—by Satsvarupa Das Adhikary
There is a story in the Vedic scriptures of a time when the great sage Narada went to visit the Supreme Lord Narayan (Krishna) in the Spiritual Kingdom of Vaikuntha. Narada was travelling on the earth at the time for the purpose of spreading the Hare Krishna Mantra, and before leaving, he met a brahmin on the road. The brahmin learned that Narada was going to see Lord Narayan, so he requested that Narada find out his spiritual status: how long, how many more births would he have to undergo before he would be liberated from material existence? Narada agreed to inquire about the brahmin’s position. Further on he was hailed by a cobbler who was tending his craft while sitting under a large tree by the roadside. The cobbler paid his respects to Narada and asked the great sage to please find out how many births more he would have to spend in the miseries of repeated birth and death before he would attain final liberation. In the Vaikuntha planet, in the Presence of the Supreme Lord, Narada reported his missionary activities to Narayan and received all the necessary information for carrying on his loving devotional service. He then inquired about the two conditioned souls he had met on the earth planet. When the Lord was asked about the brahmin He said, “Oh he will have to spend many, many more lifetimes before his liberation.” Narada noted the reply, and then asked about the cobbler. On hearing mention of that cobbler, the Lord smiled, “Please tell him that he will be liberated in this very lifetime!” Then Narayan added, “And when you tell them, if they ask what I was doing, please tell them I was threading an elephant through the eye of a needle.”
When Narada approached the brahmin on the earth planet the brahmin enquired what the Lord had said. Narada told him, and the brahmin became morosely silent. This brahmin was a rigid practitioner of the scriptural regulations; he took three baths a day and never failed to perform the proper rituals, so he was surprised to hear that he had a long way before being liberated. He then asked what the Lord was doing. When Narada told him that Lord Narayan was threading an elephant through the eye of a needle, the brahmin became outraged with disbelief: “What? Go away! You haven’t been to see Narayan. This is just some nonsense you are concocting!” And the brahmin turned away from Narada. Narada next approached the cobbler. On seeing Narada Muni, the man jumped up from his place under the tree and ran to the devotee-sage:”You have just seen the Lord. So tell me when I am to be liberated.” Narada was pleased to tell the cobbler that he would be liberated in this very lifetime. The cobbler turned ecstatic and began jumping for joy. Very soon he would be with the Lord! He then asked Narada what Lord Narayan was doing. Narada replied, “The Lord was threading an elephant through the eye of a needle.” The cobbler became still more ecstatic. “Ah, how great my Lord is!” he exclaimed. Narada asked him further, “How is it you have such faith that you can believe the Lord was doing such an impossible thing?” The cobbler answered unflinchingly, “Impossible? Just see this large, spacious tree we are sitting under. Do you know that such a big spreading tree came out of a seed no bigger than a pin? So if the Lord can put such a big tree into a tiny seed, why can’t He thread one elephant through a needle’s eye?”
The purport is clear. The cobbler had more than a blind faith in God. He had understanding that God means Param Brahman, the Greatest, and the Greatest means that He can do anything. So many impersonalists will admit that God means the unlimited, the infinite, but as soon as they hear that the Lord descends as Avatara and acts in a way indicative of His unlimited potency, they take it differently. They say it is a myth or allegory, or they criticize. The mental speculator tries to put God within the restrictions of the understanding of the tiny human brain. This is his error. Rather, the Vedic process for understanding the Absolute Truth is to receive it as it is. The Personality of Godhead, the Absolute Truth, is inconceivable, therefore we cannot measure Him. But we can hear from authorized sources of His Activities. Everyone should be interested in this transcendental hearing, because everyone is intimately connected as part of the One Supreme Lord. By listening, our heart can become cleansed and we can have revealed to us the practical, loving intent of the Lord in His multi-incarnations. If we can understand His Pastimes, all our problems will be solved. By understanding Krishna’s Appearance in the world, we reach the perfection of life by leaving this temporary world of ignorance and misery and going back to Home, back to Godhead. That is the version of the Bhagavad Gita.
It is in this spirit that the great sages and transcendental scholars of the Vedic literature request we listen to the Activities of the incarnation of the Lord as Boar, or the Baraha Avatara.
