The History of Kurukṣetra
– By His Holiness Śrīla Indradyumna Swami
When Śrī Prahlāda started to sing that particular melody, it brought back a lot of memories and emotions and realizations. Unknown to much of ISKCON devotees, many of the melodies we sing today that are favorites amongst devotees, especially on Harināma, came from the heart of Śrī Prahlāda. One time Prabhupāda described that the melodies that we sing, particularly the melodies we were singing when Prabhupāda was here—the Bengali melodies in particular, Prabhupāda said, “These melodies, they come from the spiritual world.” Later on one of the devotees kind of complained to Śrīla Prabhupāda that my Godbrother Viṣṇujana Swami who was a legend now for his Kīrtanas, he also used to produce melodies; and someone said “That is not correct.” And Prabhupāda said, “No, he can. He is an expert musician.” Prabhupāda said, “And a devotee. He can come with different melodies.” Prabhupāda sanctioned it.
When we were traveling together for so many years, sometimes Prahlāda would just start the Harināma with a new melody—and everybody would just go, “Wow!”, and even the people, they would love it. He’s gifted like that. The reason I am bringing this up is because this particular melody, we had a name [for it]. We used to name melodies; I would say, “Well, there are so many melodies; we should give them a name!” We would drive in the car and people would suggest names. So this melody was called, ’The feelings of the pangs of separation.’ As Prahlāda started to sing it, I didn’t have to look at him; I knew the reason he was singing this is because this is how we were thinking and this is a very appropriate mood, actually for Kurukṣetra—the place of the big battle.
Amongst many things, many historical events took place here. But paramount of all of them is the Gopīs’, particularly Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī’s feeling of separation, meeting Kṛṣṇa here after so many years, or you could say lifetimes. Her Bhāva of separation from Kṛṣṇa, Her Vipralamba Bhāva, went to the highest state that it could go here at Kurukṣetra, so I was thinking, “Well, that’s an appropriate melody.”
But we will come to that a little later. Again many of us think appropriately that this is where the great Kurukṣetra war took place between the Pāṇḍavas and the Kurus, and Kṛṣṇa took the opportunity to enlighten the Arjuna and thus all of mankind with His words of wisdom. Gītā means “song” and Bhagavad means “Kṛṣṇa.” So the song of God was spoken here, at Kurukṣetra. As Śrīla Prabhupāda comments I believe in a purport in Bhagavad-Gītā, that the Pāṇḍavas chose to have the battle fought here strategically, because it was a pious place and the pious, sanctified atmosphere would act to their advantage in defeating the enemy, because the enemies were demons and they were Devotees. Having the battle in a holy place gave them some advantage. Being a very famous holy place, since really you could say time immemorial—that’s why when that big solar eclipse came, Kṛṣṇa and the residents of Dvārakā came here to take shelter, because contrary to what modern scientists and the population think, eclipses are very inauspicious things.
Practically speaking, eclipse means the demon Rāhu is eating up the Sun or the Moon, trying to gobble him up. My dear Godbrother, Śrīkara Prabhu, is sitting over here. He could probably elaborate on this for many hours. He is a very famous astrologer, [now] retired. Now in his retired life, he is traveling to the various holy places of India with his nice wife, Jyotikā. We are honored that Śrīkara Prabhu has joined us for this Parikramā. Please give him a big round of applause. [Clapping] Śrīkara Prabhu ki Jaya!
When there is an eclipse, people either stand aside, so they don’t get the inauspicious rays or they will bathe in a holy river. There was an eclipse when Mahāprabhu appeared, so everybody was bathing in the river and to create auspiciousness everyone was chanting:
The Lord took advantage of that chanting of the Holy Name to make His appearance, because He was the incarnation to introduce the Yuga Dharma of chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa. To get away from the inauspiciousness, people will come to a holy place like Kurukṣetra. Kṛṣṇa and all the Dvarakavasis, they came here during the solar eclipse and as I mentioned earlier, this was the main holy place in Satya–Yuga. Now Satya–Yuga lasts a long time, so if you wanted to go on pilgrimage in Satya–Yuga this was the place to come, where you are sitting right now. Similarly then, Puṣkara, in Tretā–Yuga and Naimiṣāraṇya in Dvāpara–Yuga and Navadvīpa–Māyāpura during the Kali–Yuga, are the prominent pilgrimage places.
Now when Lord Brahmā was creating all the diversity in this universe; when it came time to create planet earth, Brahmā came here and He sat in the middle of this lake behind us. That’s why it is called Brahmā–Sarovara. He saw a lotus flower and He created the planet earth from this spot right here. This is the center of the earth. One of the most amazing things I discovered is that, it is here in Kurukṣetra that Bali Mahārāja gave the entire universe to Vāmana Deva when the Lord begged that king to give him three steps of land. This is where the pastime took place, right here!
