Name vs Form
22nd August 2011
Today is Krishna Janmashtami - the first one in the physical absence of Swami. The merry procession of cows, calves, deer, peacocks and rabbits with the students decked as Gopalas came to the Kulwant hall. I suddenly felt a pinch of emptiness in my heart - Swami was not there physically. My mind raced to the years before when He would feed the animals so lovingly. It especially raced to the the most memorable Krishna Janmashtami of my life when Swami showed me that though He seems to be absent, He knows everything that goes on everywhere and at everytime!
“And this year, the animals will be fed by some elders!” my heart seemed to wail.
But then, there was a sudden joy. Little Krishna came out and He fed bananas to the cows! I was thrilled. Ah Swami! What a lovely idea this had been of the students to deck one little boy as the Lord to feed the animals! Only Krishna could give joy like Sai Krishna. Immediately, I swing into action, taking photos and I take a picture of Krishna feeding each of the cows, just as I would have done when Swami was feeding the cows.
Having witnessed this beautiful scene, two stories and a burst of inspiration spread through my heart. And in that was a panacea for my sorrows of missing Him.
The first story is the one that is known famously in history as Krishna Tulabhaaram.
Among all His many wives, Lord Krishna seems to have special love for Rukmini. In the eyes of the Lord, all are equal. But some appear to be more equal than the others! And this has happened in every Avatar. Even in the Sathya Sai Avatar, in our human vision, many of us felt that the Lord has His favourites. In that age, the Lord’s consort, Satyabhama was jealous of Krishna’s ‘partiality’ to Rukmini. She seeks the help of the celestial sage, Narada, who realizes the situation.
It is time for Satyabhama to learn her lesson and hence Narada tells her, “Oh Queen! If you offer me (a sage) some offering equivalent in weight to that of Lord Krishna, then He becomes yours and yours alone forever!” Satyabhama jumps at this opportunity and says,” I shall offer you gold which is equivalent in weight to my dear Krishna!”
“However be warned! If you fail to make the offering, Krishna becomes my slave!”
An overjoyed Satyabhama conveys her desire to Lord Krishna.
“But my dear Bhama! I do not want to be the slave of that Narada!”
“That will never happen my Lord! I will never let go of you. You will be mine forever.”
With a smile, Lord Krishna agrees.
The scales are brought and the smile of victory on Satyabhama’s face slowly fades into a frown and then grows into a grimace as all her gold in tons does not tilt the scales in her favour! She begins to borrow gold from all her co-wives and even that is not sufficient! This is a calamity now for the Lord is about to get enslaved to Narada. At this time, Rukmini arrives on the scene.
She plucks a leaf from the holy Thulasi (basil) plant and holding it to her heart, calls out, “Krishna”. She places it on the scales and the leaf lifts the Lord!
Swami explains in His discourse, “Remember, its only the name of the Lord that can equal the form of the Lord. Wherever His name is, the form is automatically there!”
This interpretation is something so unique and it gives us all so much hope today.
Before delving into that, I want to tell the second story. This is the story of the blind devotee - Surdas.
Surdas was born blind. And he also possessed a blind love for the Lord. He spent all his life in the thought of Lord Krishna, his beloved. It is believed that whenever he sang, little Krishna himself came to hear him.
Once, as Surdas was walking along the road, he fell into a well. There was nobody nearby to help him. But Surdas, in his natural manner continued to think of and chant the name of Krishna. And then, a little boy, Gopal comes to his rescue. As he speaks to the boy, Surdas realizes that this is none other than his beloved Krishna. But the minute he understands this, Krishna frees his hand from Surdas and runs away.
Surdas is immediately plunged into grief! The Lord whom he sought throughout his life was in his grasp but now, He is gone! And in the depth of his grief, illumination happens and he bursts forth into a song-
Baaha Chudaye Jaat Ho,
Nibal Jaan Ke Mohe,
Hriday Se Jab Javo Tho,
Sabal Mein Jaano Tohe.
The song is so beautiful in its meaning. It says, “Oh Krishna, you think am weak because you are able to free your hand from my grasp. (I have enshrined you in my heart.) I shall consider you really strong only if you are able to leave my heart.”
This song also has a special place in my heart for the impact it has had in my life. (That is recorded at the end of the article on the fruits of action.)
And with that story arose a resolve in my heart.
“Swami! You think that you can escape me by leaving me physically? I have bound you strongly in my heart! Try leaving my heart if you can! You will never be able to do that. And I will bind you even more firmly by incessantly chanting Your name.”
And with that resolve, sprouted a smile on my face. Krishna, by now, had fed the cows and he seemed to have disappeared. I thanked Rukmini and Surdas for the inspiration and love they provided in my heart. And looking up at the smiling Swami, I too simply smiled.
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© 2011 Aravind Balasubramanya