We can become eternally related to the Lord by the worship done in this Keśava-vrata.
The start of creation is in this month of Vaiśākha. Lord Brahmā appeared on top of a lotus stemming from the navel of Garbhodakaśāyī Viṣṇu. He could not see anything on all sides. Everything was dark. Brahmā did not know what to do; he did not know why he was alone. He went down towards the bottom of the lotus, but could not find the end of the stem.
He returned to the top of the lotus and began to chant the Oṁkāra, “oṁ, oṁ, oṁ,” for many celestial years. Lord Keśava, Śrī Hari, then appeared before Brahmā. The Lord said, “You are not alone, and neither am I. Where do you think this lotus came from? You are sitting on this lotus, but you can’t see the bottom of the lotus where the stem connects. I am present but hidden. You don’t know where I came from, or where you came from, but I will reveal this all to you.” The Lord then spoke the Catuḥ-ślokī Bhāgavatam:
jñānaṁ parama-guhyaṁ me
sa-rahasyaṁ tad-aṅgaṁ ca
gṛhāṇa gaditaṁ mayā
The Supreme Lord said: “Knowledge about Me as described in the scriptures is very confidential, and it has to be realized in conjunction with devotional service. The necessary paraphernalia for that process is being explained by Me. You may take it up carefully.”
The Lord asked, “Will you accept what I want to give you? In a previous birth, I gave you so much knowledge, yet you forgot it all because your mind and senses were engaged in material activities. You could not preserve your transcendental knowledge. When the jīvas are independent, they don’t want to accept any real helper and they do whatever they want. Now I am here before you, so follow My instructions, and then you will understand everything.”
“You are not alone; I am with you,” the Lord said.
However, Brahmā was not satisfied with the Lord’s company and he desired to have friends and family.
Śrī Keśava said, “Do not think you are alone. Why don’t you think about Me? I want to give you very confidential knowledge, as well as realization. I will teach you which process to follow to attain perfection.”
Brahmā remained silent.
The Lord continued, “This body is not your real self. You are the soul and thus I am your father. Our eternal relationship is confidential. Prema-bhakti that exists in the heart of the living entity is rahasya—confidential. But you have no love for Me. You desire the company of others.”
Brahmā restlessly thought, “What can I do if I am alone in this world? I need company.”
The living entities have the difficulty that they are independent and always desire others to facilitate their sense enjoyment. Bhagavān Śrī Hari then said:
aham evāsam evāgre
nānyad yat sad-asat param
paścād ahaṁ yad etac ca
yo ‘vaśiṣyeta so ‘smy aham
Brahmā, it is I, the Personality of Godhead, who was existing before the creation, when there was nothing but Myself. Nor was there the material nature, the cause of this creation. That which you see now is also I, the Personality of Godhead, and after annihilation what remains will also be I, the Personality of Godhead.
Why do devotees think they are alone when they are surrounded by many other devotees, brahmacārīs, and senior Vaiṣṇavas? This is because they desire others to satisfy their desire for sense gratification. However, devotees are related to the Lord and only strive to satisfy the desires of the Lord.
Lord Keśava gave advice to Brahmā, but he did not want to follow it fully. When Bhagavān saw that Brahmā would not be satisfied with a transcendental relationship with Him and did not desire to go with Him to the transcendental world, but rather wanted to create in the material world, then He said, “All right, I give you the power to create anything you like from your mind.”
Brahmā henceforth created living entities from his mind, and he created the seven upper and lower planetary systems in the stem of the lotus he sat on top of to provide residences for the 8,400,000 species of life. He desired the first beings that he created from his mind to beget progeny to populate the universe.
However, coming from his mind, the place of Parabrahma, these beings became ṛṣis, celibate sages, and they thus had no inclination towards materialistic life and began to perform austerities and meditation. The sages, headed by Bhṛgu, Atri, Kratu, Yājñavalkya and others, appeared from Brahmā’s mind, therefore they did japa (recitation), tapa (austerities), dāna (charity), vrata (vows), and so forth.
