Category Archives: Leela – Spiritual pastimes

Matsya Avatar – Fish incarnation of Vishnu

matsya avatar vishnu vedas

Matsya Avatar or the fish incarnation is the first of the ten avatars of Vishnu, the Supreme Lord. The eighth canto of Srimad Bhagavatam describes the pastimes of ‘Matsya avatar’ in great detail. In addition, Matsya Purana also glorifies His wonderful pastimes. Five thousand years ago, Parikshit Maharaj inquired about the Matsya avatar from Srila Sukadeva Goswami. Sri Sukadeva Goswami explained how the Supreme Lord incarnates in this world millennium after millennium in order to protect the cows, brahmanas, religious principles, spiritual knowledge, etc. Although the Supreme Lord appears sometimes as a human being and sometimes as a lower animal, He nonetheless always stays transcendental. Sukadeva Goswami glorified Matsya avatar and described how in the previous millennium (Svayambhuva Manvantara), while Lord Brahma was asleep, the water of devastation flooded the three worlds, only leaving Brahmaloka and a few other higher planets untouched. As Brahma took rest, the demon Hayagriva tried to steal the Vedic knowledge that emanated from Brahma’s mouth. The Supreme Lord Vishnu, then assumed the form of ‘Matsya avatar’ (fish incarnation), as everything was inundated by water, and rescued the Vedas by killing the demon.

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Kurma Avatar – Turtle incarnation of Vishnu | Samudra Manthan

Kurma avatar tortoise incarnation

tatrapi devasambhutyam vairajasyabhavat sutah
ajito nama bhagavan amsena jagatah patih
payodhim yena nirmathya suranam sadhita sudha
bhramamano ’mbhasi dhrtah Kurma-rupena mandarah
(Srimad-Bhagavatam 8.5.9-10)

In the sixth Manvantara, Lord Vishnu, the supreme Lord, appeared in His partial expansion as Kurma avatar. He appeared as the son of Vairaja from the womb of Devasambhuti. Lord Ajita induced the churning of the ocean of milk and produced nectar for the demigods. Taking the form of a tortoise, He carried on His back, the great mountain known as Mandara.

Once sage Durvasa came across demigod Indra, the king of heavens. The sage greeted the king with a garland of marigold. Indra, however, was too proud and did not pay any attention to the sage. Trivializing the garland, he placed it upon the trunk of Airavat, his white elephant. The animal immediately flicked it to the ground and trampled it. Feeling insulted, Durvasa muni immediately cursed Indra by swearing, ‘Be bereft of all your opulence’. Shortly thereafter, the demons attacked and won over the demigods, who suffered a humiliating defeat. Many of the demigods lost their lives in the battle. Although the sages tried to revive them, they could not bring them back to life.

kurma avatar vishnu

On the advice of Lord Brahma, the demigods headed to the boundary of Svetadvipa, situated on the ocean of Milk. The demigods, headed by Brahma, offered many prayers to Lord Vishnu. Being satisfied, Kshirodakashayi Vishnu appeared before them. His effulgence blinded everyone. None but Brahma could witness Him. Lord Vishnu suggested that the demons had become very powerful at that point in time and hence the demigods should make peace with them. He expressed that the demigods and the demons should churn the ocean of Milk together to fetch the nectar of immortality. Lord Vishnu instructed that Mandara mountain be used as the churning rod while the serpent Vasuki be used as the churning rope. The Lord warned the demigods, that they should not be greedy for the various other things that might be obtained during the churning of the milk ocean. They should neither object nor show anger if the demons were to take them. The Supreme Lord disappeared after giving these instructions.

