Krishna Enjoys Fulfilling His Devotees' Desires
The simple acts of offering a lamp, incense, and flowers opened my heart to something incredible and factual. Love is never a one way affair.
Here's a story I've only recently started sharing because I think it may offend many in the Vaiṣṇava community. After some prayerful consideration, I decided to share it publicly because I think the telling has some value for others in that it may challenge some rigid ideas about bhakti-yoga that I once harboured. Also, recent life events have shown me the precarious nature of this material world, so such blessed life experiences should be shared before I die.
If this inspires you, then I'm inspired to have served you in this way. If it offends you, then please know that my decisions and actions were very situational and seemed to me, at the time, to be directed by energies beyond my comprehension. I still feel this way.
In 2004 I was gifted Śri Gopāla in the form of a śāligrāma-śilā. He fit so perfectly in the palm of my hand and captivated my mind. The timing was ideal as I was in need of shelter due to tumultuous circumstances in my life. A friend in need is a friend indeed, and I needed a friend in deed. Gopāla took my understanding of worship from the idea of ritualistically purifying practice to more of a daily affirmation of relationship and affection. The simple acts of offering a lamp, incense, flowers and other paraphernalia opened my heart to something incredible and factual. Love is never one way. Gopāla doesn’t need our rituals, He rather enjoys disrupting ritual with His friends. He does, however, relish our meagre attempts to show him affection. As every single Vaiṣṇava in existence can testify, He is also very expert at reciprocating the love and desires of His devotees, hence the principle of “all-attraction”. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedānta Svāmī writes in his beautiful Kṛṣṇa Book: “Outside the principle of all-attraction, there is no meaning to the word Godhead.” Desiring to experience and to acknowledge this reality is the natural consequence of sādhana-bhakti.
So for years I was blessed with Gopāla’s company. My wife and I offered Him all of our meals. She prepared the items for the daily pūjā; I recited mantras, arranged alaṅkāra and performed the upacāras. At one point, I would take His picture every day and share it on a ‘blog’ I made for Him. I stopped doing that as I thought that the practice started to take on an exhibitionist context and my heart was starting to change towards the internal. I’m explaining this to set the context for an otherworldly event that eventually took place.
In the Gaudiya lineage, we celebrate Kṛṣṇa as svayaṁ bhagavān. Śrī brahma-saṁhitā declares:
īśvaraḥ paramaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ
anādir ādir govindaḥ
Kṛṣṇa 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.
And this is a wonderful thing to know! Such an understanding is, according to śāstra, the reward for many lifetimes of merit and austerities. (See ŚB 3.33.7) There is, however, a deeper reality. Kṛṣṇa prefers to be considered in the context of His relationships with His devotees. He is delighted in this way. Śrila Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura points the way when he sings, “yaśomatī-nandana, braja-baro-nāgara, gokula-rañjana kāna, gopī-parāṇa-dhana, madana-manohara, kāliya-damana-vidhāna” Each of these amala harināms have infinite depth of rasa which I, sadly, cannot appreciate, what to speak of convey with words.
And after only a few years of Gopāla’s worship, the need for a companion became apparent. My desire was to place Gopāla on an āsana next to his older brother Balarāma. I had no idea how this would or could happen, but thought that if this were to ever transpire, it could be possible by directing this desire to Gopāla Himself. And so I did that regularly.
In 2007, I ended up at Govardhana Hill doing barefoot parikramā on the inner path. I was by myself, as, I’ve learned, works best for me in such situations. In the evening, I approached the area known as Doka Daujī where there is a small shrine up on the hill for Śri Balarāma. As I got closer, I could hear the most amazing sound I have ever heard. The local villagers were singing up on the hill where the shrine was located. I couldn’t see them as they were obscured by Śri Govardhana, but that did not matter as the eyes were not capable of interpreting this experience anyway. Something happened in my heart and mind that left me stunned. The melodies and rhythms being sung were not of this world.
I sat down on the path in amazement, and felt overpowered by the pure bhakti shakti emanating from the top of the hill. I was actually a little afraid because I was losing the ability to be rational and feel in control of my thoughts. I love music and have been trained in the art from a young age, so I tried to take refuge in analysing just the melody as the rhythm seemed far too complex to wrap my head around. There did not seem to be any call and response, rather a naturally flowing ascendant river of melodious rapture sung in unison(!) by a gathering of Vṛndāvana-vāsīs. I cannot to this day accept that This Bhajana could have been learned by anyone. It had a personality of Its own, ebbing and flowing by Its own will. It pulled on the heart and eventually made me just give up trying to understand and allow myself to be swept up in the experience.
Like all members of the Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī parivāra, I have been taught to be careful in regard to sahajiyā tendencies. I can say for certain that this experience was beyond my own actual adhikārā. I share this story because I hope that it may inculcate an understanding of reciprocity that goes beyond ritual and rules. Like many contemporary Gaudiya practitioners, I was born in very low circumstances; but Kṛṣṇā loves all of His devotees so dearly, and this is a fact that no one can erode or diminish even an iota. To accept this reality is not sahajiyism. To deny this reality is to seriously miss the point.
