Stimulation for Ecstatic Love
Some things that give impetus or stimulation to ecstatic love of Kṛṣṇa are His transcendental qualities, His uncommon activities, His smiling features, His apparel and garlands, His flute, His buffalo horn, His leg bells, His conch shell, His footprints, His places of pastimes (such as Vṛndāvana), His favorite plant (tulasī), His devotee and the periodical occasions for remembering Him. One such occasion for remembrance is Ekādaśī, which comes twice a month on the eleventh day of the moon, both waning and waxing. On that day all the devotees remain fasting throughout the night and continuously chant the glories of the Lord.
KṚṢṆA’S TRANSCENDENTAL QUALITIES, HIS UNCOMMON ACTIVITIES AND HIS SMILE
As far as Kṛṣṇa’s transcendental qualities are concerned, they can be divided into three groups: qualities pertaining to His transcendental body, qualities pertaining to His transcendental speech and qualities pertaining to His transcendental mind.
Kṛṣṇa’s age, His transcendental bodily features, His beauty and His mildness are qualities pertaining to His body. There is no difference between Kṛṣṇa and His body, and therefore the transcendental features pertaining to His body are the same as Kṛṣṇa Himself. But because these qualities stimulate the devotee’s ecstatic love, they have been analyzed as separate causes of that love. To be attracted by the qualities of Kṛṣṇa means to be attracted by Kṛṣṇa Himself, because there is no real distinction between Kṛṣṇa and His qualities. Kṛṣṇa’s name is also Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa’s fame is also Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa’s entourage is also Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa and everything related with Kṛṣṇa that gives stimulation to love of Kṛṣṇa are all Kṛṣṇa, but for our understanding these items may be considered separately.
Kṛṣṇa is the reservoir of all transcendental pleasure. Therefore, the impetuses to love of Kṛṣṇa, although seemingly different, are not actually distinct from Kṛṣṇa Himself. In the technical Sanskrit terms, such qualities as Kṛṣṇa’s name and fame are accepted both as reservoirs of and as stimulation for love of Kṛṣṇa.
Kṛṣṇa’s age is considered in three periods: from His appearance day to the end of His fifth year is called kaumāra, from the beginning of the sixth year up to the end of the tenth year is called paugaṇḍa, and from the eleventh to the end of the fifteenth year is called kaiśora. After the beginning of the sixteenth year, Kṛṣṇa is called a yauvana, or a youth, and this continues with no change.
As far as Kṛṣṇa’s transcendental pastimes are concerned, they are mostly executed during the kaumāra, paugaṇḍa and kaiśora periods. His affectionate pastimes with His parents are executed during His kaumāra age. His friendship with the cowherd boys is exhibited during the paugaṇḍa period. And His friendship with the gopīs is exhibited during the age of kaiśora. Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes in Vṛndāvana are finished by the end of His fifteenth year, and then He is transferred to Mathurā and Dvārakā, where all other pastimes are performed.
Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī gives us a vivid description of Kṛṣṇa as the reservoir of all pleasure in his Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu. Here are some parts of that description.
Kṛṣṇa’s kaiśora age may be divided into three parts. In the beginning of His kaiśora age – that is, at the beginning of His eleventh year – the luster of His body becomes so bright that it becomes an impetus for ecstatic love. Similarly, there are reddish borders around His eyes and a growth of soft hairs on His body. In describing this early stage of His kaiśora age, Kundalatā, one of the residents of Vṛndāvana, said to her friend, “My dear friend, I have just seen an extraordinary beauty appearing in the person of Kṛṣṇa. His blackish bodily hue appears just like the indranīla jewel. There are reddish signs on His eyes, and small soft hairs are coming out on His body. The appearance of these symptoms has made Him extraordinarily beautiful.”
