Extracts from the Srimad Bhagavatam
LXXXIII – LXXXIV - Krishna Meets Ancient Rishis
After showering His grace on the gopis Krishna met Yudhishthira and other friends and enquired after their welfare. While the men were thus conversing, their ladies had their own separate talk. Draupadi asked the wives of Krishna to relate to her the circumstances of their marriages, and each recounted her own story and her happiness at being His consort, ending with Rohini representing the sixteen thousand princesses who had been released from Narakasura’s capital and married by Him. Hearing the glowing terms in which they spoke of their Krishna, and the great amity which prevailed among all of them, Kunti, Gandhari, Draupadi and even the gopis shed tears of joy.
At that moment a great concourse of ancient Rishis appeared on the scene — Vyasa, Narada, Vishwamitra, Chyavana, Bharadwaja, Vasishtha, Brihaspati, the four Kumara celibates and many others. All the kings along with Krishna rose to receive them, offered them seats, garlands and water to wash their feet. Then the Lord spoke:
“Your visit, O ancient Masters of yoga, has conferred on us great blessings. People of poor penance, who confine God to an image are not given the privilege of worshipping you. Water does not purify nor images made of earth and stone represent deities till after a long recourse to them, whereas a single sight or touch of a holy man achieves instant purification. The worship of the gods not only does not wash away sins but, on the contrary, promotes the sense of duality (the worshipper and the worshipped), whereas the service of the wise, be it only for a short time, wipes out all sins. He who looks upon his body, which consists of bile, wind and phlegm as himself, and those who are connected with it as his own, and images of stone and wood as worthy of worship, and water rather than holy men as purifier of sins, is verily a donkey among cows.”
Hearing this from the lips of the Lord, the Sages were confounded: they deliberated among themselves and came to the conclusion that He was pretending to be an ordinary mortal, speaking and behaving like one. They immediately answered:
“Even the prajapatis and the most ancient sages like ourselves are deluded by Your Maya. Almighty Lord! You conceal Your true nature behind a human veil. Though one without a second, in Your astounding sporting proclivities, you appear many in names and forms, just like Mother Earth, which, though one only, assumes the names and forms of the countless objects which She produces. Even the Yadus who live with You do not know You, veiled as You are by Your own Maya. Just as a dreamer takes the dream objects as real and his dream body as himself, so does the deluded one take waking objects as real and his body as himself, and thus fails to realise You — his own real Self — Who stand beyond the waking and dream states. We Your devotees deem ourselves most fortunate, O Lord, for having set our eyes today on those feet of Yours which grant Liberation from this illusion. Pray shower Your Grace upon us.”
As the Rishis were taking leave after the function to return to their respective hermitages, Vasudeva fell at their feet and requested them to show him the way to redemption from action (karma). Narada, astonished, turned to the Rishis and said:
“Is it not a wonder, O divine Rishis, that Vasudeva should take Krishna as a mere child of his and inquire of us the way to salvation! It is the way of men to underrate those who are very close to them, like the people who live on the very banks of the Ganga seek other rivers to purify them.”
Then addressing Vasudeva in the presence of his Divine Sons, the kings and the Rishis, he said:
“To counteract past actions (Karma) and to cease to desire future action, action (ritual) is necessary to please the Lord. Sacrifice to Him, the Lord of Sacrifice, the Shastras proclaim, brings peace to the mind and joy to the heart. To spend with an open heart and humility in the sacrifice to the Supreme Person the wealth which has been earned by honest means destroys the desire for worldly enjoyments, for possessions and even for the enjoyments of the higher worlds (after death), which are, after all, also transitory — subject to the depredations of Time, the all-destroyer.”
Acting on the advice of Narada, Vasudeva fell at the feet of the Rishis and earnestly begged of them to be gracious to officiate in the sacrifices which he wished immediately to start. They agreed, and helped Vasudeva to perform a number of great yajnas in which he lavishly distributed presents to the Rishis, the Brahmins, the kings, all his friends and relatives, the musicians, the gods and everyone present.
When the people started leaving Kurukshetra for their respective homes, Vasudeva stopped Nanda and the people of Vraja and reiterated his sense of indebtedness to them.
“Brother Nanda,” he said, “the bonds of affection which the Lord forges in the hearts of men, cannot be easily broken even by yogis who work hard to break them. The friendship which you, highly virtuous couple, showed us is unparalleled and can never be repaid. Formerly we could not return it to any degree because we were helpless, as you well know, and later we did nothing for you because we were drunk with excessive wealth and power. Do not wish a king’s throne, O Brother, to the man who seeks blessedness: it blinds him to the love of even his own kinsmen.”
So saying, Vasudeva wept, remembering all Nanda’s and Yasoda’s love for Krishna and Balarama, and made them put off their departure by three months, during which he, Ugrasena, Uddhava and the two brothers showered on them all the love and the precious gifts they deserved. Then after giving a hearty send off to His foster-parents, His old friends and the dear gopis, Krishna returned to Dwaraka with His party.