Today is Rukmini-dvadasi, the appearance day of Srimati Rukmini-devi. There have been wonderful festivities all day, beginning with the special darshan of the Deities in Their flower outfits, and just now a wonderful abhiseka. During the abhiseka I really felt like I was in Vrindavan. There was so much devotion, spontaneous devotion—every time the pujaris poured another substance on the Deities, there would be gasps and cries of ecstasy and approval. It was really wonderful. And that is life in Krishna consciousness—somehow being captivated by Krishna, the beauty of Krishna, manifest in His deity forms, His holy names, and His words and descriptions, the revealed scriptures. We want, somehow or other, to be absorbed in Krishna, and that absorption, encouraged by all these different activities, will cleanse the heart naturally and make us happy.
In terms of tattva (ontology), Krishna is the Absolute Truth. From Him everything emanates. He is the cause of all causes.
isvarah paramah krsnah
anadir adir govindah
“Krishna, who is known as Govinda, is the Supreme Godhead. He has an eternal, blissful, spiritual body. He is the origin of all. He has no other origin, and He is the prime cause of all causes.” (Bs 5.1)
Once, on a morning walk here at Cheviot Hills Park, I asked Srila Prabhupada, “We say that Krishna is the origin of all, but sometimes people question us, ‘You say Krishna is the origin, but what is Krishna’s origin?’ What should we answer?” And Prabhupada replied, “You should tell them that according to our information, Krishna is the origin of everything and has no origin, but if you find someone or something that is the origin of Krishna, we will worship that person or thing—but until then you should worship Krishna.”
So, Krishna is the origin, but in terms of tattva, there are two basic categories: vishnu-tattva and shakti-tattva. Krishna is the source of all Vishnu forms, beginning with Balarama (Krishna’s first expansion), Vasudeva, Sankarsana, Pradyumna, and Aniruddha—so many expansions on the side of the energetic (Vishnu). Similarly, there are so many expansions on the side of the energy (shakti), and the first is Srimati Radharani. From Her expand so many gopis in Vrindavan, so many queens in Dvaraka, and so many Laksmis in Vaikuntha.
krsna-kanta-gana dekhi tri-vidha prakara
eka laksmi-gana, pure mahisi-gana ara
vrajangana-rupa, ara kanta-gana-sara
sri-radhika haite kanta-ganera vistara
“The beloved consorts of Lord Krsna are of three kinds: the goddesses of fortune, the queens, and the milkmaids of Vraja, who are the foremost of all. These consorts all proceed from Radhika.” (Cc Adi 4.74–75)
Of all Krishna’s queens in Dvaraka, Rukmini-devi is the principal. Ultimately, she is an expansion of Srimati Radharani. All of Rukmini’s qualities are present in Radharani, though Radharani manifests some qualities that Rukmini doesn’t.
Many of Rukmini and Krishna’s pastimes are described in Srimad-Bhagavatam, and they are relishable and instructive. When I first read the story of Rukmini and Krishna in the Krsna book, I thought that it was the most wonderful story—one that could make a fabulous movie, with romance, suspense, chivalry, adventure, and a truly happy ending. I thought, “This is amazing. You get everything in Krishna consciousness—but completely pure and spiritual.”
Rukmini was the daughter of the king of Vidarbha, and when sages and saintly persons visited the royal palace, they would glorify the transcendental beauty, prowess, and character of Krishna. Sages knew Krishna to be the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and so they were pleased to glorify Him. And because He was acting as a ruler, kshatriyas were also pleased to speak about Him. By hearing about Krishna, Princess Rukmini became attached to Him (we could say she fell in love with Him). She had never met Him, but just by hearing about Him she developed great faith, attraction, and love for Him and decided that He would be the perfect husband for her.
This is instructive for all of us, that if we hear about Krishna without envy, we will also become attracted to Him. Of course, Rukmini was a very pious, religious, pure-hearted girl. In fact, she was an expansion of Srimati Radharani. But because she was pure and religious and cultured, hearing about Krishna had an especially powerful effect on her heart. In the same way, if we lead pure lives as ordained by scripture, as taught by Srila Prabhupada, when we hear about the beauty and qualities and pastimes of Krishna, we will also become attracted.
Thus Rukmini, a most qualified princess, became attached to Krishna, the most qualified prince, and decided to marry Him. But her eldest brother, Rukmi, was envious of Krishna and forbade her marriage with Him. Instead, he arranged her marriage with his friend Sisupala, who was practically from birth envious of and antagonistic toward Krishna.
Other than Rukmi, all Rukmini’s family members and well-wishers, including her father, favored her match with Krishna. And Rukmini, Krishna’s eternal consort, could not think of marrying anyone else. Later, she told Krishna that only a woman who had not relished the fragrance of the honey of His lotus feet could accept someone else as her husband or lover. Any other suitor would be a “living corpse”—a bag covered with skin, whiskers, nails, and hair and filled with flesh, bones, blood, stool, mucus, bile, and air. “What woman,” she averred, “who has once heard Your glories from saintly persons and relished the nectarean fragrance of Your lotus feet would take shelter of some mortal who is always afraid of death?” She insisted that she would depend only on Krishna, who has an eternal, blissful, spiritual form.
