamsa was the ruler of all the citizens of Mathura, and he considered Akrura to be his trustworthy agent. On the instructions of Kamsa, Akrura set out for Vrndavana in his chariot, thinking that although he was on a mission for Krsna’s enemy Kamsa, Krsna, as Supersoul present in everyone’s heart, would know his real feeling. Akrura was a devotee of Lord Krsna, and as he traveled all day in his chariot he remained wrapped in thought, anticipating the sight of the beloved Supreme Lord. He was certain that simply seeing the Lord would cleanse him of all sinful reactions and make his life perfect.

Just outside of Vrndavana he observed the footprints of Krsna, which are decorated by special markings—a lotus flower, a rod, a flag and an umbrella. Akrura lost all mental equilibrium at the sight of the actual footprints of Sri Krsna, and he jumped out of his chariot and fell onto the ground, shedding tears and crying, “How wonderful it is! How wonderful it is!”—touching his head onto the footprints of the Supreme Lord.

When they learned that Akrura had come to take Krsna away to Mathura, Krsna’s most intimate devotees, the gopis, cowherd girls of Vrndavana, were put into madness of grief at the idea of separation from their beloved. They cried out against the cruelty of providence and also expressed displeasure with Akrura: “You are cruel, although your name is not cruel.” (Akrura means “not cruel.”) Krsna and His brother Balarama, as well as His father and mother, Nanda and Yasoda, and many of the cowherd men, accepted the invitation to attend the wrestling match in Mathura, and thus they prepared to go, bringing offerings of butter and milk products. Akrura took Krsna and Balarama in his chariot and, despite the gopis’ blocking his way in a desperate attempt to keep Krsna from leaving, set out on the journey to Mathura bearing his two glorious passengers.

It is described that Krsna and Balarama asked Akrura to stop the chariot after some time so that They might bathe in the River Yamuna. When They had finished Their bathing, Akrura requested that He might bathe also. While Rama and Krsna waited on the chariot, Akrura entered the water of the river. To his surprise, however, he saw the two brothers, Krsna and Balarama, within the water of the Yamuna. He was certainly confused, since he had just left Them sitting in the chariot. Akrura at once emerged, returned to the chariot and, indeed, saw the two brothers seated as before. He was then doubtful as to what he had seen in the water, and he returned to the river. This time he saw Krsna in the water in His expansion-form of Garbhodakasayi Visnu, the source of the universe, and he saw Balarama as the white Ananta, or snake incarnation, which is always present with Visnu, serving as His hood or couch while the Lord is resting on the causal water. It is described that Akrura saw “the four-handed Supreme Personality of Godhead, smiling very beautifully with His beautiful face. He was very pleasing to all and was looking toward everyone. Surrounding His Lordship were His intimate associates like the four Kumaras, demigods like Siva and Brahma, and devotees like Narada and Prahlada—all offering prayers to the Lord.” Seeing the situation of the Personality of Godhead, Akrura was overwhelmed with great devotion, and he experienced transcendental shivering in his body. Maintaining his pure consciousness, however, he bowed his head before the Lord and, with folded hands and faltering voice, began to compose his prayers: “My dear Lord, I pay my respectful obeisances unto You because You are the supreme cause of all causes and the original inexhaustible personality, Narayana.”

Akrura first acknowledged Krsna to be the source of all sources. Certainly this must be a quality of God. Scrutinize any object in the material or spiritual worlds and trace out its origin or source—ultimately all things go back to one absolute source, or God. As the controller, He controls all other sources; all sources emanate from Him, and He Himself needs no source other than Himself. This is not offered as a research proposition, but is to be accepted as the Vedic conclusion. That the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the source of all sources, although inconceivable, can be accepted on the strength of higher authorities. Just as if one wants to know who one’s father is, the only authority for that information is his mother, the authority for transcendental knowledge is the Veda, scripture. Transcendental knowledge originates from the Personality of the Absolute Truth and descends through His pure devotees.

