Saturday, December 13, 2014

Giving Fearlessness

[Krishna and Yashoda]“O Lord, Your lotus face, which is encircled by locks of soft black hair tinged with red, is kissed again and again by mother Yashoda, and Your lips are reddish like the bimba fruit. May this beautiful vision of Your lotus face be ever manifest in my heart. Thousands and thousands of other benedictions are of no use to me.” (Shri Damodarashtaka, 5)

idaḿ te mukhāmbhojam atyanta-nīlair
vṛtaḿ kuntalaiḥ snigdha-raktaiś ca gopyā
muhuś cumbitaḿ bimba-raktādharaḿ me
manasy āvirāstām alaḿ lakṣa-lābhaiḥ

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There are so many things to be afraid of in this world. Since death is guaranteed for everyone who appears here, one way to describe this land is mrityu-loka, which means “the planet of death.” Though death is guaranteed, no one knows for sure when it will happen for them. You can be in the safest situation and still meet a tragic end through some accident. Therefore there is every reason to constantly fear. Damodara, who is the creator of this and every other planet, can grant many boons, including fearlessness.

[fear]One person is afraid to drive. Just the thought of sitting behind the wheel makes them nervous. They don’t know how they will be able to operate the vehicle. What if they’re on the highway and they get so nervous that they can’t continue? What are they going to do? They would rather not learn how to drive.

Another person is afraid to fly. They can’t bear the thought of being trapped inside of a tube that’s miraculously floating in the air for so long. Not wanting to feel claustrophobic and tortured by time simultaneously, they would rather find any other way to travel. The mere thought of the airplane scares them.

Another person is afraid of failure. They don’t know how they will handle not succeeding at something. In their years in school, they avoid the dreaded by completing their assignments right away. They don’t wait until the last minute, because what if some emergency at that time gets in the way of their work? Not able to cope with the potential lack of success, they work very hard to make sure they succeed.

In this way there are so many things to fear. Strangely enough, even those who thoroughly believe in God have fear. They worry about offending Him. They know that He hands out strict punishment. In fact, He can hand out the worst punishment if He should become angry. In the Vedic tradition, there are many examples of this. One time He bifurcated an evil king using only His nails. Another time He shot many arrows that penetrated the chest of a valiant warrior who had terrorized the world.

[Narasimhadeva killing Hiranyakashipu]This punishment has another side to it, though. The nails were used to kill the king named Hiranyakashipu; that is for sure. Yet that king was killed for a specific reason. He had been torturing his five year old son named Prahlada. The king whose body was filled with arrows had stolen a princess and mentally tortured her for no reason. Therefore the punishment gave protection at the same time. In these instances while the evil had reason to fear, the devoted were granted fearlessness.

The same fearlessness leads mother Yashoda to kiss the cheeks of Damodara again and again. She does not know that He is capable of punishing the entire world. She does not understand that He creates this and every other land and that His opulence of strength is beyond measure. She does not worry about offending Him. He is under her care as her darling child. He plays in Vrindavana and lives in her house. Therefore He must listen to her. If He doesn’t, she will bind Him to a mortar.

The person who glorifies this pastime between Damodara and Yashoda is also fearless. They do not worry about the many boons that God can grant. Not afraid of rebirth, they seek Damodara’s association instead. We can liken it to meeting someone who could easily give us a winning lottery ticket. He could give us ticket after ticket, in fact. Would we ever turn this person down? Would we ask to have their association instead?

[Krishna with mother Yashoda]Only the fearless person would ask this of Damodara. Their fearlessness comes from knowing that the person’s ability to protect is unmatched. He creates circumstances for the past, present and future. Though apparently everything happens through karma, or action and reaction, Damodara is the person who makes karma. He subverts its influence whenever He desires and He grants His devotees the same ability. It is for this reason that He advises Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gita to abandon all varieties of religion and simply surrender unto Him.

sarva-dharmān parityajya
mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo
mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ

“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.66)

Those who follow this advice lose all fear. With confidence they swim in the ocean of transcendental nectar that is bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. They always chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. They glorify God as Damodara, and they appreciate the fearless mother who kisses Him again and again.

In Closing:

One person afraid to drive,

Another wonders how in plane to survive.


