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Was Krishna's promise broken?

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krishna-and-balaram-with-friends-on-govardhan-hill-vrindavan-das.jpgShri Shrimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaj
Badger, June 11, 2010

We know from Shrimad-Bhagavatam that Akrura went to Vrindavan and invited Krishna and Balarama to come to Mathura. He told Krishna, "Your father and mother, Vasudeva and Devaki, are being tortured. You must go to Mathura." Moreover before this, after Krishna performed His rasa-lila pastimes, Shri Narada had approached Him and said, "Prabhu, I want to see all of Your sweet pastimes, not only those in Vrindavan. Why not perform pastimes in Mathura; and after Mathura, why not in Dvaraka? One of the main causes of Your appearance in this world is to relieve the burden of the Earth, so You will have to go there."

Vrindavan is the place of love and affection, and therefore it is not possible for Krishna to give it up. The gopis, Nanda Baba, and Mother Yasoda love Krishna from the core of their hearts, so how can Krishna give them up and go to Mathura and Dvaraka? Why would He go there?

Krishna is described in the Vedic scriptures as satya-sankalpa, which means that whatever He promises He fulfills; His words come true. When Krishna left Vrindavan and went to Mathura, He sent a messenger with the promise, "I must return, I must return, I must return. After killing Kamsa, I will return to Vrindavan; no one will be able to check Me." For someone to be described as satya-sankalpa, there can be no discrepancy between his words and his actions. Krishna's promise to return to Vrindavan, therefore, must have been fulfilled; so how did He fulfill it?

In his commentary to this section of the Shrimad-Bhagavatam, Shrila Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura asks the question, "Was the purpose of Krishna's promise – sent through the messenger – only to pacify the residents of Vrindavan?" If so, He is not satya-sankalpa."

Let us see how Krishna fulfilled His promise to return to Vrindavan.

Kamsa had been thinking, "If Krishna remains in Vrindavan, it is not possible for me to kill Him," and for that reason he sent Akrura to bring Krishna to Mathura. Shri Krishna and Balarama thus went to Mathura, where They killed the elephant Kuvalyapida and broke into three pieces the worshipable bow of Sankara.

And then what happened? Shri Krishna and Balarama killed the demonic wrestlers Chanura and Mushtika. Then, when Krishna looked up at Kamsa sitting on the high platform, He became very angry, thinking, "Oh, you wanted to kill My mother, Devaki. All right, now I will see to you." He very quickly jumped up onto the platform where Kamsa was sitting, and without giving him any chance to fight, grabbed him by the hair, threw him on the ground, jumped on his chest, and finished him.

Some persons in the audience were wondering if Kamsa was alive or dead. Therefore, to make it clear that Kamsa was dead, Krishna dragged him across the floor. Everyone began crying, "Alas, Alas! The King is dead!" and Kamsa's wives wept bitterly. Krishna Himself performed the funeral ceremony of Kamsa Maharaja, and then also arranged the subsequent events. When the Yadus, who had been forced to scatter here and there due to Kamsa's atrocities, heard that Kamsa had been killed, all of them came together and congregated in Mathura.

Shrila Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura's commentary to this section of Shrimad-Bhagavatam takes the form of purva-paksa, which means that he himself is presenting the questions and also giving the answers. Why? He is doing this because it is not possible for ordinary persons like us to reconcile this inconceivable pastime that is full of apparent contradictions.

Shrila Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura raises the question: A person will always stay where he gets the most affection. Although it is true that Vasudeva and Devaki have immense prema for Shri Krishna, their prema cannot equal or supersede the prema of Nanda and Yasoda, what to speak of the prema of the Vraja-gopis. Considering this, how is it possible that Krishna left Vrindavan and went to Mathura? How could He leave the place where He receives the most prema?

Another question is this: At the time of leaving Vrindavan and going to Mathura, Krishna promised the Vrajavasis, "I will come back. I will definitely come back. I promise I will come back." If Krishna had fulfilled His word and gone back to Vrindavan, that would be okay. But it seems that He did not. It seems that there is a discrepancy between Krishna's words and His actions. This raises another doubt.

Another question: If in one night Krishna transferred all the residents of Mathura to Dvaraka, why could He not bring the gopis from Vrindavan to Mathura? After all, He is Bhagavan and nothing is impossible for Him; so why did He not do so?