Lord Vāmana Deva ki — Jaya!
As we know also, from the study of the Bhāgavatam, Lord Paraśurāma, He killed 21 generations of impious Kṣatriyas.
imaṁ rājarṣayo viduḥ
That this knowledge of Kṛṣṇa Consciousness comes down through a disciplic succession the saintly kings understood and implemented it. In that way, the Kṣatriyas have a very important role in Vedic society. They make sure that there is material prosperity and most important—spiritual prosperity. So if they are acting improperly, there are great obstacles to the goal of life. These Kṣatriyas, 21 generations, Paraśurāma took His chopper, [sound of chopping] ‘Chuk, Chuk’ ‘Chuk, Chuk, Chuk’—wiped them out. So then He collected all their blood. This is the gory part of the story. He collected all their blood and made these five lakes. These lakes are the blood of those 21 generations of Kṣatriyas. One may so much think, “I am not going to bath there!” But just like when Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva touched the body of Hiraṇyakaśipu, he became purified to the point where he went back to the spiritual world, so when Paraśurāma killed these generations of Kṣatriyas, their blood was purified. So you can take bath. Just bring a good towel, so you get all the blood off [laughter].
There is one big lake and kind of four smaller lakes, so they are called Samanta-Pañcaka, these five lakes. You will see the big one, but I think when we do our Parikramā, you will see the other four as well. This is also the place where Lord Paraśurāma performed His penances for killing all those Kṣatriyas. Lord Vāmanadeva, Lord Paraśurāma, there are a lot of things that took place here. Kṣetra means a large area, large piece of land, it’s not just this little village. It’s like Vraja–Maṇḍala. Maṇḍala means the greater area of Vṛndāvan, not just Loi bazaar. Similarly this Kurukṣetra is a very big tract of land.
In days of yore, it went through different names. Through different epochs of history, it had different names but how it became known as Kurukṣetra is interesting. It’s named after King Kuru who was the forefather of the Pāṇḍavas and the Kauravas. He was a great king, and being a Rājarṣi, interested in spiritual life, he also himself practiced penance and austerities to become purified to do his sevā for Kṛṣṇa.
At one time in the history of the world, the Sarasvatī River used to flow by here. Now, she has gone underground; she is unseen. The Gaṅgā, the Jāmuna are seen, but Sarasvatī is not seen, but she used to flow right here. Mahārāja Kuru came here on the banks of the Sarasvatī to perform penance and then the Śāstra says that he took a golden plow, and he tilled the ground of the whole Kṣetra. It didn’t yield just corn and wheat, but it’s very mystical. These are historical facts; we shouldn’t doubt them. When he tilled this sacred ground, it yielded eight virtuous qualities. Things that are very dear to our heart. As aspiring transcendentalists, we want to get rid of the bad. What are the bad things? You know—the lust—‘shuu’ [sound indicating fleeing away], the greed—‘go away’, anger —‘shuu’ [sound indicating fleeing away]; and we want to evoke or bring forth Maha—virtuous qualities. We like to hear, “Well, what are these things I am trying to attain?”
He is plowing this land with a golden plow and what does he produce—truth, yoga, kindness, purity, charity, forgiveness, austerity and celibacy.
Lord Kṛṣṇa, He appreciated this so much, He gave King Kuru two blessings:
- Number one, that this particular Kṣetra—this land would always be known after him and instead of just being a Kṣetra, it would be known as Kurukṣetra.
- Kṛṣṇa gave King Kuru a second blessing that anyone who died in this Kṣetra regardless of how, whatever, however horrible a sinner he was, if he died in this Kṣetra, he would immediately attain Mokṣa—liberation.
Hearing the glories of this Dhām is very important. I am just giving a short summary, scratching the surface. Saintly persons, great Sādhus, Ṛṣis, they used to come here all the time to perform their spiritual activities. Just like mundane, sensuous, wicked people, they congregate in places like brothels, bars, and gambling casinos and things like that; e.g., Las Vegas [laughter]. But Sādhus, they come to Kurukṣetra, so we welcome all of you—Sādhus and Sādhvīs. In particular, this was one of the favorite places of Sādhus. We all have our favorite places, right? There are Māyāpura–vasis, Vṛndā–vasis. Some devotees like Purī; there are Govardhana–vasis. Similarly this was one of the favorite places of Pulastya Muni. He gives advice to all transcendentalists, all aspiring transcendentalists. He says, “Go to Kurukṣetra!” Why?—
- Because it fulfills all deep spiritual desires.
- Just by seeing that place, all living entities are liberated from their sins.
- Whoever merely says, “I will go to Kurukṣetra,” is free from sin. Who would like to become free from all sinful reactions? Then repeat after me [loudly—everyone together]: “I will go to Kurukṣetra.” You are here [Laughter]. You are all sinless.
