Vanity thought #1273. Enough of Puranas

So I’ve read the Tulasī Devī story from Devī Bhāgavata and then from Brahma Vaivarta Purana. However, I can’t find the full text of the latter, only the first two Cantos, while the curse of Lord Viṣṇu appears in the third. It’s a bummer but what can I do? I’m not going to pay for something so inconsequential to devotional service.

This page skips the Śankhacūda’s war with the demigods and gets straight to the “juicy” part – sex. This page does the whole story but it lacks references to actual chapters from the Puraṇa and, though close, it doesn’t look like it’s from the same book. In any case, both narratives are very close to Devī Bhāgavata and what’s worse, the second one names Sudāmā as Kṛṣṇa’s cursed friend who got born as Śankhacūda and not Śrīdāmā as described in the beginning of Brahma Vaivarta Purana.

Perhaps I should be satisfied with what I found and, to be honest, I don’t see the need to find even more discrepancies or more deviations from our siddhānta. What’s that going to change? I’ve seen enough, I think.

This story has implications for our understanding of the spiritual reality, for the question of jīva falldown, and for the comparative value of various pramāṇas. After considering the all three and all that I have read my conclusion is that it’s irrelevant. Both of the Puraṇas, Devī Bhāgvata and Brahma Vaivarta, add nothing of value and nothing concrete.

The authority of Devī Bhāgavata is highly questionable, Brahma Vaivarta is one of the eighteen major puraṇas but it’s listed under puraṇas in the mode of passion. It’s also one of the puraṇas that left Śrīla Vyāsadeva deeply unsatisfied because they didn’t disclose neither the glory of the Lord nor the glory of devotional service. What’s the value of reading them then? Like at all.

Mahābhārata is also one of those, however, and it contains Bhagavad Gītā so some value must be there but let’s be practical – Bhagavat Gītā comprises less than one percent of the Mahābhārata and there are only a few other verses that are worth remembering there. This means that out of eighteen thousand ślokas of Brahma Vaivarta only two hundred could be of any use.

If we look at the quotes of our ācāryas the actual number is far far less. Śrīla Prabhupāda, for example, quoted only two ślokas from it himself and also one other passage mentioned by Madhvācārya. He did, however, wrote the following (CC Madhya.6.137):

    The Purāṇas that are especially meant for Vaiṣṇavas (such as the Brahma-vaivarta Purāṇa, Nāradīya Purāṇa, Viṣṇu Purāṇa and Bhāgavata Purāṇa) are also Vedic literature. Therefore, whatever is stated in such Purāṇas or in the Mahābhārata and Rāmāyaṇa is self-evident.

There’s also the fact that he mentioned Brahma Vaivarta Puraṇa on numerous occasions without giving quotes, mostly for factual information – predictions about Kali Yuga, Śukadeva Gosvāmī being liberated even in the womb of his mother etc.

The story of Tulasī Devī as in appears there, however, is not mentioned by any of our ācāryas whatsoever, not even by the Six Gosvāmīs.

This leads me to only one conclusion – we shouldn’t try to learn from the Puraṇas ourselves. Whatever important information that is there has already been extracted by our ācāryas and we should be satisfied with that, just like we don’t need to study Mahābhārata to find our own supplements to Bhagavad Gītā.

Another point, while the Puraṇa as we have it now might contain factual information it still does not inspire devotional service and treats the spiritual world from a material point of view, describing its glories in terms of material opulence, as was obvious from the long description of Goloka I pasted yesterday.

Thing is, even if I memorize the number of palaces there, their locations, or exact sizes of various regions in Goloka it won’t bring me any closer to Vṛndāvana. Nor reading about sexual pastimes of the Lord and His devotees will bring me closer to their lotus feet. Some believe it would but I strongly disagree – such topics must be presented by pure devotees absolutely free from material contamination. I base this argument on the same principle as why hearing Śrīmad Bhāgavatam becomes poisonous if we listen to it as told by non-devotees. They can’t bring us Kṛṣṇa, only an empty shell made up of our material imagination. Exactly like what Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī said about non-believers visiting the dhamas.

Reading from Puraṇas on our own would only conceal the spiritual reality from us, and only hearing at the feet of our guru would reveal it.

As far as jīva falldown is concerned – our opponents would say that Tulasī and Sudāmā (or Śridāmā) are eternally liberated souls who never fall under the influence of māyā and their appearance and pastimes here are governed by Lord’s internal potency. They never fall down in a true sense. They would also say that as this story doesn’t appear anywhere in the writings of our ācāryas it shouldn’t be considered as authoritative.