Of failure also there’s fear,

Rooted in knowing death can be near.


Damodara, though by rope He’s bound,

Entire universe in His belly is found.


When pleased to grant anything cherished,

With fearlessness devotees His company relish.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Kissed Again And Again

[Yashoda and Krishna]“O Lord, Your lotus face, which is encircled by locks of soft black hair tinged with red, is kissed again and again by mother Yashoda, and Your lips are reddish like the bimba fruit. May this beautiful vision of Your lotus face be ever manifest in my heart. Thousands and thousands of other benedictions are of no use to me.” (Shri Damodarashtaka, 5)

idaḿ te mukhāmbhojam atyanta-nīlair
vṛtaḿ kuntalaiḥ snigdha-raktaiś ca gopyā
muhuś cumbitaḿ bimba-raktādharaḿ me
manasy āvirāstām alaḿ lakṣa-lābhaiḥ

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Some of us embarrass easily. When we do poorly on an exam, we don’t like to tell others about it. When we forget to do something important, we wonder how we’ll ever make it in this world. If someone makes fun of us while in the company of others, we don’t like it at all. We take note and vow to get revenge. A young child a long time ago seemingly got embarrassed all the time. His mother was known to kiss His beautiful face again and again. That darling child, known as Damodara, is actually the origin of the universe.

[kisses]Our grandmother embarrasses us in this way. When we took family visits to her house as a child, the greeting would always be the same.

“Oh there he is, my precious. Let me see that beautiful face. Let me kiss it over and over again. You are like the fountain of youth. Now I have life again. Come inside and eat some fresh cookies that your grandma just baked. Don’t be shy; eat us much as you want.”

Yashoda was somewhat like this, except her love was directed to her son. When He reached the appropriate age, Krishna asked for the assignment of tending to the calves. His father Nanda had so many cows in his possession. Krishna was excited for the new chore, as it would allow Him to go outside with His brother and friends. They could spend the whole day in the pasturing grounds, taking in the beautiful scenery of the forest of Vrindavana.

Yashoda was a little hesitant, though. She did not agree with her husband Nanda that Krishna was ready. She relented nevertheless, but she would still follow Krishna out each day. Like the mother that comes to school and embarrasses the child in front of all his friends, Yashoda was not worried about what others thought of her. She trailed behind Krishna until He finally got her to return home. Then she would worry the whole day about her son, eagerly anticipating the time He would return home to take His meal.

Prior to that period she would embarrass Him in other ways. One time it was through punishment. He broke a pot of yogurt in anger and then scampered away. She chased after Him and eventually caught Him. As punishment, she bound Him to a mortar by the belly. From then on her Krishna was known also by the name Damodara. That sweet Damodara is famous for being kissed again and again by the loving mother. The interesting thing is that Damodara is the most powerful person in the world. This seemingly embarrassing episode could easily have been avoided, but He preferred otherwise.

[mother Yashoda and Krishna]He has nothing to be embarrassed over anyway. Unlike us, He never loses. He is unconquerable; hence one of His names is Ajita. He is never without pleasure, so He is also described as atmarama. Since He is all-attractive, the name Krishna suits Him well. Since He maintains all living entities, He is known as Janardana. Since He tended to the cows in Vrindavana, He is known as Gopala. Since He gives pleasure to mother Yashoda, He is known as Yashodanandana.

He is Bhagavan, which means that He is the person who holds opulences in full; another reason He should never be embarrassed. There is nothing lost for Him when others seemingly embarrass Him. The gopis in Vrindavana ask Him to do all sorts of funny things. They make Him dance on command. They ask Him questions sometimes just to hear Him talk. He is like putty in their hands. Though the human mind is incapable of understanding Him even through logic and deduction, the gopis capture Him very easily.

Indeed, Yashoda is not known for being a high scholar. Neither are the other residents of Vrindavana considered to be overly intelligent. Arjuna, another person known to be close with Krishna, is in the warrior class. He fights and defends for a living. He is not known to be consciously aware of the singularity in spiritual quality shared by all creatures.

