“I bow down to Damodara, the form of full joy, eternity and wisdom, within Vrindavana. Whose shining earrings swung as he so swiftly ran from mother Yashoda who caught that naughty boy.” (Sri Damodarastakam)
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in America. All throughout society, people are wearing pink ribbons and other clothing items of a pink color to show their support for the cause. Organizers hope that such awareness will one day bring a cure to the disease.
There are many different kinds of cancer affecting every type of person, from young to old, black to white, etc. Breast cancer is especially noteworthy since it affects women. In the Vedic tradition, one is taught to view every woman as their mother, except for the wife. The Vedas define seven types of mothers: the guru’s wife, the earth, the birth mother, the wife of a brahmana, the wife of a king, a nurse, and a cow. The importance of a mother is that she provides nurturing and protection to dependents. The cow is considered a mother since it freely provides milk. An infant child can survive simply off the breast milk of the birth mother and the milk of a cow. We would never think of killing our own mother, but society today unhesitatingly sends millions of cows each year to slaughterhouses.
Women, and mothers especially, play an important role in society. They are the pillars of family life. The mode of passion is very strong in men, which leads them out of the house to pursue career interests or involve themselves in sports, gambling, drinking etc. Often times, the responsibility of maintaining a family falls on the wife. Raising children is a full-time job since youngsters require constant attention. In the Vedic tradition, the parents are considered the first object of worship for a person.
“How can we worship our deities, who are not manifest before us, if we neglect the worship of our parents, who stand right before our very eyes?” (Lord Rama speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 30)
We are all born into ignorance. Though we have God’s expansion as Paramatma residing inside of us, we are still clueless about our previous lives when we first take birth. Our parents guide us through the early years, teaching us how to speak, eat, and walk. As stated before, the mother plays an important role in this education. The “soccer mom” phenomenon is not a myth. Mothers usually play an active role in a child’s development, driving them to and from school, making sure they keep up with their studies, and also seeing to it that they are properly fed. Women of the Vedic tradition especially take in interest in the feeding department. When visiting a Hindu household, mothers usually will force feed their guests until they are completely stuffed. They take the same tack with their children.
For all these reasons, we owe a great debt to women and mothers. In this day and age, their duties have been made more difficult by the fact that many of them work outside the home, as a second income is almost required for a household to stay afloat. Raising awareness for breast cancer certainly is a noble idea. There are many different types of cancer, but breast cancer is especially common among older women, i.e. our mothers. According to the statistics, one out of every eight women in the United States is diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lifetime. Throughout the month of October, pink ribbons and pink signs are seen everywhere. In the National Football League, players have come up with all sorts of clever ways to show their support by wearing pink arm bands, socks, sneakers, etc. Raising awareness usually equates to more funding, which can lead to advancements in therapy and treatment.
Among devotees of Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, October is also a special month since it celebrates the life and activities of one special woman in particular, Mother Yashoda. Aside from having the holidays of Diwali and Govardhana Puja, the month of October, also known as Karitka in the Vedic calendar which is based off the lunar cycle, is considered very auspicious. In this month, devotees celebrate the famous pastime of Mother Yashoda binding baby Krishna to a mortar with a rope. This form of the Lord is referred to as Damodara. As the Lord states in the Bhagavad-gita, from time to time He personally comes to earth to provide protection to His devotees:
“Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion-at that time I descend Myself.” (Bg 4.7)
Around five thousand years ago, the Lord personally came in His original form to kill the evil demon Kamsa. Though born of the womb of Mother Devaki, Krishna was transferred to Vrindavana immediately after His birth so that He could be hidden from Kamsa. A prophecy had warned King Kamsa that Devaki’s eighth son would kill him, so he was anxiously awaiting Krishna’s birth, so that he could kill the child. Krishna’s birth father, Vasudeva, fearing Kamsa, brought baby Krishna from Mathura to Vrindavana, where He would be raised in His early years by Nanda Maharaja and Mother Yashoda.
Krishna’s foster parents must certainly have been very pious in their previous lives. Most people worship God in a subordinate relationship, viewing Him as the Supreme Father. The Lord, however, prefers to be served as a dependent by His devotees. For this reason, He gives the most exalted devotees the chance to serve Him as a parent or guardian. Mother Yashoda was one such devotee. In Krishna’s childhood, He was quite naughty, performing many childish pranks. Parents derive so much pleasure from the youthful activities of their children, so Krishna wanted Yashoda to be delighted by His transcendental pastimes. On one occasion, the Lord was being breast fed by Yashoda, when she noticed that the yogurt she had on the stove was about to overflow. She put Krishna aside and went to tend to the pot. Krishna pretended to be angered by this distraction, so He broke a pot of yogurt and then ran away. Yashoda came back to find the broken pot and figured that Krishna had broken it. She went looking for her young child and eventually found Him distributing butter to monkeys.
This incident is actually very significant, as are all of the Lord’s activities. In His previous incarnation as Lord Rama, monkeys helped God by serving as His army in His battle against the Rakshasa demon Ravana, who had kidnapped Rama’s wife Sita. God never forgets service performed for Him, so it wasn’t surprising to find Him personally distributing prasadam to monkeys in His next incarnation. So after seeing that Krishna broke a pot of yogurt and then broke into a stash of butter, she decided to teach her son a lesson by binding Him with a rope. God actually can never be bound to anything, but Krishna is so kind that He allowed Yashoda to perform her motherly duties. This display of Krishna’s mercy is so heartwarming that devotees celebrate it every year in the month of Kartika.
While raising awareness for breast cancer can certainly be helpful to the cause, what would be even more beneficial to society is for there to be Krishna awareness. Krishna is God, and if we are always thinking of Him, then we are making the most of our valuable human form of life. Disease is guaranteed in material life, as are birth, old age, and death. Even if we find a cure for cancer, that doesn’t mean all our problems are solved. The aim of human life is to find a permanent end to the repeated cycle of birth and death. This can only be accomplished by becoming Krishna conscious. So may we always honor and respect all the great Vaishnava mothers, including Mother Yashoda. May Lord Damodara continue to bestow His mercy on us all.