Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Songwriter

Mother Yashoda“While churning the butter, mother Yashoda was singing about the childhood activities of Krishna. It was formerly a custom that if one wanted to remember something constantly, he would transform it into poetry or have this done by a professional poet. It appears that mother Yashoda did not want to forget Krishna's activities at any time.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.9.1-2 Purport)

That a person would compose songs in their free time is not surprising. The content of the resulting material will obviously be influenced by the activities of the daily routine, the actions repeated which aim to further specific purposes for the individual. Consciousness is shaped through activities, and at the same time the thoughts within the mind direct the wanderings of the autonomous being, who is a spirit soul that is never bereft of its potential for action. Should you happen to be in the company of the sweetheart of sweethearts, the beloved jewel of Vrindavana, the songs you compose will be directed by the purest thoughts. Hence the songwriting of one particular woman was so glorious that sages and ardent listeners are enthralled just by thinking of her ability to compose beautiful poetry on the fly. Her songs had the most captivating subject matter, which was based on firsthand experience. From the writer in question’s situation, we know that the product of her work was brilliant.

Mother Yashoda with KrishnaMother Yashoda, the foster mother of the Supreme Personality of Godhead during His most famous descent to this world, is the songwriter we speak of. When would she compose her songs? Did she write them down on paper, meticulously craft the verses together using intricate meters and other tools of the poetry trade, and then practice them with public performances? On the contrary, in the oddest of settings, while performing menial housework was where this famous mother’s handiwork was born. The world was her studio, for she was always consumed by loving emotions tied to the gift the Supreme Lord had given her: His personal company in the form of a young child.

How can God come to earth? Isn’t the purported divine incarnation just an issue of dogmatic insistence, an ordinary human being whose exploits were later turned into mythology through the passage of time? That Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead is accepted by the stalwart authorities on Vedic culture. These personalities gained their exalted status from both their teachings and actions. Light years more intelligent than the shrewdest lawyers of today, who rely on the fallacies of tu quoque, ad hominem and straw man to convince others of their viewpoints, these acharyas, or teachers who lead by example, are well versed in logic, the truths of spiritual life, and the oldest and most difficult language to understand, Sanskrit. Though they can be considered high scholars, they take to devotion as their main business in life, for their intelligence only strengthens their dedication to the devotional path, supporting their conviction which was already strong like a pillar.

Who are these authorities we speak of? In India, they are quite famous even today. Shankara, Ramanuja, Lord Chaitanya, Shrila Rupa Goswami, Vyasadeva, Narada Muni and a host of other notable personalities consider Shri Krishna the Supreme Lord. Even in the cases of famous figures like Shri Hanuman, Agastya Rishi, Goswami Tulsidas and Janaka Maharaja, who worship Lord Rama as the Supreme Lord, the viewpoint is not different, for Krishna is the same Rama. Even amongst the many non-Vedic spiritualists from around the world since time immemorial there is no contradiction, as the concepts of God, Allah, and an Almighty correspond directly with Krishna. The Vedas are unique in that they give more details about the features of the Supreme Personality, such as His facial features, His tendencies with regards to interactions with His intimate associates, when and where He appears on earth, and what His teachings are. Coupled with this information, the Vedas, the original scriptures for mankind, provide the bewildered soul guidance on the proper course in life.

Lord KrishnaDo we need guidance? The more appropriate question would be, “when do we not need guidance?” Starting from when we exit the womb of our mother, we need help in doing everything. Even with the so-called self-starters, the people unwilling to ask for directions on how to get some place, who refuse to ask for help in a store when looking for a particular product, there is the reliance on the senses and mind. The mind is aided through experience and personal observation. The brain works off of the information fed to it, which it can then use to formulate conclusions.

“O my Lord, everything within material nature is limited by time, space and thought. Your characteristics, however, being unequaled and unsurpassed, are always transcendental to such limitations. You sometimes cover such characteristics by Your own energy, but nevertheless Your unalloyed devotees are always able to see You under all circumstances." (Stotra-ratna of Yamunacharya)

The Vedas take the guesswork out of the most difficult issues in life, such as those pertaining to time and space, which are unlimited. We don’t know where we were prior to our present birth and where we will go after our current life ends. We don’t know what lies past the outer limits of space, the infinite beyond that scientists have yet to penetrate. Even if scientists could reach these regions, they have no historical information about them, such as how they came into being and what the changes have been through the course of time.

The wisdom of the Vedas coupled with the teachings of the acharyas who follow them point to Krishna as being the Supreme Lord. Even if one wants to remain stubborn in their opposition, they can still take tremendous pleasure from hearing about Krishna, a method which is actually the same as being in His company. From the results that come from following prescriptions we can determine whether a reputed authority source has merit. In fact, these results are more important than actually accepting the words of wisdom on faith. Faith can be extended very quickly with a few words, but unless there are tangible benefits received, there is no difference between just saying you believe something and actually meaning it.