- Then he says, “If the dust of Kurukṣetra raised by the wind, touches a great sinner, then free from his sins, he attains the highest abode.”
Śrī Kurukṣetra Dhām ki – Jaya!
Śrī Pulastya Muni ki – Jaya!
It’s described here in the last Yuga, the Dvāpara–Yuga, Kurukṣetra was not only spiritually potent but it was also extremely beautiful. You came on the bus through the industrial area that we passed through, you wonder, “Wow.” But before, there were green groves, lotus filled lakes and fertile pastures here in Kurukṣetra. There used to be a mantra, not official mantra, but I mean in the sense of what people would say. They would say, “One who lives in Kurukṣetra lives in heaven.” These are some of the glories of Kurukṣetra. How can even we count the glories of such a place that existed since Satya–Yuga? Just like Vṛndāvan, we have been having our Vṛndāvan Parikramā, for five or six to seven years now, and we still don’t run out of things to say, because in Vṛndāvan there are 60 billion holy places. We have just started, Prabhus. We are going to have to take birth after birth after birth to see and benefit from all these holy places in Vraja.
But for us, in our particular tradition, what we hold dear to our hearts, of course, is the immortal wisdom of Bhagavad-Gītā, the ABCs, the foundation of the philosophy of the International Society for Kṛṣṇa Consciousness. Another fact is that Kṛṣṇa came here with the residents of Dvārakā on the occasion of the solar eclipse. The important thing is that the residents of Vṛndāvan, they also came—apparently for the same reason. They all said, “Oh, well there is an eclipse, let’s go to Kurukṣetra.” “Okay, let’s go.” But like many things in Kṛṣṇa Consciousness, there is a different level of depth and there is a deeper reason for their coming. They came here to see Kṛṣṇa. Not just to see Kṛṣṇa, they came here to convince Kṛṣṇa to come back to Vṛndāvan. Does someone here know how many years Kṛṣṇa was gone?—But you have to magnify that in a transcendental way, because we know in separation from Kṛṣṇa, pure devotees of the Lord they feel even one second to be like twelve years, —“Oh Govinda, feeling your separation, I am considering a moment to be like 12 years or more and tears are flowing from my eyes like torrents of rain”—this is the sentiment, the emotion of advanced devotees when Kṛṣṇa is not around.
We touched on this subject in a lecture the other day that as much as you are attached to something, when you lose it, you have that much separation from that object or that person. And how much do the residents of Vṛndāvan love Kṛṣṇa? We can hardly imagine. They loved Kṛṣṇa more than anyone has ever been loved before. Unlike material relationships that after some time diminish—perhaps after someone is gone because of whatever—the memory begins to fade and maybe the detachment starts. But this is not the case in spiritual life, where everything is always increasing—Ānandāmbudhi-vardhanam. In the spiritual world, it’s not that you attain a certain level of love for Kṛṣṇa and then it stops; but it’s just ever increasing, Ad infinitum, forever. We can’t imagine what it is like. How much the people of Vraja felt separation from Kṛṣṇa. He promised them He would come back. But He didn’t come back.
Lotā–Bābā, he is still waiting. He’s one cowherd boy, waiting around the southern end of Govardhana Hill, where we went on Parikramā. It is near the Nṛsiṁha temple, we didn’t go a little further, but [if we had] there is a Deity of Lotā Bābā. He is a cowherd boy and Kṛṣṇa promised him, “I am just going to go to Mathurā. I will be back in a few minutes.” Lotā, he is still waiting. The cowherd boy is still there. “No, let’s not go. He is going to come back. We don’t have to go home; He is going to come back.” He is still thinking like that.
When the residents of Vṛndāvan heard that Kṛṣṇa was coming here to Kurukṣetra, they left Vṛndāvan immediately. There was no discussion and no planning; only the cowherd boys had to stay back to milk the cows, but everybody else left. You couldn’t leave the cows un-milked so Viśvanāth Cakravārtī Ṭhākur says, “The cowherd boys had to stay back because somebody had to milk the cows. Everybody else dropped everything—whatever they were doing, just like the Gopīs when Kṛṣṇa calls them in the forest with His flute at the Vaṁśī-Vata, they dropped everything. Vṛndāvan just became vacant in a moment. Everyone headed for the North to Kurukṣetra. There was this long caravan of Vrajavāsīs coming towards the North, to Kurukṣetra.
