On a Tight Schedule
The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, is the Supreme Deity, God. God is a person. Just as you and I think, feel and will, God also does. And just as when the President or Prime Minister of a country goes travelling, the agenda is planned many months in advance and his mission and the places where he will go are all announced beforehand, similarly Krishna appears at specified times within this universe, and the scheduled time of His appearance is announced in the Vedic literatures, specifically Srimad-Bhagavatam, also known as the Bhagavata Purana.
It is explained that Lord Krishna descends from His spiritual realm, Goloka Vrindavana, once in a day of Brahma. Who is Brahma? What is that measure of time? Within this universe there is an engineer, whose name is Lord Brahma [also known as the four-headed Buddha]. It is he, under the order of Lord Krishna, who creates all the planets, and from him all the different fathers of mankind have come, sent to different parts of the universe to create offspring for populating the universe. Now, this Lord Brahma’s life span is as long as the life span of the entire universe. When the universe is destroyed, his time is also finished. One day of Lord Brahma consists of four yugas (the ages Satya-yuga, Treta-yuga, Dwarapa-yuga and Kali-yuga, which combine together to make one divya-yuga ) seventy-one times (71 divya-yugas make one manvantara) and again multiplied by the fourteen manvantaras in one day of Brahma. The duration of the present Kali-yuga alone is 432,000 years, of which only 5,000 or so have passed. That means, Lord Krishna appears only every 1,975,320,000 solar years! He last appeared on Earth 5,000 years ago.
However, there are innumerable universes. There are as many universes as there are mustard seeds in a 100-pound sack of mustard seeds. And Krishna appears in every universe. At every moment Krishna is appearing in another universe, just as the sun appears at every moment somewhere on the horizon. The sun is always coming up somewhere, and simultaneously sinking elsewhere. Lord Krishna’s appearance, His activities and His disappearance are constantly going on in this way. He appears in one universe after another.
Higher and Lower Planets
All of these universes are the creation of Maha-Vishnu, who is the first expansion of Krishna. When Maha-Vishnu breathes, He exhales so many bubbles, which are the universes. And when He inhales, all the universes rush back inside Him and are destroyed. This is the explanation given in the Vedas.
We cannot comprehend the extent of the universes with our mundane calculations. We cannot even fully know what is going on here on planet Earth. Nonetheless, there are countless planets in this universe alone. And on every one of them there are living beings, existing in environments just suited to their respective requirements. There is life on other planets, including the moon, the sun, Mars, Venus, Mercury, Saturn and Jupiter. Modern scientists think in terms of their limited capacity, and like villagers unused to travel and foreign places, they presume there is no life beyond this Earth. We are told that the moon is uninhabitable, a place of dust and rocks. But according to Srimad-Bhagavatam and other Vedic literatures, on every planet there are living beings. Even on the sun planet there are living beings, whose bodies are made of fire.
There are higher planets and lower planets, just as on this planet there are countries with high standards of living and those with low standards. It is something like upper-class, middle-class and lower-class income brackets. We are on this Earth planet, which is a middle-class planet. The conditioned souls are wandering throughout the universe in different species of life and through the different planets also. Sometimes they go to the higher planets, the heavenly planets. Sometimes they go to the lower planets, hell. Sometimes they come to this Earth, the middle region of the planetary system.
Kingdom of God
But the material creation, with all its universes and innumerable planets, is just a small portion of the entire kingdom of God. It is called durga, or prison. Just as a prison is kept in a small corner of the state, similarly this material creation—all the universes, planets and living creatures—is an insignificant speck in the corner of God’s kingdom.
Krishna’s planet is not within this universe. His planet, Krishnaloka, is beyond this universe in the spiritual sky. There are other planets in the spiritual sky, called Vaikuntha, because there anxiety does not exist, there is no birth, death, old age and disease. Each one of the Vaikuntha planets is eternal, and each one is many times larger than one material universe.
The material creation is dark by nature, and therefore within each universe there is a central illuminating planet or sun. Vedic literatures say that other planets or stars, as we call them, are only reflecting the light of this sun.
Sometimes the governor visits the prison facility to check how things are going on, and similarly, Lord Krishna, who is also called sarva-loka-maheshvaram, or the proprietor of all planets, comes sometimes to see how things are going on in the material universes. Krishna says in Bhagavad-gita (4.8), paritranaya sadhunam/ vinashaya cha dushkritam: “I come to protect My devotees and destroy the nondevotees and re-establish the principles of religion. ” Religion means the orders given by God. The purpose of this material creation is to give the rebellious conditioned souls (those of us in this material world) an opportunity to rectify themselves and go back home, back to Godhead, just as the purpose of the prison is to give the criminals an opportunity to rectify themselves and again become useful citizens.
And when Krishna appears, He does not come alone. Those devotees who will act as His mother and father first appear. Even the place where the Lord will be “born” descends from the spiritual world. That place is called Vrindavana, and although Vrindavana is in India, it is not material. Vrindavana is a transcendental land in the material world, where Krishna has descended and exhibited His pastimes (lila). In mundane theater, a troupe of actors comes and puts on a performance, and likewise Krishna descends with His friends and transcendental home, just to exhibit Himself and attract the conditioned souls back home, back to Godhead.
Cure for Wanderlust
Generally, the conditioned souls are not interested in going back home, back to Godhead, because they have unlimited desires for material enjoyment. They are attracted to going to different places and experiencing all kinds of different situations.
One can go to different planets within this universe and enjoy different circumstances in different kinds of bodies. By yoga practice it is possible to go to the heavenly planets. But Bhagavad-gita (8.16) says, “From the topmost planet in this universe, down to the lowest, all of them are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death takes place.” This is the defect of the material creation: wherever one goes, the problems of birth, death, old age and disease crop up.
Therefore Lord Krishna comes once in the day of Brahma, just to instruct the forgetful, conditioned souls about their eternal life. That instruction is Bhagavad-gita. The purpose of human life should be to become completely freed from this material existence and go to that spiritual sky where life is eternal, full of knowledge and full of pleasure. Working for material pleasure is a waste of time, because everything material is temporary. The soul is by nature eternal, and thus no amount of temporary happiness can satisfy the eternal soul. Human beings should try to revive their original Krishna consciousness and be reinstated as eternal servants of Krishna. Thus they can be liberated and go back home, back to Godhead.
Janmashtami is the anniversary of Lord Krishna’s appearance 5,000 years ago on this Earth, and devotees consider it to be the most important day of the year. On that day they especially remember Krishna, worship Him with a bathing (abhisheka) ceremony, and make spiritual advancement by hearing and chanting about Krishna.