Question: In my reading of “Back to Godhead” magazine, Jan/Feb 2000 edition, Page 47, there is a reference to the extremely illustrious decoration of Dwarka. This excerpt is taken from Srimad Bhagvatam (10.69.1-12). Since the Lord is beyond material values, why did he surround himself with such ostentatious material things?

The Lord’s abodes of Dwaraka, Mathura and Vrindavana are not products of the material world. When the Lord descends to the material world, He descends with His entire spiritual abode. These abodes are manifestations of His spiritual opulence. The very name “bhagavan” means one who possesses all opulence. The Lord is the possessor of everything. The appearance of the Lord’s abodes are manifested by His internal potency, Sri Lakshmi Devi, for His service.

The Lord is situated beyond all material dualities. For Him there is no such thing as good and bad. From His perspective there is nothing material, for everything is His energy. He is neither attracted nor repulsed by any manifestation. He is completely self-satisfied.

His transcendental position is revealed in His dealings with the poor brahmana Sudama Vipra. Sudama brought Him some rotten flat rice, which was not even fit for humans to eat. When Sudama came before Lord Krishna, he was too embarased to give such an offering to the Lord. But Lord Krishna asked him what he had brought in his bag. Sudama did not wish to give it to the Lord, but Lord Krishna demanded that he reveal the contents to Him. Then the Lord took the wrotten flat rice, and began eating it with great bliss and happiness. With each bite He took, immense opulence began manifesting in the house of Sudama Vipra. Finally Rukmini grabbed the Lord’s hand and told Him, “Please stop eating this. If you take another bite, I Myself will have to become a servant in the house of Sudama.”

This is the transcendental position of the Lord. He has no attraction to opulence, neither material nor spiritual. But when His devotee offers Him something with love and devotion He becomes purchased by that devotee. Even more so when His devotee chants His name with love. In the Adi Purana Lord Krishna says to Arjuna:

gitva ca mama namani nartayena mama sannidhau
idam bravimi te satyam kritoham tena carjunah
gitva ca mam namani rudanti mam sannidhau
tesam aham parikrito nanya krito janardanah

“One who sings My name loudly and dances in My presence, such a person purchases Me. One who sings My name loudly and sheds tears in My presence, such a person completely purchases Me and I am not purchased by anyone except him.”

The Lord is only attracted by the devotion of His devotees, not by material opulences. In the prayers of Satyavrata Muni known as Damodarashtakam (from the Padma Purana) we find the following statement:

sthita-graivam damodaram bhakti-baddham

“Lord Damodara (Krishna) is bound not by ropes, but only by the love of His devotees.”