Srimad Bhagavatam

SB 1.8 - Kṛṣṇa protects Uttarā

Kṛṣṇa wanted the Pāṇḍavas to rule the world because they were devotees. So He wanted to protect Parīkṣit who was within the womb of Uttarā. The Pāṇḍavas took up weapons seeing five flaming arrows heading towards them. Only the person at who a brahmāstra is shot can see it as it approaches, and so only the Pāṇḍavas saw it and no one else could. Aśvatthāmā had released five separate brahmāstras for each of the Pāṇḍavas. This was difficult to counteract because it would take time to release five brahmāstras. Kṛṣṇa, observing the great danger, at once took up His Sudarśana disc to protect His unalloyed devotees. The Lord had vowed not to take up any weapons during the battle of Kurukṣetra and even though the battle was over, still He should not have taken up any weapon. But the Lord is bhakta-vatsala, the lover of His devotees, and so He preferred to be that rather than a worldly moralist, who never breaks his vow.

The Lord of supreme mysticism resides within everyone’s heart. As such, just to protect the progeny of the Kuru dynasty, He covered the embryo of Uttarā by His personal energy (yoga-māyā). He protected the embryo and even Uttarā was unaware of what He did. Although the supreme brahmāstra weapon was irresistible, it was neutralized and foiled when confronted by the strength of Kṛṣṇa. Being the Absolute, Kṛṣṇa did not wait for any other’s help and foiled the weapon by His own energy. The child within the womb saw his protector, the Lord, as only thumb high and was all transcendental. In SB 3.3.17, Prabhupāda writes that the embryonic body of Parīkṣit was burnt by the brahmāstra of Aśvatthāmā but a second body was given by the Lord within the womb, and thus Parīkṣit was saved. The Pāṇḍavas also belonged to the Kuru dynasty, but when there were differences between the two families, the sons of Dhṛtarāṣṭra were known as Kurus whereas the sons of Pāṇḍu were known as Pāṇḍavas. Thus here Kuru means the Pāṇḍavas.

Nothing is impossible for the Lord but all His actions are wonderful for us, and thus He is always beyond the range of our conceivable limits. So it was not difficult for the Lord to counteract Aśvatthāmā’s weapon. After all by His own energy, the Lord maintains and annihilates all material things, although He Himself is unborn. By His power of omnipotence the Lord was present both inside and outside of Uttarā and other members of the Pāṇḍavas family.

SB 1.8 - Queen Kuntī offers prayers to Kṛṣṇa, who is beyond Paramātmā

Thus saved by the radiation of the brahmāstra, Kuntī and her five sons and Draupadī addressed the Lord as He started for home. He reciprocates the dependence of the devotee, and thus one should not look for help from any imperfect living being or the demigods but should always depend on the Lord. A chaste devotee never asks the Lord for help, but the Lord out of His own accord is always anxious to render it.

Kuntī offered her obeisances unto Kṛṣṇa because He is the original personality and unaffected by material qualities. Although existing within and without everything, He remains invisible to all. The Lord is the original puruṣa beyond material cosmos. Although all living beings are also transcendental, they are neither original nor infallible. The demigods are also controllers but not the supreme īśvara. Kuntī personally saw the Lord before her protecting the Pāṇḍavas with His cakra, yet He entered the womb of Uttarā to protect her embryo. Thus He is both all pervasive, being present within everything and at the same time localized. Kṛṣṇa is beyond the Paramātmā because the Paramātmā is subject to revelation by use of intelligence and other means, whereas Kṛṣṇa is imperceptible. He is beyond Brahman because of being situated internally and externally. He reserves the right to remain invisible and not be exposed to the un-surrendered souls by his curtain of māyā.

