Krishna's Pastimes

The Lord of Unlimited Pastimes

Ever year, in August/September, Lord Krishna’s devotees celebrate His birthday. Like everything else about Krishna, His birth is nothing ordinary.

It is not possible for an ordinary living entity to compare to Krishna. From the very beginning of His pastimes here on earth, more than 5,200 years ago, Krishna displayed His superiority over everyone. Once, when Krishna was lying peacefully on His bed like a small baby dependent on his mother, a cruel witch named Putana approached with a plan to kill Him. Putana was by nature ugly, but by mystic power she had transformed her large, grotesque body into that of a beautiful woman.

She was so beautiful that although she was heading straight for the place where Krishna lay, Krishna’s mother, Yashoda, did not think to stop her. Putana looked harmless and seemed simply to want to nurse the child, but she had smeared poison on her breast and was planning to kill Him when He sucked her milk. But this plan was not to be fulfilled. Baby Krishna accepted the breast coated with poison and sucked the milk and also the witch’s life air, killing her immediately.

God does not have to become God by mystic practice. Some pseudo transcendentalists say that although we are not God at present, we can become God through a carefully contrived series of physical and mental exercises. They think that after some time, say six months or a year, they will realize their position as the Supreme.

This is foolish. No one is greater than God, and no one is equal to Him. He is always God, and one who is not God now can never become God, despite careful practice of mystic yoga for millions of years.

When Putana approached Krishna, He was lying on His bed like a small, helpless baby. Yet He was fully aware of what was happening around Him, and He was fully competent to kill the demon who had come to kill Him. He did not have to perform austerities and penances to get His power, for it was naturally present within His transcendental form.

We can understand the difference between Krishna and an ordinary living being simply by considering Krishna’s birth. An ordinary being is born by the seminal discharge of a father into the womb of a mother. The embryo grows and then takes birth tied to his mother with an umbilical cord and coated in a slimy liquid. Slapped on the rear by the doctor, he starts his life crying.

Krishna does not take birth like this. At the moment of His birth, He showed His four-armed Narayana form to His parents. He stood before them with beautiful flowing black hair, a shining crown, a jeweled necklace of kaustubha stone, valuable bracelets, earrings, and similar ornaments. He held a conchshell, club, lotus, and disc in His four hands, and He was dressed in yellow silk. The jewels and clothes on His transcendental body made Him look dazzling, like a bright blackish cloud.

Thus the birth of an ordinary child cannot compare to Krishna’s. Indeed, His father and mother, Vasudeva and Devaki, could hardly believe their eyes on seeing His wondrous form of transcendental bliss.

Throughout Krishna’s pastimes during the more than 125 years He stayed on earth, we find the recurrent theme of inconceivable action. Just consider His lifting Govardhana Hill. Krishna had managed to anger King Indra, the demigod in charge of rain, by stopping a sacrifice meant to satisfy him. Krishna wanted to cut down Indra’s excessive pride, so He specifically used words sure to upset Indra and invoke his wrath on the inhabitants of Vrindavana.

As Indra’s wrath arose, he poured down rain, hail, and pieces of ice as if bringing about the final devastation of the world. The cows and cowherd men and women of Vrindavana approached Krishna pleading for protection. Krishna, manifesting His supremely powerful mystic potencies, simply placed His hand under a mountain known as Govardhana Hill and lifted it straight off the ground into the air. He held the mountain like an umbrella on the little finger of His left hand for seven days, while Indra futilely tried to destroy the inhabitants of Vrindavana.

Who can lift a mountain? Who can even lift a piece of paper and hold it up for more than an hour, what to speak of seven days? Yet Krishna did this wonderful feat without the slightest sign of fatigue. Who can compare to the Personality of Godhead? Yet although Krishna is so great, worldly intellectuals try to reduce Him to the level of an ordinary historical personality.

Which historical personality could marry 16,108 princesses simultaneously in 16,108 palaces? Yet Krishna did, with all conceivable pomp and ceremony. Normally no one can expand himself into other forms, for we are all bound to the one form of our body. But Krishna can expand Himself into innumerable forms—each one acting differently. This is the supreme mystic opulence of the Supreme Person.

