Turning to the Beauty of Krishna
The beauty found in this relative world pales before the beauty of Krishna’s perfect form. People are very much enamored by the beauty of this world. The Vedic literature, however, offers us penetrating insight into the actual nature of material beauty. If people would take the time to hear from these revered sources, they would be surprised to learn that what is accepted as beauty within this world is but the pale, illusory reflection of the unlimited spiritual beauty of Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Of course, some would disagree with the idea that material beauty is false. The smitten young man sees his sweetheart as the epitome of loveliness, the scholar is moved by the rich imagery in a masterpiece of poetry, and the artist views the pastoral scenery as the handiwork of angels. In each case the viewer appreciates what he or she perceives to be true beauty. Why, then, is it said to be false?
The answer to this question is given in the Second Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita, where Lord Krishna tells Arjuna, "Those who are seers of the truth have concluded that of the nonexistent there is no endurance and of the existent there is no cessation. This seers have concluded by studying the nature of both."
Material beauty is herein deemed false in the sense that its manifestation is very, very brief. It appears momentarily and then disappears like a mirage. The attractive young body becomes old and wrinkled; it dies, decays, and is eaten by worms. And the beauty of the poem, although preserved for some time in book form, must also perish, as must the flowered countryside, lost forever in the dark wells of time.
Material beauty also proves false when we look more closely or shift our perspective. If the young man, for instance, were to peel away the covering layer of skin on the alluring young body, the object of his attraction, he would immediately become repulsed, proving conclusively that material beauty is only skin deep. And the poem or country scene, appreciated at one moment as quintessential beauty, may be seen in the next as utterly devoid of all charm by the same admirer, who, having endured some emotional trauma, now sees everything much differently.
Finally, material beauty is false in that it can never fully satisfy the soul, and in time the young man desires another lover, the scholar purchases a new book of poems, and the artist goes on to view another scene, each searching for an absolute level of fulfillment that continually eludes him, even up to death.
All of these points are mentioned not to invoke a mood of gloom and despair but rather to illustrate that although our love of beauty is a perfectly natural sentiment we are looking for it in all the wrong quarters. As a miner carefully studies his maps before prospecting, we also must determine the whereabouts of true beauty if we wish to unearth this valuable treasure.
The Vedic literature tells us that the reservoir of beauty is Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is the Absolute Truth, or the source of everything. The relative beauty found in this world has its origin in Him, and ultimately we must turn to Him if we wish to realize our desire to know perfect beauty. In the Brahma-samhita, Lord Brahma eloquently describes the transcendental beauty of Lord Krishna:
"I worship Govinda [Krishna], the primeval Lord, who is adept at playing on His flute, whose blooming eyes are like lotus petals, whose head is bedecked with a peacock’s feather, whose figure of beauty is tinged with the hue of blue clouds, and whose unique loveliness is charming millions of Cupids."
This factual description of Krishna’s spiritual beauty is not a whimsical creation of Brahma’s imagination. Rather, it was spoken by Brahma in a trance of self-realization, in which he saw the Lord standing before him face to face. In his next verse, Brahma continues to describe his vision, with notable reference to the eternality of Krishna’s form:
"I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, round whose neck is swinging a garland of jeweled ornaments, who is always reveling in pastimes of love. whose graceful, threefold-bending form of Syamasundara is eternally manifest."
As Krishna’s form is "eternally manifest" so is the beauty of that form, thus fulfilling the Bhagavad-gita’s definition of reality, "that which has ‘no cessation." Not only is Krishna’s beauty eternal, but it is also ever fresh, like an endlessly blooming springtime. A devotee never tires of viewing that divine form, which is so magnificent that Krishna Himself cannot estimate it for in one moment He measures, and in the next moment it expands unlimitedly, eluding even His vast capacity to understand.
Since Krishna is the Absolute Truth, His beauty is also absolute and is never canceled or diminished by closer examination or change in perspective. His form is the vessel of pure spiritual energy, "eternity, knowledge, and bliss," and it is therefore beautiful through and through. Indeed it has been compared to the radiant vaidurya gem, which, although appearing differently according to the play of light upon its numerous colored facets, is extraordinarily beautiful from whichever angle it is viewed. Thus Krishna’s beauty is always appreciated by the countless pure devotees who inhabit the spiritual sky, some of whom regularly descend to this material plane to turn our attention back to Him.
Krishna’s absolute nature is also such that anything connected with Him, be it His name, form, words, pastimes, or paraphernalia, also exhibits His superlative beauty. In Srila Prabhupada’s book "Krishna," this remarkable feature of Krishna’s personality is apparent in the following statement by a devotee, in which the beauty of the Lord’s flute-playing is feelingly described:
"My dear friends, Krishna is so beautiful that the goddess of fortune always remains on His chest and He is always adorned with a golden necklace. Beautiful Krishna plays His flute in order to enliven the hearts of many devotees. He is the only friend of the suffering living entities. When He plays His flute, all the cows and other animals of Vrindavana, although engaged in eating, simply take a morsel of food in their mouths and stop chewing. Their ears raise up and they become stunned. They do not appear alive but like painted animals. Krishna’s flute-playing is so attractive that even the animals become enchanted, and what to speak of ourselves."
All of these features combine to make Krishna’s beauty fully satisfying. While material beauty offers momentary pleasure to the senses, Krishna’s spiritual beauty touches the very soul of the living being, thrilling him with a pleasure so wonderful that once having relished it he can never give it up. Srila Rupa Gosvami has therefore advised,
"My dear friend, if you still have any desire to enjoy the company of your friends within this material world, then don’t look upon the form of Krishna, who is standing on the bank of Keshi-ghata. He is known as Govinda, and His eyes are very enchanting. He is playing upon His flute, and on His head there is a peacock feather. His whole body is illuminated by the moonlight in the sky."
The more a devotee appreciates Krishna’s beauty, the less he falls for the flickering attractions of this material world. Once, Haridasa Thakura, a great devotee of the Lord, was chanting Hare Krishna alone, absorbed in the beauty of the Lord’s holy name. An alluring young prostitute appeared and tried to divert him from his vow of chanting Krishna’s names 300,000 times daily. Haridasa’s attraction to Krishna’s beauty was so deep, however, that he remained unaffected by her advances. Instead, he converted the prostitute into a virtuous devotee greatly attached to the beauty of Krishna.
Although descriptions of Krishna’s beauty are fascinating, we may rightfully wonder how we can overcome our own attraction to the world’s enticements and achieve the coveted vision of Krishna’s spiritual beauty. We can begin by remembering that even the flickering beauty of this world has its origin in Krishna. The sunrise, the fragrant flower, the taste of water, or anything else of value can remind us of Krishna and thus act as an agent for our spiritual enlightenment.
Furthermore, by hearing and chanting about Krishna in the company of devotees and by worshiping His Deity form in the temple, we can accelerate our spiritual advancement. This combination of pleasurable devotional activities will very surely and effectively raise us to the platform of pure love for Krishna, enabling us to view Him face to face and enjoy the nectar of His moonlike beauty.
(*Photo: Sri Sri Radha Madan Mohan, New Gokula Dhama, Vancouver, Canada)