Understanding the entire situation, Rukmini, in a bold move, sent a message to Krishna through a trustworthy brahman, expressing her heart’s desire to have only Him as her husband and suggesting how He could steal her away from the assembly at her proposed marriage the following day.
Rukmini was so beautiful and attractive that not only Sisupala but many kings and princes desired her. That is what we experience in the material world: Pretty much everyone looks at us as objects to exploit and enjoy, however sweetly they may act or speak. For example, at the end of almost any phone call to a large business, the company’s rep will ask, “Is there anything else I can do for you?” It’s all scripted. The ultimate purpose is to get your money, but they ask ever so politely, “Is there anything else I can do for you today?” Underneath it all, people want to get something from you for themselves. They want to exploit your body, your mind, or your resources. They are just like the lusty kings and princes hovering around Rukmini.
In that delicate predicament, that awkward situation, Rukmini reached out to Krishna, cried out to Him to save her. That was the only recourse she had, and ultimately that is the only recourse any of us has. We are in an ocean surrounded by sharks ready to devour us, and the only one who can save us is Krishna.
daivi hy esa guna-mayi
mama maya duratyaya
mam eva ye prapadyante
mayam etam taranti te
[Lord Krishna says,] “This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who surrender unto Me can easily cross beyond it.” (Gita 7.14)
Rukmini surrendered herself to Lord Krishna with utter, complete sincerity, and the Lord reciprocated and delivered her. Sometimes we also pray to Krishna, but with some duplicity. We want Krishna’s help but at the same time still desire to enjoy materially, without Krishna. There is a saying about soldiers in combat: “There are no atheists in foxholes.” Foxholes are pits dug for cover from enemy fire. There are no atheists in foxholes because someone in extreme danger will naturally pray to God, knowing intuitively that only God can save him. But after he has been saved from his immediate danger, the person will tend to forget God and again think, “I’m the controller, I’m the enjoyer, I’m the proprietor,” and return to his ordinary, self-centered, inauspicious way of life.
Princess Rukmini was completely sincere. She wanted only to serve Krishna, and nothing else. Nothing else would satisfy her. And so she concluded her message to Krishna:
vanchanty uma-patir ivatma-tamo-’pahatyai
yarhy ambujaksa na labheya bhavat-prasadam
jahyam asun vrata-krsan chata-janmabhih syat
“O lotus-eyed one, great souls like Lord Siva hanker to bathe in the dust of Your lotus feet and thereby destroy their ignorance. If I cannot obtain Your mercy, I shall simply give up my vital force, which will have become weak from the severe penances I will perform. Then, after hundreds of lifetimes of endeavor, I may obtain Your mercy.” (SB 10.52.43)
Now, one could argue that yes, she wanted Krishna, but along with Krishna she got a beautiful palace—there are descriptions in the Bhagavatam of the extraordinary opulence of Dvaraka—and so many nice children and servants and maidservants, and so much affluence. Actually, there is no harm in opulence as long as Krishna is in the center. The main thing is that Krishna should be in the center. A chaste and faithful wife—this is another instruction from the narration of Rukmini and Krishna in the Bhagavatam—will follow her husband. If he is in an opulent position, so be it; or if by circumstances he falls into a poor condition, still she will stay with him. And sometimes it happens that the poor husband, by the grace of Krishna, becomes opulent.
One example is Sudama Vipra. He was Krishna’s friend from when they were students in the gurukula, in the ashram, of Sandipani Muni. Sudama was a peaceful and learned brahman, detached from sense enjoyment, and he ended up being very poor. Krishna was a prince, the husband of the goddess of fortune, and He naturally ended up being supremely opulent. One day, Sudama’s wife, weak from hunger and distressed (more for her husband’s sake than for her own), implored him, “The Supreme Lord Krishna is nearby in Dvaraka. He is a personal friend and is compassionate to brahmans. Please approach Him, and He will surely give you, a suffering householder, abundant wealth.”
Sudama was not very keen on asking for something material from Krishna, but he did like the idea of seeing Him. In accordance with proper etiquette, he wanted to bring some gift, and he asked his wife if there was anything in the house he could take. They had nothing, so she begged four handfuls of flat rice from neighboring brahmans, tied it in a torn piece of cloth, and gave it to her husband as a present for Lord Krishna. Thus Sudama set out to Dvaraka, constantly thinking of Krishna.
