Peacock Feathers and Blue Mother Yasoda
Srila Gurudeva had ordered me four times to make a coffee-table-size art book of all the paintings that I had done for Srila Prabhupada and himself. In fact, one of those times, he told me, “You should give one copy to the president of India. The president gave an award to a Vrndavana artist named Kanhaiya, but if he sees your pictures, then, oh, what will he do?”
I was not very enthusiastic to do that project, because it seemed ego-serving to me even though it was his order. I didn’t begin working on it until after Gurudeva’s divine departure, and thus I couldn’t ask him about my dilemma. What dilemma? When I was using my BBT paintings for Gurudeva’s books, I would always change something to match Gurudeva’s teachings. For example, Prabhupada had said to paint Mother Yasoda golden-complexioned, and Gurudeva had said to paint her blue. So, when I would use my BBT paintings of Mother Yasoda for Srila Gurudeva’s books, I would ask one of the GVP graphic designers to change her golden complexion to blue by computer. We would also remove, by computer, all the peacock feathers of Visnu, Rama, Nrsimhadeva, and Dvarakadhisa Krsna. My dilemma was that in the art book I would have paintings from the time of Prabhupada and from the time of Gurudeva.
What should I do? Should I keep the peacock feathers or not? Should I make Mother Yasoda golden or blue? Scriptural references, including Srila Prabhupada’s Nectar of Devotion, supported Srila Gurudeva’s instruction. [see endnote 1] I couldn’t imagine that Prabhupada was wrong, but I didn’t know why he wasn’t wrong. I was confused by the apparently contradictory instructions I was getting from my diksa- and siksa-gurus, both of whom are my life and soul, not understand at the time that these instructions were not contradictory at all.
On October 6, 2012, fate was kind to me. I had the opportunity to ask Srila Bharati Maharaja in Vrndavana, and he gave a perfect reconciliation. Srila Maharaja sometimes spoke in Hindi and sometimes in English. When he spoke in Hindi, his servant Madhava-priya translated his words into English. I asked, “As an artist for both Srila Prabhupada Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja and Srila Gurudeva Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja, I am wondering why, on rare occasions, I received apparently contradictory instructions from them. Srila Prabhupada never corrected me about the peacock feathers on Lord Nrsimhadeva, Lord Narayana, and other incarnations, whereas Srila Gurudeva was very specific – that I should put the peacock feathers only on Vrajendra-nandana Sri Krsna. Also, Prabhupada said to paint Mother Yasoda golden, and Gurudeva said to make her bluish like Krsna. How do I reconcile this?
Srila Maharaja replied, “When Srila Swami Maharaja did not ask you to remove the peacock feathers, that is not incorrect, and when Srila Narayana Maharaja requested you to take them out, that is also not incorrect.
When we accept that all these avataras are non-different from Krsna, whether we place the peacock feather or not, it is not a problem. When we place it, it is justified.
Recalling the prayer we sometimes sang in glorification of Krsna’s ten pastime incarnations, I said in immediate agreement, “Oh, like ‘Kesava dhrta nana-vidha rupa – All incarnations are none other than Krsna, who has assumed those forms.’ Like that?”
Srila Maharaja replied, “Yes, there is no difference, so what is the problem that he didn’t say to remove it? Later, when we grow up in bhakti, we consider, “Krsna did not manifest His pastime as Nrsimhadeva wearing a peacock feather, so better not to keep it.” So, both are correct. With his (Srila Prabhupada's) vision there is no difference at all. When Srila Narayana Maharaja is asking to remove it, there is also no problem, because he was specifically focusing on rasa vicara. [*See Endnote 2]
“When somebody is a small child, the teacher says, “The sun rises in the East and sets in the West.” Then, when the student grows up, the teacher says, “The sun is always present, twenty-four hours daily. It never sets and never rises.” Both are true. It depends on one's qualification for hearing and understanding.
“Some qualification was there when you were with Srila Swami Maharaja; there were things that he mentioned to you to help your gradual understanding, as there were things that you were not ready to understand at that time. So later, when you became more ready, Srila Narayana Maharaja could make you understand.