I suppose we can argue against those points, too, but the result will be inconclusive and a matter of interpretation or conjecture. In the end we won’t convince anyone but ourselves, and the same will hold for our opponents.

Personally, I’m not comfortable with all those curses flying in all directions. Tulasī cursing all of her own children even when six of them weren’t there to disrupt her union with Kṛṣṇa is bizarre at best and sounds like a total fabrication at worst. They were born as oceans and this means they fell into the domain of mahāmāyā. Tulasī could have been born here to get Lord Nārāyaṇa as her husband but what about those boys? Even Tulasī had to live as a wife of Śankhacūda for the duration of one manvantara before Kṛṣṇa came to have sex with her once.

It’s all too contradictory and confusing to be taken seriously.

This means that the value of puraṇas as pramāṇa is questionable, too. In the past couple of hundred years lots of them could have been corrupted beyond recognition and some could have been written from the ground up. All publication was done under the supervision of the British and god knows what they have done with the manuscripts, lots of our modern versions are based only on what British printed in order to prove that Vedic literature was inferior.

I would say that we should leave puraṇas as they have been presented by our ācāryas, our knowledge of Vedic literature is simply incomparable to that of the Six Gosvāmīs or Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī. We shouldn’t reinvent the bicycle. Every time we bring something not mentioned in the Gosvāmīs’ books we are being challenged by our opponents, be it the curse of Tulasī story or predictions about the Golden Age.

I appreciate devotees collecting these stories and presenting them in strictly devotional light but that doesn’t make them true. These might be insignificant errors comparing to the increase in devotion in our hearts but the baggage adds up, and we like these stories precisely because of this baggage, we like the stories themselves. Devotion we can pick up in Prabhupāda’s books, we don’t need puraṇas for that.

Vanity thought #1272. Other evidence

There is another source of Tulasī Devī story and, perhaps, looking at it could redeem the bad taste left by reading Devī Bhāgavata. It’s all a bit confusing because I don’t know what to trust. Unlike Devī Bhāgavata, Brahma Vaivarta Puraṇa is one of the eighteen major ones and it has been extensively quoted in our literature. On the other hand, there is no authorized English translation of it and no one knows whether the text found on the internet can be trusted, ie it’s the same book our ācāryas had quoted from.

Brahma Vaivarta Puraṇa has eighteen thousands verses, just like Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, and it consists of four Cantos covering Lord Brahmā and his sons, Prakṛti, ie goddes of the śaktis, the part about Gaṇeśa, and the last part is about Kṛṣṇa’s appearance on Earth.

Interestingly, the whole puraṇa practically starts with the Tulasī story, from the second chapter on. It starts with a description of the quarrel between Śrīdāmā, not Sudāmā, as in Devī Bhāgavata, and Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. I don’t know if this distinction is important, both Sudāmā and Śrīdāmā are Kṛṣṇa’s best friends and they probably play similar roles, it could have been either of them. To get the name wrong, however, is still suspicious.

Brahma Vaivarta Puraṇa starts with adding one more curse to Tulasī story – Śrīdāmā also cursed Śrī Rādhā to be born as a gopī on Earth and Kṛṣṇa had to console her that it would be okay. I don’t know what is it with devotees in Goloka cursing each other to be born in the material world as if it’s nothing. One could say that these curses are still rare and can’t be accounted for the entire population of the universe but who knows, each of these personalities is accompanied by millions and millions or friends and servants and we have no idea if they don’t curse each other as well, following the examples of their masters. There’s also the point that pastimes in the spiritual world are replayed again and again unlimited number of times and if every time someone gets cursed the numbers must eventually add up. I just don’t like the idea at all – not a leaf was supposed to fall from Vaikuṇṭha, right?

Moving on, after being cursed Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī got the opportunity to get back at Śrīdāmā and the third chapter describes the episode with her catching Kṛṣṇa enjoying with Viraja and Śrīdāmā paying the price. In this version Rādhārāṇī’s friends first spotted them together and informed her about it. She went to the place but Viraja turned into a river while Kṛṣṇa simply disappeared. After Śrī Rādhā was gone Kṛṣṇa reappeared and plead with Viraja to turn back into a woman again. Then they had sex and Viraja became pregnant. I don’t know what to think about it, no comment. It’s just gross.

