New version available here: vedabase.io

Chapter 5: The Vision of Lotuses

namaḥ paṅkaja-nābhāya
namaḥ paṅkaja-māline
namaḥ paṅkaja-netrāya
namas te paṅkajāṅghraye

My respectful obeisances are unto You, O Lord, whose abdomen is marked with a depression like a lotus flower, who are always decorated with garlands of lotus flowers, whose glance is as cool as the lotus, and whose feet are engraved with lotuses.

Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 1.8.22

Here are some of the specific symbolical marks on the spiritual body of the Personality of Godhead which distinguishes His body from the bodies of all others. They are all special features of the body of the Lord. The Lord may appear as one of us, but He is always distinct by His specific bodily features. Śrīmatī Kuntī claims herself unfit to see the Lord because of her being a woman. This is claimed because women, śūdras (the laborer class), and the dvija-bandhus, or the wretched descendants of the higher three classes, are unfit by intelligence to understand transcendental subject matter concerning the spiritual name, fame, attributes, forms, etc., of the Supreme Absolute Truth. Such persons, although they are unfit to enter into the spiritual affairs of the Lord, can see Him as the arcā-vigraha, who descends on the material world just to distribute favors to the fallen souls, including the above-mentioned women, śūdras, and dvija-bandhus. Because such fallen souls cannot see anything beyond matter, the Lord condescends to enter into each and every one of the innumerable universes as the Garbhodaka-śāyī Viṣṇu, who grows a lotus stem from the lotuslike depression in the center of His transcendental abdomen, and thus Brahmā, the first living being in the universe, is born. Therefore, the Lord is known as the Paṅkajanābhi. The Paṅkajanābhi Lord accepts the arcā-vigraha (His transcendental form) in different elements, namely a form within the mind, a form made of wood, a form made of earth, a form made of metal, a form made of jewels, a form made of paint, a form drawn on sand, etc. All such forms of the Lord are always decorated with garlands of lotus flowers, and there should be a soothing atmosphere in the temple of worship to attract the burning attention of the nondevotees always engaged in material wranglings. The meditators worship a form within the mind. Therefore, the Lord is merciful even to the women, śūdras, and dvija-bandhus, provided they agree to visit the temple and worship the different forms made for them. Such temple visitors are not idolaters, as alleged by some men with a poor fund of knowledge. All the great ācāryas established such temples of worship in all places just to favor the less intelligent, and one should not pose himself as transcending the stage of temple worship while one is actually in the category of the śūdras and the women or less. One should begin to see the Lord from His lotus feet, gradually rising to the thighs, waist, chest, and face. One should not try to look at the face of the Lord without being accustomed to seeing the lotus feet of the Lord. Śrīmatī Kuntī, because of her being the aunt of the Lord, did not begin to see the Lord from the lotus feet because the Lord might feel ashamed, and thus Kuntīdevī, just to save a painful situation for the Lord, began to see the Lord just above His lotus feet, i.e., from the waist of the Lord, gradually rising to the face, and then down to the lotus feet. In the round, everything there is in order.

If one sees a lotus flower, one can immediately remember Kṛṣṇa. For example, if one loves one’s child and one sees any of the child’s garments, or his shoes or a small ship or any of his playthings, one will immediately remember the child: “Oh, these are my child’s shoes. These are my child’s playthings. This is his garment.” This is the nature of love. So if one actually loves God, Kṛṣṇa, one can remember Him always.

It is not difficult to remember Kṛṣṇa. Here Kuntīdevī describes Kṛṣṇa with reference to lotus flowers. Similarly, when Kṛṣṇa describes Himself in Bhagavad-gītā, He says, raso ’ham apsu kaunteya: “I am the taste of liquids.” So one can remember Kṛṣṇa by tasting water. Even if one is drinking liquor, if he thinks, “The taste of this drink is Kṛṣṇa,” he will one day turn out to be a great saintly person. So I can request even drunkards to become Kṛṣṇa conscious, what to speak of others, because Kṛṣṇa says, raso ’ham apsu kaunteya: “I am the taste of liquids.” Generally in this context “liquid” is taken to mean water. But liquor is also liquid; it is only sugar and molasses or some other combination fermented and distilled. Of course, it is bad because it creates intoxication. Although in one sense nothing is bad, liquor is bad because it creates bad effects. In America there are many drunkards. There is no scarcity of them. But I may request even the drunkards, “When drinking wine, kindly remember that the taste of this drink is Kṛṣṇa. Just begin in this way, and one day you will become a saintly, Kṛṣṇa conscious person.”

So Kṛṣṇa is available under any circumstances, if we want to catch Him. Kṛṣṇa says in Bhagavad-gītā (10.10):

teṣāṁ satata-yuktānāṁ
bhajatāṁ prīti-pūrvakam
dadāmi buddhi-yogaṁ taṁ
yena mām upayānti te

“To those who are constantly devoted and who worship Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me.” If one is actually very serious in searching for Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa is everywhere. Aṇḍāntara-stha-paramāṇu-cayāntara-sthaṁ govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi (Brahma-saṁhitā 5.35). Kṛṣṇa is present within the universe, within our hearts, and even within the atom. So it is not difficult to find Him, but one must know the process by which to do so. This process is very simple, and by the order of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu we are distributing this process to everyone, without charge. The process is to chant Hare Kṛṣṇa. As soon as one chants Hare Kṛṣṇa, one will immediately understand Kṛṣṇa.