Now one of the favorite activities, especially of the young girls in Vṛndāvan is to always sing songs about Kṛṣṇa. That’s how they deal with their feelings of separation; they sing songs because Kṛṣṇa is present in that transcendental sound vibration. But that particular time, they were so overwhelmed with the possibility of seeing Him again after so many years, they were unable to sing. Just try to imagine, Viśvanāth Cakravārtī Ṭhākur, who gives us an even deeper understanding of these pastimes in his writings, he says, “Their teeth clattered [kad kad kad: sound of the clattering] and their voices choked, so they couldn’t sing.” They were just so excited, “We are going to see Him again.” Even if a few of the Gopīs were able to sing something, the words came out all garbled, like all mixed up, because their minds were so overwhelmed, so blissful—they are going to see Kṛṣṇa again after a long time! They were so transfixed on this opportunity that was coming to them again, they forgot to eat and they forgot to sleep. The Ācāryas say that by the time they arrived at Kurukṣetra, they were all emaciated. Now that reminds us that the six Gosvāmīs of Vṛndāvan, they themselves were so much involved in devotional activity, with the expectation of having Kṛṣṇa’s Darśana. Prabhupāda says they were also sort of emaciated. They didn’t look big, healthy, and strong, because they didn’t take time to eat or sleep. They wanted to utilize every second in chanting, the Lord’s Holy Names:
Viśvanāth, he described it as sort of a pitiful scene, these bullock-carts are coming North and there are these young girls kind of draped over the rails and kind of laying down. Someone seeing this scene without any knowledge of the transcendental position of these Gopīs and what was actually taking place, they would be mortified: “Look at those girls, they are not eating, they are not sleeping.” But as soon as they approached Kurukṣetra, they smelled the aroma of Kṛṣṇa’s transcendental body, and they came back to life. Not only did they come back to life, they went mad with Kṛṣṇa-Prema, mad with love for Kṛṣṇa. You couldn’t hold them down in the bullock carts, just smelling the transcendental scent of Kṛṣṇa’s form.
This transcendental aroma of Kṛṣṇa’s transcendental body—“sac-cid-ānanda-vigrahā”—sometimes poses problems for Him like, there is a pastime out near Yavat where, Kṛṣṇa was secretly meeting the Gopīs and Kuṭilā was sent by Jaṭilā to find where Rādhārāṇī was. Then as Kuṭilā was coming, some of the Gopī messengers who were posted as guards, they [whistle sound]; they made a little noise like that. The Gopīs knew that, so then Kṛṣṇa hid in the forest and the girls pretended nothing was happening. But when Kuṭilā came, she said “I know Kṛṣṇa was here, I can smell Him.” [Laughter] So it can cause a problem sometimes—not for us, we wouldn’t mind.
Finally when the residents arrived, they kind of went to their various hotels—their Dharma-śālās, the places where they were staying—[and] prepared themselves, and then Kṛṣṇa agreed to meet them in different groups. First He met with Nanda and Yaśodā, and of course Kṛṣṇa this time, He was a King. He was ruling over Dvārakā, and He was fighting many demoniac armies and so forth, and so when He came like a Kṣatriya and when Yaśodā saw Him, she got bewildered. “This is my Lala? My little boy?” She refused to see Him in His Aiśvarya Bhāva, in His mood of great opulence, so she took Kṛṣṇa, a grown-up boy—man—and she placed Him on her lap and milk began to flow from her breasts out of motherly affection. This is her relationship with Kṛṣṇa. They just saw Him as a young child. Even Kṛṣṇa was appearing with some of His various opulences—the residents of Vṛndāvan, their eyes are covered, blinded by this Vraja-Bhakti. They don’t see Him like that, but they always see Him in their particular Rasa. Even if He is God, they never recognize that and therefore it is said, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” They see the beauty of their intimate spontaneous loving relationship with Kṛṣṇa.
Then some of the older cowherd boys like Raktak, Sudāmā, Subala; they were allowed to come, and they kind of said, “Well, let us wrestle, Kṛṣṇa.” Kṛṣṇa kind of hesitated because, the Dvārakā-vasis were there. To see the King wrestle with some boys? It wasn’t appropriate. Kṛṣṇa had to control His emotions, because emotions were—He did want to engage with the Vrajavāsīs—they are His favorites because of their pure love, but He had to control Himself. So He didn’t wrestle with the boys.
Like the King, He gives council, He gives time for people to come forward and meet Him. Kṛṣṇa finished it for the day, but He hadn’t met the Gopīs yet. But He didn’t want to meet the Gopīs with everyone around because it was quite confidential. So He arranged to meet the Gopīs at some secluded place. I am not sure where it is here. But there is some place just like out at Nanda–Gram, there is a place where, Dinabandhu Prabhu, my Parikramā Guru, he takes the devotees there where Kṛṣṇa met the Gopīs secretly. Here also there’s some place, maybe we will find that place and there, after a long time the Gopīs finally had Darśana of Kṛṣṇa.
