He’s Still Here

By Satguru Swami Nirmalananda  

I had years with him.  I lived and studied with my Baba, both in America and India.  After I got past my initial awe of his incredible teachings, I relaxed into his energetic embrace.  I deepened into inner realms beyond my imagining.  Subtle unravelings freed me from psychological patterns laid down in my childhood, which I now recognize as karmas brought from lifetimes past.  

He left this earthly plane 40 years ago today.  It was overwhelming to lose him.  I didn’t know who I was without him as an external anchor.  Yet it was even more overwhelming to discover that his presence had become stronger.  The anchor was now inside.   

He had prepared us so well, explaining countless times that a great being doesn’t leave when they die.  Such a Master merges into Self, thus is found in the Self of all.  Their external form was only a masquerade anyway.  Living in the whole of Beingness, they are only seemingly limited to a single form.  I didn’t understand, of course, not until I experienced it.  And even then, I didn’t understand, not until I’d experienced the passing of other loved ones.  There’s a difference – a big difference. 

When Baba left, I was sitting by the sea, watching the most extraordinary sunset I’ve ever seen.  It had more colors and it lasted for hours.  All the while, inside, he was revealing truths I need to know.  I sat in a Divine communion with him that has never ended. 

But to call it Divine communion is misleading, for there must be two in order to commune.  Inside, there is only One, which yoga calls Shiva.  But for me, that One is Baba.  Shiva became Baba in order to give me my Self, who is Shiva.  Yes, it’s circular reasoning, even confusing.  Yes, it’s entrancing, entwining, enrapturing, enchanting – and Baba was all of that.  I live in that Divine mystery.  He unveiled it for me while he embodied it.  He set me free.  Thank you, Baba. 

Krishna Avatar Part 34

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

Graphics by Sheralee (Shambhavi) Hancherow

Jarasandha https://www.amarchitrakatha.com/
mythologies/krishna-and-jarasandha/

One fine day, while Krishna was in the assembly hall of the palace, one of his guards came in and announced the arrival of a stranger.  Krishna gave permission to admit this person to the royal court.  The stranger came in and bowed to Krishna, explaining he was sent by the kings imprisoned by Jarasandha, the mighty king of Magadha.  He said he came seeking help to save the kings from the tyrant Jarasandha.  He also said that Jarasandha was planning to capture as many kings as he could, to do a sacrifice to Rudra.  While Krishna was trying to console the stranger, and the stranger was praying to Krishna to save the kings, Sage Narada walked in.

Rajasuya Yaj~na
https://indus-meetindus.blogspot.com/

2016/08/rajasuya-yaga.html

Krishna welcomed the sage, offering due respect and a seat in the assembly.  Krishna said to Narada, “Honorable Sage, there is nothing you don’t know about.  You know all that happens in this manifestation of Ishvara (God).  So, we are delighted to hear about your visit to the Pandavas from you.” 

Narada was happy to share the details of his visit with the Pandavas. “I visited the Pandavas in Indraprastha.  I was duly received by Yudhishthira.  I was very much honored and warmly welcomed by them all.  Then I conveyed to them that I was going to tell them a wish their father King Pandu had.  Yudhishthira with respect immediately said that he will fulfill his father’s wish at any cost.

Then I disclosed the wish of Pandu by saying, ‘You must perform the Rajasuya Yaj~na to establish your superiority to all other kings.; Yudhishthira immediately called his royal priest and conveyed his desire.  He also wanted to consult you, Krishna, about this matter.”

Krishna and Uddhava https://www.hindu-blog.com/2020/07/story-of-uddhava-friend-of-sri krishna.html

Hearing this, Krishna immediately started his journey to Indraprastha to advise Yudhishthira on the Rajasuya Yaj~na and the need to eliminate Jarasandha.  As soon as Krishna reached Indraprastha, he was lovingly welcomed by Yudhishthira and his brothers.  Krishna embraced them all with love and affection and gave his respects to Kunti, their mother and his aunt.  Draupadi received Krishna’s wives cordially and led them to their rooms.  

Yudhishthira begin to explain his plan about the yaj~na, also expressing his concerns about Jarasandha and Shishupala.  After listening to Yudhishthira Krishna started to devise a plan.  Yudhishthira then asked, “How can we accomplish the killing of Jarasandha?  He is gifted with inimitable strength by Lord Shiva and has thus become invincible.”

Krishna and Sages advising Yudhisthira
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki

Krishna assured Yudhishthira not to worry but to simply send Bhima and Arjuna with him.  He said that he would make sure Bhima kills Jarasandha.  Bhima defeating Jarasandha would establish Yudhishthira as the mightiest king, capable of performing the Rajasuya Yaj~na.  As Yudhishthira completely trusted Krishna,  he had no fear in sending Bhima and Arjuna with him.  Still knowing Jarasandha’s valor very well he had several doubts in his mind which disturbed his peace.

Krishna again assured Yudhishthira saying, “Bhima will challenge Jarasandha for a wrestling duel.  Knowing Jarasandha, he will be sure to accept it.  By dueling with him, mighty Bhima will get a chance to kill him.” Yudhishthira was satisfied as he knew that, with the help and guidance from Krishna, Bhima will be victorious.  Also, the invincible archer Arjuna will be there with them.  Krishna also pointed out that Jarasandha’s end is imminent because his misdeeds have crossed all limits.  Nature never spares a man whose excesses exceed the appropriate norms.  Yudhishthira was certain that the Gods would be on their side because, by killing Jarasandha, they would be rescuing the kings who were imprisoned by him for sacrifice.  

Magadha Kingdom
https://www.indianetzone.com/

6/magadha.htm

As a first step towards this, Krishna advised Yudhishthira to send Arjuna, Bhima, Nakula and Sahadeva on a journey in all four directions to conquer all the other neighboring kings.  They went as emissaries to all these other kings, demanding a vassal fee.  This showed their willingness to accord Yudhishthira the position of an Emperor.  This was done easily and all four of them returned in no time, with vassal fees sent to Yudhishthira willingly as he was loved by them all.  

Now only Jarasandha remained.  As planned earlier by Krishna, Bhima and Arjuna set out with Krishna to Magadha Kingdom, traveling in the guise of brahmins.  After a long journey they reached the capital city.  On their way, they destroyed the revered mountain of the Magadha kingdom.  The brahmins belonging to the mountain took this as an ill omen.  Right away, they informed Jarasandha about the mountain having been destroyed by some strangers.