Similarly, simply by hearing or chanting the verses of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, one can be purified. Whatever knowledge exists in the world is present in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. It includes literature, poetry, astronomy, philosophy, religion, and love of Godhead. Śrīmad-bhāgavataṁ pramāṇam amalam. If one simply reads Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, he gains the topmost education, for if one studies Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam he will be well versed in every subject matter. Even if one does not understand a single word of the mantras of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, the vibrations themselves have such power that simply by chanting one will be purified. Śṛṇvatāṁ sva-kathāḥ kṛṣṇaḥ puṇya-śravaṇa-kīrtanaḥ. The word puṇya means “pious,” śravaṇa means “hearing,” and kīrtana means “chanting.” One who chants or hears the verses of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam becomes pious automatically. To become pious one generally has to endeavor a great deal, but if one simply hears the verses of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam or Bhagavad-gītā one becomes pious automatically. Therefore it is a rigid principle in every temple of our Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement that there must be a daily class for hearing and chanting. Our movement is meant for training spiritual leaders, but without hearing and chanting it is impossible to become a leader. Of course, in the material world it is possible, but not in the spiritual world.

mālī hañā sei bīja kare āropaṇa
śravaṇa-kīrtana-jale karaye secana

(Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 19.152)

Hearing and chanting waters the seed of devotional service, which develops one’s original consciousness.

So here, in these prayers, Kuntīdevī, a great devotee, is giving us an opportunity to become Kṛṣṇa conscious simply by concentrating our mind on paṅkaja, the lotus flower. Paṅka means “mud,” and ja means “generate.” Although the lotus flower is generated from mud, it is a most important flower, and Kṛṣṇa likes it very much. Kuntīdevī therefore describes all the parts of Kṛṣṇa’s body with reference to lotus flowers, so that as soon as one sees a lotus flower one will immediately think of Kṛṣṇa: “Oh, Kṛṣṇa’s navel is just like a lotus, and from Kṛṣṇa’s navel grew the stem of the lotus upon which Brahmā, the creator of this universe, was born. This universe includes so many planets, seas, mountains, and cities with motorcars and other paraphernalia, but the entire universe began from that lotus.”

Namaḥ paṅkaja-māline. From Kṛṣṇa comes the wonderful lotus flower that contains the seed of the entire universe. But He is not the source of only one such flower. Kṛṣṇa is not so poor that He simply produces one lotus flower and then is finished. No. Just as there may be a garland with many flowers, Kṛṣṇa is the source of innumerable universes, which may be compared to a big garland of lotuses. This is God. Yasyaika-niśvasita-kālam athāvalambya/ jīvanti loma-vilajā jagad-aṇḍa-nāthāḥ (Brahma-saṁhitā 5.48). Kṛṣṇa is unlimited. We are very much concerned with this one planet, but Kṛṣṇa’s creation contains an unlimited number of planets. We cannot count how many planets there are, any more than one can count how many hairs there are on one’s head. This is the nature of Kṛṣṇa’s creation. To give another example, on one tree there is an unlimited number of leaves. Similarly, there is an unlimited number of planets, and there are unlimited universes. Therefore, Kṛṣṇa is unlimited.

Kṛṣṇa’s navel resembles a lotus, He is garlanded with lotuses, and His eyes are also compared to the petals of a lotus (ālola-candraka-lasad-vanamālya-vaṁśī, Brahma-saṁhitā 5.31). So if we simply think of only this one verse, which describes Kṛṣṇa’s body with reference to the lotus, we can meditate our whole life on how beautiful Kṛṣṇa is, how wise Kṛṣṇa is, and how Kṛṣṇa manifests His creation. This is meditation – thinking of Kṛṣṇa. Dhyānāvasthita-tad-gatena manasā paśyanti yam-yoginaḥ. A yogī is one who always thinks of Kṛṣṇa.

Those who think of something impersonal are not yogīs. Their meditation simply involves undergoing more and more labor (kleśo ’dhikataras teṣām avyaktāsakta-cetasām), and they cannot reach anything substantial. Therefore after meditation they say, “Come on, give me a cigarette. Come on, my throat is now dry. Give me a cigarette.” That is not meditation. Meditation means thinking of Kṛṣṇa always (satataṁ cintayanto mām) and endeavoring to advance in Kṛṣṇa consciousness with a firm vow (yatantaś ca dṛḍha-vratāḥ).

We have to be purified. Paraṁ brahma paraṁ dhāma pavitraṁ paramaṁ bhavān. Because Kṛṣṇa is pure, we cannot approach Kṛṣṇa impurely. But if we think of Kṛṣṇa always and meditate upon Kṛṣṇa, then we shall be purified. Puṇya-śravaṇa-kīrtanaḥ. That meditation can be possible by hearing and chanting, and then thinking of Kṛṣṇa will automatically come. That is the process of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ smaraṇam. The word smaraṇam means “remembering.” If we chant and hear, then remembrance will automatically come, and then we shall engage in worshiping Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet (sevanam). Then we shall engage in the temple worship (arcanam) and offering prayers (vandanam). We shall engage ourselves as Kṛṣṇa’s servants (dāsyam), we shall become Kṛṣṇa’s friends (sakhyam), and we shall surrender everything to Kṛṣṇa (ātma-nivedanam). This is the process of Kṛṣṇa consciousness.