Found in Sanga, Sanga 2007.

Q. Why is Krishna blue?

A. Krishna is said to be the color of a dark sapphire or of a blue lotus, but all such descriptions of him are insufficient because he is aprakrta (nonmaterial), thus the beauty of his complexion is beyond our comprehension. Perhaps the most fitting description given in scripture of Sri Krishna’s complexion is “syama,” which according to Indian aesthetics is the color that corresponds with the emotion of conjugal love.

Q. Are there scriptural guidelines for constructing a Deity of Krishna?

A. I am not familiar with any scripture that discusses the details of how to construct a Deity of Krishna. However, Srimad-Bhagavatam states, “It is possible to worship a form of the Lord made of physical elements such as earth, water, pulp, wood, and metal. In the forest one can make a form with no more than earth and water and worship him.” The Bhagavata also says, “The Deity form of the Lord is said to appear in eight varieties–stone, wood, metal, earth, paint, sand, the mind, or jewels.”

Furthermore, the first Deity of Krishna was manifest under the direction of one of Sri Krishna’s great-grandsons, Vajra, who had personally seen Krishna and was the only Yadu prince to survive the battle of iron clubs at Prabhasa. Thus all subsequent Deities of Krishna follow the model given to the world by Vajra.

Q. How would you explain Deity worship to persons outside Hinduism?

A. Deity worship (arcana) takes place in the realm of ritual that manifests at the juncture between the material and spiritual, where the symbols, ritual conduct, and purity are representative of the activities that take place in the spiritual realm. Repeated participation in this realm eventually transports one to the world of divine lila, where the worshiper and object of worship become one in a dynamic union of love.

For example, the arati ritual of offering an oil lamp in circular motions in this world is also performed by the gopis in Krishna-lila. The oil lamp of their heart is offered by their eyes in circular motions, as they glance at Govinda with love, a love that in consideration of the lila does not always allow them to look directly at him in public. Thakura Bhaktivinoda writes, “[In the lila] arcana is done with the corner of the eyes. When Krishna is returning from the cow pastures with the cowherd boys and the cows, all the gopis are standing at their doorsteps doing arcana with the corner of their eyes. Everything is there; the flame is there, water is there, and everything else is there. Krishna also accepts their worship with the corner of his eyes. This is called arcana.”

Elsewhere I have written the following, which may be helpful: “Deity worship is a window to the world of spontaneous love in which one progresses from worshiping to being that worship. As worship turns to bhava (deep feeling), one cultivates that bhava and identifies with it. When this identification is complete, one reaps the fruit of divine reciprocation that corresponds with that bhava: entrance into the lila in a particular mood of love. This is what it means to attain Krishna–attaining Krishna- prema. Krishna is that face of the Absolute that corresponds with the highest love.”

See also:
Rama and Raganuga-bhakti

When Deity worship is explained in this manner, intelligent people are more likely to refrain from imposing their own sometimes negative sensibilities on the ritual–the chanting, bowing down, ringing bells, etc.–and actually participate in a positive way.

One evening I gave a lecture explaining Deity worship as ritual and this approach helped the guests overcome any awkwardness and inhibitions they had felt about participating in the ceremony. The result was that all of the guests adopted appropriate behavior, and following the lead of our regular participants, they chanted, danced, bowed down, etc., everyone endeavoring to get the full experience of the ritual of Deity worship.

Q. Sri Krishna performed many pastimes on Govardhana Hill, so the scriptures say that a stone from that hill (Govardhana sila) is worshipable. In regards to that worship, what do the scriptures say about gunja beads representing Srimati Radharani?

A. It is mentioned in Vidagdha-Madhava that Sri Radha sheds tears upon seeing the gunja mala, gunjanna ca vilokanan muhur asau sasram parikrosati. She cries because Sri Krishna often wears a necklace made of gunja beads, and seeing gunja beads she is reminded of him.

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu also wore such a necklace. While bathing his Govardhana-sila with his tears in remembrance of Radha-Krishna lila, he would adorn himself with a gunja mala. Later when he gave his sila to Raghunatha Dasa Goswami, he also gave him the gunja mala that he wore. After receiving these items from Sriman Mahaprabhu, Srimad Dasa Goswami realized that they were symbolic of two things respectively: eternal residence at Govardhana and the shelter of Sri Radha’s holy feet.

