Fear or Faith...
Note: I pray that in rendering this adaptation of such a famous pastime, I bring only glory to the name of my dearest spiritual grandfather, Srila Prabhupada, who gave his life to bring these stories and lessons to the West. Any mistakes found here, are completely my own, and I constantly pray for the mercy of all who take the time to read these words. Bless me so that I can continue to serve the two Lords of my life.
On the day of the wedding ceremony, Vasudev climbed onto the chariot, holding out a strong, calloused hand to help his beautiful young bride Devaki up to stand beside him. It was warm out in the open air, covered as he was in royal finery with the large garland hanging over his shoulders and all the way to his knees. Devaki's elder brother Kamsa stepped up, and the chariot rocked under his weight. Kamsa grabbed the reins of the horses, wrapping the softened leather around his knuckles, to lead the couple steadily through the crowded streets of Mathura City. Citizens gathered in the thousands to shower their blessings in the form of flower petals of a thousand colors which rained down on the happy, smiling couple. Vasudev and Devaki stood, saluting their people with their palms together, smiling sweetly as they meandered through the great throngs of people.
Kamsa looked majestic and stately at the head of his sister's procession. His face was calm and his finely trimmed mustache sloped over his lips to brush against his large cheeks. No doubt, he was a successful man, a capable warrior and king who could accomplish anything that he put his mind to. His chest puffed out underneath golden armor that glinted and winked in the midday sun. Kamsa smiled slightly, knowing full well that this was one of the very best matches that his sister could have made. Vasudev was a powerful ally and Kamsa was glad to join their kingdoms.
Suddenly, the sky overhead began to darken and many citizens looked up at the change in atmosphere. Deep, dark clouds had gathered, obscuring the sun from view and making the city look almost dark as night. Kamsa also glanced to the sky but it wasn't the clouds that held his attention, but a voice booming out from those same ominous clouds, sending a message out in a all directions.
"Kamsa! What a fool you are!! You are innocently driving the chariot of your sister, but you do not know that the eighth son of this very sister will be the cause of your death!"
Just as soon as it had come, the voice, and the clouds, were both gone. The sun shone once again as though nothing had ever happened, but Kamsa knew better. The celestial voice from the sky had spoken and the prophecy could not be taken back. Nothing could change it, and the message had been explicitly clear. Kama's dark eyes narrowed as he searched the crowd for the source of the voice. He met the shocked gaze of a thousand citizens, but he knew that none of them could have spoken such a warning. There was no doubt about it. Everyone had heard the prophecy, but now, what would he do about it?
Kamsa rounded on the newlyweds at the back of the chariot and before anyone could even think or react, Kamsa snatched Devaki back by her long braid and had his sword drawn. He ignored Devaki's shrill screams only knowing one thing: that he had to save his life at all costs.
"Think you can kill me do you?! Well, neither you nor your precious son will live to see that happen!" Kamsa bellowed a harsh yell as he raised his sword to kill his own sister. One quick slash across her throat and she would be finished. If he plunged his sword into her heart she would die before she had a chance to cry out from the pain. He would see the light dwindle from her eyes and with it, the burning threat of his death would be gone, extinguished forever.
Quick as lightning, Vasudev was there throwing himself in front of his new wife, grasping Kamsa's sword arm and trying his best to talk sense into him. Let him prattle on all he wants, I know what I have to do. Kamsa thought as he pushed and shoved against the king that, moments earlier, he had respected. A king who was now his brother-in-law. Kamsa wouldn't listen to him and he absolutely refused to listen to reason. Even the sight of his own sister cowering pitifully before him made no impact on his conscience. The voice from the sky said that the child of the woman that everyone wanted to save would be the end of him. Kamsa would never allow that to happen.
"Kamsa, think about what it is you are about to do! Why should you be so afraid of death? From the moment that you were born you began to die. Death is inevitably coming for each one of us, either today or in a hundred years. You cannot save your life no matter what you do, for death and fate are cruel, but you can save your reputation. Think about your family! Devaki is your own sister, and this is the auspicious occasion of her wedding! You cannot think of committing such an atrocious act on such a momentous day."