Advised by his priests, Jarasandha started a Yaj~na to resolve the effect of the bad omen and to avert the misfortunes that looked to be looming large upon him and his kingdom.  This was a great opportunity that created a way for Krishna and the Pandava brothers to enter the venue of the Yaj~na and meet Jarasandha.  

They presented themselves before King Jarasandha and were cordially welcomed by him since he didn’t recognize who they were, because of their disguise.  According to Krishna’s plan, both Pandava brothers stayed silent without uttering a word.  Jarasandha was annoyed that the two men didn’t acknowledge his warm welcome.  Krishna addressed their silence saying that they were both on a silence fast and they will not speak until midnight.  Jarasandha requested them to rest and agreed to return after midnight to meet them.

Jarasandha with Brahmins https://www.indianetzone.com/
78/kings_magadha.htm

As agreed, Jarasandha came to the place where Krishna, Bhima and Arjuna were staying and offered his salutations to them again.  Arjuna blessed him and asked him to take a seat.  Jarasandha gazed carefully at both the Pandava brothers and got suspicious of them.  When they spoke, he recognized their voices to be familiar.  Even their appearance was recognizable, despite the clothing they were wearing.  And looking at their wrists confirmed his doubts that brahmins in front of him were not at all brahmins but kshatriyas (warriors).

Looking at them closely, he said to them, “You claim yourself to be brahmins.  Except for your clothing, your physique and all your deeds are like those of kshatriyas.  Upon your arrival, I am hearing about our revered mountain been destroyed.  Plus you refused to accept my honor this morning on the pretext of observing a silence vow.  So, I demand you disclose your true identity and the purpose of your visit, like true kshatriyas.” 

Krishna replied, saying they didn’t accept his honor that morning as they were then, and even now, in the presence of their enemy.  Jarasandha couldn’t quite understand what Krishna was saying and asked how they are enemies to him, demanding an explanation.  So, Krishna pointed out how he has imprisoned kings for no fault of theirs.  As kshatriyas, they came to Magadha for those who were imprisoned.  Therefore, they considered Jarasandha as an enemy.  Jarasandha argued, saying that he imprisoned them after defeating them in fierce battles.  As victor, it is his right to treat them as he wishes.

Jarasandha was an ardent devotee of the brahmins and followed the dharma of giving.  Due to his visitors’ brahmin attire, he decided to fulfill their wish, despite what consequences it might would bring.  So, he asked what their wish was.  

Bhima
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhima

Krishna said that they were not there to beg for food but to challenge him to a duel.  He then disclosed their identity, saying, “I am Krishna, the son of Vasudeva of the Yadava clan.  This is Arjuna, the greatest archer of all times and a Pandava prince.  And this is Bhima, his elder brother, destroyer of demons Hidimba and Bakasura.”  Then he threw out a challenge to duel, asking him to choose one of them for the duel.  

Jarasandha was furious at once.  Especially his arch enemy Krishna being right Infront of him, he couldn’t refuse the challenge, because of his arrogance.  He then roared with laughter and exclaimed, “Hey Yadava! you are so afraid to fight with me that you deserted Mathura and took refuge in the city of Dwaraka.  So, I wouldn’t want to fight you.  Arjuna is youngest of you all and wouldn’t be a match for me in a duel either.  

“The only one whom I can even consider is Bhima.  Even though he is incomparable to my valor, he is better than both of you.  So, I am willing to have a fight with him.”  So, the day was fixed for the ferocious fight between the two mighty men.  

Limitless You

By Swami Shrutananda

The Truth is your inherent nature is limitless.  Limitlessness is inherent to your essence like the wet is the inherent nature of water.  Water would not be water if it were not wet.  In the same way, your own essential nature is limitless, unbound, and free.  While this is your human potential, your current condition is that you are bound.

Gurudevi Nirmalananda describes it this way in her commentary on Divine Sutras 1.2:

J~naana.m bandha.h

Consciousness takes on limitations, binding Herself with limited knowledge, limited happiness, limited ability, limited time.  This is called bondage and is caused by the not-knowingness of your own Divine.  The purpose of yoga is freedom, the freedom to know and to be your own Divine Self.

Consciousness is the One, the Source, the Ultimate Reality.  To become the universe and everything in it, including you and me, Consciousness takes on levels of contraction — limitation.  Due to this contraction, we feel like small, limited human beings.

I see these limitations play out when I’m teaching a Yoga Pain Clinic.  I love to help people with their aches and pains; they come to find out how yoga can help.  Yet they have a limited idea of the true healing capacity of their own body.

They also suffer from limited happiness, especially due to their pain.  They have a limited ability to conceive of what they can really do with their body and in their life.  They feel they have limited time, so how can they fit yoga into their already too-busy life?  Yet, if they don’t do the yoga, they will not heal.  It only works if you do it.  

Near the program’s end, I teach a few easy Svaroopa® yoga poses they can do at home.  I know the yoga poses will help many of the conditions that participants brought in.  Yet many think they cannot do what I’m teaching because of their condition.  It is like they have put a plaster cast on their body with their mind.  They think, “I can’t move this way.  I can’t move that way.”  During the Pain Clinic, the yoga poses work on their mind as well their body.  This frees them from the limitations they have imposed on themselves.

A few years ago, a new yogi told me he could not get on the floor.  He had had a double knee replacement.  I told him that yoga could still help him.  I was teaching the Svaroopa® Yoga Magic 4, to release spinal tension from tail-to-top.  The first two poses are in a chair, which he could do.  

The third pose, Anjaneyasana (Lunge), is done by kneeling on the floor.  He restated he could not get on the floor.  So I had him do a variation of the pose in his chair.  The final pose was Jathara Parivrttanasana (Rotated Stomach Pose), for which you must get on the floor.  I demonstrated it.  Then I looked over.  He was on the floor doing it!  

The shackles of his mind were beginning to loosen.  He was freed from the limitation of what he thought his body could not do.

This same student had already signed up for my four-hour yoga workshop later that afternoon.  He asked me, “Can I do it?”  I said, “Yes.”  As the afternoon progressed, I watched as this student got up and down off the floor many times.  Each time was quicker and easier.  

By the end of class, he wanted to try Anjaneyasana (Lunge) on the floor.  He tried, but the limited movement in his knees would not allow it.  Yet his mind was open to the possibility.  This was huge!  The shackles, the limitations, which he had put on his body, were dissolved.  By the end of class, his face glowed, his were eyes bigger and brighter, and his body was lighter.  He was radiant! 

Svaroopaâ poses and the breathing practice give you great benefits, both physical and more than physical.  You may have begun yoga to heal your body or decrease its pain.  You soon discover that there is a deeper essence.  You discover the “you” that is more than your body and more than your mind.  Yoga calls it svaroopa, your own Divine Self — limitless You.

Decisions Based on Bliss

By Swami Satrupananda

Life is a series of choices.  Every decision you make determines your future trajectory in life.  When you are in a state of clarity, you calmly assess your current situation.  You consider your options.  Then you make a choice as you aim for a certain outcome.  Where are your choices taking you?  Do your decisions lead you towards an outcome you want?  

The effectiveness of your decision is based on:

  • Assessment — Your assessment of your current situation is accurate.
  • Options — You are considering all options.
  • Goal — You clearly understand your goal. 
  • Awareness — You are aware of your personal process, how you make decisions. 

When any one of these is compromised, your decisions may not be effective: 

Assessment — You might incorrectly assess your situation or only assess part of it.  For example, you are busy thinking of your response, so you mishear someone’s question.  Your answer is not effective.

Options — You might not be aware of all your options.  You restrict yourself to familiar patterns.  Perhaps you’ve been fortunate enough to have someone share a potentiality they see in you.  They help you discover that you can do and be more than you thought. 

Goal — You lose sight of your goal in your decision-making moment.  Or perhaps you do not have a goal or even have conflicting goals.  You want to lose weight and eat chocolate cake too. 

The most important factor is your awareness.  You first need to be aware that you are making a decision.  When you have arrived at your destination, do you remember if you stopped at the red light?  It’s too easy to have your life decisions be knee jerk reactions instead of conscious decisions. 

Psychologists have estimated that the average adult makes 35,000 decisions a day[1].  Approximately 227 of these decisions are about food[2].  Are you aware of all of these decisions?  Imagine making conscious decisions that would be aligning your actions, words and thoughts consciously towards your goals.  How would this change your life?

One decision-making psychologist recommended yoga to increase your awareness.  I was delighted!  Yes, yoga is all about awareness.  That’s why we start and end each yoga class with a guided awareness.  Practicing awareness is so important that it is done twice in every Svaroopa® yoga class.

Yet simply being aware of every decision is not enough.  That’s because your decisions might be based on an inaccurate assumption.  It’s human nature to operate on an assumption of lack.  You lack something, so you make a choice to fill the lack.  You assume that a decision will make you healthier, happier or somehow better.  

Yoga changes your assumption.  Instead of lacking anything, yoga says you are already full, whole and complete.  You are fullness itself, which yoga calls your Self.

How do you transition from an assumption of lack to an assumption of fullness?  Shaktipat.  Shaktipat is a sacred initiation given by a Satguru.  In the initiation, the Satguru reveals the fullness and wholeness that you are.  This revelation shatters the underlying assumption of lack.  

While you might not know your fullness all the time yet, after receiving Shaktipat, it is always available.  The fullness delightfully creeps into the nooks and crannies of your body, mind and heart.  The assumption of fullness takes over.

I had a tangible experience of this restructuring of assumptions.  In a meditation, I could feel the internal structures being rewired.  It was tangibly happening in my spine.  I could feel the energy connections, channels, supports and structures being moved and re-aligned.  

I knew that I had been changed on a deep level.  It’s like I had new equipment — my body, mind and heart were forever changed.  Even if I tried to do my familiar limiting patterns, my internal system wouldn’t take it.  I was being rewired to know my own svaroopa — the bliss of my own Beingness.

This restructuring takes some time.  You must participate in the process.  You choose to follow the practices given by the Satguru so that you can support your own restructuring.  And the goal is clearly described in the yogic texts for you.  Once you fully realize your fullness, your own Self, you live in bliss:

Lokaananda.h samaadhi-sukham.

This yogi experiences the sweet bliss of the Self in every location and situation, and shares it with others. — Shiva Sutras 1.18

This is a promise of your future.  You will experience the sweet bliss of your own Self all the time.  This bliss is not affected by location, not by the people nor the activities around you.  This is such a great promise.  It means you can achieve the highest in the midst of your life.  You can know the bliss of the Self right where you are.  It also promises that you will always be experiencing bliss.  Then your decisions run on the assumption of bliss:

  • Assessment — You see everyone and everything as your own blissful Self.  You can take in the whole situation.  You accurately assess the situation.
  • Options — You consider all options.  You see bliss in every outcome, so all options are up for consideration. 
  • Goal — You are experiencing the fullness and wholeness of your being.  You do not need anything.  Thus your goal is to share the bliss that fills you.  The bliss overflows and you share it with others.
  • Awareness — You are aware of the whole process.  You are awareness itself.

Now this is truly the way to live.  Give up your assumption of lack.  Instead, upgrade your assumption to bliss.  Get Shaktipat and do the practices they teach you.  Luckily, I happen to know one — Satguru Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati.  Come study with her and live a life fueled by bliss.


[1] How Many Decisions Do We Make Each Day? | Psychology Today

[2] We Make Lots Of Choices Every Day, But Exactly How Many? | PBS North Carolina (pbsnc.org)

Krishna Avatar Part 33

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

Graphics by Sheralee (Shambhavi) Hancherow

Krishna wanted to tease Rukmini, so he started with a questionable statement, “My dear Rukmini, I could never understand why you chose me out of many great personalities in the royal order who wanted to marry you.  Among them, some were famous kings, very powerful and strong.  Some may not have been kings, but they all possessed the affluence and riches of kingly order.  They were not unfitting in anyway.  In particular, your parents and brother gave their word of honor to Shishupala who was a great king.  He was madly in love with you, especially after your beauty and he would have remained with you just like your faithful servant.  In comparison with Shisupala’s personality, I am nothing.  I am surprised you rejected him for me.  May I ask you the reason that convinced you to accept me, as I feel I am inferior to all those princes who wanted to marry you?  Remember I was so much afraid of Jarasandha that I could not dare to live in Madura, and I had to construct Dwaraka in the middle of the sea to evade him.”

Rukmini and Krishna
https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-story-behind-Rukminis-wedding-with-Krishna

He didn’t stop there.  He continued, “It’s not too late.  You have the freedom to select a suitable husband who is an actual equal to you in family tradition, wealth, beauty and in all other respects.  As you know, usually a person does not establish a marital relationship with a person who is either higher or lower than his position.” 

Rukmini was well aware that her husband was not an ordinary being.  But upon hearing this, Rukmini was afraid of being separated from her Lord, for she had never heard such insensitive words from Krishna before.  Filled with fear and anxiety, without replying with a single word, she cried as if being drowned in an ocean of grief.  She lost all her reasoning powers and became so weak that immediately her body lost so much weight that the bangles on her wrists became loosened.  The fan with which she was serving Krishna immediately fell from her hand.  Her mind and memory became puzzled, and she lost consciousness.  She fell down straight, like a tree brought down by an axe.

Lord Krishna immediately realized that Rukmini had not taken his words in a playful spirit.  She had taken them very seriously.  In her extreme anxiety over immediate separation from him, she had fallen into this condition.  

https://study.com/learn/lesson/lord-vishnu-incarnations-symbols.html

Seeing this, Krishna’s heart was softened by Rukmini’s condition.  He appeared in front of her in his real form, as Lord Vishnu with his four hands.  He got down from the bedstead and brought her up by her hands.  He placed his hands on her face and smoothed the scattered hairs on her head gently.  He then hugged her to his chest.

He began to speak again in a soft gentle way, “My dear daughter of Vidarbha, my beloved Rukmini, please don’t misunderstand me.  The words I spoke that affected you so much are not factual.  I just wanted to irritate you and was expecting you to make counter arguments.  I am very sorry that you have taken them seriously.  I expected to see your angry face and that your red lips would tremble in anger.  I thought you would chastise me in many words.  I never expected that your condition would be like this.  My dear Rukmini you know that we are householders and are always busy in household affairs.  We long for times that we can enjoy some teasing words between us, the ultimate game in household life.”  

In this way, Krishna wanted to exhibit himself as just an ordinary householder who delights himself by exchanging joking words with his wife.  Thus, he repeatedly requested Rukmini not to take the words he had spoken seriously.

Hearing this, Rukmini was freed from all her fear of separation from the Lord.  She started speaking softly.  “Oh Lord! Yes, you are right about we not being equal.  I can never be equal with you as you are the One Divine Reality in its full form.  You are the master of all greatness, controller of the three qualities and object of worship.  You reside in the deep recesses of the heart of all beings, who are always battling the powerful material senses, which are their enemies.  Your movements which are mysterious for even the sages are certainly incomprehensible for human beings.  There is nothing beyond you.”

Krishna said, “Oh dear princess, as I said earlier, I fooled you just because I wanted to hear what you would say.  Your answers are absolutely correct.  Even though you were disturbed by my words, your mind couldn’t be dragged away.  I have now perceived pure love towards one’s husband, and adherence to vows of chastity.  In all my palaces I do not find another as loving as you.” Rukmini’s delight by hearing this was unmeasurable.  

Sudama and Krishna
https://heartmeetsoul.com/krishna-sudama-story-moral-english/

Days and weeks passed in Dwaraka.  One fine day the guards came into the palace and informed Krishna that his dearest friend Sudama had come to see him.  Hearing this, Krishna rushed to meet Sudama.  When he saw Sudama, he embraced him and welcomed him with the greatest joy.  Then he took him to his personal room.  Who is this Sudama that Krishna is so fond of?

Krishna and Sudama were childhood friends who studied under Guru Sandipani.  Years passed and Krishna became the King of Dwaraka, Sudama returned to his village and immersed himself into Vedic studies.  Sudama belonged to a poor Brahmin family.  After some time, he got married and had many children.  Even though he was a Vedic scholar, he was suffering from severe poverty.  But he never begged for money from others, as he was satisfied with whatever the little money he earned.  As he didn’t have good clothes to wear, he often wore worn out clothes with holes in them.  

Kuchela and his wife
https://www.holydham.com/

the-story-of-lord-krishnas-friend-sudama/

That made people call him Kuchela, a person who wears rags.  Kuchela’s wife was admired by all for her domestic virtues.  She was always satisfied with whatever her husband brought, having devoted her life to him and the children.  She gave the children the education they needed and filled their hearts with dharmic principles, preparing them to be good citizens.  Even though what Kuchela brought was not enough, she found a way to feed them all sufficiently, going to bed with an empty stomach herself.  After some time, living that way too became difficult.  It was time for her to come up with a plan, as she couldn’t bear the sufferings her family was going through.  

That’s when she remembered Krishna, a great friend of Kuchela.  She went to her husband and told him to approach his good old friend Krishna and ask for help, hoping that he would honor his request.  She was sure of it, as she had heard many stories about people approaching Krishna with love and devotion.  They always got rewarded for their devotion.  Though Kuchela was hesitant at first, he was encouraged by his wife’s persuasion and decided to visit Krishna.  

Kuchela with wife and children
http://kkrgowthamgudavalli.blogspot.com/

2017/05/sri-krishna-kuchela-story-of-true.html

He didn’t want to visit his old friend empty handed, after all these years.  But he didn’t know what he should offer to Krishna.  The usual practice and courtesy required him to take something, so he asked his wife for suggestions.  She told him that the idea of a gift was excellent, but as they were so poor and couldn’t afford any gift to be given to a king.  After contemplating they both agreed that Kuchela should carry some aval, rice flakes.  So, he carried aval in a small sachet and started his journey to Dwaraka.  

Kuchela began dreaming about meeting Krishna at Dwaraka.  He prepared himself with all the things he could say to please him.  He was so delighted that he was getting to go and serve, honor and embrace him.  Then suddenly, fear came into him.  He wondered how he would pass through the guards.  What if they don’t let him in?  

But he was determined to go see Krishna so he entered the palace confidently.  To his surprise, no one stopped him from entering the palace.  He went straight to the guards, who came to Krishna and informed him of his dearest friend Kuchela’s arrival.