Once Narada Muni, a great wandering sage among the demigods, wanted to see what Krishna was doing in each of His 16,108 palaces. Narada entered the first palace and saw Krishna being fanned by His principal queen, Rukmini. Leaving that palace, Narada entered the next and saw Krishna playing with His children just like an affectionate father. In the next palace he saw Krishna preparing to bathe. Moving from one palace to another, Narada saw that Krishna was engaged in different activities in each of His 16,108 palaces. Only the Supreme Lord could display such varied pastimes simultaneously.

The conclusion is simple. Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who performs unlimited, inconceivable pastimes while on earth. Although people may want to bring many other persons forward as God, their candidates cannot compare in the slightest to Krishna. Therefore we worship the Supreme Absolute Truth, Lord Sri Krishna, the one without a second, and we are satisfied chanting His holy name: Hare Krishna.

God is Great, and Sweet

"I would believe only in a god who could dance," wrote German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. During his times, God was generally portrayed as a frozen perfection—remote, static, and wholly unsociable. No wonder Nietzsche was disillusioned.

He might have been pleasantly surprised to hear about Krishna, the God who dances with spellbinding expertise on the hoods of the venomous serpent Kaliya; the God who dances to the tune of His mother just to get butter; the God who dances with the gopis during the rasa-lila, a celebration of divine love; the God known as Vrindavana-natabara, the best dancer in the pastoral paradise of Vrindavana.

Krishna is a mesmerizing blend of greatness and sweetness. All theistic traditions assert that God is great. Krishna graphically demonstrates that greatness. In the eleventh chapter of the Bhagavad-gita Krishna gives Arjuna a glimpse of His awe-inspiring greatness by displaying His universal form, one of the greatest mystical visions in world literature. Arjuna saw within the universal form—within Krishna—everything and everyone in existence. He saw all the planets, stars, and universes as well as all living beings, whether celestial, terrestrial, or subterranean. When Krishna was on earth He also exhibited His omnipotence by effortlessly conquering numerous powerful demons who were the scourges of the universe.

Most endearingly, Krishna delights, not in the magnificence of godhood, but in the sweetness of uninhibited love. This brings us to a concept unique to Vedic theology, that of lila, or transcendental pastimes, as well as to a related concept: maya.

The Mystery of Maya

"Maya is one of the most beautiful concepts in the history of religion." This remark by Indologist Daniel H. H. Ingalls is intriguing because Maya is generally considered the illusory energy that tempts and misleads us into forms of enjoyment that end in suffering. How could Maya be considered beautiful? The answer involves unraveling the mystery of the dual aspects of Maya—Yoga-maya and Maha-maya.

The word maya means "energy," but it can also mean "that which is not" (ma, "not"; ya, "this"). Maha-maya, the Lord's illusory energy, makes "that which is not" seem real. She deludes those who want to enjoy independent of God into forgetting their true identity as souls, as eternal servitors of God. She allures them with various proposals for material enjoyment until they become fed up and finally turn back to God and His loving service.

And for those who want to love God purely, there is another kind of illusion, a divine illusion that enhances their loving exchanges with God. The word yoga means "to connect" or "to unite," so Yoga-maya refers to the energy of God that makes possible our loving union with God.

Let's see how.

God is often imagined as a judge who rewards the pious and penalizes the impious. If that's all God had to do eternally, His life would be quite boring. But devotional scriptures like Srimad-Bhagavatam explain that being a judge is only a tiny part of God's multifaceted, nay omni-faceted, personality. Krishna has His own life of eternal love with His devotees in His kingdom. There He delights, not in exhibiting His godhood, but in reciprocating His devotees' love.

In Krishna's pastoral paradise, Vrindavana, Yoga-maya covers the devotees so that they are no longer conscious that Krishna is God; they see Him only as the most special, sweet member of their village. And He plays that role to perfection. For example, with those devotees who love Him in vatsalya-rasa (parental affection), He becomes an endearing naughty child who steals butter from their houses. The women complain to Krishna's mother, Yashoda, Krishna artfully feigns innocence, and Yashoda is mystified until telltale butter on Krishna's lips incriminates Him.

So celebrated are Krishna's Vrindavana lilas that hundreds of sweet songs have been composed about them and millions of Krishna devotees delight in singing them. Indeed the great Vaishnava poet Bilvamangala Thakura glorifies Lord Krishna as the ultimate thief: "My dear Lord, O best of thieves, You who are celebrated as a butter thief in the glorious land of Vrindavana, please steal away all my sins that have accumulated over many lifetimes.

Skeptics who ask why God steals miss the essence of lila: love. Besides, being God, Krishna owns everything, so there's no question of His stealing anything. Yet Krishna "steals" to have fun-filled loving exchanges with His devotees.

