“It is to be understood that among all the cows of Nanda Maharaja, several of mother Yashoda’s cows ate only grasses so flavorful that the grasses would automatically flavor the milk. Mother Yashoda wanted to collect the milk from these cows, make it into yogurt and churn it into butter personally, since she thought that this child Krishna was going to the houses of neighborhood gopas and gopis to steal butter because He did not like the milk and yogurt ordinarily prepared.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.9.1-2 Purport)
Though living in an ancient time when women were not provided a formal education, Mother Yashoda did not just sit around the house and do nothing. Neither was she compelled into doing household chores for the pleasure of her husband. Rather, as the most exalted mother in the world, she had the pleasure of dedicating her efforts towards the happiness of her beloved son, who happened to be the delight of Vrindavana. Yashoda’s husband Nanda was the king of Gokula, a quiet little community that was graced with the presence of the creator of this and every other world. In the mother’s possession were many cows, several of whom preferred to eat only grass so flavorful that the wonderful taste would automatically be passed on to the milk that was produced. Mother Yashoda personally worked hard to ensure that her son was satisfied in every way, thereby proving that yoga doesn’t have to involve meditation, painful sitting postures, or explicit study of philosophy. And neither is yoga reserved for a specific class of human beings. The requirement for gaining the highest type of salvation is the devotional attachment that naturally springs forth from exalted beings like Mother Yashoda, whose transcendental affection permeates every one of her activities, including something as trivial as churning butter.
What is at the heart of yoga? The consciousness, which consists of thoughts and desires formulated over many experiences, is the key ingredient in finding pain or pleasure. We can be sitting in an empty room without any outside influence to affect us and still somehow find an unpleasant condition. How is this possible? The mind, of course. If the mind is worried about the future, constantly looking at the clock to see when the boring situation will come to an end, how can there be anything but misery while locked within the confines of a solitary room?
On the other hand, if you place a television in the same room, add a couple of companions and some food and drink to consume, you can stay in the same place for hours on end, repeating the cycle of sedentary behavior day after day, year after year until you age quite considerably. Though the difference in circumstances seems to be externally influenced, what has really changed is the position of the consciousness. With the safety of knowing that there is variety in engagement, the mind can jump from one thought to another, completely forgetting that there is no movement of the body and that the same room is occupied for hours on end.
It is the very consciousness that yoga aims to tackle. With a consciousness connected to the divine stream of thought, any situation can turn into a pleasurable one. Imagine attending a sporting event. You have some people who are keenly interested in the outcome of the game, while you have other onlookers who were dragged to the event by their friends or spouses. The actions on the main stage are the same regardless, but based on the disposition of the consciousness, a person can either be extremely delighted or terribly bored.
“That supreme abode is called unmanifested and infallible, and it is the supreme destination. When one goes there, he never comes back. That is My supreme abode.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.21)
With yoga, the mind is transported to the divine realm, which is similar to the present land except that the nature of the manifestation is different. Since the qualities of the energy are of a different type, the spiritual land is sometimes described as unmanifested, while the realm we currently occupy is described as manifested. This doesn’t mean that the higher land can’t be seen; for otherwise what would be the purpose in giving it the qualification of spiritual? Something can only have qualities if those features can be identified. If an object lacks features, it ceases being an object.
In the spiritual land, everything is dovetailed with devotion to the Supreme Lord, the origin of all creatures. If God is the origin of everything, isn’t the present land we occupy also part of Him? Therefore aren’t the activities engaged in by the countless living creatures automatically linked to God? The difference in the spiritual land is that there is no forgetfulness of the origin. Rather, the unbroken remembrance of God ensures that whatever is available to the individuals is used in the proper manner. Consciousness is tied to the Supreme Lord and thus there is yoga, which results in every activity being instigated by the desire to keep that connection active.
In the material land, however, the link is broken, or at least forgotten. If it isn’t even active, how can any activity be driven by the desire to maintain it? We only fill up gasoline in a working car. If the automobile cannot start, what is the point to maintaining it? Without a consciousness dovetailed to the Supreme Lord’s interests, there can never be any activity devoted to God. Objects of matter are therefore called “maya” in a land where the living beings are not in yoga.
“Thus practicing control of the body, mind and activities, the mystic transcendentalist attains to the kingdom of God [or the abode of Krishna] by cessation of material existence.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 6.15)
So, how do we practice yoga? One way is to limit the influence of the external objects around us. If you want to get the stalled car working again, you won’t put things in the gas tank that don’t belong there. In a similar manner, the living beings are spirit at their core, so matter has nothing to do with their identity. This means that any outside influence that only operates on matter becomes inhibiting. One way to practice yoga is to curb the influence of outside forces. A quick way to do this is to renounce the fast paced life of the cities and suburbs and take shelter in the wilderness or on a high mountain.