In this connection, in the Tenth Canto, twenty-first chapter, verse 5 of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Śukadeva Gosvāmī tells King Parīkṣit, “My dear King, I shall try to describe how the minds of the gopīs became absorbed in thought of Kṛṣṇa. The gopīs would meditate on Kṛṣṇa’s dressing Himself just like a dancing actor and entering the forest of Vṛndāvana, marking the ground with His footprints. They meditated on Kṛṣṇa’s having a helmet with a peacock feather and wearing earrings on His ears and yellow-gold colored garments covered with jewels and pearls. They also meditated on Kṛṣṇa’s blowing His flute and on all the cowherd boys’ singing of the glories of the Lord.” That is the description of the meditation that the gopīs used to perform.
Sometimes the gopīs would think about His soft nails, His moving eyebrows and His teeth, which were catechu-colored from chewing pan. One description was given by a gopī to her friend: “My dear friend, just see how the enemy of Agha has assumed such wonderful features! His brows are just like the bow of Cupid, and they are moving just as though they were dancing. The tips of His nails are so soft – it is as if they were dried bamboo leaves. His teeth are reddish, and so it appears that He has assumed a feature of anger. Under the circumstances, where is the chance for a young girl not to be attracted by such beautiful features and not to be afraid of becoming a victim to such beauty?”
Kṛṣṇa’s attractive features are also described by Vṛndā, the gopī after whom Vṛndāvana was named. She told Kṛṣṇa, “My dear Mādhava, Your newly invented smile has so captivated the hearts of the gopīs that they are simply unable to express themselves! As such, they have become bewildered and will not talk with others. All of these gopīs have become so affected that it is as if they had offered three sprinkles of water upon their lives. In other words, they have given up all hope for their living condition.” According to the Indian system, when a person is dead there is a sprinkling of water on the body. Thus, the statement of Vṛndā shows that the gopīs were so enchanted by the beauty of Kṛṣṇa that because they could not express their minds, they had decided to commit suicide.
When Kṛṣṇa arrived at the age of thirteen to fourteen years, His two arms and chest assumed an unspeakable beauty, and His whole form became simply enchanting. When Kṛṣṇa attained thirteen years of age, His two thighs were challenging the trunks of elephants, His rising chest was trying to come to peace talks with doors of jewels, and His two arms were minimizing the value of the bolts found on doors. Who can describe the wonderful beauty of these features of Kṛṣṇa? The special beauty of Kṛṣṇa’s body was His mild smiling, His restless eyes and His world-enchanting songs. These are the special features of this age.
There is a statement in this connection that Kṛṣṇa, on arriving at this age, manifested such beautiful bodily features that His restless eyes became the playthings of Cupid and His mild smile resembled the newly grown lotus flower. The enchanting vibration of His songs became a great impediment to the young girls, who were supposed to remain chaste and faithful to their husbands.
At this age Kṛṣṇa enjoyed the rāsa-līlā, exhibiting His power of joking with the cowherd girls and enjoying their company in the bushes of the gardens by the bank of the Yamunā.
In this connection there is the following statement: “Throughout the whole tract of land known as Vṛndāvana there were the footprints of Kṛṣṇa and the gopīs, and in some places peacock feathers were strewn about. In some places there were nice beddings in the bushes of the Vṛndāvana gardens, and in some places there were piles of dust due to the group-dancing of Govinda and the gopīs.” These are some of the features which are due to the different pastimes invented by Śrī Kṛṣṇa in the place known as Vṛndāvana.
There is the following statement by one gopī, describing Kṛṣṇa’s attractive feature during this age: “My dear friend, just see how all of a sudden in the sky of Kṛṣṇa there is a powerful rising sun and how this rising sun is minimizing the rays of our chastity moon. Our attraction for Kṛṣṇa is so intense that it is drying up the lotus flower of our discrimination, and we are losing our senses in deciding whether we shall continue as chaste women or be victimized by the beauty of Kṛṣṇa. My dear friend, I think that we have lost all hope of life!”