As the source of all sources, God is also the source of knowledge about Himself. Man cannot know the source of all sources by his speculative mental power. It is not a matter for research. It is said in the Brahma-samhita that if one rides on the airplane which runs at the speed of mind (it can take you to India in a second), and if one travels at that speed for millions of years, he will find the spiritual sky to be unlimited. It is not possible even to approach it. If we attempt to reach this knowledge of the cause of all causes by inductive reasoning, we cannot reach the goal. We will go on experimenting, thinking, “There may be some cause existing somewhere which I have not traced back to God.” In Sanskrit this is called aroha, or the ascending process, and it cannot work for reaching, transcendental knowledge. But it is said in the Brahma-samhita, “Krsna, who is known as Govinda, is the Supreme Godhead. He has an eternal, blissful, spiritual body. He is the origin of all. He has no other origin, and He is the prime cause of all causes.” Brahma-samhita is an authoritative scripture and is accepted by the disciplic line of spiritual masters. Although Krsna is very difficult to understand, one can very easily learn about Krsna from the authentic sastras and from the devotee of Krsna. As the cause of all causes, God is also the cause of bringing the Vedic literature into the world, and He is the cause of the pure devotees who move among fallen souls distributing love of Krsna. And because He Himself is beyond any cause, the Lord bestows causeless mercy upon the living entity. Causeless mercy does not depend on the qualification of he who is receiving it. Krsna’s mercy is called causeless because it is not given for any return benefit, but only out of love, whereas in the material world there is always motive or cause. Krsna and Krsna’s devotees are causeless in their mercy. So Akrura’s prayers, although moved by the deepest needs of the heart, are based on the version of the Supreme Lord, as He is, as revealed by scripture and by His pure devotees from time immemorial.

Akrura prays, “You are the original inexhaustible personality.” God is a person; one cannot pray to imperson, and void cannot respond to one’s prayers. Because they are under the influence of the stringent laws of the material energy, the impersonalists find this sublime faith in the Supreme Person to be very distasteful. The impersonalist philosophers think in a material way about the Personality of Godhead, Narayana or Krsna, and they conclude that He cannot be the Absolute Truth. They understand the last word in the Absolute Truth to be the impersonal eternal spirit, Brahman. They understand the Absolute Truth to be distributed everywhere as impersonal. To them, personal identity means materialism, falseness and illusion. They wish to merge with the Brahman. But according to the Bhagavad-gita, that Brahman is but the effulgence of the Supreme Person: “… and I [Krsna] am the basis of the impersonal Brahman, which is immortal and imperishable, eternal, the constitutional position of ultimate happiness.” (Bhagavad-gita 14.27) That the Absolute Truth is a person is affirmed throughout the Vedic literature: “Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.” (Bhagavad-gita 14.27) “O my Lord, O primeval philosopher, maintainer of the universe, O regulating principle, destination of the pure devotees, well-wisher of the progenitors of mankind, please remove the effulgence of Your transcendental rays so that I can see Your form of bliss. You are the eternal Supreme Personality of Godhead, like unto the sun, as am I.” (Sri Isopanisad, Mantra 16)

He is the chief person, infallible, and His body is nondiffercnt from His soul. He is a person unlike ourselves, who are but parts and parcels of the whole. Because the Absolute Truth has to be inexhaustible, the impersonalists with their material way of thinking cannot accept that He can be a person. But although every person in the in the material world is mortal and subject to the defects of illusion, c heating, and limited knowledge, Krsna is a perfect person, possessed of inexhaustible potencies. That is the verdict of all Vedic literatures and the direction of all scriptures. He did not exhaust Himself by creation of the material cosmos. Although He has distributed Himself everywhere, His personality has not become lost. That distribution of Himself is not a very difficult job for God. Even the sun, a material object, has been distributing unlimited energy for countless years, and it has not become diminished in heat or bereft of its individuality. If we take a piece of paper and rip it into tiny pieces, we may say that the identity of the whole paper is lost, but in the realm of Absolute, Krsna is distributed and yet remains aloof from that distribution. Although nondifferent from the creation which is His energy, He is whole and separate from it. This is stated in the Bhagavad-gita, “In My transcendental form I pervade all this creation. All things are resting in Me, but I am not in them. Again, everything that is created does not rest on Me. Behold My mystic opulence: Although I am the maintainer of all living entities, and although I am everywhere, still My Self is the very source of creation.” (Bhagavad-gita 9.4-5) Although all creation, spiritual and material, is Krsna’s energy and His energy is nondifferent from Himself, He is aloof from everything and is the eternally enjoying Original Personality. This is the sublime doctrine of simultaneous oneness and difference expounded by Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Similarly, the living entity, part and parcel of Krsna, is also one of the energies of Krsna and is qualitatively nondifferent from Him. But at no time can any of the qualitatively equal parts become quantitatively equal to or greater than the whole.

Akrura’s prayers continue thus: “You are the cause of all causes. The elements of this cosmic manifestation—earth, fire, air, sky, egoism and the total material energy, as well as nature, the marginal energy, the living entities, mind, senses, sense objects, and the demigods who control the affairs of this cosmic manifestation—all are produced from Your body. You are the Supersoul of everything, but no one knows Your transcendental form. Everyone who is in this material world is influenced by the modes of material nature. Demigods like Lord Brahma who are covered by the influence of material nature do not exactly know Your transcendental existence, which is beyond the cosmic manifestation and the three modes of material nature.”

