Four stories illustrate how Lord Krishna bestows His blessings beyond our expectations.

By Gauranga Darshana Dasa

God doesn’t miss an opportunity to show His mercy to those who serve Him or seek His shelter even indirectly, inattentively, or unintentionally.

Story 1: “To Whom It May Concern”

Would you be willing to help someone who doesn’t call out to you specifically? How concerned would you be about such a person?

Here is a story where Lord Hari (Vishnu) once eagerly protected a suffering animal although the animal didn’t call out His name specifically.

Gajendra, the king of elephants on the paradisiacal Trikuta Mountain, once entered a lake along with his wives, children, and companions and happily enjoyed in its waters. In the midst of this apparently unobstructed enjoyment, an unexpected tragedy came upon him. An angry crocodile caught his leg in its jaws. Mighty Gajendra, with all his strength, tried to free himself but couldn’t. The other elephants couldn’t rescue him either. Like all of us in this world, he encountered a difficulty he couldn’t possibly overcome by his own strength or even with others’ help.

Gajendra and the crocodile fought for a thousand years, pulling each other in and out of the water. Seeing the fight, even the demigods were astonished. Gradually, Gajendra’s mental and physical strength depleted due to his being in a foreign environment (water). On the other hand, the crocodile’s strength increased because of its being a water animal. Weakened, finding no refuge, Gajendra thought that there must be a supreme person with the power to protect him. But Gajendra didn’t know His name or who He was.

By the grace of that person, God, in this time of crisis Gajendra remembered a prayer he had learned in his previous life. The Lord is grateful for even the slightest amount of bhakti rendered by His devotees and protects them in the most dangerous circumstances.

Gajendra’s prayer appears in Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto Eight, chapter three. Here’s a paraphrase of some of that prayer: “O Lord! You are the supreme father, supreme director, supreme enlightener, supreme master, supreme source, and supremely worshipable one. You are attained by a devotee who acts in bhakti-yoga. You can liberate surrendered animals like me from bondage because You are capable, merciful, and attentive to the needs of Your dependents. I don’t wish to live anymore after being released from the jaws of this crocodile. What is the use of an elephant’s body covered by ignorance anyway? I desire liberation from this body.”

Gajendra didn’t call out to any specific form of God, such as Krishna, Rama, Narasimha, or Varaha. In fact, he didn’t know the identity of God. But he described the qualities of a Supreme Person whom he thought of as having the power to protect him. The demigods also heard Gajendra’s prayers, and although they were capable of protecting him, they didn’t intend to do so, because Gajendra didn’t call out their names. But the Supreme Lord Hari is never indifferent towards the suffering of a devotee. Although Gajendra didn’t call out a name of the Lord, all the qualities that he described in his prayers are present in Lord Hari. So the supremely compassionate Lord Hari hastily arrived on His bird carrier, Garuda, to protect Gajendra.

In fact, the Lord Himself inspired Gajendra from within to offer this prayer, and He responded to the prayer by coming to rescue him. Overwhelmed by His magnanimity, Gajendra, though reeling in acute pain, picked up a lotus with his trunk and offered it to the Lord with devotion. Lord Hari severed the crocodile’s head with His Sudarshana chakra and saved Gajendra.

The Lord saved Gajendra even though he had not called the Lord by name. Surely the Lord will respond to the devotee who addresses Him lovingly and eagerly by His holy name.

Story 2: “My dear child, please come here.”

Would you go to help a person calling out to someone whose name happens to be the same as yours? Once Lord Narayana protected someone who on his deathbed was calling his son whose name was Narayana.

Ajamila was a brahmana well versed in the scriptures and a reservoir of good qualities. He was pure, simple, gentle, truthful, self-controlled, and nonenvious. Once he went to the forest to collect fruits and flowers for worship. On the way home, he saw a lusty man shamelessly hugging a prostitute. Both were drunk. Infected by the vulgar scene, Ajamila felt his lusty desires arise. He tried to control them by remembering scriptural injunctions but couldn’t. Losing all good sense, he constantly thought of the prostitute and gradually abandoned all brahminical principles. He even gave up his chaste wife and started to live with the prostitute. He had children with her, and he maintained his family by sinful means.

Ajamila had ten sons, of whom the youngest was named Narayana. The eighty-eight-year-old Ajamila was so attached to his son Narayana that he always thought of him and called his name with great affection. When Ajamila’s death arrived, three fierce Yamadutas came with ropes to take him to hell. With tears in his eyes, Ajamila loudly and anxiously called out for his son Narayana, who was playing nearby. The servants of Lord Narayana, the Vishnudutas, hearing their master’s name being chanted so desperately, at once arrived there. They cut the Yamadutas’ ropes and stopped them from taking Ajamila to hell.

Previously, when addressing or talking about his son, Ajamila had often affectionately uttered “Narayana.” Now, on his deathbed, he anxiously uttered “Narayana” in a helpless state of mind. His chanting of the name of Narayana was unintentional, without faith, and meant to indicate his son. Yet this chanting had purified Ajamila of all his sinful reactions from millions of lifetimes and saved him from entering hell.

After being protected by the Vishnudutas, Ajamila regretted his misdeeds and became determined to perform bhakti unto Lord Narayana by all means. Thus he went to Hardwar and worshiped Him without deviation. At the end of his life Ajamila once again saw the Vishnudutas, who took him to Vaikuntha in a golden airplane.

The Lord’s name is identical to Him. Even if one chants the Lord’s name to indicate someone else, or while joking, for musical entertainment, or out of neglect, He destroys unlimited sins and the material desires of that person. What then must be the potency of chanting attentively to call the Lord with love?