Samudra Manthan – Churning of the Milk Ocean

Accordingly, Lord Indra then made a truce with Bali Maharaja, the king of the demons. The decision to churn the ocean was made on the condition that whatever nectar would be produced during the churning would be shared by both the demigods and the demons. Bali Maharaja, a disciple of Shukracharya, was the grandson of Prahlada Maharaja, the great devotee of Lord Vishnu. Bali was interested and agreed to Indra’s deal. He thought, ‘Once we’ve helped produce the nectar by churning the ocean, we demons can easily steal it from the weakened demigods’. Accordingly, he and Indra signed a truce.

kurma avatar tortoise incarnation

Several demons and the demigods lost their lives, being crushed while trying to lift up the Mandara mountain. Lord Vishnu revived them with His glance. He then effortlessly picked up the mountain and placed it near the ocean of Milk. Thereafter, serpent Vasuki wrapped around the Mandara mountains like a rope. The demons held the hood of the serpent while the demigods grasped its tail. With great endeavor, the churning of the ocean began, but after some time, the mountain, which was supportless, began sinking into the ocean.

Appearance of Kurma Avatar (Tortoise incarnation)

Finding the demigods and the demons frustrated, the Supreme Lord Sri Hari assumed the wonderful form of Kurma avatar (tortoise incarnation) and lifted up the mountain from the ocean on His back. The mountain was one hundred yojanas wide (1 yojana = 8 miles). But the Lord hardly felt anything. While the great mountain was being churned on His back, the Lord merely felt an itching sensation.

puramrtartham daiteya-danavaih saha devatah
manthanam mandaram krtvä mamantam kstra sagaram
mathyamane tada tasmim Kurmarapi janardanah
vyabhara mandaram devo devanam hitakamyaya
deväsca tustuvurdevam naradadya maharsayah
Kurmarupadharam drtsva saksinam visnumavyayam
(Kurma Purana, Purva 11.27.29)

In the past, the demigods and the demons churned the Ocean of Milk using Mandara Mountain as a churning rod to obtain the nectar of immortality. At that time, Lord Janardana (Sri Hari) assuming the form of a tortoise, desiring the welfare of the demigods, carried the Mandara Mountain upon His back. Upon seeing the imperishable Lord Visnu in His incarnation as a tortoise, the demigods, Narada, and other sages became very pleased.

prstha bhramyad amanda-mandara-giri-gavagra-kanduyanan
nidraloh kamathanater bhagavatah svasanilah pantu vah
yat-samskara-kalamuvartana-vasad vela-nibhenambhasam
yatayatam atandritam jala-nidher nadyapi visramyati
(Srimad-Bhagavatam 12.13.2)

May you all be protected by the winds of Lord Kurma’s breathing in His sleepy state. It was caused due to the pleasure He derived from the scratching of His back by the sharp-edged stones lying on gigantic whirling Mandara Mountain. These inhalations and exhalations of His breath still exist in the form of ocean tides that never cease.

At first, the churning of the milk ocean produced a deadly black poison that floated over the waves and imperiled the entire world. When the demigods sought help, merciful Lord Shiva condensed and consumed the entire poison. The poison turned Lord Shiva’s neck blue and therefore he is also referred to as ‘Nilkantha’. A few drops of the poison spilled over and were consumed by the snakes, scorpions, and other poisonous creatures. As the churning continued, magical animals, sparkling gems, medicinal herbs, beautiful damsels, fragrant flowers, etc emerged from the milk ocean. At last, a beautiful blackish figure, clothed in yellow garments and decorated with wonderful gems appeared from the ocean. He carried a golden pot filled with the nectar of immortality.

Appearance of Mohini

As soon as the demons noticed this, they seized the pot and ran off. The demigods became anxious and sought help from Lord Vishnu. The Supreme Lord then assumed the beautiful and enchanting form of Mohini, a blackish woman dressed in a crimson saree and wearing golden bangles. Her restless eyes and feminine charms lured the attention of the demons. The demons quarreled amongst themselves over who would taste the nectar.

mohini murti vishnu

Being unaware of Mohini’s identity, they handed over the pot of nectar to Her and asked Her to settle their dispute. Mohini asked the demons to sit in a row, and also requested the demigods to do the same. She conveyed to the demons that the demigods were very greedy for the nectar and hence she would give them just a little, at first. She praised the demons as great heroes and in this way deceived them to wait until the demigods had acquired the nectar. The demons, being flattered, did not oppose her proposal. Once the demigods had relished the entire nectar, Mohini assumed Her original form as Vishnu. The demons understood that they had been tricked by the Lord. The demigods, having tasted the nectar, had already turned immortal.