II: The Holy Boar Rescues Planet Earth
At a time far remote from present history, in the Swetabaraha millennium, just at the dawn of the creation of the material world, Lord Brahma was approached by the presiding Manu. The Manu asked Brahma to do something about the earth planet, which had fallen to the bottom of the Garbhodak ocean which fills half of the universe. Lord Brahma, being the chief administrator of the affairs of the material universe, is the direct representative of Krishna. Brahma was presented by the Manu with this calamity: earth had fallen to a filthy place and had to be rescued. Lord Brahma gave it his full attention and meditated as follows: “While I was engaged in the matter of creation, the earth was inundated by deluge and went down into the depths of the ocean. What can we, who are engaged in this creation, do? Better let the Almighty Lord direct us.” The chief entity, Brahma, was perplexed, but not discouraged. With full faith in Krishna, his thinking suddenly bore the solution of his duty, by the Grace of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This is all narrated in the spotless Vedic literature, the Srimad Bhagavatam, Third Canto: “All of a sudden, while Brahma was engaged in thinking, a small form of a Boar came out of his nostril, and the measurement of the creature was not more than the upper portion of the thumb. While Brahma was observing Him, the Boar-like form became situated in the sky in a wonderful manifestation, grown suddenly into a gigantic form like a great elephant. Brahma, along with great brahmins like Marichi, began to argue as to what it was. Brahma exclaimed: “Is this some extraordinary entity come in the pretense of a boar? It is very wonderful.” As he was the supermost person in the universe, Lord Brahma could guess that the wonderful Appearance of the Boar was an Avatar of Vishnu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Such a form was never before experienced. The symptoms of the incarnation of Godhead are so uncommon that even Brahma became perturbed. While these sages and demigods were deliberating, the Lord as Boar resounded a tremendous sound which echoed in all directions.
It is said that the sound of the Voice of Baraha was gorgeous to the devotees of the upper planets, but to the demoniac, who also heard it, it was the most dangerous sound-the sound of doom to their rebellion. Lord Vishnu is declared by all the Vedic literature as transcendental. The Lord as Boar is also the Supreme Lord, or the Vedas incarnate. Those elevated, pious intellectual beings on upper material planets (such as Siddha Loka and Brahma Loka) replied to the Lord’s Voice by praying to Him with Vedic hymns. The earth planet was submerged in the mire on the bottom of the ocean, but on hearing the sound of the Lord as Baraha, the devotees knew that He was present for the earth’s deliverance. They understood that Vishnu was appearing as a Boar because a boar can get something out of a filthy place. The Bhagavatam describes the Voice of the Boar and the chanting of the devotees as enacted on a cosmic scale. They reciprocated vibrations of love back and forth through the regions of all outer space. And it is stated that of all the Vedic hymns vibrated in that concert between the Supreme and His loving servants, the most important was the Brihanaradiya Purana verse, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.
Srimad Bhagavatam relates: “He resounded again in reply to the Vedic prayers by the great devotees. The Lord is the Object of the Vedic prayers, and thus He understood that the devotees’ prayers were meant for Him.” As the mantras were being properly recited, the Lord was pleased. Before entering the water to rescue the earthly planet, the Lord Boar flew down from the sky, slashing with His Tail and quivering His hard Hairs. His very Glance was luminous, and He swatted the clouds in the sky with His Hoofs and His glittering white Tusks. Although the body of a boar is material and contaminated, that is not the case with the Boar Form of the Lord. Nor is it possible, of course, for an earthly boar to assume a gigantic form and perform so many wondrous activities. Baraha is the One Lord Who is without a second Who comes for Pastime functions. As stated in the Fourth Chapter of Bhagavad Gita, the Lord is One, and yet He is appearing in multi-incarnations The example is given that He is like the Vaidurya stone which changes colors but is one. These things are understood by submissive hearing and inquiry and by devotional service to the One Lord. Bhagavad Gita clearly states that whoever understands how the Lord appears and disappears on the material scene is at once liberated. This is the proper application of the Sanskrit expression, “Tatvamasi,” “You are that too.” In his purports to the Gita, Swami A.C. Bhaktivedanta writes: “Anyone who understands Lord Krishna to be the Supreme or who says unto the Lord, ‘You are the same Supreme Brahman, the Personality of Godhead,’ is certainly liberated instantly, and consequently his entrance into the transcendental association of the Lord is guaranteed.” When we speak of Krishna, it is to be understood that Krishna includes all the Avataras. Baraha is mentioned in the list of incarnations in the Srimad Bhagavatam: “The Supreme Enjoyer of all sacrifices accepted the Boar Incarnation for the welfare of the earth. He lifted it from the nether regions of the universe.” (S.B., 1.3.7)
