“The narration of Krishna's naughty childhood activities would be presented to mother Yashoda in the form of complaints. Sometimes Krishna would enter the house of a neighbor, and if He found no one there, He would release the calves before the time for the cows to be milked.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.8.29 Purport)
Someone comes up to you on a particular day to complain about something your young child has done. “Did you know that they did this? They weren’t even remorseful for what they did. We tried to tell them to stop but they just smiled and ran away. It is one thing if this occurred only once, but now it is happening on a regular basis. We are at a loss at what to do. Your child comes to our home every day and causes mischief and when we try to give punishment, they just run away, laughing the whole time.”
The first time you hear these complaints you’re a little anxious over the behavior of your child. After all, who wants to give trouble to the neighbors on purpose? These are people that you will see every day, and you expect to rely upon them in times of difficulty. Should you go away for an extended period of time, it’s nice to know that there are people to watch over your home. Perhaps they can pick up the mail, shovel the driveway and sidewalks, and keep an eye out for burglars or strange characters while you’re gone. If you offend the neighbors, you will lose their support, and your life in the community will be made uncomfortable.
But when the same complaints start to get lodged day after day, with the annoyed neighbors oddly not asking you to do anything about the delinquent behavior, you start to wonder a bit. “Hey, maybe they actually like what my child is doing? Maybe they come over to complain so that they can relive what they have just seen? After all, it is one thing to derive joy and excitement from witnessing an event, but it is likely more pleasurable talking about your experience later on to your friends and family. In this way you get to mentally witness the event again and experience the same excitement.”
In families it is sometimes seen that younger children complain about the behavior of their parents. One of the nice benefits to having siblings is that you have people with whom you can openly discuss the faults of your parents. If you say bad things about your mom or dad to a friend, you’re likely just venting, relieving some pent up hostility. You never want your friend to say the same bad things about your parents, even if they are just repeating what you have said. It’s okay for you to speak ill of your family members, but it is not for someone outside the family.
With siblings there is no such worry, as their parents are your parents. Therefore you can talk openly, for you both know that you love your parents. Often the close people in your life that you complain about the most are the ones you are the most attached to. Deep down, you enjoy talking about them because they mean so much to you. Especially with respect to parents, the perceived annoying behavior is rooted in love. Should your mom not nag you every day to eat or do your homework, you initially think that you will be happy, but you might start to wonder. “Hey, what’s going on? Why isn’t she asking me to eat? Sure, I complain about her nagging all the time, but what has changed? Does she not care about me anymore?”
In a small farm community some five thousand years ago, the neighbors used to complain daily about the young child of mother Yashoda and Nanda Maharaja. It was brought to the mother’s attention that the young Krishna was naughty in His dealings with the neighbors. He would do not so nice things and then not feel bad about it. Moreover, He would repeat the behavior day after day, forcing the women of the neighboring homes to visit Yashoda and describe what Krishna had done.
What was so bad about Krishna’s activities? The community in question, Vrindavana, lived off of cow protection. By growing grains and tending to cows, there was ample food available for everyone to live peacefully. The excess milk products would be sold in the neighboring towns for a modest profit. The cow is the magic ticket to economic security, for by owning a small plot of land and having a few cows, one can eat without a problem.
Young Krishna would cut right into the milk production of the community. The mother cows were separated from their calves for part of the day. This wasn’t cruel punishment; the mothers were meant to be milked prior to interacting with their children. The owners of the cows could get a nominal supply of milk to fit their needs, with plenty left over for the child cows to drink. Yashoda’s son, however, would release the calves before the mothers had been milked. The calves would then drink all the milk from their mothers, thus diminishing the milk supply for the owners. The naughty Krishna would do this regularly in the homes of the neighbors, and they used to try to catch Him as He ran away in fun.
Wasn’t this bad? Why would Krishna do this? Shouldn’t He have been punished? Actually, Shri Krishna is the reservoir of pleasure, whose beauty defies that of thousands of cupids. In the Vedas the god of love is known as Kama, and his beauty is beyond description. Since Krishna can enchant even cupid, He is known as Madana-mohana. That beautiful vision delights the eyes, so the cowherd men and women who would see Krishna releasing the calves would get the fruit of their existence on a daily basis.
Every living being is searching for pleasure. Every behavior, every identified goal, is rooted in the desire to feel pleasure. Strict renunciation, where no one has any fun, is also based on the desire to feel bliss. A professional athlete runs miles in a day, spends hours in the weight room, and carefully monitors their food intake so that they can perform well in competition. Optimal performance increases the likelihood of victory, which in turn should bring happiness.
In Vrindavana, the residents didn’t have to fight for supremacy in a competitive enterprise, sit in meditation, or study high philosophy to feel pleasure. The reservoir of beauty and sweetness placed Himself in front of their eyes on a daily basis. Just so they would know how precious that form is and how important it is to retain it in the mind’s vision, Shri Krishna would do naughty things. By behaving badly, something expected from young children, Krishna would let others chase Him. Through a chase one learns to appreciate the sought after object more. There is a famous saying that the chase is better than the catch. A similar truth is present in dealings with Krishna, as worship of Him in separation is considered superior to worship in immediate proximity. Chasing after the Lord actually brings His vision to the mind, so running after Krishna and trying to keep Him within the mind are equivalent.
There is also no difference between seeing Krishna and describing His activities. Therefore the cowherd men that would chase after Shyamasundara would give their wives so much to talk about. By describing the incidents to Yashoda later on, the cowherd women got to interact with God in a mood of love. Shri Krishna is the original form of Godhead, as described by the Vedas and their sincere followers who understand Vedic principles and live by them.
Every person, regardless of their level of intelligence, country of origin, gender, or ethnicity has the right to interact with Krishna in love. The spiritual master, Krishna’s representative, teaches others how to receive that transcendental taste and never let go of it. The complaining housewives in Vrindavana showed us just how pleasurable it is to relive Krishna’s activities, which are taking place continuously. Somewhere at this very minute the sweetheart child of Yashoda is letting loose the calves in Vrindavana to drink all the milk from their mothers.
Can there be scarcity when the source of matter and spirit is in your presence? Vrindavana never runs out of milk because the mother cows pour forth more milk than they can hold as soon as they have the sight of Krishna, who is also known as Govinda because of the pleasure He gives the cows. In the same way, the Supreme Lord rushes to the scene and protects the devotees when He hears their pure cries for help coming in the form of the recitation of the maha-mantra: “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. This is the mantra recommended for the people of this age. By reciting it one asks to have Krishna in their vision. When in the mood of bhakti, whether one complains about the Lord or praises His activity, the bliss they feel is the same, for they are in contact with the most attractive person.
Krishna lets calves loose so towards mothers they run,
Drink full supply of milk, to owners thus leaving none.
Running away from their homes, with a smile Krishna goes,
That the angered cowherd men feel pleasure He knows.
Then their wives to Yashoda Krishna’s play relive,
To devoted mother supreme pleasure they give.
Krishna is Supreme Lord, so of scarcity no question,
Of devotion Vrindavana dhama a bastion.
Praise Him or complain, but think of Him you must,
In Krishna’s ability to give pleasure trust.