Friday, December 9, 2011

The Smoking Gun

Krishna stealing butter“Seeing the pot broken and Krishna not present, Yashoda definitely concluded that the breaking of the pot was the work of Krishna. There was no doubt about it.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.9.7 Purport)

A young child can show signs of cleverness and yet can be quite careless as well. Whilst a mature culprit would make sure that the evidence of his wrongful act is carefully removed from the vision of the soon to arrive investigators, a young child doing something wrong out of anger hardly takes the aftermath into consideration. The rapid rise of unhealthy emotions is what caused the act to begin with, so that same loss of rational thought ends up giving away their involvement in the act. For one mother in particular, seeing the result of an unpleasant event and deducing who the culprit was actually gave her so much pleasure. It would also turn out to thrill the minds of countless generations of sincere worshipers, philosophers, mental speculators, and yogis alike.

Krishna and Mother YashodaWho was this mother and what did she see? Situated in a farm community many thousands of years ago in the area of land today known as India, the scene for the crime in question was most pristine. Not filled with the hustle and bustle of the city, Vrindavana’s beauty came from the cows and sacred vrinda plants, which are also known as tulasi plants. Followers of the Vedic tradition know Tulasi Devi to be the goddess of devotion. Her blooming presence indicates that she feels at home in a particular area. If she is pleased then the people around her are blessed with devotion to the Supreme Lord, who is both with and without form. In His impersonal feature, He pervades the immeasurable space. He is the giant energy making everything move.

But energy has intelligence, or it is at least rooted in the agitation of an intelligent, independent entity. While there is a singular energy running through nature, there is still a separate controller, who is actually non-different from that energy. Since that controller is one and the same with the energy, the philosophy of advaita accurately describes the oneness shared between God and His many fragments. At the same time, saying that there is a lack of duality immediately implies that there are at least two entities in question. When you have more than one entity, there are personalities involved - parties, people, persons, or whatever the preferred nomenclature is.

The impersonal comes from the personal, just as darkness comes from the absence of light. Without light there is no question of darkness, and without form there is no concept of formlessness. The Supreme Personality of Godhead has spiritual attributes, forms and features that are inconceivable in their reach and scope, but also pleasurable to those attracted to them. Tulasi Devi ensures that devotion to the personal aspect of the Supreme Lord can flourish.

Tulasi DeviLest we think the power of Tulasi Devi is a myth, the residents of Vrindavana during the time period in question showed that they were indeed fully attracted by the personal features of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He even graced them with His presence, roaming the land as a small child, the son of Mother Yashoda. This young boy was named Krishna because of His all-attractiveness. That God can take the form of a young child belonging to a mother and father can only be accepted by those who are not bewildered by life and death, heat and cold, high and low, and so many other contradictory states.

A form brings the potential for activity, which can further enthrall the hearts and minds of those affected by Tulasi Devi’s presence. Vrindavana was a field of devotion, so at every second there was some type of worship going on, even if the people didn’t know it. Just looking upon the scene of a petty crime turned into an act of devotion. The devotional quality was present for the mother viewing the scene and also for those hearing the accounts of the incident later on.

Why would the defiant act of an angry child be documented at all? Children break things all the time. Moreover, they try to get away with it and not take responsibility. Was this incident documented in sacred texts to provide lessons on parenting? The story was first told to a dying king, a man who had done nothing wrong in his life. He was the embodiment of piety and virtue, and his kingdom was free of cow killing. So conscious of protecting the innocent was the king that he rightly viewed the cows and other animals as equal citizens of the state.

Yet due to the hand of Providence, he made an inadvertent transgression and was thus cursed to die in seven days. Rather than cram as much sense gratification as possible into that time, the dying king was interested in learning about the meaning of life and hearing what would be most beneficial to him. He approached a bona fide spiritual master, one well acquainted with the difference between the personal and impersonal aspects of the Supreme Lord and the real purpose of advaita philosophy. In the discourse that followed, which was directed at the king, the pastimes of the personal aspect of the Supreme Lord, including His childish temper tantrums, were included.

