By Gauranga Darshan Das
“Actually, one cannot go to Vrndavana by purchasing a ticket. The process of going to Vrndavana is shown by Akrura.” – Srila Prabhupada
Akrura had spent the whole night awake discussing about Lord Krsna. Without even breaking his fast, early in the morning, he prepared his chariot and set off for Vrndavana. He had been ordered by the wicked Kamsa, Krsna’s maternal uncle, to bring Krsna and Balarama to Mathura.
Lord Krsna was born as the eighth child of Devaki and Vasudeva in Mathura, but on that very day, Vasudeva transferred Krsna to Gokula. Since then, Krsna lived in Vrndavana with mother Yasoda, Nanda Maharaja, the cows, cowherd boys and girls. Earlier, Kamsa had heard from a celestial voice that he would be killed by the eighth son of Devaki, but Kamsa didn’t know that Krsna was that eighth child. Now Narada Muni revealed it to him and he had immediately sent Akrura to bring Krsna to Mathura. His plan was to kill Krsna, and Akrura was aware of it. Yet he was obliged by the king’s order and he also knew that king Kamsa cannot cause any harm to Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Kamsa offered a new chariot to Akrura to go to Vrndavana, expecting that Akrura would be enthusiastic to drive it. Akrura liked the idea of a new chariot, not so much for himself but because he thought that a chariot already used by Kamsa would be unworthy for Krsna and Balarama to ride.
As Akrura travelled to Vrndavana, he felt tremendous bliss and devotion for the lotus-eyed Krsna and he meditated on his good fortune of entering His abode Vrndavana to see Him. Akrura’s meditation demonstrates the mood of entering Vrndavana and shows the humility, gratitude and aspiration of an ideal devotee. Srila Prabhupada writes in Krsna book Chapter 38, “Akrura’s journey to Vrndavana is exemplary. One who intends to visit Vrndavana should follow the ideal footsteps of Akrura and always think of the pastimes and activities of the Lord.”
Krishna’s Mercy vs. Our Disqualification
An opportunity to visit Vrndavana isn’t an ordinary privilege. Akrura felt himself so unqualified and wondered at this rare happening, “What auspicious acts have I done? What severe austerities have I undergone? What great worship did I do? And what charities did I offer – to see Lord Krsna in Vrndavana today1? I am such a wretched materialistic person absorbed in sense enjoyment!”
A humble devotee who fully has the ability and eligibility to serve the Lord still thinks oneself extremely low and unfit. Yet he or she sometimes accepts such a spiritual privilege, but without false pride. For instance, when Lord Nrsimha-deva was not pacified by the prayers of great demigods and sages, Lord Brahma asked little Prahlada to appease Him. Prahlada felt himself utterly unqualified to do it, especially when great demigods couldn’t do it. Yet he went forward, thinking that he could offer prayers as per his ability, and for his own purification. Similarly, Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami, the celebrated author of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, considered himself lower than worms in stool and more sinful than Jagai and Madhai, yet he wrote that divine literature glorifying Lord Caitanya.
A devotee knows that the Lord’s mercy is greater than his or her own disqualifications. In a similar way, although Akrura considered himself fallen, he kept aside his contemplation of being unfit, and diverted his attention towards the profound merciful nature of the Lord that could uplift anyone from any position. He thought, “Enough of such thoughts about my disqualifications! After all, even a fallen soul like me can have the chance to behold the infallible Supreme Lord (acyuta-darsanam), just as a conditioned soul being swept along in the river of time may sometimes reach the shore.”
The Most Cherished Moments
Lord Krsna promises at the end of Bhagavad-gita that if anyone exclusively takes His shelter, He would protect such a surrendered soul from all sinful reactions. Thus, the devotees keep full faith in Krsna’s words and seek His shelter.
Fully confident of Krsna’s mercy, Akrura spoke, “Today all my sinful reactions have been eradicated and my birth has become worthwhile, since I will offer obeisances to Krsna’s lotus feet, which mystic yogis meditate upon. Simply by the effulgence of His toenails, many souls have transcended the material existence and achieved liberation. Krsna’s lotus feet are worshiped by Brahma, Siva, all the demigods, the goddess of fortune, great sages and Vaisnavas. With those lotus feet, He walks about the Vrndavana forest while herding the cows with His companions.”
Akrura eagerly awaited the moment when he would offer obeisances unto Krsna’s lotus feet in Vrndavana. Even offering obeisances unto Krsna is a greatly divine spiritual act, and not a mere ritual. Krsna is called pranata-pala. The word “pranata” means “surrender” and also “offering obeisances.” Merciful Krsna not only protects (pala) one who surrenders (pranata) unto Him, but also protects one who offers obeisances (pranata) unto Him.