A hundred years have passed and finally she gave birth to seven sons. How that works in the spiritual world I do not know, so far the Puraṇa hasn’t given any explanations on the nature of Goloka. Then it gets worse.

One time Viraja was having fun with Kṛṣṇa but her youngest son came to sit on her laps. While she was attending to him Kṛṣṇa got up and left for Rādhā’s place. When Viraja realized that Kṛṣṇa was gone she cursed her son to be born on Earth as a salt water ocean no one would drink water from. Then she cursed the other six boys for good measure, too. They weren’t even there, this stuff is unbelievable.

That’s the story of the seven oceans, at least the older boys got to be made of sugarcane juice or milk so there was that going for them.

Back in the Goloka, Viraja realized that she was unfair and she started crying for her children, but then Kṛṣṇa came back and she forgot all about it. What kind of motherly love is that? After a new round of pastimes with Kṛṣṇa everything was back to normal but Rādhā’s spies caught them and told Rādhā all about it. When Kṛṣṇa and Śrīdāmā showed at her place she was very angry and told Kṛṣṇa to get lost, find Himself another girl, follow Viraja and become a river, too, and so on. Her servants would simply not let Him enter and Kṛṣṇa had to go to some other gopī’s house.

That’s when Śrīdāmā got angry, too. He started to describe Kṛṣṇa’s glories and in the end said that Rādhā and all her friends are in His dominion, too, so she has no right to speak to Kṛṣṇa this way. Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī couldn’t tolerate being lectured, compared Śrīdāmā to a demon, and cursed him to be born as Śankhācūda.

In response, Śrīdāmā compared her to an ordinary woman and cursed her to be born on ordinary woman’s womb. He said that she would have Kṛṣṇa’s company in Vṛndāvana but after that she would suffer in separation for one hundred years. This was probably the curse mentioned in the previous chapter but who’s counting?

The next chapter changes the subject but it describes Goloka and is very informative in this regard. It started with the goddess of the Earth complaining to Lord Brahmā about the weight of the sinners she had to carry. Lord Brahmā took her to Lord Śiva, then they went to Yamarāja, then, as the company grew bigger and bigger, they went ot Vaikuṇṭha where they saw Lord Hari, then Lord Hari told them to go even higher, to Goloka itself. According to Brahma Vaivarta Puraṇa that’s where the world ends and so there’s nothing for me to object, except to the ability of the demigods in Lord Brahmā’s posse to ever go there, or even to Vaikuṇṭha, but it was on Lord Hari’s order so it shouldn’t be a big deal.

The demigods (there were probably a dozen of them at that point) went to the shore of the Viraja river but only three of them crossed it to the actual Goloka.

I’ll just leave the text as it appears here. There are over a hundred verses in this escription and it’s not the end yet, but it’s impressive enough. What I find the most interesting is the number of various servants and their servants with all their āśramas. They went from place to place and everywhere there were billions and billions of houses and palaces. This should give us hope that there might be a place for us somewhere there, too. There’s a place with a billion of āśramas specifically for those who achieved perfection by chanting Lord’s names on Earth, for example, so it should work.

    After gazing at this place, the (three) demigods crossed to the farther shore, where they saw a beautiful mountain with a hundred peaks,…

    …splendid with parijata trees, filled with kalpavrksa trees and surabhi cows,…

    …ten million yojanas high, ten times as long, and five hundred millions yojanas wide,…

    …on its peak a beautiful walled rasadance circle ten yojanas across,…

    …with a thousand gardens of fragrant blossoming flowers attended by swarms of black bees,…

    …splendid with jewelled pastime palaces and with a thousand multiplied by ten million jewel pavilions,…

    …splendid with jewel staircases, beautiful jewel domes, and a splendid emerald pillar studded with rubies and its middle decorated with beautiful sapphires,…

    …splendid with jewel walls and four gates of many jewels,…

    …with many mango trees tied with diamonds, and with many banana trees,…

    …with the leaves of whiterice plants, with fruits, and with durva grass, anointed with sandal, aguru, musk and kunkuma,…

    …filled, O sage with many millions of youthful gopis decorated with jewel ornaments, splendid with jewel necklaces,…

    …decorated with jewel bracelets, armlets, and anklets, their cheeks splendid with jewel earrings,…

    …their fingers beautifully decorated with jewel rings, their toes splendid with a network of jewels,…

    …decorated with jewel ornaments, splendid with jewel crowns, their nostrils splendidly decorated with a gajendrapearl ornament,…

