“If in any house He could not find any butter or curd to steal, He would go into a room and agitate the small children sleeping there by pinching them, and when they cried He would go away.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.8.29 Purport)
Parents know how difficult it is to get young children to remain steady and calm. Depending on the demeanor of the child, just getting them to behave properly is difficult enough. You’re basically walking a tightrope the whole time. Sometimes all it takes is a visitor coming into the house and making strange faces in front of the child. They mean well, for they are delighted at the vision of pure innocence. But from the youngster’s perspective, the visitor is a stranger whose motives aren’t known. And since they have no way of communicating their fears with words, the baby starts to cry. Feeding, putting them to sleep, and a host of other pacification options are tried by the parents to get their children to stop crying. Should someone come and foil that effort, especially if they do it on purpose, the parents are justified in their intense dissatisfaction. In a small village many thousands of years ago one person took great fun in making calm babies cry, and because of His divine nature that nuisance is celebrated and honored to this day.
Why would He do what He did? What did the children do wrong? What was the fault of the parents that He would torture them like this? You see the young boy was the owner of everything in the sacred land of Vrindavana. Though only a small child under the care of Yashoda and her husband Nanda, Krishna was the very Personality of Godhead worshiped by all the householders through their daily routines. The mornings began with worship of Vishnu in the homes, and then as the day progressed, the fruits of labor were meant for the benefit of the same Vishnu.
“Mother Yashoda was firmly convinced of the Vedic injunctions about the importance of cows and the holy name of Vishnu; therefore she took all shelter in the cows and the name of Vishnu just to protect her child Krishna. She recited all the holy names of Vishnu so that He might save the child.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 6)
If a dangerous situation arose, the prayers would go out to Vishnu for protection. Indeed, Yashoda herself recited the many names of Vishnu after her son Krishna would somehow escape from danger. In the Vedic tradition, Vishnu is the name given to the Supreme Lord that addresses His position of all-opulence. Vishnu is everywhere. Simply by exhaling He creates this and many other universes, and by inhaling the same immeasurably large collections of matter come back into Him. He is not an angry God or someone who demands that others worship Him. Just as the SDK provided by a software manufacturer allows the end-user to make whatever programs they like, the universe with its many small and large playing fields gives the occupants free rein when deciding which tasks to take up.
Vishnu is the object of worship for those who know how to use the playing fields properly. In some religious traditions He is referred to by a more generic name, such as God or the Almighty. The Vedic scriptures give more details because with more information the end-user can make a better decision on how to move forward. The living entities are users of the material elements, capable of dominating matter, which is dull and lifeless. When you know that there is a supreme controller who has a personality and intelligence to go with it, you can use your position superior to matter to utilize everything around you for the controller’s benefit.
This is how the residents of Vrindavana behaved. Their days were spent working on the farms, taking care of the cows and growing crops, but their purpose was always Vishnu worship. Thus it was not surprising that the very same object of worship would appear in their midst as a seemingly ordinary human being. The human goes through a typical life cycle, and the infant years are the most conducive to accepting love from others. The young child is the essence of innocence and they look so cute that even the hardest heart is melted upon seeing them. Think of how people smile and act nice to a baby who is a stranger, but when the same child grows up into an adult the same treatment will not be offered. The individual hasn’t changed; just their visible manifestation is different. From the difference in treatments, we can conclude that the childhood form is the most conducive to accepting the kind sentiments of the living entity. That kindness is within all of us; it just takes the right target to extract the feelings fully.
Vishnu as young Krishna was the emblem of attractiveness, so His vision would delight everyone. What good is having a delightful vision if no one gets to see it? Therefore Yashoda’s adorable child would roam through Vrindavana and do different naughty things. Sometimes He would break into the cowsheds and release the calves. They would then drink the milk from their mothers before anyone could extract the milk. The cow is so nice because it provides enough milk for both its children and the human population. But if the calves drink the milk first, there will be nothing left for the owners to consume. Thus the general procedure is to first milk the cows and then let the calves feed.
