Q. What does it mean when scripture says that a devotee sees Krishna everywhere?
A. In his commentary to Srimad Bhagavatam 11.2.45, Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura writes, atra pasyed iti tatha darsana-yogyataiva vivaksita, na tu tatha darsanasya sarva-kalikata: “Here the word pasyet does not mean that at every moment one sees Krishna’s form. It refers to one who has reached the elevated standard of bhakti in which one is qualified to see Krishna’s form.” Such a devotee’s vision is one in which he or she sees everything and everyone in relation to Krishna and sees everyone as having the capacity to serve him. Sometimes Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu had darsana of Krishna, but not constantly. Most of the time he saw everything in relation to Krishna.
Q. In this age, should the worship of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu (Gaura-Nitai) take precedence over the worship of Radha-Krishna?
A. Not necessarily. Mahaprabhu teaches us to worship Radha-Krishna, but some devotees may have more attraction to Gaura bhajana than to Krishna bhajana. Gaura-lila takes one to Krishna lila. However, if we go deeply within Krishna-lila, we find Krishna desiring to taste Radha’s love, and thus therein we again find ourselves in Gaura-lila, wherein Krishna realizes the fulfillment of his desire. Gaura-lila is the giver and Krishna lila is the gift—first the giver, then the gift. Which is more important, you ask? Perhaps you can tell me.
Q. What does it mean if one doesn’t have as strong an attraction to the pastimes of Radha-Krishna in Vrindavana as one has to the pastimes of Krishna and his queens in Dvaraka?
A. Strong attachment for Krishna arises at the devotional stage of asakti, before that there is no possibility of deep attachment for Bhagavan. Firm faith (nistha) and taste for bhakti (ruci), yes, but no real attachment to a particular form of Bhagavan. Devotees who have actually attained asakti and have a strong attachment for Krishna in Dvaraka will enter into a relationship with Krishna under the guidance of one of his queens. Such devotees worship Krishna by mixing the paths of vaidhi-bhakti and raga-bhakti. Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti writes in his Raga-vartma-candrika that when one is eager for madhurya-bhava but nonetheless remains attached to vaidhi-bhakti, one attains the position of svakiya (wedded love) as an associate of Satyabhama in Dvaraka, knowing her to be Sri Radha’s expansion. The general idea is that one attains the ideal that one worships. How could it be otherwise?
Q. In scripture we read of God classified as Visnu-tattva, Siva-tattva, Sakti-tattva, and so forth. My question is, are all these personalities of God in some way unique and independent? Do they ever actually forget themselves for the sake of lila (divine play)?
A. Sakti-tattva and Siva-tattva are similar to Visnu-tattva in that they are one personality appearing in numerous forms. According to Gaudiya theology, all Visnu-tattva forms are partial manifestations of svayam bhagavan Sri Krishna, and all of Bhagavan’s consorts are expansions of Sri Radha, who is Sri Krishna’s svayam-sakti. Wherever Visnu appears, Laksmi expands to accompany him. Siva is a transformation of Visnu, and Devi is a partial expansion of Radha.
The best example of God forgetting himself is that of Vrajendrananda Krishna. He is lost in the self-forgetfulness of love. For his own pleasure and by his own will, his yogamaya-sakti arranges his self-forgetfulness. However, although Sri Krishna forgets himself, he never loses his omniscience. It merely recedes to the background where it caters to the sincere desires of his devotees who aspire to have an intimate relationship with him. This self-forgetfulness is also present in Garua-lila and to a lesser extent in Rama-lila.
Q. It is said that Lord Baladeva assumes the form of the mridanga in order to serve Lord Caitanya. Could you elaborate on this?
A. In my vision Sri Krishna’s flute appears in Gaura lila as the mridanga, while Ananta, an expansion of Baladeva, assists him in other ways, such as shoes, umbrella, sacred thread, etc.
sarva-rupe asvadaye krishna-sevananda
sei balarama—gaura-sange nityananda
“In all the forms he tastes the transcendental bliss of serving Krishna. That same Balarama is Lord Nityananda, the companion of Lord Gaurasundara.”
The idea is that Nityananda Rama is the source of the serving ego, bhakta-abhimana mula sri-balarame.
Q. Having had this experience myself, I feel that the description of the universal form (Visvarupa) found in the 11th chapter of Bhagavad-gita is but a metaphor for the intense mystic state that occurs when one ingests a sufficient amount of psilocybin. In religious cultures throughout the ages this chemical substance of plant origin has been used to produce mystical visions. Initially these visions cause great confusion, which corresponds to Arjuna’s fear upon first seeing the Visvarupa. Ultimately, this confusion transforms into an intense sense of well-being and enlightenment. Do you have any comments on this?