    …the place below their curly hair splendid with a dot of red sindura, their complexions the colour of beautiful campaka flowers, (their limbs) anointed with sandal paste,…

    …dressed in yellow garments, their beautiful lips bimba fruits, the splendour of their faces eclipsing the autumn moonlight,…

    …their eyes eclipsing the beauty of lotuses blooming in autumn, their eyes glistening with black kajjala and designs drawn in musk,…

    …their braids decorated with malata blossoms that attract black bees greedy for nectar,…

    …their graceful motions defeating the elephants and khanjana birds, the crooked motions of their curved eyebrows suggesting a slight smile,…

    …splendid with teeth like ripe pomegranate seeds, decorated with raised noses opulent like the king of birds’ beak,…

    …their heavy breasts like the elephant king’s cheeks, their thighs firm and their hips broad,…

    …their hearts wounded by Kama’s arrows, passionately yearning to gaze on the full moon of (Lord Krsna’s) face…

    …(their forms) beautiful, attached to serving Sri Radha’s lotus feet, and by Radha’s order engaged in protecting that place,…

    …which was always filled with a hundred thousand pastime lakes filled with red and white lohita lotuses, splendid padma lotuses, sweetly humming black bees,…

    …and which had a thousand gardens of blossoming flowers and many forest cottages with couches of flowers,…

    …betel nuts and camphor, jewel lamps, white camaras,…

    …and wonderful, beautiful, and colourful flower garlands. O sage, after seeing this rasa dance circle, the (three) demigods left that mountain.

    Then they saw RadhaKrsna’s favourite forest, which was named Vrndavana forest, which was extraordinarily beautiful and charming,…

    …which was a place where Radha and Krsna enjoyed pastimes, which was filled with kalpavrksa trees and gentle breezes carrying drops of water from the shore of the Viraja river,…

    …which was fragrant with musk designs everywhere, filled with new sprouts and with the cooing of cuckoos,…

    …beautiful with somewhere kelikadamba trees, somewhere mandara trees, somewhere sandal trees, and somewhere campaka trees,…

    …scented with fragrant flowers of mango, nagaranga and panasa trees,…

    …filled with forests of tala, coconut, jambu, badari, kharjura,…

    …guvakamrataka, jambira, banana, sriphala, and pomegranate trees, O Narada,…

    …splendid with many piyala, sala, and banyan trees, with many trees bearing ripe tala fruits,…

    …with many beautiful nimba, salmali, tintidi, and with other kinds of trees,…

    …splendid with many kalpavrksa trees everywhere, with mallika, malati, kunda, ketaki, and madhavi vines,…

    …with many yuthika flowers, with five hundred million forest cottages, O sage,…

    …with jewel lamps, with decorations fragrant with incense, with fragrant breezes,…

    …and with beds made of flowers decorated with a network of flower garlands and scented with sandal filled with sweet sounds of bees greedy for nectar,…

    …filled with gopis beautifully decorated with jewel ornaments, by Radha’s order protected by five hundred million gopis,…

    …filled with thirtytwo forests of which beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, secluded Vrndavana is the best,…

    …filled, O sage, with many perfectly ripe, sweet, delicious fruits, filled with many cows and barns,…

    …filled with a thousand fragrant gardens of blossoming flowers (attracting) hosts of bees greedy for nectar,…

    …and splendid with the jewel homes of five hundred million gopas whose forms were like Sri Krsna’s.

    After gazing at beautiful Vrndavana, the (three) demigods went to circular Goloka, which was ten million yojanas in size,…

    …which was surrounded by a jewel wall with four gates protected by many gopa gatekeepers,…

    …and which had five hundred million asramas of Lord Krsna’s servants, asramas studded with jewels and filled with many delightful things,…

    …one billion asramas of Lord Krsna’s devotees, asramas even more beautifully made of many jewels,…

    …one hundred million asramas of Lord Krsna’s associates, asramas even more beautifully made of precious jewels,…

    …ten million jewel asramas of the Lord’s intimate associates, whose forms were like Lord Krsna’s,…

    … million jewel asramas of gopis purely devoted to Sri Radha,…

    …one hundred million beautiful jewel asramas of these gopis’ maidservants,…

    …and one billion beautiful asramas of they who, purified by austerities in a hundred births, became very firm devotees on earth in Bharatavarsa, awake or asleep rapt in meditation on Lord Hari, and chanting “RadhaKrsna! Krsna!” day and night, asramas made of many jewels, filled with many delightful things, splendid with flower couches, flower garlands, white camaras, jewel mirrors, many sapphires, curtains of fine cloth, and roofs decorated with many domes made of priceless jewels.