“Here is another way to see it. When Caitanya Mahaprabhu was in Jagannatha Puri, He saw Jagannatha-deva as Vrajendra-nandana Krsna. He saw Him with a flute and peacock feather, but Jagannatha had no flute or peacock feather. In the same way, if Srila Swami Maharaja saw in that vision, it didn't matter whether he was seeing Nrsimhadeva or anyone else. He saw Vrajndra-nandana, so there was no problem at all.”
Once the reconciliation was cleared by Srila Maharaja, Gurudeva’s discussions on this topic came to mind. There are two considerations: rasa-vicara (the consideration of loving relationships and pastimes) and tattva-vicara (the consideration of philosophical truth). In relation to rasa-vicara, the peacock has specific reference and relevance in the pastimes of Vraja, and not so anywhere else. Also, for the sake of separation pastimes (as in the Ratha-yatra pastimes when Krsna and the gopis meet in Kurusetra), Gurudeva often stressed the difference between Vrajendra-nandana Krsna and Dvarakadisa Krsna. The gopis didn’t want Krsna to remain in Dvaraka, and they didn’t want Him to think that He is the son of Devaki and Vasudeva. They told Him with their heart’s emotions that if He wants to come back to Vrndavana, He had better not think of Himself as the son of Devaki, and He would have to dawn His peacock feather and flute.
Gurudeva had often explained that although Krsna’s plenary parts and portions of the plenary parts are one with Him in tattva, fundamental established truth, they are different by rasa, or pastimes. He also often explained that Prabhupada really wants us to be one-pointed, to make Vraja our goal. Vraja.
Happy and satisfied, I asked, “And what about Mother Yasoda?”
Srila Maharaja generously replied, “When Caitanya Mahaprabhu was on the bank of Godavari with Raya Ramananda, Raya Ramananda saw Mahaprabhu as a sannyasi first, and then He saw that He was Krsna. He saw that the Lord’s complexion was syama, bluish-black, and then he saw Him covered with the complexion of Radhika. So, even though he saw Mahaprabhu, he also saw all these things as well.
“In the same way, this applies to Mother Yasoda. The pure devotees seem to be seeing and describing in a different way, because different lilas are manifesting in front of them. If a particular lila manifests, they speak according to that.
“For example, my siksa-guru Srila Bhakti-Prajnana Kesava Maharaja always installed white Krsna Deities in his temples. This is because of his mood, since Krsna is generally always syama-complexioned. When it is expressed clearly why he chose to show Krsna with a white complexion, then we can understand. [*See Endnote 2]
Accepting Srila Maharaja’s words, that according to the lila witnessed by the pure devotee he expresses himself, I asked, “Why is Mother Yasoda golden? What lila could that possibly be?”
Assured, Srila Maharaja replied, “There is a lila. Mother Yasoda sometimes becomes absorbed in thinking, “I cook so many preparations for Krsna, but my preparations are not up to the standard of Radharani’s. When She will come, She will cook for Krsna. By that, He will have so many good dishes, and He will be much healthier.” Then, if for some reason Srimati Radhika delays in coming to Yasoda’s palace to cook, Yasoda becomes absorbed in thinking, “When is She coming? When is She coming?” By such deep contemplation, she adopts Radhika’s golden complexion.”
[Endnote 1 – regarding Mother Yasoda’s complexion:
“There is another description of mother Yasoda in a devotee's prayer: ‘Let me be given protection by mother Yasoda, whose curly hairs are bound with thread, whose hair is very brightly beautified by the vermilion placed in the part, and whose bodily frame derides all her ornaments. Her eyes are always engaged in seeing the face of Krsna, and thus they are always filled with tears. Her complexion, which resembles the bluish lotus flower, is enhanced in beauty by her dressing herself with many colorful garments. Let her merciful glance fall on all of us, so that we may be protected from the clutches of maya and smoothly progress in our devotional service!” (Srila Prabhupada’s NOD. Ch. 47)
mata gopa-yaso-datri yasoda syamala-dyutih
murtta vatsalatevasau sakra-capa-nibhambara
“Because she gives (dä) fame (yasa) to the society of the cowherds, Sri Krsna's mother is called Yasodä. Her bodily complexion is blackish blue (syämala).” (Srila Rupa Gosvami’s Radha-Krsna ganodesa-dipika)
“The silk cloth on Mother Yasodä’s somewhat full, bluish limbs fluttered as she swiftly ran, and the beautiful fragrant flowers that were woven into her braid began to fall as if to say, ‘Mother, you are not alone; we also are with you. Catch Him, quickly!’” (Srila Sanatan Gosvami’s commentary (called Dig-darsini tika) to the Damodarastakam prayers)]
[*Endnote 2 – (by Srila Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Gosvami Maharaja, quoted from Acarya Kesarai) “In the second prakostha (section) of Sri mandira, Sri Gaura Rädhä-Vinodabihäri Ji are installed. Here the supremely wonderful and mysterious white luster of Sri Vinodabihäri Ji, who is absorbed in thinking of Sri Rädhä, defeats even the bhajanänandis’ bhajana secrets. Even the bhajanänandis cannot understand this highest secret, but Srila Äcäryadeva [Srila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura] has personally explained it.
