In the beautiful prayer, he kåñëa karuëä–sindho déna–bandho jagat–pate, we begin by addressing Lord Krishna as karuëä–sindhu. ‘he’ means to cry out with all humility unto Lord Krishna just like a helpless baby crying out for his mother. In the
Bhagavad Gita Lord Krishna explains,
yadä yadä hi dharmasya
glänir bhavati bhärata
tadätmänaà såjämy aham
Lord Krishna descends into this world many times in the course of history and one who understands the transcendental nature of Lord Krishna’s appearance and activities never takes birth again and attains the Lord’s supreme abode. The Lord especially comes to reciprocate with the love of His devotees and attract the hearts of all the fortunate devotees back into the unlimited ocean of His love. The Srimad Bhagavatam explains many incarnations of the Lord from this perspective.
The Lord appeared as Matsya to reciprocate with the love of King Satyavrata. He took the form of a tiny fish and asked for shelter from the king. Satyavrata kept the fish in a bowl but the fish increased in size. Then the king threw him in a well but again the fish increased in size. Finally the king threw Him back in the ocean and saw that the fish still increased in size. He could understand that the fish was not ordinary but was the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Lord had accepted so much kindness and love from His devotee and now He wanted to reciprocate. So He said, “Soon there shall be torrential rains which shall create a deluge in the world. Get a boat and bring all the rishis and other species on the boat. I shall personally take you out from this deluge.” The Lord in the form of a fish assumed a huge size and as they were blissfully sailing through the ocean of dissolution and devastation, He was reciting the vedas to king Satyavrata.
The demigods were ordered by the Lord to churn the ocean of milk. They used the giant Mandara mountain as the churning rod and as the mountain began to sink the Lord appeared as Kurma to reciprocate with the sincere service of His devotees. In the form of a large tortoise, He bore the entire weight of the massive mountain and as the mountain moved on His back, He felt a pleasing scratch, just so that He could enjoy the service of His devotees.
If we just please the Lord and accept His mercy, even in the conditions of dissolution, devastation or death itself the Lord will be there to protect us and to save us.
On behalf of the sages and the demigods, Brahma prayed helplessly to Lord Vishnu for rescuing the earth from the bottom of the ocean. In reciprocation, the Lord appeared from the nostril of Brahma in the form of a boar whose size was simply the size of the little tip of a thumb. He came out as a sweet little boar and then He grew to the size of a massive mountain. He dove into the oceanand lifted the earth on His tusks just to show kindness to all of us.
Prahlada Maharaj endured incredible challenges in his life. He was thrown in fire and cast in oceans. He was even thrown in pits of venomous snakes. But the little 5-year–old Prahlada fearlessly remembered Lord Krishna in every situation. When Hiranyakasipu challenged Prahlada and asked him, “Where is the God that you worship?” Prahlada said, “He is every where.” Then Hiranyakasipu asked him if his God was in the pillar and little Prahlada with firm conviction said, “Yes He is in this pillar.” In great anger, Hiranyakasipu smashed his mighty fist against the pillar and just to make Prahlada‘s words come true, Lord Nrsimhadev appeared from the pillar. After killing Hiranyakasipu, Lord Nrsinghdev was extremely angry but when He saw little Prahlad approaching Him and offering prayers He was immediately pacified. The killing of Hiranyakasipu is incidental. The key feature is the love between Prahlada and our beloved Lord. And the Lord of our hearts has the same Love for each and every one of us, if we just follow in the footsteps of Prahlada Maharaj – mahajano yena gatah sapantah. These stories are not just histories to study in order to give lectures. These are stories that are meant to invoke infinite hope in our hearts reminding us of the Lord’s relationship with us and the potential.
When the Lord appeared as Vamanadev, He really tested and punished Bali Maharaj. He came as a little dwarf and begged three steps of land. Sukracarya warned Bali Maharaj, “I curse you to lose everything, unless you withdraw this promise. Don’t give Him anything.” Bali Maharaj didn’t mind commiting an offence against his guru, who in great fury cursed him, just to keep the promise he made to the Lord. On receiving the three steps of land from Bali, Vamanadev covered everything in two steps and totally humiliated Bali maharaj. Bali maharaj said, “The only thing left with me is my life. Put your third step on my head. I surrender everything.” He was put through inconceivable tests but because of his surrender, the Lord reciprocated by not only installing him as the king of Sutala and but even becoming his doorkeeper. There are so many lessons from these stories, but the reciprocation of the kindness of the Lord with His devotees and the surrender of His devotees is the most important lesson, the most important knowledge in all the creation.
Jatayu was a simple bird. He wasn’t a peacock who dances beautifully or a cuckoo who sings sweetly. He wasn’t a swan who drinks nectar and swims so gracefully or an eagle who soars in the sky with majesty. He was a vulture and vultures are famous for devouring dead corpses. Jatayu was a vulture, the lowest caste among birds. But when Sita was being taken by Ravana, Sita told Jatayu, “Don’t try to fight because you are too old, you will suffer and die. Just tell Rama where I am going.” But Jatayu could not stand back and see this offence take place. He fought with all his strength against Ravana but ultimately he got tired and Ravana cut off his wings and legs.. Later on Rama came to the scene and saw Jatayu lying in pools of blood. Lord Rama said, “This bird has eaten Sita. At this moment I will punish this bird and send him to the abode of Yamaraja.” Is that what you expect from the Lord, after you give your life for His beloved? Jatayu was on the verge of death and he explained everything that had happened. Upon hearing this, Lord Rama embraced Jatayu and while chanting the holy names of Lord Rama, Jatayu ascended to Vaikuntha. From a material perspective Jatayu failed! He lost! He tried to keep Sita from being taken away but he was cut to pieces and was about to lose his life while Sita was gone with Ravana. Lord Ramachandra didnot see whether Jatayu was successful or a failure by material standards; He saw the sincerity of his devotion. Lord Rama wept to show the whole world how much He loved His devotee.
In order to find Sita, Hanuman jumped across the ocean and fought with the armies of Ravana. He burned the city of Lanka and after giving Lord Rama’s message to Sita, he returned to Him. Being overwhelmed Lord Rama said, “I am living in the forest having lost everything, wearing tree bark and matted hair. What do I have to give you to reward you for what you have done for Me.” Then Lord Rama embraced Hanuman and for Hanumanji that was the ultimate reward. To please the Lord is the only standard of victory and to displease the Lord is a failure, even if we gain the whole world.
Vibhishana tried to give good advice to Ravana but he rejected him. He then came to surrender to Lord Rama but Sugriva advised Rama not to accept him. Although Rama was the Supreme Personality of Godhead who is all knowing, He always consulted His devotees just to show the standard of relationships that we should have amongst ourselves. Hanumanji expressed his opinion, “I saw Vibhishana’s face and I heard the tone of voice. He is sincere. I believe him and we should accept him as a brother.” Then Lord Rama proclaimed His conclusion, “If anyone says that ‘I am Your’s even once, I will forgive that person of all offences and give him shelter forever. I vow that anyone who comes to Me, even if he is Ravana, I will give him complete shelter.”