SB 1.8 - Kṛṣṇa's pastimes are inscrutable

Being beyond the range of limited sense perception, Kṛṣṇa is eternally irreproachable covered by the curtain of deluding energy. It is not that He is covered by māyā, just as the sun is not covered by the cloud. It is our vision that is covered by māyā because the Lord is beyond sense knowledge. He is not visible to the foolish observer just as an actor dressed as a player is not recognized. Though an ignorant person sees a dancer dancing, he still does not see being unaware of the rasas involved. Similarly though Kuntī saw Kṛṣṇa, she said she really did not see Him. Though He is the soul within all living beings, He personally counteracted the weapon of Aśvatthāmā. Though He promised not to use weapons, He took up a weapon. Though He protects the righteous, He had Bhīṣma and others killed. Though He was most affectionate to Draupadī and Subhadrā, He let their sons be killed. Thus Kuntī could not know the truth about Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes.

The Lord affirms in Bhagavad gītā that the foolish mistake Him to be an ordinary person, and deride Him. But we see that the Lord performed many pastimes which are humanly impossible like the killing of Pūtanā, lifting the Govardhana hill and so on. In addition He has delivered wonderful instructions in the form of the gītā. He is accepted as the Supreme Personality by authorities such as Vyāsa, Devala, Asita, Nārada and others. But due to poor fund of knowledge and stubborn obstinacy, some are reluctant to accept the Lord as the Supreme Absolute truth. The Lord cannot be known by imperfect experimental knowledge because He is beyond the range of mundane perception. Our observation is limited to certain material conditions. To recognize the authority of the Lord, one should start with worshipping Him in temples, mosques or churches. Only the foolish would decry the establishment of such places of worship. For the less intelligent this worship is as beneficial as it is for the advanced devotees to meditate upon the Lord by active service.

SB 1.8 - The reason for Kṛṣṇa's descent

Kṛṣṇa descends to propagate pure bhakti unto the hearts of paramahaṁsas and munis. Even the greatest mental speculators cannot understand the Lord, who is beyond their thinking power. He is knowable only by one who has His mercy. Women like Kuntī may not be able to speculate like philosophers, but they are blessed by the Lord because they easily accept the almightiness of the Lord and offer obeisances without reservation. This simplicity of acceptance of the Lord’s authority is more effective than showy insincere religious fervor. Kṛṣṇa comes to this world so that embodied souls may learn to fix their thoughts on His lotus feet and devotees may taste the happiness of devotional service.

SB 1.8 - Kṛṣṇa's relation with His devotees

Kuntī offered her respectful obeisances unto Kṛṣṇa, who is the son of Vasudeva, the pleasure of Devakī, the boy of Nanda and other cowherd men of Vṛndāvana, and the enlivener of the cows and senses. (kṛṣṇāya vāsudevāya, devakī-nandanāya ca, nanda-gopa-kumārāya, govindāya namo namaḥ). Kṛṣṇa’s most intimate names are those that indicate His dealings with His devotees. When He is called by those names, He remembers Himself in relation to the particular devotee connected with that name and His heart melts. Because of His quality as bhakta-vatsala, Kṛṣṇa may be known by His own grace. The Lord being unapproachable by material means, descends on the earth out of causeless mercy in order to show His special mercy on His unalloyed devotees and to diminish the upsurges of the demons. The Lord as Kṛṣṇa is more approachable than any other incarnation. When He came as Rāma, He remained a king’s son but as Kṛṣṇa He played the part of a cowherd boy in Vrajabhūmi.

Though all those who have prema are fortunate, Vasudeva was more fortunate since Kṛṣṇa selected him as His father. And Devakī endowed with even more prema was most fortunate since Kṛṣṇa situated Himself within her womb. Nanda and Yaśodā are more fortunate than Vasudeva and Devakī because they could relish the childhood (kumāra) pastimes, which are more attractive than all other pastimes. The pastimes of kaiśora age has even more sweetness than the kaumāra pastimes. Thus Kuntī addressed Kṛṣṇa as Govinda, a name He got at the beginning of his kaiśora age after He was bathed by the Surabhi cow. He takes possession (vinda) of all the senses (go) of all people. The enjoyers of this form of Kṛṣṇa was not mentioned by Kuntī because of the esoteric nature of this love.