Rasa – Divine Mellow

yashoda krishna vatsalya rasa bhagavatamrasa

Rasa, or divine mellows, is remarkable and the most esoteric truth. It is the culmination of the transcendental pastimes of Sri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. When devotion unto Krishna reaches the peak of purity and grows dynamically active, it transforms into ‘Krishna Bhakti Rasa’, the mellows of devotion towards Krishna. Unless a devotee attains pure devotion and reaches the stage of a ‘sadhaka’, he is not qualified to experience ‘rasa’. Krishna is the root cause of divine love whereas Krishna’s personal traits and paraphernalia act as ‘uddipana’ or that which evokes ecstatic love for Him. ‘Uddipana’ helps stimulate the devotee’s latent love for Krishna, which in course of time manifests itself as ‘rasa’. In this article, we are going to discuss the various facets of Rasa, it’s different types, their respective characteristics, etc.

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Madhurya Rasa – Mellow of Conjugal Love

krishna radha madhurya accessories ornaments articles

Madhurya Rasa falls within the purview of Krishna Bhajan and constitutes the highest grade of divine Love. It is where a devotee approaches God as His consort. This is unlike the so-called love of this material world where one primarily concerns himself with his/her sensuous pleasures. The distance between the servant and the Lord which was distinctly visible in the cases of Shanta and Dasya Rasas, and indistinctly visible in the case of Sakhya and Vatsalya Rasas, is now completely absent in Madhurya. The servant and the Lord are now united as never before. The servant serves her lord with everything. She lives for her Lord and dies for Him. There is nothing that she cannot do to make Him happy. His pain and grief become her own. Now, the servant cannot enjoy anything which does not make her Lord happy. She takes pleasure in putting on an ornament if it pleases her Lord. She even gladly welcomes death if it is a service unto Him. Such is the selflessness of love manifested in Madhurya. Srimati Radharani and the other Gopis of Vrindavana represent devotees in this category.

Madhurya rasa is also specified as ‘Mukya bhakti rasa’ or the principal of all devotional mellows. Unless one is devoid of all material attachments, one cannot relish the divine mellow of ‘Madhurya’. Madhurya rasa is most esoteric and rare. Hence, it is kept largely confidential. Shanta, Dasya, Sakhya, Vatsalya, and Madhurya exist eternally in Goloka Vrindavan. They are compared to Copper, bell metal, Silver, Gold, and touchstone respectively.

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Vatsalya Rasa – Parental Affection

krishna yashoda rasa vrindavan

Vatsalya Rasa falls within the purview of Krishna bhajan. In this stage, Krishna, the Supreme Lord, is worshiped as one’s own son. The Lord now receives parental love and care from the concerned devotee. The Supreme Lord, now a restless playful child, demands constant care and attention from His parents who must now be tending to His wants. They should feed Him, dress Him, administer Him medicines when ill, put Him to sleep, and then watch Him over when asleep. The mind of devotees in Vatsalya Rasa is wholly occupied with thoughts for their beloved Lord whom they perceive as their dear child. They apprehend danger for Him where there is none and think of Him to be lost when He goes out of their sight even for a moment. They rebuke the Lord and threaten Him when they find Him doing anything wrong. They take Him onto their lap and caress Him lest their child becomes too frightened. Hence these devotees in this Rasa claim a superior position to the Lord Himself. The services of Nanda Maharaj and mother Yashoda fall within this category.

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Sakhya rasa – friendship | Types of Krishna’s sakhas (friends)

krishna arjuna sakhya

Sakhya Rasa is the stage of divine Love where a devotee approaches the Supreme Lord as His friend. Sri Krishna, His friends, and confidants are known as ‘Sakhas’ (friends). The two-handed form of Sri Krishna, playing upon His flute, is the object of meditation in Sakhya rasa. Unlike Dasya rasa, the emotions of awe and reverence are largely missing in Sakhya rasa. Srila Rupa Goswami explains in Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu (Western division) –

Vimukta sambhrama ya svad visrambhatma ratir dvayoh
Prayah samanayor atra sa sakhyam sthayi sabda bhak

‘Visrambha’, the affectionate exchange between two equals that is devoid of reverence and deference but is full of love, trust, and confidence is called ‘sakhya rasa’, the mellow of friendship. Thus, this emotion is the ‘sthayi bhava’ (foundational mood) of this mellow.

