Inner Meanings of Krishna’s Pastimes


            This list of obstacles or anarthas to Vraja-bhajana, that are indicated in the inner meanings of the pastimes of Lord Krishna, come from Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s Caitanya Siksastakam. The demons manifesting in Vraja Gokula on earth have symbolic significance. They are not found in the spiritual world. There they appear only as rumors or impressions, not actual threats to their pastimes.


            By reading these namittika (occasional) lilas or pastimes of killing the twenty demons mentioned in the Tenth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, the sadhaka or spiritual practitioner, purifies his heart of all the impediments, obstacles, anarthas and aparadhas, or offenses. Then one becomes eligible to read, reflect upon and taste the asta-kaliya-lilas of Radha-Krishna.


            Until one reaches the platform of bhava-bhakti, it is necessary to cultivate devotion by meditating on both the naimittika and asta-kaliya lilas. By reading and remembering the asta-kaliya lilas (Bhavanasara Sangraha, Krsnahnika Kaumudi), one gets a taste of the loving mood of madhura-rasa. By understanding and appreciating the naimittika lilas, a devotee will destroy all the obstacles to tasting the bhakti rasa within Radha Krishna’s eternal pastimes. With a sincere desire to become purified of all material contaminations, one should read all the below- mentioned pastimes from the tenth canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam. With all humility, one should pray to Krishna and Balarama to remove the impurities within oneself personified by the demons whom they killed.


            The demons killed by Krishna in the tenth canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam represent anarthas (impurities or obstacles) preventing a devotee from attaining pure love for Radha and Krishna. These undesirable impurities and demoniac qualities must be completely uprooted from the core of one’s heart. Only cent percent pure devotees of Krishna can live eternally in Vrindavana blissfully serving the Divine Couple.


            If a devotee cries out humbly and sincerely to Lord Sri Krishna to remove these demoniac qualities which are represented by the demons killed by Lord Krishna, then Sri Krishna Himself will remove those evils. But the devotees must personally work to drive out the anarthas represented by the demons killed by Lord Balarama. This is a mystery of Vraja-bhajana. The aspirant must personally remove these strong impediments with his best care and efforts and by obtaining the mercy of Krishna. If the devotee’s humility becomes very deep and intense, Krishna will be merciful. In that case, the feeling of Lord Balarama will arise in his mind and quickly destroy these demoniac qualities. Then one will gradually improve his cultivation of bhajana, meaning the hearing, chanting and meditating on the pastimes of Lord Krishna.


PASTIME FROM TENTH CANTO OF BHAGAVATAM

ANARTHA OR OFFENSE IT REPRESENTS

INNER MEANINGS

1. Brahma–vimohana-lila,

Chapter 13, taking the cowherd boys

Aisvarya

Attachment to awe and reverence instead of Krishna’s sweetness
2. Trinavarta Demon–Chapter 7

Argument

Attachment to false arguments
3. Putana–Ch. 6

Argument

Accepting arguments as your guru
4. The Forest Fire–Ch. 17 & 19

Argument

Pointless of them, not accepting proper instructions
5. Liberation of the yamala-arjuna trees–Ch. 10

Arrogance

Due to wealth and high birth
6. Trinavarta Demon–Ch. 7

Association

With atheists believing in chemical or Godless evolution
7. Trinavarta Demon–Ch. 7

Association

With proud people
8. Trinavarta Demon–Ch. 7

Association

With dry logicians
9. Vyomasura–Ch. 37

Association

Giving up association with false, deceitful devotees
10. Putana Demoness–Ch. 6

Attachment

To enjoyment and salvation
11. Forest fire–Ch. 17 & 19

Battles & Conflict

Fighting mental enemies or looking for fight with others due to ego
12. Trinavarta Demon–Ch. 7

Buddhist philosophy

Trapped in the whirlwind of
13. Bakasura–Ch. 11

Cheating propensity

Tendency to disobey the instructions of guru & Krishna due to material attachment
14. Aghasura–Ch. 12

