“When mother Yashoda saw this wonderful manifestation within the mouth of her child, she began to argue within herself about whether it was a dream.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.8.40 Purport)
Mother Yashoda saw something unbelievable within the mouth of her son. The entire cosmic manifestation, which represents the largest abstraction that the human mind can conceive, along with nuance and detail to the point of seeing her own self in Vrindavana, appeared within that small boy’s mouth. This was a routine check to see if He had eaten dirt, a way to prevent the child from harming Himself going forward. Yet what resulted was a splendid vision that left the mother baffled. In such a state she began to argue with herself.
Perhaps it was a dream or some illusion created by a mystic ability in her son. The family priest, Gargamuni, had hinted at Yashoda’s son having transcendental qualities when he first saw the child after birth. Typically the priest is called in to predict the child’s future based on the astrological signs at the time of birth. This is a way for the parents to know what kind of nature their child will have, and it gives them added impetus to provide protection. Gargamuni surprised the parents when he informed them that devotion to this child would lead to all felicity and that He possessed all the divine qualities belonging to Lord Vishnu.
“Your child is so powerful that anyone who will become a devotee of your boy will never be troubled by enemies. Just as demigods are always protected by Lord Vishnu, so the devotees of your child will always be protected by Narayana, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This child will grow in power, beauty, opulence — in everything — on the level of Narayana, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Therefore I would advise that you protect Him very carefully so that He may grow without disturbance.” (Gargamuni, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 8 )
Vishnu is the name of the Supreme Lord in the Vedic tradition. It is one of many names, and it also addresses the Personality of Godhead in His four-armed form. There are actually several different Vishnus which have their own functions they provide, but in general the call to Vishnu is a call to God, but with some of the abstraction removed. If you know what God looks like, what His tendencies are, and what pleases Him, your worship will be more worthwhile. In the absence of such knowledge, you can erroneously create your own character for God, and thus make Him capable of anything. You can even convince yourself that your sinful way of life is sanctioned by God, for you have created His attributes within your mind that is attached to material sense gratification.
Vishnu is not like this, as His features are defined in the Vedic texts. He is all-bliss, all-knowledge, and ever-existing. These properties are passed down to His innumerable sons and daughters known as the individual souls, except the features exist to a lesser degree in them. The individual spirit soul is full of bliss, knowledge and eternality but it also has the ability to become deluded by maya, or the material energy. Hence the aim of the human birth, which is considered the most auspicious due to the increased potential for intelligence acquisition, is to reassume the constitutional position, to shed the illusion borne of attachment to the temporary manifestations and dissolutions of matter.
Vishnu is pleased by only one thing: devotion. All other aspects of religious practice are merely tools to reach the ideal aim of loving devotion to God, where the worship takes place without motivation and without interruption. Every ritual and sacrifice that promises some type of temporary reward, such as good fortune, a happy home, a blissful marriage, etc., is meant to purify consciousness to the point that God is realized at every moment, not just once a week or when in distress.
In the height of devotional consciousness, the desire for association with Vishnu is so strong that He will appear in front of the devotee in a way that increases their bliss even more. As Krishna, Vishnu appeared in His charming, original self. Shyamasundara is blackish in complexion and unbelievably beautiful. This beauty stays with Him throughout the different outward changes He displays. This means that Krishna is just as beautiful as a child as He is as an adult. Yet for the mother, her love flows best when her son is in the childhood form. Indeed, even when the child should grow up into an adult, she keeps the vision of the helpless, innocent child within her mind. This is how she continues to offer her love throughout the child’s life.
In Vrindavana, mother Yashoda got to worship Vishnu by loving Him as Krishna, who appeared as her son. For motherly love to flow, there must be action to take, service to offer. Krishna is self-sufficient, so He doesn’t require anyone’s help. Yet He creates situations where others can offer service because that is what they desire. In any walk of life, no matter how successful or impoverished a person is, there is plenty of time to offer service. There is plenty of time to engage in such service, even though one may not know it. The sybaritic pursuits are all indicative of this fact. If time were short, there would never be games played, vacation destinations visited, or restaurants patronized.
Serving Krishna represents the best use of time. The young child of Nanda and Yashoda delighted all the residents of Vrindavana with His childish play. One time, Krishna’s friends and brother complained to Yashoda that He had eaten dirt. This was, of course, an excuse to bring Yashoda further closer to God, though she wasn’t far away to begin with. Once you reach your destination in a race, you have nowhere else to go. You can’t advance any further. In devotional life, such stringent rules don’t exist. Despite being directly in the company of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, you can still move forward and increase your devotional ecstasy, as the reservoir of transcendental pleasure within can never be filled.
Krishna claimed that His friends were lying and that He hadn’t eaten dirt. He told the mother to check His mouth if she didn’t believe Him. Krishna was known for stealing butter from the neighbors, so it wasn’t like He always told the truth. “Better to ere on the side of caution”, the mother thought. She opened Krishna’s mouth, and what she saw inside was much more than dirt. Dirt is but earth, a material element found in abundance in the phenomenal world. Inside Krishna’s mouth she saw the sum collection of earth, along with everything else. No one would believe what she saw in that amazing vision; even she was baffled by it.
Actually, that vision already exists, though we don’t have the eyes to see it. Only the Supreme Lord can grant the benediction of that vision, but it still exists anyway. We know that there is a set number of trees around the world, though we can’t put every tree into one specific picture. Along the same lines, think of everything that there is. The pictures of earth from outer space are one way to think of this vision, for everything on the earth is included in that picture. Yet there is still an obscurity in vision, as nuance and detail are lost in a tradeoff for an extended scope of visual output.
In the vision that Yashoda saw, there were both the macro and the micro. She saw the principle deities in charge of the creation, the many gods handling the affairs of the material world. She saw the changing of bodies and the three modes of material nature. She saw all the planets and also herself within Vrindavana. The vision was downright amazing, something she couldn’t believe. No one would have believed her if she told anyone else, so she was a little baffled as to what to do.
In the end, the good mother was humbled by the vision. It made her more appreciative of God. She simply surrendered unto Him, still not knowing that her little boy was that very same Supreme Lord. In the course of our wanderings, it is very easy to think that the world revolves around us, but we in fact know that we are but one small living entity amidst countless other creatures who pursue the same goal of happiness. Within that universal manifestation, mother Yashoda could see how amazing the entire creation was and how powerless the living entities really are. Thus her appreciation for God increased so much more, all due to the coordination of her son.
Yashoda didn’t require that vision since she already loved her son very much, but from that incident we can be reminded of the real purpose of life, how worshiping God is our real business. Our influence is quite limited, no matter how great we may think we are. The higher forces are many, and they operate on us at every second. The Supreme Controller directs these dealings, and so if one is desirous of connecting with Him and feeling the bliss of His association, He can surely make that desire a reality, for the power all belongs to Him.
In that universal form everything to see,
Every planet, living being and tree.
Krishna this amazing vision brought,
That this maybe wasn’t real Yashoda thought.
Pretense was the accusation of eating dirt,
Mother’s attention to make sure He wouldn’t get hurt.
The devotee Krishna closer to Him brings,
So that of His glories they will always sing.
Vision so unique that Yashoda thought it was a dream,
Returned to loving her son, who with beauty beamed.