“’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)
What to do now that your young child has been caught red-handed? Butter smeared over His hands and feet, having just tried to flee like a criminal attempting to outrun the police on the highway, Krishna was in a vulnerable position. The dear mother was left with a few options. Should she just let the incident slide, pretend as if nothing happened? Or should she punish Him for doing something that was wrong? Thankfully for countless future generations she chose an option that would bring delight to all the parties involved.
How can everyone win? Isn’t that contradictory? In an episode from the American television sitcom The Office, there is a situation where the human resources manager has to resolve a dispute, mediate between people who have a disagreement with one another. One solution is to just let both sides vent until they forget about what the problem was. The manager, seeing the indecision, decides to step in and read the guidebook on how to handle situations like these. He decides on an option called win/win/win.
Obviously such an outcome is considered next to impossible, for how can all the parties be satisfied? In Krishna’s case the favorable outcome would be to get let off the hook. Mother Yashoda’s preference would be for her son to feel bad and never break another pot of butter again. For the third party, the reader of the story, the best option is for the mother’s love for her son to increase and vice versa.
This is precisely what would occur. The good mother threatened punishment with a whipping stick, but there was never any intent to use it. Why should such a young child be struck just for taking some butter from a pot that He broke? Rather than strike her boy, the dear mother decided to tie Him to a mortar. This way He would think He was being punished, but in reality He would just remain in the mother’s vision. He had no reason to run off either. Why should He be scared when the mother was so happy just to have Him in her life?
So the solution was simple enough, but Yashoda's son was no ordinary human being. To add to the fun, He made sure that the rope used by the mother was always just too short. Every time she added another rope the final rope came up short by the width of two fingers. The mother couldn’t understand the mystery, but because of her sincerity of purpose, eventually young Krishna relented. He allowed her to bind Him in ropes of affection.
With this option the mother felt like she was doing her job. She did not shirk her responsibility out of attachment to her boy. That would have been a rather selfish thing to do. If a parent doesn’t provide tough love from time to time, how will the child ever learn that their errant behavior is wrong? We know not to touch fire because of the intense pain that results from contact. If that pain were not there, our hand would burn rather quickly in the fire. In this way the pain exists for our benefit.
Mother Yashoda was used to dealing with trouble from her son. He was known for going into the neighbors’ homes and stealing their stocks of butter. He had also been involved in several strange situations with ghoulish creatures. There was the witch named Putana who tried to kill Him while He was still an infant. Dressed as a beautiful woman, the witch smeared poison on her breasts and then tried to nurse the young child. She got her wish, as Krishna placed His lips on the poison, but in the process sucked the very life out of her. In the end, all that was left was this gigantic hideous corpse fallen on the ground, with young Krishna crawling on top of her. Then there was a wicked character in the shape of a whirlwind who had taken young Krishna high into the sky. Again, the plot was thwarted, but Yashoda knew that her son was always finding His way into such dangerous situations.
This particular pastime with the broken pot started with Yashoda’s desire to churn tasty butter for her son. She thought that maybe the reason He was stealing butter from others was that what He was being fed at home wasn’t to His satisfaction. Therefore she went to churn yogurt into butter from the products of her husband’s best cows, which were fed the sweetest grass.
To her dismay, Krishna angrily broke that pot that she worked so hard to fill. Krishna’s past transgressions were forgiven because the other cowherd mothers did not want Krishna to be punished. Though they protested to Yashoda, they were so charmed by her son that they did not want Him to stop His activities. This time, however, Yashoda was directly affected, and she had to keep her son sitting still and make Him aware that He couldn’t foil her hard work that was intended for His benefit to begin with.
Being tied to the rope was pleasurable for Krishna because He got to see His mother’s sincere effort. He had broken the pot for want of affection, and now He was getting it. The pure-hearted listeners of this real-life incident documented in the Shrimad Bhagavatam end up winners by getting to see the sweet pastimes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The entire Vedic literature is directed towards this purpose. The human mind likes to be entertained by external events. If this weren’t the case then the news would never be put on television. Nobody would ever go on the internet to see what is going on in the world. The Vedas take the natural penchant within human beings for hearing stories and purify it by providing countless stories relating to the real-life pastimes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. A simple incident like breaking a pot of butter may not be noteworthy in a movie or book, but when it relates to Lord Krishna, it can be remembered over and over again, for years to come.
Proof of the claim is that Krishna’s activities are still talked about today. If He were just a folk hero or mythological creation this wouldn’t be possible. If a tangible benefit, that of supreme happiness and comfort, wasn’t received from tapping into the voluminous Vedic literature, Krishna’s popularity would have died down a long time ago. Because of His absolute nature, hearing about the Lord’s activities has an effectiveness that stands the test of time.
Hearing is as good as seeing when it comes to Krishna. Hearing is more effective in the sense that it requires more attention. There is an active response elicited within the mind through the process. The same attention is absent with seeing, for visuals can bring distractions, with the eyes focusing on certain aspects while ignoring other things that are going on.
In various public opinion surveys, it has been shown that people who listen to the news, either through a news radio station or talk radio, have more knowledge of current events than people who only watch the news. This should make sense, as it is easier to remember something heard as opposed to something seen. Increased memory equates to increased contemplation, which keeps the brain working to formulate arguments and opinions. Moreover, the opinions formed are better supported by the logic and reasoning applied during the initial hearing.
Though young Krishna could not go anywhere, He eventually managed to move the mortar in between two trees, causing them to fall down. Thus began another pastime, which was instigated by Krishna’s crime of stealing butter and then mother Yashoda’s subsequent punishment. The dear mother took all the effort in the world to love her son, and the child reciprocated by interacting with her in the way that an affectionate child does.
Mother Yashoda is as glorious as her beloved son. She was loved in Vrindavana some five thousand years ago, and she continues to be honored to this day. She took the effort to provide motherly affection to her son, and because of this the transcendental pleasure seekers were able to get a steady supply of life-giving nectar. Just as the lotus flower automatically opens at the rise of the sun, the devotee cherishing the sweet nectar of the pastimes of the Supreme Lord comes to life upon hearing Krishna’s interactions with His mother in Vrindavana.
That same darling of Vrajabhumi is our constant well-wisher, as He is just waiting for us to recite His holy names, "Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare". From that chanting comes remembrance of His pastimes, the sweetest of which took place in Vrindavana when Krishna roamed this earth as a young child.
To mother Yashoda a heartfelt thank you,
For to motherly duties being always true.
Angry at mother, Krishna’s stubbornness strong,
Broke pot of butter, knew what He did was wrong.
With a whipping stick the good mother chased,
Tied with ropes to a mortar young Krishna placed.
Krishna happy, mother able clearly to see Him,
Devoted listener pleased too, win win win.
Both mother and her son cherished to this day,
With us may their sweet vision always stay.