In any of His eternal Forms, Krishna is God. This is to be understood. When He is playing as Child Krishna on the lap of His mother, Yasoda, He is God; when He appears as the half-lion half-man Form of Nrishinghadeva He is God; and as Baraha, in the Form of a Boar, He is the same transcendental Supreme Lord. Just as wood is wood, fire is fire, so by the law of designation God is God. He is always God in any Form He takes; and these Forms are all described in the authoritative Vedic scriptures. The materialistic mentality not only thinks that the form of a boar cannot be spiritual or transcendental, but he thinks that the human form is always material. According to the Bhagavad Gita, this inability to accept Krishna as He presents Himself, or is presented by a pure representative, is a disease. A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami cites this in his purport to the 10th verse of the Fourth Chapter of Bhagavad Gita: “It is very difficult for a person who is too materially affected to understand the Personal nature of the Supreme Absolute Truth. Generally, people who are attached to the bodily concept of life are so absorbed in materialism that it is almost impossible for them to understand how the Supreme can be a Person. Such materialists cannot imagine that there is a transcendental Body which is non-perishable, full of knowledge and eternally blissful. In the materialistic concept, the body is perishable, full of ignorance and completely miserable. Therefore people in general keep this same bodily idea in mind when they are informed of the Personal Form of the Lord For such materialists, the Form of the gigantic material manifestation is supreme; therefore they imagine that the Supreme is impersonal.” Since we are now hearing or reading of Lord Baraha, let us spend the time for the highest benefit and thus take shelter of Srila Vyasadeva, the author of the Vedic Shastra; in this way we can best receive the Activities of the incarnation of Boar, as they are told.
“Lord Boar penetrated the water with His Hoof, which was sharp like arrows, and found out the limitation of the ocean, although it was unlimited. He saw the earth lying as it was in the beginning of creation, as the resting place for all living beings, and He Personally lifted it.”
Thereupon Lord Boar killed the demon within the water, just as a lion kills an elephant.
According to the Vedic philosopher devotee, Jiva Goswami, the topics told of Baraha in the Third Canto of Bhagavatam are of different millenniums. The topics of Baraha’s rescue of the earth from the mire is of the Swetabaraha millennium, and the topics of His killing the demon Hiranakya are of the later Caksus millennium in His second Appearance as Boar. In one incarnation His bodily hue is described as whitish, and in the other it is reddish. In either case, just by His glancing over His devotees, all of them felt transcendental happiness. The Body of the Lord is always transcendental in all cases. His assumption of the Form of Boar is only His Pastime. Just as when Krishna played the part of a human being, He was the perfect human being, so He assumed the Form of a Boar and found the earth by smelling, like a perfect boar, and he rescued it by lifting it up on His tusks. Yet His Body is the Vedas Personified.
III: The Fight With Hiranakya
As the Boar was coming out of the water, He was attacked by the powerful demon, Hiranakya, who had been travelling through all the three worlds and planetary systems, conquering whomever he met, out of bellicose madness. Hiranakya was the twin-brother of the demon Hiranya Kashipu. The pair were born into this world specifically to take up the role of personal combatants or enemies of the Supreme Lord in His respective incarnations of Lord Baraha and Lord Nrishingha, the half-lion half-man Avatara of the Satya Yuga. As the Reservoir of all desires, the Lord also has a fighting spirit, from which comes all fighting spirit as found in the material world. For instance, the natural fighting spirit sometimes displayed by young boys wrestling is but a perverted reflection of this original desire of the Lord. The fighting of the Supreme Lord, however, doesn t result in the destruction of the enemy, but works for his liberation. Sometimes people are suspicious because Lord Krishna taught His transcendental philosophy on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. But, as stated by the devotee Bhismadeva, all those who took part in the Battle of Kurukshetra and were killed while seeing the Form of the Personality of Godhead, Krishna, gained their eternal liberation. Even being kicked by Krishna is eternally auspicious.
