The Transcendental Pastimes of Lord Krsna
Even five thousand years ago, Lord Krsna had His enemies. One was Putana, the great witch….
In the present age it is fashionable for aspiring intellectuals to discount the existence of God and eternal life. They say that there are no "hard facts" to prove God's existence. Actually, one who is trained in the science of God knows that there is a great wealth of data about the Absolute Truth, but this information is simply closed to the atheist's untrained, material vision.
Even though armed with "hard facts," the atheist cannot adequately explain the cause of the cosmos. To say that everything has happened by chance is not an explanation but an admission of ignorance. "It all happened by chance" does not mean that there isn't any cause, but that one doesn't know the cause. Because the atheist has taken such an obstinate position, he cannot accept the obvious fact that an intelligence beyond man has created and is controlling everything in existence.
Yet the control of the Supreme is so overwhelming that even the atheist must submit to it. Unlike the theist, the atheist doesn't worship God by faithfully hearing the authorized version of saints and scriptures, nor does he worship God with prayers, but he, too, is forced to submit to the will of the Supreme. Whereas the devotee sees God in His beautiful form as Krsna and enjoys hearing of His pastimes, the atheist denies this personal aspect of the Supreme but still he has to face God in the form of inevitable death.
Happily, there is strong evidence that the influence of hard-core atheism is waning. For example, ninety-four percent of the people interviewed in a recent Gallup poll said they believe in the existence of God. There is, however, a great deal more to theism than vaguely believing in God. Too often, a person accepts that "God is great," but does not know anything about His greatness. So the unique contribution of ancient India's Vedic literatures is that not only do they give the full scientific description of the eternal soul and God, but also they reveal everything about God's intimate pastimes. Bhagavad-gita, the most widely read of all the Vedic literatures, describes the essential science of the soul and its transmigration. Anyone sincerely eager to receive knowledge from beyond the cramped perimeters of this temporary material life will find all the answers inBhagavad-gita.
Further, in Srimad-Bhagavatam we find the postgraduate curriculum on the science of God. The Bhagavatam reveals intimate pastimes of Lord Krsna and answers the questions that naturally occur to a God-seeking person What does God look like? Where does He live? What are His activities? None of the world's other scriptures answer these questions as thoroughly as do the Vedic literatures, especially Srimad-Bhagavatam. In the Tenth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, we get full descriptions of the personal features and activities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As Bhagavad-gita discloses, God is known by many names, but the name Krsna (which means "all-attractive") is supreme. In Srimad-Bhagavatam Krsna's personal activities with His pure devotees are fully described.
Five thousand years ago, when the Vedic king Pariksit first heard the account of Srimad-Bhagavatam from the great sage Sukadeva Gosvami, he said that hearing about Krsna will benefit all classes of people. First of all, those who are already liberated from all material miseries will certainly be interested in hearing about Krsna, since they have attained the exalted state of love of God. Similarly, those who are not yet liberated but are following religious principles and striving for liberation will be purified by hearing about Krsna. And even those who are not spiritually inclined will be captivated if they simply hear about Krsna's pastimes, because Krsna's pastimes are naturally appealing to everyone.
When Krsna appeared on this earth five thousand years ago, His adventures resembled the affairs between ordinary boys and girls and heroes and villains. But advanced devotees understand that since Krsna is transcendental, so also are His activities. At any rate, even a person in mundane consciousness will be drawn to hearing about Krsna. Therefore Sukadeva Gosvami, the speaker ofSrimad-Bhagavatam, says that the pastimes of Krsna will purify not only the person who inquires about them but also the person who hears the answers and even the place where the discussion occurs. Upon the recommendation of the great authorities, let us therefore give a submissive hearing to Krsna's pastimes.
Krsna appeared in this world when it was overburdened by demoniac forces. According to the Vedas, Lord Brahma, the overseer of universal affairs, was approached by the earth's presiding deity, Mother Bhumi. Bhumi lamented that demoniac leaders had overburdened the planet, and she convinced him that only the Supreme Lord could bring relief. So Brahma communicated with the Supreme Lord by meditation, and the Lord assured him that He and His associates would soon come to the earth.