After inquiring the welfare of his family, Krishna asked Kuchela what he had brought for him.  After seeing the splendor of Dwaraka, Kuchela was feeling embarrassed with his gift of rice flakes.  Krishna noticed that Kuchela was hiding a small bag and even without asking for it he snatched it from his hands.  He opened it and his eyes lit up in delight, seeing the rice flakes.  Immediately he took a handful of rice flakes and happily put them into his mouth.  It was so tasty that Krishna wanted to eat more, but Rukmini intervened and took it from him.  

Kuchela enjoyed the stay with Krishna and his family.  When the time came to leave, he was very sad.  On his way back home, he was thinking only about the time he spent with Krishna, particularly the happiness he felt when he was with Krishna.  But halfway home, he was a bit unhappy that he had not asked for anything from Krishna, as he and his wife had planned.  But he consoled himself by saying, if it was to be, Krishna would have given him the wealth. Krishna didn’t want me to immerse myself in the pleasures of worldliness, he thought to himself.  With these running through in his mind he returned to his hut.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sudama

He was pleasantly surprised that a miracle had taken place.  He couldn’t recognize his hut.  In its place was a beautiful and lavish mansion.  What he gave Krishna was a merely a fist full of rice flakes with love, but in return Krishna had ordered Vishwakarma the divine architect to build this fine mansion for him.  Kuchela noticed his family wearing new clothes and found an abundance of food in the house, or should we say mansion.  He was so happy that Krishna had showered his blessings on him.  

In spite of all this wealth, Kuchela did not indulge in worldly pleasures, but instead immersed in the thought of Krishna for the rest of his life.  Kuchela set an example to all, as the grace of God is the final gift to every human being and we should aspire for it and it alone. 

More to come…

You Are Your Own Guru

By Swami Samvidaananda 

“You are your own Guru,” wrote a renowned Guru, Swami Muktananda.  As a brand-new yogi, I didn’t know what a Guru was.  Let alone that I was supposed to be my own Guru.  That’s how I took this teaching when I first heard it.   

Fellow yogis seemed to confirm my understanding.  At classes and conferences, I met wonderful, independent, confident yogis.  They had focus, dedication and a daily home practice.  They were doing it for themselves.  I admired them.  I wanted to dedicate myself to yoga, too.   

So I found a teacher, one that I admired and respected.  And she taught me that “guru” is Sanskrit for teacher.  A Guru with a big “G” is a spiritual teacher.  A guru with a small “g” is any kind of teacher.   

How many gurus have you had in your life?  So many.  Your first guru is your mother or whoever raised you.  They taught you to eat, to walk, talk, play peek-a-boo and blow out birthday candles.  You had gurus who taught you to read and write, to play soccer or trombone.  

My dad learned how to be an electrician from his dad.  So my grandpa was my dad’s electrician guru.  Anything you’ve learned to do, a guru has shown you how — even if you go to YouTube or you read a blog or a book.  These are all created by people who are sharing what they know, so you can know.

The yoga teacher I found all those years ago is a Guru.  Her name is Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati.  She has dedicated her life to sharing with you what she knows: the mystical truth of your spiritual essence.  She teaches that there is One Divine Reality that is the source and substance of all that exists.  That One is called your Self.  

Gurudevi not only teaches you about your Self; she awakens you to the knowing of your Self.  And then you foster and further your own knowing every time you meditate.  That’s why this meditation is called Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation.  Vidya means experiential knowing, and svaroopa means your own Divine Self.  

Awakened to your hidden Divinity, you see the glorious Divinity of everyone and everything that exists.  This is a Divine world created of Divinity, expressing Divinity, rejoicing in Divinity.  That Divinity is you.  You are Divine.  You always have been.  You just didn’t know it, at least not all the time.  

When your Guru reveals it to you, then you know.  And then, you know that  “you are your own Guru.”  Because you are the One, and She is the One. There’s only One. 

Yoga is not DIY.  You do not have to figure it out on your own.  You need one who knows, one who can give that knowing to you.  Swami Nirmalananda will tell you she only has something to give because she got it from her Guru, Swami Muktananda.  And he would credit everything he had to give to his Guru, Bhagavan Nityananda. 

And he had a Guru, who had a Guru, in a lineage of Gurus that stretches through time.  Do you want a Guru?  Swami Nirmalananda will be yours, if you want her to be.  You’re the one who decides. 

Freedom!  Independence Day!  Liberation!

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda

I confess that I get it all mixed up.  The Fourth of July means so much to me because I associate it with yoga’s promise of freedom.  The original date was all about political freedom, I understand.  But the word “freedom” makes me think of yogic freedom, which is so much more.

Yogic freedom ends the inner burdens that weigh you down:  your thoughts, memories, desires and fears.  Dissolving these delusions makes you able to breath freely, laugh and love all.  You give from the depth of your being and revel in the bliss that is ever arising within. 

When the fireworks go off in the sky, I associate them with the inner fireworks that deep meditation can provide.  The light inside is so much brighter than anything that shines outside!  You’re living in the dark when you’re always looking outward for happiness.  Look inward and discover who you really are.  Your essence is Divine and always has been.  Now, finally, it is the time to know.  You have waited lifetimes for this opportunity.

I realize that I am extraordinarily fortunate. The events of 1776 laid the foundation for a society that gives me access to education and travel, as well as opportunities and lifestyle choices few people in the world enjoy. Having taken full advantage of these freedoms, I am grateful for them all.  Yet I found them unfulfilling.

No matter how many classes I took or books I read, I was still intellectually unsatisfied. No matter how many destinations to which I traveled, I never felt that I belonged, not there and not even at home.  The many opportunities turned into many successful endeavors, but I was still unsatisfied.  I wanted more.

My yearning, along with the angst of my post-war generation, called my Baba to America.  He was one of many spiritual greats who brought the yogic tradition to us.  I didn’t know enough to go looking for him, so he came and found me.  Beyond merely fortunate, I am saturated with Divine Grace.  Grace fills my life and my being.  I’m so full that it overflows, which makes me want to share it with you.

That’s why I teach.  That’s why I write.  That’s why I get up in the morning, the purpose of my life, a Divine Purpose to which I am able to dedicate myself.  I am so fortunate.  Freedom is the gift I received from my Guru, which is why I love July 4. It’s all about being free on the inside.

Freedom is your destiny.  All you have to do is want it.  Then act on that holy desire.  Do more yoga.

Krishna Avatar Part 32

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

Graphics by Sheralee (Shambhavi) Hancherow

The next encounter in Krishna’s life was Narakasura.  Who is Narakasura?  

Bhumata
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Narakasura, also known as Bhumasura, was the son of Bhumata, Mother Earth.  She is the incarnation of Lakshmi and the consort of Varaha.  When Lord Vishnu incarnated as Varaha, at her request he married her, having saved her and the good people on earth by slaying Hiranyaksha.  [see blog on Narasimha Avatar]

Narakasura was born out of their union.  When the child was born, Bhumata prayed to Lord Vishnu, asking him to bless their son with a long life.  Lord Vishnu told her that she need not worry about her son since he would have to come back in another incarnation to end his son’s life, when the time comes.  

Narakasura
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Narakasura was brought up pious and humble until his association with the asuras.  The demons changed him into one of them.  He became so powerful and mighty that he brought all the kingdoms on earth under his control.  Then he started harassing the devas, the heavenly beings.  Even the mighty Lord of the Devas couldn’t withstand his assault.  Indra fled the heavens.  

This made Narakasura the king of heaven and earth.  He didn’t stop there.  He stole the earrings of Aditi, Indra’s mother, as they had extraordinary powers.  He snatched Varuna’s umbrella and occupied Indra’s seat on top of mount Meru.  He had already kidnapped sixteen thousand young princesses too, keeping them captive in his palace.

Led by Indra, all the devas went to Lord Vishnu seeking help.  Lord Vishnu promised to protect them from Narakasura when the time came.  And now was that time.  Lord Indra visited Krishna, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu, and complained about Narakasura.  Indra reminded Lord Vishnu to protect him and the devas from Narakasura’s tyranny.  

Krishna and Satyabhama riding on Garuda
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Krishna, to fulfill his promise to Indra and the devas, as also to Bhumata, went to war with Narakasura.  Krishna rode on Garuda, his eagle mount, along with his wife Satyabhama.  

The reason Krishna went with Satyabhama was that she is the incarnation of Bhumata.  Aditi, Indra’s mother, and the devas had also complained to Satyabhama about Narakasura’s wrongdoings.  

Once Krishna reached the city of Pragjyotisha, he blew his horn Panchajanya.  Then he attacked Narakasura’s great fortress.  The fortress was fortified by several barriers consisting of mountain ranges, water, fire and cyclonic winds.  He destroyed all the protective formations one by one with little or no effort.  

Then came Mura, Narakasura’s general.  He used many magical weapons to attack Krishna.  Krishna was able to defuse them very easily and killed Mura with his mace.  Ever since that, Krishna has been called Murari the slayer of Mura.  

Narakasura himself came to fight Krishna and used several divine weapons against him.  Krishna again easily neutralized them all.   Narakasura also started attacking Garuda, Krishna’s mount.  He tried his best to beat Garuda, using all his strength, but nothing worked.  Garuda didn’t even get a scratch.  

Narakasura is beheaded
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Filled with anger, as a last resort he threw his trident at Krishna.  For this Krishna acted as he was fainting.  Due to a boon that Narakasura had gotten, he could only be killed by the one who gave birth to him.  Seeing that Krishna had fainted enraged Satyabhama, who is Bhumata.  She beheaded Narakasura with Krishna’s Sudarshana Chakra.  

While taking his last few breaths, Narakasura realized his sins.  He surrendered to Krishna and asked him for his mercy.  He also asked for a boon to celebrate the day of his death as the day of liberation, the festival of lights.  It is celebrated as Diwali.  

Rescued Princesses and Krishna
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The devas were delighted to see Narakasura fall.  They showered flowers from the sky while praising Krishna’s name.  Narakasura’s son was crowned by Krishna at the request of Bhumata.  Krishna released the sixteen thousand captive princesses who had been jailed by Narakasura.  They fell at Krishna’s feet asking him to accept them as his wives, as no one else would now support them.  Krishna accepted them all as his consorts and sent them to Dwaraka with guards carrying tons of wealth.

Krishna visited Deva Loka with Satyabhama by his side.  He lovingly returned Indra’s mother’s earrings to her and Varuna’s umbrella to him.  Indra and his wife Indrani worshipped Krishna. 

Krishna and Satyabhama with Parijata tree
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There in Indra’s garden Satyabhama saw the celestial Parijata tree with its golden bark and intoxicating fragrance.  She reminded Krishna of a promise.  Thus, on his way back, Krishna took the Parijata tree from Deva Loka without Indra’s knowledge.  Why would Krishna do this knowing it would make Indra angry?

Some time earlier, Sage Narada got a few flowers from the celestial Parijata tree and offered them to Krishna.  Narada had an ulterior motive, wanting to see which one of Krishna’s beloved wives he would give the flowers to.  With delight, Krishna gave the flowers to Rukmini.  

Finding this out, Satyabhama was provoked with jealousy.  She confronted Krishna, expressing her anger and disappointment about the whole incident.  Krishna said, “Are you crying over just a few flowers.  I’ll get you the tree itself from Deva Loka.”  Thus, Krishna uprooted the tree and loaded it on Garuda to take home to Dwaraka.  

When Indra found out, he was furious and took his army to battle with Krishna, forgetting all the favors he had just gotten from him.  Krishna easily defeated them all and returned to Dwaraka with the celestial tree.  

Defeated, Indra cursed that the plant would never bear fruits, though it might bear flowers.  Since then the Parijata tree does not bear any fruit. 

Rukmini, Krishna and Satyabhama
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Satyabhama happily brought the tree to her palace, showing it off as her trophy.  Rukmini also took a fancy to it because of its flowers.  She loves adorning Krishna’s feet with flowers.  So she insisted that she too wanted the flowers.  

As Krishna loved them both, he planted the tree in Satyabhama’s courtyard in such a way that its flowers fell down in Rukmini’s courtyard.  In this way he made both of his wives happy.  

Krishna also married the sixteen thousand princesses, in as many palaces.  He took on as many forms for them at the same time.  All of his wives were accommodated in their special palaces so that there would be peace among them all.  

