“Formerly, in every household, yogurt and butter were kept for use in emergencies. But Krishna and Balarama would pile up planks so that They could reach the pots and would then pick holes in the pots with Their hands so that the contents would leak out and They could drink it. This was another means for stealing butter and milk.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.8.30 Purport)
Though today’s amenities weren’t available in the holy land of Vrindavana a long time ago, there were other means to ensure that enough food and critical provisions were available when needed. The human being can do amazing things when properly inspired, when the necessity arises. Though the tendency is towards lethargy and inactivity, when pushed the vibrant spark of life within every being can rise to new heights and stretch the boundaries of ability within their particular species. During ancient times, the inhabitants of Vrindavana had emergency supplies of yogurt and butter, and what better emergency could there be than the hunger of the Supreme Lord and His elder brother?
How can feeding God be an emergency? By definition, an urgent situation requires attention because ignoring it will result in a disastrous condition. Arrive to the scene of a car accident a few seconds too late and the victims can go from having a chance to live to dying. Detect a deadly disease within the body when it is no longer treatable and you can’t save the ill person. The Supreme Lord doesn’t have the same urgency with respect to His travels, but the stockpiles saved up for a dire situation fulfill the urgent need to connect with the Supreme Lord in all His glory.
In His original form, God is known as Krishna, which is a Sanskrit word that means all-attractive. Krishna is not God for only the Hindus. If that were the case, any person could come up with their own God, give Him a name, and then institute a set of principles necessary for worship. Indeed, this is what occurs anyway when real religion is purposefully rejected as being sentimental, made up, or unnecessary. Despite the denial, the principles of a religious system will exist nonetheless. A foundation of governance serves to guide behavior to ensure an ideal situation. The streetlights and stop signs keep the road safe for drivers and passengers. Someone who violates the laws of the road is a sinner and thus earns punishment. Even prior to their admonishment by a governing body, transgressions made on the roads can lead to a damaging result, such as an accident which can badly injure others.
Real religion exists to govern as well, except the ideal condition targeted is beneficial for all people and all aspects of life. Whether you are in need of a better job, a stable condition for your family, or the removal of distress, following the true principles of the eternal occupation of the soul can benefit you. Real religion in the Vedic sense is known as sanatana-dharma, the soul’s eternal duty. The soul is eternal in its constitutional position, thus it must have an engagement which is applicable to any time period and any localized space.
That engagement corresponds to a purification of consciousness, which thus ensures a blissful state within any condition. The food problem, the happiness problem, and the fear problem are all solved with a proper consciousness. If I’m thinking correctly, I will know what steps to take to keep myself in a good situation. Surely there are outside factors that I can’t influence, but the constitutional engagement has an ideal beneficiary, who happens to be the most powerful entity. The all-opulent features of the real Personality of Godhead are absent in the manmade gods. Hence the concocted systems of religion fall flat on their face from the outset. Even if innocent people should be duped into following such bogus systems, with the lack of positive results, soon afterwards the engagements are given up. This is the reason why we see so many systems of maintenance, which include the many self-help books that line the shelves of the bookstores.
Krishna is the perfect word to describe God because only someone who is all-attractive could be the object of worship for every single spark of spirit. The spirit soul is the agent of identification with all life forms. The ant, the dog, the dog-eater, the wealthy businessman, and the learned sage are the same at their core. Perhaps the levels of consciousness vary, but this doesn’t mean that the constitutional positions are different.
As Krishna is the most attractive, there is always an urgency for connecting with Him. You desperately need food when you are running low on energy, when your body is starved of the necessary nutrients to sustain life. If you just ate a big meal, perhaps you can go many hours without eating again. The human body can survive without food for days, though it can’t go as long without water.
Yet there is always a need to connect with Krishna, even if one doesn’t know it. If one has connected with Krishna just moments prior, the benefit of again having His association doesn’t diminish. Thus all the fears pertaining to life and death are unfounded in a sense, as the more pressing need is to put the soul in its ideal position, situated next to the Supreme Lord, at least in consciousness. Thinking about God is as good as seeing Him, and serving Him is better even than seeing or hearing Him.
If connecting with God is the ideal occupation, why are there so many rules and regulations in religion? Why not present the summit of activity in the beginning? This way people could take religion seriously and follow the right course of action from the start. Because of the spinning wheel of reincarnation, which is also known as the samsara-chakra, the living entity is forgetful of his constitutional position. Identification is instead taken from the temporary body, and religious principles are enacted based on the desire to benefit that body.
