How did the residents of Vrindavan deal with the constant attacks on their beloved Krishna and their idyllic village?
By Gauranga Darshana Dasa
Lord Krishna’s associates in Vrindavan teach us by example a wonderful de-stress mechanism to deal with distresses big and small.

Disturbances make their presence felt everywhere in this world. Even the holy land of Vraja, ornamented by Lord Krishna’s childhood pastimes during His time on earth, was no exception. Fatal ambushes launched by bloodthirsty tyrants desiring to take little Krishna’s life away were everyday events in Vraja. The demons constantly tried to shatter to pieces the peace of Vraja and its residents. How did the Vrajavasis deal with all these demoniac intrusions and other turbulences?*

Ceaseless Calamities

After His appearance in Kamsa’s prison in Mathura, Lord Krishna resided in Gokula Mahavan until He turned three years and four months old. While there, when He was barely three days old, a great Rakshasi (cannibal) named Putana tried to kill Him by feeding Him her poisoned breastmilk. Another demon, named Sakatasura, hid in a handcart to crush Krishna when He was only three months old. When He was one year old, a demon named Trinavarta appeared in the form of a whirlwind. Blinding the Vrajavasis by creating a dust-spitting tornado and dense darkness, Trinavarta took hold of Krishna and soared through the skies up to 800,000 miles above the earth.

These demons and many others died trying to harm Krishna, who is always the Supreme Personality of Godhead, regardless of whatever age He may be displaying for His pastimes.

Once, for His unparalleled mischief, His mother, Yashoda, tied Him with the rope of her love to a wooden grinding mortar. Krishna dragged the mortar between two huge arjuna trees, which fell to the ground with a thunderous thud that worried the hearts of the cowherd community, for whom Krishna was their very life.

Attempts to Evade Danger

The leaders of the gopas (cowherd men) had an extensive meeting to discuss Krishna and Balarama’s safety. Concluding that Gokula Mahavan was infested with numerous demons and evil forces, and considering the protection of the cowherd community to be of paramount importance, they decided to move to Vrindavan. As soon as they settled there, Krishna and the other boys His age were given charge of the calves, herding them in forests near the village. The elders were confident of the safety of Vrindavan, but their confidence didn’t stop the demons from launching further attacks.

As soon as Krishna took charge of the calves, a demon named Vatsasura appeared in the form of an innocent calf to kill Him. Krishna noticed this deception and caught the so-called calf by the hind legs, twirled him around, and threw him into a tree, killing him. The young gopas then enjoyed the fruits that fell off the tree due to the demon’s weight.

Soon thereafter, another demon, named Bakasura, appeared in the form of a crane and swallowed Krishna. Balarama and the other boys fainted, and several devatas, including Brahma, Shiva, Indra, Vayu, and Agni, appeared on the scene to kill Bakasura, but were unsuccessful. Meanwhile, Krishna within Bakasura’s gullet became like a fireball, forcing Bakasura to spit Him out. Krishna then split the demon Bakasura’s beak and nonchalantly killed him.

The demons thus took innocent forms like those of calves, cranes, motherly women, and cowherd boys to attack Krishna. But although they appeared pure, their attitude was impure and malicious.

Peace Amidst Chaos

In the evenings, Krishna and His friends would return home after spending the day in Vrindavan’s forests. With sheer excitement mixed with natural innocence and appreciation for Krishna, the small gopas would narrate to their elders His heroic deeds. The elder gopas, headed by Nanda Maharaja, would listen attentively to the boys and be wonderstruck on hearing about Krishna’s adventures of dispatching deadly demons.

The move from Gokula Mahavan to Vrindavan didn’t address the problem of the impending perils. But absorption in the loving narrations of Krishna’s pastimes overwhelmed the Vrajavasis with an unparalleled bliss that melted their distresses.

Can a danger still be called a danger when the endangered person remains unaffected by it? In Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.11.58) Shukadeva Goswami comments:

iti nandadayo gopah
krishna-rama-katham muda
kurvanto ramamanash cha
navindan bhava-vedanam

 

“In this way, all the cowherd men, headed by Nanda Maharaja, enjoyed topics about the pastimes of Krishna and Balarama with great transcendental pleasure, and they could not even perceive material tribulations.”

The young gopas who witnessed Krishna’s killing the demons narrated these pastimes to the elder gopas, who heard and relished them. Simply by discussing Krishna’s pastimes regularly and joyously, the cowherd community did not experience material tribulations. Rather, due to their absorption in Krishna-centered discussions, the Vrajavasis felt great peace and spiritual bliss amidst great chaos. Similarly, when in the company of other devotees we absorb our minds in Krishna’s qualities and pastimes, we will be protected from tribulations in this material world. The words of Sri Narada Muni are evidence for this:

etad dhy atura-chittanam
matra-sparshechchaya muhuh
bhava-sindhu-plavo drishto
hari-charyanuvarnanam

 

“It is personally experienced by me that those who are always full of cares and anxieties due to desiring contact of the senses with their objects can cross the ocean of nescience on a most suitable boat – the constant chanting of the transcendental activities of the Personality of Godhead.” (Bhagavatam 1.6.34)

Inevitable But Not Unavoidable

In the purport to Bhagavatam 10.11.58, quoted above, Srila Prabhupada writes,

Here is an instruction about the result of studying or discussing the krishna-lilas that appear in Srimad-Bhagavatam. . . . Nanda Maharaja and Yashoda in Vrindavana appeared like ordinary persons of this material world, but they never felt the tribulations of this world, although they sometimes met many dangerous situations created by the demons. This is a practical example. If we follow in the footsteps of Nanda Maharaja and the gopas, we can all be happy simply by discussing the activities of Krishna.

