“First a complaint was lodged with mother Yashoda about Krishna's stealing, but mother Yashoda did not chastise Him. Now, in an attempt to awaken mother Yashoda's anger so that she would chastise Krishna, another complaint was invented-that Krishna had eaten earth.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.8.32 Purport)
If a dependent does something which is against the rules, which is forbidden for them, the caretaker has to stop what they are doing and give attention. When the rules are being followed without a problem, where is the cause for concern? When will the opportunity come for correcting the mistakes of the dependent? Knowing full well this need within the loving caretakers, the Supreme Personality of Godhead creates situations where that love can be offered. In Vrindavana a long time ago, He occasionally broke the rules on purpose to grab the attention of loving caretakers like His mother. And even when He might have been innocent, just the thought that He might have done something wrong resulted in the same affectionate attention from His mother.
What sorts of things would Krishna do? One time, His friends lodged a complaint that He had eaten dirt. Dirt, or earth, can be used to create pots and other similar containers, but it is not an edible substance. Children don’t know any better, so it wouldn’t be that surprising if they eat dirt. In the modern age, if you have a newborn child, you will want to “baby proof” your home. This requires placing plastic plugs that are difficult to remove into the electric sockets. If you place the plug of an ordinary appliance into the socket, the child could tug on the wire and thus free up the socket. This is another point of danger, as the plug is meant to be removed from the end and not from pulling on the wire. If you pull the wire, the wire could tear, causing an electrical charge to strike the person holding the wire. The appliance could also break in the process.
Other steps in baby proofing involve putting small gates in front of stairs and placing latches around kitchen cabinets. The child doesn’t know how to climb stairs, so if they try, they could fall down and get seriously hurt. The cabinets are full of different materials and boxes. If the containers should spill over the child could get injured. Also, different cleaning agents stored underneath the sink contain toxins which should never be ingested. The child doesn’t know about this, so it is up to the parents to protect them.
If the child should eat dirt, the parents must correct the situation. If they let it go, the child may think that they can just eat anything, whenever they want. What if there are foreign substances within the dirt? What if the child decides that it is okay to swallow chewing gum? In this way we see that a good parent cannot be lax for even a moment in their oversight of their child’s activities. One slip up could cause lasting damage.
Mother Yashoda learned that Krishna had eaten dirt. At least this was the allegation made by Krishna’s friends and His brother. It was a little humorous that they would go to the mother with the complaint. This showed that Krishna was the leader of the group, that no one could tell Him what to do. It was His idea to previously steal butter from the homes of the neighbors. Through Krishna’s influence, which is splendorous by all accounts, the young cowherd boys would sneak into the homes, set up ladder systems by aligning mortars and planks, and then climb high to reach the pots of butter that were secretly tucked away.
The boys knew that Krishna would have to listen to His mother. She had previously punished Him for breaking a pot of butter in anger. Now their leader was in danger of punishment again for possibly having eaten dirt. Of course Krishna is the Supreme Lord, so He does everything by His own will. This fact is constantly reinforced in the Vedic literature, which presents the highest system of spirituality known to man.
How can we say this with certainty? The current situation in the world with respect to religion is evidence of the need for the Vedas. As there is generally no consideration given to the distinction between matter and spirit, the primary aim, irrespective of a person’s faith or lack thereof, is to be as materially successful as possible. This requires industry and growth in the economy, which seem to have a negative impact on the environment. The fact is that whether one is consuming oil or any other type of fuel, it is the desire for fruitive gain that causes the negative reaction. And that reaction relates to the loss of austerity, cleanliness, mercy and truthfulness.
These four attributes are required for simple living and high thinking, which combine to create lasting happiness. One side is religious and the other is not, but both are looking for fruitive gain. If I can rise to the top of a company without praying to God, what need do I have for religion? By the same token, if I spend my day praying for God to give me stuff, of what value is that prayer if others already get what they want without praying?
From the very beginning the Vedic instruction stipulates that material nature does not represent one’s identity. Brahman is truth, and every life force is part of Brahman. The temporary changes are no different from the changing of clothes each night. To take your identity from your current outfit is silly, and along the same lines to base your identity off your position in opulence or squalor is equally as flawed.
The Vedas continue one step further. Beyond the realization of Brahman and the dissociation from maya, or material nature, the spirit soul, the vibrant force for action within living creatures, has an urge for service. You can see evidence of this with human behavior. When there is no real religion guiding human beings, they will make up their own religions. One group looks to serve in government, while another wants to save the environment. Another thinks that helping the poor is the highest engagement in life, while another looks to stamp out disease.
While intentions may be noble, the pursuits are rooted in illusion. The inkling for service is meant to be directed towards the Supreme Personality, whose transcendental features are so nicely described in texts like the Shrimad Bhagavatam. It is in that wonderful work that we find accounts of Lord Krishna’s pastimes, which teach so many lessons. Yashoda, though a wife of a cowherd king and a mother, was engaged in devotional service, i.e. loving God.
Devotion to God is a dynamic endeavor, devoid of monotony. It doesn’t have to be the same thing every day, and neither is it limited to one or two activities. Looking into Krishna’s mouth is equally as beneficial as praying before the deity or chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.
If you offer service to your community, family, or nation, you are limited in your ability to affect the outcome. For instance, if I have an issue of public importance that I am passionate about, I need to rally support for the cause in order to really make a difference. Politics follows this formula. In the private sector, if you don’t like a particular product, you no longer buy it. You move on to something else. You have some power as an individual, though the product manufacturers will still follow the trends set by the consumers as a group. In the public sector, however, you need the support of your fellow man in order to exercise the same individual choice. To influence votes, you need money, which automatically gives the wealthier lobbying groups an advantage.
In devotional service, all you need is sincerity. The offerings made in an authorized manner, following the instruction of a bona fide spiritual master, make their way directly to Krishna, who then adds His personal intervention to deliver the benefits. Krishna made sure to get accused of eating dirt to allow His mother to be mesmerized by the vision of the universal form. Of course, superior to that vision is the sweet, charming face of her young boy, who is the savior for the fallen souls.
As God, Krishna can do whatever He likes,
Through accusation set up a wonderful sight.
Naughty boy always with danger did flirt,
Now He would get in trouble for eating dirt.
Mother Yashoda, this accusation against son was told,
By Balarama and friends, eager for punishment to unfold.
This gave Yashoda a chance to be a parent good,
That child shouldn’t eat dirt must be understood.
Her son denied allegation with confidence,
Made her look into His mouth for evidence.
Son led devoted mother to a vision that inspired awe,
Universal form in Shri Krishna’s mouth she saw.