Mother YashodaMother Yashoda showed through her behavior that Krishna was God. The Lord’s name says that He is all-attractive. If something has this quality, it must be able to evoke blissful feelings in the people who interact with it. No one has more intimate dealings with a young child than a mother, so Yashoda had to always be happy if Krishna was really all-attractive.

How do we detect happiness? For the mother, her pleasure comes from the increase in parental affection. For a mother with a young child, an indication of this affection is the milk that is produced by the breasts. It is said that Krishna was so much loved by His mother that milk would automatically flow from her breasts whenever she would see Him. Krishna, for His part, would enjoy drinking the milk provided by His mother. Thus there was love from both sides.

“Dressed in a saffron-yellow sari, with a belt tied about her full hips, mother Yashoda pulled on the churning rope, laboring considerably, her bangles and earrings moving and vibrating and her whole body shaking. Because of her intense love for her child, her breasts were wet with milk. Her face, with its very beautiful eyebrows, was wet with perspiration, and malati flowers were falling from her hair.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.9.3)

The Supreme Lord cannot completely cover up His position as God, though He tries His best to conceal His superior standing from those intimately associated with Him. For a person in Yashoda’s position, what benefit would be gained by knowing that your son was God? How about if your best friend who you enjoyed spending time with suddenly revealed that they were the original creator? Would not the relationship be altered for the worse?

Krishna in VrindavanaSuch were the situations for the residents of Vrindavana. They each had a specific rasa, or transcendental mellow, applied to Krishna. If He were to reveal that He was God, those relationships would change, and thus the happiness derived would be affected. If the same loving emotions weren’t directed to Krishna by the residents, how could He take tremendous pleasure in their association? The Lord is already worshiped reverentially in the minds of those who are in awe of Him. The many temples around the world follow reverential worship as well.

Coming to Vrindavana some five thousand years ago allowed Krishna to experience the purest loving sentiments directed to Him by the most exalted devotees, those who didn’t necessarily know all the ins and outs of Vedic wisdom, but who lived by them regardless. Mother Yashoda spent so much time in Krishna’s company, seeing His amazing displays of strength and agility. A king in a neighboring town wanted the young Krishna dead due to a prophecy previously made. Demon after demon came to Vrindavana to try to kill Krishna, but the Lord miraculously escaped each attempt with His life intact. In reality there was no miracle, for Krishna cannot be killed. He gave salvation to each of these fiends by remaining within their consciousness as they quit their body.

To the residents Krishna’s feats of strength were amazing. His childish pranks were also a source of great joy. As Mother Yashoda was always happy, even while taking care of a simple chore like churning butter she would compose songs about her young child. Always in yoga, or transcendental connection with the Supreme Lord, the quality of her songs reflected her perfectly pure consciousness. Filthy songs, raunchy films, and nonsense books can only be created when consciousness is not in the right place. If we spend our time around garbage, naturally the mind will be mired in filth, and whatever is produced as a result of that association will be contaminated.

Krishna and Mother YashodaOn the flip side, remaining in the company of the Supreme Lord proves to be auspicious. Mother Yashoda, through no extra effort, managed to sing beautifully about her son, whom even meditational yogis, Vedantists and fruitive workers are not able to catch. Only through transcendental love, or prema, can Krishna be brought to one’s heart to stay. He already resides within us in His unmanifested feature of the Paramatma, but through bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, one can see His presence more clearly and relish His transcendental form and pastimes.

Even if we can’t imitate the songwriting capabilities of the sweetheart queen of Vrajabhumi, there is still one sequence of words about her son that we can recite over and over again, even putting it into song format. “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, is the mantra authorized by Lord Chaitanya to deliver the fallen souls of the Kali Yuga, the current age of quarrel and hypocrisy. In the Kali Yuga falsehoods will be spread about both God and His devotees, and men will argue over nonsense issues. Despite the inauspicious conditions, reciting Krishna’s names in an authorized way and following regulative principles passed down by the acharyas can purify our consciousness to the point that soon all of our time will be spent in Krishna’s association. From that transcendental link comes affection which will permeate even our speech. Mother Yashoda set the trend in this area, and her behavior reminds us of why Krishna chooses to delight her with His personal presence.

In Closing:

Mother Yashoda loves her Krishna very much,

His speech and activities her heart do touch.

Songs about her son’s behavior she does compose,

Thus turns churning butter into time of repose.

Work her yoga does not encumber,

For always God does she remember.

Her songs are perfect due to association,

Always with Krishna, splendid her glorification.