Sriman Mahäprabhu is Himself Rädhä-Krsna Yugala and Sri Rädhä-Krsna are worshiped by Sri Gaura mantra. People may ask why the three Deities in this temple (Sri Krsna, Srimati Rädharani and Sri Gaurasundara) are all white in color. The answer is that They are not white, but rather have the golden luster of Srimati Rädhäji. By accepting Srimati Rädhikä’s bodily luster, Sri Krsna has taken on a golden (Gaura) complexion. The bodily luster of Sri Gaurasundara is as fair as pure gold, which is why these three have the same complexion. Here we must understand that the apparently white complexion is actually Gaura (golden).
Why did Sri Krsna take on Sri Rädhä’s Gaura complexion? Srimati Rädhikä has a natural contrary mood (vämya-bhäva) towards Sri Krsna, but only for increasing the ever-fresh variety of Krsna-sevä. Once Srimatiji became angry with Krsna and exhibited mäna, and at that time Krsna became so absorbed in thinking of Srimatiji that His syäma-complexion changed and became like Hers.
rädhä-cintä-nivesena yasya käntir-vilopitä
sri krsna-caranam vande rädhälingita-vigraham
We refer to this deep mystery in the first verse of Sri Rädhä-Vinodabihäri-Asttakam. The word rädhä-lingita has two meanings; 1) rädhayä lingita, and 2) rädhayä älingita.
In the first of these meanings (rädhayä lingita), the word lingita means ‘having the appearance of.’ Sri Krsna lost His own complexion and assumed Srimati Rädhikä’s due to being very absorbed in thinking of Her in separation. This is the deep meaning of rädhä lingita vigraha. It is this Sri vigraha that has been brought to light here. The meaning of this deep tattva has been illuminated by the crest-jewel of rasika Vaishnavas, Srila Visvanätha Cakravarti Thäkura in his Sri Svapna-viläsämrta. This tattva has been manifested to the world by my Srila Guru-pädapadma from the core of his heart.
The second meaning of rädhä-lingita is rädhayä älingita or ‘embraced by Rädhä.’ The confidential meaning of this has been spoken by Sri Räyä Rämänanda Ji to Sriman Mahäprabhu on the banks of Godävari.
pahile dekhiluṅ tomāra sannyāsi-svarūpa
ebe tomā dekhi muñi śyāma-gopa-rūpa
tomāra sammukhe dekhi kāñcana-pañcālikā
tāṅra gaura-kāntye tomāra sarva aṅga ḍhākā
tabe hāsi' tāṅre prabhu dekhāila svarūpa
'rasa-rāja' 'mahābhāva'--dui eka rūpa
(Caitanya-caritämrta Madhya 8.268, 269, 282)
Räyä Rämänandaji asked Sri Caitanya Mahäprabhu, “I first saw You as a sannyäsi, and now I am seeing You as the Gopa Syämasundara. At the same time I am seeing a golden-complexioned Deity in front of You, whose golden luster fully covers Your Krsna-luster.” Upon hearing this, Sri Caitanya Mahäprabhu laughed and gave darsana of Krsna in His distinctive Gaura complexion as ‘Rasaräja-Mahäbhäva’ combined. Sri Räyä Rämänanda fainted in bliss when he saw this unprecedented sweet form.
So this is another explanation of the deep mystery of Sri Krsna's golden complexion. The syäma complexion of Krsna has been completely covered by Srimati Rädhikä’s embrace, and He is manifesting Her bodily luster.