One time Prabhupāda, he helped us understand the love of the Gopīs by saying in a very simple way that the Gopīs, they never ask Kṛṣṇa for anything, always wanted to serve Kṛṣṇa. What’s more? They were ready to sacrifice anything for Kṛṣṇa, even their reputations. You can sacrifice many things but, reputation—Kṛṣṇa mentions in Gītā, “For one who has been honored, dishonor is worse than death.” Thus reputation is an important thing, but for the Gopīs, “Let it go to hell, if we can please Kṛṣṇa.” This is how exalted devotees of the Lord they are. These are the subject matters which we are—obviously not qualified, even to speak on. But because we are here, and because these pastimes happened here, we must say something and by hearing these things, our hearts do become purified.
Kṛṣṇa, when He met the Gopīs here, He expressed His undivided and unalloyed love for the young girls of Vṛndāvan. So what was their response? “Then come back to Vraja. You are saying you love us; your love for us is so deep. Then please, accept our request.” Love is something reciprocal. Isn’t it? You reciprocate with your lover; it’s never a one-way street. It’s always reciprocal. The Gopīs said, “Then prove it. Come back with us to Vṛndāvan because that’s the atmosphere, where we can exchange in a very intimate loving way. Not here in a battlefield. You are dressed like a King, what’s this? We are restricted here, but when were we restricted in Vṛndāvan? Please come back”. Kṛṣṇa started thinking, “Hmm, what to do?”
For those few moments that Kṛṣṇa was contemplating their request, the Gopīs turned to Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī and they said, “You be our spokesman. You ask Him. He can’t refuse you.” Why can’t he refuse Rādhārāṇī? Because She is Vṛndāvanesvari, She is the controller of Vṛndāvan. She is Madana-Mohan Mohini, She’s the controller of the controller of cupid. Kṛṣṇa is controlled by Her pure devotion.
The Gopīs were thinking, “Surely if Rādhikā asks, Kṛṣṇa can’t say ‘No’ to Rādhārāṇī.” They are shy, young girls, they are trained in Vedic etiquette, so Rādhārāṇī felt a little uncomfortable just walking up to Kṛṣṇa in front of everybody and saying, “Come.” She used the technique, She spoke to Lalitā—and in a loud voice because Kṛṣṇa was just there nearby so Kṛṣṇa would overhear Her speaking to Lalitā—the following verse which is dear to the heart of every Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava. Is there any verse which is dearer to the hearts of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas? The following verse or Rādhārāṇī speaking Her heart to Lalitā and indirectly speaking to Kṛṣṇa.
Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī later on, Prabhupāda says 500 years ago used this verse in describing the mood of Caitanya Mahāprabhu during Their pastimes together in Jagannātha Purī. That’s another pastime. Rādhā is speaking to Lalitā, revealing Her heart to Kṛṣṇa, “My dear friend, now I have met My very old and dear friend Kṛṣṇa on this field of Kurukṣetra. I am the same Rādhārāṇī and now We are meeting together. It is very pleasant. But I would still like to go to the bank of the Jāmuna, beneath the trees of the forests there. I wish to hear the vibration of His sweet flute playing the fifth note within the forest of Vṛndāvan.” This is Her plea to Kṛṣṇa to please come back to the atmosphere of Vṛndāvan for their transcendental pastimes. Very famous, important verse. Actually Kṛṣṇa wanted to go back to Vṛndāvan. Kṛṣṇa actually says in Gītā, “All of them as they surrender unto Me, I reward them accordingly.” But the Ācāryas say, first He had to consult with Vasudeva and Devakī, to get their permission because He was associated. They are His parents also, so He had to get their permission to leave Dvārakā to go back to Vṛndāvan. That’s one layer: ask your parents. But in the weeks that followed, at nights He would secretly have the Rasa dance with the girls.
After some time, three months had gone and by that time, the solar eclipse had only lasted a day but, everybody kind of hung around, because Kṛṣṇa was there. But after three months because of the respective duties, different Devotees in different categories, they started to go back to different places. But the Vrajavāsīs, they didn’t go anywhere, they stuck to Kṛṣṇa like glue. They were always engaged in His service and they kept asking Kṛṣṇa, “So you have made up your mind? You are coming back to Vraja?” “Uh, I haven’t fully decided yet!” Finally considering all things, Vasudeva consulted with Devakī, but the word came from Vasudeva. He said, “So Kṛṣṇa you are free to go back to Vraja, but only after you kill one or two more demons.” The Gopīs, when they heard that, “Oh, only one or two more demons, Kṛṣṇa killed so many demons when He was in Vṛndāvan. That will be easy. He will be coming home very soon.” To prepare for Kṛṣṇa’s arrival back in Vṛndāvan, they immediately got back in their chariots and sped back to Vṛndāvan to get everything ready for the grand arrival of Kṛṣṇa, to have Him back home in Vraja. But they knew Kṛṣṇa better than anyone else and they all knew when they were leaving, “Actually, it’s going to take a long time for Him to come back. He promised us before and He stayed away so many years.” They were going there with some hesitation, and especially Rādhārāṇī.
