“While mother Yashoda was very busy with household affairs, the Supreme Lord, Krishna, observed twin trees known as yamala-arjuna, which in a former millennium had been the demigod sons of Kuvera.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.9.22)
The mother’s work was finally done, at the behest of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who remain tied to a mortar in the courtyard as punishment for having broken a pot of butter. The same Bhagavan cannot be so easily captured by even the most exalted figures of the world, but due to the spontaneous affection of the dear mother, Krishna agreed to her desires, allowing her to perform her motherly duties. As the saying goes, “Everything happens for a reason”, Krishna staying in that courtyard as punishment fulfilled so many purposes simultaneously. The two sons of Kuvera were awaiting atonement, and after many years of punishment, their time for deliverance was set to arrive.
Though one may be born into a pious family, if they should fall victim to false pride and ego, their fortunate surroundings still cannot safeguard them from unhappiness and distress. If you are born into a wealthy family, not having to worry about procuring material possessions obviously should be a good thing, but say that you get spoiled by what your parents give you. Instead of learning that hard work is required to earn money and that because of this the fruits of labor should not be spent frivolously, you think that you can get whatever you want, whenever you want it.
On one birthday you demand from your parents an expensive luxury car. Though you’re not old enough to work to earn enough money for the car, because you have grown up in wealth, you don’t find the request to be odd. If the parents are kind enough to give you the gift, though, the blessing can turn out to be a curse fairly quickly. The luxury car can reach high speeds in a short amount of time. Since the handling is so smooth, you don’t feel like you’re travelling that fast. Therefore, you are more prone to getting into an accident, causing injury to yourself. The potential for the same misfortune is absent in those who don’t grow up in wealth, who don’t have parents that could supply them with expensive gifts.
Nalakuvara and Manigriva grew up as sons of the treasurer of the demigods, Kuvera. Though we don’t see an intelligent force behind the operation of nature, there are elevated living beings in charge of it. This information is provided to us by the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India. It is easy to discount this information as being mythology. “Perhaps primitive people didn’t know any better, so they came up with these stories to explain how nature worked.” The same tact can be taken with any information received, so we have to determine authority through other means. If someone presents us information and that knowledge ends up benefitting us, we can extend more faith to the same authority source in the future.
The Vedas, with their most celebrated work being the Bhagavad-gita, provide so much valuable information that cannot be found from any other source. While one tradition may say that God gave up His one and only son, the Vedas reveal that God can never be limited in this way. He is the source of everything, so the infinite number of creatures we see all come from Him. If they are not sons of God, then God has no relation to them. If there is no relation to God, then the very definition of God is not valid. The Supreme Being is the Personality of Godhead, the reservoir of all energy, including pleasure. If a particular living entity does not come from Him, i.e. they are not His son or daughter, then what business does God have in their life?
Along with the in-depth study of the differences between matter and spirit and God’s actual position as the Lord of all creatures, the Vedas provide information about elevated living entities and how long they can live. The “heaven” we commonly speak of is just another area of space where the living conditions are better than they are now. Because of the enhanced conditions, the residents can live longer. Since they can live longer they are given greater responsibilities, which include managing the material nature.
Kuvera is in charge of wealth, and his sons Nalakuvara and Manigriva took advantage of their relation to the treasurer of the demigods by living comfortably. One time they were intoxicated and sporting naked with women in a lake. The famous rishi Narada saw them, and since they were too intoxicated to follow the proper etiquette, they were cursed by him for the behavior. Since they liked to remain naked, Narada granted them the forms of trees in their next life. A tree can live for a very long time without requiring much. In this way we see that living long within a particular form of body is not a sign of evolution. Just because someone can survive in a prison-like environment doesn’t mean that they have a superior quality of life.
