Fear kills… but that’s exactly what we need

When commenting on Krishna’s birth, Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakur illuminates the meaning of sad-garbhas, six younger brothers who were killed by Kamsa. Many already know it but let me recapitulate. These sad-garbhas were previously grandchildren of Hiranyakasipu and there were cursed by him to be killed by their father. Their father at the time was Kalanemi who then appeared as Kamsa and killed them one by one in a very cruel and inhuman manner, even though they were not technically his children anymore but were born to Vasudeva and Devaki. I don’t want to clarify this little inconsistency at this point.

The point, made by Visvanatha Cakravarti and summarized by Srila Prabhupada in a comment on SB 10.2.8, is this – Krishna was not going to appear in an ordinary human womb. The womb had to be purified and prepared first. Sad-garbhas, as previously the sons of Marici, were incarnations of six objects of enjoyment – of five senses and the mind, and this enjoyment is incompatible with bhakti. Visvanatha Cakravarti says that this enjoyment naturally arises from executing devotional service – nice music, delicious food, gorgeous deities, incense, stimulating conversations – but it is feared by a sincere devotee, who thinks enjoying these things will suck him into a cycle of birth and death. Therefore this enjoyment has to be destroyed. How? By fear.

Fear itself is incompatible with devotional service, too. In fact, the first thing that should happen to a devotee is that he becomes fearless. Here is where Kamsa comes to help – because he is fear personified. It’s his constant and uninterrupted fear of Krishna that brought him to perfection of his life, and here this fear is employed to kill all kinds of material enjoyment. Outsourced, so to speak.

His previous name, Kalanemi, literally means “the wheel of time” and it further demonstrates his power to end all things, ie kill them, and when time comes for you it appears as fear as well. Understood either way – it’s an external and natural force we have no control over, it’s just how the universe rolls – time comes and things end, nothing we can do about it.

So, what happens is that even if we are attracted by KC lifestyle and life gets pretty good, the fear should arise for us to progress any further. First he fear that this enjoyment is distracting us from bhakti, and then fear manifests externally as the force stripping us of our good karma, otherwise known as Hari – one who takes things away. Practically, it means no more good prasadam, no more sweet kirtans by Jahnavi Harrison or whoever is at the top of our charts now, smell of incense would give us headaches and philosophical discussions into the nature of things will become a huge turn off. And we WILL be afraid of losing these things. And simultaneously afraid of keeping them, too – because we will come to understand they are holding us back.

Next step is the appearance of Lord Balarama, the seventh embryo. It’s Lord Balarama, also known as Lord Nityananda’s mercy, which prepares things for Krishna’s appearance. We have heard it many times – we can’t get Lord Caitanya’s mercy without Lord Nityananda. It’s the law – Balarama, Krishna’s first expansion, has to come and set everything up. Visvanatha Cakravarti gives a list – He has to set nivasa, dwelling place, sayyana – resting place or bed, asana – sitting place, chattra – umbrella, and so on.

Old furniture has to be moved out (sad-garbhas) and new furniture has to be moved in – and not from Ikea but from the spiritual world. I hope self-assembly is not required. Balarama is the “sat” aspect of the absolute truth and “sat” means existence, which is a crucial point – it does not need proof! It simply exist and it’s a proof in itself. We can’t argue that it must be there because we have quotes and logical reasons – they are not a replacement for “sat”. If that’s what we rely on to convince ourselves then it’s cheating – Lord Balarama or Lord Nityananda’s appearance is self-evident and it becomes the source of all other arguments built upon this fact. It replaces the very foundation on which our understanding of the world is build, replaces whatever we currently think is self-evidently true. Like that health is good or money is good or honesty is good or helping others is good or looking after yourself is good. These are all legitimate aspects of the Absolute Truth, taken in a sense of “sat”, but they are only partial and limited representations of it. They become like fireflies in the presence of the Sun.

What happens next is that Krishna makes His entrance (“cit” aspect) and things become extremely clear but, more importantly, now our bhakti (“ananda” or “hladini”) will start growing like mad. Prema bhakti, as Visvanatha Cakravarti specifies, but that is beyond the limits of this article.

One more point I wanted to make is that Devaki provided the womb for the Lord after receiving the seed from Vasudeva’s mind, which is also beyond the limits here, and in a similar way we receive the seed of bhakti from our guru. It takes less than a second for this transmission – lava-matra, to be exact, and then we become like Devaki’s womb – we become the carriers of this seed. We need to uproot all the anarthas, just as sad-garbhas had to be killed, and then the seed of bhakti can start properly gestating. Then Lord Nityananda’s mercy brings us Lord Caitanya and by the mercy of Lord Caitanya the creeper of our bhakti starts to grow, eventually reaching Krishna’s lotus feet up there in Goloka. These two descriptions – the standard one from Caitanya Caritamrita and Visvanatha Cakravarti’s explanation of Krishna’s birth – are talking about one and the same thing that has to happen to all of us. Same principle, same stages, just the point of application is different – one is applied to Devaki and another is applied to our own bodies, which might happen to be male and so incapable of carrying children.

Kamsa threatening Devaki