“Childhood age, childish dress, movements by the child, sweet words spoken by the child, nice smiling and various forms of childish play are considered provocations for increasing the parental love for Krishna.” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 43)
Though a human being goes through many changes in the course of their lifetime, their individuality remains the same throughout. The intelligence level certainly can increase with time, as can a person’s penchant for sinful activity. Nevertheless, the individual is the same, so there is no reason to treat a person any differently based on their age. In fact, there are growing movements and social causes which seek to stop the practice of discrimination based on a person’s age. Though an individual remains the same, it is undoubtedly true that the childhood form is the most conducive for receiving love. By the same token, the same can be said of the Supreme Lord Shri Krishna. From the devotee’s perspective, Krishna’s childhood form is the best when it comes to the offering of love and affection.
Is there a difference in the offering of love to a child versus an adult? Let us do a quick comparison of how we treat the two forms. When a child is first born, there is much attention given to it. The child is helpless after all, so it makes sense that the elders will want to do whatever they can to provide protection to the child, taking care of its every need. Many people go above and beyond this. For example, it’s quite common for adults to make childish sounds and funny faces in front of an infant. “Goo goo, gah gah” and other such strange noises are commonly voiced by the adult when in the presence of a child. Moreover, loving feelings easily flow in this exchange. Even if the child isn’t ours, but only a nephew, grandson, or child of a friend, we can still form a deep attachment. In this way, we see that love is very easy to give to another person if they are in a youthful body.
So what happens when the child grows older? Do we treat them any differently? Surely we do. A child is helpless and ignorant of the ways of the world. An adult, on the other hand, is tasked with greater responsibilities. Upon becoming adults and parents, the same children are now put in charge, and they have to provide for the protection of their dependents. Thus through the aging process, the same child now takes on a completely different form, and as a result, others treat them differently. But has the person inside really changed? Is it not the same loveable child but in a different body? If the individual hasn’t changed, why should we not offer the same level of love and affection?
The reason is that the childhood form is the one most conducive to the offering of worship and love. An adult is viewed to be less innocent, thus they don’t require the same level of attention. Also, if we were to treat an adult the same way that we treat an infant, surely the adult would scoff at our behavior. “Why are you talking to me in that weird voice? Why are you hugging and kissing me?” This dichotomy is better illustrated when dealing with the children of friends and even strangers. Let’s say for example that we’re in a public place like a post office. We’re waiting in line, minding our own business, when the lady in front of us is called to the counter with her two small children. These kids are carefree and not overly concerned with postage rates, shipping methods, and the strict rules and regulations that go with standing in line. In fact, they are so happy that they’ll gladly go up to strangers and talk to them. How do we react in these situations? Most of us will kindly smile back at the children, maybe play with them or ask a few innocent questions.
Now let’s extend this hypothetical situation out several years into the future. Again, we are on the same line at the post office, and the same children walk in. This time, however, they are full grown adults. Will we smile when we look at them? Will they willingly walk up to strangers and start waiving their hands? Obviously this isn’t likely to happen because now that they are adults, inhibitions take over. They aren’t as innocent, so they also start to view others with a little more scrutiny.
In reality though, there should be no difference between the two situations. The parties involved are the same; the only difference lies in the type of body occupied by the living entities. When occupying the body of a small child, a form viewed to be more innocent and accepting of love from others, a person is treated differently than when they occupy the body of an adult. Therefore we can conclude that the childhood form of a human being is the most conducive for the offering of love and affection by others.
This tiny detail can help us a great deal in spiritual life. Scientists, theologians, and great scholars since time immemorial have pondered the meaning of life. Why are we put on this earth? Why is there even an earth? The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, provide the best answers to these questions. The Vedas state that this perishable universe was created by a supreme entity in order to allow subordinate entities the chance to play and imitate the superior’s powers of creation, maintenance, and destruction. Though this perishable universe constantly goes through changes, it remains in existence for as long as the desire for imitation by the subordinate entities remains.
Bearing these facts in mind, the meaning of life becomes obvious: to shed one’s desire to imitate this supreme entity. The subordinate entities take on the forms of human beings, animals, plants, etc. Any form of life is considered subordinate to this supreme entity. This supreme entity goes by many names, the most well-known of which is "God”. The Vedas give a much more specific name for God. He is known as Lord Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Krishna is Bhagavan, one who possesses all auspicious attributes to the fullest degree and at the same time. The subordinate entities, the jiva souls, are similar to Bhagavan in quality, but vastly inferior in quantitative powers. When the jivas desire to imitate the superior, the superior kindly creates a temporary replica of His home. Since this realm is only a replica, a shadow if you will, it only manifests for a set period of time, and is thus inferior in nature to the original.