Feeling compassion for the living entities, Bhagavān Śrī Keśava spoke before the sages: “I am the Supreme Being. I love you, and you should learn to love Me. Do strong sādhana, spiritual practice. A child goes to school and acquires knowledge in this way. Learn how to awaken love for Me and a desire to serve and be related to Me. Everything in this world is created by Me, so you should use it in My service.”
Kṛṣṇa is very merciful. He is not selfish; He wants to help us. If you use anything for yourselves or other living entities in this world, then it binds you in the cycle of karma. But if you offer everything to Kṛṣṇa first, then it is purified and gives no sinful reactions. You can then distribute it to everyone. Kṛṣṇa knows that if the living beings learn to offer everything to Him first, then they will make a relationship with Him. They will then learn to offer and accept only that which is pure, because the Lord will not accept offerings that are in the lower modes of nature.
Bhagavān says in the Bhagavad-gītā (3.13):
bhuñjate te tv aghaṁ pāpā
ye pacanty ātma-kāraṇāt
The devotees of the Lord are released from all kinds of sins because they eat food which is offered first for sacrifice. Others, who prepare food for personal sense enjoyment, verily eat only sin. The Lord teaches us first to offer everything to Him and then to distribute to everyone, otherwise one will be bound by karma.
When the Vrajavāsīs listened to Kṛṣṇa’s request and offered everything to Girirāja Govardhana, then Govardhana gave them unlimited prasāda in return—so much that they could never finish it.
īśāvāsyam idam sarvaṁ
yat kiñca jagatyāṁ jagat
tena tyaktena bhuñjīthā
mā gṛdaḥ kasya svid dhanam
Everything animate or inanimate that is within the universe is controled and owned by the Lord. One should therefore accept only those things necessary for himself, which are set aside as his quota, and one should not accept other things, knowing well to whom they belong.
Kṛṣṇa has created everything, so first offer everything unto Him. Don’t be a cheater and a thief, independent from the Lord.
The Lord in this way instructed the sages, who then asked Him, “How will You be pleased my Lord? We need a permanent guardian in this world who can protect us. You are Paramātmā, the all-pervasive Supreme Being, residing in every atom and every living entities heart. The jīvas are very insignificant and small-minded. They have so much false ego and pride. Not everyone can perceive Your presence and understand Your instructions. So, who can be everyone’s guardian, maintainer, and protector?”
The all-merciful Lord replied, “I will come to you and will be with you with My own svarūpa-śakti, internal potency. If you respect and pray to Her, She will maintain and help you. I will descend soon. I desire to protect all species; therefore, I will appear in different forms in all species of life. But for you, I will be present in this world as Śālagrāma-śilā and My śakti, potency, will appear as Tulasī-devī.
Worship Tulasī, and then your mind will remain pure. She will help you. Whatever you offer to Me should first be offered to Tulasī, meaning, you should place a Tulasī leaf on every offering you make before giving it to Me. You do not have to worship Me in the form of a large Deity, just worship Śālagrāma-śilā.”
At the time of creation, the Lord first created heads. He gave two eyes to see, two nostrils to smell, two ears to hear, and a mouth to take foodstuffs and speak with. The Lord then gave a trunk with organs to support the karmendriya, working senses, and jñānendriya, knowledge acquiring senses. He then gave arms and hands to perform action, and legs and feet to carry the body. But the head is the place of Brahma, the Supreme Lord. Thus the head represents the Śālagrāma.
Paramātmā is present in the head, where the consciousness dwells. The head is called brahma-tala, the residence of Brahma, and the other thirteen planetary systems are also within the body in their microcosmic forms. The body is like a vehicle for the soul to perform action. But if you don’t have a head, you cannot drive this physical car. Even if you give fire, air, water, earth, and ether, which are likened to the fuel to propel the body, still the car will not drive without direction from brahma-tala, the head, or seat of the driver. The mind and intelligence are the medium through which the soul is in touch with external reality.
