“When he was in the womb of his mother, Prahlada Maharaja listened to the words of Narada Muni. One cannot imagine how the baby in embryo could hear Narada, but this is spiritual life; progress in spiritual life cannot be obstructed by any material condition.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.7.1 Purport)
Madri was overjoyed. Finally, her dream had come true. In fact, it was the dream shared by both she and her husband.
“Mom, it finally happened,” said an excited Madri over the phone to her mother. “You are going to be a grandmother!” Her mother was thrilled beyond belief. That night Madri and her husband had her mother and father over for dinner. They were the new proud grandparents-to-be. They had been waiting for this day.
“Now, you’re going to have to prepare for many big changes,” advised Madri’s mother, who was always in a parental mood around her daughter. “Your body is going to change. Your mood swings will be sudden and often. You will have to be very patient.”
As a few months went by, the words from the mother bore out on schedule. There was morning sickness, sudden cravings for food, and wild mood swings.
“Mom, I don’t know how you dealt with this four times. I’m having trouble, and this is only my first child,” Madri said to her mother one day over the phone. “The other day Vijay brought home some flowers for me and it made me so happy I started to cry. Then he said he was going out that night for his weekly bowling match with his friends. All of a sudden I started yelling at him uncontrollably. Later on I apologized, but I wish I could have better control over myself.”
“I think I have just the thing for you,” responded the mother. “I’ll come over sometime tomorrow. In the meantime, try to stay calm. The key is to be active. You don’t want to sit around all the time. I know it’s tough carrying my grandchild, and so it’s easier to not do anything. If you stay active, however, it’ll be better for both you and your child. You should also avoid spicy foods.”
The next day Madri’s mother paid a visit. Madri noticed that she had an extra bag with her. “What’s that, Mom? Did you bring me a gift?” “Yes, just a few things,” said the mother as she started to open the bag. “This is a book that I want you to read.” She handed her daughter a copy of the original Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
“What’s this, Mom?”
“It’s a book about Krishna. It’s filled with delightful pastimes. I read a similar book in India back when I was around your age. It is our family tradition that the women who are pregnant with child read or hear about the Supreme Lord. That makes the pregnancy very auspicious.”
“Why is that?” asked Madri.
“The child has a good chance of retaining that knowledge when they are born. There is the famous story of Prahlada Maharaja. When he was in the womb of his mother, he heard instructions on devotion to God from the celebrated Narada Rishi. When the boy was born, he was instantly a devotee. He was such an exalted soul that he remained protected by God directly. So by reading this, hopefully your child will be born a devotee as well.”
The mother then took out a picture of a young Krishna being held in the lap of mother Yashoda. “I also want you to meditate on this picture for a little bit every day,” instructed Madri’s mother. “My mother gave me a similar picture when I was pregnant. This is also part of our family traditions.
Madri had always held her mother in the highest esteem, so she followed her instructions without any opposition. Every night she would read from the Krishna book, which is a summary study of the tenth canto of the Shrimad Bhagavatam, an ancient Vedic text. Though she was initially reading only to satisfy her mother’s desire, pretty soon Madri took an interest. She especially liked the pastimes of Krishna with mother Yashoda. Madri was soon to be a mother herself, and so she hoped to love her child the same way that Yashoda loved Krishna.
When she had gotten married, Madri learned various rituals for worship from her mother. Thus she was already somewhat familiar with the image of Krishna. She would perform arati, or the offering of lamps, every morning and night. She would offer a little fruit and then distribute the remnants to her husband and any guests who would come. In her home, this was known as persadi. “You never say ‘no’ to persadi,” is what Madri would tell others, for this is what she heard often as a child from her own mother.
But now in reading the Krishna book and taking time to meditate on the sweet image of Yashoda’s delight, Madri started to see beyond the rituals. She began to develop an attachment to Krishna, who is described as the Supreme Personality of Godhead in the Krishna book by its commentator, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. She relished the book so much that she read it a few times during the course of her pregnancy. She couldn’t get enough of Krishna, and so she never tired of hearing about Him.
Eventually the time for her child’s birth arrived. After a short time in labor, Madri became a mother for the first time, giving birth to a beautiful and healthy baby boy. In consultation with a family priest, the boy was named Govinda, which is one of the names for Krishna. It means one who gives pleasure to the cows and the senses. Govinda indeed was the delight of Madri, and not surprisingly, shortly thereafter it was seen that he had an automatic attraction for the worship his mother performed on a daily basis. In his childhood years, he would always ask to be allowed to perform some service. He relished ringing the bell for Krishna in the puja room, and he particularly liked distributing persadi to others.
At family gatherings, others would marvel at the boy’s natural inclination towards devotional service. “Oh Madri, blessed are you, for your young child is spontaneously attracted to Lord Hari. We pray that one day he grows up to be a great devotee. You must have taught him well.” Some had a different take. “Oh, you better be careful. He will grow up to be a sannyasi and then leave home. He won’t want to get married, and you won’t have any grandchildren. Better to keep the sacred books away from him.”
Madri was not concerned. “I’m just happy that he is happy. Whatever path he chooses, we will support him. The good Lord has indeed blessed us.” She knew the real secret: that the boy had heard of Krishna while in the womb. For that benediction, she remained forever thankful to her mother. From that one book alone, the family was blessed with the appearance of a devotee in their household, who invigorated everyone with his enthusiasm to always worship God and chant His names. Through motherly affection, both Madri and her son always swam in the ocean of bliss that is devotional service.
A new child to mother to come,
How to make impurities none?
Of Supreme Lord good for mother to read,
With Krishna-bhakti child in womb to feed.
For spontaneous attachment then the chance,
Through devotion glory of family to enhance.
For parent best way for love to show,
Guiding beloved child to Krishna ever so.