"Enough of your philosophy!" Kamsa spat the word as he pushed against Vasudev with all of his force. It didn't matter how much he knocked the other king off his balance, Vasudev was quick to right himself again and ground himself so that he could protect the woman that would kill her own brother. Kamsa didn't care what Vasudev said. If he died, he would decide when, where and how. He was the master of his life and his future. He was the shaper of his destiny and no voice in the sky, or prophetic child savior would change that.
Kamsa stalled. Vasudev thought that he was listening to him, but Kamsa was calculating. Planning his next move and plotting a way around his new brother-in-law. He needed to get around him and get to Devaki. He was an unstoppable, powerful warrior. He was respected and feared by men, demons and gods alike. He wouldn't let Vasudev talk him into forfeiting his life without so much as a fight. Vasudev still held his sword arm. Kamsa pushed with all his might, continuously. He glared into Vasudev's eyes as he drove the other man to his knees. Vasudev was panting with the effort that it took to fight back against the mountain of Kamsa's strength.
"Kamsa listen! I promise you!! Vasudev yelled. He was desperate now and Kamsa could see it written all over his entire being. Perspiration glistened like pearls on his brow beneath his large, golden crown. He held his hands out before him, knowing that he was on the brink of losing this battle of brute strength. He had to try something or he would lose his wife. Down on his knees, the picture of surrender, the tendons in his jaw jutting out as he gritted his teeth, Vasudev trembled with fatigue.
Kamsa halted for an instant, waiting for what the other king would say next. He knew the word 'promise' was like gold. Once Vasudev gave his word, Kamsa knew that no matter what the king said next, he would rather die than break that oath. Vasudev and his code. It would be the death of the man, but it might just prove useful for Kamsa.
"I promise…that whatever children Devaki may have in the future, I will turn them over to you and you can do whatever you wish with them." Vasudev took a breath as he reiterated his promise to solidify it.
"No!" Devaki's hoarse scream tore through the absolute silence that had descended over the crowd of previously enthusiastic citizens. Vasudev held up a hand and ended all of her protests. Kamsa's sister covered her face and sobbed for her unfortunate future.
Kamsa saw his way out like a jeweled path glittering in the distance before him. He knew that Vasudev would hand over the children, without doubt. Kamsa also knew that once those children were given to him, he would kill them and show the entire universe that no one was his master. No one held any power over him, and no one ever would.
We are, all of us, controlled in one way or another. The fact of life is that there are laws that govern material creation. Even if it’s something as simple as the law of gravity, we are under the control of forces that sometimes leave us helpless. This snapshot of Kamsa and Vasudev has always been, for me, an example in fear versus faith.
While we may not be in total control of our lives and the situations around us, we are in control of how we choose react to them. Vasudev acted from a place of faith, while Kamsa acted from a place of fear.
Out of fear, Kamsa was ready to commit one of the most heinous deeds one could commit in the eyes of vedic culture. He was going to kill his sister, on her wedding day in order to save himself. Now, one might question what kind of man Vasudev was, sacrificing innocent children that hadn’t even been born yet at the hands of a man like Kamsa. Vasudev was acting from a place of faith. He had faith that the celestial prophecy which spoke of the end of Kamsa, the tyrant, would hold true over and above all. As for sacrificing the children, he had faith that the child that was prophesized to kill Kamsa, would find someway out of the demon’s clutches, if that was truly what was to happen.
Throughout the entire history of the birth of Krishna, Vasudev shows such immense faith, continually acting with the knowledge that the Lord in the heart would indeed take care of everything. In the end, his faith is rewarded, but the road was not easy by any means.
I think of this story often. Fear tells me that I want to quit. I should save myself, consequences be damned, and that life will never work in my favor and that if I want something, I should go out and possess it by any means necessary. Faith, however, tells me to believe. It advises me to stay strong to who I am and follow the character ingrained in my heart even when it seems impossible, with the knowledge that my love, my lord, my friend, has a habit of changing the “impossible” for His friends.
So I am continually faced with the choice: do I walk in fear, or do I walk in faith? If I choose fear, I am often left on my own, to try and mete things out by my own strength which is limited and fallible. If I walk in faith which is backed by all the love in creation, I am offered the opportunity to watch as miracles sprout between our pair of footprints. Because when I walk in faith, I am never alone.
Oh Govinda, bless me with the courage, the strength, the fortitude to walk in faith. To choose my knowledge of You and Your heart over my fear of the constant, and overwhelming unknown. You are my saving grace.