Thus, Lord Śrī Keśava appeared as Śālagrāma-śilā, along with His svarūpa-śakti as Tulasī-devī. He then appeared in multi-various forms corresponding to the different species of life. The rasika poet Śrī Jayadeva Gosvāmī has described this in his song, Daśa-avatāra-stotram—keśava dhṛta mīna śarīra; keśava dhṛta kūrma śarīra; keśava dhṛta varāha rūpa. The Lord donned the forms of the different species of life to help all these species. Lord Keśava accepted such forms as that of a fish, as Matsyadeva, a tortoise, as Kurmadeva, a boar, as Varāhadeva, a swan, as Haṁsa-avatāra, a horse, as Hayagrīva, as well as many other forms.
The Lord appeared in many species and they all had different kinds of mechanisms to propel themselves. For example, the aquatics do not have feet or hands, but the Lord gave them fins for movement. Similarly, He gave the birds wings. But no matter what the species, still, the head is the brahma-tala, or the dwelling place of consciousness, and is likened to Śālagrāma. Śālagrāma is the universal head and He expands though His potency into the infinite manifestations of living entities. Śālagrāma also appears directly as a śīla, special stone, to accept the living entities’ worship.
What is the process to worship Him? This is described by our vaiṣṇava-ācāryas:
mādhava he! bahuta minati kari toya
dehī tulasī tīlā deha samarpinu
dayā jāni nā chāḍibe moya
We pray to Śālagrāma, “Dear Lord, day and night my mind is absorbed in serving the senses. I am the slave of my body, but my senses do not want to give me enough time to give You even a leaf of Tulasī. Now, I am offering my body to You with a leaf of Tulasī. Please accept me, even though I am completely unqualified. You have said that You are satisfied with just a Tulasī leaf and a spoonful of water, so please accept my body, mind, and soul as Your own.”
The Guru-varga teaches us to make our body a temple of Kṛṣṇa by anointing it with twelve tilaka signs (auspicious markings drawn with sacred clay). By marking the head, arms, chest, belly, and back with tilaka signs, the body is purified and is spiritualized. Then one can begin to relate with the Lord, through the head, which is like Śālagrāma, having brahma-śakti within it.
Through the head one can meditate on the Lord and serve Him internally. So Śālagrāma and the head are connected in this way. The Lord appeared as a śīla, or special kind of stone. Don’t think He is not present there. His whole svarūpa is hidden there. The whole brahmāṇḍa, universe, is present within Śālagrāma.
Śālagrāma is not only like a head, but it is like the microcosmic form of the entire universe, which is shaped like an egg. The universe in Sanskrit is called the brahmāṇḍa. Aṇḍa means egg and Brahma refers to the Supreme Spirit. So in this way, Śālagrāma is one form of the entire universe. The entire universe is present within Śālagrāma. The universe is round just like Śālagrāma.
Ordinary people have difficulty understanding how the entire universe can be present within Śālagrāma, but we have heard in śāstra how the entire universe, along with all created beings, resides within the mouth or belly of the Lord. For example, when Kṛṣṇa opened His mouth at the firm order of mother Yaśodā, she saw the entire universe in Kṛṣṇa’s mouth. Similarly, Kākabhuśuṇḍi saw the universe within Śrī Rāma. Kṛṣṇa and Rāma manifest in this world for the benefit of all living entities as Śālagrāma-śilā.
After Kṛṣṇa had empowered Brahmā with transcendental knowledge, Brahmā created many sons. However, this did not make him happy. Brahmā thought he was the creator, but really Śrī Keśava is the creator. Brahmā thought, “I cannot control my sons. I cannot control my sons Bṛghu, Marīci, Atri, Pulasta, Aṅgirā, as well as other ṛṣis-maharṣis who were born from my mind. Everybody wants to be independent.”
Seeing that none of the sages listened to him when he told them to be progenitors, Brahmā prayed to Keśava, “No one is following my instructions to create progeny. What should I do?”
The Lord said, “Now create with the generative organs in your body. Then your creations will be inclined towards coition.”
Brahmā followed this advice and from that time on, the population of the living entities quickly expanded through the act of procreation. However, the various species of life, especially humans, became inordinately fixated on their generative organs and capacity. General people are very attached to enjoying with their body, but the ṛṣis concentrate their vital energy in their heads without wasting a drop of it and then they are able to always think of the Lord.
