Remembering water’s relation to Krishna can increase our devotion to Him.
In Hawaii, clear turquoise waves lapped at my knees while a multicolored sea turtle gently fed near my feet. It’s the allure of water that draws people to that peaceful, beautiful spot, like so many places people go to relax and rejuvenate. Several months later in London, across two oceans from Hawaii, friends took me for exercise in an indoor heated pool. Although the sports club lacked beauty and the water was full of chemicals, my time in the water was still refreshing.
Water is one of the categories of Krishna’s energy, as described in scripture such as Bhagavad-gita and Brahma-samhita. Krishna always exists as a transcendent person apart from His energy, while at the same time He is present in that energy. Therefore, while water is not Krishna, Krishna is water.
In what ways can we appreciate Krishna in water? He is the taste or the essence of water, the quality that quenches our thirst and brings satisfaction. As I swam in the London pool, I thought of the softness or liquidity of water. One of Krishna’s qualities is His softness. His spiritual body is so soft that it changes color where it has been brushed by a leaf. His soft body is a stimulus for His devotees’ love for Him.
The scriptures describe that the Lord and His form are the same. So both His body and His sentiments are soft. Especially when Krishna takes the mood of His chief devotee and appears as Lord Caitanya, His heart melts with compassion for all living beings, and He freely gives love of God without considering the merit of the candidate. His heart is, therefore, like melted butter, soft and fluid. The liquidity of water shows us this flowing and melting quality of the Lord’s love and kindness.
Water is also powerful, so much so that its swift flow can provide all the electricity for a city, or one huge wave can create tremendous destruction in a moment. The power of water reminds us that one of Krishna’s opulences is unlimited strength. He creates, maintains, and destroys countless universes effortlessly. He carries planets on His head with such nonchalance that He is hardly aware of their weight. If all the potential and kinetic power of the entire world’s water were combined into one gigantic wave, it would not equal the tiniest fraction of Krishna’s strength.
This dual nature of water soft yet powerful reminds us of how Krishna, whose eternal spiritual form is that of a delicate sixteen-year-old boy, easily fought with and killed huge, muscular demons who were tormenting innocent citizens.
Many of the Lord’s transcendental, spiritual activities relate to water. When Krishna creates the material world, He assumes a form beyond measure lying in a yogic sleeplike trance on His incarnation the serpent Sesa, who floats on the causal ocean, which is alive and spiritual. Uncountable universes, one of which we now inhabit, come out of the Lord’s body when He exhales.
Then the Lord enters each universe and creates from His perspiration an ocean that fills half the universal shell. He lies down in that water, and His consort the goddess of fortune massages His feet.
The Lord enjoys floating on this cosmic ocean with His consort. Because each of us is a small part of the Lord, we have His propensities to a minute degree. So the common human desire to float on a boat, raft, or other device with one’s beloved comes from the Supreme, the source of everything.
Another example of Krishna’s pastimes involving water occurred early in universal history. In Vedic cosmology, planets are conscious persons. The planet Earth once fell into the universal water when demonic persons disturbed her orbit by drilling for oil and upsetting her balance. Celestial beings, called devas, who control the universe in service to Krishna, wanted Earth to be rescued. Responding to their desire, the Lord came to save her. He assumed the form of a splendid, gigantic boar (Varaha), dove to the bottom of the universal ocean, picked up Earth, and gently carried her on His tusks to the water’s surface. As He did so, a great demon challenged them. Lord Varaha then carefully placed fearful Earth on the water and gave her the ability to float. A fight between the Lord and the demon ensued within the great ocean. After defeating the demon, Lord Varaha returned to the spiritual sky.
Sometimes a flood devastates the universe, and Krishna assumes the form of a golden fish to play in the water. Tied to a horn on His head is a boat carrying sages, Vedic knowledge, and seeds to replenish the world after the flood. During this pastime, Krishna enjoys His play within the water as well as His loving relationship with the great sages.
Krishna in His original form often sports in water with His friends and beloveds. For His water pastimes He chooses rivers such as the Ganges and Yamuna, who are also goddesses pure in love for Him. Krishna also plays in lakes and ponds filled with lotuses and swans and surrounded by jeweled pavilions. These bodies of water are persons, devotees of His, alive with love and bliss.
Watering Our Devotion
Besides meditating on how water reminds us of Krishna’s qualities and pastimes, we can increase our awareness of Him when we use water in our everyday lives. For example, for basic health we need clean water for drinking and bathing, and we need it to cook and to clean our clothes and homes. We need the system Krishna has set up for supplying clean water through evaporation and rain. At the very least, we should regularly thank the Lord for these gifts, which keep our bodies alive. Beyond that, we should be thankful for water as an impetus to remember Krishna, because that remembrance will increase our service and love for Him, watering the plant of our devotion.
Urmila Devi Dasi, a BTG associate editor, has a Ph.D. in educational leadership from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill (USA). She is working on international curriculum projects for primary and secondary education in ISKCON.