As the Gopīs are leaving this place Kurukṣetra, actually Kṛṣṇa went out a little bit to escort them out for some distance. Kṛṣṇa was coming back from Kurukṣetra into Dvārakā and Rādhārāṇī and the Gopīs were going to Vṛndāvan. Rādhārāṇī was actually standing on Her horse cart like a statue staring into the clouds of dust behind Her, knowing that Kṛṣṇa was traveling in the opposite direction to Dvārakā and tears were rolling down Her cheeks. She knew what was happening. Kṛṣṇa is going that way and She is going this way. That’s not what She wanted. Standing like a statue and just seeing these clouds of dust, as Kṛṣṇa’s chariot was going away, the tears are rolling down.
Actually the essence of that verse, “Oh Govinda, feeling your separation, I am considering a moment to be like 12 years, and tears are flowing from my eyes like torrents of rain.” This is the exalted stage of pure devotional service. Lalitā stood up and made Rādhā sit. “You are not supposed to stand on these chariots, you sit down.” She confronted her by the following words, “Oh Rādhārāṇī, Oh beautiful friend, do not lament! For it is well known that sacred Kurukṣetra fulfills all desires. The great King Kuru tilled this land and made it fertile with his piety. Now Kṛṣṇa has planted the seed of His promise there, a seed that will sprout and bear fruit by the time we arrive in Vṛndāvan. Rest assured that He, for Whom we came to Kurukṣetra giving up our home and lands will soon be tapping on your window, begging you to join Him in a grove, on the shore of the river Yamunā.”
Bhaktivinode Ṭhākur says that because of these particular pastimes, there are two transcendental moods that permeate Kurukṣetra, and he says it in a very nice way that outshines all other influences here:
- Number one is the pain of being separated from Kṛṣṇa once again, because they came and now they have to go back and experience it all over again.
- Number two, the mood here is the great hope that, ‘Kṛṣṇa will come back to Vṛndāvan again.’
These are the two moods that just permeate this Kurukṣetra. The question has been discussed and debated, and churned you could say through the centuries by various devotees. It’s always on their minds, “Did Kṛṣṇa ever go back to Vraja?” It’s very esoterical and we have already been speaking for forty minutes, but do try to pay attention because—this is the bliss; this is the real news. What’s happening, Prabhu? This is the “real” what’s happening. This is the essence of life, this is the life of our life: what Kṛṣṇa does. Did He ever go back to Vṛndāvan?
Jīva Gosvāmī says He did go back in Aprakaṭa-Līlā, means that—there is the unmanifest pastimes. When Kṛṣṇa left to go back to the spiritual world, the pastimes are still going on, even right now in Vṛndāvan but they are unmanifest. Kṛṣṇa would go back from time to time in Vṛndāvan, but they were all Aprakaṭa Līlā—unmanifest, only the most, you know the real Vrajavāsīs, they were experiencing Kṛṣṇa’s association and dancing with Him and singing with Him. But in Prakaṭa–Līlā, the manifest pastimes, does He go back? —No, He didn’t. The Ratha-Yātrā—the pastime of taking Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma back to Vṛndāvan, that’s like a wish pastime. It’s the hope, the aspiration, the desire to bring Kṛṣṇa back. But, Kṛṣṇa didn’t go back. How can He be so cruel? There are two answers again:
Whenever Kṛṣṇa is gone, His devotees feel His separation and in separation their love increases. Like we have that saying, “Separation makes the heart grow fonder.” It’s just one of those transcendental tricks. It’s not that they are really suffering, it’s not that they are lamenting, it’s not like crying like we would do on losing something material. It’s something we will understand when we are more advanced.
Once again, I will quote my short inquiry of Śrīla Prabhupāda.
[Me]: “Śrīla Prabhupāda, you have mentioned several times in recent lectures that a pure devotee can see Kṛṣṇa everywhere, that He is never out of your vision. And at the same time in Śikṣāṣṭakam prayers, Lord Caitanya explains, ‘Oh Govinda, I am feeling your separation to be 12 years or more. I am feeling all vacant in this world in your absence.’ Can you explain this?”
[Śrīla Prabhupāda’s reply]: “Yes. He is explaining how you can become mad without seeing Kṛṣṇa. That is the higher stage. It cannot be explained. But when you go higher and higher, you will understand.”
Like that, in separation, one becomes more attached to Kṛṣṇa — and that’s our goal.