    After gazing at this wonderful place, the (three) demigods went a little further and happily saw a beautiful and eternal banyan tree,…

    …five yojanas across and twice as many high, with a thousand trunks and countless branches,…

    …and beautiful with jewel platforms and many ripe jewel fruits. At the root of that tree the demigods saw many cowherd boys who had forms like Lord Krsna,…

    …and who were dressed in yellow garments, attached to playing, handsome, decorated with jewel ornaments, and all of whose limbs were anointed with sandal paste.

    The demigods gazed at these close associates of Lord Hari and then looked far away at the beautiful royal path,…

    ..which was paved with sapphires, rubies, diamonds, rucaka jewels, and jewels the colour of red sindura,…

    …which had many benches and jewel pavilions, which was anointed with sandal, aguru, musk, and kunkuma,…

    …which was splendid with many banana trees decorated with yoghurt drops, leaves, rice, fruit, flowers, sandal anointed flowers strung on fine threads, kunkuma, auspicious jewel bells, and branches filled with fruit,…

    …decorated with flower garlands anointed with sindura, kunkuma, and fragrant sandal,…

    …and filled with many playful gopis.

    Then, seeing in the distance a beautiful place surrounded by a moat and jewel walls with sixteen gates guarded by gatekeepers, splendid with jewel stairways, beautiful curtains more pure than fire, mirrors, white camaras, wonderful jewel beds, and flower garlands and anointed with sandal, aguru, musk, and kunkuma, the demigods became very eager to proceed.

    O Narada, after going a short distance they saw the beautiful asrama of Radha, who is the queen of the rasa dance,…

    …the queen of the demigods, the best of the gopis, and She who to Lord Krsna is more dear than life, a beautiful, beautiful asrama,…

    ..that was completely indescribable, that no great pandita could describe, that was a great circle of six gavyutis,…

    Note: A gavyuti is equal to two miles.

    …that had a hundred palaces, shone with the splendour of many jewels, was made of the best of the best of priceless jewels,…

    …was beautiful with many impassable deep moats, filled with a hundred flower gardens and many kalpavrksa trees, constructed with many jewels, surrounded by great walls,…

    …and was made with jewel benches and seven wonderful jewel gates, O sage,…

    …and a series of seven gates that led, one after the other, to a place of sixteen gates.

    Gazing at this great wall as tall as a thousand bows and splendidly beautiful with many small jewel domes, the (three) demigods became filled with wonder.

    Keeping it on their right, they happily went a small distance behind that asrama.

    There they saw a billion asramas of many gopas and gopis.

    They gazed again and again at the beautiful, beautiful ever new asramas of the gopas and gopis.

    After thus seeing all of Goloka, the demigods returned to the beautiful circle of Vrndavana forest.

    The demigods saw the mountain of a hundred peaks and went past it to the Viraja river. When they went past the Viraja river they saw nothing more.

    Thus the demigods gazed at auspicious, wonderful, spiritual Goloka, which had a thousand lakes, which was made of jewels, and which, by the will of Lord Krsna and the wisdom of Sri Radha, was situated in the spiritual sky. The demigods then gazed at the beautiful dancing they saw there.

Vanity thought #1271. Entrance of Lord Hari

Today I hope to finish the Tulasī Devī story, and the ending, as described in Devī Bhāgavata, is the best part of it, though still far from perfect. Yesterday I left it at the point where Tulasī married the demon Śankhacūda who was actually one of Kṛṣṇa’s best friends Sudāmā. Doing so was a necessary step before finally getting Lord Nārāyaṇa as her husband, which was her request after a hundred thousand years of tapasyā.

I heard this story used as proof that Śālagrāma Śilā is actually Kṛṣṇa, not Nārāyaṇa, and there are signs in this narrative that it is actually so but Devī Bhāgavata is at best ambiguous on this topic, probably because establishing this fact was not the purpose of the narration about Tulasī Devī. When Tulasī asked Lord Brahmā for a benediction she specifically mentioned four-armed Nārāyaṇa, for example, and it was Nārāyaṇa that Lord Brahmā said would marry her.

