The Vedic scriptures and Vaishnava poets describe the beauty and character of Lord Krishna.
By Vamshi Vihari Dasa
Seeing Krishna in these two material things can help us gain spiritual purity and mental coolness.
Two words often used by scriptures and saints to describe this world are “contamination” and “fire.” We suffer the contamination of the external impurities of earth, water, air, and so on that constitute our material body, and we suffer from internal impurities such as lust, anger, violence, and hatred. Our body, mind, and intelligence all are contaminated to various degrees.
As for “fire,” the scriptures compare the material world to a forest fire that keeps burning us. Prominently, the scriptures says, we are burnt by three types of misery: adhyatmika, those caused by our own body and mind; adhibhautika, those cause by other living entities; and adhidaivika, those caused by nature.
By honest introspection, whether rich or poor, scholar or illiterate, rough or gentle, everyone can feel the contamination and fire in their lives. These two factors give us various pains internally and externally, but the scriptures tell us that we are the cause of our own suffering. We are all part of God, meant to live in His kingdom of uninterrupted bliss and knowledge. But somehow or the other we have chosen to reside in this contaminated and burning world. Fortunately, the scriptures tell us how to attain our real home – by taking shelter of the person who is supremely pure and cool.
That person is Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krishna. In the scriptures, Lord Krishna is compared to many things, two being prominent: the lotus and the full moon. The lotus is considered pure because in spite of growing in mud, it keeps its beauty intact. And after the day’s scorching sunlight, the moonlight is cooling and soothing to the heart. In reality, God cannot be compared to anything of the material world, since it comes under the three modes of material nature and God is beyond them. Still, to point out God’s various qualities and His greatness, scriptures and saints draw comparisons.
Shivarama Swami, an ISKCON leader and guru, writes, “The King and Queen of lotuses must have performed innumerable austerities on account of which Sri Krishna’s eyes, face, smile, hands, feet, and transcendental limbs are the constant object of comparison for great Vaishnava poets. (Venu-gita, Chapter 1)
Pure Like the Lotus
Krishna in His form as Lord Narayana holds four things in His four hands: a counchshell, a disc, a mace, and a lotus, the lotus being a symbol of tenderness and purity. Lord Narayana and His dear wife, Lakshmi Devi, love to sit upon a lotus. One of the Lord’s names is Kamalasana, “one who sits on a lotus throne.”
The lotus is intimately connected with Krishna. His personal abode, Goloka, is in the shape of a lotus. This signifies that it and its inhabitants are beyond the modes of material nature, just as a lotus grown in mud remains above it, untouched.
Sanskrit has many words for “lotus,” one being pankaja, or “mud-born.” Panka means “mud,” and ja means “born.” In her prayers to Lord Krishna in Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.8.22), Kunti Devi compares various limbs of Krishna’s divine body to the lotus:
“My respectful obeisances are unto You, O Lord, whose abdomen is marked with a depression like a lotus flower, who are always decorated with garlands of lotus flowers, whose glance is as cool as the lotus and whose feet are engraved with lotuses.”
The famous sixteenth-century poet Tulasidasa, a devotee of Lord Ramachandra, made a similar comparison in reference to His Lord. Karakañja-locana kañja-mukha karakañja pada-kañjarunam: “Lord Rama’s eyes, His face, His hands, and His reddish feet are like lotus flowers.” Kañja means “lotus.”
In Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita (Antya 19.94), Chaitanya Mahaprabhu provides a list of lotuses seen in Lord Krishna’s divine body:
netra-nabhi, vadana, kara-yuga carana,
ei ashta-padma krishna-ange
karpura-lipta kamala, tara yaiche parimala,
sei gandha ashta-padma-sange
“Krishna’s eyes, navel and face, hands and feet are like eight lotus flowers on His body. From those eight lotuses emanates a fragrance like a mixture of camphor and lotus. That is the scent associated with His body.”
Lotus eyes: Krishna’s eyes are compared to lotus petals. In Brahma-samhita Lord Brahma glorifies Krishna’s eyes as arvinda-dalayataksham – “blooming like lotus petals.” Krishna’s eyes are full of compassion. He constantly watches over His devotees, and when required, He helps them. Lord Kapila speaks about meditation on the Lord’s eyes: “The yogis should contemplate with full devotion the compassionate glances frequently cast by the Lord’s eyes, for they soothe the most fearful threefold agonies of His devotees.” (Bhagavatam 3.28.31)
Lotus navel: Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.3.2) compares the navel of Garbhodakashayi Visnu, an expansion of Lord Krishna, to a lake. From this lake a beautiful lotus sprouts, and atop it Lord Brahma, the engineer of the material creation, takes birth. Since a lotus sprouts from the Lord’s navel, His navel is compared to a lotus.