When the demon brothers appeared, born from the womb of Diti, the very pores of the earth and the sky and the animals and plant kingdoms virtually cried out with omens of evil portent.
When the Supreme Lord fights, He does not fight with an ordinary mortal or nondevotee. Rather, He exchanges this rasa only with His devotees. By the Grace of the complete revelation of Vyasdeva, the compiler of the Bhagavatam, we are able to understand that Lord Baraha picked His own servant, a doorman of the palace in the spiritual planet, Vaikuntha, and this servant descended in the form of Hiranakya and took on the demoniac life for the purpose of battling with the Lord in hand to hand combat.
Hiranakya was broad and strong, golden-haired and covered with ornaments. He is described as being so tall and big that he blocked the view of the sky. And his prowess was not that of an ordinary man because in fighting he appeared almost on an equal level with the Lord. But his mentality was all demoniac: he travelled for the purpose of fighting with all peace-loving creatures. Wherever he could find anyone with a fighting reputation he would challenge him to fight. He thus made the demigod Indra flee before him, and he challenged Varuna the god of the water. Varuna advised Hiranakya that if he were really so desirous of battle he ought to fight with Lord Vishnu, and he told the demon that at the present moment the Lord had taken the Form of a Boar, and he told him where he could go to meet Him.
The demon came upon the all-powerful Personality of Godhead in His incarnation as Boar, as the Lord was bearing the earth upwards on the end of His tusk. The Bhagavatam says that “the reddish Eyes and Hoofs of the amphibious beast robbed the demon of his splendor.”
“Your power is only mystic!” the infatuated demon roared to the Supreme Lord. “Today I shall enliven my kinsmen by killing you, oh fool.” This is the demoniac mentality. The Lord is invisible to the eyes of the common man, but His energies are everywhere, acting in various ways. The demons think that God is actually hiding Himself and working by mystic power, and if he can find Him out then he can kill Him. The demoniac are anxiously trying to kill God by words and “philosophy.” The idea underlying this is that if one is materially powerful enough, he can kill God by weapons. Actually, the demoniac cannot understand at all how God is working. They can neither kill Him nor touch Him. He can be present everywhere and still remain at His eternal Abode.
The demon continued hurling insults, but the Lord Boar patiently bore them while He carried the earth to safety on His tusks. “When You are smashed by my mace,” the demon challenged, “then the sages and devotees who offer You devotional service will cease to exist.” It is well-known by everyone that the demons do not like the fact that the devotees worship the Lord in the prescribed ways recommended in the scriptures.
The Lord Boar was pained by the abusive words of the demon, but He carefully placed the earth on the water of the universe and enabled it to float by its own power. Then He turned to the business of fighting the demon who was delivering furious insults. The Lord is no myth, but is actually present in multi-incarnations. As He is the Source of all sentiency and feeling, He has feeling Himself, and He is therefore never pleased by insults. According to Goswami A.C. Bhaktivedanta, “God is as sentient as we are, and He is satisfied by our prayer and dissatisfied with our harsh words against Him.” In order to give protection to His devotee, He is always ready to tolerate all kinds of insults by the atheists. Therefore He patiently placed the earth in a safe place and prepared to dispatch the demon. The Lord said to Hiranakya: “We are creatures of the jungle, and we are searching after dogs like you. One who is freed from the entanglement of death does not fear the insults of the kind in which you are indulging because you are bound by the laws of death.” Baraha knew that Hiranakya’s position was a false one. The demon doesn’t believe in God; he thinks that he can defy the material laws and be freed of birth and death. No one, however, has ever been able to achieve freedom from death, not by any advancement of science nor by mental speculation, Yogic power or sheer brawn, as possessed by Hiranakya. “Give up your nonsensical talking,” Lord Baraha went on. “You are supposed to be the commander of many soldiers, so now you can take prompt steps to overthrow us.” Hiranakya became so angry and agitated that he began to tremble “like a challenged cobra.” The Lord had asked him to fulfill his loud promises to kill Him.
Hiranakya then sprang upon Baraha and dealt Him a blow with his powerful mace. The Lord dodged that blow by moving aside a little. The Personality of Godhead then exhibited His anger and rushed to meet the demon who was hissing and shaking with rage and holding his mace to deliver another blow. The Lord then struck at Hiranakya, but the expert demon protected himself with a maneuver of his mace. In this way, they began to strike at each other with their huge maces, each seeking his own victory.