After Krishna and Balarama killed Kamsa, They approached Vasudeva and Devaki, who were wondering how it had been possible for Krishna to kill such a powerful hero like Kamsa. They considered He could not be an ordinary human being, but that He must be the Supreme Lord Himself. Thus they became filled with feelings of awe and reverence; they could not even bow to the ground; they simply stood with their hands joined and prayed to Krishna.

Krishna was thinking, "They cannot give Me full affection, because they think I am Bhagavan, the Supreme Lord." Being slightly dissatisfied with this, He called His yogamaya potency, which made Vasudeva and Devaki forget that Krishna was the Supreme Lord.

Krishna then told them, "A mother and father give so much affection to their child, and by so doing, they get great happiness. But, alas, because We went to Vrindavan We denied you that happiness." Because Krishna's yogamaya potency enabled Vasudeva and Devaki to forget their feelings of awe and reverence for Shri Krishna, and now being filled with a new mood of parental affection, they took Krishna and Balarama on their laps and began talking to Them with great affection.

After Krishna killed Kamsa, the residents of Mathura began saying that Krishna and Balarama were actually the sons of Vasudeva and Devaki, and that Nanda and Yasoda were simply step-parents. The Mathuravasis all began telling Krishna and Balarama, "You are really the sons of Vasudeva and Devaki. Because Kamsa was causing so much disturbance to your parents, and because they loved You so much, they sent You to Vrindavan where You were put under the very affectionate care of Nanda and Yasoda. But Nanda and Yasoda are not Your real parents. Your real parents are Devaki and Vasudeva."

On that same day, Shri Krishna told his maternal grandfather, Kamsa's father, Ugrasena, "Because I have come in the Yadu dynasty, I cannot become the king. [Because of the ancient curse of Yayati,] no one in our dynasty can become king. I will thus establish you as king." When Ugrasena objected and said, "I am old and weak; I have no power to be king," Krishna replied, "He to whom I am paying obeisances, all the demigods will also worship. Don't be worried that anyone will disobey you. Because even I will follow your instructions, all the demigods in the universe will pay you tribute." In this way, in only one day, Krishna established Ugrasena as the king.

This political arrangement transpired while Nanda Baba was waiting at his camp outside the city and weeping, thinking, "When will Krishna and Balarama come back to me? They have not yet come." Finally, on the next night Krishna and Balarama came back to Nanda Baba. Embracing Them, he took Them both on his lap and began speaking to Them with great affection. "Oh, I have been waiting so long for You."

Krishna is very tricky. When He was with Devaki and Vasudeva, He had told them, "I am your son;" and when He was with Nanda Baba He said, "O Father, I am definitely your son."

As Krishna and Balarama sat on the lap of Nanda Baba, Krishna said, "Father, Vasudeva and Devaki are saying to Me, 'You are our son. You are our son.' And all the Mathuravasis are saying likewise. I wanted to come to you earlier, but all the residents of Mathura obstructed Me from coming to meet you."

Balarama said, "Listen, Father, those parents who give up their baby cannot be called real parents. Rather, those persons who look after the child, like the eye-lids protect the eyes, are the real parents. One who merely gives birth is not the real parent, but one who protects and nourishes like a parent is the real parent. You are certainly My real father, and Yasoda is My real mother."

In the course of the conversation, Nanda Baba said, "What do You want? What is Your decision?"

"You were saying that I should stay here in Mathura alone, without Krishna, but that is completely impossible," Balarama replied. "Even if Lord Brahma, the creator of the universe, comes to Me thousands of times with the instruction, 'Be without Krishna. Be without Krishna,' I cannot be without Him."

"And there is another problem," said Nanda Baba. "Vasudeva and Devaki were tortured by King Kamsa for so many years."

Nanda Baba never thought of Krishna as the son of Vasudeva and Devaki. He was thinking, "No one will ever criticize me for taking my own son away from here. However, if I take Balarama as well, I will be considered very selfish for taking Vasudeva and Devaki's son. I will be considered very unfair."

[At this time, Shrila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja requested that Radhika dasi lead a kirtana that would be appropriate to the mood he wanted the devotees to imbibe – the mood of separation.]

