By His Holiness Satsvarupa Dasa Gosvami
One should not mistakenly think that Krishna’s appearance and pastimes are mythical or allegorical. Rather, we should accept Lord Krishna as the Absolute Truth, the cause of all causes, who actually appeared in a humanlike form and walked the earth. Bhagavad-gita states that the proper transcendental understanding of His appearance is so important that if one realizes only this one subject, at the time of death he does not have to return to the material world, but goes to join Krishna in the eternal spiritual world called Vaikuntha.
One should hear the pastimes of Krishna from a pure’ devotee of Krishna who has understood Krishna through his own spiritual master in a disciplic succession from Krishna Himself. Krishna states in Bhagavad-gita that those who thus perfectly understand Him worship Him in His personal form. He declares, “There is no truth superior to Me. Everything depends on Me, as pearls are strung on a thread.” Materialistic scientists and philosophers who accept as truth only what they perceive with their imperfect senses, as well as so-called transcendentalists who speculate that God is impersonal, cannot understand Krishna’s pastimes, nor can they achieve the perfection of life, love of God. Working outside of Krishna consciousness, therefore, they exist in illusion, for whatever they achieve independently from Krishna is vanquished at the time of death, and then they must take on new bodies in the various species of material life.
The most elevated transcendentalists, however, understand Krishna’s lilas, or pastimes, and relish them without cessation. Srimad-Bhagavatam declares: “The highest perfectional gain of humanity is to discuss the activities and glories of the pious actor [Krishna].” The great sages who compiled the Vedic literature, and the great spiritual masters who in turn recited it, such as Vyasadeva, Sukadeva, Narada and others, were completely free from all the vices of material attachment because they were aware of spirit’s permanence and matter’s temporality. Consequently their being fully absorbed in the activities of the Supreme Lord, Krishna, is solid evidence that the accounts of His activities are not whimsical tales. Had these pastimes been merely tall stories, such perfect sages would not have relished them. These sages were concerned with the highest good for humanity, beyond the illusion of temporary material welfare work, and therefore we should take seriously their recommendation that we hear the pastimes of Krishna. There are many examples of devotees who have attained perfection simply by hearing these pastimes.
The Eternal Road Show
Yearly we celebrate Janmastami to commemorate the day Krishna appeared on earth some 5,000 years ago. But that same occurrence, Krishna’s birth on a planet in one of the material universes, is not a one-time event. It is always going on somewhere, even now as you read this article!
Instructing His great disciple Sanatana Gosvami regarding the spiritual technology of the Supreme Lord’s descent (avatara). Lord Caitanya explained that just as the sun perpetually seems to rise and set somewhere on earth, so Lord Krishna eternally appears and disappears in His transcendental pastimes. The time is always six a.m. somewhere on earth. An hour after six a.m. in New York City, six a.m. arrives in Detroit. An hour later it moves further west, and an hour later it is elsewhere. Similarly, Janmastami and all the pastimes Krishna displayed on earth continuously move and appear sequentially on planets in various universes. Lord Caitanya told Sanatana, “His pastimes are like the waves of the Ganges River; as there is no limit to the flowing waves of the Ganges, there is no cessation to the different features and incarnations Lord Krishna reveals in different universes.”
Krishna appears in our universe for only 125 years, but in each and every universe He exhibits all the pastimes He performs here, including His apparent birth, His boyhood pastimes and His pastimes as a youth. Since the universes are numberless, His lilas are going on at every moment, at every second, without limit. They are therefore called eternal.
To our vision, Krishna is born as the son of Devaki and Vasudeva, and after 125 years He disappears or dies. But the fact is that He exists eternally; He simply leaves this world for another. We may again cite the example of the sun, which first rises every day on the eastern horizon but still is not a product of that horizon. Although when we first behold the sun we associate it with the east because of our angle of vision, the sun always shines independently in the sky, regardless of how it appears and disappears to us locally. The sun does not die or set in the evening; it only seems to as it leaves our vision. Krishna’s coming and going is something like that. He associates with a mother and father and takes birth in a certain family and land, but He exists eternally and travels from universe to universe to enjoy blissful exchanges with His devotees.
Krishna’s pastimes go on as a kind of road show, visiting one planet after another. Not only does Krishna travel; He brings with Him His mother, His father, His cowherd friends, the gopis, the cows and the land of Vrndavana. Thus Krishna is never considered alone, without His eternal associates and abode. When He descends, He descends with His entourage and paraphernalia, and when He travels they all travel with Him.
Krishna’s road show is separate from and yet identical with His supreme original activities on the spiritual planet Goloka in the eternal brahmajyoti, the effulgent spiritual sky far beyond all the material universes. It is said that the Lord is so captured by the association of the liberated devotees in Goloka that He never leaves-but He expands Himself to come to the material universes, enact the same pastimes, and thus attract the fallen souls, who are His parts and parcels, to come back home, back to Godhead.
Krishna appears in our universe, according to an eternal schedule, once every 4,320,000 x 1,000 x 2 years. In the Bhagavatam, concerned devotees ask, “Now that Krishna has left, where-can we find the religious principles?” The answer is that by reciting the pastimes of Krishna as related in the Bhagavatam and Gita, one can associate with Krishna as directly as one could by being face to face with Him. That is called lila-smarana, association by remembrance. Because Krishna’s lilas in Vrndavana are absolute, remembering those pastimes is the same as being with Him.
The perfection of human life, therefore, is to practice bhakti-yoga under the direction of a spiritual master and thus attain pure love for Krishna, free from all material sense gratification. By hearing Krishna’s pastimes from the spiritual master, one becomes attracted to the activities of the spiritual world, which are always performed for Krishna’s pleasure, and thus one is cured of the desire to lord it over the material world. Under the spiritual master’s direction, one can take part in Krishna’s pastimes simply by remembering them. Thus one can eventually join Krishna in His eternal traveling road show and ultimately transfer oneself to Krishna’s Goloka planet in the spiritual sky.
His Holiness Satsvarupa dasa Gosvami is the personal secretary of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada