Learning what is means to see the Divine



Once, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu came to Akrura Tirtha in the divine land of Sri Vrndavan[1]. While there, He found that people throughout the area were saying to one another, “Krishna has again appeared in Vrndavan.” When Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu asked about this, the people said, “Every night at Kaliya Daha[2], Krishna dances atop the dazzling hoods of the Kaliya[3] serpent. We have all seen this with our own eyes. There is no doubt about it.”

Hearing this, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu smiled and said, “This is all true.”

Gradually, more and more people heard others say they had seen Sri Krishna, and for three consecutive nights many people went to Kaliya Daha to see Him. They all came back saying, “We have seen Krishna.”

Hearing of this, Balabhadra Bhattacharya, the simple-minded personal servant of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who accompanied the Lord on His tour of Sri Vrndavan, developed a strong desire to personally go and see Sri Krishna. He asked Sriman Mahaprabhu, “Can I have Your permission to go and see Krishna?”

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu affectionately slapped Balabhadra and said, “You are learned, but you are thinking foolishly under the influence of others’ foolishness. Be careful not to become crazy. Why would Krishna ever appear in that way? These people do not understand what it means to see Krishna, and because they are spreading their misunderstanding to others, more and more people everywhere are claiming, ‘We have seen Krishna.’”

The next day, a cultured gentlemen came to meet Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Referring to all the talk in area about Krishna appearing at night at Kaliya Daha, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu asked him, “Have you seen Krishna?”

The gentlemen replied, “At night, a fisherman riding in a boat lights a torch and catches fish in the Kaliya Daha. Seeing this from afar, people declare, ‘Krishna is dancing on the hoods of the Kaliya serpent.’ They have taken the the fishing boat to be Kaliya, the fisherman’s torch to be the jewels on Kaliya’s heads, and the fishermen to be Krishna Himself. It is as though they have confounded a man with a leafless tree.

“It is true though that Krishna has again come to Vrndavan and that the people have seen Him. Unfortunately, however, they do not understand how it is that the have seen Krishna.”

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu asked, “Where have they seen Krishna?”

The gentlemen replied, “You are a sannyasi, a moving Narayan, and You are Krishna’s reappearance in Vrndavan. By seeing You, everyone has been liberated.”

Hearing this, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu exclaimed, “‘Visnu! Visnu![4] Do not say such a thing! Never think an ordinary living being to be Krishna Himself! A sannyasi is a jivatma, an infinitesimal living entity, and Krishna is the infinite Supreme Being replete with the six divine powers[5]. Krishna is comparable to the sun and the living being to a ray or particle of that sun’s light. As a spark and a blazing fire are not equal, so a living being and the Supreme Lord Krishna are never equal.

hladinya samvid-aslistah sach-chid-ananda isvarah
svavidya-samvrto jivah sanklesa-nikarakarah
(Sri Visnusvami)

“‘Embraced by His divine energies, the Supreme Lord is eternal, conscious, and ever-joyful. Covered by their own ignorance, a minute living being is a mine of miseries.’

“An ignorant person who says a minute living being and the Supreme Being are equal is hard-hearted and bound to revolve in the cycle of action and reaction (karma).”

The cultured gentlemen replied, “I do not consider You an ordinary living being. The divine lustre of Your figure and Your wonderful nature can only be those of the Supreme Lord Himself. As musk cannot be hidden by covering it with a cloth, so Your extraordinary nature cannot be concealed by Your words. Just by seeing You, the world has become mad with ecstatic love (prema) for Krishna.

“Men, women, children, and the elderly, and even rough and uncultured persons, who see You just once start to chant the Divine Name of Krishna and dance in ecstasy. Indeed, they have are becoming Acharyas and are liberating the world. Let alone the effect of seeing You, everyone who simply hears Your Name becomes mad with ecstatic love for Krishna and liberates the three worlds. Your extraordinary power cannot be described, but we hear,

yat-prahvanad yat-smaranad api kvachit
svado ’pi sadyah savanaya kalpate
kutah punas te bhagavan nu darsanat
(Srimad Bhagavatam: 3.33.6)

“‘O Lord, when just by hearing and chanting Your Name, bowing down to You, or remembering You even uncultured persons immediately become fit for performing sacrifices, then what greater benefit comes from seeing You?’

“Externally, we see that Your nature has such wonderful influences over others, and inherent in Your figure we see the characteristics of the Supreme Lord. For these reasons, we have come to know that You are Krishna Himself.”

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu blessed this gentlemen, and he became ecstatic out of love for Krishna.

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu remained for some days at Akrura Tirtha in Sri Vrndavan and in this way liberated everyone with the Divine Name of Krishna and divine love for Krishna.


This Pastime of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is recorded in Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta, Madhya-lila, 18.90-128. From it, we can derive these spiritual lessons:

  • The eternal personal form Lord Sri Krishna, composed pure spiritual energy, cannot be seen by the material senses, let alone be a spectacle seen by the masses at their leisure.
  • Those who think they have seen Krishna with their material senses or without first developing sincere devotion to Him cannot but be mistaken.
  • Sri Krishna can be seen only by those to whom He reveals Himself, and He chooses those who have faith and devotion to Him, not those who harbour indifference or mere curiosity about Him.
  • Sri Krishna does not reveal Himself in a manner that is contrary to the teachings of the revealed scriptures.
  • Even learned persons, however, can be deluded by popular opinion and fall into blind following: acting in accord with the prevailing views, interests, or directives of a group or leader without exercising one’s own good judgement.
  • Sri Krishna can be seen by divine grace and the guidance of the revealed scriptures and the sadhus who represent them.
  • Although all eternal souls (jivatmas) and the Supreme Soul Sri Krishna are both spiritual in nature, they are not equal or one in all respects: one is infinitesimal and the other is infinite, one is subject to misunderstanding or limited understanding and the other is omniscient, one is capable of ill intent and the other is all-loving.
  • Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is Sri Krishna Himself manifest in the form of a devotee of Himself, thus although He is Sri Krishna Himself, He did not claim Himself to be such and even lamented hearing such understanding expressed to teach all living beings the proper response to the uncomfortable expression that they are one with God in all respects.
  • Avatars, sadhus, and Gurus should be identified according to the indications and descriptions of them given in the revealed scriptures.
  • Sincerely chanting the Divine Name of Sri Krishna will lead to divine love for Sri Krishna and ultimately spiritual vision of His divine form.


1: Sri Vrndavan: the eternal homeland of Lord Sri Krishna existing in the highest plane in the spiritual world. The divine abode manifested on the earth with the appearance of Lord Krishna some 5,000 years ago.

2: Kaliya Daha: the large eddy on the Yamuna where the serpent Kaliya took up residence.

3: Kaliya: a massive poisonous serpent (naga) with thousands of heads who took up residence in Vrndavan out of fear of Garuda and poisoned the Yamuna River. Lord Sri Krishna subdued him by dancing upon His heads and then sent him away to ensure the welfare of all the inhabitants of Vrndavan.

4: Visnu Visnu: Names of the Supreme Lord, such as Visnu, are at times exclaimed to express that one wishes to be purified of the effect of hearing untoward remarks.

5: Six divine powers: infinite majesty, power, glory, beauty, knowledge, and detachment.