SB 1.8 - Meditating on all the lotus limbs of the Lord

Kuntī offered her respectful obeisances unto Kṛṣṇa, whose abdomen is marked with a depression like a lotus flower, who is always decorated with garlands of lotus flowers, whose glance is as cool as the lotus and whose feet are engraved with lotuses. (namaḥ paṅkaja-nābhāya, namaḥ paṅkaja-māline, namaḥ paṅkaja-netrāya, namas te paṅkajāṅghraye). Jīva Gosvāmī indicates Kṛṣṇa’s capacity to bring happiness and remove miseries in one compound word: sukha-pradatva-tapa-haritva-rūpam. The Lord may appear as one of us, but these bodily features distinguishes Him from us. All fallen souls can still see the Lord as the arcā-vigraha, who descends to distribute favors. The Lord enters as Garbhodakaśāyī Viṣṇu into each and every universe, and from His navel Brahmā is born. Therefore the Lord is known as Paṅkajanābhi (the one with a lotus navel). This Lord accepts the arcā-vigraha in different elements, namely a form within the mind, a form made of wood, metal, jewel, paint or sand. All such forms of the Lord are always decorated with garlands of lotus flowers. All the great ācāryas established temples just to favor the less intelligent, and one should not pose himself as transcending the stage of temple worship while one is fallen. One should begin to see the Lord from His lotus feet, gradually rising to the thighs, waist, chest and face. But Kuntī, being the aunt of the Lord, began to see the Lord from the waist, to the neck, to the face and then down to the lotus feet. Her eyes receiving the sight of Kṛṣṇa’s navel, garland, eyes and feet became pleasantly cool.

SB 1.8 - Kṛṣṇa was more merciful to Kuntī than Devakī

The Lord had released His mother, Devakī, who was imprisoned and distressed by Kaṁsa, and Kuntī and her children from a series of constant dangers. Kuntī, being a widow, was shown greater favor than Devakī because the Lord protected all her sons whereas the sons of Devakī born before Kṛṣṇa were killed by Kaṁsa. Devakī had a husband and was happy with repeated expectations that the Supreme Lord would be born from her womb. And after Kṛṣṇa was born, she had no danger at all. But Kuntī was in all ways wretched. The Lord was more merciful to her because He is the friend of the most fallen. Thus Kṛṣṇa endows more favor to a devotee who is in greater dangers. Sometimes He puts His devotees in such dangers because in that condition the devotee becomes more attached to the Lord.

Devakī was once put into difficulty by Kaṁsa, otherwise she was well. Kṛṣṇa killed Kaṁsa and released Devakī. But the Pāṇḍavas were put into one difficulty after another for many years. Each time they were saved by the Lord. Once Bhīma was administered poison in a cake; then the Pāṇḍavas were put into a house made of shellac and set afire; during exile in the forest Bhīma had to fight with cannibals; Draupadī was insulted by the Kauravas in the assembly. Then there was the battle of Kurukṣetra where Arjuna had to meet great generals like Droṇa, Bhīṣma and Karṇa. At last Aśvatthāmā released the brahmāstra to kill the son of Uttarā within her womb. The Lord saved the Pāṇḍavas from all these tribulations.

SB 1.8 - "Let the calamities happen again and again"

Kuntī wished that all these calamities would happen again and again so that they could see Kṛṣṇa again and again, for seeing Him meant they would no longer see repeated births and deaths. Kṛṣṇa had saved the Pāṇḍavas continuously which extended beyond the battle of Kurukṣetra. With Yudhiṣṭhira in power, Kuntī was still afraid that Kṛṣṇa would leave them. Thus she illuminates a relationship with Kṛṣṇa deeper than merely ‘God, the remover of dangers’. Instead she points to a higher realization in which exalted devotees desire not protection and an anxiety free life bereft of Kṛṣṇa’s association but even a life of trial if such trials keep them in Kṛṣṇa’s association. To give benefit, Kṛṣṇa destroys unsteadiness caused by intoxication with material comfort by giving the ointment of dangers arising out of His mercy. Generally the distressed, the needy, the intelligent and the inquisitive, who have performed pious activities, worship the Lord to get out of misery. The impious do not approach the Lord being misled by the illusory energy.