Lila Dynamics

Though like a drama, Krishna's lila is real. It is the highest reality, the reality of the intimate love between the Lord and His devotees. In the eternally real drama of krishna-lila, Yoga-maya is the director and Krishna is the hero. But the special twist is that Krishna is also the scriptwriter and Yoga-maya directs Krishna according to His own script. Thus in His lila Krishna is simultaneously in control, as the scriptwriter, and not in control, as the perfect actor who forgets Himself while playing His role.

This is Krishna's extraordinary world. Krishna-lila reveals the import of the saying "God is love."

Greatness and Sweetness

For most people, and especially for the demoniac, Krishna's greatness hides His sweetness. Krishna went as a peace messenger with sweet words to dissuade Duryodhana from the Mahabharata war. But when the arrogant prince tried to arrest Krishna, He foiled the attempt by revealing His gigantic universal form.

For the purest devotees, Krishna's greatness gives way to His sweetness. During the rasa-lila, Krishna disappeared and then reappeared before the gopis in His majestic four-armed Vishnu form. When Radha, Krishna's most beloved consort, bowed before Vishnu and asked Him where Krishna had gone, Krishna as Vishnu tried to artfully point in a false direction. But seeing Radha's selfless love and Her intense anxiety caused by separation, Krishna could no longer keep up His guise. His two extra hands disappeared, and Radha beheld before Her the sweet Lord of Her heart.

As Krishna's sweetness surpasses His greatness, so too does His love supersede His laws. The laws of karma impartially and unerringly deliver everyone their karmic dues sooner or later. But if we turn to Krishna with devotional love, He displays His sweetness as a forgiving father. His unequivocal promise in a concluding verse of the Gita (18.66) shows that His mercy transcends His justice: "Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear."

We can easily surrender to Krishna by chanting His holy names, which reveal both His greatness and His sweetness. The holy name has a great power that even nuclear weapons don't have—the power to destroy all our negative habits and tendencies. And the holy name is so irresistibly sweet that saints desire thousands of mouths to relish its taste. Not only that, the holy name softens our heart and redirects our love to Krishna. When our heart becomes soft with love for Krishna, soft like butter, then makhana-cora (butter-thief) Krishna will come and steal it. Devotees pray and long for that ultimate love-theft.

The Ultimate Dance

Krishna and His devotees express divine love not only through humanly inconceivable ways such as thievery, but also through humanlike ways such as dancing. Spiritual savants consider the celebrated rasa dance the culmination of divine love. Although this dance appears similar to an ordinary dance involving boys and girls, we can understand its supra-mundane nature when we hear about it from faithful, learned devotees like Srila Prabhupada, who has explained it in his book Krishna: The Supreme Personality of Godhead. Indeed the rasa dance is so spiritually exalted that those advanced devotees who have absolutely no interest in mundane pleasures—like the celebrated six Gosvamis of Vrindavana—cherish and worship it in the innermost core of their hearts.

While we aspiring devotees can't yet take part in the rasa dance, we can relish divine dance in the form of sankirtana, the congregational chanting of the holy names of Krishna. The exuberant singing and dancing of sankirtana are a profound and potent form of meditation. The purpose of meditation is to experience spiritual reality. Silent meditation tries to achieve this by negating the material, by deactivating the body and the mind. But since we're habituated to physical and mental activity, wouldn't it be easier and more natural if somehow the body and the mind could be used to raise ourselves to spiritual levels of consciousness? That is precisely what sankirtana does. Engaging the body in graceful dance for the pleasure of the Lord, and the mind in prayerful contemplation on the sound of His holy names—especially the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare / Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—quickly and efficaciously transports our consciousness to the joyful realm of divine love.

Thus sankirtana acts like spiritual-music therapy to heal the soul in the current Iron Age, Kali-yuga. Just as iron burdens the person carrying it, negative thoughts and emotions burden most people in the present age. Sankirtana floods the heart with positive, precious, golden emotions like love, faith, and joy and flushes away negative, burdensome emotions like hatred, anxiety, and sorrow.

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who appeared some five hundred years ago, revived and popularized sankirtana all over India. As the incarnation of Krishna for Kali-yuga, Lord Chaitanya displayed divine dance so enchantingly that His golden complexion, graceful gait, and intense devotional emotions charmed everyone—from aristocrats like the king of Orissa down to crime-hardened lowlifes.