Anyway, Śankhacūda and Tulasī were happily married. Previously, Śankhacūda performed tapasyā of his own and his boon was invincibility. It depended on two conditions, though – he must wear Viṣṇu kavaca on his body and his wife must remain faithful to him. Tulasī, despite their marriage being based solely on lust, was otherwise a chaste woman and Śankhacūda had the best time of his life. I should probably remind that, according to Devī Bhāgavata, he himself was lusting after Tulasī back in Goloka and so he accepted the course of being born here as a way to fulfill that desire. This angle doesn’t fit into our siddhānta at all but it’s there in the book and that’s probably one of the reasons we shouldn’t take Devī Bhāgavata as an authority. Six Gosvāmīs didn’t, or maybe it’s a very recent, post-Gosvāmī’s creation of the śaktas.

Demigods were quite annoyed with Śankhacūda’s arrogance and decided to teach him a lesson but they couldn’t. They engaged in prolonged battles with him without any success and the book dedicates many many pages to describing them. There were a couple of dozen warriors who tried so it took time. There’s a long, detailed narration about Kālī herself trying to kill him by all kinds of weapons and there’s one remarkable thing about it – Śankhacūda never hit back, on his side the fight was strictly defensive. At one point Kālī punched him with her fists and knocked him out but when he came around he only bowed to her, which I think was cool.

Finally, Lord Śiva himself joined the battle and Śankhacūda started with offering him obeisances, too. Due to Lord Brahmā’s benediction, however, even Śiva couldn’t defeat him. The battle lasted for a hundred years and became a stalemate. Now it was the turn of Lord Hari to end it.

Given that Śankhacūda had a two-step protection Lord Hari had to take a two-pronged approach, too, and He was as deceitful as ever. To Śankhacūda He appeared as a brāhmaṇa and asked for his kavaca as a gift. Demoniac or not, but Śankhacūda couldn’t refuse a brahmaṇa and so he lost one level of protection.

Lord Harī then appeared before Tulasī in the guise of Śankhacūda himself. She had no idea what was going on but the person he thought was her husband made a great entrance, celestial citizens beat their celestial drums, and so it all looked like Śankhacūda won the battle, and Tulasī gave him a proper reception. However, when it came to sex, she noticed that something was off, the experience was different. I don’t want to even speculate how and the book, fortunately, doesn’t go into detail, but somehow or other Tulasī figured that she was with some other man and that destroyed Śankhacūda’s remaining protection.

Śankhacūda was quickly slain, accepted it with gladness, and went back to Goloka. Devī Bhāgavata says that a group of gopās came down to fetch him and all in all it was a happy occurrence. I should probably mention that when Śankhacūda saw Śiva’s trident coming at him and he realized he couldn’t protect himself he stopped fighting and sat down in mediation on Kṛṣṇa. On this point Devī Bhāgavat is clear – he meditated on Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet, not on Nārāyaṇa’s or any other Lord’s form.

Down on Earth, however, another curse was about to take place. This time Tulasi, angry at the loss of her chastity, cursed the fornicator to turn into stone. I have a question here – did she lose her chastity simply because another man, even if looking exactly like her husband, enjoyed sex with her, or was it because she realized that it wasn’t probably her husband but still kept going? She asked the “who are you” question only after the intercourse was over.

Or put it in another way – are such things as losing chastity depend on corruption in our own consciousness or could it be determined solely by external evens outside of our awareness? If our chastity is maintained strictly within our hearts then it means that we are always safe in our devotion and nothing can affect it. Conversely, it also means that if we allow our consciousness to wander away we’ll lose the taste for the service even if nothing happens to us externally.

Personally, I gravitate towards this answer, and therefore I suspect Tulasī sensed something was off but continued to enjoy the experience anyway and that’s what destroyed her chastity. When she finally asked the impostor about his identity she was already cursing him. The book says that Hari was afraid of the curse and returned to His original form before Tulasī could complete it but it didn’t stop her. She cursed Him to become a stone.

At this point it’s unclear what form Hari eventually took. There was no mention of four-armed Nāṛāyaṇa but Kṛṣṇa’s name wasn’t mentioned either. Devī Bhāgavata still called him Nārāyaṇa, though, but at the same time referred to His numerous playful līlās, which could be related to dāśa-avatāra, not necessarily Kṛṣṇa. Bluish skin color and yellow dress are not distinctive. Another name that was mentioned was Vāsudeva, which still is not definitive – Kṛṣṇa is NOT Vāsudeva in His Vṛndāvana pastimes and Tulasī would not have known Him as such.