Seeing the creation becoming populated, Brahmā became happy. After sometime however, many problems arouse due to the vast increase of living entities, and Brahmā became unhappy. Seeing his Ṛṣi sons happy and always engaged in worship, he approached them for help.
Brahmā asked his sons, “You love Kṛṣṇa, but in my case I have love for you all instead of Kṛṣṇa. How can I change?”
The sons replied, “You should pray and serve Kṛṣṇa.”
Brahmā tried praying to Kṛṣṇa but could not do so due to his attachments.
Brahmā’s sons spoke, “You should follow Kṛṣṇa. Don’t be attached to us.” Saying this they left him and went to perform austerities.
Being rejected by his sons, Brahmā realized the nature of this world and then took shelter of Kṛṣṇa. He remembered and recited the Brahma-saṁhita prayers:
lakṣāvṛteṣu surabhīr abhipālayantam
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
I worship Govinda, the Primeval Lord, the First Progenitor Who is tending the cows, yielding all desires, in abodes built with spiritual gems, surrounded by millions of purpose-trees, always served with great reverence and affection by hundreds of thousands of Lakṣmīs, or gopīs.
veṇuṁ kvaṇantam aravinda-dalāyatākṣaṁ
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
I worship Govinda, the Primeval Lord, who is adept in playing on His flute, with blooming eyes like lotus petals, with head bedecked with peacock’s feather, with the figure of beauty tinged with the hue of blue clouds, and His unique loveliness charming millions of cupids.
santaḥ sadaiva hṛdayeṣu vilokayanti
yaṁ śyāmasundaram acintya-guṇa-svarūpaṁ
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
I worship the primeval Lord, Govinda, who is always seen by the devotee whose eyes are anointed with the salve of love. He is seen in His eternal form of Śyāmasundara, situated within the heart of the devotee.
Hearing these prayers, Keśavadeva became immensely happy. Keśavadeva thought, “Now My son, Brahmā, has come in the proper line. Before, rather than following My desire, he followed the desires of his followers and attained misery. Now, by glorifying Vraja and the gopīs, his heart has changed.” In this way, Brahmā pleased Lord Keśavadeva.
Many yugas later, at the onset of a Kali-yuga, the ṛṣis and maharṣis became fearful. They prayed to Śrī Hari for help and protection. Śrī Hari told them, “I am sending My Sudarśana-cakra to help you all. Follow the Sudarśana-cakra.” The ṛṣis-maharṣis then followed the Sudarśana-cakra while doing kīrtana and chanting the sudarśana-kavaca.
Sudarśana soon reached Naimiṣāraṇya and made his way to Pātāla-loka. The Gaṅgā then sprung from the path made by Sudarśana. The ṛṣis started reciting hari-kathā in that area from all four sides of the kuṇḍa that manifested there. They recited the Purāṇas, Bhāgavatam, and other scriptures. They worshiped Śrī Hari for protection.
In Naimiṣāraṇya, the ṛṣis, maharṣis, and brahmarṣis started this Keśava-vrata for one month to please Śrī Keśavadeva. They worshiped Śālagrāma with Gaṅgā water and Tulasī leaves. The ṛṣis would follow this vrata sitting near Cakra-tirtha in Naimiṣāraṇya.
If Tulasī-devī and Śālagrāma are worshiped in any place in Kali-yuga, then that place is completely protected by Bhagavān’s Sudarśana-cakra. This is also true of that place where the Gītā and Bhāgavatam are recited. If you wants to become like the sages, you should follow Śrī Advaita Ācārya, who taught that to please Śrī Śālagrāma. You can offer Him Tulasī leaves and water. Then you will forget your tendency to worship your husband, wife, children, relatives, and friends.
Śāstra advises to worship Śālagrāma with Tulasī and sandal paste in the month of Vaiśākha, and in the summer, along with a continuous drip of water. We offer this stream of water to Lord Śālagrāma and Tulasī-devī, and in this way, cultivate ānukūlyena-kṛṣṇānuśīlanaṁ, constant absorption, like an incessant flow of honey, in Kṛṣṇā’s service.