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Worshiping Govardhana Hill.
One day, Krishna saw that the cowherd men were busily preparing to perform a sacrifice to Indra, the king of heaven. Being omniscient, Krishna knew the whole situation, and He wanted to cut down Indra’s false pride, as well as curtail such activities by His devotees.
Therefore, He humbly inquired, “My dear father, please explain what this is all about. If this is a sacrifice, then for whom is it intended and what is the expected result? I am very curious to learn all about this.”
At first, Nanda Maharaja simply remained silent, thinking that such a small boy would not be able to understand the intricacies of the sacrifice.
Krishna persisted, however, saying, “Dear father, for a saintly person there are no secrets, because he sees all others as equal to himself. He has no false conception of ‘mine’ and ‘another’s’, and he does not consider who is friend, enemy, or neutral. And, even if one is not so elevated, he will not neglect one who is a friend.”
“In this world, when people perform activities, sometimes they understand what they are doing and sometimes they do not. Those who properly understand what they are doing achieve success, whereas ignorant persons fail to do so. Therefore, please explain to Me clearly what you are doing. Is it some ceremony based upon shastra, or is it simply done as a tradition?”
Nanda Maharaja replied, “The great Lord Indra is the controller of rain and the clouds are his personal representatives. The fact is, sufficient rain provides happiness and sustenance to all creatures. Not only us- many people worship Indra by offering grain and other paraphernalia, which, after all, are produced by rain. This sacrifice is based on tradition, and anyone who rejects it out of lust, enmity, fear or greed will certainly fail to achieve good fortune.”
Krishna replied in such a way as to arouse Indra’s anger, for he had become greatly proud of his position. Krishna said, “It is by the force of karma that one is born, and it is by karma alone that he meets death. Happiness, distress, fear and the sense of security all are the effects of karma.” (Thus minimizing the importance of the demigods, Krishna expounded karma-mimamsa philosophy, which is basically atheism with a belief in reincarnation.)
Nanda Maharaja and the others objected, however, saying that without satisfying the demigods, mere work could not give one the desired result.
To refute this, Lord Krishna said, “Even if there is some supreme controller who awards the results of activities, He still depends upon the performers’ engaging in such activity. After all, one could not bestow a fruitive result if no fruitive act was performed. Because Indra cannot affect anyone’s destiny, what is the use in worshiping him? Every living entity is under the control of his acquired nature. This is true for not only human beings, but for the demigods as well.”
This argument neglects one obvious point- that the laws of karma do not work independently, for they are creations of the Supreme Lord. The Supreme Personality of Godhead has very dexterously formulated and applied the laws of material nature governing punishment and reward for human behavior. It is done in such a way that the living entity is discouraged from sin and encouraged toward goodness, without any infringement upon his free will.
Lord Krishna continued, “Therefore, one should worship the work itself, that is determined by one’s conditioned nature. If one thing (work) is actually sustaining our lives, but we take shelter of something else (Indra), how can we benefit? We would be like an unfaithful woman who never achieves any real benefit by consorting with her paramour.”
“The brahmanas maintain their lives by studying and teaching the Vedas, the royal order by protecting the earth, the vaishyas by trade, and the shudras by serving the higher classes. The occupational duties of vaishyas are in four divisions- farming, commerce, cow protection, and money lending. As a community, we are always engaged in cow protection.”
“The causes of creation, maintenance and destruction are the three modes of material nature. Impelled by the mode of passion, the clouds pour rain everywhere, and so what has Indra to do with all this?”
Here Krishna introduces a mechanistic theory known as atheistic Sankhya. This tendency to attribute exclusive causality to the apparently mechanistic functions of nature is an old tendency indeed. There are the stringent laws of nature, but what about the Lawmaker?
Lord Krishna then said, “My dear father, our home in not in the city or the town, we are dwellers of the forests and hills. Therefore, let a sacrifice begin for the satisfaction of the cows, the brahmanas, and Govardhana Hill.”
Upon hearing this, Nanda Maharaja agreed to perform a separate sacrifice, as Krishna desired, after the performance of the Indra-yagya. Krishna insisted that there was no time for this, however, and so the paraphernalia that had been collected for worshiping Indra should be used for the Govardhana-puja. At last, Nanda Maharaja relented, and asked Krishna how the sacrifice should be performed.
Krishna then instructed, “Let many kinds of cooked food be prepared, and whatever milk products are available should be utilized. Let the qualified brahmanas begin preparations at once. The brahmanas should be very nicely fed and rewarded with gifts of cows. Then, all others should be given food, even the dogs and dog-eaters, and grass should be given to the cows. After everyone has eaten to his full satisfaction, everyone should decorate themselves gorgeously and circumambulate the cows, the brahmanas, the sacrificial fires, and Govardhana Hill.”
“O father, this is My proposal, and you may carry it out if it appeals to you. Such a sacrifice will greatly please the cows, the brahmanas, Govardhana Hill, and Me as well.”
When Nanda Maharaja and the other elderly cowherd men heard Lord Krishna’s statements, they accepted them as proper, and then did all that He had suggested. Utilizing the things that had been intended for Indra’s sacrifice, the cowherd men worshiped Govardhana Hill and the brahmanas with great respect. Then, after giving the cows nice grass, they placed them in front and began to circumambulate Govardhana Hill. As the beautifully ornamented cowherd women followed in wagons drawn by oxen, they sang the glories of Lord Krishna, the sound of which mingled with the brahmanas’ chanting of benedictions.
When all was complete, Krishna assumed a huge form and ate all the sacrificial offerings. To instill faith in the residents of Vrindavana, Lord Krishna then declared, “I am Govardhana Hill.” Along with all the people of Vraja, Krishna bowed down to this form, thus offering obeisances unto Himself.
Lord Krishna then said, “Just see how this hill has appeared in person and is bestowing mercy upon us! This Govardhana Hill, assuming any form he wishes, will kill any residents of the forest that neglect him. Therefore, let us offer our obeisances to him for the safety of ourselves and our cows.”
Finally, after the completion of Govardhana-puja, all the members of the cowherd community returned to their village, Vraja.