The essence of this pastime is very difficult to understand, and most confidential. Externally, Shrimad-Bhagavatam describes that after hearing the arguments of Krishna and Balarama, Nanda Baba was pacified by Them. They gave him many of their golden ornaments, and Nanda Baba, with tears of affection in his eyes, returned to Vrindavan.

But how could this have possibly happened? Did Nanda Baba sell Krishna and Balarama? Did he travel all the way from Vraja to Mathura to collect wealth? This is quite impossible, because prema, pure devotion, never takes; it always gives. Therefore, the hidden meaning of the Shrimad-Bhagavatam statements, as revealed to us in the commentary of Shrila Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura, should also be understood.

Krishna had promised at the time of going with Akrura from Vrindavan to Mathura that He would definitely return. Shri Krishna is satya-sankalpa; He always speaks the truth. However, we cannot see any direct evidence in Shrimad-Bhagavatam that Krishna did indeed return to Vrindavan. We hear that Balarama returned for two months, but we don't hear that Shri Krishna ever returned.

Shrimad-Bhagavatam describes that many years later, at the time of the solar eclipse, Krishna went to Kurukshetra with His sixteen thousand one hundred and eight queens, and He met the Vrajavasis there. The Bhagavatam describes only that Shri Krishna went back to Vrindavan by being carried in the minds of the Vraja-gopis, but not that He Himself directly returned. So, was Krishna's promise broken?

There is a Padma Purana reference, which we accept as true, which states that after Krishna killed Dantavakra, when there were no more enemies of Krishna left on the Earth planet, Krishna took all the Vrajavasis back to Goloka Vrindavana, but that He simultaneously stayed on Earth in His form as Dvarakadisha-Krishna, the Lord of Dvaraka. But this Padma Purana reference does not prove Krishna's words true – that He honored His promise – because it does not say that He personally returned to Vraja. Therefore the question remains: Was Krishna's promise broken?

How are we to reconcile this? Krishna is the Supreme Lord. Everything is possible for Him. He performs all His pastimes under the direct shelter of His yogamaya potency, His trancendental spiritual deluding potency. So how should we understand this pastime?

What the Bhagavatam describes must be true – that Krishna and Balarama came at night to meet Nanda Baba, who, after converstions with Them, took the golden ornaments from Them; and, weeping and weeping, returned alone to Vraja, leaving Krishna and Balarama in Mathura.

But Krishna and Balarama each manifested two forms, and thus there were two prakosts, or chambers, of Their pastimes. Like two different rooms in a house, there were two different sections of Their pastimes. In another prakost, another section or manifestation of Their pastimes, They accompanied Nanda Baba back to Vrindavan on the bullock cart, in great ecstasy.

Two manifestations were in play at that time; that is how we understand this pastime. Both these pastimes happened simultaneously. In this way, Shrila Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura has reconciled the apparent inconsistency.

In truth, Krishna cannot give up Vrindavan for even a moment, as it is said in sastra: Vrindavanam parityajya padam ekam na gacchati. He never takes one step out of Vrindavan; He is always there. This being so, who went to Mathura and Dvaraka? In one prakost – as Vasudeva-nandana – Krishna went there; Vrajendra-nandana Shri Krishna did not go.

Here is another, very important point which supports Shrila Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura's explanations: When Krishna instructed Uddhava to go to Vrindavan to console Nanda Baba, Mother Yasoda, and the gopis, Uddhava asked Him, "How can I live without You? I cannot live without You." Krishna replied, "I am partly here in Mathura, but I am always fully in Vrindavan."

When Uddhava entered Vrindavan, he saw some bulls fighting over some cows; and he saw that the gopis had burnt ghee lamps emanating a very beautiful fragrance. He saw Krishna herding the cows, and he saw that the cows' hooves had kicked up the Vrindavan dust which now covered his golden chariot. It was as if Krishna was fully there in Vrindavan.

Thus, in one pastime manifestation Nanda Baba returned to Vraja alone and weeping; and in another, overjoyed, he returned to Vraja with Krishna and Balarama. In this way Shrila Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura has reconciled the apparent contradictions and revealed the hidden pastimes.

Gaura premanande!

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