Lord Brahma, the powerful creator of the universe, tests Lord Krishna and realizes he has more than met his match.
By Gauranga Darshana Dasa
An attempt to display one’s minute power in front of the supremely powerful only proves to be futile.
[ Excerpted from Disapproved but not Disowned: A Sneak Peek into Sensitive Hearts, by Gauranga Darshan Das. © 2018 Sri Tulsi Trust. This selection, chapter one of the book, retains the book’s style for Sanskrit and other considerations. The book is available in Kindle format at amazon.in and amazon.com, and in print at tulsibooks.com and amazon.in. This chapter is based on Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto 10, chapters 13–14, and the purports of Srila Prabhupada and Srila Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura, and also Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s Sri Navadvipa-dhama-mahatmya, chapter 5.]
“This spot is perfect. The fragrance of the fully blown lotuses is permeating all over the beautiful scenery of the soft and sandy bank of the Yamuna. The sounds of chirping birds, cooing peacocks, humming bees and whispering leaves of the trees are together creating a pleasant atmosphere. Let’s take our lunch here while our calves graze in the soft grasses and drink water from the Yamuna.” Little Krishna made this sweet proposal to His hungry friends. He had just killed a great snake demon named Aghasur and saved them.
It was almost a daily routine for Krishna in Vrindavan to kill some demon who often, curiously enough, appeared just before lunchtime.
Exchange of Love in an Enchanting Picnic
The gopas gladly agreed to Krishna’s proposal. They sat down to eat in concentric circles, around Krishna. Krishna appeared like the center of a lotus, while the boys around Him appeared like its petals. Although the gopas surrounded Krishna in all directions, each one of them constantly enjoyed seeing Krishna face to face, as if Krishna sat right in front of them. Krishna didn’t expand Himself into many forms, yet He was seen face to face by every single gopa. Krishna’s reciprocation with the residents of Vrindavan (Vrajavasis) was simply inconceivable!
The community that keeps Krishna in the center receives all reciprocation and protection from Him, like the gopas.
Krishna exhibits His majesty and powers to create and maintain this world, to kill the demons and to do several other things. But the power He manifests to reciprocate with His devotees, especially in Vrindavan, is the epitome of all His powers. At the end of the day, when Krishna wanted to take His cows from the forest, back to the village, He would call out the name of one cow. Then each cow would hear her own name and run towards Krishna with great eagerness and affection to join Him back home.
Krishna’s power is manifested to the ultimate extent in His reciprocation with the love of His dear devotees.
The boys used flowers, leaves and tree bark as plates to eat their food brought from home. Each boy had a unique exchange with Krishna while eating. Relishing the tasty food mixed with the love of their mothers, and adoring the company of their beloved Krishna, the boys were absorbed in the spiritual picnic. Appreciating some item, they would take it right from their mouth and offer it to Krishna to eat. And Krishna, the Supreme Lord who possesses all opulences in full and is the source of all incarnations, would eat it eagerly. “Is He God!?” This scene astonished even the demigods in the higher planets!
Sweetness and simplicity are predominant in Vrindavan, more than majesty and formality.
An Unpleasant Surprise
As the gopas were enjoying their lunch, the calves that were pasturing nearby entered into the deep forest, allured by new grasses. Gradually they went out of sight. Not seeing them, the boys became worried. Krishna told them, “My dear friends, please do not interrupt your lunch. I will go and search for the calves.” Krishna at once left looking for the calves, still carrying a morsel of yogurt-rice in His left hand.
Krishna owns the anxieties of His devotees. Devotees who are dependent on Him are always protected.
Krishna searched everywhere in the forest and caves, but found the calves nowhere. He returned to the bank of the Yamuna, and now He couldn’t see His friends who had been taking lunch there!
It was Lord Brahma who had stolen the calves and the boys. When Krishna killed Aghasur, Brahma wondered how a little cowherd boy could act so amazingly. Brahma was fully aware of the prowess of the Supreme Godhead Krishna, and it was he who had requested Krishna to descend and reduce the burden of earth. Still, Brahma wanted to test Krishna’s power now, forgetting the fact that Krishna was the source of his own power.