Though advaita philosophy is the preferred study of those unfamiliar with the personal aspect of the Supreme Lord, it still has relevance, for it comes from the Vedas, which are the original scriptural texts of India. Advaita means “non-dual”, and its philosophy indicates that the infinitesimally small spiritual sparks roaming this and many other lands in temporary bodies have an inherent link to the Supreme Soul, who is known as Paramatma. From the non-duality comes the ideal loving relationship, which can be rekindled through the practice known as yoga.

“A yogi is greater than the ascetic, greater than the empiricist and greater than the fruitive worker. Therefore, O Arjuna, in all circumstances, be a yogi.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.46)

Lord KrishnaThere are different methods of yoga and even different stages of elevation. From understanding advaita philosophy, the living entities looking for ananda, or bliss, can at least become convinced of the need for practicing yoga. Knowledge of advaita ideally culminates in the understanding of the Supreme Lord’s personal features and pastimes, which the spiritual master nicely spoke about to the king. Just from hearing these pastimes one can find both happiness and enlightenment. Knowledge and renunciation from sinful activities are but prerequisites to the constitutional position of ecstasy in God consciousness. On the higher stages of transcendental love achieved through the yoga known as bhakti, there is not even consideration given to the concepts of knowledge and renunciation.

Mother Yashoda proved this with her actions. Her beloved Krishna one day got angry after she got up while feeding Him to tend to a pot of milk that was boiling over in the kitchen. The boiling milk takes no time to fix, as you just get up and take it off of the stove. How could a child get angry over this? Yet Krishna was so attached to His mother, so much enjoying her parental affection, that He didn’t like it when she got up. She had previously been churning a pot of yogurt into butter, so when she got up, Krishna decided to break that pot, which was obviously important to her, in protest.

He ate some of the butter and then ran off. When Mother Yashoda came back, she saw the damage done and immediately concluded that it was the work of no one but Krishna. The scene delighted Mother Yashoda to no end, for though it meant that she had some work to take care of, it also revealed that her son loved her very much. He loved to be fed by her, for He was known for not being shy in His eating preferences. Krishna and His elder brother Balarama would hatch elaborate plots to steal the supply of butter from the neighbors’ homes. Even though the boys would get caught, the cowherd women did not protest very much, for they liked seeing Krishna’s sincerity in trying to steal their carefully tucked away supply of sumptuous butter.

Lord Krishna eating butterAs much as Krishna enjoyed eating butter, He likely enjoyed the milk provided by His mother even more. Therefore He gave her an idea of just how attached He was to her when He broke the pot of butter she had worked so hard to fill. The mother got out her whipping stick and chased her beloved around until He was finally caught and bound up to a mortar as punishment. From that incident Krishna earned the name Damodara, and every year in the month of Kartika devotees offer a lamp to that form of Krishna, remembering His sweet pastimes with His wonderful mother.

The cowherd women in Vrindavana lived yoga, though they didn’t practice it explicitly. They showed what advaita really means, that the living entities have a connection to God, one based on love of the transcendental variety. In ordinary affectionate dealings, the relationship can sever very quickly over disagreement. Say the wrong thing or follow your sensual impulses towards other members of the opposite sex and you’re liable to violate the fidelity of the relationship. In transcendental love, even the temper tantrums of the beneficiary in question further strengthen the attachment. The broken pot of butter was the smoking gun in the crime of passion committed by young Krishna. For this He would have to pay the punishment of being bound up by His mother, which was really a blessing. The Lord showed that He can only be captured by love. Philosophical study, pious deeds, meditation, sacrifice and charity can only take us so far. But any path of religion becomes fruitful when it leads us to the vision of the darling butter bandit of Vrindavana, Shri Krishna.

In Closing:

The broken pot of churning butter,

Gave away culprit to seeing mother.

Knew that work was of her precious son,

After deed into other room did He run.

The butter to monkeys He was feeding,

With His sweet vision their eyes pleasing.

To where Krishna was mother headed toward,

Whipping stick in hand she moved forward.

Non-duality says to Krishna we’re connected,

So to His pastimes keep your mind directed.