Compassion

Lack of it for others
15. Kaliya–Ch. 16

Crookedness

Illegal, dishonest, bent out of shape
16. Liberation of the yamala-arjuna trees–Ch. 10

Cruelty

In any form by the actions of one’s body, mind or words
17. Kaliya–Ch. 16

Cruelty & unkindness

Due to envy of other living entities
18. Bakasura–Ch. 11

Cunningness

Skilled at deceiving people
19. Liberation of the yamala-arjuna trees–Ch. 10

Debauchery

Indulging in sex, alcohol and drugs
20. Liberation of the yamala-arjuna trees–Ch. 10

Addiction

To drinking alcohol
21. Stopping Indra-puja–Ch. 24 & 25

Demigods

Attachment to worshipping different demigods for fruits even after initiation
22. Brahma-vimohana-lila–Ch. 13, taking the cowherd boys

Doubts

Illusions about the Absolute Truth and position of Krishna
23. Sankhachuda–Ch. 34

Fame

Destroying the desire for name and fame
24. Sankhachuda–Ch. 34

      Vyomasura–Ch. 37

Falsity

Prematurely leaving Vaidhi-bhakti (regulated service) to practice Raganuga-bhakti (spontaneous service); but if one doesn’t attain spiritual attachment to Krishna, he then cultivates perverted material attachments, becoming only a show-bottle devotee.
25. Forest fire–Ch. 17 & 19

Fighting

Against the opinion of others
26. Pralambasura–Ch. 18

Greed

For position, worship and money
27. Vatsasura–Ch. 11

Greed

Performing bad activities due to greed
28. Sakatasura–Ch. 7

Habits

Bad–Both old & new; a load bearing down on one’s Bhakti (devotion)
29. Aghasura–Ch. 12

Hatred

Toward others; a tendency to harass them
30. Liberation of the yamala-arjuna trees–Ch. 10

Hatred

Toward others because of pride in one’s birth and money
31. Forest fire–Ch. 17 & 19

Hatred

Inner hatred towards other communities and groups
32. Pralambasura–Ch.18

Honor

Desire for honor
33. Dhenukasura–Ch. 15

Holy Name

Ignorance about the oneness of Krishna, the person, and His holy name
34. Bakasura–Ch. 11

Hypocrisy

In behavior–pretending to have higher standards
35. Dhenukasura–Ch. 15

Ignorance

About one’s relationship with Krishna
36. Pralambasura–Ch. 18

Illicit or Unnecessary Sex

Removing the desire for sexual pleasure and attachment to it
37. Keshi Demon–Ch. 37

Illusion

Freedom from the illusion of thinking “I am a great devotee or acharya.”
38. Aghasura–Ch. 12

Intolerance

Inability to tolerate ideas or behavior different from yours
39. Releasing Nanda Maharaja from Varuna–Ch.28

Intoxication

Destroying the idea, “I can increase my bliss by intoxication.”
40. Dhenukasura–Ch. 15

Knowledge

Loss of knowledge concerning one’s spiritual identity
41. Ritualistic Brahmins–Ch. 23

Karma-khanda

(rituals for fruitive results)

Becoming indifferent to bhakti due to absorption in karma-kandiya activities
42. Sakatasura–Ch. 37

Laziness

Due to bad habits or attachment to the mode of ignorance
43. Vyomasura–Ch. 37

Lies

Tendency to speak falsehood
44. Trinavarta–Ch. 7

Logic

Attachment to material logic
45. Pralambasura–Ch. 18

Lust

An external show of devotion while maintaining lust for opposite sex
46. Vidyadhara liberated–Ch. 34

Mayavada philosophy

Letting the truth of bhakti be swallowed by impersonalistic philosophy
47. Dhenukasura–Ch. 15

Mentality

Ass-like neophyte mentality which can’t appreciate books or previous acharyas and forbids others to read them
48. Vatsasura–Ch. 11

Mind

(that’s immature)