Srimad Bhagavatam and other ancient scriptures teach us that there is one Supreme God who is all-attractive and is called by the name ‘Krishna.’ He expands into various forms like Vasudeva, Sankarshana, Narayana and so on, to perform various pastimes. He incarnates into this world in several forms, like Rama, Narasimha, Varaha and so on, to protect the righteous, punish the miscreants and establish morality. He appoints various administrators called the demigods, namely Brahma, Shiva, Indra, Candra, Yama and so on, to manage the affairs of material universe. All of them are devotees and servants of the Supreme Lord. Yet Brahma wanted to examine Krishna now.
Sometimes even great devotees also circumstantially get bewildered in their understanding of God.
Lord Krishna could immediately understand the deed and mood of Brahma. Krishna had to bring Brahma back to his senses by reminding him of His own supremacy. But His immediate duty was to satisfy the mothers and cows in the village, who were eagerly waiting for the return of their sons and calves. And Krishna did both together.
God protects those who love Him and corrects those who are inimical to Him, either incidentally or intentionally. And He can do both simultaneously.
A Limitless Increase of Love
Krishna, by His supreme mystic power, expanded as the gopas and the calves. He became exactly like them in all respects. He replicated their facial and bodily features, clothing and ornaments, behavior, mannerisms and so on. Thus Krishna, surrounded by His own expansions, entered Vrindavan village, while playing on His enchanting flute.
Everything that exists, whether a living being or a material object, is an expansion of Krishna’s energy, just as heat and light are the expansions of fire.
The mothers of the boys came out to receive them and lovingly embraced their sons. All the boys went to their respective homes and the calves entered their cowsheds. The parents and the cows had no knowledge of what had happened.
All the mothers in Vrindavan always loved Krishna more than their own children. They appreciated the fortune of Krishna’s mother Yashoda who served Him in various ways. They weren’t envious of Yashoda, but desired to serve Krishna like her. They wondered, “Will we be ever like Yashoda!” Krishna reciprocated with their longing by appearing in the form of their own children now.
By appreciating others’ good fortune, one can receive a similar fortune, but not by envying others.
The mothers fed their children their own milk and bathed, dressed and decorated them with ornaments. The cows licked the bodies of their calves and fed them milk lovingly. These mothers experienced a tremendous increase in their affection for their children. The reason, however, was that it was Krishna who had come in the form of their children, and they naturally loved Him.
It’s most natural for a pure soul to love Krishna above anything and anyone, including one’s own self.
This wonderful exchange of affection went on for one full year. Krishna reciprocated with the love of the mothers and cows in the village and went to the forest with His own expansions (boys and calves) and enjoyed as usual. Although Brahma wanted to test Krishna, Krishna smartly utilized this opportunity to reciprocate with the love of Vrindavan’s cows and mothers and relish it.
A great person can turn an unpleasant situation into the most pleasureable and memorable situation.
Confusion of the Creator
Although Brahma did the mischief of stealing the boys and calves, he was anxious. Because he knew that he was playing with fire. Within a moment’s time, he returned to Vrindavan to see the result of his stealing. But in his one moment, one full year had passed on the earth.
Brahma saw Krishna sitting on the banks of the Yamuna with His friends, eating food and joking just as before. Brahma was dumbfounded. He went back to the place where he had hid the boys and calves and found them sleeping ‘under his mystic spell.’ He came back to Vrindavan again and saw them with Krishna also. He couldn’t understand which set of boys and calves were real. His power seemed like snow in darkness or a glowworm in the daytime. Snow’s silver glitter in darkness and a glowworm’s light in front of the sun are not visible! Similarly, Brahma’s minute mystic power before Krishna’s supreme mystic power proved to be insignificant. Humiliated, Brahma seemed like a child’s doll in front of a temple deity. He had tried to mystify Krishna, but he himself had been mystified.
Just as a small mystic’s proud show-off of power in front of a great mystic is ludicrous, similarly an attempt to display one’s own power in front of the all-powerful God only proves to be futile.
Brahma was not an ordinary conditioned soul. He was far superior to all the other demigods. Even in his supreme stature of being the father and creator of all living beings, the husband of the goddess of learning and the best authority in Vedic knowledge, he was perplexed in understanding the extraordinary display of Krishna’s mystic power. Then what to speak of ordinary people in this world? Stunned and jolted by astonishment, Brahma became speechless.
