Ancient Parenting Guide

Mother Yashoda and Krishna“Mother Yashoda saw that her child felt sleepy, and to give Him all facilities for sleep, she lay down with the child, and when He was peaceful, she got up to attend to her other household affairs.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.7.5 Purport)

It’s strange to think that you can get advice on parenting from a book written around five thousand years ago. Stranger even yet to get the information from a book which was originally passed on through the hearing process in an assembly focused on meeting the spiritual needs of a dying king. This king wasn’t debilitated in his hearing or moving abilities, but he knew that he didn’t have much longer to live. Pressed for time, to taste the fruit of his existence, to relish all that life had to offer in the remaining hours of his time within his body, he wanted to hear about the most important subject matter, information that would delight his heart both in the moment and in the future. The discussion that resulted became known as the Shrimad Bhagavatam, and its most confidential and heartwarming message could be found in its tenth canto.

Why wait until the tenth section before uncovering the precious gem, the good stuff? Well, is the best part of a movie revealed at the beginning? Is the climax of a frenzied plotline situated at the beginning of the story? As further background information is provided, as familiarity with the characters increases, the audience member’s interest increases, with the story catching hold of their attention. Once that attention is there, the heart of the story can be understood and enjoyed that much more. If we were to walk into a movie theater playing the last scenes of a movie, what could we gain by watching the screen? But later on, if we were to watch the movie from the beginning, the same exact scene viewed by the same exact pair of eyes would provide much more meaning.

Lord KrishnaFor context reasons the “good stuff” about the hero of the Bhagavatam, who also happens to be the fountainhead of all energies and the reason for our existence, for our having a life breath and the ability to express emotion, wasn’t fully revealed until the tenth canto. As good things come to those who wait, one who reaches the tenth canto relishes the childhood pastimes of Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the foremost worshipable figure for every person. The atheists will claim that man created God out of a need for coping with the realities of life. Krishna, to them, is just a folk hero, a tribal leader whose qualities were later exaggerated to mythological proportions through storytelling and tradition. Yet regardless of man’s spiritual inclination, the troubles of life will be present. Even if out of ignorance one takes Krishna to be a tribal hero, hearing about Him and following the teachings of those who safeguard the information of the Vedic texts provide benefits. The same can’t be said of the reverse situation.

What does this mean exactly? The atheists will posit their own theories about life and what it should focus on. Since there is no absolute authority figure amongst such speculators, each person’s guess is as good as another’s. By rule, this means that both the thief and the honest man not following authorized spiritual traditions can claim to be correct in their assertions. The thief lives off of stealing while the pious person respects other people’s property. This is just one example of a dichotomy, but with many more people added to the mix, you get a bevy of conflicting systems of maintenance, religions in their own right.

One who is inclined towards spirituality, however, cannot benefit from the recommendations put forth by the gross materialists, those who have no desire to understand God or follow His teachings. The recommendations calling for satisfying the senses through illicit sex, gambling, intoxication and meat eating have no applicability to those looking to hear the sweet nectar that is Krishna-katha, or talks about God. In a similar manner, the opposite end of the materially concocted systems of maintenance, full renunciation, also has no appeal to the devotees of God. One side indulges in sense gratification with relative moral principles, while the other wholly rejects sense indulgence. One side looks for pleasure in a night club filled with smoke and alcohol, while another wants a life akin to seclusion, not having any contact with material nature whatsoever.

Neither of these extremes alone can provide pleasure to the soul, which is always looking for ananda, or bliss. The same atheists will continue searching for that elusive pleasure, the lasting peace of mind so desperately craved. They will keep turning over different stones in the form of new systems of maintenance, only to fail every time by following them. On the other hand, with devotion to Krishna comes knowledge of the ancillary aspects of life, which help to maintain happiness. Both the atheist and the devotee like to praise others, but only the devotee praises Shri Krishna, whose attributes are limitless. Both the atheist and devotee like to eat, but only the devotee eats Krishna prasadam, food in the mode of goodness first offered to the deity of Shri Krishna. Both parties indulge in hearing, for the mind takes pleasure in learning about the activities others take part in. Only the devotee, however, hears about Krishna regularly and thus finds no limit to the amount of pleasure they can derive, day after day.

Krishna activitiesIn this way, even if the flawed assumption of man creating God is accepted, the path of the devotees is always superior. Man must act after all; he must seek pleasure. This is true regardless of one’s spiritual inclination. Through accessing the sacred texts like the Shrimad Bhagavatam, one purifies the hearing process and remains satisfied within the mind. From bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, comes the ability to remain peaceful, calm, satisfied in eating, healthy, and generally of good cheer. Who isn’t looking for these qualities? Moreover, knowledge of even important topics like child rearing is found through devotion.