From this we can deduce that one who kisses Krishna again and again with love knows Him. Yashoda knows His loving nature. She is not afraid of Him. Though Krishna can create the awe-inspiring image of the universal form, that is not the one worshiped by Yashoda. She has so much affection for Him that she does not care whether He feels embarrassed by her behavior. His welfare comes first, in her mind.

[Krishna with mother Yashoda]In this regard Krishna is helpless. Though He is the most powerful, He has no choice but to take the embarrassment created by the love offered by the devotees. This kindness is not lost on Satyavrata Muni. He prays to always have that vision of Damodara, who is loved so much by Yashoda. He wants nothing else, in fact. Thousands of other boons have no value to him, since he knows that love for Yashoda’s son will make him and any other person more happy than can be imagined.

In Closing:

Embarrassing when task to forget,

On friendly jab revenge later to get.


Ajita having reason for embarrassment not,

Yashoda kissing His cheek without stop.


Gopis to dance and for this and that to say,

To their commands Damodara giving way.


On this love only the muni to rely,

To seek any other reward then why?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Mother And Her Son

[Krishna and Yashoda]“O Lord, Your lotus face, which is encircled by locks of soft black hair tinged with red, is kissed again and again by mother Yashoda, and Your lips are reddish like the bimba fruit. May this beautiful vision of Your lotus face be ever manifest in my heart. Thousands and thousands of other benedictions are of no use to me.” (Shri Damodarashtaka, 5)

idaḿ te mukhāmbhojam atyanta-nīlair
vṛtaḿ kuntalaiḥ snigdha-raktaiś ca gopyā
muhuś cumbitaḿ bimba-raktādharaḿ me
manasy āvirāstām alaḿ lakṣa-lābhaiḥ

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The Damodarashtaka is a celebration of a most wonderful relationship between mother and son. The mother is the queen of Vraja, the wife of the king, Nanda Maharaja. She is a gopi, or cowherd woman, and is known by name as Yashoda. Her adorable child has hundreds of thousands of names, and one of them relates to something specific that Yashoda once did. Known as Damodara because of being bound to a mortar through the belly, that child reciprocates the pure love offered by His mother.

[Yashoda chasing after Krishna]How strong is the relationship between the two? In the verse quoted above, we see that the boy’s face is like a lotus. Ambhoja is the Sanskrit word used here to describe the beautiful visage of the small child who runs away after breaking a pot of yogurt in anger. Mother Yashoda chases after Him, as if missing that beautiful lotus, unable to live without it. She loves that face so much that she kisses it again and again.

In many verses in Vedic literature the comparison is made to the sun as a way to describe God. In the Bhagavad-gita, the same Damodara, all grown up and on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, tells Arjuna that He is the light of the sun. The sun is one amazing thing, and yet it is not self-illuminating. Krishna, the Supreme Lord, the adorable Damodara in Yashoda’s courtyard, is the light behind that sun.

raso 'ham apsu kaunteya
prabhāsmi śaśi-sūryayoḥ
praṇavaḥ sarva-vedeṣu
śabdaḥ khe pauruṣaṁ nṛṣu

“O son of Kunti [Arjuna], I am the taste of water, the light of the sun and the moon, the syllable om in the Vedic mantras; I am the sound in ether and ability in man.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.8)

The typical comparison is to Krishna being the sun and the devotees being reliant on His light. Those who truly love God, having pure motives, are compared to the day lotus. That purest of flowers rests upon the surface of the pond. When the sun rises, the flower gradually opens. When the day is done, the lotus closes once again. The reaction is spontaneous, sort of how the devotees love God as soon as they get sight of Him and become morose as soon as He leaves their vision.

[Lord Krishna]Here the comparison is somewhat reversed. Krishna’s face is compared to the lotus. It has so much love for the mother, who is like the sun. This sun goes towards the lotus and shines its light on it constantly. She does this by kissing that lotus-like face again and again. She does not stop, as she is not consciously aware of God’s tremendous potency. She has no interest in it, either. To her Damodara is everything. He is her life and soul. When that lotus floats away, the sun that is Yashoda finds it and again shines her light.

Krishna is the most powerful. The light He provides to the sun is amazing. Even in the form of a child He retains that potency. He thwarts the attackers sent by Kamsa from the neighboring town of Mathura. He lifts massive hills and holds them up with His pinky finger. He finds ways to steal butter from the neighboring homes, even when the ladies think they have secured their stocks.