Sometimes, Krsna shows us His mercy even through materialistic and demoniac people. Akrura noted how ironic it was that the envious and cruel Kamsa had given him an extraordinary blessing by sending him to Vrndavana.
Honest Regret After an Unjust Response
When little Dhruva went to the forest alone, Uttanapada lamented for his hardhearted behavior towards Dhruva and Suniti. It was not that Uttanapada didn’t have affection for Dhruva. He certainly loved his son. But due to his excessive attachment towards Suruci, he couldn’t welcome Dhruva or stop Suruci from chastising Dhruva. He honestly regretted for his misdeed. He condemned himself for being a henpecked husband and an irresponsible father. But by this time, Dhruva had already left home!
Some errors are irreversible. We can’t always undo something even if we realize that what we did was inappropriate. Sometimes, although we realize our mistake, and try to rectify, that opportunity has already slipped out of our hands. For instance, after a student has just come out of the examination hall submitting his mathematics answer sheet, even if he realizes that he had used a wrong formula to solve a problem, he can’t rectify it anymore. Similarly, even if a cook realizes that he has put more salt than required in a preparation, he can’t undo it. Having responded with a wrong answer in the interview, an employment seeker cannot go back and prove his knowledge in front of the interviewer.
Wasted time will not come back, and spoken words cannot be taken back. Thus one should be learn to act appropriately on the spur of the moment. That is best.
But the good news is that there is a second-best thing. One can remember one’s mistakes and be cautious not to repeat them in future. Having failed in an exam, a student can be more careful in the next exam. Having spoiled a preparation, a cook can make it better the next day. But the impetus to improve oneself comes from an honest repentance for one’s mistakes and sincere efforts to rectify them.
Uttanapada started treating Suniti with love. When Dhruva returned after attaining benedictions from Lord Visnu, Uttanapada received him with warmth and affection. Noble hearted Suniti didn’t hold any grudges towards Suruci or Uttama, but took them in the same palanquin as herself. Even Suruci gave up her inimical attitude towards Dhruva, and blessed him to live long. Dhruva gave up his grudge towards Suruci and bowed down at her feet. Dhruva gave up his anger towards Uttama and hugged him. When Dhruva grew up, Uttanapada made him the king.
He said, “Indeed, today King Kamsa has shown me extreme mercy by sending me to see Krsna. Though I have been sent by Kamsa to do unfavorable things to the Lord, for me this has been very favorable.”
Akrura saw an auspicious omen—the passing of the deer on his right—and thus felt sure he would see Krsna and anticipated for that moment. He said, “Today my eyes will certainly attain perfection, for I shall see the beautiful face of Lord Mukunda with attractive cheeks, nose, reddish lotus eyes, and framed by curly hair, showering smiling glances. He is the reservoir of all beauty (lavanya-dhama). By His own sweet will that all-powerful Lord has now assumed a humanlike form to relieve the earth of her burden.” The perfection of eyes is to see Lord Krsna, the unparalleled and most enchanting beauty in all the spiritual and material worlds.
Highest Happiness of the World
As he was mediating on the glories of Lord Krsna whom he was about to see, Akrura appreciated the greatness of that process of glorifying the Lord that delivers the entire world.
vaco vimisra guna-karma-janmabhih
prananti sumbhanti punanti vai jagat
yas tad-viraktah sava-sobhana matah
He said, “All sins are destroyed and all good fortune is created by the Supreme Lord’s qualities, activities and appearances, and words that describe these three things animate, beautify and purify the world. On the other hand, words bereft of His glories are like the decorations on a corpse.” (Bhagavatam 10.38.12)
Akrura continued, “That same Supreme Lord is now residing in Vrndavana, spreading His fame, which the demigods glorify and which brings auspiciousness to all. He is the goal and guru of great souls. Seeing Him brings jubilation to all who have eyes, for He is the true beauty of the universe. Now all the dawns of my life have become auspicious.”
The Joy of Spiritual Anticipation
With his heart filled with spiritual excitement, Akrura minutely meditated on the activities he was about to do just after reaching Vrndavana, “I will at once alight from my chariot and bow down to the lotus feet of Krsna and Balarama. Their feet are meditated upon by great mystic yogis striving for self-realization. I will also offer obeisances to the Lords’ cowherd boyfriends and to all the other residents of Vrndavana.” A devotee not only respects and worships the Supreme Lord, but he or she also respects and worships the Lord’s associates and dear devotees.