Performing sinful activities due to an immature mind
49. Sakatasura–Ch. 7

Misconceptions

Carrying the load of misconceptions and bad philosophies
50. Vatsasura–Ch. 11,

Neophyte

Strong spirit to enjoy and tendency to perform illicit or unnecesssary activities
51. Keshi Demon–Ch. 37

Offenses

Due to pride, one thinks that he is a great devotee and therefore offensively lords over others
52. Vidyadhara Liberated–Ch. 34

Philosophies

Other than bhakti, those which try to diminish or destroy bhakti
53. Trinavarta Demon–Ch. 7

Pride

Pride in scholarship and material learning
54. Keshi Demon–Ch. 37

Pride

Pride caused by money and worldly attachments
55. Vyomasura–Ch. 37

Pride

Thinking you are more expert in bhakti than other devotees
56. Forest fire–Ch. 17 & 19

Religious practices

Disregard for religious practices of others
57. Sakatasura–Ch. 7

Religious principles

Not understanding the purpose of religious principles; merely carrying the burden of following them due to attachment
58. Forest fire–Ch. 17 & 19

Sampradayas

Disagreement with other sampradayas and maths
59. Forest fire–Ch. 17 & 19

Sectarianism

Due to sectarianism, you can’t accept anyone outside your group as a Vaishnava
60. Brahma-vimohana lila–Ch. 13, taking the cowherd boys

Scepticism

Unnecessary doubts regarding the path of bhakti
61. Liberation of the yamala-arjuna trees–Ch. 10

Shameful behavior

Breaking of the four religious principles
62. Liberation of the yamala-arjuna trees–Ch. 10

Speech

Loose speech; speaking offensively due to one’s birth or money
63. Sankhachuda–Ch. 34

Sense gratification

Desiring to attain sense gratification through bhakti
64. Aristasura–Ch. 36

Suddha-bhakti

Negligence or disregard for pure bhakti
65. Vyomasura–Ch. 37

Stealing

Stealing other’s property
66. Ritualistic Brahmins–Ch. 23

Varnashrama

Due to pride and attachment to Varnashrama (social divisions), one neglects Krishna bhakti
67. Sakatasura–Ch. 7

      Kaliya Demon–Ch. 16

Vanity

Pride in one’s own appearance or achievements
68. Aghasura–Ch. 12

Violence

Tendency of the mind to commit violence to others
69. Sankhachuda–Ch. 34

Women

Destroying the desire to unnecessarily associate with women
70. Ritualistic Brahmins–Ch. 23

Yajna

(Rituals)

Attachment to Vedic homas and yajnas (rituals), and thus becoming indifferent to bhakti

            References from Tenth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam which exhibits the removal of the above mentioned anarthas or faults and negative qualities that may reside within us.

            Chapter Six: Explains the story of how the demoness Putana came into the village where the baby Lord Krishna lived and assumed a beautiful form and then tried to kill Him by offering her breast milk to Him after she had put poison on her breast. But Krishna sucked the life air out of her and killed her. Nonetheless, Krishna had accepted her like a mother and she attained liberation, as did all the demons killed by Lord Krishna.

            Chapter Seven: Describes how the Trinavarta demon took the shape of a vast whirlwind and lifted Lord Krishna way up into the sky in order to try to kill Him. But Lord Krishna became so heavy that He brought down the demon so hard the Trinavarta was killed.

            Chapter Ten: This chapter relates how Mother Yashoda tried to tie a rope around Lord Krishna after many attempts, and once Krishna allowed her to do so, she attached one end to a stone. Lord Krishna nonetheless crawled between two yamala-arjuna trees, which had been the demigods Nalakuvera and Manigriva who had been cursed by Narada Muni to stand as trees because of their bad behavior with women. Then when Lord Krishna dragged the stone between the trees, it became stuck until the trees came crashing down, releasing the two demigods from their predicament.

