Forgetfulness With a Purpose

Yashoda with Krishna“Although mother Yashoda understood the whole philosophy of life, at the next moment she was overwhelmed by affection for her son by the influence of yogamaya. Unless she took care of her son Krishna, she thought, how could He be protected? She could not think otherwise, and thus she forgot all her philosophical speculations.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.8.43 Purport)

Mother Yashoda saw the universal form inside the mouth of her son. Such a vision is sought out by the neophyte transcendentalist, who is desirous of having God appear before them in an instant. The macrocosmic form does exist, though it is impossible to conceptualize, sort of like looking at the world’s largest number in a numeral representation. There are no commas in this number either, so just to properly speak out the value is nearly impossible. In the same way, to see the universal form is not possible with materially conditioned eyes, which require external aid in the form of sunlight just to be able to see the immediate vicinity. Mother Yashoda was granted the benediction of this wonderful vision, but right afterwards the effect of yogamaya returned, and she went back to having maternal affection for her son.

Why the return? If we’re interested in seeing God, why would we want to return to ignorance after the divine vision was granted to us? Yashoda’s reaction to the vision was noteworthy, and so it was recorded in the sacred Shrimad Bhagavatam, a classic Vedic text that uniquely presents the discipline of bhagavata-dharma, or devotional service. Dharma can be likened to religiosity or religion, but in the actual definition the term means an essential characteristic. For the spirit soul, the essence of identity, the underlying characteristics never change. There is bliss and knowledge coupled with eternality.

Dharma gets equated with religion and religiosity because though the underlying features are present eternally, they can sometimes fall into a dormant state. One way to understand this is to look to the example of the rich person who suddenly forgets they are wealthy. If you have millions of dollars in the bank, why should you fret over meeting the monthly bills? Why should you slave over a nine-to-five job when you have enough money to last you many lifetimes? If someone were to act off of this forgetfulness, they would be considered unwise. To bring the knowledge of that wealth back to memory, education is required. Hence the system of education can be thought of as a dharma, a way to bring back the original position.

Of course the bank balance is only temporary, as are many other conditions that we base identity on. The qualities of bliss and knowledge for the spirit soul are permanent, so as soon as remembrance of those qualities is awakened, there is everlasting happiness. Hence real dharma is not sectarian nor is it applicable to only a few. There are high and low births based on the conditions one receives upon first emerging from the womb, but these are like the different starting positions in a race. The person at the pole has the head start, and thus a better chance at winning the race, but the position alone doesn’t guarantee victory. The person all the way in the back still has an opportunity to win.

With dharma, every person can become a winner. A birth in a cultured family or one that is spiritually conscious is like the pole position, while birth in a family of drunkards and sense gratifiers is like starting in the back. Nevertheless, the original dharma is the same, and so the eternal occupation of the soul is known as sanatana-dharma. It has no beginning and no end and it is applicable to every single person. The steps required for realizing one’s constitutional position may be broken down into categories and stages, tailored to account for time and circumstance, but the end-goal is still the same.

When Yashoda saw the vision of the universal form within the mouth of her young child, she immediately felt humbled. Prior to this, she had an attachment to her family members and possessions. She thought that the land she stood on was hers and that the cows on that land belonged to her family. But seeing the entire creation, with its many planets and presiding deities, she could understand that the living beings represent but only a tiny fragment of the giant whole. In the grand scheme they are rather insignificant, and they have very little control over the outcomes to events. In this state of humility, she simply prayed to the Supreme Lord, asking for His favor and kindness. She acquired a sense of detachment, knowing that to worry over trivial issues on a day-to-day basis is not worthwhile, as nothing can be done without the divine master’s sanction.

But then in an instant, that same boy who magically created the sparkling vision within His mouth took the veil of yogamaya and covered his mother’s consciousness with it. Isn’t this a bad thing? Why take her away from her true dharma? She had reached the position of enlightenment just through appreciating a vision. So many are seeking out that vision, as in the initial stage of spiritual realization the tendency is to ask to see God. “Where are You? If You really exist, You’d show Yourself to me.” Unknown to the seeker is that God is all around, and that the very concept of seeing is evidence of His existence. The universal form, which is likened to an impersonal manifestation, is very easily brought to the scene by the Supreme Lord, but seeing God is not the end. Nor is the Supreme Lord some cheap sideshow that appears just to dazzle people for a few brief moments.

Yashoda’s return to motherly affection revealed that she was above the basic appreciation of God through an awe-inspiring vision. The soul is blissful, knowledgeable and eternal, and with those features it takes to service. The soul is happiest when it is serving. This fact cannot be denied, as all throughout society, stretching beyond national and sectarian boundaries, there is the tendency towards service. The mother serves the child, the wife the husband, the student the teacher, the community leader the constituent, the voluntary soldier the nation, and so on. The wealthiest individuals take to service when they don’t know what to do with their money, as personal enjoyment alone doesn’t bring much happiness.

Yashoda returned to serving her son, and normally this mindset is below reverential worship of God’s cosmic manifestation. But in this instance her son was the very same God, the original form of Him no less. Thus to have affection for Him is the highest kind of service. Yogamaya was brought to the scene because Yashoda would enjoy serving God more in motherly affection than in veneration. This is true of all living entities as well, as the devotional attitude of shanta-rasa, or worship in neutrality, is not as pleasurable as other rasas, or transcendental mellows.

Krishna and YashodaYashoda and her husband Nanda were immersed in vatsalya-rasa, devotional service in the attitude of parental affection. They wanted to protect Krishna, though He was already protecting them and their entire community. They wanted to feed Krishna sumptuous delights, though He never gets hungry. They put valuable ornaments on His body to enhance His beauty, though He is already the most beautiful person in the world. They let Him play with His friends in the Vrindavana forest, though Krishna is self-satisfied. He doesn’t require anyone else’s association to feel pleasure.

Despite His satisfaction in independence, Krishna can still make room for more pleasure. He thus accepts Yashoda’s offerings with great delight. He enjoys so much the company of His closest associates that He will do anything to make them happy. He is the soul of all creatures, the original spiritual storehouse, so He is well acquainted with the dharma of the individual. Yashoda was correct in noting that without the Supreme Lord’s sanction nothing can take place. This holds true in religious pursuits as well. We may sit in meditation, follow strict austerity, perform every recommended ritual, and avoid every behavior tagged as sinful but still not end up successful. This is because the ultimate arbiter is Krishna, who looks for only one thing in the practicing individual: sincerity. When there is sincerity in the desire to be with God, to please Him, and to never leave His company, Krishna takes His energies and lets them work their magic. They worked on Yashoda, and she was never happier.

In Closing:

Follow austerity, meditation and penance bitter,

But for success know that Krishna ultimate arbiter.


When in desire to love Him you are sincere,

His yogamaya potency He will personally steer.


This was seen in mother Yashoda’s case,

Who saw universal manifestation in tiniest space.


From it immediately for God she had appreciation,

But then returned to her motherly affection.


That this love is superior Shri Krishna knows,

Thus to help such devotees He always goes.

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