Now we are at a very ancient site. This big huge banyan tree is called Aksaya Vat. This tree actually had darsan of Krishna five thousand years ago. Previously the Yamuna was very, very wide, even her tributary and streams were large and broad. Krishna would come here to graze the cows with His friends. They used to hang their tiffin boxes on the branches of this tree. They would play water sports in the Yamuna and drink her water. After taking bath they would sit down under the shade of this big, huge banyan tree. So in the very nice shade here Krishna and all His friends would sit down and take prasad together.
Immediately surrounding Krishna would be His eight intimate friends. Surrounding them were the sixteen primary friends. Then the thirty-two principal friends. Then the sixty-four associate friends, and so forth and so on until literally thousands and thousands of His cowherd friends sat around Him. The wonderful thing was that every single cowherd boy saw Krishna sitting only near him and that Krishna would look at him and smile or laugh. In this way they all enjoyed very nicely. So now we shall enter the Munjatavi. Hare Krishna!
This forest that we are now in is called Munjatavi. After eating and enjoying prasad the cowherd boys would rest. Now the cows were grazing very nearby and when one patch of fresh green grass and clover was eaten they would move on to another patch. Gradually they had moved so far away while grazing that they could not see Krishna any longer. They had entered into the Munjatavi which is inside a very big forest, called Isikatavi. The cowherd boys noticing that the cows were no longer visible jumped up and ran after them without even telling Krishna as they usually did. By following the signs of the cow’s hoof-prints, fresh cow dung, and patches of grass that were eaten, they were able to track the cows into this extremely dense and thick forest. When they went in and found their cows, they became so perplexed that they could not find their way out again.
At that time, one of Kamsa’s demons, Vyomasura, thinking that Krishna and Balaram were in the forest too, saw this as an opportunity to get rid of the two Lords, both at the same time. So he set fire to the forest. Now the Mungavan forest is not only very dense and thick, but extremely dry as well. When Vyomasura set it on fire in his feeble attempt to incinerate Krishna, the whole forest went up in flames in a matter of minutes. Then this demon turned into a strong breeze and blew on the flames so they would burn hotter and hotter. He blew the flames in such a way that the fire almost surrounded the cowherd boys and their cows.
The cows feeling intense discomfort from the heat began bellowing loudly and all of Krishna’s cowherd friends began to panic. When the heat had become almost unbearable and a state of total desperation was in effect, all the boys cried out for Krishna, “O Krishna! O Krishna! Please come and save us! Krishna! Krishna! Please do not let this raging fire destroy us. O Krishna please help us!” Krishna, of course, heard their cries for He is never far away from His surrendered devotees. Krishna is always near to help and protects us, and never failing at once He came to save them from the danger.
Actually this pastime is full of symbolism and significance, there are a lot of things to learn from it. The living entities are like cows and the green grasses are like the objects of the senses, sound, smell, sight, taste, and touch. The living entity is surreptitiously enticed away from his constitutional position as loving servitor to the Supreme Lord, by the living entities’ attachment to sense objects Thus the living entity is trapped eternally in the raging forest fire of material existence, birth after birth after birth. Through all species of life in the upper and lower planetary systems, sometimes enjoying for thousands of years the heavenly planets and sometimes suffering for thousands of years in the hellish planets. Still in both conditions of life trapped in a material body and subjected to the three-fold miseries of old age disease and death.
Of course Krishna is very close by. As paramatma, Krishna is ever present within the core of every living entity’s heart. But due to our forgetting Krishna, even though He never forgets us, we hurriedly run after these objects of the senses as if our lives depended upon it. We literally become the slaves of our senses. Even when, by some good fortune or by accumulation of pious activities or by the mercy of the Vaisnavas and saintly souls, we finally are united again with spiritual life, still we are not completely purified of our attachment to mundane material objects.
This means that even though we have voluntarily come to serve the Supreme Lord Krishna, we are still not able to give up our material desires and attachments. But Krishna, being extremely merciful, is very concerned about the living entities being destroyed by the raging fire of material existence. And as the paramatma He monitors each living entity’s progress back home. When He sees that a living entity has the opportunity to come back to Him, Krishna gives them His special mercy in the form of acute distress and problems in the material existence. This is just to remind the living entity not to forget Him. After being buffeted about and repeatedly burned and scorched by the raging fires of sense gratification, if we call out sincerely to our gurudev and to Krishna, then we will be rescued and we will go back again to the right path as loving servitors of the Supreme Lord.
When the cows started bellowing and the cowherd boys started calling Krishna, He immediately came to their rescue. He told all the cowherd boys to close their eyes because last time when He had eaten some earth, they told his mother. When He went home, His mother was angry with him and made Him open His mouth to see. So this time when Krishna swallowed the whole forest fire in an instant He was taking no chances of getting Mother Yashoda upset. Also he did not want to upset His friends who might faint or become ill at the shock of seeing Hin swallow such a raging fire. As their eyes were closed the cowherd boys started thinking that Krishna was going to save them by chanting mantras and that since one should not chant mantras in front of anyone that is why He told us to close our eyes.
Seconds later when Krishna told them they could open their eyes, they saw to their amazement that everything was exactly as it was before. They were all sitting under this banyan tree as they were before in circles of eight, sixteen, thirty-two and so forth around Krishna taking prasad. All the cows were close by grazing peacefully and the raging forest fire that they had been trapped in had just vanished. The boys sat astounded for a moment or two. Then realizing that they were safe and once again close to Krishna, they clapped their hands gleefully and blowing their buffalo horns loudly began to cheer Krishna jubilantly. These pastimes took place here.
So we can see that to be saved from the raging forest fire of material existence, one must call out to the spiritual master and Krishna. The spiritual master is the bona fide representative of the Supreme Lord. Thus empowered by Krishna, he is equally competent to relieve his devotee of all distresses. As soon as anyone calls out to the spiritual master or Krishna sincerely, then that fortunate individual is immediately rescued and freed from all dangers. It is only by the medium of the spiritual master that Krishna is able to hear the call of a living entity. This is why the importance of a bona fide guru from a bona fide parampara in a bona fide sampradaya is essential. Nothing can manifest properly without the essential ingredients necessary to make it manifest properly. Similarly speaking, spiritual attainment can factually not be received without the mercy of a bona fide spiritual master because the Supreme Lord does not recognize any living entity that does not follow this procedure.
The Supreme Lord Krishna and His brother Balaram followed this principle implicitly. They accepted as their guru, Sandipani Muni and went to live in his ashram. They fully observed the rules as strict brahmacaris, serving their guru humbly with love and devotion. By receiving knowledge and instruction from him and by serving him faithfully, both Lord Krishna and Lord Balaram satisfied their guru Sandipani Muni in all respects. Duly initiated by him, They received the twice born status.
So if the Supreme Lord accepted the guru disciple relationship as an authorized and bona fide process, then one should with great enthusiasm, humility and unflinching obedience always serve Sri Gurudev with love and devotion. Because only by Sri Gurudev’s mercy can we become eligible to receive the mercy of Krishna. And this mercy is so powerful and potent that even at the moment of death if we can remember Sri Gurudev and Krishna. Then Krishna will surely come to our aid. Never, never forget Krishna. Always remember it is never too late to call out to him for help, even if it is at the moment of death. Gaura Premanandi! Haribol!!