The greatest obstacles on the path of spirituality are caused not by the external challenges posed by the world, but by our own false ego. The Srimad Bhagavatam describes the envious activities of the serpent Kalia who poisoned the sacred river Yamuna and killed all of Krishna’s friends and cows. Kalia was proud of his destructive activities and couldn’t stand anyone else happy. When Krishna sported on the waters of Yamuna, Kalia was infuriated and rushed madly at Krishna to kill Him. Kalia this reveals how the envious are proud of their ‘poison’ activity; their enjoyment is in seeing others suffer, and their suffering is when others are happy.
Our spiritual advancement is dependent on how we become free from these envious tendencies. The nature of envy is we can’t tolerate others being empowered and successful. When we are pained to see others’ success, Krishna is pained by us. And we make advancement not by causing pain, but only when we are motivated to give pleasure to Krishna. The Srimad Bhagavatam confirms this, “O best among the twice-born, it is therefore concluded that the highest perfection one can achieve by discharging the duties prescribed for one’s own occupation according to caste divisions and orders of life is to please the Personality of Godhead”. (Srimad Bhagavatam 1.2.13). And when we sincerely strive to serve and if we are happy with others’ success, Krishna is happy with us.
Krishna subdued this wicked serpent by dancing on all of his hoods. Kalia’s poison and blood came out of his mouth as Krishna expertly danced on his hoods. Similarly as Krishna, in the form of the Holy Names dances on our tongues, the poison of envy comes out of our hearts.
Kalia was also mercifully punished by Krishna because the serpent’s wives who were exalted devotees of the Lord prayed for their husband’s deliverance. Elsewhere in the Srimad Bhagavatam we also find the demoniac king Hiranyakashipu delivered by the Supreme Lord because the demon’s devoted son, Prahalad prayed for him. Similarly being petitioned by the wives of Kalia, Krishna spared the life of Kalia but not before purifying him of all his poison. Krishna’s expertise in punishing Kalia is in the effortless ease of His chastisement; Krishna didn’t even look at Kalia when dancing on his hoods and punishing him. Even the best martial arts expert looks at the opponent while fighting. However, to add insult to injury, Krishna not only simply danced on his hoods but also occasionally played the flute to delight his devotees who were watching the event from the banks.
Although Kalia was wicked, after he vomited out all the poison and blood, he was humbled, and he eventually surrendered to Krishna. Krishna forgave him seeing his sincere repentance. Similarly, Krishna, dancing on our tongues- slippery like the hoods of a serpent- in the form of the Holy Names, lets us see all our poison and blood like envious thoughts gush out of our consciousness. If we patiently and prayerfully allow the merciful Holy Names to dance on our tongues, we will eventually be purified. Our sincere surrender is pleasing to Krishna, and He will certainly bestow His mercy upon us. We can also beg other sincere practitioners of the Krishna consciousness path to pray for us, and like the wives of Kalia, who were pure devotes, the prayers of other devotees will attract Krishna’s grace upon us.
Radhanath Swami’s guru, Srila Prabhupada went to the United States at the advanced age of seventy to give the Holy Names of Krishna to one and all. By the conventional Indian caste system, the American young hippies, whom Srila Prabhupada approached, were considered untouchables. However Srila Prabhupada mercifully gave them the most purifying Holy Names of Krishna and allowed Krishna to dance on their tongues. Just like the pure devotees, wives of Kalia, prayed for their misled husband, Srila Prabhupada, a pure chanter of the Holy Names prayed for these distracted youth. Their hearts got purified and they surrendered to Krishna.
Let us also beg the Lord and His kind devotees to purify our hearts from the Kalia like poison of envy. The Holy Names, being all merciful shall certainly reciprocate by not only cleansing our hearts but by awarding us the most precious gift of pure love for Krishna.