In spite of being so powerful, He voluntarily assumes the role of a lotus in front of Yashoda. Through His Damodara pastimes He shows that God can become subordinate to the love of others. He doesn’t need anything, yet He accepts everything from Yashoda. He doesn’t need kisses, but He allows the dear mother to offer them countless times. He stays bound to the mortar so that she can see Him.

This means that the light of devotion is strong as well. It can capture the attention of the person who is the source of all light. It can shine so brightly that those who have lived in darkness for so long find their way out. Like a flashlight leading out of the tunnel of nowhere, the influence of Yashoda and those who follow her is life-saving.

Today that light shines through the holy name itself. The form of address for Yashoda’s son brings a rescuing light through the ears. Therefore when around lovers of the jewel of Vrindavana, a constant chant is heard: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

[candles offered to Damodara]When out of the darkness of ignorance, any person can become a kind of sun, offering their light to the lotus-like face of Damodara. They can daily offer their prayers and well wishes. They can swim in the ocean of transcendental bliss by describing Damodara. They can offer Him candles during the month of Kartika and they can rest assured knowing that Yashoda’s son can be kissed again and again. That lotus will not swim away as long as devotion remains firm and the sound of the holy name does not get lost.

In Closing:

For Yashoda never an opportunity missed,

On the cheeks by her Damodara kissed.


Again and again, love never waning,

Like lotus-face sight of sun gaining.


Being God despite still accepting,

His bhaktas Damodara never rejecting.


Damodarashtaka this relationship celebrating,

That mother’s love saint’s heart appreciating.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Best Boon

[Krishna and Yashoda]“O Lord, although You are able to give all kinds of benedictions, I do not pray to You for the boon of impersonal liberation, nor the highest liberation of eternal life in Vaikuntha, nor any other boon (which may be obtained by executing the nine processes of bhakti). O Lord, I simply wish that this form of Yours as Bala Gopala in Vrindavana may ever be manifest in my heart, for what is the use to me of any other boon besides this?” (Shri Damodarashtaka, 4)

varaḿ deva mokṣaḿ na mokṣāvadhiḿ vā
na canyaḿ vṛṇe ‘haḿ vareṣād apīha
idaḿ te vapur nātha gopāla-bālaḿ
sadā me manasy āvirāstāḿ kim anyaiḥ

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If you did a poll of people on the street asking them if they could have one thing what would it be, one answer would be pretty common: money. And why wouldn’t you want money? There are so many expenses. They never end. Even if you’ve paid off your house, there is the property tax to pay each year. Then there is medical insurance; you never know when you’re going to get sick. Then there are all the places you want to visit. With money, you can survive longer; at least in theory. The chief God, deva-vara, gives the best boon, and surprisingly it is not money.

[too much sense gratification]The spiritually cultured know there are a few other boons that you can go for. Religiosity is preferred. Who wants to act like an animal? Perhaps in the age of television and instant news, behaving badly can get you notoriety, but a good person will not want to intentionally transgress common standards of decency.

There is sense gratification, too. You don’t necessarily need money to eat well. Someone else could pay for your things. If you have money but no place to go to purchase things, you’re not really enjoying.

Money is good for this life, but what about the afterlife? So there is the boon of liberation, or moksha. Getting more specific, this reward means no more birth and death. There is a similar cycle that we can perceive right now. We had the body of a child once, and now it is gone. We can never get it back. We had it for only a short time, and just once. This means that we already have personal experience of the “you only live once” concept.

dehino 'smin yathā dehe
kaumāraṁ yauvanaṁ jarā
tathā dehāntara-prāptir
dhīras tatra na muhyati

“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.13)

[the changing body]Since we are still alive today, it means that we lived once and survived. The same concept applies for the death of the body. There is birth again. The change is really no different than shifting from youth to adulthood. The body changes, the circumstances shift, but the individual remains alive throughout.

Moksha is the end to birth and death. No more worrying about where you’re going to end up, whether it’s a wealthy family’s home or the ashrama of a yogi. No more chasing after money, since without birth you don’t need to worry about survival. You’re already living in some capacity, without accepting a material body.