Now there’s a second reason Kṛṣṇa didn’t go back to Vṛndāvan and that was noted by Vasudeva when Kṛṣṇa asked his permission to go back. He said, “Okay, you can go back, but you have to kill one or two more demons first.” This actually was one of Kṛṣṇa’s main concerns, one of the main reasons He decided not to go back, because there were still a lot of demons out there. That was one of the three principle reasons that Kṛṣṇa appeared on this planet—to:
Deliver the pious,
- Annihilate the miscreants and
- Reestablish the principles of Dharma—religion.
As Prabhupāda puts it so poetically in His Kṛṣṇa Book, which is the summary of the tenth canto of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, he says that the earth was overburdened by the unnecessary defense force of demoniac rulers. There were lots of demoniac kings, not just Kaṁsa, there were plenty, and they were a force to be reckoned with. They were naturally against the pious, naturally against Devotees of the Lord. Baladeva Vidyābhūshaṇa says that Kṛṣṇa was afraid if He didn’t kill these demons, they would attack Vṛndāvan.
Kṛṣṇa was especially wary of Jarāsandha. Why Jarāsandha? Because Kṛṣṇa had killed Kaṁsa, and Kaṁsa had two wives, Asti and Prāpti, who were the daughters of Jarāsandha. Jarāsandha gave His two daughters to Kaṁsa. Daddy’s little girls, he gave them to Kaṁsa as his wives, and after Kṛṣṇa killed their husband, Kaṁsa, the two wives went back to daddy, to Jarāsandha, and they complained, [crying]: “Hey Daddy, this Kṛṣṇa killed our husband.” Jarāsandha said, [gravely]: “Yes, I have heard.” “No but Daddy, you don’t know all the details. The Vaiṣṇavas are not giving the real story. Our husband, Kaṁsa, was so sober and so sweet. We know—we are his wives. He was very sober, very sweet. He was simply sitting and watching Kṛṣṇa play with the wrestlers and somehow Kṛṣṇa just kind of overdid it and the wrestlers died. Then without any reason at all, Kṛṣṇa dragged our husband Kaṁsa down from His throne and killed Him and then dragged him around the wrestling arena. Because Kṛṣṇa was his nephew, our husband Kaṁsa, he didn’t fight back. They say that generally an uncle does not even slap his nephew. Therefore, our very sweet and sober husband did not protest when Kṛṣṇa was beating him, because uncles don’t protest when the little nephews get upset. Our husband was defenseless.” And then they started to cry.
Now, any of you have daughters? Śrīkhara? When they start to cry, you ask, “Okay, what do you want?” Right? Caturātmā? He is just laughing here in total self-realization [Laughter]. Jarāsandha took their story to heart and he took up a vow. His vow was “I will go to Mathurā and Vṛndāvan and kill them all.” He started with Mathurā, and He attacked Mathurā 17 times. Sometimes devotees ask, well, why 17? Why didn’t Kṛṣṇa just kill him in the first battle but, actually Balarāma asked that question to Kṛṣṇa. Like you know, “10, 11, 12—what’s going on?” Kṛṣṇa says, “No, he has assembled a great army of the demons. Let more and more demons come. We will kill them all and in the final battle, we will kill Jarāsandha.” So Kṛṣṇa was a great strategist as a king.
Someone inquired from Kṛṣṇa that, “Well, you killed a lot of demons in Vṛndāvan. Just go back to Vṛndāvan and you can kill them when they come there,” and Kṛṣṇa just laughed. He said, “These Vrajavāsīs, they don’t have weapons and swords. They just have sticks for herding the cows and a few bugle horns. How are we going to deal with these great demons like Dantavakra, Kālayavana and Jarāsandha? We have to meet them on the battlefield—not Vṛndāvan.” But then someone brought up the point, “No! You know, Pūtanā, Tṛṇāvarta, Dhenukāsura—these were powerful Asuras and Kṛṣṇa killed them. He as a little boy was a big demon killer. Surely, it’s not a problem for Kṛṣṇa to kill these.” But then Viśvanātha Cakravārtī Ṭhākur, he counters, he says, “Actually, Kṛṣṇa didn’t really fight with the demons that Kaṁsa sent to Vṛndāvan. He only played with them.”
He says, “Technically, He didn’t killed Pūtanā, He only sucked her breast a little too hard. He was just playing with these demons like sometimes a cat gets a mouse and you know, the cat is not really hungry, so she just bashes the mouse around a little bit, playing and ‘OOPS’ killed it, sorry.” [Laughter]. Kṛṣṇa was a cowherd boy. He was very playful, He wasn’t killing these demons. He was playing with them; but because He is God, they got the worse end of the stick [Laughter].
