Yet, when Nanda, the foster father of Krishna and the king of the gopas, prepared to performa Vedic Yajna in Indra’s honour, Sri Krishna objected.
First, Krishna asked Nanda what he was doing and why:
- “When people in this world perform activities, sometimes they understand what they are doing and sometimes they don’t. Those who know what they are doing achieve success in their work, whereas ignorant people do not.
- Such being the case, this ritualistic endeavor of yours should be clearly explained to Me. Is it a ceremony based on scriptural injunction, or simply a custom of ordinary society? ”
These are valid questions which many thinking people ask to this day.
Here is Nanda’s answer :
- “The great Lord Indra is the controller of the rain. The clouds are his personal representatives, and they directly provide rainwater, which gives happiness and sustenance to all creatures.
- Not only we, my dear son, but also many other men worship him, the lord and master of the rain-giving clouds. We offer him grain and other paraphernalia of worship produced through his own discharge in the form of rain.
- By accepting the remnants of sacrifices performed to Indra, people sustain their lives and accomplish the threefold aims of religiosity, economic development and sense gratification. Thus Lord Indra is the agent responsible for the fruitive success of industrious people.
- This religious principle is based on sound tradition. Anyone who rejects it out of lust, enmity, fear or greed will certainly fail to achieve good fortune.”
Indra is clearly perceived here as the cause of rain, worthy of gratitude and cause of good fortune.
Krishna then gave his reasons for why the Vedic Rites to Indra should be discontinued :
- “It is by the force of karma that a living entity takes birth, and it is by karma alone that he meets his destruction. His happiness, distress, fear and sense of security all arise as the effects of karma…
- Even if there is some supreme controller who awards all others the results of their activities, He must also depend upon a performer’s engaging in activity. After all, there is no question of being the bestower of results unless activities have actually been performed.
- Living beings in this world are forced to experience the consequences of their own particular previous work. Since Lord Indra cannot in any way change the destiny of human beings, which is born of their own nature, why should people worship him?
- Every individual is under the control of his own nature (svabhava), and thus he must follow that nature. This entire universe, with all its devas, asuras and manushas (humans), is based on the nature of the living entities.
- Because it is karma that causes the living entity to accept and then give up different high-and low-grade material bodies, this karma is his enemy, friend and neutral witness, his spiritual master and controlling lord.
- Therefore one should seriously worship work itself. A person should remain in the position corresponding to his nature and should perform his own duty. Indeed, that by which we may live nicely is really our worshipable deity.
- rajasā — by raja guna (energy/light); coditāḥ — impelled; meghāḥ — the clouds; varṣanti — pour down; ambūni — their water; sarvataḥ — everywhere; prajāḥ — the population; taiḥ — by that water; eva — simply; sidhyanti — maintain their existence; mahā-indraḥ — the great Indra; kim — what; kariṣyati — can do.
- My dear father, our home is not in the cities or towns or villages. Being forest dwellers, we always live in the forest and on the hills.
- Therefore may a sacrifice for the pleasure of the cows, the brāhmaṇas and Govardhana Hill begin! With all the paraphernalia collected for worshiping Indra, let this yajna be performed instead.”
Sri Krishna’s reasons reflect clearly his teachings in the Gita.
- It is nature that makes things happen.
- There is no need to worship the functionaries of nature.
- It is work that is worthy of worship and depending on your lifestyle, you may worship (take care of and treat with respect) your implements appropriately.
- Since the gopas were cowherds, it was sensible for them to worship cows, instead of rain. It made more sense for agricultural societies to worship rain.
In Karnataka and Andhra there is a custom called Ayudha Puja, in which people wash, decorate and treat as sacred their computers, vehicles, cupboards and all useful implements. This is in the spirit of Krishna’s teachings.
The Bhakthi cult takes a different view of this conversation and chooses to replace Indra with Krishna.
SB 10.24: Worshiping Govardhana Hill
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