Srila Rupa Goswami further explains the meaning of the word ‘visrambha’. It is the admission of complete equality between two individuals, reflecting absolute trust and confidentiality between the two.

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Dasya Rasa – Servitorship

garuda vishnu lakshmi

A devotee in Dasya Rasa approaches the Supreme Lord as His servant. He prostrates himself before Him, appreciates His greatness, and is always ready to carry out His instructions with a degree of affection. Affinity towards God manifests itself in the form of affection in Dasya rasa. The beginning of affection marks ‘dasya rasa’. Garuda and Hanuman’s worship falls within this category. This Rasa also falls within the purview of Narayana pujan (worship of Lord Narayana). While in ‘Shanta Rasa’ there exists no active service, in ‘dasya rasa’ active service of the devotee is preeminent. Thus ‘Dasya rasa’ is a more evolved stage than ‘Santa rasa’. On the dasya rati platform a devotee is attached to rendering service to the Supreme Lord, and he is detached from material activities.

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Shanta Rasa – Mellow of Neutrality

krishna radha gopis yamuna shanta rasa

Shanta rasa is the mellow of divine love (Rasa) that falls within the purview of Narayana pujan (worship of Lord Narayana). This is a neutral state in which the devotee neither feels any fondness for his worshipable Lord Narayana nor does he have any attachment towards the world. He offers the Lord his love in a manner sanctioned by the scriptures. The indifference of the servant towards his Lord is the chief characteristic of this stage. Shanta rasa is the neutral stage where there exists attachment for Krishna in the mood of awe and veneration; there is complete detachment from all material desires; nonetheless, in Shanta rasa, there is also a lack of intimacy between the devotee and the Supreme Lord. 

The bliss that is experienced in Brahman realization (brahmananda) by the impersonalists, or the pleasure of realizing the self (atmananda), experienced by the yogis steeped in meditation upon the inner self, is nothing compared to the delight felt in realizing the Supreme Lord. The beautiful form of the Supreme Lord is the source of all spiritual bliss. Devotees like Bilvamangala Thakura, Sukadeva Goswami, and Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya had attained nirvishesa brahma (impersonal brahman) through their pursuits of Jnana (speculative knowledge) but had rejected brahmananda (bliss in impersonal brahman realization) in favor of bhakti-rasananda, the nectarean divine bliss of devotion.

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Rasa Tattva, Asta Sattvika vikara & Anubhava

krishna yashoda rasa vrindavan

Rasa, or divine mellows, is remarkable and the most esoteric truth. It is the culmination of the transcendental pastimes of Sri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. When devotion unto Krishna reaches the peak of purity and grows dynamically active, it transforms into ‘Krishna Bhakti Rasa’, the mellows of devotion towards Krishna. 

Unless a devotee attains pure devotion and reaches the stage of a ‘sadhaka’, he is not qualified to experience ‘rasa’. A ‘sadhaka’ is a devotee who has attained attraction for Krishna but might not be completely free from all anarthas (material impurities). A neophyte devotee, however, who engages in deity worship in the temple but behaves improperly with others, is not qualified to relish rasa (divine mellows).

‘Siddhas’ are those devotees whose activities revolve solely around Sri Krishna and who always crave to relish Krishna bhakti rasa. They have attained perfection in their devotional lives either through sadhana (devotional practice), Kripa (mercy of exalted souls or God), or else they are eternally perfected souls (Nitya Siddha).

Krishna is the root cause of divine love whereas Krishna’s personal traits and paraphernalia act as ‘uddipana’ or that which evokes ecstatic love for Him. ‘Uddipana’ helps stimulate the devotee’s latent love for Krishna, which in course of time manifests itself as ‘rasa’.

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