A Revelation That Caused Repentance
Seeing the awkward situation of Brahma, Krishna took compassion on him and lifted the curtain of maya. As Brahma looked on, all the boys and calves got transformed into four-armed Vishnu forms. Many Brahmas, Shivas, demigods, sages, moving and nonmoving living entities were worshiping the Vishnus. It was a breathtaking sight to see thousands of Vishnus, expansions of Krishna, all at one place. Brahma practically fell unconscious.
One should never be over-confident of one’s knowledge of God. Whatever may be the extent of one’s learning, austerity, piety, wealth and power, one cannot understand God completely. One can know Krishna only by bhakti and the mercy of devotees. Whenever one deviates from bhakti, one is bewildered in one’s understanding of God, and even thinks oneself to be God or greater than God.
However powerful one may be, if one doesn’t humbly submit before God, one will be bewildered by illusion. Krishna reveals Himself to one who submits oneself, with a humble heart, before the Lord and His devotees.
Seeing Brahma wonderstruck, Lord Krishna withdrew the spectacular vision of His grandeur. Brahma could then see and appreciate the superexcellent nature of Vrindavan, where humans, deer and even ferocious animals like tigers lived peacefully in spiritual friendship. Due to the presence of Lord Krishna, Vrindavan was transcendental to all other places and was free of material lust and greed. Brahma could then see Krishna as a small cowherd boy looking for His friends and calves, still with the yogurt-rice in His hand, just as one year before.
Lord Brahma immediately descended from his great swan carrier and fell down before Krishna like a golden stick. The four helmets on his four heads touched Krishna’s lotus feet. With all his four pairs of eyes shedding tears incessantly in deep remorse, he washed the lotus feet of Krishna. With his voice faltering and limbs trembling, he offered heartfelt prayers to Krishna with folded palms and a humble heart. He glorified Krishna in various ways.
All the negative reactions of one’s mistakes are burnt in the fire of one’s honest repentance.
In self-reproach, Brahma said, “My dear Lord, just see my uncivilized impudence! I tried to test You. What am I compared to You? I am like a small spark in the presence of a great fire. Being passionate I presumed myself to be an independent controller. I am a small creature enclosed in a potlike universe. Unlimited universes come through Your (Maha Vishnu’s) bodily pores as dust particles pass through a window screen. Simultaneously, the entire universe lies within You.* Thus, I am also inside You. Does a mother take offense when the child within her womb kicks with his legs? I am like Your son and You are like My mother. I have taken birth from the lotus coming out of Your (Garbhodakasayi Vishnu’s) navel. Considering me to be Your servant and child, worthy of Your compassion, kindly forgive my offense.”
While in pride one thinks oneself independent of Krishna, in humility one prays, realizes and admits that one is utterly dependent on Krishna.
Aspiration of a Humble Heart
Having begged pardon from Krishna, Brahma humbly expressed his heartfelt desire: “My dear Lord, I pray for the fortune of being engaged in Your bhakti and counted as one of Your devotees in any birth, in any species. How greatly fortunate are the cows and ladies of Vrindavan, the nectar of whose milk You have happily drunk to Your full satisfaction, taking the form of their calves and sons. The fortune of the cowherd community in Vrindavan is unlimited, because You have directly become their friend. My greatest possible fortune would be to take any birth in Vrindavan and have my head bathed by the dust from the lotus feet of any of its residents.”
Brahma, who had earlier wanted to test Krishna by causing separation between Him and His beloved devotees, was now seeking the mercy of Krishna and the dust of those devotees. Actually, this is the aspiration of someone in pure consciousness.
The ultimate aspiration of a soul is to humbly serve the Supreme Lord and His pure devotees.
Although Brahma fully humbled himself before Krishna with all submissiveness, Krishna was silent! He certainly forgave Brahma, but He didn’t speak anything in response to Brahma’s prayers. Admitting that the opulences of Krishna are beyond the reach of his mind, body and words, Brahma requested Krishna’s permission to leave and departed from there.