When Lord Krishna caught sight of the brahman, He immediately stood up, went forward to meet him, and embraced him with great pleasure. He seated him very nicely on His own bedstead and washed his feet, while Queen Rukmini, the divine goddess of fortune herself, personally fanned the poor brahman. After some affectionate, philosophical talks about their times in service to their guru, Krishna asked His friend, “What gift have you brought Me?” Sudama felt so ashamed and embarrassed, he simply remained silent and bowed his head. Then the Lord, who knew everything, snatched the grains of chipped rice tied in the old cloth and exclaimed, “What is this?” He ate a palmful of the rice, but when he was about to eat a second, Queen Rukmini caught hold of His hand and said, “One palmful is enough.” According to Visvanatha Cakravarti, she was thinking, “If you eat all of this wonderful treat Yourself, what will be left for my friends and servants and me?”
Rukmini told Krishna, “This is more than enough to satisfy You. Your pleasure alone assures Your devotee of opulence in this life and the next.” In Krsna (Ch. 81), Srila Prabhupada comments, “This indicates that when food is offered to Lord Krsna with love and devotion and He is pleased and accepts it from the devotee, Rukmini-devi, the goddess of fortune, becomes so greatly obliged to the devotee that she has to go personally to the devotee’s home to turn it into the most opulent home in the world.”
Sudama spent the night in Lord Krishna’s palace, and the next day, after being duly honored by the Lord, without having asked Him for any material benefit, he set off for his home. Walking along the road, he felt blissful, satisfied just by the Lord’s darshan. And he thought that the merciful Lord, considering that if he suddenly became rich he would become intoxicated with material happiness and forget Him, had not granted him even the slightest wealth.
Thus the brahman eventually reached home. In place of his former meager residence, however, he found a celestial palace with beautiful gardens and servants and maidservants. And when Sudama’s wife came forward to greet him, she looked just like the goddess of fortune herself. Without Sudama’s having asked Krishna for anything, and without Krishna’s having told Sudama that He would give him anything, He gave him more than Sudama or his wife could ever have imagined. And Sudama never forgot Lord Krishna. He concluded:
kincit karoty urv api yat sva-dattam
suhrt-krtam phalgv api bhuri-kari
pratyagrahit priti-yuto mahatma
“The Lord considers even His greatest benedictions to be insignificant, while He magnifies even a small service rendered to Him by His well-wishing devotee. Thus with pleasure the Supreme Soul accepted a single palmful of the flat rice I brought Him.
tasyaiva me sauhrda-sakhya-maitri-
dasyam punar janmani janmani syat
“The Lord is the supremely compassionate reservoir of all transcendental qualities. Life after life may I serve Him with love, friendship, and sympathy, and may I cultivate such firm attachment for Him by the precious association of His devotees.
bhaktaya citra bhagavan hi sampado
rajyam vibhutir na samarthayaty ajah
adirgha-bodhaya vicaksanah svayam
pasyan nipatam dhaninam madodbhavam
“To a devotee who lacks spiritual insight, the Supreme Lord will not grant the wonderful opulences of this world—kingly power and material assets. Indeed, in His infinite wisdom the unborn Lord well knows how the intoxication of pride can cause the downfall of the wealthy.” (SB 10.81.35–37)
Firmly fixed in his determination by his spiritual intelligence, Sudama remained absolutely devoted to Krishna, and without avarice, he, with his wife, remained in the opulent position awarded them by Him. Being completely purified by constant remembrance of the merciful, affectionate Lord Krishna, Sudama attained the Lord’s supreme abode.
So, we are not against opulence, and we are not for poverty—we are for Krishna. Sometimes, however, opulence can be an impediment. We may be tested: “Do I want Krishna more or maya more?” And sometimes poverty, in a way, can be an impediment. But whatever is destined for us will come to us. We don’t have to bother about it. It is ordained. Some people are rich automatically, and some people are poor. It is ordained. Whatever happiness is due to us will come, and whatever distress is due to us will come, but the main thing is Krishna, to have Krishna, to make Krishna—the Deity of Krishna, the holy name of Krishna, the pastimes of Krishna, the philosophy of Krishna, everything Krishna—the center of our lives. And if Krishna, the husband of the goddess of fortune (and Rukmini, the goddess of fortune herself) wants, He will give us more facility to serve Him. That is what He did with Sudama Brahman. Knowing that the brahman would not misuse the facility, that he would remain a humble, devoted servant, Krishna gave him everything.
So, if we worship Rukmini-Dvarakadisa and make them the center of our lives, we may enjoy some of their opulence. New Dvaraka itself is quite opulent, so we are already enjoying some of their opulence. But material opulence is incidental, because material things without Krishna will not make us happy. The real thing is Krishna. Only Krishna can make us happy, and with Krishna we will be happy—with or without material things.
Today’s festival is wonderful because it infuses us with thoughts of Krishna, inspires our attraction for Krishna. That is why Srila Prabhupada established this temple, installed the Deities, and trained the devotees, so that they could always be busy with Krishna, busy for Krishna, and by association inspire and teach others also how to be absorbed in Krishna. Among the main processes in the present age of Kali, the foremost is the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. So let us chant Hare Krishna, dance, feast on krsna-prasada, and be happy in Krishna consciousness.
[A talk by Giriraj Swami on Rukmini-dvadasi, May 14, 2011, in New Dvaraka, Los Angeles]