In the kaiśora age, beginning from the eleventh year and continuing up to the end of the fifteenth year, Kṛṣṇa’s arms, legs and thighs became marked with three divisional lines. At that time Kṛṣṇa’s chest challenged a hill of marakata jewels, His arms challenged pillars of the indranīla jewel, the three lines of His waist challenged the waves of the river Yamunā, and His thighs challenged beautiful bananas. One gopī said, “With all these exquisite features of His body, Kṛṣṇa is too extraordinarily beautiful, and therefore I am always thinking of Him to protect me, because He is the killer of all demons.”
The idea expressed in this statement is that the gopīs were comparing their attraction for Kṛṣṇa to an attack by demons; and to counteract their attraction for the beauty of Kṛṣṇa, they were also turning to Kṛṣṇa hopefully, because He is the killer of all kinds of demons. In other words, they were perplexed, because on one hand they were attracted by the beauty of Kṛṣṇa, and on the other they needed Kṛṣṇa to drive away the demon of such attraction.
This kaiśora age can be translated as adolescence. At the end of this period all the gopīs said, “Kṛṣṇa is the killer of the attraction of Cupid, and as such He disturbs the patience of all newly married girls. Kṛṣṇa’s bodily features have become so exquisite – it is as if they were all manifesting an artistic sense of the highest sort. His dancing eyes have dimmed the brilliance of the most expert dancer, and so there is no longer any comparison to the beauty of Kṛṣṇa.” Learned scholars therefore describe the features of His body at this time as nava-yauvana, newly invented youthfulness. At this stage of Kṛṣṇa’s bodily features, the conjugal love affairs with the gopīs and similar pastimes become very prominent.
There are six features of conjugal love affairs called peacemaking, picking a quarrel, going to meet one’s lover, sitting together, separation and support. Lord Kṛṣṇa expanded an empire of these six features, of which He was the ruling prince. Somewhere He was picking quarrels with the young girls, somewhere He was scratching them with the nails of parrots, somewhere He was busy going to visit the gopīs, and somewhere He was negotiating through cowherd friends to take shelter of the gopīs.
Some of the gopīs addressed Him thus: “Dear Kṛṣṇa, because of Your adolescent age, You have just become the spiritual master of these young girls, and You are teaching them to whisper among themselves. You are teaching them to offer solemn prayers, as well as training them to cheat their husbands and to join You in the gardens at night without caring for the instructions of their superiors. You are enthusing them by the vibration of Your enchanting flute; and, as their teacher, You are teaching them all the intricacies of loving affairs.”
It is said that even when Kṛṣṇa was a boy of five He manifested such youthful energies, but learned scholars do not explain them because of the absence of suitable age. Kṛṣṇa was beautiful because every part of His body was perfectly arranged without any defect. Such perfect bodily features of Kṛṣṇa are described as follows: “My dear enemy of Kaṁsa, Your broad eyes, Your rising chest, Your two pillarlike arms and the thin middle portion of Your body are always enchanting to every lotus-eyed beautiful girl.” The ornaments on the body of Kṛṣṇa were not actually enhancing His beauty, but just the reverse – the ornaments were beautified by Kṛṣṇa.
A person is called mild when he cannot even bear the touch of the most soft thing. It is described that every part of Kṛṣṇa’s body was so soft that even at the touch of newly grown leaves, the color of the touched part of His skin would change. At this kaiśora age, Kṛṣṇa’s endeavors were always bent toward arranging the rāsa dance as well as toward killing the demons in the forest of Vṛndāvana. While Kṛṣṇa was engaged in enjoyment with the boys and girls within the forest of Vṛndāvana, Kaṁsa used to send his associates to kill Kṛṣṇa, and Kṛṣṇa would show His prowess by killing them.