Due to his devotion, Akrura not only desired to offer obeisances to Krsna, he also desired Krsna’s touch and reciprocation. He said, “And when I have fallen at His feet, the almighty Lord Krsna will place His lotus hand upon my head. That hand bestows fearlessness to those who fervently seek His shelter, being afflicted by the serpent of time. By offering charity to that lotus hand, Bali earned the status of Indra, King of heaven.”
The Lord Never Misunderstands
Akrura was confident that Krsna would never misunderstand him, although he was coming as Kamsa’s messenger. He thought, “The infallible Lord will not consider me an enemy, even though Kamsa had sent me. After all, the omniscient Lord perfectly knows the hearts of everyone. Thus He will cast His smiling, affectionate glance upon me as I remain fixed with joined palms. Recognizing me as an intimate friend and relative, Krsna will embrace me, instantly sanctifying my body and diminishing to nil all my material bondage. Then He will address me, ‘My dear uncle Akrura!’ At that very moment my life’s purpose will be fulfilled.”
Being omniscient, Lord Krsna knew that Akrura was only externally a friend of Kamsa. Internally he was an eternal devotee of Lord Krsna. A genuine devotee who approaches Lord Krsna in His eternal abode of Vrndavana need not have any doubts about the Lord’s mercy. Krsna ignores the external material discrepancies of a devotee’s situation and reciprocates with his or her sincere devotion.
Describing the impartial and reciprocal nature of the Lord, Akrura said, “The Supreme Lord has no favorite, nor does He consider anyone undesirable, despicable or fit to be neglected. He lovingly reciprocates with His devotees in whatever manner they worship Him, just as the heavenly desire trees fulfill the desires of whoever approaches them.”
An ordinary person may have reservations dealing with an ‘enemy’ or anyone from the enemy’s side. But the Supreme Lord never holds any inimical feelings towards a genuine person even though he or she happens to be on the side of the wicked person circumstantially. Although Bhisma fought on the side of wicked Duryodhana, Lord Krsna was always merciful to Bhisma at heart. Krsna showcased to the whole universe, the glory of Bhisma’s knowledge by making him teach various dharmas to Yudhistira Maharaja, and the glory of Bhisma’s devotion by giving him personal audience at the time of his departure. Similarly, Lord Rama gave shelter to Vibhisana, although he was the brother of the proud demon Ravana, who had abducted Rama’s beloved wife Sitadevi. Factually, the Lord never considers anyone His enemy in the first place. He only punishes demoniac people for their purification and to stop their nefarious activities that trouble the innocent.
Ecstasy of Reaching Vrindavan
Akrura’s desires are increasingly greater in succession. He first desired to see and offer obeisances to Krsna, Balarama and the gopas, then he expected the touch of Krsna’s hand, then Krsna’s smiling glance, His embrace and His address and reciprocation.
Deeply absorbed in meditation on Krsna, Akrura did not even notice the road or hurry his horses, but he still reached Vrndavana slowly, at the time of sunset. As soon as he reached Vrndavana, he saw Krsna’s footprints in the dust of the cowherd pasture. The pure dust from those feet of Krsna is held by even Brahma, Siva and other rulers of all planets on their crowns. Those footprints, distinguished by such marks as the lotus, barleycorn and elephant goad, made the ground wonderfully beautiful. The land of Vrndavana kept those foot prints explicitly as her ornaments and they spontaneously manifested to the eyes of the devotees. The gopis glorify the fame of Vrndavana as follows.
vrndavanam sakhi bhuvo vitanoti kirtim
“O friend, Vrndavana is spreading the glory of the earth, having obtained the treasure of the lotus feet of Krsna, the son of Devaki [Yasoda].” (SB 10.21.10)
Increasingly agitated by ecstasy at seeing Krsna’s footprints, Akrura’s bodily hairs stood on end, and his eyes were filled with tears. He jumped down from his chariot and began rolling about among those footprints, exclaiming, “Ah, this is the dust from my master’s feet!”
Srila Prabhupada writes, “As soon as one reaches the boundary of Vrndavana, he should immediately smear the dust of Vrndavana over his body without thinking of his material position and prestige. Srila Narottama dasa Thakura has sung in a celebrated song, visaya chadiya kabe suddha habe mana: ‘When my mind will be purified after leaving the contamination of material sense enjoyment, I shall be able to visit Vrndavana.’” (Krsna Book Ch 38)