It may sem there can be nothing more ordinary, more the essence of matter, or more mundane than the Earth. But when we take a moment to notice and reflect, our awareness of the ever-present Earth can easily stimulate the most elevated plane of spiritual consciousness. Krishna has categorized His gross material energies as five: earth, water, fire, air, and ether. In modern terms these energies are called solids, liquids, radiant energy, gases, and space. Therefore, Krishna’s energy of “earth” refers to all matter in a solid state. Yet, because the planet Earth is the biggest example of this energy, we will here use the planet as symbolic of solid matter in general.
Krishna, the Supreme Lord, is both identical with and separate from His energies. By meditating on His energies, therefore, we can learn much about Krishna and appreciate His presence. Krishna recommends such meditation throughout the scriptures. For example, at Kurukshetra He tells the cowherd girls of Vrindavana, His beloved devotees, to always feel His presence through His energies. Prabhupada comments: “This important instruction by Lord Krishna to the gopis can be utilized by all devotees engaged in Krishna consciousness.
. . . The cosmic manifestation is nothing but a display of Krishna’s energy, and because the energy is not different from the energetic, nothing is different from Krishna. When this absolute consciousness, Krishna consciousness, . . . is present, then we are not separated from Krishna.”
The Planet Earth Reminds Us of the Lord
Rocky peaks of the Olympic Mountains, wearing hair of snow, poke through the clouds on the horizon, viewed across the water from where I walk on Vancouver Island in Canada. Huge, solid, beautiful, majestic, those towers of earth draw one’s eyes again and again.
Other than occasional dramatic displays such as cloud-piercing mountains, the Earth often goes unnoticed in daily life. But the Earth exhibits qualities that can easily remind us of the Lord’s qualities. For example, the Earth is solid and dependable, and Krishna is so dependable that even demonic beings know that if they follow universal rules, the Lord will not harm them. Anyone can depend on Krishna to accept offerings made with faith and devotion, regardless of the person’s background or material qualifications.
The Earth is tolerant and continues to support us even though we abuse her by drilling for oil and stripmining her body, and by spilling the blood of her children upon her in war. In a similar way, Krishna continues to be the friend of all living beings, even those who blaspheme Him and try to cause Him pain.
The solid nature of Earth gives us a sense of balance, harmony, and grounding when walking upon her. Similarly, anyone in touch with Krishna can stay undisturbed in any situation.
The Earth can sometimes change her face from that of a benign solid object to one of sudden anger in the form of quakes and volcanoes. Similarly, Krishna’s face, normally graced with a sweet, gentle smile, can sometimes show loving anger, such as when His incarnation Balarama caused an earthquake in ancient Delhi to bring the rulers there to their senses.
Despite the occasional upheavals, the Earth is the foundation and support of everything, its mountains compared to the bones of the Lord’s universal form. Krishna also tells us in the Bhagavad-gita that He is the support of all, holding everything as a string holds the pearls of a necklace.
Krishna sustains and maintains all living beings. We can easily remember this truth when we think about how most of our necessities come from the Earth. One of our prime necessities is shelter. In the form of the materials that make up our homes, the Earth is the source of shelter from the weather, intruders, and animal pests. Brick, cement, steel, wood all are directly from the Earth or grow from her. When we look around our shelter, we can meditate on how Krishna is the ultimate shelter. His love, wisdom, mercy, and kindness offer us the shelter of spiritual knowledge. When we attain that knowledge, we have no fear of heat, cold, rain, decay, or thieves. Rather, we know we are eternal spiritual beings never touched by any material difficulty. Beyond that, one who knows Krishna finds deep shelter in His all-good love, a love whose quality and quantity is millions of times greater than the love we feel when coming into our mother’s arms in our childhood home.