The Picnic Continues . . .
Krishna went back to the bank of the Yamuna with the calves, still holding the morsel of yogurt-rice in His hand. His friends were sitting in the same place as they were one year before. They said, “Krishna, how have You come back so fast with the calves? In Your absence, we haven’t eaten even a morsel of food. Come, please join us and enjoy the food.” And Krishna joined the picnic and continued to enjoy the company of His dear friends. No one realized that a year had passed.
Honest Regret and Hearty Reciprocation
One shouldn’t minimize the position of Lord Brahma in any way, after hearing of this incident. To give a grave lesson to the people in this world, sometimes God puts His own devotees into awkward situations.** Brahma’s bewilderment wasn’t similar to that of ordinary people. Vaishnava acharyas explain that Brahma was illusioned by the will of Krishna.
Thereafter, Lord Brahma considered with a remorseful heart, “I was lost in my identity as the creator of the universe. Due to this fault I have been deprived of love of Krishna and the devotion of Vrindavan. I shall not fall prey to my wicked mind anymore!”
To the extent one values relation with another, to that extent one becomes genuinely regretful of one’s mistakes in that relationship.
Thinking thus, Brahma went to a place called Antardvip and did severe austerities to please Lord Krishna. After many days, Krishna mercifully appeared in the form of Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who was about to incarnate into the world in Kali-yuga. Brahma fell at the feet of the Lord, and the Lord put His foot on Brahma’s head. Brahma was enlightened with divine knowledge.
Brahma prayed, “I am a proud and worthless wretch. Forgetting Your lotus feet, I have turned to material sense gratification. Half of my life has passed. How will I spend my remaining life? My only prayer is that I may become Your associate in Your manifest pastimes. Having given up the illusion that I am the creator, I want to take birth in Your association and sing Your glories.”
Lord Chaitanya granted Brahma’s desire saying, “So be it. During My pastimes on earth, you will take birth in a yavana’s house. Always thinking yourself low and fallen, you will be fully freed of pride. Your name will be Haridas Thakur. You will be famous for your humility. You will chant three hundred thousand holy names a day. At the time of leaving this world, you will see Me. And at the end of your life, you will attain Sri Navadvip dham and be absorbed in eternal rasa.”
Saying this, Lord Chaitanya disappeared, and Brahma fell unconscious. Gaining consciousness, he wept incessantly, “O Lord! Friend of the poor! Dear to the devotees! When will I attain Your lotus feet?”
God’s Kindness Is Our Hope
High birth, wealth, education and beauty could make one so intoxicated at times that one might not be able to feelingly take shelter of God. But someone who is devoid of these four material qualifications could be more dependent on the Lord and chant His holy names in the mood of seeking shelter. Brahma’s position was the topmost in this universe. As Haridas Thakur, he became the topmost example of humility and ardent chanting of the Lord’s holy names. Srila Haridas Thakur is called namacharya for his incessant chanting.
Lord Krishna didn’t disown Brahma for his mischief of stealing the gopas and the calves. Krishna brought him to the divine consciousness of humility and in fact, Krishna glorified him for all time to come by declaring his ideal aspiration to the world. And when He appeared as Lord Chaitanya to propagate the holy names of God, Krishna honored Brahma as namacharya, the perfect example of chanting of the holy names of God. Who could be more kind than Krishna?
*Once Krishna’s friends complained to Mother Yashoda that He had eaten dirt. Worried, Yashoda asked Him to open His mouth. Then Krishna showed the entire universe to her within His belly. (Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto 10, Chapter 8)
**For instance, once Lord Vishnu took the form of Mohini-murti, a beautiful woman, and bewildered Lord Shiva. Shiva, captivated by the beauty of Mohini-murti, ran behind Her as if afflicted by lust. Lord Vishnu wanted to warn all spiritual seekers to safeguard themselves from lust through this incident of Shiva’s apparent bewilderment by Mohini. But this incident in no way minimizes the position of Lord Shiva. As the Vaishnava acharyas explain, Shiva was captivated by the Lord’s spiritual internal potency, which evokes love and devotion, and not the illusory external potency, which evokes lust and sense enjoyment. (Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto 8. Chapter 12)