The Transcendental Arts of Srimati Radharani, Part 2

BY: SUN STAFF - 20.9 2018

Krsna and Balaram are Instructed on the 64 Arts by Sandipani Muni 

The 64 transcendental arts.

In Sanskrit, the word kala means, among other things, the arts, and specifically 64 fine or mechanical arts. We have already mentioned two versions of the list of 64 arts -- Radharani's transcendental arts listed in Brahma Samhita, and Vatsyayana's list of yogas for young women. But since ancient times, many iterations of the list of 64 arts have been produced. Vatsyayana listed them as 64 bahya kalas, or practical arts which are required study for cultured persons. But generally the lists have developed into two unique sets of 64 kalas, for males and females.

No matter which list one considers, the 64 Arts generally comprise a classical Vedic curriculum of sacred sciences, studies, arts and skills of cultured living as they are described in various shastra. These skilled accomplishments are mentioned in the Vedangas and Upavedas, and the Shilpa Shastras, or craft manuals. Divided by gender, they are grouped to emphasize the highest qualities of masculine and feminine practice in the living arts.

As the lists developed over the ages, what might appear to be more modern skills appeared on the list. But as we consult sastra, we see that there is really nothing new under the sun… essentially every one of the arts can be traced back to its exemplary form in pure Vedic culture, whether it be sculpture, pottery, weaving, astronomy and astrology, mathematics, weights and measures, philosophy, study of sastra, agriculture, navigation, trade and shipping, knowledge of time, logic, psychology, ayurveda, etc.

Forum poster Set Raj offered this narration (adapted here) of the pastimes of Sri Krsna and Balarama, who learned the 64 transcendental arts under the tutelage of their guru, Sandipani Muni, and the essence of the 64 arts:

After the slaying of Kamsa and the sacred thread ceremony, Lord Krsna and Balarama went to the ashram of Guru Sandipani, in the city of Avanti (Ujjain). There, within the span of 64 days, Sri Krsna learned fourteen types of sciences (vidyas) and sixty-four arts (kalas). Generally to learn just one science requires two to two and a half-years of study, but due to the Lord's knowledge of all the sixty-four arts, He probably blessed Sri Shuka Maharishi as thus (while He spoke to the sage's father, Sri Vyasa Maharishi):

"O Sage! Your son is talking like a Shuka (parrot). Hence name this boy as Shukadeva."

What prompted the Lord to bless Sri Shuka in such a manner?

The extraordinary level of jnana and wisdom of the sage and his knowledge of the sublime made Lord Krsna draw the comparison between him and the Shuka (parrot). Sage Shuka's divine jnana was evident while he was in his mother's womb itself. At the beginning, Sage Vedavyasa approached sage Jabali, seeking the hand of his daughter, Vatika, in matrimony. After the wedding, Sage Vyasa and his wife Vatika lived amidst forests, in a lovely hermitage, enjoying marital bliss. Vatika became pregnant and the fetus began to grow in her womb for nearly twelve years without any child being born.

As shastras and the Vedas were being discussed in the hermitage, the fetus in the womb of Vatika used to listen to the discussions and absorb all the information. Not only that, but the fetus could also retain all the knowledge within itself. The child gained expertise of Sanga,Vedas, Smriti, Puranas and all the Mukti-shastras, and used to analyse all the scriptures while still within the womb.

The mother, Vatika, used to experience extreme pain and discomfort due to the growing womb and no amount of cajoling or coaxing from the father, sage Vyasa, could prompt the child to come out. The fetus declared from the womb that it wanted to attain salvation from within the womb itself, fearing that all the knowledge would dissolve (due to maya) once it took birth and came into the world.

The child said,

"I have taken nearly 84 lakhs of births and am determined to make this my last birth. I am practising yoga and meditation here itself (in the womb) and have no wish to yield to worldly maya by taking birth. Please get Lord Krishna's assurance that I would be unaffected by the maya and I will come out!"

Sage Vyasa rushed to bring Lord Krishna to the hermitage, and Lord Krishna assured the fetus that He would protect it from illusion (maya).

After birth, the twelve year old boy started walking towards the forests. When sage Vyasa tried to stop him, pleading that he needed to perform certain rituals for the welfare of his son, the boy replied-

"O great among sages, thousands of rituals were carried out in many of my births. These bondages of rituals submerged me in the illusions of the world."