People commonly feel a sense of shelter from the part of the planet where they were born or spent their childhood. That attachment can be so strong that huge armies go to war for the sake of their homeland, risking death and lifelong injury. What price humans are willing to pay for attachment to a particular piece of the Earth! Earth is simply part of Krishna’s material energy, representing a fragment of a fragment of His opulence and splendor. Yet attachment to homeland brings enough pleasure that people will sacrifice much to keep a connection with it. We can think of how attachment to the ultimate source of Earth, Krishna Himself, gives unbounded and ever-expanding satisfaction. Those who taste a drop of attachment to Krishna gladly surrender more than any soldier to deepen it. They’ll sacrifice everything and anything to increase it. Yet upon doing so, they feel as if they have given nothing at all in comparison to what they are gaining.
Our attachment to the Earth is not merely emotional. Our bodies, and indeed all physical objects, are drawn to the ground by gravity. Because we are always experiencing gravity, it gives us one of the easiest opportunities to turn our hearts and minds to Krishna at every moment. God is the all-attractive, His attractive force functioning in part under the name of gravity. If we take a minute now to feel how we are being pulled, anchored, attracted to the Earth, we can think about how that attractive force is really the energy of Krishna’s expansion Balarama, or Sesa.
The Earth attracts not only through gravity but also through magnetic energy. We can remember how the saint Prahlada declared that his mind and heart were drawn to Krishna as naturally as iron to a magnet.
The Earth planet is the largest object we directly touch daily, and her size can remind us of how Krishna is the greatest, the largest bigger than the biggest. Just as we cannot see beyond the horizon, so we can never know all of God and His unlimited, expanding qualities and activities.
The Bible says that our bodies come from dust and return there as well. Our bodies are formed from the food we eat, which grows in the Earth. And when we, the soul, leave our body at death, the body is buried or burned, either of which returns it to a state of mixing again with the Earth. Dead bodies thus become the basis for the growth of new bodies. Similarly, Krishna says that He is the beginning, middle, and end of all things; He is their origin and their dissolution. Thus we see His divine qualities in the Earth.
Those of us who have worked on farms or gardens know how deeply satisfying it can be to work with the dirt. Planting, weeding, watering, fertilizing all may give a sense of peace and satisfaction rarely found in the concrete jungles of modern cities. Even city dwellers flock to parks where they can sit on rocks or grass-covered ground and lean against trees. Walking barefoot in sand or soil and getting one’s hands full of rich loam is a delight that has attracted children for millennia. When contacting soil, we can meditate on how fulfilling it is for the soul to connect with its ultimate source, the Absolute Truth, Krishna.
Satisfaction from handling soil comes in part from the fresh smell of the land. Krishna says that He is the fragrance of earth. Whatever scent we find in flowers, fruits, vegetables, grasses anything grown from the Earth reveals some part of Krishna’s divine fragrance. And what of malodorous smells originating from dirtn Even they represent Krishna, in His aspect as the eventual destroyer of the material world.
Earth can also be used as a medium for artistic expression. Paper or fabric on which to write or paint comes from the Earth’s products. Materials of sculpture are generally taken from the Earth. Mineral pigments abound in rocks, and brilliant hues are found in plants growing from the Earth. Souls in human bodies who shape the Earth and her products in artistic ways show how a tiny spiritual portion of Krishna can manifest creativity and beauty. Whenever we see such products of artistic skill, or when we engage in the creative process, we can easily remember how all the ingredients and the ability are from Krishna, whose own artistic skill we can glorify and only poorly imitate.
Wealth and Earth
The Earth reminds us of Krishna’s unlimited wealth, as she is the source of our wealth in the material world. Land itself is one of the greatest sources of wealth in all societies at all times. We enhance the value of land with buildings, made of materials directly or indirectly from the Earth. Products of earth such as metals, gems, oil, coal, natural gas, and so forth, are all major sources of wealth.
Rukmini Devi, Lord Krishna’s principal queen in Dwarka, said that He can be described as not possessing wealth because He is Himself that very wealth. Krishna is the Earth and thus wealth itself. Whenever we deal with wealth, whether paper, metal, plastic, or any other form, we can easily recall that the wealth comes from Earth and, ultimately, Krishna. One who thinks like this uses all wealth in ways that please Krishna, and accepts whatever opulence He desires to give His servant as a merciful gift, called prasadam.
