“Mother Yashoda regarded the vision of the universal form within Krishna's mouth as an arrangement of yogamaya, like a dream. As one forgets everything after a dream, mother Yashoda immediately forgot the entire incident.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.8.44 Purport)
What will your awe and reverence do for you? Sure, it’s great to look at something that is amazing and feel an overwhelming sense of appreciation for it, but what to do after that? Should your goal be to repeatedly offer that respect going forward, day after day? What about the other party’s perspective? Would they prefer this kind of worship, wherein others are afraid of them? Think of your own life. It’s nice when people you don’t know very well offer you complimentary words, but don’t you enjoy the company of your friends and family more? Wouldn’t you rather have someone around with whom to interact, to share your thoughts and feelings and not worry about their super high level of respect for you?
If this tendency exists in us, it is present in the Supreme Personality of Godhead as well. Respect for Him is required; otherwise the pathways followed in life lead to peril. For instance, only without respect for the Lord of all creatures would we repeatedly inflict violence on the most innocent among us, leading to temporary gains in the short term in the form of animal flesh for consumption, but bringing potentially terrible returns in the form of the same violence inflicted upon us later on. Taking someone else’s property is also an indication of disrespect of the rules instituted by the original proprietor of everything. Every object is but a collection of earth, water, fire, air and ether; thus we can’t lay an original claim to any object. At the time of birth we have nothing, but through temporary exchanges in titles, we think we accumulate this thing and that, not wishing to part with what we deem to be ours.
Without respect for an original controller we think it’s wise to remain intoxicated, essentially worshiping the bottle of whiskey instead of the Supreme Lord. Intoxication is known to bring a lessening of rational thought and a loss of motor skills, yet somehow we think that this state is superior to sobriety. The mind is very powerful after all, so if we wanted we could think our way to happiness. Just try it. Tell yourself right now that everything is alright. It may be difficult, but think back to a time when you were happy. Perhaps there was a future event that was anticipated. Perhaps there was a previous success enjoyed. Though the external conditions were favorable, it was actually your mind that brought the happiness. That same mind can be programmed to feel pleasure at any time, without reliance on outside factors like intoxication.
Only without respect for God would you be consumed with envy, thinking that another’s good fortune somehow makes you inferior. Whether one is wealthy, middle class, or poor, the enemies of the mind known as hankering and lamenting remain active. The wealthy person’s lamentation over the loss of a cherished object can be so strong that it leads to severe depression. Meanwhile, the poverty stricken person may be at peace with their meager lifestyle, accepting whatever comes their way. Indeed, in the Vedic tradition the highest transcendentalists voluntarily accept a life of real austerity in order to further develop God consciousness.
“The manifestations of the mode of goodness can be experienced when all the gates of the body are illuminated by knowledge.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 14.11)
It is in God consciousness that the godly qualities start to develop. In this state, every living being is viewed equally, as part and parcel of the Supreme Lord. The prerequisite to this viewpoint is an acknowledgement and steady cognizance of that Supreme Person’s existence. There is no jealousy in the person who respects God because temporary positions of opulence and destitution are known to be but the results of past work, sort of like having winners and losers in a game. The game itself is not to blame, as the participants know the full range of possible outcomes when they start.
The person who respects God understands that all creatures have a right to an existence, even if there is fighting between them. Just because a fish eats other fish or a tiger eats other animals doesn’t mean that the more intelligent human being should imitate such behavior. If you know better, if you know that you have more intelligence, why should you lower yourself to activities of the less intelligent? The person who respects God has no need for such things as intoxication because only with a sober mind can the full awareness of God’s energy be present.
But above awareness is love through action. The elevated Vedic scholars of the past have studied the different kinds of worship in detail, and so they have a corresponding term for every type of worship. In the mindset where there is a lack of worship, the person is deemed a mudha, or fool. If they purposefully try to thwart the worship of the pious, they are known as an asura, or one who is against the people in the mode of goodness, where God is respected. If there is some acknowledgment of a higher power, some respect for God, the person is known as a sura. They are also a devotee in a sense, following bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. Within bhakti-yoga, there are different rasas, or transcendental mellows. Reverential worship is the beginning stage of bhakti, and it is known as shanta-rasa.
