The Avatara descends on the earth
There are debates on the existence of God, and these debates will continue because God, the Invisible, does not oblige the debaters by making himself visible to them.
But even among those who have mysteriously seen Him in one form or another, there have been debates whether God, even if Omnipotent, has the capability of incarnation in this physical world.
Even those who have heard the stories of Rama and Krishna and Buddha and Christ with astonishment and adoration, and seen in their lives the marvel of their incarnation, debate if incarnations know that they are incarnations, and if so, whether right from their birth or at advanced stages of maturity and ripeness in their wisdom and in their deeds. We shall leave these debates for the debaters, and we shall not allow our story of the mystery of the Divine Love that Krishna manifested in Brindavan to be diluted but allow our soul to experience what those in Gokul and Brindavan felt and knew of that playful Child, of that captivating Youth, of that Flute Player and of that Divine Lover whose charm, whose speech, whose music and whose dance was a constant demonstration that, indeed, the whole life of the world can be seen, experienced and recreated as a perpetual scene of million forms of Divine intimacy, nudity, purity and ineffable bliss. Let us turn to that delightful story, which tells us that Krishna was conscious even in his childhood that he, indeed, was the master of Delight from whom have arisen all manifestations, and that he had incarnated himself in the human form for
Krishna's birth, Nandalal Bose
a work that he as the leader of the world manifestation had to accomplish.
The story of Sri Krishna begins with an event much before his birth.
More than five thousand years ago, in the kingdom of Mathura in Northern India, the king Ug-rasena ruled his people and protected them with due care. His son Kamsa, however, was ambitious; he usurped the kingdom and imprisoned his father taking the reins of government in his heavy and oppressive hands. However, he had great love for his sister, Devaki, and so drove the chariot himself for his sister and her husband, Vasudeva, soon after their wedding ceremony.
On the way, as he was driving the chariot, a voice was heard, thundering, as it were, from the high heavens: "The eighth child of Devaki will slay you." Enraged and threatened, he sent away Vasudeva and Devaki into a prison from where escape was impossible. Thereafter every child that was born to Devaki, he killed. When the eighth child was to be born, he had arranged a constant vigil so that immediately on its birth he could come to the prison and slaughter him and thus belie the prediction that that child was to be his slayer.
But the birth of the eighth child was to be the incarnation of the Supreme Lord. He was to be born where instantaneous death awaited him, and he had to defeat death through circumstances that can occur only rarely and miraculously. Rarely would jailors slacken their vigil, but on that occasion, they were fast asleep. Rarely could there be facility for escape where the
doors of the prison were tightly closed and locked. But when Vasudeva put the child in a basket and reached the doors of the prison, they flung open. He could thus escape and rush towards Gokul even though there was torrential rain and even though there was no boat to carry the father and the child to the safety of Gokul, as the river was in spate.
Human life appears to be ruled by iron law, and we seem to be living in prisons, which are so tightly locked that we cannot escape. And yet, all those who have experienced profundities of life have witnessed the truth of fairy tales, where prison locks suddenly open up exactly at the moment when there is such an imperative need, when escape must be effected. Fairy tales are tales of the deepest cry of the soul and the miraculous answer of the Spirit that is ever free and has the potency to respond to that cry and to turn the prison into a garden of freedom and constant play, a constant Li/a. That young child that was born was the Spirit, the ever-free Player, who had heard the inmost cry of humanity that was knocking the prison doors from where escape was impossible and indispensable. If, therefore, the tales of the life of that young infant appear to be anecdotes of a story of impossible miracles, we need to listen to it as a fairy tale of the play between the iron law and the law of the Spirit, which all true authors of fairy tales have experienced.
How is it that precisely at the time of the birth of the Spirit there was torrential rain that could prevent the escape of the infant? How is it that the father, carrying the infant, had escaped through the prison gates, which though locked, yet were miraculously opened? Circumstance upon circumstance in the story was a confrontation with impossibility and yet, the law of the circumstance broke at the touch of the Spirit. The river Yamuna was in spate, and that river had to be crossed, if the infant had to be led to safety. And lo and behold! the river parted and made way for the journey of the father, Vasudeva, who carried the infant in a basket on his head. However, the infant needed protection from the heavy rain if he was to survive, and
Vasudeva takes the infant Krishna across the Yamuna river, Pahari miniature
according to the story, a serpent spread its hood on the top of the basket to serve as an umbrella. The river was crossed, and the father arrived at Gokul to the house of his friend and Gokul's chieftain, Vasudeva, to whose house he had safe entry. And why, at that very moment a daughter had been born to Yashoda, the wife of Vasudeva! A story of the truth of the internal play of the world was being woven with some kind of sureness even as uncertainty lay in all the four directions. We are told that Vasudeva was able to place his young infant in place of the newborn child of Yashoda who had fainted immediately after the birth of her child. He was able to take the newborn girl away and return to the prison house well in time where she could be placed in the hands of his wife. It was only on the cry of that little girl that the jailors were awakened, who without losing time could run to inform Kamsa.