            Chapter Eleven: This relates that during the childhood pastimes of Lord Krishna and His brother Balarama with Their friends, they were attacked by the demon Vatsasura who was in the shape of a calf and entered into the group of other calves in an attempt to get to Lord Krishna, but Krishna caught the demon and twirled him around with great speed until the demon died before he could do anything. Another demon, Bakasura, who had assumed the form of a huge duck with a sharp beak also came there. He was able to devour Lord Krishna who then became like fire in the demon’s throat who then disgorged Him unharmed. The demon again attacked Krishna with his sharp beak, and Krishna took the two halves of the beak in His two arms and split the demon in two, killing the demon.

            Chapter Twelve: This chapter describes how the demon Aghasura, the younger brother of Putana and Bakasura, who assumed the form of a great python, expanded to the length of eight miles and grew as high as a mountain. He lay on the road with his mouth wide open, and Krishna’s friends playfully entered into the demon, being curious about the giant form and feeling confident in Krishna’s protection. Finally, Krishna also entered into the mouth of the demon in order to protect His friends, and then expanded His own body to such an extent that the demon suffocated and died, and then brought all of His friends back to life and out of the demon.

            Chapter Thirteen: Here is the story of how Lord Brahma tried to test the potency of Lord Krishna by taking away all of the cows and cowherd boy friends of Lord Krishna. But after keeping them for a year, Brahma returned to find that the cows and boys were still there, only to realize that they were all expansions of Lord Krishna Himself. Then Lord Brahma realized the potency of Lord Krishna and offered the Lord many prayers.

            Chapter Fifteen: Relates how Lord Krishna and Balarama and Their friends wanted to go to the forest of Talavana to enjoy the tasty fruits there, but were afraid to go for fear of the demon Dhenuka who lived there. So Krishna and His friends went anyway. Then Lord Balarama started to shake the trees to bring down the fruits, and also attracted the demon Dhenuka who attacked Balarama, who grabbed the demon’s hind leg and swung him around and threw him into the top of a tree, thus killing him. Then Dhenuka’s friends also attacked, who were also killed by Krishna and Balarama before they could do any harm to Krishna or His friends, who then continued to enjoy the tasty fruits.

            Chapter Sixteen: This relates the story of how the great serpent Kaliya was living in a lake connected with the Yamuna River in the land of Vrindavana, Krishna’s town. The serpent’s presence poisoned the river. So to purify the water again, Krishna jumped from a tree into the water, playing in it which angered the great demon. When the demon appeared, he quickly grabbed Lord Krishna, greatly upsetting all of the residents of Vrindavana who stood on the shore watching. Krishna then expanded Himself so much that the serpent had to relinquish his grip. Krishna then danced on the numerous hoods of the serpent and gradually tired him out until he vomited blood from his mouths. Understanding the power of Krishna as the unlimited Lord Narayana, Kaliya surrendered his position. Krishna then released the serpent and instructed him to leave the Yamuna and return to Ramanaka Island, which some consider to be Fiji.

            Chapter Seventeen: This chapter relates the history of the Kaliya serpent, but also how a forest fire surrounded the residents of Vrindavana who went to Krishna for protection, and who then swallowed the whole fire to relieve the distress of the people.

            Chapter Eighteen: This chapter gives the story of how Lord Balarama killed the demon of Pralamba who entered the group of cowherd boys as one of the boys and then tried to carry Balarama away by placing Him on his shoulders and carrying Balarama away with him. But Balarama became very heavy, forcing the demon to assume his true and huge form whose head reached the clouds. But Balarama struck the demon’s head so hard that it was shattered and the demon fell to the ground.

            Chapter Nineteen: This chapter explains how Lord Krishna saved the cows and cowherd boys by swallowing another fire that had occurred in the Munjaranya Forest.

            Chapter Twenty-three: In this chapter Lord Krishna asked His friends the cowherd boys, who had said they were hungry, to ask for food from a group of Brahmins who were performing a ritual nearby. But the Brahmins were not interested to help them, thinking that Krishna was an ordinary human. Then Krishna told the boys, as friends of Lord Krishna, to ask the wives of the Brahmins for food. The wives, who had heard of Lord Krishna’s superior qualities, were quick to help and provide food. Thus, they were more fortunate than their husbands, who soon returned home and realized the mistake they made by not offering service to Krishna, while their simple wives had more easily cut the bondage to material existence by their attachment to Lord Krishna.

