“Sometimes, in their presence, He would begin eating the curd and butter. There was no need for Krishna to eat butter, since His belly was always full, but He would try to eat it, or else He would break the pots and distribute the contents to the monkeys. In this way, Krishna was always engaged in mischief-making.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.8.29 Purport)
In the holy land of Vrindavana, the delight of mother Yashoda and Maharaja Nanda has such a charming presence that simply by smiling He can make others forget what they are angry about. Whether He is stealing butter, letting loose the calves so that they can run towards their mothers, or pinching young children to make them cry, Krishna does not get into trouble for His misdeeds. The elders chase Him and accuse Him of being a thief, but when He smiles back at them they forget what they were angry about. The pleasure that comes after anger is superior to that which arrives on its own. Since the dear Lord knows this, He creates situations where there is first danger followed by the calming relief of the happiness in bhakti.
Bhakti is love of the divine variety. Prema is another Sanskrit term to describe the same concept. Bhakti stands out from ordinary love because there is nothing that can get in its way. If we say that we love our friends and family, should they anger us with their thoughts, words, or deeds, that love will be tested. In the industrialized nations especially, it is quite common now for families to feud with one another. Just because someone lives close by doesn’t mean that you will see them regularly.
How does that happen? If my aunt or uncle lives a few blocks away, why wouldn’t I want to visit them all the time? Wouldn’t I invite them to my get-togethers? With the material existence fueled by competition, boundaries are erected, which are seen as rewards for working hard and acquiring possessions. “My house is bigger than yours” is the thought. Or perhaps there is the pride that comes from knowing that you make more money than others do. Whatever the cause may be, if you live in an isolated area, it’s easy to have tunnel-vision, where you only focus on the work that you have to do. When you get home, you just want to relax and not force yourself to interact if you don’t have to.
If you see your friends and family periodically, it means that the majority of the time you don’t see them. Therefore, should the tiniest argument arise, the path of least resistance is to avoid their association for the immediate future. “If I don’t see these people most of the time anyway, what harm is it going to do to have a feud with them?” And what causes the arguments? Perhaps someone hasn’t called you in a while. Maybe you invited them to your home for a party but they didn’t invite you to theirs. Maybe you saw them spending time with another family, and they kept it a secret from you. Perhaps when they were over the last time, they stirred up some controversy that upset you.
In this way what we call “love” proves to be affection with conditions. The paramour’s affection is tested when the loved object decides to break off the relationship. If there were true love, no outside influence could break the bond, and neither could anything the corresponding party do sever the relationship. Only in bhakti does the love spring forth without motivation and continue without interruption. This paradoxical combination exists because the beneficiary is the only entity truly deserving of unadulterated love. As He is the root of existence, affection offered to Him redounds to every other aspect of life.
Of course the person we speak of is God. That He is a person should not surprise us. We have an identity, as do others. We may look different than someone else, but that doesn’t mean that our identity is of any lesser or greater value. God is a distinct person in the same way, except He is the Supreme Person. His transcendental qualities are described in the many sacred texts of the world, with the Vedas presenting the most detail. We are told that God is the most beautiful, the wisest, the smartest, the strongest, the most famous and the most renounced. Since He possesses these features simultaneously, He is known as Bhagavan.
How to interact with Bhagavan is also presented through the real-life accounts preserved in the sacred pages of the Vedic texts like the Shrimad Bhagavatam. The young child of mother Yashoda is the very same Bhagavan, meant to charm the hearts and minds of the pious souls. The requirement that one be free of sin is there because with a distracted consciousness the divine presence will go unnoticed. God is all around us right now, but since we are accustomed to material interaction, the consciousness is distracted by so many other things. Therefore the divine presence goes unnoticed and unappreciated, though it is still there right in front of us.
Under a purified consciousness, God is noticed, honored, adored and constantly sought out. Why would we seek out someone we already notice? The pleasure that comes through the interaction, through meeting again with the person we were thinking about, is the reason for the separation the Lord periodically creates. In Vrindavana, the separation was through physical distance, such as when Krishna would do something bad and then get chased around by the elders. The uniqueness of the residents of Vrindavana was that they were able to catch Krishna. The Lord allowed this to happen because they enjoyed His company.
Vrindavana was a farm community five thousand years ago, so there were many cows around. Krishna’s foster father, Maharaja Nanda, had many cows in his possession and thus a large supply of milk products as well. Nevertheless, Krishna also liked to eat the butter stored in the homes of the neighbors. The neighbors were keeping the butter in stock for their own use, but as Krishna is the origin of matte rand spirit, everything in this world is meant to be used for His benefit.
The butter was quite tasty, and if there was any left over, Krishna would distribute it to monkeys, the unscrupulous thieves of the animal community. The butter is kept hidden to ensure that the monkeys don’t steal it, and now here is Krishna giving it away freely. Of course there was no loss on the part of the owners. The cows loved the jewel of Vrindavana so much that their milk bags were always full. The cow produces milk based on love for her children, thus a properly protected cow will provide heaps of milk products to be used for personal sustenance. There is no need to kill such animals unnecessarily, as through protecting them you get a better idea of how to love your fellow man. At the same time, the protection you offer ends up benefitting you and your community economically.
Krishna’s mischief-making was intentional. It forced others to interact with Him. This is a kind benefit of the Supreme Lord distributed to those who will appreciate it. It’s so easy to put off practicing devotional principles. We think that it’s more important to worry about work or home, to just take care of some other things before actually taking the time to sit and meditate on God. The Supreme Lord is so kind that if He knows that you are sincere in your desire to have His association, He will purposefully coordinate things to make sure that the desired meeting takes place. The residents of Vrindavana were busy in their daily chores, but through Krishna’s antics, they were forced to look at God and even chase after Him. They would get angry at Him, but ultimately they would delight in His activities.
If Krishna had just sat quietly in His home and done nothing, these opportunities would have been absent. That would have meant that fruitive activity was the primary aim of life and not the happiness that comes through seeing and thinking about God. As this is never the case, Krishna happily roamed around His hometown of Vrindavana, where everyone knew who He was and how delightful His childish sports were.
For the troubled soul living in the present age, make your mind an inviting home for Krishna. Let His childish play take place repeatedly, and keep that vision of the sweetheart grabbing fistfuls of butter with His beautiful hands in front of you. If you should happen to forget for a moment, chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Follow the devotional principles as a matter of duty at first, for you know the tendency towards complacency will take hold otherwise. With a little attention paid to the pastimes of Krishna and the words of the spiritual master, the supreme mischief-maker will daily captivate you with His antics, drawing you towards your ideal home, the spiritual sky.
Constant worries are mental distraction,
From what really needs your attention.
If your desire is pure, Krishna to you will come,
With His antics in front of you He will run.
In Vrindavana regularly butter He would steal,
Running from angry neighbors happy He would feel.
From seeing His face, their anger soon to subside,
Glad they were that in their community He did reside.
In your consciousness give Shri Krishna residence,
That happiness will come know with confidence.