Monday Morning Greetings 2020 #27 – Sounds of the Ultimate Reality

July 6th, 2020

In Memoriam: Before this Monday Morning Greetings, I want to offer some heartfelt remembrance of His Holiness Bhakti Caru Swami, who passed away this Saturday. Perhaps many of you are not familiar with him, but he was my god-brother and a respected spiritual leader in the Hare Krishna movement. There will be many things spoken about his accomplishments, which were many, but I wanted to just say something personal. All of my exchanges with him were filled with his respect, kindness, and expressions of empathy. It was humbling to be in his presence. He was a rare soul and will be missed dearly.  


Sounds of the Ultimate Reality


Love is an emotion, but it is experienced through the senses. If someone says they love you, does not the sound carry their emotion or conviction? On Mother’s Day, or another noted occasion, we may receive flowers or a garland. Do we not experience the other person’s affection through the shape, color, and fragrance of the flowers? Whether it is sound, sight, taste, fragrance, or touch, feelings are mostly communicated through the objects of senses.


This emotion/sense relation has a strong bearing on the krishnabhakti conception of the ultimate reality. In krishnabhakti, the highest reality is the overwhelming experience of universal love between the Supreme Soul, Krishna, and His unlimited parts and parcels played out through His līlā, a divine drama of loving exchange, or rasa. As this reality is a world of pure love, it is therefore also a world of beautiful sights, sonorous and ambrosial sounds, and delectable tastes, all manifest as an expression or vehicle for devotion. If we hold pure love as the most universally exalted concept is not, then the sensually expressive krishnalīlā a reasonable conception of what the ultimate reality may be? Let’s explore this contention through just one of the objects of the senses described there as a vehicle of perfect love: sound.


Upon entering the forest, Krishna blows His flute. Imagine what that sounds like, but more importantly try to understand where that matchless sound is coming from. Krishna is overjoyed entering the Vrindavan forest, the land of love, where even out of devotion the wind is intentionally carrying the fragrance of the flowers and the cool droplets of the lake for the His pleasure and that of His devotees. The supreme sound is thus carrying Krishna’s joy and His love of His devotees.


The sound of the flute is also a personal expression of Krishna’s heart. It announces Krishna’s affection for each particular devotee, who somehow hear in that sound their name and a confirmation of Krishna’s love for them. In response to Krishna’s acknowledgement, the cowherd boys sing songs of Krishna’s pastimes deep from the heart, with sonorous melodies supported by the perfectly driven beat of the wood drums of a few select friends. The kirtan slowly builds up to such an unprecedented level of joy that some boys even spontaneously grab the big shiny leaves of particular trees and roll them as trumpets to add the sound of triumph to Krishna’s march through the forest.


When Krishna enters the forest there is the stunning sound of the singing of thousands and thousands of birds and bees, a breath-taking spectacular that would even shame the forest sounds of a modern science fiction extravaganza set in the background of a tropical jungle or forest. Anyway, accompanying the flute and cowherd kirtan is the all-pervading and overwhelming chirping and buzzing of devotion.


Despite the brilliant forest choir of birds, Krishna somehow initially becomes allured by the sounds of the bees. They have drunk the pollen of flower after flower, and are now buzzing, with eyes closed, in a state of intoxication. Actually, they are simply overwhelmed with singing for Krishna as they surround His garland. Krishna then adds something new and extraordinary to the forest symphony. He perfectly imitates the bees in the intricacy of their songs, and then, while exploring their various forest paths, He spontaneously replicates all the varieties of feathered crooners in the forest. Mind you, these are not ordinary birds who have just one tune and pitch, but Krishna’s birds, who are operatic and expert as they glorify Krishna in different pitches, cadences, and tunes.


The cowherd boys will not be outdone by the birds and bees. They bring their kirtan to new heights even outdoing the bees. All that can then be heard in the forest is the extra-ordinary sounds of devotion. The heart of any entity, therefore, who simply opens their ears in Vrindavan completely melts overflooded with prema.


Ah, the sounds of Vrindavan! May we all one day hear the sound of Krishna’s flute, but more importantly, feel the joy and love it carries!


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