So I sat there on the path in the spiritual world, transported by this expression of intensely personal glorification and affection that surrounded me. I lost any idea of time, so I don’t know how long I was there but, at some point, a nicely dressed man in dhoti with a chaddar around his neck appeared before me smiling. He seemed very much at home in this atmosphere and motioned for me to come to him. I stood up and walked the few steps over to him.
When I came beside him, he turned towards Śri Govardhana and waved at me to follow him up the hill to where the singing was coming. I stopped. Not walking on Govardhana Hill is a prohibition that even Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu observed. Govardhana is sacred in so many ways that to even think of putting one’s feet on Him sends shivers down the spine. It is one thing for residents of Govardhana to do this, but I have not once heard of any situation where such an action is sanctioned for guests. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.21.18) trumpets:
hantāyam adrir abalā hari-dāsa-varyo
mānaṁ tanoti saha-go-gaṇayos tayor yat
Of all the devotees, this Govardhana Hill is the best! O my friends, this hill supplies Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma, along with Their calves, cows and cowherd friends, with all kinds of necessities — water for drinking, very soft grass, caves, fruits, flowers and vegetables. In this way the hill offers respects to the Lord. Being touched by the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma, Govardhana Hill appears very jubilant.
This beautiful Vraja-vāsī persisted in waving for me to follow him. I did not know the language, so I just stood there stupidly pointing at my feet in an attempt to communicate my anxiety and reason for not complying. His eyes grew soft with understanding. He came over to me and tugged on my shirt. He then pointed to the ground as if to tell me where to place my foot. So I did that. Then he pointed a little further ahead to show me where to place my next step. I complied. And then this gorgeous caring man of a much MUCH higher status than myself, who so much wanted me to come up to the kīrtana, led me patiently up the hill step-by-step to avoid stepping on any sacred stones. I did not know him at all, yet he treated me with such honour and subservience. This is what a Vaiṣṇava truly is: a blissful servant who, in service, is wilfully oblivious to externalities and eager to please the Lord of his heart. How is that done? Service to His devotees. Kṛṣṇa serves His devotees. When we turn our attention towards this sacred purpose, we are actually serving His intention and will be rewarded with His attention.
I don’t have much to say about what I saw on the Hill. The man led me towards the small mandire where Daujī is worshipped and allowed me to have darśana. Scattered around the flat area in front of the shrine were mostly ladies who were still singing melodiously and spontaneously. I felt out of place, but very grateful for the experience. After what seemed like only a short time, the man led me back down the hill towards the parikramā path.
I paid my obeisances to him and, in my mind, to Śri Govardhana, everything and everyone around me. I then wandered around the base of the Hill still listening to the melody. I was disoriented and confused. At one point, I thought I should sit down just off the path and live there for the rest of my life, clothed or unclothed, food or no food. (I would not have lasted long. I have no real adhikārā for renunciation.) As I was looking down, something seemed to sparkle in the sand. The reflection of the evening rays of sun glinted on a particular stone, which was white in colour and crystal-like in structure. This is Daujī, Gopāla’s older brother.
Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura describes in his Vraja-rīti-cintāmaṇi:
kutrāpi tā mārakataika-tānāḥ
tāḥ padma-rāgāḥ sphaṭikāś ca kāścid
On Govardhana, in some places the stones are the best sapphires, in other places they are all emeralds, in some places they are rubies and in other places they are crystals. These are used for the pastimes of Kṛṣṇa.
dūraṁ prayāti sphaṭikoccayāntāt
kṛṣṇāgrajo’trety api sāpi yatra
When Balarāma sees fine golden stones, he thinks that Rādhā is there and goes far away. When Rādhā sees white crystals, she thinks Balarāma is there and goes far away from the crystals.
kṛṣṇas tu jāmbunada-madhyam eti
muhuḥ sva-kāntā dyuti-viddha-buddhiḥ
kāntādi tasyendra-maṇī śilāntaṁ
On Govardhana, which is the best of servants, Kṛṣṇa, thinking that the effulgence is coming from Rādhā, approaches gold nuggets. Rādhā and other gopīs, mistaking sapphire stones for Kṛṣṇa, approach the sapphires.
So I stood on Govardhana Hill. It still makes me cringe when I think of it out of context. Recollecting the circumstances in telling this story, it isn’t something that I feel we should be overly dramatic about. I was not frolicking about whimsically for my own enjoyment, and was persistently invited and guided by a local in a moment of irrationality that was not of my own making. Still, I’m sorry if this offends you and offer you my nose in the dust of your feet, begging you for your forgiveness.
Now Gopāla sits with His resplendent brother Daujī here in our tiny house in New Zealand. See!
Please do not doubt the efficacy of a desire and the willingness of Kṛṣṇa to fulfil it.
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These words were not generated with or augmented by artificial intelligence; just “flawsome” human thoughts here … with, of course, due homage to The Algorithm that abides over us all.
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