KṚṢṆA’S APPAREL AND GARLANDS
Generally, there are four kinds of garments on the body of Kṛṣṇa: His shirt, turban, belt and wearing garments. In Vṛndāvana, He used to put on reddish garments, with a golden shirt on His body and an orange-colored turban on His head. The different kinds of belts, combined with His enchanting smile, used to always increase the transcendental bliss of His associates. This dress of Kṛṣṇa is described as gorgeous. As a baby elephant is sometimes dressed in colorful clothing, so Kṛṣṇa’s gorgeousness was manifested by decoration with such colorful clothing on the different parts of His body.
Ākalpa refers to the texture of Kṛṣṇa’s hair, His nicely dressed body anointed with sandalwood pulp and decorated with flower garlands, His tilaka and His chewing pan. Kṛṣṇa was decorated constantly in this ākalpa process. Kṛṣṇa’s hair was sometimes decorated with flowers placed on the middle of His head, or else it was reaching down to His back. In this way Kṛṣṇa dressed His hair differently at different times. As for the ointment on His body, the pulp of sandalwood generally appeared to be white, and when it was mixed with saffron dye it appeared to be yellow.
Kṛṣṇa used to put a vaijayantī garland around His neck. This vaijayantī garland is made of flowers of at least five different colors. Such a garland was always long enough to touch Kṛṣṇa’s knees or feet. Besides this garland of flowers, there were other kinds of flower garlands too – sometimes decorating His head, sometimes hanging around His neck and chest. Artistic paintings with sandalwood pulp and colored sandalwood were also to be found on the body of Kṛṣṇa.
One gopī addressed her friend and began to praise the bodily features of Kṛṣṇa. She praised His blackish complexion, the reddish color of chewing pan enhancing His beauty hundreds of times, the curling hair on His head, the kuṅkuma* red spots on His body and the tilaka on His forehead.
* Kuṅkuma is a sweetly flavored reddish powder that is thrown on the bodies of worshipable persons.
His helmet, His earrings, His necklace, His four garments, the bangles on His head, the rings on His fingers, His ankle bells and His flute – these are the different features of Kṛṣṇa’s ornaments. Kṛṣṇa, the enemy of Agha, always looked beautiful with His incomparable helmet, His earrings made of diamonds, His necklace of pearls, His bangles, His embroidered garments and the beautiful rings on His fingers.
Kṛṣṇa is sometimes called vana-mālī. Vana means “forest,” and mālī means “gardener,” so vana-mālī refers to one who extensively uses flowers and garlands on different parts of His body. Kṛṣṇa was dressed like this not only in Vṛndāvana but also on the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra. Seeing such colorful dress and the garlands of different flowers, some great sages prayed, “Lord Kṛṣṇa was going to the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra not to fight, but to grace all of the devotees with His presence.”
As far as His flute is concerned, it is said that the vibration of this wonderful instrument was able to break the meditation of the greatest sages. Kṛṣṇa was thus challenging Cupid by advertising His transcendental glories all over the world.
There are three kinds of flutes used by Kṛṣṇa. One is called veṇu, one is called muralī, and the third is called vaṁśī. Veṇu is very small, not more than six inches long, with six holes for whistling. Muralī is about eighteen inches long with a hole at the end and four holes on the body of the flute. This kind of flute produces a very enchanting sound. The vaṁśī flute is about fifteen inches long, with nine holes on its body. Kṛṣṇa used to play on these three flutes occasionally when they were needed. Kṛṣṇa has a longer vaṁśī, which is called mahānandā, or sammohinī. When it is still longer it is called ākarṣiṇī. When it is even longer it is called ānandinī. The ānandinī flute is very pleasing to the cowherd boys and is technically named vaṁśulī. These flutes were sometimes bedecked with jewels. Sometimes they were made of marble and sometimes of hollow bamboo. When the flute is made of jewels it is called sammohinī. When made of gold, it is called ākarṣiṇī.