Indeed, Sri Chaitanya's dance charmed even the Muslim emperor Akbar, who lived half a century later: "Hail Thee, O Chaitanya, the victor of my heart. Mark the rhythm of this mystic dance, in lofty ecstasy quite alone. Merrily sounds the tabor, and the cymbals' notes keep time... O my heart's Lord, how can I express the love I have for Thee? Shah Akbar craves a drop from the sea of Thy love and piety." (Quoted by D. C. Sen in Chaitanya and His Age.)

These verses composed by a Muslim emperor in glorification of one who is commonly considered a Hindu saint illustrate the universal appeal of the divine love Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu personified and propagated.

As a spiritual master in Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's line, Srila Prabhupada, through his ISKCON, popularized the divine dance of sankirtana in our times. Chanting and dancing devotees are now a familiar sight in major cities all over the world. Given the deep theology and intense devotion that lies at its heart, this simple-looking dancing can well be called the ultimate dance.


Vedic history tells of an incident many hundreds of thousands of years ago, during a period of conflict between the Devas and Danavas (universal governing forces and anti-government atheists), when the Danavas came to power, sending the legitimate royal families into hiding. The Devas prayed to Lord Vishnu, the maintainer of the universe, to help them regain their rightful properties and administrative posts.

The Lord then appeared as a dwarf, the extraordinarily beautiful miniature child brahmana Vamanadeva. In this disguise, the all-powerful Supreme Personality of Godhead approached Bali Maharaja, king of the Danavas.

Bali could understand that Vamanadeva was a higher being, from His uncommon attractiveness and effulgence. The king was prepared to grant Him anything He asked for. On the pretense of begging, Vamanadeva asked Bali for a seemingly insignificant piece of real estate – three paces of land – to which Bali agreed, despite protests from his guru.

Vamanadeva then assumed a gigantic form that covered the universe. With His first step, he reached to the heavenly planets, and with His second, He reached the limit of the universe. It appeared that Bali was unable to fulfill his promise, since he had promised Vamanadeva three steps, so he humbly asked the Lord to place His remaining step on his head.

For a more complete version of the history of Vamanadeva, see Srimad-Bhagavatam, Eighth Canto, chapters 18 and 19.


Damodara Lila

This song describes Krishna's early childhood pastime of running from His mother when she tried to chastise Him for stealing butter.

During the month of Kartika, devotees around the world sing this prayer each day while offering ghee lamps or candles to Krishna. Each verse describes various qualities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who, in this pastime, appears as a child and allows Himself to be captured by the love of His devotees. Sing along with the lyrics below, which include the English translations.

Click on the link to listen to an audio recording of the late Aindra Dasa singing Damodarastakam during Kartika at the ISKCON Krishna-Balarama temple in Vrindavan, India. The link will open in a new tab. Once the song begins to play, return to this page to follow the lyrics.

Damodarastakam sung by Aindra Dasa


namāmīśvaram sac-cid-ānanda-rūpam
lasat-kuṇḍalam gokule bhrājamanam
yaśodā-bhiyolūkhalād dhāvamānam
parāmṛṣṭam atyantato drutya gopyā

To the supreme controller, who possesses an eternal form of blissful knowledge, whose glistening earrings swing to and fro, who manifested Himself in Gokula, who stole the butter that the gopis kept hanging from the rafters of their storerooms and who then quickly jumped up and ran in retreat in fear of Mother Yasoda but was ultimately caught - to that Supreme Lord, Sri Damodara, I offer my humble obeisances.


rudantam muhur netra-yugmam mṛjantam
karāmbhoja-yugmena sātańka-netram
muhuḥ śvāsa-kampa-trirekhāńka-kaṇṭha-
sthita-graivam dāmodaram bhakti-baddham

Upon seeing His mother's whipping stick, He cried and rubbed His eyes again and again with His two lotus hands. His eyes were fearful and His breathing quick, and as Mother Yasoda bound His belly with ropes, He shivered in fright and His pearl necklace shook. To this Supreme Lord, Sri Damodara, I offer my humble obeisances.


itīdṛk sva-līlābhir ānanda-kuṇḍe
sva-ghoṣam nimajjantam ākhyāpayantam
tadīyeṣita-jñeṣu bhaktair jitatvam
punaḥ prematas tam śatāvṛtti vande