It was then that Lord Krishna named the boy Shukadeva, because he spoke with the knowledge of a Shuka (parrot). Lord Krsna, who was proficient in the 64 arts, compared the twelve year old boy (who had gained knowledge of all the vidyas and kalas while in his mother's womb) to a Shuka, conveying the greatness and significance of a parrot.

Goddess Meenakshi and her Parrot

Such a parrot is held on the right side of Goddess Raja Matangi, who resides as Goddess Meenakshi in Madurai. The parrot is positioned in such a way that its beak is aligned with Devi's right ear. The parrot imparts its knowledge of the 64 kalas to the Goddess. While having darshan of the Goddess in Madurai, it is essential to seek the blessings of Shuka for upliftment in the knowledge of fine arts. I always make it a point to drink in the sight of the dazzling Goddess from head to toe along with Her parrot. I would never miss the parrot, taking a long, hard look at it before retreating from the sanctum sanctorum of the temple.

While interacting with a religiously well-informed practitioner, I learnt that there was this mantra (after proper initiation) that could actually materialise the celestial parrot after a few crores of japam (recitation) of the same. It seems the parrot would fly around the musician, sit on his-her shoulder, fly on to the veena, dance on the strings, fly back to the player (even its wings could touch the cheeks of the musician), all the while enhancing the knowledge of the practitioner's art to celestial heights!



Following is an excerpt from Chapter 45 of Krsna Book, in which Srila Prabhupada describes the pastimes of Krsna and Balarama at the asrama of Sandipani Muni:

"It is customary, after being initiated in the Gayatri mantra, for one to live away from home for some time under the care of the acarya in order to be trained in spiritual life. During this period one has to work under the spiritual master as an ordinary menial servant. There are many rules and regulations for a brahmacari living under the care of an acarya, and both Lord Krsna and Balarama strictly followed those regulative principles while living under the instruction of their spiritual master, Sandipani Muni, in his place in northern India. According to scriptural injunctions, a spiritual master should be respected and be regarded on an equal level with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Both Krsna and Balarama exactly followed those principles with great devotion and underwent the regulations of brahmacarya, and thus They satisfied Their spiritual master, who instructed Them in Vedic knowledge. Being very satisfied, Sandipani Muni instructed Them in all the intricacies of Vedic wisdom as well as in supplementary literatures such as the Upanisads. Because Krsna and Balarama happened to be ksatriyas, They were specifically trained in military science, politics and mathematics. In politics there are six departments of knowledge--how to make peace, how to fight, how to pacify, how to divide and rule, how to give shelter, etc. All these items were fully explained and instructed to Krsna and Balarama.

The ocean is the source of water in a river. The cloud is created by the evaporation of ocean water, and the same water is distributed as rain all over the surface of the earth and then returns toward the ocean in rivers. So Krsna and Balarama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, are the source of all kinds of knowledge, but because They were playing like ordinary human boys, They set the example so that everyone would receive knowledge from the right source. Thus They agreed to take knowledge from a spiritual master.

After hearing only once from the teacher, Krsna and Balarama learned all the arts and sciences. In sixty-four days and sixty-four nights They learned all the necessary arts and sciences that are required in human society. During daytime They took lessons on a subject from the teacher, and by nightfall, after having heard from the teacher, They were expert in that department of knowledge.

First of all They learned how to sing, how to compose songs and how to recognize the different tunes; They learned the favorable and unfavorable accents and meters, how to sing different kinds of rhythms and melodies, and how to follow them by beating different kinds of drums. They learned how to dance with rhythm, melody and different songs. They learned how to write dramas, and They learned the various types of paintings, beginning from different village arts up to the highest perfectional stage. They also learned how to paint tilaka on the face and make different kinds of dots on the forehead and cheeks. Then They learned the art of painting on the floor with liquid paste of rice and flour; such paintings are very popular at auspicious ceremonies performed at household affairs or in the temple. They learned how to make a resting place with flowers and how to decorate clothing and leaves with colorful paintings. They also learned how to set different valuable jewels in ornaments. They learned the art of ringing waterpots. Waterpots are filled with water to a certain measurement so that when one beats on the pots, different tunes are produced, and when the pots are beaten together they produce a melodious sound. They also learned how to throw water in the rivers or the lakes while taking a bath among friends. They also learned how to decorate with flowers. This art of decorating can still be seen in various temples of Vrndavana during the summer season. It is called phulla-badi. The dais, the throne, the walls and the ceiling are all fully decorated, and a small, aromatic fountain of flowers is fixed in the center. Because of these floral decorations, the people, fatigued from the heat of the summer season, become refreshed.

