Published on June 26th, 2022 | by HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada4
The Story of Saksi-Gopala
In India, there is one temple called Saksi-Gopala (Krsna is often called Gopala). The Gopala murti or statue was at one time located in a temple in Vrndavana. Once two brahmanas, one old and one young, went to visit Vrndavana on a pilgrimage. It was a long trip, and in those days there were no railways, so travelers underwent many hardships. [Excerpt from Raja – Vidya: The King of Knowledge, Ch.3]
na ca mat-sthani bhutani
pasya me yogam aisvaram
bhuta-bhrn na ca bhuta-stho
“And yet everything that is created does not rest in Me. Behold My mystic opulence. Although I am the maintainer of all living entities and although I am everywhere, still My Self is the very source of creation.” (Bg. 9.5)
Although all beings in the universe are resting in Krsna’s energy, still they are not in Him. Krsna is maintaining all living entities, and His energy is all-pervading, yet He is elsewhere. This is Krsna’s inconceivable mystic power. He is everywhere, yet He is aloof from everything. We can perceive his energy, but we cannot see Him because He cannot be seen with material eyes. However, when we develop our spiritual qualities, we sanctify our senses so that even within this energy we can see Him. Electricity, for instance, is everywhere, and an electrician is capable of utilizing it. Similarly, the energy of the Supreme Lord is everywhere, and when we become transcendentally situated, we can see God eye to eye everywhere. That spiritualization of the senses is possible through devotional service and love of God. The Lord is all-pervading all over the universe and is within the soul, the heart, water, air,everywhere. Thus if we make an image of God in anything,clay, stone, wood or whatever,it should not be considered to be just a doll. That also is God. If we have sufficient devotion, the image will also speak to us.
God is everywhere impersonally (maya tatam idam sarvam), but if we make His personal form from anything, or if we create an image of God within ourselves, He will be present personally for us. In the sastras, there are eight kinds of images recommended, and any kind of image can be worshiped because God is everywhere. One may protest and ask, “Why should God be worshiped in images and not in His original spiritual form?” The answer is that we cannot see God immediately in His spiritual form. With our material eyes we can only see stone, earth, wood,something tangible. Therefore Krsna comes as arca-vigraha, a form conveniently presented by the Supreme Lord in order for us to see Him. The result is that if we concentrate upon the image and make offerings with love and devotion, Krsna will respond through the image.
There are many instances of this happening. In India, there is one temple called Saksi-Gopala (Krsna is often called Gopala). The Gopala murti or statue was at one time located in a temple in Vrndavana. Once two brahmanas, one old and one young, went to visit Vrndavana on a pilgrimage. It was a long trip, and in those days there were no railways, so travelers underwent many hardships. The old man was much obliged to the youth for helping him on the journey, and upon arriving in Vrndavana, he said to him: “My dear boy, you have rendered me so much service, and I am much obliged to you. I would like very much to return that service and give you some reward.”
“My dear sir,”the youth said, “you are an old man just like my father. It is my duty to serve you. I don’t require any reward.”
“No, I’m obliged to you, and I must reward you,” the old man insisted. He then promised to give the young man his young daughter in marriage.
The old man was a very rich man, and the youth, although a learned brahmana, was very poor. Considering this, the youth said, “Don’t promise this, for your family will never agree. I am such a poor man, and you are aristocratic, so this marriage will not take place. Don’t promise this way before the Deity.”
The conversation was taking place in the temple before the Deity of Gopala Krsna, and the young man was anxious not to offend the Deity. However, despite the youth’s pleas, the old man insisted on the marriage. After staying in Vrndavana for some time, they finally returned home, and the old man informed his eldest son that his young sister was to be married to the poor brahmana youth. The eldest son became very angry. “Oh, how have you selected that pauper as husband for my sister? This cannot be.”
The old man’s wife also came to him and said, “If you marry our daughter to that boy, I shall commit suicide.”
The old man was thus perplexed. After some time, the brahmana youth became very anxious. “He has promised to marry his daughter to me, and he made that promise before the Deity. Now he is not coming to fulfill it.” He then went to see the old man to remind him of his promise.
“You promised before Lord Krsna,” the youth said, “and you are not fulfilling that promise. How is that?”
The old man was silent. He began praying to Krsna, for he was perplexed. He didn’t want to marry his daughter to the youth and cause such great trouble within his family. In the meantime the elder son came out and began to accuse the brahmana youth. “You have plundered my father in the place of pilgrimage. You gave him some intoxicant and took all his money, and now you are saying that he has promised to offer you my youngest sister. You rascal!”