Subsequently, it has become a custom among spiritually advanced devotees in the Gaudiya sampradaya to worship a stone from Sri Govardhana along with the gunja mala, which is seen as a representation of Sri Radha. However, you should seek the blessings of your guru before engaging in the seva-puja of Govardhana-sila or any other Deity. Sri Guru will access your eligibility for such puja in consideration of your spiritual prospect.

Q. In a previous Sanga you wrote, “Being defeated by her love, he (Krishna) tried to steal it in a last ditch effort. This got him into more trouble in his appearance as Sri Caitanya, who spent the better part of his antya-lila in tears and madness. Only by the mercy of Radha’s intimate associates Lalita and Visakha in the forms of Svarupa Damodara and Ramananda Raya was he able to resolve the issue, one that is nonetheless eternal and one that presents a golden opportunity of service for us.”

I am wondering what opportunity of service this offers the contemporary devotee? It seems like the situation was handled, at the time. What more can I do to serve Krishna in this regard?

See also:
Krishna Has a Problem

A. The issue or crisis that I spoke of is Krishna’s desire to experience Radha’s love. It is a crisis for him because he cannot do so on his own. Such is the measure of her love. It is beyond him. Thus Krishna told the gopis that he could not reciprocate with the love they had shown him and in this way paid tribute to their love, na paraye ‘ham naravadya samyutam. This prema resides eternally in them alone, and among them Radha is the foremost gopi.

Their experience represents one side of rasananda, that of the asraya alambana, or the shelter of the highest love. Krishna, on the other hand, is the visaya alambana, or the object of this highest love. Krishna realized that the gopis’ position as the asraya alambana afforded them more ecstasy than his position as the visaya alambana did. Thus he tried to take the position of the asraya alambana by becoming a devotee of himself as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, at which time his dark complexion became effulgent like molten gold and he became known as Gauranga (the Golden Lord). When Krishna appeared as Gauranga he eventually studied under the tutelage of Svarupa Damodara and Raya Ramananda, devotees who were Sri Radhika’s most confidential associates. Only with their help and blessing did he succeed in his quest.

Thus the problem was solved. What then is the golden opportunity? The golden opportunity is Gaurahari, the golden Lord himself. Were it not for his appearance how would anyone know about all of these things? How would it be possible to taste such love? Sri Rupa Goswami writes, anarpita carim cirat karunayavatirna kalau: “Gauranga came to give what has never been given before.” What did he give? He gave us the opportunity to experience Radha’s love for Krishna, unnatojjvala rasa sva bhakti sriyam. He gave us the golden opportunity to experience that which he himself could not taste without the blessing of Sri Radha. In other words, in the course of pursuing that experience he showed the world how to taste it, how to become a dearmost devotee of Krishna by serving the handmaids of Sri Radhika. Thus he not only tasted but taught as well. Careful study of his pastimes and precepts reveal that the sadhana that Gaurahari taught the world culminates in the highest love.

Sri Sanatana Goswami writes:

“Realizing that the ecstasy of his beloved devotees is even sweeter than his own, out of greed the Lord descended to this world in the form of his own devotee. Dressed as a renunciant, golden in effulgence, he bears the name Sri Krishna Caitanya. All glories to that Lord Hari, who has appeared as the son of mother Saci!”

Commenting on this verse of Brhad-Bhagavatamrta, Sri Sanatana writes that it is only by the mercy of Sri Caitanya that one can experience gopi-bhava like that of Radha’s dearmost handmaidens. There is no other way. This is the gift of Gaura to the world!

Sri Rupa writes:

“His name is Sri Krishna Caitanya; his quality is that he is most magnanimous; his lila is giving Krishna-prema; his form is effulgent like molten gold. Praise unto him, Sri Krishna, again and again!”

Sri Prabodhananda Saraswati shares this secret with us:

“If you are truly pious, then to the extent that you develop devotion to Gauranga’s lotus feet, the moon rays of Radharani’s lotus feet will well up suddenly in your heart.”

You ask what all of this means to us today. It means that we should try our utmost to take advantage of the golden opportunity Gaura has given by learning the secrets of scripture from a realized soul, and under his or her guidance we should serve Sri Krishna Caitanya with all our hearts in the kirtana of harinama. We should know our goal, the sadhya, for this will help to inform our sadhana. As our hearts become cleansed through guru-guided sadhana, gradually all of these things will be realized within. This is what chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra is all about. It is about attaining the service of Radha-Krishna in Vrindavana.

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