Sage Narada was a celibate, so he had a doubt as how Krishna treated all his wives and how they regarded him.  The thought of keeping a single wife seemed a great burden to him.  So he wanted to know how Krishna managed to please all his wives, while still finding time for all his other accomplishments.  

Narada went to Rukmini’s palace and saw Krishna relaxing on a swing bed with Rukmini lovingly fanning him.  Krishna jumped up as soon as he saw the sage and welcomed him.  After accepting all the hospitalities, Narada then went to the next door to Satyabhama.  To his astonishment, there he saw Krishna playing a game of dice with her.  Krishna again jumped up and greeted the Sage.  Narada was puzzled.  After enjoying their company, he moved on to the next palace.  There he found Krishna with his wife Jambavati.  

Narada and Krishna
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Poor Narada stuck to his self-imposed task, climbing in and out of as many palaces as he could.  In each of them he was greeted by smiling Krishna and a loyal, pleased and contented wife.  Then he realized his mistake was in doubting Krishna, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu.  He is the one in all.  Everything exists in him.  Then he prayed to the Lord, asking for forgiveness for doubting him.

Out of all his wives, Krishna could never find any fault with Rukmini.  She was very great and always engaged in his service wholeheartedly.  One day, Krishna wanted to see Rukmini’s beautiful face in an aggravated condition.  So he schemed out a conversation which would press her buttons and make her irritated.  Why would Krishna want to do this to Rukmini? It is said that it’s important for husband and wife, though in love, to have small conflicts and find ways to unite again.  

More to come…

Your Divine Task

By Swami Prajñananda

Gods and Goddesses, heroes and heroines — the great Greek epics with tales of heroic deeds enchanted me as a child.  The seeming impossible made possible kept me rapt. 

I especially loved Hercules.  He performed deeds that no one else could, due to both his strength and strategizing.  As I grew up, I would apply myself in the same way, taking on challenges that were bigger than me.  Whether it was athletic or academic success, I would not stop until I achieved what I set out to do.  Yet, once completed, I was ready to move on to the next thing.  

I just wasn’t satisfied.  No matter what I achieved, I was still left with a feeling that there was something missing.  And it was true!  I was missing me.  When I met my Guru, Gurudevi Nirmalananda, she gave me a new direction to turn:  inward.  

My striving to be something has transformed into discovering that which I already am — perfect, whole and complete.  I learned that nothing I achieved on the outside would make me more whole on the inside.  Wow!  After years of striving to improve myself and my life, this revelation was groundbreaking.  Yet to live in that knowing all the time is the true Herculean task. Gurudevi describes: 

Your task is to first find the Divine in your own Self, then to see God shining through, as all that exists.

 Yoga & Worldly Life by Gurudevi Nirmalananda

You know how to get tasks done.  You have so many in your life, some more challenging than others.  Yet all the tasks have taught you something.  I often think that the challenges and goals I have taken on so far were all in preparation for this ultimate task, finding my own Self.  It is the same for you.  The skills needed to get a job or a degree are transferable to your spiritual upliftment.  Finding the Divine in your own Self requires persistence, dedication, problem solving and more. 

Yet you need a guide, someone to show you how and where to pour your efforts.  This is the job of the Guru.  Gurudevi not only shows you the way; she explains the path and gives you the experience she names.  She gives you the yoga practices that were given to her by her own Guru.  They have been passed down through the generations of yogis, dating back through time.  We receive these same tools because they work.  When you do the practices, you get the results.

First, you discover your own divine Self.  This is the deeper dimension of your own being — that which is perfect, whole and complete.  You taste it in your very first Svaroopa® yoga class or meditation.  Yet it is easy to forget who you are when you leave your yoga space.  Your task is to find your Self again and again and again, until again becomes always.  You root so deeply into your own Divinity that you can never be uprooted again. 

Once you are settled in your own Self, you see the world differently.  Most people look at the world as separate and even scary.  Yet, when you know your own Self, you are given divine vision.  Instead of a scary world, you see a divine world.  You see God shining through, as all that exists.  With your divine eye, nothing is bad, nothing is to be rejected or feared.  It is all to be respected and cherished.

This is the path laid out for you by the Great Masters in this yogic tradition.  First you find your Self; then you see the Divine in everyone and everything.  What a divine task!  Are you ready to take it on? 

Krishna Avatar Part 31

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

In Dwaraka’s palace, Arjuna contemplated the situation all night.  He realized he had to act immediately to stop the marriage of Duryodhana to Subhadra, the youngest sister of Krishna, born to Vasudeva and his wife Rohini.  As she was already promised to be married to Duryodhana, a promise made by Balarama, her other brother, there was no way for Arjuna to win her through the traditional way.  For him to marry Subhadra, the only other way would be to kidnap her by force. 

In this case, force would probably not be necessary since Subhadra was already in love with him.  She was not at all happy about her arranged marriage.  Maybe an elopement!  That’s it.  Arjuna realized that was the meaning of Krishna’s hint given the night before!  Now Arjuna need only to wait for an opportunity to carry out his plan.

Subhadra’s older brother Balarama gave her the duty to take care of the needs of their guest, Arjuna, who was thought to be a sage.  It was considered a great blessing for a young maiden to serve a sage, so that she would get the blessings of a good husband and many children.  Arjuna thoroughly enjoyed every visit of Subhadra, thanking God for this unexpected gift.  He fell in love with her even more so, seeing her every time she came to serve him.

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Not knowing the true identity of the sage, Subhadra was delighted in serving him and being there, readily available for all his needs.  After a few visits, she became a bit suspicious about his behavior.  She found his interactions with her to be far from a saintly manner.  When she watched him closely, she noticed his callused forefinger, common for an archer.  

With this young sage, both of his forefingers were callused, which was a sign of a great archer.  Not only was it a sign, it was a proof that the sage must be none other than Arjuna.  Arjuna was the only archer who could have this as he was famous for shooting equally well with his right and left hands.  When she asked, Arjuna didn’t have any choice other than to reveal his true identity to her.  Ever since this discovery, their courtship progressed smoothly.  As his stay continued, the rainy season started to end, meaning Subhadra’s wedding day was approaching.  Now was the time to act.

They both had Krishna as their biggest ally.  First and foremost, he gave Arjuna his chariot and advised Subhadra to drive the chariot away from Dwaraka towards Indraprastha.  This was a crucial piece of advice, to make it look like Subhadra kidnapped Arjuna, not the other way around.  