Of all the qualities of God, His mercy upon His devotees is the foremost. The Lord finds some reason or other to show compassion to His children.

Story 3: “I will kill him with milk!”

Would you entertain someone who came to you in attractive attire but with an atrocious attitude? Knowing that there was malice and deceit behind that person’s pleasant dealings, would you be willing to show any kindness? Lord Krishna once bestowed great mercy on a witch who came to kill Him.  

Putana was a rakshasi, a cannibal, and she was accustomed to drinking the blood of infants. Once, shortly after Krishna’s birth, she smeared her breast with a fierce poison and went to His home in Gokula to kill Him. Disguising herself as a beautiful woman, she attracted the attention and won the trust of all the residents of Gokula. She entered Nanda Maharaja’s house and walked to the cradle of baby Krishna. Even Krishna’s mother, Yashoda, didn’t stop her.

Putana took infant Krishna on her lap and started feeding Him her poisonous milk. The Supreme Lord Krishna eagerly sucked her milk along with the poison and her very life. Unable to tolerate the acute pain, Putana loudly wailed and ran out of the house. Assuming her original gigantic and ghastly form as a witch, she collapsed, crushing all the trees under her twelve-mile-long body. Seeing this unusual incident, the women of Gokula, the gopis, were terrified. They picked up baby Krishna, who was unharmed and playing happily on the rakshasi’s body. The gopis then did various rituals and chanted mantras to invoke Lord Vishnu’s protection for the baby.

The Vrajavasis, the residents of Gokula, cut up the body of Putana and burned it with wood. The burning body of Putana emanated a sweet fragrance due to its having been purified by Lord Krishna’s spiritual touch. Because she had offered her milk to Krishna, despite its having been poisoned He nonetheless gave her the position of being a motherly nurse in the spiritual world.

Krishna accepted Putana’s motherly appearance and actions, overlooking her wicked intentions. Who else could be more merciful than Krishna? Krishna searches for some reason, direct or indirect, to shower His mercy even on the demons, not to speak of His devotees.

Story 4: “I have to avenge the death of my siblings!”

Could you be kind to someone who intends to kill you? Could you forgive someone who tried to harm your near and dear ones? Here is a story where Lord Krishna once showed unparalleled mercy to a python who tried to kill Him and His young cowherd friends, the gopas.

Aghasura was the brother of Putana and Bakasura. Earlier, little Krishna had killed Putana and Bakasura, who came to kill Him. Seeking revenge for the deaths of his siblings, envious Aghasura wanted to kill not only Krishna but His gopas and calves as well. Aghasura thought that if the gopas and calves were killed, their parents would also die. Thus Agha essentially wanted to destroy the entire cowherd community in Vrindavan.

Aghasura appeared in the forest in the form of a huge python eight miles long. He lay down on the road, opening his mouth wide like a cave. The innocent little friends of Krishna mistook the python’s body for a nice scenic spot. Attracted by what appeared to be a cave, they playfully entered the python’s mouth along with their calves. Krishna wanted to stop them, but they had already gone. Aghasura didn’t immediately swallow the gopas and calves, but waited for Krishna to enter. 

Invincible Krishna then entered Agha’s mouth and enlarged Himself within his throat. Agha also increased his body, yet he was suffocated, and his breathing stopped. His eyes popped out, and he (the soul) burst through the top of his head. Krishna then glanced at the gopas and the calves, who had collapsed from the poisonous fumes inside the demon, and brought them back to life.

The glaring soul that had come out of Agha’s body and hovered in the sky entered Krishna’s body. Krishna gave Agha sarupya-mukti, or the liberation of attaining a spiritual form matching the Lord’s form in Vaikuntha. Although Aghasura intended to kill all the Vrajavasis, Krishna took pleasure in entering his mouth in a sporting spirit along with the gopas. By that sporting of the Lord and His dear devotees, Aghasura was purified of all sinful contamination and achieved the eternal association of the Lord in the spiritual world. After Agha’s death, his dried-up python body became a playground for the Vrajavasis for a long time.

Aghasura’s purpose was to kill Krishna. Krishna liberated him for at least two reasons: Aghasura thought of Krishna with devotion for a moment, and Krishna and His associates enjoyed sporting within Aghasura’s mouth.

Incidents like this show that Krishna sometimes grants salvation to someone who thinks of Him only once or even by force. How much more fortunate must be those who always lovingly think of the Lord within their hearts.

The Take-home Message

  • The elephant Gajendra didn’t specifically call out the Lord’s name.
  • The fallen brahmana Ajamila didn’t even call out for the Lord but called his son.
  • The witch Putana even tried to kill the Lord.
  • The python Aghasura intended to kill not only Krishna but all the Vrajavasis.

But the Lord took only the good in all of them and gave them His mercy. He considered that

  • Gajendra had described the Lord’s qualities while in deep anxiety.
  • Ajamila had chanted the Lord’s name Narayana.
  • Putana had displayed the appearance and behavior of a mother.
  • Aghasura had given sporting pleasure to the Lord and His associates.

Krishna does reciprocate according to the mood in which a person approaches Him, yet in His various forms He is merciful enough to forgive and accommodate even sinful people. Still one shouldn’t take undue advantage of His mercy and purposely commit sins. A father is kind and affectionate to his child even if the child is mischievous and whimsical, trying his best to reform the child by educating, counseling, or even punishing the child if needed. But the father will be happier if the child voluntarily behaves well and aligns with the will of the well-wishing father.

The same is true for God. He doesn’t miss an opportunity to shower His mercy upon those who serve Him or seek His shelter even indirectly, inattentively, or unintentionally. How much more so will He respond with mercy to those who directly, attentively, and intentionally serve Him and seek His shelter.