Lord Kapila says, “The yogi should then meditate on His moonlike navel in the center of His abdomen. From His navel, which is the foundation of the entire universe, sprang the lotus stem containing all the different planetary systems. The lotus is the residence of Brahma, the first created being.” (Bhagavatam 3.28.25)
Lotus face: Although each of Lord Krishna’s limbs is transcendentally beautiful and enchanting, the scriptures glorify the beauty of His face as exceptional. All one’s desires to see the beautiful things of this world are satisfied simply by seeing His beautiful lotus face. Just as seeing the lotus soothes our mind, seeing Krishna’s lotus face soothes our heart.
Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami describes Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s seeing the lotus face of the Lord: “Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was very thirsty to see the Lord, and His eyes became like two bumblebees drinking the honey from the lotuslike eyes of Lord Jagannatha, who is Krishna Himself.” (Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya 12.211)
Kapiladeva tells of the effect of meditating on the Lord’s lotus face: “The yogi then meditates upon the beautiful face of the Lord, which is adorned with curly hair and decorated by lotuslike eyes and dancing eyebrows. A lotus surrounded by swarming bees and a pair of swimming fish would be put to shame by its elegance.” (Bhagavatam 3.28.30)
Lotus hands: One of the Lord’s hands always holds a lotus. This suggests that He is assuring His devotees, “If you take My shelter, you will be purified like this lotus. The impurity, faults, and dirtiness of the material world won’t be able to touch you.”
Lakshmi Devi prays, “O infallible one, Your lotus palm is the source of all benediction. Therefore Your pure devotees worship it, and You very mercifully place Your hand on their heads. I wish that You may also place Your hand on My head . . . .” (Bhagavatam 5.18.23)
Srimad-Bhagavatam (7.9.6) describes the purifying effect of the Lord’s lotus hand: “By the touch of Lord Nrisimhadeva’s hand on Prahlada Maharaja’s head, Prahlada was completely freed of all material contaminations and desires, as if he had been thoroughly cleansed. Therefore he at once became transcendentally situated, and all the symptoms of ecstasy became manifest in his body.”
Lotus feet: Lord Krishna’s feet are compared to the lotus, and His devotees are compared to spotless pure swans who love to play in its stems. Srila Prabhupada would often sing a related prayer by King Kulashekhara with great feeling:
“O Lord Krishna, at this moment let the royal swan of my mind enter the tangled stems of the lotus of Your feet. How will it be possible for me to remember You at the time of death, when my throat will be choked up with mucus, bile, and air?” (Mukunda-mala-stotra 33)
Devotees are compared to the bumblebees always eager to relish the nectar flowing from the lotuslike feet of Lord Krishna.
The material world is compared to an endless and bottomless ocean, and Krishna’s lotus feet are compared to a strong boat that can carry us beyond this vast ocean. While instructing King Prithu, the four Kumaras say: “The ocean of nescience is very difficult to cross because it is infested with many dangerous sharks. Although those who are nondevotees undergo severe austerities and penances to cross that ocean, we recommend that you simply take shelter of the lotus feet of the Lord, which are like boats for crossing the ocean. Although the ocean is difficult to cross, by taking shelter of His lotus feet you will overcome all dangers.” (Bhagavatam 4.22.20)
Krishna is pure like the lotus, and if we take His shelter, we can also become pure. He declares, “One who performs his duty without attachment, surrendering the results unto the Supreme Lord, is unaffected by sinful action, as the lotus leaf is untouched by water.” (Gita 5.10)
The Rising Moon
Lord Krishna’s presence removes the darkness of ignorance from our hearts; therefore Lord Krishna is compared to the sun. He is also compared to a full moon because He cools our hearts and our lives, which are burning in the volcanic fire of the material world. Because of His cooling quality, the word chandra (“moon”) is often added to names of Krishna and His incarnations, such as Sri Krishnachandra, Sri Ramachandra, and Sri Gaurachandra.