The curse was two-sided, though. The brothers also received a blessing through the contact with Narada. The two sons would gain release from their curse through meeting the Supreme Lord Himself. Krishna wouldn’t arrive on the scene just to liberate them, but He would include their deliverance as part of His pastimes in the holy land of Vrindavana. Thus the two sons would see Krishna in His most adorable form of a small child who kindly acted under the control of His dear mother.
A good son delights the parents. The naughty child may sometimes provide a nuisance to the caretakers, but then again they also provide reasons for the application of guardianship. If you have a young child that can feed itself, determine when to go to sleep, when to wake up, and when to study, what work will you as a parent have to do? How will you offer your love? If you should have the “perfect” child, you will still try to give them some instruction, for what then would be the purpose of being a parent?
In Krishna’s case, He was sweet and adorable, and yet naughty too. Thus mother Yashoda swam in an ocean of transcendental nectar whenever she was in her son’s company. The boy loved His mother as well, so the reciprocal feelings made for a a pleasant atmosphere. The curious Krishna did not cry after His mother tied Him to a mortar and returned to the kitchen. Rather, He looked over and saw two arjuna trees nearby. Krishna knew who the trees were, and He knew that the mortar could help Him accomplish His task.
“Although He was able to pass through the passage, the large wooden mortar stuck horizontally between the trees. Taking advantage of this, Lord Krishna began to pull the rope which was tied to the mortar. As soon as He pulled, with great strength, the two trees, with all branches and limbs, fell down immediately with a great sound. Out of the broken, fallen trees came two great personalities, shining like blazing fire.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 10)
By placing the mortar in between the trees and using it as a sort of lever, Krishna was able to knock down the trees. Normally this is a dangerous situation for a child to be in, but for Krishna there had been past incidents involving much greater danger. The female witch Putana tried to give Him poison through her breast and the demon Trinavarta took Him in a whirlwind all the way up into the air. Yet Krishna was still living and these demons were long since dead. The miraculous feats of the jewel of Vrindavana only increased everyone’s attachment to Him. That affection for God is every person’s birthright, but only in the proper conditions can it be aroused and remain active perpetually. When it is at the strongest levels at the time of death, the living being no longer has to suffer through the cycle of reincarnation.
“And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 8.5)
When the trees fell down, the forms of Nalakuvara and Manigriva came out, and they offered prayers to the Lord and then returned to their previous position by Krishna’s benediction. Only Krishna and some neighboring children saw them, and when the elders arrived on the scene, they were amazed at how the young boy could knock down two large trees such as those. The punishment period was over, and now Krishna could return to roaming freely through Vrindavana, playing with His friends and getting into trouble.
The curse applied by Narada Muni made the two sons live in sorrow as lonely and helpless trees for a long period of time. But just one moment’s contact with the Supreme Personality of Godhead makes a seemingly endless amount of suffering and penance worth it. Kuvera’s sons were in a similar circumstance to Ahalya, Gautama Muni’s wife. She was also cursed to remain idle for many years until she was graced by the Supreme Lord, the same Krishna, in the form of Rama, the son of King Dasharatha.
Though we are condemned by the fact that we must suffer through birth and death, a moment’s contact with a devotee who can lead us to the spiritual land of Goloka Vrindavana can make all the suffering worth it. Many lifetimes have been spent in previous bodies searching for sense gratification that doesn’t bring any lasting happiness, so if we can make this stint within a material body worth it, all the past transgressions will be a distant memory. Hold on to the holy name, chant it regularly, and remember the sweetheart of Vrindavana, who delighted everyone with His pastimes.
Nalakuvara and Manigriva, of Kuvera were sons,
Ran into trouble when having intoxicated fun.
With prestige of higher parentage sons were drunk,
From Narada’s curse to forms of trees they sunk.
In that large and immovable state,
For sight of Krishna they had to wait.
In Yashoda’s courtyard, trees’ history boy could tell,
Moving mortar in between, trees to ground fell.
Sage’s curse to be a blessing it turned out,
As trees’ meeting with Supreme Lord came about.