“When a person is given varieties of food, there may be a hundred and one varieties, but if one likes ordinary shaka, spinach, he prefers to eat that. Similarly, although Krishna was full of opulences, now, by the order of mother Yashoda, He opened wide His mouth like a human child and did not neglect the transcendental humor of maternal affection.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.8.36 Purport)
Shri Krishna is so kind that whatever the devotee desires for practicing their devotion they get. Their defining position automatically precludes them from asking for something that is not feasible. There is no desire that the supreme controller cannot meet, even if it seems to outsiders that there should be another means of interaction. For the dear mother in Vrindavana some five thousand years ago, the cherished wish was interaction through the style of maternal affection. For this to take place, the person who has an all-encompassing form in the external energy would have to remain in a diminutive stature, where He would need the protection of those wishing to offer it. When you are the Supreme Lord, there is no ego stopping you from voluntarily acting subordinate in this way.
While in a temporary land the spirit soul is covered by five gross elements and three subtle elements. One of the subtle elements is ego, and it is considered a false ego [ahankara] when a proper identification is lacking. As the constitutional position of the living spirit cannot be recognized until after many births and the good fortune of association with those who know this information and act off of it, the false ego is present by default.
The false ego makes us think that we are better than we are. We can do a specific task well, so we think that we are capable. As the accomplished tasks increase in difficulty, the stronger the false ego becomes. The practice of elitism follows this model. “I’m too good to do this and do that. That should be left to others to handle. My time is more valuable, so I have to engage it in activities that only a select few like myself can complete.”
Even without the nod towards spiritual understanding, this line of thinking is flawed. For starters, how does one get to that exalted position? Do not others have to teach us? Do we not require the advice and consent of others to reach maturity? What about the protection others offer us? Every second that we continue to live is a good fortune because during any slice of that time we could have been attacked by a disease, a natural disaster, or another living entity. These are the threefold miseries of life and no person is immune from them.
False ego is tough to shed because we do have our pride. If we accomplish some work, should we not feel satisfied? Shouldn’t we have something to hang our hat on? Self-esteem is taught for this very reason, for if we constantly berate ourselves, keeping a steady reminder of how incapable we are, how would we have the courage to move ahead?
The same ego exists in the pure condition, but the source of its strength is a proper identification. Under a real ego, the individual knows that they are part and parcel of God. They are part of Him because everything that exists is within the definition of God. They are a parcel of His infinite energy, though only a tiny portion of it. There is simultaneous oneness and difference, which indicates that there is equality in terms of spiritual quality but distinction in terms of quantitative output. The individual soul is not as capable as the Supreme Soul. The individual soul resides within a single body at a time and has its features masked by the material coverings, whereas the Supreme Soul exists within every single body and is responsible for distributing the results to action. If the Supreme Soul were to have defects, there would never be any movement of energy.
“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.27)
Under a real ego, the living entity takes their pride from knowing that the Supreme Lord is their best friend, the ultimate enjoyer, and the proprietor of everything. You live in the house of your parents growing up, but you act like it’s your own house. That is because you and your parents have the same interest. You know that you share the house due to the kindness of your mother and father. In a loving relationship, you will try to use the property they give you to please them. The clothes they purchase for you are worn to school so that you can live a healthy life and mature properly. Even the items of entertainment they provide are meant to further the maturation process, to allow you to have some fun during your downtime.
If we expand the same concept out to the grandest scale, we see that this entire universe is full of objects that can be used for the Supreme Lord’s pleasure. To know how to please Him, we should become familiar with some of His characteristics, His features. Though there are too many divine qualities to count, this doesn’t mean that the exercise in glorification and study is futile. Rather, whatever effort is made in good faith only returns so many benefits to the worker.
In the state where we know of God only as a nameless and faceless person, there isn’t much we can offer Him. We may try to define our own sense of right and wrong, but in the material world there is duality. Lying and stealing are bad, but sometimes they are necessary. Violence is terrible, but then again sometimes it is required for peace. How do we tell which way to go when trying to please the person we call out to in times of trouble, who is known to be all-powerful? And why would we want to serve Him if He has so much already?
You can use the example of your own life to find the answers. Just because you are a father who has money and a home, does that mean your children are incapable of pleasing you? If they do something nice for you, will you not be pleased, especially if the mood of devotion is sincere? The Supreme Personality has everything, but despite His standing He can still make room for even more happiness. The specific mood of devotion is set by the individual, and Krishna accommodates accordingly.
Mother Yashoda in Vrindavana wanted to love God as her child. The Lord kindly obliged by appearing on earth in the most charming, youthful form. He specifically came to Vrindavana to delight the residents there, and Yashoda was not even Krishna’s biological mother. For Krishna there is no such thing as birth or death, but when He makes appearances, He accepts parents as a matter of formality. Devaki and Vasudeva were Krishna’s immediate parents in Mathura, but due to the influence of a nefarious character named Kamsa, the newborn child was transferred to Vrindavana, where He would be safe.
There the queen of Vraja, the wife of Nanda Maharaja, enjoyed the bliss that comes from seeing Shyamasundara on a daily basis. More delightful than their vision are the child’s activities. Krishna didn’t fail to deliver in this regard, as His presence was known throughout the community. He was a notoriously naughty young boy, but no one could do anything to punish Him. Mother Yashoda once tried to tie Him to a mortar after He broke a pot of butter in anger, but that didn’t do much to curb His antics. If anything, it just kept the sweetheart’s image in one place for a short while, relieving some of the blissful tension the mother felt on a daily basis.
Krishna was at it again one day when His friends approached the mother with a complaint. They said that Krishna had eaten dirt while playing. Krishna’s elder brother Balarama was part of the group leveling the accusation, so Yashoda certainly took the charge seriously. Krishna denied it, saying that His brother and friends were lying. If she didn’t believe Him she could check His mouth. Yashoda then did just that.
Krishna is full of so many opulences. For those who have trouble believing that God is an individual personality, Krishna has His all-encompassing form, the virat-rupa. Think of all the stuff in the world. Everything - planets, universes, bodies of water, people, hills, trees, etc. - is one way to picture God. And now that same person who is everything was asked to open His mouth to show if He had eaten dirt. Krishna agreed because His mother was not interested in reverential worship. She did not like to keep Krishna far away out of fear. Rather, her love was so strong that she liked to stay with Him as much as possible, considering Him to be helpless. To her, if Krishna had eaten dirt, it was a big deal. There was so much nice food at home to eat, including the boy’s preferred sweets and delectable butter.
Know for certain that in the transcendental mellows of devotional service the cherished desires of the devotees are met by the person who can grant any wish. He strengthened the mother’s bond of affection by allowing her to peek into His mouth. Within that tiny area, Yashoda would see the universal manifestation, the wonder of the infinite cosmos. Thus a place considered unclean became auspicious, a way for Yashoda to find further greatness in this tiny gift from above. May that bundle of joy forever remain in our hearts and may we always honor the noble dedication of His kind mother.
“Reverential worship I do not desire,
For loving my son I do aspire.
His friends say that He has eaten dirt,
No surprise, always with danger He flirts.
In trouble daily is this precious son of mine,
Giving me constant worry, hoping He is fine.
Denies the claim, an oath of truth He took,
If I don’t believe, in His mouth I can look.
Something magical certainly about this boy,
May I always love my precious bundle of joy.”