The milk production relies only on one ingredient: love. When the mother is able to love her child she will provide more than enough milk. That love flows fully when the cows and the children are protected. It’s interesting to note that the cows loved Krishna just as much as they loved their calves. Thus simply by seeing Krishna their milk bags would become full. The delight of Nanda Maharaja took great pleasure in angering the cowherd men and women with His naughty behavior. Seeing what Krishna had done, they would chase after Him in anger but they couldn’t catch Him. On the off chance they were fortunate enough to catch up with Krishna, from seeing His charming face they would forget about what made them angry.
Krishna’s favorite activity was eating butter. He wouldn’t eat only the butter that was at home either. He would visit the homes of the neighbors, with or without their permission, and eat the butter they had saved up. If the butter ran out, He would break the pots in anger. If there was excess butter, He would distribute it to the monkeys of Vrindavana. Again, this is typically considered rude behavior. You shouldn’t steal what belongs to others. Yet as Vishnu, Krishna had a right to enjoy His property. What were the neighbors saving their butter for anyway? Everything in this world is meant for Vishnu’s enjoyment. Since the best use of the materials is to sacrifice them to the Supreme Lord, Vishnu is also known as Yajna.
If your heart is pure, even if you’re not explicitly performing a ritualistic sacrifice, Krishna will come and enjoy what you have anyway, accepting it as an offering. If there was no butter, Krishna would sometimes pinch the young children of the house. Pinching would then make the children cry, and Krishna would then run away, as if He had no part in the act. Of all of Krishna’s pastimes, this is likely the most amusing. One can connect with the Supreme Lord in a variety of ways. Sight is one way, but a vision doesn’t stay in front of us for too long. Physical sight lingers through mental sight, which can be recalled to memory at any moment.
Better than seeing God is hearing Him, and so the most potent method of religious practice is the chanting of the holy names, something which the residents of Vrindavana were quite accustomed to. As Krishna is actually the origin of Vishnu, just by saying His name the residents were already calling out to Vishnu. The name of Rama represents the same Vishnu as well, and since the maha-mantra contains both of these names, reciting it is the best way to connect with God. “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, is a direct call to the butter thief of Vrindavana, and it can be repeated over and over again. Just as the cow produces so much milk when her calf cries, the Supreme Lord runs to the scene whenever He hears a devotee chanting His holy names without any motive for personal gain.
The holy name is the direct representation of Krishna, and in Vrindavana the crying of the babies pinched by the Lord was the indirect representation. That crying sound, though normally annoying, ended up being pleasurable for the parents because it indicated that young Krishna had been in their home. He didn’t ignore His devotees, even if they were preoccupied with household work. The parents had taken great effort to care for their children, but they also needed to spend just as much time thinking about Krishna. Why else are we given an existence? Why do we have ears if not to hear the liberating sound of Krishna’s names? These pastimes relating to Krishna are included in the Shrimad Bhagavatam, which is meant to be heard from the mouth of a devotee who loves Krishna as much as the residents of Vrindavana did.
The neighbors complained about Krishna’s antics to His mother, but when they were finished complaining, they realized that they really enjoyed Krishna’s favor. They liked that He would come to their homes and cause mischief. Better to put up with the antics than be ignored by the delight of Vrindavana. He was Yashoda and Nanda’s son and Balarama’s younger brother, but He was also the entire community’s reason for living. Remember His activities every day and He will favor you with the same interruptions.
After much time sleeping baby placed on bed,
That they’ll wake up too soon and cry parents dread.
Crying is way for babies to parents to communicate,
To say if they’re hungry or something they don’t appreciate.
If their child made to cry on purpose parents don’t like,
Delicate balance broken for no reason, anger it ignites.
But Krishna would pinch babies to make them cry,
That sound notified that Yashoda’s son came by.
Ran after Him and then to Yashoda to lodge complaint,
Krishna took great fun, smiled as if He acted like a saint.
As the Vishnu they worshiped Krishna was the same,
Thus for their pleasure to Vrindavana He came.