Those superexcellent pastimes of Lord Krishna's babyhood drowned the inhabitants of Gokula in pools of ecstasy. To the devotees who are attracted only to His majestic aspect of Narayana in Vaikuntha, the Lord herein reveals: “I am conquered and overwhelmed by pure loving devotion.” To the Supreme Lord, Damodara, my obeisances hundreds and hundreds of times.


varam deva mokṣam na mokṣāvadhim vā
na canyam vṛṇe ‘ham vareṣād apīha
idam te vapur nātha gopāla-bālam
sadā me manasy āvirāstām kim anyaiḥ

O Lord, although You are able to give all kinds of benedictions, I do not pray to You for liberation, nor eternal life in Vaikuntha, nor any other boon. My only prayer is that Your childhood pastimes may constantly appear in my mind. O Lord, I do not even want to know your feature of Paramatma. I simply wish that Your childhood pastimes may ever be enacted in my heart.


idam te mukhāmbhojam atyanta-nīlair
vṛtam kuntalaiḥ snigdha-raktaiś ca gopyā
muhuś cumbitam bimba-raktādharam me
manasy āvirāstām alam lakṣa-lābhaiḥ

O Lord, the cheeks of Your blackish lotus face, which is encircled by locks of curling hair, have become reddened like bimba fruits due to Mother Yasoda's kisses. What more can I describe than this? Millions of opulences are of no use to me, but may this vision constantly remain in my mind.


namo deva dāmodarānanta viṣṇo
prasīda prabho duḥkha-jālābdhi-magnam
kṛpā-dṛṣṭi-vṛṣṭyāti-dīnam batānu
gṛhāṇeṣa mām ajñam edhy akṣi-dṛśyaḥ

O unlimited Vishnu! O master! O Lord! Be pleased upon me! I am drowning in an ocean of sorrow and am almost like a dead man. Please shower the rain of mercy on me; uplift me and protect me with Your nectarean vision.


kuverātmajau baddha-mūrtyaiva yadvat
tvayā mocitau bhakti-bhājau kṛtau ca
tathā prema-bhaktim svakām me prayaccha
na mokṣe graho me ‘sti dāmodareha

O Lord Damodara, in Your form as a baby Mother Yasoda bound You to a grinding stone with a rope for tying cows. You then freed the sons of Kuvera, Manigriva and Nalakuvara, who were cursed to stand as trees and You gave them the chance to become Your devotees. Please bless me in this same way. I have no desire for liberation into Your effulgence.


namas te 'stu dāmne sphurad-dīpti-dhāmne
tvadīyodarāyātha viśvasya dhāmne
namo rādhikāyai tvadīya-priyāyai
namo 'nanta-līlāya devāya tubhyam

O Lord, the entire universe was created by Lord Brahma, who was born from Your abdomen, which was bound with a rope by Mother Yasoda. To this rope I offer my humble obeisances. I offer my obeisances to Your most beloved Srimati Radharani and to Your unlimited pastimes.

Related articles:

How Krishna Makes His Entrance

"Important" activities of "important" people on this "important" planet get big media coverage. Fifty-foot high video billboards in the center of the city, full-page ads in major papers, and TV commercials are all designed to help us all appreciate the importance of such people and their "important" activities, and sell product.

But because nothing happens on this tiny, temporary planet that's really that important, we surround our human events with hype to trick ourselves into thinking that they are. Big light shows, huge, elevated stages, booming sound effects, pyrotechnics, advertisements ad nauseam, and miles of magazine covers are essential components of the show business of the material world.

So, when contemplating the idea of the appearance of God Himself, those of us steeped in the contemporary culture of hype might naturally expect a grandiose production, reminiscent of the best that Hollywood has to offer, calculated to inspire awe and fear.

Considering Krishna's extremely high-profile position—the omnipotent, omnipresent, ultimate source of all energies—His appearance in this world is remarkably low-key. He doesn't draw attention to himself. He has nothing to prove. His "publicist"—yogamaya, His energy for engaging in transcendental pastimes—arranged His entrance to be subtle, classy, and mysterious. Here's how the moment of His appearance on earth is described in Srimad-Bhagavatam:

"Thereafter, at the auspicious time for the appearance of the Lord, the entire universe was surcharged with all the qualities of goodness, beauty and peace. The constellation Rohini appeared, as did stars like Asvini. . ."

This might be very useful and interesting information for you Vedic astrologers.