Many incidents of Krishna's infancy have been described in the Bhagavata Purana, Harivamsa and Vishnu Purana. Puranic stories are symbolic, and although they narrate truthfully the
inner reality of spiritual events and experiences, their external descriptions need to be read with deeper sensitivity to symbolism. The sense of the miraculous that we feel in these stories should not be minimized, since the operation of the spiritual in the material is perennially miraculous. We can derive true delight of meaning and significance, when we study these stories and try to understand the miraculous events behind the veil of physical events.
The playfulness of Krishna that is depicted in all the stories that describe his childhood is not mere naughtiness but the bubbles and waves of the Ocean of Supreme Delight (Ananda) that was incarnated in this little boy of Gokul. That Delight is the very sap of the life of men and women and of all living creatures and even of the material universe. To see Krishna, therefore, was for all those surrounding him indescribable intoxication. To Yashoda, his foster mother, and to Nanda, his foster father, Krishna was as if a jar of sweet nectar, and to embrace the young child was for them an immortalizing experience; every embrace desired eternity. Krishna was utter fulfillment, every glance of that child gave a secret message to them that the whole world is a continuous sport and that every experience of life can be metamorphosed as spontaneously and as easily as one can shift one glance to another. How sweet was that Krishna! How soft was that Krishna! How beautiful and wonderful and so captivating! For Yashoda and Nanda, Krishna was the center and circumference of their life and all that was spread within the circle and outside it.
It is said that an evil demoness Putana was sent by King Kamsa to destroy that imperishable Ananda, to kill that wonderful child. Putana entered Krishna's bedroom and took Krishna on her lap and offered him her poison-smeared breast to suck. Krishna squeezed it and sucked away both the poison and her life. Putana cried out and her very life force flowed out from her body. It is said that Putana, dying, assumed her huge demoniac form. Her dead body has symbolically been described as a
Once, Yashoda placed Krishna, who was still a baby, in the cradle under a household cart in the courtyard in front of her house. Actually the handcart was a form of a demon, Shakatas-ura, who had come there to kill the child. When nobody was around, Krishna struck the cart with his little legs as soft as tender leaves, and the cart turned over violently and collapsed. When Yashoda and Nanda heard the crashing sound, they rushed out of the house and wondered how the cart had collapsed by itself. Many cowherd men and women gathered at the scene, and the small children who were playing around the cart said that the cart had been kicked apart by baby Krishna. But who were aware of the potent force in that baby, and how could they believe that that baby could do what even a strong man would have found difficult to do?
The life of the Spirit is a constant threat to demons and monsters. But the life of the Incarnate Spirit is an even greater threat. If one demon could not succeed in destroying that small body of the Incarnate, the Lord of Bliss, there was another demon ready to kill that infant. Now was the turn of the demon called Tri-navarta who appeared in the form of a whirlwind, just when Yashoda who had been fondling Krishna seated in her lap had put him down on the ground finding him strangely very heavy, too heavy to hold. Trinavarta lifted the seated baby and carried him high into the air. The fierce whirlwind engulfed the whole of Gokul in a cloud of dust making a frightful sound and plunging Gokul in darkness. The mother Yashoda was unable to find her child and lamented pitifully like a cow that has lost its calf.
The demon Trinavarta took Krishna very high in the sky with his tempestuous force. It is said that Krishna became heavier and heavier and the demon could no more carry the infant. The unique child held him fast by the neck and he collapsed, and fell down dead. The baby was lying on the chest of the dead demon, whose monstrous body lay shattered in smithereens. The gopis and gopas witnessed this with astonishment and restored the
baby to his mother Yashoda who had been lamenting piteously and now was overjoyed at the recovery of her son. It is said that all present were thrown into paroxysms of joy at getting back the blessed infant sound in body, and extricated from the jaws of death as it were.
One day Yashoda was seated in her house with the child in her lap suckling her breast. As the mother watched, the face of the child wreathed in smiles at the end of the feeding, he yawned, and lo! the mother saw in it the whole universe. The sky, the earth and the heaven, the celestial luminaries, the quarters, sun, moon, fire, air, oceans, continents, mountains — all these and many other things, moving and unmoving, the mother saw in the baby's mouth. Yashoda trembled with awe and wonder on seeing the whole universe in a trice and to shield herself, closed her eyes.
Let us hear further stories from the texts selected from the Bhagavata Purana, Harivamsa Purana and the Vishnu Mahapu-rana. Some of these stories are related not only to Sri Krishna but also to his elder brother Balarama (often called Rama), since both grew up together right from the early days.