The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, provide guidelines and instructions on how to properly practice this type of yoga. Some of the details are covered by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita, even though the work does not center around the yoga of this variety. It is briefly mentioned to give those who are too attached to the senses a viable option for gaining entry into the divine consciousness. Yoga through meditation involves sitting erect and focusing the mind on the Supersoul residing within. The individual soul belongs to the person occupying the body, and there is another more powerful soul resting next to the individual soul within the heart. The Supreme Soul, or Paramatma, belongs to God. The aim of yoga practice becomes pretty simple: connect with the Supersoul, or God, who already resides within you.
The difficulties with this type of yoga are too many to count. For starters, it must be a fulltime engagement, not some exercise routine you take up for fifteen minutes a day. If you want to be connected in consciousness to God, how can breaking that trance ever be beneficial? It’s so difficult to even get into the proper mood to begin with, and then by separating from it periodically, the devotion to the engagement wanes.
Other types of yoga involve study of the differences between matter and spirit and renouncing the fruits of action. If I eat a large meal at lunch but then exercise strenuously at night to burn off the calories, the negative reactions of the eating are essentially wiped clean. By renouncing the fruits of material work for the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord, the most harmful reaction of attachment to the senses gets removed. In this way one can gradually break free from the material forces and create a lifestyle more conducive to purifying consciousness.
The best yoga of course is bhakti, or devotion. Bhakti is all-inclusive. It can involve any type of activity, including meditation and study. The best way to learn about bhakti is to study the examples of those who practice it perfectly. Mother Yashoda is one such example, as she is so immersed in bhakti that she doesn’t even consider herself a transcendentalist. Rather, her only engagement is to remain connected with God. With this focus, how can she even consider any other type of activity? In bhakti, the material elements don’t exist. Rather, every type of manifested object gets spiritualized by its being used for the Lord’s pleasure.
In Mother Yashoda’s case, she used the pretext of performing household chores to remain connected in the mind with her son. Lord Krishna, the original personality of Godhead, descended to earth and roamed the sacred land of Vrindavana some five thousand years ago. The real benefit of Krishna’s advent is the association He grants to the liberated souls. To enhance the experience, Krishna goes through seemingly ordinary activities but performs them with His natural splendor, which is impossible to cover up.
Yashoda was Krishna’s foster mother, for the Lord was transported to Vrindavana immediately after appearing from the womb of Mother Devaki. Yashoda’s son loved to steal butter from the neighbors when He was a small child, for He knew that others would delight in His pranks. Mother Yashoda, of course, thought that maybe the butter and milk products she was producing in her home weren’t good enough for Krishna. There is nothing more heartwarming than seeing a sincere display of affection directed towards a proper recipient. When the beneficiary of that love is the Supreme Lord, the positive influence of that association is augmented exponentially.
“When Krishna and Balarama are caught stealing the yogurt and butter, They say, ‘Why do you charge us with stealing? Do you think that butter and yogurt are in scarcity in our house?’” (Gopis complaining to Mother Yashoda, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 8 )
Krishna never complained about what He was fed at home. Indeed, when the neighbors would level accusations of stealing against Him, the Lord would reply with rhetorical questions referencing how He had plenty of butter in His own home. Nevertheless, Mother Yashoda thought that Krishna wasn’t being loved properly. She was always anxious to find new ways to please Him; such is her glorious nature. Her bhakti never stops, even if Krishna tells her that He has been satisfied. Shri Krishna is so kind that He creates more and more opportunities for His mother’s love to flow. Her churning of butter specifically for Krishna’s benefit shows that there is no need for breaking out of yoga. As the Lord says in the Bhagavad-gita, by doing everything for Him and dedicating all Your activities to Him, you will gradually come to Him. Mother Yashoda was already with Krishna, and by keeping her dedication strong, the Lord was so much pleased with her.
Mother Yashoda, bad does she feel,
That her son butter from neighbors did steal.
Perhaps the cause of the young child’s flight,
Was that cooking of mother He didn’t like.
Therefore because of love for Krishna in heart yearning,
The butter from special cows she took to churning.
Concentration on the delights of her son did not break,
Thus her mind a wonderful transcendental home did make.
Yoga in meditation or knowledge she did not need,
With her love the Supreme Lord she got to always feed.
With the divine consciousness is yoga meant to connect,
No hint of material desire in Yashoda will you detect.
In yoga she proves to be perfect in every way,
In mind she stays with young Krishna every single day.
Categories: krishna pastimes