In this way there was much noise, and people began to gather. The youth could understand that the old man was still agreeable but that the family was making it difficult for him. People began to gather about because of the noise which the elder son was raising, and the brahmana youth began to exclaim to them that the old man made this promise before the Deities but that he could not fulfill it because the family was objecting. The eldest son, who was an atheist, suddenly interrupted the youth and said, “You say that the Lord was witnessing. Well, if He comes and bears witness to this promise of my father’s, you can have my sister in marriage.”
The youth replied, “Yes, I shall ask Krsna to come as a witness.” He was confident that God would come. An agreement was then made before everyone that the girl would be given in marriage if Krsna came from Vrndavana as a witness to the old man’s promise.
The brahmana youth returned to Vrndavana and began to pray to Gopala Krsna. “Dear Lord, You must come with me.” He was such a staunch devotee that he spoke to Krsna just as one would speak to a friend. He was not thinking that the Gopala was a mere statue or image, but he considered Him to be God Himself. Suddenly the Deity spoke to him:
“How do you think that I can go with you? I am a statue. I can’t go anywhere.”
“Well, if a statue can speak, he can also walk,” the boy replied.
“All right then,” the Deity said finally. “I shall go with you, but on one condition. In no case shall you look back to see Me. I will follow you, and you will know that I am following by the jingle of My leg bangles.”
The youth agreed, and in this way they left Vrndavana to go to the other town. When the trip was nearly over, just as they were about to enter his home village, the youth could no longer hear the sound of the bangles, and he began to fear. “Oh, where is Krsna?”
Unable to contain himself any longer, he looked back. He saw the statue standing still. Because he looked back, it would go no further. He immediately ran into the town and told the people to come out and see Krsna who had come as a witness. Everyone was astounded that such a large statue had come from such a distance, and they built a temple on the spot in honor of the Deity, and today people are still worshiping Saksi-Gopala, the Lord as a witness.
We should therefore conclude that because God is everywhere, He is also in His statue, in the image made of Him. If Krsna is everywhere, as even the impersonalists admit, then why isn’t He in His image? Whether an image or statue speaks to us or not is dependent on the degree of our devotion. But if we choose to see the image merely as a piece of wood or stone, Krsna will always remain wood or stone for us. Krsna is everywhere, but as we advance in spiritual consciousness we can begin to see Him as He is. If we put a letter into a mailbox, it will go to its destination because the mailbox is authorized. Similarly, if we worship an authorized image of God, our faith will have some effect. If we are prepared to follow the various rules and regulations,that is to say, if we become qualified,it is possible to see God anywhere and everywhere. When a devotee is present, Krsna, by His omnipresent energies, will manifest Himself anywhere and everywhere, but when His devotee is not there, He will not do this. There are many instances of this. Prahlada Maharaja saw Krsna in a pillar. There are many other examples. Krsna is there; all that is required is our qualification to see Him.
Krsna Himself gives an example of His omnipresence in this way:.
yathakasa sthito nityam
vayuh sarvatra-go mahan
tatha sarvani bhutani
“As the mighty wind, blowing everywhere, always rests in ethereal space, know that in the same manner all beings rest in Me.” (Bg. 9.6)
Everyone knows that the wind blows within space, and on earth it is blowing everywhere. There is no place where there is no air or wind. If we wish to drive out air, we have to create a vacuum artificially by some machine. Just as the air is blowing everywhere in space, so everything is existing within Krsna. If this is the case, when the material creation is dissolved, where does it go?
prakrtim yanti mamikam
kalpa-ksaye punas tani
kalpadau visrjamy aham
“O son of Kunti, at the end of the millennium every material manifestation enters into My nature, and at the beginning of another millennium, by My potency I again create.” (Bg. 9.7)
Krsna sets His nature (prakrti) into motion, as one may wind up a clock, and when nature unwinds, it is absorbed into the Lord. The spiritual creation, however, is not like this, for it is permanent. In the material creation everything is temporary. Just as our bodies are developing due to the spiritual spark that is within, the whole creation is coming into being, developing and passing out of being, due to the spirit of the Lord which is within it. Just as our spirit is present within the body, the Lord is present within the universe as Paramatma. Due to the presence of Ksirodakasayi Visnu, the material creation exists, just as due to our presence our bodies are existing. Sometimes Krsna manifests the material creation, and sometimes He does not. In all cases, its existence is due to His presence.