At that time the leader of the demoniac forces was the tyrannical King Kamsa, who was trying to bring the world under his dictatorship. Kamsa, particularly, was fearful of Krsna's advent, because he had heard an omen that Krsna would kill him. Kamsa was so terrified that he attempted to kill all the children born at the supposed time of Krsna's appearance. But Krsna, by His unlimited mystic power, escaped Kamsa's notice. Krsna appeared as the son of a king named Vasudeva, but Vasudeva hid Him away in the village of Vrndavana, where He lived with the devoted cowherd man Nanda and his wife Yasoda. Afraid that any small child of that time might grow up to be Krsna, Kamsa enlisted various witches and practitioners of the black arts to travel through the countryside and kill all small children. The first demon who came to Vrndavana and made an attempt on Krsna's life was Putana.
When Putana came to Vrndavana, Krsna was still a small baby. Although she was a gigantic and fierce witch who drank children's blood, Putana was able to assume the form of a beautiful woman. When she arrived in the village, she boldly entered Krsna's bedroom without asking anyone's permission, and since her bodily features were quite beautiful and she approached Krsna in a motherly way, Krsna's actual guardians, Yasoda and Rohini, did not object. When this beautiful woman asked Krsna's mother and nurses whether she could pick up the beautiful child and feed Him milk from her breast, they trusted her. But when Putana picked up Krsna, He closed His eyes and would not even look at her. Putana became a little perplexed. She was getting an intimation that Krsna was not an ordinary child that in fact He could destroy the entire universe but still she went ahead with her plot to kill Him.
Putana had smeared a deadly poison on the nipples of her breasts, and she hoped that when Krsna took her milk He would die instantly. But though Krsna looked like a small, helpless child, actually He was the Supreme Personality of Godhead. When she took Krsna to her poisonous breast, He became very angry. Taking hold of the breast, He squeezed it very hard with both hands. Then He sucked out the poison and her life. Srimad-Bhagavatam narrates:
"Unbearably pressed in every vital point, the demon Putana began to cry, 'Please leave me, leave me! Suck my breast no longer!' Perspiring, her eyes wide open and her arms and legs flailing, she cried very loudly again and again.
"As Putana screamed loudly and forcefully, the earth with its mountains, and outer space with its planets, trembled…. She ran out of the room. . . ." Putana ran out of the room and out of the village, into the pasturing ground. There, screaming and spreading her arms and legs and hair, she fell down and assumed her original form as a gigantic witch. Though just a few moments earlier she had looked like a normal-sized and extremely attractive woman, now she was a dead witch with a body some twelve miles long. Her fall had toppled trees in every direction, and her dead body was so gigantic that no one could reckon its actual size.
According to Srimad-Bhagavatam, "The mouth of the raksasi [demoness] was full of teeth, each resembling the front of a plow. Her nostrils were deep like mountain caves, and her breasts resembled big slabs of stone fallen from a hill. Her scattered hair was the color of copper. The sockets of her eyes appeared like deep blind wells. Her thighs resembled the banks of a river." Putana's screaming had shocked all the inhabitants of Vrndavana, and now the horrible sight of her body frightened them even more.
But Krsna was unafraid, although He continued to act like an infant. He climbed upon the gigantic body of the witch and crawled across her breast. To kill Putana, Krsna had not needed to assume any especially gigantic form of His own, because even as a child He had all the potency of the Supreme.
The residents of Vrndavana have such intense devotion to Krsna that they treat Him not as the Supreme but as their most lovable object as their child, their friend, or their lover. Usually they do not offer Krsna the distant awe and reverence accorded Him by His ordinary religious worshipers. As the Vedic literatures explain, Vrndavana is a spiritual abode and is accessible only to those who have intense and spontaneous attraction to the Personality of Godhead. Therefore, the cowherd women did not offer reverential prayers to Krsna, though clearly He was all-powerful. On the contrary, the women were deeply grateful that their dear Krsna had not been hurt by the demon. They assumed that Krsna was simply blessed by God, and they proceeded to wash Him and chant mantras they hoped would protect Him from further danger. In this way they showed their faith in the Vedic rituals and their love for Krsna.