Great argument in favor of Kṛṣṇa here is that Lord Hari enjoyed parakīyā bhāva which is of no interest to Nārāyaṇa, but then again, Devī Bhāgavata is not a study in rasas and by its own standards enjoying someone else’s wife it’s not that big of a deal if it somehow can be explained away.

The story ends here. Tulasī cursed Lord Hari and Hari, in turn, told her to return back home to Goloka immediately. He also said that as her soul goes to the spiritual world her body would turn into Gaṇḍakī river and her hair would become Tulasī tree. There is a couple more chapters describing Śālagrāma Śilās, glories of Tulasī, and proper methods of worship but we better rely on how these things are explained to us in our tradition rather than in this śakta book.

There’s also a strange episode from “happily ever after” when Tulasī became one of the chief wives of Lord Harī, along with Lakṣmī, Ganga, and Sarasvatī, but Sarasvatī couldn’t accept her and there were some quarrels, disappearances, and appeasement. It all ended well, though. Still, Lakṣmī, Ganga, and Sarasvatī do not exist in Goloka and that’s another argument against trying to prove that Śālagrāma Śilās are Kṛṣṇa rather than Nārāyaṇa on the basis of this particular story. It supports both views and, as I said, this book shouldn’t be taken as an authority in our tradition, not unless it was found as accepted as such by our ācāryas.

In Hinduism Tulasī widely accepted as a wife of Lord Viṣṇu and that is a subject of a related controversy. I don’t think we should dwell on it, though. We can easily explain it by saying that Tulasī’s original form and place are strictly in Goloka while she also manifests herself everywhere Lord Viṣṇu is served as His eternal consort.

I also do not understand the practicality of the question about Śālagrāma Śilās – as it is, we are not supposed to worship ANY form of the Lord in any mood other than awe and reverence regardless. If someone imagines he is qualified to upgrade his mood I’m not aware of Śrīla Prabhupāda ever authorizing it, nor I can imagine any of his followers giving such authorization to the second or third generation devotees. The rituals are given, the mood of worship is given, everything else should only be theoretical.

As spirit souls we can have all kinds of relationships with Kṛṣṇa but as far as deity worship in ISKCON is concerned we don’t have a choice, so the question is immaterial.

My own concern now is how to purify my consciousness from impressions left by reading from this highly questionable book. I’d rather never heard any of it at all.

Vanity thought #1269. Puranic curse

In our tradition we respect Purāṇas even more than Vedas themselves. The reason is simple – we are too stupid and need easy explanations with examples, which Purāṇas provide generously. Śrīmad Bhāgavatam is a commentary on Vedānta Sūtra, for example, which is terse and impossible to understand on its own.

Some have tried, of course, and thought they were successful but that is only half of the requirement, actually much less. One is supposed to receive spiritual knowledge from his guru. A guru might give disciple a book to read but this book should still be understood in light of guru’s teachings. Once you take the book your first task would be to read it, right? So you must know the language the book is written in. Once you figured out the ABC and grammar you can make up the general meaning but you still have to check with your guru if you got it right.

That’s where modern scholar of Vedānta are – they’ve learned the language and are able to translate words and sentences, but have absolutely no idea how to understand it properly. Śrīla Vyāsadeva wrote Vedic scriptures down to help our memory but not necessarily our understanding – that still has to come from a guru. Modern scholars lack that completely and so they come up with all kinds of ideas that might initially make sense but in the end always go against the intended meaning of the author. That’s why Lord Caitanya didn’t study Vedānta but always had time to listen to stories from Śrīmad Bhāgavatam.

So, Purāṇas are important, great, and they contain all kinds of knowledge, so we just have to read them and our knowledge of Kṛṣṇa consciousness would be complete, right? Not so fast.

Purāṇas are divided into several categories meant for people at different stages of self-realization. Should we accept only Purāṇas glorifying Lord Viṣṇu then? Even among those there are discrepancies and inconsistencies, what should we do in such cases? How reliable are these stories, especially when they deal with esoteric subjects like relationships on Goloka Vṛndāvana? Personally, I’m losing my faith in Purāṇas as a source of undisputed knowledge.

Take the case of Tulasī Devī. Her glories are described in many places and you can’t go wrong with Tulasī appreciation but it’s the story of her appearance here, which is linked to the appearance of Śālagrāma Śilā, that looks suspicious.

Generally, though, it is relayed in our community as a given truth, we just take it as it is, mostly retold by devotees according to our understanding. The sources, however, are not so kosher, in my not so humble opinion.