Simply put, the aim of human life is to return to the original spiritual realm, the place where Krishna lives. Returning to this place is actually quite easy; one merely has to have a sincere desire to go there. If the formula for success is so simple, why are we currently living here instead of in Krishna’s world? The answer is that while the path for returning to the imperishable universe is quite straightforward, hardly anyone has the desire to return. This temporary world has an illusory aspect which fools the subordinate entities into thinking that this land is their permanent home. Obviously if someone feels at home in one place, they are not likely to want to move. Therefore, in order to achieve the ultimate objective in life, one must come to the understanding that one’s real home is in the spiritual world.
How do we come to this understanding? While there are various methods for success, the most effective one is known as bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. This discipline involves dovetailing all of one’s activities with spiritual interests. To practice bhakti-yoga, we have to always be Krishna conscious, performing all of our activities for Krishna’s benefit. This requires a subtle shift in consciousness, for all of us are currently body conscious. We think in terms of “I” and “Mine”, when in reality, Krishna is the owner of everything. Devotional service is the highest spiritual discipline, the most pure and sublime of engagements.
In order to dedicate our activities to Krishna, we have to know who He is. Luckily for us, the Lord personally appeared on this earth some five thousand years ago and enacted many wonderful pastimes. While He roamed the earth for over one hundred years, His most cherished pastimes took place in Vrindavana during His childhood years. How can God be a child? While Krishna is the original form of God, He is still kind enough to expand Himself into an unlimited number of other forms. As many waves as there are in an ocean is how many incarnations there are of Krishna. The incarnations are nice because they allow every person to be attracted to God in some way. The incarnations, known as avataras, also speak to the time and circumstances of society. For example, many millions of years ago, mankind may not have been able to offer service to Krishna directly. Therefore the Lord was kind enough to appear in His fish incarnation of Matsya. Similarly, in another time society was best able to offer service to God in His half-man/half-lion Narasimha avatara.
Since Krishna is God’s original form, He is considered the most attractive. This means that more people will be able to offer their worship to Him than any other form. Ironically enough, even the personality of Krishna has many forms. During His time on earth, the Lord’s body appeared to go through subtle changes, from infancy to childhood, from childhood to boyhood, from boyhood to adulthood, etc. Though the body appeared to be changing, all of these forms are eternal and spiritual. This means that if we worship Krishna of a specific age, that worship can continue forever.
It shouldn’t surprise us that Krishna’s most worshipable form is the one He assumed as a child [bala]. In India, the local shops are filled with pictures of Krishna during this time in His life. In Vrindavana, during His childhood, Krishna performed so many wonderful activities which gave pleasure to all the inhabitants of the town. Mother Yashoda and Nanda Maharaja, Krishna’s foster parents, especially took great pleasure in interacting with this form. Mother Yashoda kindly offered Krishna her breast-milk in addition to dressing Him on a daily basis. As the perfect mother, Yashoda used to cook for Krishna, talk to Him, lay Him down on His bed, call Him home to eat, and offer wonderful prayers around His body while asking for God’s protection.
When seeing pictures of Krishna during this age, one will notice how wonderfully dressed the Lord is. He has beautiful earrings, a nice gem on His chest, a flower garland around His neck, a peacock feather in His hair, ointment [kajal] around His eyes, and armlets around His wrists. The young Krishna was the primary object of worship for all the inhabitants of Vrindavana; therefore they made sure that He was always beautifully dressed. Since Krishna is so naturally attractive, He actually enhanced the beauty of His ornaments. Normally such accessories are meant to augment the appearance of the person wearing them, but with Krishna it was the other way around.
The Lord also spoke very nice words to His parents and other elderly family members and neighbors. Though His words were sometimes broken, the parents didn’t mind at all. They couldn’t believe that they had such a wonderful child. For a devotee, simply thinking of Baby Krishna speaking is enough to give transcendental pleasure for a lifetime. The Lord was also a great prankster, with His most famous naughty activities involving stealing butter and yogurt from the neighbors. Vrindavana was a farm community, so there were plenty of cows around, along with butter and yogurt. Krishna especially loved to sneak into the rooms where this butter was stashed. He and His young friends would devise various plans to make their way into these locked rooms, take the butter, and then feed it to the monkeys. Krishna would be caught regularly, but the elders actually derived great pleasure by seeing this activity of the Lord, even if they would sometimes feign outrage.
Though these events took place thousands of years ago, we can still derive great enjoyment by hearing about them from great devotees or by reading about them in the Shrimad Bhagavatam. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada did a wonderful service to humanity by composing an English version summary study of the tenth canto of the Shrimad Bhagavatam. This work, Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, covers the major events of Krishna’s life, especially focusing on His childhood. It can be considered the best biography of Krishna that is out there. By associating with the Lord in His childhood form, we can offer our love and adoration to the Lord without holding back. Young Krishna is waiting for us to come back to His spiritual world, where we’ll get to play with Him for eternity.