“’Unless I agree,’ Krishna desired to show, ‘you cannot bind Me.’ Thus although mother Yashoda, in her attempt to bind Krishna, added one rope after another, ultimately she was a failure. When Krishna agreed, however, she was successful.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.9.15 Purport)
Mother Yashoda is now ready. Having caught the culprit of a strike on a supply of freshly churned butter, the time for punishment has arrived. The criminal in this case is a small child, so it shouldn’t be difficult to implement the sentence. An adult is, after all, more mature, both physically and mentally. Another advantage for the adult is that the child doesn’t realize that certain kinds of punishment aren’t really so harmful. If you tell a kid to go to their room for an hour, they may become fearful, but the adult knows that sitting in a room for that long isn’t that big a deal. Though Yashoda had everything in place to teach her son a lesson, for some reason her method of punishment wasn’t working. The target of her motherly duties happened to be the world’s greatest magician, who through a simple exhalation creates this and innumerable other universes and then brings them back into Himself with a subsequent inhalation.
To call the Supreme Lord a magician borders on offensive, as a magician is known for using slight of hand, illusion in his dealings. He can’t really saw his assistant in half; it just looks that way on stage. With Yashoda’s young child, the actions He takes look like magic, but for Him there is no mystery. If He can arrange for objects that are billions of tons in weight to float in the air without a problem, what difficulty is there in either elongating or shortening a rope without any visible effort? The “unknown” will forever remain a mystery to the human mind, which is limited in its thinking by the concepts of time and space. Just sit down and try to think about the beginning of the beginning, the oldest point in time. You can’t reach it, for even when you say the beginning, there had to be something before that. On the other side, the future continues infinitely. This is why the theory that a big bang of chemicals created life doesn’t hold any water. If chemicals are the source of life, what were they doing before the purported bang? Where did the chemicals come from? If the answer is, ‘They were just there’, the theorist is essentially saying that chemicals are God, holding the property of eternality.
Space stretches infinitely as well. Go to the outer limits of this present galaxy and eventually you’ll drift so far away that you’ll worry about making the long journey back home. So much of the universe is unknown, even in light of the many discoveries made in the past one thousand years. With the mind unable to grasp the concept of infinity, why should a young child’s dealings with a rope be so difficult to understand? Indeed, the apparent display of magic in Yashoda’s courtyard had nothing to do with substantiating the position of her son as the Supreme Lord. Rather, as with every activity of the darling of Vrindavana, the aim is to provide pleasure, to both Himself and the people that love Him.
How was mother Yashoda pleased from this situation? Her son had just broken a pot of yogurt that was in the process of being churned into butter. He broke the pot without proper cause, and intentionally. Yashoda was feeding Him when a pot of milk started to boil over in the kitchen. Was she supposed to just let it spill over and burn on the stove? She had only been away for a few moments when the petulant Krishna decided to break the pot. He knew that the mother had worked so hard during the day to make that sweet butter. She made it for her son too, for she was worried about why He had been sneaking into the homes of the neighbors to take their butter. Perhaps He didn’t like what was available at home.
Afterwards, the mother, rightfully attempting to catch the culprit, had difficulty inflicting the chosen punishment. She decided she would tie Krishna to a mortar. For starters, this would show Him that children can’t intentionally defy the orders of their parents and get away with it. Secondly, since she was holding a stick when chasing after Krishna, the Lord showed signs of fear. By tying Him to a mortar, Krishna would not be able to run away from the home due to that fear. Also, Yashoda wouldn’t have to worry about where her son went.
The problem with the method of punishment turned out to be logistics of all things. The rope Yashoda used was short by the width of two fingers. She was close to tying the delight of Maharaja Nanda, but the rope wasn’t quite long enough. No problem. Yashoda went and got another rope and joined the two together. Time to tie up Krishna again. Oh, but somehow this rope had the same deficiency. Just too short to tie the Lord to the mortar. In this way the problem continued with each rope the loving mother added on, until finally Krishna allowed for the rope to be long enough.
The incident was not an imagination. It happened for real and it was documented in the Shrimad Bhagavatam, the crown-jewel of Vedic literature. With Krishna’s actions, so many purposes are simultaneously fulfilled. The incident with the rope is tremendously delightful to those kind-hearted souls sincerely interested in hearing about and connecting with God. Secondly, trying to catch God and not being able to symbolically reveals so many lessons. Unless the Supreme Lord agrees, He can never be caught. If you want to travel to another planet, you may be able to see it for a while after expending great effort in aviation and science, but unless the Lord agrees to give you a body suitable for habitation, you will not be able to find permanent residence there.
The same requirement for sanction holds true with all other aspects of life. The spirit soul, which is the essence of identity, is a vibrant life force. It’s easy to overlook, but all the amazing inventions and complex structures we see around us were built by people who are no more smarter than we are. They invested much effort and had a passion to complete their work, but at their core they are spirit souls just like us. This means that one tiny spark within a larger body has so much potential for action. Because of the amazing abilities of the soul, the individual sometimes gets deluded into thinking they have full control over personal fate.
As a simple example, if we are going on an interview for a position that we know we are qualified for, if we present ourselves nicely, demonstrate our proficiency in the skills necessary for the job, and really hit it off with the hiring committee, the expectation is that the job will be secured. At the same time, however, there are other factors that the candidate has no control over. The place of business has an operating budget, human resources to manage, and considerations based on personal sentiments. If any one of these pieces of the delicate balance of the work environment should fall the wrong way, even a perfect candidate for the job will be denied.
In mother Yashoda’s courtyard, we saw a woman who should have had no problem tying up her son. Finding a rope long enough to fit the task should not require much effort, especially when the object to be tied is a small child. Lord Krishna, however, is greater than the greatest and smaller than the smallest. Many years later on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, He would show His gigantic universal form, the virat-rupa, to the hesitant warrior Arjuna. Then moments later, Krishna would change back to His original two-handed form which took its seat in front of the warrior. Both forms exist simultaneously, so the shifting was just related to external vision, not to functionality. If we put on a specific outfit on a particular day, we are automatically not wearing the other clothes in the closet. With Krishna, even when He descends to earth, He is still in Vrindavana in the spiritual sky and within the hearts of the living entities.
Because He sanctioned it, Krishna was eventually caught by mother Yashoda and tied to the mortar. Following the Lord’s direction is the only way to gain the favor of the one person whose exhibition of prapti, or the mystic perfection of being able to get whatever you want, is perfect. Fortunately, Shri Krishna does not ask much from His sons and daughters. Yashoda’s qualification was her pure love for her son, which thus enabled her to interact with Him in so many wonderful ways. The adjoining ropes finally became long enough when Krishna decided that His mother deserved to emerge successful in her parental duties. That vision of sweet Damodara was cherished by Yashoda on that day and it remains implanted within the mind of the dear servant who regularly recites the holy names with firm faith, reliance and love: “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.
Finding the culprit Krishna was tough,
Then adjoining ropes never long enough.
Assistant sawed in half at the hip,
Part of magician’s illusory tricks.
Krishna similar but His magic is real,
Lives in Vrindavana but presence can still feel.
After seeing how hard His mother did try,
Krishna made ropes long enough to tie.
That darling Damodara to mortar He stood,
Remember incident so God to be understood.