Akrura’s prayers of personal expression concur with the version of the standard Vedic literatures. Knowledge of the spiritual sky or of the Supreme Personality of Godhead cannot be concocted or self-made. It is stated that for such knowledge we have to take assistance from the Vedas. That Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as accepted by Akrura, is confirmed by the highest authority, the Vedas. All classes of transcendentalists who accept the authority of the Vedas, even the impersonalists generally known as Vedantists who are led by Sankaracarya, accept Krsna as the highest authority. Although Sankaracarya is supposed to be an impersonalist, in his commentary to the Bhagavad-gita he reveals himself to be a covered personalist. He writes as follows: ”Krsna, Narayana, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is beyond this cosmic manifestation.” This is what Akrura also prays as he beholds the transcendental form of Sri Visnu reclining on the snake-couch of Sesa Ananta on the Causal Ocean.

How wonderful it is! How wonderful it is!

How wonderful it is! How wonderful it is!

Beholding Visnu, Akrura beholds the spiritual form of the Absolute Truth. Very beautiful in bodily feature and surrounded by hosts of devotees and demigods, Krsna, or God, is the chief person, the source of all persons, and yet He is not like one of the jiva souls who are under the influence of the limiting material energy. He is not covered up; His spirit is not encaged in a body of matter which grows old and is subject to disease and death. There is no difference between His inside and His outside.

Visnu is the controller of this material world, and unlike the countless living entities who pervade all the material planets in the bodies of germs and in gigantic bodies, He is not controlled by time, and He is not subject to transmigration in different deteriorating bodies. As stated in the Bhagavad-gita, “Although I am unborn and My transcendental body never deteriorates, and although I am the Lord of all sentient beings, I still appear in every millenium in My original transcendental form.” (Bg. 4.6) Krsna does everything at His own will, and by that will He sometimes appears in the material world. Nevertheless, He remains unaffected by its material laws, just as a king visiting a prison is not affected by the laws of the prison.

“Except for You,” Akrura prays, “everyone is being carried away by the waves of material nature.” The material nature is so powerful that even the demigods like Brahma are in illusion and do not have knowledge of the spiritual sky and of the nature of the spiritual Personality of Godhead. But by the mercy of the Supreme, if anyone in any species of life surrenders to Him sincerely, he is freed from the deluding energy (maya) and from the stringent laws of nature, and he can be brought up to the spiritual level. This was the special benediction of Lord Caitanya for the especially fallen souls of the present age. Simply by chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, the unfortunate souls of Kali-yuga can cross over millions of births of wandering and attain a spiritual status beyond the material modes. This is achieved simply by switching their dependence from dependence on matter and the energy of illusion to dependence on Krsna and the spiritual energy. And this is done by the guidance of the expert pure devotee or spiritual master. Following the spiritual master and transferring from dependence on illusion to dependence on Krsna is the practical experience of Krsna consciousness.

Akrura prays that the Lord is the universal form. “My dear Lord, the fire is Your mouth, the earth is Your feet, the sun is Your eye, the sky is Your navel, the directions are Your ears, space is Your head, the demigods are Your arms, the oceans and seas are Your abdomen, and the winds and air are Your strength and vitality. All the plants and herbs are the hair on Your body, the clouds are the hair on Your head, the mountains are Your bones and nails, and the days and nights are the twinkling of Your eyelids.”

Akrura pays his obeisances to all the different incarnations, such as the fish incarnation, Lord Rama, Lord Nrsimhadeva, Lord Vamanadeva, Lord Buddha and Lord Kalki.

Finally Akrura admits that he himself is helplessly in illusion regarding spiritual knowledge: “My dear Lord, I am also no different from these conditioned souls. I am falsely thinking myself happy by possessing my home, wife, children, property and effects: in this way I am acting as if in a dreamland because none of these are permanent. I am a fool to be always absorbed in such thoughts, accepting them as permanent and true. My dear Lord, on account of my false identification, I have accepted this nonpermanent material body, which is a source of all kinds of miserable conditions. Being bewildered by such a false concept of life, I am always absorbed in thoughts of duality, and I have forgotten You, who are the reservoir of all transcendental pleasure. I am bereft of Your transcendental association, just like a foolish creature who leaves a lush oasis to search for water in the desert. The conditioned souls want to quench their thirst, but they do not know where to find water. They give up a spot where there is actually a reservoir of water and run into the desert, where there is no water. My dear Lord, I am completely incapable of controlling my mind, which is now driven by unbridled senses, attracted by fruitive activities and their results. My dear Lord, Your lotus feet cannot be appreciated by any person in the conditional stage of material existence, but somehow or other I have come near Your lotus feet, and I consider this to be Your causeless mercy upon me. You can act in any way You please because You are the supreme controller. I can thus understand that it is only by Your causeless mercy that when a person becomes eligible to be delivered from the path of repetition of birth and death he becomes attached to Your causeless devotional service.”