Lord Brahma, accompanied by his followers and other demigods, came to see the terrible fight for the sake of the world. The Lord is described by the demigods as “Yajna,” or “the Body full of worshipful offerings.” As learned devotees, the demigods never consider the Lord to have the body of an ordinary boar. He can assume any Form, and He has all such Forms eternally. All forms actually emanate from the Original Form of Krishna, as declared in the Srimad Bhagavatam. So this Boar Form is always Vishnu, transcendental. Lord Brahma addressed Him thus: “This demon has proved to be a constant pinprick to demigods, brahmins, cows and innocent persons. He has attained a boon from me and has turned to be a demon and is always wandering over the earth looking for a fight. My dear Lord, there is no need of playing with this serpentine demon who is very skilled in cunning tricks and arrogant and most wicked. Kindly kill him. The dark evening is fast approaching.” It is said that upon hearing the words of Brahma the creator, words which were free from all sinful purposes and were as sweet as nectar, the Lord heartily laughed and “accepted his prayer with a glance ladened with love.” The prayer of Brahma was pure, whereas Hiranakya had prayed and performed austerities in order to derive power in the form of a boon from Brahma. It is said in the Bhagavad Gita that those who undergo severe penances and austerities not mentioned in the scriptures, out of pride, ego, lust and attachment, do such things impelled by passion.
The Lord then aimed His mace at the chin of His enemy who was stalking in front of Him. But He was instead struck by the demon’s mace, and His mace slipped from His Hand. It is described that the demigods became alarmed at this. Hiranakya, however, respecting the law of combat, did not strike an unarmed foe. The Lord’s anger was kindled by this, and He invoked His Sudarshan discus, which is the personal ultimate weapon used by the Personality of Godhead. As the discus revolved in His Hand, the demon sprang into the air, saying, “You are slain!” and threw His mace. The Lord knocked it down with His left Foot. The demon picked up his mace and aimed it again. The Lord stood firm and caught the flying mace and offered it back to the demon to try again. This humiliated the demon, and he took a trident and hurled it furiously. The Lord, however, tore it to pieces with His Sudarshan, which has a sharp-edged rim. Hiranakya then struck the Lord with his hard fists on His Chest. The Bhagavatam says that this was felt by the Lord as an elephant feels the striking of a wreath of flowers. In other words, the Lord desired the fighting in order to enjoy transcendental bliss. The demon then began to conjure tricks on a full scale, as was in his power. The skies were filled with winds and stones were discharged from caves. Puss, hair and blood rained from the skies. At this, Lord Baraha at last discharged His Sudarshan. At the moment the weapon left His Hand, a shudder ran through the heart of Diti, mother of Hiranakya, and her breast ran with blood. When the demon saw that his whole magic show was dispersed by the Presence of the Personality of Godhead, he tried to embrace Him with his arms in order to crush Him. But to his amazement he found that the Lord had again eluded him. Finally, the Lord slapped him at the base of the ear, and though struck indifferently, Hiranakya’s eyeballs bulged out of their sockets, his body wheeled, and he fell down like a gigantic tree uprooted by the wind, his arms, limbs and head broken and scattered.
It is described that when the demigods approached the battle area, they saw the so-called corpse of the demon Hiranakya was still rosey-hued, as if full of life. Then it was noticed that the demon’s body was still touching Lord Baraha’s Body, and therefore the Soul of souls was giving him life. Lord Brahma remarked, “Oh what blessed death is here!” The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Who grants liberation in any incarnation, is so inconceivably great that His kick brings the greatest benefit to the “victim.” Because He is inconceivably great, we are warned against thinking that we understand what it is to be a devotee of the Lord, or how it feels to be a friend of Krishna, or to act as His parent when He is partaking of His Childhood Pastimes. And certainly, no one should pretend to grasp the understanding of what it is to exchange loving affairs with the Lord. Most persons actually have no concept of God, or at most they may have heard that “God is great.” Yet the mystery of the Pastimes of the Chief of all persons is open to everyone who will hear His Pastimes as presented in the Srimad Bhagavatam and related intact by His pure representatives.