Just as the ripples on a flowing river never come to an end, difficulties in this material world never cease. Frigid cold in winter, piercing sunshine in summer, trouble from other living beings – all of these are outside the control of any mere mortal. We may employ countermeasures to safeguard ourselves from the miseries of the material world, but we can never eradicate them from our lives. Still, there’s no reason for lamentation, because we have the solution. We can equip our intelligence with scriptural wisdom, nourish our hearts with the sweetness of Krishna’s pastimes, focus our minds on Krishna’s holy names, engage our senses in Krishna’s services, and thus remain unaffected by the temptations and tribulations of the material world.

A life with its nucleus made up of the principles depicted by the pastimes related in the Bhagavatam is a life free of troubles and temptations. Therefore Srila Prabhupada comments further in his purport to Bhagavatam 10.11.58:

Vyasadeva has given this literature so that everyone may understand one’s transcendental position simply by discussing bhagavata-katha. Even at the present moment, everyone everywhere can be happy and free from material tribulations by following Srimad-Bhagavatam. There is no need for austerities and penances, which in this age are very difficult to perform. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has therefore declared, sarvatma-snapanam param vijayate shri-krishna-sankirtanam. Through our Krishna consciousness movement, we are trying to distribute Srimad-Bhagavatam so that anyone in any part of the world can be absorbed in the Krishna consciousness movement by chanting and hearing about the activities of Krishna and be free from all material tribulations.

We cannot avoid the calamities that life offers, but we can choose to remain unaffected by them by armoring ourselves with the Vrindavan way of tackling distresses. How, like the Vrajavasi, can we stay unaffected by calamities simply by hearing and speaking Krishna’s pastimes? Here are a few tips to help us move in that direction.

A Spiritual Skyride

Perspective: A person on the ground sees a twenty-story building as gigantic, but someone in an aircraft sees it as tiny. Similarly, when we are absorbed in material consciousness, material problems seem colossal. But when we begin traveling in an airship made of spiritual intelligence and Krishna consciousness, fueled by scriptures like the Gita and the Bhagavatam, material calamities begin to appear insignificant and minuscule.

Identity: When we overly identify ourselves with external designations like men, women, Indians, Americans, teachers, students, doctors, managers, clerks, and so on, we become overwhelmed with the happiness and distress pertaining to those impermanent identities. A doctor today may become a patient tomorrow, and a kshatriya may be born as a brahmana in the next life. But we have a permanent identity beyond these fleeting identities. We are all amshas (parts), servants, and lovers of Lord Krishna. When we identify ourselves as servants of the Lord and absorb ourselves in His service – and in His names, forms, qualities, and pastimes – then the problems caused by our assumed identities are nullified.

Consciousness: Scriptures like the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam remind us of our original identities as lovers of God. Being amshas of Krishna, we are spiritual by nature. But somehow we are now in material consciousness, caged in the material world and thus experiencing material distresses. Understanding this, we should endeavor to rise above impure material consciousness and situate ourselves in pure spiritual consciousness. This is possible only by hearing Krishna’s pastimes, following the example of the Vrajavasis. Regular nourishment from spiritual discussions about Lord Krishna will shield us from the obstacles and indulgences of this world and thus spiritually shape our consciousness.

Attitude: Spiritual discussions in line with those of the Vrajavasis must be carried out in an appropriate mood. While we hear, read, or discuss the pastimes of the Lord, our mood shouldn’t be that of a mere information-seeker; rather, it should be that of a transformation-seeker. Information-seeking involves knowing things, but transformation-seeking involves making an honest attempt to practically apply the teachings one has learned.

Absorption: The degree of transformation we experience is proportional to the degree of our absorption in the hearing process. Until we internalize, absorb, and realize the principles of proper hearing, we can’t really say we’ve capitalized on them. We must not only hear, but also internalize what we hear and act on it. That will lead to great spiritual bliss and enable us to transcend material tribulations. As Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita (10.9),

mach-chitta mad-gata-prana
bodhayantah parasparam
kathayantash cha mam nityam
tushyanti cha ramanti cha

 

“The thoughts of My pure devotees dwell in Me, their lives are fully devoted to My service, and they derive great satisfaction and bliss from always enlightening one another and conversing about Me.”

*This article is based on Srimad-Bhagavatam, Tenth Canto, chapters 6–11, and the commentaries of Srila Prabhupada, Srila Vishvanatha Chakravarti, and Srila Jiva Goswami on those chapters. Some details of Krishna’s pastimes are also taken from Ananda Vrindavana Campu, Gopala Campu, Harivamsha, and Garga-samhita.

Gauraanga Darshana Dasa (www.gaurangadarshan.com), a disciple of His Holiness Radhanath Swami, is dean of the Bhaktivedanta Vidyapitha at ISKCON Govardhan Eco Village (GEV), outside Mumbai. He is the author of twenty-seven books, including the Subodhini series of study guides, children’s books such as Bhagavatam Tales, and other self-enrichment books. He regularly conducts online and residential scriptural courses for both children and adults. He also oversees the deity worship at GEV.