Satyavrata Muni says that the only boon he wants from the chief God is the form of Bala Gopala to remain manifest in his heart. Bala Gopala is the same chief God; He is the Supreme Lord who delights the residents of Vrindavana with His childhood play. Why would the muni ask for this boon? He readily acknowledges that Krishna is the chief God, that He is the detail behind the abstract concept of a supreme being. He also knows that Krishna can give any boon, all the way up to moksha.

Why doesn’t he ask for money? Why not religiosity? How is the image of Bala Gopala going to keep Him alive? Actually, this will give him more life than any amount of money will. It will give him a life of devotion, which is true happiness, wherever he is. The muni is very wise in this regard. Bala Gopala once broke a pot of yogurt in mother Yashoda’s courtyard. She then chased after Him and eventually caught Him. She tied Bala Gopala to a mortar as punishment, earning Him the name Damodara.

The image of Damodara manifest in the heart is more valuable than any material reward. Money comes and goes. If you have too much of it, your friends get jealous. If you have too little, no one wants to hear from you. If you have just enough, the money alone doesn’t give you peace of mind. Religiosity is difficult to maintain. It has an end goal, also, so if that goal is not reached the adherence to religious principles is not so valuable. Sense gratification comes in any species; it doesn’t need to be asked for.

[Krishna with mother Yashoda]Damodara is unique. He isn’t asked for by every person, though He will appear for anyone who wants Him. Satyavrata Muni knows that not everyone is aware of this side of God, where He allows a mother to love Him so much. They may not know that God is beautiful in a transcendental form and that He appears within this creation so often. They may not be aware that His name is identical to Him. Therefore the muni composes the Damodarashtaka, giving it special potency in the month of Kartika, where devotees offer a candle to Damodara while singing it. He has found the real treasure in life, and since he is unselfish, just like Damodara’s mother, he is willing to share it with the rest of the world. He allows the best boon to be sought by anyone.

In Closing:

Bala Gopala the boon the best,

To last forever, unlike the rest.


From getting money others to envy,

No pleasure despite possessions a bevy.


Pure love for God beyond to stay,

Not just this lifetime, never to go away.


Satyavrata in kindness to others to give,

Damodarashtaka, in bhakti’s happiness to live.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

How A Child Can Be A Lord

[Krishna and Yashoda]“O Lord, although You are able to give all kinds of benedictions, I do not pray to You for the boon of impersonal liberation, nor the highest liberation of eternal life in Vaikuntha, nor any other boon (which may be obtained by executing the nine processes of bhakti). O Lord, I simply wish that this form of Yours as Bala Gopala in Vrindavana may ever be manifest in my heart, for what is the use to me of any other boon besides this?” (Shri Damodarashtaka, 4)

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How can a small child be a lord? Satyavrata Muni refers to a young boy who was tied to a mortar as “natha,” which in Sanskrit means lord. A small child cannot do much. They aren’t wise enough to know that playing in the fields all day isn’t the best use of time. They don’t know about impending death, or at least they are not affected by it. They can’t cook for themselves and they don’t secure an income through hard work. This child was different, however, and though seemingly small and innocent, He is indeed the ruler of all the worlds.

The muni who authored the famous Damodarashtaka didn’t need much convincing. This small boy is described in the endless pages of the Vedas. Those ancient works are so voluminous for the precise reason that the glories belonging to this boy are without end. Just think of the passage of time. We see images from thirty years ago and reflect on where we might have been at the time. If we weren’t alive, we wonder how people lived back then.

The more you go back in history, the more appreciation you have. There are more events to ponder over, and if you go all the way back to the point that you consider to be the beginning, you get many lifetimes’ worth of material to study. This time is one aspect to that young child who was bound to a mortar in Yashoda’s courtyard.

[Damodara]Time continues forward as well. This means that based on time alone, so much is happening. Everything is ultimately attributed to Yashoda’s son, which means that based solely on time He is worthy of glorification. All that you see on television, all that you read about online and in newspapers, at the origin is Damodara. That pitcher who came in relief in game 7 of the World Series despite having pitched a few days before gets his praise due to time. Without the time factor nothing would happen.

