When Krishna Goes Away
by Sacinandana Swami
Besides the experience of success, all serious practitioners on the spiritual path know the painful void that spreads when Krishna seems to be far away. Yet precisely by temporarily withholding the spiritual gifts of mercy (with their overwhelming moments of happiness) Krishna grants an even greater gift: a deep longing is awakened in the heart, which – as long as we don’t try to cover it up with superficial substitute satisfaction such as television, indulgence foods etc. – burns and removes everything from the heart that doesn’t belong there.
One of the best stories illustrating this is the story of Narada Muni. One day, at the end of a long journey, Narada sat down beneath a banyan tree to meditate. What happened next changed his life forever. In deep samadhi he saw Krishna’s wonderful form, which overwhelmed him with unprecedented feelings of happiness. First he smelled Krishna’s captivating scent, then he heard the tinkle of His ankle bells and finally he saw His face and enchanting smile. Narada’s every notion born of duality cleared away with this darsana.
At some point Narada lost sight of this transcendental form from his inner vision. It vanished – and he was devastated! It was as if he had lost the most precious thing imaginable. Desperately, he tried focusing within his heart, just as he had done before, so he could call back the unforgettable vision. But whatever way he tried to see Krishna again – the Lord did not show Himself. When Krishna did finally communicate, He did it unexpectedly through transcendental sound in kirtana. This is the message the Lord disclosed to the perplexed Narada: “I regret that during this lifetime you will not be able to see Me anymore. Those who are incomplete in service and who are not completely free from all material taints can hardly see Me. O virtuous one, you have only once seen My person, and this is just to increase your desire for Me, because the more you hanker for Me, the more you will be freed from all material desires.” (Krishna in Srimad-Bhagavatam, 1.6.21-22)
Specifically important is the instruction: the more you hanker for Me, the more you will be freed from all that stands between you and Me – your material desires. Narada took the advice: he followed his longing for the Lord. Chanting the Holy Names of the Lord and speaking about Krishna’s divine pastimes, Narada remained on the spiritual platform, a consciousness in which the devotee doesn’t feel separate from Krishna. Satisfied, humble and free from envy he travelled all over the earth.
Since Narada was always absorbed in thoughts of Krishna in this way, what is called “death” in the case of ordinary people, was only a transformation of the material body into an eternal spiritual body, full of knowledge and bliss, for him. It was no dramatic event coined by fear and horror, but a continuation of what he had already experienced on earth: complete absorption in Krishna – Krishna-samadhi. Narada described how his experience of kirtana on earth remained the same when he was liberated: “The Supreme Lord Sri Krishna, whose glories and activities are pleasing to hear, at once appears on the seat of my heart, as if called for, as soon as I begin to chant His holy activities.” (Narada in Srimad-Bhagavatam, 1.6.33)