"The sun, the moon and the other stars and planets were very peaceful. All directions appeared extremely pleasing, and the beautiful stars twinkled in the cloudless sky.
Decorated with towns, villages, mines and pasturing grounds, the earth seemed all-auspicious. The rivers flowed with clear water, and the lakes and vast reservoirs, full of lilies and lotuses, were extraordinarily beautiful. In the trees and green plants, full of flowers and leaves, pleasing to the eyes, birds like cuckoos and swarms of bees began chanting with sweet voices for the sake of the demigods."

If you pause to imagine this scene, you may notice that this description is very rich in detail, and calls to mind the most attractive circumstances possible. It goes on:

"A pure breeze began to blow, pleasing the sense of touch and bearing the aroma of flowers, and when the brahmanas engaging in ritualistic ceremonies ignited their fires according to Vedic principles, the fires burned steadily, undisturbed by the breeze. Thus when the birthless (italics added) Lord Vishnu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, was about to appear, the saints and brahmanas, who had always been disturbed by demons like Kamsa and his men, felt peace within the core of their hearts, and kettledrums simultaneously vibrated from the upper planetary system." (Srimad Bhagavatam 10.3.1)

The narrator makes a point of describing Krishna as "birthless," because that is the fact. He has no "birth" the way we do. We're born into the bodies we're born into because of our karma, our destiny. But Krishna is the supreme controller. He appears and disappears from our sight whenever and wherever He likes.

He chose to make His appearance in a prison, in the middle of the night. The only human witnesses were Devaki and Vasudeva--the extraordinarily devoted husband and wife who had prayed for many lifetimes to have Krishna as their son:

"Then the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vishnu, who is situated in the core of everyone's heart, appeared from the heart of Devaki in the dense darkness of night, like the full moon rising on the eastern horizon, because Devaki was of the same category as Sri Krishna." (Srimad Bhagavatam,10.3.8)

Almost immediately then, under cover of night, Krishna was mystically whisked away to the remote cowherd village of Gokula, Vrindavan, so that no one but Devaki and Vasudeva would know that He had appeared.

Krishna's appearance was as undercover as could be.

"The Lord is one, but He can appear in everyone's heart by His inconceivable potency. Thus although the Lord was within the heart of Devaki, He appeared as her child. . . the Lord appeared like the sun . . . the Lord is situated even within the atom . . .He is situated in Mathura, in Vaikuntha and in the core of the heart. Therefore one should clearly understand that He did not live like an ordinary child in the heart or the womb of Devaki. Nor did He appear like an ordinary human child, although He seemed to do so in order to bewilder asuras [atheistic persons] like Kamsa."

In other words, Krishna appears to take birth—and even "die"—here, just like us, so that determined atheists can tell themselves and others, "Look! Krishna is just an ordinary guy!" Krishna doesn't mess with their view of reality.

"The asuras wrongly think that Krishna took birth like an ordinary child and passed away from this world like an ordinary man. Such asuric [demonic] conceptions are rejected by persons in knowledge of the Supreme Personality of Godhead . . .The Lord is aja, unborn, and He is the supreme controller of everything. Nonetheless, He appeared as the child of Devaki.
This verse describes the inconceivable potency of the Lord, who appeared like the full moon. Understanding the special significance of the appearance of the Supreme Godhead, one should never regard Him as having taken birth like an ordinary child.(Srimad Bhagavatam 10.3.7-8, Purport)

Krishna is very kind to come see us. He doesn't have to. We may try our best to maintain the illusion that people, places, and events in this world are so important, but once we begin to understand the significance of Krishna's appearance, it's possible to see everything here in its proper perspective. It's not that big of a deal. But Krishna coming—that's a big deal.

Kartika-The "Sale of the Year"

Mother Yasoda chasing baby Krishna

Anything done to please Krishna, at any time, at any place, under any circumstance, is beneficial. As Krishna Himself says about devotional service to Him, "In this endeavor there is no loss or diminution, and a little advancement on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear." (Bg. 2.40)

Such is the benefit of devotional service in general. However, during certain times of year, such as appearance anniversaries of Lord Krishna and His devotees, the benefits of one's service are compounded.

During the month of Damodara, or Kārtika (October/November), rewards for service to Krishna are greater than at any other time of year. For instance, Krishna always likes tulasi leaves, so it's always a good time to offer tulasi leaves to Krishna. The Vedic teachings are full of statements like these:

"The result one obtains by giving ten thousand cows in charity can be obtained by offering only one tulasi leaf to the Supreme Lord during the month of Kārtika." (Hari-bhakti-vilasa, 7.335)

and. . .

