When one is sincere in seeking Krishna’s shelter, He will divert us from fake gurus
and direct us towards authentic gurus of bhakti.
Lord Krishna displays His mercy to an unimaginable extent in Vrindavan, His divine abode. He gave the position of a mother to a monster who came to kill Him. She was Putana, a rakshasi, whose business was to search for infants, kill them and suck their blood. She represents a fake guru or the fickle mind that distracts a spiritual seeker from one’s goal in bhakti-yoga.
Uninvited Yet Unobstructed
As a witch who was accustomed to black arts, Putana, the baby-catcher flew in the sky and landed in Gokul. She was specifically instigated by evil Kamsa to kill babies who were born in the last ten days.
Putana changed her form into a beautiful woman. Seeing her, innocent ladies thought that the goddess of fortune, holding a lotus in her hand, had come to see her husband Narayana who was being worshiped in the house of Nanda Maharaj. Everyone trusted her spontaneously beyond doubt. Her heart was fierce and cruel, but she presented herself like a very affectionate mother. She resembled a sharp sword in a soft sheath.
She entered Nanda Maharaj’s house without anyone’s permission or obstruction. Overwhelmed by her beauty, and apparent motherly love, mother Yashoda and mother Rohini didn’t stop her. Putana went into the inner chambers and saw baby Krishna sleeping in bed, His unlimited power covered like fire under ashes. As if afraid of her, He closed His eyes. Putana understood that the child wasn’t ordinary, but bent upon fulfilling her purpose, she took Krishna on her lap who was to be her own end, just as a fool places a sleeping snake on one’s lap, thinking it to be a rope.
Gentle Conduct – Brutal Heart
The fierce rakshasi then started feeding her breast milk to baby Krishna. She had smeared a dangerous poison on her breast to kill Him. That poison was so intense that even touching it could cause death. Krishna took hold of her breast, squeezed it hard with His tender yet thunderbolt-like hands. He then sucked out both the poison and her life. Though God presents Himself as an infant as a part of His pastimes, His powers remain the same. However powerful a demon may be, he or she cannot overpower God.
Krishna manifested anger towards Putana, because she had planned to kill many children of Gokul. The power of His anger sucked out her impure and evil propensities along with her life, just as a man with an axe cuts down a tree. Krishna’s anger, however, was temporary, because it got transformed into the greatest mercy within no time. God’s anger is only to rectify and reform demoniac people, but not to take revenge on them. As the supreme well-wisher of all, His ultimate disposition towards anyone is ‘mercy.’
Putana screamed out in severe pain, “Please leave me! Get away from me!” Perspiring, her eyes wide open and her arms and legs flailing, she cried loudly again and again. As all directions vibrated, people fell down, fearing that thunderbolts were about to fall upon them. She could not maintain her disguise as a beautiful woman and reverted to her original form of a witch. And everyone realized that she was a rakshasi. No one can perpetually control or cheat people. By higher powers, one’s power ultimately gets nullified and one’s real colors get revealed to the world.
Punished, But Purified
In this way Putana lost her life. She fell down in the pasturing ground and smashed all the trees within a limit of twelve miles. These trees belonged to Kamsa’s garden. It was remarkable that only the trees were crushed, and not the houses of the village or the cowsheds. Those who want to cause harm to God or godly people are themselves ruined.
Child Krishna was fearlessly playing on Putana’s huge body. The gopis immediately picked Him up. The simple-hearted gopis took precautions and did necessary rituals to invoke protection for the child Krishna. Mother Yashoda gave Krishna her milk and then laid Him in the bed.
By Krishna’s touch, Putana’s body was sanctified, and she was freed of all sinful reactions and material contamination. When her body was being burnt by the Vrajavasis, the smoke that emanated was fragrant like aguru incense. Krishna’s transcendental touch spiritualizes matter and purifies both the bodies and hearts of even the most wicked demons.
Reward For An Imitation Offering
Putana always hankered for the blood of infants, and desired to kill Krishna. Krishna disapproved Putana’s attitude, but He rewarded her for her attire. Putana pretended to have the sentiments of a mother. She just imitated the dress and emotion of a mother, but her intent was most malicious. Krishna also imitated to suck her breast and embraced her body, just as a child does with his mother. Just by this imitation, Krishna elevated her to the position of a nurse and maidservant to assist mother Yashoda in Goloka Vrindavan. How can one find a person more merciful than Krishna? Krishna’s nature is to find some opportunity or the other to show His mercy even on demoniac people. If one contacts Krishna somehow or the other, even with a negative attitude, Krishna purifies him or her and bestows His causeless mercy.