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The next morning, Arjuna borrowed Krishna’s chariot and waited near the temple where Subhadra had gone for a puja.  As she came out of the temple, Arjuna drove the chariot in front of her so that she could easily get in.  When the soldiers on duty saw this, they thought that Subhadra was being abducted by the sage.  

Arjuna caught Subhadra by the arm to seat her in the chariot, preparing for her to drive away.  At that moment, the soldiers started to attack Arjuna.  Remembering Krishna’s advice, Subhadra took the reins of the horses.  Arjuna immediately started to fire arrows at the soldiers, revealing his true identity.  The soldiers ran towards the palace to inform Balarama of the incident.  

Balarama got into a rage, uncommon for him.  He pledged to punish Arjuna for what he had done, especially by breaking the trust by faking to be a sage.  Balarama felt that the entire Yadava clan had been dishonored by this act of Arjuna.  Since Arjuna was Krishna’s bosom friend, Balarama suspected Krishna’s involvement as well.  He wanted to confront Krishna about the event and sent word for him to come.  

When Krishna arrived, Balarama shouted at him, asking why Krishna was silent about his dear friend insulting them and the Yadava clan by kidnapping their sister.  He said to Krishna, “It’s an unbearable disgrace upon us.  Especially after we treated Arjuna so well, offering him shelter.  I cannot wait to hear why you let this happen, and you not yet getting ready to chase him down to fight!”

Krishna smilingly said, “Didn’t I warn you dear brother, about letting strangers stay at our palace, especially with our young sister around.  You are the one refused to believe me, and now you are trying to blame the event on me.  I heard from the soldiers that it was our loving sister, Subhadra who was driving the chariot and not Arjuna.  Therefore, this is not a kidnapping.  It is an elopement initiated by our sister.”  Balarama was a bit annoyed by Krishna’s sarcasm.  

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Then Balarama looked at Krishna and asked why he hadn’t said anything about the true identity of the sage, as well as the love affair between them. Krishna smilingly said, “As you had already promised Subhadra to Duryodhana, I didn’t want you to get involved in any elopement.  In this way, you are clear of all blame and guilt.  Since you knew nothing about this elopement, Duryodhana cannot blame you for breaking your promise.”  Balarama had no choice but to accept the marriage of Subhadra with Arjuna.

The couple was invited back with great honor and the wedding was celebrated grandly in Dwaraka.  After some time passed, it became time for the newlyweds to return to Arjuna’s home, Indraprastha.  Subhadra was getting ready to leave with Arjuna, bringing her huge dowry of precious metals, horses and maidens.  

But there was a problem in taking Subhadra to Indraprastha.  When all five Pandavas married Draupadi, they gave her their word that they would never bring any of their other wives whom they marry in the future to the palace where Draupadi lived.  Therefore, while they were allowed to marry many women, according to the tradition of kshatriyas, but Draupadi would be the only wife whom they would have in Indraprastha.  Arjuna decided to take his chances by returning from his exile to Indraprastha along with his new wife Subhadra.

He was welcomed by Kunti and his brothers.  But Draupadi was missing.  When he inquired about her, the brothers revealed that she was in a rage and didn’t want to see anyone.  They added that she was heartbroken, as Arjuna was breaking the promise by bringing his new wife, Subhadra, to Indraprastha.  

Hearing this Subhadra decided to mend things.  To save her husband from this difficult situation, she decided to visit Draupadi’s chamber in the attire of a cowherd woman.  When Draupadi asked who she was, she said that she came to serve her as her maid.  She then fell at Draupadi’s feet.  Draupadi got suspicious and asked her to come out with the truth.  Then Subhadra revealed who she was and promised Draupadi that she would never want to replace her or take her place in Indraprastha.  Seeing such humility, Draupadi accepted Subhadra as her younger sister.  

After some time, Subhadra bore a son to Arjuna.  He was the great Abhimanyu, who later became equal to his father in virtue, valor, and proficiency in archery.  A true son of Arjuna, he became the favorite of all the Pandava brothers and of Krishna.

Now let’s look at the marriages of Krishna, which also happened in this same time period.  

Mitravinda was a cousin of Krishna as her mother Rajadevi was an aunt to Krishna.  The princes of Avanti, Vinda and Anuvinda were friends of Duryodhana.  The princes arranged a swayamvara for their sister, Mitravinda, but without her consent. Mitravinda begged Krishna to rescue her.  She was devoted to Krishna and longed to marry him.  Knowing her devotion, Krishna obliged to her request.  He once again fought with all the other kings while abducting her, then formally married her in Dwaraka.

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Satya was the daughter of the King of Kosala, Nagnajita, who was married to Vasudeva’s sister.  This king owned seven vicious bulls with sharp horns.  He declared that whomever was capable of subduing these seven bulls would  win his daughter’s hand in marriage.  Many kings from all parts of the world wanted to marry Satya, so they attempted to calm the bulls but failed miserably.  

When Krishna visited Ayodhya, the capital of Kosala, King Nagnajita greeted him with highest honor and gave him a grand welcome.  His daughter Satya, seeing Krishna in person, immediately fell in love with his divine form and wanted to marry him.  As Nagnajita had already announced the competition, he had to request that Krishna accept the challenge, in order to fulfill Satya’s wish.

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Krishna entered into the arena which the bulls had been let loose.  He then multiplied himself into seven forms and calmed the bulls instantaneously with great ease.  The king along with his daughter were delighted to see this.  The happy father bestowed his blessing on the bride and groom in a grand wedding.  Krishna then took Satya with him back to Dwaraka.

Krishna’s marriage to his cousin Bhadraa was the only marriage that took place without any unpleasant occurrences.  Bhadraa was the daughter of Shrutakirtii, another aunt of Krishna.  Bhadra’s brothers married their sister to Krishna in a splendid wedding.  

Krishna also married Lakshmanaa (or Lakshanaa), the daughter of King of Madra.  In her swayamvara, he won her in an archery challenge similar to the one Arjuna won to marry Draupadi.  Thus, Krishna married about eight women during the course of this time.  He lived happily in Dwaraka until he received multiple complaints about the mighty King Narakasura.

More to come…