"Those who worship Lord Hari with an offering of one hundred thousand tulasi leaves during the month of Kārtika certainly advance on the path of pure devotional service, which includes liberation, with each leaf offered. (Hari-bhakti-vilasa, 7.336)"

It is also recommended to offer malati (very fragrant white jasmine-like flowers) to Krishna, and here's what Hari-bhakti-vilasa says about malati offerings during Kārtika:

"It is better to offer malati flowers to Lord Kesava in the month of Kārtika than to donate gold, cows, or land to worthy recipients.

Malati flowers are pleasing to Lord Kesava (Krishna) in whatever month they are offered. In the month of Kārtika, the offering of malati flowers awards one the merit of performing a horse sacrifice. "

The Vedas do not recommend horse sacrifices nowadays, anyway. They don't work. Better to chant Hare Krishna.

And, considering that Yamaraja is the universal superintendent in charge of meting out punishment to those who transgress karmic law, it's easy to appreciate the significance of the following benediction:

"For a devotee who worships Lord Vishnu with offerings of malati flowers in the month of Kārtika, Yamaraja orders the removal of all his sinful reactions from the account book." (Hari-bhakti-vilasa, 7.90-92)

Not bad. And the list goes on. Whatever you offer--tulasi, malati, ghee lamps, time, energy, attention--takes on greater significance this month.

Kārtika could be thought of as the ultimate "buy one, get a-whole-lot-more free" sale, (or the equivalent of a "super, multi-triple word score" for those familiar with the game of Scrabble. For a limited time only, whoever is lucky (or greedy, or intelligent) enough to do some service for Krishna during this special month gets a uniquely huge return on their investment. The ultimate return: one becomes more Krishna conscious.

It was during Kārtika that Krishna allowed Himself to be bound with ropes by His mother, Yasoda. Out of loving anger at her transcendentally naughty Child, she tied him —dama— around the abdomen—udara—with ropes. Thus the month of Kārtika is also known as the month of Damodara, "He Who was bound around the abdomen".

Srila Prabhupada discusses this at some length in Nectar of Devotion (quoting Padma Purana):

"During this month, in Vrindavan it is the regulative principle to pray daily to Lord Krishna in His Damodara form. The Damodara form refers to Krishna in His childhood when He was tied up with rope by His mother, Yasoda. Dama means 'ropes,' and udara means 'the abdomen.' So mother Yasoda, being very disturbed by naughty Krishna, bound Him 'round the abdomen with a rope, and thus Krishna is named Damodara." (Chapter 5, page 42)

He elaborates on this in the section "Performing Devotional Service in Kārtika:"

". . . in the month of Kārtika (October-November); especially in Vrindavan, there is a specific program for temple worship of the Lord in His Dāmodara form. "Dāmodara" refers to Krishna's being bound with rope by His mother, Yaśodā. It is said that just as Lord Dāmodara is very dear to His devotees, so the month known as Dāmodara or Kārtika is also very dear to them. . .

The execution of devotional service during Ūrja-vrata in the month of Kārtika is especially recommended to be performed at Mathurā. This system is still followed by many devotees. They go to Mathurā or Vrindavan and stay there during the month of Kārtika specifically to perform devotional services during this period."

Prabhupada makes a point to say it is "especially recommended" to perform devotional service during Kārtika in Mathura, or Vrindavan. This is not to say that Kārttika's benefits are exclusively available there, but devotees who are able to go often make the trip.

"Urja-vrata" refers to the acceptance of special vows during Kārtika. Devotees often take vows to increase their hearing, chanting, worship, or to observe restrictions in their eating. Making and keeping such vows during the month of Damodara guarantees compounded benefits.

Prabhupada ends Nectar of Devotion's section on Kārtika with an interesting commentary from Padma Purana:

". . .the Lord does not award devotional service to ordinary persons who are not serious about it. But even such unserious persons who execute devotional service according to the regulative principles during the month of Kārtika, and within the jurisdiction of Mathurā in India, are very easily awarded the Lord's personal service." (N.O.D., Chapter 12)

If even an "unserious" person can attain Krishna's personal service, simply by "executing devotional service according to the regulative principles during the month of Kārtika," wouldn't it then also be a seriously good time to get serious?