If Putana could attain such a result by neglectfully and enviously making an offering to Krishna, what is to be said of mother Yashoda, the gopis and the cows who offered their milk to Krishna with sincerity, affection, love and joy, for His satisfaction? Service rendered to Lord Krishna, whether directly or indirectly, knowingly or unknowingly, becomes successful. God’s mercy is unparalleled, unimaginable, inconceivable and beyond human logic!
Who was Putana in her past life?
According to the Garga-Samhita, in her past life, Putana was Ratnamala, the daughter of Bali Maharaja (Brahma-vaivarta Purana mentions that she was Bali’s sister). Seeing the charming form of Lord Vamana as a dwarf brahmana boy in Bali’s sacrifice, Ratnamala felt for the Lord a mother’s love for her son. She thought, “What a wonderful boy? If I had a beautiful son like Him, then I would offer Him my milk.” The Lord sanctioned her spontaneous desire. However, when Vamanadeva took away the entire kingdom of Bali, Ratnamala’s loving mood changed into one of hatred. Within her mind she thought, “If I have him as my son, I shall kill him by feeding poison!” Thus at the end of Dvapara-yuga she became known as Putana and fulfilled her desires. Then, by Lord Krishna’s touch, she attained liberation too. Putana had two brothers named Bakasura and Aghasura who also attacked Krishna in Vrindavan. Krishna kindly liberated them too.
What does Putana represent?
Putana appeared as a loving mother externally but she was a dangerous demon internally. Thus Putana represents a pseudo guru, or a so called teacher who seems to be genuine, but actually unauthentic and deviant. A pseudo guru may appear in multiple forms. A fake guru is one who teaches one’s students sense gratification or liberation or both.
- Teachers who favour Sense gratification (bhukti): Some money and basic enjoyment are the common needs of people in this world. And one has to responsibly earn one’s livelihood by honest means and live happily abiding by the laws of nature. But being greedy, foolish people desire excessive material wealth and undue enjoyment, and seek so-called gurus who suggest them shortcuts that appear religious. These fake gurus often seek wealth and enjoyment for themselves from and through the ignorant masses who approach them for the same. These materialistic gurus misdirect such people with some mantras or rituals to attain material wealth, fame, influence and so on. However, ultimately all material prosperity is temporary and is lost at any moment.
- Teachers who favour Liberation (mukti): There are other people who are frustrated with sense gratification and thus develop some spiritual inclinations. Unfortunately they sometimes approach gurus who direct them towards impersonal liberation. These gurus teach detachment from material enjoyment, and emphasize that liberation (moksha), i.e., merging in the effulgence of God (Brahman) as all in all. However, detachment from material enjoyment has to be accompanied by attachment to spiritual enjoyment. And the ultimate spiritual enjoyment of the soul is in the eternal activity of loving and serving (bhakti) Krishna, and not just merge in His effulgence to be inactive. Thus the gurus who direct people towards liberation are cheating and depriving people of their real fortune of loving company of God in His eternal abode.
- Distracted Mind: Sometimes one’s materially contaminated mind also acts like a pseudo guru. The mind carries millions of material impressions from past lives and is the storehouse of unlimited material desires for selfish enjoyment. Such mind inwardly presents mundane reasoning and manifests as a so-called spiritual guide. Trusting the deviant and distracted mind, a spiritual seeker gives into its desires and obsessions. The right course of action recommended for a devotee, however, is to sharpen one’s intelligence with spiritual knowledge presented in the scriptures. With deliberate spiritual intelligence one must control the fickle mind and make it focus on one’s spiritual practices and come closer to God.
A sincere spiritual seeker has to diligently protect oneself from falling into the clutches of above pseudo gurus who manifest outwardly (fake gurus) and inwardly (fickle mind). And one must seek shelter of the real gurus who appear inwardly as the Supersoul (Krishna as Paramätma in our hearts) and outwardly as a pure devotee. One must learn the science of bhakti from pure devotees who are bona fide teachers or acharyas. If we are sincere in seeking shelter of Krishna, He will divert us from fake gurus and direct us towards authentic gurus of bhakti. Under the guidance of such gurus, we can easily attain the lotus feet of Krishna in His eternal abode.
Gauranga Darshan Das, a disciple of His Holiness Radhanatah Swami, is dean of the Bhaktivedanta Vidyapitha at ISKCON Govardhan Eco Village (GEV), outside Mumbai. He is the author of several books including Gita Subodhini, Bhagavata Subodhini, Caitanya Subodhini, Disapproved but not Disowned and Bhagavata Pravaha. He teaches scriptural courses at several places in India and also oversees the deity worship at GEV.