Gopala to Govinda
Sadhguru tells us how Krishna, at the age of 16, was reminded of his life’s mission, and the few hours he spent atop Mount Govardhan.
By the time he was 16, Krishna had established himself as a beacon of clarity and intelligence in his community. Even the older folk, looked to him for advice. Just when it looked like he would marry Radhe and become the leader of the community, he was reminded of his life’s mission.
Sadhguru: At Vrindavan, there was a small pool where a particular snake called Kaliya lived. He was terror for everyone because he lived there with his whole brood of snakes. Anyone who went there were bitten by these snakes and died. Even the animals would be bitten if they went there to drink because the snakes had overpopulated in the small pond.
One day, the boys took the cows there and some of the cows were bitten and they fell dead. The cowherd boys started crying because they were afraid to go home now with a few dead cows. They would get the thrashing of their life. So Krishna said, “Enough is enough. Let me handle this snake.” Krishna just dived into the pool and people thought this would be the end of him. Because of the ripples that he caused, the snake swam towards him immediately. He caught hold of it and swam to the shore and really subdued the snake. They say Krishna had a way with animals all the time, just as he had a way with men and women. He took this big snake away and let it out somewhere, and all the other snakes followed it.
In India, there are people who can handle snakes. They will just sit and utter certain mantras and do certain things, and a hundred snakes will gather in front of him. He will catch all of them and put them in a sack and take them away. In one afternoon, he will have a whole sack full of snakes. These things are normally known to certain people who live in nature and it is so much a part of Indian culture. Krishna gathered the snakes and let them out somewhere, freeing the lake of the snakes. This became a very big event in his life and people thought this was a miracle of miracles because he just took away all the poisonous snakes that everyone was terrified of.
While he was struggling with the big snake in the pool, the rest of the cowherd boys had run to the village and told everyone, “Krishna has jumped into the pond with the deadly snakes.” So, the whole village had come running and everyone was shocked and awestruck with what was happening. When he came out of the pool, Radhe screamed, ran and hugged him, and fainted. The village elders saw the way this girl was going all out for this boy, and thought it was improper. From that day, her family restrained Radhe in the house and she was dying within herself because she could not go and dance and play with Krishna. When she hears the flute and the Raas Leela going on, she just could not contain herself and tried to run away. So, they tied her to the bed.
The next full moon night, she heard the flute and she just couldn’t contain herself. She was almost in a condition where she wanted to leave her body and go there. Krishna realized her longing and the pangs that she was going through, so he came with Udhava and Balarama, climbed the roof, opened the tiles, slowly slipped down and untied her. Balarama hung down from the roof and lifted both of them up and they went away, and a whole night of dancing happened. The next morning when her mother looked in, she was right there sleeping in the cot.
After this happened, Krishna expressed to his mother that he wanted to marry Radhe. Yashodha was totally against it, “She is not an appropriate girl for you. She is five years older than you and she is already betrothed to someone who is in Kamsa’s army. He has gone to fight in a war, and when he comes back he will claim his bride. You cannot marry that girl and she is not the kind of daughter-in-law I am looking for anyway. She is lowborn, she is just a cowgirl. You are the chief’s son. We must find an appropriate bride for you.” Krishna said, “I don’t know all these things about appropriateness. From the moment she saw me she has loved me and has lived in me. I want to marry this girl.”
This argument went on between mother and son, and finally the mother had nothing else she could say so she reported to the father. “This boy wants to marry that girl. She is so bold and goes around the village dancing with all the boys.” Nanda was a very kind-hearted man and was totally in awe of his son. He tried to speak to him but Krishna insisted. Nanda thought it was time to take Krishna to Gargacharya. They went to Gargacharya and his disciple, who was to be Krishna’s teacher, Sandhipaani was also there. They spoke to Krishna and said, “Your purpose in life is different. It has been prophesized that you are the deliverer; you are the savior of Dharma in this world. So you are not to marry this cowgirl. You have a calling.”
Krishna replied, “What kind of calling is this about dharma? You want me to establish dharma but is it right to start this campaign for dharma with adharma? You are talking about establishing righteousness in the society. Is it good to start this with an unrighteous act?”
Gargacharya asked him, “Whoever asked you to do something unrighteous?”
Krishna told him, “Nine years ago when I was tied to a mortar, when this girl came and set her eyes upon me, from that moment I have been the source of her life. Her heart beats for me. Every cell in her body beats for me. Not for one moment has she lived without me. If she doesn’t see me for a day she is half dead. She has completely lived in me and I have lived in her. If I go away now she will definitely die. When I was in the pool with that snake, if I had died there, I would have left many broken hearts in this village, I know that. But Radhe would have died right there.”
Gargacharya asked Krishna, “Are you not exaggerating this whole thing?”
Krishna said, “No, I am not exaggerating. This is the truth. I know this is the truth.”
“You are the deliverer. You are supposed to do many things in the world.”
“I don’t wish to be a deliverer. I just love the cows and the bulls, the men and the women, the boys and the girls and the mountain and the trees here. I don’t wish to go and deliver anything. I am in love with the people and things around here. I don’t want to save anybody. I just want to live here.”
Then Gargacharya thought it was time to reveal the truth about Krishna’s birth. He spoke about the prophecy that Naradamuni had made and revealed to him for the first time that he was not Nanda’s and Yashodha’s son. He had been living with them since birth and when Gargacharya suddenly told him he was not their child, he just stood there silently for a while. There had always been something stirring up within himself which he had brushed aside and gone on with the life that was happening. The moment they said this, so many things came up within him and he went through a whole metamorphosis within himself. He requested Gargacharya to tell him more. Gargacharya said, “Narada has clearly identified you. All the signs indicate that it is you. Everything is right, you are that person that has been talked about by many sages. The date, time and place was fixed and you fit into all that. It can’t be wrong.”
Krishna was deeply committed to the community that he was living in. He was in a deep sense of love and involvement with the people around him but this whole revelation that he did not belong here, that he was someone else’s son and was destined to do something else, descended upon him with such force, he just stood there silently and then slowly walked towards Mount Govardhan. He just walked up to the topmost point and stood there looking at the setting sun. Suddenly, a tremendous sense of empowerment went through him. This was his moment of enlightenment and reminder. He just stood there for many hours realizing and experiencing so much within himself. When he walked down that hill he was a completely different person altogether. That playful cowherd was gone. Suddenly, there was a new serenity about him. There was a completely new sense of dignity and divinity about him. When he walked down, all these days these people who just played with him and enjoyed his dance and music began to bow down to him, not knowing what they were doing. He knew he had to leave.
Editor’s Note: Sadhguru explores the life and path of Krishna. Watch the Leela series, available as a free webstream – one part every week.