The Srimad-Bhagavatam describes that while Akrura was offering his nice prayers to the Supreme Lord, the Lord disappeared from the vision, just as a dramatic actor changes his dress and assumes his original feature. After the disappearance of the Visnu form, Akrura came out of the water and walked back to the chariot where Krsna and Balarama were sitting. Upon seeing Them, Akrura was struck with wonder. Krsna then asked him whether he had seen something wonderful in the water or in space, and Akrura said, “My dear Lord, all wonderful things that are happening within this world, either in the sky or in the water or on the land, are factually appearing in Your universal form. When I have seen You, what wonderful things remain to be seen? There cannot be anything more wonderful than Your transcendental form.” Krsna had seen that Akrura, approaching from the water, was dumbstruck, and therefore He had asked him, “Have you seen anything wonderful?” But Akrura’s expression indicated that there was nothing more wonderful to be seen than the original form of Krsna.

Akrura had seen Krsna’s universal form, and yet upon seeing the original form of Krsna seated on the chariot as a cowherd boy with two arms holding a flute, Krsna in a bluish hue, wearing beautiful garments and a peacock feather, His hair decorated with flowers, a flower garland around His neck, and accompanied by His brother Balarama, who wore blue clothing and whose complexion was whitish, Akrura felt that this was the greatest thing and that what he had just seen in the water could not compare to it. The devotee Arjuna expressed the same feeling after Krsna revealed the universal form to him on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra. After seeing this manifestation, which contained the entire material cosmos, consisting of time and space and innumerable forms, Arjuna requested that he again be allowed to see the original form of Krsna. It is stated in the Bhagavad-gita that Krsna, having frightened Arjuna with His universal form, displayed His real four-handed form and at last showed Him His two-handed feature, thus encouraging the fearful Arjuna. When Arjuna thus saw Krsna in His original aspect he said, “Seeing this humanlike form so very beautiful, I am now settled in mind and am restored to my original nature.”

The statement of the Vedic literature is that one who knows Krsna knows everything, and once one has seen Krsna he has seen everything wonderful. The appreciation of Krsna in His original form is the highest perfection of spiritual life, beyond awe of His multipotencies, the cosmic manifestation or universal form, the impersonal Brahman, and even the Visnu form.

Akrura could see this original form, but others cannot. The ability to see Krsna is proportionate to the service offered to the Lord; in that proportion He reciprocates. For example, even in our material world everyone is serving something. The materialists are serving maya, the illusory energy, and therefore they sec only maya, not Krsna. The impersonalists are serving that concept of Krsna which is imperceivable, and therefore they cannot perceive Him. The most recognized transcendentalist, however, is the Bhagavata, or devotee, who is serving the personal form of Krsna. Therefore knowledge of how to discriminate between matter and spirit is not sufficient: one must serve the Supreme Spirit, Krsna.

Akrura’s prayers began with philosophical glorification of the Supreme Lord as the total origin and cause of everything and the energetic source of all energy, and the prayers end with the fervent, personal plea that the Lord allow the individual devotee to become attached to His lotus feet in an attitude of loving service. It is very significant that an elevated devotee of Godhead like Akrura does not pray that the Lord grant him material benefits such as daily sustenance, a wife, wealth and good health. (These are already granted by the Lord in accordance with the form of species of body in which one is appearing in this material world.) Nor does the pure devotee pray to God for improvement of the material welfare of the people in terms of temporary prosperity or advancement of the national cause, nor does he pray for temporary cessation of a particular war while neglecting to pray for the solution to all war—the world-wide development of God consciousness. It is stated by the Vedic scriptures that the highest benefit will be derived by all living entities when they submissively hear about and glorify the Supreme Personality of Godhead. When one praises the naturally praiseworthy glories of God according to authoritative understanding of His transcendental qualities, and when others give their submissive aural reception to these prayers or chants or glorification, then it is guaranteed that all involved will move very quickly toward the perfection of life, love of Godhead, and then follows an eternal life of bliss and knowledge in the association of Krsna.

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