Constantly remembering the lotus feet of the Lord means preparing for liberation from birth and death. The material world is full of calamities and the foolish prepare plans to adjust these calamities. The duty of the sane is to be undisturbed by these problems and make progress in spiritual realization. All calamities of life are like dreams – like a person crying out in a dream thinking a tiger is swallowing him. One who has taken shelter of the boat of the lotus feet of the Lord can cross over the ocean of material miseries as easily as one leaps over the holes made by the hoofs of a calf. Kṛṣṇa’s association dims the value of peace, pales the worth of material security, and nullifies what most people consider the goal: life without anxiety.

SB 1.8 - The materially exhausted can easily approach Kṛṣṇa

Kṛṣṇa can be easily approached only by those who are materially exhausted. He is available to those who have nothing except Him. Those with respectable parentage, great opulence, high education and bodily beauty cannot approach the Lord with sincere feeling. All materialists are mad after possessing opulences and this is known as the advancement of material civilization. The result is one becomes puffed up and cannot address the Lord feelingly, “O Govinda, O Kṛṣṇa.” The Lord’s holy name is so potent that even once chanting them, one can get rid of huge piles of sin. But there is a quality for such utterances also. A helpless man can feelingly utter the holy name, whereas a man who utters the name in great material satisfaction cannot be so sincere. Thus the principles of material advancement outlined above are disqualifications for progress on the path of spiritual advancement. Sometimes it is seen that spiritually advanced persons become materially impoverished. This is a good sign as much as the falling of temperature from a diseased body. When the fever of material illusion reduces, one can progress rapidly toward Kṛṣṇa. Yet it must be said that matter used fully in Kṛṣṇa’s service does not cause a devotee to stumble. Poverty does not help one make spiritual advancement, but selfish attempts to prosper materially will certainly hinder one’s progress. Some examples of akiñcana are: Gaura-kiśora Bābājī who possessed nothing and his disciple Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī, who possessed so many temples. Similarly Rūpa Gosvāmī was an akiñcana as well as Rāmānanda Rāya, who was a very opulent gṛhastha.

SB 1.8 - The Lord is the property of the impoverished

Kunti pays obeisances to the Lord, who is the property of the impoverished. The Lord has nothing to do with the actions and reactions of the modes of nature. He is self satisfied, and thus is the most gentle and the master of the monists (kaivalya-pati). A living being cannot be a real renouncer, since he will be finished as soon as there is nothing to possess. One renounces something to gain something more valuable. A devotee renounces the material world to attain something tangible in spiritual value. The Gosvāmīs gave up their worldly pomp and prosperity for the sake of the service of the Lord. The devotees, though without material prosperity, have a secret treasure house in the lotus feet of the Lord.

Once a needy man approached Sanātana Gosvāmī and took the latter’s touchstone left in a pile of refuse. But then he wondered why the valuable stone was kept in such a neglected place. When the man asked Sanātana Gosvāmī for the most valuable thing, he was then given the holy name of the Lord. A true devotee does not possess any material asset and so does not give anything material to anyone. But he can deliver the supreme asset, namely the Personality of Godhead, because the Lord is the only property of the devotee. Unless one is able to see everything spiritual in relation to the Lord, one must distinguish between spirit and matter. Sanātana Gosvāmī, although personally able to see everything as spiritual, set the example of throwing the touchstone in garbage, for us because we have no such spiritual vision.

By diverting our attention to so many unwanted things, which are all products of the material conception of life, human energy is spoiled without achievement of spiritual realization. All material assets are products of the three modes of nature. They foil spiritual energy, and thus the less we possess them, the more we can progress spiritually. The Lord has no connection with material activities, and all His deeds even in the material world are spiritual and free from material modes. The Lord’s appearance and disappearance are all transcendental, and one who knows this perfectly shall go back to Godhead.