Related articles:

Smart Quote of the Day, July 16, 2015

"Elevation to the ecstatic stage of life is generally attained through association with pure devotees, while elevation to that stage by the special mercy of Krishna or His devotee is very rare."

<< previous                                                          next >>

Today's Smart Quote is from the Nectar of Devotion , Chapter 17, "Ecstatic Love":

Elevation to this stage of ecstasy can be possible in two ways. One way is by constant association with pure devotees. The other way is by the special mercy of Krishna or by the mercy of a pure devotee of Krishna. Elevation to the ecstatic stage of life is generally attained through association with pure devotees, while elevation to that stage by the special mercy of Krishna or His devotee is very rare. The purport is that one should execute devotional service rigidly in the association of devotees so that there will be certainty in raising oneself to that ecstatic position. In special cases, of course, there is special favor from Krishna, and although we should always expect that, we should not sit idly and simply wait for Krishna's special mercy; the regular duties must be performed. It is just as when, sometimes, it is found that a person who never attended school or college may be recognized as a great scholar, or an honorary degree from great universities may be offered to him. But this does not mean that one should avoid school and expect to automatically receive an honorary degree from some university. Similarly, one should devoutly execute the regulative principles of devotional service and at the same time hope for Krishna's favor or for His devotee's favor.

Smart Quote of the Day, October 13, 2015

"A pure devotee does not care whether he is put into heaven or hell; he is satisfied anywhere, provided he can constantly remember the lotus feet of the Lord."

<< previous                                                          next >>

Today's Smart Quote is from Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Chapter Sixty-nine, "The Great Sage Narada Visits the Different Homes of Lord Krishna":

. . . A pure devotee never asks for any kind of material or spiritual benediction from the Lord; his only prayer is that he may not forget the lotus feet of the Lord in any condition of life. A pure devotee does not care whether he is put into heaven or hell; he is satisfied anywhere, provided he can constantly remember the lotus feet of the Lord. Lord Caitanya taught this same process of prayer in His Sikshashtaka, in which He clearly stated that all He wanted was devotional service, birth after birth. A pure devotee does not even want to stop the repetition of birth and death. To a pure devotee, it does not matter whether he has to take birth again in the various species of life. His only ambition is that he not forget the lotus feet of the Lord in any condition of life. . .

Smart Quote of the Day, August 15, 2015

"The words of Krishna are so attractive that they can immediately change the heart of even His opponent. His words can immediately solve all of the questions and problems of the world. Although He does not speak very long, each and every word from His mouth contains volumes of meaning."

<< previous                                                          next >>

Today's Smart Quote is from the Nectar of Devotion, Chapter 21, "Qualities Of Sri Krishna":


A person who can speak meaningful words and with all politeness and good qualities is called vavaduka, or fluent. There is a nice statement in Srimad-Bhagavatam regarding Krishna's speaking politely. When Krishna politely bade His father, Nanda Maharaja, to stop the ritualistic offering of sacrifice to the rain-god, Indra, a wife of one village cowherd man became captivated. She later thus described the speaking of Krishna to her friends: "Krishna was speaking to His father so politely and gently that it was as if He were pouring nectar into the ears of all present there. After hearing such sweet words from Krishna, who will not be attracted to Him?"

Krishna's speech, which contains all good qualities in the universe, is described in the following statement by Uddhava: "The words of Krishna are so attractive that they can immediately change the heart of even His opponent. His words can immediately solve all of the questions and problems of the world. Although He does not speak very long, each and every word from His mouth contains volumes of meaning. These speeches of Krishna are very pleasing to my heart."

Smart Quote of the Day, August 16, 2015

" . . . His [Krishna's] going to the school of Sandipani Muni was to show the people of the world that however great or ingenious one may be, he must go to higher authorities for general education. However great one may be, he must accept a teacher or spiritual master."

<< previous                                                          next >>

Today's Smart Quote is from the Nectar of Devotion, Chapter 21, "Qualities Of Sri Krishna":

Highly Intelligent

A man is called intelligent if he has a sharp memory and fine discretion. As far as Krishna's memory is concerned, it is said that when He was studying in the school of Sandipani Muni in Avantipura, He showed such a sharp memory that by once taking instructions from the teacher He immediately became perfect in any subject. Actually, His going to the school of Sandipani Muni was to show the people of the world that however great or ingenious one may be, he must go to higher authorities for general education. However great one may be, he must accept a teacher or spiritual master.