Does the Bhagavatam contain a section on this specifically? No, but through hearing about Krishna such information automatically descends upon those who need it. As the Supreme Lord of all, Krishna comes to earth whenever He sees fit. In the Dvapara Yuga, He came in His original self, while outwardly imitating the growth cycles of an ordinary human being. His childhood years were spent in the farm community of Vrindavana, with Yashoda, the wife of the king Nanda, acting as Krishna’s foster mother.

Yashoda was the ideal mother. She followed the Vedic traditions tied to the rearing of a child. The soul is the essence of identity, and the human form of life is meant for the recognition of that fact. Once we have knowledge of the proper identity, we can act upon it and thus achieve a most suitable end. Every prescribed Vedic regulation is meant to further that goal of enlightenment, to increase the chances that the soul will no longer have to take birth in a temporary realm. At the same time, by following the prescribed guidelines, man will have less hesitancy and find pleasure at every step in life.

Rather than reference a book on how to raise her child, Yashoda just used her knowledge of Vedic traditions and her supreme love for her beloved Krishna, who was the darling of Vrindavana. When young Krishna reached three months old, she held a bathing ceremony in his honor, to mark the first time her sweetheart would leave the house. After the ceremony, she stayed with Krishna until He became sleepy. She lay down with Him and waited for Him to fall asleep. After that, she got up to attend to her household chores.

Mother Yashoda and KrishnaOnly when the child was peacefully asleep, seeing His mother right before closing His eyes, did Yashoda get up to take care of the rest of her duties. It should be noted that this is a standard practice followed by mothers who learn the ropes with their young children, but it’s interesting to see that one can also learn about it from hearing Krishna-katha. The benefit of learning the tips of parenting in this way is that when one has their own child, they can liken their experiences with them to what Mother Yashoda shared with Krishna. By remaining with Krishna until He fell asleep, Yashoda ensured that when she would take on the rest of her work for the day, she would be constantly tied to the Supreme Lord in consciousness. As this is the aim of yoga practice, we can understand that the queen of Vraja was the perfect yogi in every respect.

This incident also shows that Krishna purposefully acts in such a way that the sincere souls are forced into yoga, even if they are not explicitly trying for it. Indeed, Krishna is the order supplier for every type of desire, even those of the atheists. Those desiring to forget the Supreme Lord are cast into the material ocean of nescience, where they get to repeatedly attempt to extract the juice out of tired and decayed activities. The theories of there being no God or God being created by man are also Krishna’s grace, as He is both the forgetfulness and remembrance of man.

“I am seated in everyone’s heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas am I to be known; indeed I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.15)

If Shyamasundara can aid the atheists in their intense desire to associate with material nature, why shouldn’t He help the sincere souls who not only acknowledge God’s presence, but look for ways to connect with Him? This brings up a tricky part about spirituality. If we are fortunate enough to know that God exists and that He is all-powerful, what do we do after that? Do we continue with our ways and just try to remember that God is watching? Do we follow perfunctory rituals and regulations and then hope that in the afterlife everything will be alright?

Mother Yashoda with KrishnaThe bhakti-yoga formula allows for constant connection with the Supreme Lord through activities we are already accustomed to. Someone can even act as God’s mother if they should be so desirous. And in that role they will get a son who is perfect in every respect, knowing just how to act to extract the loving sentiments that the mother or father is itching to release. Bhakti begins with the hearing process, where one listens to discourses about the Supreme Lord and His activities from authorized sources, those who themselves follow bhakti as a way of life. Then to continue the hearing process, to stay connected with Krishna in even circumstances where it seems difficult, one can chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

Sincerity in purpose does wonders in bhakti. The more one is sincere to remain in yoga, the more they are helped by the Supreme Personality of Godhead and His representatives. The more desirous one becomes to occupy Krishna’s time through gaining His attention and association, the more knowledgeable they become of how to keep that link going. Mother Yashoda remained in perfect yoga by tending to her beloved young child, who cannot be captured solely by meditation, sacrifice, penance, study of Vedanta, or the acquisition of material opulence. Only through transcendental love offered in full sincerity can Krishna remain within the mind and heart at all times.

In Closing:

Yashoda’s beloved son past three months old today,

Brahmanas came to the house to celebrate the day.

While He falls asleep, Yashoda with Krishna stays,

Remembering His lila and how on field He plays.

She tends to her chores after her son has fallen asleep,

Then vision of the Supreme Lord in her mind does she keep.

As a perfect mother Yashoda sets the example,

Of her endless glories from Bhagavatam we get a sample.

Regardless of your persuasion, to Krishna-katha lend an ear,

Of the Supreme Lord’s activities and bhakti do you hear.

You will benefit even if man created God you think,

Immersed in transcendental nectar your ignorance will sink.

Categories: krishna pastimes

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