Within His surrounding area, that child had done so much as well. Many nefarious characters came there to kill Him. They disguised themselves, for they were not interested in a fair fight. A witch came and administered poison to Him through her breast. A whirlwind came and took Him high into the air. Another character inserted Himself into a cart that held the infant child. None of these attackers left Gokula alive. It was the young child who survived each attack, though He was seemingly helpless.

The young boy, known as Krishna because of His great attractiveness, has this opulence of strength. No one is stronger than Him, and so no one can defeat Him. His strength alone makes Him a “natha.” Satyavrata Muni prefers the form of Damodara. The young child was tied to a mortar by His mother one time for having broken a pot of yogurt. The muni knows that Krishna has tremendous strength. The time factor says that Krishna’s glories are limitless, and His ability in Gokula to thwart attacks says that He is great.

His form of Damodara is most unique because it shows that He is conquerable in one area. Despite being so strong, He is not powerful enough to stop bhakti. Devotion wins His heart, and in mother Yashoda there is devotion at a level that cannot be imagined. Her mood of loving is through the role of a parent, and Krishna allows her to play this role perfectly. He does not break free of the ropes of affection, though the ropes aren’t physically tight. Though there aren’t enough ropes in the world to go around His transcendental body, mother Yashoda can find a way to keep Him in her courtyard.

A child can only be a Lord if that child is God Himself. The opulences of beauty, wealth, strength, fame, wisdom and renunciation exist in Him simultaneously. He is greater than the greatest and also smaller than the smallest. When He appears as a child, He is the most adorable one. The cows produce so much milk from only seeing Him, and the mothers all think that He belongs to them. Yashoda never stops loving Him, and this love wins the heart of more than just Krishna.

[Krishna with mother Yashoda]Those who hear about Damodara also appreciate Yashoda. They wish to have that image of mother and son remain manifest before them. Rather than forget it and move on to something else, they continue to concentrate on it. If that concentration breaks, they simply hear the name of Krishna. If no one is around to produce that sound, they make it themselves: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. That darling child who presided over the inhabitants of Gokula through the bhakti offered to Him does the same in the hearts of all devotees, who know that though bound to a mortar, Damodara can do anything and everything.

In Closing:

To child new is everything to see,

Helpless, how then lord can be?


Satyavrata Muni with humility prays,

That Lord as child always with Him stays.


Known to Him is Krishna’s strength,

And how no ropes of proper length.


By devotion only to others He’s bound,

Height of that sentiment in Yashoda is found.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Where Do You Want To Live

[Krishna with Yashoda]“O Lord, although You are able to give all kinds of benedictions, I do not pray to You for the boon of impersonal liberation, nor the highest liberation of eternal life in Vaikuntha, nor any other boon (which may be obtained by executing the nine processes of bhakti). O Lord, I simply wish that this form of Yours as Bala Gopala in Vrindavana may ever be manifest in my heart, for what is the use to me of any other boon besides this?” (Shri Damodarashtaka, 4)

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You’ve likely played this game before. It involves choosing a place to live. Take money out of the equation. That’s always the greatest barrier anyway. You’d love to live in a nice area, but the housing prices alone keep you out. Then there are the property taxes to deal with. In this game, imagine that money is not a factor. Which place would you choose? Satyavrata Muni picks a place that likely wouldn’t make the top choice on most lists.

[cold of winter]There are several factors to consider. Weather is surely one of them. You wouldn’t want to live some place where it’s cold year round. The colder areas are more towards the north, which means that the rising and setting of the sun is a little off schedule too. In the summer you can go entire days without seeing darkness. That’s nice, but then you have to contend with the opposite situation in the winter. Imagine how you would feel if you didn’t see the sun for two weeks.

You can live near the ocean or you can pick a place more inland. The ocean is nice. It’s soothing. It reminds you of the higher nature. It reinforces the fact that compared to the whole earth the individual is miniscule. The ocean brings refreshing breezes, but there is also heightened danger during periods of storm. If there’s a hurricane warning, you definitely have to evacuate first. There is a good chance that you will lose your home as well.