Shanta-rasa at least shows an acknowledgment of God’s position; thus it is superior to ignorance. Nevertheless, the more advanced rasas are there to give more pleasure to both the worshiper and the worshiped. How this works can be seen in the interactions between mother Yashoda and Lord Krishna. In shanta-rasa we may not know what God’s features are. If we do, we think of them only in terms of greatness. We see someone who is wealthy, and so in comparison God is considered to be the most wealthy. We see someone who is beautiful, and so we think that God is more beautiful than they are. We see someone with great external opulence, and so we know that God must be more opulently decorated.
In His original position, God’s features are both greater than the greatest and smaller than the smallest. This means that even as a small child He is in a superior position. Though He may not appear to be so powerful or opulent as a child crawling around the dirt of the sacred land of Vrindavana, He retains all of His features nonetheless. And in that enchanting body He extracts more love from His innumerable children than He does in His position as Lord Vishnu or the abstract God that is sometimes mistakenly depicted as an old and angry man.
The child Krishna creates a sense of urgency in the caretakers. In this situation worship of God ceases to be an optional pursuit. Mother Yashoda is compelled to love Krishna because if she ignores Him He might get hurt. At least this is what she thinks. Obviously the mindset is not logically based, as Krishna can never be harmed, but when the attitude leads to devotional offerings, it is most beneficial. Hence what is logical is not always what is beneficial in the realm of bhakti.
One time Krishna was accused of eating dirt by His friends and elder brother Balarama. Yashoda took the complaint seriously and wanted to know why Krishna had eaten dirt. He swore that He hadn’t and asked His mother to look into His mouth if she didn’t believe Him. This was a trap, of course, to lure Yashoda into seeing the universal manifestation, the virat-rupa. There is nothing more awe-inspiring than this vision. Think of looking into the sky on a clear night and appreciating the wonder of the infinite beyond. Now multiply that by as large a factor as you can think of and you get a slight idea of what Yashoda saw within Krishna’s mouth.
The awe-inspiring vision immediately made her release some of her concerns. Thinking that her husband belonged to her and that her home and property were also hers was not wise since God is the controller of everything. With a quick show the Lord instilled the proper knowledge within Yashoda, who couldn’t think of anything else but surrendering unto God. “He is in charge of everything, so I leave all of the results up to Him. I shouldn’t worry so much; instead I should just pray for His favor that everything works out.”
This thinking is quite wise, and perhaps we all have had the same realization at some point in our lives. You try so hard to effect a particular outcome only to fail in the end. Other times you don’t try as hard and everything works out. Thus you know that there are higher forces responsible for distributing outcomes, and that you’d be better off just following the righteous path and leaving the rest to the people in charge.
After coming to this realization, however, Yashoda then forgot about the vision and returned to loving her son. It’s not that her attitude necessarily changed; she still respected God. But she didn’t start to apply the reverential attitude to her son, in whose mouth was seen such an awe-inspiring vision. She instead figured it was some mystical event, something that couldn’t be explained. It was like a dream that was now over, so time to go back to loving Krishna. Indeed, this is the natural progression for one who has developed a deep respect for the Supreme Lord. Better than respect is love that continues to be offered. Regardless of what she saw, Yashoda was not going to stop loving Krishna. She would always worry about Him, wherever He was and however powerful He seemed. So in her mind there is complete connection to God, yoga that doesn’t break. That link is both the aim of life and the source of the highest pleasure, showing that God’s path of loving devotion is always the right choice.
In dream one moment you’re dwelling upon,
And then the next moment it is gone.
The universal manifestation in son’s mouth to see,
Then in an instant Yashoda from vision set free.
To loving her beautiful son she returned,
In process a deep respect for God was earned.
But devotion in maternal affection not to stop,
Concern for darling of Vrindavana she couldn’t drop.
Thus know there is higher state than reverence,
Love in bhakti-rasa God’s preference.