KṚṢṆA’S BUFFALO HORN
Kṛṣṇa used a buffalo horn as a bugling instrument. This instrument was always highly polished and circled with gold bands, and on the middle there was a hole. Regarding these instruments, there is a metaphorical statement about a gopī named Tārāvalī. It is said that Tārāvalī was bitten by the most venomous snake of Kṛṣṇa’s flute. Then, in order to neutralize the poisonous effect, she drank the milk produced by the buffalo horn in the hand of Kṛṣṇa. But instead of decreasing the poisonous effect, it increased it a thousand times. The gopī was thus put into the most miserable poisoned condition.
THE ATTRACTION OF KṚṢṆA’S LEG BELLS
A certain gopī once stated to her friend, “My dear friend, when I heard the sound of the leg bells of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, I immediately started to go out of the house to see Him. But most regrettably, my superiors were present before me just at that time and I could not go out.”
KṚṢṆA’S CONCH SHELL
Kṛṣṇa’s conch shell is known as Pāñcajanya. This Pāñcajanya conch is also mentioned in the Bhagavad-gītā. Kṛṣṇa sounded it before the Battle of Kurukṣetra. It is said that when Lord Kṛṣṇa blows on His transcendental conch shell, the wives of the demons become subject to abortions and the wives of the demigods become blessed with all auspiciousness. In this way, the sound of Kṛṣṇa’s conch shell used to vibrate and circulate all over the world.
It is stated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam that when Akrūra, who drove Kṛṣṇa from Vṛndāvana to Mathurā, saw the footprints of Kṛṣṇa on the land of Vṛndāvana, his ecstatic love for Kṛṣṇa increased so much that the hairs on his body stood up. His eyes became overflooded with tears, and in such ecstasy he jumped out of the chariot and fell down on the ground and began to chant, “How wonderful this is! How wonderful this is!”
Similar feelings were expressed by the gopīs when they were going to the bank of the Yamunā and saw Kṛṣṇa’s footprints in the dust. When Kṛṣṇa walked on the ground of Vṛndāvana, the marks of His sole (flag, thunderbolt, fish, a rod for controlling elephants, and a lotus flower) would be imprinted upon the dust of the land. The gopīs became overwhelmed simply at seeing those marks on the ground.
KṚṢṆA’S PLACES OF PASTIMES
One devotee has exclaimed, “Oh, I have not as yet visited the wonderful places where the pastimes of the Lord were performed. But simply by hearing the name of Mathurā I have become overwhelmed with joy!”
KṚṢṆA’S FAVORITE PLANT: TULASĪ
Lord Kṛṣṇa is very fond of tulasī leaves and buds. Because tulasī buds are usually offered up to the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa, a devotee once prayed to the tulasī buds to give him some information about the lotus feet of the Lord. The devotee expected that the tulasī buds would know something about the glories of Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet.
One may sometimes become overwhelmed with joy by seeing a devotee of the Lord. When Dhruva Mahārāja saw two associates of Nārāyaṇa approaching him, he immediately stood up out of sincere respect and devotion and remained before them with folded hands; but because of his ecstatic love, he could hardly offer them a proper reception.
There is a statement by a gopī who addressed Subala, a friend of Kṛṣṇa: “My dear Subala, I know that Kṛṣṇa is your friend and that you always enjoy smiling and joking with Him. The other day I saw you both standing together. You were keeping your hand upon Kṛṣṇa’s shoulder, and both of you were joyfully smiling. When I saw the two of you standing like that in the distance, my eyes at once became overflooded with tears.”
SPECIAL DAYS FOR REMEMBERING KṚṢṆA
There are many statements about the festive days in connection with Kṛṣṇa’s different activities. One of these festive days is Janmāṣṭamī, the day of Kṛṣṇa’s birth. This Janmāṣṭamī day is the most opulent festival day for the devotees, and it is still observed with great pomp in every Hindu house in India. Sometimes even the devotees of other religious groups take advantage of this auspicious day and enjoy the performance of the ceremony of Janmāṣṭamī. Ecstatic love for Kṛṣṇa is also aroused on the days of Ekādaśī, which are other festive days in connection with Kṛṣṇa.