A. Research shows that visual experiences derived from the use of hallucinogenic drugs vary in relation to one’s mental preoccupation. Therefore, persons who use drugs for spiritual purposes will likely have visions corresponding with their particular religious preoccupation. For example, Native Americans and others who practice nature-based religions are said to often experience themselves as animal spirits. Hindus might have visions they imagine (as you did) to be akin to Arjuna’s experience of the Visvarupa as described in the Gita, and Christians might perceive their visions as related to the second coming of Christ. Tellingly, persons with no spiritual background or interest whatsoever will hallucinate in terms of their own materialistic interests. Obsessed with the Beatles song Helter Skelter, the drug-induced visions of Charles Manson were of an apocalyptic racial war, one that he personally tried to bring about by murdering innocent people. Nothing at all spiritual about that!
Although there are a few Hindu sects that smoke ganja or take hallucinogens in quest of enlightenment, the spiritual mainstream of Hinduism dismisses those who seek to tie hallucinogens to the mystic ideal of the Bhagavad-gita. Indeed, the text clearly points out that Arjuna’s vision of the Visvarupa was a blessing from Krishna, the result of his intimate devotion, and had absolutely nothing to do with psilocybin or any other drug. Neither is the use of hallucinogens for spiritual purposes recommended anywhere in the Gita.
Under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs, one may have visions of Krishna, Buddha, Jesus, or dancing elephants for that matter, but such visions are only temporary creations of the mind. The real Krishna is adhoksaja, beyond the limitations of the mind. His darsana is available to persons like Arjuna, who through their devotion have become his intimate friends. Bhagavad-gita (11.53-54) says that to such great souls Krishna gives the transcendental eyes with which to see him in truth.
Q. I have a friend who belongs to Wicca, a group that practices magic and worships the deities of nature. He claims that during their rituals he has an undeniable experience of seeing his deities alive and real. When he asked me whether I had seen Krishna during my worship, I answered that I feel Krishna in my heart but I have never really seen him. My friend replied that he was surprised that I would practice a religion that relies more on faith than on experience. Honestly, I feel somewhat jealous of his experiences, so my question is why is it so easy for Wiccans to have visions of their deities, and so difficult for devotees to experience and actually see Krishna?
A. Wicca, or witchcraft, is one of a number of currently popular adaptations of ancient nature-based religions. These neo-pagan groups, which may include druids, shamans, and various other forms of wizardry and the occult, practice an eclectic mixture of rites and rituals with the goal of experiencing the divine in nature. If we take your friend at his word, then my reply is that it is one thing to experience minor earthly deities, and quite another to have the darsana of Krishna, the Godhead.
According to various religious and occult texts, if the adept has finely honed psychic abilities, then minor deities who cater to the desire of this world must appear before him or her if all the appropriate rituals are properly performed. One purport to an ancient manuscript on sacred magic sums this up by saying, ‘”The procedure (to summon spirits) involves many months of purification, followed by the invocation of good and evil spirits to accomplish very worldly goals, including the acquisition of treasure and romance.” Thus we are informed that the gods, spirits, or deities that can be summoned through ritual are not independent of obligation or law.
On the other hand, Sri Krishna is described in the Srimad Bhagavatam as the omniscient, independent Godhead (abhijnah svarat), from whom all things have emanated. This means that Krishna is above the law and that there is no force in the universe that can compel Krishna to do anything, much less appear at any mass or ritual by the force of one’s bidding. If he does choose to appear before his devotee, that is entirely his own prerogative, as he is controlled not by law or ritual, but by pure love, the likes of which constitutes his own internal nature (svarupa-sakti). Love is the only power that has any control over Krishna, and love of Krishna comes only from Krishna. If you learn to love Krishna unconditionally, in relation to whom actual unconditional love is possible, he will be drawn by your love to appear before you. Devoid of any egotistic motive, love of Krishna transcends the bodily identification that is the very basis of selfishness. Such love is not easily obtained, for as long as we identify ourselves with a material body and mind—as long as our sense of “I” is determined by our sense of “my”—there is no question of selflessness—no love, for pure love is selfless.
Therefore, our immediate goal is not to see Krishna but rather to serve him. It is through selfless service that Krishna will reveal himself to us, and when we truly love Krishna we will see him everywhere. Why? Because God is everywhere, savam kaluv idam brahma—there is nowhere God is not! Whatever we see is but Krishna and his sakti improperly understood or misperceived through the distorted lens of material desire.
The important lesson here is that the world and its inhabitants, be they natural or supernatural beings, are not for us to exploit for the satisfaction of our senses. To think so is the height of absurdity. Does the world exist for our temporary sensual satisfaction or does it have a higher purpose? Ultimately, the entire world will be dismantled in due course, but we as souls are eternal, and the purpose of our eternal lives is not merely to experience the ephemeral. In essence, life is about love, and pure love reposed in Krishna lives on forever and mystically makes one whole. Such is the power of love.