During the churning of the milk ocean, narrated in the Eighth Canto of the Bhagavatam, the full moon appeared from the ocean. Thus Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, paraphrasing the words of Srimati Radharani, says, “The family of Maharaja Nanda is just like an ocean of milk, wherein Lord Krishna has arisen like the full moon to illuminate the entire universe.” (Chaitanya-charitamrita, Antya 19.36)
While describing the birth of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Kaviraja Goswami uses the same analogy:
tahate prakata haila krishna purna indu
“In Navadvipa, Lord Krishna appeared like the full moon, from the womb of Mother Saci, which is like an ocean of pure milk.” (Chaitanya-charitamrita, ?di 4.272)
Although Lord Krishna is compared to the moon, He is not an ordinary moon. In the Third Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam Lord Krishna’s dear devotee and friend Uddhava laments that just as fish born in the ocean consider the moon, which also arises from ocean, ordinary, the unfortunate Yadavas considered Lord Krishna an ordinary person because He appeared in their dynasty. Srila Prabhupada writes:
From this ocean of milk the moon was born, but the fish in the milk ocean could not recognize that the moon, was not another fish and was different from them. The fish took the moon to be one of them or maybe something illuminating, but nothing more. The unfortunate persons who do not recognize Lord Krishna are like such fish. They take Him to be one of them, although a little extraordinary in opulence, strength, etc. The Bhagavad-gita (9.11) confirms such foolish persons to be most unfortunate: avajananti mam mudha manushim tanum ashritam. (Bhagavatam 3.2.8, Purport)
Moons in Krishna
Along with the lotus, Lord Krishna’s face is also compared to the moon. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, speaking in the mood of Srimati Radharani, says, “Of what use are the eyes of one who does not see the face of Krishna, which resembles the moon and is the birthplace of all beauty and the reservoir of the nectarean songs of His flute? Oh, let a thunderbolt strike his head! Why does he keep such eyes? (Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya 2.29)
The number of moons in Krishna’s divine body exceeds the number of lotuses. Lord Chaitanya gives a wonderful description of these twenty four and a half moons to Srila Sanatana Goswami:
The face of Krishna is the king of all moons, and the body of Krishna is the throne. Thus the king governs a society of moons.
Krishna has two cheeks that shine like glowing gems. Both are considered full moons. His forehead is considered a half moon, and the spot of sandalwood there is considered a full moon.
His fingernails are many full moons, and they dance on the flute in His hands. Their song is the melody of that flute. His toenails are also many full moons, and they dance on the ground. Their song is the jingling of His ankle bells.
Krishna’s face is the enjoyer king. That full-moon face makes His shark-shaped earrings and lotus eyes dance. His eyebrows are like bows, and His eyes are like arrows. His ears are fixed on the string of that bow, and when His eyes spread to His ears, He pierces the hearts of the gopis.
The dancing features of His face surpass all other full moons and expand the marketplace of full moons. Although priceless, the nectar of Krishna’s face is distributed to everyone. Some purchase the moonrays of His sweet smiles, and others purchase the nectar of His lips. Thus He pleases everyone.
Krishna has two reddish, widely spread eyes. These are ministers of the king, and they subdue the pride of Cupid, who also has beautiful eyes. That face of Govinda, which is full of happiness, is the home of the pastimes of beauty, and it is very pleasing to everyone’s eyes.
If by devotional service one gets the results of pious activities and sees Lord Krishna’s face, what can he relish with only two eyes? His greed and thirst increase twofold by seeing the nectarean face of Krishna. Due to his inability to sufficiently drink that nectar, he becomes very unhappy and criticizes the creator for not having given more than two eyes. (Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya
Our great acharyas and poets compared Krishna to a lotus and the moon, but Sri Krishna is millions of times purer than a lotus and cooler than the moon. We conditioned souls have experience of this world only; therefore the poets are left only the option of comparing Krishna to a lotus and the moon. Srila Prabhupada writes: “There was nothing comparable to the bodily features of Lord Krishna when He was present in this world. The most beautiful object in the material world may be compared to the blue lotus flower or the full moon in the sky, but even the lotus flower and the moon were defeated by the beauty of the bodily features of Lord Krishna, and this was certified by the demigods, the most beautiful living creatures in the universe. (Bhagavatam 3.2.13, Purport)
Lord Krishna is supreme in every field. In the tenth chapter of the Bhagavad-gita He explains His opulences by giving examples of persons and things of this world. For instance, He says that among immovable things He is the Himalayas, among water bodies He is the ocean, among trees He is the banyan, and so on. If we are talking about the greatest immovable thing in this world, our intelligence cannot think of a better example than the Himalayas, or if we are talking about great bodies of water, certainly we must mention the ocean. Although Krishna is far superior to any of these, He identifies Himself with them so that we can get an idea of His greatness by meditating on the qualities they possess.
Similarly, when Lord Krishna’s purity is compared to a lotus or His coolness to a shining full moon, this is nothing but shakha-chandra nyaya – the logic of seeing the moon through the branches of a tree, which refers to changing our frame of reference to better understand something.
Remembering Krishna in these forms purifies our existence. Srila Pabhupada writes,
Simply remember this one instruction from Bhagavad-gita: raso ’ham apsu kaunteya prabhasmi shashi-suryayoh, “I am the taste of water; I am the shining illumination of the sun and moon.” Who has not seen the sunlight? Who has not seen the moonlight? Who has not tasted water? Then why do you say, “I have not seen God”? If you simply practice this bhakti-yoga, as soon as you taste water and feel satisfied you will think, “Oh, here is Krishna.” Immediately you will remember Krishna. As soon as you see the sunshine, you will remember, “Oh, here is Krishna.” As soon as you see the moonshine, you will remember, “Oh, here is Krishna.” (The Journey of Self-Discovery 6.3)
And while seeing a lotus or the shining moon, if we can remember Krishna and His wonderful qualities, we can also feel His purity and coolness in our lives. He is so amazing!