Because of this deficiency in logic, presenting the highest principles of spirituality, which belong to the discipline known as bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, is not always the best option in the beginning. You may have to take it slow at the start, perhaps enticing interested parties with smaller rewards for pious behavior. “Go to church every week and God will take care of your needs. Perform this ritual once a month and you won’t have to worry about bad fortune. On these particular days, don’t eat anything, and from your austerity you will acquire many spiritual merits.”
These procedures bring one closer to the Supreme Lord, and in the process they purify consciousness. In the heightened state of thinking known as bhava, there is only a spontaneous desire to love Krishna, without motivation and without interruption. That love can take many forms, including showing displeasure over the acts of the Supreme Lord Himself. This is what occurred with a few residents of the farm community of Vrindavana some five thousand years ago.
Though they lived in what we would consider “primitive” times, the residents had plenty of food to eat. The milk from the cows and the grains grown on the land were enough to take care of the eating needs. Shelter was found through modest huts, and the entertainment was the chanting of the holy names, such as those found in the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.
The delight of the town was the beloved son of mother Yashoda and Maharaja Nanda. Their beautiful boy was the very same Krishna, the person the majority of the world worshiped as Lord Vishnu, the origin of matter and spirit. Vishnu is practically the same as Krishna, except Yashoda’s son has features that exhibit more sweetness, which is what the eyes of the residents of Vrindavana deserved. Krishna engaged the townspeople in ways suitable to each person. To Yashoda, He acted as a helpless child. To His friends, Krishna was the best person to play with each day on the fields.
To the neighbors, Krishna was the naughty child who kept breaking into their homes and causing trouble. The residents kept supplies of yogurt and butter stashed away because these were two vital ingredients. Yogurt could be used in so many food preparations and butter was especially important for religious sacrifices. With enough yogurt, butter and milk, there was no need for eating animal flesh. The cows lived happily, and they were considered members of the family, sort of like how domesticated animals are treated today. The difference was that the cows were a vital aspect of the economic development. Just by protecting the cows, so many benefits could be received.
Krishna and His elder brother Balarama would enjoy stealing butter and yogurt from the neighbors. The fact that the stocks were carefully hidden away made the heists that much more enjoyable. Sometimes the pots would be situated high up, so the boys would assemble planks together and turn over grinding mortars for climbing. Then they would pick holes in the pots so that the butter and yogurt would sift through and strategically fall into their open mouths. Since the rooms were dark, Krishna and Balarama’s nice jewels would provide the light.
Normally this isn’t good behavior, as the yogurt and butter were carefully set aside for a reason. But the incident gives so many lessons, with one of them being that all of nature’s bounty is to be used for the Lord’s benefit. The residents were so pure that they got to see Krishna all the time, and He wouldn’t leave them alone either. The reserves were put away for emergencies, such as if there were a drought or a calamity that wiped out the food supply. But Vrindavana already saw many potential calamities in the form of attacks from wicked creatures. Krishna was there to save the day each time, so there was no need to worry about running out of butter.
Simply at the sight of Yashoda’s darling the cows would fill up their bags with milk. This meant that milk was never in short supply. Lord Vishnu is the creator of matter, so how can there be any shortage in a land that He personally supervises? Rather, the excess was there to delight the Supreme Lord, who happily took the contents from the shelves and then played innocent when accused. The residents loved this very much, as they couldn’t stay angry at the beautiful Krishna.
Though they didn’t know it, Vrindavana’s people were worshiping God with their offerings of food kindly taken by Krishna. Following the same tradition, devotees of the Lord to this day make regular offerings to Krishna, hoping that He will enjoy the preparations made with love and devotion. The remnants, known as prasadam, are then distributed to as many people as possible. The real emergency situation in Vrindavana was the need to feed Krishna, and if the same devotional attitude is followed by the humble devotee looking to fulfill life’s purpose of remaining God conscious at the time of death, there is no doubt that the sweetheart son of Yashoda, whose belly never becomes full, will gladly arrive on the scene and eat to His heart’s content.
Excess butter and yogurt carefully stashed away,
To be used in emergency, for a rainy day.
But know that God all of this does make,
Therefore entitled He is His share to take.
For supply of milk in Vrindavana no need to fear,
For cows’ bags fill up when Yashoda’s son is near.
Krishna and brother Balarama make plot to reach hidden pots,
Poking holes in them so that in mouths butter to drop.
To fill the belly of Krishna is life’s only pressing need,
With your devotional offerings the Supreme Lord feed.