You can live some place where there is a decent climate all year round. No winters to contend with. Hardly any days of rainfall, and it’s not too hot either. But then there’s the danger of earthquakes. That area lies right along a fault line that can shake at any moment. You could also pick a place where your family members live, but then the nature of life is such that people move. Will you go with them? What if you don’t like the area where they go?

Satyavrata Muni chooses a farm community set in an ancient time period as his preferred home. Forget not having wifi and cell phones, there isn’t even electricity. Everything is done by hand. You have to get your food the old fashioned way: farming. There is no meat to be found, as the animals aren’t killed. There is an abundance of cows. The milk from one cow alone can feed an entire family, and this community has hundreds of thousands of cows. They all live very happily, enjoying the company of their young. This means that there is an abundance of milk products.

[cows]Not that the people hanker much for things, but they get other items by trading these milk products. Though the area is undeveloped according to the modern standard, it is very beautiful. There is natural beauty all around. There are many neighboring forests, and there is no shortage of things necessary to maintain life.

Though the economic condition is good, it is not the reason for Satyavrata’s decision. There is one darling child in particular living there who is responsible for the entire atmosphere. Everything doesn’t come together by accident. The cows aren’t happy just on their own. The people don’t live peacefully among themselves, free from envy, without a cause. The center of the town is Yashoda’s son. He is the darling to everyone, not just His own family. He is so endearing that whatever He does delights the residents.

He is known as the butter thief. He comes into each home and takes whatever butter is stocked away. The women try to hide their butter from Him, but then He hatches elaborate schemes to find them. When they complain to His mother, the boy shows fake innocence. This delights the women even more.

[Lord Krishna]The boy is known as the son of Nanda Maharaja and mother Yashoda. He is known as the all-attractive one. He is also known as the one who was tied by the belly. This name, Damodara, refers to the time Yashoda tied Him to a mortar as punishment for breaking a pot of yogurt. Satyavrata Muni chooses this particular time and incident as his most preferred residence.

Before going any further, we should acknowledge that the sage isn’t crazy. He knows that there is a God. Indeed, he knows that the Supreme Lord can offer any benediction, all the way up to liberation. The less intelligent don’t know this. In the abstract definition of God, the Supreme is simply an order supplier. Sort of like a popular online retailer, He is there to grant benedictions like fortune, long life, and good health.

The more intelligent know that God is also Mukunda, or the person who grants mukti. Mukti is the boon of liberation, freedom from the repetitive cycle of birth and death. Forget wanting stuff and then swearing off of it later, just get out of the cycle altogether. God can grant this reward, and Satyavrata is aware of it.

Still, he asks only to remember Damodara in Gokula, part of the larger area known as Vrindavana. He doesn’t want anything else. He makes this decision with full intelligence. He knows that no area in any world is perfect. All circumstances are temporary and all relationships don’t stand the test of time. He knows that the Supreme Lord’s association is different; it is both everlasting and the source of the highest pleasure.

[Krishna with mother Yashoda]Damodara is most endearing since He shows how much under the control of the devotees God is. That display makes the bond of affection even tighter to Him. That bond cannot be broken. Mother Yashoda will always love Krishna, no matter where He is. She is never prevented from offering that affection, and neither is anyone else who feels the same way towards Krishna. Satyavrata’s desire is met and the boon is passed on to so many others through his famous Damodarashtaka.

In Closing:

Earthquake at any time to unfold,

Another area ravaged by bitter cold.


One place with summer heat to give,

But empty when no friends there to live.


For muni a farm community space,

With Yashoda’s son, most favorite place.


Mukunda any benediction can grant,

So why this residence to Satyavrata He can’t?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Giver of Liberation

[Krishna with Yashoda]“O Lord, although You are able to give all kinds of benedictions, I do not pray to You for the boon of impersonal liberation, nor the highest liberation of eternal life in Vaikuntha, nor any other boon (which may be obtained by executing the nine processes of bhakti). O Lord, I simply wish that this form of Yours as Bala Gopala in Vrindavana may ever be manifest in my heart, for what is the use to me of any other boon besides this?” (Shri Damodarashtaka, 4)

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What do you think is the highest reward? There is the classic game of getting three wishes. It goes something like this: Suppose a magic lamp appears before you. You decide to rub it, and then a genie pops out. They ask you to make three wishes. If you were in this situation, what would you choose? Be careful, for once you’ve used them up you can’t ask for more. The Damodarashtaka says that even the highest reward in a material existence is nothing compared to the sight of an adorable child tied to a mortar in the courtyard of a loving mother living in Vrindavana.