The Vrndavana residents' chanting of mantras to assure Krsna's protection is instructive for all people living in the material world. Obviously, this world is a catastrophic place; there is danger at every step. So the simple system of protecting ourselves by chanting the name of God is recommended here. The material world's greatest danger is that one may suddenly meet his death before he has established himself in God consciousness. One who dies in forgetfulness of his real, spiritual self may have to take a lower birth in the next life even among the animal species. In the human form of life, we have to overcome this great danger by taking shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. And the recommended method for seeking this shelter is to chant the names of Krsna. Everyone is seeking shelter, either in his own prowess or in medicine or insurance policies or the national defense force, but ultimately no one can avoid the dangers of nature. One can be saved only by taking constant shelter of the Lord's names as in the Hare Krsna mantra because only one who dies absorbed in thoughts of Krsna can go to Krsna's eternal abode. Therefore, the inhabitants of Vrndavana chanted mantras to give Krsna all protection. In this way Krsna became pacified, and He lay down on His bed and sucked the milk from His mother's breast.
When Putana attacked Krsna, Krsna's foster father Nanda and the other cowherd men had been away from Vrndavana. When they returned they were shocked to see Putana's gigantic body. Although she was dead, they took the precaution of cutting her body to pieces with their axes. Then they set it aflame, and strangely enough, the smoke was fragrant, like aguru incense. Apparently, Krsna's touch had purified Putana's body of all material contamination.
Finally, the Bhagavatam describes the spiritual significance of Putana's attempt to kill Krsna: "Putana was always hankering for the blood of human children, and with that desire she came to kill Krsna; but because she offered her breast to the Lord, she attained the greatest achievement. What, then, is to be said of those who had natural devotion and affection for Krsna as mothers, and who offered Him their breasts to suck or offered something very dear, as a mother offers something to a child? … Because Krsna embraced Putana's body with great pleasure and sucked her breast, although she was a great witch she attained the position of a mother in the transcendental world, and thus she achieved the highest perfection."
Krsna is such a well-wisher and His association is so purifying that even the demons who came to kill Him were liberated. Putana did not care for Krsna; out of envy she wanted to kill Him. But Krsna considered only the favorable aspect of her activity that she had offered her breast and He accepted her as His mother. In the Vedic culture there are seven mothers: the earth, the natural mother, the guru's wife, the king's wife, the brahmana's wife, the nurse, and the cow. Since Putana had acted as a nurse, Krsna accepted her as His mother, and she achieved the highest perfection in the next life. This fact suggests the unimaginably glorious place of those people who relate with Krsna in intimacy and love. If a woman who goes to Krsna to kill Him is liberated from birth and death, then what place is awarded to a devotee someone who loves Krsna as all in all and offers Him everything for His satisfaction? This is the position of the cowherd men and women who associate with Krsna in Vrndavana.
After the killing of Putana, many other demons came to attack Krsna, and the residents of Vrndavana encountered many other dangers. No matter what happened, however, these people trusted Krsna with all their hearts, and He remained the object of their love.
It is practically impossible for atheists to appreciate these transcendental affairs. And since atheists simply cannot understand, one should not listen to their interpretations of Krsna's pastimes. Just as one who is ignorant of medicine or nuclear science has no right to speak in the company of experts, so one who does not even know of God's existence can say nothing valid about Krsna's pastimes as Srimad-Bhagavatam describes them. We should hear about these pastimes only from authorized representatives of the disciplic chain of spiritual masters. If we hear Srimad-Bhagavatam from such pure devotees, we will surely attain the highest standard of God consciousness.
The atheistic attitude so common in our time cannot satisfy the human being's innate spiritual consciousness and intelligence. Since human beings inevitably want to know about God the conscious intelligence behind the workings of nature they will be very fortunate if they can hear the Vedic explanation of the science of God. There is no possibility that any human being can know everything about God, but if one is attracted to Him and understands that He has to be approached through devotional service, and if one submissively hears Krsna's pastimes, one can quickly understand the principles of God consciousness. Srimad-Bhagavatam contains countless other pastimes of Krsna, and we shall go on relating them in the pages of BACK TO GODHEAD. According to the Vedic saints, such dissemination of transcendental knowledge is the highest welfare activity for the world.