“Krishna's activities are always very attractive to devotees. Therefore the neighbors, who were friends of mother Yashoda, informed mother Yashoda of whatever they saw Krishna doing in the neighborhood. Mother Yashoda, just to hear about the activities of her son, stopped her household duties and enjoyed the information given by the neighborhood friends.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.8.28 Purport)
Vrindavana had components common to a small community. There were the various households managed by the mothers, with the husbands spending time outside tending to the various duties required of them. Vrindavana was a farm community, so everyone was involved in taking care of the cows and using the ability that God gave them to produce food for themselves. If you boil it down, you’re essentially working to eat. All that hard work that you put in, the long hours at the office, and the time spent commuting are to ensure that you have a roof over your head and food on the table. With that identified objective, if your labor can be directly applied to produce that food, you will be better off for it. All the time in Vrindavana, including the work hours, was spent delighting in the sweet presence of Yashoda’s beloved son.
If you’re working all day, how are you going to take care of your children? If they are old enough to walk around and play, they will want to enjoy with their friends. Like any close-knit community, Vrindavana had an extended family atmosphere to it. This meant that the mothers looked out for all the children, not only their own. Yet one child in particular seemed to grab the attention of the neighbors. He was showing exemplary behavior as a child and was so enchanting that the mothers couldn’t stop talking about Him.
Exemplary for a child is to show your childish nature. We don’t expect someone who has never been educated to expound on the philosophical points of Vedanta or the meaning of life. Because of His divine nature, this young child was actually the source of Vedanta, the object of sacrifice. Nevertheless, His mission in Vrindavana was to provide pleasure to people in the mood in which they would enjoy it the most. For a town filled with wives tending to their household chores every day, there is bound to be idle gossip. “Did you see what that person is wearing today? I see that they’ve gained some weight. Did you hear about that new car that the people across the street bought? I saw them showing it off to their friends the other day.”
In Vrindavana the gossip focused on the activities of young Krishna, Yashoda’s boy. More than just gossip, the women would detail the various activities of Krishna to Yashoda, almost complaining in a sense. This one behavior reveals the magic of devotional service, which is also known as bhakti-yoga. Rather than force yourself into restriction and difficult meditation techniques to understand God, if you are pure at heart you can follow your natural tendencies and derive transcendental joy that way.
The mothers in the neighboring homes were naturally prone to talking about what others were doing, for there is a difference between what occurs when you get a group of men together as opposed to a group of females. In male circles the conversations aren’t very emotionally in-depth, and they likely involve much joke-making, ribbing of the other guys. In female circles, the talking can continue nonstop, for every emotion is discussed along with what others are doing or did in the past.
With the women in Vrindavana, their talkative natures were used to stay immersed in bhakti-yoga. The object of action is what makes the difference in results. For instance, if I go to work to maintain a life devoted to drinking and gambling, my work is actually a giant waste of time. On the other hand, if the objective of the work is to maintain your family and feed yourself, then your time and effort are more worth it.
In the grand scheme, the ultimate beneficiary is Shri Krishna, who is more commonly addressed as God. Every activity can be purified by dedicating it to the Supreme Lord. For the women in Vrindavana, idle gossip turned into a time of glorification. They saw what Krishna was doing during the day, and knowing that Yashoda wasn’t privy to these scenes, they decided to fill her in on the details.
What exactly was Krishna doing that was worth talking about? He would steal butter from the neighbors, feed it to monkeys, pinch little children to make them cry, and do a host of other things that caused a stir. Why would Krishna act this way? Why would He make the lives of cowherd women more difficult? Well, if the Supreme Lord didn’t take to noticeable activity, how would others notice Him?
If you’re God, why do you have to be noticed? In actuality, the Supreme Lord’s influence is noticed at every second, just the level of association is different. For instance, the alcoholic feels Krishna’s presence in their intoxication, but since this is part of the illusory energy known as maya, the Lord’s personal aspect is not represented. It’s sort of like enjoying the shadow created from the light that the sun provides without knowing that the sun exists. The sun is more powerful than the resulting shadows, and its rays are a more direct representation of its energy.
The personal presence, which includes the forms and their activities, is far more enjoyable to the devoted soul. Thus Krishna enacts pastimes for the benefit of those who are willing to be delighted by the divine pastimes. In one sense we can think of the neighbors’ gossip as a sort of lecture on scripture. In Krishna-katha, or discourses on the Supreme Lord, an elevated transcendentalist speaks to a gathered assembly on the meaning of life and about how one should be devoted to God in order to achieve the end known as liberation, which signals a halt to the cycle of birth and death.
The key ingredient in Krishna-katha is Krishna, or God. Therefore if we are talking about the Lord and describing His pastimes, we are following a behavior similar to that of the speaker in the assembly. The neighbors complained about Krishna to Yashoda, but they secretly loved what her child was doing. They didn’t want Him to be punished; they only wanted an excuse to talk about Him some more.
For the mother, hearing about her son’s activities from others was quite delightful. We may witness an event go down with our own eyes, but it is not until we hear someone else retell the story of what happened that we really appreciate what we saw. If you hear someone else glorifying something that you consider to be noteworthy, you will have a greater appreciation for it.
The young Shyamasundara thus set up a nice chain of events. He appeared on earth, took part in pastimes in Vrindavana, and made sure that others were around to see what was going on. If they were busy with their household chores, He would find ways to catch their interest to the point that they had to discuss what they saw with others.
“You won’t believe what Krishna did today”, was pretty much the sentiment echoed daily by Vrindavana’s residents, and especially the neighborhood cowherd women. By discussing what they saw Krishna do, they brought delight to the kind mother. Then the same pastimes were recorded in the Shrimad Bhagavatam, to be enjoyed by countless future generations.
Question: Sometimes gossip involves false rumors. Was this the case with Krishna and the neighborhood gopis?
Obviously when you’re hearing strange stories about your son’s behavior from others, you might be tempted to not believe them. What if the women were just exaggerating or mistaken in their vision? There was no mistake, for the witnessed activities were part of the Lord’s nature after all; He makes the amazing look easy. He is not limited in His exhibition of strength, which means that as a small child He can lift a mountain or kill a powerful demon that infiltrates the town. He can steal butter from any place where it is hidden, and He can pretend like he’s innocent even while being called out for His childish pranks.
Idle gossip is generally not good because it keeps the mind away from thoughts about God. The temporary ups and downs that others encounter is not really of interest to a spiritual seeker who is looking for the Absolute Truth. In Krishna, we see no hint of duality, for even His childish play proved beneficial. His actions, whether large or small, outwardly pious or impious, whether to purposefully delight or agitate, had the same effect.
His killing of the demon Putana brought salvation to her and amazement to the residents of Vrindavana. His stealing of butter gave the gopis a chance to talk about Krishna and spiritual nectar to the ears of Yashoda. From the example of the gopis, we see that if we are itching to gossip about someone, why not hear from the Shrimad Bhagavatam and talk about young Krishna and the havoc He raises in Vrindavana? Discuss His discourse on spirituality that is the Bhagavad-gita and the delight He provides to the saints who continue to chant His holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.
About Krishna and His actions gopis like to gossip,
With their words Yashoda’s son they worship.
Women in communities notice what is going on,
Those happenings their discussions dwell upon.
Same thing in Vrindavana, with one difference,
Focus on Krishna and His butter’s indulgence.
Witnessing event to watcher pleasure gives,
But better when through story they can relive.
Yashoda these acts of her son couldn’t see,
But hearing from neighbors pleased was she.