The main source of the story is an upa-purāṇa called Devī Bhāgavata, not a major vaiṣṇava text by any stretch. Śrīla Prabhupāda never quoted from it, never referred to it in any way, never made it sound authorized. Six Gosvāmīs never used it as a material for their works but a quick look reveals that Devī Bhāgavata is mentioned by Gopīparāṇadhana Prabhu in his commentary on Sandarbhas as one of those to be rejected, in one place he describes it as one of the sources that is meant to conceal, not reveal the Absolute Truth.

This means, at the very best, that we should take only those statements that are favorable to revealing the Absolute Truth and reject those that do not fit with our siddhānta. We shouldn’t accept everything it says as absolute.

The story about Tulasī appears to be legit but only in devotees interpretation, otherwise it shows examples of very questionable behavior that need to be verified against much better sources.

It starts with Tulasī being enjoyed by Govinda at rasa-maṇḍala and she lost consciousness while unsatiated, whatever that means, Devī Bhāgavata is rather explicit about sex. Śrī Rādha found her in this state and got angry at both Kṛṣṇa and Tulasī, that’s how Tulasī got cursed to be born on Earth, though Kṛṣṇa told her that she would get four-armed get Nārāyaṇa as a husband while down there.

There was a twist, however. Another denizen of Goloka got cursed by Śrī Rādha – Kṛṣṇa’s friend Sudāmā. Once Kṛṣna was enjoying with another gopī and Śrī Rādhā got a wind of it. Here there’s a small diversion that I haven’t been able to trace so far. In Devī Bhāgavata Rādhā goes to Rasa-maṇḍala and finds no one there, as the gopī turned herself into the river (her name was Virajā) while Kṛṣṇa simply disappeared. Kṛṣṇa then returned along with Sudāmā and Rādhā gave him an earful, which Sudāmā couldn’t bear and rebuked her back, for which she cursed him to be born on Earth as a demon. In another version Sudāmā was the one guarding Rasa-maṇḍala and lied to Rādhā, so when she saw Kṛṣṇa wearing another gopī’s shawl she cursed Sudāmā for lying to her. Either way, it was bad.

Before we get to the Earthly part of the story – it appears that Goloka mentioned in Devī Bhāgavata is an ordinary place where people take their ordinary births. Being a gopā or a gopī is nothing special, not a position of infallible eternity. I don’t think we should learn Vṛndāvana’s habits and customs from stories like that. They make it nearly materialistic, appearing as some ordinary dealings between young boys and girls, however powerful.

At least when Sudāmā was cursed everyone, including Śrī Rādhā herself, realized that it was too much and begged Sudāmā not to go. Kṛṣṇa then explained that Sudāmā would be gone only for about half a moment. Unfortunately for us, half a moment on Goloka would last a manvantara in Earth time, which is seventy one of four yuga cycles, an unbelievably long period of time, we can’t think in such terms.

If true, this story would also explain how we might have fallen from Vaikuṇṭha. People there apparently can curse each other for all kinds of transgressions. All their wishes must come true, after all, so offending someone there even with the best of intentions is dangerous and could be punishable by some 300 million years of life on Earth (less if on heavenly planets). Sudāmā didn’t do anything wrong, he simply protected Kṛṣṇa. In one version on Kṛṣṇa’s instructions, in another version he protected Kṛṣṇa’s dignity.

We can also read it as an example of blasphemy in Kṛṣṇa consciousness – it must not be tolerated but, most importantly, one must bravely accept the consequences, too. Sudāmā didn’t complain, he was actually looking forward to being banished to the material world, which is the part better left for another day.

Tulasī herself got cursed for fainting. How fair is that? The way I heard devotees tell it, it happened during rasa dance and interrupted the proceedings, that’s why Rādhā got angry. Otherwise, who would curse a person who loses consciousness? There could be also a question of jealousy, which is understandable but still unthinkable – if it leads to people being thrown down into the material world.

I mean – can we take any of that seriously? Some do, but really? The Earthly part of that pastime, if we can call it that, is no less confusing but I’ll leave it for another time.

All in all, while appearing as a generous source of knowledge on Vṛndāvana news, at least some of the Purāṇas appear to be not so trustworthy. Something happened up there and Tulasī appeared down here on Earth, but it looks as if the story got filtered through not so authoritative sources and therefore shouldn’t be taken neither at a face value nor as a springboard for study of dealings between devotees on Goloka.