You could ask for religiosity.

“Dear genie, please allow me to be dutiful to the tradition I inherited from my parents. There is something good about being religious. I want to show others that I believe in God. I want to convince myself as well that I am a good person. Let there be no lapse in respecting the duties prescribed to me.”

You could ask for economic development.

“Dear genie, please let me earn a lot of money. I want to make so much because then I will not have any worries. I see how much people struggle in this world. I see the pathetic images on television of those in other, less developed nations. Let me not end up like them.”

You could ask for sense gratification.

“Dear genie, please let me enjoy as much as possible. I want a beautiful spouse, children to play with, and very nice things. I’ve got my eye on this car. Let me have it along with so many other things. If I don’t have stuff, of what use is money? I want to enjoy life to the fullest.”

One of the many names for God provided in the Vedic tradition is Mukunda. One meaning to this name is “giver of liberation.” Mukti is liberation. It is the enjoyment that is on the flip side of bhukti. Bhukti is the enjoyment of objects in this world and mukti is the enjoyment that comes from renouncing everything. Moksha is a term similar to mukti. It means “release.” It is the end to the cycle of birth and death. After moksha, you have no need for religiosity, economic development, or sense gratification.

Moksha is considered the highest reward in a material existence precisely because of how difficult it is to get. Imagine having the ability to not get angry when others curse at you. That time that your wife really rips into you, where she brings up every mistake you’ve made in the past - think of not getting swayed in the least. Imagine being the same in temperament whether you get praise or dishonor.

jitātmanaḥ praśāntasya
paramātmā samāhitaḥ
tathā mānāpamānayoḥ

“For one who has conquered the mind, the Supersoul is already reached, for he has attained tranquility. To such a man happiness and distress, heat and cold, honor and dishonor are all the same.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.7)

[Mukunda]This equanimity is very difficult to achieve. Moksha brings a steady existence that is free of ups and downs. In one sense it is nothingness, though individuality can never be totally annihilated. In the Damodarashtaka, the author readily acknowledges that God is Mukunda. He knows that the Lord can grant moksha very easily, should He be pleased. Even Lord Shiva, who is like God but in a slightly different form, can grant moksha.

The author asks only to have Bala Gopala manifest in his heart. The person here knows that they will always be an individual. Whether they take birth as an animal or as a human being, they are not so worried. They are not concerned with mukti, of which there are five kinds. In one of them you get an opulent body that looks identical to God’s form of Narayana.

“A pure devotee does not accept any kind of liberation - salokya, sarshti, samipya, sarupya or ekatva - even though they are offered by the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.29.13)

[Narayana]So God can give you a form like His. In that realm, known as Vaikuntha, everyone looks the same, and the only way you can distinguish God is by looking for the Shrivatsa, which is the mark of His consort Lakshmi that remains in His chest. So God can grant even this kind of liberation, and who will not accept it?

The bhaktas are aware of the spiritual version of liberation. Mukti itself is a kind of material thing, since it is basically the negation of a material existence. True liberation is love for God, which the author has and hopes to always keep. He loves the form of Bala Gopala, which is Krishna in His childhood form in Vrindavana. Mother Yashoda bound Him with ropes of affection to a mortar as punishment one time.

[Krishna with mother Yashoda]For thousands of years wise saints and poets have been trying to figure out that incident. They marvel at how a loving mother can do that to God, how she can be so fortunate. They continue to appreciate Krishna for allowing it to happen. They are liberated simply by remembering that incident, and they know that since Krishna is Mukunda, He can give anything. Therefore they ask to have this form remain in their hearts, allowing them to stay liberated in bhakti though apparently living in a material existence.

In Closing:

Forgetting rewards of life four,

When Bala Gopala to adore.


Genie in magic lamp can come,

But devotee to ask for wishes none.


Yashoda’s darling son longing just for,

Image in their pure hearts to store.


Mukunda to offer liberation real,

Merging in oneness to bhakta no appeal.