Krsna and Balarama learned the art of dressing hair in various styles and fixing a helmet in different positions on the head. They also learned how to perform on a theatrical stage, how to decorate dramatic actors with flower ornaments over the ear, and how to sprinkle sandalwood pulp and water to produce a nice fragrance. They also learned the art of performing magical feats. Within the magical field there is an art called bahurupi by which a person dresses himself in such a way that when he approaches a friend he cannot be recognized. They also learned how to make beverages which are required at various times, and they studied syrups and tastes and the effects of intoxication. They learned how to manipulate thin threads for dancing puppets, and They learned how to string wires on musical instruments, such as the vina, sitar and tampura, to produce melodious sounds. Then They learned puzzles and how to set and solve them. They learned the art of reading books from which even a foolish student can very quickly learn to read the alphabet and comprehend writing. Then They learned how to rehearse and act out a drama. They also studied the art of solving crossword puzzles, filling up the missing space and making complete words.

They also learned how to draw pictographic literature. In some countries in the world, pictographic literature is still current. A story is represented by pictures; for instance, a man and a house are pictured to represent a man going home. Krsna and Balarama also learned the art of architecture--how to construct residential buildings. They learned to recognize valuable jewels by studying the luster and the quality of their colors. Then They learned the art of setting jewels with gold and silver. They also learned how to study soil to find minerals. This study of soil is now a greatly specialized science, but formerly it was common knowledge even for the ordinary man. They learned to study herbs and plants and to extract medicine from the elements. By studying the different species of plants, They learned how to crossbreed plants and get different types of fruits. They learned how to train and engage lambs and cocks in fighting for sporting purposes. They then learned how to teach parrots to speak and answer the questions of human beings.

They learned practical psychology--how to influence another's mind and thus induce another to act according to one's own desire. Sometimes this is called hypnotism. They learned how to wash hair, dye it in different colors and curl it in different ways. They learned the art of telling what is written in someone's book without actually seeing it. They learned to tell what is contained in another's fist. Sometimes children imitate this art, although not very accurately. One child keeps something within his fist and asks his friend, "Can you tell what is within?" and the friend gives some suggestion, although he actually cannot tell. But there is an art by which one can understand and actually tell what is held within the fist.

Krsna and Balarama learned how to speak and understand the languages of various countries. They learned not only the languages of human beings. Krsna could also speak even with animals and birds. Evidence of this is found in Vaisnava literature compiled by the Gosvamis. Then They learned how to make carriages and airplanes from flowers. It is said in the Ramayana that after defeating Ravana, Ramacandra was carried from Lanka to Bharata-varsa on a plane of flowers called puspa-ratha. Krsna then learned the art of foretelling events by seeing signs. In a book called Khanar vacana, the various types of signs and omens are described. If, when one is going out, one sees someone with a bucket full of water, that is a very good sign. But if one sees someone with an empty bucket, it is not a very good sign. Similarly, if one sees cow's milk along with a calf, it is a good sign. The result of understanding these signs is that one can foretell events, and Krsna learned the science. Krsna also learned the art of composing matrka. A matrka is a crossword section with three letters in a line; counting any three from any side, it will count nine. The matrkas are of different kinds and are for different purposes.

Krsna learned the art of cutting valuable stones such as diamonds, and He learned the art of questioning and answering by immediately composing poetry within His mind. He learned the science of the action and reaction of physical combinations and permutations. He learned the art of a psychiatrist, who can understand the psychic movements of another person. He learned how to satisfy one's desires. Desires are very difficult to fulfill; but if one desires something which is unreasonable and can never be fulfilled, the desire can be subdued and satisfied, and that is an art. By this art one can also subdue sex impulses when they are aroused, as they are even in brahmacari life. By this art one can make even an enemy his friend or transfer the direct action of a physical element to other things.

Lord Krsna and Balarama, the reservoir of all knowledge of arts and sciences, exhibited Their perfect understanding when They offered to serve Their teacher by awarding him anything he desired. This offering by the student to the teacher or spiritual master is called guru-daksina. It is essential that a student satisfy the teacher in return for any learning received, either material or spiritual. When Krsna and Balarama offered Their service in this way, the teacher, Sandipani Muni, thought it wise to ask Them for something extraordinary, something which no common student could offer. He therefore consulted with his wife about what to ask from Them. They had already seen the extraordinary potencies of Krsna and Balarama and could understand that the two boys were the Supreme Personality of Godhead. They decided to ask for the return of their son, who had drowned in the ocean on the bank of Prabhasaksetra."