Krishna’s Transcendant Abode
Walking through a forest or garden heavy with green, we can remember that Krishna, the Lord of lords and king of kings, prefers for His highest spiritual realm a simple pastoral setting. Certainly Krishna has innumerable transcendent residences, prototypes for the grand royal palaces and cities that have flourished over history on this planet. But in such a regal atmosphere Krishna does not display His full range of intimate loving dealings with perfect souls. Rather, He likes to sport in exchanges of love surrounded by forests and rivers. In the supreme spiritual kingdom, Vrindavana, the Lord prefers necklaces of berries to those of diamonds. Flowers resembling pearls decorate His spiritual form. He is a village boy herding cows with His friends, using hard fruit as balls and minerals as decoration. The land in Krishna’s ultimate paradise is a fully conscious person. The ground is soft and made of varieties of colored jewels.
Krishna’s Pastimes Related to Earth
Krishna has many sportive pastimes related to the Earth. For example, early in universal creation the demon Hiranyaksa caused the Earth to fall out of orbit. Krishna assumed a gigantic form as a boar and rescued the Earth on the ends of His tusks.
In regard to soil, when Krishna appeared on this planet about five thousand years ago, some of His young cowherd friends accused Him of eating dirt. When His mother looked into His mouth, she saw not only some dirt but the entire planet Earth. She also saw the sun, moon, stars, and the whole universe. Although astonastonished by seeing Krishna’s opulence and power, she retained her affection for her young child.
In Krishna’s incarnation as Lord Caitanya, He also ate dirt as a young boy. His mother scolded Him and asked why He would prefer dirt to sweets. The Lord replied that sweets are ultimately just a transformation of earth, so why discriminaten The Lord’s mother, however, refuted this monistic philosophy by saying that although dirt and sweets are the same from one point of view, eating dirt directly will simply cause disease. Lord Caitanya was pleased to hear His devotee expounding a more nuanced view of reality than monism.
Although Krishna is always earth in the general sense that His energies are at once the same and different from Himself, He is directly His earthly abode of Vrindavana. While devotees understand this point about Vrindavana in general, they worship, in particular, one place in Vrindavana as Krishna: Govardhana Hill. That’s because Krishna, during His pastime of lifting Govardhana Hill, declared that He is the hill. In the form of rocks and dirt, Krishna provides services for His own devotees. He gives His cows grass and water, and He provides His friends with caves, beautiful sporting places, and jewels and minerals for ornamentation. Out of love for His devotees, He takes this form as a servant of His own servants. Since each part of the Lord is also the complete Lord, even a tiny pebble from this hill is a full manifestation of Krishna. Devotees therefore worship stones from Govardhana Hill on their altars just as they worship the deity of Krishna.
The deity of Krishna is yet another personal incarnation made of materials from the Earth. He appears in the deity form, usually of rock, metal, or wood, to accept worship from those whose vision allows them to see only gross matter. Because Krishna and His form are absolute, a rendition of the Lord’s form according to the descriptions of the scripture is the Lord Himself. Therefore, although neophytes in spiritual life think they’re seeing a form of matter, the deity incarnation of the Lord is spiritual. From Krishna’s perspective, matter and spirit are equally His energy. Conditioned souls see some of His energy as matter only because of selfish desire and contaminated consciousness. Those who serve a genuine deity under the direction of a spiritual master will gradually invoke Krishna’s mercy, and He will reveal how the deity is none other than Himself.
Gaining the eyes of love by which one can see God everywhere may seem mystical. But Krishna is so eager for us to see Him that He extensively describes in the Bhagavad-gita how to view the world through a lens that reveals Him. That lens is nothing more than affection demonstrated by voluntarily turning our minds and hearts to see what is always there. One does not, therefore, have to travel to a place such as the Himalayas to find God. The ever present pull of the Earth on our bodies and minds is ample evidence that Krishna is with us always.
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 works on international curriculum projects for primary and secondary education in ISKCON