Viśvanāth said, “Kṛṣṇa didn’t actually killed Tṛṇāvarta; He only wanted to play in the sky.” When the demon came in the form of a whirl-wind, Kṛṣṇa grabbed on, “Woo-hoo! I get to go high in the sky.” But He was so high in the sky, He got a little afraid so He was like really holding on.
Viśvanāth Cakravārtī Ṭhākur says, “And because He was holding on, He is God—He is very heavy, Tṛṇāvarta crashed to the ground, but that wasn’t Kṛṣṇa’s intent” [Laughter]. He was just playing, and sometimes the cat plays with the mouse and the mouse dies.
Then Dhenukāsura and the ass demons—Viśvanāth Cakravārtī Ṭhākur said that just like little boys, they just throw rocks, “Look at me, I can throw!” Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma were just throwing the demons like that into the trees. They weren’t going to kill, but were just playing, “Watch this—woo hoo—Wow! [Sound of ass demons falling onto trees] [Laughter]—But they all died.” [Laughter]. He also mentions Aghāsura. Aghāsura of course opened his mouth and the cowherd boys went in and then when Kṛṣṇa went in, Kṛṣṇa’s body became burning like fire and then that killed Aghāsura. But His body became burning like fire because of the digestive juices inside the snake’s stomach. It wasn’t that He planned to kill him but the digestive juices are like fire, so they made Kṛṣṇa very hot, and Kṛṣṇa became so hot the demon died, so it was all play.
Vṛndāvan is all play; it’s all play. All the demons are killed by the Vishnu expansions outside of Vṛndāvan, so the real demons like Jarāsandha, Kālayavana, Dantavakra, many of them were still there, and they were intent. Jarāsandha had taken a vow, “I will go to Mathurā to avenge his wives whose husband is gone. I will go to Mathurā, Vṛndāvan, I will kill them all.” For Kṛṣṇa, there is no way He is going to go back—He is going to face these demons and then when He kills them, then He will go back to Vraja.
These are the two reasons He didn’t return: to protect the Vrajavāsīs, and on a deeper level to increase their feelings of love. Therefore Bhaktivinode Ṭhākur once stated that, “Kurukṣetra is the highest place, because the Gopīs’ feelings of separation reached their highest level.” There is an English maxim, “So close, yet so very far away.” Therefore Bhaktivinode Ṭhākur said one time that this was the place he actually wanted to leave his body. I will quote Śrīla Bhakti-Siddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākur. Śrīla Bhakti-Siddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākur once surprised his audience by saying that shallow thinkers appreciate Vṛndāvan, but a man of real Bhajan, real divine aspiration, will aspire to live in Kurukṣetra.” He noted that Bhaktivinode Ṭhākur after visiting many different places of pilgrimage remarked, “I would like to spend the last days of my life in Kurukṣetra.” So these are some things to contemplate while we are in this very sacred abode.
Let us appreciate our good fortune in being here. Take full advantage. What does it mean to take full advantage? To spend the maximum amount of time in:—“Śravaṇaṁ kīrtanam viṣṇoḥ smaraṇam”—hearing and chanting the glories of the Lord. Associating with Devotees, visiting these actual places where these pastimes took place—that’s very purifying. We will hear more from other speakers as well, but we are not going to take a break and just rest and go to sleep. We are going to jump into action. We are going to get on the buses and we are going to go out to the actual place where Kṛṣṇa stood on the chariot and spoke the immortal wisdom of Bhagavad-Gītā to Arjuna. We are going to that exact place. There is a big tree there [“Haribol!”]. We can have Kīrtana; we can read from Bhagavad-Gītā, have some commentary.
We can come back and take Darśana of the five lakes here, the lakes of blood. Especially this big lake and meditate how Brahmā created the earth while sitting on a lotus flower in the middle of that lake. Nice meditation. Then we will have lunch and then I think what I am going to do this afternoon is just sit on the banks of that lake and chant japa and get back to the basics and read Bhagavad-Gītā. Then this evening, we will go on Harināma around the five lakes and then tomorrow morning, we will have another morning program. Somehow we will tear ourselves away from this sacred abode around 12 or 1 o’clock and go back to our beloved Vṛndāvan Dhām. We have two more weeks of Parikramā. So much nectar! We have experienced so much nectar; we have so much nectar ahead of us. All these austerities we have to undergo, they are just paling in comparison; we don’t even think about them anymore.
Śrī Kurukṣetra Dhām Ki – Jaya!
Śrī Bhagavad-Gītā as it is, Ki – Jaya!
The Vrajavāsīs, the Residents of Vṛndāvan, ki – Jaya!
Śrī Vṛndāvan Dhām ki – Jaya!
Śrīla Prabhupāda ki – Jaya!
Jaya-Jaya Śrī Rādhe ……………………………….Śyāma!
Thank You! [clapping, “Sādhu-Sādhu”]