            Chapter Twenty-four & Twenty-five: These chapters relate the famous story of how Lord Krishna stopped the worship of Lord Indra and replaced it with the worship of Govardhan Hill, which is an expansion of Lord Krishna. Then, when Indra saw this, his pride was affected and he brought incessant rain clouds and storms, forcing everyone to take shelter under Govardhan Hill, which Lord Krishna easily held up for seven days with the little finger of his left hand. When Indra saw this he realized the potency of Lord Krishna and came to humbly offer many prayers to Lord Krishna.

            Chapter Twenty-eight: This chapter tells the story of how Lord Krishna’s father, Nanda Maharaja, mistook the time for taking his early morning bath on the special eleventh day of the lunar month, and bathed at what is considered a forbidden time. A servant of Varuna, the demigod of the ocean, saw this and forcibly took Nanda to Varuna himself. Lord Krishna understood what had happened and went to see Varuna who worshiped Him with great festivity and asked that Lord Krishna forgive his foolish servant for taking Nanda Maharaj. Nanda was amazed to see this influence of his son and told the other residents of Vrindavana, who all thought Krishna must be the Supreme Lord. Then they wanted to see His supreme abode, so Krishna made arrangements that they could have that vision.

            Chapter Thirty-four: This relates how Nanda Maharaja was rescued by Krishna from being swallowed by a huge serpent while he was sleeping. Lord Krishna touched the serpent with His foot and the demigod within was immediately released from his reptilian body. He then offered his homage to Lord Krishna after explaining how he had been cursed to take the form of a serpent. Later, during the Dola-purnima festival in the forest, while everyone was involved in merry-making, a servant of Kubera boldly came forward and began abducting the gopis. The girls began to cry out for Lord Krishna who, with Balarama, began to chase after this Sankhachuda. Though he left the girls aside and ran for his life, Krishna swiftly caught up to give him a blow which removed the jewel he was wearing along with his head. Krishna then brought the jewel back for Lord Balarama.

            Chapter Thirty-six: This chapter describes the killing of the Aristasura demon and how he assumed the form of a huge bull with sharp horns in its attempt to kill Krishna and Balarama. When the bull approached the village, everyone was afraid. When the bull charged toward Lord Krishna, He grabbed him by the horns and threw him away. But the bull still wanted to attack. So Krishna threw him to the ground and thrashed him like a pile of wet clothing, which forced the demon to give up his life.

            Chapter Thirty-seven: This chapter gives the stories of the killing of the demons of Keshi and Vyoma. On the order of King Kamsa, who really wanted to kill Krishna, the Keshi demon assumed the form of a huge horse and went to Vraja. When Krishna saw the demon, He challenged the demon to come near. The demon tried to kill Krishna with his front legs, but Krishna seized them and whirled the demon around and threw him one hundred bow-lengths away where he lay unconscious. But when he regained consciousness, the demon again attacked again with his mouth open. Krishna thrust his arm into the demon’s mouth and expanded it until the demon gave up his life. The demigods showered flowers on Lord Krishna, who showed no pride in merely doing the needful.

            Later, the powerful magician Vyoma, another demon also sent by King Kamsa to kill Krishna, entered the area where Krishna and the cowherd boys were playing games. He abducted several of the boys and kept them in a nearby mountain cave. After he took almost all of the boys, Krishna saw what the demon was doing and went after him. He then grabbed him and thrashed him until he gave up his life, and then rescued all of his cowherd friends and returned to the village of Gokula.

            These are accepted as the stories of Lord Krishna’s pastimes, and also indicate various negative qualities that need to be eradicated from our consciousness if we are to enter into the pastimes of Lord Krishna through our meditation, or through the process of bhakti-yoga by which we can, one day, directly enter the spiritual abode of Lord Krishna.

[This article and more information at  www.stephen-knapp.com]

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